Drifting in from various film festivals on smoke signals of lavish praise, the unique, fascinating and ultimately depressing film called Beasts of the Southern Wild— a low-budget independent film by Benh Zeitlin about survivors of apocalyptic Hurricane Katrina, shot in the back swamps of Terrebonne Parish, La., using local nonactors instead of Hollywood extras—is now ready to engage the movie-going public in the darkness of a dream. There is no guarantee that the movie-going public is ready. I don’t notice any critics offering to pick up its deficit tabs in case it floats away from good reviews. But get ready anyway. Brilliant, compelling and powerful, this offbeat look at a part of a world we live in but know nothing about is not going to disappear without at first making a noise.
In a desolate, burned-out butt end of nowhere (the shrimp-trawling, blackened catfish, Cajun part of Southeastern Louisiana), a little girl they call Hushpuppy is left alone for days and nights on end when her desperately ill father disappears, forcing her to invent her own survival techniques. The setting is the emotionally parched and geographically designed cartographer’s view of hell called The Bathtub—what’s left of an area of makeshift cardboard and toothpick shanties that Katrina devastated, scattering the region’s population to the wind like dandelion fuzz. It lies low between the Gulf and the Mississippi River—a man-made wall has gone up on the dry side of the levee to protect against annihilating floods. This is where nothing grows, catfish and crawdads from polluted water are the only food, and stubborn Cajuns who refused to evacuate to higher ground when Brad Pitt and Sean Penn came down to rescue them on CNN News still live in the ultimate depths of poverty and ignorance. It’s the most sobering view of the uneducated and disenfranchised outcasts the world has forgotten since Precious.
James Franco, the real voice of our generation, has taken time out from his busy schedule of Art and Teaching and also Learning to begin a Huffington Post diary. It’s about time!
So what important issue of our times is Mr. Franco tackling? President Obama’s stance on gay rights? The construction of Marina Abramovic‘s performance space over on the Hudson? His new album, perhaps?
Those are all great guesses, but James Franco is actually here to talk to us today about a matter close to his heart: Haunted tours in New Orleans that he took with his Nana. (Which is the name of his Japanese hairdresser, not his grandmother.)
Nicolas Cage might sleepwalk through much of his career, but if you think he can’t act, take another look at his staggering work in Leaving Las Vegas, or catch up with his cathartic, above-average performance in the new urban crime thriller Seeking Justice. It’s a welcome surprise.
Directed by New Zealand’s king of pain Roger Donaldson, it begins with an SUV pushed off the roof of a New Orleans parking garage in the middle of Mardi Gras. Nobody gets hurt except the driver, thus setting the scene for a formulaic explosion of mayhem and silliness. But brace yourself. What follows is a roller coaster ride, off the beaten track and dashed with detours, and unexpectedly plausible.
At 2008’s Prospect.1 biennial in New Orleans, the talk of the freshly drained town was Mark Bradford’s “Mithra,” a massive ark constructed from salvaged plywood complete with tattered bills posted to the planks. Will this year’s hit be an “environmental structure” from Joyce Scott?
The Observer has learned a few new details about second-ever Prospect Read More
LISA + DONNIE R OK. The words are both hopeful and bone-chilling. They were scrawled, in 2005, on a once-pretty white house with pale-blue shutters in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.
Five years ago this month, one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history swept through Louisiana and Mississippi. An exhibition opening Aug. 28 (a day Read More
Before Hurricane Katrina trounced New Orleans in 2005, the laissez-does-it city was a place not unlike Key West, a harbor, often, for lackey expats to get drunk, live cheaply and scribble bad poetry. “New Orleans was a place to hide,” Charles Bukowski said. “I could piss away my life, unmolested.”
But five years after Katrina, Read More
Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans
By Dan Baum
Spiegel & Grau, 335 pages, $26
About halfway through Dan Baum’s brilliant but frustrating Nine Lives, a ventriloquist’s collage of New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina, Tim Bruneau, a young, strong cop hungry for some “boot-in-the-ass” policing, chases a suspect Read More
When Hurricane Katrina came ashore three years ago, initial reports suggested that it had made its way past New Orleans without causing the destruction some had feared. But the storm’s aftermath proved unexpectedly catastrophic, with levees unable to hold back the rising waters.
It’s worth keeping that example in mind this afternoon, with Hurricane
City Comptroller Bill Thompson isn’t finished whacking the city’s Department of Education.
He released a letter earlier today essentially accusing one of the department’s high-priced private consultants, Alvarez and Marsal, of professional laziness for creating a plan for city schools that looks eerily similar to the one they created for hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.
That’s Read More
Gerald Ford is dead at 93.
John Edwards is about to announce a run for president, using hard-hit New Orleans as a backdrop.
The New York Post is skeptical.
Eliot Spitzer denied that his appointment of Nassau County Republican Michael Balboni to be his top homeland security official is part of Read More