Monthly Archives: May, 2012

Etan Patz Update: First Arrest Made

Etan Patz went missing exactly 33 years ago to this day.

Some of you may remember I did an article on Etan Patz about a month ago. It was as much a focus on how Etan’s abduction sure changed the meaning of childhood as it was about the failed attempt of finding the body. Who would have thought that an arrest would be made within a month? This could lead to the closure of the most famous missing child case in US history.

For the record, there have been no previous arrests in Etan Patz’s disappearance. Jose Ramos has always been considered the prime suspect and was even slapped a wrongful death lawsuit against Stan and Julie Patz, but was never charged criminally. The common reason was because there was no body to charge him. Last month’s investigation by the NYPD in excavating an apartment’s basement didn’t lead to the arrest of Othniel Miller because nothing was found.

Pedro Hernandez was arrested yesterday and charged with second-degree murder.

On May 24, 2012, an arrest was finally made in the Etan Patz case. His name is Pedro Hernandez. His confession comes as he is currently going through cancer. He’s 51 and a resident of Maple Shade, NJ but he was 18 at the time of Etan’s disappearance and worked a bodega just blocks from the Patz’s apartment. Hernandez has provided a written signed confession to the police that he lured the boy into the store with candy, strangling him, and putting the body in a box. He also claimed he put the box with the trash where it was later taken away. The NYPD have charged Hernandez with second-degree murder in the ‘online booking process.’ Hernandez is now in Bellevue Hospital where is under suicide watch.

One would ask why would this take a long time to happen? It’s been known that Hernandez is a schizophrenic with a long history of both audio and visual hallucinations. A brother-in-law described him as having a short fuse and ‘would get angry at nothing.’ His wife Rosemary even took out a restraining order against him once but allowed him to move back in recently. The big shocker is some of the clues leading to this. Family members have heard confessions from Hernandez as far back as 1981 that he ‘done a bad thing and killed a boy in New York City.’ It was even revealed that his name was in the original police file back in 1979. Back then, some of his co-workers were questioned but he wasn’t. Even when he did admit to police about killing Etan in the past, it was treated as suspicion as a hoax-call as there were so many at the time. It wasn’t until the heightened activity of last month that prompted a tip off leading to Hernandez finally being arrested.

This also brings into question the allegations of the other two accused suspects Jose Ramos and Othniel Miller. Ramos’ accusations could become touchy since the Patz parents won a wrongful death lawsuit against him in 2004. There were a lot of strong hints linking him to be the prime suspect like being the boyfriend of his babysitter at the time and even confessing in prison during an unrelated pedophilia case of ‘activity’ with him. Now with Hernandez being arrested, does that clear Ramos of Etan’s wrongful death? Future events and new leads should lead to the truth coming out once and for all about Etan’s disappearance.

It seems like a humorless irony that I should publish this update on what is National Missing Childrens Day and 33 years to the day Etan went missing. Nevertheless this is a ray of hope in getting the case solved and possibly the answers to a family of what happened to their Etan.

WORKS CITED:

Webster, Richard. “Pedro Hernandez Charged With The Murder of Etan Patz” San Francisco Examiner 24 May 2012. <http://www.examiner.com/article/pedro-hernandez-charged-with-the-murder-of-etan-patz>

Hughes, Mark. “Etan Patz killing: Pedro Hernandez ‘had a long history of hallucinations’” The Daily Telegraph 26 May 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9291650/Etan-Patz-killing-Pedro-Hernandez-had-a-long-history-of-hallucinations.html>

Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Stance And The Upcoming Election

DISCLAIMER: The object of the article is not to express my personal view of same-sex marriage but to give an analysis on how it could impact the National Election.

 “I’ve been going through an evolution on this issue. At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient. I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.”

That announcement from Barack Obama during an ABC news interview is seen by many as a positive move. For many Americans, this is an announcement they feel they’ve waited too long to hear. For other Americans, they are unhappy at what he declared and can’t believe that an American president would approve of such a thing. One thing to take a note of is that Obama made that announcement almost six months before the American people go to vote for President of the United States. The question remains was that a smart pre-election move or a risky move?

To get an understanding of why the topic of same-sex marriage has always been a hot button, you have to look at social history. Same-sex relationships and activities have always been looked down upon worldwide throughout history. Things started changing starting in the late 60’s. The signs of changes coming first occurred in the late-40’s early 50’s when professor Alfred Kinsey published his findings on human sexuality and activity. Part of his findings included what he learned of homosexuality and he even talked of the seven levels of homosexuality from the completely heterosexual Level 0 to the fully homosexual Level 6. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that things reached a turning point in the US when openly gay politician Harvey Milk was voted into San Francisco city council and helped defeat a bill banning homosexuals from housing and teaching jobs in 1978. The 80’s was a hard and dark time for gay men as the AIDS epidemic had gay men as most of their victims. The 90’s experienced a resurgence of pride with President Bill Clinton urging gays in the military. It’s only until this century that the gay population of the United States saw the possibility of gay marriage. And with good reason.

Hard to believe that 25 years ago, the idea of same-sex marriage was unheard of anywhere in the world. The first sign of things to come happened when same-sex relations were first legitimized in Denmark back in 1989 as ‘legalized partnerships’. Many countries followed with their own recognition, like ‘registered partnerships’ or ‘life partnerships’, but it wasn’t until 2000 when the Netherlands became the first country to officially recognize same-sex matrimony. Belgium and the Canadian province of Ontario followed in 2003 with Spain following in 2005 and South Africa following in 2006. Today thirteen countries legally recognize same-sex marriages.

The United States was always hard to achieve legal recognition. Even if a President is liberal in beliefs and stances, he will face the pressures of the political opposition. That explains why even though Bill Clinton was the most ‘gay-friendly’ President Of The United States in its history and even supported gays in the military, he compromised to a ‘don’t ask: don’t tell’ rule. In 1996 he even signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as ‘one man and one woman’ after it was passed as law by Congress. Nevertheless the right would gradually increase state-by-state. It wouldn’t be until May 2004 that Massachusetts would become the first state in American history to legally recognize same-sex marriages. The issue of gay marriage would continue to be a state-by-state issue as some states would legitimize same-sex marriages while other states would pass laws prohibiting such recognition. Even some states–most noticeably the state of California with Proposition 8– would place the issue on the voter’s ballot. Currently nine states in the United States give full recognition to same sex marriages while most other states have either a statute or a constitutional law banning same-sex marriage. Nineteen states have a constitutional law banning recognition of any same-sex union.

Now comes President Barack Obama. Like Bill Clinton before him, Obama has also had his times of personal stances and bowing to pressures from the opposition. Obama favored legalizing same-sex marriages in a 1996 interview but during the 2008 Presidential Election campaign, he stated he believed marriage to be one man and one woman. Obama exhibited similar complications when in January 2009 he opposed a federal mandate for same-sex marriage and opposed DOMA. He’d continue to say that his opinion of same-sex marriage was ‘evolving’. However the first hint of Obama siding with the position of same-sex marriage came in February in 2011 when he announced that DOMA was unconstitutional. It wouldn’t be until May 9, 2012 that Obama would finally make his stance on same-sex marriage heard. His opinion was warmly greeted by many people, especially LBGT groups and other liberals. Some people were skeptical, feeling they might still get the same raw deal they’ve been getting for years. There’s no question that the upcoming Presidential Election had a lot to do with his announcement.

Even though Obama’s gay marriage stance appears as a positive step towards the upcoming election, there is also the opposite side as this could pave the way for a Republican being President. Of all issues facing the United States, it’s this issue that best resembles the current divisiveness and polarization of American politics. Its strongest opponents of course are those that side with the Republican Party and the values it stands for. The Republican Party has always left a bitter taste in the throats of the LGBT population of the United States. They still remember how conservative icon President Ronald Reagan sided with religious leaders; including the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell who declared  the AIDS epidemic in the early 80’s as “God’s punishment to the gay lifestyle”. This may have a lot to do with the Reagan Administration’s slow acting upon the epidemic. President George Bush Sr. was strongly opposed to gays in the military and campaigned the Republican Party during the 1992 Presidential election as ‘the party of family values’: a title that has popularity stuck since. The younger George Bush even tried to push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as ‘one man and one woman’ only to lose in the Supreme Court in 2004. Many believe his opposition to same-sex marriage is what helped him win the 2004 Election.

Soon after came the right-wing of the United States of today. You can hear it in the many voices of the right-wing pundits on the airwaves constantly stating their opposition to same-sex marriage, even going as far as declaring that ‘marriage is not a right’.  Many Republicans strongly believe that defining marriage as ‘one man and one woman’ is a value instead of a prejudice. There’s even a set of voters in the millions that vote at election time on ‘family values issues’, known as ‘Values Voters’. Even Republican politician Mike Huckabee slammed Obama’s declaration of DOMA as ‘unconstitutional’ and a bad move come the Election. As expected, all candidates for the Republican Race were opposed to same-sex marriage.

You can bet after Obama’s stance that Wednesday, there was a lot of talk of the right-wing and the Republicans, especially from Race front-runner Mitt Romney. Three days after, Romney spoke to a graduating class at Liberty College reaffirming his opposition towards same-sex marriage and declaring his strong support for traditional Christian values. He even declared: that the “pre-eminence of the family” remains at the heart of the principles that underpin the nation. That drew a loud cheer from the 25,000 in the crowd.

There is an interesting footnote in Romney’s view. It’s also been known that he’s not opposed to same-sex adoption. Also interesting to know is just days after his stance on traditional marriage, it was brought to the attention that Romney was a high school bully who bullied an allegedly gay student because of his fancy hairstyle. Romney promptly apologized in public for all the bullying he did.

So Obama said his thoughts on same-sex marriage and the public have responded. His stance on same-sex marriage could either help him or hinder him. The big question is will it work against him n the upcoming Presidential Election or will it work for him? And if it does work for him, will that pave the way for full recognition of same-sex marriages in the whole of the United States? It will all be decided on November 6th, and possibly the four years after.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Timeline of Same-Sex Marriage. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_same-sex_marriage>

WIKIPEDIA: Same-Sex Marriage In The United States. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States>

Roberts, Robin. Interview.  ABC News. May 2012. 9 May 2012. <http://news.yahoo.com/transcript-robin-roberts-abc-news-interview-president-obama-001212560–abc-news-topstories.html>

Parisse, Emmanuel. “Romney adamantly rejects same-sex marriage” Yahoo! News 12 May 2012. <http://news.yahoo.com/romney-courts-young-evangelicals-promotes-values-062331045.html>

‘Hot Problems’ And The Charm Of Awful

‘Hot Problems’ girls Lauren Willey and Drew Garrett

I was watching the latest React video on Youtube from the Fine Bros’ various React shows: Teens React To Hot Problems. Actually first I paused the video after ten seconds so I can hear Hot Problems for myself.  As I was listening to the intro of that video which will soon hit 30 million views, I noticed that the number of dislikes was more than 90% of the likes. That had me wondering. Then I heard it for myself. It was so dreadful I had enough after two minutes. I could not blame the teens that were irritated with it. Then the song  grew on me: I actually liked it because of how awful it was. I’m sure I’m not alone, but why does this happen?

I’ll admit there are times when our society is charmed by things that are downright awful. Possibly the reason why we have a term called ‘guilty pleasure’. I’m sure it has existed since the beginning of time. We should remember that there was such thing as B-movies when movies started coming out. Some of the best of the worst came either during the 30’s or the 50’s. It was movies people loved because of its awfulness. I’m sure B-movies continued in the 60’s but who remembers those?

Then came the 70’s. This was the decade when awful really started to take off. B-movies became ‘cult films’ with all sorts of blood, gore, exploitation and purposely-bad acting. There was also the raunchy Rocky Horror Picture Show: a musical where the house of Frankenstein meets the sexual revolution that made no real sense. TV also had its variety of bad taste to offer too. Remember the $1.98 Beauty Show and The Gong Show? Yeah, I especially remember the latter. Even now I love watching clips of old Gong Show acts on Youtube. It’s my guilty pleasure.

Awful had a bit of a lull in the 80’s or 90’s but there was the occasional hit that was loved for its awfulness, like the infantile man/boy Pee-Wee Herman or the sitcom Married With Children. Those who saw Married With Children would remember it for its awful episodes, awfully acted superstock-like characters and very off writing as much as it was for its raunchiness. Nevertheless it was all those factors why people loved it. On the opposite side, there was Saved By The Bell: a Disney Channel show that found its way on NBC in 1989. Its lame writings, characters and over-the-top cutesy scenarios were eaten up by young teens and preteens and help pave the way for many fluffy sugar-coated Disney Channel shows that have become phenomenons in the past 7 years.

However it seems like in the 21st Century, bad taste and awful have aimed to become either legendary or competitive, or both. It seems like in a multimedia world we live in that has so much to offer, one has to stand out above the rest. That even includes performances of bad and terrible. And it’s produced some legends too along the way. I don’t know the first 21st Century instance of bad being catchy but I assume it’s the 2003 movie The Room. It’s so bad it earned its own Rocky Horror like following. The difference being Rocky Horror was basically bad acting and bad writing done professionally. The Room is just completely amateurish from the acting to the writing to the stunts to the cinematography. I can’t see a single trace of professionalism in it. Nevertheless it was The Room’s pathetic awfulness that garnered its cult following.

2004 would see the temporary stardom of non-singer William Hung; the right no-talent at the right time. He arrived right while the nation was so fixated on American Idol shelling out the next big thing in pop music with contestants groomed and dressed to perfection and voices pitch perfect. Hung didn’t have the look at all and he sounded dreadful with his version of Ricky Martin’s She Bangs. But his horrid audition was catchy enough for him to garner a fan following including the release of a disc tiled Inspiration and numerous talk show appearances. Weird how a singer could become so famous for their awfulness and imperfections. Today William is out of music altogether and now works for the LA County Sherriff’s Department.

Then along came this thing called Youtube in 2005. Youtube went from being a channel that simply showed home movies to also changing the fame game. People could become famous for simply saying things like “Leave Britney alone,” or “Charlie bit my finger.” It was a place musicians can play their own music which would pave the way for the popularity of Chocolate Rain. It was also where a teenager could become hugely famous for a hyperactive 6 year-old character named Fred.

Youtube was also seen as a domain for professional skilled musicians to show their stuff and hopefully get their big break. It worked for launching the careers of recent teen phenoms like Justin Bieber and Cody Simpson. It also allowed a 13 year-old girl named Rebecca Black perform a song called Friday. Tailor-made by an amateur music producer with a $5000 promise to her parents it would make her a star, it was done with cheesy lyrics, Rebecca Black singing either monotoned, nasally or to auto-tune, and the producer rapping. The song was placed on Youtube back in February of 2011 and has received 31,000,000 hits so far and 810,000 ‘thumbs’: almost 80% are dislikes. It worked to propel Rebecca to fame but the kind of fame with a lot of ridicule. Yet its awfulness also started a huge following with a lot of satire videos to follow. A lot of people will admit the awfulness was catchy. Even Lady Gaga thinks Rebecca Black is a genius.

Now 2012 brings a new chapter to awful entertainment and yes, it’s courtesy of Youtube. Two California high school girls going by the name of Double Take recorded a song entitled Hot Problems about the problems girls that are labeled ‘hot’ go through and had the video placed on the OldBaileyProductions channel on April 15th. Since then the song has gone viral to the point it has already received 12,000,000 hits. The reactions are mostly negative as the song has received over 520,000 dislikes and not even 40,000 likes. It even has many people comparing the song to Friday in terms of its awfulness. It has cheesy lyrics and the singing of the two girls sound like they don’t have a hint of skill or unison. Yes, it too has had its own spoof videos too. Some are even calling it the ‘worst song ever’. Didn’t they say the same thing about Friday last year?

All parties involved in this have responded to the feedback from the song. OldBaileyProductions responded saying they have nothing to do with the song and that they created the video as a favor for a sibling of a friend. The two girls of Double Take, Drew Garrett and Lauren Willey, also responded to the feedback to their ‘masterpiece of maladroit’. They admit they were not good singers and that they were just simply ‘talk-singing’. They also said they made the video to simply have something funny for their friends and didn’t mean anything from it. Hey, at least they’re not desperate for fame the way Rebecca Black and her parents were. Also unlike Rebecca Black, they’re brushing all negative criticism aside. They are heading to college with career plans for real careers but they do admit that they’re ‘open’ to careers as songwriters. Also they admit they don’t consider themselves ‘hot’.

Nevertheless it’s a surprise how another awful song or awful act gets a following. I’m sure that in this Youtube world, there will be more to come. Who knows? Maybe next year we might have a new ‘worst song ever’. You gotta love this planet.

WORK CITED:

“’Hot Problems’ Dubbed Worst Song Of The Year.” ABC News.go.com. 2012. ABC News. 20 April 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/04/hot-problems-dubbed-worst-song-of-the-year/>

2012 Box Office: March and April’s Continued Success

Another two months have passed and the box office has enjoyed a continued increase this year, if not completely consistent. If there’s one message to be made so far,  it’s that Hollywood’s doing all the right stuff these past four months of 2012.

As many of my followers already know, I’ve been paying close attention to the total box office results this year. I started doing it every year only in recent years. This year I’m paying special attention this year because you can bet Hollywood is hoping for its biggest year ever. Also you can bet Hollywood is looking to rebound after the disappointments of the last two years as noted in my article about 2011’s Box Office.

2012 shows signs that the box office is looking up for sure. I made previous notes in my focus on January and February of the reasons for Hollywood to be optimistic. Its total gross was over $320 million more than last year’s and the biggest January/February total gross ever. March and April gave box office stats impressive enough to keep Hollywood smiling too.

The first weekend of March 2012 showed continuing promise for the box office as Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax opened with $82.8 million. It was even strong enough to keep the heavily-promoted John Carter from debuting at #1. The following week saw 21 Jump Street debut with a strong opening. However nothing could compare in March for the opening of the heavily-anticipated The Hunger Games. Its opening weekend of $152.5 million raked as the third-highest opening weekend of all time at the time and its buzz was even able to outdo the openings of Wrath Of The Titans and Mirror Mirror the following weekend. The end result for March 2012 was $1.071 billion: the highest-grossing March ever; only the second March ever to gross more than a billion dollars and $412 million more than the gross of March 2011.

April didn’t have as strong buzz as last year this time around. The month began with the continuing endurance of The Hunger Games keeping it at #1 during the first two weekends of April. Its box office domination even warded off debuts like American Reunion, Titanic 3D, The Three Stooges and The Cabin In The Woods. It wouldn’t be replaced as the #1 movie in North America until Think Like A Man opened. Think still continued as the #1 movie the following weekend, even outdoing the debuts of The Pirates! Band Of Misfits and The Five-Year Engagement. Nevertheless Think Like A Man’s opening weekend was only a humble $33.6 million.

The lack of sizzle of April’s openers led to a roughly estimated total gross of $725 million: $200 million less than last year’s record-setting April. Nevertheless April was only a minor box office setback as the box office of those four months amassed a total roughly over $500 million more than last year. So 2012 remains on pace for being the highest-grossing year ever.

As we head into May, we already know the box office is getting more boost as the very first weekend saw the release of The Avengers which not only broke the box office record for opening weekend but set a box office milestone too. Its record-setting opening weekend of $207 million made it the first-ever $200 million weekend! May promises more box office excitement with The Dictator, Battleship and Men In Black III. The rest of the summer is also full of buzz with Battlefield America, Madagascar 3, Disney/Pixar’s Brave, and the latest movies in the Spiderman, Jason Bourne, Expendibles and Batman franchises.

2012 is continuing on another impressive year and the buzz in the following months should continue long enough to make this a record-setting year.

WORK CITED:

“Monthly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2011. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. <http://www.boxofficemojo.com/monthly/>

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a novel that has taken today’s young by storm. You can bet that the release of the big-screen adaptation has attracted the young and old alike to attend. There has already been a lot of attention directed to it. The big question is does the movie deliver to the hype?

The movie opens in a post-apocalyptic world. North America is now one nation consisting of a Capitol and twelve poorer surrounding districts. The Capitol has punished the poorer district for a past rebellion by holding a contest called the Hunger Games. In this contest, each district has one boy and one girl from 13 to 18 drawn by lot to fight to be the one to survive and live a life of fame and wealth.

The core of the movie focuses on Katniss Everdeen of the mining District 12. She is already a well-skilled outdoorswoman who knows how to survive outdoors and even hunt for her own food via bow and arrow. When the draw happens, her younger sister’s name is pulled but she volunteers for her, knowing she doesn’t have what it takes to win. The male winner is Peeta Mellark: a shy baker boy who met Katniss only once when he gave her bread. The two are taken by train to the Capitol where they are given instructions from former winner Haymitch Abernathy.

At the Capitol they are given styling from stylist Cinna who wants to make them look like something not from a mining town. The two learn this contest is as much about style and winning the audience as it is about gladiating skill. ‘Sponsors’ can also send gifts to contestants they like. They’re dolled up in stunning costumes for the opening ceremonies and also impress during training where Katniss has the highest score of all. As all the contestants are interviewed by Caesar Flickerman, Peeta confesses that he always had a crush on Katniss, much to Katniss’ discomfort. Nevertheless they remain aware of the Games and what they have to face. They also know they will face a formidable challenge from the two from District Two known as the ‘Careers’ as they are trained since birth to win the Games. A Career has won the Hunger Games the past eight years and this year’s top ‘Career’ is Cato who is well-trained, merciless and confident he will win.

The contest begins in an open gladiation of all twenty-four. At the end, half are killed. Katniss is left on her own to fend for herself. In the meantime the ‘Careers’ Cato and Clove form an alliance with some of the contestants to get Katniss. One of the members is Peeta. The alliance is successful in getting her to climb up a tree for her life. As they wait at the bottom for her to get down, she notices Rue: a small frail girl from District 11. Katniss is able to come down after she’s able to free off a branch containing a nest of bee-like tracker jackers and causes the surviving allies to flee as the jackers sting. Katniss develops a caring friendship with Rue as she gives her ointment for her sting. The friendship ends tragically as Rue is fatally wounded by a contestant. After Katniss kills Rue’s killer, she lays flowers over her body as a sign of respect.

The Games continue. There’s the medicine round where each of the surviving district has to have one contestant take the medicine. Katniss has a duel with Career Clove but Clove is killed by District 11’s Thresh in respect of what she did to Rue. Katniss discovers Peeta, wounded by Cato’s sword in a fit of rage. As she puts ointment on him he learns all the group’s supplies are captured by Cato and held in an area protected by landmines and an ally. Katniss succeeds in igniting an explosion destroying all the supplies. Now all that remains is the Cornucopia for the last survivor, or two surviors from a single district, to battle for the win of the Games. The ending consists of a battle involving two ‘created’ man-eating beasts. The ending leads to a thrilling battle with moments of intensity and a surprise twist at the end with a rule change. The ending also leads to set the stage for the follow-up movie, due for release November next year.

I’ll admit that I have not read the book The Hunger Games but I will say that the movie is very good in expressing a popular theme of drama in front of a world audience. We have the popular theme of fighting to the death just like it was done during the times of ancient Rome. We have the theme of drama created to stir popularity, intrigue and support. We especially have the theme of brawn vs. brains as best shown by Cato and Katniss. The two are an interesting study in opposites. Cato represents brawn. He comes from a district where children are trained to win from birth. Cato has all the traits of a trained competitor: confidence, skill, lack of mercy and even a lust for killing his rivals, and especially the charisma two win some of his rivals over to form an alliance to defeat his top rival Katniss, even making them forget they would have to be his victims if he wants to win. Katniss is the smart one. She knows how to fend her herself. She knows how to survive on her own. She knows the Games are stupid. She also knows how to show compassion to those she feels shouldn’t be in the Games. She knows how to play to the crowd in her natural way. She also knows how to rebel as she also is willing to give her life if it means losing Peeta. It’s no wonder Katniss’ edge is noticeable and could prove victorious in the end.

Even if you haven’t read the novel, you would notice how the world present in the Hunger Games represent a lot of barbarianisms of civilizations past. You have the Hunger Games itself where children are elected to fight to the death like the Gladiators of Ancient Rome. We have Distirct 2 which trains children to win the Hunger Games: reminiscent of both Ancient Sparta where children are raised from birth to be soldiers and of Communist countries that took children and trained them to be Olympic champions. We have The Capitol dictating these games on the twelve districts, reminiscent of Ancient Rome.

Also included in the Hunger Games are the many elements that remind us of our current voyeuristic culture. We have a reality show of these teenagers in these blood games that are broadcast to live audiences in each district. We have an image analyst and stylist who encourage and assists Katniss and Peeta in winning the crowd. We have a past winner giving the two hints on how to win. We have Gamemakers creating elements of drama and death like the forest fire, the man-eating beasts and the change of rules for two of the same district to win. We also have Katniss receiving instructions and drama directions with whatever ointment and food she receives. We have all contestants being shown off in an pre-games interview and given scores before the contest: reminiscent of weigh-ins before boxing matches. Bloody gladiator matches of the past combine with the voyeurism and media-savvy of the present.

Despite all that’s created, concocted or built up, we also have Katniss and Peeta representing the realness in all that’s staged. We have Katniss who wants to win but feels it’s an unnecessary threat for someone like Rue to be a forced warrior. We see Katniss representing the feelings and sensitivities of most trying to do battle with the charismatic but diabolical and controlling Cato. Even before the Hunger Games lottery, there was a connection between Katniss and Peeta, albeit from a long distance. It was only through the luck of the draw that the two could meet and Peeta could get the girl he always wanted to notice her. Even without the staging and set-up of events, the love and feelings between the two are real.

We also have Katniss’ sense of rebellion. Her moves during the Games, both of defiance and compassion, have sparked a lot of discomfort to those who call the shots in the Games. First act was before the Games as she volunteered to replace her younger sister for the Games. During training, she shot an arrow at an apple awfully close to a Gamemaker to get some notice.  During the Games, she developed a caring bond with Rue and laid flowers over her body. Her act of respect sparked a riot in Rue’s District 11 and caused producers to change the rule of allowing two from a single district to win. When the rule was rechanged to one winner only, she and Peeta were ready to eat fatal berries together in defiance. Even the deaths of both Cato and Clove could spark outrage from the Career’s district as they’ve been trained since birth to win and this is their first loss in years. Katniss’ rebellion definitely left the Gamemakers with a nervousness even after the Hunger Games were over. This sets the stage for what could happen in Catching Fire.

The acting in the movie was very good. Jennifer Lawrence gave a performance in a role that was beyond your typical teenage heroine role. She has already proven her acting excellence in the past and she continues to impress here. Josh Hutcherson also did a good job playing the boy-next-door type Peeta. His role wasn’t as complex as Katniss but he still managed to impress and come across well as the shy sensitive type. Alexander Ludwig succeeded in making Cato hateable on screen but his role as the charismatic killing machine was underdeveloped in the movie and given less screen time than it should’ve had. The adult actors in the movie did well with their supporting roles and the characters that came with it, but most were limited to being only minor supporting roles often consisting of stock characters. Of the adult actors, it was Woody Harrelson who did the most with his role. Gary Ross did a very good job of directing even though he has not been known to direct and epic movie before. His first effort pays off well. He also did a good job in scriptwriting with Billy Ray and the book’s author Suzanne Collins although there were some key elements missing. Costuming was also well-done even though there were some outfits that could leave one thinking they were at a Lady Gaga concert. The visual effects were also excellent.

 The movie had a lot of great qualities but the best thing about it is that the filmmakers kept from making a Twilight of itself. I haven’t seen any of the Twilight movies but I know enough about them to know it’s mostly about ‘hot guys’ and teen romance. The box office successes of that formula as well as the huge teen fanfare made me nervous that the Hunger Games might take those steps to gain a huge box office draw. Instead The Hunger Games doesn’t stoop to that low. It’s able to keep an intriguing story with the drama without having to resort to sex appeal for the sake of money.

The effort has payed off both on screen and at the box office too. Its opening weekend of $152.5 million made it the third-highest opening weekend ever. It spent four weekends at #1 at the box office and currently ranks #3 with a total gross of $380 million. None of the Twilight movies have been able to achieve either box office result. It’s no wonder there were even older adults in the audience the time I went. Unlike Twilight, The Hunger Games goes beyond the expected targeted teen and its pays off.

The Hunger Games does have its flaws and imperfections but it does an excellent job in creating an intriguing story that does its best to avoid distractions and most typical box-office gimmicks. The result is a quality epic that’s as smart as it is thrilling.

One last note: Okay I know it’s been weeks since The Hunger Games opening. The thing is I only saw it three weeks ago as I normally wait for big hit movies to have the crowds die down. Also I have been mentally exhausted for weeks and have had a lack of ambition to write. Finally I got it back.