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Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Breaking news: Twitter is lighting up with post-Sundance-screening enthusiasm for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Peter Sciretta reported a standing ovation after posting his own awestruck reaction.

James Rocchi tweeted: "BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: Imagine TREE OF LIFE in a Godless (but not hopeless or loveless) world of mud and blood and fire and flood."

Noel Murray: "BEASTS OF SOUTHERN WILD (A-) Picture a live-action Miyazaki, with Days Of Heaven narration, set in pre-apocalyptic Louisiana. There you go."

Edited by Overstreet

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Jeffrey Wells:

The passionately praised Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I finally saw last night at Park City's MARC, is everything its admirers have said it is. It's a poetic, organic, at times ecstatic capturing of a hallucinatory Louisiana neverland called the Bathtub, down in the delta lowlands and swarming with all manner of life and aromas, and a community of scrappy, hand-to-mouth fringe-dwellers, hunters, jungle-tribe survivors, animal-eaters and relentless alcohol-guzzlers.

It's something to sink into and take a bath in on any number of dream-like, atmospheric levels, and a film you can smell and taste and feel like few others I can think of. ...

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This is a few months old, but I'm trying to keep tabs on this film and it looks like it's still all we've got for now.

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Watched the trailer on a whim last night, and was transfixed the whole time.

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Me too, even though I'm still not entirely sure what the movie is about. It's been a while since a trailer piqued my interest *and* didn't give away the entire plot.

The impression I have is something like Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker, but with more magical realism.

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Gave me an Alamar vibe. http://artsandfaith....showtopic=25407

Okie dokie, you just caught my attention.

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with a touch of magical realism

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My review

I didn't get into it as much as I did The Tree of Life, but it is a pretty awesome (in a variety of meanings) film. BTW, it won an audience award at LA filmfest.

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My review

I didn't get into it as much as I did The Tree of Life, but it is a pretty awesome (in a variety of meanings) film. BTW, it won an audience award at LA filmfest.

Nice write-up, Darrel.

I saw it last night, and found it much more consistently compelling than The Tree of Life, though as you note its worldview its pretty thoroughly naturalistic. Did you catch what they were singing/chanting during the funeral / cremation at sea sequence? I was hoping for some sort of Christian coloring there.

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Saw this last week and was pretty unmoved by it, but maybe that's because I had trouble seeing anything. The camera movements were so shaky that, at times, it was like watching a movie cross-eyed. Creatively, I understand the decision behind this, but it posed a serious problem for me re my engagement with the movie. I had pretty much checked out by the 30-minute mark because I couldn't stand looking at the screen. I haven't seen anyone else raise this issue yet, so I just wanted to see if I was alone on this. I know that Jeffrey walked out on Melancholia because of the camerawork, and this is one case where I certainly could have, but I stuck it out.

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I meant to post some links to a bit of a kerfuffle that erupted around this film a week or two ago. E.g., Mike D'Angelo tweeted:

Had mixed feelings about BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD but the uncharitable hip-critic dogpile is making me feel protective, which I resent.

He was apparently reacting to reviews like this one, from Ignatiy Vishnevetsky:

Benh Zeitlin's faux-naif debut feature
Beasts of the Southern Wild
trades in quasi-folkloric whimsy, fantastical contraptions, and a very slick and deliberate sort of visual roughness. Shot and cut like one of Weiden + Kennedy's
(with several apparent borrowings from a
directed for the firm by Cary Fukunaga, who worked on Zeitlin's short
Glory at Sea
the year before), it looks and moves like an ad agency creative's idea of an American fairy tale. It's not without its pleasures: a uniformly strong cast of non-professionals, clever Emir Kusturica-aping production design, a pretty good scene set in a waterfront brothel, and a damn fine opening title card. (Also, on a more basic level, I appreciate Zeitlin's apparent fetish for women's thighs.) Still, the language
Beasts of the Southern Wild
speaks isn't really the language of cinema—it's the language of cinema as it's been co-opted by smart, arty advertising in the last two decades, and the film's damning central flaw has to do with what exactly Zeitlin and his associates are trying to sell. . . .

Or this bit by Tim Grierson:

I like
Beasts
. I've seen the film twice, and both times I've been impressed by the boldness of its ambitions and the depth of its emotional pull. With an air of magic realism to it, the film stars first-timer Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy, a little girl living in an unspecified section of bayou that's been cut off from civilization by a levee, leaving her and the other residents of what's known as "The Bathtub"—including her gruff, ailing father Wink (Dwight Henry)—fighting to survive in dilapidated, makeshift homes.

So
Beasts
is a model independent film. Unfortunately, it's also a model of the worst cliches of contemporary art-house cinema. Here are the five big ones: . . .

Glenn Kenny responded to Grierson's article here, and Grierson responds to Kenny's response here.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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A comment at Hollywood Elsewhere made me laugh:

One the one hand, I like that the film doesn't breach Hushpuppy's point of view - she's a young kid who is coping with this difficult world and Zeitlein doesn't try to editorialize on her behalf or force a false epiphany on her. And that's interesting. But on the other hand, at one point I imagined that this was what Winter's Bone would've been like if the meth cookers and criminals had been treated like a bunch of loveable ne'er-do-wells.

In case that doesn't make it clear: I'm not a big fan. I admire some things about this film, but it lost me about halfway through. Around the 45 minute mark, it started to drag for me. The "rescue" sequence frustrated me and spoiled my suspension of disbelief. And the conclusion felt all wrong. Here's my review.

Edited by Overstreet

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Glenn Kenny responded to Grierson's article here, and Grierson responds to Kenny's response here.

Classy response to a graceless shoot-first hit piece by Kenny, who in my limited experience has a tendency to snark first, ask questions later. FWIW, I'm with Kenny rather than Grierson on the film.

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Watched this today with some pretty high expectations, and while I was very impressed with Quvenzhane Wallis, I left the theater with mixed emotions. It felt like an early David Gordon Green film (George Washington, not Pineapple Express), with more whimsy and less-steady cinematography. The "live-action Miyazaki" comparison is also apt. But I felt it dragged a bit by the last half, and I'm still unsure about the conclusion or the worldview being portrayed here. Still, it's a good little film.

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I liked the film, though I admit it left me feeling uneasy. But I think that's a good thing. Here's part of my review.

Katrina challenged American conceptions about their own ability to withstand natural disasters and their unique status as a first world power, as it transformed the coast of Louisiana into all but a third world disaster zone; America thought it was immune to this. I’m not sure the storm in question is literally meant to be Katrina, but it speaks to the way that the storm has entered the imaginative consciousness of American culture. What is particularly challenging about Zeitlin’s film is not how it “reveals the truth” about the South or Hurricane Katrina, but how those things are linked related concepts that threaten America’s conception of itself, such as colonialism and regionalism. Beasts of the Southern Wildchallenges viewers to think about the value of local cultures and what an appropriate response to a disaster is.
Edited by Anders

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I loved this film. I loved the warm earthy humanism that was depicted: live life to the fullest, in a warts-and-all community, embracing the beauty, strangeness, goodness, and tragedy that come your way.

It's a curious coincidence that the arts cinema where I saw this is showing Moonrise Kingdom on its other screen. Both seem to be fables/allegories/fantasies about the transition from childhood to young adulthood. In Moonrise, the focus is upon the process of leaving one's home and cleaving to your mate; in Beasts, it's similarly about leaving a dysfunctional nest, but more about finding one's strength and independence. In both films, too, the imagery and musical soundtrack melded wonderfully.

Most impressive, too, that 29 year old Benh Zeitlin is director, co-writer, and co-composer; and that the film was shot on a $1.8 million budget, with visual effects courtesy of a San Francisco arts college. I can't wait to see more by Zeitlin.

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I really enjoyed this film. Quvenzhane Wallis conveys such a childlike wonder in the midst of such material poverty, and it's her wonder that helps this film transcend what could have easily been just another indie film about poor people struggling against the injustices of life. I thought some of the plotting becomes awkward toward the end, as the film seems to try to raise some issues for which that it isn't prepared to consider the consequences. But I thought the portrayal of community shows the conflicts and the joys of shared experience.

Edited by Crow

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I finally saw this last night. Visually stunning ... humanistic ... deeply evocative of childlike wonder curiosity and imagination, but yes, as others here have noted, fully naturalistic. I watched this with pen and notebook in hand, intending to write a review. But a review on this one is not going to be easy. Although, I think I ultimately appreciate what the film gives us. It shows us parts of human nature, sometimes good and more often bad. It seemed to contain a viewpoint that was a little, well, I'd call it uncomfortably pointless. But whatever pointlessness it may have portrayed about human life didn't stop it from being a quite powerful film. There are so many little moments in the film that are heart-wrenching.

The more I think about it, the more I'm suspecting that it reminds me of some of the things I didn't like about Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are. But, it seemed to do away with a number of Where The Whild Things Are's weaknesses, almost taking some of the same ideas and then following through with them in constructing a much more coherent whole. In fact, if I write a review, I may be forced to write a hybrid review of both films instead. But that would necessitate watching Jonze's film again, and such a prospect is unpleasant. Both films are through the eyes of a child with unstable parenting. Both films invoke the vision of a dark and dangerous world. Both films involve a certain amount of running about and roaring back at the omnipotent and crushing powers of the universe. Both films illustrate a number of ineffectual human solutions to the problem of human nature. Except this film had small moments of beauty while, in my admittedly biased opinion, Where the Wild Things Are had moments of angsty therapeutic nonsense.

Then again, writing it all out would help clear a number of thoughts up that I'm currently unclear about. So, in summary, I liked the film and walked out of the theater feeling ... strongly ambivalent.

Edited by Persiflage

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I love this Tweeted review by Munyurangabo filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung:

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (film): romanticizes caveman parenting without irony.

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I love this Tweeted review by Munyurangabo filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung:

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (film): romanticizes caveman parenting without irony.

Now I want to re-watch it in a double bill with CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS.

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I fully acknowledge the problems with the growth or non growth if you will of Hushpuppy in this movie, but despite all that I kinda loved this movie.

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Any assessment of this film that sees only the romanticizing and not the critique is unconvincing to me.

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