Monday, June 21, 2010

Carolyn Arends on Winter's Bone

(Image from Christianity Today)

One of my long-time readers, "Erdal," first alerted me to this movie, Winter's Bone, about a story set in the Ozarks:
I think you may likely be interested in this.
The "this" was a good film review -- albeit with a not entirely satisfactory title, "Where Life Is Cold, and Kin Are Cruel" -- by A. O. Scott for The New York Times, which begins like this:
Even before the real trouble starts -- with suspicious lawmen on one side and a clan of violent drug dealers on the other -- Ree Dolly faces more than the usual litany of adolescent worries. Her father, locally renowned for his skill at cooking methamphetamine, has vanished, and her emotionally hollowed-out mother has long since abandoned basic parental duties, leaving Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) to run the household and care for her two younger siblings. The family lives in southwestern Missouri, a stretch of the Ozarks that is both desolate and picturesque, words that might also suit "Winter's Bone," Debra Granik's tender and flinty adaptation of a novel of the same title by Daniel Woodrell.
I don't recall having heard of Mr. Woodrell, though I may have, but I might be interested in reading him now since he writes Ozark stories and apparently does so rather well. Anyway, I filed that review away in my faulty memory and promptly forgot about it . . . until I read another review, idependently and quite through happenstance, by Carolyn Arends for Christianity Today, titled the same as the movie, Winter's Bone:
It is a hard film to classify. It's been described as a psychodrama, a Western, a suspense/thriller, and a whodunit. The story is rather faithfully adapted from Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name; Woodrell calls his fiction -- which is always centered in the Appalachian region of his own upbringing -- "country noir," and that is an apt description of the film as well. But this is "noir" all shot through with light, bleakness that is somehow achingly beautiful. However you define its genre, Winter's Bone is a great, taut story animated by characters who refuse to fade after the final frame. It's sad and it's difficult, but it's very, very good.
Ms. Arends gave the movie very high marks but failed in one respect -- she confused the Ozarks with the Appalachians. This occasionally happens, for the cultures are quite similar, even interwoven, and with clan memories stretching back to knowledge of earlier kinfolk in the 19th century who migrated from the Appalachian region to the Ozarks -- as I know from my own family.

Despite the understandable conflation, Ms. Arends had need of a lesson in geography, or so I felt, so I posted a comment:
The Ozarks are not in the Appalachian region -- not even close. The Ozark Mountains cover northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, along with the eastern edge of Oklahoma. Rather far from the Appalachians.
And just to be sure, I Googled the name "Carolyn Arends" . . . and discovered that she is a musician in addition to being a movie critic -- but more on that in a moment. Ms. Arends has a website that allowed me to contact her and offer a geographical corrective:
I enjoyed your review of "Winter's Bone" in "Christianity Today," but there's one problem, which I posted about in a comment there:
"The Ozarks are not in the Appalachian region -- not even close. The Ozark Mountains cover northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, along with the eastern edge of Oklahoma. Rather far from the Appalachians."
The hill country culture is similar, for many Ozarkers come from the same Scots-Irish roots, which explains the similar music as well, but the Ozarks are a special region with a somewhat different economy and a very different sort of mountains.

I'm glad to have discovered your music, by the way, so your geographical error was a useful one for me.
Ms. Arends soon replied:
Wow -- what am embarrassing geographical mistake! Thanks for the heads up -- I'll get my editor to change it up Monday am.

And glad you discovered my music despite my gaffe!
For those readers interested in music, just click here and explore to see if you like her stuff, which -- as might be expected by the review's venue -- is in the Christian music genre, and a song begins playing as soon as you access the website, so be prepared for some sound.

In case you happen to be reading this in a library or a worksite or somesuch . . .

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At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Larry Saidman said...

Jeffery, it appears as if Carolyn Arends is from my neck of the woods (British Columbia), and I had never heard of her. Isn't technology wonderful--I discover a fine singer-songwriter from my area via South Korea. The movie also looks interesting. Thanks.

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You're welcome.

And we see that even mistakes can add up to something good in this world.

There's perhaps a theodicy obscurely lurking somewhere in that observation . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Larry saidman said...

There's an interesting thread about this movie on mudcat cafe--which is a site dedicated to folk and blues music. Here's the link

Hope that works. I'm new to posting links.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You have to use the code under "Leave your comment": Winter's Bone.

Jeffery Hodges

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