Debra Granik

Debra Granik

Ronnie Hall’s nickname may be Stray Dog, but he is anything but a stray left on his own. Debra Granik’s documentary, Stray Dog, shows how friends and family surround Hall, but he still struggles to keep himself from feeling alone and displaced. A Vietnam veteran, Hall clearly carries scars and wounds that may never fully heal, but he works every day to better his life and the lives of those around him. At first glance, Hall looks like a tough biker, but it becomes clear that Hall’s biker “gang” is an extension of his family and a community he (and others like him) need. Stray Dog follows Hall and his wife, Alicia, as they take to the road to travel with their fellow bikers and vets making their way to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. This is a yearly tradition for Hall, who is well-liked and well-known among the group, but the simple life he has carved out for himself continues to grow when his granddaughter gets pregnant and Alicia’s two sons, Jesus and Angel, come to live with them. Granik takes an interesting approach with Stray Dog by not including any interviews with the documentary’s subjects. She instead lets the film become a silent character study of Hall in his day-to-day life that speaks volumes without needing additional commentary. Hall claims he is not good at giving advice, but the conversations he has with his fellow vets say more than any interview ever could.

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A months old interview that The Calgary Herald did with author Russell Banks is getting some new attention today, because The Playlist found a nugget of exciting movie news in it that has generally flown under everyone’s radar. Apparently Banks’ novel “Rule of the Bone” is ready to be adapted into a film, and will be directed by a name who’s recently become hot in Hollywood, Debra Granik. If you can remember back all the way to 2010, Granik directed Winter’s Bone, a Sundance film that got nominated for a lot of awards, put on a lot of year-end lists, and immediately launched the career of new it-girl actress Jennifer Lawrence. It was also my favorite film of last year, so this news of Granik’s next work has me feeling pretty jazzed. As a strange bit of trivia, this will be Granik’s third movie in a row that has the word “bone” in the title. She proceeded last year’s Winter’s Bone, a story about Ozark Mountain meth-heads, with 2004’s Down to the Bone, which starred Vera Farmiga as a drug-addicted housewife. So what’s this novel that Banks wrote about? Drugs. I think I sense a pattern forming.  The book’s Amazon description introduces it like this:

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As we all know, Pippi Longstocking is the prototype for Punky Brewster, except Punky didn’t suffer from the rare affliction that made her pigtails stick straight out. Longstocking, on the other hand, has that affliction, and super powers, and a vicious witty retort factory living in her head. She also has a monkey for some reason. Now, Debra Granik wants to direct Pippi Longstocking, using the classic tale as the basis for a coming of age story, and she hopes it’s a new direction than the normal coming of age tales aimed at young women. “What a person in the business can get from that is, ‘Hey, a young female protagonist doesn’t need to have a boyfriend, get pregnant, cut herself or be naked to attract an audience.’ “ That will remain to be seen (as will the film), but Granik is using her well-deserved spotlight for Winter’s Bone and taking on a task of importance (if nothing else, personal importance), and that’s commendable. My one question is, didn’t the Coen Brothers sort of just make this film and call it True Grit?

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As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. This week, Print to Projector presents the story of an old shipmaster found stabbed to death, a fortune left untouched, and a mystery that would inspire the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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Debra Granik, director of the 2010 Sundance winner Winter’s Bone sits down to talk about her work on the film.

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Winter

One can see why the people of Sundance loved Winter’s Bone enough to give it the Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Upon initial appearance it’s exactly the type of independent film beloved at the festival in Utah that later goes unnoticed by the rest of the world.

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‘Winter’s Bone’ is a compelling journey through scary backwoods territory that’s most notable for Jennifer Lawrence’s great performance.

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