Movies You’ll Eat Up, You Love Them So
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Where the Wild Things Are. Wow, world. Way to go movie industry. IT’S LIKE HOLLYWOOD MAKES MOVIES JUST FOR ME (Actually, lots of people as WTWTA took home the Box Office Cable Ace award for the weekend). My only criticism? No roller skates.
When the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are first popped up, I jumped on the judging train pretty quickly (I picked it up at the Pfft Stop on the westbound Condescension Line). I mentioned my concerns to friends who became visibly angry at my comments and, eventually, disturbingly violent.
My main concerns were that the trailer sort of marketed the movie as the most trendy things to hit film since ever (Honestly, I was trying for a joke there but I felt using Juno/ Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist wasn’t fair to those movies and using Blues Brothers 2000 was a cheap shot. Unless you think it wasn’t. Then consider those jokes made). If I were to do an experiment and ask some of these people “Who wants to see a movie written by Dave Eggers, directed by Spike Jonze, with music by the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and a trailer with an Arcade Fire song?” without mentioning the beloved children’s book part, many would have had the same reaction to trendiness. That is not to say I am averse to any of those components, but when they are all bunched up together, it begins to look like the movie was handpicked by any number of so-called non-mainstream bodies (Again, I was going to try for a joke but barristas/Pitchfork/ people at record stores/ people at book stores/ Dan Humphrey all seemed unfair).
The part that scared me the most was Dave Eggers. Despite my enjoyment of his books, I was scared he was going sprinkle some frisbee scenes have Max tell the wild things that he was open and he wants them to run him through do it you mother fuckers finally finally finally at the end. Eggers and Jonze kept it pretty clean with slight hints of their own work and some chocolatey notes at the end. Karen O too. The soundtrack was primal and simple without going darker or lighter than the scenes needed. Yes yes yes, Karen!
But adaptations are hard! People get pissed! I’m sure that there are bunch of F. Scott Fitzgerald-philes who are super-pissed about Benjamin Button. In making a movie of something people already love, there is the acceptance of a burden that there will be a group of people who will criticize and destroy the movie because it is not something that is not a movie. It seems silly (especially when I phrase things like that) but people are people and things are things and some people have things that are important constants in their life and if you alter these constants you are offending these people so who wins?
I think the clear winner is Mr. Sendak. Making movies like Dan Brown! Big League Chew!
The movie looked great but there were two things that struck me thinking about the movie. The first confusing thing was the cast. Max Records and Catherine Keener were great in the human parts but what was Mark Ruffalo doing there? 13 Going on 30 called and it needs its leading man back! Seriously, they do. He also has to stop by Just Like Heaven after that so he can only stay for five minutes, tops.
The actors doing voices were a great bunch but most did not have a voice that was immediately recognizable. While all the voices made sense for the creatures, it would have helped if they were slightly more distinct. I spent much of the film thinking Catherine Keener also did the voice of the caring wild thing KW, so, you know, Freudian.
Since most of these voices were not easily picked out, it made the choice of James Gandolfini as Carol stand out. The anger issues that were central to the plot lead me to a bunch of Sopranos connections. I was waiting for the plot to pick up when Carol and Max go to chase after the escaped Russian mobster in the snowy woods. And when Max, Carol, KW, and Douglas go into the diner with “Don’t Stop Believin'” playing and then it just cuts to black when that door opens, that was a weird choice.
The movie seemed violent when watching it. Thinking about it now, it was pretty cartoonish and fit with a child’s perception of violence. For the most point, it was inconsequential and over-the-top enough to accept. However, the actors’ voices made the creatures seem more human when they expressed disappointment or sadness or anger that it made the violence seem worse. This taught Max about anger and consequence but I think Spike Jonze could have done the same thing by having the wild things dance in front of a movie theater to a Fatboy Slim song.
Despite any of these problems, the movie really hit the emotional aspects. Lots of people exiting the theater readily admitted tears welling and even falling. Folks of all ages: children, young of heart, the aged, everyone!
A good friend of mine mentioned through text message that he “actually enjoyed how the movie was subtextually cripplingly sad.” He then followed “the whole thing is about loss and nostalgia and family and never really having a good one, but told through a kid perspective. Heavy character centering/ filtering. Thematically unsurprising, considering the screenwriters, but also successful, I think.” First, after receiving this, I wanted to text this guy a hug but I couldn’t because we don’t live in the future that much yet. Second, yes, this is Roger Ebert texting. Thirdly, I disagree. While the movie does have its sad moments, overall, it emphasizes the existence of love and acceptance in familial situations that are not ideal. Overall, put a wolf costume and a crown on. Be your own wild thing.