Kids love monsters. Because they can be complete monsters themselves,they forge an instant kinship with big hairy beasts,real or imaginary. This is what nine-year-old Max does in Where The Wild Things Are,when he runs away from home. He hurtles out into the night,angry and hurt: his sister has no time for him,preferring to spend time with her boyfriend; his mother is similarly occupied (the father is never shown).
Spike Jonzes re-creation of Maurice Sendaks classic childrens story is a classic in itself. He doesnt hang about when showing Maxs propensity to turn into an unmanageable handful: he is not a boy being a brat,he is unspeakably awful. That we can be really,really bad,and really,really good is a big part of the story,and that gets beautifully translated into the film. The wild things are really wild,not warm cuddly pretenders. They tower over Max,throw tantrums and things at each other,and have no difficulty in appearing menacing. Maxs adventure is more dark than sunny,and not really appropriate for little kids. But just right for anyone who has an appetite for the strange and the wondrous,whether young or old. (Also,if you lay your hands on the limited-edition DVD,out this week,you can snaffle a stuffed toy of one of the wild things; mine is sitting by my lamp.)
One of the special segments has the production crew trying to film a dog running and barking at the same time. It takes them hours to do. And we get an inside view of just how hard getting things to feel real on camera can be.
One of the best films on the movies,taking you behind the scenes of how the industry functions,is Elia Kazans The Last Tycoon. This one is also based on a literary classic,one of F. Scott Fitzgeralds most evocative pieces of work that remained unfinished. Robert De Niro plays Monroe Stahr,a thinly disguised Irving Thalberg,the legendary producer who was arrogant and prescient in equal proportions. To predict what will work is a tough task in the movie business,and Stahr via Thalberg has an unerring instinct for what will,and what wont. Till he is a money spinner,he is tolerated; as soon as he seems to over-reach,he is shown the door. Thalberg died young; Stahr is eased out of office. But not before we get a fascinating glimpse of how Hollywood functioned in the 1930s,when studios and their bosses were all-powerful,and stars simply subservient. Writers were the lowest of the lowlies,and Stahr is harsh on them,claiming their brains belong to him. The ensemble is great: Jack Nicholson shows up to play a cameo,and adds luster to the movie.