1 Hunger Games : Catching Fire
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is, in some ways, the film that spawned this series. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence and this was the first film starring a woman to be the highest grossing film of the year since The Sound of Music. The film continues the story of Katniss Everdeen as she fights to stay alive amidst a corrupt dictatorship government in a futuristic America. Jennifer Lawrence was still fresh off of her Oscar win earlier that year and had been launched into celebrity status. This film confirmed her power as a box office draw.
This film was also important because it shows what happens when a film becomes successful in modern Hollywood. Catching Fire is the sequel to The Hunger Games, the third highest grossing film of 2012. As a result, Hollywood made a sequel with a much larger budget. The film feels much more expensive and there is a far greater use of CGI in this film than in previous films. The use of CGI is another hot topic in films today. Catching Fire is able to bring to life the more exotic Hunger Games setting for the Quarter Quell due to a higher budget. However, the film also looses some of the realism of the first film. District 12 feels less authentic. I am putting this film on my list because I like it and I also think it is a good film to think about the state of Hollywood films today.
2 League of Their Own
In the aftermath of the 2015 Women’s World Cup win, people are once again discussing women’s professional sports. This film makes it clear that this has been a very long conversation. Gena Davis stars as a woman recruited to play professional baseball during World War II. The film fits in very well with the narrative of Rosie the Riveter, as women began to take jobs that used to be the province of men. Gena Davis is far and away the most talented player on the team, and yet, she is nonplussed by the fame and fortune. Her sister, on the other hand, suffers keenly in her shadow.
Tom Hanks also appears as the manager of the women’s baseball team and is remembered most vividly for his line, “There is no crying in baseball!” I also love the scene about the sexism in the outfits the women had to wear. The women discover they are going to play baseball in short skirts, as opposed to pants. When Sepp Blatter was asked how to improve the popularity of women’s soccer, he suggested that the women wear shorter shorts. Every Olympics, people engage in a discussion about the sexist portrayal of beach volleyball athletes. The times may have changed, but the issues have not.
3 The Red Shoes
This is Martin Scorsese’s favorite film. If that doesn’t make you want to see this film, then I really don’t know what to say. The Red Shoes tells the story of a young, talented ballerina who dreams of becoming a principal ballerina. She is accepted into a company and quickly falls prey to two men. One of them desires her as a wife, the other desires her for her talent. This makes the film both a love triangle and an exploration of the terrible choice that society demands young women make: be loved, or be yourself. This is in stark contrast to the experience of men. Men, in order to be loved, must become self-actualized, successful, and pursue their dreams with abandon. Women, on the other hand, must suppress their true selves, abandon their dreams, and neglect their talents if they desire love.
The Red Shoes has a wonderful fantasy ballet sequence and the color restoration is beautiful. Martin Scorsese brags about the quality of the restoration, and rightly so. The director cast an actual ballet dancer in the lead and she acquits herself quite well as an actress. I am glad that the director chose to do so. When Natalie Portman won an Oscar for The Black Swan, (a film that won’t be on my list, vastly overrated) there was a small tempest in a teapot when it emerged that she did not actually do the full body dancing. This is not the case in The Red Shoes. The lead actress actually dances in the movie.