Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: The Hunger Games        

The Hunger Games is a 2012 American dystopian science fiction action film directed by Gary Ross and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland. It is based on Suzanne Collins’s 2008 novel of the same name, with Collins also writing the screenplay with Ross and Billy Ray. The film starts with Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) interviewing the Gamemaker about the Hunger Games and how it is an important part of the dystopian society. The mostly quiet scene is then cut through with a little girl screaming, which is when the main character Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is introduced as she comforts her sister after a nightmare. Katniss then leaves home and goes into the woods outside District 12 to hunt with her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) before the Reaping later that day. The Reaping is when one girl and one boy from each of the 12 districts is chosen to fight to the death in the country’s  annual event of the Hunger Games. At the Reaping, Katniss’s little sister is chosen to fight in the games, but fearing for her little sister’s life, the 16-year-old volunteers to go in her place. After this, another 16-year-old Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutchinson) is selected out of the boys, and the two tributes are soon taken away on a train to the Capital. Once there, they are given mentors and stylists, train for the games, and are interviewed by Caesar Flickerman along with the other 22 tributes. The children have only a few days to prepare before they are sent into the arena and have to kill each other, as there can only be one winner of the Hunger Games. In this blog post, I will be looking at how the relationships between Katniss and two other characters are affected by the change from book to film. 

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: Repulsion (1965) Review

*Warning: discussion of sexual assault and trauma ahead*

*Spoilers ahead*

Roman Polanski is a filmmaker difficult to write about for obvious reasons. Some may refuse to engage with the work directed by him, and it was an easy decision for me to review this film. For me, this review is very personal. I did not intend to write on Repulsion until after I reflected on my own experiences. I sat contemplating the film and if it would be better not to speak on it because of the disgrace of the director. In my reflection, I concluded that I am compelled to speak on it. Some may not agree, but I was struck with how the material unfolds. I was struck by how the film portrays the horrors of the psyche in Carol (Catherine Deneuve) and the apartment she inhabits with her sister. Additionally, I saw the immigrant experience also come into play in Repulsion through Carol and her sister, which only compelled me to speak further. As with the execution, I appreciate the film’s ability to communicate and navigate difficult subject matter and taboo through the horror-thriller genre. The haunting depictions of our main character’s trauma shocked me to my core, which I only ever felt when viewing Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession (1981), another psychological horror film. When looking at both of these films, I saw deterioration and gradual decline, which I felt was an essential component to accurately portraying this subject matter. In Possession, Zulawski explores the deterioration of a marriage, while Repulsion shows the deterioration of a woman’s sanity from what we can interpret stems from trauma and abuse.

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Britt’s Anime and Gaming Adventures- Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro

When thinking of which piece of media to review for my first official blog post, the first thing that came to mind was Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. Released in 1979, this film is considered by fans as the best entry in the Lupin III franchise. Furthermore, many anime fans regard it as one of the greatest anime movies of all time, right up there with other classics such as Spirited Away and Ghost in the Shell. Speaking of Spirited Away, Castle of Cagliostro was renowned director Hayao Miyazaki’s theatrical debut. Miyazaki was no stranger to the Lupin III series, as he was the co-director of Lupin’s first anime series. But before we talk about Castle of Cagliostro, let me first inform you of the Lupin series as a whole, as it is somewhat of a hidden gem to the Western world. 

To put it simply, Lupin III is like Japan’s Scooby-Doo or Doctor Who: a series that has existed for decades, with several TV series and even more movies and TV specials. Lupin was introduced to Japan in 1967 in the original manga, which was written and illustrated by Monkey Punch, the pen name of Kazuhiko Kato. Despite its cartoonish art style and overall absurdity, the original manga is quite dark, with Lupin often raping women to get information (yikes). While most Lupin installments are relatively child-friendly and a lot of fun, a few retain the original manga’s edgy vibe, specifically the 2012 series Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, which, uh, you probably shouldn’t watch with your parents. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

Fans, to avoid confusion, categorize Lupin installments based on what color jacket he is wearing. There is the Green Jacket-era, Red Jacket-era, Blue Jacket-era, and Pink Jacket-era. It is generally accepted among fans that Green and Pink Jacket-era installments are more lighthearted while Red and Blue Jacket-era installments are grittier. Despite its overwhelming amount of content, Lupin III is one of those rare series that you can start watching from practically anywhere. None of the movies or TV specials are interconnected, and only a handful of TV episodes follow the same storyline. Each installment has a similar plot: Arsene Lupin III gets word that there’s treasure he can steal, gunslinger Daisuke Jigen and samurai Goemon Ishikawa XIII accompany him, and the trio’s plans are thwarted in some way by Fujiko Mine, Lupin’s love interest and fellow thief, and Koichi Zenigata, a detective whose sole purpose in life is to capture Lupin. Basically, Lupin III is a lot of fun, and it’s the perfect series to watch if you want to turn off your brain for a while.

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Misery

Misery is a 1990 American psychological thriller film directed by Rob Reiner, starring James Caan and Kathy Bates. The movie’s screenplay was written by William Goldman and based on Stephen King’s 1987 novel of the same name. The film starts with Paul Sheldon (James Caan), a famous novelist, finishing his manuscript for a new book. While traveling from Colorado to his home in New York, he is caught out in a bad blizzard and loses control of his car. Paul loses consciousness in the wreck and breaks both of his legs. He is soon saved by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who sees the car in a ditch. She gives Paul CPR before taking him back to her house, still unconscious. When he finally wakes up, Annie introduces herself as a nurse and tells him that she can take care of him until the storm passes because all the telephone lines are down. Annie also tells him that she is his biggest fan and has read all the books in his “Misery series” multiple times. Paul lets Annie read his untitled manuscript because she saved his life, the book angering her because of the profanity. She quickly calms down and apologizes for her outburst, but from this event Paul begins to realize that he might not be safe. Soon after though, she reads his latest Misery novel, in which the main character Misery dies, which sends Annie into a rage. She reveals to Paul that no one knows where he is, having never called a doctor or his daughter and lying to him. Annie locks him into the room he is staying in, and given how badly he is injured, he can not leave.  Paul realizes that he needs to figure out a way to escape from Annie before something worse happens. In this blog, I will look at how the events of the book were changed when being adapted to film. 

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

Folks. When I said, “let’s get nuts,” I didn’t think it would get this nuts.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, directed by Jun Fukuda, is the fourteenth film in the franchise and is far removed from its cautionary tale origins. And I do mean far.

Prepare yourself for the ultimate showdown as Godzilla comes face-to-face against Godzilla?! Gasp! Hearsay! It cannot be! Oh, but it is, dear reader. But this isn’t your garden variety double-trouble. No, no, no. This scrupulous imposter is so large and in charge that it’s out of this world. No. Literally. It’s an alien. Mechagodzilla is an alien cyborg created by space aliens from Black Hole Planet 3 whose alien scientists developed cyborg technology to make a robo-weapon Godzilla to take over the Earth. Yup. That’s the story. There are also various B-plots involving a future-seeing priestess, scientists ogling space metals, a pair of archeologists trying to decipher a cave wall prophecy, an Interpol secret agent, and an additional two other kaiju! Oh, and Godzilla. Figure he deserves mention.

Yeah. It’s a lot. And the movie is only 84 minutes long! The crazy thing, though, that despite reading like a cocaine-fueled mad lib, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is precisely the type of over-the-top, fever dream romp that other kaiju flicks wish they could be. You can say it’s dumb, but this movie knows what it is and does not spend a single minute of its runtime apologizing for it. It’s so earnestly silly that I couldn’t help but laugh with and cheer it on. At one point, I scribbled in my notes, “Just go with it.” I ask the same of you, dear reader. Just go with it!

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre- Review

Hello, Subscribers!

This week, instead of an Old Motel 20 miles away from Fairville, California, I have moved us to Kingsland, Texas, to unveil the horrors of a family of cannibalistic slaughterhouse workers come to life. This review will highlight some of what I believe makes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a horror film worth watching. 

Without further ado, 

Here is my take on the trip that brought destruction to the Hardesty family, and friends.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Although horror films often take a backseat when one thinks of cinematic sophistication, Texas Chainsaw Massacre runs counter to these thoughts. Another film based on the real-life killer and graverobber Ed Gein, Texas Chainsaw connects to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, my previous horror film review. In that review, and with how it connects to this one, I spoke of Norman Bates as a character “hidden-in-plain-sight.” Director Toby Hooper uses this tactic to go further than a matinee model turned psychotic killer, creating an entire family of cannibalistic killers. As with Hitchcock’s Psycho and what can be read from the taxidermy, the amount of depth one can unpack in Tobe Hooper’s scene construction speaks to his understanding of the genre’s films that came before him. As with how Hitchcock saw the precedent in films like Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955), parallels can be drawn with Hooper and both Psycho (1960) and The Night of the Living Dead (1968). Many of Hooper’s scenes go further than Psycho in their overt display of chaos in the form of animal carcasses, bones, or decomposing bodies. In addition to that, Hooper perverts the nuclear family to make these characters work as cross-generational killers. Even with these intricate scenes, when we think of this film, our minds still may gravitate towards the psychotic chainsaw-wielding killer Leatherface. As a whole, however, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is much more than a single character. Even though Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen)  is largely the main antagonist or main culprit, the most shocking moments of horror culminate when Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) is trapped in the dwelling of “the family of Draculas.”

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: King Kong (1933)

 “And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you anymore, I’m going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive – a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!”

Welcome back, dear reader, to another trek down Monster Lane. Today’s journey takes us to the mythic Skull Island, home of the mighty Kong, a Hollywood icon unlike any other. Eighty-eight years later and counting, Kong continues to thrill audiences and push the boundaries of VFX filmmaking. It’s fair to say the 1933 King Kong is dated because it is in many ways. But make no mistake. Even after nearly a century’s worth of technological growth and evolution, King Kong’s visual wonders still stand as a benchmark of grade-A movie magic. Hail to the king, baby.

The film kicks off with an overture; a classic movie tradition lost in our current age. Much like the original Godzilla’s opening credits, this starts the movie off on an ominous note, setting the rhythm for a tension-filled adventure. Then, the opening credits; big, bold, powerful—a showy tune of the magnificence the filmmakers hope to impart onto us. It’s old school and wonderful. I couldn’t help but think of Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake while watching this flick. That was the first Kong movie I had ever seen, and it remains a personal favorite. It’s the reason I love Kong! So with this being my first viewing of the original King Kong, I couldn’t help comparing the two during my watch. It was a fascinating exercise because, for all the ways they’re the same, there are some vast divides between them.

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Spangler’s From Sentence to Screen: Jumanji

Jumanji is a 1995 fantasy adventure film directed by Joe Johnston and stars Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt, and Bradley Pierce. It is loosely based on the 1981 children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, who also co-wrote the film. The film is the first installment of the Jumanji franchise, which includes two sequels and a spin-off, Zathura, which was also adapted from a Van Allsburg book. The movie starts in 1969 and follows a boy named Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) who finds a game, Jumanji, after hearing tribal drums in a construction site; the game was buried 100 years before by two brothers. After arguing with his father, he takes it home, and Alan takes out the game to play. Before he can start, his friend Sarah (Laura Bell Bundy) comes to visit him and the two start playing the game together, but on Alan’s turn, he is sucked into the game, and Sarah is chased away by bats. The story then fades to 26 years later, 1995, when siblings Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) move into Alan’s abandoned house with their aunt. The two discover Jumanji in the attic after hearing the tribal drums and decide to play it, releasing giant mosquitoes and monkeys on their first two turns. Since Peter rolls a 5, the game releases a now-adult Alan (Robin Williams) as well as a tiger. Alan realizes that the siblings have been playing his original game instead of a new one, and the three find the now grown-up Sarah (Bonnie Hunt). Together the four of them attempt to finish the game, but with every roll, it becomes harder and more dangerous to win. In this blog post, I will look at how the two characters from the book translated into the adaptation and how the story was expanded to make a children’s book long enough for a feature film. 

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Britt’s Anime and Gaming Adventures: An Introduction

When one hears the word “art,” they will likely think of literature, film, or artwork. Some might even think of music or television. Very few, however, will think of anime or video games, as unfortunately many don’t consider these mediums as quality entertainment. This is due to a variety of reasons. For starters, those who are unfamiliar with the anime genre might believe that all anime consists solely of big-breasted girls and therefore poses no philosophical questions that’ll have you pondering at 3 A.M. As for video games, the word “games” stops people from categorizing this medium as an art form. While a lot of anime relies heavily on fan service, and while video games are certainly fun, these underappreciated art forms have emotionally affected me more than any song, film, or television show. In addition, many video games and anime have tackled topics that many mainstream films or television shows haven’t, such as war and genocide, racism, and whether humans are any different from animals. 

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Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: Casablanca & “Invisible” Editing

Often many people hear that Casablanca is a pinnacle of Classical Hollywood Cinema, but do they really understand why? As a film, it was never meant to be so widely known as a “classic.” Michael Curtiz, the film’s director, and others, apparently thought they were just making a run-of-the-mill Warner Bros release that wasn’t going to make such a splash. However, for its time, when watching the film now, it is clear why such a film would be popular, particularly with how the ending still retains its power 79 years after its release. The story itself, which revolves around Rick’s Bar in Casablanca, Morocco, displays the conflict of WW2 with such transparency that one may weigh the film’s greatness in this specific aspect. There is a wide range of ethnicity in the bar— opening with a Russian bartender saying, “на здоровье [Cheers],” which only establishes the setting as a middle ground or stepping stone to one’s actual destination. The Bulgarian couple fleeing to America is another side example of this. Rick inexplicably helps the couple by cheating his own roulette table, which adds to the complexity of Bogart’s character. What goes without saying is that Casablanca is easily quotable. Much of Rick’s lines are delivered with initial pessimism or “isolationism,” which grows into a selflessness, which may mirror the United States’ history of isolationism. All of this mentioned, it almost feels as though Bogart was born to play the role. However, Bogart does not deserve all the credit. Both performances by its leading stars, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), are a factor of greatness that is enough for some to claim Casablanca as perfect. For a film so rife with surface factors of greatness, it rarely seems to be a point to mention the “invisible” or seamless editing in Hollywood Cinema. For the public who aren’t familiar with the conventions of Hollywood Cinema, it may come as a surprise to realize how the film covers some of its edits. As conventions go in Hollywood Cinema, continuity editing is of utmost importance. For a Hollywood film, cinematic artifice is not supposed to get in the way of the story or characters. As a narrative film, Casablanca does not bring attention to and purposely hides its editing in unique ways that reaffirm the Hollywood film style.

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