No Ross = Hope For Hunger Sequels

I don’t believe those reports about Hunger Games director Gary Ross quitting the lucrative franchise because Lionsgate wouldn’t give him a sufficient raise. If true, I suspect that Lionsgate gave Ross the oblique heave-ho because almost everyone thought his direction of The Hunger Games was bad and Lionsgate knew they could do better. In fact, I’m personally claiming partial credit for Ross’s departure as I was one of those who bemoaned his visual handlings.

Hunger Games director Gary Ross.

Consider these complaints:

“Certainly the character [of Katniss Everdeen] is strong enough to survive Gary Ross’s direction…she’s such a sensational character that she fires up your imagination, even when Mr. Ross seems intent on dampening it.” — Manohla Dargis, N.Y. Times.

“Working with the cinematographer Tom Stern, Ross shoots in a style that I have come to despise. A handheld camera whips nervously from one angle to another; the fragments are then jammed together without any regard for space. You feel like you’ve been tossed into a washing machine (don’t sit in the front rows without Dramamine). Even when two people are just talking calmly, Ross jerks the camera around. Why? As the sense of danger increases, he has nothing to build toward. Visually, he’s already gone over the top.” — David Denby, New Yorker.

The Hunger Games is at best a mediocre effort — an obviously second-tier thing, tedious, lacking in poetry or grace or kapow. It feels sketchy, under-developed, emotionally simplistic and hambone. And it looks cheap and cheesy. My strongest reaction was to Tom Stern’s awful cinematography, which I found visually infuriating. Stern’s shooting, especially in the last two thirds, is almost all jaggedy, boppity-bop, bob-and-weave close-ups. Way too close.” — me, Hollywood Elsewhere

“The most egregious failing of The Hunger Games [is] the direction by Gary Ross. Guys, there is not a single shot in this movie that is longer than four seconds. Not one. I fucking timed them. It is a 2 1/2 hour parade of lightning-fast cuts that jumble the storytelling, allow no time for the audience to get a sense of place or relationship, and muddle every action sequence to the point where it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on.” — Andrew Nienaber,

55 thoughts on “No Ross = Hope For Hunger Sequels

  1. Nienaber’s hyperbolic criticism is bullshit – there were plenty of shots longer than 4 seconds. He diminishes the value of his criticism with such a ridiculous claim.

  2. i’ll bet a dollar there is, in fact, not a shot lasting 4 seconds. 4 seconds is an eternity in some movies or for some directors.

    i’ve counted gobs of cuts in some scenes — like 40 or fifty in a minute. (yes, counted)

    that’s about 1.5 seconds (or just under) per cut. you see it all the time. sometimes, it’s a way of keeping the action alive and it’s needed, other times it’s a crutch for a weak director

    right now, i think the threshold for understandable passages is about 0.25 to 0.33 seconds per cut. you can’t keep that up long, but i’ve seen it

  3. “In fact, I’m personally claiming partial credit for Ross’s departure as I was one of those who bemoaned his visual handlings.”


  4. So Nienaber timed the shots while he was watching the movie? Nonsense.

    Haven’t seen the movie, but critics and fans liked the movie, and it was a huge hit. Why would they want Ross to leave? They just want to go cheap. Hardwicke is licking her chops waiting for the call.

  5. I believe the books are excellent reads (especially the second, Catching Fire), and I’m thrilled with this choice. I didn’t think the film was particularly good, but any of the film’s strength were in spite of Ross, not because of his direction.

    Personally, I think Catching Fire would be the perfect blockbuster vehicle for Duncan Jones, but since I know that won’t happen, I’m holding out for Danny Boyle (his screenwriter for 127 Hours and Slumdog is writing CF) or Soderbergh (2nd unit director on THG).

  6. Lionsgate doesn’t care about Ross’s “visual handling,” nor about critics criticizing of such, given how much money this thing made. He probably really didn’t want to go back or he priced himself out of contention.

  7. I thought it was pretty self-evident that the handheld shaky-cam stuff was a mandate from on high to maintain a PG-13 in scenes of violence. Especially considering it’s not something Ross usually does.

    No way are they giving a director total creative freedom on these. Maybe, like Twilight, they’ll finally allow a more distinct auteur imprint on the last one because it doesn’t matter by then.

  8. Hilarious if they hire someone like Darren Bousman for the sequel because Lionsgate is used to working with him and he’d no doubt come cheap and they know he can work fast and on budget.

  9. That it can even be argued whether or not there’s a shot lasting more than 4 seconds is very sad. It’s been 20 years since Fred Ward’s character said “cut, cut, cut” in THE PLAYER and, sure, Tolkin and Altman were going for a laugh, but it’s funny because it’s true, now as it was then. The biggest drawback to using computers to edit, unfortunately.

    Was it Walter Murch or Ralph Rosenblum, one of those, that said we’re not supposed to notice what you’re doing! The storytelling doesn’t depend that greatly on how fast you can cut! It gets distracting and takes away from the viewing experience.

  10. I absolutely despise Tom Stern’s work. His work with Clint Eastwood is always b/w with tad touches of color here and there. Just shoot in B/W or color. His work is so meh….very uninteresting, dull and zzzz

    Gary Ross, as a director, has done better. This is his first film as director in almost ten years. He did it for the paycheck, pure and simple. Now he can go back to directing “decent films” — though Pleasantville was quite nice (especially Don Knotts’ cameo)

  11. Wells, you were fond of quoting Plummer’s line from that little roundtable thing so I’ll throw it back at you: “oh, shutup.”

  12. J. Edgar was perhaps the most aggressively ugly mainstream release in a decade or so. Absolutely awful. And Hunger Games was almost as bad. This Tom Stern guy must be Clint Eastwood’s nephew or something, because it’s hard to explain how else he has a career.

    I can’t believe how bad Hunger Games was, considering the positive reaction to it. Shockingly amateurish stuff. Ross will be no loss at all. Pleasantville was excellent, Seabiscuit was okay, HG was shit. They can easily replace him with any anonymous hack. Just look at the Twilight films easily shifting from director to director without anyone noticing.

  13. Yeah, The Hunger Games is one of the ugliest looking films i’ve ever seen in theaters. It just looks tacky and dirt cheap.

  14. Actually i am very seldom to watch action movies, but a director like Gary Ross it is sure that the movie is full of action and excitement.

  15. This movie was for me one of the best movies of 2012.
    Its just bullshit that people think that this movie suck because this movie is just greater then all other movies.
    its modern and old school at the same time!

  16. Under almost any other director THG would have had the same opening weekend with that fan base. I thought Ross did a very poor job of adapting it for the big screen. While Deadline now reports that he isn’t officially gone, please, let it be so.

  17. “almost everyone thought Ross direction was bad”

    Um, no they didn’t. If Ross is not directing the next one, and the guy who wrote Slumdog Millionaire has written the script, then maybe Danny Boyle could replace Ross.He would be a great choice.

  18. I can’t believe the posts on this thread. You guys are making it out to look like the worst movie since Bonfire of the Vanities or something. Sorry folks but the movie isn’t bad. Its a solid effort, not the greatest thing in the world, but solid nevertheless. I think people are having problems with it because its actually forcing them to think of the pervasive ugliness that surrounds our current culture.


    That’s it. That’s ALL it is.

    It’s NOT the worst movie ever. It’s NOT the best movie ever (and NO ONE over the age of 14 is going to say that).

    It’s just okay. There’s nothing wrong with okay. There’s nothing great with okay.

    Seriously, hate on something that deserves it.

  20. I wasn’t defending it, Gabe. I’m just not condemning it.

    There’s nothing to condemn. There’s nothing to praise. It’s AVERAGE.

    Jeff is just doing this because he no longer has The Artist to hate, and we all know JEFF MUST HATE.

  21. It’s better to be passionate than to just say, “The Hunger Games: it exists.”

    Also, it’s a terrible movie for simpleminded people. So there’s that.

  22. No, it’s very solid entertainment and Jennifer Lawrence is an outstanding lead. There were HUGE problems with the script, especially the lack of exploration into why a seemingly verdant district had no food/farming, but calling it a “terrible movie for simpleminded people” as Gabe chooses is off base.

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