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Where the Antidepressives Are

Since several of my friends seemed interested, wanted to scribble down a few impressions of Spike Jonze's take on Where the Wild Things are whilst it is fresh in the tiki braaaiiiiiiin.

Above the cut summary: flawed, but worth a look, if only for the fucking amazing Henson Shop creatures. And, yeah, there is OMG teh drama, though I personally didn't find myself much affected. Maybe not a kids movie. If you have doubts, then I'd go prescreen it, since you know your kids better than I do.

I didn't really care about spoilers for this movie, since, duh, I'd read the book, but I'm putting the rest under a cut just in case you don't wanna see it yet.

Just some background on my experience of WTWTA. Yes, they did have the book when I was a teensy kid (I'm old but not that old). For some reason, I didn't see it until I was at least a grumpy adolescent. I was at least old enough to have read interviews with Sendak, who seemed pretty persnickety, which seemed pretty cool.
Anyways, I liked it enough that when I was starting one of my jobs, I brought in that set of Wild Things action figures McFarlane made a few years back to decorate my cube.

I went to the screening with Boneboy. All you need to know about Boneboy + WTWTA is he has a Wild Things tattoo. Yeah, it's kinda like his life.

Stuff I liked about the movie: maybe the first 15 or 20 minutes, when you see that amazing kid who's playing Max and his relationship with his family. The only sour note was the self-conscious Indy music. I found it annoying, and my annoyance only increased as the picture went on.

For me, things started to go south the minute Max crawls up the hill and discovers a forest full of Wild Things. As I noted above, the creatures themselves are flawless. I'm a total CGI cynic. There is NOTHING that pulls me out of a movie these days like the "Oh, look, bad CGI monster!" reaction. This was anything but. As you might know, you first encounter the critters in the dark, and I was waiting to see them pop out into the sunlight and all the strings and wires suddenly become visible, but that really didn't happen. I'll be damned if I can figure out what was muppet and what was computer. They totally knocked this one out of the park.

No, it wasn't the look of the things, it was the sound of ... well, I'm still trying to decide. An unpleasant family Thanksgiving? A first day at the office with the world's most neurotic coworkers? Look, you walk up to a bunch of oversized hairy beasts whacking the shit out of the CGI underbrush, and my reaction is, "Uh, I'm sorry, I'm late for my dentist appointment." Really, I didn't wanna spend time with the Wild Things. Except maybe Lauren Ambrose's chicken-footed beastie, but then I'm a big Six Feet Under fan.

Sendak once claimed the beasts were somehow inspired by dinners he remembered as a boy with his overbearing relatives. I have the terrible feeling Eggers and Jonze heard this and decided to run with it.

It's a dicey thing to question someone's artistic choices in a movie. After all, I'm not a director, nor a writer. But I just think we use allegories for a good reason - it makes for some powerful stories. It makes for stories you actually want to sit through, that is, without sneaking a peek at your Boba Fett watch every 15 minutes.

Also noting, just to counter my sour taste, Boneboy, who's a lot more devoted fan, utterly adored the film. So, there's that.



( 9 cousins babbled — babble away! )
Oct. 19th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
Oh thank god I'm not the only one who wasn't blown away by the music. Specifically, the vocals. I mentioned to Daniel that I found them really distracting, and he said that he'd been reading reviews where people raved about how perfect the music was, and then I felt uncultured.

I think I responded more emotionally to the film because I have a lot of anxieties and emotional issues myself, and holy crap would the world be a more dangerous place if I was big and super-strong, maybe I should reconsider having children because children are fragile and flammable. I'm not sure I was *intended* to have that response to the film, though.
Oct. 19th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
I'd heard other comments - good and bad - about the music. No, you're not the only one. I think Jonze is another of those who started his career doing music videos.

I'm certain I was annoyed by the Wild Things partly because of my *own* issues. I *did* get scared for Max a couple of times when he was romping with the monsters. Though, I also got worried at the beginning when he went crashing down the stairs with that dog (the dog you never see again - does that make it a plot puppy?).
Oct. 19th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
Oh god the puppy. I wish they had given us any indication that Max did not accidentally kill the dog.

I kept muttering "holy crap child endangerment" and "holy crap imitatable acts" during the film, and was about to idly wonder whether we would see an uptick in the number of reported injuries from children imitating the giant monster dogpiles and dirt-clod-fights from the movie...

...and then I realized, the whole POINT of those scenes is that kids play like that. They are rough, they are thoughtless and careless, they could so easily get hurt. Which is why, when you let your kid play with monsters, you want them to play with the small ones like Elmo or Telly or Grover - the ones that they could, in a pinch, immobilize by punching in the kidneys. It is extremely unlikely that even SuperGrover could accidentally tear someone's arm off.

EDIT: I am not condoning violence against muppets, except in self-defense. I am a rare contrarian-Elmo-lover (i.e. it's so trendy to bash Elmo that I am compelled to support him, although really I just prefer his off-Sesame Street antics on the Rosie O'Donnell Show and that outtake with Ricky Gervais.)

Edited at 2009-10-19 07:22 pm (UTC)
Oct. 19th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
EDIT: I am not condoning violence against muppets, except in self-defense.

*coffee spew*

I've been kinda wondering about your reaction, or rather my reaciton to your reaction. Seems like, if something was able to *get to* you like that, must be worthwhile, right? I mean, there's some art behind it? And then I think, well, you could say that about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies as well, couldn't you?

And, yeah, I was getting the same point to the violence. Just last week we were running by a couple of roughly Max-aged brothers in the park who were throwing ROCKS at each other. Not dirt clods - rocks. While the mom meekly stood there, drooling. OK, not actually drooling, but it was one of those moments where, I'm not a parent, so there's a *lot* of stuff I don't feel qualified to comment on, but hey, lady, YOUR KIDS ARE FUCKING THROWING ROCKS AT EACH OTHER. Eh.
Oct. 21st, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
Err, my other comment was supposed to be a reply to this comment.
Oct. 21st, 2009 01:39 pm (UTC)
Yes! Yes, I feel the same way, I feel like the underlying danger was a huge point that was being made. About how kids are and how their reason works. You are given moments ( the wild thing pile) where you see Max's panic but he doesn't react. It would take an outside voice to get them to stop an even Max has that moment when he tells them they "need a Mom". Kids often don't always know how to get themselves out of a situation they created or even how to get out of their own emotional state. They keep reacting but it can get out of hand very quickly... Physically for little boys, especially.

I do think that ultimately the Wild things were too depressing. I mean I get that they were facets of Max, but they were his creation and I don't think he would imagine such emo monsters.

I'm with you on not knowing where puppet ended and CGI began. Amazing. And I have those action figures. :)
Oct. 21st, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
I still like the McFarlane Wild Things better than anything I've seen for the new movie. Wonder where I put them?

I guess I was kind of expecting this film to be more about the experience of being a boy. I obviously wasn't a little boy, but I've known and loved a lot of former boys (Star Wars collecting will do that to you). And I thought the first live action bits with Max were really nailing it. But I think you're right, the Wild Things just seemed a bit emo, more like 30-something filmmakers *imagining* being a boy might cook up.

I can't remember, did you decide to screen it for Gid, or did you decide it's a bit too much for him? There were some *really* little kids at my screening. Didn't hear anybody crying, but attention seemed to be wandering.
Oct. 21st, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
We went first and decided it's not for him now. I know he's expecting it to be fun romp with Wild Things yay but he is emotionally tuned in enough to get upset watching a movie about a kid getting upset, so I think it would go badly. And Carol at the end --yikes! (The arm!) I think if we watched it at home, he'd pay attention to the playful parts and be free to wander off/talk/play/be Gid through the other stuff so it would be less intense.

Yes about the beginning. His glee with the snow fort was *perfect* and once that is gone, it seems gone for the rest of the movie.

I think I cried during every scene with his mom.
*Love the toys* :)

Oct. 21st, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
Yes! I loved those toys!! Though, I seem to remember, I had trouble with one of them falling over.

Hrm. I bet they're in my box of "stuff from my desk I took home from that horrible, horrible job."

Oh, and Catherine Kenner is just kind of awesome. She barely spoke a word, and she was just so good.
( 9 cousins babbled — babble away! )


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