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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