Frozen River

Dir: Courtney Hunt, 2008. Starring: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott. Drama.

Neo-realism is having a bit of a renaissance within the American indie film world of late. Perhaps as a reaction to how Hollywood has all but ignored the working poor - or the just plain destitute - for decades there’s a new interest in stories about how middle Americans are coping with increasingly dire odds to surviving in a country where manufacturing jobs have left en masse to be replaced by meth labs and fundamentalist Christian churches. There’s a hopelessness about our future that has been encroaching for decades—wage stagnation, the credit crisis, the decline of labor unions, and the housing bubble are all symptoms of the decline of our much mythologized way of life. These new stories feature white, non-urban females in the lead roles. They have been deserted by deadbeat males who are overwhelmed by the stark realities of poverty.

The American Dream used to mean owning your own car and home and having a few vacations now and then. At some point it came to be synonymous with the tacky, greasy exploits of the Donald Trumps and P. Diddys of the world. Is it any surprise that economic mobility is harder to achieve than ever even as gross shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians are still pulling in viewers desperate for a fix of escapism? I think this is the most confusing time in this country since I started paying attention and I have no idea where things are headed. I think this national malaise is making us hungry for stories about people struggling to keep from losing everything. They are people who make up a majority in this country and their voices are seldom heard.

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Posted by:
Jed Leland
Nov 16, 2010 5:42pm

The Fighter

Dir: David O. Russell, 2010. Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo. Drama.

Directed by Oscar nominated director David O. Russell, The Fighter tells the true story of Micky Ward's (Mark Wahlberg) rise to fame from a "stepping stone fighter" to WBU Light Welterweight Champion, and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), Ward's half brother. Known as the Pride of Lowell, Eklund rose to stardom for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard on July 18, 1978 (where Eklund claimed it was a knock down, Leonard claimed he tripped). Unfortunately for Eklund, that was his crowning achievement. Subsequently, after having a fairly average career post Sugar Ray Leonard, Eklund turned to a life of drugs and reckless abandon. Despite Eklund's lifestyle, he trained Ward who eventually became a great welterweight contender.

Traversing between Ward's struggles with his family life as well as his professional career as a boxer, Russell successfully pulls off a "feel good film" without hitting the audience over the head with tactics that have commonly been employed when making a film belonging to the “boxing film” sub-genre. Illustrating the juxtaposition of loyalty and carving a path to a brighter future, Wahlberg doesn’t miss a beat as the title character. Mixing humor, drama, and a gritty aesthetic, The Fighter gains the championship title over films like Rocky, Cinderella Man, et al.

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Posted by:
Travis King
Mar 14, 2011 1:42pm
Steve Earle and the Dukes
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