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Winter's Bone

I saw Winter’s Bone over the weekend and can’t recommend it enough. This film has been critically praised since its Sundance debut, and in my opinion it isn’t just hype: I can’t think of a single way this film could’ve been better. It’s scary and gritty and heartfelt all at the same time.

The story focuses on Ree, the 17-year-old caretaker of her family, looking for her father so the law won’t repossess their home. As she searches, the film gently but thoroughly fleshes out her small world in the Missouri Ozarks. The story ping-pongs from a local high school, to the quiet forest behind her house, to a crowded, booming livestock auction, and you get a sense of the community she lives in. You might get the same sense of place from a slower verite story, or a documentary, but here it’s used expertly as a backdrop for a harrowing noir tale full of dangerous secrets and violent standoffs.

I think that’s why a film like this, made by educated urbanites for educated urbanites, doesn’t come off as condescending to this way of life. (Or at least that’s how it felt to me; I wonder how poor white folks would feel about it.) Winter’s Bone shows a world full of violence and poverty, but there is still neighborly compassion and the harsh beauty of the landscape. Over the course of the film you see Ree shine as a tough, compassionate heroine, but perhaps just as importantly, you start to understand why somebody so strong would choose to stay in the Ozarks, close to the land and the people that she knows. This is pretty much a perfect film.

Talk to your roofer

The New Yorker’s George Packer tells of hiring a roofer, and that roofer’s complaints about a new class of customer who are so immersed in communications technology that they’re mechanically inept and strangely awkward at communicating with him:

“It’s the technology,” the roofer said. “They don’t know how to deal with a human being. They stand there with that text shrug”—he hunched his shoulders, bent his head down, moved from side to side, looking anywhere but at me—“and they go, ‘Ah, ah, um, um,’ and they just mumble. They can’t talk any more.” This inadequacy with physical space and direct interaction was an affliction of the educated, he said—“the more educated, the worse.” His poorer black customers in Bedford-Stuyvesant had no such problem, and he was much happier working on their roofs, but the recession had slowed things down there and these days he was forced to deal almost entirely with the cognitively damaged educated and professional classes….

This was a completely new phenomenon in the roofer’s world: a mass upper class that was so immersed in symbolic and digital cerebration that it had become incapable of carrying out the most ordinary functions—had become, in effect, like small children with Asperger’s symptoms. It was a ruling class that, out of sheer over-civilization, was quickly losing the ability to hold onto its power.

For the record, I’ve never owned real estate and as such have never had to hire a roofer, but I know how to use a drill and have put up drywall.