Name: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Release date: June 27 2012 (limited)
DVD release date: currently available
Run time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Box office: $11.7 million
Rotten tomatoes score: 86 percent
Movie Math: An Inconvenient Truth + (Pan’s Labyrinth – For Whom the Bell Tolls) + (The Descendants – Stepmom – House of Sand and Fog)
Tweetable description: A young girl and her father combat a hurricane, an illness, and the eventual end of the world in a section of marshland called The Bathtub.
What Lisa Schwarzbaum said: ” In the extraordinary, strikingly original post-Katrina fable Beasts of the Southern Wild, acting novice Quvenzhané Wallis (all of 6 years old when she shot the movie) radiates an amazing gravity and poise as a little Louisiana girl called Hushpuppy…. The wonder is, the whole movie resists categorization…. A”
What Owen Gleiberman said: “There’s no denying that Beasts of the Southern Wild shows us an America we’ve never seen in a movie before. Visually, at least, the film brings us up close to what it presents as the raw life-force squalor of people on the outer reaches of civilization. Would it have been too much to ask, though, for the filmmaker to stage, like, scenes? Beasts of the Southern Wild is so busy rubbing its “authenticity” in your face that, to me, it never quite becomes a movie.”
Number of Oscar nods: Four. Besides Best Picture, Benh Zeitlin is nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay (a nomination he shares with Lucy Alibar). Quvenzhané Wallis is now the youngest actress ever to be nominated for Best Actress.
Movie’s Oscar history: Zeitlin, Wallis, and Alibar are all first-time nominees.
What is has won thus far: Quvenzhané Wallis won the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Young Actor (but Best Actress went to Jessica Chastain and Actress in a Comedy went to Jennifer Lawrence). Beasts won the Camera d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. And let’s not forget the award that started it all, Beasts won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival last year. But the movie, Wallis, and Zeitlin all weren’t even nominated for Globes.
Why it should win: Two words: Quvenzhané Wallis. Her performance demands respect and anchors the film. Wallis’ Hushpuppy is constantly full of vulnerability and ferocity. The movie starts with Hushpuppy holding a chick to her ear, a habit she repeats throughout the movie. In this silent moment with the chicken, Wallis commands the screen, her eyes showing intense contemplation and curiosity. It’s believable that she imagines these icebergs melting and these creatures coming to claim her because Hushpuppy so deeply analyzes the world around her.
When Zeitlin talked about casting Wallis to EW he described Hushpuppy as “this moral girl who believes in right and wrong so strongly, and has this fierceness and sweetness that are sitting inside her at the same time.” He knew that Wallis was the perfect fit to play this role.
Why it shouldn’t win: As Zeitlin’s first major film, one could argue that Beasts doesn’t have as strong a narrative focus as Zero Dark Thirty. Lincoln and Argo have deeper casts. Silver Linings Playbook has smarter dialogue. However, it seems harsh to harp on why it shouldn’t win, because in almost every scenario it won’t win.
Vegas Odds: 100/1 according to Vegas Insider
Best Line: Hushpuppy and the other young girls from the Bathtub go on a quest to find their mothers. They end up at a place called Elysian Fields with a sign that reads “Girls Girls Girls.” Each pairs up with a different woman and they dance slowly. The woman with Hushpuppy (her mom? We never find out) holds her as they dance and Hushpuppy whispers, “This is my favorite thing.” The woman gets to do what you as an audience member want to do the whole movie, pick Hushpuppy up and hold her close. Plus, it’s a pretty monumental moment for a girl who can only remember being picked up two times.
Worst Line: “I’ve been eating these all my life. I keep the wrappers in the boat cause they remind me of who I was when I ate each one. The smell makes me feel cohesive,” says the boat captain transporting Hushpuppy to Elsyian Fields. In a movie that stresses the importance of recording your life so that you aren’t forgotten, maybe leave out the guy who just never got around to taking out his trash.