Review: Winter’s Bone (2010)

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone

Winner of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury prize, Winter’s Bone is a breed of independent filmmaking unlike any other. Adapted from a 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrell, Winter’s Bone takes a grippingly realistic look at life in the impoverished Ozarks region in southwestern Missouri. Yet it is also a frightening country noir – a term coined by Woodrell – about the dangerous blood ties that drive much of the film’s narrative.

17-year old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is the primary caretaker for her young siblings and her incapacitated mother. She learns that her father, a notorious methamphetamine dealer, has vanished and that after his last arrest, he put her family’s property up as bond.  To save her home and protect her family, Ree must find her father, dead or alive.

Ree treks through the backwoods, begging various family members for information on her absentee father’s whereabouts to no avail. Her extended family, including her uncle Teardrop (John Hawkes) are guided by a code of  silence that keeps them pitted against the law. When the clans ways are threatened by Ree’s search, she is given false leads and, worst of all, beaten.  In spite of her desire and attempts to escape her roots, Ree has been initiated in.

Winter’s Bone is strikingly similar to Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River. Familial strife is centered around dire economic and political circumstance. Like Frozen River, Winter’s Bone can arguably be defined as a Neo-Neorealist film, those American independent films that have emerged since 2006 and depict harshly realistic portrayals of American life. The noir aspects of Winter’s Bone sometimes mask what is Neorealistic – the long takes, the presence of nonprofessional actors, the use of a real setting. These techniques and markers of authenticity, such as when a banjo-laced performance graces the screen, coupled with the harrowing dangers of Ree’s quest only magnify the emotional intensity of the film.

Jennifer Lawrence’s unforgettable performance is something marvelous. In a film dependent on one character’s tenacity, Lawrence carries the film with her low Southern accent and every stubborn stare. Ree has been dealt unfortunate cards. Her responsibilities to her siblings means she cannot escape her ancestral ties, although that would never be an easy achievement for her to begin with. At just 17, her choices could mean life and death. This fact never escapes us because of Lawrence’s performance.

The message behind Winter’s Bone is clear. As long as a version of the family structure survives, then the path to getting there, however horrific it may be, is worth the struggle.

Oscar Buzz from TIFF

The Toronto Film Festival begins September 4. Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly looks at four films screening at the festival that could be early Oscar contenders. Here are the trailers for the four films discussed.

Rachel Getting Married – starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Debra Winger (!); directed by Jonanthan Demme

The Duchess – starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes; dir. Saul Dibb

Appaloosa – starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen; directed by Ed Harris

Flash of Genius – starring Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham; dir. Marc Abraham

Review: Body/Antibody (2007)

Body/Antibody: A Quirky Infestation

At the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards comedian Sarah Silverman said this: “The Academy Awards honor the biggest directors and superstar actors while this show is the champion of struggling artists like Ang Lee and George Clooney.”

That’s right. In case you missed it, Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, and even Crash, the 2006 Best Picture winner, with their big-name directors and all-stars casts were all technically independent productions.

First of all, I am, in no way, complaining about Hollywood and its involvement with independent filmmaking (How else would some films be distributed?). However, I often find myself questioning the validity of the “independent” film. Because quite frankly, how independent can any product be when George Clooney is associated with it?

But then a movie like Body/Antibody, screened only at independent film festivals, comes along and reminds cynics like me what truly non-mainstream Hollywood filmmaking is.

In Body/Antibody, writer-director Kerry Douglas Dye creates a unique world filled with quirky character, constant plot twists and inappropriate yet hysterical humor.

Kip Polyard (played by Robert Gomes) lives the ideal life in a stress-free and germ-free six bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He also hasn’t left his apartment in ten months.

You see, Kip is an obsessive compulsive who showers at least five times a day, pickles his own vegetables to avoid supermarkets, and washes his clothes in his bathtub. But Kip’s perfect lifestyle is turned upside down when Celine (Leslie Kendall) moves in next door.

One night, Celine invites herself into Kip’s apartment, proceeds to spread her germs on his pristine furniture, and yet somehow they end up falling in love. Celine then takes it upon herself to cure Kip of his OCD. But their unconventional romance is challenged when Celine’s boyfriend Andy (Frank Deal) comes into the picture and tortures Kip in the most gruesome manner possible.

At this point Body/Antibody, which began as a cute love story between two quirky people, throws any conventional story out the window and every anticipated plot element simply doesn’t occur. By the film’s fast-paced, shocking, gory, and atypical conclusion (which is not fun if you’re squeamish), Body/Antibody has taken so many unexpected turns that reality itself becomes blurred.

As a dark comedy, Body/Antibody utilizes perverse and suggestive dialogue at the most inappropriate times. You will find yourself laughing during some of the most grotesque scenes a film can have, questioning your own morals, and then laughing hysterically during the next hilarious moment.

Body/Antibody is easily the darkest, kinkiest, and funniest film I’ve seen in months. The characters are about as deranged and quirky as they come. After all, the two main characters are an obsessive compulsive living in a created world and a dangerous woman who is trapped by the world.

Yet I loved Body/Antibody for its oddly wonderful moments that are equally inappropriate and tender. The fact that Kip and Celine, these two incredibly loony characters, can somehow be together and maybe even stay together questions so much about human behavior and our own reality.

But most importantly, to me Body/Antibody is the perfect example of an indie film made right and the fact that Hollywood is not associated with this film (yet), allows it to better than it already is.

Published: November 8, 2007
Mount Holyoke News

Updated October 20, 2010

MadCat Women’s International Film Festival

This is what I’ll be doing tonight. The MadCat Women’s International Film Festival presents the works by female experimental filmmakers.

Here are the six short features I saw:

Dear Bill Gates (2006)– Dir. Sarah Christman — 16 min
A simple correspondance evolves into a poetic visual essay exploring the well-documented co-optation of our visual history and culture.

Deep Woods (2006) — Alison O’Daniel — 6 min
Part of a series, this performative video lures its male participants through the filmmaker’s enticing yet vague Web advirtisements.

Winter Return (2006) — Chelsea Walton — 1 min
A moody stop-motion peek at a city.

The Intimacy of Strangers (2005) — Eva Weber — 19 min
A cladestine film crew prowls the streets of London capturing phone conversations that thake place in public. Weber “steals” these intimate moments and explores the evershrinking gap between private and public spheres. She weaves seemingly random exchanges into a modern-day love story, from frist attraction to bitter end, creating an anonymous dance of life, love, loss, and hope.

Human Nature (2006) — Stine Gonsholt — 1:40 min
A stick figure runs, and runs, and runs….

The Carnival of the Animals (2006) — Michaela Pavlatova — 11 min
This erotic animated musical takes viewers on a sensual and abscene tour of the lives of lascivious characters looking for love anywhere they can find it.

I don’t know if you’ll ever have an opportunity to see the “Private Eyes” program, but if it comes to an area near you, you should really check it out.

Sundance Film Festival 2007

The 2007 Sundance Film Festival kicks off today and will run until January 28.

Sundance provides great opportunities from indie films to make a crossover to mainstream films. Last years big hits include Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth and Half-Nelson. This year looks just as promising. Personally, I want to know what the response to the Dakota Fanning movie, Hounddog will be.


For the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, 122 feature films were selected including 82 world premieres, 24 North American premieres and 10 U.S. premieres representing 25 countries with nearly 60 first or second-time feature filmmakers. These films were selected from 3,287 feature submissions composed of 1,852 U.S. feature films and 1,435 international feature films. These numbers represent an increase from 2006 when 1,764 U.S. feature films and 1,384 international films were considered.

We are witnessing a broadening of the traditional independent arena. In this year’s Festival there is a breadth of subject matter, vision and innovative storytelling that is transforming the old idea of the American indie film,” said Geoffrey Gilmore, Director, Sundance Film Festival. “This year’s American Competition reflects a newfound awareness and self-expression that results in an engagement by the work that is both political and personal, a collective voice fueled by a steadfast optimism and hope for the future.” [SOURCE]

This is an article from the Hollywood Reporter that highlights Sundance’s contributions to film.

The complete guide of films being shown at Sundance is available here.

Visit or this site for more information on the Sundance Film Festival.