Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) ***1/2 - This film is pretty much Brillante Mendoza meets Hayao Miyazaki for me. It's a pretty good combination. It's basically about a little girl and her relationship with her troubled father in the poor areas of Louisiana during, what I'm assuming is, Hurricane Katrina. The American poor here is depicted almost like its own subculture probably almost foreign to a middle-class city dweller. Personally, I have mixed feelings about over-romanticizing such things. However, the film is anchored by the wonderful performances by the two leads who are first-time actors (Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry) and I was unexpectedly moved by the ending. First-time feature director Benh Zeitlin shows talent and has a unique voice. Can't wait to see where he goes from here.
Les Miserables (Tom Hooper) *** - Now
this is another tough one. I'll say upfront that I love the musical (and
musicals in general). Overall, I have to say that I did like this movie a lot.
Some of criticism, however, I find myself agreeing with them: Tom Hooper's
excessive use of close-ups (Tom, the medium shot is your friend), Dutch angles
and off-kilter framing which, I think he mistakes for his "style" or "signature"
("visual crutch" is more like it) almost sinks the film. I've seen my share of
all-singing musicals but this one felt a bit much despite the fact that I do
adore the score. Despite all its flaws however the things it got right it REALLY
gets right. The cast is pretty superb (Russell Crowe, IMO, isn't THAT bad, he's
just not up to the standards of the rest of the cast). The big emotions (though
a bit cheesy) of the original musical is present in spades here and for me,
there's nothing wrong with that. It's a mixed bag but good overall.