1.) Totally committed performances from an unprofessional cast.
In the thirty years that I have been watching movies, I have seen many films that were shot on shoestring budgets with first-time actors. Some of them suck. Every now and again, however, you will find a film that transcends budget constraints and that allows you to enter an extraordinary world full of rich characters. 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' accomplishes all of this and more, and all because of a totally committed cast. Young Quvenzhané Wallis, who plays Hushpuppy in the film, has already earned an Oscar nomination. Unlike other child actors who have been nominated in the past for totally manipulated performances, Wallis deserves it. Her performance is fierce, touching, and emotionally raw. She becomes totally immersed in the world of the film. She is Hushpuppy. Dwight Henry plays Hushpuppy's alcoholic father, Wink. His performance is just as effective. He takes a complex, at times unlikable character, and makes us care for him. The rest of the ensemble cast is just as superb. Beautiful performances all around.
2. A multi-talented first-time director.
First time director, thirty year old Benh Zeitlin, is one to watch. Not only did he manage to pull near-perfect performances out of an unprofessional cast, he directs the film with an artistic flair that never feels pretentious or contrived. As a result, the film feels as much like a documentary than a work of fiction. He also composed and conducted the magnificent, sweeping film score. This is definitely one of the best soundtracks of the year, and was sadly overlooked by the Academy.
3. A film that you will never forget.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is a film that will have lasting power throughout the years. It is a fantasy grounded in reality that will stay with you always. At only 93 minutes, the film feels like an epic. It accomplishes so much with so very little. All of the elements come together to create a totally unique experience. It is a true original, and in my opinion, the best film of the year.
"When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me lying around in invisible pieces. When I look too hard, it goes away. And when it all goes quiet, I see they are right here. I see that I'm a little piece in a big, big universe. And that makes things right. When I die, the scientists of the future, they're gonna find it all. They gonna know, once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub." ~ Hushpuppy