“Winter’s Bone” and “Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema”

“Winter’s Bone” and “Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema” (photo)

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In the Ozark Mountain foothills depicted in “Winter’s Bone,” circumstances have awarded 17-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) a dubious promotion from high school student and eldest sibling to de facto head of the household. Her mother is nearly catatonic, and her father — who like much of her extended family and clannish impoverished community is involved in manufacturing methamphetamine — is routinely absent from home, either cooking meth, eluding the law or appearing before a judge.

Not surprisingly, when the local sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) arrives on the front steps unannounced, it is not to bring good news. Ree’s father, he tells the girl, has jumped bail and vanished. Unless he’s found, dead or alive, Ree’s family will forfeit their house and a parcel of timberland that offers some small hope of legal income, both used as collateral to post bond.

With home and hearth on the line, Ree adds erstwhile detective to her résumé as she crisscrosses the ashen Ozark woods in a series of visits and run-ins with both kinfolk and co-conspirators, most notably her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes), a combination of both. Ree’s single-minded determination to keep her family together requires that she either find her father or bring enough of him back home with her to prove to the law that he’s gone on to be judged by a higher power.

06092010_WintersBone5.jpgWinner of both the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance earlier this year, “Winter’s Bone” is the second film from director/co-writer Debra Granik, whose gritty 2004 feature debut “Down to the Bone” provided a breakout for then-unknown lead Vera Farmiga.

And “Winter’s Bone” is nothing if not high-minded about the cruel vicissitudes of poverty and the apparently very real world of meth factories, shotgun shacks and people living a nearly medieval existence defined solely by want and drug-fueled feuds.

“Do we eat these parts?” Ree’s tweenage brother asks while helping to clean and dress a squirrel that they’ve bagged. “Not yet,” comes Ree’s reply, bleached of irony by the precarious survival situation she and her family face. “Winter’s Bone” breathes the most life in this and other scenes of glum, marginalized domesticity. Outside of the house and yard, however, I mostly struggled in vain to find what it was the jury in Park City this past January saw in the film.

True, “Winter’s Bone” is excellently cast and ably acted by familiar big and small screen actors like Dillahunt and Hawkes (whose current ubiquity is a pleasant thing to note), especially in comparison to the comparatively lighthearted depiction of a similar milieu in the FX show “Justified,” in which rural southern jail widows, drug dealers and trailer park denizens are portrayed by more head-shot-friendly, gym-toned actors.

“Winter’s Bone” also looks great — alternately sharp and smoky with a particularly evocative use of faces — which is commendable in light of it being shot digitally on the RED, a camera that has a tendency to betray realistic skin tones and soften details.

06092010_WintersBone3.jpgYet Ree’s resolutely grim approach to her mission, the elliptical way she seems to cover the same ground over and over and the dense, virtually subtext-proof dialogue written to conform to the backwoods setting’s regional dialect prove to be insurmountable hurdles in investing more than passing empathy for a collection of tight-lipped, inscrutable characters.

Even with the clock of eviction ticking on Ree, as well as physical threats to her and her family that make starvation seem pleasant in comparison, and a deepening relationship with Teardrop unfolding, many of the key scenes in “Winter’s Bone” seemed composed more of syllable brick-throwing than of conflicts and moments.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.