At Sundance, there was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ and then there was everything else

“The standout of this year’s Sundance and among the best films to play at the festival in two decades, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” isn’t an obvious studio-dependent title. Directed by Benh Zeitlin, who wrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar, the film is a magical realist tale, as well as a hero’s journey, set in a gloriously mythologized part of southern Louisiana nicknamed the Bathtub. There, a 6-year old girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis, a sensational find), lives in a state of grace and wonder with her hard-boozing father, Wink (Dwight Henry), amid wandering (and later cooked) chickens, stumbling drunks and rampaging creatures.

This is the first feature from Mr. Zeitlin, a Queens native who grew up in Westchester County, graduated from Wesleyan University and counts among his influences Mr. Malick, John Cassavetes and Emir Kusturica. After a stint working in the Czech Republic for another inspiration, the animator Jan Svankmajer, Mr. Zeitlin made his way, post-Katrina, to southern Louisiana, where he shot “Beasts” with a collective called Court 13. (“More of an idea than an organization,” as Mr. Zeitlin puts it, Court 13 takes its name from a Wesleyan squash court that he and some friends commandeered.) Shot on Super 16-millimeter film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is hauntingly beautiful both visually and in the tenderness it shows toward the characters, who live on the edge and perhaps somewhat in Hushpuppy’s head.” (via NYTimes)

Automatic Death

“The Navy is testing an autonomous plane that will land on an aircraft carrier. The prospect of heavily armed aircraft screaming through the skies without direct human control is unnerving to many.” (via LA Times)