Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

January 11, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
93 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Benh Zeitlin
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry

beasts-souther-wild-poster

Grade: A

“Magical realism” is the perfect two words than can be used to describe this small film. But don’t let the untrained actors or the $1.8 million budget fool you, because this little film has an enormous amount of power and heart.

Set off the coast of Louisiana in a small, poor community that our protagonist and narrator calls “The Bathtub,” the people who make up the community live in shacks that are barely standing and spend the majority of their day drinking, eating, and taking care of one another. It’s a very close-knit group of survivors and it’s clear they don’t want any help from the “outsiders.”

Hushpuppy is the six-year-old girl whose eyes we see the film through. She lives with her dad, Wink, who is a tough, controlling man but also very protective of Hushpuppy. During a session at school, her teacher tells her about the myth of the Aurochs, which are giant horned beasts that are frozen in ice caps that are melting. Throughout the film we see a pack of Aurochs trekking through the lands.

The film takes an all-too familiar turn when a terrible storm hits, flooding the entire community and destroying everyone’s homes. Wink and Hushpuppy travel on their makeshift raft and spend the next few days with friends. There is something about a person’s home that you can never tear away from them, no matter how rough things get on the outside world. The people from The Bathtub display their passion for their lives and do everything they can to salvage what’s left of their community.

Dwight Henry is the man who plays Wink and gives a natural and genuine performance as a dad who is sick and tries to teach his daughter survival skills before he dies. But it’s Quvenzhane Wallis who gives a remarkable performance as the fearless child in a broken time. Her understanding of the world she lives in is just one of the many intriguing aspects about her character, Hushpuppy. She listens to the beating heart of animals and people, she lets out a high-pitch scream for her mother whom she’s constantly searching for, and she’s able to stare down the towering Aurochs. There is something majestic about Wallis’ performance and in the same light, the whole movie is majestic.

First time director Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar have constructed a film that provides a true experience of being surprised by the film, its filmmakers, and its actors. While Beasts of the Southern Wild isn’t heavy on plot, it sure is great in pulling us into the world of its characters with a dash of the child’s imagination. It’s rare to watch a film that deeply moves you from a story that is completely foreign and unique. From a year of real-life dramas and quick-paced thrillers, it’s refreshing that there is still magic where a small movie could sweep an audience from its feet into a standing ovation. This is that film.

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The 85th Annual Academy Awards Nominations

January 10, 2013

oscar-statues

So the Oscar nominations were just announced by Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone, and needless to say there were plenty of surprises. This was one great year of film and many of the categories were crowded so everyone knew there were going to be snubs, but damn, I’m still shocked at how the Academy voted here. I can’t go on without first commenting on probably the most important and the most crowded category: Best Director.

Best Director:

  • Michael Hanake (Amour)
  • Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
  • David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
  • Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Just WOW. I doubt ANYONE had these five nominees predicted for this category, because it excludes two huge names that were practically considered locks for Best Director. These include Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck for Argo. Both of those two films have been all the talk leading up to these nominations and have been the movies that have been said are serious threats to Lincoln for Best Picture. Well, not anymore! The Best Director category has always been a great precursor to what film is going to win Best Picture. If that remains true, then there is no doubt in my mind that Lincoln is the front-runner and will most likely win both Best Director for Steven Spielberg and Best Picture. Although, there is the outside chance that Best Director and Best Picture will split.

To me, the biggest surprise was Benh Zeitlin receiving a nomination for Beasts of the Southern Wild, a small independent gem that I had just “sneaking in” for Best Picture. But with this nomination, Beasts of the Southern Wild bumps itself up to an actual potential upset candidate. The same goes for Silver Linings Playbook and Amour, two films that I really didn’t think would crack the Best Director category. With all of these surprises, that simply means directors got snubbed including Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), and Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master).

So what does this mean? Well, while I’m glad Ang Lee and the others got their recognition, all of this really just proves how Lincoln is going to sweep this year’s Oscars. Hey, can’t say I didn’t tell you so months ago.

Best Picture:

  • Amour
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

Since the rule change, it’s kind of exciting to try and predict how many films are going to be nominated for Best Picture. This year, there was a consensus that nine films would receive nominations and that was right. The only real surprise out of the nine films was Amour receiving a nomination, but then again now since Haneke and Riva in the mix, it’s a serious contender. But overall, this is a very good group of films nominated and you can’t say otherwise.

Best Actor:

  • Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
  • Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
  • Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
  • Denzel Washington (Flight)

No big surprises here, although after what Joaquin Phoenix said I was a bit worried that would affect his chances to get nominated. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think Bradley Cooper’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook was that great, but Silver Linings Playbook is obviously loved by the Academy, so his nomination makes sense. Unfortunately this leaves out John Hawkes who gave a challenging and spectacular performance in The Sessions.

Best Actress:

  • Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
  • Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  • Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

There were really no surprises here, although I did predict Marion Cotillard to get a nomination for Rust and Bone. Just a note: Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest Best Actress nomination at 85 years old and Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest at 9 years old (she was 6 years old when she shot the film). Incredible!

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Alan Arkin (Argo)
  • Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
  • Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
  • Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Damn! I almost had one category predicted correctly! Instead of Christoph Waltz I included Javier Bardem (Skyfall). Like Emma Stone said after she announced the nominations, all of these actors have won an Oscar before.

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Amy Adams (The Master)
  • Sally Field (Lincoln)
  • Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
  • Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
  • Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Only one minor surprise here and that was Jacki Weaver’s nomination.

Best Original Screenplay:

  • Michael Haneke (Amour)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
  • John Gatins (Flight)
  • Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
  • Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)

Once again I was 4/5 with my predictions. I thought Rian Johnson was going to get in for his screenplay for Looper, but John Gatins got in instead. I have no problem with that because Flight was a better film that Looper. Just looking at these nominees and you get a lot of screenwriting heavyweights.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

  • Chris Terrio (Argo)
  • Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  • David Magee (Life of Pi)
  • Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
  • David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

There’s no surprise here since all of these films are contenders for Best Picture. I was hoping that Stephen Chbosky was going to receive a nomination for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but that was more hopeful than anything.

I’m just going to list the rest of the nominees. Once again, the Best Director category really shines a light to how the Oscars could potentially have a Lincoln sweep. With 12 total nominations, it’s hard to imagine Lincoln walking away with anything less than 7 awards.

Best Animated Feature:

  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • ParaNorman
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  • Wreck-It Ralph

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Amour (Austria)
  • War Witch (Canada)
  • No (Chile)
  • A Royal Affair (Denmark)
  • Kon-Tiki (Norway)

Best Achievement in Cinematography:

  • Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina)
  • Robert Richardson (Django Unchained)
  • Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)
  • Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln)
  • Roger Deakins (Skyfall)

Best Achievement in Editing

  • William Goldenberg (Argo)
  • Tim Squyres (Life of Pi)
  • Michael Kahn (Lincoln)
  • Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers (Silvers Linings Playbook)
  • William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor (Zero Dark Thirty)

Best Achievement in Production Design

  • Anna Karenina
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Les Misérables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln

Best Achievement in Costume Design

  • Anna Karenina
  • Les Misérables
  • Lincoln
  • Mirror Mirror
  • Snow White and the Huntsman

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Hitchcock
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Les Misérables

Best Original Score

  • Anna Karenina
  • Argo
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Skyfall

Best Original Song

  • “Before My Time” (Chasing Ice)
  • “Suddenly” (Les Misérables)
  • “Pi’s Lullaby” (Life of Pi)
  • “Skyfall: (Skyfall)
  • “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” (Ted)

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

  • Argo
  • Les Misérables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Skyfall

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

  • Argo
  • Django Unchained
  • Life of Pi
  • Skyfall
  • Zero Dark Thirty

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

  • The Avengers
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Life of Pi
  • Prometheus
  • Snow White and the Huntsman

Best Documentary, Features

  • 5 Broken Cameras
  • The Gatekeepers
  • How to Survive a Plague
  • The Invisible War
  • Searching for Sugar Man

Best Documentary, Short Subject

  • Inocente
  • Kings Point
  • Mondays at Racine
  • Open Heart
  • Redemption

Best Short Film, Animated

  • Adam and Dog
  • Fresh Guacamole
  • Head Over Heels
  • Paperman
  • The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare

Best Short Film, Live Action

  • Asad
  • Buzkashi Boys
  • Curfew
  • Death of a Shadow
  • Henry

Early Oscar Chatter

September 18, 2012

It’s the middle of September and in the movie world that means that the chatter for awards season is slowly getting louder. From a whisper to a polite noise, word-of-mouth is beginning to make its way around the entertainment world and through the blogosphere. I’m no different. Every single day we get closer to The Oscars, I get more and more excited. While this summer contained plenty of summer hits and blockbusters, only a few indie films stood out that can really be considered Oscar-worthy. Those films include Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild. There is also The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s conclusion to the darker Batman-trilogy and one that has really set the bar high for future superhero films. While many considered it a snub for The Dark Knight to be left off the list of nominees, there’s a chance for The Academy to make it up to Nolan, but will they bite?

Two films that are making a big splash in the early awards season are The Master and Silver Linings Playbook. Both films are directed by talented individuals who are no strangers to The Academy Awards, and both are on completely different sides of the movie spectrum. The Master is Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to There Will Be Blood and has been praised by critics even though a handful cannot explain exactly what the movie is about. Meanwhile, Silver Linings Playbook stars two very hot actors, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. But even though the film won the people’s choice award at Toronto, the fact it’s a dramatic comedy will hurt its chance as being a serious contender for Best Picture.

There are plenty of strong films that will end the year of 2012 and will most definitely result in an intriguing Academy Awards. Right now, everything is still up in the air. There are a handful of movies everyone expects to be in the running for Best Picture and there will certainly be some surprises. For now, here is my early overview of how I see things playing out.

Front-runners:
– Lincoln
– Argo
– The Master
– Les Miserables
– Silver Linings Playbook
– Django Unchained
– Beasts of the Southern Wild
– Anna Karenina

Second Tier:
– Amour
– Moonrise Kingdom
– Zero Dark Thirty
– Life of Pi
– Flight
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– The Impossible


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