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[personal profile] local_max
Overall, I think I liked it. I have some criticisms but maybe another time. For now, just some thoughts on the movie (and the book), starting with: what is a mockingjay?

1. A mockingjay is the offspring of genetically engineered jabberjays with mockingbirds. The jabberjays were created by the Capitol to spy on people; mockingjays sing beautiful songs. The Capitol's attempts to exert control on every aspect of society, including by creating new tools at the DNA level, are subverted by the procreative urge in the birds. A mockingjay is the grass that grows between the cracks of the sidewalk; it is the result of the primal creative force of life bursting forth within, and even *because* of the most tightly controlled society ever designed.

2. A mockingjay is a being whose defining characteristic is its ability to beautifully, soulfully, reproduce exactly sounds made by others, which it is unable to understand itself.

I'm not sure what I think of the movie overall -- I think I liked it -- but I think that it gets (and gets across) the central tension at the heart of Katniss' role in the revolution that springs up around her: Katniss is, at this moment, the symbol of humanity whose passion can no longer be contained or destroyed, and a tool being used to beam a desire to go fight and die into millions of people's heads.

And that's sort of the trick: to bring down the extremely, shockingly oppressive aristocracy, you need numbers, raised fists in unison like an Eisenstein poster. (I could have done without the oorah, though.) And how much do you need of each person? When you need every body and to conserve everything, to go down to 14% oxygen for a night, suddenly "luxuries" like alcohol, wigs and cats become illegal. For a moment I was thinking how ridiculous it is that Prim becomes the ONLY person to nearly be locked out when District 13 shuts itself down, but of course she is: the survivors of District 12 are the only civilians in District 13 who would think of defying the order to move down into the bunker, which has been drilled into the people for years. They had to, to survive; District 13 is a fighting force, in a way District 12 wasn't. But the people that Katniss are fighting for are the remnants of 12, and they still have individual things they care about.

What degree of control, authoritarian control, and for what reasons, one has to put up with; is it better, in an underground bunker where everyone is fed and they have a chance to strike back at the Capitol but no one can have pets or drink or dress themselves or display individuality, or above ground where people were starving and taking on the Capitol was a pipe dream and an impossibility but people could make their own choices? It's, I suppose, moot now that District 12 is gone -- but one of the principal questions of Mockingjay (the book and film) is what District 13 has lost in order to be the sole region to survive completely separate from the Capitol's influence, and what this means should there be anyone left standing if the Districts and the Capitol go for all out war.

Plutarch changes "a necklace of rope" to "a necklace of hope" in the song, and the call to suicide becomes a call to freedom. And is taking on the Capitol a fight for freedom or a call to suicide? Is there even a difference? (Finnick said, at the beginning, that he wished that Annie was dead, that they were all dead, rather than being punished by the Capitol.) And the quiet beauty of Katniss singing an old, half-remembered song becomes the inspirational/horrifying sight of thousands of people singing a song about murder, lynching and romantic suicide as an anthem of revolution, the Mockingjay leading an army of mockingjays out to throw themselves onto the gears of the great machine and slow it down with their bodies and blood. In the propaganda wars that break out, Peeta and Katniss are opposed symbols, one used by the Capitol and one used by Coin. And both are as honest as they can be, in their situations; both are unwilling to break their own personal moral codes. Katniss looks at the horror that has befallen those she cares about, looks at the hospitals being burned to the ground, and the rage and fire within cannot be sated: Snow is a monster, the Capitol continues to oppress and destroy them, and they need to fight back. Peeta is biding his time for a moment where he has built up enough media capital to scream a warning to protect people's lives, but I also think that he genuinely means what he's saying, because, yes, going after the Capitol is suspiciously like suicide. It's also a call to complacency against a juggernaut that has massacred them and will do so again. Sure, the propaganda is manipulative, and sure no one seems to know what they are singing when they bravely march into battle singing Hanging Tree, but you need every tool you can to dismantle Snow's machine, right? Right?

As with the rest of the media stuff in this series, we're also looking at the bleeding of individual and group -- how Katniss' authentic, idiosyncratic, personal Katnissness is selectively edited, channeled, and packaged to make her the symbol of what everyone else should be, an individualism immediately transformed into a legion's (or fanbase's, or cult's) adulation, the ultimate It girl. And of course, you can't fake authenticity -- so rather than have Katniss try and fail to "act," Coin et al. simply put her in emotionally traumatic situations to produce the exact Pavlovian emotional response they want from her! Katniss is not a wholly passive figure, here -- she advocates for the Victors and for Prim, she regularly defies Coin on a personal level -- and she's not actually programmed the way Peeta is, with actual neurotoxins and torture. But Katniss is a traumatized young woman who has a team of handlers working together to figure out how to maneuver her into having the emotional reactions they want her to have. She isn't yet getting out of that. And I think about Peeta's admonition to her, while he was being used as a tool, which may ironically be the key: think for yourself.

The questions are what conditions are worth living with, and what is it that's worth dying for -- a cat, a sister or friend, a freedom, or power? I do wish this was given more dramatic kick than it was, but still, I do love that Snow has a slow-creeping poison devouring him, which was literally self-administered in order to amass power. In general, how much do you compromise, of personal freedom, to stay alive? How much are, as Snow points out, the things that one wants what will destroy you? If the contrast between Snow's poisoning himself for power and Prim nearly dying to rescue her damned cat or Katniss being broken again and again by Snow's use of Peeta tells anything, it may be this: yes, you may be destroyed as a result of what you love. But nothing lasts forever. In a world where everything you love may destroy you, choose to love someone or something worth dying for.

Date: 2014-12-12 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] passionrlsusall.livejournal.com
I like your thoughts. That is all ;)

Date: 2014-12-16 07:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Thank you so much :)

Date: 2014-12-15 11:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
Got to watch this yesterday, and while I still think both the movies and the books suffer a bit from trying to have their cake and eat it too (an inevitable result of trying to tell a commercial story about the problems of selling rebellion as a commercial product), "The Hanging Tree" really intrigued me. Like you say, it's a song about suicide - but then, Dying For Something is always considered the most noble thing one can do, isn't it? I hear they've built entire religions on that. (It's a pity that The Hunger Games doesn't touch how religion plays out in Panem.)

But above all, of course, "Hanging Tree" is presented as an old traditional folk song, and is actually a pretty convincing one, too. Young lovers kept apart in life and escaping to be united after death is possibly THE oldest folk song motif there is, and with District 12 being obviously modeled on the Appalachian mountains it makes sense that they would have the same songs - sung so many times by so many people that you don't actually notice the lyrics until you notice them and start wondering, were they always like this? After all, to the actual persons in the song, it's a small but important difference between meeting "by the hanging tree" and "in the hanging tree", just like there's a difference between "hope" and "rope". Not to mention the magic powers ascribed to places where men (specifically men) have been hung, or the half-remembered story of an unavenged injustice ("They say he murdered three"). Like many folk songs it repeats the chorus so often it begins to sound like an incantation. They're politically charged precisely because thanks to repetition, they're never about any one murder/suicide/rape/war/etc, and because no one claims authorship to them. "I woke up this morning/All I had was gone/One day I'll be free." The songs say "We accept that we won't be free until after death", but they also say "We refuse to accept that we're not free."

Whatever "free" means.

I'm reminded of the scene in Bob Dylan's (largely forgettable) movie Masked & Anonymous, which is actually set in a world not entirely unlike The Hunger Games, where Dylan's character is asked to play "one of those protest songs he's famous for". Dylan rolls his eyes and, with no comment, plays a deadly version of "Dixie."

Date: 2014-12-16 07:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Yay! Yeah, I mean, I think that it's very difficult, and the balance struck between the need to continually sell Katniss as a hero rather than a puppet to the real-world audience and the need to reinforce that Katniss is mostly a puppet in the in-story frame grates. I think it's worst in Catching Fire (book and film), which I think is in general the weakest because of the desperation on display in bringing back the Hunger Games again basically *just* in order to (eventually) say that this is no longer about The Hunger Games and ditch them a tiny percentage of the way through them; the (commercial?) need to maintain the thin "reality TV show parody/Battle Royale ripoff" veneer clashing against the narrative having been there before. But Mockingjay sort of lacks a centre as a result of making it all very explicit that Katniss is a tool of the state.

Funnily enough, I didn't even notice the "by the hanging tree" vs. "in the hanging tree" distinction, which of course is also a huge difference. Protest against death versus release in death. And the thing is, the "comfort" that in death will come some sort of release and reuniting with loved ones is a way of coping with the injustice of the world (well, from a perspective that doesn't believe in the afterlife as such -- you're right that it would be interesting to know about the religion in Panem), but it also makes death palatable for people who might otherwise balk at it. I'm also thinking how meeting someone in the hanging tree also has the romanticism of Bonnie and Clyde, of dying together as outlaws, criminals (and maybe murderers), and the line between rebellion and pure criminality.

Given that the movie's universe is kind of basically (to use the WW2 analogy the movie kind of suggests) a choice between the Soviet Union and the Nazis, and between Stalin and Hitler (well, a Stalin who looks like Julianne Moore though!), "liberty" is not exactly achievable in the sense that people probably want it to be. However, once enough people die For The Cause, there will be liberty, because ... ? And of course, the reality is that the Capitol really should be taken down, and District 13 as it currently is maybe more or less has to be the way it is during the period in which it's literally underground, but the argument being made to the people is not "Go out and risk your life and probably die so that a plurality of people will be under a slightly better totalitarian government than the existing totalitarian government" but "Go out and risk your life for FREEDOM!!," because of course very few people are, ahem, dying for the chance to *slightly* improve the world, or to move from "very horrible" to "somewhat horrible." (I'm actually reminded of Alvy Singer's monologue in Annie Hall about the world being divided into people for whom life is horrible and for whom life is terrible, and how lucky most of us should be that life is terrible!)

I recently watched an early Tarkovsky movie, Ivan's Childhood, about a, say, 12 year old boy who fought for the USSR during WW2 against the Germans. Spoiler: he dies. And he discovers a concentration camp at one point, but that his life is short and brutish is given a lot of emphasis, as well as the implication that he probably has very little chance of fitting into any kind of "society" when the war is over. And there is some vague attempt to show that Ivan's continued dedication to war is "his choice" rather than those around him, but the Red Army sure benefits from him, and the audience is not left comfortable with that. I think watching that recently is what puts me in mind of the Germany vs. USSR frame for the whole thing, though it doesn't seem that there is racial or religious persecution in the Capitol, which is probably more directly based on Rome and the Modern West in equalish measures. That, and my mom and I were just talking yesterday about Eisenhower basically deciding to let the Russians take Berlin so that the Soviet Union could "eat" the casualties. It's pretty bleak.

I will have to see how the movie handles the (quasispoiler) final shot that Katniss takes; I think the book just leaving it without too much didactic speechifyin' was a wise choice.

Date: 2014-12-17 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
However, once enough people die For The Cause, there will be liberty, because ... ?

...Because once enough people have died for something, that thing must by definition be Liberty? ;) (This will become a very Soviet-heavy discussion, but I recently read Svetlana Alexievich's Zinky Boys, about the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and the reaction to the soldiers' testimonies on how they treated the locals and what it did to them. Quote from one mother: "I'm proud of my son! I love the USSR because my son died for it! And I hate you [the journalist], we don't need your awful truth!") The more you sacrifice, the more you must get in return; that's simple capitalism. (Ouch.)

I recently watched an early Tarkovsky movie, Ivan's Childhood, about a, say, 12 year old boy who fought for the USSR during WW2 against the Germans

I haven't watched that one (yet) but have you seen Elem Klimov's 1985 movie Come And See? Roughly the same idea (young Belarusian boy gets tossed into WWII and has to survive) and possibly THE bleakest, least "Woah, dude, look at the cool explosions"-like war movie ever made. (And, if I were to film The Hunger Games, would be one of the main inspirations for how I'd film Katniss' last shot.) ETA: Trailer

I think watching that recently is what puts me in mind of the Germany vs. USSR frame for the whole thing, though it doesn't seem that there is racial or religious persecution in the Capitol, which is probably more directly based on Rome and the Modern West in equalish measures.

Yeah, the iconography really is a bit weird in this - I always wondered why villains in sci-fi dystopias inevitably dress themselves to look as villainous as possible (then again, the Nazis did that too) and why they all seem to base their uniforms on either Nazis or Star Wars stormtroopers. I mean, as scary as they look, they... y'know, lost. What kind of example is that to set for your minions? And is that why the Capitol soldiers can't hit anything further away than arm's length?
Edited Date: 2014-12-17 02:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-12-17 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Give me Liberty or give me Death! Oh, you gave that other guy Death? Well, I must have gotten Liberty! Phew, what a relief! I can go back to living now! ;)

That reporter/interview has something of Stockholm syndrome (whose name makes it sound as if it's more common in Sweden -- any thoughts? ;)) in it, but at least with "ordinary" Stockholm syndrome there is at least some possibility of getting out with enough time and re-building values according to some sense of normalcy -- "Oh, right, I was held hostage by some people, that's not what is supposed to happen, I reacted weirdly, and now my life is back to normal. Check" -- as opposed to, "I was raised to believe in this value system and my son died for it, so FUCK YOU." It's also sort of a variant of Pascal's wager:

Case 1 - The State's demand for great sacrifices which have already been made are justified ==> implies that sacrifices that have already happened happened for a reason.
Case 2 - The State's demand for great sacrifices were not justified ==> sacrificed for NOTHING! AHHHHHHH!

The "Pascal's wager" element of it, I guess, is that the method used to choose which belief to adopt is very explicitly *not* the probability of each belief being correct, but how desirable or frightening the consequences of that belief are.

I have not watched Come and See but I will try to check it out. I have heard of it.

Yeah, the iconography really is a bit weird in this - I always wondered why villains in sci-fi dystopias inevitably dress themselves to look as villainous as possible (then again, the Nazis did that too) and why they all seem to base their uniforms on either Nazis or Star Wars stormtroopers. I mean, as scary as they look, they... y'know, lost. What kind of example is that to set for your minions? And is that why the Capitol soldiers can't hit anything further away than arm's length?

Yeah, I mean, I also kind of am not sure what the deal with Capitol soldiers is anyway -- this may have been clarified at some point and I may have forgotten, but who *are* the people fighting? The depiction of Capitol people as decadent sloths means that they probably aren't doing their own fighting, so it's probably District 1 or 2 or something that produces the soldiers. It may be that the Nazi iconography (or generally dressing them like interchangeable supervillainous identity-free forces), and possibly even a piss-poor training program leading to people unable to shoot, is a mechanism to control the army which could really take them over if they ever wanted to, which is one of the consequences of having Too Good a military. Or it's a cliched dystopian army and not much thought was put into it! HARD TO SAY.

Date: 2014-12-17 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beer-good-foamy.livejournal.com
(whose name makes it sound as if it's more common in Sweden -- any thoughts? ;)

Don't know if it's more common, but we did invent it. Our most successful post-war export next to IKEA and ABBA. So there.

Case 1 - The State's demand for great sacrifices which have already been made are justified ==> implies that sacrifices that have already happened happened for a reason.
Case 2 - The State's demand for great sacrifices were not justified ==> sacrificed for NOTHING! AHHHHHHH!


Which is, in fact, pretty much the dilemma Alexievich points to.

who *are* the people fighting?

Yeah. If there's one thing that's really sorely lacking in HG, it's the bird's-eye view - everything (including but not limited to the plot) is so focused on Katniss that we have no idea who anyone beyond her circle of friends and enemies is. It's even more obvious in the movies, without the first-person narrative. I'd love to get some more insight into how the Capitol dwellers justify their lives, how the District 13 people have actually lived over the years, etc. There's another reason to dress your supporting cast in uniforms; you don't need to acknowledge them as actual people.

Date: 2014-12-17 03:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Don't know if it's more common, but we did invent it. Our most successful post-war export next to IKEA and ABBA. So there.

Is your most successful pre-war export Ingrid Bergman? Or Greta Garbo? :) (Talk about objectification!)

Yeah. If there's one thing that's really sorely lacking in HG, it's the bird's-eye view - everything (including but not limited to the plot) is so focused on Katniss that we have no idea who anyone beyond her circle of friends and enemies is. It's even more obvious in the movies, without the first-person narrative. I'd love to get some more insight into how the Capitol dwellers justify their lives, how the District 13 people have actually lived over the years, etc. There's another reason to dress your supporting cast in uniforms; you don't need to acknowledge them as actual people.

Yeah. And I mean, I don't know. I think that it sort of works in the books better than the movies on this particular point; one could still say it's lazy, but I think the difference is that a character hearing "oh, and like a thousand people died fighting today," and not getting a sense of what those people are like or how they died or what their hopes and dreams are, is different from *seeing* hordes of people running at each other as disposable figures in a brief action scene that is mostly for exposition. Katniss' shell-shocked inability to grasp the larger narrative around her is The Point; I think if the books were stronger, there would be more information at the margins to allow us to reconstruct the whole world, but I think for what they are it largely makes sense. However, every time the films cut away from Katniss they necessarily become something like omniscient narrator, and while that doesn't happen too often it does happen in some of the scenes (like the...woodsmen in District (2 < n < 12) climbing trees to drop bombs or whatever which don't make the trees fall down? ish?). It's a different feeling, and reminds me of Truffaut (I think?) saying that it's impossible to make an anti-war film because war looks so exciting on film. There is no real adrenal charge in Katniss hearing that fighting that she doesn't understand happened, whereas there is some even in a battle scene on camera where we have no real sense of any of the individuals as people.

I do think there is some critique in there -- mostly in the way the solo Hanging Tree becomes Soviet Marching Song -- but it can only go so far without development of the extra-Katniss world, which the movies only really half-commit to. (Well, half is maybe stretching it, it's less than that!) I don't quite know how critical I want to be of the movies (or books, for that matter) -- I think they are...fine, sort of, for what they are? But I sort of wish they built on what worked about them further.
Edited Date: 2014-12-17 03:54 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-12-28 03:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boot-the-grime.livejournal.com
Yeah, I mean, I also kind of am not sure what the deal with Capitol soldiers is anyway -- this may have been clarified at some point and I may have forgotten, but who *are* the people fighting? The depiction of Capitol people as decadent sloths means that they probably aren't doing their own fighting, so it's probably District 1 or 2 or something that produces the soldiers.

That's actually a pretty big plot point in Mockingjay, in what will be in part 1 of the movie (though it could have easily been in part 1), so if you don't want to be reminded, don't scroll down (I've forgotten, how do you do spoiler tags here, or can you?):
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It's explicitly explained by Plutarch in the book that the majority of Peacekeepers comes from District 2. There are lots of Capitol citizens who are in bad debts and who'd agree to join the forces because they have little choice otherwise, and some do become Peacekeepers, but most of them are not considered fit and trained enough for the job. Instead, the majority of the force comes from District 2, which has always been the one most loyal to the Capitol, and also the richest i.e. the one Capitol treats the best financially - or rather, it's District 1 and 2, but 2 is specifically a very militarized district. Their official industry is masonry, but actually it is training future Peacekeepers, producing weapons, and they also take a lot of pride in their participation in the Hunger Games, training the "Career Tributes" from an early age, so they could volunteer when they turn 18, and "bring pride" to their District. They seem to have a very "being a gladiator is a noble and proud thing" mentality (I'm reminded of a couple of characters from Spartacus: Blood and Sand that used to have that mentality).

Which is why 2 is far more divided than the other Districts regarding their attitude to the Capitol, and rebellion doesn't spread that easily. It's a Capitol stronghold for a long time.










Edited Date: 2014-12-28 03:46 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-12-28 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
I forget how to do spoiler tags -- you can do it, but I don't recall.

And thanks for that. I remember that now, but it's a detail that floated out of my mind.

Date: 2014-12-28 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boot-the-grime.livejournal.com
About the Peacekeeper uniforms - that's a movie thing, I don't think their clothing is ever described in the books. I don't know why they went with that - maybe as a homage to Star Wars?

Date: 2014-12-28 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boot-the-grime.livejournal.com
Happy birthday, Max!

I love your thoughts. It hadn't even occurred to me that Snow was talking from experience when he said the things we love most destroy us: his love of power is literally slowly killing him (but, as all people who love power above all else, he is still holding onto it as strongly as possible and doing everything to keep it). One of the best movie additional scenes. Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised by 1) how faithful the film series is to the books (if anything, each new movie is a more faithful adaptation than the previous one) and 2) how organic the additional scenes and changes feel in the narrative.

It's funny that Mockingjay part 1 has so much lower Rotten Tomatoes score, I liked this one the most out of the three movies so far. Now, I really loved the first one when I first saw it, which was before I had read any of the books; it's what made me pick them up in the first place. It's a really good movie, but looking back, after having read the book, it did drop the ball in a few places. I love the additional scenes and dialogue, though, from Seneca to Cato. The second movie was objectively considerably better and did most things right, but as someone who had read the book, I was disappointed by a couple of choices. I'm also someone who loves Mockingjay the best out of the three books - but I also think that the movies have the chance to expand and improve on it in the way the first two did not, by moving more outside of Katniss' POV, and by fleshing out some moments and the new characters (something they have been doing pretty well so far, already giving more screentime to the likes of Cressida and Pollux). I was afraid I may display the syndrome of a book reader who never gets impressed by the adaptation, or has a bunch of issues with it even when it's overall OK (which, for instance, happens to me a lot with Game of Thrones), but I really enjoyed this one.

My only complaints are the lack of focus and development of Haymitch, and Gale's uncharacteristic mildness. I guess they're trying to save his anger, vindictiveness and indiscriminate anti-Capitol feelings more for part 2 when they become a plot point - but still, it's really OOC for Gale to be so nice to Effie. In the book, there are lot of hints early one, as in the (missing in the movie) scene where he and Katniss argue about the treatment of her prep team (who don't seem to be in Mockingjay, but Effie could have easily taken their role). It doesn't help that Gale is played by Liam Hemsworth, who's physically a good match but not the greatest actor. I thought he was OK in Catching Fire and did show some of Gale's anger, but there's almost none of that in this movie. He just comes off as a nice and sad dude most of the time.

I've also seen people voice complaints about the way Finnick's confession was done - that, even though the rescue sequence was great, it took away the focus too much from what Finnick was saying. I don't know if I agree with that - but I can't really guess how the scene worked for non-book viewers and if they paid attention to Finnick, since I was already expecting the confession to begin with.

Date: 2014-12-28 04:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] local-max.livejournal.com
Thanks!

Yeah, I think the movie was good. It's actually very hard to evaluate this series (as it is hard to evaluate the Harry Potter movies, though for different reasons) because I do find it hard to separate out the movies from the books. I have read the books once and I enjoyed them very much but I don't remember everything in them (e.g. the uniforms, and the District 2 things I had forgotten about).

Gale definitely is super calm. There isn't really much definition to him -- and without that Gale anger (which fits in with the naming -- Gale as in storm), it's hard for the Gale/Peeta comparison to pop. The shipping stuff still exists in the movie, but the point is that Peeta is ultimately someone who can adapt to peacetime and Gale isn't, with the related point that Katniss is capable of being a warrior but prefers to settle into peace, and without Gale's aggression it sort of becomes a round of which boy is cuter.

I did think Finnick's confession plays a little weird. I think the question is, have the movies set things up enough such that what Finnick has to say is going to have an impact on the moviegoing audience? And I can't really say.

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