October 20, 2009

"I just wanted to give those animals some antidepressants."

That's what Chris (my son) texted me after he saw "Where the Wild Things Are," which he did not like.

"Can I blog your quote?"


"Anything more I can add?"

"The movie had the worst ponderous quality you could imagine in an adult art movie with the inaneness of a children's tv show. I can't imagine any child enjoying it. It also had a loud, abrasive element when Max was playing with the wild things that really came across as being a vision of childhood from someone who hates children but remembers being depressed as a child and therefore feels a vague connection to depressed children."

And that last part is definitely the longest text mesage I've ever received.


Paul Kirchner said...

>>a vision of childhood from someone who hates children<<

Wow, that hits the nail on the head. I had Maurice Sendack as a teacher at Parsons School of Design when he taught there in the early 1970s so I speak from personal knowledge.

chuck b. said...

So sweet.

KCFleming said...

I thought it was lovely, myself. And sweet. The animals were all aspects of the boy or his life.

XWL said...

The soundtrack is pretty good, though.

(in my opinion)

I've liked past Spike Jonze films, but this looks indulgent in all the wrong ways. Seems like more people who have seen it have liked it, but those that didn't like it, really hated it.

Tibore said...

I've been seeing quite a few "Oh, Gawd" reviews myself. Which surprised me; prior to release, this movie was gushed over. Plus, I've enjoyed most of Spike Jonze's stuff.

The comment I found that really got my attention was "This isn't a children's movie. It's an adult movie about childhood". Without seeing it, I don't know if that's accurate or not, but it sort of sums up the opinions I've been reading: That contrary to marketing, this is not a movie for really small children, but rather for those with some conception of how adults view childhood. As a piece of interesting trivia, Warner Bros. says that 43 percent of the movie's audience is 18 and over.

Tibore said...

For the record, the movie looks fascinating to me, and I want to see it. It's just that my expectations have been adjusted by what people on the 'net have been saying.

Anonymous said...

I spent a couple of days with Sendak once. I wouldn't say he hates children. But it's also clear he has no special love for them. Now that I think about it, I don't think he cares very much for adults either. One exception: Herman Melville, whom Sendak believes was a closeted gay.

Chip Ahoy said...

+cupcakes +"where the wild things are"

* images *

reader_iam said...

Can't comment due to being tongue-tied on account of collision of synergy and serendipity.


vf: trouchic

uh huh; yeah; right; ok; whatever; dotdotdot dotdotdot ... ...)

reader_iam said...

OTOH, "something wicked this way comes" is a fundamental element of childhood--

--with which adults ought not trifle unless they're actually mature enough to know what the f' they're doing.

reader_iam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reader_iam said...

Sorry for the double-post: the why of the comment-deletion.

reader_iam said...

One more thing:

There's a difference between the inner child of a person all grown up and--sorry to be obvious--an actual child.

Isn't there?

kimsch said...

I absolutely loved the look of both Carol and Ira.

My sister said that the beasts were definitely bipolar.

wv: whidicys

TA said...

I wonder how much of this is a product of the book being written decades ago and special effects-type movies with kids in fantasyland so commonplace over the years, the story loses some of its appeal? I watched it and found it boring, admittedly, but I just had the feel that if this movie had been released in the mid '80s I would've liked it better.

Freeman Hunt said...

CAC's review is very much like the review a friend gave me.

Said head beast basically exact same character as Tony Soprano.

kimsch said...

Of course, there's a big difference between a 98 minute movie and a 10 sentence book.

wv: sterbren

Synova said...

In one discussion I read about the movie someone brought up the fact that the boy is supposed to be young enough to wear jammies with feet.

Five maybe.

I'd say 6 or 7 at a stretch... and 7 is a stretch.

A five year old is just beginning to deal with anger and trying to figure out the rules of the world. It puts his behavior in an entirely different light.

(A boy the age of the kid in the movie is starting to assert independence... which is a different process and might be why I've heard that he's mentally ill in the movie.)

Or perhaps another way to put it is... the book isn't about an adult remembering what it's like to be a child or channeling an inner child... it's about an older child remembering last year, and knowing that still feeling the same way doesn't let one off the hook for behaving.

reader_iam said...

Yes, there is. But we don't talk about those things anymore. Ssshhhhhh.


wv: scone.

As in something to have along with your "lovely cuppa, dear."

reader_iam said...

Synova: Have you Googled footie/feetie jammies lately?

(In any case, I'd say your upper limit of 6 or 7 is a downward stretch; it's more like 7-8, with 9 as the stretch.

But maybe that's a regional thing, or something. Whatever.)

reader_iam said...

My 2:01 comment was in response to kimsch's 1:41 comment.

That clarified, good night and sweet dreams.

Synova said...

"Synova: Have you Googled footie/feetie jammies lately?"

We were at Target today and my daughter pulled a jammie onsie with feet off the rack and held it up and laughed... "Mom, look, it's adult sized!"

But I stand my ground.

It's more like Christmas Story where Alphie has to wear his atrocious bunny suit jammies. They might have been great when he was *little*, but he's not a baby anymore and the humiliation is profound.

reader_iam said...


*Seriously* with all due respect, I think you're confusing the "existence" of such things past your (I guess) preferred cutoff of age 5 with "has to." There's not necessarily any "has to" about it, much less a "of course" humiliation about it. I mean, really, why must there/ought there be?


Personally, for my own self, I've never been able to abide anything on my feet, for sleeping (which is unfortunate, in some ways, because over very recent years they've gotten very susceptible to cold), and I've never gotten why people would wear their socks to bed. I mean, what the hell?

Far be it from me, however, to stray much beyond that ...

mrs whatsit said...

If the child in the movie (which I haven't seen, and won't) is anywhere over five, he's in the wrong movie, no matter what he's got on his feet. It's a picture book -- it's not meant for a child anywhere near old enough to read to himself. The story of grappling with your inner wild things, controlling them, and being rewarded with parental security is pitched straight at two- and three-year-olds. Check out what happens with the margins as you page your way through the book -- the pictures of Max at home are widely framed with broad white margins on all four sides -- but when he visits his wild side, the pictures grow and grow until they're out of control, spilling across the whole double-page spread with no margins at all. Once he's back at home again and in control of himself again, the margins are back, surrounding him with security. That's not a school-aged story.

(Yes, I've spent a whole lot of time staring at this book. Don't look at me like that. I raised three kids, okay? I read it aloud so often that now, with all three of them in their 20s, I could still recite the whole text, beginning to end, without glancing at the book. The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind or another, his mother called him "wild thing" and Max said . . . okay, I'll stop.)

Anyway. As for antidepressants, Sendak's later books absolutely do give off a creepy sense of a depressed author who hated being a child -- check out "Outside Over There" for a really weird example. But I never sensed it in "Where the Wild Things Are." If there's gloom in the movie, I'm thinking it got there as a result of the mutilation inherent in stretching 48 flawless pages into a full-length movie. No good comes from messing with a masterpiece.

KCFleming said...

The final scene, the reunion with his mother, was quite touching, yet no words passed.

The film was all boy, and knew young kids quite well. Yelling, fighting, throwing dirt clods, building the coolest fort ever, sleeping in a pile. Being cruel, hurting people you love, and not knowing what to do were also there.

David Eggers was one of the script writers, and his book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius chronicles raising his little brother Toph, then 8 years old, after both parents died. He knew kids pretty well, by that writing.

Those who hated the movie hated it. But the conclusions drawn on why they hated it should be careful to reference the fact that the childhood represented was simply not one familiar to you.

Moose said...

I saw it with the kids last saturday. They seemed to like it.

I thought it was a Woody Allen movie with giant pupperts. Kept expecting Mia Farrow to show up...

Paddy O said...

I like the essay on this by Bruce Handy in the NY Times:

"...I had been left cold by “Where the Wild Things Are.” I don’t really remember why. Maybe I was too literal-minded to be transported by Sendak’s dream logic. Not that I didn’t like make-believe, but I also liked rules. Old-school fairy tales, with their clear villains and bloody, well-deserved vengeance: that’s what worked for me.

Still, when I was a kid, “Where the Wild Things Are” was something to be reckoned with, like the mumps. I was 4 when it was published in 1963. I was cognizant that teachers and librarians thought it was a “good” book, proved by the shiny Caldecott Medal on its cover. (A budding critic, I had a premature and probably unhealthy interest in consensus.) I don’t think my family had a copy, but I remember seeing it in what I now realize were the more cosmopolitan homes on my Northern California cul-de-sac — the book resides in my possibly ­exaggerated-for-effect memory as an early ’60s progressive totem alongside Danish modern furniture, African art and the sticky, stale-sweet smell of pipe tobacco. I was certainly aware of “Where the Wild Things Are” as something I should like, the way I have more recently felt I ought to like Tom Waits and “30 Rock.”

KCFleming said...

Maybe my Mom was mad at me a lot.

Henry said...

I can hardly wait for the comments when The Night Kitchen comes out. To be retitled: Bread and Penises.

Synova said...

reader, I'm talking about what I see as the context of the book.

I see the footie jammies as one indication that the child is really young.

I don't think the existence of adult sized footie jammies takes away the contextual meaning of the footie jammies in Wild Thing which I think is similar to the footie jammies in the movie "A Christmas Story"... that they are something a small child would wear. It is not in *my* mind that Alphie sees that he "has to" put on the bunny suit jammies as severe humiliation because he's not a baby anymore. It's a specific situation in a specific movie.

A bunny suit or a wolf suit... whatever.

The Window Manager said...

I hated this book as a kid. I thought it was pointless, boring, stupid and the illustrations were bad - and I was four.

As I grew older I kept seeing it at the houses of younger kids and still didn't get the appeal. I figured it was a modern art sort of thing - that it was really, really bad but everyone in the "know" considered it a good children's book.

As an adult I continued to despise the book and do find that the more "progressive" and "in" the parent the more they seem to like this book - or like it because they are supposed to. I obviously didn't introduce it to my own kid, so when she saw a trailer she had no interest is seeing it.

blake said...

I am totally on the fence myself.

Loved the book as kid. Took about 30 seconds to read. Don't give a crap about the author re other work or personal life. I still consider it a plus that he approves of the movie. I also respect the response of "Go to hell" to the question of "What would you say to parents who ask if it's too scary."

I can't clearly separate the Jonze/Kaufman/Gondry triumvirate that made Being John Malkovich, Adapation. and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I saw Being and Eternal, felt unclean afterwards, as if having watched a Woody Allen movie.

I don't know. I know ratings can't be trusted because people LOOOOVE Jonze. Fine. But do I? Can I put up with him for two hours, even? Should I expose my kid to him?

Screw it. Up is still playing. I can see that a third time.

KCFleming said...

blake, good call; if you disliked eternal sunshine, you'll not like this.

Anonymous said...

I too felt unclean after seeing Being John Malkovich. It was the most evil film I'd ever seen--its characters were evil, and the portrayal of how that was okay, interesting, worth exploring, etc. was even more evil.

I hated the book because the monsters were scary and because nothing happened in the book. It was scary yet pointless to me as a kid.

My 3 yr old hates it. Terrified of it. But at least I can tell him to shoot monsters.

Anonymous said...

The cinematography of WTWTA was impressive, no doubt, but it seemed to be missing a "spark" of some kind... maybe it was just too low energy from beginning to end for me (or at least after the first ten minutes)