If it's crap ... We'll tell you
The odds are, that unless you follow press festival reviews, or frequent a local art film theater, you probably completely missed what many critics are calling the best film of 2010, this adaptation of the 'country noir' novel by Daniel Woodrell, "Winter's Bone". I don't think I'd go quite as far as to put it into my own top five at this juncture, but it's not all that far off either. Actress Jennifer Lawrence assures herself of a long future in the acting business with her role as Ree Dolly, an underage girl who is the only thing holding her remaining family together, which consists of two young kids and a mother whose sanity has taken a bye-bye. When her no-good father disappears while out on bail, she's informed that he put their family home up for bond, and unless she can get him to court by his date or prove that he's dead, they're going to lose the homestead. Ree sets out on a quest to track down her father, one that brings her face to face with a dangerous redneck criminal network that runs things in this backwoods part of the world. The key here is how truly scary these people are, so foreign to us in their culture that Ree might as well be traveling through a fantasy nightmare world. Fortunately, the film never resorts to using over-familiar cliches about southern culture, which would have undermined the intensely frightening tension of the whole affair. I'd be remiss without mentioning the performance of John Hawks as her sketchy Uncle Teardrop, who is almost unrecognizable, having sunk so far into the degenerate character he plays. Lawrence is absolutely stunning in her strength and determination to save her family; it's at least partially her steely-eyed steadfastness that makes the film so gripping. There's an undeniable elegance to director Debra Granik's adaptation, a word I never thought I'd use to describe a movie about white trash.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Winter's Bone [Blu-ray]
Ready for the real picture of what drug-running, psychotic, white trash from the outback of America is like? Johnny Knoxville produced this festival hit about the infamous White family, a sizable clan of terrifyingly entitled rednecks who have been running roughshod over their local town's laws for decades. The camera takes a fly-on-the-wall position as the family members damn themselves onscreen in every way you could imagine. I'm baffled that no one went to jail purely from the admittances (and actual crimes committed) on camera. Hell, they're so stupid for doing and saying the things they say on camera, I'm surprised they don't forget how to breathe and fall over dead. The problem is, outside of the family's tap dancing star Jesco, popularly known as the 'Dancing Outlaw', who got his own documentary in 1991, there's not much wonderful about the Whites. Director Julien Nitzberg's film doesn't look for any sort of social analysis, so much as to indulge in the anarchic world these cretins live in. It's a horrible existence with no good end in sight, but that's the world that most of them have chosen. They simply do not comprehend why anyone at all should be able to tell them the first thing about how to live their lives. If my life was anything like theirs, I'd be BEGGING for someone to tell me how to do things differently. Every last one of them is ugly, inside and out, and other than serving as a psychotic hick aquarium, this picture of their wild world didn't do much for me except make sure I'm going to take the long way around West Virginia the next time I have to drive through that part of the country.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
WILD GRASS (DVD)
Sometimes in what I've do, I've got to confront that part of myself that doesn't like feeling stupid, and admit that I simply don't get it. That's what acclaimed director Alain Resnais' latest film made me feel like. Baffled. The story follows Georges Palet (André Dussollier), an unemployed and possibly a bit crazy old coot who, despite being married to quite the catch (Anne Cosigny) finds himself becoming obsessed with Marguerite, the owner (Sabine Azéma) of a stolen handbag wallet, which he finds and returns to the police. After an oddly uncomfortable give and take of social niceties about the return, Marguerite wants his intensifyingly stalkerish behavior to cease...until it does, and then she starts stalking him back. Now, this is the part you'd expect something really interesting to happen, but if it did, I must have nodded off and missed it (which, is not out of the question, I admit). I found myself clueless not only as to what these people's motivations were for their actions, but even as to what actually was happening in the last twenty minutes or so. I thought it was just me, until I saw that when he presented this film at Cannes in 2009, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. I'm hoping that was somebody's way of saying, "Look, Alain...you're 87. You've done enough. Now, you're making movies as if you've got Alzheimer's and everyone is afraid to tell you. Seriously dude it's time to go play golf." Of course, on the other hand, it might be that I'm just too thick to get it. Either way, "Wild Grass" seemed awfully pointless and dull to me.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Wild Grass