Something Wild

So, we went to see Spike Jonze’s big-screen version of The Banana Splitz, which he’s called WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, perhaps to explain the lack of dune buggies. It’s very nice though: as Fiona said, it’s rare to see a movie that smells of wet dog so consistently. At one point, a Godzilla-sized Old English Sheepdog strides through frame, a massive alibi for the film’s prevailing pong. It’s also rare indeed to see a film visually indebted to Stanley Donen’s film of THE LITTLE PRINCE (quite markedly, I’m not kidding), unless you’re talking about the first STAR WARS, so that was welcome. I hope somebody brings it to Mr. Donen’s attention.

Lots of visual pleasures in this one, from the way the whiskers on Max’s wolf costume cast shadows on his face sometimes which in turn look like whiskers; to the conception of the Wild Things as essentially hollow bags, their stomachs wet canvas containers within which things eaten simply continue to exist; to the funniest prosthetic arm since DR. STRANGELOVE.

I was a little skeptical or resistant towards this movie going in, but really I found nothing to not like. Maybe that’s because there’s not that much there, but the slightness wasn’t a fault, just an attribute, and one that allowed more than the usual amount of attention to be paid to the textures of snow and dirt, the way people in baggy creature costumes bounce when they walk, and the wondrous things that can be done with a CGI-augmented animatronic facial expression. Great kid, too. Seems that Spike Jonze has really used pop promos well, to rehearse the stuff he wants to try out in features (as well as making diverting, attractive musical baubles): you can find a lot of the spirit of this one in his video for Daft Punk’s Da Funk, under the titleĀ Big City Nights.

In particular, the ever-pleasing notion of a character who is cartoony in appearance, but not in voice or personality.

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14 Responses to “Something Wild”

  1. Whoops. “Embedding disabled by request. Watch on YouTube”. Guess I’ll just hop over there and check it out.

  2. Can’d say I’m a fan of this one.. Max Records is excellent, but it’s hard for an actor to make contact with other actors when their all wearing giant styrofoam heads. Plus outside of the visual deisgn there’s next to nothing of Sendak in this.

    Gay Jeopardy Bonus Points: Sendak appears in Gregory Markopoulos’ <i.Galaxie (1966) a film composed entirely of 3 1/2 minute long color portraits of people Gregory liked and/or admired ( eg. W.H. Auden, Susan Sontag, Gian Carolo Menotti) executed entirely thorugh in-camera superimposition (it. He shot a roll, rewound the film then shot over it agin and again.)

    Sadly like all of Gregory’s work it’s no longer available.

  3. Surprised to learn yesterday that Arnold Stang died last month, a vividly recalled face from my childhood. A character actor likened to Wally Cox and Don Knotts, I also remember being surprised to see him as Sparrow alongside Sinatra in SOME CAME RUNNING the first time I caught it. The New York Times obit states a correlation between that role and Hoffman’s Ratso Rizzo in MIDNIGHT COWBOY. Needing extensive plastic surgery after an accident in 1959, he told the surgeon, “For God’s sake don’t make me look pretty”.

  4. Agreed that the film is at some distance from the Sendak, whose simplicity would defeat any feature-length adaptation, but I thought the interaction between human and thing was the strongest point.

    Syang was a big part of my youth via Top Cat (inexplicably retitled “Boss Cat” by well-paid BBC imbeciles). A great voice and a face to match.

  5. Minor correction – Stang and Sinatra appeared together in Preminger’s THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, not SOME CAME RUNNING. And Preminger must have liked Stang ’cause he used him again in a substantial role in the eye-popping, mind-blowing SKIDOO.

  6. Thank you C. Jerry, my mistake for pulling said film title off the top of my head. How could anyone not like Stang?

  7. I’m glad Sendak approved and found it not impossible to believe the book might have been inspired by the dream here filmed, which is as good a way of judging fidelity as any. And I’m glad you mentioned the textures. It’s not a competition, I know, but the word “dream-like” gets tossed about quite a bit, and this film really made me reevaluate my use of it. This film was really dream-like, BECAUSE it concerned itself so much with the physical reality of Max’s environment. When you dream, you are THERE, and watching this film I was THERE, far more than I was ever on Pandora (particularly vivid is our first sighting of the Things, by firelight, their shapes and actions and conversation making no sense at all, but utterly real). I want Jonze to do the Moomins now.

  8. Wow, I really like the word “really”.
    On a Pandoran tangent the problem with the idea of 3D fooling you into thinking you’re there, as proven by Avatar, is that the camera is still entirely in command of your focus. Terrifically pretty as Avatar was Cameron has no idea what it is we might actually want to do with our eyes and hands in a new environment so we swoop aorund a pop-up book. But Jonze knows.

  9. stuartcondy Says:

    From what I’ve read and heard from Spike Jonze, Sendak worked very closely with him on the the film. I think it shows. Like you say David, there’s precious little to dislike about the movie. I think it has a good heart and is honest about where it’s going which makes it alright by me.

  10. Now I know why I didn’t bother going to see Where the Wild Things Are: I’m a cat person (I find wet dog smell particularly repellent) and I’m not a Little Prince person (and find Stanley Donen’s film adaptation particularly repellent).

  11. It really helps Jonze’s film that the environment is so real. Despite the visual pleasures of Cameron’s arboreal Fantasia, it’s completely manufactured and you don’t lose sight of that even when you’re immersed within it. And part of the beauty of the film is it isn’t trying to be obviously beautiful all the time, hence the sense of things smelling a bit off, and the textures being quite abrasive. Helps contrast with the lovely light and sweet tunes.

  12. Christopher Says:

    This just hasn’t appealed to me(like avater)to get up and pay to go see it..altho the book was big in ’67..when I was more interested in Homer’s Oddesyus and Dicken’s A tale of Two cities…..recently picked up a copy of “SEcond Fiddle to a Steel Guitar”with Arnold Stang and 2 bowery Boys dealing with country Music in nashville in 1965…I olve it..

  13. That does sound enticing!

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