Tonight’s Contenders: Hillbilly Hoedown

Mountain-men, slack-jawed yokels, red necks, sister-kissers, etc. Over the years the  simple folk of the Appalachian hills and other remote backwoods of America have been given many a name, but none the more prominent than “hillbillies”. A breed of their own, hillbillies are known for their independence, loose morals, quick tempers, foul language, questionable cuisine, powerful moonshine, and the serenading twangs of their various jangle-boxes, bathtub basses, fiddles, and banjos.  This week we pay homage to these great characters of Americana in the Hillbilly Hoedown.

Kissin’ Cousins (1964) – 96 min

The U.S. government wants to build a missile silo inside a Tennessee mountain, but the backwoods hillbillies who own it refuse to lease it to them. Josh (Elvis Presley), a relative of the owners and a G.I. scout, is sent in to try to reason with them, but he soon runs afoul of his identical cousin, Jodie (also Presley), who hates his city-bred lookalike and everything he stands for.

Tobacco Road (1941) – 84 min

Shiftless Jeeter Lester and his family of hillbilly stereotypes live in a rural backwater where their ancestors were once wealthy planters. Their slapstick existence is threatened by a bank’s plans to take over the land for more profitable farming;

Deliverance (1972) – 110 min

Adapted from James Dickey’s popular novel, John Boorman’s 1972 movie recounts the grueling psychological and physical journey taken by four city slickers down a river in the backwoods of Georgia. At the behest of Iron John-esque Lewis (Burt Reynolds), the less adventuresome Ed (Jon Voight), Bobby (Ned Beatty), and Drew (Ronny Cox) agree to canoe down an uncharted section of the river before a dam project ruins the region

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) – 89 min

Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a hilariously gory, good-spirited horror comedy, doing for killer rednecks what Shaun of the Dead did for zombies. Tucker and Dale are two best friends on vacation at their dilapidated mountain house, who are mistaken for murderous backwoods hillbillies by a group of obnoxious, preppy college kids.

Winter’s Bone (2010) – 100 min 

A realistic, clear-eyed depiction of contemporary mountain life in a backwoods America seemingly abandoned by society, where methamphetamine cooking has replaced moonshine-brewing. Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), a teenager who has had to become the guardian of her siblings because of her parents’ uselessness, is forced to defy convention and find out what happened to her missing father. This neither demonizes nor sentimentalizes the rural poor, but offers a genuinely admirable (and Oscar-nominated) hillbilly heroine.

The Last American Hero (1973) – 95 min

Elroy Junior’ Jackson (an overly clean-cut Jeff Bridges) started out in life by zooming along Thunder Road dodging the Revenuers’ to shift moonshine, but redirected himself by getting into demolition derby. He then became an early star in America’s most hillbilly-friendly sporting event, the NASCAR car racing circuit.

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