More notes on my love for The Hunger Games


So. The Hunger Games blew my mind right out of the water.

Where to begin? The film was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and maybe better. No, it’s not as good as the book and some things are missing. But it’s as good and true to the book as film can possibly be.

Jennifer Lawrence is perfection as Katniss, and somehow conveys all the complexities of our heroine. I have such a girl crush on this actress right now. Her talent is raw and true, and not at all reliant on being beautiful—but she is beautiful, in a subtle yet startling way. Jennifer Lawrence is the real deal.

Woody Harrelson all but steals the show as the maddening and hilarious drunk with a big heart that is Haymitch.

Lenny Kravitz looks sexy in gold eyeliner.

I have to admit that Josh Hutcherson pleasantly surprised me. Perhaps because of all of the press photos lately taken of him that beg me to think of him as a brooding stud (a la the utterly talentless Robert Patterson). But Josh’s Peeta was just so loveable, I wanted snuggle right up to him.

The severe fashions, garish make-up and ridiculous hair-dos as well as every single impeccably styled set at the Capitol are a feast for the eyes. Peeta and Katniss are dumbstruck when they board the train and are greeted with crystal chandeliers, colorful sleek furniture and a buffet with riches of fruits and desserts. A stark contrast from the grays, browns, muted perpetually dirty color of their clothes and coal mining district where much of the population teeters on starvation. Effie Trinket, their escort from the Capitol, says (something along the lines of,) “I think its so wonderful that the tributes get to see and experience all this,” implying that seeing ‘all this’ and dying in the games is much better than living back in District 12 and never seeing it at all.

I read a review on the Village Voice that criticized: “Collins…through her very premise, astringently articulates her anger at a culture—ours—indifferent to inequity and war and besotted with its own stupidity. But the book’s rage and despair are diluted here, focusing too much on the high-tech gimmickry of the Gamemakers…” I completely disagree with this. Take the example above—how could you miss Effie’s stupidity—that to experience high fashion, style and luxurious food trumps the very right to life? Was this reviewer not filled with rage and despair when the gamemaker, Seneca Crane’s, produced a self-satisfied smile as he sent in lethal mutts to chase after and kill these teenagers in one of those “high-tech gimmickry” scenes?

Books aside, here’s the Panem I saw in the film:

A culture in which there are the very rich and the very poor.

The rich are obsessed with beauty, glamour, big lights and spectacle—oh, and violence and reality TV. The night before 24 teenagers are sent off to fight to the death, they crowd the streets delightedly chanting Hunger, hunger. They feel entitled to everything they have, and don’t give a second thought to at whose expense their wealth is won. And the poor? Well they don’t have much say or choice in much of anything at all. Hmmm…sound familiar?

I was on the verge of tears for the entire first half of the film. I kept thinking: Why is the story so affecting? Why can’t I stop thinking about it? Why do I want to read the books all over again and see the movie 10 more times? Maybe because it holds by the throat and shakes you awake. Because it rouses those deep human emotions–fear, hope, rage, despair…and love. The ones that make us feel alive.

And then there’s Katniss. My hero. My brave-but-afraid, strong-but-vulnerable, ordinary-but-extraordinary, tender-but-kick-ass hero.

Right back at you girl.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games movie comes out today and I will be one of the hundred millions of people who go to see it- I CANNOT WAIT!!! (I do not use all caps lightly, my friends.) My heart is a-pitter-pattering with excitement. I just watched the trailer for the hundredth time and got chills yet again.

Dan’s been teasing me to no avail about my excitement over this film (and repeated trailer-viewing). The teasing took a turn for the worse when I sprung $6.99 to buy the People Magazine Hunger Games collector’s issue. I’ll admit: this was a low point. I like to think of myself as above celebrity magazines. But I am not above the cheesy interviews where the actors all pat each other on the back or the behind-the-scenes shots of Elizabeth Banks getting that crazy-awesome make-up done. No: I am down on the same level with all the other collector’s buying the COLLECTOR’S SPECIAL and I’m proud to be there.

I disappeared into these books. They engulfed me. When I finished them, I stared at the ceiling and clutched the Mocking Jay to my chest, not knowing how to leave them behind. I wanted to talk to everyone who had read them, but then I tried and realized that what I really wanted was just to read them all over again and go back that place, back to Peeta and Gale and Katniss and even Haymitch.

I worship authors that can create a reading experience like this, who inspire millions and millions of people to read. Suzanne Collins- you go sister! This is a great essay by Carolyn Ross on The Millions about the pleasure of reading YA novels, and the important purpose they serve for adults and children alike.

Katniss is a complicated heroine and she is rendered so well. She is brave because she has to be brave, and she is also afraid because she lives in a society that breeds fear. She is vulnerable, often in a state of despair, and yet she gives hope to everyone around her. She tries to hold on to her humanity while being forced to kill people or be killed.

My sister told me that Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for these books while flipping between Survivor and a news story about the Taliban, (or something along those lines.) Given this, it’s not hard to see why these books are not only great book to read, but also scarily relevant.

I look at the world and I look at Katniss and I wonder: would I…could I be so brave? Things are going on at home that deeply disturb me, and I keep asking myself: what are you going to do about it? Reading these novels reminded me that you can’t win if you don’t fight—if you don’t take a risk.

Happy Friday everyone. I’ll report back on the movie. For now, I raise a glass to brilliant authors, good books, real life heroines and heroes, the risk takers, the fighters. May we all be as badass as this:

Elizabeth Parker Hut

This weekend, Dan and I went to the Elizabeth Parker Hut in Yoho National Park. We booked this ages ago, originally for our friends Lana and Charlie’s visit, but because of weather we had to push it back. Reasons not to go just piled on up last week: I was sick, Dan’s boss wouldn’t let him take Monday off (we had the hut booked Saturday and Sunday night), and my sister-in-law called me to tell me there might be some avalanche danger.

Avalanches be damned. We were going and I was determined.

So we packed up a medley of snacks (chips, cookies, beef jerky, fruit bars) a bottle of wine, tacos, pancakes, and headed for the mountains. Of course as soon as we hit the mountains, it was dumping snow. Our 12 k (that’s 7.5 miles to you Americans out there) looked like this:

Sometimes we’d get a glimpse of the mountains. Like here:

Honestly, the snow really didn’t bother us. I mean…look at this place! Amazing how fresh air will clear your head. The first 8 k were easy going. Dan and I were just cruising. The last 4 k were pretty much straight uphill and we both kind of wanted to die. But we didn’t die… eventually we made it here:

…and we were happy. The cabin was the coziest place on the planet as far as we were concerned. (To be clear, this is a communal cabin we were sharing with about 15 strangers.) After about an hour of being a complete puddle, the wine started flowing and we had a crazy eights game in full swing.

It was around this time that Dan and I realized we had forgotten our Cesars. For two people who pride themselves on always having enough delicious booze on hand, this was a huge blow. Such a rookie mistake.

Then the Bulgarian arrived. And his two friends: Kallil and Kelly. Kelly had pulled a chariot the entire way! You guys, this was no small feat. Like I said, Dan and I with little backpacks wanted to die. A chariot would have sealed the deal. Anyway, at first we thought there was a baby in that chariot. Everyone in cabin audibly went “Awww…” and internally went, “Why’d you bring a freakin baby to a communal hut?!” But the Bulgarian, who was wearing one of those green plastic St Patty’s Day hats wooped: “It’s full of booze! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!” The three men had brought a mini keg, two liters of wine, two bottles of vodka and a handle of rum.

When Kelly cracked his first ice cold tall boy, I could almost hear Dan start to drool. (We spent half our ski home wondering how on earth we forgot beer. Realize I’m making us sound like alcoholics between this and the cesars… but I think we’re just deep appreciators of a delicious drink at the right moment.)

Anyway, much merriment followed and the Bulgarian and two K’s kept Dan and I well lubricated once our wine ran out. There was a night ski, a thin trail of headlamps. We howled like wolves, swooshed down the trails. When you stopped, it was pure silence. Beautiful.

We woke to this:

Sometimes I’m still wondering what I’m doing here in Calgary. I don’t really feel like I belong here in a lot of ways. I wonder what my purpose is, if I’m moving forward, getting anything done, and on and on and on….

Then we get out. We wake to a blue bird day in the middle of the mountains. We make pancakes, strap on our skis and head for Lake O’Hara.

There’s no one there. Not one soul. Not a single sound.

Just us and the snow.

We’d never get to explore this landscape in the way that we will while we live here. Not in this way. I am so excited for summer, our tent, strapping our weekend on our back. But for now, winter is not half bad.

(anyone catching my feet on the beach reference here?)
One might argue that cookies and all sorts of goodies taste better in the cold.

The Kingman side of my family has a long history at Lake O’Hara. My great-grandfather loved the spot and my grandfather and mother used to come here as children. I loved imagining them here. I loved being here for the first time with my husband.

Heading home from the mountains is always bittersweet.

One wishes for a brief moment they might stay with whatever animal this is:

(as long as it’s a friendly animal.)

But there’s that sweet perspective that a weekend away brings. And the excitement to plan more adventures.

And even some excitement to get back to it. A renewed determination.

Thing is: I’d be pondering purpose and Life and all that wherever I am. May as well do it here.