Sunday, 22 November 2015

Mockingjay 2, a chilling ending to the series / Katniss, the ultimate Francis Lawrence's diva

I've always found The Hunger Games series very odd. Which is good. 
Perhaps is not a very known fact, but Francis Lawrence, the films' director, had his big break making the videoclip for Aerosmith's "I don't wanna miss a thing", a.k.a. "that song from Armageddon". He also made the clip from "Jaded" (one of my favorites ever, see below if you like).

Before his film debut, he worked with numerous rock and pop artists making video clips, and after taking a look at the list of clips signed by him, I realised it made perfect sense for him to bring Katniss Everdeen to the big screen.

Just to name a few and make my point, he worked with Gwen Stefani, Shakira, Avril Lavigne, Destiny's Child, Pink, Shirley Manson (Garbage), Alanis Morrisette, Beyonce, Nelly Furtado, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Mila Kunis (in Aerosmith's Jaded)...

Just a few pre-Hunger Games Mockingjays Lawrence directed

Are you catching the pattern by now?

Please see pictures above and compare poses and ideas

If you need someone to direct a video about a strong, beautiful woman with an edge, he's your guy. And the Mockingjay surely had three out of three. She's the ultimate Francis Lawrence's diva.

So, I've watched all the movies and now that the last film, Mockingjay Part 2 is out, I went to see it in the cinema, and a chilling thought cooked in my mind as the events unfolded: I've seen this somewhere, and not precisely in the books.

There will be some spoilers below, so if you haven't seen the movie and don't want to know what happens, you've been warned.

District 12, the one with the worst living conditions, the one that supplies fuel to the Capitol, has been progresively kept under tighter and more violent control. No one in the Capitol cared when 12's kids were hungry, but when the riots jeopardized the supply, the alarms went on. Eventually, corrupt and sophisticated president Snow gave the order to bomb Distric 12 and completely destroyed it. No one in the Capitol cared, everyone was watching Caesar Flickerman's talkshow, or perhaps the games.
Just another day in Distric 12. Via
Then, the survivors fleed and reorganized in the middle of nowhere, welcomed by the blood-thirsty tyrant, president Coin who ruled District 13, an area previosly destroyed by the Capitol forces, and that now had a very heavy arsenal of weapons, a deep hate towards the Capitol and access to broadcasting.
There they, especially Katniss, are manipulated into being the face of the rebellion, making frequent and chilling videos that start spreading fear in the spoiled and desensitized Capitol population. Now they care. As the group becomes more and more radicalised, they organise to atttack the city, even willing to sacrify themselves for Coin's cause, which they've been convinced to believe is theirs.
And so they enter the Capitol and Snow decides to make an espectacle out of the hunting of the rebels.
As the city watches them on mandatory reports displayed on all screens, they go through nightmares, rivalry, internal fights, but it's too late to have second thoughts. Their faces are now on all "wanted" posters, while Coin and the game master get ready to take over in the confort of their well hidden base. It's always the young and vulnerable who take the shots for the greedy and powerful.
Propaganda loves children. Via

Snow then decides to evacuate part of the Capitol, and calls up all the refugees to a safe area where food and medicine is promised. As all the scared and disoriented people follow his instruction, Katniss and her "star squad" infiltrate the refugees and, hiden amongst them, plan to get close enough for an attack. 
Surveillance is weak and they manage to seize the chaos to get to Snow, and then, when he's captured, Coin makes her move and brings fire to the Capitol. Now the bombs weren't in distant and empoverished Distric 12, they were in the heart of the shinniest city of Panem. The children crying were not malnourished, the adults running were not miners and farmers, and the buildings burning were not shabby huts and improvised markets.

Then a Real Life makeup brand started selling 12-Districts inspired makeup. Via

And at that point, Coin shows her (ill-hidden) true colours. After what could pass as a successful coup d'etat, she seats in Snow's office with her military junta and appoints herself "Interim" President of Panem, with elections coming, eventually "when the time is right". 
Then, her first motion is to organize a "symbolic Hunger Games" where the districts will get their awaited revenge by watching the Capitol's children fight each other in the arena. As a populist, vindictive, master of propaganda, the woman knew who'd be the sole winner of that.
Katniss, who had knew for a while that Coin's medicine was worst than Snow's disease, manages to put her down before she pull off that plan, and a mob of angry people takes care of Snow. After that, in an idealistic turn of events, Panem actually gets what seems to be a fair election and a decent president, so everyone can now go on with their lives and rebuild their homes.
But the nightmares will never go away. And the lost ones will never come back.

Francis Lawrence was also aware of the uncanny resemblance of the movies' story to less fictional events, and in an interview he gave after the premier of Mockingjay 1, he resumes it very accurately: "Suzanne Collins wrote a series of books specifically about the consequences of war, and one of the facets we get to explore in this movie is the use of propaganda in war, and the manipulation of imagery and people in the use of propaganda. Unfortunately, this kind of thing has been happening for a really long time. Now, due to technology, it reaches people in a faster, more immediate way.”

The Carrot Vs The Stick

Perhaps, if there was a Hunger Games' expanded universe, we could have seen more of the other districts and more of the Capitol. Probably we've seen the better-off districts worrying slowly and becoming paranoic when the fire arrived. Maybe, we'd discovered that many people with Capitol's passports were recruited and radicalised thanks to the Mockingjay's charisma and manipulation (see flamboyant Effie, who turned up to be a rebel). Who knows, if there was anything similar to social media in Panem, many people would have covered their profile picture with the Capitol's colours to show empathy, while others would bitterly wonder why wasn't it possible to get District 12's colours when it happened there.

I think that Mockingjay Part 2 was a pretty good movie, with an eerily timed premiere, and even though it was slower and longer than The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, it was fair to the books.
And by the way, Francis Lawrence -the director- and Jennifer Lawrence -the Star- have the same last name but are not related. Speaking of coincidences.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

What about a diet, but instead of changing what you eat, you'd change what you read/watch/listen?

There are thousands of diets out there, and lately I've been thinking... if we can adjust the way we eat in order to obtain a certain result, maybe there is a similar way to change what we consume as entertainment in order to think differently.

I started to think that after realizing how much time I was spending online doing nothing, learning nothing and not even having a real laugh. I started to feel like those people that notice they're getting sick because they eat fast food and ready meals all the time. Yes, they're cheap and tasty, but deep down you know they're not the best you could be having.

And there's nothing wrong with indulging in a never ending scrolling of memes and social media statuses, nor will I judge anyone who's spends a whole evening reading one Buzzfeed list after the other (those 84 thoughts they had while watching Game of Thrones really are all of us) or someone that follows more "and you won't believe what happened next" links than they would like to admit.
However, when it came to the point that I was giving it almost enough time for it to be a part time job, I felt that I was starting to think in GIF images and memes, and I didn't like it.

It got so bad that just as older people might have a saying or a popular expression for many things, I caught myself repeating popular captions such as "nothing to do here", "I'm not even mad, that's amazing" and "I'm not always X, but when I do, I Y".

Let's say that if I were to compare entertainment/information to food, I would be exchanging most of the fast food, takeaway and ready meals I was having daily, for a mix of homemade cooking, some quirky artisan products and a good sandwich from a nice deli. It doesn't sound so drastic because it isn't, but I'm not ready to go vegan on my enterteainment either.

Instead of setting it by the day, as you can more easily do with food because you eat it three times a day, here's an example of what I'm trying to get done in a week:

1. Watch 1 "good" blockbuster movie: Everyone will have their definition of what a "good movie" is, but to keep it simple for the example, let's say it's a movie with at least decent ratings both from critics and audience in the website Rotten Tomatoes (although if it has a great score on one side and awful in the other it might be interesting as well). Ideally in the cinema, by the way.

2. Watch 1 "good" non-blockbuster movie or a few episodes of a good TV series: It can be a classic, a documentary, a "foreign" (non Hollywood), an independent or a lower budget film. In other words, something that is a bit different. 

3. Read/listen to the news for a few minutes every day: One of the things I love about living in a country in which occasionally you get good news is to find out about them. I leave them on, on the radio on my way to work, or stop and read an article or two when I see them shared in my social media.

4. Catch up on social media, and then move on: Instead of jumping to my screen everytime I hear the alarm, I will tend to it when I have a moment to dedicate to that, and instead of compulsively checking every post from every friend, I'll just do a quick scroll and stop if I find something interesting or truly funny.

5. Not sharing rubbish: I wasn't very guilty of this anyway, but now I try to do it even less. Well, maybe a picture of a dog occasionally is not the end of the world, but you get the idea.

6. Not engaging in Internet arguments: I used to do it sometimes, out of boredom or to defend  a friend, but it's just not worth the time.

7. Read a few chapters from a real book: By real I mean a paper book, just because I like it, but an e-book is fine if that's your thing. But it has to be non technical please, recipe books and manuals don't count, and neither do magazines, even though some of them are great. Fiction, non fiction or something in between, try to go through a couple dozen pages at least, before you put it down.

8. Make something creative: Maybe write a short story or at least a page in my diary or a post in here, attemp to mix some music samples (I've tried once so far so it counts!). If I'm feeling dumb, at the very very least, fill up half a page from a colouring book. 

9. Listen to new music: I love my playlists, but sometimes when you play the same few songs over and over, you might not discover something new you will love. Spotify is great for this, but many pages and apps can help. And it doesn't have to be literally "new" it can be a very old band, or a new album from a group you used to listen to. As long as it's NEW FOR YOU, then it counts.

10. Have more conversations: In person, via Whatsapp, Skype or Facebook... it doesn't matter, just ask some one how they are or what are they thinking, and listen/read, and then talk/write. It's as simple as that.

I don't know if I'll have time to get all these done every week, but I'm sure I'll try. 

Sometimes I crave to see a hundred memes or funny vines, and sometimes I do, but not all the time anymore. I won't pretend to recommend anyone anything or tell prople what to do, but for me, so far, so good.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Three questions you should ask yourself before bullying your staff or coworkers

I'm so fed up with the sadistic culture going on in many kitchens, where you are expected to be humilliated before they teach you anything. It's just like a cycle of domestic violence where the child that was abused grows up, and now he hits his wife and children.

I've seen it so often. I know many wonderful people working in the food industry that sometimes suffer because a bully at work makes their life miserable and they are afraid to speak up or confront them. After all, the fear of losing your job is real and strong.

So, when you want to abuse your staff or coworkers, please ask yourself the following three questions:

1. "Am I building a pyramid?": If the answer is NO (which it is), then have some self control and avoid acting like if you were raised by wolves in a mental asylum.

Nothing against wolves, they're actually excellent at team work

2. "Is this my way to get revenge at this unfair world?": If you can relate to that statement, please change your approach. There are places in Japan where you can pay to be allowed to break dishes. You can also join your local fight club or find a moshpit and let the rage flow between consensual adults, perhaps you can even make friends with a masochist.

3. Am I the last living master of a mythical martial art?: If you are, then I give you a green light to go and get a hut at the top of a mountain and make your aprentices suffer in order to gain your ancestral knowledge. If you are not, please stop acting like you were.