The Hunger Games website: Usability kind of sucked but I wanted to use it anyway

Yesterday, I got to visit The Capitol.

If you’ve been reading the books, the site’s name alone’ll make you want to visit it.  Even its domain extension is cute – .pn for Panem.

The Capitol "Homepage"

The site doesn’t feel the same without the sound, though.

Promotional Strategy – Sufficiently engaging but not customizable

The strategy’s engaging enough for, at least, a one-time visit.  Which Hunger Games reader woudn’t want to know what District he’d belong in and what job he could have?

Unfortunately, I was expecting more of a quiz-slash-personality-test type exercise, similar to those facebook “Which Harry Potter character are you?” things, but hey, the Panem ID idea probably still worked.  Since I bet its objective was just to draw pageviews anyway, more than really give a personalized experience of the “Hunger Games mythology”, a la Pottermore.

The ID’s look was enough to get me to click to the site, too.  It felt like something concrete, something a Panem citizen would have on-hand, if you could imagine that much.

First impressions – Exciting slice of what the movie could feel like

I liked how the site looked and initially “felt”.  Industrial visual theme, subtle background sound of machinations and danger, which is kind of how you felt it would sound when you were reading the bits where Katniss and Peeta first arrive in the Capitol.

Usability – Some interesting elements, but navigation generally cumbersome

The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t realize I could scroll, in the first few seconds.
Although, I also didn’t realize that the site seemed to be missing a navigation bar, all because I was already so interested in registering for an ID. (I guess this points to how content or “need” can trump usability if a user wants it bad enough)

Buried Horizontal Scroll

Later on, after trying to take a screencap, I realized that users were supposed to scroll horizontally.  I wasn’t going to complain about this, since I don’t think horizontal scrolling is as much of a hassle as much as Jakob Nielsen usually says.

However, I have to admit that it was unwieldy.  It’s not like it responds to Apple’s sideways scrolling, nor did the arrow keys or a usual Windows interface or mouse support horizontal scroll.
So, since the scroll bar and arrow buttons were below the fold, you really had to keep the site content consistently not at the top to get to move through the site.  Either that or you’d keep having to scroll up and down.  And I’m not even working on an 11-inch netbook.

“Missing” Navigation Bar

Moving through the site panels made me realize also that the scrollbar seemed to stand-in for the “navigation bar”.  I don’t know if they thought it would make the site cleaner, through less elements.  All I know is that I had to mouse-over each scroll “marker” just to get to read where I could navigate to.
It’s actually a pretty “shallow” site, in the sense that you can’t click-through most of the sections to get to separate landing pages.  I don’t mind that, it seems like the site’s objective was to just support the launch of the movie anyway.

It was just annoying, at times, since you really had to try mousing-over and clicking over titles just to see whether they’d go anywhere.

Not-too-legible news crawler

An especially annoying bit was this “news ticker” they had which was only around 3 inches wide, showing around 7 words at a time (just eyeballing it, I didn’t actually average how many words I could read in a second), displaying what seemed like a few sentences worth of instructions and descriptions.  It would have been worlds better to just see it in bullet or paragraph format so I could just scan through the whole thing, instead of forcing my eyeballs to go through 7 words at a time moving pretty fast from left to right, for a space that narrow. (Or maybe I’m too old, I don’t know.)

Slick and easily findable social layer and ticketing links

Onto the good points, I really liked the execution for the ticket purchases and how there was a constant call-to-action in the upper right-hand corner (disappearing only when you’d scroll down to get to the scrollbar.

Same goes for the upper-left corner collection of links to external pages and social network pages.  Looks…smart, and made me want to “visit the districts”, although I was disappointed to see it just pointed to facebook community pages for each district.  But again, maybe that’s what the Hunger Games core target wants.

Overall

Again, I think the site’s successful, in that it achieves what it’s supposed to do – drum up support for the movie launch.   The promotions and main site delivery remind me of the book “Baked In”, since the idea of the site was inherently appealing and the “packaging” works because it was cohesive and aligned to the theme.  The site looks cool, it was just hard to use, for someone who would have wanted to really immerse herself in it.
Oh well.
I’ll still watch the movie, I still like the book and I still like Katniss.  Usability issues are but a tiny part of brand love anyway 🙂

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My Week With Marilyn: I do hope it was an accurate film.

Because it was nice.  Basically about a woman who would be the most arrestingly beautiful train wreck you ever saw.

———-

It was a good use of one and a half hours of my time.

The movie was a testament to how the crazy girls really get the boys.

She was, at once, vulnerable and manipulative, crazy and beautiful.  Any girl who wants to be a flirt should just take notes from her life.  She was like a world-weary Lolita.

They don’t make women like that these days.

These are the women more intense than the “quirky” girls of the new millenium – more tainted and unhinged than any Ally Mcbeal or Alanis Morissette, and way way more serious than the Zooey Deschanel’s or Emma Stone’s of current Hollywood.  She was self-conscious — the winks, the feigned innocence – and dramatic in a mysterious way.

I wish it were true, their depiction of her.  I can see how Michelle Williams could win an award for that performance.  And, like all my favorite films, it was “quiet”.  Considering it talked about one of the most legendary sirens.  There was no part where you wanted to cry your eyes out; no tense parts of emotional anger.  Just a story of a life touched and overturned by a brush with something so alluring and out-of-reach.

It was cool – how Marilyn was in the film.  She wasn’t “hauntingly” beautiful.  Just…broken.

I guess that’s what gets men in the end, women who are bundles of ironies.

Other parts of the movie I loved.  Emma Watson, continuing to be distractingly hot.  Dame Judi Dench as a very lovable woman.  And beautiful scoring.

 

Adapt or Die: Fawning Over Hanna

This is a good movie year, for me.

At the very least, I find myself fortunate that, for all the things that may be happening this year, I find islands of escape in new movies that touch, amuse, awe or excite me. Yay, world!

Hanna is one such movie.  It feels like a fairytale, with action movie elements.  Plus one dash of music video-ness, and a pinch of Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. (The official movie site isn’t too bad either.)

Saoirse Ronan might be key to the magical feeling though.  Her face is just so..otherwordli-ly (what an awkward word) beautiful in this movie.

via toblia.tumblr

Of course, I’m not sure if the movie is perfect; I was too immersed in it to care about whether the plot had holes in it.  Although I do know that I winced whenever Cate Blanchett’s inconsistently present Southern accent resurfaced after fading away.

I’m a sucker for movies where young girls train and devote their lives to an ideal, usually an aggressively physical one.  I think I love seeing the passion for craft and dedication.  The single-mindedness intermingled with a yearning for an outside life, while coldly focusing on strength-building. Yes – big, abstract words.

I just really like it.  The opening scenes that set-up her skills.  Wow.  I love the part where she arrives home, and is kind of sullen, but Erik quizzes her on the different languages she’s supposed to know.

I also love how the movie showcases some of the richest “street” culture in the world.  In fact, it never really showcases “glossy” city exteriors.  And I think that’s just great.  You have Morocco, Spain, Berlin – all focusing on back streets and fringe or mass culture.  Raw flamenco dance, dingy Moroccan inns, trailer parks, graffiti-ed up walls.  It was like a slice of the world through Hanna’s eyes.

I also like how the action sequences, though few, aren’t fancy-schmancy ones.  They’re just brawls or knife fights that are straightforward.

And, how can I forget, Hanna’s escape from detention. Wow. I loved that.  From the psych questioning, to her jumping into nooks and crannies in the blinking-light tube.  Seemed like an MTV, yes, but it had powerful visuals, and well, I guess that kind of running-like-hell-and-successfully-finding-a-way-out craftily is part of every little girl’s dream adventure (Unless, that’s just me.)

I just find the movie beautiful.  Not in a deep “look into the human condition” plot sense, but in a “wow, this looks good and makes me feel nice…” sense.  Inception can draw you in with its twisted fantasies, but Hanna is quiet, like a fairytale.  It’s an action flick for chicks, if there ever was one (others in that list might be Fast Five, and Hitman – and this one is the prettiest of the bunch).  There’s no sex, no grand explosions.  Just a chase. And lost-ness, and sadness and cunning.  Tumblr-meets-grappling for the emo girl set.  I am going to get myself a copy, for nights when I want to relive her training and adventure.

Also, kudos to Shrine to Actors for a great review of Hanna!

Japanese Movie List: Sorry, Film Outfits

I realize I really have to unload all my open tabs.

First in my “Open Tabs” series is my set of Japanese Films I’d eventually want to get to watch.  Dear Japanese Film Production Outfits, I will try my best to find a legitimate way of getting my hands on these.  Good luck to us.

Cafe Isobe

Adrift in Tokyo

Bare Essence of Life Ultra-Miracle Love Story

The Great Happiness Space: Tales of an Osaka Love Thief

Kisaragi

And, of course, another Japanese movie I fell in love with in the past year: Supu Opera.

Heart, Soul and Rhythm: I am a new fan of A Tribe Called Quest

I am music stupid in many ways.

I was an almost full-time athlete for my formative social years.  Because of spending my third grade to senior high school years in a gym, with 10-12 year olds and middle-aged coaches, I wasn’t exposed to the particular set and variety of music that most people my age listened to.

That’s just a brief disclaimer about why I don’t know a lot of songs that were/are considered well-known in my generation.

Fast forward to last night, where I got to attend a screening of Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.

I loved it.

I’m a sucker for passion, dedication to craft.  The magic ingredient in Chef of South Polar.  And you also felt that in Beats, Rhymes and Life.  It was real.  Four talented young people coming together, forming bonds, honing talent, and going through the conflicts that do naturally happen since people really have different personalities.

The storytelling treatment didn’t assail anyone, which was amazingly careful of the creators, since they showed the tension that formed by the group’s third album – all without finger-pointing.  In fact, you even saw the steadiness in the group’s bond despite fighting and fall-outs.  Q-Tip, the creative diva of the bunch, knocked heads with Phife, but in the end, there was still concern and appreciation.

They were quirky, they loved music, they were grounded.  Their music is so honest.  That’s what I love about it – it’s honest but skilled.  Like all the best music.  It’s what keeps Benita Applebum and Hot Sex from seeming sleazy.  They’re about sex, but the sound is playful and the writing…the writing isn’t trying to be cool, or macho.

So, wow, A Tribe Called Quest.  I’m sad that I only discovered you now.  But, better late than never.