October 5, 2016

Kids Playing Kids: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Neither Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry had never had an acting gig before filming this movie, the "professional" crew was minimal and filled out with the help of locals, it was shot on 16mm, it was the directors first feature length film; yet everyone involved was for nominated and won many, many awards. It's seriously one of the best movies to come out in recent years, and if you haven't seen it, you are missing out.

(Though I love this movie completely, it's 100% out of my wheelhouse to explain, so I asked my movie critic friend Ian Nichols to help me out by writing a synopsis. He did, and it's pretty damn wonderful.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Magical realism, normally commandeered by white Hollywood, makes its way deep into the South, past the levies, and into the thigh-high-and-climbing waterways among a group of islands off the coast of Louisiana. A bayou community straddling the gulf between the sobering effects of climate change and heady faith, spends its days not care free but blindly wading through alcoholism, poverty, and survival. At the eye of this tempestuous domain is the heart of it: Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), a spirited young girl with immense imagination. She conjures giant uni-horned warthogs, and endures the harsh reality with her boozy, widowed father. Director/writer/composer Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild is an ugly world made otherworldly—one that is astonishingly beautiful, raw, and enchanting, seen through the eyes of a child embraced by a murky future.

Quvenzhane Wallis: This was Wallis' very first acting job, and when the movie started filming she was only 6 years old. But to watch her on screen you'd think she had been the star of, at the very minimum, every single community theater production near enough to her home for her to be in. Seriously, she isn't just the focus of the film; she narrates it and stars in it. She is the film! Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated for 4 Academy Awards one of which was for her performance making her the youngest Best Actress nominee and it was certainly a deserved nom. (Sadly, #OscarSoWhite so the award obviously Jennifer Lawrence in her seminal performance in that movie about football or something.)

See this movie: If you love Pan's Labyrinth or Hugo, but would be interested in seeing them through a Wes Anderson, John Waters lens.

Thank you again to Ian Nichols, you can find him on Twitter here and here.

Ian Nichols is a Saint Paul, Minnesota-based freelance film critic and co-host of two podcasts: the Flicksation Podcast and the horror movie-centric It’s Only a Podcast.

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