Bold predictions for 2013 

Featuring the Griz, gas prices and guest prognosticators

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Winter In the Blood makes Roger Ebert's list of top films

The Montana-based film Winter in the Blood finds itself on the revered film critic's list of bests, not only for its sharp anti-hero storyline, but also for its cinematography, which captures the sweeping landscape of eastern Montana and the Blackfeet Reservation. The nod from Ebert puts the reservation and its people on the map for films to come.

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF KEN BILLINGTON
  • Photo courtesy of Ken Billington

Winter in the Blood, directed by Alex and Andrew Smith, is based on the 1974 novel of the same title by the late, great American Indian author James Welch. It chronicles the story of Virgil First Raise, who has become frozen to the possibilities of life, but whose vision quest takes him off the reservation and leads him to surprising redemption. The film stars veteran actor David Morse (The Hurt Locker); a fresh-faced Native American, Chaske Spencer, who is best known for his role as Sam Uley in the Twilight series; and several local actors, including Missoula's own Lily Gladstone.

Though Ebert often chooses well-deserved mainstream films for his list—his 2012 honors include Lincoln and Arbitragehe's also keen on picking sleepers, such as 2012's Oslo, August 31 and A Simple Life. Winter in the Blood seems primed to similarly hook Ebert's attention. It has already been to the ballyhooed Sundance Film Festival in 2011, when it was teased in its pre-production phase to raise awareness and funds. Plus, the Smith brothers were praised for their previous film, 2002's Slaughter Rule. That film starred a little-known young actor named Ryan Gosling who now, of course, has become the hunk of indie films and a favorite for Facebook memes. Spencer and Gladstone will follow a similar rise, elevating the hard work of American Indian actors and putting them on the red carpets of the future.



Guest Prognosticator: Ben Fowlkes

professional fighting correspondent for USA Today and related Gannett media properties, University of Montana graduate and Missoula resident

Montana celebrates its first MMA world champion

Go down to the Access Fitness gym on Brooks Street just about any weekday and you'll find him: Lloyd Woodard, Montana's great mustachioed hope for a world title. You probably don't think of Missoula as the kind of city that churns out great fighters, and for good reason. If you're from here and you want to be a professional fighter, the best thing you could do would be to stick around just long enough to get a few amateur bouts and then move to Vegas or Portland or San Diego or Montreal when you're ready to get serious. Woodard's spent some time in the big gyms, but he keeps coming back here because, like many of us, he can't quit Montana. Somehow, he's making it work.

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You know that cage fighting stuff you see on TV? That's mixed martial arts (commonly known as MMA). Woodard does that. He's good, too. He competes in the up-and-coming Bellator Fighting Championships organization (airing weekly on Spike TV in 2013), which is like the UFC, only smaller. The first time he fought current lightweight champ Mike Chandler in 2011, Woodard lost a closely contested decision. This year he re-enters Bellator's 155-pound tournament, where the winner gets a crack at the belt and a chance to go from also-ran to budding superstar. It's the kind of opportunity that can change a young fighter's life, and the 28-year-old Woodard has the skills to win the whole thing—if he can keep his emotions in check and fight smart.

Maybe I'm an overly optimistic homer, but I like his chances. This time next year I think Woodard will be wearing that championship belt, repping the 406 on national TV. In a sport that draws competitors from all over the world—Brazil and Russia are particularly well-represented in Bellator—that's kind of a major accomplishment. It puts Missoula on the map in the fight world, and proves you don't have to train at a big gym to do big things.



Guest Prognosticator: Chad Dundas

fourth generation Missoulian who writes about mixed martial arts for ESPN.com. He and Ben Fowlkes also host the Co-Main Event MMA Podcast, available weekly from iTunes and at comaineventpodcast.com.

UM hires Dave Dickenson as football coach

For the third time in just five seasons, the Montana Grizzlies will be on the hunt for a new head football coach near the end of 2013, when Mick Delaney re-retires after guiding the team to the NCAA Division I FCS quarterfinals. Delaney, who calls it quits exactly two weeks after turning 71, leaves the team in solid shape (Montana finishes 10-4 in 2013) but also at a place that is becoming frightfully familiar to the normally rock-steady maroon and silver faithful: loose ends.

Luckily, his exit also comes at a fortuitous time for the university. After spending much of 2012 simultaneously paying the salaries of both Delaney and fired coach Robin Pflugrad, the school suddenly finds itself with some $300,000 available in the budget to woo a more permanent replacement. In Montana University System Bucks that's, like, a million dollars and it ultimately proves enough to pluck former Griz quarterback and statewide demigod Dave Dickenson out of his comfy perch as offensive coordinator of the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.

Or at least it should, if everybody involved knows what's good for them.

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Dickenson, the Great Falls-Russell grad who led Montana to the Division I-AA national championship in 1995, returns to Missoula at a critical time in the Griz Dynasty. Despite the fact that 2013 will represent a rebound year after the botch-a-mania that was 2012, there are still real fears afoot about the future of the program. A litany of factors—not the least of which include an ugly, media-fueled sexual assault scandal and President Royce Engstrom's annoyingly obtuse and poorly planned dismissal of Pflugrad—have left the Grizzlies looking as vulnerable as they have since the rise of the Don Read era.

The hiring of Super Dave alleviates many of those concerns.

Dickenson's status as an in-state legend eases the fitful minds of boosters and message board mavens, while providing a necessary sense of renewal for a town that hasn't felt all that touchy-feely about its football team since Bobby Hauck's players started running afoul of the law a half decade ago. The move truly gives Engstrom the vague "change in leadership" cited as the reason for axing Pflugrad and also buys the president some much-needed political capital with fans who still resent him for never explaining what he meant by that. Additionally, Dickenson's football mind helps improve things on the field, where Montana has become something of a Frankenstein after cycling through four offensive coordinators and two defensive coordinators from 2009-2013.

For the man himself the opportunity is obvious: A chance to return UM to its former glory. If Dickenson can pull that off, it'll not only cement his legacy as Greatest Grizzly of All Time, but pretty much make him a shoe-in to have his face replace the bison skull on the state's next commemorative quarter.



Montana's first wolf-trapping season backfires

The addition of trapping to the state's wolf hunt fails to yield a harvest any greater than last year's total of 166. But the few wolves (and "incidental catches," including dogs) that are caught will only infuriate and embolden the growing contingent of anti-trapping activists and lawmakers, just as photos of trapped wolves and coyotes in Wyoming and Idaho have over the past year.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN


Guest Prognosticator: Steve Running

regents professor of ecology and director of Numerical Terradynamics Simulation Group at the University of Montana's College of Forestry and Conservation. Also shared in the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Global oil prices spike, sending U.S. gas prices to $6 per gallon

Missoulians will respond to the news in mass by ditching their cars and getting out their bikes—or building or buying new ones, if need be. The city will contribute by designating entire streets solely for the thousands of new bike riders that result.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
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