January 31, 2011

"Winter's Bone"

Over at Taki's Magazine, I review Winter's Bone, which received four Oscar nominations:
Winter’s Bone, an arthouse detective drama now out on DVD, is the Scots-Irish hillbilly equivalent of all those fine recent movies about the Irish Catholic Massachusetts underclass such as The Fighter and The Town (which Winter’s Bone edged out for a Best Picture Oscar nomination). It’s splendidly written and acted, although poorly lit.

In passing, I recount my own quite different (but not wholly dissimilar) experience in the heart of the Ozarks.
Two decades ago, I would frequently set out from my corner office across Wacker Blvd. from Chicago’s Sears Tower for remote Bentonville, Arkansas, where I would be severely out-negotiated by Walmart’s Ozark Avengers. Sam Walton had made himself the richest man on Earth in part by demanding that us city-slicker salesmen leave behind corporate America’s expense-account bonhomie of skyboxes and wine lists to come wrestle over bottom-line terms with his hungry staffers in his headquarters’ windowless interrogation cells.

Read the whole thing there.

25 comments:

agnostic said...

"Laconic"? Maybe around everyone but their kin (no offense, Ma).

Anonymous said...

Most people don't know that for all their "flinty," clannish self-sufficiency, these types are just as adept at manipulating the government entitlement system as any welfare queen.

SSI disability is a particular favorite of theirs. As my dad says half the people in the county get a "stupid check" or because they have "bad nerves." It also helps that morbid diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease set in around age 40. They don't even need alcohol or drugs to speed themselves to an early grave, although many do.

Here's a story, possibly apocryphal, my family loved to tell. One day a teacher at an elementary school asked a third grader what he wanted to do when he grew up. "Draw," he said. "Oh, you want to be an artist? How wonderful!" "NO. I want to draw a check just like my Paw."

And I can't say I saw too many "backwoods beauties" when I was growing up. Half of them were already on the way to obesity, and the rest would surely be there by 25.

I looked up Jennifer Lawrence's background. She was born in Louisville, and her last name is most definitely not Scots-Irish. There is precisely one person in my home county's phone book with that surname. It seems to be much more common in New England and the Midwest.

Anonymous said...

We call it a "Crazy Check" in Boston. And living off the fat of the land includes sucking the system dry as well. Basically looking out for one's self and the clan is paramount to certain groups (why wouldn't it be).

I guess citizenism is for suckers :)

Anonymous said...

Most people don't know that for all their "flinty," clannish self-sufficiency, these types are just as adept at manipulating the government entitlement system as any welfare queen.

Are there still people who whine about "welfare queen" gaming the system in 2011? George Bush and his Wall Street buddies have set a new standard for manipulating the system. (Bush is a name common in New England).

Anonymous said...

The big story is that Steve is reviewing a DVD not a theatrical release.

2011 is the year the movie theaters close. Currently theatrical presentation is primarily a marketing device. The first run box office has become less important each year for decades.

The movie studios rely on TV to get people to be aware of a new feature film. One month after the TV ads hit the movie opens in theaters for a couple weeks. Forty five days later it becomes available on DVD/BR and cable.

Most studio revenue comes from home viewing (cable TV, broadcast TV, streaming web sites, disks (DVD & BR). Theatrical releases are an atavism.

I was in a bookstore a month ago and saw near the checkout counter a display of impulse purchase picture books. These were nostalgia books of local movie theaters in San Francisco and Oakland that had closed. It was quite shocking to be reminded of all those now defunct movie theaters. I remember when The Northpoint was the first opened as the finest movie venue on the West Coast - huge screen, good seats, and modern sound (including Sensuround). It only showed first run features. It close about ten years ago. It may have been the last luxury single auditorium movie theater built in the US.

All that is keeping movie theaters in business today is inertia. People are used to reports about box office returns even if such returns don't mean much anymore.

The end of movie theaters is clearly coming - I think it comes fast - I think it comes this year.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Albertosaurus:

People have been predicting the death of movie theaters for ages, yet they're still going strong. People like to get out of the house, and movies are still a relatively affordable way to do that, especially compared to live music, theater, etc. And the smarter theater chains recognize that (quoting Mark Cuban) they're in the date business more than the movie business and cater to their customers accordingly. It still boggles my mind that Steve sees movies at the Plant in Van Nuys when the Sherman Oaks Arclight is just as close and for a couple of bucks more, provides an infinitely better moviegoing experience.

Anonymous said...

I guess citizenism is for suckers :)

":)" ?!?

More like ":-(" or ":/" !!!

Steve Sailer said...

"It still boggles my mind that Steve sees movies at the Plant in Van Nuys when the Sherman Oaks Arclight is just as close and for a couple of bucks more, provides an infinitely better moviegoing experience."

Not if "The Social Network" or "Inglourious Basterds" is sold out at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks but is only a quarter full at The Plant in Van Nuys.

alonzo portfolio said...

The thing about movie theaters is, the entertainment isn't on the screen. They're still the best place to go to experience the full range of black psychoses, or overhear the Prius crowd talk about their aromatherapy sessions. In Reno in 1992 I went to see Eddie Murphy's "Boomerang," which I guess is where America fell in love with Hallie Berry. A middle aged black guy began yelling, "Yeah Eddie, you tell'em Eddie!" When I asked him to quiet down, he got up and said he was going to get his gun. By the way Albertosaurus, the North Point closed in 1997. It's where I saw "Nashville," one of the most overrated flicks of all time. Speaking of country music, have you folks seen Sunny Sweeney? What a babe.

alonzo portfolio said...

The thing about movie theaters is, the entertainment isn't on the screen. They're still the best place to go to experience the full range of black psychoses, or overhear the Prius crowd talk about their aromatherapy sessions. In Reno in 1992 I went to see Eddie Murphy's "Boomerang," which I guess is where America fell in love with Hallie Berry. A middle aged black guy began yelling, "Yeah Eddie, you tell'em Eddie!" When I asked him to quiet down, he got up and said he was going to get his gun. By the way Albertosaurus, the North Point closed in 1997. It's where I saw "Nashville," one of the most overrated flicks of all time. Speaking of country music, have you folks seen Sunny Sweeney? What a babe.

Anonymous said...

If this is going to be the movie thread, then can I again wish a fond farewell to John Barry, author of so very many glorious movie scores, but especially that haunting theme to Body Heat?

Anonymous said...

BTW, Wikipedia says that John Barry spent the last part of his life in Oyster Bay, NY, which would have practically made him a next-door-neighbor of The Derb.

Also, Carl Limbacher was once known as "Carl from Oyster Bay" on the Rush Limbaugh show and at Free Republic.

Geoff Matthews said...

My discount theater ($1.50 for month-old movies) has a better screen and audio than I have at my home.
And my kids like it more as well. But when the 5-year old has to go to the bathroom, it is annoying.

Theaters will continue to have an advantage on hardware (though the seats, while not bad, aren't as comfortable as mine), though that advantage is getting thinner.

Jeff Burton said...

This movie was too sentimental for my taste, but she nailed the material culture. What is it about rural poverty that everywhere produces crap-strewn yards? Surely not confined to the Ozarks.

In a not-quite-but-almost tangential point: anyone here read "The Longest Mile" by Rena Gazaway? It seems to have fallen into a memory hole, but must have sold a fair bit in the late 60's (my copy is a Penguin edition). That book formed my view of poor southern whites - and it's a pretty depressing one.

Lucille said...

@ Geoff Matthews -

You're lucky. My local discount theater never advertises showtimes - not even on their roadside marquee - and on one occasion I've been there the screening equipment broke down and had to be repaired in the middle of a showing. But alternative theaters (the ones that show art house or vintage movies) are good choices for me.

SouthernAnonyia said...

"And I can't say I saw too many "backwoods beauties" when I was growing up. Half of them were already on the way to obesity, and the rest would surely be there by 25.

I looked up Jennifer Lawrence's background. She was born in Louisville, and her last name is most definitely not Scots-Irish. There is precisely one person in my home county's phone book with that surname. It seems to be much more common in New England and the Midwest."

That's because many people with "backwoods" backgrounds who were afforded decent opportunities moved out by the 70s and 80s (usually not far, just into the nearest decent sized city). Before that,I'm sure there were plenty of attractive and intelligent people in the "backwoods"..just look at old yearbooks.
And what is the point of discussing Ms. Lawrence's last name (well, I guess know the "subtle" intent but I'm not even to address that)? Anyway, it's not as if your last name is the sole (or even most important) determinant of your "ethnic" background. After all, I have a scandinavian surname because of just one immigrant 150 years ago, but that amounts to a whopping 1/16 of my ancestry.

Drawbacks said...

By the way, there's a Born Fighting tv series airing on Scottish and Ulster screens at the moment. Don't know when it appears stateside.

http://entertainment.stv.tv/tv/223586-born-fighting-how-scots-and-irish-shaped-the-new-world/

Anonymous said...

Christ Steve,

Some of your commenters are such aspergery douchebags. Criticizing my smiley.

Duncan

rob said...

Whiskey, here we are talking about your people. Do you have anything to add? Perhaps a childhood recollection or old family story?

Luke Lea said...

I live amongst such people and have employed quite a few of them over the years, befriending their families, hiring their relatives, attending their weddings and funerals. We are talking hard-core, back-of-the-mountain hill billies. They are a proud people, in my experience, and wouldn't be caught dead on welfare. At least in my neck of the woods.

followup said...

"In a not-quite-but-almost tangential point: anyone here read "The Longest Mile" by Rena Gazaway? It seems to have fallen into a memory hole, but must have sold a fair bit in the late 60's (my copy is a Penguin edition). That book formed my view of poor southern whites - and it's a pretty depressing one."

Don't be too drepressed.
They were not supposed to be a portrait of southern whites, only a marginal sub-group. Gazaway did stay with some people who were a bit more typical--the kind who made quilts , took baths, earned their own living. Duddie's Branch was a bad case, even by the standards of eastern Kentucky.

I read that book in the last 10 years and I can't find any follow-up about it. I suspect some sort of retardation caused by selective inbreeding or maybe chemicals in the polluited stream they used for drinking and the little bit of washing they did. I have never read of such poverty before in this country, or such stupidity. They were sub-normal even by the left of the bell curve standards. I have a lot of questions. Like how could the kids have attended school (which most did, at least for a while, the girls with more regularity) with their hair "throbbing with lice"? The other kids from marginally less poor homes would not have been allowed to sit with them, would they? Gazaway doesn't addres this. She chose a 14 year old boy to take back to the city with her (disaster--he was soon brought back) because every girl over 6 (that's right) was already "corrupted" although the girls were far more likely to have learned anything in school. And who was "corrupting" the little girls anyway? Gazaway blames the little girls apparently, and gives a chance to the 14 year boy who couldn't adjust.
These people were so stupid they could hardly drive a nail, true fact. One girl couldn't understand why the picture of the dog had the dog's "walkers" (legs) in the air. Gazaway turned the book right side up. Kid said "oh" and kept on turning the pages "apathetically."
They probably all had parasites.
So really--a lot more study should have gone into this. Not just this anecdotal narrative. I can't find any info on how the good people of Duddies Branch are doing now. They survived on welfare and lived on lard and biscuits, and grew a few potatos. To judge from their viability, they would have died out otherwise, or wandered off to the nearest city and begged on street corners. Oddly, some of the men had tapped electricity from power lines and occasionally had a few old appliances that worked in otherwise primitive conditions. Like I said, there's some anomalies going on here. I'd really like to see more research.

Anonymous said...

I don't really believe that anyone can predict the future so I'm not ego invested in my prediction that movie theaters go away this year. But it seems likely for a number of reasons.

Movie theater attendance is a symptom of poverty. Public libraries are another as are the large cheap cafeterias that used to be so common in the hearts of American cities. It is less expensive to deliver a uniform product to people en-mass than it is to provide individual goods and services to individuals in their homes. The Chinese used to be too poor to afford ovens in their houses which led to Peking Duck being a restaurant dish only.

An anonymous poster claimed that people have been predicting the end of movie theaters for years. Not so.

In the fifties the studios tried all sorts of things to maintain theater attendance including Cinerama, CinemaScope, 3D, and (my favorite) smell-o-vision. The most successful was stereophonic sound. Only two years ago by law TVs are now wide screen and most people have some kind of advanced sound system. This spurred the reintroduction of 3D (something you wouldn't have at home). It isn't working all that well because most Americans can now watch a movie on the large flat screen TV in their living room with their surround sound system.

The best way to appreciate the change is in amount of female flesh on display. Compare The Big Bounce of 1972 with the recent remake. This Elmore Leonard tale had a lot of nudity forty years ago when the studios expected it to be seen in theaters. Today they expect their films to be seen in living rooms where kiddies play. The new film is very tame.

The studios make their films to be seen nowadays in living rooms from a DVD/BR, cable TV, or the web.

Theatrical releases are a hold over from a previous business pattern. All that is needed is for some distributor to release some major new movie with a ton of publicity first on Blu-ray. The studios need TV advertising much more than they need a theatrical run. They immediately will save millions on the prints and distribution expenses. They wouldn't need to split revenues with the theater owners either. I expect this changeover will happen all at once.

All the public would lose would be the "full range of black psychoses" that alonzo portfolio referred to.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

The movie is almost irrelevant to going to the movie theater. It's mostly teenagers filling the seats, and they're there because of the social interaction, not a deep commitment to what's on the screen.

Adults are largely missing, probably at home watching Netflix. Those that are there are mostly looking to get away from both the house and work for a few hours.

Galactic Overlord said...

Albertosaurus:

You commented, "All that is needed is for some distributor to release some major new movie with a ton of publicity first on Blu-ray. The studios need TV advertising much more than they need a theatrical run."

Only one problem with that: Rule 2.3 of the Academy Awards, which states (in relevant part):

"Films that, in any version, receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than as a theatrical motion picture release will not be eligible for Academy Awards in any category. (This includes broadcast and cable television as well as home video marketing and Internet transmission.)"

As long as the Oscars are used as a major marketing tool, either during a film's theatrical run or for home video, studios won't release any major films direct-to-video.

Anonymous said...

Anyone compare the long-term decline of movie theaters to that of comics?