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For Their Consideration: John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”

For Their Consideration: John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone” (photo)

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Throughout awards season, IFC.com will highlight Oscar dark horses that aren’t getting the recognition they deserve for their work. For the full “For Their Consideration” archive go here.

He may have just received a nomination for Best Supporting Male from the Spirit Awards, but John Hawkes is still, sadly, considered the longest of long shots for a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 2011 Academy Awards. The last time Movie City News polled its “Gurus o’ Gold in that category, he didn’t get a single vote. AwardsCircuit.com currently has him eighteenth out of twenty actors they think have a shot at the Oscar. In Contention has him even lower, listed in the “rest of the field” category, ranking him below their group of the fifteen serious contenders, which includes names like Harrison Ford for “Morning Glory.” In other words, he’s got a snowball in hell’s chance to hear his name at the Kodak Theatre next February 27. But while his superb co-star, Jennifer Lawrence, has been garnering the lion’s share of “Winter’s Bone”‘s Oscar buzz, its Hawkes’ performance that’s the best in the film, or really most films this year.

Hawkes plays Teardrop, uncle to Lawrence’s 17-year-old Ree, whose father Jessup has gone missing from their home in the Ozarks. Jessup, looking at a 10-year jail sentence for cooking meth, put up the family’s land as his bond and split. If he doesn’t show up for his court date, Ree loses her house and her only means of keeping her catatonic mother and two younger siblings together under one roof. Ree’s one chance is to find her father somewhere in the surrounding hill country. She starts with her Uncle Teardrop, Jessup’s brother, but blood relation doesn’t trump the community’s code of silence when it comes to matters involving the police. “Don’t go running after Jessup,” he warns Ree. “Show or don’t show, that choice is up to the one that’s going to jail, not you.”

I’ve liked Hawkes as an actor since I first saw him in 2005’s “Me You and Everyone We Know.” From that film, to his work in series like “Deadwood” and “Eastbound and Down,” he has tended to excel at mild-mannered characters but he is ferocious as Uncle Teardrop. With ominous tattoos on his hands and face and a goatee as gnarled as the old trees that dot the landscape, he strikes an intimidating figure. In one memorable scene, he backs down a cop trying to interrogate him about Jessup’s disappearance simply by eyeballing him in his pickup’s rear-view. Violence seems imminent whenever Teardrop’s around; it can’t be a coincidence that Hawkes is almost always paired onscreen with some kind of deadly weapon, from the pistol he casually spins in his kitchen table Lazy Susan, to the rifle he keeps in his truck, to the axe he wields on another man’s windshield, to the rickety old woodsplitter he confronts Ree in front of. “You have always scared me,” Ree tells him after she startles him at the woodsplitter. “That’s cause you’re smart,” he says. The man wears menace like a cologne.

But it isn’t simply that Hawkes is a convincing heavy; plenty of people do that every year and don’t get Oscar nominations for it. What makes his performance as Teardrop special is the way he provides near-subliminal hints of depths beneath the terrifying facade. Lawrence is the star and dominates the screentime. When Teardrop is onscreen at all, he’s with Ree, and they’re either talking about Jessup or looking for him. Hawkes doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to express what is on his character’s mind and even if he did, a man like Teardrop would never tell his niece how he was feeling. So Hawkes has to say it all with gestures: the slouch behind the wheel of his truck, the desperate way he drags on his cigarette. In “Winter’s Bone”‘s final scene, he tells us exactly what is going to happen to Teardrop after the film is over without uttering a single word.

Teardrop is a complex man. Cruel one moment, caring the next, he’s fully aware that he’s trapped by the deranged rules of the society he lives in, but totally unwilling to do anything about them. Hawkes handles the man’s sides equally well, and makes every whiplash between them frighteningly real. And he manage to turn the stylized backwoods poetry of director Debra Granik’s screenplay into something casual and conversational. The world of “Winter’s Bone” is a harsh landscape of mangy dogs, abandoned cars, and the cold hills of Missouri. The area’s so bombed out it’s practically post-apocalyptic, as if a bunch of folks stumbled on the sets left standing from John Hillcoat’s adaptation of “The Road” and decided to move in. You see John Hawkes in interviews and he doesn’t look like the sort of the guy that place would produce. But Teardrop is.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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