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On Movies: 'Winter's Bone' gets surprising number of Oscar nominations

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 25, 2011 - There were no major surprises in the Oscar nominations. The movie that earned the most nods, "The King's Speech," a well-wrought feel-good movie, is the kind of superbly acted British period piece that motion-picture academy members can't resist. "True Grit," second in nominations, is a flawlessly directed, classic Western starring Jeff Bridges, who grew up in Hollywood and is well liked in the movie business. Plus his co-star is an irresistible young newcomer, Hailee Steinfeld, and the academy loves to nominate irresistible young female newcomers. (See Tatum O'Neal, Anna Paquin, Gabourey Sidibe, Jennifer Hudson, etc.)

But among the minor surprises was one that was particularly gratifying to someone who lives and watches movies in this part of the country. A small independent production filmed in the Ozarks with neither stars nor special effects won nominations in four major categories.

"Winter's Bone," based on a harrowing novel by Daniel Woodrell of West Plains, Mo., is the epic story of a teenage girl named Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) who walks the hills of southwestern Missouri in a dangerous quest for her father. He has apparently skipped bail on a charge of manufacturing meth, and if he does not show up for trial, she and her family - she is caring for her mentally ill mother and her younger brother and sister -- will lose the small farm that is all that exists between them and homeless poverty.

The movie, directed by little-known filmmaker Debra Granik and filmed in Christian and Taney counties, is notable for the honesty and humanity with which it treats the backwoods of the Ozarks and the people who live there. The meth epidemic has been devastating to parts of the region, as it has to many places in the rural Midwest, but there still is a desperately maintained sense of family and community, symbolized by a small gathering to play and sing the old-time mountain music that spills like falling water from banjos, guitars, fiddles and mandolins. There is no "Little Abner" moment in the movie, nothing that could be considered exploitation of "hillbillies."

"Winter's Bone" opened in June, and I think it was the best movie I saw all year ("True Grit" being second). A lot of people tell me they missed it. I would guess that the Oscar nominations mean "Winter's Bone" will come through town again, which is very good news. It is also now available on DVD.

The nominations for "Winter's Bone":

Best Picture

Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor, John Hawkes (as Ree Dolly's dangerous Uncle Teardrop)

Best Adapted Screenplay, by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini.

The Oscars

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Javier Bardem, "Biutiful"
Jeff Bridges, "True Grit"
Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"
Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
James Franco, "127 Hours"

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone"
Jeremy Renner, "The Town"
Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams, "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter, "The King's Speech"
Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"
Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"
Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"

Best animated feature film of the year

"How to Train Your Dragon," Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
"The Illusionist," Sylvain Chomet
"Toy Story 3," Lee Unkrich

Achievement in art direction

"Alice in Wonderland," Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
"Inception," Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas, Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
"The King's Speech," Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
"True Grit," Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Achievement in cinematography

"Black Swan," Matthew Libatique
"Inception," Wally Pfister
"The King's Speech," Danny Cohen
"The Social Network," Jeff Cronenweth
"True Grit," Roger Deakins

Achievement in costume design

"Alice in Wonderland," Colleen Atwood
"I Am Love," Antonella Cannarozzi
"The King's Speech," Jenny Beavan
"The Tempest," Sandy Powell
"True Grit," Mary Zophres

Achievement in directing

"Black Swan," Darren Aronofsky
"The Fighter," David O. Russell
"The King's Speech," Tom Hooper
"The Social Network," David Fincher
"True Grit," Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Best documentary feature

"Exit through the Gift Shop," Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
"Gasland," Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
"Inside Job," Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Restrepo," Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
"Waste Land," Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Best documentary short subject

"Killing in the Name"
"Poster Girl"
"Strangers No More," Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
"Sun Come Up," Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
"The Warriors of Qiugang," Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Achievement in film editing

"Black Swan," Andrew Weisblum
"The Fighter," Pamela Martin
"The King's Speech," Tariq Anwar
"127 Hours," Jon Harris
"The Social Network," Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Best foreign language film

"Biutiful," Mexico
"Dogtooth," Greece
"In a Better World," Denmark
"Incendies," Canada
"Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)," Algeria

Achievement in makeup

"Barney's Version," Adrien Morot
"The Way Back," Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
"The Wolfman," Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

"How to Train Your Dragon," John Powell
"Inception," Hans Zimmer
"The King's Speech," Alexandre Desplat
"127 Hours," A.R. Rahman
"The Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

"Coming Home" from "Country Strong" Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
"I See the Light" from "Tangled" Music by Alan Menken, Lyric by Glenn Slater
"If I Rise" from "127 Hours" Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
"We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Best motion picture of the year

"Black Swan," Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
"The Fighter," David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
"Inception," Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
"The Kids Are All Right," Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
"The King's Speech," Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
"127 Hours," Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
"The Social Network," Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Cean Chaffin, Producers
"Toy Story 3," Darla K. Anderson, Producer
"True Grit," Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
"Winter's Bone," Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Best animated short film

"Day & Night," Pixar Animation Studios Production, Teddy Newton
"The Gruffalo," Magic Light Pictures Production, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
"Let's Pollute," Geefwee Boedoe Production, Geefwee Boedoe
"The Lost Thing," Passion Pictures Australia Production, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
"Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)," Sacrebleu Production, Bastien Dubois

Best live action short film

"The Confession," National Film and Television School Production, Tanel Toom
"The Crush," Purdy Pictures Production, Michael Creagh
"God of Love," Luke Matheny Production, Luke Matheny
"Na Wewe," CUT! Production, Ivan Goldschmidt
"Wish 143," Swing and Shift Films/Union Pictures Production, Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Achievement in sound editing

"Inception," Richard King
"Toy Story 3," Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
"Tron: Legacy," Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
"True Grit," Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
"Unstoppable," Mark P. Stoeckinger

Achievement in sound mixing

"Inception," Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
"The King's Speech," Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
"Salt," Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
"The Social Network," Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
"True Grit," Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Achievement in visual effects

"Alice in Wonderland," Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1," Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
"Hereafter," Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
"Inception," Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
"Iron Man 2," Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Adapted screenplay

"127 Hours," Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
"The Social Network," Aaron Sorkin
"Toy Story 3," Michael Arndt, story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
"True Grit,"Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
"Winter's Bone," Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

Original screenplay

"Another Year," Mike Leigh
"The Fighter," Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson; story by Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
"Inception," Christopher Nolan
"The Kids Are All Right," Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
"The King's Speech," David Seidler

Harper Barnes, the author of Never Been A Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked The Civil Rights Movement, is a special contributor to the Beacon. 

Harper Barnes
Harper Barnes' most recent book is Never Been A Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked The Civil Rights Movement

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