Friday, July 25, 2014

My Top Ten Southern Films

Here at the Carpetbagger we celebrate and discuss Southern culture.  Previously, I attempted to construct the ultimate southern mixtape.  With this chapter of the Carpetbagger I wanted to take I look at what I consider some of the most iconic Southern movies.  I would like to make it very clear that this is my personal list and these are movies that embody the South to me.  There are plenty of great Southern movies that I am leaving off, either because they didn't particularly strike a cord with me, or I simply haven't seen them yet.  I would like to apologize in advance to every Southern woman for leaving "Steel Magnolias" off my list.  Sorry, Its just not my thing.   Let's get to the list!

Coal Miner's Daughter

First we have one of the best movie about Country Music.  It doesn't hurt that Loretta Lynn is one of the greatest country music artists of all time.  This timeless movie shows Loretta's rise to fame starting with her childhood in Butcher Holler, Kentucky.  A large part of the movie focuses on the tumultuous relationship with her husband Doolittle.  Doolittle cheats on Loretta, smacks her around, and rapes her on her honeymoon when she refuses to have sex with him, but in the end the whole thing turns into a hugely dysfunctional Southern love story.

 Fried Green Tomatoes

When people talk about iconic Southern films, this is probably one of the first movies they think off.  Fried Green Tomatoes tells intertwines the stories of a lonely 80s housewife befriending and elderly woman with the story of two women's friendship in the Depression era South.  As classic as the movie is it diverts from the novel it is based on in a major way.  The book is about a lesbian relationship in 1930s Alabama.  The movie was watered down to make them very close friends with a lesbian relationship only being hinted at.  For fans of this movie, there is an amazing destination to check out.  In the deeps woods of Juliette, GA, just past the big scary nuclear power plant sits the Whistle Stop Cafe that was used in the movie.

The restaurant looks exactly as it did in the movie and is still serving food.

The food is actually authentic and awesome.  And yes, they have some damn fine friend Green Tomatoes.

 Joe Dirt 

 Okay, I am probably the only person in the world who would put this on their list, but hear me out.  Yes, Joe Dirt is primarily a goof ball comedy that relies on silly gags, but it is so much more.  Joe himself is a conglomeration of Southern White Trash stereotypes, but somehow they make us truly feel for him (or at least made me feel for him).  Joe is eternally optimistic despite that practically everyone in the world treats him like crap.  The story is narrated through a conversation between Joe and a arrogant asshole radio host (played by real life arrogant asshole, Dennis Miller).  The story at its heart is very sad.  We find that Joe's last name isn't really Dirt, it was a name bestowed upon him by his abusive father.  His cruel parents abandon him at the Grand Canyon as a child and he spends his life looking for them, refusing to believe that they don't love him.  This sounds completely ridiculous, but there was actually one scene in the movie that honestly made me tear up.  Joe tracks down his family's old home to find it abandoned.  He sits on an old rope swing looking up at the moon when the rope breaks and he falls to the ground.  Joe says it was the first time in his life he considered not getting back up.  I may be the only one in the world who thinks this film is a work of art, but you will never change my mind.

 Sling Blade

 Sling Blade is a beautiful film centered around Billy Bob Thorton's Karl Childers, a mentally handicapped man who befriends a woman and her young son.  Dwight Yokum also does an amazing job of playing a sleazy as hell abusive boyfriend.   Karl is released after a lifetime in a mental institution where he was sent as a child for murdering his mother with a sickle.  Karl's action were inspired by his abusive father teaching a twisted version of the bible that forbid all sexual activity.  In the end the world is too big and too scary for Karl and he sacrifices himself to save his adopted family from a life of misery.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild is dreamy work of art.  The primary storyline focuses on young African American girl named Hushpuppy who lives in a mystical swampy area of Louisiana known as "The Bathtub".  The Bathtub is an isolated island community that lies underneath a levy that appears to have no contact with the outside world.  The community is flooded by a hurricane, not explicitly identified, but implied to be Katrina.   There is also a surreal sub-plot that involves prehistoric beasts breaking out of the ice in the arctic and traveling to The Bathtub.  Every scene is gorgeous.  The world that is created is gorgeous.  This movie is an experience.

Oh Brother Where Art Thou

The movie that introduced Bluegrass music to the mainstream.  Along with its awesome soundtrack, Oh Brother Where Art Thou is a funny and fascinating journey through the South.  The story is based on Homer's "Odyssey", but placed in the depression era South.  Three bumbling prison escapees travel through the South encountering a Robert Johnson proxy, accidentally recording a hit Bluegrass song and battling the KKK.  The Odyssey's Cyclops is replaced by an amazing John Goodman in a eye patch.  The Sirens lure in the heroes with a haunting Gospel song.  This movie is truly a celebration of the South.

To Kill a Mockingbird

 What can I even say here?  One of the most classic films of all time, based on one of the most classic novels of all time.  The movie shows Jim Crow era Southern racism through the innocent eyes of children.  Atticus Finch, the white lawyer that defends a wrongly accused black man is one of the shining heroes of Southern Film and of course we have the mysterious Boo Bradley, who embodies the idea of Southern Gothic.

Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus

A movie with no coherent plot, that is is only kinda sorta a documentary.  The movie is essentially a love song to the South by musician Jim White and an eclectic assortment of musicians.  The entire soundtrack is amazing.  The movie is essentially a two hour music video, but as a whole it is a masterpiece. 


Easily the most notorious Southern film of all time.  Deliverance is best known for a horrifying scene where city boy Ned Beatty is raped by a pair of hillbillies while canoeing with a group of Atlanta businessmen.  What many people may not realize is that the entire movie is amazing.  Its almost a shame that such a great movie gets overshadowed by a single scene.  The movie is a tense man vs. wild adventure and it is still a great viewing experience.  It is unfortunate that this movie is the source of negative stereotypes about the South.  You can thank this movie for all those "Paddle Faster, I hear Banjo Music" bumper stickers.  As great a movie as this is, it will always be best known for equating banjos and rape.  The movie was filmed near where I live, and as you can imagine there are mixed feelings.  I however feel this movie is a national treasure and actually went out of my way to meet one of the evil hillbillies from the movie.

Herbert "Cowboy" Coward.

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain is probably my favorite movie of all time.  A lot of people may be turned off by the Civil Ware theme, but while this movie is "about" the civil war there is only one scene that portrays an actual battle.  Plus, the Battle portrayed is one of the strangest battles in Civil War history.  Yankee soldiers tunnel under a confederate camp and set off barrels of gun powder blowing a huge crater in the earth.  The Union soldiers then charge into the camp and run into their own crater like a bunch of idiots, which allows the confederates to rain death from above on them.  After this initial battle, a confederate soldier named Pickney Inman abandons his post and walks from the coast of North Carolina back to his home in the Mountains.   During his journey he comes across various characters that are affected by the war, this includes runaway slaves, a disgraced preacher and a mysterious Goat Woman (possibly inspired by the Goat Man).  The movie does not take sides in this still controversial war instead focusing on how it has driven a country mad and has forced men to turn on their neighbors.  The villain, Teague is leader of the home guard, who is responsible for rounding up deserters.  He brutalized and tortures people in his own community for harboring deserters.  Much like Oh Brother, Cold Mountain has a spectacular traditional soundtrack.  The style of music is probably too old to call bluegrass and its a hell of a lot sadder then Oh Brother.  All in all, I feel that Cold Mountain is the perfect Southern adventure movie and love story.

The Carpetbagger

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Opossums, Racoons and other Legal Matters, a Carpetbagger Update

I have been doing the Carpetbagger blog for over two years now.  I wanted to take a look back at some past topics and subjects and give updates.

Governor Coonrippy Brown

I inducted internet Hillbilly "Coonrippy" Brown into my illustrious Hillbilly Hall of Fame.  Coonrippy's video of him dancing to Aretha Franklin with his pet Raccoon went viral.  Sadly, his new found fame backfired and Tennessee state authorities seized his pet Raccoon Rebekah.  Coonrippy's video pleas for his returned pet went unanswered.  Coonrippy has finally come up with a master plan to get his Raccoon back.  Its a simple enough plan:  become Governor of Tennessee, then he can have his Raccoon back.  This may not be the easiest road to bringing Rebekah home, but it certainly is ambitious.  Here is Connrippy's campaign video.

Possum Drop Controversy Reaches National News

Not to long ago I talked about the Brasstown, NC's annual Possum drop celebration and recent legal finagling that allowed it to be legalized via the most oddly specific law in history.  This controversy was recently featured on America's number on source of news:  The Colbert Report.

 Ghost Town in the Sky Back in Business

Of all the articles I have written on the Carpetbagger the one that consistently receives the most web traffic is the article on the seemingly cursed Wild West Amusement Park:  Ghost Town in the Sky.  I am sure this is do to people simply trying to ascertain the current status of the park, as it always seems to be up in the air.  Things were looking up when the park was bought out by investor Alaska Pressley, but then things went down hill when a Cowboy was legitimately shot in front of horrified tourists and then fired when he refused to take a drug screen.  Things were once again looking spotty for Ghost Town when it failed to open on its advertised date of June 20th.  The opening was delayed until July 4th and Alaska reports that the park is doing better business then expected.  The theme park that refuses to die is alive for now.

Moonshine Continues to Jump the Shark

Moonshine used to be an underground illegal market here in the Mountains, now it is big business.  As I have mentioned before, the legalization of Moonshine has made a cottage industry.  Every former backwoods moonshiner now has their own legitimate moonshine brand.  The market is absolutely flooded with different brands of moonshine.  Virtually every shop and gas station in the area sells Moonshine related merchandise from coozies, to stickers, to t-shirts.  The appeal of Moonshine has always been its edgy and mysterious reputation.  With all that stripped away Moonshine risks being reduced to an uninteresting gasoline flavored spirit that has lost all its charm.

I was recently contacted by a Canadian television production company that was looking for help finding a genuine moonshiner.  Sadly, I had to inform them that Moonshine has gone so mainstream that finding a legitimate "moonshiner" may be impossible.  However, the Canadian lady asking me if their was a "secret handshake" for moonshiners was positively adorable.

State of the Redneck Renaissance

I have talked a great deal about the Redneck Renaissance.  This is the movement where society has grown to have a fascination with working class southerners.  This movement is especially prevalent in reality television with such travel blazing shows as "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo", "Duck Dynasty" and "Trailer Park: Myrtle Manor".   The Renaissance took a series of deadly blows when Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson made anti-gay remarks in GQ magazine.  The entire cast stood behind him and the once fun show became an uncomfortable line in the political sand.  Also, former queen of the South Paula Dean admitted to using the n-word.  These two incidents reinforced the negative views that Americans have about Southern Whites and suddenly the South's stock dropped drastically.

Duck Dynasty used to have its own section at Walmart, with its merchandise now being moved to the clearance racks.  Paula Deen's restaurant "Uncle Bubba's Oyster Shack" (Which was my favorite restaurant in the world) mysteriously closed overnight, and her flagship restaurant "The Lady and Sons" is reportedly a ghost town.  When we went there in 2008 there was a line wrapped around the block.

Oddly enough, Honey Boo Boo and her family, often viewed as an embodiment of what is negative about the South attended the GLAAD awards and also have an African American bodyguard.

There is still a handful of shows on the air, but it seems that the air has truly been let out of the Renaissance.

On a side note, I feel that the Renaissance has reached its surreal peek with the show "Small Town Security" which features a love triangle between Joan, an eternally negative and hateful middle aged woman suffering from Parkinson's, Irwin, her long suffering yet eternally optimistic husband and their transgendered employee Dennis that lives in the office.  The whole thing seems like some ethereal dream, but I must warn you it can be a bit much at times.  In a bizarre plot point Irwin has to use a stick to break up his bowel movements to get them down the toilet, and then sells the stick on ebay.

On that note, I will wish you a good night.

The Carpetbagger

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Old Barns

Traveling across the South there is one constant:  rustic old barns everywhere.   Since the moment I set foot on southern soil I have been fascinated by these monoliths of rotten wood and rusted tin.  Of course one of the most notorious barns in the South are the famous Rock City Barns

And their less common cousin, the Mail Pouch Tobacco Barn....

Of course a barn doesn't have to have advertisements on it to be beautiful.

Check out these old license plates....

And these old bear skins.....

And this old toilet.....

Here is a barn being held up by a single spindly tree........

And here is the day the tree finally gave out....

This barn features a Hillbilly cutout.....

That I had previously found an an old gift shift near a moonshine still....

Over in Kentucky they have some real cool looking solid black barns....

Good night you all.

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to email me at
And don't forget to check out my Flickr Photostream and my Youtube Page.  You can also follow me on instagram