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Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is one of these magical realist New Orleans storm parable vehicles for an unknown 5-year-old actor. Kinda like early David Gordon Green meets Spike Jonze circa WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE with a dab of BEYOND THUNDERDOME. It deals with the racial and class divide in the face of imminent environmental disaster. You know the type.

Our protaganista and narrator is a tiny little girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) who lives in “The Bathtub,” a town on the other side of the levees. Everything is made of junk and they know when there’s a storm it’ll all be underwater, but they have alot of fun and celebrate more holidays than on the other side. They have fireworks and stuff. There’s music and drink.
Hushpuppy is raised by her dad Wink (Dwight Henry), but they live in separate houses and he’s kind of a dick, gets mad and tells her to leave him alone. Her mom left or died and all Hushpuppy has left of her is a basketball jersey that she talks to and makes food for, cooking up a big pot of goo and catfood using a blowtorch.

Maybe because he’s all she’s got, Hushpuppy has a rocky relationship with Wink. It keeps seeming like he’s disappeared, or died. She says she hopes he dies and she’ll eat birthday cake on his grave. But really the movie is all about her fear of losing him and his fear of dying and leaving her without anybody to take care of her. Come to think of it this is kind of like THE ROAD. But it seems pretty upbeat in comparison. There’s more joy, more color, more sun.

The Bathtub is like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but its residents are more in control of their own destinies. They could leave before the storm (some do) but our heroes choose not to. They don’t want to leave their home, and even little Hushpuppy says she doesn’t want to run “like a bunch of pussies.” Even among the non-pussies who stay in the Bathtub there’s a philosophical disagreement about how civilized you should live. The debate is summed up when a man tries to teach Hushpuppy the proper way to eat a crab, and Wink angrily insists that she “beast it!”, teaching her to smash and violently bite at it like a tiger or something. This is his approach to life, which has helped them survive but also scared his daughter enough that in narration she casually mentions the possibility that he’ll kill her some day.

It’s very imaginative and has a strong sense of reality as it goes through the procedure of their daily lives, how they survive the flood, etc., while she spouts her kiddy versions of worldly philosophy buried in layers of Bathtub regional slang. It seems to all be shot on location, everything is dirty and damaged, camera work is handheld quasi-documentary style. One of these days these young directors are gonna have to learn how to shoot movies to look like actual movies, but for this particular one the style fits. And this grungy realism is infused with a sort of witch doctor approach to medicine and other fantastical touches. I think this is just the reality that the story takes place in, but some of it could be based on Hushpuppy’s childish understanding of the world around her, since she’s the one telling us the story.

The biggest fantasy element involves the primeval creatures called aurachs, unfrozen by environmental calamity and headed toward the Bathtub. This is the coolest effect I’ve seen in a while. I couldn’t figure out how the hell they did it because it doesn’t look like CGI, but it has such realistic muscle movements, and you see the feet running, I didn’t think it could be animatronic. Really good rod puppet? Animatronic with digital enhancement? As soon as it was over I looked through the extras and was excited to learn it was… shit, I’m gonna mark this as a SPOILER ’cause it was cool to watch it without knowing… it was baby pigs in costumes! They couldn’t get a greyhound to work for ALIEN 3, but this works.

The production design here is incredible. Houses made of junk, boats made of pickup trucks, a schoolhouse covered in spikes. And like LIFE OF PI alot of it’s in little boats, but done on a way lower budget and with a 5 year old star. Pretty impressive.

The lightning in a bottle that makes the movie is Wallis. Somehow, some way they just found a miraculously natural kid to play this character. On the blu-ray there’s footage from her audition and it’s as mindblowing as the famous Henry Thomas one from E.T. They have her doing scenes with an adult who is clearly not an actor and just does “read off of a card” type of acting, but she’s responding to him with facial expressions and saying lines and crying… it’s ridiculous.

In the Village Voice critic’s poll I voted Wallis for best actress, and I felt a little bad about it because there are adult women who spend their lives training and acting and they have such a hard time finding good roles and then here I am voting for a kindergartener who just seems to have been born somehow knowing how to do this. But I couldn’t deny it, it was the most impressive female performance I saw this year. Blame Hollywood I guess, but it’s not the kid’s fault. She’s amazing.

(also I haven’t seen ZERO DARK THIRTY yet or the one where Anne Hathaway sings and cries.)

Henry is also great, and he’s also not an experienced actor, he’s a guy who worked at a deli who they convinced to do it. He comes across as troubled and kinda scary but also genuinely loving in a way. Complicated, like a real guy. A guy that might work at a nearby deli.

This is a very unique and well-made movie. I enjoyed it alot, but I have to admit I felt a little weird when I realized it was made by a bunch of white people from New York. It has a sort of romanticization of crushing Southern poverty, treating living in filth as a rebellious act and charming quirk. It promotes the idea that everybody could flee from a flood and the people who get stuck in it are the people who were too stubborn to leave. And its depiction of Hushpuppy’s stripper mother and sometimes abusive father (to toughen her up? because he drinks too much?) would seem like a cultural critique if it was Lee Daniels or somebody, so what does it mean coming from Benh Zeitlin and his Wesleyan University chums? It seems a little condescending to me.

Luckily I think the movie is good enough to mostly transcend that problem. It strongly identifies with these characters in a way that can’t be denied, even though it’s showing the poor as a bunch of alcoholics who want to live in garbage and refuse medical attention.

If you can get past that aspect, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is a stunning achievement for first time filmatists. In the age of found footage and m-mblecore it’s nice to see some rookies making a movie where they have to build a bunch of shit and create things and exert effort. It’s one of the best indie enviro-flood fantasy dramas starring a kid you’ll see for a while.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 4th, 2013 at 12:37 am and is filed under Drama, Fantasy/Swords, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

  1. I liked this, but the shaky-cam annoyed me. The locations and sets were so beautifully meticulous, I wanted to enjoy them, get a better sense of the geography of the place.

    Acting was terrific, though. The SPOILER-SPOILER-SPOILER final bedside scene had me welling up like a sissy (sob).

  2. I don’t know, Vern. I admire all the qualities of the film you mentioned (except the shaky-cam, hated it) but I was much more bothered by the film’s condescending attitude towards people living in poverty, even without knowing it was made by a bunch of New Yorkers. “Poor people are so quirky! I guess they just don’t know any better!”

    But the little girl is amazing. No arguing that.

  3. I wonder if they got the idea for the aurachs from Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke?

  4. The performances in this movie are great, so I agree with Vern on that, but that’s about the only nice thing I have to say about it.

    “. . . a bunch of alcoholics who want to live in garbage and refuse medical attention.”

    Yep. There’s nothing uplifting about BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. I honestly thought I was watching a horror movie that the filmatists forgot to edit & score properly as a horror movie.

    The health clinic scene was supposed to suggest that the outside world makes the Bathtubbers into zombies if they submit to The Man, I guess, and the health workers were almost filmed like the quarantiners in E.T., if I recall correctly. So, if BEASTS *is* a horror movie for that one part, it totally gets the good guy – bad guy dynamic backwards. And it’s not ironic or tongue-in-cheek, it’s just stupidity & blindness by the filmatists.

    I don’t have any issue with the “poverty fetishization” or the “quirkiness & pluckiness” that bothers many other reviewers. I don’t care about the filmatists’ race or filmmaking techniques.

    I just don’t for the life of me see how this is supposed to be a “magical” story, like the score & effects & Hushpuppy’s cutesy voiceovers suggest. Everyone other than Hushpuppy in the bathtub is disgusting, negligent, abusive, and/or drunk; they’re prostitutes and domestic terrorists.

    (Did I imagine that? It’s been several months since I saw this. Is my memory failing me, or do the Bathtubbers not team up to blow up a levee or something? Why does no one else in the professional reviews ever notice this?
    Wow, what noble commitment to their independence and to their lifestyle — they’re so noble that they use dynamite on government property, when they’re not too busy refusing vaccinations and making their filthy little kids run around handling raw livestock & dodging beer bottles, that is.)

    They have a hard, laborious life only because they are so deeply lazy & backward. You can celebrate or honor this lifestyle in a movie, fine, but don’t try to tell me it’s magical & uplifting. (More a jab at critics than the filmatists there.)

    Anyway, I agree that it’s fairly well made, good effects, cool music even though it’s shockingly out of place, interesting & competent cinematography even though it is also shockingly wrongheaded in terms of where it points the lens to serve this terrible story. I think I hate this movie.

  5. I haven’t seen BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD yet, but as Barry Pepper said in SEARCHING FOR PRIVATE RYAN: “Sir, I believe I have something to contribute to this conversation.”

    As Vern mentioned and Chuck built upon, I think society has a propensity for romanticizing the downtrodden to entertain the more well-off. This isn’t a new trend; one of my mom’s favorite books growing up was THE BOX CAR FAMILY, a depression era Swiss Family Robinson deal where, you guessed it, a family lived in a boxcar to make ends meet. Of course, this series was around in the 50’s, so it was a very sanitized version of how this life would be, but even today I think the appeal of dropping everything and living off the land and/or street holds great appeal to folks like us who take the bus and live paycheck to paycheck, and that appeal multiplies tenfold when you’re talking about those with serious means. Of course, we’re more informed nowadays, so a strong dose of brutality needs to be added to the mix so that we’ll suspend our disbelief about the realities of slumming it, but that’s as much an inoculation against our doubting natures as anything else, a vaccination to our senses so that we’ll buy into the poverty and slums we experience, thereby enabling us to leave with a takeaway truth of the fragility of life and how fortunate we are not to live this way everyday.

    I’ll close out with an example. One thing I’ve seen romanticized to no end are street kids, especially in Portland and Denver, by middle class hipsters desperate for a shot of authenticity. They see see the neogypsy augmentations and day-to-day hustle and cite them as examples of beautiful truths, pliant and ready for a COILHOUSE fashion spread. Except said spreads always seem to gloss over the years of trauma at home, their current malnourishment and diseases, their addictions and the choices they lead to, all adding up to very bad ends for kids trapped in very bleak places. In fact, I once dated a girl who’d just gotten off the street. She’d spent years jumping from train to train, and even danced for George Clinton for a few gigs (okay okay; she claimed). Of course, she was also given to ending sentences with phrases like, “and that’s the night I almost died and had to leave New Orleans, but were not going to talk about that,” and couldn’t stay in rooms with TVs on because “the drone’s driving me mad,” so it was pretty obvious this girl was working through her issues, and even off the street and working a job still had a lot of baggage to deal with.

    All this being said, I don’t think we should stop making movies that look at poverty, or prejudge movies that add magic realism to the mix. There is value to talking about these realities through through storytelling, and it could be that I’ll side more with Vern than Chuck when the credits role. At this point I saw an opportunity to climb up on my soapbox, and I thank you all for letting me get it out of my system. I’ll end by saying that I’m psyched to see this movie, and hope for the best.

  6. I’ve mostly kept my lip bit on this one because so many people loved it and I didn’t like it. At all. Completely mystified me (and, I was happy to find out, a handful of my friends) and not in a good way. But it struck a chord with a lot of people and I don’t want to piss on their parade. I think my wife was actually kind of annoyed when we left the theater and she was deeply moved and I was like “what the fuck was that about?”

    But yeah. Thought the visual style was ugly and distracting. Did not appreciate the romanticism of poverty and mental illness. Was seriously NOT impressed with the performances (I mean, it’s great that that mush mouthed little girl can yell things with confidence, but all that does it put her on the level of Renee Zelweger’s obnoxious performance in COLD MOUNTAIN). Didn’t think the magic realism worked. Found myself mainly confused and unmoved by all the seeming Katrina subtext, and found myself weirdly, vaguely appalled by the emotional arc of the film (I guess it’s a good thing that she lives with her irresponsible, mentally ill, sorta terrorist father?)

    So, yeah. Didn’t get it. Glad others loved it, but not for me I guess.

  7. I’ll split the difference and say that this one was one of the most impressive films I saw this year and it also bored me to a near catatonic state. The performances are obviously great, and I deeply admire the rich, textured, and unique world the filmmakers have created. In fact, I think I could easily watch this as a slice-of-life film and find it really fascinating. Unfortunately, the filmmakers chose to make it more of a narrative, journey film, but with a complete ambivalence to how any of this should be interpreted. Are we supposed to like Link and think he’s right? Are we supposed to think this whole thing is a mess and Husbpuppy needs to get the fuck out? The film, as I see it, is completely nonjudgemental, but that just means the drama never develops. The filmmakers never seem to particularly care about any of the narrative developments we see, so consequently neither do we. It’s interesting to watch, but I found it completely unmoving. If they were going with a completely neutral approach, they would have been better off not cramming so many story points in there.

  8. The original Paul

    January 4th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I didn’t think the movie romanticised poverty. I do agree with some of Mouth’s criticisms though. As well as Dan’s. Not all. I think the semi-abusive relationship between the father / daughter is kind of the point of the movie – I was never quite sure how far the guy would go, and how much was love and how much was anger / pain.

    Nonetheless, if it hadn’t have been for the terrible, terrible camerawork, I would’ve said this was good to very good. As it is, it’s the only movie this year (including “Bourne”) that made me want to throw up. Literally throw up. Not metaphorically. Watching up close on a big screen was like being in a car with no suspension going over rocks for about two hours straight.

    And for the life of me I don’t see what’s supposed to be “subtextual” about the Katrina thing. Subtext argues subtlety, or at least a lack of overtness. Just because the name “Katrina” isn’t mentioned doesn’t mean that this is the case, folks; for the life of me I don’t get what’s supposed to be “subtle” about showing shots of melting glaciers whenever something bad happens. There’s a couple of scenes that are more overtly about the impact of modern life, and those ones are probably the worst scenes in the movie (there’s an early scene I remember where Hushpuppy goes to the levee with her father and he points out the “ugly stuff” that’s actually parts of power transformers, etc, that particularly stuck with me as seeming out-of-place).

  9. The original Paul

    January 4th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Also agree with Mr Subtlety. Hell, agree with pretty much everybody it seems. There were way too many things that are suggested but never really developed.

  10. The original Paul

    January 4th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    And who the heck says this was supposed to be magical / uplifting? That was NOT the impression I got, to put it mildly. To me it was a story of a group of people who are so resistant to modern life that they’d rather die at the hands of their loved ones than accept treatment.

  11. The original Paul

    January 4th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    At the risk of being justifiably banned as a spambot, I’ll add one more thing: I disagree with Mouth completely on the idea that the main characters in this film are the “heroes”, or are in any way heroic. I don’t think the filmmakers ever intended that. Maybe the critics were so excited at finding a film about a “subculture” that doesn’t have a white outsider played by Julia Styles or Emma Stone shoehorned in for the “audience viewpoint” that they missed the point that this is a film that’s deeply, deeply critical of its subjects. That scene in the medical facility, for example, is played from the point of view of the main characters, who are in many ways oblivious to the reactions of the doctors. That doesn’t mean that those reactions aren’t shown (they are) or that the audience has to react the same way.

  12. The original Paul

    January 4th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Ok, before I asked about who said this was “magical”, I probably should have checked the box art.

  13. Paul, I didn’t say “heroes.” I just described a certain E.T.-esque part where it seemed to be suggested that they were the victims, or “good guys” compared to the medical workers’ “bad guys.”

    Agreed with Dan P, Mr. Subtlety, and others who make different observations, and not all negative points. It’s been difficult for me to articulate what’s wrong with this thing, and, like our friend Prestwich, I held back for a long time since I didn’t want to piss on others’ opinions, but I think it bothers me that, like Subtlety said, it’s so ambivalent & nonjudgmental despite daring to touch on certain issues that shouldn’t be treated with ambivalence, especially not if, like Mr. S says, you’re gonna do a journey-narrative with a particular & stylized p-o-v. The film’s built-in shield against this criticism is that that p-o-v is that of a little kid, ergo it’s okay if the movie’s nonsensical, dismissive, shallow p-o-v is confusing, limitedly exploratory, & ambivalent.

    For me, I wanted there to be something useful or thoughtful on the topic of global warming and/or rising sea levels and/or Katrina. Anything — just a visual nod to the issue, a reference that’s not immediately thrown away into dream-world nonsense or distorted into neutrality & ambivalence. Anything thematically meaty so we don’t have to keep focusing instead on the characters I either don’t care about or think are monsters. That’s just one option that would have made the movie more memorable, meaningful, maybe even magical in my political calculations. Instead, the movie sort of raises these points and does absolutely nothing with them, except turn them into monster-dream-hallucinations and use them as a crutch to support the noble real-ness of the horrendous individuals in the Bathtub.

    I know it’s not fair to bemoan something’s absence or to criticize a movie for something that wasn’t there, and that’s not my intent even though I just wrote a paragraph that suggests otherwise, but I think it’s much crazier that people can watch BEASTS, evidently ignore the fact that the audience is hanging out with a disgusting populace of drunken rednecks for 90 minutes, and call it beautiful or magical.

    Vern’s review is solid, though. I don’t disagree with much, per se. During BEASTS (which I watched without having read a single word of any reviews), I guess I was just unable to turn off the politics & cynicism constantly fucking with my suspension of disbelief.

  14. I really liked it up until the medical clinic scenes. It almost felt like an alternate reality up to that point so those scenes really sucked the magic out of it, and made the inclusion of the beasts just seem trite. Did we need it underlined that they were just in the little girl’s head?

    Still one of my favorite films of the year. Also Vern, when are you going to review some more Terrence Malick movies (seeing as you loved TREE OF LIFE so much)? The little girl narrator in this film is straight out of DAYS OF HEAVEN.

  15. Nabroleon Dynamite

    January 4th, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    I can’t wait to see this! Oh well, I just rented Looper. Peace!!

  16. This was a beautiful and moving movie. It’s not as emotional as SKYFALL or DJANGO UNCHAINED, but I found myself a sap for this one all the same.

  17. I really enjoyed this, particularly for the actors. Vern, I have seen Zero Dark Thirty, but I still think I’d pick this little girl as the best actress of the year. (I have not seen the one where Anne Hathaway cries and sings, though). I’d also probably at least nominate the father. Hell, if this ends up being his only career role, I’d hand him the award.

    I understand every criticism people have about this movie and would normally have many of the exact same complaints but, for whatever reason, I sort of got lost in its world and kind of just went with it. I thought of it as a surreal twist on reality. It reminded me a little bit of Where the Wild Things Are, except that this girl was in a reality that was not quite on either side of that bedroom wall.

    Anyway, totally understand why people didn’t like this and if I had known anything about it other than the poster and the show time when I was at the theater with my mom, I probably would haven’t even checked it out. But, I’m glad I did.

    And yeah, the camera was too damn shakey.

  18. You just HAD to mention Zero Dark Thirty, eh Vern? FYI, it’s now playing downtown at the Meridian 16 on several screens. I saw it there yesterday. Allow me to share a few impressions:

    WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!! (“Driver, Danny…. nnnnuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuh!”):
    1.) Some critics have complained that the running time was excessive, but it didn’t seem that way to me. The raid on the Bin Laden compound begins at the 1:55 mark, but very little that precedes it seems extraneous or poorly paced. For a movie with a running time of 2:37, it zipped right along.
    2.) I wasn’t entirely sold on Jessica Chastain going into this movie, and I’m still not. The character she’s playing is clearly a driven, Type A personality, and while Chastain fortunately never quite seems to go OTT and embody a fanatic, her whole acting style is passive rather that aggressive. Something about it doesn’t feel right.
    3.) Added to which, the character she’s playing is an actual CIA analyst whose role, while integral to the effort that helped locate Bin Laden, is vastly exaggerated here. I get the whole Dogged Pursuit of Bin Laden aspect. But as written, she’s portrayed as the One True Maverick who must rattle her bureaucratic cage to get shit done and push the whole effort forward… which is very far from the truth (I recommend reading Peter L. Bergen’s excellent book Manhunt for a full account of the convergence of U.S. Intelligence personnel who contributed to finding Bin Laden).
    4.) Chastain aside, this is an ensemble movie, and the one actor who really stands out is Jason Clarke (the Older Brother from Lawless Who Isn’t Tom Hardy). He comes across as a fully realized character among ciphers; a CIA interrogator who’s very good at his job but underneath it doesn’t seem at all at peace with it. Jam on it, mate.
    5.) Sometime around the movie’s midpoint, several of the movie’s characters (beginning with Chastain) start dropping F-Bombs as their conversations grow tense, which is understandable. But it all happens in this 15-minute cluster, and it’s too pronounced and a bit distracting. No biggie, but it could’ve been gotten around.
    6.) The raid on the Bin Laden compound in the movie, as it plays out, is nearly identical to the first-person account given by Navy SEAL Mark Owen in his book No Easy Day: The Autobiography Of A Navy Seal. According to Owen, from the time of arrival to Bin Laden’s death took 15 minutes, and that’s EXACTLY how long it takes in the movie (nicely done, Miss Bigelow). The remaining 23 minutes of the actual raid are condensed to about 10-12 minutes. The entire raid sequence feels all too real, with little or no taint of embellishment. It’s the movie’s crown jewel.

    So…… best movie of 2012? I wouldn’t quite go that far. I felt slightly let down, what with the pedigree of Kathryn Bigelow & Mark Boal, and familiar territory on the heels of The Hurt Locker (which IMO deserved ALL of its Oscars, and maybe forgot one as far as Jeremy Renner’s performance went). Still, well worth a look, and I look forward to reading about how the rest of you react to it.

  19. Larry,
    I’ll keep it very quick. I liked Zero Dark Thirty but not as much as I hoped or expected.

  20. Vern, I am morbidly intrigued to read your review of “Les Miserables” (aka the one where Anne Hathaway cries and sings). Can you take one for the team and suffer through it?

  21. I mean, it features Gladiator, Wolverine, Catwoman, and Borat, after all.

  22. Chuck: I might, ’cause I figure it will be nominated for best picture and I’ll have seen most of the other ones and then I’ll get all completist about it. Then again it’s getting pretty bad reviews, but it seems like a serious musical from the director of a recent best picture winner gets a pity nomination at least.

    But this year Russell Crowe isn’t Gladiator, he’s Jack Knife.

  23. The original Paul

    January 5th, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Mouth – I’m not really disagreeing with you. Not at all really. I just think get the impression that you’re not giving the filmmakers enough credit for giving the audience enough credit, if that makes any sense. I think the marketing of the movie might have wanted you to think it was a “magical journey” along the lines of the (far far superior) “Pan’s Labyrinth”, but I don’t think that was ever the filmmakers’ intent. I don’t think that what they DID intend necessarily worked, but I maybe give them more credit than you do in terms of what they were trying to achieve.

    And I never got the impression that the medical workers were the “bad guys”, just that here were two groups of people that didn’t understand each other. We’re seeing the whole scene through the eyes of the bathtub residents, don’t forget. What one side sees as kindness, the other side sees as an imposition; but just because the story’s told from the point of view of that second side, doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to (or are even meant to) accept it as such. Again, the biggest tip-off for me was when Wink refuses medical treatment without ever really considering what it would mean for him and his daughter. That – and blowing up the levee, and some abusive moments – point to a far more flawed character than he’d maybe have you believe.

    That said, I think I agree with you a lot more than I disagree. The environmentalist stuff in particular just annoyed me. I didn’t think it was really saying anything profound, and it just came off as really pointless and pretentious. I didn’t like the visual style of the movie and – yet again, I will keep harping on this point because without it I think I would’ve enjoyed the movie – the camerawork was unforgiveably atrocious. Easily the worst I’ve seen this year, and I’ve seen “The Grey”, “Hunger Games”, and the ending of “Bourne Legacy”. I think this film, even more than films like “Forgiveness of Blood” or last year’s “The Lincoln Lawyer”, seem to signal that we’re entering an era where not just the big blockbuster but the small arthouse flick is embracing the more “naturalistic” style of camerawork.

    What i don’t think they “get” is that most people see these films – especially ones like this and “Forgiveness” – close-up on small cinema screens, not in big multiplexes. And what might be bearable on a giant screen that’s seventy feet away from you can give you motion sickness when you’re fifteen feet away from a ten-foot-high screen in a small room. This is why I think the problem is actually WORSE than shakycam in action movies. I feel as though I want warnings on the cinema doors statigng: “Warning, uses hand-held camera” so I know to avoid this stuff. It literally has got that bad.

    I mean, am I the only person who has a problem with this? Do you guys mostly see films on larger screens, so are relatively unaffected? Or have you noticed this trend as well? What are your thoughts?

  24. Vern, it’s as bad as you’ve heard and the second half is a slog to get through. But it has some good qualities and its often bad in interesting ways, so at least it’s good for conversation (as long as you have friends who aren’t afraid to watch a musical because they don’t want to perceived as gay).

  25. Wow, this was one of the most stupid movies I`ve ever endured. Guess I learned that we should leave poor people alone and respect that they are different (aka alcoholic, abusive and mentally ill). This seemed like the ignorant and political correct version of Tideland. An uplifting portrayal of poverty and how it connects to the rest of the universe and stuff. With pointless mega-pigs.

  26. C’mon now, dna, the mega-pigs were pretty great. One of the few artsy-symbolic touches, that element of literalness vis-a-vis lyricism, that actually works in the film.

    I despise BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD as much as anyone, but we can’t be shooting down first-time feature filmmakers for their bold inclusion of awesome practical visual effects & pig creatures.


    I like giant man-eating pigs as much as the next fella, but I didn`t get why hushpuppy suddenly stopped being afraid of them. How did she suddenly turn into princess Mononoke?

  28. Saw this Friday and was afraid I was the only person in the world baffled by the acclaim. I asked a new friend yesterday why she liked the movie so much. She thought it was an eye-opener to poverty (that she had witnessed but thought the rest of us hadn’t, I guess.)

    Seriously, what’s the point of this? Is it triumphant or even worthy of respect that a second-grader emotionally gets through the death of her abusive, irresponsible parent? And that she gets to continue with a mentally ill, dynamite-toting community that lets kids run around holding fireworks and live in solo shacks before they’re burned down by blowtorch cookery? When the public services people rousted Hushpuppy I was like, “Thank God…”.

  29. You’re not alone, Li. There are a few of us. Like KILL LIST, I’m happy BEASTS makes people happy but I kind of see through it. But I don’t want to bring down the party or anything. :)

  30. Franchise Fred, you’ve put your finger on the film lover’s burden – when you’ve got a strong opinion that goes counter to someone else’s, do you introduce it gently, or not at all? I feel OK busting on something like Beasts here because of the community and because Beasts is doing just fine without a sticker from me … but even though I was fired up about the movie when I spoke with this girl, I was pretty delicate so as to not risk cheapening her experience. Feels like sneezing on someone’s sacred text.

  31. Oops – meant the Vern community, not the community in the movie.

    The question stands though. I guess most people like or dislike movies instinctively, so they don’t enjoy analyzing movies, especially when it’s effort that might corrupt their experience.

  32. – Li

    I get that. I never analyse movies that make a huge emotional impact on me. I`m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been so disturbed by Southern Beasts if it hadn’t been declared a masterpiece by almost every reviewer I have read. I had a similar experience with Precious. It´s well-meaning, but stupid movies, that tries to say something important about topics they know absolutely nothing about. Magic realism and poverty, abuse, mental illness etc is a tricky mix and I find it almost irresponsible when obnoxious directors try to to make uplifting oscar-bait about stuff that means life and death to a lot of people.

    I can`t stop comparing it to Tideland, which imo was a movie that set out to do the same as Southern Beast, but actually succeeded, only to be widely despised. Maybe because it had a pretty harrowing ending, which insinuated that poverty, abuse and mental illness had actually traumatised the main-character and warped her fragile little mind.

  33. Nabroleon Dynamite

    January 22nd, 2013 at 8:11 am

    DNA. Tideland was awesome.

  34. I had some problems with Beasts, but my take on the film is that rather than dismiss it as poverty porn, I see the lifestyle of the people of the bathtub as more akin to indigenous peoples. They had very little use for the trappings of modern society and their values were more akin to tribal groups. They looked out for each other and had no profit seeking motivations, they were more subsistence, and community oriented, which is a hallmark of non-capitalistic modalities. Their way of life was threatened though with encroachment and the women leaving to be prostitutes on the oil rig – which seemed to be the ONLY economic opportunity available – this exploitation, aside from the Katrina global warming etc, was one of the biggest indicator of the losses the modern world was incurring to their way of life.

    My favourite part would have to be when the girls seek out their moms. I really struck me then, the terrible cost poverty exacts on kids. Family is the earth children and all of society by extension, grow in, and when society requires that by simple chance of birth, that POOR people, usually brown kids, that their nurturing is tossed aside and sacrificed so the parents can wage slave for survival? Something is very wrong with that picture. So yeah, I liked it. I think it had a social justice spine running through it.

  35. Lots of people reading this as a libertarian screed, where the white people want to kidnap the poor people and turn them into zombies in their forced-vaccination clinics.

    But that’s not what was going on. It’s called The Bathtub because it’s where you are when you are a child. The movie is using being poor and isolated as a metaphor for childhood. Wink, recall, WANTS to stay in the clinic, which you could read as either A) He’s going against his own philosophy and pussying out of stuff, or B) He wants to grow the fuck up (accept that he needs treatment and leave the bathtub). Either way the culture he lived in and helped solidify (he’s film’s most vocal proponent of Beasting It) pulls him back in.

    Of course this sort of self-perpetuating system of ideals really happens in isolated, backwater cultures and is why you have hicks beating their kids to death for being left handed and shit like that.

    So yeah I thought there was some questionable politics at work in the film, but saying it’s an anti-Obamacare film seems like a simplification to me. But maybe favorable to how I ended up interpreting it. I mean I think it’s all trying to be an allegory for a daughter/father relationship, and that’s fine, but it ends up sticking its foot in its mouth by the way it goes about setting up the allegory.

    Where I strongly disagree with the Vern community is on the Camerawork. The set and setting were so off-kilter and haphazard (to an inspired and mind-blowing degree) and the camerawyrk augments it. And I know having it all be from Hushpuppy’s perspective is sort of a lame excuse for the film to have poorly developed political views, but the way it is shot sells me on it being from her perspective utterly.

    The comparisons to Tideland are totally spot on. Tideland meets Winter’s Bone. Should have been more Tideland meets Gummo, and we’d all have gone home happy.

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