Oscar Vault Monday – Winter’s Bone, 2010 (dir. Debra Granik)
I remember when I first saw this film last fall it was just after Noirvember (wherein I watched about 40 or so film noir classics) and I could feel how Winter’s Bone was akin to those great thrillers. I watched it one evening and wouldn’t even stop for dinner because I couldn’t bear to pause it. It went places I never expected and kept up its tense mood throughout. I really wish I had been able to see it in theaters; the tension probably would have killed me. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, though it didn’t win any: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor John Hawkes, Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence and Best Picture. The film was also nominated for seven Independent Spirit Awards, winning two: Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Female Dale Dickey (won), Best Supporting Male John Hawkes (won), Best Female Lead Jennifer Lawrence, Best Director and Best Film. The film won and/or was nominated for so many critic awards last year I’m just going to send you to the Wikipedia page with all that information. In case you’ve already forgotten, the other films nominated for Best Picture last year were 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit and winner The King’s Speech.
2010 would mark the second year in a row that two Best Picture nominees were helmed by women (in 2009 it was Best Picture, Best Director winner The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow and An Education – Lone Scherfig; in 2010 Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik and The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko). It’s a shame, though, that in that second year neither of those women garnered a nomination (if you didn’t know already, Bigelow was the first woman to win Best Director and only the fourth woman to ever be nominated). So far this year doesn’t look too good for a Best Picture nominee to be helmed by a woman (We Need To Talk About Kevin is the only one I think might have any chance whatsoever and it’s very minimal). I’m not going to rant about why there are so few women directors because that is not the point of this piece. I will say that I hope 2009 and 2010 aren’t flukes, but rather the beginning of a trend.
Jennifer Lawrence probably had the biggest breakout role of the year (well, aside from Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit) with her jaw-dropping performance in this film. She carries this dark, tense film with the ease and maturity of a much older actress. She was 19 when she filmed it and twenty when it was released, making her one of the youngest nominees for Best Actress in recent years (though the category tends to run young). The character of Ree Dolly dictates a maturity beyond her years and I’m sure it was a risk on the filmmaker’s part to cast an actress almost at the same age as the character, rather than someone older who looks younger. Despite many nominations (and a handful of wins) she lost the Academy Award to Natlie Portman in Black Swan.
I wrote a lot about John Hawkes and his performance last year when I was trying to convince people he could be an actual contender for Best Supporting Actor. Looks like I was right after all. Ultimately, although he did get the nomination, he lost to Christian Bale in The Fighter. I don’t know what else can I say that I didn’t already say in that previous article. I’m just really glad this role launched him into the spotlight a little more than he was (I mean, he was fantastic in Deadwood earlier this decade). He’s a strong contender again this year for his supporting work in Martha Marcy May Marlene and will be in next year’s Abraham Lincoln biopic helmed by Steven Spielberg.
I wanted to talk a bit about Dale Dickey, who took home the Best Supporting Actress award from the Independent Spirit Awards, though she failed to receive a nomination from the Academy. She plays a character who, in a way, is very similar to Ree. She’s concerned for her family and its business and all her actions are driven by that. She’s also one of the most ruthless characters brought to the silver screen in 2010 (though I think Best Supporting Actress nominee Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom wins that award hands down). Here’s hoping we get more from the actress in the future.
Lastly I wanted to talk about Garret Dillahunt because I used to love him on the wrongfully cancelled sci-fi drama The 4400. Also he was on Deadwood. Basically, he is awesome in everything he does. His standoff scene with Hawkes’ Teardrop is one of the most tense scenes in a film filled with practically nothing but tense scenes. Absolutely fantastic.