Tuesday, December 4, 2012

mini-film reviews: Beasts of the Southern Wild and Midnight in Paris

Beasts of the Southern Wild
There is much to be admired and enjoyed in Beasts of the Southern Wild, an independent film set in the post-Katrina bayou neighborhood known as The Bathtub. The action centers on Hushpuppy, a precocious six-year-old who mostly roams free this world. The film is a visual feast and features performances by real people who live in the bayou. At times it feels more like a documentary, and this authenticity is the film's strength. Where the film fell short for me, however, was in its reliance of magical realism. I often struggle with magical realism, and in this film I felt it deluded the film's greatest strength: the reality of life in The Bathtub, a community so far off the grid, rich with tradition, and seemingly foreign. The verdict: Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fascinating glimpse into The Bathtub, but the elements of magical realism undermine its narrative power. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Midnight in Paris
After nearly everyone whose taste I trust adored  Midnight in Paris despite not normally liking Woody Hall, I gave in and watched. Despite my love of Paris and the writers and artists featured in Gil's dreamy nights walking through Paris, I never connected with this film. Even worse: I found little to enjoy. Despite appealing to many who don't like Woody Allen, it was clear to me throughout it was a Woody Allen film. I found Rachel McAdams' character woefully undeveloped, a problem I often have with Allen's female characters. Ultimately, I couldn't buy into Gil finding himself in the 1920's when the clock hit midnight. Allen didn't strike the right chord: the world of this film is both serious and not, and neither were fully realized. The verdict: Neither the magical setting nor skilled actors were enough to make this dreadful film enjoyable. 2 out of 5 stars (note: I'm in excellent company with two of my favorite novelists on disliking this film.)

Both films are available on dvd. Buy Beasts of the Southern Wild or Midnight in Paris from Amazon.

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14 comments:

  1. Carrie,
    I completely agree with your thoughts on Midnight in Paris. After hearing rave reviews from nearly everyone I knew, I thought the storyline was so boring. Essentially the same situation we've seen again and again with time travel and period drama thrown in. I don't really like Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams was absolutely annoying. I enjoyed the costumes and the back drop and the concept... just not all wrapped up together with the recycled storyline.

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    1. Yes! How could Paris at night with those famous people be boring?

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  2. Oh, I am sorry that you didn't like Midnight in Paris! I really liked it, but I think that was because I went in looking for fluff, and I found it. It was simple, and I needed that at the time. I'm sorry it didn't gel with you.

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    1. Zibilee, I can see that. Expectations are so much of how we rate the end product. Glad you liked it!

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  3. I'm with you on both Midnight and Woody Allen. The only good thing that I found with Midnight was that it made me curious enough to research the lives of the famous people from the 1920s.

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    1. Jenny, I think I already knew so much about them I found it even more dull. I do want to make time to read A Moveable Feast though!

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  4. On my first view, I liked Midnight in Paris but when I made my wife see it with me, I found it super thin. I think my initial delight at seeing someone who loved the authors I loved (there was a shout out to Djuna Barnes, a favorite in our house) -- but after that rush, the movie disappointed. My wife haaaaaaaaaaated it.

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    1. I like your wife's taste:-) I can see what some loved here, but after a few minutes, I was bored. And how this concept can be boring still amazes me.

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  5. I find myself in the same boat to a certain extent with Midnight in Paris. I found Owen Wilson to be just okay, but I did enjoy the idea of the film. I found Rachel McAdams annoying and, as you pointed out, truly a character with no depth at all. I'm much more of a 1970s Woody Allen film fan than of his more recent films; not quite the same magic as before in his hey-day. Personally loved Annie Hall and thought Diane Keaton was a blast.

    Haven't watched Beasts of the Southern Wild, but might pick it up if nothing else to do. Then again, with the 3.5 rating, I might just rather read a book! :)

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    1. Natalie, I need to go back and see Annie Hall and Manhattan. Those are definite holes in my Woody Allen viewing. I'd definitely recommend a book over either of these movies!

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  6. I wasn't the only one! Like others have said, I liked the idea of the movie, and I've now read The Paris Wife, which was a much better look at F Scott, Zelda, Gertrude, and Hemingway. I dont' think I've ever appreciated Woody Allen movies, so I'm not sure why I thought this one would work. I actually like Owen Wilson usually, and he was all that saved it for me. I reviewed this when it came out as I saw it for Paris in July.

    I do love the movie poster though!

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    1. It's so nice to find company! I haven't read The Paris Wife, but it sounds wonderful. I agree with you on the movie poster too--it's so gorgeous and evokes Paris and art beautifully.

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  7. I adore Woody but Midnight was just okay for me. It was meh.

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    1. That's a unique perspective! I've heard so many more anti-Woody fans love this, but it's fascinating to see a fan who didn't like it.

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