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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira:

February 14, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Oscar countdown: ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’

On this rainy Valentine’s Day, we continue our alphabetical stroll through the Best Picture nominees with “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” this year’s little-movie-that-could. It’s probably safe to say that no one was more surprised on Oscar-nomination morning than young director/co-writer Benh Zeitlin, who shot his movie on 16mm with a budget of just over $1 million. “Beasts,” the fantastical story of a little girl and her father trying to weather a devastating storm in their Louisiana community (known as “The Bathtub”), made its debut at Sundance a year ago last month, and it’s been on a wild ride ever since. Whether or not it takes home any Oscars, “Beasts” has already won.
Total U.S. box office: $12 million, second lowest of the Best Picture nominees (but still roughly 12 times more than its budget).
Total Oscar nominations: Four, for best picture, director (Zeitlin), adapted screenplay (for Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar), and best actress (Quvenzhane Wallis).
Best chance for a win: I’m thinking screenplay is the only category in which “Beasts” has a decent shot; the Academy often likes to award scrappy little films in this category. Unfortunately, the competition is pretty tough: it’s up against fellow Best Picture nominees “Lincoln,” “Argo,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Life of Pi.” Despite Wallis’ talent and charm, for a nine-year-old (who was six when she made the film), the honor’s in the nomination this time around.
Odds of this movie creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: I’ve already floated, in the “Amour” entry the other day, how much fun it would be if Wallis (youngest nominee ever in Best Actress) and Emmanuelle Riva (oldest nominee ever in Best Actress) tied for the award. It won’t happen, but it would be a kick. For Wallis to win would be the longest of long shots (no one under 21 has ever won a lead acting category), but would surely result in the cutest acceptance speech imaginable.
Fun fact: Wallis, chosen for her role over 3,500 girls who auditioned, was 5 years old when she was cast. The filmmakers had said they weren’t considering girls under age 6, but Wallis won Zeitlin over with her defiance at the audition. “She was refusing to do this thing that I asked her to, because she didn’t [feel] it was right,” Zeitlin told Movieline. “I wanted her to throw something at somebody, and she said, ‘No, that’s not right to throw something at somebody you don’t know.’ She was the youngest person we looked at. She snuck into the audition. . . . I just thought, she’s going to bring her own morality, her own worldview, to the part.”
Remember: Join me at for a live chat on Oscar night, Feb. 24! More details to come.
Quvenzhane Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (photo by Mary Cybulski, courtesy of Fox Searchlight).



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