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Review: The Hunger Games

Man, I don’t see movies very often. The last movie I saw was Hugo. The last movie I saw with The Wife was Winnie the Pooh. So here’s a funny thing: Hugo is based on a middle-grade novel; Winnie the Pooh on an early reader chapter book; and HG on a young adult novel. All beloved by me.

I’ll first say that I liked the movie, that it seemed like a good adaptation, and that nothing dissatisfied or annoyed me. I look forward to Catching Fire.

So let’s talk about some things I’ve heard other people say about it. In particular, several reviews I’ve read mention the dulled violence, compared to the book. This was done, obviously, to achieve a PG-13 rating to cater to a largely middle- and high-school aged audience. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with the “dulling down” of the violence. Though the book was quite graphic in some parts and gut-wrenching in most, I have certain feelings re: movie violence that lead me to believe that the filmmakers’ choices were right. So often violence in movies is glamorized, glorified, and essentially celebrated. Making HG graphically violent would have played right into that. Perhaps it would have been different with kids perpetrating the acts. I think not. Reviewers would have praised it (maybe), teens would have thought it was cool, and all of it would be wrong.

Reading HG was excruciating for me. I just had this pit of dread in my stomach for the entire first book and most of the rest. I liked it a lot, but I don’t think I’ll ever read them again. Maybe when Corbchops and The Iza are “of age.”

In the movie, by only glimpsing the violence, with the worst parts happening off screen, the viewer is allowed to imagine the worst but not be subjected to it. I felt it was more effective this way. We are densensitized to violence on screen. But we aren’t desensitized to the unpleasantness of our own imaginations.

So that’s my feeling on that.

Now, I think, let’s consider age-appropriateness. As a 5th grade teacher, my official position to students is: “I likedThe Hunger Games. They are good books. But I cannot and will not recommend them to you because they are middle school books. Next year, I will recommend them to you. But not now.”

One kid in my class has read them. I don’t really have a problem with my students reading them. If it was my choice, I’d say no, but I will never tell students what they can or cannot read. That’s their parents’ job. I will simply make my recommendations and provide students with someone to talk to about serious books (or any books).

I’ll leave you with two articles:

Article #1: This author attempts to explain why she’s taking her 4th grade daughter to see HG. I found it on Twitter when a children’s author I follow liked the mother’s “thoughtful parenting.” I had to disagree. It seems like selfish, impatient, excuse-making parenting to me. She spend a lot of time explaining how her daughter is young and not even thinking about or interested in the themes of HG, and then says “I’m taking her.” This girl seems like she’s doing pretty great right now. She’s not even interested in HG. What the hell? What a couple years and watch it with her on DVD.

Why don’t I just let my daughter read the books? For starters, she’s not interested. This despite her room, in fact, our entire home, lined with bookcases brimming with tempting titles. No surprise—she’s a voracious reader. The Hunger Games hasn’t caught her attention yet, but will soon enough. So why don’t I wait on the movie?

I don’t want to wait. Like all mothers, I was once a little girl who hungered for role models to emulate.

That right there, is bullshit. There are many, many books with strong female role models. They haven’t all been made into movies. Is that the problem? You really want your daughter to see a movie? Whatever. Wait until she tells you she’s ready.

My opinion. Gah. Must stop before I rant on.

Article #2: Here we have the opposite perspective. This mother has told her daughter, “You cannot read these books or watch this movie yet.” Which, of course, is the best way to drive kids crazy wanting to do just that.

I picked up “The Hunger Games” to see if it would be appropriate for an independent-minded girl. It took less than 20 pages to see that this was the perfect book for her. But within 20 more, I was determined to keep it from her as long as possible.

So, the author admits it’s the perfect book for her. She is interested in reading it. Sounds like a perfect time to read it together. The title of the article is “Wait, Listen, Grow.” My thinking is, “Read, Listen, Talk, Grow.” Because if this girl is pushed into reading in secret, then she won’t be able to talk about the book without admit she sneaked a read. Maybe their relationship is one in which the daughter would never go behind her mom’s back. Or maybe it wasn’t, until…

I don’t really mean to be overly critical of these mothers, though those who write editorials are inviting and should be expecting and embracing judgment and dialogue. My kids are under four. I don’t have to make these decisions, yet. Thank goodness.

Must stop writing and judging and ranting.

‘Nuff said.

So, I’m a fan of this show. This Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. On the Food Network. Every single damn thing on this show looks delicious.

OK, not every single thing. There’s nothing particularly delicious about host Guy Fieri. He’s kind of a goof. He dresses like a middle schooler. But he’s amusing in a..I don’t know…cute sort of way. Like the way a little kid is amusing sometimes. He’s certainly passionate about the food. He’s just a little too surfer dude. Or something.

But the food is ridiculous. It’s all grease and cheese and meat and awesome. It’s 10:40 at night and I’m watching and I’m hungry because their showing me these damn stuffed meatballs and tamales and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. The Wife hates watching this show because it makes her too hungry. Lobster mac-n-cheese. Good god.

So, I finally made it to one of these diners or drive-ins or dives.

Tomahawk Barbeque
North Vancouver, BC

We’d gone skiing at Cypress in North Vancouver, BC. For groomed cross country, it’s kind of the place within two hours of Bellingham. It was a beautiful day. Then I got a speeding ticket as I coasted down the mountain. So that sucked ass.

Things were made better by a little side trip to walk along the water at Stanley Park, and then dinner at Tomahawk Barbeque.

The place was pretty funky. From the outside, it kind of looked like the side of a building. Because, all you could see was the side of the building. No sign. Nothing. If you looked carefully, you could see the tops of two totem poles sticking up. But you had to look close. It was pretty small, too. Just a counter and maybe twelve tables.

The place was nearly empty when we got there, though it was a bit early for dinner. The menu was as follows: All-day breakfast options, burgers, sandwiches, “Old fashion favorites,” and Tomahawk specialties. I was really tempted by the burgers. I’ll give you some stats:

  • 1 veggie burger, 1 chicken burger, 1 fish burger, 2 hot dogs
    • Nothing more to say about these, though they seemed delicious.
  • 8 beef burgers
    • 3 of which included a hot dog on the burger
    • 5 of which included bacon
    • 3 of which included an egg

It’s really, really hard not to order a burger that has cheese, bacon, egg, and a hot dog on it. Maybe next time.

I went for the Steak and Mushroom Pie, which was featured on DDD. It was pretty damn tasty. Ridiculous gravy, super flaky crust. Plus super-buttery mashed potatoes and grilled veggies. It was a lot of food, but I ate it all.

I also took a bite of The Wife’s basic bacon cheeseburger and the Corbchops’ hot dog. And the potato and sweet potato fries. All tasty.

The place started to fill up as we were finishing. I heard a lot of people asking for the roast beef dinner, which was also on DDD. It included a Yorkshire pudding, which is basically a baked pancake. It looked good, but a bit pricey.

Next time, I’d really like to try the breakfasts. The omelets looked outstanding. And a burger with a hot dog. And cheese. And bacon. And an egg.

Yum.

Hugo

I went to see Hugo, based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, with my Guys Read book club. We read the book last year. It was our first movie-going experience.

I wrote a review for the Guys Read blog. I’m not going to write another one. So I’ll just paste it here. You’ll just have to pretend you’ve read the book and that you’re in 4th or 5th grade.

Yahoo! That was a good time, huh? We had a great crowd at our first Guys Read movie outing. It was great to see so many guys able to make it.

It was great, also, to not have any ridiculous coughing fits during the movie. I was sucking on cough drops the entire time. I stayed home from school Friday, and I’m still pretty sick. Classic adult move, eh? Stay home from school but still go to the movie. Would your parents let you do that?

So what did you think? It seemed like a pretty solid version of the story to me. Movies always change books, and it can be hard to watch movies of books we love. At least it’s hard for me. I have a hard time with the Harry Potter movies. I love the books too much! Maybe it’s not the same for kids. Kids just like movies, right?

Anyway, as I was saying. I was pretty pleased with the movie. It had a great feel to it, very like the book. The train station was very cool–it was interesting to get a sense of the people and the place.

We watched the movie in 2D. I was very surprised that the guys voted for that over the 3D. I was certainly OK with it–3D makes my head hurt. I noticed a few spots in the film where 3D might have been cool, but the 2D was fine. Supposedly a lot of that train station dust was supposed to be 3Dified? I don’t know…

We definitely got to learn a lot about Georges Méliès. Did you feel like an expert since we watched A Trip to the Moon last year? I kind of thought the movie was not just a version of Brian Selznick’s book, but also a tribute to Méliès. We learned a lot more about him than we did in the book.

Was there anything you didn’t like? It seemed to me that the biggest change was taking out the character of Etienne. Do you remember him? The boy with the eye patch who loved movies? His role kind of got spread around between Isabelle, Professor Tabard, and the bookseller. It worked out fine. Why do you think they took him out?

I was also really wondering how they would deal with the whole “invention.” Remember that Hugo built an automaton that supposedly wrote and illustrated the whole book? How would they do that in the movie? They took that part out of the title. Well, they took out the “invention,” but the telling of Hugo’s story was still given importance. I thought it was nice that Isabelle was the one who ended up writing the book.

OK. One last thing. Remember when the box fell and all the papers came out? I was searching and searching to see if any of Brian Selznick’s drawings were in there. I couldn’t find any. Don’t you think that would have been a nice touch?

Brian Selznick wrote a “making of” companion book for the movie. I can’t wait to read it and learn more about how it all came together.

I really liked the movie. I can’t wait until they make a movie out of another Guys Read book! What books would you really like to see a movie version of?

‘Nuff said.

Eat more better

My favorite food podcast covers one of my favorite foods.Eat up!

Vancouver away

I ventured north to my second Sounders away game last weekend. Vancouver entered the league this year, and it’s nice to be able to go see the Sounders while driving less than a home game requires.

Border 1

Experience for yourself, the most interesting conversation I’ve ever had with a border guard.

“You guys didn’t take the bus?”

“Ah, no.”

“Good idea. It was nasty. I just got done checking it.”

“Yeah, they’ve probably been drinking for a while.”

Yeah, they’d been drinking for a while. And it was all coming out. Down the aisles. Down the stairs. Nasty.”

“Oh, man.”

“Have a good time.”

Game start time stress

I suffer from a little-known malady I describe as game time start stress. I hate to miss a thing. A few things that contribute to this stress:

  1. Border waits
  2. Traffic
  3. Canadian drivers
  4. Parking
  5. Dining
  6. Walking

But it was all good. We weathered some slow traffic, found a free parking spot, had time to partake in some Vietnamese food, and didn’t even have to run to our seats.

ECS in the house

The Sounders and Whitecaps agreed to an allotment of 500 tickets for away supporters. I did not join in this festive group. I like to watch a game. However, when purchasing tickets of my own, I snagged the same section. Lucky for us, we were sitting directly below the fevered group. All of the energy, none of the obstructed views!

Our seats at Century Link Field have a great view of the supporters, but they’re a little far away to keep track of and join in chants. No problem hearing them this time. In fact, we couldn’t hear much else. I lost my voice for the first time this year, chanted away, and generally had an excellent time.

It might have been nice to be across the field, where maybe we could have heard some back and forth between the ECS and the Southsiders. Maybe next time.

Game on

In convenient bullet points:

  • Early goal for Vancouver. Eh…
  • Vancouver’s speed gave us a lot of problems, along with a linesman who had difficulty with offsides.
  • Thank god Brad is back so someone can make PKs.
  • The second half was better, with us controlling the game much more.
  • Fredy Montero.
  • Fredy Montero.
  • Win.

Empire Field

Is a rickety thing, eh? This was the last game in this temporary stadium. It was nice to go there, I guess. But it will be nicer to drive half as far and take the SkyTrain directly to BC Place.

Cascadia Cup

Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver compete for a supporters’ trophy known as the Cascadia Cup. With our victory over the Whitecaps, we clinched said trophy for 2011. Conveniently, previous holders Portland (who took it last year when it was just between PDX and Van) where on hand to fork it over. So sad for them. Sitting where we were we had a great view of the trophy presentation. A few players hoisted it, and then it made its way up the stands to the supporters’ groups. Pretty wild, it was.

The Whitecaps even set off some fireworks to help us celebrate. Or, they were “Goodbye Empire Field” fireworks. We’ll take the three points and your fireworks, thank you very much. The Whitecaps team was walking around with a “Farewell Empire Field” banner. They looked pitiful and ignored. I felt a little bad for them, but then I saw Sounder Servando Carrasco’s girlfriend and US Women’s Natinal Team player Alex Morgan and I forgot all about it.

Border 2

“What did you do in Canada?”

“Watched the Sounders beat Vancouver.”

[Silence.]

“Are you bringing anything back with you?”

“Just the sweet taste of victory?” Oh my god what am I doing this guy is not amused oh man oh man.

[Silence.]

“Have a good night.”

Bonus State Patrol Experience

A little too wired on the way home. I missed the sign for reduced speed approaching Bellingham. I saw the patrol car ahead of me, checked my speed, and wondered why they were driving so slow as I passed them. They answered my question by immediately pulling behind me and flashing these really bright red and blue lights.

The officer gave me shit for living in Bellingham and not knowing exactly where the speed reduced, but then she noticed that it was my birthday in an hour and she chilled out a little and gave me a verbal warning. So my advice is to only drive past a cop going ten miles over the limit on the night before your birthday. Works every time.

And

I’m definitely going to see the Sounders win in Vancouver every year.

Winnie the Pooh

Ah la. Time to knock that pizza bite down the page.

We took the Corbchops to see his first ever movie in the theater. Actually, he had seen a short Dora movie at the Vancouver Aquarium, but that doesn’t really count.

He was pretty funny. He sat so still, and was so focused on the screen that he could hardly eat his popcorn and fruit snacks. It was like he didn’t want to miss anything. And that was just the ads before the movie started.

During the previews he asked me at the end of each one “What was that one for?”

WtP was a good movie to see for a few reasons. First, the Corbchops knows these characters. So it amuses him when they do funny things. He doesn’t have to try to figure out what’s going on or who’s who. Second, it’s not too long. Third,

There’s the whole thing about appropriateness. Which is basically “All movies” vs. Winnie the Pooh. Because there is nothing bad about WtP. Unless you count Pooh continually sort of putting down his own intelligence. Which is not insignificant, but fairly tame.

The Corbchops has seen Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Cars. He mostly sees old fashioned “book movies” like Corduroy. Even with the Toy Story movies, there are things I’d rather he not see. Fighting. Name calling. Etc.

I can’t really protect him from all this. Nor do I really want to. But I do want him to encounter things at points in his life when he can differentiate between movie and reality. And I don’t mean understanding that Cars is not real. I mean understanding that if Woody and Buzz fight, that doesn’t mean we fight.

It’s a difficult thing. And that’s why we celebrate Winnie the Pooh. And wish there were more movies like it. Quality. Harmless. Fun. With kids’ movies, it’s rare to have all three of those in one movie.

By the way, for those with kids especially, and those of you who find movie ratings completely useless, this is the best site ever: Kids in Mind.

‘Nuff said.

Blah.

And did they mess up and give me Canadian bacon? Or do they think that qualifies as sausage?

Blah.

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