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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

November 25, 2013

It seems I’ve taken to writing film reviews, so after watching The Hunger Games I thought why not – here’s another one.

The first Hunger Games film was unexpectedly satisfying. There’s a group of people who have to fight it out to see who’s the last man (or man and woman in this case) standing, but it’s a bit different ’cause they don’t just kill each other, some die from hunger, poisoning and other things occur which make it a bit more interesting than people just killing each other.

How could the second film follow-up from that? Well, it couldn’t. Just after Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) thinks she can settle back into life in District 12, she is scooped up on a tour of the districts with her pretendy lover Peeta (so unassuming I had to look up his name). Low and behold, Katniss finds herself as a reluctant and more effective Russell Brand of District 12, stirring up revolution within the people of the districts.

President Snow, ruler of the Capital, unhappy with the potential uprising, orders the Games Maker to kill her in some way. And so the Hunger Games begin…again. But this time it’s with all the past victors, and who to choose from District 12, but the only remaining female victor herself, Katniss Evergreen.

source: weheartit.com

That was basically my reaction, Katniss only just had to fight for her life last year, and she’s been asked to do it all over again. After a quick dramatic reaction, Katniss, or Katnap as she’s repeatedly called by Liam Hemsworth, settles back into her Joey from Dawson’s Creek esque stoicism. The film then takes a very similar route as the previous film, with slightly different dangers being faced in the Hunger Games arena until it appears that Katniss is knocked out.

What happens after this is anyone’s guess. It seems that the games maker (the person who controls what happens in the Hunger Games, sort of like a ‘Big Brother‘ producer) was actually always on Katniss’ side and possibly  saved her from dying – although I can’t completely be sure of this. The ending is slightly abrupt, although understandable as there’s another film to follow, which, although I found this one slightly confusing, I will go to see, even if it’s just to try and make some sense of this one.

Blue Moon…

November 6, 2013

Blue Moon

I haven’t written anything on this blog in a lonnnng while, so I thought the easiest way of getting back into it was to write about someone else’s work. Blue Jasmine, written and directed by Woody Allen has been playing on my mind for a while so what better place to start.

This film is in no way a show-stopper, it’s gentle and tender and like any good story, doesn’t give the audience any conclusive answers. Jasmine, who gave herself that name later in life as a way of her distancing herself from her past, is the protagonist who we are introduced as she attempts to recover from the breakdown of her entire life.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine beautifully; a mesmerising performance in which we see her desperately trying to claw back her high-society status which she so tragically lost when the FBI arrested her husband and she lost everything she owned, albeit Jasmine was the one who called the police on her husband after learning of his numerous affairs.

Jasmine portrays a path chosen in life that so many people are forced to take; not everyone has pearls and fancy watches bestowed upon them by their husbands while holidaying in the Hamptons, yet many people understandably take the path that will most progress their life, even if their true happiness is sacrificed.

The character of Jasmine is contrasted with that of her adopted sister (Jasmine was also adopted, but treated more favourably by their parents due to her appearance), in that her sister doesn’t have a great amount of money, but unlike Jasmine, she is content with her family and her loving boyfriend. Jasmine, however, continuously looks the other way as her husband has affairs and carries out fraudulent deals.

Should, as Jasmine’s step-son thinks, be blamed for her lack of questioning of how his father acquired his riches and be equivalent to an accomplice in his crime? No, I don’t think so.

Jasmine is the ultimate social-climber, and the pressure to progress is the pressure much of society faces. Her stubborn determination to ignore her husband’s fraudulent activities and affairs was the exchange she was forced to make in order to live a luxurious lifestyle in which she would be deemed to be successful. Sure she could have finished university as she keeps repeating that she should have done, but there was the offer of a rich husband; even in 2013, this route offers more security for a woman, particularly one coming from a turbulent up-bringing.

Woody Allen leaves us with the feeling that, as hard as it seems, true happiness can only be achieved if we forget how we’ll be perceived by others and live a life that may not be filled with Caribbean holidays, but is a truthful life. This is a particular poignant message in a society places greatest value on what we own and not who we are.

When you’re in need of a Dove vox pop

May 5, 2013

In my last post I described the new Dove advert, both the one that aired in the UK, as well as the one on US TV, in a disparaging manner. My opinions on the US advert weren’t revolutionary or original, because as I’d mentioned previously, I had already read a post which had the same gist.

However, I wasn’t so sure of my opinions on the UK advert. Firstly, I couldn’t track down the video or any reference to it at all on the huge chasm that is the internet, so was half wondering whether it was actually a one-off advert and no one would have a clue what I was talking about, and secondly, I didn’t get many likes or comments on the post so lacked the validation that comes with online appreciation; although people told me in person they liked it – thanks!

Overall, I had gone from feeling very forthright with my opinions, and glad to be posting about something I truly cared about, to feeling I may have missed the spot a bit.

That was, until I was perusing my favourite online celebrity news site, and came across an article which mentioned the advert. Hooray – I’m not the only person to have seen it – however, the article was lamenting the advert’s greatness. Humph. But, being the perfectionist I am, I was more concerned with tracking down the video of the advert that I simply couldn’t find before so as to add a reference point for any readers.

After a quick Google search, I located the video (which is now inserted into my post), as well as an article from a real newspaper, not just written by a tabloid columnist, but a real intelligent writer…and the writer agreed with me! Albeit, they articulated their opinions much more clearly than mine.

It was probably one of the first times when I really needed some kind of reassurance in what I had written; as before when I’ve written posts on subjects that have divided opinion, there have always been those other opinions to side with, but I was writing fresh with this post and was relying on conviction in my own beliefs. Which in a weird way took me back to the Dove advert. In both the UK and US adverts, ultimately, that’s what the women are gaining – reassurance.

So although I don’t particularly like the adverts, and can’t empathise with viewers who have cried at the US advert (millions of people apparently, really?! really?!), I do understand how important reassurance can be. Among the most confident characters throughout the history of time, I can’t imagine there isn’t one person who at one time or another hasn’t suffered even an inch of self-doubt.

My problem with the Dove advert is the implication that all women, or indeed only women, suffer self-doubt about their appearance. I believe there are some women who truly give little thought to their appearance, those who are comfortable in the body they’ve acquired and those who think they’re fabulous from head to toe.

Giving reassurance to those with less confidence is an admiral thing to do, but isn’t anyone else tired of being told our appearance should be the main source of our woe? Do Dove really want to make women feel more beautiful, or is it a case of making sure that we’re continually worried about our appearance so that we continue buying their products?

What Dove could learn from a nursery class

April 25, 2013

As a matter of course, I generally don’t watch adverts, there’s normally something better to do in those crucial 10 minutes between whatever trashy TV I’m currently watching, however when the new Dove advert came on TV, I couldn’t help but sit up and take notice…then get annoyed.

Within the next couple of minutes I had opened my laptop and found a blog post also berating the new Dove advert. I didn’t set out looking for the post, it was the first thing that happened to pop up in my blog reader. Maybe on a subconscious level I wanted to connect with people who had similar thoughts, or maybe it was just a massive coincidence. Either way, it only inflamed my rage as I read on about the contradictions behind the company (Unilever) that tells us to love ourselves in our own unique way (or whatever the official spew is), while also selling skin lightening cream to Asian women, and telling men that the ‘Lynx effect‘ will get floods of women chasing after them; coincidentally women that look nothing like the ‘real’ women they use in the Dove adverts.

The Dove advert being critiqued in the post I found was the US version of the advert, which made me feel kind of lucky I’m not subjected to such drivel – I thought the UK advert was bad – but the US one is almost doubly cringe-worthy. The main premise of the US advert is that women enter a room, sit down on a therapist-style sofa, and describe themselves to this guy who draws people for a living, but the catch is – he can’t see them. The women are so annoying, all of them say ‘I have a big chin’ or ‘my forehead is huge’, then someone who has only just met them also comes in and describes that same woman, but lo and behold describes them in a much more complimentary manner. Don’t these women see how beautiful they are in the opinion of someone else? Isn’t that what’s important – how we’re judged in the eyes of other people? According to Dove, yes. Never mind if YOU don’t like your face, these other people’s opinions should be valued more.

If these women who have described themselves as being wrinkly or something along those lines do hate themselves, or feel like they would progress better in life if they looked more beautiful, as one of the women in the ad says, that is genuinely sad, but I can’t help think there are more sad things in life. Apparently this advert has moved lots of people to tears, but it just doesn’t move me – these people aren’t actually deformed in some way as the melancholic music tries to suggest, they are simply healthy women who point out aspects of themselves they’re not keen on. If something is actually sad, it probably doesn’t need the dramatic music, the words alone should move us.

The UK advert had the same message behind it – ‘can you believe these women can’t see how beautiful they are?’. What, you mean, after making Lynx adverts that depict the most desirable women in the world as being slim, tall, tanned with long hair, these ‘real’ women don’t think they’re beautiful – it truly is amazing, hey Dove?

That wasn’t my main annoyance with the advert, it was that they stopped pairs of women in the street and asked them what part of their friend’s body they envy – the ‘Beauty Spot’ campaign apparently. I just thought it was quite creepy – one woman out of a pair answered ‘I really like your bum’. Why should we have to be envious of each other’s bodies? I know that the message is ‘these women don’t realise they have really lovely body parts’, but I don’t like that we’re supposed to be envious of each other, or that we can’t just appreciate our own bodies. If I was stopped in the street, I’d be stumped to answer, not because my friends aren’t beautiful, but I’d find it easier to say I like her sense of humour or we have similar interests, not that I like her bum!

So what could Dove learn from a nursery class? Well, that there is no need to encourage people to compare themselves to other people (wanting to have someone else’s life is a sign of depression, stop it!) and that we should be happy being ourselves. But telling women to love ourselves – throw caution to the wind and stop obsessing over our bodies, wouldn’t make the beauty industry into the multi-billion machine that it is today – the notion that there’s always something we could and should be doing to make ourselves more beautiful, and henceforth a better person is what keeps the industry alive.

If Dove truly cared about women and their self-image, they would take note of this nursery song my four year-old niece likes to sing, and stop trying to get us to compare our bodies (whether they’re counted as ‘real’ or otherwise):

‘1,2,3 it’s good to be me and I want the world to know it’s good to be me

I’m a special person and there’s only one of me

And no-one else is prouder of the person that is me!’

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