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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The 2013 nominees for the Writers Guild of America awards have been announced. Writers, you say? Yes, writers! The people that make words dance on pages to create the worlds in which our favorite shows flourish. Some people, when confronted with a brilliant episode of television automatically assume the credit for its general goodness should go to the actors. But what about the writers? They are often just as (if not more so) likely to be the reason you laughed, cried, gasped, guffawed, or squirmed in your seat during last week's episode of your favorite show.
These makers of televised scripts carry a good chunk of a show's success (and failure) on their shoulders, and leading the pack of successful witty wordsmiths? Lena Dunham and her HBO darling Girls. Overall, it seems as though cable dramas fared better than broadcast (which, duh), but on the flip-side, broadcast comedies outdid their cable brethren. Breaking Bad cleaned up in the episodic drama category, and comedy lady hero Amy Poehler got herself a nod for the episode of Parks and Recreation she penned, "The Debate."
Check out the full list of nominees below!
Boardwalk Empire written by Dave Flebotte, Diane Frolov, Chris Haddock, Rolin Jones, Howard Korder, Steve Kornacki, Andrew Schneider, David Stenn, Terence Winter; HBO
Breaking Bad written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC
Game of Thrones written by David Benioff, Bryan Cogman, George R. R. Martin, Vanessa Taylor, D.B. Weiss; HBO
Homeland written by Henry Bromell, Alexander Cary, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Chip Johannessen, Meredith Stiehm; Showtime
Mad Men written by Lisa Albert, Semi Chellas, Jason Grote, Jonathan Igla, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Brett Johnson, Janet Leahy, Victor Levin, Erin Levy, Frank Pierson, Michael Saltzman, Tom Smuts, Matthew Weiner; AMC
30 Rock written by Jack Burditt, Kay Cannon, Robert Carlock, Tom Ceraulo, Vali Chandrasekaran, Luke Del Tredici, Tina Fey, Lauren Gurganous, Matt Hubbard, Colleen McGuinness, Sam Means, Dylan Morgan, Nina Pedrad, John Riggi, Josh Siegel, Ron Weiner, Tracey Wigfield; NBC
Girls written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Lena Dunham, Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Jenni Konner, Deborah Schoeneman, Dan Sterling; HBO
Louie written by Pamela Adlon, Vernon Chatman, Louis C.K.; FX
Modern Family written by Cindy Chupack, Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Audra Sielaff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker; ABC
Parks and Recreation written by Megan Amram, Greg Daniels, Nate Dimeo, Katie Dippold, Daniel J. Goor, Norm Hiscock, Dave King, Greg Levine, Joe Mande, Aisha Muharrar, Nick Offerman, Chelsea Peretti, Amy Poehler, Alexandra Rushfield, Michael Schur, Mike Scully, Harris Wittels, Alan Yang; NBC
Girls written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Lena Dunham, Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Jenni Konner, Deborah Schoeneman, Dan Sterling; HBO
The Mindy Project written by Ike Barinholtz, Jeremy Bronson, Linwood Boomer, Adam Countee, Harper Dill, Mindy Kaling, Chris McKenna, B.J. Novak, David Stassen, Matt Warburton; Fox
Nashville written by Wendy Calhoun, Jason George, David Gould, David Marshall Grant, Dee Johnson, Todd Ellis Kessler, Callie Khouri, Meredith Lavender, Nancy Miller, James Parriott, Liz Tigelaar, Marcie Ulin; ABC
The Newsroom written by Brendan Fehily, David Handelman, Cinque Henderson, Paul Redford, Ian Reichbach, Amy Rice, Aaron Sorkin, Gideon Yago; HBO
Veep written by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Roger Drew, Sean Gray, Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin, Tony Roche, Will Smith; HBO
“Buyout” (Breaking Bad), written by Gennifer Hutchison; AMC
"Dead Freight” (Breaking Bad), written by George Mastras; AMC
“Fifty-One” (Breaking Bad), written by Sam Catlin; AMC
“New Car Smell” (Homeland), written by Meredith Stiehm; Showtime
“The Other Woman” (Mad Men), written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner; AMC
“Say My Name” (Breaking Bad), written by Thomas Schnauz; AMC
“The Debate” (Parks and Recreation), written by Amy Poehler; NBC
“Episode 9” (Episodes), written by David Crane & Jeffrey Klarik; Showtime
“Leap Day” (30 Rock), written by Luke Del Tredici; NBC
“Little Bo Bleep” (Modern Family), written by Cindy Chupack; ABC
“Mistery Date” (Modern Family), written by Jeffrey Richman; ABC
“Virgin Territory” (Modern Family), written by Elaine Ko; ABC
LONG FORM – ORIGINAL
Hatfields and McCoys, Nights 2 and 3, teleplay by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker, Story by Bill Kerby and Ted Mann; History Channel
Hemingway & Gelhorn written by Jerry Stahl and Barbara Turner; HBO
Pilot (Political Animals), written by Greg Berlanti; USA
LONG FORM – ADAPTED
Coma, Nights 1 and 2, teleplay by John McLaughlin, based on the book by Robin Cook; A&E
Game Change written by Danny Strong, based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann; HBO
“A Farewell to Arms” (Futurama), written by Josh Weinstein; Comedy Central
“Forget-Me-Not” (Family Guy), written by David A. Goodman; Fox
“Holidays of Future Passed” (The Simpsons), written by J. Stewart Burns; Fox
“Ned and Edna’s Blend Agenda” (The Simpsons), written by Jeff Westbrook; Fox
“Treehouse of Horror XXIII” (The Simpsons), written by David Mandel & Brian Kelley; Fox
COMEDY / VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) – SERIES
The Colbert Report writers: Michael Brumm, Stephen Colbert, Rich Dahm, Paul Dinello, Eric Drysdale, Rob Dubbin, Glenn Eichler, Dan Guterman, Peter Gwinn, Barry Julien, Jay Katsir, Frank Lesser, Opus Moreschi, Tom Purcell, Meredith Scardino, Scott Sherman, Max Werner; Comedy Central
Conan writers: Jose Arroyo, Andres du Bouchet, Deon Cole, Josh Comers, Dan Cronin, Michael Gordon, Brian Kiley, Laurie Kilmartin, Rob Kutner, Todd Levin, Brian McCann, Conan O'Brien, Matt O'Brien, Jesse Popp, Andy Richter, Brian Stack, Mike Sweeney; TBS
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart writers: Rory Albanese, Kevin Bleyer, Richard Blomquist, Steve Bodow, Tim Carvell, Hallie Haglund, J.R. Havlan, Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, Jo Miller, John Oliver, Zhubin Parang, Daniel Radosh, Jason Ross, Jon Stewart; Comedy Central
Jimmy Kimmel Live writers: Tony Barbieri, Jonathan Bines, Joelle Boucai, Sal Iacono, Eric Immerman, Gary Greenberg, Josh Halloway, Bess Kalb, Jimmy Kimmel, Jeff Loveness, Molly McNearney, Bryan Paulk, Danny Ricker, Rick Rosner; ABC
Key & Peele writers: Jay Martel, Ian Roberts, Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Sean Conroy, Colton Dunn, Charlie Sanders, Alex Rubens, Rebecca Drysdale; Comedy Central
Portlandia writers: Fred R. Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Karey Dornetto, Jonathan Krisel, Bill Oakley; IFC
Real Time With Bill Maher writers: Scott Carter, Adam Felber, Matt Gunn, Brian Jacobsmeyer, Jay Jaroch, Chris Kelly, Mike Larsen, Bill Maher, Billy Martin; HBO
Saturday Night Live Head writer: Seth Meyers. Writers: James Anderson, Alex Baze, Neil Casey, Jessica Conrad, James Downey, Shelly Gossman, Steve Higgins, Colin Jost, Zach Kanin, Chris Kelly, Joe Kelly, Erik Kenward, Rob Klein, Lorne Michaels, John Mulaney, Christine Nangle, Mike O’Brien, Josh Patten, Paula Pell, Marika Sawyer, Sarah Schneider, Pete Schultz, John Solomon, Kent Sublette, Bryan Tucker, Additional Sketch By Emily Spivey, Jorma Taccone, Additional Material By Frank Sebastiano; NBC Universal
COMEDY / VARIETY – MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES – SPECIALS
66th Annual Tony Awards written by Dave Boone; special material by Paul Greenberg; opening and closing songs by David Javerbaum, Adam Schlesinger; CBS
2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards written by Billy Kimball, Wayne Federman; IFC
After the Academy Awards Head writers Gary Greenberg, Molly McNearney. Writers Tony Barbieri, Jonathan Bines, Sal Iacono, Eric Immerman, Jimmy Kimmel, Jeffrey Loveness, Bryan Paulk, Danny Ricker, Richard G. Rosner; ABC
National Memorial Day Concert written by Joan Meyerson; PBS
Days of Our Lives written by Lorraine Broderick, Carolyn Culliton, Richard Culliton, Rick Draughon, Christopher Dunn, Lacey Dyer, Janet Iacobuzio, David A. Levinson, Ryan Quan, Dave Ryan, Melissa Salmons, Roger Schroeder, Elizabeth Snyder, Christopher J. Whitesell, Nancy Williams Watt; NBC
One Life to Live written by Lorraine Broderick, Ron Carlivati, Anna Theresa Cascio, Daniel J. O’Connor, Elizabeth Page, Jean Passanante, Melissa Salmons, Katherine Schock, Scott Sickles, Courtney Simon, Chris Van Etten; ABC
The Young and the Restless written by Amanda Beall, Jeff Beldner, Brent Boyd, Susan Dansby, Janice Ferri Esser, Jay Gibson, Scott Hamner, Maria Kanelos, Natalie Minardi Slater, Beth Milstein, Michael Montgomery, Anne Schoettle, Linda Schreiber, Lisa Seidman, Sarah K. Smith, Christopher J. Whitesell, Teresa Zimmerman; CBS
CHILDREN'S – EPISODIC & SPECIALS
“The Good Sport” (Sesame Street), written by Christine Ferraro; PBS
CHILDREN’S – LONG FORM OR SPECIAL
Girl vs. Monster story by Annie De Young; teleplay by Annie De Young and Ron McGee; Disney Channel
Winners will be announced on February 17th at events in New York and Los Angeles. What do you think of this year's nominees? Let us know in the comments!
[Photo Credit: Jojo Whilden/HBO]
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On Wednesday, we returned to the city of champions.
By that, I mean Atlanta. Naturally.
Episode 3 of So You Think You Can Dance brought us back to the illustrious city that produced Melanie Moore, the most recent Favorite Dancer of the Year: the dirty ATL, home to one of my only loves, Mr. Decatur-Till-I-Die . For the occasion, Cat wore a giant gray leopard, and this week’s fabulous guest judge was Debbie Allen, better known as Jackson's mom and Richard’s play thing from Grey's Anatomy. Love her.
It’s easy to see how this city produced our most recent champ: These people can straight up dance. It truly wouldn’t be surprising if half of the finalists came from this crop.
First up was The Girl Who Farts With Her Elbow (don't ask), Audrey Case, who was a beautiful dancer — she possessed the most admirable combination of balance and flexibility we've seen thus far in Season 9, and her personality was infectious — so it's a shame that she'll forever be known as That Girl Who Farts With Her Elbow. Alas, everyone must have his or her thing. She got a standing O from the studio audience, Nigel called her magical, and she was granted an auto-ticket to Vegas.
The three hip-hop dancers who followed — all of whom live in a tiny apartment with "millions of other people" (actually seven) — were a bit more exciting. Boris Penton, the first of the three to audition, performed a stilted, robotic routine to a piano version of "Love the Way You Lie.” I’m always so impressed when the dancers can maintain a completely still countenance even while the audience is going nuts. Actually, Boris kind of reminded me of a cheaper version of The Exorcist. (Yes, I will bring him up in every recap until Vegas begins and we are finally reunited.)
Nigel was absolutely smitten with this dude, and Debbie even pulled out the Kara DioGuardi Special and used the word "artistry" at least five times in her 30-second critique. Unsurprisingly, he got sent straight to Vegas. The funny thing about this audition is that Nigel made a big show of worrying that Fart Girl wouldn’t be able to adapt to other styles of dance, whereas he didn’t even bring it up with this guy, who seems like a pretty clear-cut hip-hop specialist.
The next roommate to take the stage was Andre Rucker, whom we shall call Chris Bosh. After he began his routine by hatching from an egg, he took the robot motif a step further and gave us what was easily one of the most impressive performances this season. In his intro package, he said he wanted to create a style that was completely new and innovative, and he definitely achieved it; he honestly, truly looked like a robot. Even his mouth moved in this weird, stilted way.
NEXT: Glitch in the system.
The third and final roommate, Cyrus "Glitch" Spencer, aimed to move like a "robot anime popper," and you had to figure that the one the producers saved for last had to be the best. You would be right. Cyrus was the most natural, the most fluid and also the most dramatic and artistic of the three. Robot anime characters would definitely look like that. I'm a sucker for dubstep as it is, but Cyrus truly moved like he was being manipulated by some crazy video editor’s magic mouse. He was scary and awesome and impossible to look away from; in fact, he might have even seized The Exorcist's throne.
Actually, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The judges saved their most effusive praise for Cyrus and sent him straight through to Vegas. The moment was compromised by some unfortunate pit stains, but we shall ignore that.
Eighteen-year-old Joshua Alexander was one of the best male dancers we've seen so far, at least as far as ballet goes. He was so graceful, so fluid – there was so much ease in his movement that it was impossible to ignore his raw talent, plain and simple. He also looked so darn happy while he was dancing. When he was finished, each judge wordlessly held up a ticket to Vegas, and Joshua accepted all three, which confused me because there was only one of him.
The most pimped audition of the night — the one we've been seeing in promos all week — was that of Tim Conkel, who used karate to conquer childhood bullying. Before long, he transitioned from the martial arts into dancing in the hopes that it would help him get girls. In fact, he brought his favorite girl onstage with him in the form of a purple Selena Gomez backpack.
Despite the fact that the secondhand embarrassment I experienced rivaled anything I’ve ever felt while watching The Bachelorette, there was no denying that Tim Conkel was absurd. True, he made the white-girl-dancing face several times, but it didn't matter. He was half-break dancer, half-insane gymnast. The worst parts of the routine, weirdly, were the karate moves, which seemed like afterthoughts thrown in at the end and simply didn't mesh.
The judges were all concerned that Tim couldn't dance any other styles, so on the spot, they asked him to put his limited ballet training to the test, which provoked a series of deafening belly laughs from the lady judges. Nevertheless, he got the ticket to Vegas. I still don't think he's making it out of there alive, but we'll see.
NEXT: Fire in the belly.
Another standout was Palestinian belly dancer Janelle Issis, who was discovered in church (yes) and performs regularly at nursing homes. That must get the blood flowing. Yes.
Her routine was easily my favorite of the night. It was somehow modern — probably because of the hip-hop track — yet still authentic, and every part of her was invested, physically and emotionally. It was impossible to look away. Nigel, too, was grossly infatuated and sent her to choreography, where she prevailed and earned the ticket to Vegas.
Danielle Dominguez came to the audition with her mom, and her sit-down with Cat revealed her to be the real-life girl from SNL who thinks her parents are the coolest people in the world. She also had a really gross infatuation with bacon, which she enjoys eating by the plateful. Literally, the plateful.
Because Danielle is willowy and thin, Nigel suggested that perhaps she could begin a Bacon Diet movement — you could feel the hole forming before he even began his next thought — and he then suggested that Mary and Debbie take part in this groundbreaking diet. Both female judges were then predisposed to hate our friend Danielle, a self-described "weird dancer” whose routine didn't seem incredibly technical; it was more of a collection of sensual movement, enhanced by her double-jointedness. The judges, alas, liked her uniqueness and sent her on to Vegas.
Courtney Kirby actually did pull a Bachelor when she brought her grandmother to the audition to distract Nigel. Nigel invited Grandma to sit in his judge's seat, and they spent several minutes giggling and nuzzling before Courtney began her routine. Do we need to go over this? She made it straight through to Vegas.
Now, for the routine: Her technique was excellent, but it was a bit much for me in the hairography department, and the ending was straight-up weird. It was far from the most impressive thing we saw all day, but sometimes, cute grandmas get the best of our emotions.
The most intriguing audition of the night was that of Asher Walker. He dressed like a frat boy and talked like a cast member from Straw Dogs, and the self-professed redneck taught himself to dance in his garage by watching videos. Now, he aspires to be a Justin Bieber backup dancer. Truth.
He may not have had a grandma with him, but he had the charm to make up for it, and the chops, too. Aside from the fact that he could move at all in such tight skinny jeans, which already should’ve earned him a ticket to Vegas, his routine was all rhythm and hip-hop and a little bit of corndoggery but, alas, charming. He quite obviously didn’t have as much technical skill as most of the other hip-hop enthusiasts we've seen this season, but he certainly has raw talent and he's totes adorbs. Mary likes to throw out this phrase a lot, but this really is the guy people are going to pick up the phone and vote for. On to Vegas he goes.
Brittany Ortner, who needed seven takes to record her pre-audition interview, is from a tiny town in Florida and believes Uncle Nigel is the only genie in the world who can save her from Chicken Town. This girl was half-Taylor Swift, half-Miley Cyrus – a deadly combo – but she was pretty good. Kind of raw, but skilled. On the scale of Anna Faris to Kate Winslet, she was a solid Shailene Woodley. The judges liked her personality, but they sent her to choreography and eventually on to Vegas.
At the end of the night, we were treated to the resurgence of Damon Bellmon and Deon Lewis, who auditioned for Season 8 and performed a “tribute” to a Les Twins routine, which was "misinterpreted" as dance plagiarism. In their defense, they admitted in their pre-audition sit-down last year that their routine was inspired by group, but the producers cut it.
This year, they did their own routine – pinkie swear – to "Moves Like Jagger," which was alternately awesome and unwatchably corny. The best part came during a dubstep break in the middle, where they were really able to use their buddy-cop routine to their advantage. They got a standing O from the audience, but Nigel wanted to see how good they could be with female partners rather than each other, so they went on to choreography. Damon proved that he can indeed roll with the ladies, but in a dramatic turn of events, Deon was cut. He was happy for his bro, anyway.
What did you think of The Dirty? Was the robot anime trio worth all of the pimping it got from the judges? Who didn’t deserve the ticket to Vegas? And most importantly, what animal-printed couture will Cat treat us to next week?
[Image Credit: FOX]
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