An Open (and Incredibly Long) Letter to Suzanne Collins

Dear Ms Collins,

I change my mind again.  I want your trilogy on reel. I want to see Katniss and Peeta and Haymitch and even Gale. I want them under the hands of the most creative screenplay writer and through the eyes of the most skilled directors. And please, Ms. Collins, please do not make a lot of changes. Just enough for the sake of cinematography, I guess.

But that’s not what I’m writing about. I am trying to write a review of Mockingjay, your last book in the trilogy. But my attempt is reduced to simply wanting to tell you how I feel about your books. Less technical and more personal, if I can muster so.

The Hunger Games Trilogy (hereforpizza.tumblr.com)

First, I wish to thank you for the fresh concept. As I’ve written in my review of The Hunger Games, your story is a refreshing break and deviation from the now rampant tales about our fanged protagonists. In an almost feverish way, I have went through your books because suddenly, I am reading something I have lots of trouble predicting what’s gonna happen next.

With your fresh concept also comes the politics of the world you have created. And that has, for me, added an additional attraction. Politics in a YA book is very rare but your approach to it doesn’t hamper its spirit. If only for that, you have provided a passable bridge for YA readers and adult book-lovers.

Second, I like that you have written the story in the way that you have. The first-person point of view, in all its susceptibility to lacking perspectives, has worked for your tale. Because we have to understand the Games and the war and how it internally affects the people in it. More importantly, how it affects a mockingjay. And I’m not sure, but I seem to think that your first-person way of writing addresses that need for understanding.

Aside from that, I especially like your choice of words. Direct, expressive, tell-them-like-they-are kind of words. From the heart and sometimes hidden under nasty meshes of hurtful circumstances. Short sentences like “Twirl for me“, “Stay with me“, and “Whatever breaks you” that actually speaks for a heart-full of feelings.

Next, I love your characters. There’s your heroine, Katniss Everdeen. The girl on fire, the impulsive and yet accurate hunter whose complexity I love unconditionally. I love her wooliness, the way she gets presented with conflicting ideas and feelings, and her struggle to choose among them. Thank you for making her vulnerable to as many harms as her strength can cause.

And then there are the people who have made Katniss’s life as intricate.

There’s Gale Hawthorne, her best friend, her hunting partner. In his individuality, I still like Gale. Even with his bloodlust. Even with his desire to fight at the expense of innocent people. Because the war does that to people, too. If I understand it correctly, Gale is made into the other result of a war: vengeful and spiteful.

But as a potential lover for Katniss, I guess I would stand by your own choice, Ms. Collins. Because honestly, ma’am, I have had a fair share of best-friends-to-lovers stories that if yours end with Katniss choosing Gale, I would have been sad. Because, yes, I agree with you. We become best friends with people who, at best, are of the same mould as we are.

What we need then, for a lover, is someone who would complement us. Harmonize our strengths and weaknesses. And fill in what we lack. That’s why I love Peeta Mellark being with Katniss in the end. And even in the end of the beginning novel (The Hunger Games). I have somehow understood why it is Peeta who gets to be in the arena and not Gale. Why it’s him who gets to share with Katniss’s fire. Because he can put it out when it becomes destructive, while Gale can only strengthen it. Because after all the heat of the fire, what we need is the coolness of true pearl–pure and relaxing.

And then there’s Haymitch Abernathy. An older, male version of Katniss. I like that mirror-effect he has with her. He seems to exemplify the possible results to Katniss’s causes. On top of this, there’s the unlikely existence of a softer, more humane person deep within the drunken exterior of Haymitch’s character. A man who has been shattered to irreconcilable pieces by grief and cruelty and yet still finds the heart to take care of two equally victorious and suffering people. Needless to say, I love his multiple layers.

Maybe the same is true with Johanna Mason. And Boggs and Paylor. And Beetee, too. As well as the prep team Octavia, Flavius, and Venia. All of them, their multi-faceted personalities. The strengths and the weaknesses. The way they personify the many faces of war and the world itself.

Same goes with Finnick Odair, well that and the fact that he has shown Katniss the way through her heart. I feel quite glad at the idea that Finnick’s love for Annie has mirrored that which Katniss feels for Peeta.

I’m afraid I cannot say the same with Plutarch Heavensbee. That imprudent, sorry excuse for a Head Gamemaker. He’s Capitol inside-out, I guess. With only entertainment to sustain him, regardless of how many innocent lives he kills, I know I have been right when I said (in my review of Catching Fire) that there’s something unsettling about him.

But then, Ms. Collins, their lives are marred by death. With so much gore and blood and nausea and unseeing eyes. I’m sorry people had to die.

Well, maybe not much in the case of the two presidents. President Coin, who I hate for being so intelligent and yet unfeeling. Who has made every citizen in Panem a piece of her Games. Who has done what the Capitol has done all those years of superiority: watch as people battle for life through murder.

President Snow, who I hate for being an active piece of Coin’s Games. He has had it right when he said he shouldn’t have turned the Capitol and the districts against one another. That he should have united them against the ominous threat that is District 13. And although he couldn’t have known what Coin has prepared against him, I still think his way of ruling is unforgivable. Huge, huge ego does not pay for all the lives he had spent.

But there are deaths that I do feel sorry for. More than anything.

Cinna, the silent warrior. The man who has caught so much of my attention and affection. I am resentful toward his death, which is delivered in such an unjust and unnecessary way.

And Prim. Her death, so unfair to come just as she is blossoming into her full self, breaks me. Prim, who has provided light to the darkness of the war, whose presence is soothing even without her consoling words. And yes, people like her die in battles. Even as pawns, as reminders that no one really is spared from wars.

Maybe all of these–the nightmares, the pain, the loses–maybe they are also reminders. That victors, those who win in the Hunger Games, can make it out alive and well. But that in reality, they make it out with either only one of the two, which I guess is pretty clear a choice, or with neither true at all.

Maybe all of them are encased in your metaphors. The fire, the ever burning fire, of feelings and emotions and strengths. The mockingjays that have surpassed extinction and have ever since served as a reminder that as long as they live, the memory of the Dark Days do, too. And now, they carry with them the memory of the war as well. The spark of rebellion, the face of relentless fighting, the need for a thorough discernment between what is real and what is not.

In the end, Ms. Collins, I end my reading with a sharp jab of the pain I usually associate with losing a friend. I end a journey I have taken on with your books. A journey that is both agonizing and relieving. Thank you for them.

P.S.

It feels good to know Katniss has become a mother. She would make a good one, I think.

P.P.S.

I’ll wait for the movies.

The Seventh Reel

Undecided and uncertain. That’s how I felt after watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part I). I couldn’t say I was 100% happy about how it all turned out and yet I couldn’t judge just how much of it I didn’t like, if I didn’t. Some parts exceeded my expectations while others featured misses that were sorely unsatisfactory.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part I)

But maybe that’s how you’re supposed to feel. Maybe you had to sense as much of the uncertainty that was in the atmosphere.

And because of all this indecisiveness I had, I decided to just group all of my thoughts into seven. Because, well, seven had been very significant in this entire magical journey.

Characters

They had all grown up, figuratively and literally. That’s as much about it. Gone was the innocence in their first train ride to Hogwarts. It was replaced with each character’s newly shown abilities, an array of assets, and a definite sense of being.

 

The Trio

If I were to be particular about all this, I’d say I liked the change in Emma Watson best. In the past movies, my problem with her Hermione was mainly about how she delivered her lines. There was a monotonous, always-hurried way in her performance that the difference in the emotions behind them were only highlighted in extreme situations. In Deathly Hallows, though, there were pitches and intonations. She was frantic when she had to be, and soft when she needed to be. And her portrayal of the Horcrux-Hermione proved that, if anything, she had really grown up.

 

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger

There were also characters whose portrayal were slightly disappointing. Like Andy Linden’s Mundungus Fletcher, for instance. He was a bit cleaner than I thought he would be. Seriously, from how the book described him with words like ‘a pile of rags’, I envisioned someone shabbier than the werewolf Lupin. Another was Rufus Scrimgeour (played by Bill Nighy), whose supposed fierceness went amiss as much as his lion-like mane of hair. He was likened to that, a lion, in the book but the movie had him looking frail albeit the certainty.

Setting

Missing Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was a bit more painful than I expected it to be. It was an edifice that was hard to overlook, a set of walls where everything imaginable was possible, with a position that exuded safety and conviction.

Despite this, I could say the Deathly Hallows DP made 80% of the longing bearable. The shots and settings and shots of the settings wherein the trio took refuge were magnificent. That was in spite of several occasions when I was reminded of other movies who had almost the same set of forests. Still there were beautiful shots, of the snow-filled capes and the field of high weeds and especially Godric’s Hollow.

Additional Scenes

Allow me first to extend my congratulations to David Yates for these additional scenes. His acuity became very evident and exceptionally useful in representing what words could only scratch. Like the opening scene where Hermione was readying herself for the journey toward the unknown with Harry and Ron. Yates showed even the agony of her erasing her parents memory of her. It was more than an excruciating moment for the highly intellectual Hermione and the irony of it was emphasized to the point of breaking.

I also liked how the Tale of the Three Brothers was depicted in the movie. I actually expected some role-playing where real people acted out the tale, which if I were honest I would consider as a bummer. Thus, the imaginative form that Yates made the tale take was more than satisfactory. Coupled with a soft storytelling voice-over, it was a perfect bedtime tale as any.

But the additional scene I loved most was Harry and Hermione’s dance number. It was altogether funny and affectionate and warm. Yates, in an interview, explained this scene as one that showed how strong a friendship Harry had with Hermione. I think I already saw this in the sixth movie (Half-Blood Prince) where Harry was consoling Hermione over her Ron-related heartache. This time, though, it was different. In the darkness of everything that was happening around both of them, they got a family in each other. And that was a kind of love no war could ever deter.

Harry and Hermione dancing together

Missed Scenes

In all fairness, I was surprised at how little the exclusions were compared to, say, the Order of the Phoenix. Some details were carried the way they were supposed to be, in a fashion that almost followed the book itself. But there were lacking scenes that proved uncomfortable and posed fair questions as to how the last part would unfold.

The Dursley goodbye was something I looked forward to for it could have erased some of the loathing I had for Dudley. But it was diminished to simple camera panning and a grouchy Uncle Vernon hauling out their luggage. Somehow, I found that a little disheartening. I also didn’t quite favor deleting the argument Harry had with Lupin in the basement of Grimmauld Place. Somehow, Lupin was about the only connection to a parent left for Harry that throwing a fair share of lights off him felt upsetting. Another deleted scene I found dissatisfying was Kreacher’s story about how Regulus got hold of Voldemort’s locket if only because that could have added stress on the difficulty of finding Horcruxes.

Ultimately, I wondered how the search for the Ravenclaw diadem in Part II would look like since Part I didn’t feature the stone bust Xenophilius created to imitate it.

Hasty Exposures

I could have done better with clearer Jamie Campbell Bower frames. And I said that more as a viewer than a fangirl, ‘kay? (As if. LOL) Seriously, I understood that what we had of Grindelwald in the first few chapters of Deathly Hallows were mere flickers from Harry’s exposed mind. But then I couldn’t help but expect a more defined scene because I thought Harry’s visions were somehow clear as he saw them in his dreams.

The same idea on hasty exposures was visible in the entire movie. It was as if we were only meant to catch glimpses of the characters. Hagrid, Kingsley, Mr. & Mrs. Weasley, even Umbridge and Snape and Draco. They were all accorded but a few lines, if there were at all. Even Ginny got only a handful of seconds (and of course, a kiss). And she was supposedly present however short-lived and quiet.

 

Harry and Ginny

But actually, notwithstanding a little mind-whirring from all these brief and utterly fast-moving scenes, one could see how the movie was supposed to be like that: condensed with characters in the first few chapters and then featuring just the trio in a longer time.

Emotional Content

Now this was something I could give all praises to the movie for. Yes, Deathly Hallows was largely about goodbyes. The series was nearing its end. And in the movie, the lead characters had to say goodbye to what and who they had for a mission that was important however impossible.

These were goodbyes coupled with grief. Over the loss of one’s parents, as in the case of Hermione. Over the loss of Hedwig, which had my eyes literally moist with tears. Let me side-step on this one, first. I thought Hedwig was simply released by Harry, thus altering her gruesome fate. But no, I expected and it didn’t hold.

 

Harry releasing Hedwig

Anyway, yes, grief. Over the loss of Dobby, whose search for freedom was very inspiring even as it’s on the brink of hilariousness. And finally, over the loss of Mad-eye who seemed so strong to be defeated just like that.

But apart from the sharp pangs of goodbye, there was also a ripening of other previously present emotions. Like Harry and Ginny’s love for each other. Like Ron and Hermione’s realizations of feelings for each other. And friendship and jealousy. And of course, the ever-present grief of losing Dumbledore.

All in all, the amount of emotionality that this first part of Deathly Hallows had created made me fear of just how painful the loses of more lives in the second part could be.

Established Foundation

In its entirety, and even amidst my dithering where the movie is concerned, Deathly Hallows Part I had laid an excellent foundation for the next, final part. The movie’s final scene, where Voldemort was shown stealing the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave, was an end as much as it was a beginning. Very symbolic, for me, of the war that Part II would start with.

The film also did its best to reconcile all the previous films with what would happen to the final chapters. It answered previous questions while carefully laying out new ones. This said, I considered Deathly Hallows as a bridge and an entire story by itself.

Undecided and uncertain. In the here and now, even after I dissected all my thoughts and feelings about the movie, I still feel indeterminate. But I must say, in its totality and through its flaws and good marks, I love–always will–Harry Potter’s epic tale.

One more year of waiting.

Photo credits: Rotten Tomatoes and The Leaky Cauldron

Third-degree Burns from Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

After The Hunger Games, I figured I wanted the trilogy to be adapted into a movie.

After Catching Fire, I changed my mind.

I couldn’t bear, ever, to watch the Hunger Games trilogy. Reading it was already so painful that making it more visually alive would kill me. Not to mention clammy hands, prickling feelings at the back of my neck, and the now-familiar loud heartbeats. So to say that I caught fire was an understatement in all its figurative form. For yet another round of Katniss adventures, I found myself holding my breath, smiling, tearing up, and clutching the hems of my shirt.

Because Catching Fire was a perfect sequel and a great, great cross from the start to the end of one epic tale. this is because of:

1. Katniss Everdeen

She goes first this time (because in my post about the Hunger Games, I considered her third). This smart, smart girl on fire. I liked her being back in the arena, no matter how barbaric it might seem. Because it was there that Katniss was more alive, with her senses and her heart at work most of the time. There was a layer added to her being, like she grew some more with her leaving the first Games.

2. Haymitch Abernathy

I also changed my mind regarding this man. I would never doubt placing my life on the hands of Haymitch for safekeeping. Regardless of what happened to Peeta in the end, Haymitch was very much over himself to keep his promises to keep both mentees alive. I also liked how Haymitch became more of a person than a drunkard as his mentees faced more danger. Needless to say, I would want more of him in Mockingjay, if only because he was the only one trustworthy enough to ensure Katniss and Peeta’s lives.

3. Peeta Mellark

He was somehow predictable in Catching Fire, protecting Katniss and sacrificing himself all the while enveloping the goals within complex pretensions. But I loved Peeta’s ability to bring out emotions from Katniss. And on those times that he took Katniss for a time-out from the Games, his displays of affection were so strong they got me smiling fondly while reading. Really, someone who loved that much wouldn’t be hard to resist.

4. Cinna

Maybe it was wrong to be so affectionate with Cinna. Because it was more than painful to see him hurt, the pang in my heart seemed more than real and physical. Cinna made me hate the entire system around which the story revolved. He was just there, a calm hovering figure who did everything the Capitol ever got happy with. Why, on something as possibly minor as a design, kill the guy?

5. Finnick Odair

Alright, maybe liking Finnick was not supposed to be a first reaction. But I did. I so did. For some reason, I have a habit of never readily accepting what a person shows. And that’s what kicked in when I first encountered Finnick’s character. He was so transparent-looking that maybe, just maybe, it was all a ruse to keep something precious locked within him.

6. Beetee and Wiress

I always respected intelligence when it presented itself pure and humbly. That’s why I liked Beetee and Wiress. Because of the un-flaunted brilliance they had. Because they made events more exciting with hidden explanations. And because they revealed Katniss as a thinking girl, probably equally perceptive as Haymitch was.

7. The assortment of heart-wrenching thoughts and words

I could only go from bad to worse with these. Each sentence articulated specifically what hurt, each scene worth running away from if only because you want to save yourself from breaking. Add this to the many reasons that I now superbly adore Suzanne Collins. She’s great at understanding emotions, obviously. That’s why her lines are very, very real. Here, I picked some lines from the book. See for yourself.

I keep hoping that as time passes we’ll regain the ease between us, but part of me know it’s futile. There’s no going back. (Katniss Everdeen)

My nightmares are usually about losing you. I’m okay once I realize you’re here. (Peeta Mellark)

At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it. (Katniss Everdeen)

You could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him, you know. (Haymitch Abernathy) [Particularly liked this, if I may say.]

Remember, girl on fire . . . I’m still betting on you. (Cinna)

Then again, we don’t get just these positive (if you ever consider them positive) sides of the book. There were points and characters I wished over and over that were just excluded or simply altered. These are:

1. Plutarch Heavensbee

There’s something weird with the guy, seriously. Even if I could forever marvel at his brilliant clock-arena, Plutarch still wasn’t Finnick or Haymitch material. He seemed sinister enough that although I learned in the end that he was working against the Capitol, he still gave out an ominous presence. Maybe I could have done with a little feature of him talking his heart out to Katniss. But then again, maybe Katniss did not trust him as much.

2. Gale Hawthorne

This time, I wished he didn’t love Katniss as much as he did. Well, they were best friends. And it was clear even from the first book that one of them thought of the other as more than a best friend. But for the life of me, I didn’t think Gale provided Katniss with the ease of lesser choices. It was bad enough that the girl had to save Peeta again and again from the snapping jaws of the Capitol. He didn’t need to complicate the situation more by being so in love and so unwilling to let go.

3. District 12’s bombing

Well. Only because I got as attached to the place that I didn’t think of it ever being eradicated from the story.

4. The Mockingjay metaphor

I understood it was the most important metaphor of the entire trilogy. But somehow, it’s presence only made things worse for Katniss. Or maybe it was because she wasn’t yet willing to accept personifying it. Honestly, I liked the fire metaphor more (and thank Cinna for more of it) than the Mockingjay.

Without so much as a preparation, I jumped from The Hunger Games to Catching Fire in a span of five minutes. And what did I get? Burns. Third-degree burns.

Because of which I couldn’t bear to start with Mockingjay soon enough. Or at least until I could get my breathing and heartbeat to a normal state. Because, well, there’s no going back now.

The end is waiting.

Singing a Story

Sifting through the songs in my laptop, I cannot help but notice how much of what I call “angry girl music” I listen to. Now, I’m not particularly sure that that is the right term. But these are songs that, in all senses of their words, are angry. And of course, sung by girls.

Of these are songs by Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, and Alanis Morissette . There are also a few songs from Tamia, Christina Millan, Blaque, and even local hits from Juris and Nina. In another set of senses, they can be called break-up songs, sad songs, or empowering music. They talk of letting go, saying goodbye, and being well after all the pain.

I may not be able to share in here when and why I’ve started listening to them. But maybe I can compromise by saying that people get to some points of their lives when only songs can speak for what they feel. You might have harbored these songs, too, when you have broken up with your boyfriend or went away from the person you love or watched that person drift toward someone else.

And then somewhere along your own rough road, you think about losing them. You begin a healing process that somehow tells you that they have to be eliminated. I have had that, too. To some extent.

But I have chosen to keep them. My songs, the ones that have kept my head from spinning from an insane desire to be better. My songs, which have provided friendship similar to those given by people dearest to me.

Which means that, since I have been with them for so long, I have developed favorites already. And these are:

1. Goodbye to You, Michelle Branch

She’s the first to ever sing about exactly what is going on with me. Her song is, yes, angry but with a tinge of knowing and understanding what is happening and what has to be done. And I like it (the song) because of that.

Fave line: And it hurts to want everything and nothing at the same time.

2. Almost, Tamia

I first heard this via my friend’s iPod. She, my friend, wants me to listen to it because (as she says) it is about me. Needless to say, I agreed. And of course, I did like the way it says what I cannot. It voices my mind out, asking the things I wouldn’t dare to.

Fave line: What happened to us we were almost there?

3. Di Lang Ikaw, Juris

You may be foreign, you whoever reads this. And you may not understand a word in this song. But tell me, you feel it, don’t you? That is the first thing I like about this song. It makes me want to cry even considering only the melody.

For your benefit though, the song is about saying goodbye to someone you wouldn’t want to leave. You don’t want to, but you have to. It says how the person leaving is just as hurting as the one being left behind.

What hurts more, right?

Fave line: Ikaw ay magiging masaya sa yakap at sa piling ng iba

(rough translation: You would be happier with someone else)

4. Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson

Fly high, says this song. A message I so love. There are people who would lie down on the earth after they have fallen. Sometimes, they do for a time longer than necessary. But others, they bounce up right away. And fly higher.

Fave line: I’ll learn how to fly . . . though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye

5. Ironic, Alanis Morissette

Well, honestly, I don’t know how this fits in my supposed story. But maybe, it’s an encompassing thought, one that is present in everything that has happened.

Because, yes, it’s ironic that you are (or I am) angry with what you’re supposed to love. And you love what you can’t.

Fave line: Life has a funny way of speaking up on you

You would think they’re not all fitting the ‘angry girl music’ type. But they do, for me. They are all there, at a place where you want them to be. In your heart, you know you speak for yourself when you sing them.

Girl on Fire

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I shouldn’t have read The Hunger Games after my breathtaking experience with Inception. But I did. So naturally, the consequences, I paid dearly.

By that I mean: The Hunger Games is one (to borrow my friends’ term) bad-ass read.

By which I further mean, I love Suzanne Collins probably as much as I do JK Rowling and Christopher Nolan. Because she is a magnificent writer. Because she brought back my balled fists as I went with her heroine into the Games arena. Because she crafted a world so different yet so similar to what we live in now.

Aside from all that, I loved The Hunger Games because of:

1. The entire concept and plot

Because this is something new. I’ve gotten tired of vampire stories after vampire stories since the Twilight debuted so much so that even a re-read of Harry Potter has seemed a great escape. So I daresay the concept Collins has came up with is even more refreshing than it is new. Finally, one has had a sense of creating an entirely different set of characters in an equally unconventional setting.

And yet, there is no difficulty in understanding the story. I found the entire plot easy to follow. I have this habit of imagining what I read if it ever comes out on the silver screen and The Hunger Games didn’t prove stubborn in that area. The descriptions of the places were clear enough as well as the systems with which the characters lived.

2. The first-person point of view

In one of the reviews I’ve written before, I’ve expressed my reservations in writing first-person-based stories. These reservations resurfaced as soon as I started reading the novel because, well, there were more than one character that I very much liked to dig deeper into. Which I knew Katniss Everdeen’s perspective couldn’t wholly give.

But suffice to say that I completely stopped caring about who was talking even before I reached the middle. Because Katniss Everdeen’s first-person was more than enough. I loved how Collins had made her more than a brave warrior to be assertive enough for mind games as much as physical ones. And that, more than anything, helped for me to at least get a grasp of the other elements at play in the story.

3. Katniss Everdeen

Needless to say, right? The heroine so young yet so strong I cannot help but feel for her. I always thought that for readers to like a novel personality, they should be able to relate to that character in at least a personal level. With which I could say that I liked Katniss because she had a constant conflict going on within her but she was willful enough not to let that come out through her physical demeanor.

I loved her complexity, in other words. The way she held herself, always on the watch and on the go, was very heroine-like. She had a courage that extended from simply wanting to win into a desire to survive that appeared so naturally. And that was not even for self-centered reasons. She might be strong, but she wasn’t bone-deep tough. I liked that play of thoughts and emotions.

4. Peeta Mellark

His supposed “play” with the Lover Boy act. By heavens, I can smell pretenses miles away. Reasonably, even without Peeta actually professing the truth, I daresay I know what goes on with him and what Katniss thought was purely pretension. I loved him because of that. Well, his character, I mean.

To the point that if Katniss was ever real, I could have smacked her head just so she opens her heart for Peeta’s true feelings. But of course, there are still two more novels for me to read of Peeta and Katniss. Hence, I shall leave their story at bay for the time being.

5. Cinna

Twirl for me, Cinna. Twirl for me. His inclusion, his entire character that stopped me from thinking he could be gay even if he’s a stylist, makes me want to applaud Collins more. Cinna’s parts were very brief, but his relationship to Katniss, as she views it, runs deeply. I couldn’t yet specify what I loved him for. Right now, I’m hazarding a guess that it’s because of his relaxing presence in the entire story. A lone calm figure, transparent and mysterious at the same time.

6. Haymitch Abernathy

You probably wouldn’t like him, and I might still agree with you. But Haymitch’s addition to the colorful plot was a good plus. He was as complex as Katniss and as predictable as he was not. It would take a while to love him, because there was a whiff of holding back in him. An un-attachment that could very well translate to indifference had his tribute mentees proved incompetent enough. But that’s exactly why I liked Haymitch. Because he was able to recognize potential and even a possibility of survival in Katniss and Peeta.

With all these good points, thinking about the negatives would be very arduous. But if I give it a shot, I would say:

1. The unnamed Foxface

I didn’t very much appreciate her exposure. Or lack thereof. I wished Collins had her encounter Katniss more times after that small fight at the Cornucopia. I would even love her to be an ally to Katniss for even a shorter time than Rue was. Because I was really intrigued with her strategy. And also because I had, after reading novel, an unshakeable thought that she could have won if she was not poisoned (and of course, if Katniss was not the protagonist).

2. Effie Trinket

Because she reminded me of Dolores Umbridge. Horribly.

3. Gale

Because I would have been more excited if he took Peeta’s place at the reapings. In fact, I actually rooted for that happening until I read Katniss remember her first meeting with Peeta. Then I knew Gale wasn’t supposed to be in the Games. But even so, I hope to get more of him in the next books.

All of these positives and negatives combined, I could only repeat praises for Suzanne Collins. And I could go on endless. But for the meantime, that’s all I could come up with.

Because Catching Fire is waiting.

Food, Prayer, and Heart the Liz Gilbert Way

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

There has to be a reason for my spending an entire month (or probably even longer, I’m not certain) reading Liz Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. I mean, not to boast or anything, but I do not even spend more than a week for one book. But something in Liz Gilbert’s travel memoirs makes me cling on her every word, understanding, and willing myself to somehow be “there” even if it takes me a year, too.

Technically, Gilbert’s work is very laden. There are words after words within sentence after sentence and some of them aren’t even necessary. But at the end of every page, you go back to the first word in it and realize how it flows into another thus creating a run-on almost-paragraph filled with so much sense.

Some pages also contain more than mere recounts of her everyday. Liz has very wisely included history, gossip, and religious takes that, although sometimes unrelated to what is happening to her, are also interesting to learn. I particularly like the bits of Italian history and Yogic tradition that she has written about. Somehow, it has helped me to at least understand and be oriented as to where Liz is and why she is there.

But more than the technicalities of novel writing, on which I am not the best person to review, Eat, Pray, Love has its share of beautiful and semi-not-beautiful points. Vibes, as I call it. And these are what I shall dwell on.

Good Vibes

Food. Food. And more food. Opening a book to a wonderful recount of equally wonderful food trips has an effect to the reader that is so strong it feels almost like a physical fullness. This is the first set of good vibes I’ve gotten from the Italy part of the book.

Liz writes details of the food she gets to enjoy in Italy and I must say I’ve never read anyone describe pasta the way she does. There are times that I purposefully read the novel at night, when I’m about to sleep just so I can snap out of mouthwatering over the food Liz describes. Other times, I read and grit my teeth and hate her proximity to such good munches.

Another likable point of the novel is the friendship Liz has made with the people in the places she’s visited. These relationships bring out the insightfulness Liz so naturally has. And since you see everything from her point of view, you appreciate when the people surrounding the narrator are beautiful-souled and superbly smart.

Of the friends Liz has found, I very much admire Richard (from Texas). He’s a no bull, no-nonsense, pure life man. I like his beliefs and perspectives as much as I love his seeming brusque nature. He may not be the best in terms of background and past, but he’s been around long enough to teach Liz, and the readers, that life ain’t as bad as we may think it is.

Ultimately, I like the travels. Of course. But there is more to Eat, Pray, Love being a travelogue type of novel. Maybe it has to do with Liz being observant enough. Maybe it has a little to do with how she writes about the places. Whatever brings it on, the novel has a feel-good tone in it. Like traveling is the best way to let go of what weighs you down. Like being continents away from the life you so escape is the only fool-proof path to a healthier living. I still cannot understand why Liz has chosen Italy, Indonesia, and India. Even if I’m quite sure she’s explained so in many pages.

Bad Vibes

It is hard to point out what I don’t like about the book. I ponder deeply and only comes up with one.

Relentless holding on.

I hate how I have spent reading a good majority of the novel and “listening” to Liz talk of how she broods over what has happened in her life. Her divorce, her split-up with David, her younger days, her problems. At times, I want to slam the book shut and shout at the invisible Liz to let it go. For crying out loud, just let go.

I especially don’t like how she gets hampered by that most of the time. She is redeemable, that much I know before I even reach the last pages, because she accepts her doom and she knows she’s got to let go at some point. But as to why that has seemed so almost-impossible for her until that moment atop the Ashram, I cannot comprehend.

But even through this unlikable part in tow, Liz has pulled off something very inspiring for readers of all emotional status. One cannot surely help but sigh loudly as she ends her story. At the end, I wish her good luck with her newfound relationship. More so because I sort-of get an idea of how much she can break down if that ends. I mean, for a good sake, she’s traveled across the world for a year after her last one broke, hasn’t she?

Yet I simply hope, as I’m certain everybody else does, that the new Liz Gilbert–the by-product of all her letting go and endless learning, will be able to hold up stronger.

The After-effect: A Whirling Mind

So sue me because I’ve seen Inception just now (and via DVD, too). And I plead guilty.

As in OHMYGODISHOULDHAVESEENTHISBEFORE!

Inception

And I did not say that because everybody said the film was good. Because the film was more than good. It was intelligence made tangible, thread after thread of a complex web that trapped everything brave enough to fly near it.

To think the whole film was just about layers and layers of dreams, projections, and memories. But that exactly was why I sat atop our center table (yes, that small, low, glass-topped table in the middle of your living room) to be only a foot away from the TV. I feared that a simple blink of an eye could make me miss a piece of the whole puzzle.

I loved the fact that my mind was so into it, I found myself holding my breath in several instances. It had been so long ago since I held back breathing like that.

And, by the end of all the action and mindfucking, not only did I realize I had my hands balled into fists but my eyes were literally misty with tears. Another first since A Walk to Remember. There was just so much emotion and suspense and unpredictability.

Of course there were specific points of the film that surpassed the phrase “I loved”. And these were:

Levitt and the Zero-Gravity Fight Scene

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Tell me again he was Tom of (500) Days of Summer. Tell me again that in that film, he was a romantic whose heart was broken to pieces. And tell me again that he seemed so like a boy wanting love in that movie.

Because all hell broke loose for the Joseph Gordon-Levitt as he floated and defied gravity in Inception. Forget the fact that I wanted to see the movie because of Leonardo DiCaprio. I completely did, soon as I saw Levitt’s first action sequence. And even more when he floated in mid-air and took out goon after goon.

He had grown in that film, a man you would want around when you’re breaking into people’s minds and might be in danger of losing your own. I loved his brilliance, the certainty with which he explained extraction and dream-slash-mind games to Ariadne (Ellen Page).

Mostly, his portrayal of Arthur had a hovering effect–always on the surrounding, a part of the team, but an indispensible synapse of a thinking brain. Ultimately, I loved his still laid-back personality, which I first saw in (500) Days… and liked him for.

Ellen Page as Ariadne

Ariadne's "trial" in the streets of Paris

Architecture and Ellen Page

This young, remarkably beautiful lady who got the streets of Paris twisting and turning. Who couldn’t love her? She had a drive that stood taller than her physique. Her character, Ariadne, was equally endearing. She was brave enough to risk her life for an illegal mission involving a phenomenon she didn’t even know exist.

And I absolutely loved the amount of architecture that came along with Ellen’s character. There was imagination at its best as well as intricate details. Small things that when put together gave even more color to the entire movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard

Leonardo DiCaprio

Finally, finally. The Leonardo DiCaprio. Funny, but the first thought that came to my mind when I saw the film’s beginning (where DiCaprio was unconscious in a seashore) was: Is this where Jack Dawson ended up after being frozen in the bottom Atlantic?

Because the film really, seriously, and honestly gave out a DiCaprio in a striking similarity to guy who made Titanic bearable in all its mushiness. By that, I mean a DiCaprio that was astoundingly cool and smart and brave.

He also played well along the strong-woman-type Marion Cotillard, who portrayed lead character Cobb’s wife, Mal, who was already dead but still lived as a projection in every dream Cobb created and infiltrated. Their scenes together brought out the apparent humanity and personality in DiCaprio’s acting, which I had always marveled on.

I wish I could say more on the way DiCaprio portrayed Dominic Cobb and the amazing intelligence. But in all my gushing over every Levitt scene, I was rendered speechless over DiCaprio’s.

DiCaprio and Cotillard as Cobb & Mal

The Emotional Ploy

Above and around everything else that I thought as exceptional in the film is its emotional inclusions. In a way, these were reminders of just how much emotions could get tangled within the mind that they steal everything–from your reality to the dreams you create.

As in another way, discussions of pain, loss, love, and letting go were emphasis on the idea that they all occurred in the mind.

I loved . . .

To say that I loved Inception would be the biggest understatement I could ever utter. Because there can be no words to describe how I feel about this movie.

Inception is the exact reason that I thank the heavens for minds like Christopher Nolan’s. That’s all.

Photo Credits: Rotten Tomatoes