Sam Claflin and Jennifer Lawrence in 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'/Still © 2013 Lionsgate
The entertainment gods seem to have mistaken tax day for trailer day. But this is no altruistic gift. Studios unleashed a convoy of high-profile literary trailers in the hopes of riding the fumes of yesterday’s MTV Movie Awards straight to the top of that prized young demo’s watch list.
While the first spot for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” combusted into a bright-burning bonfire that’s threatened to eclipse all other conversation beyond petty post mortems complaining about Jennifer Lawrence’s absence at last night’s awards, this footage raises the bar significantly from the series’ first iteration, which was competent but fairly soulless. Here, filmmaker Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) has made clear he’s playing to win with this clip that promises emotional intensity and high-stakes action.
But there are several other clips that shouldn’t escape your notice. The first is “Half of a Yellow Sun,” an adaptation of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning tale of two sisters whose lives intertwine as they forge their way among Nairobi’s intelligentsia until they’re thrust into survival mode during the Nigerian-Biafran War. In the clip below, we’re offered just a short glimpse at the film and its stars, Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The footage from the film appears about thirty seconds into the longer interview with Adichie about her forthcoming novel, Americanah, an exploration of race and identity wrapped in a love story about two childhood sweethearts who emigrate to distant corners of the world to pursue the educational and professional opportunities only the first world can offer. Both this film and Adichie’s upcoming novel seem destined to meet and possibly exceed the high standard established in Adichie’s celebrated body of work that’s already netted her a McArthur Genius grant.
Speaking of geniuses, this weekend also saw the debut of Louis CK’s much-publicized (there’s something comforting about seeing a balding, melon-faced, middle-aged Louis CK peering pleadingly from the cover of Rolling Stone) new HBO special, “Oh My God,” which debuted yesterday. So how does this profane Twain of comedy fit into this mix of literary adaptations? Well, first of all, not long ago The New Yorker anointed him a Gogol for our times. And his contribution was the highlight of The Believer’s omnibus advice book, Care to Make Love in that Gross Little Space Between Cars?
But the strongest thread connecting all three of these works (yes, a stand-up show totally qualifies as a "work") is that each aims to change the way we look at aspects of the world we inhabit that often go out of habit, denial, or self-preservation. “Catching Fire” explores the confusion and tension that erupts among the novel’s subversive rebels as they lead the resistance against an oppressive regime. (Where’s the Occupy movement now that Wall Street’s power continues to grow unabated along with disparities between rich and poor?) “Half of a Yellow Sun,” takes us inside the struggles faced by war refugees and immigrants casting new light on the fallout from ongoing conflicts throughout Sudan, Congo and the Middle East. And then there’s Louis, who holds an unrelentingly unflattering magnifying glass over the indignities of modern middle-class life – from failed marriages to developmentally arrested adults attempting to raise children to the sadness of midlife sex.
We’d argue that there are valuable insights to be gleaned from each of these projects, even if some are more, well, taxing than others.