Movie Chat

Choosing A Heartbreaker For If I Stay

by sarahenni on January 25, 2013

It has been quite a long time since I had a good old-fashioned casting post at this here blog, and that is certainly not for lack of exciting happenings. But Gayle Forman’s announcement about the If I Stay movie yesterday unleashed a floodgate of feels, so Imma break it down.

The If I Stay movie has been floating around with Summit for a while, briefly with the flawless Dakota Fanning attached. Though I’m sad Dakota’s Mia will never come to be, I gotta say that I think Chloe Moretz is a truly fantastic choice.

And with Mia cast so impeccably, cue my heart attack over who will be bringing punk-rock boyfriend Adam to life. It’s a big deal to me personally, because the Adam from the book is a heart-wringing amalgamation of every dude I dated in high school (the dramz!). And a big deal for the franchise because, if the film version of If I Stay manages to capture the dagger-to-the-heart beauty of the book, I’ll be standing in line like an insomniac Twilight fan at Comic Con for a film of Where She Went to be green-lit. Does anything sound better right now than a YA version of Before Sunrise on the streets of New York? Absolutely freaking not.

I turned to Jessica BS, Casting Correspondent for this here blog, for a comprehensive breakdown of what Adam needs to be, and who might be perfect for the role.

Since Jessica and I were kinda-sorta the exact same person(ish) in high school, we quickly realized we had both envisioned the same person while reading about Adam in both If I Stay and Where She Went. My indie cred is going to take a serious hit here, but the visual we agreed was perfect for Adam is based on Chris Carrabba, of Dashboard Confessional and Further Seems Forever. 1

You can’t out-emo this guy. Don’t even consider trying.

So that’s where we began our search. We also agreed that Adam shouldn’t look too very young, and we told ourselves that was not just to keep us from max creepage when we inevitably salivate over the movie poster. Plus: whoever plays Adam needs to have chops. This role had better include some concert footage of fledgling Shooting Star, and there should be a Joaquin Phoenix-in-Walk-The-Line vibe, no cheesy lip-syncing allowed.

With that, here are some standout candidates!

Darren Criss

Wait, did I mention something earlier about indie cred? Well screw that. Darren Criss has been the only thing giving Glee oxygen for ages, and it’s obvious from his role there that dude can crush a vocal solo. And this role would give Darren the chance to step out of tailored Warbler suit jackets and Hogwarts school uniforms—grow the hair out, find some ratty old slouchy hat, and maybe add a fake tattoo here and there and you’d have a perfect Portland punk. Yeah, pretty into that choice, at least from a visual standpoint (ahem).

Freddie Stroma (a.k.a. Cormac McLaggen)

Yeah, he’s good.

Christopher Abbott

Currently playing spineless pushover Charlie in Girls, I think Chris Abbott would be fairly easy to age down (without any scruff he could definitely pass for a high school senior in Movieland). And we already know from Girls that he can play guitar and sing, so he’d have the talent portion locked down. Best of all, he’s handled the navel-gazing angst of Girls with charm and a slight undertone of kicked puppy, which, let’s face it, is kind of essential to Adam. RESISTING SPOILERY TALK.

Zach Gilford

Gayle Forman herself mentioned this familiar face, and UGH. It hurts so bad to have to admit that he’s WAY too old to be Adam. Even though he has a babyface and could (still) be aged down quite a bit, I think we’ve seen Friday Night Lights take all his “plausibly playing a high-schooler” years. (Not that I regret a single minute of FNL. I DO NOT.) Sigh. Too bad, because as Matt Saracen this guy broke my heart a thousand times, which is an essential prerequisite for every role in If I Stay, but especially Adam. I don’t even care if he can carry a tune. TEXAS FOREVER, SEVEN.

I am so dating myself guys. I just couldn’t get with any of the other actual-YA-aged go-tos (the guys from Perks aren’t quite right, Alex Pettyfer has been evicted from nearly every YA heart, Ron Weasley is too British). So what do you think?? Who is up to the task of ripping our hearts into the tiniest bits?

  1. This led to an entire side conversation about how holy hell did you hear Further Seems Forever is touring?! And did anyone honestly feel the need to listen to anything besides The Moon Is Down, most specifically “Snowbirds and Townies“?


Bridget > Bridget

by sarahenni on July 11, 2012

Welcome to another Road Trip Wednesday, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs. Check out their post for links to other Highwayers’ answers!

This week’s topic is:

What movie have you seen that actually (gasp!) improved on the book?

For me, the 2001 film version of Bridget Jones Diary is what comes to mind immediately as a film I would recommend before the book. I will confess to having seen the movie first (and isn’t it typical to enjoy the first version of anything you read/see/hear?), but made a point to read the book last summer because I’d heard such great things about it. And it was many things: hilarious, silly, extra- super- crazy-British, totally worth reading. But I thought the movie got rid of some things that were extraneous to the story (the strange “missing friend who may or may not have hurt themselves” episode), and added incidents that raised the stakes for Bridget’s ultimate romantic quandary.

I promise you that it had almost everything only something to do with the choice of Colin Firth as a heart-meltingly perfect Darcy. It did enhance the entire Bridget Jones universe for me to realize that Colin Firth the actor was mentioned in the book for his romance with Pride and Prejudice costar Jennifer Ehle.

And now I want to watch the movie again! It’s such a perfect sick-day, quick pick-me-up flick.

So what about you?? Any movies come to mind that you enjoyed more than their book form?


I am (kind of) a Big Deal in Sweden

by sarahenni on April 2, 2012

So I’ve been talking, Tweeting, Gchatting, and yes blogging about The Hunger Games like… quite a bit? Often. Okay, an excessive amount. So much that, when looking to do a report on how huge the Hunger Games movie was being hyped in the U.S., a Swedish National Television reporter contacted me and asked for an interview.

Now, I am more Finnish than Swedish (though I’ve got a dash of that, too), but the Swedish Chef is hands-down my favorite Muppet and, basically, Scandinavia is my peeps. So obviously I agreed! The results below:

If anyone is fluent in Swedish, by the by, I’d love a breakdown of what exactly they were saying, and how they introduced me! Bestie Danielle and I have some theories: “Aspiring Swedish Pop Star,” perhaps, or maybe  “Over-frequent IKEA Shopper.”

Anyway I had to share because it’s so random and funny. In case you’re wondering, that T-shirt I hold up is from the ForeverYA store, and the one I’m wearing was a Secret Santa gift from my co-worker. Nevermind that my main quote was about avoiding rampant consumerism… *cough*


The Hunger Games: A Peeta/Gale Retrospective

by sarahenni on March 30, 2012

So, I wrote about my feelings on most of The Hunger Games movie yesterday, but of course I left out one of, if not the, most important parts of the movie: Peeta and Katniss, and Peeta and Gale, and how the movie showed us Katniss’ emotional journey through their relationships.

First, I’d like to give the floor to Bestie Danielle, the Team Gale beat reporter for this here blog, for her analysis of how the movie did, or didn’t do right by Mr. Hawthorne.


As a hardcore member of Team Gale, I thought it was hilarious when the castings were first announced:

I mean really.

But then I saw the movie. Unfortunately, Movie Gale let this gal down pretty hard. For anyone still on the fence about this love triangle, please do not let Movie Gale sway you towards Peeta. Book Gale is way, way better than Movie Gale.

Book Gale is a rugged, manly, hunter. He and Katniss lost their dads in the same accident, and both turned to illegal hunting to provide for their families. Book Gale understands Katniss because their lives and hardships have been so similar. Meanwhile, Movie Gale talks about his feelings and follows Katniss around while she acts like a badass. Movie Gale doesn’t hunt. He is Katniss’ hunting poodle who is afraid to ruin his manicure, let alone kill something.

Book Gale is angry. In a totally hot way! Both Book Gale and Movie Gale complain about the Capitol a lot. Book Gale complained in an angry, ranting way. Movie Gale mopes in a field, painting his nails, and ponders whether or not vests have become too mainstream.

Gale is sad.

It’s always interesting to see a first person narrative be transferred to film. But unfortunately, the way we got to see Gale’s heartbreak was a montage of mopey, forlorn looks.

Book Gale was super hot. Let’s face it: part of Gale’s appeal is that he is smokin’ hot. He’s literally tall, dark, and handsome. In Mockingjay, Johanna takes one look at Gale and is like, “hot DAMN!” He’s an athletic, tough-as-nails mountain man hunter who all the girls in school have a crush on. Unfortunately for Movie Gale, he has a much hotter older brother, Thor. A much hotter brother that we all got to meet first (in Thor and the Snow White and the Huntsman preview.) Movie Gale is kind of like the Eli to Thor’s Peyton Manning.

I also think I would have been far more attracted to Movie Gale if he wasn’t such a mouth breather.

Seriously. Look at that. There is nothing hot about a mouth breather.
On a positive note, the most important part about the Katniss-Gale relationship is that she trusts him, and she trusts him with the most important thing to her – Prim’s life. This translated well in the movie anytime we saw Movie Gale interact with Prim. Movie Gale grabbing a distraught Prim at the reaping was pretty perfect, and Prim sitting on Movie Gale’s shoulders at the end was a great visual representation of what Gale means to Katniss.

As another positive thing, I am down with the fact that they didn’t touch too much on the romantic possibilities between Katniss and Gale. I think it’s important (like Erin said in her guest post on love trianges) that viewers understand that this trilogy is not about a love triangle, and Katniss doesn’t really give a shit about what boys are in love with her. Since Book Gale plays a more active role the second and third books, hopefully Movie Gale mans up a bit and gets way more awesome in the next two movies!

And hopefully, he closes his mouth more.

(Thanks Danielle! And I solemnly swear I did not alter or misrepresent Danielle’s feelings in any way. She really, really doesn’t like mouth breathers.)

Okay, now it’s my turn!


Dreaminess factor: achieved

Alright, Let’s discuss Peeta. Poor handsome, wildly-talented Josh Hutcherson has been put up to an impossible fangirl standard with this role. I get that. I do. And overall, I’d say he really got it. I like him as Peeta—but I felt that movie Peeta was softened from the complex character in the books. One of my YA Highway cohorts described Josh, and the Katniss-Peeta ro(faux?)mance as “dopey”—and in some ways I agree.

It isn’t Josh’s fault, at least not entirely; the script stole some of the best, most defining Peeta moments from him. For example, instead of showing Peeta slapping a Bloody Mary out of Haymitch’s hand the first day on the train, the movie cut right to Katniss’ table-knifing. Shortly after, Peeta is shown waving giddily to the Capitol crowd gathered around their train. Not a cunning line on Josh’s slightly doughy (I COULD NOT RESIST) face, with only Haymitch to suggest, “He really gets it.” In the book, when the crowds have gone, we get to see Peeta himself reveal that there’s a cynic (and a serious Game strategist) within:

He sees me staring at him and shrugs. “Who knows?” he says. “One of them may be rich.”
(The Hunger Games, p.60)

Peeta is playing the game. Not only is he playing it, he pulls into the lead the minute he tells the Capitol audience, “she came here with me.” In the movie, Peeta does establish the star-crossed lover ruse, but they slowly flatten him out in the arena until it’s impossible to tell that he’s still a clever competitor. It starts out well (how interesting was it to learn that Peeta bypassed any Cornucopia supplies and headed right for the woods? That was a nice benefit of not being restricted to Katniss’ perspective) with Peeta clearly uneasy in the pack of careers. But after he shoos Katniss off to recover safely from her tracker jacker stings, there’s nary a hint of Peeta being self-aware of their love game, or of their Panem audience. Conversely, in the book, after Katniss finds Peeta camouflaged by the river and she begins to move him to the cave:

“Lean down a minute first,” he says. “Need to tell you something.” I lean over and put my good ear to his lips, which tickle as he whispers. “Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it.”

Clever and cheeky and completely “Team”-worthy. The movie, in my opinion, fails to show that Peeta remains aware of and savvy about the gamesmanship in the arena in and after the cave scene. The audience sees Katniss get helpful Haymitch notes (“You call that a kiss?”) so we know she had tactics on the mind when she leans in for her “shut up and go to sleep so I can get your medicine” lip-lock. But we get no hint, physically or verbally, not even so much as a wink, to suggest Peeta (though no doubt harboring real feelings for Katniss) is interested in hyping up and selling their romance, too.

Art by Noelle Stevenson – click for source

The reason that bothers me so much is, I thought the movie did a decent job of condensing the lovey dovey bits  (there wasn’t exactly room in this 2.5-hour sprint to spend three days lounging in a cave) and making the extent of Katniss and Peeta’s genuine feelings for one another clear. When Katniss returns from retrieving Peeta’s medicine at the Cornucopia, they shared a very real moment. Forget the kiss—that moment of charged lingering was exactly perfect. That was so necessary, because having such a brief, honest moment put the constructed, calculated world of the games in relief.

And besides the brilliantly-done interview with Caesar (God love Stanley Tucci, he was perfection on toast), Josh rarely got the chance to show that Peeta really does have a self-deprecating sense of humor. (Okay, the “I’ll take the arrow. … Just kidding!” moment was pretty good, too.) Peeta’s brains and Seth Cohen-like sense of humor are the entire reason for Team Peeta. But it isn’t only the quips that I missed, it was how they showed that Peeta and Katniss were equals. Because in the books, Peeta’s jokes are often sarcastic comments on things that Katniss does. He has genuine feelings for her, which grow into love, but Peeta does not think Katniss is perfect. Far from it. For instance, we missed out on this little gem from training, when Peeta gets all camouflage-artistic and credits his years of frosting cakes (RESISTING JOKE SO HARD):

“It’s lovely. If only you could frost someone to death,” I say.

“Don’t be so superior. You can never tell what you’ll find in the arena. Say it’s actually a giant cake—” begins Peeta.

“Say we move on,” I break in.

(The Hunger Games, p. 96)

It disappointed me because I had hoped since the movie was a break from Katniss’ point of view, it would take advantage of it to show Peeta as a more well-rounded character overall, not simply the object of Katniss’ schizophrenic love/hate. But, by flattening Peeta’s complexity toward the end of the movie, our final impression of Peeta is that he’s a love-addled victor whose next big challenge is prying Katniss away from Gale.

It’s only a flesh wound

Finally, a HUGE part of my critique on Peeta’s loss of complexity has to do with the decision to magically heal his leg wound in the cave. For those of you who don’t remember, in the book Peeta’s leg gets better, but only enough for him to run from the muttations. By the time Cato’s slowly dying and the problem of the berries presents itself, Peeta’s losing blood and doesn’t have much time left. When K & P are lifted into the hovercraft, the book gives us one of its compelling, and telling, moments: Katniss, feral and desperate, banging her fists against the glass wall separating her from Peeta and the swarm of doctors who restart his heart, twice. Not only does Peeta’s Magical Leg-Healing Moment rob us of additional tension at the end of the movie, and a glimpse into how Katniss truly feels for him, it also takes away a pivotal mark of how the Games have a lasting affect on his character. For more on that subject I want to direct you to this excellent article on the topic from Tiger Beatdown. An excerpt:

Peeta, like other characters, is scarred by the world he lives in, and he bears a visible mark of the cruelty and brutality of Panem, but more importantly, he’s another person trying to survive and build a better world. By neatly cutting that entire plotline away, the filmmakers avoided some tangled and thorny issues.

S. E. Smith, So, How About Those Hunger Games

And if there’s anything you can count on The Hunger Games books for—especially as the series progress—is tangled and thorny issues. I’m interested to see how the films address (or don’t) that in the future.

WELL! I have been exceedingly long-winded, and I apologize for that. But I want to know what you think!! Did the movie live up to your expectations for Peeta/Gale? Disappoint? What do you hope they show in the next two movies?


The Hunger Games Review

by sarahenni on March 29, 2012

Holy crap. Two years after reading the book, one full year of following news about the movie, and weeks of watching The Hunger Games grow into a simmering worldwide phenomenon, opening weekend finally happened. Let’s just say I was A BIT excited. And of course you know I had Thoughts and Feelings after watching the movie.

I’ll be honest: my immediate reaction was… mixed.

It’s the Harry Potter problem, you know? How can one movie 1) successfully translate such a beloved book, and 2) live up to such intense, prolonged hype? There’s almost no way it can deliver on the first viewing. At the time of this review, I’ve seen the film twice, and I liked it much more the second time, but some critique remains.

SPOILERS START HERE! For The Hunger Games and all subsequent books in the series. You’ve been warned!

District 12 and the Reaping were perfection. No problems there, except my inappropriate urge to giggle at Gale’s gaping mouth. Effie was glorious, and little Prim about ripped my heart out with her screams after Katniss volunteered. Haymitch was divine—on second viewing I can really appreciate how they gradually showed his transformation from drunken escapist to gaming-the-Games mastermind.

But then, just about everything that happens at the Capitol leading up to the games was troublesome for me. The Capitol itself was incredible—so richly realized, and the costumes! My problems had to do with the camera, and the goal—or goals—director Gary Ross set out to achieve by using a shaky, hand-held effect.

I really hate the hand-held thing. And that’s just from a grouchy, “it gives me a headache!” 94-year old woman within perspective. So it made me annoyed (and really glad I wasn’t watching in IMAX) when there was so much herky-jerky motion, with a lot of the action slightly cut-off and unclear. HOWEVER. I fully understand his reasoning:

It’s a very urgent first-person narrative. I tried to put you in Katniss’s shoes the way Suzanne Collins put you in Katniss’s shoes. I wanted to take you through the world using this kind of serpentine tunnel vision that Katniss has. I want to destabilize you the way Suzanne has and I want you to experience the world through Katniss’s eyes, and that requires a very subjective cinematic style, to be kind of urgently in her point of view, so that’s why I shot it that way.

—Gary Ross, interview with Vulture

In theory, I agree that without the raw feeling evoked by the shaky, uneven shots, the audience is at risk of becoming too separated from Katniss’ point of view, relegated to mere observers. Aloof, without personal stake in the outcome of the Games or Katniss’ fate. And Ross uses that to fine effect for the short beginning segment of the movie, spent in a bleak District Twelve. It’s also pivotal to understanding Katniss’ nervousness and fear in some Capitol scenes leading up to the onset of the Games, like when she’s walking on-stage for her interview with Caesar Flickerman, or clinging to Cinna as the seconds until Gametime slip away.

But the reasoning slips a bit for me when the film shifts to the Capitol. Because while Ross is attempting to give the movie-goer as much of Katniss’ perspective as possible through frenetic hand-held shots, he is simultaneously trying for another, contradictory effect: to make the correlation between Capitol audience and Regal-Cinema-18 audience.

This begins with the opening ceremonies, where sweeping shots of the Roman-esque parade route are anything but shaky: they’re sleek, beautiful, romanticized in glitz.

We literally zoom in on the Tributes’ chariots by looking through a Capitol citizens’ futuristic opera glass. We watch the Tributes circle round through a camera perched on President Snow’s shoulder. The goal could not be more blatant: behold the spectacle! This is for you. The opening credits for Caesar Flickerman’s tribute interviews play through as though Panem National TV was piping right into my living room. We were cast as Capitol citizens, right from the moment we bought our tickets.

Ross’ work to turn the film into a self-referential pretzel, a meta reflection on the watchers of the Games, and the watchers of The Hunger Games, was important. My lingering sense of unease with the movie afterward was due, in no small part, to being put squarely in my place as a citizen of the Capitol, implicit and culpable for all the evil I was witnessing. (And—considering I was nice and cozy in a cushy movie-theater seat with buttery popcorn and a massive soda, still slightly buzzed from pre-movie drinks, wearing my Hunger Games T-shirt and nail polish—the reminder of my own hypocrisy was apt.)

But in the arena, those two desired effects (giving the audience Katniss’ perspective, and giving the audience a reminder of its true Bread-and-Circus status) tried to co-exist somewhat, to uneven success.

The hand-held camera was convenient for cutting away from the brunt of child-on-child violence during the Cornucopia. I could not have handled much more of that, so I’m not complaining about that decision at all. And in following Katniss’ running, jumping, arrow-slinging fight for survival the hand-held definitely had my heart racing along with hers.

But then Flickerman and his Games co-host Claudius Templesmith stared dead into the camera, explaining directly to me what tracker-jackers were. No cuts to Capitol audience reaction, no visual reference to any audience besides me, and everyone alongside me in the theater. So then I found myself wondering if the jerky camera was supposed to represent the imperfect angles of the Gamemakers’ hidden cameras, or if we were still in Kantniss’ head. My perspective confusion made following the “real or not real?” development of Katniss and Peeta’s ro(faux)mance even more difficult, and left me wondering how anyone who has not read the books was following any of the Tributes’ in-the-arena Gamesmanship at all.

So, all told, I’m not certain how I feel about that decision, though I understand the reasoning behind it.

Where my Cinna at?

I was disappointed by what I felt was lack of development in the relationships, most particularly between Katniss and Cinna, and Katniss and Peeta. Lenny Kravitz was an impeccable Cinna, but the chemistry and trust that develops between he and Katniss felt unconvincing because it was so rushed. And, though Cinna immediately distinguishes himself from the rest of the Capitol citizens by telling Katniss, “I’m sorry this happened to you,” I missed the line that really solidified his personality in the books:

“Yes, this is my first year in the games,” says Cinna.

“So they gave you District Twelve,” I say. Newcomers generally end up with us, the least desirable district.

“I asked for District Twelve,” he says without further explanation.

(The Hunger Games, p. 64)

However, given that the movie was 2.5 hours long and still had to leave so much out, I understand that some things required trimming. And the scene with Katniss and Cinna before she’s lifted up into the arena…

Jennifer Lawrence blew me away there, completely. Her intensity was frightening, which lifted the countdown and subsequent Cornucopia scene to exactly the emotional level they needed to be at: basically Threat Level Fuscia. That’s also when Kravitz truly shone as Cinna, Katniss’ rock-steady touchstone through the entire Capitol experience. (And it reminded me of the scene from Catching Fire where I WILL COMPLETELY LOSE IT.)

Standout performances also to:

Seneca Crane and his epic facescape. I’m so glad you’re back, Wes Bentley, and I’m so pissed that I forgot Seneca Crane bites it. The memory of your beard will live on, sir.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow. I’ve heard some people critique his performance, but I have to say I found him eerie as hell. Listen, this guy lives in a world where innocents are slaughtered for the momentary delight of millions. And in that world, he’s in the most cutthroat field: politics. And such is dude’s sociopathic capacity for manipulation that he earned the top spot—he’s the freaking PRESIDENT. So you try telling him he can’t hold whispered life-or-death discussions in his rose garden. Go on. Tell him.

Another decision I found fascinating was the subtle hints that Cato and Glimmer were an item.

It served as a stark contrast to Katniss and Peeta: warm and natural where Katniss and Peeta were stilted and uneven; flying under the radar where Katniss and Peeta were given celebrity status; egalitarian, each striving to be seen, and to win, on their own merits where Katniss was receiving one selfless advantage after another from Peeta before they even stepped off the train. No one in the Capitol seemed particularly interested in the budding romance of a couple of gunners, trained from birth to succeed. They wanted the underdogs as much as the Districts, exactly as Snow knew they would.

So, overall, I thought it was a good movie, and one that I have no doubt will grow on me as time goes on (and I watch it eight million more times). The adaptation was absolutely true to the spirit of the books, which was the absolute, most important thing.

But wait! you say, What about Peeta?! Ohhhhhhh I have not forgotten him. NO INDEED. As you might expect, I have SO MANY Thoughts and Feelings about Peeta, and Gale, and Katniss’ overall emotional state as mostly reflected through her interactions with aforementioned boys. Too many for this post, because it’s already crazy butt-long. SO. I will be posting again tomorrow, focusing on that part of the movie.

BUT! What did you think?? Did you see the movie? Did you like it? Did the hand-held camera action make you feel dizzy? Did you read this without having seen the movie because you don’t care about spoilers? If so, WHY??


A Capitol Affair

by sarahenni on March 26, 2012

Phew! It’s Monday after the opening weekend of The Hunger Games, and my mind is still reeling. I have Opinions about the movie, but I’ll share those later this week (when hopefully everyone has seen it!). A few members of the DC Mafia gathered on Saturday to eat, drink, and be merry, which I think we can all agree was the most Capitol way ever to celebrate a movie about teens murdering one another. But, hey, haters gonna hate, and we enjoyed ourselves anyway!

It was actually quite fitting that we had a Capitol-esque Hunger Games kick-off soiree, as local book blogger Sasha, genuine resident of Panem’s wealthiest Rocky Mountain resort town, was partying with us! Sasha was an extra in the movie (she did an awesome Q&A about it here), and during the movie very graciously refrained from screaming, “LOOK THAT’S ME!” whenever she was onscreen like I totally would have.

More than a few of us were rocking Hunger Games T-shirts, and some of the nail polish, too. Everyone was super creative with their potluck entrees. Cristin brought cookies she hand-stamped with images of mockingjays and dandelions, and Jessica could of course be counted on to bring perhaps the most delicious snack of them all:


Sasha and her book blog cohort Mary (better known as Em) showed up toting a suitcase full of swag (bundles of ARCs!) that we used as prizes for a Hunger Games trivia game.

How awesome (and adorable) are they?

The questions were pretty hard, and I was really impressed with how much the DC Mafi-ers remembered!

Then, of course, the game was on and we had to get to the theater in time to snag some uncrappy seats. Our showing was packed, and it was awesome to see the movie surrounded by people who I knew were as excited, nervous, and generally INTO IT as I was!

What about you?? Did you see the movie this weekend? Did you dress up or have a shindig to celebrate the opening?


Go Away I’m Reading: The Hunger Version

by sarahenni on March 21, 2012

Not too long ago, Erin Bowman, Tracey Neithercott and I took a fun Twitter conversation and turned it into a series of snarky book covers that made the message clear: Go away! I’m reading!

The positive response to those covers has us saying, “Real or not real?”* It has the three of us wondering how to move forward and create more fun goodies. Right now, we’re seriously considering offering new book covers, and possibly e-reader covers as well. Maybe even other things, who knows!

But first, we want to hear from you, and better understand what you’d be interested in from our “Go Away” series. Please help us out and take two minutes to fill out this survey (it’s SUPER short, swears)! And, if you want to get updates when/if we do open a shop with snarky book paraphernalia, please add yourself to our e-mail list!

Though we’re still in the brainstorming phase of opening a shop, we didn’t want this awesome week of The Hunger Games excitement to go by without something cool to celebrate! So we’ve made three more Hunger Games-specific book covers to get your copies all snazzy before the premiere on Friday:

Download “BRB, Drinking with Haymitch” right here! (pdf)

And check out Erin’s blog for “At the Reaping, BRB (Unless the Odds Aren’t in My Favor)”

And Tracey’s blog for “Warning: Girl on Fire”

I hope everyone has an incredible weekend seeing the movie and/or rereading all the books, and I’m so excited to share our plans once they’re more official.

* I could not resist it, NO I COULD NOT.


Are We REALLY Ready for the Hunger Games Movie?

by sarahenni on March 20, 2012

Listen, I am as excited as anyone for The Hunger Games movie. I have the entire line of nail polish. I bought my “Peeta Has Croissants” T-shirt. I’m having tripped-out dreams about it! But I want to pose a question to you, O YA faithful, about what another mega-franchise like this could do for the books we love.

A small, world-weary part of me is nervous about The Hunger Games movie because I’m not sure non-YA readers are ready. Remember when Twilight came out, and parenting groups were crawling over each other to shout from the rooftops that BELLA IS A BAD INFLUENCE and that YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE IS ALL GROSS AND DARK AND SPARKLES?

It got so bad that Barnes & Noble assumed John Green was writing paranormal.

That talk has subsided of late, at least somewhat (and no, discussions of Fifty Shades of Gray doesn’t count there). But now, what are we following that up with? The YA series where children are forced to kill each other on television.

Do you think people are ready for what this movie is going to be? Do they have any idea?

(These aren’t rhetorical questions! I’d love your opinion!)

I’m not dreading the movie, I’m dreading the first outraged adult to write an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal saying “I was led to believe this movie was about Miley Cyrus’ boyfriend baking pita breads BUT THEN there was moral purpose and I got confused and ANGRY!”

And that’s the last big YA movie that will happen until Fugulus Jace comes along in The Mortal Instruments and THEN we’re going to have Overreactors Incorporated all up in arms about incest, like V.C. Andrews never even happened.

How is The Hunger Games movie franchise going to alter peoples’ perception of YA? Will it be in a good way? I’m worried that the movie based on this book—this ruthless, beautiful book—is going to be used by many as a broad brush with which to paint YA as irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous…again. Are you?

What do you think? We seem to have avoided movie controversy up to this point. Is The Hunger Games the series that will actually give people a better perspective on YA?


Deathly Hallows: Part Deux

by sarahenni on December 21, 2011

[Posted originally July 18, 2011] So—it’s been more than 72 hours since the final installment of the Harry Potter & Friends film franchise debuted. I think we can safely say that the polite period of silence has passed, and it’s time for a spoiler-packed post discussing the film!

Overall I really enjoyed it, and I thought it struck an appropriate emotional tone to cap off the series. But of course, as I am a highly opinionated person, I have some thoughts on where the film succeeded, and where some choices left me scratching my head.

The Split I think the first film of The Deathly Hallows must have been the driver for when to split the two films. Deathly Hallows Part I took a somewhat meandering, action-less portion of the film and created a beautiful story arc about a friendship. Harry, Hermione, and Ron were tested beyond their limits, then their friendship was redeemed by selfless action and the ultimate sacrifice of a Free Elf. It was a whole story, driven by an emotional arc and the theme of the entire series: the power of friendship.

But that left this movie with little to build a similar arc around. David Yates & Co. had two hours’ worth of essential plot points (Gringotts, Aberforth, Diadem, Snape revelations, Harry’s death, showdown) that left little room for a cohesive emotional story to develop, or for the audience to get much of a break from the heightened intensity. In the second half of the book our favorite characters are still unsure of their plan, surrounded by chaos and confusion. And the same goes for the viewer, which makes this movie great, but also a more challenging watch.

Our Favorites McGonagall was amazing, and was given one of the only lighthearted moments in the film (“I’ve always wanted to do that spell!”). Her battle with Snape was fantastic—McGonagall whipping out hardcore attack spells and Snape defending—and it’s a testament to how well Maggie Smith portrayed the character that, when McGonagall starts to look genuinely scared we realize the shit is really going down.

However! One major problem I had with the screenplay was after Voldemort gives the Hogwarts crew the “give me Harry or die” ultimatum and Pansy Parkinson cries out for someone to grab Harry. In the film McGonagall says, “All Slytherins, get out!” (Paraphrasing a bit, here.) That was nothing short of a disastrous choice of dialogue. In the book McGonagall asks Pansy to lead the Slytherins out of the castle, to be followed by all the other houses. Every first year is evacuated, regardless of house. But when asked if some could stay to fight, McGonagall says any of-age wizard can stay behind. Of course that leads to the redemption of several members of Slytherin house, including Professor Slughorn. Leaving the quote as-is in the movie makes Slytherin a house filled with irredeemably bad wizards, which belies oh, you know, the entire point of the whole series.

I loved the Snape revelations. To be honest, all that information was a total infodump in the books, so the short and effective pensieve sequence was perfect. Of course Alan Rickman was devastating. Seeing him emote while wearing Snape’s robes was a bit shocking, to be honest, and his death slayed me. (Though I don’t quite understand the choice to have his tears hold memories, instead of… you know, a memory? I was like, “why is Harry scooping up his tears, this is awkward.”)

I ship this so hard.

Luna freaking Lovegood was amazing, per usual. But my favorite thing had to be when she stopped on the stairwell and shouted, “Harry Potter you stop right now and listen to me!” How many times did we wish someone would say that to Harry in the books?! He could be such an arrogantly myopic wanker. And the whole, “I’ve got the hots for Luna” revelation by Neville in the Battle? Totally not part of HP Canon (Neville marries Hannah Abott) but I dig it so much. These two are such badasses.

The kiss!! It was awesome. The timing was fantastic (duh who wouldn’t want a kiss after a near death-by-water-basilisk moment?) and of course these two were adorable.

The Battle of Hogwarts It was INTENSE, and the filmmakers made some necessary changes. The book’s version of events is, more or less, a string of blow-by-blow duels. For the film, though, it was important to give a visual context of how the castle was being attacked. For the most part those sweeping shots of Voldemort and his pale-faced avengers overlooking the castle (and the army of wood brogues led by a Johnny-Depp-as-Captain-Jack wannabe storming the bridge) replaced any duel scenes. I understand that, and thought it was successful for the most part.

However, in my opinion, that choice kept the film from mirroring the book Battle’s brutality. When I read the battle scenes for the first time I sat straight up, mouth agape, totally horrified by the uncurbed violence. It was abattle, for doxies’ sake. The film seemed much more detached. Not showing Fred’s death was a decision I don’t entirely disagree with, but it certainly was a glaring absence. And the one major duel that the film did choose to highlight—Molly Weasley striking down evil witches like a BAMF—was short, and lacked the savagery I remember from the book.

Another thing I thought noteworthy about the duels was the lack of verbal spells. In my opinion, it was incredibly important for us to see Molly Weasley use the Avada Kedavra spell, and Harry choose not to. When Molly annihilates Bellatrix using the most unforgivable of curses, we cheer along. We are a party to the bloodshed, as responsible for the destruction as anyone rooting for the other side. That’s crucial to the reader & viewers’ role in the series. And it’s equally crucial for us to see Harry use expelliarmus, his old first year fall-back spell, as the ultimate undoing for Voldy. The dichotomy is important, and I don’t think the film highlighted it well enough.

Voldemort’s Death Though it was a bit underwhelming, it was wholly accurate to the book. So props for authenticity on that one. But that leaves the best Voldemort battle, by far, as the showdown between he and Dumbledore in The Order of the Phoenix. THAT battle had all the elements I hoped to see more of in this film’s duels: tremendous acting, creative visual displays of magic, and cruelty and fierceness in equal measure.

The Epilogue We’re all pretending this didn’t happen, right?

The filmmakers had quite the high-pressure gig trying to get this story told properly, and I’d say that overall they did a fantastic job. I was crying and laughing, and it made me want to reread all the books—and isn’t that truly the point?

So, what about you?? Do you agree with my rambles? What did I get completely wrong? Also—big question: I maintain that there’s no way this film could be someone’s “favorite” Harry Potter film. Dr F vehemently disagrees. I made another blog post about it. What do you think??


The Deathly Hallows

by sarahenni on December 20, 2011

[Originally Posted Nov. 22 2010] If you spent this weekend doing anything besides seeing the Deathly Hallows, I sincerely hope something large with sharp fangs was holding you back. The über-anticipated first half of the Harry Potter finale came out on Friday, and Dr Fiance and I saw it with a (bizarrely not packed) theater of HP-lovers, and on the whole I think we both enjoyed it quite a bit. Below, my (spoiler-packed) thoughts on the film.

The Split I was really eager to see how the filmmakers decided to split the seventh book. It must have been agonized over, and I think the final decision was very well done. However, the first half must have been extraordinarily difficult to translate to film as — though our heroes destroy the locket horcrux, go to Godirc’s Hollow, and escape from the Malfoys — nothing really happens. The first half of the book is all build-up. The dynamics between Harry, Ron, and Hermione get twisted and brought nearly to (perhaps beyond?) the breaking point. Voldemort gains the upper hand and the magical world devolves into outright danger, but since we’re in Harry’s head we barely see any of it. In short, the first half of the book was much better suited to be a book. This filmmakers had a tremendous challenge, but I think they lived up to it.

(However, David Yates is still on my ‘naughty’ list for the sixth movie, which was undoubtedly the weakest and in which he flagrantly made shit up like having the Burrow explode into flames which, though I know Jo Rowling approved, was still appallingly bizarre. Etc., etc., I could go on for days. Another blog post maybe.)

Setting The film must have been absurdly challenging for any audience members who have not read the books. For so many reasons, this film would be the most difficult to understand or appreciate unless you knew the details that Yates & Co. merely hinted at, or showed in not-explicit ways (the mirror; the ‘Snatchers’; the radio program). One of the most disorienting things about the seventh book and movie was the lack of Hogwarts. The school, and the castle itself, has served as setting (and a character in and of itself) for the entire series. In Deathly Hallows Part I, not only do our heroic trio never set foot on castle grounds, we never hear anything about what is going on there. And without the castle and the structure of a school year, it was difficult to get a sense of the passage of time.

However, that served a distinct purpose in the book and the film. Our characters are lost and disoriented, too. The different scene locations that Yates & Co. used (misty English forests, the underside of a run-down bridge) were not only gorgeously shot, they were also used effectively to mirror the emotions of our hopeless, confused trio.

Character Development Hermione was the emotional story arc of the film, and it was executed ridiculously well by both David Yates and Emma Watson. From the opening scene, where she nearly broke my heart with her emotional restraint, to the reunion with Ron (come on, Emma, you can swing a rucksack harder than that!), Emma Watson was the core of the story progression. She was at her weakest (withdrawn and disconsolate after Ron left), and at her strongest (refusing to betray her friends and their mission even while Bellatrix carved rude words into her arm).

That was the true story of the first half – our characters were tested and brought to rock bottom. But, in the end, they are reinvigorated with the true sense of friendship that has gotten them through every scrape they’ve been in before. (And that sets us up for Part II, in which they have a renewed sense of purpose and do incredible BAMFy things like fly on dragons and OMFG I am so excited.)

Lovey-Dovey Whereas in The Half-Blood Prince I felt that David Yates’ attempts to illustrate the group’s growing romantic tensions were clunky and heavy-handed (Ginny bending over to tie Harry’s shoe? Really?gag), I thought this time around was subtle and touching. The opening shot after the first night in 13 Grimmauld Place, with Hermione and Ron’s hands barely touching, was lifted right from the book, and was all we needed to see to get an accurate sense of their budding romantic feelings. (I totally swooned.)

Minor Characters Shine Some of our favorite non-trio characters (Snape, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Draco Malfoy) had only fleeting scenes in Part I. However, each one of them really maximized their screen time. Most especially, IMO, Snape and Draco. Alan Rickman (an absolute genius, per usual) gave such a subtle performance (doesn’t he always?) and his expression when he saw his Hogwarts co-worker floating above him, begging for help, was completely devastating. And Tom Felton (looking increasingly attractive off-screen, might I add) was brilliant in evoking Draco’s growing internal struggle between begrudging loyalty to/fear for Voldemort and increasing understanding and respect for Harry.

So… Sorry to be overly verbose (as is my wont) but those are my main take-aways from the movie. In fact, after writing this post and thinking even more about it, I enjoyed the film very, very much. What about you? What did you think?

{ 1 comment }