If you enjoy movies that make you think about the big picture, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is one. “Tree of Life” was hyped last year as the consummate film about the mystery of human history. I found it boring, pretentious and way too long. I’d only give it a 3 out of 10, for those of you who remember teens rating new songs on American Bandstand during the ’60s. “It’s got a good beat.” “You can dance to it,” they’d say.
With all the hype and the beautiful actors in “Tree of Life,” I couldn’t dance to it. “Beasts,” with Quvenzhane Wallis playing 6-year-old Hushpuppy and Dwight Henry as her proud and very ill father, conveyed another story. Working hard to survive Hurricane Katrina near New Orleans’ breaking levees, they seemed like real people — off the grid, part of the 47 percent. They treated their neighbors like family and were all, literally, in the same boat. I got them, even though I’ve never been truly poor.
I believed Wallis, an amazing little African-American girl whose dad insists that she repeatedly holler, “I’m the man!” Hushpuppy learns to believe she has a place in the universe.
“Arbitrage” was the other movie we saw this weekend. Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, two of my favorite actors, portray a very wealthy New York couple caught up in the 1 percent. Make more money, sponsor more charity balls, all of that high-class glitter.
Gere, playing it to the hilt, is more than a rich guy going down because of dubious multi-million-dollar deals. He’s cared for employees beyond what’s necessary. He cares about his family, even though he’s cheating on his wife. I’ve never been rich either but the movie humanized his over-the-top lifestyle.
Movies aren’t real life but they can shine, be instructive (even in understanding the political economy), if they feel like they are.