2013 was an extraordinary year for female protagonists, with three remarkable female-led movies in the year’s top 10 films. Just a few weeks ago, Gravity was released on home video; here are the other two.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the No. 1 grossing film of 2013, with Jennifer Lawrence reprising her role as Katniss Everdeen, citizen of the barbaric dystopian state of Panem, where an oppressive regime forces teenagers to fight to the death for televised spectacle.
The original film blended troubling subject matter with an intriguing culture-of-death critique, and while I admired it, I wasn’t eager to see it again. It’s a tribute to the sequel, which sharpens the things I like about the original and moderates the things I don’t, that I now want to watch both films again.
Catching Fire picks up with co-victors Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) on an unprecedented victory tour, closely watched by authorities who fear Katniss is becoming a symbol of resistance. The critique of Panem’s culture of death is more pronounced, with a rebellion in the offing, and the game this time is more about the game’s organizers trying to kill the contestants than them trying to kill one another.
Frozen is now Disney’s No. 1 film of all time. It has a lot going for it: a rare pair of sister protagonists, including a winsome heroine and her older, super-powered sister; two rugged, manly love interests; spectacular visuals; and Broadway star Idina Menzel’s pipes.
I am reluctantly among the minority calling Frozen a disappointment. The central relationship between Queen Elsa and Princess Anna is too tragic for too long, with too much estrangement and too little reconciliation. Creative vacillating about Elsa as villainess or heroine leaves the story with unresolved inner conflicts.
And both male love interests are, in very different ways, thrown under the bus. That’s my take; feel free to disagree.
Finally, the family classic The Black Stallion is new on Blu-ray. Adapted by Melissa McCarthy (E.T.) from the novel by Walter Farley, the story of a powerful bond between a young boy and a fierce Arabian horse under difficult circumstances has an elemental power, accented by the leisurely direction by Ballard (Fly Away Home) and the gorgeous cinematography of Caleb Deneschal (The Passion of the Christ).
Caveat Spectator: The Black Stallion: Tense and stressful situations that could be upsetting to sensitive youngsters. Kids and up. Frozen: Animated excitement, action and mildly scary images; a veiled double entendre or two. Kids and up. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Restrained but graphic violence; heavy drinking; limited profanity and crude language; brief implied semipublic nudity (nothing explicit). Mature viewing.