It’s so hard to say goodbye to a cinematic hero like Katniss Everdeen of ‘The Hunger Games’

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Jennifer Lawrence stars in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2." Lionsgate photo

Jennifer Lawrence stars in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.” Lionsgate photo

The blockbuster The Hunger Games film franchise began its final opening run this weekend with the theatrical release of Mockinjay – Part 2.

As I noted in my review for NewsOK, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 means war, bringing the blockbuster dystopian franchise to a satisfying yet bittersweet conclusion. Despite its choppy pacing, which reflects the rhythm of the novel, the fourth and final film faithfully adapted from Suzanne Collins’ best-selling young-adult book trilogy isn’t your typical Hollywood war movie with epic battle sequences and a thrill-of-victory finale. The series-capper boasts its share of eye-popping action-movie spectacle, but like Collins’ novels, it forces viewers to deal with grim losses while nailing the book’s shocking climax.

For female filmgoers there’s another grim loss involved with the opening of the last Hunger Games movie: It’s so hard to say goodbye to complex, compelling  reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen (Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) , especially since she’s been played by one of the finest actresses of her generation. Lawrence isn’t the only actress who shows her action-star mettle in the final film, which features Patina Miller as the coolly courageous Commander Paylor, Natalie Dormer as battle-ready propaganda producer Cressida and Gwendoline Christie in a cameo as the imposing Commander Lyme.

It’s also difficult to bid farewell to a smashingly successful franchise built around a female character, in which the bravery, competency and complexity of women are just a given instead of a novelty. It’s a true and unfortunate rarity in today’s Hollywood. As reported earlier this year,  research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that females comprised a paltry 12 percent of protagonists in the top-grossing films of 2014. Over the past decade, the situation has gotten worse, not better. The latest figures represent a drop of three percentage points from 2013 and a fall of four percentage points from 2002. Now, try to reconcile that awful statistic with the fact that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was the top-grossing movie of 2014. Hopefully, the fiery triumphant of The Hunger Games will prove catching, especially with the success of other movies with female main characters, including Trainwreck and Inside Out in 2015 and Gone Girl and Maleficent in 2014.

Second Mockingjay tops the box office

As expected, the last Hunger Games movie topped the weekend box office with an estimated $101 million in domestic ticket sales, but according to the Los Angeles Times, Mockingjay — Part 2 fell short of industry expectations for a $120 million U.S. and Canadian opening, as the finale fell far short of other films in the franchise.

By comparison, The Hunger Games, the first adaptation of Collins’ novels, opened to a staggering $152.5 million domestically in 2012. Its sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, opened even higher in 2013, at $158.1 million. The studio Lionsgate split the third book in the Collins trilogy, Mockingjay, into two movies, and Part 1 opened last year to $121.9 million.

David Spitz, Lionsgate’s executive vice president and general sales manager of theatrical domestic distribution, cautioned against focusing solely on the domestic gross for Mockingjay – Part 2. He noted the aggressive, simultaneous rollout of the finale in 86 countries. Even though some of those markets were affected by the fallout of terrorist attacks in Paris, Spitz said the film is performing on par compared to the previous films.

“We’re having a great weekend,” Spitz told the L.A. Times. “It’s nice to be able say we are one of only 34 films to have ever had an opening weekend over $100 million.” He also told the L.A. Times that the franchise as a whole is projected to break the $2-billion mark at the global box office.

About 70 percent of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a positive rating. Audiences approved more overwhelmingly, giving the film an A-minus grade, according to polling firm CinemaScore. Crowds skewed female (56 percent) and younger than 25 (50 percent).

The movie, which cost an estimated $160 million to make, still is the fifth-highest opening film of the year so far, behind Universal’s Jurassic World ($208.8 million), Disney’s Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191.3 million), Universal’s Furious 7 ($147.2 million) and Universal’s Minions ($115.7 million).

According to, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 ruled the international box office this weekend, opening with $146 million in 87 markets.

‘The Women of Hollywood  Speak Out’ in the New York Times

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd talked to more than 100 women and men at all levels of Hollywood for her blockbuster must-read feature titled “The Women of Hollywood Speak Out,” which is packed with enough colorful characters, depressing statistics, fascinating history and memorable quotes to fill a whole film franchise. Here are a few highlights (in some cases, low lights, because some of these tidbits are depression-inducing):

– Kathryn Bigelow, a unique figure in Hollywood, got a big budget for K-19: The Widowmaker. Director Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman will arrive in 2017. No other woman in Hollywood has directed a $100 million live-action film.

– ‘‘If they make a $150 million movie with women directing or starring, and it bombs, they take it a little harder,’’ says the director Adam McKay, who is Will Ferrell’s writing and producing partner. ‘‘You can trace that to the old-school guys in the boardrooms.’’ (Sound familiar from last week’s post when we delved into “the Ishtar effect?”)

– ‘‘Quentin Tarantino can make ‘Pulp Fiction’ for $8 million and you can slap him on any magazine,’’ said Leslye Headland, writer-director of Sleeping with Other People. ‘‘He’s the poster boy. He was for me. I want to be that guy even though he looks like a foot. God bless him, and he can do whatever he wants to my feet. But with a female director, you’re just not celebrated the same way.’’

– Female directors are in what Girls creator Lena Dunham calls ‘‘a dark loop.’’ If they don’t have experience, they can’t get hired, and if they can’t get hired, they can’t get experience.

– Excluding their art-house divisions, the six major studios released only three movies last year with a female director, and statistics suggest female directors are slipping backward. Prof. Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University reports that in 2014, 95 percent of cinematographers, 89 percent of screenwriters, 82 percent of editors, 81 percent of executive producers and 77 percent of producers were men.

– ‘‘I’ve gotten into watching old movies on TCM,’’ Jennifer Lee, co-director of Frozen, said. ‘‘And what kills me is the female characters are fantastic, complicated, messy, and they aren’t oversexualized, and I love them.’’

– ‘‘The world of movies is fascinating to me because everyone has amnesia all the time,’’ said ABC power producer Shonda Rhimes. ‘‘Every time a female-driven project is made and succeeds, somehow it’s a fluke. Instead of just saying ‘The Hunger Games’ is popular among young women, they say it only made money because Jennifer Lawrence was luminous and amazing. I mean, you go get yours, girl. But seriously, that’s ridiculous. There’s a very hungry audience of young women dying to see some movies. They came out for ‘Titanic’ and ‘Twilight,’ 14-year-old girls going back to see those movies every day. I find it fascinating that this audience is not being respected. In the absence of water, people drink sand. And that is sad. There’s such an interest in things being equal and such a weary acceptance that it’s not.’’

I could keep going, but there’s so much more. I’ve read Dowd’s lengthy feature twice, and I’m just going to have to insist you read it, too. Even if it’s often painful, it’s an outstanding and illuminating piece of journalism. Brava.

Emma Stone is shown in a promotional shot for "The Amazing Spider-Man." Sony Pictures photo

Emma Stone is shown in a promotional shot for “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Sony Pictures photo

Quick hitters:

Emma Stone to become King: Emma Stone is replacing Brie Larson in Battle of the Sexes, Fox Searchlight’s telling of the epic tennis match between Billie Jean King and former Wimbledon champion, Bobby Riggs, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Stone was initially tapped to play the part but bowed out due to scheduling, leading to Larson’s casting. But Larson was then tapped to star in Glass Castle, presenting a new scheduling conflict for the project.

Battle of the Sexes is heading towards a production start for early next year, according to the trade publication.

Top film editors talk Hollywood’s gender problems:‘s Kase Wickman talked to top film editors Laura Jennings, who edited Edge of Tomorrow, and Shelly Westerman, who co-edited About Last Night, about how Hollywood’s gender problem goes beyond the dearth of female directors and female protagonists.

“I’ve been much more of a technical editor and visual effects editor for a long time and the amount of times it’s just an immediate assumption that you’re never going to be as technical as your male kind of counterparts, even if you’re far senior to them, it’s rife,” Jennings said.

In the top 100 highest-grossing films of 2014, 27 movies did not have a single woman credited as a director, writer, editor, producer (above the associate level) or cinematographer. That’s more than a quarter of movies that didn’t have a single woman in any top-level position, reports

AWFJ honors movies at St. Louis International Film Festival: Alliance of Women Film Journalist members Cate Marquis and Michelle McCue presented EDA Awards for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature and Best Female-Directed Documentary Nov. 15 at the conclusion of the 24th Annual St. Louis International Film Festival.

Lucie Borleteau’s Fidelio: Alice’s Odyssey received the EDA for Best Female-Directed Narrative Feature. Sophia Turkiewicz’s Once My Mother took the EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Documentary. To read more  about these award-winning films, click here. 


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