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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

February 25, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Oscar countdown: “Winter’s Bone”

And we conclude our Oscar countdown — this was kind of fun, wasn’t it? Or am I kidding myself? — with “Winter’s Bone,” this year’s little-movie-that-could. Made for a $2 million budget that probably would barely cover the pointe shoes in “Black Swan,” this tale of a young woman in the Ozarks trying to find her drug-dealing father and save the family home made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, just over a year ago. Its director, Debra Granik, had made only one feature before; its 18-year-old star, Jennifer Lawrence, had never carried a film. And yet, there’s something about this movie (which I only caught up with fairly recently, on DVD) that takes hold of you and doesn’t let go; within its grim tale of poverty, drug abuse and bitter weather lies a coming-of-age triumph and an outpouring of gritty talent. Not many saw this movie in theaters, but clearly word got out among Oscar voters. I’ll be surprised if “Winter’s Bone” wins anything, but this is one of those stories where “it’s an honor just to be nominated” really means something — a labor of love that, without the help of a studio machine, climbed the heights. If you haven’t seen this movie, do; it’ll stay with you.
Total U.S. box office: $6.4 million, far and away the lowest among the Best Picture nominees.
Total Oscar nominations: Four, for best picture, adapted screenplay (it’s based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell), actress (Lawrence) and supporting actor (John Hawkes)
Best chance for a win: If this wasn’t, supposedly, Aaron Sorkin’s year (for “The Social Network,” which isn’t really an adaptation but is nonetheless in this category), I’d look for “Winter’s Bone” to get a screenplay award, which is traditionally a place where bones are tossed to “little” movies. If every Academy member watched the movie, I’d bet Lawrence would have a shot, but I think this is the Portman/Bening show; likewise for Hawkes, a little-known actor who’s absolutely chilling in this movie, but isn’t likely to surprise with a win.
Odds of this film creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: Any win for this movie would be a huge upset, and would be one of those heartwarming surprises that probably results in a speech that makes a lot of us cry. And Lawrence, who cleans up quite nicely (hers is, to put it mildly, not a glamorous role), seems the likeliest of the Best Actress candidates to wear something wildly adventurous and strange; maybe not quite Helena Bonham Carter strange, but distracting nonetheless.
Where I’d rank this film among the 10 Best Picture nominees: 4
wintersbone26.jpg
Ashlee Thompson, Jennifer Lawrence and Isaiah Stone in “Winter’s Bone” (Photo credit: Sebastian Mlynarski, copyright Roadside Attractions)

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