I had originally planned on posting my own review of Wes Anderson‘s recently released tribute to childhood, Moonrise Kingdom, but upon reading Brett McCracken’s own lucidly expressed thoughts on the film, I quickly lost this resolve.

The Search

A few hours before I watched Wes Anderson’s new film, Moonrise Kingdom, I was watching the undergraduate commencement ceremony at Biola University. It made me nostalgic to see 670 seniors receive their diplomas and officially conclude a long chapter in their journeys. I remember being there myself, seven years ago at Wheaton College, “commencing” a pivotal new chapter as my 22 years of being a kid gave way to the new adventure of independent adulthood. What a memorable moment, graduation day–abuzz as it was with the teetering uncertainty of the liminal spaces which were its backdrop: between youth, inexperience and protection on one hand and adulthood, maturity and risk on the other. Everything then was new, curious, possible. The world was there to be explored; adulthood to be experimented with.

Moonrise Kingdom dwells in a similar liminal space: between the innocence, wonder and “firsts” of childhood on one hand and the…

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Wonderstruck: Selznick gives us another cinematically inclined book.

via borders.com

via borders.com

I recently had the opportunity to read author/illustrator Brian Selznick’s latest, Wonderstruck, a book that in many ways continues what Selznick started with his 2008 Caldecott Medal-winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Wonderstruck, like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a cinematic book—not only in the gorgeous and wholly unique synthesis of word and illustration, but also in its contextual interest in the history of film. While Hugo Cabret dwells on the magic of earliest cinema, one storyline in Wonderstruck explores the transition from silent film to sound through the eyes of a deaf girl. Such a subtext is perfect in a book told in two such parallel storylines—one storyline told in words, one in pictures. I am not giving too much away in saying that the deaf character’s story plays out like a silent film.  Selznick tells her story almost entirely in hundreds of luminous black and white pencil sketches.

Seeing the transition from silent to sound film unfold through the eyes of an early twentieth century deaf girl gives that moment in history a whole new perspective. But the exploration of cinematic history is not the focus of this book in the same way that it was the focus of Hugo Cabret. While both books do share the same themes of gaining a sense of belonging and discovering one’s place in the world, Wonderstruck has many fascinating layers aside from the cinematic. New York City history, deaf culture, and the fascinating story of the American Museum of Natural History are all dimensions of this well-crafted and visually captivating narrative.

Such a unique array of themes and subplots render this a book that refreshes our perspective on how we see and hear our world  and the people that inhabit it. This book is indeed a wonder to behold in its varying shades—thematic and artistic—of black and white, light and sound.

I do have to say, one wonders if Selznick’s next book might perhaps include a narrative commentary on the advent of color cinema?

Book illustration found here.

Something to look forward to: “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

via imdb.com

I keep hearing wonderful things about “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The trailer finally debuted last week, giving us a glimpse at what all the buzz is about and rendering this film one of my most anticipated of the summer. It looks to be a thing of wonder and beauty.

Here is Metacritic’s summary of what makes this film so worthy of anticipation:

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” won both the Grand Jury Prize and Excellence in Cinematography at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and garnered comparisons to fairy tales, parables and the works of Terence Malick and Hayao Miyazaki. Those comparisons make immediate sense when you watch the first official trailer for the film, which comes to a handful of theaters on June 27th. The film follows Hushpuppy and her father Wink, who live in an abstract water-world in Louisiana known as “The Bathtub.” They struggle to survive when their community is threatened by a devastating flood and an approaching herd of beasts known as aurochs. Writer/director Ben Zeitlin adapted co-writer Lucy Alibar’s play Juicy and Delicious, cast non-actors, and collaborated with his Court 13 collective to create a unique vision that looks both familiar and magical.

One of the very young director’s first films was shot in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and both his parents are urban folklorists. This unique personal context looks as if it was influential in the film’s overall vision and tone.

You can visit the film’s site here.