Today! Because….uh, I believe we have a volunteer –
The Hunger Games (2012)
Directed by Gary Ross
Starring Jennifer Lawrence (x2), Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson (x3), Elizabeth Banks (x3), Donald Sutherland (x3), Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci, Paula Malcomson (x2), Toby Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Willow Shields, Alexander Ludwig
The rare YA novel that completely succeeds in the transfer to the big screen, The Hunger Games is a blatant rip-off of the Japanese movie Battle Royale from 2000, yes. However, that movie has sat on my Netflix queue unwatched for years, so I don’t have anything to go on besides the internet howling of Japanese film fans. But does Battle Royale have a drunken, bewigged Woody Harrelson cavorting through it though? Then shush.
It’s such an instantly iconic movie, and the capital is so cartoonish, that glancingly people might forget how gritty an action movie this film is. The murder! There are only a handful of movies I can think of where more than one or two kids die – this one slaughters loads of children. That’s a tough sell! And yet, Hunger Games works through the fairly tasteful framing of scenes in the arena, and the totally committed performances of the leads. Jennifer Lawrence had done X-Men: First Class at this point, and really broke onto everyone’s radar with 2010’s Winter’s Bone, but her balls-to-the-wall, 100% Katniss Everdeen will obviously go down as her forever role – no matter how many times she Mystiques it up. Hell, she won an Oscar for a different movie this same year and you don’t hear it talked about much anymore (Silver Linings Playbook is perfectly fine).
And I know this isn’t really the argument to make, but I don’t know where else it’ll fit on this list, so here goes my unpopular opinion – I like the first Hunger Games movie more than every Harry Potter. There! I said it! I like Catching Fire more than all the Potters, too. I don’t know, as nice an adaptation as that series is, it never really worked for me. The early movies drag on way too long (except for Prisoner of Azkaban, which is by far the best entry over there) and the later movies were based on the excessively long books, that were so baggy you can only assume Rowling’s editors were afraid of suggesting any changes after book three. But the Hunger Games movies? Tight! Sure, splitting that last book into two films was a mistake (And who do we have to thank for that idea? Harry goddamn Potter, having done the same thing first) but if you watch them back-to-back, you lose a good portion of your day, but at least you don’t feel ripped off as much. None of the other movies in either series appear going forward (Spoiler, Hermione/Haymitch fans!), so this seemed as good a place as any to get this straight. You’re welcome!
I do like every Potter and Everdeen movie better than every Twilight movie I’ve seen, for what it’s worth.
The mammoth popularity of this film directed it to lots of Critics Choice/MTV style awards, and some outfits coupled Lawrence’s Silver Linings role with this at year-end, but by and large Hunger Games wasn’t an awards darling, picking up a lone Golden Globe nomination for Best Song. And while the curiosities abound in this movie – I could hand out four or five Effie Trinket based awards alone – let’s go with the more unsung Peeta Mellark moment for Best Recycling of Ruined Food, as he tosses Katniss some burned as hell bread in District 12.
Effie, Haymitch, and President Snow all join the Three-Timers club, with Elizabeth Banks (#381 Spider-Man and #322 Role Models), Woody Harrelson (#368 Anger Management and #343 White Men Can’t Jump), and Donald Sutherland (#396 MASH and #357 JFK) adding their names to the wall. Plus, two Everdeens make Two-Timers club, as Jennifer Lawrence follows-up her work in #342 X-Men: First Class while her movie mom Paula Malcomson appeared as an Earp wife in #306’s Tombstone.