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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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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

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

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

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

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