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magical, thought-provoking, very, very watchable
oldgirl26 July 2012
I can understand how most people view this film within the context of Hurricane Katrina. But even as a former denizen of the Gulf coast who sat out Alicia, Claudette, Allen, Rita, and Ike, I view this film in a much, much larger context. It goes beyond stereotype and into archetype -- the denizens of the Bathtub aren't poor drunks at the mercy of the environment, they are The People of the world they inhabit. Hushpuppy doesn't have a drunk father, she has a Father, with many of the faults and strengths of the immortal epic heroes -- anger, pride, genuine love and concern. Hushpuppy herself isn't just a little girl, she is The Child -- the purveyor of a magic which is real, intimately connected with her world, imaginatively linked with All Things. The outside world is a place of Things and Machines, of paperwork and rules -- and is never actually named, you see, because that would diminish it. Everything in this film exists within the realm of archetype, and if you watch it with that in mind, its multiple messages take on cosmic significance. Beautifully shot, beautifully acted -- it's going to take a few more days for the entire thing to completely sink in. Outstanding!
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Beasts of the Southern Wild: Incoherent ideas tame this beast.
Ck dexterhaven24 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A father named Wink (Dwight Henry) tries to prepare his daughter, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) for a hard life on the Bayou, filled with rising floodwaters, displaced people, and prehistoric creatures named aurochs.

I do not know what to make of this movie. It is terrible, that is for sure. Let me tell you why I think so. If it is trying to be a cautionary tale about climate change, it shouldn't try so hard, entertainment and politics are like oil and water, the two don't mix, and should always be kept separate. If it is trying to breathe life into the worst ideas and conspiracy theories from Hurricane Katrina, it succeeds in doing that. Don't evacuate during a storm, somebody blew up the levies, don't go to a government shelter, try to ride out the storm with your community. These ideas should be buried along with this alleged script.

If this movie if trying to show the courage of a father trying to raise his daughter alone, it fails miserably. The father is physically and emotionally abusive to his daughter and this abuse is disguised as preparation for a brutal world. It's an insult to single fathers and mothers everywhere who raise their children with love and respect. This movie is like The Road meets Waterworld, if you like those movies, (And I didn't) you will love this movie.

The so-called story meanders aimlessly, and has absolutely no structure, no dramatic arc, and the story seems to end whenever the writers run out of dumb ideas to peddle. And when all else fails, the writers pour on the sentimentality, there's no sign that a movie is in trouble more than shameless tear-jerking. There didn't seem to be a script at all, the actors seemed to be making it up as they went. And oh yes, not to be left out, there are prostitutes to take care of the children. Family values? I hope not.

On the positive side, Ms. Wallis was cute, in typical Hollywood precocious kid fashion, but hardly deserving of an Oscar nomination. And I learned what aurochs are, hardly worth sitting through this listless film.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Incoherent ideas tame this beast.

If you like more fearless truth-telling about film, read my blog,
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"When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces."
Grey Gardens28 July 2012
What can I say about Beasts of the Southern Wild, that hasn't already been said. It's the most magical and imaginative film of the year, so far. In Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild, the wild things are in a place known as the Bathtub, a remote stretch of the Louisiana bayou profoundly cut off from the rest of modern civilization. Beasts of Southern Wild is an unique vision that sweeps viewers away with energy, attitude and a full, vibrant, sense of life. Containing outstanding performances, great cinematography, and a fantastic score, the film is just so engrossing.

Hushpuppy feels her connection not only to nature and animals, but also to the prehistoric era, represented throughout the film by her interest in cave drawings and—more fancifully—prehistoric beasts called aurochs that have been released from the ice caps and make their way toward the Bathtub…at least in Hushpuppy's mind. The difference between what's real and what lives in the imagination of our six-year-old heroine is not always clear, but it's all delivered with a beautifully assured sense of wonder.

Beasts of the Southern Wild unfolds through Hushpuppy's eyes, and it's a sight to behold: sometimes wondrous, often disordered and dysfunctional. It's hard not to see the film through a political lens even if you're apolitical. But there's no stridency here: Fantastical moments and a fantastic script manage to juggle so much with grace. As Hushpuppy says, "The entire world depends on everything fitting together just right." But her world is one where wealth and squalor co-exist all too easily, the discrepancy painfully obvious (even though we don't really see the other world), the puzzle pieces not equal in weight or importance. Yet the hardscrabble people of Bathtub still find a way to channel their joy, even though they've been forgotten.

It's all the more impressive that such a confident and resourceful film comes from a first-timer; writer-director Benh Zeitlin previously impressed Sundance audiences with the Hurricane Katrina inspired short "Glory at Sea." He collaborated on the screenplay for "Beasts" with Lucy Alibar and worked with a cast and crew of mostly non-professionals (both Wallis and Henry make genuinely astonishing screen debuts). That freshness may very well be key to the film's creative success. There's a feeling of genuine enthusiasm and ingenuity in their work here, as if everyone involved was truly discovering the power and potential of filmmaking for the first time.
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A phenomenal child actor and solid story are generating well deserved word of mouth; you are going to hear a lot about this film from your friends
chaz-288 July 2012
Beasts of the Southern Wild is shot through the eyes of a six year old. To Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), the islands of southern Louisiana are a magical place filled with lucky people who do not have to live like cowards behind the levees and only get one holiday a year. Hushpuppy's voice-over reveals the island folk rarely need an excuse to have a party or take another holiday. If this film were shot through the more perceptive eyes of an adult, the audience I bet would get a much different take on things. Extreme poverty, alcoholism, and child neglect are just the first few overt issues which come to mind. It was a very wise move for the filmmakers to stick with the child protagonist. Magical realism is far more acceptable and preferable to an audience than what could arguably be termed child cruelty.

Hushpuppy and her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), live in an area called 'The Bathtub'. It is not protected by the New Orleans levee system, people scuttle around from place to place by haphazardly crafted boats, and everyone expects that some day, the melting polar ice caps will submerge their homes and only the strong will survive. It turns out that some day in Beasts of the Southern Wild is now. When Hushpuppy first hears the thunder of the coming storm, she believes it to the be the sound of melting glaciers falling off of Antarctica. It is never mentioned by name; however, the storm appears to be Hurricane Katrina. Since the main part of her father's and his friends' days consist of drinking, there are no preparations for the coming calamity, just praise for the brave souls staying behind for what they claim will be a little wet weather and catcalls to those fleeing behind the levees. Where is mama in all of this? The idea of mama to Hushpuppy is and old, dirty basketball jersey she carries around with her and sometimes talks to. Every now and then, Hushpuppy thinks she sees mama when she glimpses a far away lighthouse or watches an approaching helicopter. Whether mama is dead or has just run off is another unexplained phenomenon kept by daddy.

After the storm, Hushpuppy and daddy float around in their make shift boat which is the back of an old pickup truck with a struggling outboard hanging on behind it. They meet up with a few other survivors who immediately start engaging in activities they do best, drinking. However, this was not your regular storm. The water is not receding, the animals, even the fish, are dying, and whatever sickness daddy had to start with is starting to pick up speed. Throughout the ensuing scenes to remedy their dreadful situation, Hushpuppy keeps the audience involved with her prescient voice-over. A notable example is her comparison of getting old and sick outside of the levee wall versus inside of it. Outside there is savagery; the young will eat the old and move on. Inside, they plug you into the wall (ventilators). Whenever daddy feels he has been a particularly lousy father, he teaches Hushpuppy to do something such as catch a catfish her bare hands and be sure to give it a good punch when she gets it into the boat. There is also an odd side story involving long extent carnivores called aurochs. They represent the savage beasts who kill and eat anything and everything. The allegory is not readily apparent and its payoff is understated at best.

This description sounds starkly bleak, which the subject matter surely is, but the film is very well put together. The scenery looks like it would after biblical destruction, the actors appear to all be locals and have the accents to prove it, and the music is incorporated effectively. The very young actress playing Hushpuppy is phenomenal. Perhaps a few years from now she will realize just how deep her character is written and how only a very minority of child actors could have possible pulled it off. Her father, while not necessarily a sympathetic character, was well cast and while is not particularly an ignorant man, is certainly a man set in his ways determined his progeny will follow in the local footsteps. Having respect for and maintaining the traditions of your place of birth is one thing, but more than likely, Hushpuppy is being set up for a life of substance abuse and unsteady employment. However, that is jumping ahead. Beasts of the Southern Wild is about a very specific time and place with thoughts only of the next meal, not tomorrow, and definitely not next month.

The camaraderie between our heroes and the locals is fun to watch and seeing how they make the best of a horrible situation is quite creative when you see it as Hushpuppy does. There is a high probability this film will continue to progress with strong word of mouth, end up on several Top 10 lists, and be in line for some Oscar nominations. The film is certainly worthy of the word of mouth it is getting because audiences have really not seen anything like this before, but the automatic Top 10 inclusion is a bit far-fetched. It is winning awards for cinematography, but the hand held camera borders on annoying at times. If there is a party, the audience intuitively understands it is fun. Does the camera have to wildly spin around as well? When someone is running, must the camera bounce up and down too? See Beasts of the Southern Wild for the story, the locations, and the child actor. You will tell your friends about it the next day.
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What it lacks in story structure it makes up for in mise-en scene--great stuff!
secondtake11 January 2013
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

An engrossing, vigorous, fanciful, primal movie set in Southern Louisiana in time of flood and strife. It's about the power of people to survive. It's a celebration of animal behavior. It's about community and loneliness. There are echoes of ourselves in all these people in their craziness or compassion, or their uneducated wisdom (or lack of wisdom which then depends on luck and instinct).

In short it's quite a ride, and the leading character is a little girl who now is up for an Academy Award nomination for best actress, with the only question about that being the weirdly simple and true question--how much is she acting, how much is she just being herself with amazing transparency on the camera? Well, the same could be said of lots of adult actors who are really just themselves over and over, and so you really can watch "Beasts" for the stellar and heartwarming effort by Quvenzhané Wallis.

There are other performances startling for their gritty (or downright filthy) realism, including the girl's father. But these start to intermix and blend into a larger effort involving the elements of wind and rain and flood, unbridled partying, moments of tender caring including some folk wisdom by the teacher and healer of the group, and so on in an up and down, topsy turvy mix.

You can love this movie just for its insider look at a culture that you hardly knew possible in the United States any more, or even in any third world country for its primitivism. It is in fact rather based on truth though ramped up and made sensational and into a kind of fairy tale. There are (in reality) some islands that have communities struggling on the fringes along the complex coastline of Louisiana, and some of them have almost no development, and correspondingly little education and health care. The film was shot on an actual island like this, though it given a fictional name (nicknamed the Bathtub by the characters).

You can also love this movie for its metaphors. If there is misunderstanding and cruelty between father and daughter, there is also a base instinct to stick together and survive. If there is a sense of independence there is also a dependency on neighbors and outsiders. If the world seems out of whack and insane you still find ways to make part of it reasonable, by either makeshift construction or by changing your outlook. And there are those giant boar animals menacing the main character in some kind of dream. This is really about survival in ways that go beyond physical comfort and food.

There is a problem, especially for people who appreciate more sophisticated movies for their plots and their filmmaking savvy, with the generally meandering narrative. The movie is not without ups and downs and an evolving sense of drama. But it depends more on its scene and its characterizations than on what happens with them. Things happen but they don't particularly develop, in the usual sense. You'll be spellbound and maybe even frightened (or according to some reviews, disgusted) by many of the scenes, but you might also start to wonder what it's all leading to. That's the narrative instinct in all of us for a development toward some kind of climax or turning point, and it's not compelling.

So just be immersed. Admire the fact these are amateurs and independents. Click back a few expectations and be surprised by some of the content for its immediacy. Unique and riveting.
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Original is the first word that springs to mind
somf7 June 2012
You have never seen anything quite like "Beasts of the Southern Wild". It is a film that will have you thinking about the love between a father and a daughter, about appreciating what you have in life and our ability to adapt to whatever comes at us. Quvenzhané Wallis is certain to beat Anna Paquin and Tatum O'Neal out as the youngest best actress nominee in history. Best original Screenplay is also almost a certainty. Go in with an open mind and enjoy this unique film that plays almost like a documentary and yet is full of fantasy elements as well. This is a don't miss.

If I have one quibble with the film it is the hand-held camera technique that at least in the early scenes is particularly annoying. It usually takes so much from my enjoyment of the film. I get it though, it gives it a more realistic feel and in this film it may have added to the overall experience. Still bugs me though.

Another plus at the screening tonight in Denver was a long Q and A with the talented director/screenwriter Benh Zeitlin, Dwight Henry who played the father Wink, and Quvenzhané Wallis. Lovely people all, and I hope to see their work in many films to come.
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Dysfunctional "salt of the earth" return to their roots in most pretentious and overrated indie of the year
Turfseer4 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Every year, the critics seem to fall in love with one horribly overrated film. Last year it was "The Artist," a derivative tale filmed in the long-defunct style of a silent movie. At least "The Artist" won points for capturing a certain style of filmmaking, but this year's candidate for most pretentious and overrated film, "The Beasts of the Southern Wild," almost defies description.

Anyway, I'll try. Don't expect any attempt here to create characters that have any relation to real people. "Beasts" is designed to enter the realm of myth. We're taken to a mythical land dubbed "The Bathtub," a Louisiana Bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a levee. The houses (if you can call them that), appear to be nothing more than ramshackle shelters, in what appears to be a post-Katrina environment.

Almost every critic seems to be taken in by the youngest actor ever to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar: six-year-old (now nine) Quevenzhané Wallis. Wallis (in the role of "Hushpuppy") really should be nominated for best acting in a horror film as she plays an emotionally distant, pyromaniac who is the victim of child abuse on the part of her father, Wink, who actually slaps the child, causing her to fall violently to the ground. If you can believe this, the rambunctious Hushpuppy retaliates in kind, by striking Wink, who briefly appears to lose consciousness.

Director Benh Zeitlin attempts to mitigate Wink's violent demeanor, by depicting him as some kind of "tough love" saint, who saves the child through a raging Katrina-like storm, after constructing a floating shelter out of flood debris. At one point, Crazy Wink fends off the storm by shooting at the clouds, reassuring the now scared child. Later, he hatches an ill-advised plan to drain salt water brought in by the storm surge, by dynamiting the levee. The bottom line is that Zeitlin wants it both ways: Wink is both a violent child abuser but underneath, a self-sacrificing and devoted father. How touching!

If this isn't ridiculous enough, the townspeople are all dysfunctional with drinking problems. After everyone is evacuated by FEMA-like stooges, Hushpuppy's comrades all make a beeline back to their ruined, condemned community. These salt of the earth are particularly good at sucking the heads of craw-fish. David Edelstein in New York Magazine puts it best when describing the denizens of the mythical Bathtub: "Late in the film, Hushpuppy's surrogate family is absurdly romanticized, their drunken dysfunction ennobled, as if living below sea level puts you on a higher spiritual plane."

Don't ask me to explain the meaning of the actual "beasts" of the film's title. In the beginning of the film, we learn that melting polar ice caps are releasing prehistoric creatures called "Aurochs." During a screening, I learned that a separate camera crew took ten days to film five-month-old pigs dressed up with horns, to suggest giant wild boars. Hushpuppy later bonds with the creatures after she returns to the "Bathtub" with a coterie of inebriated allies.

Wouldn't you know it that Wink has contracted a terminal illness and Hushpuppy is there for a grand send-off at the funeral pyre. That, dear friends, is "Beasts of the Southern Wild" in a nutshell. Everyone turns out to be wonderful in the end, including the former child abuser but now lovable (but terminally ill), Wink. And no one (including government "fiends") can stop the wonderful salt of the earth from getting back to their roots in the Bathtub, including the oh so lovable but hyperactive Hushpuppy.

This time, it's Sundance that must take principal responsibility for releasing this drivel to the world. On the other hand, every festival can't be perfect. Let's forgive Sundance for this misstep and pray they don't make the same mistake when next year's festival rolls around.
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The word is: Magic Realism
ignominia-19 January 2013
What is so difficult to understand? If we suspend belief for Spiderman, The Hulk and King Kong why can't we believe in this story?

I wonder whether some viewers are so addicted to the rhythm of plot driven movies to render them unable to appreciate a story like this, a story that sees the world through the eyes of a child who knows nothing of what we know. If you are one of those, go read somewhere else. I am not going to give you a synapse but my humble opinion on its meaning and possibly its intent. Or more surely, what I got out of it.

The beauty of this movie lies in Hushpuppy, a child young enough to be nonjudgmental, and her vision of life and its inhabitants. She has her own wisdom and is, like all children, taking things quite literally.

At first the hand-held camera-work and insufficient light-fill to illuminate the deep shades gave me the impression that this was a documentary style movie, a story reporting the lives of a group of people living off the grid in some southern state of the United States. But when I understood that the "Beasts" of the title was not a judgment of the movie's humans and their poverty, their ignorance, their unsophistication- but only an alternate noun for "animals" which the protagonists calls both her pets and humans alike, I started seeing the movie for what it really is: A dream, a fantasy, an imaginary story that merged with the contemporary awareness of global warming, and so a low tech sci-fi prediction of how the world may soon become.

With that key I read most character's actions: the father figure who needs to train his child to survive, inciting her "to show her guns" and be self assured; the woman who teaches children the use of herbs to cure, the meaning of magic and mythology; the tolerance of the other adults for what, in a parallel reality, would definitively been child abuse. All this is righteously done to prepare the children to survive in a world that was(is?) going from merely hard to impossible.

Wink's seemingly unsentimental and insensitive behavior towards the little wee child makes then perfect sense and thus his letting go when she can keep at bay, the Aurochs (a metaphor for her still childlike imagination) and her ability to step out of that world and into that of an adult ("I've got to take care of mine now") is the proof that she had grown up enough to survive on her own.

Looking back to it, this movie is a miracle as improbable as that of La Vita é Bella, where Benigni infused humor in a story about the Holocaust without becoming offensive or demeaning. Beasts of a Southern Wild is able to merge a child's world with that of an adult; to make us see how the effects of global warming will challenge the lives of many; it is a comment and a reminder of Katrina, its victims and consequences; finally it is a poetic way of describing the world and its inhabitants, escaping the ugliness and despair of certain realities by converting it into hope, survival and beauty.
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Am I missing something here?!
MartinHafer15 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Every year or so, there is a critically acclaimed Oscar nominee for Best Picture that just leaves me confused because I seem to be completely out of touch with these experts. Last year it was "The Tree of Life"--which the Academy loved and I hated. This year, though I have not seen all the nominees, it is "Beasts of the Southern Wild"--a film that critics and the Academy adore but which left me wondering why I bothered watching the movie in the first place. I just couldn't see what they saw in this film.

Before I discuss the odd meandering plot, I'll address my biggest problem with the film--the camera-work. I understand that this is a very cheaply made indie film, so they didn't have a lot of money for fancy cameras. However, it uses what I call 'the unsteady cam'--camera work that deliberately heightens the sense it's being done with a hand-held camera. Now they do have affordable cameras that will compensate for motion and can give you a nice, steady shot. However, about 20 years ago, someone thought it would be great to have a shot that looks like it was done on an iPhone. All I know is that watching it might easily make you motion sick! Please, please...just give me normal camera-work!!

As far as the story goes, it never made any sense. It involves a young, almost feral child who lives in a horrible little hellish village in Louisiana where everything is broken and old and dirty. I know these people are poor, but this went well beyond poverty. The children learn from a teacher who uses foul language and talks about prehistoric 'Aurocs'. As for the child's homelife, NONE OF IT MADE ANY SENSE. Her mother was gone...okay. But the father lives in a SEPARATE home nearby--as well as in some separate reality. Seeing a tiny child running about a broken down filthy trailer and playing with a flamethrower (of sorts) just brought out the dad in me--and I wanted to yell out that they need to rescue this child from this horrible environment. She also eats cat food. Soon, she burns the place down and then spends most of the rest of the film hanging with her crazy father who was dying. Then there's a big storm and the village is a mess. And, in the end, after treating the child like a pet for much of the film, the dad dies and the child burns him in a funeral pyre. WHAT?!?!?! What was the point?! Who are these people?! Why is this a film I should see?! A tiny little child barbecuing her dead daddy?! What?!? Maybe I am the odd-ball, but I truly hated this film and can't see how it could appeal to the average viewer. It sure didn't appeal to me in any way. I guess the child was good at acting but apart from that I can think of no compelling reason to see this.
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Shallow, phony, pretentious little film.
Andy Thorn23 February 2013
A third of the way into this thing I told my companion that I'd bet money it was directed by some kid from New York out of film school who obviously did not grow up in the South and doesn't really know the South. Apparently i was correct. The picture is a bluff. Shallow, phony, underdeveloped characters. A lot of pretentious symbolism, shaky camera, and very annoying, distancing music (third rate Phllip Glass stuff, courtesy of the director). It strives for something in the vein of Terence Malick, I guess. Less than halfway through I didn't really care. A very long ninety minutes, only for the gullible. I'm a big fan of the kind of film this one pretends to be. I love Cassavetes and Malick and embrace all manner of cinema, from pulp to classic noir to art house and foreign cinema going back to the Silent Era. But I kinda hate this phony little movie. Even the little girl's performance is being highly overrated by those easily impressed and amused out there. You've been warned .
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Dreadful, boring, stereotypes, ugly, depressing
richwgriffin-227-17663510 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I just can't get over that others actually like this movie and think it's award worthy. Let's see: terrible direction, ugly visuals, bad performances (including now Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis), boring, dull, dreary. I've read all these glowing reviews and wonder why I seem to live in another universe? I LOVE MOVIES, but there is a particular type of movie I despise, best exemplified by this one and "Winter's Bone", that are ugly and dull.

The film is SLOW. The characters are caricatures and stereotypes. The use and abuse of animals is problematic. Benh Zeitlin does a very poor job of directing, with scenes meandering and boring me to distraction.

I love independent films: when they are made well and interesting. I am simply stupefied by the reactions I have read to this film. Everybody is entitled to their opinions and I have mine.
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Incoherent, sloppy, and misguided: don't believe the silly hype
jsteiger19 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this film carefully, twice. Apparently, liberal reviewers got caught up in the notion of a "natural, mixed-ethnic local community" in Katrina-land and concentrated on the themes of community, family, and the triumph of "naturalness" over "modernity." These are important themes, if dealt with in a coherent, sensitive, intelligent fashion. However, this film offers none of these qualities. In giving the film high ratings, many reviewers ignored the film's countless flaws and negative aspects, including idiotic (at times phony-mystical) dialogue, acceptance of child abuse, alcohol abuse, and sheer stupidity, glorification of prostitution, and romanticizing pervasive squalor. A key moment of "triumph" in the film involves the filthy, ragtag assortment of characters physically assaulting a group of public health workers who are trying to assist them. I ask any New York Limousine Liberal reviewer who found this mess to be "uplifting" to answer the following -- would you allow any of the central characters in this film to reside in your apartment building? (Of course they would not.) Oh --- the central character is a very graceful and beautiful young child actress, Quvenzhané Wallis. Her main "acting" consists of grimacing at the camera. I found her to be more puzzling than convincing, and (literally) she has about one-tenth the acting chops of Dakota Fanning at the same age, who did more with her eyes alone in any one minute on camera than Miss Wallis does in the entire movie. Standing there looking sullen when you are supposed to be experiencing a run of emotion is not acting, no matter how adorable you are.
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A Smug Slice of Self Satisfied Sanctimony
adam-murphy-irl17 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I heard a lot about this movie on IMDb a few months ago and its recent Oscar nominations peaked my interest. So I decided to give it a go and, not only was it a disappointment, I was actually p*ssed off after watching it. In some ways, I'm flabbergasted that this film has received so much praise. But I can also see how it very much fits a formula of what certain critics and film buffs usually want to spew praise over. 'Into The Wild' being another great example of this. 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' (BotSW) is one of those movies that comes along now and then and manages to pull a great hoodwink on a lot of the movie going public. A hoodwink in that it seems from the majority of the reviews that the content of this movie and the messages that it leaves you with seem to have been largely ignored by most people. Those messages being that things such as child abuse, alcoholism and casual prostitution are fine as long as they're done against a backdrop of tweeness.

There is so much wrong with this movie, it's hard to know where to start, but I'll give it a go

1. The Acting: Apart from the girl who plays Hushpuppy, the acting in this film is pretty poor. I guess some of the actors aren't helped by the roles that they're playing: nearly all of the adults that we see for the majority of the film are either layabout drunkards or prostitutes.

2. The Dialogue: When it's not incoherent nonsense being babbled in a thick Cajun accent by some drunkard, it's some pseudo-intellectual, twee, sub-Forrest Gump twaddle being philosophised by a 6-year old. "When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces". Urgh…

3. The Story: BotSW drags out for 90 mins, yet the story itself that's actually hidden within the movie would be told in a third of that time. Oh, yes, but that's right, it's not the destination that matters right? It's the journey? And what a tedious journey it is for all concerned.

4. The Cinematography: As other reviewers have pointed out, the hand-held camera work is taken to the extreme on BotSW, to the point that you're almost nauseous by the end of the movie.

5. The Moral Messages of the Film: This is by far the biggest problem that I have with this movie and why I'm somewhat shocked that it has received so much praise. There are many number of issues that I have with this.

The Parent / Child Dynamic: Hushpuppy's father is an unemployed, somewhat unhinged drunkard. He has apparently made no effort to provide a life for his child, as they live in a shack that looks like it has been assembled from foraged and discarded junk. He drinks almost constantly, he beats his daughter, screams at her regularly, he finds out he has a serious terminal illness and yet he makes no plans to provide a life for his daughter after he passes away. Yet, rarely does the director or the story suggest that Wink isn't a good father. His death isn't portrayed as Hushpuppy being freed from a man who may little to no attempt to father her when on earth. Rather it's more portrayed as poor old Wink being freed from the illness ravaging his body.

The Actions of the Protagonists: As other reviewers have pointed out, they make absolutely no sense. Rather than seek help from the mainland after the storm, the main characters decide to try and blow a hole in the levy with an improvised bomb. The suggestion being that rather than lower themselves to accepting aid from "the outside" they are willing to endanger lives of people directly on the other side of the levy and destroy it through their criminal actions. Wink consistently refuses any assistance for his apparent Leukaemia and makes no attempt to provide a life for Hushpuppy after he dies, short of leaving her in the care of a man with an even worse drinking problem than he has.

Them vs. Us: any help offered by kind people from the outside in the aftermath of the storm is consistently treated with utter distain by the main characters. Their rejection of outside assistance is never explored past the shallow suggestion that they are outsiders / not from the Bathtub / don't understand our way of life.
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Over-rated, over-hyped, formless, plot less, trite .. and I still liked it
davylevine26 November 2012
As I said, I thought the film is over-rated, over-hyped, formless, basically plot less, and trite. The father is a mean drunk (who still loves his kid), and the kid is a solemn and wise six year-old. Two stereotypes, wouldn't you say? They live in The Bathtub, a shattered but colorful community on the gulf side of the levee. The community is comprised of other drunk people who also love and care about Hushpuppy, the young girl. Hushpuppy is quite precocious, interested in things that don't usually concern girls of her age: the after-life, ecology, such eternal questions as the meaning of life. She of course loves her mean drunk father and all the furred and feathered creatures that live in their little farmlet. There is an air about the film that is surreal. The characters in their madness are a bit like the characters in Mad Max. They are all over-sized and eminently watchable in their enthusiastic inebriation. But I wished for a few moments of lucidity, where people just talk to each other without ranting and raving. The overall impression that I got is one of sadness. There is very little joy -- other than that which comes from the bottle -- in their lives. This said, I enjoyed the movie. It is very watchable, but in a guilty sort of way. Their lives are painful. It is set in a part of the world that we don't normally see, with people we would generally avoid. Technically it is very well done. The visuals are great. I would recommend seeing it but not attending too much to the surrounding hype.
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Beasts of the Southern Wild is occasionally great but too uneven to be considered exemplary.
Caterpillar_City22 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not sure why Beasts of the Southern wild has connected with critics so much. This is a low-budget film directed by Benh Zeitlin in his debut feature. Movies like this typically find a strong critical reception, but are forgotten come award season in favor of bigger movies from more accomplished people -- this happened to Duncan Jones' excellent Moon in 2009. Sure, Beasts is visually creative, original, and a prime example of how ambition and imagination can overcome a small budget, but movie has some serious problems that can't be ignored. I don't blame the filmmakers intents, clearly a lot of work and heart went in the making of this movie; however, the characterization and storytelling are amateurish.

Beasts has three good things going for it: the score, performances, and the setting. The musical score is truly exceptional, and it might be my favorite of the year. A lot of the film's beauty and style comes from the excellent sound design and music. Much has been made of young Quvenzhané Wallis' performance and rightfully so. This is an incredibly strong performance for somebody so young. The rest of the actors are solid as well. The performances aren't showy but incredibly naturalist and convincing. The setting of the movie, a forgotten area of the southern bayou territory, is wonderfully realized and provides dozens of incredible shots.

Before I get into the problems with narrative, I have to mention the poor use of hand-held photography. I really do not understand where independent filmmakers got the idea that having shaky cam automatically makes their movie somehow more artsy, but Beasts is yet another movie that poorly utilizes the technique, though nothing here is as bad as in Melancholia. Handeld camera-work can work well in the hands of somebody who knows what they are doing -- check out Breaking Bad to see this style perfected. The setting of the film provides many awe-inspiring vistas and landscapes, but the camera can't stop moving long enough for the viewer to fully digest and admire the image, which is truly a shame.

The characterization in Beasts is the weakest area of the film. Though Hushpuppy is a wonderful character and perfectly portrayed by Wallis, the supporting cast isn't up to the same standard. First, I have to question the purpose of writing somebody so young as the main character. I suppose the goal was to see a harsh reality through the eyes of somebody young and innocent, but it is at odds with the movies message: one's culture and family are all important (I'm simplifying the main theme, but I don't want to get into a discussion of the movie's misguided attempt to criticize modern society and civilization, which is embarrassingly handled and even includes stock footage of glaciers breaking apart. Global warming!). However, Hushpuppy is too young to comprehend her own situation. She lives in crushing poverty, her father is an abusive drunk, and her friends and family put her own wellness at risk for the sake of preserving their cancerous lifestyle. The filmmakers want us to stand up and cheer at these people's will to fight the influence of modern society, but I can't help to look in horror as this child is abused and put in constant danger for no real reason. For this reason, any moral ambiguity is left out. Hushpuppy isn't old enough to question her situation. If she was capable to debating about whether to stay in her manner of living or move to a more modern culture and ultimately chose to stay, then the film would have supplied its character with a strong arc. However, Hushpuppy stays because she simply doesn't know any better. This is a problem because our main character is not capable to supplying any dramatic tension or conflict.

Every person in the community, aside from Hushpuppy, is one-dimensional and often an empty husk brought to life simply with southern stereotypes. I don't care about any of them, and I was hoping Hushpuppy could escape this life and find a place where her thoughtfulness and intelligence could be fostered. However, the filmmakers don't see how incredibly contradictory their own film is. Perhaps if this society's way of living was properly explored and the audience given a reason to understand why these people love their way of living so much, then we could sympathize with their plight.

Beasts of the Southern Wild feels like a mishmash of ideas handled better in other films. A young girl dealing with hardship through imagination was better realized in Pan's Labyrinth. A forgotten area of America where young people are trapped is a concept explored in the superior Winter's Bone, partly because that movie doesn't romanticize suffering and poverty, but portrays it in a honest and real way. As a celebration of the United States' unique Southern culture, Treme makes Beasts look like a high school research paper. I'm not saying that Beasts of the Southern Wild has to be the best at what it does, expectations that unreasonable will only lead to disappointment, but I do expect the filmmakers to delivery a story that is consistent with its thematic goals. Beasts fails in this, and the movie is hard to care about and the characters impossible to empathize with.
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Once there was a Hushpuppy...
Amanda O'Brien3 July 2012
The film is one of those rare examples of every element being extraordinary. The acting, the directing, the script, the music is all superb and blend together to create the magical world of the bathtub. The film looks and sounds amazing. Everything is so beautifully shot, with a crispness and a warmth. The score is used sparingly and is never manipulative. This may be one of those movies that everyone raves about but gets overlooked come Oscar season because it doesn't have a big enough name attached to it or pandered to the Academy enough, but it could easily be nominated for at leave four or five awards.
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j-funderburgh2 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I do not consider myself unsophisticated. I appreciate the works of Cocteau, Bunuel, Fellini, even Ionesco. But I am certain that incomprehensibility does not equal art. I cannot express how truly bad this was. The characters had no development, no motivation for their action, and spoke dialogue so random as to make me wonder if my hearing was going. Technically the picture quality was abut that you would expect of a $100 digital camera and the 'arty' scene composition was about the kind of thing you might get by giving a 3-year old a videocam- wildly shaky with lots of closeups of peoples shoulders, butts, and random floorboards. The plot (as it were) had very disturbing flashes of child abuse, mixed messages about alcohol abuse and prostitution and a very weird segment posing aide workers trying to help starving, sick, and drowning people in the role of as some kind of evil aliens. Oh yeah, there was some kind of eco-message and a little very bad magical realism thrown is to make us all feel like were in the same philosophical boat as the idiotic characters. The sad thing is what a waste of potential this was. It has a wonderful child actor and a good cast in general. They get a couple of stars. The rest should be dealt with like a horse with a broken leg.
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To quote Roger Ebert, "I hated hated hated hated this movie!"
Kathleen82818 May 2013
I do not find ignorance, squalor and stupidity to be noble.

This movie was incoherent and jerky, had no clear plot line, glorified degraded living and had no redeeming value.

IMDb insists that I write 10 lines of commentary about it, but I accurately summarized it in my first line.

I suggest that unless you want to watch people living in filth and ignorance, stay away from this film.

I realize that the title was meant to be a play on wildlife documentaries, but it seems to me that it is more accurate perhaps than it intended to be. The characters in this film had no more understanding of life than some beasts in the field. Yes, they appreciated some of the beauties of nature, but that did not make them admirable.
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Zeitlin needs to get a life
sarahkowen7 December 2012
The problem may be that a white New York kid is writing and directing a film about poor southerners, white (Cajun) and black. I am not completely familiar myself with these people, but I know they couldn't be this bad. I am highly insulted that he has exploited the suffering of humanity to "make a statement". About what? It's not a good idea to force people to watch an entire movie about a subject you know so very little about. I have seen very few films to which I have had such a negative reaction. He has taken humanity and made them into savages, barely able to speak, let alone manage in the modern world. Zeitlin needs to "live in the ashes" awhile, get some real experience under his belt, and then try to make a film about humanity.
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Rare Masterpiece
garb-522 June 2012
Blew away a screening room of industry professionals at the Producers' Guild New York. Far more interesting than the publicity and most published reviews. It's intensely visual, in a way that I associate with visual masterpieces like Avatar.

It's a world of 9 year old girl Hushpuppies and her neighbors and friends in a Louisiana Bayou. They are poor in a way most of us never have to face, incredibly spirited, and far more complicated characters than commonly met in film. They are constantly surprising us in what they do, where they go, and what their world looks like.

Quvenzhané Wallis is only nine years old, never acted before, and gives a performance worthy of an Oscar. She's never acted before, but Benh Zeitlin drew an amazing performance from her. The actors all come alive, as does the world they are filmed in.

the aurochs are also remarkable.
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unwatchable, horrible, a big scam
suzanne-sellers22 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I had no idea what this movie about, but knew it was up for several Oscars and the main character was a child. I am absolutely shocked that this waste of film was ever considered for any awards. I saw terrible examples of child neglect and outright abuse, animal cruelty, indifference,stupidity passing for "courage" and that all in the first 30 minutes!

This film is an insult to anyone who lived through Katrina, or for that matter anyone who didn't live through Katrina. The so-called "father" of the child is crazy, brutal and evil in the way he treats his child and everyone around him. He refuses treatment for a fatal illness, but its hard to care because he is so mean and neglectful to his child. People living on the bayou are not stupid and ignorant and evil, and those who are don't deserve to have a movie made about them.

By the way - those who say only liberals liked this film can shove it. I'm a liberal and hated it too.
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Looks like it was filmed on a mobile phone.
Sam Lonsdale12 December 2012
For me the worst aspect (of many) was the TRULY dreadful camera-work. I have to assume this film was shot on a mobile phone, that wasn't very good at focusing! To be honest there were times when I just had to close my eyes to stop myself from feeling sick.

Aside from the above the story is implausible, the characters two dimensional and the whole thing lacked any kind of emotional connection. For me the best thing to do with this film would be delete it and let's never speak of it again.

Being VERY generous I could say some of the sound effects where nicely done. Since there is sadly nothing else positive I can think to add I'll just say that I would actually have left the theatre, something I've never yet done, if I could have done so without disturb others.

PLEASE do give up 90 Minutes of your life enduring this.
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Richard Basky8 March 2013
I mean just awful. To use anymore words to try to describe this tripe would be an affront to those poor words.

I mean, it was weird, awkward, clunky... Just not good in any way whatsoever ever...

I tried to explain it to a friend of mine and he insisted that I was making this up. I assured him, I have never been drunk enough to be able to vomit this type of ridiculous nonsense from my mind.

Oh, and there were beasts.

And I think she was some sort of animal whisperer. I think. Maybe.

Oh, and people trying to help are bad. Not sure why, but, yeah.

And her dad was sick. I think. Or insane. Maybe just drunk? Dunno. But yeah...

Oh yeah, and there is squalor and chaos galore.

And there were drunk people. For sure. And storms and guns. Of course, storms and guns. And fire. And floating pickup beds built on Styrofoam or hay. Because, yeah, why would there not be?

Nonsensical non-sense bolstered by child abuse, booze, class-warfare and some sort of bayou based floating party boat (I think) and then the levy thing? I mean I really don't know.

Just not good.
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Terrible movie
ifg88816 January 2013
This movie is unbelievable in that it makes poor people appear dirty and stupid. What an incredible insult to those who live in poor rural parts of the country. As a pastor I work with a number of poor and uneducated individuals and I do not find them to be stupid or dirty. In addition, those who live "close to the earth" know how to care for themselves, hunt, fish, build homes and care for their families. They are intelligent in ways the intelligentsia knows nothing about. Have some respect for others outside your circle. Please. Examples? A boat made from the back of the pickup truck; houses that look like they were built by severely brain damaged architects, no idea how to use a fishing pole, everyone filthy, everyone drunk, and...everyone incredible stupid. I could not finish the movie because I felt sorry for the actors. I grew up poor and lived among the poor and there was a common rule among us all and that was "it is OK to be poor but there must be something wrong if you are dirty." Save you money...respect the poor.
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Post-Colonial Post-Modern Racist Twaddle
FiniusTBluster15 September 2012
I was hoping to see something really worth seeing. Instead, what I saw amounted to Liberal pornography, as deeply racist in its supposed humanism as anything from the deep dark racist past. All 'dem Cajuns may be poor, but they are so natural and happy, you should jus' see them drink, and party, and dance. It is like a Gabriel Marquez fantasy on a bad acid trip, taking us from auruchs, ice ages, and global warming to hurricanes, fire, and endless human disaster. The "noble savage"embodied the essential racist colonial myth; this stereotyping of the Cajun culture speaks to its post-colonial continuance,which is just as racist, only worse in its totally exploitive, pornographic pretense at presenting this characterization as believable and humane. The fact that the director, a twenty-something kid from Queens, shamelessly exploited his Cajun cast is even more disgusting. Perhaps the only thing worse is the mindless groveling over the film by what passes for the American liberal intelligensia. This film is a hate crime committed against all of us.
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