In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

80. Easy A

Brenden Vacaville 16

Brenden Theatres's Vacaville 16, built in 1998, is the third of what grew by 2010 to be seven Brenden theaters across three states, including two others in the Bay Area: the Pittsburg 16 (built in 1990 as an 8-screen theater, but doubling its screen count by 1997), and the Concord 14 (1997), the second theater by build date, but considered the flagship for some reason. Three Bay Area theaters made Brenden Theatres, in 2010, the 8th largest footprint in the Bay Area, tied with Lee Neighborhood Theatres (including the Presidio) and Winchester Theatres (including the Winchester 21). By screen count, however, Brenden's 46 screens put it in 5th place in the Bay Area, behind the big three (Cinemark, AMC, Regal, in that order by Bay Area count) and Cinema West's 50 screens (including the 3 screens at the Tiburon Playhouse). (The "Big Three" should actually be the "Big Four", inclusive of Carmike Cinemas, though they have no Bay Area presence.)

I never made it out to the Pittsburg 16 for a movie, so I'll record a few interesting tidbits here. I had originally intended to include the Pittsburg 16 as part of a three theater loop, that included the CineLux Delta Cinema Saver, and the Rave Brentwood (now the AMC Brentwood), both in Brentwood. I even went as far as driving to the Pittsburg 16 and eating in the parking lot while waiting for my movie to start. But, exhausted from my blog in general, and theater visits on that day in particular, I balked. Instead, I walked across the parking lot to what was then Best Buy (but now, in 2013, is a Target), and bought a Blu-ray player. I went home and gorged on Netflix instant streaming.

The other interesting thing about the Pittsburg 16 is that, in 2013, it is no longer managed by Brenden Theatres. Even though it was their first theater, they closed it in 2012 (source). (By then they had opened an eighth theater, this one in Colorado, so their 2013 theater count is back to seven; they are now sixth in the Bay Area by screen count.) The theater was then reopened that same year by Maya Cinemas, owner of the Salinas 14 where I saw my third movie of the year way back in January, 2010. The addition of the Pittsburg 16 to Maya Cinemas's holding brings their theater count to 4.

One thing I particularly appreciate about Brenden Theatres is their website's company history page. They are large for a privately owned circuit, but this page shows their pride in each theater they've opened. The big chains tend to want to appear brand new with state-of-the-art technology, and so tend to shun any mention of having been built before last Friday night.

The circuit's founder is also the grandson of Ted Mann who once had his own theater empire, Mann Theatres, that at its height reached 450 theaters, including Grauman's Chinese Theatre (the TCL Chinese Theatre as of 2011). Most of the Mann theaters are now operated by Carmike Cinemas (source, source).

At the ticket counter, patrons have the option of making donations to muscular dystrophy, cancer, and a food drive, and there is information about donating blood as well. An airy outdoor foyer greets patrons as they walk from the ticket counter to the front doors. Inside, a megaplex-worthy concession stand dominates the large, inviting lobby, with a small arcade to one side. The hallways include benches, a claw arcade, and standees for Jackass 3-D, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Life as We Know It, and the (then) upcoming Chronicles of Narnia sequel. While waiting in the lobby, I noticed an unusual number of pregnant women or people with babies, even though I didn't see any particular "mom's night out" promotion.

(I appreciate the benches, especially near the restrooms where one party is often waiting for another. But something few theaters commit to is to build in public-facing space, that is accessible without having to buy a ticket. The way patrons can go to the restaurant at the Kabuki without actually buying a ticket. If arcades were always before the ticket taker, more kids might hang out at the theater, and then eventually buy a ticket. Or thinking more broadly, if there were a coffee shop with wifi off to one side of the lobby, again before the ticket taker, the theater might begin to become more of a destination, not just a place to visit for a movie and then leave.)

The auditoriums range in size from 99 seats at the smallest to 377 seats at largest, with at least 2813 seats in all (I couldn't get the seat count for two of the auditoriums). The seats are of the super tall rocket variety, in light blue. Blue and white stripes adorn the auditorium walls.


Brenden Theatres's pre-show is called "Before the movie", but is otherwise not so different in programming.

An ad for Gatorade says that the sports drink has evolved from its inception in the 1960s. (I used to be a big-time Gatorade drinker in high school and college. I actually drank Gatorade far more frequently than I drank water. Now I probably haven't had any Gatorade for the past ten years.) This ad is fun for showing some dated sports moments from the past 50+ years, and is also interesting for ending with a 2010 shot of Peyton Manning drinking Gatorade, still in his Colts uniform (before moving to the Broncos).


It’s Kind of a Funny Story

(Previously reviewed)


(Previously reviewed)


(Previously reviewed)

Country Strong

Gwyneth Paltrow is a country music megastar exiting rehab and trying to regain her footing while touring with up-and-comer Leighton Meester, who worships Paltrow, but might also eclipse her if Paltrow can't maintain her sobriety. Tim McGraw is Paltrow's husband and manager, and Garrett Hedlund is an amateur singer himself who makes a connection with Paltrow while in rehab. Paltrow, Meester, and Hedlund do much of their own singing in the film, and, like in Crazy Heart, much care has been put into making the songs actually good by audience standards, not just for standards of the fictitious audience within the movie. I will see anything with Paltrow, and Hedlund is coming on my radar, but I'm now also impressed with McGraw, after his turns in The Blind Side and Friday Night Lights. 95 cuts.


Christina Aguilera begins waitressing at Cher's burlesque nightclub, but becomes a front liner once her phenomenal voice gains her notice. Dancing, check. Singing, check. Fun costumes, check. Stanley Tucci as a manic and amusing stage manager, check. This movie looks like it will deliver exactly what it promises: lots of fun dance numbers. I've liked Aguilera's music since her debut album, but have been particularly fond of her after I saw an MTV segment during that same time period taking us behind the scenes of a music star-filled photo shoot. Off to one side, we can see a well known singer (I forget who) hitting on Aguilera while the cameras flash, and Aguilera just politely ignoring him and focusing on the shoot. Class act for a new singer. 144 cuts.

Easy A

There is a sub-genre of party game in which each player gets to secretly pick their favorite something or other, and to guess what others will pick, and then your response is scored: you get more points for being in the majority of answers. E.g., What's your favorite color, and I answer yellow while four other players answer blue. I only get 1 point; all the other players each get 4 points. The problem is that a player's vote also doubles as their guess. My favorite color might be yellow, but that doesn't mean I think the group will favor yellow. If I know they will favor blue, then I should pick blue; but now I'm not indicating my own favorite color; and neither am I trying to guess what their favorite color is. Rather I'm trying to guess what most people are trying to guess. It's a silly system that just doesn't work. The simple answer: decouple the voting from the guessing.

In Easy A, Emma Stone pretends to be a floozie. It all starts when she helps her closeted friend stay in the closet by pretending to have sex with him while at a party. He can't keep his mouth shut, though, and soon all of geekdom is lining up at her door, offering her various forms of gift cards as payment to earn the right to say that they scored with her as well. The first exchange, with her friend, makes sense, because it's a very public display of their staged interlude. But how exactly do the lower castes benefit, when the availability of her services spreads faster than do the fabricated tales of conquest? (At one point, a boy she's genuinely interested in wants actual sex, and is willing to pay for it; apparently he didn't read the fine print.)

There's a large enough subset of the school population who actually believes the stories, though, to start an anti-Emma movement. Amanda Bynes leads a zealous prayer group that makes Christians look like they have nothing better to do than admonish their peers. Emma, for her part, is so thick skinned she embraces the slurs and manages to create an entire Scarlet Letter trollop costume in one night, which she proudly wears to school.

Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson steal the show as her always understanding, ultra-liberal parents. They could spin off into their own show. Their effervescent support leaves no doubt how Stone's ego could remain so intact in the face of criticism. Her English teacher, Thomas Hayden Church, though not particularly intrusive into her personal life, doesn't think it's healthy for her to flaunt her reputation as she does. But he has problems of his own, trying to rekindle the spark with his wife, Lisa Kudrow, the school's counselor.

Like with Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone's husky voice sets her apart. Her every-girl persona is charming and fun to watch, but in general Easy A just stumbles along after establishing its premise. Is there some lesson Stone is meant to learn? I'm a big fan of teen-angst movies; Hollywood's melodrama is right at home when presented by a young cast. But in Easy A I kept hoping the kids would take a back seat to the more interesting adults.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

79. Get Low

Davis Theater

In the heart of Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood (or Lincoln Square, depending on how specific you want to be), the Davis Theater is one of Chicago's more than five hundred theaters, past and present. Cinema Treasures lists 24 Chicago theaters still open and showing movies today (in 2013) (though it also lists 24 for San Francisco, which my most liberal counting can only number as 22).

The theater was built in 1918 as a ~1,500 seat, one screen auditorium originally known as the Pershing Theater. The entrance is on Lincoln Ave., but the auditorium itself runs parallel to Lincoln Ave., behind the other shallow store fronts. In its nearly one hundred year career, the Davis Theater has shown both first-run and second-run movies, movies in English and in German, and both studio and independent features (source). Divided into four separate smaller auditoriums in the 1980s, the theater now shows both mainstream and art-house at the same time.

Outside, the building has a great old facade and blade.

Tickets are sold inside the door through what looks to me like an old bank teller window.

The lobby, with its low ceilings and minimalist decor, evokes none of the original charm it must have had at one point. I enjoyed the various movie posters on display, but the structure itself is unimpressive.

The auditoriums are the negative surprise, though. The largest auditorium seats only 228, while the smallest seats 171; the theater has 815 seats in total. In my auditorium, the floor actually slanted, horizontally, from left to right (you can see this effect in the picture below), such that I was sitting just slightly uphill from my girlfriend who was to my right. Very odd. The seats rock, but are a bit too loose.

The Davis is only the 5th non-Bay Area theater that I visited in 2010 (and my first theater outside of California, which would eventually grow to include California, Illinois, Nevada, and Arizona). Though I later moved within walking distance of the Davis, and lived there for more than a year, I nevertheless only visited it another four times, instead spreading my viewings out among ten different theaters in the greater Chicago area. This variety was driven partly by convenience of meeting up with friends, partly by film selection, but also partly because the auditoriums at the Davis leave much to be desired. (Though I am ever grateful for their air conditioning on a hot, humid summer day.)


An ad for Bleu de Chanel cologne is both interesting and confusing. It slams together competing narratives of a man looking at, chasing, or otherwise interacting with a few different women, but culminates in the disconnected statement, "I'm not going to be the person I'm expected to be anymore." Other than those scented inserts in magazines, fragrance advertising just doesn't make sense.

Filmed either in conjunction with or at least knowledge of the upcoming Tron sequel, a Scion commercial has its various colored cars racing through a futuristic cityscape, while the buildings and roads glide mechanical roadblocks into the path of the oncoming cars. Has the feel of Tron's cycle races.

I'm out of the loop on the Macy's parade, and what it's like to be at Macy's during the holidays, but this commercial suggests that the department store is all abuzz with preparations for the upcoming season. To fetch a pair of shoes, a store clerk must navigate a warehouse filled with celebrities, each fine-tuning their respective products in anticipation of launch day. Martha Stewart has a table of wares; Jennifer Lopez sprays perfume on a corsage for the clerk; Puff Daddy poses in a suit; Donald Trump badgers one of Santa's elves; and there are a few more cameos I can't place.

When a commercial shows a hero using their product, the message is clear: use the product. When the commercial shows a villain using a competitor's product, the message is mostly clear: don't use that other product; use ours. But when a commercial shows a villain we love to hate waxing tactlessly on a variety of topics, saying some things we guiltily agree with, it's really confusing what exactly we're supposed to do with the information. Jane Lynch, as Glee's tough-as-nails Coach Sue, speaks out against animals and rain forests, kids and education, artists and the arts, and in general being a good person. The commercial ends with "Don't be a Sue", and encourages me to join American Express's Members Project, which seems tailored to lazy people like me who contribute nothing charitable to the world, but nonetheless want a pat on the back every time I "like" a charitable organization on Facebook. What's really confusing about this spot is that I didn't know who "Sue" was at the time. I was left wondering if "Don't be a Sue" implied, " a Jane", and who the hell put this commercial together that makes fun of environmentalism, education, and the arts, not infrequent targets by a certain political demographic. Now that I get it, I'm glad that Jane is on my side. And apparently, so is American Express.


The Social Network

(Previously reviewed)

Get Low

I'm not going to go into great detail here, because although I enjoyed this movie, three years after the fact I'm not recalling enough to respond to it in a meaningful way.

In Waking Ned Devine, a living man lends his name to a dead man, and gets the dead man's name in return, so the town can collect on the dead man's lottery winnings. As a result, he is able to attend a funeral where he is eulogized by his best friend, in a manner of sorts. That touching happenstance is the central premise of Get Low.

Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is a reclusive hermit. Perhaps nearing the end of his life, he decides to hold a public accounting of himself. He invites the locals to come share stories about him, which at first we can assume is to satisfy some vanity in himself, but soon we get the idea that noone has anything good to say about him, and he knows it. Felix promises to be the main attraction at his own funeral, which he hires Lucas Black and undertaker Bill Murray to promote. (Murray's undertaker, having moved to this rural town from the city, and being unpleasantly surprised by the longevity of rural folk, says, "One thing about Chicago is people know how to die." What a thing to be nostalgic for.)

Why is Felix such a curmudgeon? Sissy Spacek drifts into the picture as someone who once knew him in a more tender way, and as with most movies from Citizen Kane to Revenge of the Sith, an old man's grumpiness can be explained by some deterministic event that cast him down the path of darkness, only to fight back with a last-minute, death bed repentance (in the words of minister Bart Simpson).

The twist here is that, whereas in most movies the curmudgeon, having forgotten his purity, must be reminded of it, Felix has never lost sight of that event that set him apart, and, most importantly, has never forgiven himself for it. His silent exile purposes not to evade judgement, but to deny people the opportunity to grant forgiveness that by his own accounting, Felix doesn't deserve.

Monday, September 2, 2013

78. The Expendables

Winchester 21

The Winchester 21 sits directly across from San Jose's Winchester Mystery House (its land was once part of that same estate). Built in 1963 by Syufy Enterprises, the theater is the first of Syufy's "Century" theaters, which would grow to become one of the largest theater circuits in the country (source). A few years later, Century expanded its footprint on the lot with two additional domed buildings: the Century 22 (expanded to three domes in the 1970s) and the Century 23 (now twinned).

Though Cinemark purchased Century in 2006, a restriction on the sale of the Winchester lot excluded the three theaters from the sale (though not that of the nearby Century 24). (The theaters were renamed from "Century" to "Winchester" in the fine print, but the original Century logo still decorates their awnings and marquee.) Syufy, seemingly out of the movie business, continues to run the three Winchester theaters to this day. There is speculation, however, that when the lot's lease is up in 2013, the theaters will be demolished.

Inside the Winchester 21, there is an arcade to one side, and long swooping ramps that lead to its single domed theater.

The theater seats a total of 953, making it the 5th largest auditorium in the Bay Area (of the 62 theaters for which I have single-screen data). The seats aren't particularly comfortable. Like the CinéArts @ Empire, a horizontal bar in the padding was digging into my back the entire time. Also, the armrests, respecting the curving auditorium, angle inward, and pinched my knees together.

The theater exhibited just 24 different movies in 2010, retaining some for but a single week, and others for up to four weeks, or in the case of Shutter Island, for five weeks. But when considering the entire Winchester complex, their six screens showed a combined 130 different films, more than did the 6-screen CinéArts at Santana Row, across the street.

(Below: the Winchester Mystery House.)


The Last Exorcism

(Previously reviewed)

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter

I cannot believe this franchise has endured to offer up this seventh installment. The premise is the same as with the others: people wake up in horrible situations, and must do horrible things (often to themselves or to other captives) to escape. The gimmick here is that it's in 3D, promising to make the traps come alive and possibly even kill the audience. No thank you. In addition to being a brutal trailer, with snippets of scenes from the previous installments, the trailer awkwardly tries to demonstrate its 3D technology by showing an audience watching the movie, then a trap approaching the screen, then a profile shot of the trap emerging from the screen toward the audience. In this recent push for 3D projection, most movies emphasize how they are enhanced by the process. This trailer, which tells us nothing about the plot, seems to be saying that the technology is the movie, and everything else is secondary. 84 cuts.


This looks to be some sort of serious spoof of every direct-to-video action movie released in the 1990s. Danny Trejo is a rogue FBI/CIA/DEA agent, whose family was murdered, who has nothing to lose, and who loves killing bad guys. He's up against a tycoon (Robert De Niro), a swordsman (Steven Seagal), someone in a luchador mask, Don Johnson, and lots and lots of guys just asking for it. Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez are competing love interests. When Alba, ever youthful, kisses Trejo, 37 years her senior and with a face that says "I beat the devil at a staring contest", it's like she's just mocking all her fanboys who will never get a shot with her. Cheech Marin co-stars as a priest with two shotguns. This trailer is ridiculously over-edited, with slow-motion, stutter cuts, 70s-style silhouettes, swirly effects, and action, action, action. The movie looks terrible but the trailer is awesomely bizarre. 131 cuts.

The Green Hornet

(Previously reviewed)


Here is a gimmick movie that isn't afraid to let its entire trailer demonstrate the gimmick, without revealing anything else. In a single cut, with a black screen, we hear a desperate Ryan Reynolds placing a 911 call. He was hit over the head. He doesn't know where he is. The operator tries to determine his location, but then the call drops. He manages to find his lighter, and although I was expecting the screen to light up, instead just a tiny corner of it does, suggesting, per the title, that he's deep underground. Think Cast Away, but filmed inside a sleeping bag. 1 cut. 2 cuts if I count the Lionsgate intro.

The Expendables

A "Dad Movie", named after my father, is one in which there are good guys and bad guys, and, by the end, the bad guys are dead. The Expendables is a Dad Movie. It's as if someone did a Big Data analysis of all the movies my Dad has ever enjoyed, and distilled them down to one basic premise: good guys shooting bad guys. And then blowing them up.

Our team of good guys is comprised by an impressive cast of action stars, classic and recent, and with varying levels of athletic experience, both professional and fictional: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews, with Mickey Rourke as their stay-at-home cheerleader. On the bad guy side, we have perpetual slime ball Eric Roberts, his mindless bodyguard Steve Austin, and an entire island full of mercenaries, who, like in a video game, are just standing around waiting to get shot. Team Stallone's motivation for taking on such odds? To rescue a deposed president's daughter, to get revenge, to prove their own relevance, to get out of the house, to have some bonding time, etc.

(The woman to be rescued is criticized for painting, which is "how it starts", i.e., feminism or independence or liberalism or some other trait undesirable in women. It's not clear if the audience is meant to be chuckling on the side of the criticism, but make no mistake, by the movie's end so many men will have died that the only decision makers left will be women.)

There's a 22 year difference between the team's oldest member (Stallone) and its youngest (Crews), but they all seem well past their prime. Even Statham, who has perhaps just peaked, looks older for being in this company and in such a genre-conscious movie, where the team distinguishes its members by doling out signature weapons. Statham is afforded the richest personal life, in that he has a romance with Charisma Carpenter (cut short when he demonstrates his violent prowess in her defense). Li is the butt of stereotypical Asian jokes (his nickname is Yin Yang) that have been out of favor in Hollywood for three decades. Lundgren, still smarting over his defeat at the hands of Rocky, is pretty much a jerk. Rourke, who looks just as beaten up as he did at the end of Get Carter, gives a speech about losing his soul that would have been more interesting to explore than watching his teammates shoot people.

In general, I enjoy Stallone's roles. As recently as Rambo and Rocky Balboa he has delivered believable, sympathetic, and interesting performances. His role in The Expendables is not such a performance. Perhaps the error is surrounding himself with so much testosterone that he doesn't look so tough any more, or with so little acting talent that he has no foil. But this is the worst Stallone movie I've seen since Rhinestone (and I'm guessing that if I went back and rewatched that Dolly Parton movie as an adult, I would enjoy it much more than I enjoyed The Expendables).

This is a movie that celebrates the fantasy of maiming other people. At one point our heroes shoot the bad guys, and then set them on fire. Enemy combatants are blown apart in disguising ways. A bit like trying to give play time to all the Pro Bowlers, the movie must constantly toggle which of its many beefy heroes gets to dispatch the next baddie. The only surprises come in the form of which good guy gets to kill which bad guy, as in these types of movies everyone is usually assigned a dance partner at the beginning. The camera jumps all over the place, with choppy and nauseating cuts and tight angles on bruised faces that break up the action and remind me I'm watching a movie.

And those cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger we saw advertised in the trailer? A bit like those sensationalist shark attack videos on the Discovery Channel, I'm not sure it counts as a cameo if the trailer shows the entire cameo.

The concept of piling together all these actions stars is a fantasy come true, but thirty years too late. I can't believe it's already seen a sequel, with one more in the works.

77. Winter's Bone

Oaks Theatre

The Oaks Theatre opened on Solano Avenue in Berkeley in 1925. Designed by the Reid Brothers, who also designed the Grand Lake, the Oaks was originally a one-screen "Moorish" theater, but was later twinned in 1973.

At one time a part of Renaissance Rialto Theaters, the theater began the year as part of Metropolitan Theaters, but by April was being managed by Merriment Media (source). Sadly, the theater closed just a few months after my visit (source). While I was there, the manager told me that some patrons were confused, thinking that the theater was still closed from earlier in the year. Ultimately Merriment Media was able to keep the theater open for just nine months. A loss for the community.

Over the course of the year, the theater has shown blockbusters, independents, and Bollywood films, with an emphasis on kid movies during the day, and adult movies in the evenings.

The theater sports various decorative fixtures, like the mirrors at the drinking fountain, above, and gilded trim and elaborate wall sconces, below.

The hallway curves around the auditorium entrances, with stairwells to the closed balconies at either end. Overall, the theater is well maintained.

The auditorium doors contain etched glass, which does let in a bit of light, but is quite striking. As I walked down the hallway to my screen, I could see into the auditorium I was passing, a voyeur into the adventure being had by a different audience.

The auditoriums are long, an artifact of the twinning. Most of my fellow patrons were clumped together toward the front. The walls are thin; during moments of quiet, I could hear the movie next door, and noises from adjacent buildings.

Plaster trim rings the auditorium, with flowers and leaves stamped into it.

Though the theater originally had 1,500 seats, it now seats just 850 among its two screens (presumably because the balcony is closed). The seats are older, without any rocking.

A welcome change after so many modern multiplexes, the experience of being in an old theater is that of being part of history. I imagine decade after decade of excited movie goers streaming into the auditorium. It's peaceful and contemplative; sophisticated and fancy; it promises a romantic escape. A patron in front of me said, "I used to love ushers... they'd treat you like you were somebody." The ushers are already gone, but the beauty of the theater is still here.

This was my fourth and final visit to the theater, beginning with The Exorcist in 2000.


It's Kind of a Funny Story

Winter's Bone

While a question remains unanswered, all things are possible. The closer one gets to the truth, however, the more claustrophobic become the remaining possibilities.

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence, in a role that would earn her her first Oscar nomination) lives in the Missouri woods with her younger brother and sister. Their mother is long gone, and their father is recently absent. Though burdened too early with the rearing of two children, Ree is ever patient. She teaches them to shoot a rifle, skin a squirrel, cook potatoes, and to spell. When she makes deer stew she says, "Watch how I make it". She is responsible and motherly toward her siblings to a degree that is a delight to watch. Yet all her instruction portends a time when they too shall be forced to fend for themselves at too young an age.

Her duties are further burdened when the sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) comes to the door inquiring about her father. The sheriff finds a cool greeting, and when Ree says she hasn't seen her father, we can't be sure if she's being honest or recalcitrant. Now motivated to find her father, at first perhaps to warn him, but later with more urgent purpose, Ree embarks on a quest that in a different community would be as simple as making a few phone calls. But in Ree's wilderness, everyone she seeks out is as close-lipped as she is.

With every scene we are cautioned that to speak is to betray. Ree instructs her siblings, "Never ask for what ought to be offered." One character tells another, "I said shut up already once with my mouth," warning that fists will follow. Noone speaks to the police; noone speaks to each other. A car driving up or a knock at the door are acts of aggression. Every house is guarded by a dog. Everyone is a suspicious protector and keeper of secrets.

At each door, Ree must navigate the strata of familial defense. Women act as the gatekeepers for their household, keeping visitors out as much for the visitor's sake as for their men's. Though her neighbors know who she is, Ree is treated little different from how she greeted the Sheriff. In making an active search, Ree has already broken out of her gendered role. She is questioned by one woman, "Ain't you got no men could do this?" The men, we come to learn, are volatile and dangerous. Ree's only ally is her uncle (John Hawkes); his allegiance is to Ree, but he is as interested as anyone in suppressing the truth; and we can never be entirely sure that he isn't a sexual predator.

The landscapes in Winter's Bone are beautiful but ominous, from the leaf-bare forests Ree walks through from house to house (she never takes roads), to icy swamps, to the houses themselves, surrounded by lawn ornaments, bicycles, and old vehicles, artifacts from some better life. In paleolithic times, humans feared the unknown stalking beasts of the night. Little is different here, except that the most dangerous creatures are other humans. Is there any other species that harbors a grudge, and seeks out a specific individual with the purpose of doing them harm? Winter's Bone is a haunting masterpiece of rural antagonism.