Ask Libby: Oh, the 'Hunger'
When it comes to The Hunger Games, I am a total fangurl, and I’m willing to dissect the most obscure details of the best-selling trilogy online or at dinner parties, because the books are so much more involving than, say, Iran. I loved the movie of the first book, and I completely identify with the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who’s always a little pissed off, probably because her parents named her Katniss. As the movie begins, in a dystopian future, the country of Panem’s evil government holds a lottery to select a girl and a boy from each of 12 districts who will fight to the death on TV for the population’s entertainment. When Prim, Katniss’ adorable little sister, gets chosen, Katniss volunteers to serve in her place, and I asked myself, If my sister Sondra was picked for almost certain death, could I be as selfless as Katniss? Because Sondra has always been thinner and taller than me, and because she breezed through adolescence without a single blackhead, when her name was read, I would be tempted to yell, ”Have fun!” ”Use lots of sunblock!” or maybe ”Can I have your room?” But I know that eventually my better instincts would prevail and I’d head off to the Games, although I’d insist on being listed in the Panem TV Guide as ”Libby, the Best Sister Ever.”
Each competitor, or tribute, is given a mentor, and Katniss gets Haymitch, a broken-down lush played by Woody Harrelson, in a wig that looks like a platinum blond squid is nesting on his head. While Woody is great, I would request Michael Kors, because he’s the toughest, funniest judge on Project Runway, and he could teach me to demolish my opponents by rolling my eyes and making tiny exasperated noises.
Katniss travels to the Capitol and gets assigned a personal stylist, who’s played by the ultracool Lenny Kravitz with just a hint of gold eyeliner, although I might have preferred Christina Aguilera, because on The Voice, her red lipstick and cotton candy mane make me nostalgic for my aunt Estelle, doing the hokey pokey at my bat mitzvah. Lenny consults on Katniss’ gowns, but I would insist on jeggings, a platform wedge, and a fun oversize top in a bold print, so that when I was introduced on the air, riding in a chariot, the whole country would gasp, ”Oh my God! Look at that incredible girl from District 12! Is that H&M?”
All of the tributes get training sessions, working with hatchets, hunting knives, and bows and arrows, but I would demand a Pilates instructor, a SoulCycle spin class, and some Gentle Yoga, so I’d appear toned and de-stressed. This would psych out all of the other tributes, who’d murmur, ”She’s gonna kill all of us — with her calves!” Haymitch counsels Katniss to stand out so that people will root for her, but I wondered why he didn’t just say, ”You’re not going to die, because you’re the star, and they’re shooting at least two sequels. You’re going to renegotiate.”
Katniss is also caught up, like the heroine of any respectable young-adult trilogy, in a love triangle, because there’s an unbreakable YA commandment: All the cute guys have to fall hopelessly in love with the main girl, to satisfy the fantasies of all those tweens and teens who can’t get a date. Gale, who grew up hunting with Katniss in the woods, is tall and hunky and pines for her, while Peeta is the male tribute from District 12, and he’s always loved Katniss from afar, although now they’re supposed to kill each other. Some fans have questioned the casting of Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, because he’s a little shorter than Katniss, but I think that Josh is a perfect choice. Katniss has to keep saving Peeta, and Jennifer Lawrence, who’s an ideal Katniss, looks like she could easily sling Josh over her shoulder, like a slouchy tote or a summery cardigan.
Liam Hemsworth, as Gale, is also completely yummy, so I asked myself, Which yearning dreamboat would I choose? It’s not like in the Twilight movies, where Bella has to opt for either Edward, the frail, gorgeous vampire, or Jacob, the feisty little werewolf-boy. That’s an easy answer, because Bella and Edward can keep Jacob as a sort of pet, like a cocker spaniel with biceps. But if I was torn between Gale and Peeta, my first question would logically be: Why do both of their names sound like eco-friendly charitable organizations? Then I’d figure, well, if Peeta gets killed in the Games by a land mine or a 12-year-old with a machete, I wouldn’t have to make a choice, and no one’s feelings would get hurt.
Once the Games are under way the movie becomes super-intense, although Katniss luckily gets to spend a lot of time napping, after using a coil of sturdy mountaineering rope to lash herself snugly onto the branches of various accommodating trees. The action grows increasingly violent, although thankfully it never depicts my most primal terror, which would be going to the bathroom outdoors without toilet paper.
Katniss has no desire to murder the other kids, and while I’m also a deeply decent human being, I could easily disembowel any child who imagines that just because he’s wearing a helmet, he’s allowed to ride his Razor scooter over my feet.
While all I’ve been doing is obsessing over The Hunger Games, I also managed to see that misbegotten sci-fi epic John Carter. I felt bad for this film, because it’s losing so many bazillions of dollars, despite the star power of Taylor Kitsch’s nipples. This movie is a throwback, because it features a beautiful princess in a midriff-baring chiffon harem look, who’s being forced to marry a villain, to save her kingdom. To appease the feminists, the princess is also a scientist. My favorite things in John Carter were the alien creatures who didn’t only have four arms, they had four shoulders, and who’d be the best waiters ever. I wish that Katniss, as a gesture of inter-studio goodwill, had popped over to Barsoom, the planet on John Carter, and pierced a few bad guys with her bow and arrow, just to boost the box office. Disney made a major miscalculation, because the executives didn’t realize that this year it’s all about child-on-child slaughter, if you ask me.