Tag Archives: Winter’s Bone

My Oscar predictions

This year’s Oscars have a pretty good selection of films up for awards; it’s so good, in fact, that I worry a bit that the next six months will see nothing but crap released (bit of a worry when you run a cinema).  Whereas the Golden Globes were reduced to nominating The Tourist, and the BAFTAs managed to miss the fact that Winter’s Bone had even been released, the Oscars have managed to avoid any obvious omissions, and are pretty low on undeserving nominations.  I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees except The Kids Are All Right, so I’m having a crack at predicting the results of the major awards.
I’ll start with the no brainers.  Natalie Portman clearly has Best Actress in the bag, and that’s in a year when she had a lot of strong competition (after Edinburgh this year I was certain Jennifer Lawrence had already nailed it).  She’s the perfect candidate in that great things have been predicted for her since Leon, but she’s never really given the performance everyone thought she was capable of (possibly because the right role just hasn’t come along).  Black Swan itself may be love it or hate it (I loved it myself) but most would agree this is a triumphant turn by someone who always seems like a nice person.  I don’t think anyone (well, maybe Annette Bening) would begrudge her the award.
Similarly, it seems pretty clear that it’s Colin Firth’s turn.  He’s come close before, so he’s shown patience and earned his spurs.  And he is genuinely very good in The King’s Speech. 

As for the rest, I would like to see The Social Network run off with the bulk of categories.  However, it’s facing the twin threat of a reliable, very well made, traditional British costume drama on one side and a reliable, very well made, traditional American costume drama on the other (King’s Speech and True Grit).  I might be wrong, but I suspect the Academy hive mind will share the awards out between these two, though I wouldn’t want to guess which will get Best Picture, with a smattering for the others.  Aaron Sorkin should get something for the screenplay, but that could well be the lot.
The Supporting Actor/Actress awards are tougher to call.  This is The Fighter’s best chance of picking up an award (well, unless it gets Best Sound Editing or one of the others that nobody really cares about) so it’s supporters may well decide to concentrate their votes here.  However, I will be actively enraged if Christian Bale gets something for his manic, scene hogging turn.  I don’t care how close he is to the real person he’s playing; it’s too big for the film.  But they love giving Oscars to people who play real people, and Bale is generally seen as Oscar worthy.  Just not for this one, please.  Similarly, though I’ve been a fan of Melissa Leo since her time in Homicide: Life on the Street, her turn in The Fighter is pitched to match Bale’s, and therefore becomes part of the problem.
I would rather see John Hawkes rewarded for Winter’s Bone, and Hailee Steinfield for True Grit (even though she’s playing the lead and should not, therefore, be in this category).  But I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the King’s Speech juggernaut takes these as well.
For director I would pick David Fincher, but the Coens will probably take it, leaving Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech.  Not an ideal split, but at least the nominations are fairly spread over a good selection of films, so everyone will have something good to put on the DVD covers.
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Top 10 2010

This year I’ve seen 125 films; 115 in one of 21 various cinemas and another on screeners and in various video rooms.   I imagine I’ll squeeze in a couple more before 31 December, but unless Tron: Legacy turns out to be much less shite than I anticipate, my top 10 list of the year is pretty much set. 

It might look a bit different if I’d manage to catch everything I wanted, but inevitably one or two of the limited releases slipped through my fingers (Uncle Boonmee and Still Walking being chief among them).  Anyway, the ten have been arrived at without much in the way of deep thought – I’ve basically picked the ones I enjoyed most at the time, and arranged them in an approximate order.  The top five, I think, are essential viewing; the rest maybe less so, but all provide solid entertainment that’s more interesting than average.

Tenth place was a struggle, and I nearly bottled the choice by replacing it with a whole bunch of runner ups.  But in the end, The Illusionist, The Runaways, The Last Exorcism and The Town all had to settle for honourable mentions.  No doubt they’re gutted.

10. Skeletons
A film I very nearly walked out of after about 20 minutes, but thankfully stuck with.  A very peculiar British fantasy comedy drama it’s certainly not for everyone, but edges out the competition by being completely its own thing.

9. The Secret in Their Eyes
One of those films that was greatly enjoyed by an audience you suspect might have shunned it had it not been subtitled.  Never mind, it was melodramatic tosh but I enjoyed it greatly for all that.

8. Dogtooth

7. Monsters
This gets pretty much everything right, starting with a first appearance by a monster that’s as exciting as the one in The Host. After that we spend more time with the two leads than with the aliens, which is fine as they’re both very likeable and they’re traveling through some lovely scenery. Unfortunately I have some issues with the ending; I had been hoping throughout that they wouldn’t go that cynical horror movie route where you think everyones survived and then they haven’t.  But they did. 

6. Inception
My top ten usually has space for the year’s best blockbuster, and this was 2010s.  An original screenplay (well, original in the sense that it’s not based on a comic book or another film – obviously it has its own antecedents), excellent cast and loads of cool visuals make it superior multiplex fodder.

5. Mother
A Bong Joon-Ho film is worth watching pretty much by definition, and if this didn’t seem quite up to his brilliant Memories of Murder it’s only because I now have such high expectations of him. 

4. Four Lions

3. Toy Story 3

And the final two, which could easily switch places:
2. The Social Network

1. Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone


Winter’s Bone

Based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell, of whom I was previously unaware but intend to check out in the near future, Debra Granik’s engrossing, immersive thriller is my clear favourite of the Festival. A dark drama that convincingly depicts a rural, poverty blighted society normally only seen as monsters in horror films, it also features a remarkable lead performance by Jennifer Lawrence.

Lawrence plays Ree Jolly, a 17 year old girl who – already responsible for her frail mother and two younger siblings – is told that her drug-dealing father has put their home up as security on his bail bond. Currently missing, he needs to show up for his court hearing or the family will be made homeless. Ree is obliged to undertake a dangerous quest to track him down – dead or alive.

In this desolate mountain town, drug addiction is endemic and drug dealing seems to be the major industry and source of income. The people involved, whose identities seem to be at best an open secret, are less than pleased to have Ree asking questions, and it soon starts to look as though she may the next to go mysteriously missing.

Watching the film, you can’t help but become angry that this young woman – who is demonstrably loyal, brave, occasionally droll – should be obliged to shoulder this kind of responsibility, even outside of the thriller plot. Looking at the older women in the film you see her likely future, and it’s infuriating. In a way, one of the most distressing scenes has Ree teaching her little brother how to shoot – distressing both because seeing small children handle weapons feels wrong, but also because you understand the lesson is actually necessary just so the family can continue to eat.

The supporting cast features a seamless blend of local people alongside more familiar faces like Deadwood’s John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt and Twin Peaks’ Sheryl Lee. All contribute to the feeling that this is a window onto a very real, specific world, one rarely explored in cinema. It’s being released in the UK in September by Artificial Eye, and comes hugely recommended.