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Beasts of the Southern Wild [Celluloid Hero]


Beasts of the Southern Wild  (2012)

This movie was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. I went in with high hopes, and left wondering how so many nominations were given to a film I was not particularly impressed with.

The movie takes place in a fictional New Orleans, where the poor people live outside the levee in an area called “The Bathtub”, keeping them in constant danger of flooding. Wink and Hushpuppy (Dwight Henry & Quvenzhané Wallis) are a father and daughter living amongst the others in the swampland. Hushpuppy’s mother is not in the picture, leaving Wink to raise his daughter to be strong on her own. A major storm hits and floods the entire area, sending most of the population inland, while killing the remaining vegetation and livestock. Some of the people stay to brave the storm, and witness the destruction of their home.

The “beasts” come in the form of “aurochs”, mythical pig-like creatures that are frozen under polar ice caps. As global warming heats the planet, the ice caps melt, and the aurochs carve a path of destruction on their way to the Bathtub. It’s left up to the viewer to decide whether these creatures are real and just a magical part of this universe, or if they’re all in Hushpuppy’s head as a grand metaphor.

As far as the nominations go…Best Picture? I’ve reviewed two of its competitors from that year (Amour & Lincoln) and seen two others (Argo & Silver Linings Playbook (review of SLP to come soon)) and I can’t say that Beasts stood up to any of them. Best Director? Far too much shaky-cam for my taste. I can’t wait for that trend to fade away. I can’t really speak about an “adapted screenplay” nomination. The only nomination I felt had merit was the Best Actress nod for Quvenzhané Wallis, and even that I’m torn on. Part of me says it isn’t really “acting” when a five-year-old character is being played by a five-year-old; conversely, there aren’t  many five-year-olds that would be able to handle a more serious role. Sure, a lot of the character’s personality was displayed by her precociousness, but Quvenzhané Wallis was able to portray a good amount of emotion with just her facial expressions.

In the end, this movie didn’t win any of the awards it was nominated for. I understand how many critics would have been swayed, there was a certain charm to the movie, and I could see what the director was attempting. I just feel like the attempt came up short. I tried to get emotionally invested, but I just couldn’t. Even with the big emotional climax at the end, I felt like I should be crying, but my eyes didn’t even water.

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On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” gets a 3 out of 10.



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