With his examinations of humanity's baser nature, novelist William Golding was regarded as one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. Following studies at Oxford's Brasenose College and years of...
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With Divergent is hitting theaters on March 21, the theme of teens fighting for survival on the big screen is at the forefront of our minds. It's one that has resonated through the decades in cinema, and we're taking a look at some of our favorite examples.
I'm talking about the 1984 original, not the forgettable reboot. As someone who was born in the 1970s and was growing into teenager-hood in the 1980s, the sight of those parachuting Russians in the film's opening made me want to crawl under my blankets and hide forever. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev's steps toward Glasnot years later couldn't come fast enough. This was a bloody movie that featured many up-and-coming stars like Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and C. Thomas Howell. The film hit towards the end of the Cold War, allowing USSR to play an effective Hollywood villain. The film saw America become a Russian state; the band of teenagers who fought back against the Red Menace made all of us look like sad-sack couch potatoes. To this day, you can yell "Wolverines!" at any person over the age of 35 and you'll much more than likely get a knowing nod back... and not just on the campus of University of Michigan.
By now, nearly everyone in the world knows who Katniss Everdeen is. For the very few uninitiated, Everdeen is a teenager who has to go and hunt other teenagers in a dystopian future that takes its cues from The Running Man more than anything else. Everdeen is tough, resourceful, cunning, and also one hell of a shot with a bow an arrow. She shows people that teens can take matters by the horns and do what it takes to win, and still not entirely sacrifice their humanity. There are those why decry the things she does, but in the long run, she is a good role model for being a strong female lead, which is something the movies have been lacking quite often. Everdeeen isn't one to quake and let a male take over or win or make her compromise herself. Yes, this series of movies shows kids murdering other kids, but the underlying message beneath is one that can't be ignored either.
Released in Japan in 2000, the movie comes from a different culture and as such institutes different tropes into its school-aged characters. The film centers around the students of a ninth-grade class that are made to fight each other to the death. Even more brutal than the American films, it shows what people are capable of when they have their backs to the wall and are being forced to commit atrocities in the name of their own government. I'd be seriously scared to get a note from my son's school in the future about something like this.
What kid hasn't wondered about the true demonic motives of his or her teachers? This 1998 horror/thriller boasts a cast full of comedic powerhouses like Bebe Neuwirth and Jon Stewart, as well as heartthrobs like Josh Hartnett and Jordana Brewster... and, yes, Usher. Running on the theme of teens versus adults, The Faculty becomes an intense and interesting cinematic experience. Beyond its horror aspects, the uniqueness of the overall movie made it better than something like Halloween or Friday the 13th. If you haven't seen it, it'll make you look at the Daily Show host in a totally different light.
Lord of the Flies
The original teen survivor movie, adapted in 1963 from William Golding's award-winning novel. We meet a group of school kids who get stranded on a desert island, and initially band together to survive... before anarchy starts to take over as the veneer of civilization gets stripped further and further in the movie. It's quite harrowing, and a sobering reminder of what can happen when we let the rules of society slip away. And if you've somehow managed to get this far without reading the novel, we highly recommend it. I read it in seventh grade, and had this weird thing about conch shells for a while after that.
Divergent hits theaters March 21. You can check showtimes and purchase advanced tickets here.
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When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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The Hunger Games saga has officially joined a long literary lineage shared by the likes of George Orwell's 1984, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: It has been challenged by parents and educators.
According to the Associated Press, for the second year in a row, Suzanne Collins' wildly popular dystopian series has found resistance regarding whether or not it should be on library shelves. The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, which released its most recent report on Sunday, defines any challenged book as one that has received "a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness."
Last year, only the first book in the series, The Hunger Games, made the top 10 list for being regarded by some as "sexually explicit" and "unsuited to age group and violence." Now the entire series, including Catching Fire and Mockingjay, are being challenged. Aside from complaints about the series having "insensitivity," "offensive language," and "violence" (the latter of which Collins acknowledged last year as "not unreasonable. They are violent. It's a war trilogy"), some of the more outlandish accusations against the books include that it's "anti-ethnic," "anti-family," and entering Harry Potter controversy territory with complaints of it being "occult/satanic." (President Snow is certainly evil, but come on.)
While the reasoning for challenging books is still archaic in some cases (Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is still being disputed for its "offensive language" and "racism"), it's somewhat more understandable as to why parents and educators take issue with more risqué, arguably less necessary fare like Cecily von Ziegesar's Gossip Girl ("drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit") series. But where does The Hunger Games rank in this spectrum?
Collins' books, like William Golding's challenged classic The Lord of the Flies, unquestionably features graphic violence involving children, but the idea that it is anti-family (here, broken families are torn apart by war) or anti-ethnic (despite some horrendously racist complaints from moviegoers, The Hunger Games features ethnic characters) borders on outright outlandish.
Yes, Collins' series are peppered with some graphic violence and unfavorable language that could upset more conservative or sensitive parents or educators, but at its core, The Hunger Games saga is a glimpse into the horrors of war and a commentary on our "reality"-obsessed society. It also doesn't hurt that the well-written book features a strong-willed powerful female YA character whose biggest challenge isn't whether to pine over a vampire or a werewolf. Plus, like the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games has gotten younger people invested in reading again. Why challenge that?
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The “young adult” genre is arguably literature’s most lucrative these days, and with the big-screen success of the Twilight series – among others – profits are clearly no longer limited to one medium. In addition to being financially viable, though, some of the film adaptations have turned out really well. Here’s a look at our all-time favorites. (Note: “Young adult” has turned into a wide-ranging phrase that could ultimately include countless examples; we’ve tried to narrow it down to books, and their movies, produced for and marketed toward adolescents and young adults – for all intents and purposes, roughly ages 10 to 20.)
Bridge to Terabithia
Based On: Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson (1977)
Perhaps the most forgotten adaptation of its ilk, nestled among the Twilights and Harry Potters of the YA-movie landscape, Terabithia was quietly – relatively speaking – appreciated by fans and critics alike. Director Gabor Csupo, like author Paterson, treated the target audience (which skewed a little older for the film version) not with kid gloves but rather like young adults.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Based On: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling (2007)
Just about any Potter adaptation would do, of course, but the franchise finale stands alone in its execution and the fact that its target age group is at its oldest (some of the early books/movies might be considered a little “children’s”-esque). Let’s just say it’s probably the most highly anticipated adaptation of a book ever, which means it was it was set up to fail; amazingly, it succeeded, and left nearly all fans satiated in the end.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Based On: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares (2003)
Chick-flick adaptations (for teens) cannot be neglected, and it cannot be overstated how well-received Sisterhood was by its many, many young female fans. Much like the beloved novel of the same name, the film mixed grown-up sensibilities with teenager wonderment, all while addressing issues with which a lot of young girls can relate. Now, the sequel might not’ve been necessary, but still.
Based On: The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1938)
Everyone’s go-to tearjerker is actually thought of as a somewhat young-adult movie based on a very much young-adult book. And while most people remember the big-screen version for “the scene” – you know, the sad one – the film as a whole was a very solid early representation of the genre, and paved the way for many like-minded “lesson” movies to be a little less tame.
Lord of the Flies
Based On: Lord of the Flies, by William Golding (1953)
The book we were all forced to read in middle school begat a movie version that, although not quite as beloved as its source material, was superb in its own right. A few differences exist between the two versions, but the most important themes and concepts – human nature and community, to name a couple – that pervade the book were very much intact in the Peter Brook film.
Based On: Holes, by Louis Sachar (1998)
If Shia LaBeouf was as popular in 2003, when he played lead character Stanley Yelnats, as he is today, Holes probably would’ve made a much larger splash than it did. As it stands, the movie adaptation has enjoyed something slightly larger than a cult following – and critical success – thanks to a somewhat off-kilter concept that started with the novel of the same name. It also explains why many adults have come to love the film as much as young adults.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Based On: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (1960)
Often considered THE preeminent youth-adult novel not named Catcher in the Rye (which, by the way, still hasn’t been officially adapted itself), To Kill a Mockingbird spawned a film that is also considered one of its medium’s best. The film, thanks to a very faithful adaptation, especially thematically, and Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning performance, is perhaps the only movie that’s as much a must-watch as its source material is a must-read.
With his examinations of humanity's baser nature, novelist William Golding was regarded as one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. Following studies at Oxford's Brasenose College and years of harrowing duty during World War II, Golding published his first novel, Lord of the Flies in 1954. A dark allegory of mankind's propensity for evil, it established him as a literary icon and became required reading in classrooms around the world. He later imagined a pivotal moment in human evolution with the novel The Inheritors in 1955 and plumbed the deepest recesses of a man's psyche in the 1956 survival tale Pincher Martin. With his list of works and reputation growing, Golding reached an even wider audience via director Peter Brook's acclaimed feature adaptation of "Lord of the Flies" (1963). After a pair of novels in the mid-'60s, Golding experienced a period of writer's block for much of the next decade, until he returned with the James Tait Black Memorial Prize-winning Darkness Visible (1979). Reinvigorated, Golding soon followed with Rites of Passage, which earned him the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature and began his epic To the Ends of the Earth trilogy. A decade later, his most famous work, "Lord of the Flies" (1990) was filmed once again, while the ambitious miniseries "To the Ends of the Earth" (PBS, 2005) proved an admirable adaptation of his epic trilogy. A generation later, Golding's dark fables of human frailty still held the power to provoke and entertain.
William Gerald Golding was born on Sept. 19, 1911 in the seaside village of Newquay, Cornwall, England to parents Mildred and Alec Golding. Raised in a household of forward thinkers, Golding's mother was a vocal supporter of women's suffrage and his socialist father a steadfast believer in scientific rationalism. In his youth, Golding was educated at Marlborough Grammar School, where his father taught science and later became senior master. Although he had begun to write poetry and fiction as early as age 12, Golding initially followed in his father's footsteps, studying Natural Sciences when he first entered Oxford University's Brasenose College in 1930. Two years later, however, his love of story won out, prompting Golding to change his major to English Literature, and earned his degree in 1934. At the urging of a friend, Golding published his first book of poetry, simply titled Poems, in the fall of 1935 and began teaching at the Michael Hall School in South London. Two years later, Golding returned to Oxford to study for his Diploma in Education and worked periodically with a small theater company as an actor and writer for the next two years.
The year 1928 began with Golding teaching at Bishop Wordsworth's School, Salisbury, and by the summer, he had passed his exams at Oxford and gone on to accept a teaching post at Maidstone Grammar School. There he met Ann Brookfield, an analytical chemist, who he married in 1939, shortly after Britain officially entered the Second World War. In the spring of 1940, Golding returned to Bishop Wordsworth's in a new teaching position and relocated to a cottage in the nearby village of Bowerchalke, where he and Ann welcomed a son, David, in September of that year. With the war growing ever nearer his doorstep in December of 1940, Golding - recently married and a new father - joined the Royal Navy. His years of wartime service were eventful, to say the least, and his experiences during this period would irrevocably shape his perception of the world. Initial duties found Golding serving onboard the cruiser HMS Galatea and taking part in the hunt for the legendary German battleship the Bismarck in the North Atlantic. After spending a year at various posts back in England, Golding requested to be returned to the sea, where he later helped transport U.S. manufactured minesweepers back across the Atlantic. Following a period of specialized training, Golding commanded landing crafts during the D-Day landings in 1944 and again at the invasion of the Belgian island of Walcheren during the final phase of the brutal Battle of the Scheldt in the Netherlands.
In the summer of 1945, Golding's second child, Diana, was born and by the fall of that year he was officially discharged from the Navy. Soon thereafter he returned to Bishop Wordsworth's to resume his teaching duties and later relocated his small family to a home in Salisbury. Following several years of focusing primarily on his teaching duties, Golding began to write his first novel in 1952, tentatively titled Strangers from Within. Inspired by an incident he had witnessed during one of his earlier tours of duty as an instructor, it was the tale of a group of English schoolboys stranded on an idyllic deserted island. Lacking any adult supervision, the established rules of societal behavior soon break down and the children quickly fall into a savage, animalistic game of survival and subjugation. After his manuscript was rejected nearly two dozen times by various publishing houses, the novel was finally accepted by Faber and Faber and published as Lord of the Flies in 1954. An allegory for mankind's propensity for evil, the book sold only moderately well - in the United States it had gone out of print by 1955 - until word of mouth in the U.K. and critical praise led to a best-selling 1959 paperback edition. Within a few short years, Lord of the Flies would become a mainstay on college campuses worldwide and required reading at many U.S. high schools.
In the meantime, Golding had been hard at work on his second novel, The Inheritors. Released in 1955 and later regarded by the author as his personal favorite, the novel was a keenly imagined chronicle of one of Earth's last Neanderthal tribes and the more evolved Homo sapiens who supplant them by means both innocent and malevolent. Golding followed quickly with 1956's survivalist tale Pincher Martin, in which the eponymous naval officer suddenly finds himself alone and stranded on a desolate islet in the North Atlantic. Golding returned to his days in the theater with the original play "The Brass Butterfly." Based on the earlier short story "Envoy Extraordinary," it starred revered British actor Alistair Sim and opened in Oxford before enjoying a month-long run in London. With his fourth novel, Free Fall (1959), Golding inhabited the confused mind of a prisoner of war, a successful but unhappy painter who, while detained in a pitch black storage room, contemplates the twists of fate that cost him his freedom. Soon after the book's release, Golding and his wife traveled to the U.S. and in 1961 he resigned from Bishop Wordsworth's in order to devout his energies to writing fulltime as a writer-in-residence at Virginia's Hollins College.
Golding's fame reached new heights when director Peter Brook adapted "Lord of the Flies" (1963) into a feature film. Photographed in stark black and white and comprised by a cast of unknown youngsters, the film met with nearly universal praise, further cementing the author's growing reputation. However, after delivering the novels The Spire (1964) and The Pyramid (1967) as well as the novella The Scorpion God (1971), Golding entered a prolonged period of writer's block. Throughout much of the following decade, he kept a journal of his experiences and attempts to write during this frustrating time. In 1979, Golding returned with the novel Darkness Visible, a pair of complex tales focusing on a disfigured boy whose innate goodness raises him above his horrific childhood and a beautiful girl whose inner decay leads to madness. A tour de force from a writer not heard from in nearly a decade, the novel won Golding the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for literature. The following year he released Rites of Passage (1980), a novel that would later evolve into the first part of the To the Ends of the Earth trilogy. The journal of a 19th century English aristocrat on a sea journey to Australia, it concerned itself with such familiar Golding themes as class division and man's reversion to his baser instincts when faced with prolonged isolation. Rites of Passage was awarded the Man Booker Prize that year, an honor exceeded only by Golding's being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. An idiosyncratic tale of a curmudgeonly writer and the antagonistic relationship with his obsessed, would-be biographer, Golding's The Paper Men was published in 1984. The writer then returned to his To the Ends of the Earth trilogy with 1987's Close Quarters (1987) and Fire Down Below in 1989, further documenting the protagonist's increasingly perilous journey to Australia.
Yet another honor was bestowed upon Golding by his country when he was made a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988. Sir Golding's seminal novel was adapted for the screen once again as "Lord of the Flies" (1990). Filmed in sumptuous color and taking more liberties with the original text that its 1963 predecessor had, the film starred newcomer Balthazar Getty as the well-intentioned leader Ralph. And while it performed reasonably well in theaters, the majority of critics felt Golding's grim fable had been needlessly updated, losing much of its impact in the process. After having a malignant melanoma removed near the end of 1992, Golding began work on a new novel in January of the following year. Six months later, the 81-year-old author died of heart failure on June 19, 1993 at his home, the 19th century mansion Tullimaar House, in Perranarworthal, Cornwall. Golding's final novel The Double Tongue was published posthumously in the summer of 1995, six months after the passing of his wife of 54 years, Ann Golding. A decade later, his seafaring trilogy was adapted as the three-part miniseries "To the Ends of the Earth" (PBS, 2005), starring British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the seafaring aristocrat, Edmund Talbot.By Bryce P. Coleman