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DID YOU READ

The bleak poetry of “Winter’s Bone.”

The bleak poetry of “Winter’s Bone.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

Screening in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance 2010, “Winter’s Bone” brings to mind a number of prior Sundance highlights. Like “Frozen River,” it depicts a woman driven to hard choices by hard circumstances; like “Brick,” it sets a teen protagonist into a thoroughly modern set of problems that might be better described by the scenes and structures of classic film noir. Like director Debra Granik’s previous Sundance film, 2004’s “Down to the Bone,” it depicts a very American kind of poverty, one not only of economics but also of emotions. Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, “Winter’s Bone” has more than just the echoes of other films to offer, though. It has the forward motion of a thriller, yes, and the who-knows-what questions of a mystery. But it also has a delicacy to it, as 17-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) searches for her absent father while caring for her younger siblings and ill mother, and director Granik, shooting with the RED digital camera, wrings bleak poetry out of the ruined landscape of the Missouri Ozarks.

01232010_WintersBone4.jpgRee is not looking for her absent father in the general sense, or to heal some past wound; local Sheriff Baskin (Garret Dillahunt) explains to Ree that her father Jessup, arrested for cooking crystal meth, put the family home up as his bond – and then disappeared. If he doesn’t appear in court in a week’s time, Ree and her family will lose everything: Baskin says to Ree, “Make sure that your daddy knows the gravity of this deal,” but Ree doesn’t know where he is. And no one will tell her. Trapped in the silences and secrets of the local criminal underworld, Ree goes to family and friends and neighbors and enemies, knocking on doors and seeing what happens like a Chandler hero, motivated by nothing less than survival.

Ree’s inquiries go nowhere – even with her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes), a whipcord-lean thug whose capacity for violence is terrifying. Almost all the men Ree encounters are terrifying – tight-wound with silence, lashing out when it breaks – but the women around her aren’t much different, and, like Ree, trying to deal with the men in (or absent from) their lives. Lawrence’s performance is strong and unstudied, but it’s also clearly constructed; Ree is headstrong, but not foolish, and she’s only putting herself in harm’s way because the consequences of failure are worse.

01242010_WintersBone6.jpgGranik and cinematographer Michael McDonough shoot with flat, this-is-what-happens authenticity (with the exception of one black-and-white hallucination, where squirrels twitch and shiver in the woods as the sound of chainsaws fills the air), but also wring myth and majesty from the landscape. Ree walks through a landscape that looks like Lear’s blasted heath with rusting pickup trucks and abandoned satellite dishes scattered casually through it; when a group of women take Ree to a place of deliverance with brutal kindness and terrible mercy, it is hard not to think of Macbeth’s witches.

“Winter’s Bone” takes place in a world of addiction and anger, of crime and consequence. When Teardrop decides to help Ree – as much as he can, and in his way – she moves back from the foreground of the narrative, and yet that comes precisely at the moment when we know she’s done all she can. Hawkes, best known for his work on “Deadwood,” is a real and rich presence here, a murderer who is still a man, a criminal who is still a brother. “Winter’s Bone” shows a world where the bonds and bindings of family and community become a stranglehold, but where some light, winter-bright and seemingly bleak, can still leak through the cracks.

“Winter’s Bone” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “Winter’s Bone,” Anonymous Content, 2010]

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.