Beasts of the Southern Wild: Attempted Myths and Unexpected Political Messages

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With the summer being jam-packed with work, adventures and getting out of town, I haven’t exactly been on my game when it comes to movies. Rather I’m still catching up on my intimidating book pile (my goal, finish 10 books by the end of summer. I’m at 6).

So when I got a chance to see filmmakers collective, Court 13’s Beasts of the Southern Wild I was thrilled. The film is full of strange mythos, tears and joy. However in some regards I feel the film was more ambitious than it could handle, and in other regards more opportunist than it needed to be.

The film follows Hushpuppy the strong willed daughter of tough loving dad Wink. The two live in the “Bathtub” a squalid but charming town where friendship and community are strong. When the world beings to fall apart, both physically and metaphorically, Hushpuppy goes on a search for her long lost mother.

So, quite simply, what worked:

  • Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy, oh man did they ever strike out with this girl. She was utterly fantastic. We all know how hard it is to cast children in films or television (KILL CARL – Walking Dead), but this lovely young girl seemed articulate and chock-full of emotional vigor.
  • The Bathtub as an isolated destination. When we are subjected to the bathtub and not the “Real World” we are somewhat transported to a place of make believe. We ignore the living conditions, the borderline child abuse, and the fact that everyone probably would have died of food poisoning. But when we leave… well more on that below.
  • The environmental message. The melting of the ice-caps and the re-birth of the ancient pig-monsters. When faced with the catastrophe of killing the world, living in the bathtub seems like a paradise.
  • The emotional growth of Hushpuppy as her father is dying and when he finally kicks the bucket. This was a truly emotional scene. An expected scene, but nonetheless heartbreaking.
  • The traveling lighthouse and the floating bar where fishermen go for women, this all fit in with the unique landscape that the Bathtub provided.
  • Finally, the fact that many of the actors, including Hushpuppie’s father was amateur and local. And fantastic!

What didn’t work:

  • The leaving of the Bathtub. There is a short scene where the Bathtub is evacuated and the residents go to a holding hospital. Suddenly everything you found charming about the Bathtub before seems horrible, and these people? Insane and unbearable. I don’t think this was the intention of the film and I honestly don’t feel as if the scene was in any way necessary. It could easy be omitted from the film and strengthened the mythical aspect the director, Benh Zeitlin, was going for. When you leave the bathtub everything just fell apart.
  • Mythical strengthening. It needed more of it. I get what Zeitlin was trying to do, but honestly it fell flat in certain moments. Although I enjoyed the moment when the beasts and Hushpuppy meet face to face it feels more rushed and tacked on than anything else.
  • And my personal experience in the theatre: The two women sitting next to me who were laughing at everything… it’s not actually a comedy… sure some parts are funny as in “aw, it’s cute what little kids say” but laughing at everything? Inappropriate!

So as you can see, most of it worked for me. But these faux’s were honestly distracting to the entire narrative than anything else. The film was about resiliency and resistance, but without those fully backing the narrative it’s hard to truly loose yourself in it from start to finish.

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Ultimately the entire film circles around this beautiful line, and all the action follows in swing:

The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the whole universe will get busted.

A very enjoyable film, and unique in its ambitions. At the very least an exciting new film collective to look out for has emerged shining brightly and optimistically! I look forward to their ambitions in the future.

Transmetropolitan: An Obvious Homage, Not so Accurate Portrayal

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I just finished the first volume of the cyberpunk graphic novel series Transmetropolitan. I feel as if I should have enjoyed the series more than I actually did. The series follows Spider Jerusalem a non-veiled homage akin to Hunter S. Thompson. We follow Spider as he moves through his urban wasteland and looks for articles to write. His method is anything but professional and acts with everything but finesse. The series tackles everything from religion to television, to aliens and consumerism. Nothing is left out and no one is free from a scathing attack.

It is exactly because of this no-holds-bar staggering critic of modern society that I can understand how this series garnered such a strong cult following. Set in the future, Spider writes about Alien race riots and eats caribou eyes from a fried chicken bucket. His only friends are a two faced cat and his stripper-assistant-apprentice.

My problem with the series is many, but mostly it is in the portrayal of the late Hunter S. The great Gonzo. So many wish to emulate him and so many fail. That is the beauty of Mr Thompson: He was literally one of a kind. This characterization of him lacks any of the subtitles Hunter had. After reading Hunter’s oral biography, Gonzo, written by almost every person who graced his life, Hunter, as insane as he was, had a natural charming quality to him. One that could entice a former president to spend the whole day drinking with him. One that would allow him to shoot guns and drink enough to sedate a horse without anyone calling the cops. One that if the cops were actually called he could talk them into hanging out with him instead. One that convinced him to hang out with the hells angels without being murdered. Spider Jeruselem completely lacks this beautiful side of his character and instead focuses on the agressive qualities leaving you with a character who I found entirely unlikeable and utterly one-sided.

That being said I can still understand how the fans will cheer with his various quips and find a hero figure in this oddball who excells at “sticking it to the man”. A true outsider looking in on the system, and has no problem with pointing out the flaws right in from of your eyes.

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Summer Music Time: Tune of the Week III

I proudly introduce you, or reintroduce to those who are already fans, Tycho.

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Specifically, the new Album Dive. Equal parts chill, equal parts summer, this album makes me want to sit on a train with my headphones in a foreign country while looking out the window. Fly over Japan while the sunrises looking out the window as the plane circles around Mt Fuji (true story, but replace Tycho with Cut Copy). Start a backyard midsummer night’s evening barbeque with friends.

What I’m getting at, this is the life soundtrack for good, dreamy times. I think the musical artwork aptly amplifies this vision:

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So to introduce you if you’re curious Click the link below to listen to Hours a darkly upbeat melody:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuGO6WHcruU