Beast of the Southern Wild review making the rounds in my social networks…

If this is the case against the film, I’m not sure it’s going to get past the grand jury.

That reviewer admits the cinematography, score, locations and imagery in the film are top notch. Now, those things are huge. I know narrative is most important and I’ll get to that but, let’s not toss out the ethereal aspects of the film simply because the reviewer has an issue with the story. Because they were pretty amazing. They weren’t just good. They excelled. They greatly enhanced the narrative, enriching the story so much that viewers were immediately captivated. This is something that many, many films fail at from the start. Reviewer asks us to “see past the craft.” Fucking why? So we can understand your point better without this huge aspect of the film’s greatness getting in the way?

So, the Narrative. Some things that should be addressed…
- Hushpuppy wants people in the future to remember her but the viewer knows they won’t. She thinks her writing on a cardboard box will be enough. But we, the audience, are supposed to know better. Most of us did and recognized the helplessness of the character. Probably because no one is going to remember us either. This is a universal plight. Mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation and so forth.

- The Titanic stuff, it’s an age old narrative that probably started before the Buddha but was most historically done by him wherein the privileged child casts aside the networks of their society to a simpler, stripped down existence. Buddha did it. Yuppies do it. Gutter Punks do it. People do it. We have fucking reptile brains deep in there. Smooth, unbundled, savage reptile corpus callosums and we like to sometimes get in touch with it.

Unoriginal? Monomyth!

The rest of the review is the critic making some statements about what he didn’t like about the film but he doesn’t really say why it’s bad. Unless he is suggesting that because he didn’t like it, we shouldn’t. With more critics in the Universe than ever, a simple snarky ripping of a flick isn’t good enough anymore. There are 6.5 billion opinions out there. I need to know why yours is valid. You need to show me why yours is valid. Simply stating “Phony. Phony. Phony” doesn’t quite do it.

But hey the accusation was that noodling was depicted as too easy right? What don’t you know in that scene? Had Wink already seen the Catfish before his dialouge? Was it a spot he knew they lurked? It’s not a 65-pounder they pull up. They are out there to catch fish. The man has supposedly done it his whole life. The film is being critiqued because it looked too easy? It was a small aspect of the flick anyway. And why is it supposed to look hard? How would that advance the narrative?

Then we really get to the real heart of why this critic dislikes Beasts and yes, it involves … standing. It’s his premise and ultimately the basis of his critique that:

Also, call me cynical, but watching po’ black characters deliberately misuse words and grammar in folksy phrases written by white people (“cavemens,” for example) feels hokey at best and offensive at worst. Keep in mind, I knew nothing about the filmmakers before I watched this film. It just reeked of theater kid fantasy, and I’ve seen enough Hurricane Katrina narratives written by liberal arts students in New York to recognize this as one. Art students be lovin’ Katrina narratives like fictional Cajuns love crawdads, you all.

So, there is no way these white art school kids could possibly have anything meaningful or non-stereotypical to say about these poor people who live in the Bathtub? Even if they could tell this story adeptly (which they do) they really can’t because of who they are. The art isn’t allowed to stand alone because it’s this critic’s prejudice against the artist that gets in the way. The story can be told, but not by them so that gives it its cheesy quality. I guess it is safe to assume real poor folks wouldn’t have glamorized their plight but I live in and among them and I see it glamorized all the time. The notion is they can do it, these art school kids can’t, and that’s a case of standing.

And if the film was such a manipulation of poor hurricane-struck folk in Louisiana, wouldn’t Dwight Henry’s starring role have at least added some credibility to that? A life-long New Orleans resident and 7th Ward baker?

And let’s not forget that the Bathtub is indeed a fucking FANTASY WORLD. Yes, the flick is a fantasy movie. So that’s how you approach it. That is dictated to us by the filmmakers pretty early. And that is the mindset in which the film is to be approached from then on. There is magical realism at work here and this critic never even addresses it. It’s based in reality but, once we are shown that huge boars are floating toward Hushpuppy in melting blocks of ice why quibble about noodling? Maybe in the fantasy world of the bathtub, noodling is easy.

And also not mentioned despite it being a huge testament to the film’s greatness is the fact that these were not even actors in these roles. Both Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis acted exceptionally and brilliantly. Astounding because THEY HAD NEVER ACTED BEFORE IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES.

So the film excelled in score, setting, cinematography, imagery and acting. I don’t mind monomyth. I prefer monomyth over the overtold stories in flicks today. The original Star Wars was a monomyth. The latest Star Wars films were so overly-complex no one knew what was going on. I don’t mind a complex story but the framework needs to be simple and the complexities within it.

I don’t mind art students writing about Katrina. The more the better. So long as they get it right and these folks did.

2 Responses to “The Case Against The Case Against Beasts of the Southern Wild”
  1. sister consuela says:

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

  2. Varg says:

    You can just use your real name Janie.

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