Tag Archive: winter’s bone

The Best Films of 2010

I’ll go out on a limb and declare 2010 the best year for movies since I’ve been watching them, going back almost fifteen years. That has something to do with Netflix, through which I’ve accessed more foreign, independent, and documentary titles than ever before, but it’s more a credit to the work of great filmmakers.

2009 was the nadir. That year had no shortage of good films, and a few great ones, and I unreservedly stand by each I listed among the best, but there were few I felt unequivocally passionate about, few that held up against previous years’ offerings. I started to question myself, wondering if I’d lost some of the thrill of moviegoing. 2010 put that fear to rest.

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Oscar punditry isn’t an exact science, but it’s close. As the years go by, nearly two months of precursors are more and more accurately distilled into predictions, removing most of the suspense on the morning of Oscar nominations. Some of this year’s choices were more surprising than others (Javier Bardem in Biutiful, John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone), but every single one was mentioned at at least one stop on the Oscar campaign highway. These days, the Oscars feel more like the victory lap than the race.

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It’s a new year and a good time for wishful thinking. Ballots have been mailed to Academy Award voters and must be returned by January 14, so to all my Oscar-voting readers — let’s for the moment assume I have any — here are some eligible contenders you haven’t been hearing about but deserve your attention.

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Jennifer Lawrence, in 'Winter's Bone'

Dir. Debra Granik
(2010, R, 100 min)
★ ★ ★ ★

From the very beginning, Winter’s Bone gives us a vivid sense of place. Set in rural, backwoods Missouri, it introduces us to Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), a seventeen-year-old girl raising her younger brother and sister by herself. Her father comes in and out of their lives and in and out of jail, where he is a frequent occupant for cooking crystal meth. Her mother is unable to function on her own; she’s “sick,” Ree explains, but not physically. Director Debra Granik’s camera subtly captures a landscape of dilapidation and neglect, of poverty as a matter of fact. In its unadorned naturalism it bears more than a passing resemblance to Frozen River, another drama about the desperate lives of the hand-to-mouth poor, except this film is even better.

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