Hunger Games, a trilogy of politics, power of propaganda and capitalism

What begins as an elongated and dramatized version of Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery quickly delves deeper into a clever perspective of reality TV, augmented news and politics at it’s most subtle form. The young adult series Hunger Games is the latest to join the pop culture cult where survival takes priority over human ethics. After the massive success of Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Resident Evil and their likes, comes the trilogy of Hunger Games where danger is orchestrated from no savage beasts but the mere human. Narrated in a post-civil war society, an extravagant Panem rules over twelve starving districts, where the story builds on an annual Gladiator-esque competition. Ever year a boy and girl from each district are chosen and pit against each other to fight for their survival. These Hunger Games originate as a yearly reminder for all twelve districts on the consequences they beseech for organizing a rebellion against the Capitol, Panem.

What looks more mature on screen is actually a trilogy written for young adults. Susan Collins has dared to weave characters more human than heroic with the obvious love triangle between the three leading characters, Katnis Everdeen, Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne. While the romance does surely motivate young readers, it never takes priority over the more alarming themes of augmented reality, propaganda, capitalism and political affairs weaved into three books. The Hunger Games broadcasted live on screens across the region are meant to entertain some and carve fear on the many. Narrated in first perspective, Katniss Everdeen grows more aware of the weight of the reality show and it’s subsequent significance on her survival. Her journey between the Capitol and the victims reel the discrepancy between what’s propagated and what’s real. News and media are controlled by the Capitol in the non-stop effort to regulate information among the different districts and the Capitol’s citizens.

Susan Collins does not leave the imprint of media on the rising uproar of the state against it’s government even till the last book; how broadcasted content is easily manipulated to hide the truth and regulated to prevent uproar. While both sides struggle to defeat the other, Katniss and her group are played like puppets in a never-ending game for power. An interesting perception of the Panem’s system is how shamelessly it depends upon the twelve districts for the produce. While one district is known for fishing, another prevails in textiles, and so on resources are scattered across the districts only to be distributed and handed to the Capitol while the manufacturing district starves on just a meal per day. And to Katniss’ surprise, the president of the Capitol is not oblivious to the fragile system of the government. When the districts cause an uproar, Panem will starve without it’s daily exorbitant supplies. Collins explains capitalism so easily to young adult readers, similar to the environment set in the sci-fi movie Time.

Hunger Games would be an accessible and easily comprehensible approach towards understanding a hypothetical capitalist government and it’s downfall. Definitely a recommended read for economics and journalism students. I found myself struggling to embrace the protagonist. While the movie played a very successful mature attempt for survival by Katniss, it has left out her thoughts, her narratives, her motives towards each decision. So allow me to enlighten you that besides a flicker of kindness for Rue, Katniss is neither heroic nor a selfless martyr. Her first person narrative is a wise decision on account of Susan Collins, as we find out, Katniss indeed calculates each step before making any move. Despite her iconic representation as the immortal-adapted mockingjay, she has no immediate plans of leading an organized protest against the president and taking over authority. Should Peeta or Gale ask for an easy death, her decision is not drawn by emotions aroused by memories, rather the consequences of their absent role on their mission or the advantage it would play to the Capitol should they get caught. No sobbing, no weeping, if anything, Katniss plays focused on her objectives while the boys gamble their lives to protect hers.

Is her behavior justified under the pressure of a nation-wide rebellion? Should she be wronged to mistrust anyone as an ally besides Peeta, even when they help her? Is it right to calculate saving Peeta Mellark when the odds favor his death? Only the book shall reveal, but accept my disbelief when I realize the author made no mistake in her depiction of Katniss. And this is evident when the half-asleep lady eavesdrops on Gale and Peeta’s conversation about whom she would choose. Her best buddy Gale makes it obvious “Oh, that’s easy. She’ll pick the one she can’t survive without” Ouch. Harsh words from a close friend. Who will she choose? The boy she can never deserve even in a hundred lifetimes (in her mentor Haymitch’s words), or her best friend who can protect and provide for their families? Do they survive? Does Panem intend another Hunger Games for them? Answers lie among the pages of the latest cult trilogy. As for you my dear reader, Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Laurie Holden’s inside scoop on Walking Dead season 3

The charming blond lady playing Andrea in the popular zombie series Walking Dead, dropped by Middle East comic con in Dubai. Her first time in Dubai, she called the visit a magical moment and was thrilled to venture across the city’s first comic con.

Following the hooking season finale of Walking Dead led by a hooded figure, Laurie Holden confirms the figure is indeed a woman, “The comic book fans would know, the figure is a woman, her name is Michonne”(sources have confirmed Danai Gurira to play the zombie-pet owner Michonne)

Regarding Andrea’s relationship with Michonne in the following season, Holden was glad to add, “Although I haven’t read the script, I have been inside the creative rooms and I can say Andrea and Michonne are going to be  amazing friends” Is she afraid the script-writers might hack her character at some point from the story? “It’s really heart-breaking when one of the characters dies because this is a very unique show. It’s very grueling, the weather’s like the sun in Dubai, it’s very emotional and we’re very close with one another, we’ve become very good friends. When one of us is written off the show it’s really rather devastating to say goodbye to a family member………..I’m hoping I don’t have a death anytime soon”

Laurie Holden hopes her character would live longer in season 3 (original photo by Vivin Oommen)

When asked if she thought the show would be a huge success at a time when Vampires and werewolves were the highlight of pop culture, Holden grinned “We didn’t expect such a huge response, I mean vampires are sexy, zombies are not. But they’ve been embraced internationally and I think there’s a reason for that. I think at a time of crisis…… I think there’s a tropical fear that people have and it’s in the air, and our zombies are a metaphor for the global economic crisis, for global warming, when the world’s uncertain”

About her thoughts on Andrea’s journey in season 3, Holden expressed her concern for retaining her character’s empathy “I hope no more people that I love die, I’m very grateful that she’s not suicidal anymore and she’s empowered herself and is becoming more of a survivor. I don’t know how long Andrea’s gonna live but I hope she falls in love, I hope she builds great friendships, I hope she kills a lot of zombies. I hope they build a new life somewhere, with peace at least for a while”

That was Laurie Holden spilling the beans on season 3. Watch out for more spoilers from John Rhys Davies about the legendary Lord of The Rings’ prequel The Hobbit and Max Landis talking about Chronicle 2. Coming up soooon!

Lo galore! Cosplay in Dubai

I would really pity you if you missed out on the most colorful and whacky convention in Dubai. The one place where dressing up weird is ‘in’ and being normal is as good as non-existent. Today’s your last chance to attend and witness the first Middle East Film and Comic Con so rampage your closet, hunt for that weird tee you would never want to be caught dead with and parade around Dubai International Marine Club.

As for my fellow cosplay enthusiasts, here are some of the displays from Day 1 of Comic con (original photos by Vivin Oommen) More photos coming up!

Were you there? What did you think of the first comic con in the Middle East?

Day 1 of MEFCC: Event bio

I believe one day of awesomeness cannot be wrapped up in a single article. I’d rather break it down to three or more articles. The first Comic Con that people in the Middle East have witnessed has only begun. What was expected to be a haven for comic book fans and film enthusiasts was an exciting showdown of costly talent that would’ve never been recognized, graphic artists in the region we never knew existed, some of the rarest comic copies ranging between AED 2000- AED 10,000 (No, joke), comic merchandise we would never have bothered investing and workshops featuring relevant expertise. See why I can’t include everything in one post?

To start off with, let’s talk about the guests and fans attending this event. Comic Con is one event that has centered and focused on fans all over the world. Dubai would be no different, providing access to celebrities Q & A sessions, workshops, autograph signage (a tad bit expensive on that one) and interacting with celebrities throughout the day. Shahbaaz Ali Khan, an avid fan of Walking Dead graphic novels and the live action series was amazed to meet Laurie Holden in person. Max Landis, the most outspoken and animated person I’ve met shared a few spoilers of the Chronicle sequel, John Rhys Davies (Gimli from Lord of the Rings) commented on how the LOTR catered to an intelligent audience and that The Hobbit would be a 3D experience of it’s own kind. Jason Momoa joined fans for a rather spontaneous and charming Q & A session in the evening. Turns out the tribal leader Khal Drogo is actually a softie in reality, “My wife asks me to do the dishes, I say ‘Yes, mam’….what can I say, I’m a softie”

Laurie Holden describes her visit to Dubai "this is a magical moment to be here" (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Press conference panel featuring John Rhys Davies, Luciana Carro, Sammy Clark, Laurie Holden, Jihad Al Atrash and Ben (organizer of event) (photo by Vivin Oommen)

John Rhys Davies re-enacting a scene from Lord of the Rings (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Max Landis (sreenwriter of Chronicle) surprised that people watched his movie from the Middle East. (photo by Vivin Oommen)

The animated Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) in session with fans. (photo by Vivin Oommen)

Located at the Dubai International Marine Club, there was ample room for the convention hall, an SAE green screen, the grassy arena for main stage activities including cosplay contest, workshop room to learn from the guests, the VOX movie club which hosted Q & A sessions and movie screenings.

The nazi zombie who stole Max Landis' heart at the cosplay contest (photo by Vivin Oommen)

The one place you get to witness and meet comic fans from Dubai, do not miss out on the second day of MEFCC, also the last one. This is history in the making, just the start of the comic world unravelling in the Middle East.

Natalie Portman as Paul McCartney’s “Valentine”

 

Quite a surprise to have the charming Natalie Portman and the Dark Shadows‘ lead Johnny Depp featuring in a Paul McCartney music video. I wouldn’t have expected Depp to take his musical talent to camera after a stunt with his high school band mates in Florida for a benefit.

I must say it’s a classy Black & White rendition for the music video with the timeless Natalie Portman lip-syncing the song along with sign language. Directed by Paul Mccartney (no, really) there are three versions of the video. Personally I prefer the Natalie Portman version. Johnny Depp appears to be a mute heartbroken hobo playing the guitar, which just doesn’t suit the grace of this song. Portman, looks ravishingly elegant and more sincere expressing her affection for her valentine. The version featuring both A-list actors is a rather awkward combination given the differences in their costume and make-up.

‘My Valentine’ reminds me of the 60’s when everything had it’s own time. So are we looking at another classic from Paul McCartney? Time shall tell.

Monster Cat’s debut at Pirate Bay

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This is probably the second time I’ve noticed a band advertising their music with the portal of Pirate Bay. The first time may have been an experiment, I believed it to e an anomaly, but now that I’ve noticed the Monster Cat’s album poster, it suddenly appears as a very clever strategy. While media like Youtube, Facebook, Myspace have done well in launching many underdog talent (remember the kid on youtube who’s now Justin Bieber? Colbia Caillat anyone?) there’s also the luck factor which plays a huge role in underplaying the noise of their talent from the thousands just like them. And they had to prove themselves on a platform surrounded by millions of aspiring talent to millions of viewers.

Coming back to pirate bay, the website has been adamant on providing and sharing free content amongst internet users. The poster of an artists’ new album only de-clutters the noise to provide sole attention to the featured band. You can choose to give the band a few seconds of your time or carry on with your torrent search, but you won’t be distracted by the non-existent content of the same category. The band Monster Cat has uploaded a torrent of their original debut, making their music more accessible to everyone.

Every new entity faces an important question: to make their content free and get exposure, or make their product/service paid. Facebook faced it, and chose to keep their network free, amidst all rumors of having a paid membership access (which personally, would have been a very wrong move) and Monster Cat has decided to follow accordingly. Will the strategy deem successful? Only time can tell.

What I can say now is to give their album’s track ‘Underwater‘ a listen, all you indie band lovers, you just might love it!

“What sorcery is this?” says Tim Burton’s muse

What do you get with a nutty vampire Johnny Depp meets a seductively ever-jealous blonde Eva Green? The first look of Dark Shadows had me laughing out loud with Depps’ bewilderment at watching a singer on TV “What sorcery is this? Reveal yourself tiny songstress!” Tim Burton’s latest adaptation features his muse cursed to become a vampire buried in the earth by an evil witch only to be released from his coffin two centuries later, 1972. I can hardly wait for this glitz-and-glam funny fantasy to be released in May 11. But would Tim Burton’s version fail to disappointment fans of the original TV show? Only time shall tell.

Comic-con in Dubai!

Omagawd omagawd omagawd omagawd! Did I just read this right? Comic-con is coming to Dubai?! The middle east?! This cannot be true! An ardent fan of japanese manga and anime and a proud sister of DC and Marvel comics’ fan, my excitement escalated after confirmed news of the Middle East Film and Comic Convention happening in Dubai.

My fascination has been limited to watching the most-exciting-convention-for-graphic-art-readers, via TV, youtube or just browsing through images of various costly models (costume play). But the opportunity to participate and witness it live is simply unbelievable! And if nothing could be more extraordinary than to have a comic-con right here in the city of life, Jason Momoa (of Game of Thrones fame), Laurie Holden (Walking Dead), Chad Michael Murray (from One Tree Hill), John Rhys Davies aka Gimli from Lord of the Rings and many more celebrities will be parading in town for the MEFCC between April 20-21, 2012. I don’t know about you, but I’mma be on my best behavior to witness the event I’ve waited for years.

For more info about the event click here.

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Buy your tickets before you watch those photos come alive on your friends’ facebook and twitter walls. Don’t pout later on and make me say ‘I told you so’ 😛

The fallen fruit

Just when you thought Google was trying too hard by acquiring Youtube, it went one step further by developing an Android market. After being a blissful owner of a Samsung Galaxy S, I could not have been more proud of my device’s advantages over a blackberry (since I own both of them). However, I did have second thoughts about upgrading my old iPod Touch for the new iPhone after the iOS 5 was released with the uber-wonderful iCloud and Siri. Do I hate wires? yes, very much. Under my work-desk lie two baskets filled with the non-distinct black ones and the white wires undeniably part of my Apple family. 

Apple’s new iCloud sync was literally the reason for me to research comparisons between the new iPhone and a Samsung product and the new Sony phone. And while all my offline research pointed towards buying a new iPhone, I could not help but wonder why weren’t Apple’s competitors acting against this new development already!

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Lo and behold, Google Play, they say be careful what you wish for! An app store completely dedicated to consumers owning an Android device, Google has taken a step further from being a user-driven search engine to a multimedia platform (with Youtube) and is now stealthily conquering the mobile-continent. A friend who recently grew very fond of Instagram, was seriously considering buying an Apple product…….that is until Instagram became available on Android devices. Nice move there Google. 

But the best part? Integrating a network of apps between Google and its android devices, has now enabled wireless syncing between any devices attached to a common user. Do I hear similarities between iCloud and this new innovation? With Google play, I can sync all my music, movies, books, download apps, sync photos and all documents wirelessly without spending another AED 2000 for an iPhone! The wizard of tech geeks has indeed struck third base. And with the unfortunate demise of Apple’s genius CEO, I can only wonder what future lies with his fallen fruit. 

Goodbye Bollywood, I knew thee well

The time has arrived for a verdict, I’ve had enough of the slapstick-comedy Bollywood cinema, and with the recent release of Housefull 2 and Agent Vinod, it’s about time I bid goodbye to Bollywood films as my fellow non-residential colleagues have a long time ago.

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Not too long ago, Hindi movies were finally innovative, and conceptual of issues more than just cliched romance. While blockbuster hits like Three Idiots and Taare Zameen Par educated the country, lesser known movies like Udaan were surprisingly heart-warming. And then arrived the Salman-Khan-dom. I attach the series of outrageously intolerable flicks to this very famous actor’s name since he’s the only celebrity to get away with it. Regardless, the public vote is in his favor, and so long as the Indian youth continue to dance to his towel-tracks, there’s nothing that the cinema can do……….except follow his lead.

And say hello to 2011 where series of flop Indian movies with unbelievably silly content flourished in the native and urban parts of the country. Did I hope better for 2012? I sure did, but three months down the year, and three rather cheap and one desperately-trying-not-to-imitate-the bourne-series flicks later, I’ve decided to join my generation of Non-Residential-Indian’s in staying away from Hindi movies as far away as I can. 

My only thoughts of Salman Khan, I shall fondly remember him as the ever-handsome young lad from Maine Pyaar Kiya. As for the degenerating content of Indian cinema, I send out an SOS call to Rajkumar Hirani, Farhan Akhtar, Karan Johar and Aamir Khan. Save your country’s reputation for the sake of your future generation and the population living abroad. Movies are an easy medium to help us stay patriotic (besides cricket 😉