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Month

March 2012

The Hunger Games movie

I dragged myself out of bed this morning to watch the first showing of The Hunger Games at my local theater and it was well worth it. Spoilers abound.

I liked that the cinematic style started off with the shaky feel of a documentary. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very grand camera sweeps and editing later, but I feel that was fitting for the Capitol, while the loose style used for the District 12 shots felt right. Going along with the basic look of the film I think there was just enough special effects and editing used to show off the Capitol, it didn’t feel excessive and overwhelming (I’m looking at you Star Wars prequels). I do wish they had been more consistent about the use of text to specify locations. Maybe I didn’t notice it, but only the only used it twice (for District 11 and 12), while I feel like it may have been fruitless to use it for the Capitol it would have been consistent.

The Mockingjay pin is given to Katniss at the Hob and then to Prim, then back to Katniss, which is a pretty drastic change from the books. I was concerned with this change before watching the movie because for Katniss to have a pin in her possession when her family was starving, and she could readily trade said pin for food, was ridiculous. But they made it work by letting her have it so close to the Reaping. Also, it could very well have been made from cheap materials.

I actually preferred the change because it added another layer to the relationship between Katniss and Prim, which could not have been easily shown in a movie. I actually always felt their sisterhood lacked a lot of description in the books, but this gesture and other moments really brought home how close the two were. Which led me to my first tears later on when Katniss volunteers.

That scene brought goosebumps to my arms every time I saw the trailer, but watching the entire scene play out on screen was heartbreaking. The utter silence of the crowd and Prim is devastated is chilling. The sacrifice Katniss is making in her shocked state is acted superbly by Jennifer Lawrence.

As the characters spend time in the Capitol before the games begin I really liked that I began to feel anticipation. I think that because this is a movie there wasn’t a lot of time for character development for the stylists, Cinna, Effie or Haymitch, but they did a damn good job of getting in everything they could.

Once the games began the jump from the arena to the outside world grew on me. Yes, a lot of that wasn’t in the book, but it broke up what would have been a monotonous bunch of footage of kids wandering in the woods for days (Harry Potter 7, is that you?). Snow’s careful attention to his roses reminded me a lot of the dreadful Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, and Seneca Crane’s beard can take me out to dinner anytime it wants.

Rue’s angelic face as she died brought forth more tears than I shed for Dobby (GASP). As the fat tears rolled down her cherubic cheeks, and Katniss wreathed her in flowers I just couldn’t not cry. I felt that that whole part was really well paced and Katniss’ stages of grief were so real. Then the cut to the rebellion in District 11 kept me crying because this is what happens when innocent people die, eventually we rise up together. I do wish that the bread had been sent to Katniss from District 11 because in the books it was a grand gesture for one of the poorest districts to scrimp together enough money to send that to her.

The dogs at the end weren’t what was described in the books, but I preferred them because they fit better in to the universe created in the movie than the weird, spliced beings in the book would have. If they had created the creatures from the book I think the audience would have been too distracted to pay attention to the tributes fight to survive.

Overall I have to say it was an almost perfect adaptation from a book to a movie. I say almost because not everything was included, which would have been an impossible feat. A lot of credit has to be given to the screenwriter for touching on as many aspects of the book as possible. I’ve found adaptations that work are the ones that stay as true to the book as is humanly possible without trying to rewrite the plot for their own purposes. (Example: Look at the difference between Order of the Phoenix and the rest of the Harry Potter film franchise. That was the one film with a different writer and he touched on as much as he could instead of twisting the plot for his own devices)

Go watch it. Now.

Odds and ends

The gradual flashbacks to the moment Peeta threw bread to Katniss were paced really well.

I thought the costuming was great and reinforced how clothing has always been a status symbol.

I was glad no one in my theater clapped as the tributes died because if you think about it, everyone was dying because of the Capitol and their need for dominance (amongst other things).

If you’re going to be loud and rowdy go to the midnight showing.

If you’re in your 30s and still giggling over the short Breaking Dawn trailer then you may need help. (Looking at the ladies who sat beside me… c’mon, you sounded like PRE-teens.)

On that note, the theater is not a book club, shut the hell up (or go to the midnight showing).

No avoxes, but there’s sure to be room in the future movies to explore that if they choose.

I liked Peeta, though I could stand to rewatch the movie to get a better idea of the peripheral characters.

Glad the movie had no love triangle slant.

They did manage to show Haymitch’s transition from drunkard to sober guide.

Why the hell is Effie the only one with a British accent?

Side Rant:

I feel like I see a lot of petty arguments popping up online in regards to this film. A lot of people are making noise about Battle Royale (which I haven’t read) being similar and superior to this series. Others tried to exploit the love triangle parts of the story to compare it to the Twilight series.

Any arguments to draw people to one fandom or another are cringe-worthy to me. It brings me back to high school when I nonchalantly told my friend, after a heated argument over Heroes and Lost, that I actually liked both. I was informed that I could not like both. I was told, forcefully, that it was not feasible for me to be a fan of those two shows and that I would have to pick one. I guess they were pitted against each other because they were the only two sci-fi/fantasy shows on at the time (?). Whatever her reasons then seem just as unreasonable to me now when people try to force one fandom on people. People will like what they want, leave them be.

And on the subject of any comparisons to Twilight, there shouldn’t be any. They are two books written for very different audiences. Trust me, I spent about three weeks having scholarly discussion about the Twilight series in my upper-division college English course.

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Slather this on everything I eat. Seriously.

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I always find new reasons to love Trader Joe’s each time I browse its mouthwatering aisles. They’ve got me salivating like Pavlov’s dog just writing about it.

I stumbled upon this cilantro salad dressing in the area close to the salad stuff. I decided to give it a try since it had an appealing green color to it. Another plus was it said it was reduced fat, which makes my lard ass rejoice.

When I got home, with enough delicious food to feed a harem, I made a burrito and used this dressing to give it a kick. The amazingly fresh taste of cilantro gave it a perfect zing. Yeah, you may not want to kiss someone after chowing down on it, but its effects are like mint, quickly permeating every region of your mouth with delicious flavor.

The creamy, smooth dressing isn’t overwhelming and doesn’t leave a bad aftertaste. It’s a pleasant, crisp aftertaste that leaves you meditating on the spectacular food you jut consumed. I recommend it for people looking for a way to kick up their salads, burritos and anything in between. I could even see it as a zesty dipping sauce for onion rings or fries.

The Hunger Games Paradox

As with most things in life the following is inspired by a conversation at a bar. My friend had just finished The Hunger Games and we were avidly discussing it over margaritas. The topic of the Capitol and their reliance on luxury, with complete disregard for the humans who worked to supply the items, was particularly upsetting to my compatriot.

“WE ARE THE CAPITOL,” she wailed. And she’s right.

I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games. I thought it was a great reflection, and exaggeration, of how we consume without thought. Our need for things dictates how people miles and oceans away live their lives. In the series the Capital is the embodiment of consumption. The citizens there rely of the pitiable districts for their food, clothing, energy, etc. The Capitol is so detached that they feel no remorse for the horrendous working and living conditions the people who make their goods must survive in.

I feel like promoting The Hunger Games through mass market merchandise would be like Fast Food Nation doing book signings at McDonald’s locations across the country. Like No Impact Man being promoted on disposable cups. The method of publicity is directly in opposition to the message the work is trying to get across.

Whenever I see a Mockingjay pin for sale from a mass distributor all I see are the nameless faces that went behind its creation. Who made this pin? Who sewed this shirt?

The worst part, for me, are the fans who are snatching up every item with the Hunger Games logo emblazoned on it. Searching for Hunger Games on tumblr I see post after post with stuff people have bought.

“I JUST GOT MY MOCKINGJAY PIN IN THE MAIL.”

“Look who’s rocking this tribute shirt.”

“I had to get a set of Mockingjay jewelry. Necklace, earrings and the pin.”

“I HAVE ALL THE NAIL POLISH COLORS!”

Seriously, sometimes it feels like they haven’t even read the books. I’m not against people spending money as they choose, and to give credit to the film they do have a campaign to bring food to needy places. What bothers me is that the fans are buying, buying, buying. Becoming the embodiment of the Capitol without even taken a minute to question it.

The Mockingjay was a sign of rebellion, but now, to me, it’s a symbol of consumption.

What I learned about applying to grad school

Though this won’t be relevant for anyone for many months I figured I might as well write everything while it was fresh in my mind. The process won’t be the same for everyone or for every campus/program, but I hope at least some of my advice is helpful for anyone that wants it.

1. Many steps in the process will be completely out of your control and you will just have to deal with it. For control freaks like me this is the stuff of nightmares, creating many fitful nights and drowsy mornings. Letters of recommendation come from your professors, in my case one of them was knee-deep in research (in India) when the letter was due. Even though he had had ample notice and a copy of previous letters saved on his hard-drive, he was nowhere near a computer. Luckily the program was willing to give him a couple weeks to send in the letter (thankfully he was back in the states by that time), but things like this happen.

Going along with this is obtaining transcripts. I’ll mention this again later, but basically I feel like I’ve given my two previous campuses much more money than they deserve to mail an official piece of paper. In one case everything was automated, so it went pretty smoothly, until I was given two weeks notice to send my transcripts in to a program I was just accepted to. The usual painless process suddenly made me want to have a mental breakdown in the middle of the UPS and Fedex stores I rushed between. To complete the process for ordering the transcripts I had to SIGN a piece of paper with my account info and FAX it to the transcript peeps. This worked every other time I had done it but suddenly it was failing me. I got verifications from every fax, but still the transcript peeps said they didn’t have it. GAH!

Another story about transcripts going awry involves my other campus. I had ordered a rush delivery (just to make triple sure it got there before the due date and therefore paying triple the amount) and has done all the paperwork in person. So of course the intended campus never received the transcripts (not even late). Joy.

2. GRE scores are important, but not as important as your essay. I stressed over the GRE both time I took it. Yes, BOTH times. When I took it the first time I felt like I did pretty well, only to get my scores MONTHS later and see that I was a certified dunce and should just start over (or maybe that was me just overreacting). I quickly applied to take it again and studied my ass off for it. I bought more study guides, did endless amounts of drills. I was in a sheer, sweaty panic. Two of the schools I applied to have very strict expectations in regard to GRE scores. They even had MINIMUM requirements. Good God! I hadn’t even met one campuses MINIMUM.

Devastated as I was I continued to study, praying that my scored would be so outstanding this time they would disregard the last set and take me in. The day before I was to retake the GRE I got a call. The university with the highest GRE expectations (of which I did not meet) had accepted me. I nearly dropped the phone. They never mentioned my scores, just raved about my essay and told me my advisor was thrilled to have me on.

The next day I swaggered in to the test center. I didn’t care anymore. Since I’d spent $80 on the test I wasn’t just going to purposefully fail, so I made a really good attempt. Toward the end I really needed to pee and I was pretty sure my extremities were going to have to be amputated (seriously, is it standard practice for ALL test centers to be freezing?). The morning after I retook the GRE I heard from another campus (with high GRE standards) and I had gotten in to their very exclusive program.

This really reinforces why it’s important to ASK (as you’ll see later). I talked to the person in charge of graduate admissions at a certain university. I’m not going to say which campus it was, but let’s just say it’s always in the top 20 range of amazing universities. He told me the most important part of the application was the essay. You have to sell yourself and make them believe that theirs is the only campus for you, and you are the only student for them. After that they consider letters or recommendation, transcripts and lastly GRE scores. I was told they would take someone with poor GRE scores and an outstanding essay over a person with perfect scores and a crap essay.

So make sure your essay knocks their socks off.

3. Start looking at schools early. You really want to get a good idea about the programs out there. If you’re lucky you might even find ones that fit you more than the ones you’d set your sights on. Don’t limit yourself to the programs you’ve heard others talk about. Do independent research. This also helps to get a good idea of early deadlines.

I was called in by the person in charge of graduate admissions at my current campus. I thought she was going to tell me not to go to grad school, to give it up, start over, think of other careers, etc. Instead she told me about a fantastic program that I had never heard of. I looked into it. It was prestigious, expensive and only accepted ten students a year. I applied and slowly fell in love with it.

I got accepted. I’ll probably end up going there. I had no idea it existed until three months ago.

4. Visit the campus. Give the department notice that you’ll be coming for a visit and they’ll probably set you up with a pretty sweet tour of the place. Talk to professors. Walk around the department. Sit in on a class. Ask students who are actually in the program to talk to you about their experiences. You want to know both the positives and (most importantly) negatives. You want that honesty before you make a commitment.

5. Ask. Ask. Ask. Did one campus want two copies of official transcripts, or will a .pdf of unofficial ones be ok? If you can save $20 on transcript fees it’ll be worth it. If you aren’t sure if a campus needs transcripts ASK. I was accepted to one campus on the condition that I sent in my transcripts within 12 business days of the notification. I had no idea they needed them when I initially applied.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask. You want to make sure you’re application is as complete as it needs to be.

6. Get an idea of when they notify people about being accepted. You don’t want to be sitting around mid-February biting your nails off. Just ask (see #5 if you need a refresher).

7. Write down every account number, e-mail address and password you set up for different schools. This applies to schools you previously attended and the ones you have to set up for the application process. You’ll be kicking yourself if you realize you need your community college unofficial transcripts and have no idea what your username, much less your password, happened to be. You may have to set up accounts for the university as part of the application process too, so it’s good to jot down that info while it’s fresh in your mind.

 

If I learned anything from this it’s that the process in anything but painless.

From mixing up due dates to sending the same letter twice, anything could go wrong along the way. Just make sure you pay attention to the big deadlines and ROCK THE ESSAY.

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