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Beasts of the Southern Wild Discussion

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

Best movie of the year, so far. Everyone should make an effort to see this if it's playing anywhere near them.

I've heard it described as a tear-jerker, but I think that undersells it. It's certainly sad at times, yes, but I found it strangely empowering and life-affirming. Incredible mixture of imaginative fantasy and gritty realism, too. I can't believe this is someones first feature film; it feels so confident and uncompromising, the details so lived-in, the performances refreshingly honest and free of any kind of pretense. 

 

If anyone's seen it, let me know, I've got a couple of questions about some stuff that happens...

post #2 of 46

Saw this today and I agree with pretty much everything you said.  The film evoked a lot of different emotions, and you nailed it with your "great mixture of imaginative fantasy and gritty realism" comment.  Great, great stuff.  Still mulling over it and probably will be for the next few days.  There are some mezmerizing shots throughout and the score was perfect.  Love the feeling I got today after leaving the theater knowing that was an hour and a half and nine bucks well spent.

post #3 of 46

Yes, just an incredibly assured debut by filmmaker and lead.  It's a shame that child actors always end up going crazy, as I've never seen a kid so young give such a commanding performance.  It was absolutely gorgeous to look at, like if Malick wore his heart a little closer to his sleeve.  And a wonderful score to boot.

 

Although I think I missed the entire point of the film, as someone behind me coughed and I couldn't hear what Hushpuppy said to the aurochs.  Help?

post #4 of 46
Thread Starter 

Argh, I'm forgetting the exact quote, but I thought she was referencing her dad. Something like "I need to take care of my people." 

 

My question had more to do with the sequence where her and the other girls find that boat and sail to the island. I get that the woman she meets is supposed to be a stand-in for Hushpuppy's mother, but it's also certainly possible that it is her mother in some idealized version of heaven. Which then, of course, leads me to think that the sequence doesn't actually happen.

The tough part of this movie is that it balance fantasy and reality so deftly that when the lines blur, it's sometimes difficult to tell what is supposed to be interpreted as the reality of the story and what's pure fantasy. 

The sequence in the hospital confused me slightly too; mostly that crash cut to Hushpuppy dressed in "proper" clothing getting chastised by some awful daycare woman. That was also the moment where I thought the movie was going to get preachy and off the rails. Thankfully, it didn't, but I still question if those shots are "real" or if it's just fear of a future projected in Hushpuppy's (or Wink's) imaginations. 

post #5 of 46

Parker, I got the same feeling about all the dreamlike activity that happens while Hushpuppy's father is ostensibly dying.  It has a make believe element to it, from the illness itself to the journey Hushpuppy takes.  I just want to say also, I saw this movie on Friday night and it completely took my breath away.  I've never seen anything like it.  From the beautiful poetry of the writing to the incredible visuals and unbelievably great acting, it's beyond perfect. 
 

post #6 of 46

This movie made me cry. Just a little, but do you know how often that happens? It doesn't. Yes, it's the best movie of the year so far.

post #7 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Schwartz View Post

Yes, just an incredibly assured debut by filmmaker and lead.  It's a shame that child actors always end up going crazy, as I've never seen a kid so young give such a commanding performance.  It was absolutely gorgeous to look at, like if Malick wore his heart a little closer to his sleeve.  And a wonderful score to boot.

 

Although I think I missed the entire point of the film, as someone behind me coughed and I couldn't hear what Hushpuppy said to the aurochs.  Help?

 

She said, "You're my friend, kind of."

post #8 of 46
Saw this the other night and loved it. There aren't that many movies that shoot for, let alone nail, what I'd consider the quintessential feel of Magical Realism, and that might be because it's easier to accept in text form, but this film does it.

And what an amazing, badass little girl.

This is a pretty minor sidenote compared to the film's stirring emotion and beautifully poetic nature and vivid sense of place, but I guess it ties into what an assured debut film it is: the Aurochs are really well realized. Loved the almost kaiju-esque scene of them plowing through an urban area, which had an extra-heightened, fantastical feel, but then the effects at the climax inserting them into more realistic scenery, interacting with real actors, was impressively seamless and convincing. Reminded me a little of Jonze's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, where even knowing they're effects, the quality of them and the tone of the film just makes them feel magical.
post #9 of 46
Thread Starter 

The quintessential feel of magical realism is a nice way to put it. The movie's style reminded me of Terry Gilliam's if he could learn to climb out of his own ass a little. And keep in mind, I love Gilliam.

post #10 of 46

I tasted a bit more Malick than Gilliam (maybe just due to the voice-over), but that's pretty goddamn rarified air for a first time director to be sure.

post #11 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

The sequence in the hospital confused me slightly too; mostly that crash cut to Hushpuppy dressed in "proper" clothing getting chastised by some awful daycare woman. That was also the moment where I thought the movie was going to get preachy and off the rails. Thankfully, it didn't, but I still question if those shots are "real" or if it's just fear of a future projected in Hushpuppy's (or Wink's) imaginations. 

 

I was a little confused by that as well.  I thought at first it was a flashback, but I think your interpretation holds more water.  Unlike the levees, zing!

post #12 of 46

Hate to say it, but I couldn't fully embrace this. It's very good, but for whatever reason, it just didn't stick with me much. I'm sure I'll be on the outside of this one.

post #13 of 46

Finally came to a theater near me.  Really enjoyed it.  Everyone is raving about Hushpuppy but I thought her father Wink was the highlight of the movie.  just don't see characters like him in a movie.  He feels like a real person.  Wasn't afraid to make him look bad, mean, and caring. 

 

I hope he gets more than an Independent Spirit Award nomination.

post #14 of 46

Such a wonderful moving little film.  I'm still blown away by how fully realized The Bathtub and its residents are.   I was hesitant to even bring up the comparison because the movie is very much its own thing, but tossing Malick's name into the discussion feels appropriate.  Malick, injected with a healthy dose of whimsy.

 

Regarding whats real and what isn't: the line between fantasy and reality really starts to blur as we learn more about Wink's illness.  I think its Wink's visions / fantasy that starts to bleed into the narrative as the movie progresses.  His fears (the weird classroom scene, with Hushpuppy completely removed from the Bathtub, her people, her 'family'), and and all the things he wants for her (finding peace and comfort in her mother, finding the strength to stand up to adversity and survive (the scene with the Aurochs), etc) all seem to be well represented within Hushpuppy's fantastical journey.

 

And enough can't be said about how incredible Quvenzhane Wallis is.  Can't wait to see this again.  

post #15 of 46
Thread Starter 

I don't know. I see your point about how things start to get stranger once Wink's sickness comes into focus, but things are pretty strange from the onset. The Bathtub itself is strange, and the movie seems very much told through Hushpuppy's point of view, so I'm not sure if it makes sense that the blurring of fantasy and reality are from Wink's ailing mindset. 

post #16 of 46
The film is narrated by Hushpuppy, it shows us things from her memory/imagination, she's in most scenes; if the film is meant to be from Wink's perspective they either did a terrible job or he has Godlike omniscience/omnipresence/omnipotence
post #17 of 46

I think that with a story that consciously employing magical realism, it does it a disservice to try to carve out the fantastical elements in order to discern the "real" narrative underneath.  

post #18 of 46

Just saw this.  I'm still digesting, but I agree with the majority in this thread.  What a beautiful, magical, fully-realized vision this film is.  And probably the most emotionally affecting film I've seen so far this year.  I do think it's a mistake to try to separate the narrative into "reality" and "fantasy", if only because the magical elements feel so thoroughly entwined throughout the whole film.  Whether or not what we see is real or not doesn't really matter.  It's the story as Hushpuppy perceived it, so it's the story as we need to see it.

post #19 of 46
Thread Starter 

To clarify, I think the entire thing is a fantasy, so I agree that separating out what is "real" and what isn't seems besides the point. But there were particular times in the narrative that seemed to be more figments of Hushpuppy's imagination (or possibly, in the case of the hospital scene, Wink's). I don't think it's crucial to point out the differences in those scenes, I don't think the movies success depends on what you interpret as real and what you don't, but I think it's interesting enough to think about and discuss without saying "everything is fantasy, just go with it." Especially with the hospital scene; that isn't fantasy in the magical realist way the rest of the movie falls into; it seems to be a warning, a nightmare, a prophecy to try and correct before it's too late. I'm curious to see if people thought it really happened or if it was something Wink or Hushpuppy didn't want to happen.

post #20 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

Especially with the hospital scene; that isn't fantasy in the magical realist way the rest of the movie falls into; it seems to be a warning, a nightmare, a prophecy to try and correct before it's too late. I'm curious to see if people thought it really happened or if it was something Wink or Hushpuppy didn't want to happen.

 

The scenes in the hospital are so cold and whimsy-free.  More so than the hospital scene - which I think does happen in one form or another - was that scene with Hushpuppy in the school-girl outfit getting scolded by a teacher really stands out to me.  Its just so disjointed from everything else; not really sure what to make of it, except that its not what Wink wants for his little girl.    

 

Anyway, I'm fine just going with it.  Ultimately it doesn't matter, and these aren't hangups or nitpicks that take away from my enjoyment in the slightest.  Hope that's not how I was coming across earlier. 

post #21 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzy dunlop View PostMore so than the hospital scene - which I think does happen in one form or another - was that scene with Hushpuppy in the school-girl outfit getting scolded by a teacher really stands out to me.  Its just so disjointed from everything else; not really sure what to make of it, except that its not what Wink wants for his little girl.

 

I see what you mean, and while the sudden vision of Hushpuppy cleaned and dressed up was startling, it honestly didn't occur to me that it was any less real than anything else we were seeing.  I took it more as a time jump - I just figured they'd probably been there for a few days at that point.  I think you can even see the other girls from the Bathtub in the scene causing trouble.  Of course, the implication that it's a vision of the future Wink doesn't want for her is still there, either way.

post #22 of 46
Best film I've seen since Moonrise Kingdom.
post #23 of 46

Saw it this weekend. Really, really liked it. Maybe loved it.

 

My take is that the wall between "reality" and "fantasy" in the mind of a child, in this case Hushpuppy, doesn't exist. It's not until we get older that the wall comes up. Mix into it the fact that she knows her father is dying, it may be an more-enhanced-then-usual coping mechanism on her part. So there is no "what's fantasy/reality" when it comes to this tale, because it's all Hushpuppy's reality. The big moment (of many) that really got me was the smash but to the crumbling glacier, with the knowledge of the melting icecaps and The Aurochs still top-of-mind for her. I felt so scared for her. It's the end of the world, and her father is dying.

 

But I don't want to get too clinical with this, because the entire movie is such a glorious chronicle of life in all its beauty and ugliness—from the most grand cosmic wheel-of-symbiotic-existence to the small but vital bonds we form between those we love—that dissecting it on terms of "what's real?" is just too much of a disservice. This film is so rich in its themes of life, community, storytelling, significance and insignificance that it FEELS like you're being told a huge, sweeping fable, while the story itself is very small. But it's everything to Hushpuppy; and in turn, to us.

 

Magical realism indeed.

post #24 of 46

I saw it this weekend.  Somehow this film didn't really speak to me.  My GF on the other hand cried at least twice, so I guess maybe I just wasn't on the same wavelength.

 

I also agree that the hospital felt kind of disjointed.  The sudden transition to the sterile environment and technology felt really jarring to me.  I can get that the director wanted some sort of impact since it is sort of a "nightmare" sequence, but I think the transition was too abrupt.

 

Still, there is no denying the amazing talent on display, both from the director and from the kid actress playing Hushpuppy.  It was nothing less than an amazing debut effort and the director gets my full respect for it.

 

That said, I don't think I would revisit this one.

post #25 of 46

I fucking loved this movie, and am having a hard time thinking of anything even wrong with it. Maybe it reaches for some existential themes at the end which are sort of beyond it (the "big, big universe" stuff)...? Maybe the dying father thing is a little too mawkish? I dunno, because even if those are flaws they don't really bother me. Easily the best movie of the year so far, and so refreshing after such a generally shitty summer for film.

post #26 of 46

I've linked to Scott Ashlin's 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting before, it's really a great site. He's been reviewing more contemporary movies lately, and he just did a great one for this movie. I didn't even think of it as a post-apocalypse movie, but it totally fits.
 

post #27 of 46

As my post right there says, I loved this movie, but this article by bell hooks has sort of dampened my enthusiasm. She's not entirely right, but she is partially right, and certainly woke me up to the fact that this movie's themes are a little more suspect than I at first believed. I still like the movie, but I guess I just like it less?

 

http://newblackman.blogspot.ca/2012/09/bell-hooks-no-love-in-wild.html

post #28 of 46
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JMulder View Post

As my post right there says, I loved this movie, but this article by bell hooks has sort of dampened my enthusiasm. She's not entirely right, but she is partially right, and certainly woke me up to the fact that this movie's themes are a little more suspect than I at first believed. I still like the movie, but I guess I just like it less?

 

http://newblackman.blogspot.ca/2012/09/bell-hooks-no-love-in-wild.html

 

I read that a few days ago, and I agree it's a well written comment about the movie. I understand where she's coming from, and far be it from me to argue with her about something that she has authority on and I don't. Her complaints are rooted directly with the racial representations, and while that's perfectly valid, I don't think it makes the themes anymore suspect. I ultimately think hooks has a hard time reading the film as a fantasy. 

post #29 of 46

I think the fantasy might even make it worse, as it ends up being a sort of distancing device -- because the movie feels so much like a myth or creation story or whatever, the undercurrent of primitivism is made even more powerful, while the fact that Hushpuppy is basically being abused doesn't seem nearly as traumatically "real" as it would without the fairy tale tone. This could be read as a boon or hinderance to the film, I guess.

post #30 of 46
Thread Starter 

The movie came out on DVD/Blu-Ray yesterday and it's available all over the place; on demand and streaming.


See it, people. And then talk about it here.

post #31 of 46

I'm...not sure how I managed to avoid talking about this film here. I saw it months ago. Months I tell you. I think I just forgot to throw in my two cents on it.

 

Put simply, Beasts is a great American film, one that also happens to be a great film about America, or at least a subsection of America. I think, though, that it's less interesting as a film about America than it is as a film about a young girl learning about change and loss and growing up through the lessons she learns about both. It's also a movie of contradictions and duality, but I think that-- along with the themes of change and loss-- plays perfectly and honestly into Beasts' natural setting/environment. Hushpuppy and her Bathtub fellows all hail from a world that's steeped in nature in a way our just isn't, and her fascination with the balance of the universe-- expressed through her voiceovers to us-- establish a base for the experiences she has throughout the rest of the film, ultimately tying right into her blossoming into adulthood. It's a cruel, wonderful, magical, terrible, beautiful, ugly world that she lives in, and her entire arc involves her developing the strength to handle it.

 

Loved the puppetry here, too. I want to see more creations like the Aurochs rampaging around in movies.

post #32 of 46
Thread Starter 

I keep thinking about the Bell Hooks review and part of what I dislike about I don't like about it is that not only does it not buy the film as a fantasy (and I get where she's coming from with that) but that she insists that a safe and stable world isn't a fantasy. We buy so readily into the illusion of safety and security that society provides to us, but the truth is we could probably all use a few of the lessons that Wink was teaching Hushpuppy (some more than others, obviously). That's not to say he's a great teacher (he's certainly not patient and has a temper) but he's her father and he genuinely cares about her. The fact that those concerns and that care are motivated and influenced by the world they choose to live in makes a lot of sense, frankly. 

The reason I really like the section of the film that takes place at the emergency center after the levee gets blown up is that it paints all that stuff not as a bad thing, necessarily, but as a system that frankly limits choice and limits freedom. The system thinks it knows best so the system instills its will on you. The Bathtub is freedom personified; it's pretty much societal chaos and I think it's natural to be scared (and equally fascinated) by a world depicted like that. But it's interesting how the movie is depicting real freedom in comparison with our idea of freedom, suggesting that there is a fantasy happening on both sides of the coin. 


Edited by Parker - 12/5/12 at 3:08pm
post #33 of 46

I just think Hooks has a very weird, very skewed, very conservative read on the film that the text doesn't at all support. In fact, I find the assertions of eroticism to be downright offensive, forget about the casual way in which Hooks accuses proponents of the film of either being racist or unwittingly perpetuating white supremacy. Frankly, I think Hooks buys into those constructs and others-- notably Miles White's argument that black males in films have been portrayed as "brutes" since the onset of their appearance in movies-- much more than most of the film's admirers do; I can't really deny the authority of some of Hooks' sources, but Beasts is infinitely more grey than she realizes. Yes, Wink is a brute. He's also holding back real, powerful emotions so as to stay "strong", but in the end he's reduced to shedding tears as he says goodbye to his daughter and eats his final meal. He's not so one-dimensional as Hooks' review argues, which makes me think that Hooks really has no interest in viewing the film through any unbiased lens.

 

Of course the thing that offends me most about her writing is the notion that a college professor speaking from a place of snide authority could have such inconsistent grammar and syntax. Seriously, I want to edit that entire piece so that it actually looks like an academic wrote it, and so that it bothers getting to the point faster.

post #34 of 46
Thread Starter 

I get where she's coming from for the most part. At the beginning of my screening, when Hushpuppy starts the fire inside her trailer and hides while it burns, there was laughter in the audience (and, I can't deny, from me as well). Not that the situation was funny, necessarily. I wasn't laughing at the character in the slightest. But I wasn't laughing with her because she certainly wasn't thinking it was funny. It's just such a subversive moment that illustrates just how chaotic their world is, hinting at the possibility hellish darkness associated with it, coming directly off the heels of the beautiful, whimsical opening sequence that illustrates the Bathtub as a heavenly place. It's such a stark and real contrast that you can't help be thrown by it, and when I get surprised by something like that, my first impulse is to laugh at just how insane it is.

I think Hooks views the representation in the film differently, and when a white audience laughs at the depiction of what could be argued blacks causing their own willful destruction via their own ignorance and stubbornness, that certainly can be read as problematic (especially when you couple it with the fact that this stems from the imagination of a white Jewish guy). I don't see it that way in the slightest, but I have the luxury of my feelings not being wrapped up with the history of how my race has been depicted on screen and in society in general. In short, I find it hard to criticize Hooks point because it's coming from a place that I could never truly begin to understand. 

post #35 of 46

She's arguing that Beasts plays into a number of racial tropes and stereotypes that have existed in art, literature, and film since forever ago, and while I won't discount that all of those things exist (or that it's unreasonable/without value to bring them up in a discussion of Beasts), I think she's wrong about how they play into the film's plot and narrative-- regardless of whether or not I understand where her criticisms are coming from on any substantial, personal level. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that the hospital scene is the pinprick that bursts the balloon of Hooks' argument. If Beasts is a film that plays into the white lies of myth, showing us a world where "black and white poor folks live together in utopian harmony", then the Bathtub residents' arrival at the hospital brings that fantasy to a screeching halt. That harmony is disrupted as white hospital staff try to assert authority over Wink and Hushpuppy, putting the former in the position of being the commanded for the first time in the film. It's a scene that reminds us that what the people of the Bathtub share isn't reality, but a wonderful dream that only this small population of humans get to experience.

 

Then there's this:

Quote:

Amid many real life tragedies of adult violation of children (i.e. Penn State,) violations that subject small children to verbal abuse, physical and psychological violence’ sexual assault, it is truly a surreal imagination that can look past the traumatic abuse Hushpuppy endures and be mesmerized and entertained by Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

Whereas on my end I think one has to bury their head in the sand not to see how the trauma and hardships necessarily blend together with the whimsy and magic to create a complete picture of life in the Bathtub.


Edited by agracru - 12/6/12 at 9:23am
post #36 of 46

The best thing I could probably say about this film is that, although it uses a potentially politically charged backdrop and imagery, by the middle I had moved beyond that as a viewer.  Beyond the references to Katrina or global warming.  Even beyond depictions of race, or poverty.  Ultimately, the struggle for survival in the grotesque, at times beautiful muck became just sort of universally human.  

 

I loved the little, dreamlike and strange details like the idea of a brothel for children who had lost their mothers.

 

Malick obviously came to mind, but more like, say, a Ramin Bahrani film inspired by Malick than a Malick film itself.

 

The worst thing I could say about the film, and I'd need to see it again (at least once) to be sure if I honestly felt this way, is perhaps it could have worked as a 30 minute short better than a 90 minute feature.  I'm sure somebody will want to jump on me for that, but it's just a feeling I had.  Not necessarily some grand judgment of the thing.

post #37 of 46

Just flipped past the announcements to see that Beasts not only snagged a Best Picture nom (awesome, even with the expanded field), but Best Actress for Wallis.  Good on Oscar for taking some notice.


Edited by Schwartz - 1/10/13 at 6:36am
post #38 of 46

Yay for Beasts and Q. Wallis!  It got also got writing and directing noms.  So thrilled!  The only bummer is that Dwight Henry didn't get recognized, and he was so good.

post #39 of 46

Good on Zeitlin for getting a nomination for Achievement in Directing, too. And Best Adapted Screenplay. Or whatever it's called. Given that this is his first film, he should be really, really proud. I'm personally just excited because I'm one degree away from the guy, which is kinda cool.

 

I'm not holding out much hope that Beasts will win much of anything, but it's really cool to see it recognized on this level.

post #40 of 46

I thought this was an original.  What is it adapted from?

post #41 of 46

I believe it was a poem/play by the co-writer, something like that.
 

post #42 of 46
Wow, this bored me to tears. I'll read a few reviews and see if I can tell what I'm missing.
post #43 of 46

I've been telling all my friends this is basically Mallick only more accessible.  You can't go into this hoping for an engaging narrative with a twisting plot.  It's more of an exercise in emotional engagement with Hushpuppy etc.

 

This movie is an impressive accomplishment you have to give it that.  Oh and that New Orleans sounding theme song will forever be stuck in my noggin.

post #44 of 46

liked it, but wasn't in love it. I did especially like some of the work between the girl and her father; but overall, it didn't really grab as it clearly grabbed so many others.

post #45 of 46

Are there any Russell Hoban fans around? Because this to me seemed to be a perfect amalgam of Riddley Walker and Lion of Boaz Jachin. You've got a regressive society and a child who summons an ancient being whilst coming to terms with their parental figure. It hits exactly the same beats, although Joseph Campbell probably wants a word in this conversation.

 

It works as its own beast though, it's not a ripoff, like Beyond Thunderdome was....

post #46 of 46

Wow this is like a movie made by JG Ballard and Tim Powers. Really nice metaphorical portrayal of Humanity and it's place in the Universe (and I read HushPuppy as representing All of Humanity, Male/Female).

 

Reading the comments above, I'm surprised that people found HushPuppy burning down her house amusing. It was clear she was acting out after her father was abusive. Also clear that she would have died if he hadn't come after her. A really neat way of showing (NOT TELLING ) two character's relationship.

 

The scene at the WhoreHouse (or was it a more innocent "Dance" place?) was confusing to me: is the implication that the girls will grow up to be Whores if they stay there? Or that being a Whore is the only role for a woman in "Civilization"? Or are we to assume the children are somehow meeting possible older versions of themselves?

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