Saturday, October 17, 2009

Let the wild rumpus start!

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is a work of staggering brilliance. It is a film that will be studied, analyzed and dissected for years to come by film goers of all kinds. It is such a lush, dense, rich film that in many ways I feel woefully unprepared to discuss it mere hours after having viewed it. As such I will try to keep this as short and to the point as possible.

After seeing this film I remarked to my sister that I think this is may be perhaps the best film ever made about what it really means to be a child. She quickly pointed out that it may be one of if not THE only film about what it really means to be a child. A few unsung classics such as THE SANDLOT and MY DOG SKIP spring to mind but I think she may be onto something. I’m not sure any film in the history of cinema has really tackled the very idea of childhood, not the nostalgic memories of it in the way that Spike Jonze’s masterpiece does.

If I had my way this film would be nominated for everything under the sun, especially writing. While I have no doubt this film will definitely get at least some awards recognition it remains to be seen just how openly this film will be embraced at this time. There is no doubt in my mind this is an instant classic, a film that will live for generations, one that I hope will be immediately recognized by the world at large as such but one can never quite tell with these things.

This is not a film that will play for everyone, especially not for all children because while yes this is a children’s or family film it is just as much for adults, if not more so than anything this side of Pixar. Never before has a film so perfectly captured the raw energy, spirit, emotion and mentality of truly being a person in training. It’s wild, crazy, scary stuff and while it’s fun it’s also staggering how profound it is when little life truths click into place, things that sometimes seem small and insignificant yet are actually some of the most important realizations you one will ever come to. This film understands that and is able to capture it and personify those so deeply human and affecting truths in a way that almost defies comparison.

Make no bones about it Spike Jonze has crafted a masterpiece, a work of art that in many ways transcends the medium and the genre. I am stunned and awed by what he was able to accomplish and my hat is off to not only him but especially to Warner Brothers, one of the last movie studios on the planet with enough guts to allow a film like this to be made. This is pretty much required viewing.


Adam Zanzie said...

I think that the most powerful thing about Where the Wild Things Are is the boldness with which it was made. The weaknesses stem from Jonze and Eggers' inability to really tackle head-on the adult issues that they're toying around with in the film.

If you ask me, the film is more admirable than it is enjoyable, and I was starting to get uncomfortable with the way the movie treats a subject like horseplay... even when I knew that it was absolutely spot-on. Max loves being the hitter. It's when he gets hit himself that fun turns into anger. While this is true of real life, I can't say I thought it was appropriate for the movie. Not that I'm advocating censorship or anything.

Did you ever see The Indian in the Cupboard (1995)? That was another movie where a kid discovers the horrible consequences that come with playing God. And, like Where the Wild Things Are, it was a good movie; but Frank Oz and Melissa Mathison did exactly what Jonze and Eggers are doing now. They raised a lot of serious questions that they weren't exactly prepared to answer.

Adam said...

Chris, did we watch the same movie?

Gotta go, I'll write in more detail later.

Adam said...

Ok, Chris. I'm wondering where the masterpiece is supposed to be in the movie that I watched last Saturday. Where the Wild Things Are is all right, but I certainly didn't find it to be as complete of an experience as you did.

First off, the story thinks that it's incredibly deep and knowledgeable about life as a child, but I found it to be too simplistic for its own good. Instead of feeling total sympathy for Max in the early going, I kept thinking to myself, "man, this kid is really stupid!" There are certain moments when the film really does hit the notes that it's trying to reach, but I didn't think that the film was consistent in keeping that up.

Additionally, the hand-held camera work annoyed me. I fully understand what Jonze was trying to do with it, as he wanted to capture the frenzied energy of a young child, and, on some level, he succeeded in part. In the end, however, I just wanted him to hold the camera still so I could see what was going on. Fortunately, he wasn't exactly as bad as Greengrass, for which I suppose I should be grateful.

I fully support the idea of artists like Jonze taking a risk with material like this. Currently, in American film, far too few risks are taken that don't involve pushing the envelope to see just how much blood can be thrown at an audience before they revolt, so I am grateful for people who care about trying to make artistic statements. Here's the thing. I've seen some masterpieces in my time, but the movie I watched on Saturday just wasn't one of them.

Megan said...

I actually think it's a film that your appreciation will deepen on if you watch it again Adam. Your dislike of the camera-work aside, I think what you're really dislking is that Max is not the typical "children's movie" kid - he's not a heroic, innocent, mini-adult that you might see in anything from Goonies to Up. This is a real kid dealing with real problems, a kid that's trying to process the world around him and when he encounters soemthing he doesn't understand he does what most real kids do and lashes out with a tempertantrum or another form of rebellion.

I don't know if I would categorize Wild Things as a masterpiece (remember Chris is the king of over stating things), but it was dang good, and incredibly visual and different. You won't see another film that looks like this, that's part of Jonze power as a director.

Adam said...

You know, I get that Jonze and Eggers were trying to make Max a different kind of child protagonist. That's an admirable goal, and one that I hope is taken up by more screenwriters.

That said, I just don't think that it was a terribly convincing portrayal, and I don't really care to see it again. I know how I'd deal with Max if he were my son.

Chris W said...

Okay, I can see you not liking the character of Max or necessarily agreeing with the way his mother handles him but an "unconvincing potrayal"? Max is the perfect epitemy of a little kid and despite what you might think of the movie, love it or hate it you can't deny that Max is in every way, shape and form a little kid. You may not like him or you may love him and sympathize with him but either way the entire movie hinges on HIM you wouldn't be able to get past the first 5 minutes of the film unless you buy him in some way. I won't argue about what one might think about the movie because I'm convinced history will prove me right but I don't think anyone can argue about Max himself. Like I said you may not like him but if you don't that's because he's being a bratty little kid and that sounds like a pretty "convincing potrayal" to me.

Adam said...

"I don't think anyone can argue about Max himself." Guess again.

It just didn't really ring true for me. I've seen some great child performances in my life, but this ain't up there with the best of 'em.

I don't want you to think that I didn't like the film. I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5. I thought it was all right. What I took issue is this notion that it's some kind of unbridled masterpiece. While an inventive film that deserves some recognition, it's far from that.,0,3795491.story

You might read that for an interesting dissenting opinion that sums up a few of my feelings, although there are others present that I don't agree with.

Anonymous said...

Still have yet to see it. Kind of looks like Labriyinth from the trailers which is a good thing.