Up For Best Picture: 'Life Of Pi', 'Beasts Of The Southern Wild'

Morning Edition goes back into the archives to hear from the directors of two films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, which will be handed out Sunday. Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee, and Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin, both have elements of magical realism.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This week, we've reached into the archives from last year to hear from actors and filmmakers who are now Oscar contenders. Two films up for Best Picture on Sunday have a lot in common: "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Life of Pi."

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

They are both about young people, their imaginations, huge stretches of water, and beasts.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIGER GROWLING)

INSKEEP: That would be the Bengal tiger trapped on a lifeboat with a teenager in the film "Life of Pi."

WERTHEIMER: Director Ang Lee says he depended on computer-generated images of tigers to make the movie. Last November, he explained to NPR how real tigers were also used to bring the computer images to life.

ANG LEE: We had four tigers. We brought four to Taiwan to make this movie. And most of them are CG tigers. But I believe you cannot tell the difference. The good thing about bringing real tigers, not only they look real and they're cheaper, they're CG tigers, but they left a lot of good references for the animators (unintelligible) CG tigers. We know exactly how they move, down to every hair and muscle. We learn a great deal from the living tigers.

WERTHEIMER: That's Ang Lee, director of "Life of Pi," which is up for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

INSKEEP: Different creatures are brought to life in the movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Director Benh Zeitlin set the story in Louisiana swamp country, where a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy lives in a community called the Bathtub.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD")

QUVENZHANE WALLIS: (as Hushpuppy) One day, a storm's gonna grow, the ground's gonna sink and the water's gonna rise up so high, ain't gonna be no Bathtub.

BENH ZEITLIN: When you're six, there really is no reality and fantasy dichotomy. You know, those lines are totally blurred when you're that age. You know, I remember having an invisible friend when I was that age. And, you know, if my invisible friend, like, didn't show up to play with me I would be sad. You know, that was a real emotion generated by something that adults were telling me wasn't there. And so all the mythical elements of the film are things that Hushpuppy believes are real. And the film doesn't kind of condescend towards that point of view. It sort of takes her at her word. And anything that she believes is real is real in the film. And so these, you know, ancient, extinct creatures defrost out of the icecaps as they're crumbling and wake back up and come charging together.

INSKEEP: That's the director of "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Benh Zeitlin, who spoke with NPR last summer.

WERTHEIMER: You can find much more about all of the nominated films at NPR.org/Oscars.

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