Movie Review: Winter’s Bone



Winter’s Bone to Pick

One thing that instantly stood out about Winter’s Bone was the preconceived notion that every Ozarks town is the same: backwoods. When Missouri comes up in the news or in conversation, many people jump to the same conclusion that the people of Missouri are just that as well: backwoods. While the Missouri Ozarks will always be home, it is one perception I would like to break. Agreeably, there are still backwoods towns in Missouri, but by and large all of the Ozarks is not like this. There are many perceptions in this movie that the producers got wrong. On the other hand, there are some perceptions they got right.

Ree Dolly portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence is a teenager who takes on many of the responsibilities for her family when her father goes missing during his latest meth venture. If one has lived in Missouri, particularly the Southwest region, for very long, you discover the penchant for meth-making. Missouri has become known as the meth capital of the nation due in part to the overabundance of methamphetamines. Winter’s Bone does convey the drug culture that runs rampant through the Ozarks: the continual cycle of drug production, getting caught, going to jail, getting out, and starting all over again.

While Ree walks all over the countryside searching for her father, some details stand out. Forsyth in Taney County was where this was filmed and doubles as the setting for the film. Yes, this area is extremely mountainous and densely populated by forest, the absence of fast food restaurants and Walmart is somewhat alarming. Even when living in a rural area in Missouri, one can usually find one or both venues within a ten-minute drive. Hunting is a popular pastime for Ozarks’ residents, and a good majority still stock their freezers with meat for the winter, but who doesn’t love a good old McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries on occasion? Winter’s Bone gives the idea that unless one hunts for their food, they will starve to death. That has not been a way of life in the Ozarks for several decades.

Although certain regions in the Ozarks can come across as über religious, the town in Winter’s Bone tends to be a little on the extreme side, such as the continual presence of Gospel/Bluegrass music, adding to the backwoods perception. Where is the mention of sport’s teams (Cardinals, Chiefs, etc.) or Bass Pro? Anyone who has resided in this area knows that despite the love of firearms and Jesus, Sports is greatly celebrated in the Ozarks.

Friends and neighbors take care of each other in Winter’s Bone, which is something that is a common practice in the Ozarks. Ree’s neighbor brings by a food box filled with deer meat, potatoes, and other staples that could be used to make a hearty meal. This is a common courtesy that Ozarkians will do when they see a neighbor going through a difficult time.

Car graveyards is something that one will find anywhere throughout the Ozarks. On one of Ree’s outings to find her father, she walks through a field/yard of a guy who knows him, and it is filled with abandoned pickup trucks, cars, and a few school buses. Certainly not a crucial detail, but one that decidedly pegged the lives of many Ozarkians. In another scene, there are piles of old tires accumulating in a yard, which is another common sight in the Ozarks. Not so much hoarding, but certainly an accumulation of junk is a something that can be seen driving down any Ozarks rural road.

The language and phrases used in Winter’s Bone is surprisingly spot on for Ozarks vernacular. My family is not backwoods by any means, but they are definitely country to the core, and that shines through in their language. As an English major, and an avid reader and writer, I have spent years attempting to neutralize my accent so as not to sound like I am from a specific region. However, when spending any length of time in my family’s company, I easily drop back into the country twang and phrases. Language is a powerful aspect of one’s life.

Emotions run high in the Ozarks. Ree’s love and devotion for her family is evident in how she protects them and takes on the role of head-of-the-household when her father is gone. However, anger and retribution are also common emotions in the lives of Ozarkians. Ree gets in a bind when she goes against the advice of her neighbors while searching for her father, or for someone who might know where he has gone. The neighbors jump her and beat her bloody as they prove their point, teaching her a lesson, basically forcing her to pay for the sins of her father. Once again, it is proven that blood is thicker than water when her uncle comes to her rescue, despite his own misgivings with her interference. Life in the Ozarks can be a double-edged sword. Family and neighbors will bend over backward for you, but if you cross them, or if they think you have, they will turn on you in an instant.

Winter’s Bone conveys some aspects of the author’s life, but the events that take place in the film should not be perceived as a common occurrence in every life of an Ozarkian. There is no denying that the film merely highlights a dark facet that can be found in many places throughout the Ozarks, despite the lack or accuracy of certain details. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who calls themselves an Ozarkian, but also to anyone interested in one aspect of Ozarks culture.

Sources: Granik, Debra, Director. Winter’s Bone. Performance by Jennifer Lawrence, Lionsgate, 2010.

Where have all the books gone?


I never thought it would happen, but the day has come that I walked into the public library and could not find the book I was looking for.

My midterm project for school is to read a book from my personal collection and analyze it. I chose Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Since it was written in the mid 1800s, there are a few words that have different meanings now, therefore I wanted to look them up in the dictionary. In a class last week, it was revealed that the Oxford English Dictionary is the mother of all dictionaries. This is mainly due to the fact that it records word origins from some of their earliest usages. This was the dictionary I was needing to use.

This evening after work, I visited the public library just down the street. I went up to the counter and asked the librarian/assistant (I’m unsure what their positions were), where I could find the Reference section. One of them turned to look at me and began to say “We don’t a reference section,” before another worker spoke up and asked, “what exactly are you looking for?” I answered, “a dictionary.” After an odd look, the first worker referred me to the aisle at the far end of the library.

Upon arriving to that section, I try to locate any book that says “dictionary” on it. The selection was sparse. Not only was the entire section of non-technical reference books only about 4-feet long, but general reference materials were in sad supply. So sad, that there were only 2 dictionaries on the entire shelf. One was a dictionary/thesaurus, of which was thinner than most of the Bibles I own. The second (of which they actually had two copies), was also lacking in volume. Not too long ago, there used to be shelves upon shelves of reference materials. Shellllllllvvvvves

After looking up the word I was searching for in one of the two copies, and not discovering at all what I hoped to discover, I returned to the desk and asked if they happened to have any other dictionaries in the library, namely the Oxford English Dictionary. The library worker offered to look it up in the system and online. After determining the OED’s website is subscription-based, of which I had already mentioned, and they did not have a subscription to, she went to look in their database. As it turns out, there is not a single copy of the OED in their circulation, at any of the locations.

Thanking them as politely as I could, I walked out feeling rather dejected and disappointed, and more than a little bit ticked.

Mind you, I could visit the university’s library (and may very well have to now), as I know they have a copy, but that isn’t the point. The point is, a PUBLIC library, consisting of roughly ten to twelve locations does not have one of the most renowned dictionaries in the English language in its collection. Yes, a majority of society will look up word definitions on Google and be satisfied with the results. I would be doing the same thing, for a quick result. But when looking for the root meaning of a word, its etymology and origins, it isn’t quite that simple.

First take away the dictionaries, then what? I understand that we live in the digital age. I understand that kids these days (i.e. anyone less than 22 years old) have been raised on more screen time and less printed book time. That’s not the point.

My point is, don’t lose all respect or fail to recognize the value of an actual printed book. There is still something that physical books can offer, that open source Internet-based software cannot.


So it’s been nearly two weeks since I finished NaNoWriMo.  Yes, I wrote a 50,000 word novel draft in a month.

An entire month of literary abandon.  An entire month of little sleep.  An entire month of triple the caffeine intake.  I have to say, it took quite a toll on me, as you can see below.

No, I didn’t turn into a crazed Jack Nicholson, though I was in zombie mode for nearly a week afterward. It was quite amusing, I’m sure, for anyone around me during those days.  In all seriousness though, I did learn quite a bit about writing, and myself during those thirty days.

I refer to this work as “The Prequel”.

In April, when I entered my first writing contest, I started writing my first novel.  It’s a time travel novel.  However, over the course of five months, the plot just wasn’t really forming.  This past fall I had acquired a copy of Snow Patrol’s “A Hundred Million Suns” and fell in love with it.  As I was listening to it this novel idea assaulted my muse.  The prequel for my already current novel.  It just would not let me go.  Scenes just kept entering my mind until I had to at least write down a rough outline so as to not to forget it, once I finished my current novel.  But then realization struck me that I could not use my current novel for NaNoWriMo, officially.  That’s when I decided to write “The Prequel”.  And thus it all began.

Firstly, it really is important to write every day (though I haven’t done so since November 30th!).  During the competition I started out rather strong, even ahead.  And then the unforeseen happened and I got the flu nine days in and was laid up for two whole days.  I didn’t feel like doing anything, let alone writing.  That put me behind by over 3,200 words.  It then took me another couple days to recover from being sick to even want to attempt to write.  When that week was all said and done I was behind by about 6,000+ words.  This was not a good start to my first year of NaNoWriMo.

Secondly, I learned that I really need to get to know my characters on a personal basis before I can convey their story to others.  I didn’t really form a relationship with them until midway through writing.  Though, by the end of it, we were really great friends.  I think I told their story to the best of my ability (so far).  I think they would be pleased.

The most surprising thing that I learned was that your outlined plot is not set in stone.  It can change, so let it.  By chapter six, the plot took a fork in the road and turned into something completely different than what I had planned. Probably the most shocking thing about this whole writing experience was receiving a brand new plot twist at eleventh hour on the final night of the competition.  Let’s just say the ending of the novel will be totally unexpected!

The next, and I have come to realize, really is the most important thing, is to have a support system!  Going into this only a couple people knew I was going to compete in NaNoWriMo.  Some that I mentioned it to gave me odd looks and very carefully composed questions as to why would I do this.  Why not?  What had I to lose?  Time?  Sleep?  Sure I can’t get those back.  But look at what I gained! I wrote an ENTIRE 50k word draft! I pulled a whole book concept out of my head and got it down in physical words! I have never done anything like this! It was quite a rush!  This is the first step to getting published (my ultimate dream)!  But I digress.  A support system.  My biggest support system came from friends at work and church.  Once they found out what I was doing, they became huge supporters and encouragers.  I have to say, those that continued to ask about the progress of my work day after day, week after week, really is what powered me forward to completion.  If I had not had that constant encouragement and interest, I probably would have gotten frustrated and just given up.  But I didn’t.  Thanks to them.  You’ll be the first ones to read it once it’s been edited.  You all know who you are.

One other significant thing I learned during this journey was that I need to read more.  If you know me at all, you know that I’m already a bookworm.  I get giddy over bookstores.  Yes, Barnes & Noble causes me to drool.  Used bookstores, even more so!  What compares to that old musty book smell with a slashed price tag?  Not much, I say.  Not much.  But really, Stephen King, renowned author who has penned more books than I am even aware of (and under a pseudonym no less), gave a piece of advice in front of a group of people attending a conference in his recognition. Someone asked him what his advice would be to become a better writer.  His reply was to read lots of books, in many genres.  He said that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.  His recommended book quantity included 70-80 books a year! That’s about 2 books a week.  Which has made it to my 2011 “Resolutions”, or Goals.  Do I think I can read that many books next year? Not likely.  Will I attempt to reach it? You betcha!

So in retrospect, all the lost sleep, all the deranged dreams and ideas that cropped up during November, all the caffeine buzzes (Red Bull Fiasco of December 1st)…was it all worth it?  Heck yeah! I really can’t wait to see how this all pans out from here.  Saturday I emailed it off to my friend and cohort Saz who lives in New Zealand.  She is my sole beta-reader.  I trust her advice and I know she’ll give it to me straight.  I also know that she’ll do her best help me to mold this draft into the novel that it has the potential for.

And without further ado, the playlist that encouraged:

1. Where the River Runs by Collective Soul

2. Hands Open by Snow Patrol

3. Set Down Your Glass by Snow Patrol

4. Noticed by Mute  Math

5. The Golden Floor by Snow Patrol

6. Salt in the Snow by The Classic Crime

7. The Planets Between Us by Snow Patrol

8. Pale Horse by Moby

9. Airplanes by B.O.B (w/Hayley Williams)

10. Crack the Shutters by Snow Patrol

11. Take Back The City by Snow Patrol

12. Panic Switch by Silversun Pickups

13. The Lightening Strike by Snow Patrol

14. Make This Go On Forever by Snow Patrol

15. 9 Crimes by Damien Rice

16. Falling Slowly by The Swell Season

17. Maybe by Ingrid Michaelson

18. This Year’s Love by David Gray

19. Kings & Queens by 30 Seconds to Mars

20. Download by Snow Patrol

NaNoWriMo Madness (National Novel Writing Month)

At the many months of insistence from my good friend Saz, I have decided to enter the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) contest. For those of you who haven’t heard of this crazydeathsentence competition, it is a mad dash to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. So I am committing to this first-time experience that commences on November 1.

I have to admit I’m a bit nervous, but more excited than anything. I’ve developed an outline to write by (again, another first), as well as a writing playlist (I seem to write better with music guiding my Muse).

I suppose what makes me nervous, is that this is going to be an original piece, with original characters that have only thus far lived in existence in my imagination. Writing this means not only putting myself out there for criticism, but also my beloved characters. Part of me doesn’t want to do that. Part of me wants to protect those characters from the inevitable flames that are bound to lash out at them. But the rational and adventurous part if me does want them to be out there, showing everyone their story, whether liked or not.

That being said, I need some help with my main character. Let me introduce you to Ian.  Ian is an anthropologist, and his passion is discovering and immersing himself in new cultures.  A Peruvian tribe seems to be his latest find. Ian is Scottish, but had the privilege of attending Oxford, something not too common of his age and status in the early 1900s.  The problem I’m having with Ian, is I don’t know what his last name is! I am having the most difficult time deciding.  So you as my reader, friend, family, or tweep, can help me by voting below for the name that strikes you the most aesthetically pleasing for dear Ian.

Writing Inspiration Playlist

Music inspires me to write. As I’m writing my first fiction novel, music has driven me in the creative process. These songs have essentially become the soundtrack, if you will, for this book. I can almost see the characters on the silver screen with each of these songs drifting through the background in their respective places.

1. Mercy – OneRepublic
2. Haven’t Met You Yet – Michael Buble
3. All The Right Moves – OneRepublic
4. Secrets – OneRepublic
5. Say (All I Need) – OneRepublic
6. Everything – Michael Buble
7. When I Look At You – Miley Cyrus
8. Before the Storm – Miley Cyrus w/Jonas Bros.
9. Apologize – OneRepublic w/Timbaland
10. Always On My Mind – Michael Buble
11. Hold On – Michael Buble
12. Faith Don’t Fail Me – Joy Whitlock
13. Home – Michael Buble
14. Beautiful, Beautiful – Francesca Battistelli (This was actually the song that inspired the entire book, and has played a part in the title of it)
15. How He Loves – David Crowder Band

So I thought I’d share a piece of my writing process. 🙂

Apocalyptic Prison Camps, Wizardry Wreaking Havoc on Local Farms, and So Much MORE!

Sounds like the header for a tabloid news paper, doesn’t it?  In reality, or subreality(?), this is what played out in my subconscious two nights ago as I was tossing and turning in bed.  Sleep is supposed to be restful, however I play out a whole other reality in my sleep.  This particular sequence is played out in 3 different parts or phases, none of them connected, but equally action packed.

Phase 1: Apocalyptic Prison Camps

The end of the free world began shortly after a famous celebrity was put behind bars for a little DUI incident.  The threat of an apocalyptic war loomed on the horizon, in which chaos ensued and the governmental system collapsed.  Loyalists swept through the nation, arresting anyone who was in complete rebellion of the new “system”.  A “make-up-rules-as-we-go” system.  Meaning you could be arrested for anything and everything.  I was one of those arrested.  Then came the prisons.  Since the “judicial” prisons were already filled to capacity, mobile homes and trailers and any type of small out building were set up as prisons.  Armed guards were posted at each mini-prison round the clock, with the exception of shift change, and even that was sparse.

My prison was a single-wide mobile home in the middle of no where. Dirty, peeling linoleum floors. Bare wood paneled walls.  The cliched “bread and water” meals.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.  I was given “room mates”.  The infamous celebrity who had little care for authority or reason…well…she became my new “best friend”.  Her ability to anger the guards at every turn astounded me.  I tried reasoning with her to stop freaking out and to be normal and not cause any undue attention to turn our way.  Alas, she never listened.  On the last occasion that I saw her, she had a crazy idea to bring the guards’ barbecue grill into our prison during shift change and grill up some of their fare.  Bad bad bad idea.  But with her knack of getting into trouble, I wasn’t surprised, except I didn’t want to be in this.  I begged her not to do it, to put the grill back, to no avail.

And this is when everything exploded in a flurry of events.

A group of insurgents burst through the door, at the moment when the guards should have returned.  They issued the invitation to escape with them under the cover of dark.  I jumped at the chance.  My roommate opted to stay behind.

My new found rescuers rushed me along a fence line, urging me to stay low and to make no sound.  We noticed lights from a small farm house in the distance.  We could hear a search team pursuing us from behind.  Many in the group wanted to head toward the house and stay there for the night, until the search for our escape was over.  But everyone knew, during this time of pre-apocalyptic war, that seemingly innocent farm houses with warm beckoning lights were anything but.  Anyone not captured by the Liberalists were spies for them.  And those were the types of people that took up residence in seemingly innocent farm houses.  This was a bad idea, and I knew it.  However the insurgent group’s leader was swayed by the majority of our group to take over the house.  I followed them, unsure of where else I would go.

Spotlights threatened to reveal our cover.  Our small rebellion weaved our way through a fence and crawled for the longest time toward the house.  Lights were on in nearly every room in the house.  It had to be occupied.

Silently making our way to the back of the house, the leader of our group eased himself through the back door, after picking the lock.  Doing a quick sweep of the perimeter he determined it was safe, and he called us all in.  I kept thinking that we should turn off the lights, so that our cover wouldn’t go noticed by the search team.  However, not one in our group seemed concerned about this.

Some of the guys in the group started raiding the pantries, laying a bounty on the table.  It had been weeks, even months since any of us had had a decent meal, let alone supplements.  My eyes kept darting toward the doors, the windows, knowing that we were going to be found.

As I began to let my guard down, the guy sitting to my left, at the end of the table, slumped over suddenly.  I looked up, and there was a person standing in the shadows wielding a crow bar.  Blood pooled on the table before me.  Disorder ensued.  Another individual appeared before the first shadowed person.  I screamed.  Our group’s leader drew a sawed off automatic shotgun.  The second individual, who obviously had a death wish, launched himself at our leader, slamming a crow bar into his body, the gun flying out of his hands.  I panicked and grabbed the gun escaping out a side door.

I began running through the darkness, not knowing which direction I was going, or even what I was going to.  I just knew I had to get out of there, away from those trying to kill me and enslave me.

Phase 2: Wizardy Wreaking Havoc on Local Farms

I was driving down the highway in the country when I noticed several fields were on fire.  And a short, old man that was familiar to me was standing at the edge of one of them, a wizard’s wand glowing in his hand.  I watched as he cast his wand setting another field to a pre-fire ember, unbeknowest to my presence.  I realized I had to get help.  I drove to a relative’s house a few miles away, who I knew would believe me, because he knew this particular individual.

I drove as fast as I could, hoping that the little wizard man still hadn’t noticed me.  As I raced down another country road, I saw the path of destruction that he had already been privy to.  I pulled out my cell phone and called my relative.  I relayed to him everything that I had seen, and that we were all in danger of these fires that were spreading over the country side.  He sympathized with my concern, but didn’t think there was anything we could do at the moment.  I urged him that we had to, because his field had already been attacked with the fiery embers, and the surrounding fields were next.

We decided the best place to form a battle plan was at our grandparents old house up the road.  We, as well as several others in our family and community met there.  The fire departments had already been called and dispatched to the fields that were burning.  Smoke filled the horizon.

Then the little wizard man appeared throught the clouds of smoke waving his wand toward us.

We had to fight back.  There had to be a way to combat this otherworldly attack!

Phase 3: Rainy Days, Escalators & a Native American Sweetheart

It was raining and I was running late to the gym.  I had left my gym clothes at the gym from the day before, which was contributing to my lateness.  As I walked to the entrance of the gym, there were huge puddles everywhere, and there in one of the puddles amidst trash were my gym clothes! I was ticked and frustrated that they would do this to me! I gathered them up and rushed into the gym, anxious to find a dryer in the built in laundromat.

I had to make my way up several levels of the building on ancient escalators to reach the laundromat, because it had apparently been moved since my last memory of it.

To make the snail’s crawl of the escalators go faster, I started running up them.  I was going to be late if I didn’t get my clothes dried.

As I was racing around a corner to the next level I nearly careened into a Native American couple and their four tween children.  I apologized profusely when the man turned to me with shock and awe on his face.

“It’s me,” he said.  “Do you remember me?”

I searched my mind for some recollection of him, but found none.  I apologized again, that no, I didn’t remember him.

“We spent summers together, in the country, at your grandparents’ farm.”

Suddenly long-buried memories assaulted my senses and I was transported to a time when two kids, merely young teens, spent hours wandering the farm, talking and laughing, and making plans for the future.  These weren’t my memories, were they?  As surely as this thought flitted through my head, his eyes met mine, and I knew that it must be so.  The memory of when we confessed our love to one another as two headstrong kids ready to take on the world (and our families).  Sadly that memory ended with his elders ripping him from his summer haven and our plans for a life together.  That was the last time I saw him.

His eyes held sadness, yet a wisdom that had been missing from his eyes of youth.

“Yes, I remember you now.” I said.  I returned a sad smile.

He turned and put an arm around the young woman standing next to him, eyeing our brief exchange. “This is my wife.  And our children.”  I didn’t hear her name, or their children’s names as he spoke them.

I said how nice it was to see him again after all these years.  A cordial goodbye was issued from his lips as well.

As they descended the escalator, I couldn’t help but wonder what could have been.