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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When MTV's House of Style was exposing us to the fashion industry through its documentary style episodes from 1989 to 2002, our experience with the fashion industry was worlds apart from what we're now used to. House of Style was the beginning of our access, but now, with multitudes of fashion bloggers and interactivity with our favorite designers on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, MTV says it's reviving the series with a twist: the series will now take an interactive turn, making use of the technologies that have become so integral to the industry.
The original series introduced viewers to intimate discussions with designers — including a fan favorite "Todd Time" with Todd Oldham, who showed us everything from how to vintage shop to how to dye our hair with Kool Aid. In addition to new footage, which will be released in T.B.A. television episodes as well as through web media and Instagram, the series will make use of the classic footage including moments with hosts Cindy Crawford, Rebecca Romijn, and Daisy Fuentes as well as designers like Anna Sui and the aforementioned Oldham.
And while MTV's venture is fairly revolutionary in the television world, it's an exact reaction to the way the fashion world now operates. Miami fashion blogger and vintage clothing purveyor Steffy Kuncman depends greatly on the wealth of web platforms to run her store and her blog, Steffy's Pros and Cons. Kuncman says blogging and Instagram, in particular, are driving a greater audience to the industry.
"You get to see behind the scenes, whereas 10 years ago, the collections were simply photographed by photographers from newspapers and it was highly edited," Kuncman says. "The editor at the New York Times likes these three pieces and that's what's going to run in the paper." Now, the latest designs and trends are accessible through blogs, Twitter, and of course, Instagram, and the spread is so wide, the result is an almost unfiltered look at the landscape — which is exactly what MTV's series was revolutionizing in the '90s.
Now, consumers and fashionistas have a bird's-eye view into not only designer collections and the new items coming down the line, but into the lives of the designers themselves. "It's taking people who are high up and personalizing them," says Kuncman. "You're getting to see parts of people's lives that were formerly kept private."
Of course, that's partially what the original House of Style aimed to do: bring us closer to the faces and minds within the fashion industry. "We're developing a new version of the show because we strongly believe that a show like ours can thrive in the current media climate," writes Mary H.K. Choi of MTV Style. Now, the series simply aims to aggregate and make use of the interactive turn the industry has taken and perhaps amplify what we've already seen on the web.
MTV's House of Style revival starts Tuesday, with the release of a series of Best Of clips from the original series. It continues Aug. 7 with a documentary about House of Style and on Oct. 9, the network will begin rolling out new content. As of yet, MTV has not decided on placement for the TV segments of the series just yet.
Will you tune in on various platforms for MTV's revival of House of Style?
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