FILM REVIEW: Where the Wild Things Aren’t

I had vaguely been following Beasts of the Southern Wild in the weeks leading up to its release, mostly with eyes half shut in resentment over twenty-nine-year-old first-time director Behn Zeitlin’s instant success. (“Hmpf.  Beginner’s luck.  Dude doesn’t even know how to spell his own name.”)  Following a gushing article by my Twitter friend Chris Lee in The Daily Beast, which forecasts an Oscar nom for Beasts, I was forced to book my second-favorite seat, C-26 in the handicapped section of the Arclight Hollywood.  My favorite seat, C-22, had already been nabbed.  That’s how popular this piece is for the indie film lover.

All articles about Beasts are the same: how Zeitlin made this on a shoe-string budget, yet it still has the look and feel of a much larger film; how he auditioned four thousand little girls for the lead, Hushpuppy, but finally settled on Quvenzhané Wallis because she wouldn’t throw a water bottle at him in the audition, and therefore had a strong moral compass; how Zeitlin had never even heard of Fox Searchlight before the bidding war erupted at Sundance this year and his Little Film That Could was scooped up by that specialty distributor.  So not only was I looking at a massive dose of beginner’s luck, it appears this purported wunderkind is some sort of naïve rube from New Orleans who not only can’t spell his own name, he’s just so gosh-darned pleased and dazzled by all the attention and accolades his little film is getting that…

Not so fast.  Cue needle screeching across record, please.

Matt Damon Gets Religion

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt think they are about to meet God and are appropriately slack-jawed at the prospect, as I would be. Actually, I'd be snickering while pretending to go along with the prank.

I take movies way too seriously.  I don’t mean the business of filmmaking, that’s too much of a surreal farce, like a performance of Ubu Roi in a never-ending loop with Harvey Weinstein, Scott Rudin and Steven Spielberg alternating in the role of Père Ubu.  I mean the movies themselves.  I’m constantly relating real life to cinematic reality, a sure sign of not-so-latent mental illness.  For instance, I might be in an animated conversation about my landlady, the Wicked Blais, gesticulating like a Roman trying to wiggle out of blame for a traffic accident, and I’ll say something like, “I’m just like Burt Reynolds in that scene in Deliverance when he’s down, his leg is broken, bone jutting out, and the rabid hillbillies are coming after him and he picks up his crossbow and …”  All of this is to say that while I know Matt Damon is only engaged in an extended game of adult Let’s Pretend when he makes a movie, I’m a bit concerned about two of his recent choices, The Adjustment Bureau and Hereafter.

I really loved the first twenty minutes of TAB. And I mean that: I more than enjoyed it, I loved it. I was smiling. I thought, Hmmm, this might shape up to be the intellectual challenge that Inception wasn’t.  Then they brought God into it, and I started fiddling with my Blackberry, itching for a game of poker. (I am way down right now, over a million dollars at the World Series tables, but that’s nothing compared to the fiasco a month ago when the damned thing reset and I lost thirty-one million in a nanosecond.)

Let me jump off the rails a second to talk about Inception.  I was expecting too much from a major summer release, I think.  My expectations were raised even more when I had a brief scene with a showcase Cali couple just outside the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.

“Are you going to chain your bike right there?” the She of the couple asked.

“Uh, yes, that’s right,” I replied, resisting a retort like, No, I’m just practicing public displays of light bondage with my buddy Schwinn, here.  You know these Germans, so kinky.