Monday, February 25, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

WHO: Quvenzhané Wallis was just great in this. her first film role with more on the way.

WHAT: This wasn't among my favorite films of 2012, mostly because I found it stylistically and/or thematically derivative of prior films by David Gordon Green, Spike Jonze and especially Terence Malick, whose influence hangs over the proceedings like a storm cloud over the Bayou. But it contains performances (Wallis's especially) that seem remarkable, and a number of scenes (I'm thinking of the "Girls Girls Girls" scene in particular) that capture a singular poetry worthy of comparison to the films it seems to be emulating.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens three times daily at the Opera Plaza, and twice daily at the Balboa and (in Berkeley) the Elmwood, at least until this Thursday.

WHY: Yes, my hunch was wrong about Amour getting shut out at the Oscars yesterday. I will have to modify my generalized, stereotypical image of Academy members accordingly. In fact, of the nine Best Picture nominees, only one team came out of the evening completely empty-handed: Beasts of the Southern Wild, which went 0 for 4. It had the least number of nominations among the nine (less even than Skyfall, which failed to make the Best Picture slate). During the ceremony, jokes were made from the stage about its status as the most truly "indie" of the nominees (one song lyric said it cost "fifty bucks"; I hope the folks at the San Francisco Film Society have a sense of humor; they awarded a pair of post-production grants and helped ensure editing and visual effects work was done here in San Francisco) and perhaps its nominated participants were simply happy to be there, amidst the entitled Hollywood royalty epitomized by Ben Affleck, whose receipt of a statue as producer of Best Picture-winning Argo didn't seem to do much to change his petulant demeanor, worn presumably because of the massive injustice done to him by the directors' branch that failed to nominate him in that category as well. Never mind the massive injustice his movie does to a great "stranger than fiction" story that deserved a better movie in my opinion. I shudder to think of latecomers entering the theatre to watch this movie after its opening montage has already completed; it's the only moment of the film that provides appropriate political context to a film that teeters dangerously close to jingoistic propaganda otherwise. Anyway, if you can't tell, I wish Beasts of the Southern Wild or any of the other nominees had bested Argo. Now the latter is likely to hang around on local cinema screens a lot longer than the former, which having gone winless I suspect doesn't have much of a theatrical life left in it. Its more modest flaws deserve to be overwhelmed by the big-screen experience.

HOW: In 35mm at the Opera Plaza and the Balboa. Digitally at the Elmwood.

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