Embracing the Melodrama #57: Winter’s Bone (dir by Debra Granik)


winters-bone

I can still remember what it felt like, back in 2010, as I stepped out of the theater where I had just watched Winter’s Bone.  I had just spent 100 minutes engrossed in that film’s world and it was somewhat jarring to suddenly find myself back in my world.  The air around me was still.  The clear sky above me seemed to be a totally new shade of blue.  The sounds of passing cars and overheard conversations echoed in my head.  When I walked, I felt as if I was moving at a different, dreamier pace than everyone else, as if I was still only partially back in my world.

That’s the type of film that Winter’s Bone is.  It’s a film about life on the fringes, a portrait of a very real part of America that a lot of people don’t even realize exists.  It’s a film that sticks with you and dares you to try to forget the people who it has introduced you to and the stories that it tells.

Winter’s Bone takes place in the Ozarks, a society and world that is dominated by meth and secrets.  Speaking as someone who still has family who live on the outskirts of the world depicted here, I can say that Winter’s Bone gets both the big picture and the little details right.  Everything from the unbreakable cycle of poverty to the defiant resilience of the people is depicted just as it is.  Make no mistake about it — the people in Winter’s Bone may not have much but they do have their pride.  It’s portrayed best in the scene where meth head Teardrop (John Hawkes) glares down the county sheriff (Garret Dillahunt), letting him know that, regardless of who is wearing the uniform, this is Teardrop’s world.

Teardrop is the uncle of 17 year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), who is considering joining the army once she graduates from high school but, for now, spends all of her time taking care of her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings.  Her father, who is one of the county’s best meth cooks, was recently arrested and has a court date approaching.  However, he has apparently skipped bail and disappeared.  When Ree is told that, unless her father shows up for his court date, she and her family will lose their house, Ree sets out to try to find him.

05_Flatbed_1 - JANUARY

Ree, however, knows that her father would never have jumped bail and she also knows that there’s no way he died in a meth lab fire, as some people are claiming.  She knows that her father has been murdered but, unlike Teardrop, Ree has no interest in getting revenge.  She just wants to find his body so she can prove that he’s dead and her family can keep their home.  Unfortunately, even this brings Ree into conflict with the local crime boss.

Taking place on a blasted landscape of dilapidated farms, rusty pickups, and the burned ruins of abandoned meth labs, Winter’s Bone is an unusually powerful piece of Southern gothic. It’s also a film that — unlike a lot of other acclaimed movies — actually gets better with repeat viewings.  When you first see it, you’re overwhelmed by the film’s bleakness.  When it ends, you’re not sure if you should be happy or sad.  The second time, however, you can better appreciate the skill with which director Debra Granik tells her story, the way she frames Ree against the landscape as if Ree was the lone hero in a classic western and how the scenes where Ree searches for her father in a swamp are full of shadows and menace.  The third time, you can better appreciate the performances of characters actors like John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt, and especially Dale Dickey.  The fourth time, you no longer have any doubts.  Winter’s Bone is one of the best films that you’ve ever seen.

And, through it all, Jennifer Lawrence is there and reminding you why she became a star in the first place.  She may have won her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook and she may be best known for being the face of The Hunger Games franchise but Winter’s Bone remains Jennifer Lawrence’s best and bravest performance.  Without a hint of vanity or reluctance, Lawrence portrays Ree as a resilient and unsentimental survivor and you can’t help but cheer her on as she refuses to back down to any authority, legal or otherwise.  By the end of the film, you know that Ree is probably as trapped as anyone but you can’t help but hope that she’ll somehow find something better.

If you haven’t seen Winter’s Bone, you need to.

Target Practice

Lisa Marie Picks The 50 Best Films of The Past 3 Years


Black-Swan_400

As of this month, I have been reviewing films here at the Shattered Lens for 3 years.  In honor of that anniversary, I thought I’d post my picks for the 50 best films that have been released in the U.S. since 2010.

Without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Black Swan (directed by Darren Aronofsky)
  2. Exit Through The Gift Shop (directed by Banksy)
  3. Hanna (directed by Joe Wright)
  4. Fish Tank (directed by Andrea Arnold)
  5. Higher Ground (directed by Vera Farmiga)
  6. Shame (directed by Steve McQueen)
  7. Anna Karenina (directed by Joe Wright)
  8. The Cabin In The Woods (directed by Drew Goddard)
  9. 127 Hours (directed by Danny Boyle)
  10. Somewhere (directed by Sofia Coppola)
  11. Life of Pi (directed by Ang Lee)
  12. Hugo (directed by Martin Scorsese)
  13. Inception (directed by Christopher Nolan)
  14. Animal Kingdom (directed by David Michod)
  15. Winter’s Bone (directed by Debra Granik)
  16. The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius)
  17. The Guard (directed by John Michael McDonagh)
  18. Bernie (directed by Richard Linklater)
  19. The King’s Speech (directed by Tom Hooper)
  20. Bridesmaids (directed by Paul Feig)
  21. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (directed by Thomas Alfredson)
  22. Django Unchained (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
  23. Never Let Me Go (directed by Mark Romanek)
  24. Toy Story 3 (directed by Lee Unkrich)
  25. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (directed by Niels Arden Oplev)
  26. Young Adult (directed by Jason Reitman)
  27. Sucker Punch (directed by Zack Snyder)
  28. The Master (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
  29. Incendies (directed by Denis Villeneuve)
  30. Melancholia (directed by Lars Von Trier)
  31. Super (directed by James Gunn)
  32. Silver Linings Playbook (directed by David O. Russell)
  33. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (directed by Edgar Wright)
  34. The Last Exorcism (directed by Daniel Stamm)
  35. Skyfall (directed by Sam Mendes)
  36. Easy A (directed by Will Gluck)
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 (directed by David Yates)
  38. The Avengers (directed by Joss Whedon)
  39. How To Train Your Dragon (directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBois)
  40. Win Win (directed by Thomas McCarthy)
  41. Les Miserables (directed by Tom Hooper)
  42. Take This Waltz (directed by Sarah Polley)
  43. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (directed by Werner Herzog)
  44. Rust and Bone (directed by Jacques Audiard)
  45. Cosmopolis (directed by David Cronenberg)
  46. Ruby Sparks (directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris)
  47. Brave (directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)
  48. Martha Marcy May Marlene (directed by Sean Durkin)
  49. Jane Eyre (directed by Cary Fukunaga)
  50. Damsels in Distress (directed by Whit Stillman)

Top 25 Films of 2010


I’ve been slacking off about getting this particular list down and posted, but with film news being quite slow outside of Oscar-related items I thought it was time to get my lazy ass to get this done. Some of the titles I’ll mention are favorite films of 2010 for me while others only made it onto the list not because I liked or even enjoyed them, but they were just well-executed and made.

A couple of the titles I’ve listed also made their premiere’s in their home country earlier than 2010, but it wasn’t until this past year that they were shown here in the U.S. thus it qualifies as a 2010 for me. For those who have seen the very final title on my list should know that this is one title that I definitely didn’t find entertaining at all, but found it to be as daring and as subversive as another film made decades before it which received similar negative reactions from many: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo.

  1. Black Swan
  2. True Grit
  3. Inception
  4. Restrepo
  5. Winter’s Bone
  6. The Fighter
  7. The King’s Speech
  8. Kick-Ass
  9. The Last Exorcism
  10. Animal Kingdom
  11. Un prophète
  12. Lebanon
  13. Let Me In
  14. Despicable Me
  15. The Social Network
  16. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  17. Toy Story 3
  18. Waiting for Superman
  19. How To Train Your Dragon
  20. The Town
  21. Mesrine
  22. Mother
  23. Carlos
  24. Blue Valentine
  25. A Serbian Film

Lisa And The Academy Agree To Disagree


The Oscar nominations were announced today and, for the most part, it’s pretty much what you would expect.  Below is the list of nominees.  If a nominee listed in bold print, that means they also appeared on my own personal list of nominations.

Best motion picture of the year

Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

(The Academy and I agree on five of the ten nominees.  That’s actually more than I was expecting.)

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)

(The only real surprise here is Bardem.  I haven’t seen Biutiful but I’ve heard amazing things about it.)

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)

(Yay for John Hawkes!  Some people are surprised that Andrew Garfield wasn’t nominated for The Social Network.  I’m disappointed he wasn’t nominated for Never Let Me Go.)

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)

(I’m happy to see Lawrence and Portman recognized but I still so wish that the Academy had recongized Noomi Rapace and Katie Jarvis as well.  I knew it wouldn’t happen but still…)

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)

(Weaver — Yay!) 

Achievement in directing

Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O Russell (The Fighter)
Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

(The snubbing of Christopher Nolan for Inception is probably the closest thing to an outrage that the Oscars will produce this year.)

Adapted screenplay

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

Original screenplay

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

Best animated feature film of the year

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

 (I haven’t seen The Illusionist yet but I’m looking forward to it because the previews look great, it’s based on a script by Jacques Tati, and I love all things French.  Still, I kinda wish that Despicable Me had been nominated just so Arleigh could see the minions at the Academy Awards.)

Best foreign language film of the year

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

Art direction

Alice in Wonderland – Robert Stromberg (production design), Karen O’Hara (set decoration)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Stuart Craig (production design), Stephenie McMillan (set decoration)
Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas (production design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (set decoration)
The King’s Speech – Eve Stewart (production design), Judy Farr (set decoration)
True Grit – Jess Gonchor (production design), Nancy Haigh (set decoration) 

Achievement in cinematography

Matthew Libatique (Black Swan)
Wally Pfister (Inception)
Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech)
Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network)
Roger Deakins (True Grit) 

Achievement in costume design

Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland)
Antonella Cannarozzi (I Am Love)
Jenny Beavan (The King’s Speech)
Sandy Powell (The Tempest)
Mary Zophres (True Grit)

(That’s right, I ended up going 0 for 5 as far as Costume Design is concerned.  Which I guess goes to prove that I have better taste than the Academy.)

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)

 (If Banksy wins, I’ll be happy.  I have a feeling the award will go to Inside Job, however.  As a documentary, Inside Job reminded me a lot of Capt. Hindsight from the South Park Coon Vs. Coon And Friends trilogy.  Also, I’m a little bit surprised that Waiting for Superman wasn’t nominated.  I’m even more surprised that I actually saw enough feature documentaries last year to even have an opinion.  Also, interesting to note that Restrepo — a very nonpolitical look at military in the mid-east — was nominated while The Tillman Story, a much more heavy-handed and stridently political documentary was not.)

Best documentary short subject

Killing in the Name (Nominees to be determined)
Poster Girl (Nominees to be determined)
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)

(It’s always interesting that nobody knows what these movies are about yet their producers always end up giving the longest speeches at the Oscars.  I’m hoping that Poster Girl wins because the actual producers have yet to be determined.  I imagine that means there might be some sort of legal action going on which means that, if it wins on Oscar night, there might be a big fight at the podium.  Plus, I like the title.  It makes me want to walk up to people I barely know, lean forward, and go, “Can I be your poster girl?”)

Achievement in film editing

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

Achievement in makeup

Adrien Morot (Barney’s Version)
Edouard F Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng (The Way Back)
Rick Baker and Dave Elsey (The Wolfman)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score)

John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon)
Hans Zimmer (Inception)
Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech)
AR Rahman (127 Hours)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original song)

Coming Home (from Country Strong, music and lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey)
I See the Light (from Tangled, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater)
If I Rise (from 127 Hours, music by AR Rahman, lyrics by Dido and Rollo Armstrong)
We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3, music and lyrics by Randy Newman)

(I’ll just say it now — 4 nominations and I didn’t agree with a single one of them.  Seriously, they could have nominated up to 5 songs but instead of giving at least one nomination to Burlesque, they just nominated 4 songs.  What a load of crap.)

Best animated short film

Day & Night (Teddy Newton)
The Gruffalo (Jakob Schuh and Max Lang)
Let’s Pollute (Geefwee Boedoe)
The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann)
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) (Bastien Dubois)

(I’ve actually seen Day & Night since it was shown before Toy Story 3.  I thought it went on a little bit too long, to be honest.)

Best live action short film

The Confession (Tanel Toom)
The Crush (Michael Creagh)
God of Love (Luke Matheny)
Na Wewe (Ivan Goldschmidt)
Wish 143 (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)

 (I would have probably had more matches in the sound category if I actually knew the difference between sound editing and sound mixing.)

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)

So there you go.  I went 50/50 on the Best Picture nominations and — well, it all pretty much went downhill from there, didn’t it?  Oh well.

If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees…


With the Oscar nominations due to be announced this week, now seems like a good time to indulge in something I like to call “If Lisa Marie Had All The Power.”  Listed below are my personal Oscar nominations.  Please note that these are not the films that I necessarily think will be nominated.  The fact of the matter is that the majority of them will not.  Instead, these are the films that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for deciding the nominees this year.  Winners are listed in bold.

Best Picture

Animal Kingdom

Black Swan

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Fish Tank

Inception

The King’s Speech

Never Let Me Go

127 Hours

Somewhere

Winter’s Bone

Best Actor

Patrick Fabian in The Last Exorcism

Colin Firth in The King’s Speech

James Franco in 127 Hours

Andy Garcia in City Island

Ben Stiller in Greenberg

Best Actress

Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman in Black Swan

Noomi Rapace in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Emma Stone in Easy A

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale in The Fighter

Aaron Eckhardt in Rabbit Hole

Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go

John Hawkes in Winter’s Bone

Ben Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom



Best Supporting Actress

Elle Fanning in Somewhere

Rebecca Hall in Please Give

Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass

Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit

Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom

(That’s right, everyone.  It’s a tie between the youngest nominee and the oldest nominee.  Don’t you just love the Oscars?)

Best Director

Andrea Arnold for Fish Tank

Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan

Danny Boyle for 127 Hours

Sofia Coppola for Somewhere

Christopher Nolan for Inception

Best Original Screenplay

Animal Kingdom

Black Swan

Fish Tank

Inception

The King’s Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay

Never Let Me Go

127 Hours

Rabbit Hole

Toy Story 3

Winter’s Bone

Best Editing

Black Swan

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Inception

127 Hours

Somewhere

Best Cinematography

Black Swan

Somewhere

True Grit

Twelve

Winter’s Bone

Best Art Direction

Black Swan

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Inception

The King’s Speech

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Best Sound Mixing

Black Swan

Inception

Secretariat

Stone

Toy Story 3

Best Sound Editing

The Expendables

Inception

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Secretariat

Toy Story 3

Best Costume Design

Black Swan

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Robin Hood

The Wolf Man

Best Original Score

Black Swan

Inception

Machete

127 Hours

Tron: Legacy

(Yes, I know that the Academy has ruled that the original score for Black Swan is not eligible to be nominated.  However, these are my nominations and I make the rules.)

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Inception

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Splice

Tron: Legacy

Best Makeup

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Let Me In

127 Hours

Splice

The Wolf Man

Best Song 

“Better Days” from Eat Pray Love

“Bound Together” from Burlesque

“Dear Laughing Doubters” from Dinner For Schmucks

“Sticks and Stones” from How To Train Your Dragon

“You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” from Burlesque

Best Documentary Feature

Best Worst Movie

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Restrepo

Winnebago Man

Best Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon

A Town Called Panic

Toy Story 3

(Again, I am aware that the Academy ruled that A Town Called Panic isn’t eligible and again, I don’t care.)

Best Foreign Language Film

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sweden)

Mother (South Korea)

OSS 117 – Lost in Rio (France)

Police, Adjective (Romania)

A Prophet (France)

(While the Academy considers one submission per country for this award, I’m simply using it to recognize the best foreign language film released in the U.S. last year.  Or, at least, the best one that I got a chance to see.)

So, since I love lists, here’s a final tally of films by nominations:

10 Nominations — Black Swan

9 Nominations — Inception

7 Nominations — 127 Hours

5 Nominations — Somewhere, Winter’s Bone

4 Nominations — Animal Kingdom, Fish Tank, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The King’s Speech, Toy Story 3

3 Nominations — Exit Through The Gift Shop, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Never Let Me Go, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

2 Nominations — Burlesque, How To Train Your Dragon, Rabbit Hole, Secretariat, Splice, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, The Wolf Man

1 Nomination — Best Worst Movie, City Island, Dinner For Schmucks, Easy A, Eat Pray Love, The Expendables, The Fighter, Greenberg, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Kick-Ass, The Last Exorcism, Machete, Mother, OSS 117 — Lost in Rio, Please Give, Police, Adjective, A Prophet, Restrepo, Robin Hood, Stone, A Town Called Panic, Twelve, Winnebago Man

0 Nominations — The Social Network

And lastly, here’s a tally by imaginary Oscars won:

5 Oscars — Black Swan

2 Oscars — Toy Story 3

1 Oscar — Animal Kingdom, Burlesque, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Fish Tank, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Inception, Never Let Me Go, 127 Hours, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Somewhere, Tron: Legacy, Twelve, Winter’s Bone, The Wolf Man

0 Oscars — The Social Network

(One final note: A big thank you to my sister, Erin Nicole Bowman, who created the banners used in this post.)

Lisa Marie’s Top 26 Films of 2010


Since it’s awards season and all, here’s my personal picks for the 26 top films of 2010.

(This post has been updated since it was originally posted in order to include two films — Somewhere and Easy A — that I saw after making out the list below.)  

1) Black Swan

2) Exit Through The Gift Shop

3) Fish Tank

4) 127 Hours

5) Somewhere

6) Inception

7) Animal Kingdom

8) Winter’s Bone

9) The King’s Speech

10) Never Let Me Go

11) Toy Story 3

12)  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

13) Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

14) The Last Exorcism

15) Easy A

16) How To Train Your Dragon

17) The Fighter

18) Rabbit Hole

19) A Prophet

20) Let Me In

21) True Grit

22) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

23) City Island

24) Made in Dagenham

25) Kick-Ass

26) Faster

27) Nowhere Boy

The Worst Female Images In A Movie


Did you know that there’s a group known as The Women Film Critics Circle and, much like the DFW Film Critics, I am not a member despite being 1) a woman, 2) a film critic, and 3) a feminist?  I swear, I am feeling so rejected right about now…

Then again, looking over their 2010 movie awards, I’m not sure I would want to be a member.  Check out their selections and then see if you can guess which one has got me all annoyed and profane.

BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN
Mother And Child

BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN
Winter’s Bone

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]
The Kids Are All Right: Lisa Cholodenko

BEST ACTRESS
Annette Bening/The Kids Are All Right

BEST ACTOR
Colin Firth/The King’s Speech

BEST YOUNG ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence/Winter’s Bone

BEST COMEDIC ACTRESS
Annette Bening/The Kids Are All Right
BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN: *TIE*
Mother
Women Without Men

BEST FEMALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE
Conviction

WORST FEMALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE
Black Swan

BEST MALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE: *TIE*
Another Year
The King’s Speech

WORST MALE IMAGES IN A MOVIE
Jackass 3D

BEST THEATRICALLY UNRELEASED MOVIE BY OR ABOUT WOMEN
Temple Grandin

BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES: *TIE
Another Year
Fair Game

BEST ANIMATED FEMALES
Despicable Me

BEST FAMILY FILM
Toy Story 3

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Helen Mirren

ACTING AND ACTIVISM
Lena Horne [posthumous]

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women:
Winter’s Bone

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America
For Colored Girls

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity
Fair Game

COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]
Helen Mirren/The Tempest

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD [Performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]
Q’Orianka Kilcher/Princess Kaiulani

BEST DOCUMENTARY BY A WOMAN
A Film Unfinished

WOMEN’S WORK: BEST ENSEMBLE
Mother And Child

BEST SCREEN COUPLE
Another Year: Jim Broadbent/Ruth Sheen as Tom and Gerri

Did you catch it?  Yes, that’s right.  With all of the demeaning, insulting, sexist crap that both the mainstream and the independent film industries have released this year, Black Swan wins the award for “Worst Female Images In A Film.”

Uhmm, really?

Yes, Natalie Portman dealing with a society that forces an unrealistic expectation of perfection on young women — this is a far more negative image than every female  character in The Social Network turning out to either be a bitch, a whore, or an idiot.  Natalie Portman suffering from bulimia because she knows the consequences if she doesn’t maintain the right body type — this is a far more insulting image than Anne Hathaway being charmed by Jack Gyllenhaal pretending to be a doctor while leering at her exposed breast in Love and Other Drugs.  This was the year that Rebecca Hall fell in love with a man who kidnapped her in The Town while The Killer Inside Me lingered lovingly on scenes of Casey Affleck beating both Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson to death.  But no, out of all this, Black Swan featured the worst images of women on screen.

What utter and total bullshit.

I am a feminist and I am proud to be fiercely pro-woman (though never blindly anti-male).  I have always been very aware of the fact that, regardless of intent, most movies are basically sexist fantasies.  And, like a lot of women, I’ve come to accept that as the price I pay for loving movies.  It’s something that I’m more likely to laugh at than to get outraged over.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes get tired of it, that I don’t sometimes wish that just for once, I could see a movie where the female lead didn’t need to be rescued by a man or where she wasn’t expected to epitomize some sort of stereotype.

To be honest, male filmmakers are not solely to blame.  Some of the most demeaning images of women have come from films that were directed by women and which were advertised as being “feminist” films.  Sometimes it seems like movies are either so busy trying to either keep women down or to build women up that they forget that most of us just want to be seen as human beings.

So no, Natalie Portman is not some sort of “feminist ideal” in Black Swan.  She cuts herself, she’s bulimic, she fears her own sexual desires, she’s too hard on herself, and she’s manipulated by the men around her.  And you know what?  That’s not a sexist fantasy.  For far too many women, present and past, that’s the life that has been forced upon them by an inherently sexist society.  If anything, that’s the type of life that feminism was supposed to provide an escape from. 

Instead, the stridency and judgmental attitudes of far too many so-called “feminists” has simply turned into another way to trap us into that life of guilt and shame and idealized demands of perfection.

The female images in Black Swan are not negative.  They’re honest and that’s why Black Swan meant more to me, as a woman, than every single self-conscious, strident “feminist” film ever made. 

As for the worst female image in a movie — give that award to Eat Pray Love for being yet another movie that basically gives us a spoiled, immature, rich, elitist lead character and then insults women everywhere by trying to present her as some sort of practical model for liberation. 

Julia Roberts traveling across the world without once waking up with dark circles under her eyes might be the ideal but Natalie Portman being leered at by an old pervert on the subway is the reality.

For once, this has been a good year for strong women on American film screens.  Whether it was Noomi Rapace as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, Katie Jarvis in Fish Tank, or even Angelina Jolie as Salt, this has been a year of strong female images.  This has been a year of films that left me feeling empowered — not in the wishy-washy way that so many insultingly condescending films claim to empower but in an honest way that made me feel, for once, that I didn’t have to accept the idea of any limitations on my own dreams or desires. 

It wasn’t just a good year to be a girl who loves movies.  It was a great year.

And Black Swan was the best part of a great year.

(You can read my original review of Black Swan here.)