1. Lana Del Rey: I recently read an article that was a plea for everyone to stop talking about Lana Del Rey, an article that I whole-heartedly agree with in theory, but can’t seem to follow in practice. In fact, the article incited me to revisit Lana Del Rey and promptly continue to listen to her music nonstop. I’m undeniably seduced by her tacky ghetto earrings and corny varsity jackets and supposedly collagen-enhanced lips. And her sexy, deep voice that shattered windows on SNL in 2012. And her quintessential American-culture references and vintage-indie-music-video-montages that have apparently been around long before her. Her allegedly manufactured gimmicks have won me over. Shamelessly.

 

2. Scarlett Johansson: I will always hold true to my belief that she’s a very talented actress. I saw her for the first time as a preteen in The Horse Whisperer, where she gracefully matched Robert Redford’s emotion and intensity. She gave an equally honest and convincing performance in Ghost World and Lost in Translation. But I suffered through The Island and The Nanny Diaries shortly after. I also had mixed feelings about her role in Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around Comes Around” music video, where the storyline was alarmingly bland, but I still couldn’t tear myself away from the explosions and Scarlett’s lips.

 

3. Zooey Deschanel: I’ve watched 500 Days of Summer approximately 500 times. In fact, I left the movie with an entirely wrong message. I was in denial, praying for the sequel (500 days of “fall”-ing back in love) that would bring Tom and Summer together. Zooey was like a fun, cute, indie Katy Perry counterpart who was so much more interesting (replace cupcake breasts and candy cane-printed underwear with retro bangs and frilly, pastel-coloured sundresses).  But then came New Girl and she reached her cultural saturation point.

 

4. Taylor Swift: Where to begin with this country-pop recently turned rocker-chick? She switches from American Girl in Paris to Red-Dress-Vixen to Dirty-Hair-Punky-Girl-Person-Thing. Ninety-nine per cent of her songs are about boys, Romeos, chasing after boys, boys who she knows are trouble, boys who belong with her, boys she’s never getting back together with, boys with the same name as her, and the list goes on. But I downloaded the entire Red album and played it on repeat for several days. Even as I write this, I feel the inexplicable compulsion to belt out singing, “I don’t know about you but I feel twenty-two-ooh.” And what’s more is that I’m not twenty-two nor do I feel twenty-too (ooh).

 

5. Diablo Cody: First came Juno, then came Jennifer’s Body. The former won several important awards and the latter I watched through as many YouTube clips I could find, cringing all the while but somehow enjoying the way it filled a hole in my chest that is constantly yearning for bad high school horror films.

 

6. Jennifer Lawrence: Oops, wrong list. She goes on my “world’s most awesome people list.” Who can resist her self-deprecating humour and unassuming beauty? Not me, not Peeta, not Bradley Cooper, not anyone.

 

There is an identifiable pattern to my list. These are all individuals that I find stale and superficial, but, embarrassingly, that I can’t quite seem to shake off. Pop culture: 1, Bahar: 0.

By: Bahar Orang

The Hunger Games
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci
Directed by: Gary Ross

3 out of 5

Myles Herod
Entertainment Editor

Sourced from a series of popular teen-lit novels by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games could have easily succumbed to the wretched excess and brain-dead nothingness of the Twilight franchise.

Fortunately, at about 20 minutes in, director Gary Ross’ adaptation makes it clear that consideration was procured for its cinematic crossover, affording depth rather than the expense of a cashed-in afterthought.

Stretched across a two and a half hour span, the film’s alternative universe begins in District 12, a rural, working-poor slum that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) calls home.

Consciously or not, the texture and dankness of the backwater setting echoes Lawrence’s Oscar nominated role in Winter’s Bone, complete with shaky cam, bedraggled locales and the image of Katniss mothering her younger sister Prim (Willow Shields) in the surrounding decay.

Despite some significant ho-hum clichés of Hollywood’s ubiquitous grasp, the sense that director Ross has a lean vision for his fantastical setting (fastened in real-world plight) makes for a credible thrust of high-concept duality between entertainment and creativity.

With most of North America obliterated, the land of Panem still remains, governed by an opulent totalitarian regime situated in the “Capitol.”

Every year, the “powers that be” (headed by a sinister, and always superb, Donald Sutherland) summon one boy and girl from each of the 12 districts to compete as “tributes” in a gladiatorial clash of death.

When young Prim’s name is called to lead, Katniss nobly takes her place, partnered with the male tribute, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), a physically fit but weak-willed bread-boy, seemingly naive for survival.

Relying on her archer instincts and the mentorship of a drunken former Hunger Games victor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson sporting a blonde, Kurt Cobain wig), Katniss is literally throw into a war-torn hell where fate and fatality tango.

When stripped from its phenomenal popularity, The Hunger Games basically boils down to familiar storytelling. Apart from the obvious comparison to Kinji Fukasaku’s bloodsoaked cult piece Battle Royale, one can point out borrowings from the lovable ‘80s cheese of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man, Peter Weir’s prophetic The Truman Show, and even scrapings of Goosebumps, a televised teenage horror program of the 1990s.

It helps that both Ross and author Suzanne Collins penned the screenplay together. The content is thematically dark, and its allegorical elements are finely executed, highlighting the way in which the televised ‘games’ critique today’s obsession with reality entertainment.

The depicted on-air bloodbath represents the Capitol’s twisted idea of cultural normality, disturbingly serving as a timely and effective parable of today’s perverse couch potato comfort.

Oddly, my favourite parts of the film have nothing to do with its carnage or combat, but rather Philip Messina’s production design. Impressive in creating bold set-pieces and corrupt decadence, The Hunger Games’ off kilter look comes personified in Stanley Tucci’s role as Panem’s televised host, Cesar Flickerman.

Channeling the Joker and a pill popping Jay Leno, he interviews each challenger before battle, embodying the film’s eccentric style in an arena akin to American Idol.

Like any movie of this magnitude, there are portions to nit-pick. The climax is forced, and the life-saving plot devices are contrived, but it’s tolerable because Ross commendably pushes the film as far as it can go.

While it’s not art, there’s something encouraging about a well-executed adaptation of pop fiction that plays to the fans as well as the uninitiated.

 

 

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