Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Today's Feature: Jennifer Lawrence - From Winter's Bone to The Hunger Games

(Image courtesy of EW)
Today is Day 3 of featuring either a writing piece or something I have participated in from the past couple of years. Yesterday, I featured my audio interview with former The Apprentice contestant Mahsa.

Today is an opinion piece. Back in June 2011, I wrote an opinion piece on the T.W.O. BLOG on why Jennifer Lawrence would be great as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movie, which comes out March 23. Keep in mind that I wrote it when only one promo image had been released. You'll just have to read it below to find out why my opinion swayed this way that early in the process.

Jennifer Lawrence: From Winter's Bone to The Hunger Games
[June 19, 2011]
Recently, I sat down to watch the Oscar Best Picture-nominated film Winter's Bone on DVD. Winter's Bone has never been on my radar of movies to watch, even during the high of Oscar season. So why, you might ask, did I decide to finally watch it? The answer is because of Jennifer Lawrence, who has been cast in the role of Katniss Everdeen in next year's highly-anticipated The Hunger Games, based on the first book in the bestselling Young Adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

When Ms. Lawrence was first cast as Katniss Everdeen, there was an uproar among fans of the book series that she was too old, too blonde, not thin enough, etc. etc. Even during Oscar season, I didn't pay any attention to her, because everyone said she had no chance at winning Best Actress. When her name popped up as the frontrunner for this role [of Katniss], I'm not lying when I say I had no opinion either way on if she was the right person to play Katniss. I was willing to give her a chance at this, and not make harsh judgments when we hadn't even seen any images or video clips of her in the film yet. I didn't really understand why fans were so upset by this casting decision. Somehow, they overlooked the fact that you can change a person's hair color, you can use makeup and other effects to darken skin. You can do all sorts of things to make her look like Katniss. I mean, look at the Harry Potter films or The Lord of the Rings trilogy; hair and makeup, prosthetics, and special effects can go a long way (Tom Felton? Yeah, not a natural blonde).

Then Entertainment Weekly released the first promotional photo shoot of Jennifer in full makeup and costume with brunette hair. Suddenly, the fandom breathed a big sigh of relief, and thus there was a sense of calm and order in the world again. And, by the way, I love the promo shot and immediately got excited for her to play this role.

But back to Winter's Bone now. As far as I'm aware, I have never seen her act in anything before. And since a huge part of why Jennifer was cast in The Hunger Games was because of her moving and powerful role in Winter's Bone, I felt compelled to actually watch it. Jennifer plays Ree, whose father is out on bond and has put the house and property up as his bond. If he doesn't show up for court, Ree and her family will lose the house. So Ree sets out to find him.

There is a scene where Ree's uncle grabs her by the neck/face. Here is where we see Jennifer displaying a great sense of fear and vulnerability, whereas in the scenes before that, we see her defiant and trying to act tough and strong (putting on a front, perhaps?). The character of Katniss in The Hunger Games is not this hugely tough, Lara Croft-type heroine. She does have vulnerability. She does have fear. She is human and has flaws. And Jennifer perfectly captured all of that when playing Ree. And in a scene near the end which takes place in a boat (for those who don't want to be spoiled, I won't say what actually happens in that scene), Ree is very overwrought with emotion. Jennifer's acting in these types of scenes are breathtaking to watch. She is a brilliant actress. And after watching her Oscar-nominated performance in Winter's Bone, I don't have any worries about her taking on the role of Katniss.

When a million names were flying all over the Internet on who should play Katniss Everdeen, one of the front-runners at one point was Kaya Scodelario, who played Effy Stonem in the hit British drama, Skins. I am a fan of that show and thought she should play Katniss after seeing her on that TV show. One of the reasons why other fans thought she would be perfect as well was because she is pretty thin, since Katniss is supposed to have a starved appearance over the course of the games. And many are not happy with the fact that Jennifer is not thin. I'm not sure how they will deal with this aspect, but I'm sure they'll come up with something. This is the only area where I can understand why fans would be upset.

I have faith in Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and all the filmmakers to create an excellent film that lives up to our expectations. People are saying this new movie franchise could be the next Twilight, not in terms of the story, but in terms of the anticipation, buzz, hype, and box office draw. I believe it does have a chance at that; it's already started. Harry Potter is ending next month. Twilight ends next year. We need a new Young Adult/fantasy franchise to take over, and I am confident that The Hunger Games can fill that role. And with Jennifer Lawrence as the face of these movies, we the fans should have nothing to worry about. I'm not making any judgments about any of the casting choices until I see them in their roles. And I hope others can do that as well. I'm not saying I won't make criticisms about certain elements of the movie; I'm sure I will, but for now, I'm staying out of that department. There is a reason we love the books. So let's support the filmmakers in this journey of translating the story to the big screen.

As I said, when I wrote this piece, we only had that one promo shot of Jennifer as Katniss on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. Since then, we've had a small handful of images released as well as a teaser video and full-length trailer. The trailer is what sold everyone on Jennifer and this movie. I loved the trailer! Ever since it was released in November, I have played it numerous times over and over and over again; I don't think I've played a movie trailer this many times, ever.

During the trailer, when Effie calls Prim's name as a tribute, chills ran through me when I saw Jennifer's Katniss cry out and then volunteer. Just from this trailer, I can see how Jennifer will be bringing what she did in Winter's Bone to this movie to great effect.

The Hunger Games is less than three months away. The anticipation is continuing to build. And I haven't been this excited about a movie in a long, long time. I'm obviously always excited whenever another Harry Potter movie has come out, but it's different with The Hunger Games because we haven't had a Hunger Games movie before. This is our first venture into it for this young franchise. And I'm going to be there opening weekend to start this part of the journey.

In my intro blog post the other day, I said that one of the things I will use this blog for is to share my thoughts and opinions. I've done that before with pieces like the one above, and I look forward to continuing it here.

Tomorrow's featured piece will be an On The Scene report I wrote up after attending one of the Seattle auditions last June for The X Factor.

Follow me on Twitter @TheJeffDodge. I tweet various thoughts and opinions there. And anything I post on this blog will be tweeted there as well (so that's the best way to find out when the blog's updated). And if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, either tweet me or e-mail me.

See ya tomorrow...

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