Film Reviews

“Beasts” and Other Regular Folks

In a business where most films are either adaptations, remakes, or part 2, 3, or 4’s, to say you’ve seen something “new” is rare to say the least. But there is really nothing quite like “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Part fable, part drama, Beasts is a character-driven fantasy world that feels closer to reality than most documentaries. And ends up hitting harder and deeper than you’d ever expect from a film about a kid and an auroch. (If for some reason you don’t know what that is, read on….)

“Beasts” takes place before, during, and after a fictional Hurricane Katrina. And as much footage as we’ve all seen of the disaster, still manages to reveal an entirely different world to the one portrayed in news reports and Brad Pitt TV specials. Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), the precocious six-year old at the center of the film, lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry) in “The Bathtub”, one of the poorer communities on the outskirts of New Orleans. At the outset, her sparse life seems like it can’t get much worse –  with no mother and only a tough father who comes and goes, she is forced to take care of herself . Her mother, long gone, is a fantasy figure, as are the aurochs, the giant beasts that periodically appear and chase Hushpuppy around her ramshackle world. But, very quickly, her world does indeed get worse. Her house catches on fire. Her father nearly dies. And then, the rains come.

But the worst comes early on in the film. And though the losses start to pile up, so does a sense of hope. For in spite of what we as an audience expect in the face of such grief, Hushpuppy and the rest continually surprise us with their resiliency. It is the community of people who live in the Bathtub who can restore it, the most unlikely actions that offer the most love; and Hushpuppy’s imagination that becomes real and helps her save herself.

Behn Zeitlin, the director of the film, adapted it from a play, and sometimes it feels like just that – small, intimate scenes that are about the characters and the subtle emotions and relationships beneath the lines. The ties between people are deep, and Zeitlan’s actors  – most of whom were not actors at all, but regular people who lived through Hurricane Katrina – do a beautiful job. Slowly they draw us into their very real souls, the beautiful parts as well as the rough and shame-filled ones.

Above all, “Beasts” allows us on the inside of a culture filled to overflowing (excuse the metaphor) with its own symbols and music and meaning. The filmmakers never condescend nor hold on a pedestal the people they talk about, neither show themselves as better nor less than this community that seems at once familiar and far away. Instead, they seem to be learning from them. And, for ninety minutes, we get the privilege to do so as well.


Just Don’t Name it After That Body Part…

 “It’s a porno?”


“Come on, it’s got to be a porno.”


“Okay. Wait, are you sure it’s not a porno?”

Pretty hard to convince someone that a movie called “Good Dick” is about anything other than – well –  a specific human body part. And while it is about the physical act of doing it, it is also a very real, very tender look at a relationship and the ways that two people get comfortable with the physical stuff – and more importantly, with each other.

Marianna Palka (called only “Woman”) plays a lonely LA dweller who spends her nights dropping into the local video store for porn movies. Bad porn movies, in the opinion of one of the clerks, played by Palka’s real life partner, Jason Ritter (“Clerk”).  But despite her poor taste in pornos, he takes an interest in her – such an interest that even when his attempts at chatting her up lead him nowhere, he decides to stalk her until she gives in.

This giving in takes up most of the film. Even as they begin a tentative friendship, and then sexual relationship, it is the persistent push of Ritter’s character against the constant pulling away of Palka’s that is the film’s focus. And as the quiet and awkward scenes stack up, you start to wonder – can these two eccentric, mismatched people really find each other? Is there any way we can get out of this with a (sort of) happy ending?

The two performers are perfectly matched. Ritter manages to make his clerk/wannabe boyfriend funny, charming, and, most of all, kind, while Palka’s loner/reluctant girlfriend’s inner conflict between desire and disgust, past hurt and present love, rises subtly to the surface.

Palka is the Scottish-born actress who wrote, directed, and produced the film, which also features Charles Durning, Tom Arnold, and other famous faces popping up in surprise roles. It is Palka’s ability to offer up such fully rounded characters that turns the film from a story about people with problems into a story about a relationship. And how the fear of someone seeing your weirdness can transform to trusting that, in spite of baggage and odd habits, someone else can and will love you back.

So while it is about sex (doing it, watching it on TV, and unconsciously sucking ice pops while you do), “Good Dick” ends up making a fun and tender story out of the complex crap people have to wade through to find their way to each other.

Might even relate more to that than a porno.


You decide on a day at the coast with your friends, pack your swimsuits and sunscreen, but as you step out of the house into the fresh weekend air –  a blast of something like an exploding frozen kombucha hits your cheeks. So what do you do to save face? Go kayaking instead. Never done it before? Sea Kayak Georgia is the perfect place to start. For just $25 you get a half-day tour (a $55 value). Located on Tybee Island, Sea Kayak Georgia is open year round, Monday through Sunday, with tours at 8:30am and 1pm March through October, 10:30 am November through February.

Sea Kayak Georgia offers a full range of trips, classes and private instruction to meet the needs of any new or experienced kayaker. Never been in a boat before? Say goodbye to your inner fears about what to do with that paddle, with their Level 1 Introduction to Kayaking Course.  Feeling pretty comfortable in that narrow seat but want to practice your sea captain skills by learning the basics of tides and currents and using a compass? Try Level 2 and 3 Essentials and Coastal Kayak. Level 4 and Level 5 will get you into truly maneuvering that kayak like you were born to, paddling in currents up to five knots, surfing waves up to four feet high.

Go for a solo Robinson Crusoe adventure, or take a group out into Georgia’s barrier island coastline. For a non-traditional wedding, you can even take your bridal party.  Paddle out into the tidal creeks for the morning before your afternoon nap, or take an overnight trip through deserted beaches and sand dunes along the coast, spotting everything from dolphins to wild horses, donkeys and sea turtles. Yes, you may still get wet. But the thrill of salt water splashing your legs as you soar through clear water and open skies will be no match for the minor inconvenience of wet jeans.


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