Archives for the month of: April, 2013
Hunger Games Poster

Hunger Games Poster

So, I was wondering what to watch next for reviewing purposes, and then I stumbled upon the trailer for “Hunger Games 2 – Catching Fire” and I realized that I STILL had not watched “Hunger Games”.

I am slightly odd when it comes to watching movies. Sometimes, I need to watch it right away to form an opinion of my own and join in on the discussion. Other times I will shun the movie like the plague until everyone else has forgotten about it so that all the wooplah and woodilido of the media doesn’t ruin my experience. I often do this with big teenage franchises. I did it with “Twilight” in the hopes that I would watch it at a time and a place that would make me like it. I watched it during a girls night with red wine, chocolate and a bunch of friends (my own age) who love the Twilight movies. And I STILL didn’t like it. So there you go. Bad movie. Or at least badly cast which essentially renders the entire experience bad.

You’re probably getting the feeling that I am going to parallell my Twilight experience to my Hunger Games one, and indeed you are correct. They are both franchises of multiple films targeted at teenaged girls whom (apparently) long to be desired by multiple boy characters in a world similar, yet different to our own.

The one huge, vast, insurmountable, and at times incomprehensible difference between the two is…that I absolutely LOVE Hunger Games ūüėÄ And I’ll come clean right off the bat, I have not read the books. So I love this story untarnished by any visions I might have had should I have read the book first. And you should be thankful about that. You should also be thankful that all Harry Potter films have been released and I am unlikely to review them, as it would take a book for me to explain how much I hate the Harry Potter films. But pleasantly unaware as to what deviates between the book and the film, I am able to love Hunger Games like one loves a freshly baked papaya and lychee muffin (cause you haven’t tried it before;)

Jennifer Lawrence looking very serious and oh so cool with her bow and arrow.

Jennifer Lawrence looking very serious and oh so cool with her bow and arrow.

The number one reason why I love Hunger Games comes with a serious, yet determined facial expression, but still a twinkle behind those blue/green eyes that makes her a whole different class of actress than the rest (read Kristen Stewart). Yes, I am talking about now Oscar winner, Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence who apparently doesn’t prepare for her roles, as she likes “in-the-moment-acting”. Jennifer Lawrence whom I got a crush on in “Silver Linings Playbook”. Jennifer Lawrence whom, I am certain, would have made even me enjoy the Twilight movies (anything but Kristen would do really). And let’s just admit it, how freaking cool is a bow and arrow. And how cool is it that a female is aces at hitting targets with it. Ever since I tried archery in Mongolia and found that years of watching movies actually had built in me an instinctive understanding of how to draw it (sounds easy, but I was the only one who got the arrow further than a couple of meters), I have had fantasies about having a bow and getting unmistakably good at hitting targets. Thus heroine with bow really hit me hard.

What is the most satisfying about watching Jennifer acting is knowing that she is only 22, and unless she ruins her life with drugs, which at the moment seems unlikely, she will give us a whole new level of brilliant acting. Prediction declared.

And look out for the scene where Katniss is showing off her skills to the drunken and easily distracted possible sponsors. It is a stunning visual metaphor on the contemporary attention span and perfectly illustrates how quickly one can go from celebrity to unknown and then back again to celebrity. And that just in a few short minutes.

The difference between being dressed in District 1 (left) and District 12 (right)

The difference between being dressed in District 1 (left) and District 12 (right)

As a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I always appreciate how a foreign world can put so many of our own issues and problems in a new perspective and make you think about our own world in different way. For instance, in the world of Hunger Games, there are 12 districts where each district specializes in something, the higher the number, the further away from the capital the district, the more primary their¬†skill set, a similar way we draw invisible class distinctions in our societies.¬† Katniss is from 12th District where they are coalminers by trade. Now for those of you who don’t already know this, the storyline of Hunger Games centers around the reality show/x factor televised game “The Hunger Games” where 24 youths, also known as Tributes, fight to survive. Last one standing wins, be it natural causes or murder, although the producers of the show don’t seem to enjoy natural causes as much as they do the moral dilemma of them killing each other. And boy do they have creative ways of making sure that their show doesn’t become dull. The reasons for the game in the first place are to my brain a bit hazy, but it has to do with reminding all the districts of a past rebellion by making them offer up two Tributes (one girl and one boy) each year to fight it out in the games. Glory to the last boy or girl standing.

You will love this little girl too. Rue.

You will love this little girl too. Her name is Rue.

If there is one thing I find interesting, it is when I watch a film that makes me ask myself; “What would I do?” Not just the obvious; “Would I kill the other kids to survive myself?” That one can leave your brain ticking for quite some time, but the question that interestes me the most is; “Would I watch this?”

And the glaringly obvious answer is; “Yes, yes I would”.

If “The Hunger Games” existed in the form portrayed in this film, you could not not watch it. It has the glamour of X-factor and the serious outcome of a Roman gladiator match. I can sit here in my comfortable living room in a wealthy country enduring peaceful years upon years and say that it is wrong and we shouldn’t kill. But if this show was a part of our society, I know my morbid curiosity would have to watch it. And the fact that the show is interactive is even a bigger draw for someone who is getting increasingly more used to every show trying to include it’s audience to create a buzz on the web. If rich and powerful people like any of the youths, they can sponsor them if they fall prey to injuries or food/water shortage. The reality of their situation would draw me in and I defy anyone to a discussion who says they wouldn’t watch it. Humans are¬†intrinsically¬†fascinated by death, and this show displays death in it’s most raw and pure form.

Katniss and Peeta in their supersleek suits for the parade where Tributes are displayed like the olympics.

Katniss and Peeta in their supersleek suits for the parade where Tributes are displayed like the olympics.

I wouldn’t want to be in the draw to be a Tribute though… so I am a hypocrite… but then aren’t we all?

It is a fact that not so many hundreds of years ago, this game, to a fashion, happened in the grand¬†colosseums¬†of the Roman Empire, and it took a long time before anyone questioned the morality of that. Who is to say that a couple of thousand years from now we won’t have gone full circle on moral issues and go back to watching murder for entertainment? It scares me that I see that situation as a very real outcome in the future of the world. One of many, but I believe it could happen.

On a more cheerful note, the visual juxtaposition of the colourful inner districts and the drab and dirty outer districts are stunning. The production design in this movie is perfect and is a huge part of what makes me believe this could happen sometime, somewhere. It is worth the watch alone. Rarely has science fiction been so real without being our own world.

Now last, but not least, I’d like to mention the impending Love Triangle.

So Katniss, here in her home district, District 12, is at the start of the movie chummy with...

So Katniss, here in her home, District 12, is at the start of the movie chummy with…

...this fellah, Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth (isn't he dashing), they play in the woods together and stuff, but when Katniss volunteers to partake in the Hunger Games, cicumstance and teenage hormones have her falling for...

…this fellah, Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth (isn’t he dashing). They play in the woods together and stuff, but when Katniss volunteers to partake in the Hunger Games, circumstance and teenage hormones have her falling for…

...her fellow District 12 Tribute Peeta (love it how that name sounds like Peter).

…her fellow District 12 Tribute Peeta, here looking very manly and beaten up ¬†(love it how that name sounds like Peter).

The boys in these movies (both Twilight and Hunger Games) are as bland, characterflawed and soulless as the hard core chick, often of asian persuasion or at least dark haired, who kicking and screaming fights her way through any action, lemme-blow-up-loadsa-shit movie you can find. I know. My boyfriend makes me watch them all.¬†Maybe it is a teenage thing. As teenagers we are generally more self centered, so teenage girls will be more concentrated on Katniss and what she does and how she looks and identify with that, thus the boys only need to be mildly good looking for them to accept or perhaps join in the infatuation. At least in Hunger Games the choice of boys is a tad better than in Twilight as I have never seen the compulsion to choose between a boy as white as a dead body or a babyface (yes, the wolf). But then again there hasn’t appeared a sharply divided fan base arguing about whether Katniss should end up with Peeta or Gale, so what do I know. Although maybe it’s too soon for the first movie to create that sort of craze. After all there wasn’t any focus on the problems of that particular triangle, only delightfully obvious hints. I’m sure we will meet the repercussions in the next installment, which comes to cinemas (in Norway anyway) in November. God, that’s long to wait.

In the meantime, watch the trailer for “Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire” over and over again. I know I will ūüėČ

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Now, once in a blue moon, or every time I have done a seminar or course, I am going to feel like talking about some film stuff. And this time it is about one of the people on the very long credit list that you never sit through and never read because you will be too busy getting out of the cinema and catch your bus home, or you will rather put on another movie than pain yourself through the hundreds of people who participated in making the movie possible for you to watch. Well, I will challenge you. Every once in a while, sit through the credits. I do it all the time in cinemas so you won’t be alone if you do it there ūüėČ And when you do, you should look at the titles of the different people who are credited, and if you don’t know what that title means, wonder about what they did to make this movie possible. Cause there is never just one person who who makes the movie. Movie making on the cinema level equals hundreds of people that you will never see on screen. But they still joined in to make that movie the best it could be. They should have their name looked at. Once in while, when you feel the movie deserves it, try it.

When you go to the cinema and look at all the titles, there will come titles like e.g. storyboard artist, concept artist, illustrator or something similar. This is what I would like to talk about today.

A storyboard page drawn by David Russell for Master and Commander illustrating the way the movie gets drawn in advance through key frames and key action.

A storyboard page drawn by David Russell for Master and Commander illustrating the way the movie gets drawn in advance through key frames and key action.

A storyboard is a cartoon-like drawing of what a movie will look like. This is a tool that has many uses. Most notable, it enables the director to actually visualize his or her movie before the shooting starts, which I will always recommend doing because coming up with what you are going to shoot on the day, always leads to disaster. Another benefit with the storyboard, is that when every department (hair, make-up, set design, costume, lighting, photography etc.) has seen what is going to be shot as images, they all work towards the same goal, achieving that image in real life. You would think that this could easily happen by just talking to people, but believe me when I tell you that spoken words can be interpreted in so many different ways that no one really knows what is going to be shot. Except for the director. And the poor director can only be in one place at a time.

This weekend I attended a webinar by the notable storyboard artist David Russell on the art of storyboarding. It truly opened my eyes to exactly how much creative power lies within the hands of those artists who work in the film industry, and how we should all be thankful that there still are people who are so amazing at drawing by hand that in 45 minutes of you telling them you need a full shot in a bedroom in the 50s, they have scribbled up something like this, where all the furniture and other props are appropriate to the time that you stated. That is truly amazing.

Mentor Huebner drew this image in 45 minutes and all the details are accurate for the timeperiod the film was set in.

Mentor Huebner drew this image in 45 minutes and all the details are accurate for the timeperiod the film was set in.

I also mentioned concept artist. Concept art is when a film production hires an artist to visualize the look of the film. This often happens with fantasy or science fiction movies, and it occurs before the storyboard artist comes aboard, sometimes even before the script is finished. Actually, a well drawn concept illustration can be the pivotal point that gets a movie to a Go! on development or production. See, people are more willing to bet their money if they get to experience something visual first. Just have a look at these wonderful illustrations from noted concept artists Ralph Maquarry (Star Wars) and Syd Mead (Blade Runner). These are highly intelligent, often science educated people, who manage to bring their knowledge of aircraft, automobiles, space, architecture and ingenuity to unrealistic, fantastical ideas and make them believable to us.

Ralph Maquarry notably drew concept art for George Lucas and the Star Wars universe. http://starwars.com/news/ralph_mcquarrie_remembered.html

Ralph Maquarry notably drew concept art for George Lucas and the Star Wars universe. http://starwars.com/news/ralph_mcquarrie_remembered.html

Syd Mead. Another great illustrator, know for futuristic looks and notably worked on Blade Runner. http://sydmead.com/v/11/

Syd Mead. Another great illustrator, know for futuristic looks and notably worked on Blade Runner. http://sydmead.com/v/11/

David Russell himself, has done a lot of high profile, Hollywood movies. I could mention “Narnia; The Lion, The With and The Wardrobe”, “Star Wars, Return of the Jedi” and “Batman” by Tim Burton, but to truly grasp the epicness of this guy’s references, have a look on his webpage:¬†http://www.dynamicimagesdr.com/#!

David Russell's concept art for Tim Burton's batman. He drew these on black paper with white.

David Russell’s concept art for Tim Burton’s batman. He drew these on black paper with white.

Now obviously I am not going to let you in on all the secrets and techniques Mr. Russell relied on to us this weekend, for that I encourage you to look out for his seminars or webinars which are worth your time and money. The seminar is useful to all people who work in film production, and even the film enthusiast can benefit. There is something about listening to people who work in the hardcore, big buck, world wide release side of the film business that should tick any film geek’s fancy.

Depending on the project, sometimes storyboard artists have to act like directors and figure out the best way to shoot a sequence. Sometimes because there isn’t time for the director, other times because the director wants to see what the storyboard artist can bring to the project. The artist has to be lighting technician, be able to draw emotions and body language so true and believable, that producers will get confident that this movie will be great. The artist has to know his history and current fashions, he has to be storyteller and visionary. But at the same time the storyboard artist works to realize the directors vision. In some projects he will have freedom to spew creative wonderfulness on his pages and see them gradually come to life and breathe on the big screen. Other times he will just have to do his job and shut up. And for that I want you, on your next visit to the movies, to sit down and figure out who was the storyboard artist? Did they have a concept artist? And then take a moment and thank their blistering hands and tired creative minds for bothering to do their job at all.

I just want to take this humble blog space to honor the so often overlooked and unappreciated artists who labour by pen, marker or even by drawing pads on their computer to give us imagery to shock our brains and forever push our boundaries of what is possible. Thank you.

David Russell's Concept Art from Moulin Rouge (2002) directed by Baz Luhrman

David Russell’s Concept Art from Moulin Rouge (2002) directed by Baz Luhrman

PS: If you came here for a review, here is a small one: I did watch “A Few Good Men” (1992), while¬†laboring¬†over the storyboard assignment given by David Russell. Even though my attention was half on the movie, half on the very cartoony drawings of Narnia people that came from my hands, I can safely say that you won’t be bored. There is a lot of talking, which is why it was a great movie to draw to, one didn’t miss much by listening, although I had my bf close for any questions when I missed any vital information. There’s politics, and conspiracy, lawyers working hard to prove something they know is true, but for which all evidence has seemingly¬†disappeared or been replaced. It is frustrating and tense in all the good ways. And you get to see Tom Cruise being a young wise-ass lawyer. And you get to hear Jack Nicholson shout the famous words, “You can’t handle the truth”. That is worth the watch alone.

"A Few Good Men" (1992) starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, directed by Rob Reiner, Storyboarded by Thomas W. Lay Jr. (credited as illustrator)

“A Few Good Men” (1992) starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, directed by Rob Reiner, Storyboarded by Thomas W. Lay Jr. (credited as illustrator)

So, Easter movies.

What are Easter movies? Do they feature bunnies and eggs? Are they distinctly yellow? Or do they teach us about religious events like the crucifixion of Jesus or the 40-year desert walk by the Jews across the Sinai desert?

My definition of an Easter movie is anything that the TV programmers deem worthy to put on their schedule. And there are few movies that involve any of the mentioned factors above. Granted I only randomly turned on the TV and didn’t plan my days around the different movies that were aired, but I still have a feeling that my selection of random titles represent the average Easter movie. One even has a bunny in it ūüėÄ

The wonderful drawings come to life in the mind of Beatrix

The wonderful drawings come to life in the mind of Beatrix

The first movie that I just had to watch, simply because I had that movie at hand for about two years when I lived in UK and I NEVER watched it, was Miss Potter. I love anything with Ewan McGregor so sue me. It had bunnies.

This costume drama is the definition of an Easter movie. You would never bother to spend time watching it any other time than when you are stuck at home (or, as you would in Norway, in a cabin) during the holidays. It is slow and the conflicts are so small that you almost don’t notice that they are there. Oh yes, Beatrix’ parents want her to do anything but become a writer, but she has always been a head strong one what with her already having turned down several suiters to her hand, so of course she becomes one. And even the love story that transpires between her and her publisher, which doesn’t have her parents approval either (apparently “no man” is better than “a man of the same means as themselves”, women should marry up) is so perfect and cute that you know that something bad will happen. From that stolen kiss at the train station, you know they are doomed (no one ever kisses before marriage in proper costume dramas, the sexiest thing is a touch of the hand, if they do kiss, hell will rain on their love). So not a happy ending. But still a movie that will leave YOU happy because it gave you about an hour and a half of calm bliss. And let’s not forget the insight it gives into what it was like to be the first (at least one of the first) female writers and illustrators of children’s books.

A good and healthy love story is key. No backstabbing or adultery.

A good and healthy love story is key. No backstabbing or adultery.

This is what an Easter movie is, a slow, slightly enlightening, beautiful bliss. No hard emotions. Not attention grabbing. We watch those kinds of movies all year. During the holiday we have time to sit down, make ourselves a cup of tea and just enjoy the fact that we have the time to watch a movie like this. While we slowly finish off our Easter egg.

Fun fact: In Norway we fill cardboard eggs with pick-and-mix as a tradition for our Easter eggs. I was so surprised when I lived in the UK and they actually had huge chocolate eggs filled with more chocolate. Now I kind of miss it though. Especially Cadbury’s Cream Eggs. Yum!

Of course, whole bout of Easter didn’t result in just one movie, although the total was only a surprising three. We have been slightly addicted to the ingenious drama “Walking Dead” and spent a lot of time catching up on episodes there as well as spending some time celebrating in the Jewish and Moroccan traditional ways (which I find more intriguing than the Christian ways). Basically we have one afternoon having a Pesar dinner after which the Jews recollect the 40 years that were spent crossing the Sinai desert by spending a week not eating anything made from flour or yeast (that is; no bread or cakes). They have one type of flatbread called Matza that they can eat, and boy do they get creative with that. A week after Pesar, it is a Moroccan tradition (my bf’s mother is originally from Morocco) to get together again and eat loads of cakes and sweets as well as a kind of pancake (Mufleta) that you put honey, rose jam, butter or any kind of stuff on. It is an experience I hope many non-Jews and non-Moroccans will have the joy of experiencing.

Anywho, back to a short relay of the other two movies we watched.

Of course, since I am from Norway, one of the movies HAD to be a crime story. I don’t know if the rest of the world does this, but during Easter there are multiple crime series on television and people stock up on crime books to bring with them to their cabin in the mountain. Maybe that is why Scandinavia has now become known as a place for good crime stories since there is a yearly market for it. Instead of going for a Norwegian crime story, like “Headhunters”, we decided that it was about time that I finally watched “Fargo” by the Coen-brothers.

 

Fargo1_20130403

I LOVE the Coen-brothers for their quirky characters and their way of making pointless conversations say so much about the people in their stories. And boy I wasn’t disappointed here. I don’t want to say a lot about this film, only that it is hilarious (in a Coen/Tarantino way) and that no one should go any further in their lives without having watched it. It has a pregnant detective (Frances McDormand), a weird looking guy (Steve Buscemi) and you know from the get go that shit is going to go very wrong. You just can’t imagine HOW wrong it is actually gonna go. Jah! So watch it! Jah!

Last, but actually not least, we watched the new Judd Apatow comedy “This is 40”.

ThisIs40_20130403I have been¬†skeptical¬†towards this film because of the reviews it has gotten, which claim that the story is weak, and generally I don’t like it when the story is weak. And all the critics were right. There isn’t even weak story, there is no story. The “story line” that they pretend is there is so wafer thin that you forget that they actually tried to hinge these scenes together somehow. But what made me not hate it was that it was Easter, I can waste my time watching stupid movies. AND we laughed. We laughed a lot. It is like watching a series of sketches about what it is like being in your 40s and having a kid in her teens and a slightly younger kid. And dysfunctional families always hits close to home because we might not be AS bad as they are, but we can relate to their situations. And they often react in ways we would never do, but we¬†surely do¬†dream about. So there is your escape. To see what happens when we just do what we want and not think.

I find it amazing that Judd Apatow’s two little girls, who play in this film, are as good as they are. They¬†exaggerate yes, but it is after all a comedy, and what isn’t more fun than being reminded of how absolutely crazy you were as a teenager. It makes me second guess whether I should have children. I don’t know if I could deal with it. For us, a couple in our 20s without any children as of yet, this was a fun look into the future. To see what obstacles will come and be thankful for our living situation right now.

Don’t waste money on this film in a cinema, if it even still runs in the cinemas. It is way more of a “movie night” at home kind of film. Maybe one you put on after the big picture that initially made you want to sit down for a movie, but which has left you so emotionally distraught that you cannot go straight to bed. Save it for one of those days. I guarantee you will like it.

 

This was a little piece of my Easter experience. I hope yours was as wonderfully uneventful as mine ūüėČ

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