Here’s a funny thing: the line yesterday for Hall H was absolutely insane. If it wasn’t filled with die-hard “Twilight” fans, it was filled with hardcore “Avatar” fans (who had nothing tangible to be excited for at the time), and folks eager to see Disney’s 3D Panel. But last night, at about 11pm, I was walking back to my hotel and I only noticed five or six people camped out in front of Hall H. I went over and asked what they were standing in line to see this early. And it was so refreshing to hear their answer: “Nothing in particular. We want to see it all.” These are the kinds of people that deserve the best seats.
And yet, with such major panels primed for Friday including a slate of Warner Bros. films and film from Disney-Pixar, it was odd that you could show up at around 1am or 2am in the morning (and maybe even a bit later, although as I walked by at around 7:30 this morning, it was pretty full, but not stretching down the block like yesterday (that would come a little later as the WB panel was beginning around 10am). So why weren’t folks psyched like they were yesterday? With such a line up of films, you not only get a lot of bang for your buck (they showcased SEVEN films, more than any other studio here), but all of them look pretty great.
So let’s kick off with the first film they showed and the one that brought tears to my eyes: Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are”. My report is after the jump:
The presentation opened with a behind-the-scenes look of making the film and why Sendak finally entrusted Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers for the first feature-length film of his book. This behind-the-scenes footage is cut together with finished moments from the film and every time I see any scene, especially the ones in the land of the Wild Things, I’m left speechless. If Cinematographer Lance Acord doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for his work (and yes, I know I’m saying this without seeing the finished film), then the Academy Awards have invalidated the entire category and perhaps the entire ceremony.
After the behind-the-scenes footage (which was not EPK crap but something that made you want the DVD right away so you could dig through the special features), Max Records (who plays Max) came on stage to great applause. He was incredibly charming but not in a fake, trying-to-be charming kind of way. The first thing he said after he walked on stage was “Whoa. There are a lot of people here.” No one asked him question but he made some statements about the film, statements which he apparently scribbled on his hand. And every time he checked his hand, the audience loved him even more. Near the end of his statements about working on the film, he provides a fun anecdote: at one point, Max is supposed to be surprised. To get a genuine reaction, Jonze grabbed a propane tank and shot fire out of it. It worked.
We were then shown three clips.
The first clip is Max waking up in a forest in the land of the Wild Things and he’s being carried by Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini). Carol tells Max that Max is their king and he rules over every bit of the world…except for that hole the tree. The tree is Max’s but the hold in the middle belongs to some else. Oh, and that rock also belongs to someone else. But everything else belongs to Max. Except for that stick over there. The hole in the tree, the rock, and the stick already have owners but everything else belongs to Max.
Then they walk through a desert and Max asks Carol, “Is this mine too?” Carol replies that yes, it belongs to Max but why would he want it? The mountains turned to rubble and the rubble turned to sand and the sand will turn to dust. “What does turn in to?” Carol asks. Max then asks Carol what will happen to the kingdom once the sun goes out. Carol can’t even fathom that happening. He tells Max that as king, Max is too powerful to let that happen. And Carol well…he’s big. They then continue to walk in the desert where a gigantic dog passes by in the background. Carol tells Max not to feed it or else it will follow him home.
I love what Jonze is doing with these scenes. He’s taking some pretty heavy stuff (a boy waking up as the king in an unknown land; the fear of decay and nothingness) and before the film feels too weighty, he provides a sweet moment of humor and like a leaf that’s starting to drift to the ground only to be blown upwards once more.
The next scene has a lot of energy as the Wild Things all leap through the air, smash through trees, and dogpile on Max. Max has a little trouble getting out of the pile but while he’s down there, he meets KW (Lauren Ambrose). The two then have a heartfelt talk about Max’s family and we get a vague idea of what happens earlier in the film. There was incident involving corn and biting his mother’s boyfriend. KW comforts him and he climbs out of the pile.
The last scene involves the Wild Things building Max’s castle. Max breathlessly describes what he wants in his castle, from a place to build robots to do their chores and a detective agency and a place to take away gravity so they can float! It’s absolutely adorable and completely authentic in its portrayal of a young boy. I think “authentic” is a word you’ll be hearing a lot to describe this film. The Wild Things put together the castle using stones, branches large and small thatched together and used as supports, all with Carol as the de facto foreman. When it’s finished being built, Max takes one of Carol’s claws and carves an “M” into one of the beams. Carol then puts a heart around the “M”. Max then hugs Carol and the scene fades out.
We then get a new trailer which once again uses Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” and after all this, my eyes are welling with tears. This could easily end up as one the best films of the year.
“Where the Wild Things Are” opens nationwide on October 16th. I can’t think of any other film I want to see more.