Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nebraska (a movie review post)

Before I get into the actual review, I want to say that this makes 9 out of 9 seen of the movies nominated for Best Picture, this year. We've never managed to see them all ahead of the Oscars before. I'm not sure if we'll ever actually try to get them all in, again, the way we did this year. It just sort of worked out.
Nebraska is another of those movies that I would never have gone to see (or probably even rented) if it wasn't nominated for Best Picture. I don't think it's a "best picture," but I am glad I saw it. Of all of this year's best picture nominees, it is probably the one that will linger the longest in my mind despite it's very subdued quality as a movie.

And it is subdued. Slow moving. And black-and-white, which adds to the subdued quality. I've been trying to figure out what the movie would be like in color, and I can't really imagine it that way. Color would change the tone of the movie, which is kind of weird to me, but I think it would. It would make it not quite so somber, and it needs the somberness, the sense of depression and desperation, to make it work.

Being black and white, though, it won't appeal to a lot of people (my daughter (and, yeah, she's just a kid, but I've known plenty of adults with the same attitude) refuses to watch b&w movies out of principle. The fact that it's slow, including scenes of people just sitting around not talking, will also make it unappealing to pretty sizable chunk of people. But some of those scenes of people just sitting, or sitting and watching football, reminded me of being a kid in East Texas, and those scenes really resonated with me which has caused me to continue to think about it even though it's not at all spectacular.

The other part of that is that the movie is not what it's about. On the surface it's a movie about an old guy that seems not quite all there trying to walk to Nebraska to pick up $1,000,000 that he thinks he's won, but it's not about that. I mean, it's not about growing old and losing your grasp on reality. It's about relationships and how we don't always know people as well as we think we do, even when those people are our parents.

The acting was great. I'm not sure Bruce Dern deserves the best actor nomination, but he was very good. He really sold the depression and desperation. Okay, maybe he does deserve the nomination. The role is so... normal; it makes it hard to tell. Will Forte was even better as his younger son, David. He brought the helplessness and exasperation to the role. They were great together. And Forte was also great with Bob Odenkirk who played his older brother. They had great chemistry. June Squib was frightening and hilarious as Woody's wife.

I'm going to hold myself back, at this point, and not talk about the relationships and family dynamics, because it would require all kinds of spoilers, and I think this is the kind of movie that each person should come to on his/her own, so to speak. It probably has something different to say to any given person based on what that person is bringing into it, like my resonance with the old men in my family sitting around, mostly silently, watching football.

This one probably won't appeal to a lot of people at the outset. There are no explosions, no gunfights, and no car chases. But, if you let yourself follow along, I think it's one you'll find yourself pondering at odd moments for weeks (or at least days) after you see it.


  1. never even heard of for thought!

  2. It sounds interesting. I love movies that leave you thinking about them later. I'll have to keep an eye out for it and if I get a chance to watch it I'll remember what you've said here. Thanks for sharing, Andrew :)

  3. I heard about this one a few weeks back when they interviewed Bruce Dern on NPR--he's a pretty interesting guy. I'm not sure if it's still playing around here (we're pretty limited in theater options), but if it's not, I'll be looking for it on Netflix.

  4. Not one I would go see, but I would definitely watch it on NetFlix. The black and white wouldn't bother me, especially if it fit the tone of the movie. Or rather set it. Quiet moments can be powerful. Think No Country for Old Men.

  5. Congrats on getting to see all nine! You'll have to let us know if it profoundly affects the Oscar-watching experience. :)

    The movie looks interesting, but I don't know... quiet, subdued movies usually make better books for me. All the same, if I come across it (somehow) over here, I suppose I'll take a look. :)

    Just out of curiosity, did you watch any of the films nominated in the foreign films category?

  6. I might have to watch it at some point. Do they use the Springsteen album Nebraska as the soundtrack?

  7. Don't think I would go see it, but would watch it maybe if it came up on TV or iTunes.

  8. I've never heard of this movie. I really enjoy movies that deal with people's relationships. There's something about watching that type of movie that makes me think. I admit, I'm not a fan of black and white movies. It's rare that I watch them. Of course, there are some exceptions. Maybe this will be one.

  9. This is one I wanted to see the moment I heard about it. It's exactly the kind of movie and story that appeals to me, so I'm glad to see another positive review of it.

    The part about people sitting quietly and not talking: A while back I mentioned in a comment on your blog that movies need to remember they are a visual medium and use that. This sounds like it might be that kind of thing. After all, in a novel, it comes up as:

    "They sat and watched football and didn't talk, for some time."

    And then it's over, but in a movie, you could have 20, 30, 40 seconds of that (maybe longer but 30 seconds is a LONG time) and really drive home the way it FEELS to sit and not talk. Awkward? Comfortable? Pensive? Fraught? And you could see people's expressions, and their body language, again all probably way more effectively than in writing.

    The way a story is TOLD matters a lot. Would "Slaughterhouse 5" have been as good without the disorienting way it jumps around? Maybe not. Would "Lord Of The Rings" have seemed as epic if it DIDN'T go into such lengthy detail? Probably not.

    So this story might be best told in black and white and in a movie.

    (About black and white: I am increasingly loving that in photos. I find it really changes the way a picture looks. Nowadays, black and white is my default. I only use color for quick snapshots and if color is actually important to the story. There's probably a lesson there but I'll leave the lessons to you.)

  10. Ooh! That's one I want to see. The hubbs and I were just waiting for it to come out on DVD.

  11. I like this type of film, but will be like most and wait till I can see it at home.

  12. Tammy: Food for thought... Now that I'm thinking of it, I don't know what thoughts eat. I'm concerned.

    Bonnee: I hope you get a chance to see it.

    JeffO: I heard part of that interview.

    Alex C: I don't think of quiet moments when I think of that movie.

    alex: I'm not actually sure I'll watch the Oscars. I don't think I've ever watched the Oscars?

    I haven't seen any of the foreign nominees this year. We have a theater that's really good about showing indie films, but we don't have one that excels with foreign ones.

    Pat: I don't know? I don't know what's on that album.

    Jo: I wouldn't expect it on network TV.

    Elsie: I don't quite understand the aversion to black and white. I wonder if some people didn't go see movies when there was only black and white because they didn't like it?

    Briane: Maybe books should come with instructions, like:
    Place the book on the chair beside you and sit quietly for the next 42 seconds, then pick the book back up and proceed with reading.


    Go find a spider and stare at it for 23 seconds. Pick it up but do not kill it. Put it back down and continue reading.

    Crystal: Let me know what you think of it once you see it.

    David: Oddly enough, I think this is one of those movies that will be diminished on a TV screen. Some movies ought to be seen in the theater, usually big, action movies, and I think this might be one of those.

  13. I've never heard of that movie. I don't mind black and white as a rule of thumb, so that wouldn't bother me. Not sure I'm itching to watch though, I can be pretty shallow with my preferences in movies.

  14. I saw the director on the Colbert Report last night and I was surprised that I hadn't really heard about it anywhere else. It actually sounds pretty interesting.

  15. Rusty: Yeah, I can understand that.

    Jeanne: It was definitely interesting.

  16. Had heard of the title, but not much else. As my parents get older, I find myself both drawn to movies like these and also slightly afraid to watch (things like Alzheimer's run in our family). Sounds like the acting was up to par, so maybe I'll give it a look-see when it comes to the library.

  17. Jessica: I think it's worth watching.

  18. Sounds like the French movies my husband and I make fun of...they're like odes to the mundane. Not as bad as Italian movies though. Their comedy revolves around accidentally honking boobs and making "funny" faces. German movies would be good if only I understood German. Yup, it's an adventure in foreign movies out here in satellite TV-land. ;)

  19. I used to be a HUGE Oscar fan, and when I was independently wealthy (as in first out of college and the poverty of putting myself through school while working) as a young teacher, I went to the movies all the time. I always knew all the movies, all the nominees. My friend and I would dress up, make fancy snacks, drink champagne, and watch THE SHOW.
    These days, I catch movies on DVDs from redbox, or netflix or amazon prime. I've usually not even heard of the nominated movies. Sad for a former movie buff.

    I hadn't even heard of this movie until now. I'm totally intrigued. I love indie cinema, I love old black and white movies, I love the classics. I will watch this. Hubs probably will not. If it's not post-apocalyptic sci-fi where you have to engineer things to survive, he's not all that interested. And that works for us. I love those movies, too. He will humor me and watch movies like Juno just because it's date night.
    Thanks for the non-spoiler review. Those are the ones I appreciate the most.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

  20. Lexa: I think I've missed all of those Italian movies.

    Tina: We went a lot of years with, basically, seeing no movies, and, really, my wife is not much of a movie person, but this thing she likes doing. Probably because of the challenge.

    You're gonna wanna skip my next review.

  21. Black and white seems to be leading the medium in interesting directions. I think it's a wonderful development (no pun intended).

  22. TAS: It's interesting how things change when they become part of artistic expression rather than just how things are.

  23. I've been wanting to see this one and from your description this sounds like my kind of film. It's too bad that so many people reject the notion of B&W films. Those films can convey something that would be lost if they were in color. But I guess a lot of people now need a lot of CGI and raunchy language and behavior in their films. That gets tiresome for me.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  24. Lee: I'd be really interested in hearing about your response to it.