Nebraska (2013) Film Review

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Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is old and a bit confused. Having received a letter in the mail advising he has won a million dollars (one of the magazine sweepstakes where the recipient never wins) as long as it is returned to Nebraska by a certain date. He starts to walk, often being picked up by the police and returned to his grumpy wife, Kate (June Squibb). Finally, his son David (Will Forte) decides to take him. However, after some bad luck, they end up stuck in Woody’s home town of the weekend and David learns a lot about his family’s past.

Nebraska is funny and sweet, with totally unlikable characters who you desperately want to succeed. It’s amazing to think that the film could contain so many unlikable characters and yet be thoroughly enjoyable. I didn’t even like David all that much. I haven’t yet figured out why the film was in black and white. I don’t feel that it added anything; if anything, I felt that I was missing seeing the beauty of the scenery in some of the wide shots with amazing clouds. If a director chooses to use black and white, it seems there should be a definite reason. Still, it didn’t wreck the film for me – with such a strong script and excellent actors, it would have been hard to go wrong.

Nebraska was nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bruce Dern), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (June Squibb), Best Cinematography, Best Directing (Alexander Payne) and Best Writing: Original Screenplay (Bob Nelson), for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture,  Musical or Comedy, Best Actor in A Motion Picture,  Musical or Comedy (Bruce Dern), Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Juen Squibb), Best Director – Motion Picture (Alexander Payne) and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Bob Nelson) and for BAFTAs for Leading Actor (Bruce Dern), Cinematography and Original Screenplay (Bob Nelson).

The Descendants (2011) Film Review

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This post originally appeared at www.melbournegeek.com in March 2012.

Finally, I am getting to see more of the 2012 Oscar nominated films, and I am left wondering why, why, why? I often don’t agree with the nominated films, but I will see some merit in them. Not so much with this one. No, that’s not totally true. I can see why many people would like this film, and I’m not just talking about George Clooney.

What I found amazing was that a film which deals with grief and death could have such a lack of emotional depth.

I’m a crier. I love crying at movies and I’m not ashamed of it. I would have thought that a film about a man whose wife is in a coma and he finds out that she was cheating would be an absolute tearfest.

I think I welled up twice, but didn’t even need to brush the tears away.

Perhaps the lack of emotion was supposed to be there.

Perhaps that was the point – that Clooney’s character was so separated from his life that everything was emotionless. I guess if that was the point, then it was probably really good. It just didn’t work for me.

There were good things about the film. The acting from the daughters was amazing. I loved seeing the journey of the older daughter who stepped up to take the emotional responsibility, and the playing out of the younger daughter. I look forward to seeing where the career of these actresses takes them. There were some great characters that I really hated – the wife’s father, the daughter’s friend, the mother of the bullied girl – and I hated them with complexity, because they were not just single-dimensional caricatures.

I’ve heard the book is fantastic. I can see how it might be. There’s another one on my list – although for the moment, I’m getting through Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so it will be a while.

The Descendants won the Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Achievement in Directing (Alexandrer Payne), Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.