Sunday night I changed things up a little bit, firing up Netflix streaming to go with one movie I’d seen before and one I’d had on my queue for some time. All in all, it was another excellent evening of viewing.
Julia and I saw this one when it hit the theater and really liked it. I’d been meaning to see it again, because the theater we saw it in, The Wilma, here in Missoula, can be problematic. I love the vibe of the place, and it is probably my favorite one in town to go to (there are two other theaters, both Carmike chain theaters), but certain movies can be hard to fully experience. If a film has quiet dialogue, or characters with accents, the acoustics of the room combined with a questionable sound system renders much of it a muddy mess in my rock-battered earholes. For this reason we haven’t yet seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy because we expect to be stymied by the audio. Which is a drag, because I really want to see that movie. As for Winter’s Bone, much of the initial viewing was compromised by not really hearing what was going on in many spots. I wanted another shot at it to absorb it all over again, and catch what I’d missed.
I read the book and loved it before seeing the movie. The movie, while slightly different from the book, still holds to the story close enough that the spirit of the novel is more than maintained (thankfully, a previous screenplay for the movie, as noted by Woodrell in an interview I read somewhere, had drastic changes with an ongoing plan to turn Ree Dolly, the main character, into some kind of franchise character as an amateur sleuth; which would have sucked). Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly is fantastic, and John Hawkes (one of my favorite actors, I remember him best as Sol Star in Deadwood) as Teardrop is also excellent. Watching it again reminded me that it was one of my favorites films the year it came out.
This kind of “rural noir” as it’s called can be hit and miss for me. I’ve read a fair amount of it lately as part of my Short Story a Day thing I’ve been doing, from authors like Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, Frank Bill, etc. Seems to be a big thing right now. At its best, where Woodrell often (but not always) delivers, it is compelling. Often, though, it seems to be little more than sex, drugs, guns and violence porn, and I don’t care for it. Some of it, as I read, makes me wonder what a guy like the late, great Joe Bageant would think of it. When it slips into the realm of being gratuitous I find myself turned off.
Winter’s Bone, for all its grim setting and darkness, doesn’t go there. It’s a tight story, and Ree is one of the best female characters I’ve seen in a long time. Book or movie, you can’t miss. I offer my highest recommendations for both. Its success makes me hope filmmakers are sniffing around other writers delivering the top shelf material in this genre. I could totally see Bonnie Jo Campbell‘s work on the big screen, no doubt about it.
This movie is a documentary about the history of exploitation films, starting way back in the 50s and taking us through genres with names like Nudie Cuties, Roughies, Blaxploitation, Film Noir, and on into pornography. And it isn’t just about the movies themselves, but the “Grindhouse” theaters (particularly the collection of them on 42nd street in New York City) that would show them, running films of questionable content 24 hours a day, and the culture that grew up around them. It was interesting and I learned quite a bit — the interview subjects were entertaining, whether they were film scholars or the actual directors and actors working on the early films. The old trailers and posters of course were fantastic. It’s a fairly short movie, and it really only scratches the surface as it jumps from one subject to the next, but it’s worth watching if you have any interest at all in learning about a slice of film history that may be more important in contributing to the success of movies of today, mainstream or otherwise, than you realize. I liked it.
Next up: A Night with the Coens