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Few films have perplexed me more than Beasts of the Southern Wild. On my initial screening I was able to make it through only part of the first reel. I really don't believe in reading reviews before viewing films. The critics' comments (pro and con) always end up upsetting my own ability to analyze by either hyping up or deflating my expectations. I did know that Beasts was almost universally applauded by the critics (but then so was that Obama
infomercial, Zero Dark Thirty). Based upon the evident universal acclaim I figured the film had to have some redeeming features. I could not have been more disappointed. In the first 20 minutes of the film I had issue with over 35 points of script, art direction, continuity and directorial "misconduct." That's more than one and
a half problematic distractions per minute! I read a favorable review that seemed oblivious to what I thought were existential problems with the first part of the film. I did find a critic who shared many if not all of my concerns.
Beasts is essentially a fantasy film. The suspension of disbelief is absolutely essential. A fantasy that presumes to be grounded in temporal and physical reality is required to at least present those aspects of that reality with as much verisimilitude as possible. In fact the more extreme the fantasy, the more essential it is that the director not mess with the everyday reality part of the cinematic equation.
With a renewed resolve,
I reloaded my DVD and took another run at the film. The apparent errors not only persisted but increased
throughout the balance of the film. The director seemed to be willfully disregarding any attempt to establish rapport with an intelligent audience. He seemed to be intentionally jarring us with small and large errors, directorial miscalculations and misdirections that left even the most sympathetic viewer (with any knowledge of the craft) completely antagonized. My hopes that, at some point, the director might pull his film out of the crapper before its conclusion were completely dashed. (Spoiler Alert: I have never been so delighted over the death of a central character as I was near the conclusion of Beasts.) I recorded over ten pages of notes containing issues I had with the film. I will not torment you with an exhaustive elaboration of the many, many ways the film failed on technical, artistic, and emotional levels. These days, where even the most innocuous of films are made with a small modicum of craft, I could not understand how it was possible that a
product as inept as Beasts was even allowed to be released, let alone garner praise and awards.
Then an interesting thought occurred to me. What if I and all the critics (pro and con) were missing the real message of the film? What if all the errors were serving, not to destroy the film, but to place the really astute viewer in a far different state than the superficial and clichÈd story line the movie would seem to be advocating? This was an idea so outrageously intriguing that it led be back to the film for a third viewing and a completely different take on the message.
I wish I had read more about the director before my final viewing. I was determined not to be diverted from my theory that Beasts just might be a strange sort of masterpiece. Biographical material about film producers, screenwriters and directors, while sometimes interesting, should not unduly influence a critique of their productions. Unfortunately the relative inexperience of director, Benh Zeitlin I think has to factor into my criticism. It could endanger my analysis of Beasts as masterpiece. Age and
inexperience can be misleading. Orson Wells was only 25 when he directed Citizen Kane. Nevertheless I was forced to ask myself, was Zetlin capable of the kind of genius my interpretation of Beasts would have required of him or was he merely hopelessly inept and I was projecting my interpretation? Was it possible that the director, in spite of his ineptness, might still have stumbled onto a great truth? Was Beasts of the Southern Wild conscious art or accidental artifact?
I have been recently reading about Terror Management Theory and the psychology of Ernest Becker. Becker contended that much of human behavior and most of the operations of our cultural institutions are determined by our ideas of death and the strategies we devise to repress its final, grim reality. Scientists attempting to validate Becker's assertions have found ways of creatively testing
his theories and objectively confirming them. Some have even turned their attention to an expanded analysis of the strategies we have devised to repress and negate the growing awareness of the demise of the earth as a life-sustaining environment, the inexorable death of Our Mother, Gaia. These are the two salient themes in Beasts of the Southern Wildópersonal death and planetary apocalypse. Never mind that the subject, on the surface,
seems to be handled in the most clichÈ man
Mar 3 - 10:14 AM
Diego John Tutweiller
Wow, that was a lot of words.
Jul 8 - 11:51 PM
It was the worst film of the year.
Mar 1 - 09:33 PM
Mar 2 - 05:08 PM
Yes you are Lee
Aug 29 - 12:35 AM
funnily enough, this film caused more arguments between me and my husband than we have had in all our 29 years! we saw it this week and he hated it - thought it was total rubbish etc. I really got the story and liked what the director was getting across and i agree that there were scenes, images and things said that remain 'sitting' with you long after the film. the only thing i would say is that these days i find a lot of camera movement in films more difficult to watch and that combined with the grainyness of the film, although i think an important part of the 'story' and image, made it really tiring for me to watch.
Mar 1 - 08:13 AM
He also said Django was Tarantino's finest film. It wasn't.
Jan 15 - 09:12 PM
Yeah, it was
Feb 25 - 05:12 PM
Jul 8 - 11:52 PM
Smithey's review of this movie is the worst review I've ever read. He's a terrible critic. This movie was brilliant in so many ways. There are scenes and images that I will never forget.
Jan 15 - 05:02 PM
Mar 27 - 12:51 PM
Brilliant is in the eyes of the beholder when it comes to art. Maturity is accepting someones opinion that is different from your own without attempting to cut them down making you look like a child.
Aug 29 - 12:43 AM
This movie is terribly overrated.
Jan 13 - 07:29 PM
Check out this guys other reviews of movies, it made me start thinking about asking Rotten Tomatoes to put more strict filters on whos opinions count
Jan 12 - 01:25 PM
This man is a terrible critic. Did he think this fantastical drama was supposed to be about real child rearing techniques, or real situations for that matter? His review was a waste of time.
Jan 11 - 01:54 PM
so because his opinion is different from yours he is a terrible critic? Hmmm sounds a bit immature to me.
Aug 29 - 12:44 AM
The apotheosis of troll.
Jan 10 - 06:06 PM
Really, Mr. Smithey? The worst film of the year? Maybe you should stop proclaiming yourself the 'smartest critic in the world' after this.
Dec 27 - 07:43 PM
What's sad is he considers himself the world's smartest critic
Dec 1 - 06:55 PM
If he needs to say he is the world's smartest critic, I think it's because nobody else will
Feb 9 - 03:22 PM
Wow. This critic is about as far off base as one can be. Very weird review for such a great film. I would disregard it completely.
Nov 22 - 10:30 PM
That's exactly what I thought when I read his comments. He's on a different planet. He must be miserable, I would hate to be him.
Nov 27 - 02:37 PM