Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Off the Shelf" Reading Challenge

So I've decided to try a reading challenge this year.  I thought the best one for me would be one that challenged me to read some of the books that are already on my bookshelf, but that I have yet to crack open the pages.  And I found this challenge that sounds great:

Off The Shelf!

I've decided to start small, and go with the "Trying" Challenge Level, where I will read 15 books off my shelf this year.  I hope to read more books than I read last year (30) but I have book club and other books that I'd like to read that don't qualify for this challenge.

I've already started, and here are some of the books that I can choose from off of my shelf:  

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (I'm reading this one now)
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams
  • Life, the Universe, and Everything, by Douglas Adams
  • So Long and Thanks For All the Fish, by Douglas Adams
  • Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • Eragon, by Christopher Paolini
  • Swann's Way, by Marcel Proust
  • The Lightning Theif, by Rick Riordan
  • The Oedipus Cycle, by Sophocles
  • The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
  • The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
  • Candide, by Voltaire
  • Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Night, by Elie Wiesel
  • Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

So, my few followers, which books do you think I should read for this challenge?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Finally - My Cast Picks for The Hunger Games movie

Oy vey.  This was hard.  And it took waaaay too long.  And be forewarned:  this is a long blog post.  But let me just start at the beginning.

Back in October I found out that Entertainment Weekly was having a poll online where you could vote for the cast of The Hunger Games movie.  They only gave about five options for several characters, and then they posted their picks, along with the majority votes in the poll.  Click here for their picks.  

Now, I had been seeing a lot of ideas floating around online about who should play who, and let me tell you, I was not impressed (Katy Perry as Effie, really?).  But when I saw EW's picks I just knew I had to make my own list.  

So here was my process.  I decided that I would cast the same characters that EW did.  These included the main characters, of course, but also included a few other, smaller characters.  But how was I to find these actors and actresses that would be perfect for these roles?  I read all of the comments on EW's poll, and looked up those commenter's suggestions on IMDb.  Some of them were okay suggestions, a few were great suggestions, but most of them, sadly, were not right for the part.  Mostly they were too old.  But therein lies the problem.  These characters, for the majority of The Hunger Games, are between the ages of 12 and 18.  Yes, there are a few older characters, but all of the tributes are between those ages.  And how many actors are between those ages?  Millions, but not many we've heard of.  But I am all for fresh, new faces.  So when I didn't find the suggestions to be spot on, I Googled.  I Wikipediaed (I know this isn't the most reliable source, but you can enter in a year, say, 1994, and it will give you a list of people who were born that year, which helped a lot).  I IMDbed.  Yes, these are probably spelled wrong.  But if Googled is a word, why shouldn't IMDbed be one?  It's a verb, right?  Right.  I also found handy pages on IMDb like "Most Popular People Born in 1994."  Those were a tremendous help.

Then, once I found all those lists, I had to have some type of criteria.  Here are the main things I looked for:

  1. Looks.  Not the attractiveness of the actor or actress, but whether they looked the part.  Yes, hair can be dyed, contacts can change eye color, but I needed my cast to look like the characters.
  2. Age.  This was a big one.  Like I said before, many people (EW included) were suggesting actors that were just too old for the parts.  I tried to keep the actors around the age of their respective characters, give or take a couple of years.  Some people, of course, I wasn't sure of the age, so I just guessed.
  3. Acting ability.  This one wasn't quite as high on my list.  It was hard, because there just aren't that many well-known teens out there (at least that I know of) and therefore many of my picks are little-known actors who really look the part and are the right age.  I thought of maybe trying to find some of their movies and watch them to make sure they could actually act, but then I wouldn't have had this list up for another couple of months.  Of course I want the actors in this movie to be wonderful, but I simply don't know about some of their acting abilities.
And that's about it.  But this was very, very difficult.  I do not envy a casting director's job.

So let's get to it.  First of all, I am going to list the characters and EW's picks, and then my picks.  There will be pictures of my picks, but not of EW's picks, because that would be just too many pictures.  Once again, if you want to see EW's picks, go here.  All of these photos are copyrighted by their respective owners.

The Hunger Games Movie, as Casted by Andrea

Katniss  (EW's pick:  Lyndsy Fonseca; EW's poll winner:  Kaya Scodelario)

My pick:  Hayley Erin

She just looks the part.  She was born in 1994, so she's 16 now.  She has been on television shows such as The Young and The Restless and Big Love.

Once again, I have no idea if she can act.  But I hope she can, because she just looks like Katniss to me.

And Lyndsy Fonseca, while a good actress, is just way too old.  She just turned 24.  Kaya Scodelario is closer in age to Katniss, but she just doesn't seem right to me.

I also think that Danielle Chuchran, who played Katniss in the fan-made YouTube video, Hunger Games:  Katniss & Rue, could also make a good Katniss.

Gale  (EW's pick:  Ben Barnes; EW's poll winner:  Gaspard Ulliel)

My picks:  Joshua Adams (left) or Jean-Luc Bilodeau (right)

Now, on this one I might be a bit biased, because Joshua Adams is my brother-in-law.  He's an aspiring actor living in L.A., and let me tell you, the boy can act.  He's about to turn 20, and Jean-Luc is 20, so they're a bit older than Gale, but I think they could both pull it off.  I saw Jean-Luc in a small part recently, and although I don't know much about him, he seemed to be a good actor.  I'm voting for Josh, though.  I can't help it!

Another note, Ben Barnes (EW's pick) is 29!  And Gaspard Ulliel is close behind at 26!  These guys are just too old.

Peeta  (EW's pick:  Josh Hutcherson;  EW's poll winner:  Hunter Parrish)

My pick:  Ryan Hanson Bradford (left) or Alexander Ludwig (right)

Ryan Hanson Bradford won me over in his portrayal of the "Boy in Black" on an episode of Lost.  I haven't seen him in anything else, but that small role showed me what a good actor he already is, and what a great actor he's sure to become.  He's 15 now, but I think he could seem 16, and with a little hair dye he could be perfect as Peeta.

I saw Alexander Ludwig on Race to Witch Mountain (Escape to Witch Mountain was one of my favorite movies as a kid), and although I favor Ryan Hanson Bradford a bit more in the role of Peeta, I think Alexander would also do a nice job.  I hadn't even thought of him for the part, but he was suggested on EW's site.

I think Josh Hutcherson may be able to pull off Peeta, but Hunter Parrish just looks all wrong to me, and he's a bit too old (23).

Haymitch  (EW's pick:  Robert Downey, Jr.;  EW's poll winner:  Hugh Laurie)

My Pick:  Philip Seymour Hoffman

Haymitch is an alcoholic, and is described as "a paunchy, middle-aged man."  I think Mr. Hoffman is a wonderful actor, and because of his role on Along Came Polly (where he was a former child-actor), I think he could play Haymitch wonderfully.  We find out in Catching Fire that Haymitch is in his late-thirties to early-forties (if you do the math, which of course I did), and Mr. Hoffman is 43.

While I think both Robert Downey, Jr. and Hugh Laurie are great actors, I just see Haymitch in Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Effie (EW's pick:  Elizabeth Banks;  EW's poll winner:  Kristin Chenoweth)

My pick:  Kristin Chenoweth

I wasn't quite sure about Miss Chenoweth at first, but she's really grown in my view as Effie.  I can now totally see her in a bright wig, playing the bubbly woman.

I'm not quite sure how old Effie is supposed to be, but I always imagined her around the same age as Haymitch, and Kristin Chenoweth is just a year younger than Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Prim  (EW's pick:  Elle Fanning)

My pick:  Elle Fanning

I totally had to agree with EW on this one.  Elle Fanning not only totally looks the part of Prim, but she is 12 years old, and she's proven to be quite the actress.  I can't really see anyone else in this role.

Rue  (EW's pick:  Willow Smith)

My pick:  China Anne McClain (left) or Haley Pullos (right)

Now, I've heard a lot of controversy over whether Rue is supposed to be African American or simply someone with tanned skin (perhaps Latin American?). So I've decided to include two different options.  Haley Pullos doesn't really have dark skin, but she's just so darn adorable.  They both are.  They're both also 12 years old, and Willow Smith is only 10.  Plus, every time I see Willow Smith I have that song in my head, and I really don't want to be thinking "I whip my hair back and forth" while watching The Hunger Games movie.  Seriously, even just typing her name makes that song start playing in my head.  I'm not familiar with either of these two young actresses, but they both already have several roles under their belts.

Cinna  (EW's pick:  Cillian Murphy)

My pick:  Neil Patrick Harris (left) or Hugh Dancy (right)

I have to say that I have always pictured a brunette Neil Patrick Harris as Cinna.  I think he would play the part beautifully.  However, as I was doing research I saw that a lot of people had pictured Hugh Dancy in the role.  He is also a great actor and I think he would also be good in the role.  But I'm pulling for NPH.  I also think Cillian Murphy is a good actor, but I can't really picture him as anything but creepy roles (The Scarecrow in Batman Begins is how I always see him).

Caesar Flickerman  (EW's pick:  Nicolas Cage)

My pick:  Conan O'Brien (left) or Fred Willard (right)

So Caesar Flickerman is the man who interviews all of the tributes before they actually go into the Games.  He has been hosting them for years, and still looks the same.  I really had no clue as to who should play this role, but when I saw that EW had picked Nicolas Cage, I groaned.  Or maybe cursed.  I'm not sure, but it wasn't a good reaction.  I'm not a fan.  But I read the comments, and both Conan O'Brien and Fred Willard were suggestions for the character, and they both seem brilliant to me.  I love Conan, but he does have a strange look to him, and he could pull off the role quite easily.  Fred Willard would also be great, because I can see him showing that side of the character that helps the interviewees out with their answers.

Katniss' Mother  (EW pick:  Robin Wright)

My pick:  Robin Wright (left) or Portia de Rossi (right)

I wasn't so sure about this one, but I think EW's pick, Robin Wright, definitely looks the part, and she is around the right age.

Portia de Rossi was suggested in one of the comments, and I had to agree that she would also be good in the part.

Both ladies are very talented actresses and I would be happy with either of them in the role.

Foxface  (EW's pick:  Danielle Panabaker)

My pick:  Emma Stone (left) or Haley Ramm (right)

I really like Emma Stone, and I have to say that she has the perfect look for Foxface.  However, she's a bit old for the part (22), so I picked another option.  Haley Ramm is 18, but I have no idea of her acting ability.  But in this photo, I think she could also be a contender for the role of Katniss.

Clove  (EW's pick:  Jurnee Smollett)

My pick:  ?

This is where I started to have some trouble.  I really have no idea who to cast for some of these characters.  The role of Clove is beyond me.

Thresh  (EW's pick:  Taylor Lautner)

My pick:  ?

Another one that I couldn't figure out.  A lot of people seem to think that Thresh should be African American.  I simply couldn't find someone who looked the part.  But please, no, not Taylor Lautner.

Cato  (EW's pick:  Stanislav Ianevski)

My pick:  Stanislav Ianevski

Stanislav, who played Viktor Krum in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, at 25, is a bit old to play a tribute.  But I think EW is thinking in the right direction here - Cato is a Career tribute, and needs to have a big build like Stanislav.

Claudius Templesmith  (EW's pick:  Jeremy Irons)

My pick:  Jeremy Irons

I think Jeremy Irons is a wonderful pick for Claudius Templesmith, the voice the tributes hear during the Games. A lot of people suggested the more obvious James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman, but I think Mr. Irons would be perfect.

President Snow  (EW's pick:  Steve Martin)

My pick:  Guy Henry

Guy Henry recently played Pius Thicknesse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, and will reprise the role in Part 2.  He also played a very creepy Mr. Collins in Lost in Austen.  Seriously, look this guy up.  I think he'd be perfect.

Also, seriously EW?  Steve Martin?  Yes, he's wonderful.  And yes, he already has the "paper-white hair."  But no, just, no.

Avox Girl  (EW's pick:  Deborah Ann Woll)

My pick:  Deborah Ann Woll

Deborah may be a bit old for this part (she's 25), but I'm not exactly sure how old the Avox girl is supposed to be.  But I love her in True Blood and think she could portray the mute character wonderfully with her expressions and body language.

Madge  (EW's pick:  Taylor Swift)

My pick:  Ellen Marlow

This is another actress that I'm not familiar with, but I think she looks perfect for Madge, the mayor's daughter, who gives Katniss the mockingjay pin.  She's also 16, so she's the right age.

So, there, finally you have it.  I apologize for the extra long post.

What do you guys think about my picks?  Am I on the right track or totally off my rocker?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Plea to the Hunger Games movie Casting Director

So quite a while back I said that I was working on a cast list for the movie version of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  That list kind of fell by the wayside, but I hope to finish it someday.

However, I am a bit of an IMDb addict, and the other day I noticed something on the page for The Hunger Games movie.  I don't know if this is a recent addition to the page or if it's simply something I didn't pay attention to before, but the Casting Director has been announced.  Her name is Debra Zane and she has been the Casting Director for several films, some of which are great movies.  To mention a few:  Away We Go; Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen; Dreamgirls; Jarhead; The Terminal (I LOVE this movie); Catch Me If You Can; Traffic; American Beauty; and Pleasantville (which is directed by Gary Ross, who is slated to direct The Hunger Games).  And those are only a handful.  If you go to her IMDb page, you'll see a plethora of other memorable movies that she's worked on.

But the thing I'm worried about is that her most recent films to cast were The Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn, Parts 1 and 2.  So this means that she didn't cast the main roles for The Twilight Saga movies, but that she has casted for some new roles (Renesmee, the Denali clan, etc.).  

So this is a plea to the Casting Director and other people casting for The Hunger Games movie.  Please, please, please, do not cast Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, or Taylor Lautner in The Hunger Games.  I know that many fans of The Twilight Saga would love for, say, Taylor Lautner to play the role of Gale, or for Kristen Stewart to play Katniss.  But please do not do this.  They are not right for the roles.  Please find new actors and actresses to play the major roles in the film.

I know that casting is a long, arduous process full of thousands of auditions.  I know that I have no idea what it is like to cast a movie.  But I do know that the true fans of The Hunger Games want this movie to be as close to the book as possible.  We know that changes have to be made when adapting a book into movie form, but please, just really try to keep the integrity of the book in mind when casting.  The fans and moviegoers will greatly appreciate it.