Lions Gate via Everett Collection
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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It is my estimation that there are very few people on the fence about seeing a movie about the universe of college a capella. The people who want to see this movie would all but kill to do so — on the other hand there are those who’d rather endure a three-hour documentary on the referendum to criminalize the distribution of lead-based paints. I was hardly in the latter category upon approaching Pitch Perfect. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the seasonal performances of my college’s championship-winning a capella group the Binghamton Crosbys (namedrop). I would happily welcome an influx of musical films to mainstream Hollywood. I really really liked the first season of Glee. I say all this to illustrate how open to the idea of Pitch Perfect I was and how much I really wanted to like the movie. Unfortunately as I would reluctantly acknowledge not long into the picture Pitch Perfect was missing many of its marks. Not all but many.
The movie touts itself not as Glee: The Movie as many on the opposing side are likely to deem it but as something far more self-aware. There are a handful of jokes about the rigid containment of the a capella world’s celebrity with remarks that all the authentically cool kids at the central Barden University exist beyond the confines of the a capella community. Unfortunately while it strives to adopt a self-deprecating attitude toward the tropes of the genre it draws the line at the rejection of the more hackneyed elements of its romantic and interpersonal storylines.
While the story is based in the always-worth-revisiting “be yourself” underdog theme it doesn’t quite execute this idea with full force. The highly talented Anna Kendrick plays Beca a “rebellious” aspiring deejay enticed into the nearly defunct Barden Bellas by well-meaning vet Chloe (Brittany Snow) due to her natural skill for singing but disliked by queen bee Aubrey (Anna Camp) for being just a little too different. But in all honesty she’s hardly different enough to evoke our sympathies. In fact the only outstanding characteristics Beca seems to have is that she’s pretty self-entitled and always a little bit miffed. Still she’s the apple of everyone's eye including the guileless flimsy male lead Jesse (Skylar Astin) who himself is a cherished new member of Barden's rival a capella group the all-male Treblemakers — led by the wickedly obnoxious top dog Bumper (Adam DeVine). Beca and Jesse are meant to found the real emotional crust of the movie; he teaches her about the greats of cinematic soundtracks and about not pushing people away and she... well she doesn't really teach him about anything. Their relationship lacks the real substance that would effectively carry the film based primarily on the fact that they're both cute and microscopically off-center.
And then there are the supporting characters — the Bellas' team of misfits whom we're meant to love. Rebel Wilson leads this pack as the kooky brazen self-decreed Fat Amy. Beside her the sexually-charged Stacie (Alexis Knapp) the quiet psychopath Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) and Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) whose alluded homosexuality is quite unfortunately the punchline of her character among a few faceless sub-supporting characters. And while the theme does don a sheath of the classic “be yourself” mindset it seems to be more interested in poking fun of these girls and their quirks than it is in celebrating them.
But they do band together they do develop a camaraderie and they do come to compromise their differences in order to better one another and the team. And then comes the final musical number.
See for all of the film's faults there is something it knows how to do: it puts on one hell of a show. As much of a cynical nitpicker as you might be once the Bellas' final performance on the competition mainstage takes way you're bound to enjoy it. Showcasing the individual vocal talents of each of the (primary) singers sewn together in an expertly crafted compilation piece viewers are likely to get a chill or two. This is where Pitch Perfect hits: in its sheer unembarrassed celebration of a capella of music in general and of the girls onscreen. The movie makes the mistake of trying to have it both ways. When it goes for self-deprecation it makes it look all the more unaware of its inherent flaws in plot and character. But in being what plenty of people would be just fine with — an a capella movie that isn't ashamed of loving a capella any more than its over-the-top characters are — it succeeds. Unfortunately this sentiment feels limited to the final performance of the film. But to its credit it's a performance good enough to make up for a whole lot of the stuff that leads up to it.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 7, 2000 -- At long last, an awards show that's dedicated solely to the people who are truly indispensable to Hollywood: makeup artists and hairstylists.
Yes, you heard right -- one entire awards ceremony, with all the necessary trimmings and accoutrements, has sprung up to give special notice to industry makeup artists and hairstylists ... and no one else. (Don't worry, plastic surgeons of America, you'll probably get your nods soon enough).
Nominations for the 1st Annual Hollywood Makeup Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, honoring outstanding makeup and hair achievements in film and TV, were announced today. The nominees in the 17 categories were chosen by 1,100 active members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 706. Guild members will vote for the winners. Balloting begins Tuesday, with awards to be handed out March 19 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
If all this sounds terribly serious stuff -- it is, according to guild committee member Marvin Westmore, scion of George Westmore, who started the first makeup and hair department at the Selig studio in 1917, and for whom the Lifetime Achievement Award is named after.
"It's very difficult to get the makeup and hair artists recognized in a proper manner. In the makeup field, as in the hair field, there're a number of categories that are never considered," Westmore said today. "We've got a category on contemporary makeup and hair, historical makeup and hair ... and about 15 other categories that address other specialties. We feel that it's important to give all the industry hair and makeup artists their proper due and not just simply lump their achievements together."
Celeb presenters who will dignify the event include Christina Applegate, Annette Bening, Ellen Burstyn, Kim Delaney, Brendan Fraser, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and Rob Lowe.
Here's the complete list of nominees:
Best Contemporary Makeup -- Feature
Debbie Zoller, James MacKinnon and Jill Cady for "Goodbye Lover" (Regency/Warner Bros.)
Ronnie Specter for "The Story of Us" (Castle Rock/Universal)
Allan Apone, Donald Mowat, Ron Snyder and Adam Brandy for "Three Kings" (Warner Bros.)
Toni G and Will Huff for "The General's Daughter" (Neufeld/Rehme Productions/Paramount)
Best Period Makeup -- Feature
Leonard Engleman for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Patty York, Cheryl Nick, Michele Burke and Steve Artmont for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Ronnie Specter for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Fox Searchlight)
Best Character Makeup -- Feature
Sheryl Leight Ptak for "Man on the Moon" (Jersey Films/Universal)
Cheri Minns for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone)
Kevin Yagher, Peter Owen, Elizabeth Tag and Paul Gooch for "Sleepy Hollow" (Paramount)
Best Special Effects Makeup -- Feature
Michele Burke, Kenny Myers, Will Huff and Kevin Haney for Mike Myers as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, and Vernon Troyer as Mini Me in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Greg Cannom and Wesley Wofford for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone) Stan Winston and Mike Smithson for Mike Myers as Fat Bastard in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling -- Feature
Enzo Angileri for "The Thomas Crown Affair" (MGM)
Cydney Cornell for "American Beauty" (DreamWorks)
Paul LeBlanc for "Anywhere But Here" (Fox 2000 Pictures) Frances Mathais for "Simpatico" (Emotion Pictures/Canal Plus/King's Gate/Fine Line)
Best Period Hair Styling - Feature
Peter Tothpal, Janet McDonald and Angie Cameron for "The 13th Warrior" (Touchstone)
Candy Walken, Jeri Baker-Sadler, Jennifer O'Halloran and Toni-Ann Walker for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Vivian McAteer for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Best Contemporary Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Patty Bunch Leisure and Cynthia Bachman for "Big Brother Is Coming," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Cynthia Bachman and Patty Bunch Leisure for "I Never Promised You An Olive Garden," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "Thank You Providence," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, Kevin Westmore and LaVerne Basham for "Triangle," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Marie DelPrete fpr "Between a Rock Star and Hard Place," "Rude Awakenings" (Showtime/Mandalay TV/Columbia/TriStar TV)
Lisa Layman, David Syner and Joseph Regina for "Pilot," "Freaks & Geeks" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Character Makeup - Television
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #505, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #507, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcatf and Kevin Westmore for "Two Fathers/One Son," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Best Special Effects Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Michael Westmore, Scott Wheeler, James Rohland and Ellis Burman for "Dark Frontiers," "Star Trek Voyager" (UPN/Paramount)
Todd A. McIntosh, Robin Beauxchesne, Douglas Noe and Brigette Myre-Ellis for "Living Conditions," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (Fox/WB)
Bill Corso and Douglas Noe for "Just Duet," "L.A. Doctors" (CBS)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Sue Cabel, Matthew Mungle and Joe Hailey for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story" (ABC) Marvin Westmore,
June Westmore and John Jackson for "Lansky" (HBO)
Best Character Makeup --Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Douglas Noe for "A Lesson Before Dying" (HBO)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Ken Nelson and Suzanne Kontonickas for "The Devil's Music," "Charmed" (Spelling Television/WB)
Tim Burke for "Homo For The Holidays," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Darrell Fielder, Jonathan Hanousak and Joy Zapata for "The Final Frontier," "Mad About You" (NBC/Columbia TriStar TV)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Lana Heying for Episode #592 "Lataya, Letisha and Lanesha," "All That" (Nickelodeon)
Garbillera Pollina for "Prom Night," "That 70's Show" (Fox/Carsey-Werner)
Best Character Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Dugg Krikpatrick and Judith Teidemann for "Episode #511, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Bride of Chaotica," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Judith Teidemann, Dugg Krikpatrick and Chris Curry for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Best Innovative Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Dugg Krikpatrick for "Episode #505," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Dragon's Teeth," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie o the Week)
Vickey Phillips, Gerald Coke-Riley, Patricia Gunlock and Michael White for "Purgatory" (TNT)
Matthew Kasten, Natascha Ladek and Mishell Chandler for "Annie" (Walt Disney Television/ABC)
Marlene Williams and Tim Jones for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story" (ABC/Larry Thompson)
George Westmore Lifetime Achievement Award