Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Juicy and Delicious

Beasts of the Southern Wild won SFWA’s Ray Bradbury Award for Best Script in 2013, beating The Avengers, The Cabin in the Woods, The Hunger Games, John Carter and Looper. It was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture, but beaten by Argo. IMDB users rate it 95th on one ranking and 174th on the other, by far the lowest for any of the films I have been watching in this sequence.

It is about a little girl living on an island off the Mississippi delta, whose world is ending. Her mother is absent, her father is dying, the sea levels are rising to swamp her home, and ancient aurochs thawed from the melting glaciers are on their way.

I loved it. The other films that I have seen from that year are Argo and The Avengers, as noted above, and The Hobbit part 1The Dark Knight RisesLes Miserables, Brave, Wreck it Ralph and Total Recall. I actually think I liked Beasts of the Southern Wild most of all of them. Well done, SFWA voters.

None of the actors had been in previous Oscar, Hugo or Nebula/Bradbury winners, or Doctor Who for that matter; few have them had acted before. Indeed, the father is played by Dwight Henry who ran the bakery across the road from the studio and was co-opted by the producers. They made a wise choice. They made an even wiser choice with Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest ever nominee for an acting Oscar, who is totally believable as Hushpuppy. I had seen her later performance as Annie, so was not completely surprised.

It’s a film with a lot to say about poverty, family, community, the environment and the end of the world. It’s beautifully filmed and the cast, few of whom had much experience, are very strong just being themselves. I’m not going to go on at great length – neither does the film, at only 93 minutes. You should just go and watch it if you haven’t already. I’m putting it tenth overall in my list of Hugo/Nebula/Bradbury winners, just below Galaxy Quest and above Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

It’s based loosedly on a play, Juicy and Delicious, by Lucy Alibar who then co-wrote the screenplay with Benh Zeitlin. The third of the many short scenes, in its entirety, is:


Hushpuppy at school.

A bunch of scrappy kids who are bottom of the food chain.

MISS BATHSHEBA stands before a picture of an AUROCHS.

We hear the sound of ice cracking—a glacier coming loose and falling into the sea.


Welcome to Miss Bathsheba’s Finishing School!

Welcome to the End of the World.

A lemon hits the window. Then several more.


Don’t pay attention to that. Pay attention to me.

Lesson One: Aurochs. Long, long ago, when we all lived in caves, the world was swarming with aurochs. Aurochs were big and hungry and ate babies.

For an aurochs, the perfect breakfast was a sweet, juicy little cave baby. They would gobble cave babies down right in front of their cave parents. And the cavemen couldn’t do nothing about it, because they were too poor, too stupid, too small. To defy the aurochs would mean a long, painful death.

But even cavemen love their children, in their own, stupid, caveman way; and in their own, stupid, caveman way, they were going to do something about it. The cavemen took whatever weapons they could find—numchucks, or blowtorches, or just their teeth. They fell upon the aurochs, screaming, “Toro! Toro! Toro!”

Blood, and eyeballs, and intestines flew everywhere! And when the war was over, most of the cavemen lay dead. But all of the aurochs lay deader.

And now, two million years later, here y’all are. Proof that someone was taking care of you before they even knew you.

Because they loved you with their whole, huge, breaking, stupid little hearts, even way back then.

(The sound of ice cracking. Outside, grits fall from the sky. It’s kind of scary.)


Don’t pay attention to that. Pay attention to me.

The universe is coming unrendered.

Things are dying ain’t supposed to die.

The fabric of the universe is coming all undone.

Don’t be scairt. Miss Bathsheba’s gonna teach y’all how to live through it.

I think this would be unstageable. Flying lemons aren’t the half of it. Also it’s very different from the film – Hushpuppy is a boy, and he and his father live in Georgia and (I think) are coded as white. It’s been turned into a thing of wonder in the cinematic process – a rare example where the film is infinitely better than the material it is based on (cf. Casablanca, also based on an unperformed stage play). But if you are curious you can get it here.

Next up are 12 Years a Slave, which features some of the same cast, and Gravity.