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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, 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. 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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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