Saturday, June 26, 2010

Coming Soon to a Big City Art Cinema, and Nowhere Else

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Would you rather be trapped inside by blizzard conditions or by a heat wave? Anne votes BLIZZARD! And not just because it sounds like "buzzard." I hate hot weather!

Smack dab in our nation's mid-section there's a snobby clique-ish artsy smartsy Master's degree program called the Iowa Writers Workshop. It's the toughest academic writing program to get into, and many many of its graduates wind up getting something in print. Most of the work that comes out of the Iowa Writers Workshop is not to my taste. I saw the same kind of stuff at Johns Hopkins: long, erudite stories about the academic community or about high-achieving, fucked up middle class misfits.

Daniel Woodrell is the exception.

A native of the Ozark Mountains who joined the Marines at 17 and didn't even start college until he was in his twenties, Woodrell has a knack for writing and a subject matter of interest. I cannot imagine how this talented individual got into the Iowa Writers Workshop, or why he even bothered to attend.

If you are looking for a good summer read, try Woodrell's Tomato Red, or maybe Give Us a Kiss. They're both short, well-written, and funny as hell.

Of a more serious nature is Winter's Bone. Set in the Ozark Mountains, it's about a teenage girl who has to find her bail-skipping dad before her family's property (and its timber acres) are forfeited to the bail bondsman. The dad in question cooked meth. As do most of this girl's family members. Of course no one has seen Dad, dead or alive.

I read Winter's Bone when it first appeared in 2006 and loved it. Now it has been made into a movie. Like all movie treatments of novels, the film skims where the book dips deep, but the movie is still terrific. So terrific, in fact, that it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year. See if you think it looks good. You can watch the trailer at

Now, here's the bitter irony, dear readers.

If you actually want to watch Winter's Bone in a theater, you had better live in or near a great metropolis. This one ain't showing at your neighborhood cineplex. Want to see some computer-generated animation or a badly-acted vampire flick? Oh, lucky you! Six screens, all hours of the day and night, right up the street! Winter's Bone, a superbly-acted piece with flawless cinematography and a great story, suitable for serious adults? Fly to Philly. Boat to Baltimore. Two screens in Manhattan.

Heir and I took the El to Philly last night to see Winter's Bone. Heir had just finished reading the book. We both loved the movie, and our quibbles were minor. I didn't like the fact that the houses did not have threatening dogs and geese. Heir thought that the meth lab was located too close to a road. Other than that, we were impressed.

I will have more to say about Appalachia and meth labs in future posts, but today's sermon focuses on cinematic entertainment. When a theater has 24 screens, how hard would it be for it to reserve one for documentaries and art flicks? I don't mind going into Philly, but if I lived in, say, Lancaster, I would not have gotten to see Winter's Bone.

In conclusion, you may have to settle for Edward and Bella on the big screen. Ick. But thanks to modern purchase and distribution options on reading material, you can obtain the written works of Daniel Woodrell quite simply with the click of a mouse. Do please buy retail in this case, thereby supporting the rare Iowa Writers Workshop author who deserves to earn his keep by writing.


Lavanah said...

I may have to wait until it is released on DVD to watch Winter's Bone, but I WILL NOT settle for watching sparkly vampires and computer animated mayhem in the meantime! I will get Daniel Woodrell's book, though.


its weird..i just finished reading it .and was so overwhelmed by it that i told nancy the libraian you have to put down what ever your reading and read later..she's going to get me all of the ones that the waco library has and if i can talk her into get all of them for our library...give us a kiss was highly recommended to me also...can't wait..

Maeve said...

I got to see Les Miserables because at the time the company that owned essentially all of the theaters in town reserved one screen for films that weren't likely to big be ticket sellers in the area.

I love movies, but I still love books best. Especially if I haven't seen the movie adaptation! That way my imagination can create the pictures.

I'll try to remember the title of the book you've recommended, as it does sound like one I'd enjoy reading.