The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

146 minutes

Director: Francis Lawrence

Recommended? Yes

Problems: Racial, mostly to do with casting white actors to play roles that were written as POC

Bechdel Test: Pass

So, firstly, this is good movie. It’s got great acting, great writing, works as a YA film without condescending to kids OR adults, and it’s a damn good adaptation of a really good book. Incidentally, this review will contain no major direct spoilers, but it will kind of assume you’ve seen the first movie, or read the first book. If you haven’t, you might want to get on that.

Just to get it out of the way, fuck the whitewashing of characters in this whole series. Jennifer Lawrence is terrific as Katniss, but the fact that the casting call was limited to white actors is egregious, and the fact that the cast in the movie is, overall, whiter than the cast in the book, just sucks.

Apart from that, though, this is a really solid movie, and is consistent with the book (by Suzanne Collins) in terms of putting forward a revolutionary storyline. It picks up a short time after the first one left off, with Katniss Everdeen tentatively safe after having won the Hunger Games. She learns of how she embarrassed the Capitol of Panem in the process, thus unintentionally becoming a symbol of resistance for the already discontented people of what is usually described in summaries and reviews as a “futuristic dystopia” but might better be referred to as a “fascist state,” since there’s nothing particularly unrealistic or speculative about the levels or means of oppression it employs. More on that in a moment. In an effort to destroy her and her fellow victor, Peeta, as revolutionary symbols, President Snow arranges a Hunger Games in which Peeta and Katniss will fight again, this time against an assortment of hardened killers and experts, and hopefully be killed.
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The Oregon Experiment, by Keith Scribner

The Oregon Experiment

The Oregon Experiment

by Keith Scribner

2011, Knopf

Recommended? Sure, why not.

I’m going to cut this review into two parts. The first part, the shorter part, is just my “why you might like to read this book, why you might not.” The second part is a longer analysis of the ways in which mainstream sympathetic fiction is portraying anarchists.

So, The Oregon Experiment, by Keith Scribner. Scanlon and Naomi are a middle class couple that moves to small town Oregon, and soon their American dream crashes into the rocks of anarchists, secessionist hippies, and the repression thereof. Scanlon is an academic who studies radical social movements, Naomi is a depressed “nose” who was forced to retire from the perfume business when her mental health destroyed her ability to smell. Scanlon gets mixed up with Sequoia, a sexy hippie mama who wants to peacefully secede from the US, while Naomi spends too much time a Clay, a depressed, angsty anarchist who hates everything. Hijinks ensue.

It’s a short, entertaining novel with interesting enough characters. I read it, I enjoyed reading it, and it left me awake thinking after I’d put the book down for the night. While the plot focuses on the gulf between academia and radical action, the themes of the book are much more about parenting and relationships, which I appreciated quite a bit. I appreciated the often-realistic and incredibly flawed characters, though the intensity of male desire directed at mothers—on the basis of them being mothers—is kind of intense. Overall, the book made me nostalgic for early-aughts Oregon.
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