Beasts of the Southern Wild, Sundance


What is Beasts of the Southern Wild and why has it gotten so many nominations? I've never heard of it.
—Fujiya, via Twitter

The nomination of this tale tale about southern poverty and magical realism has left some film historians a bit mystified—"it hasn't even come to my town yet," one noted—and yet, here it is with 4 nominations, including Best Picture and a Best Actress nod for a 9-year-old.

Here's why.

In short, consider Beasts to be the new Precious. Or Juno. Or Slumdog Millionaire.

That is, this year's little film that could.

Every year, the Academy needs at least one quirky Best Picture contender that either (a) no one saw, (b) came from a foreign country or (c) celebrates the poor, the unfairly maligned or the oppressed.

Beasts covers at least two of those categories, telling the tale of the Bathtub, a Louisiana community cut off from society by a levee. A storm ravages their home; authorities forcibly evacuate them; they face starvation and sickness. But through it all, the 5-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) survives, thanks, in part, to a healthy imagination and a canny teacher.

Critics have gone nuts. The New York Times bestowed it with a "Critic's Pick" for 2012; Roger Ebert has raved over it; even President Obama has called it "spectacular."

So it should come as no surprise that the flick is one of the 10 in consideration for Best Picture, along with, as I've said, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

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