Road to the Oscars: Nebraska

I’m pulling the old switch-er-oo again due to the availability of films. Instead of Dallas Buyers Club this week, I had the privilege of watching Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. Like 12 Years a Slave, Nebraska has received endless praise from my friends, colleagues, and family members. Due to my negative experience with 12 Years, I erred on the side of caution before fully embracing the film. In the end, Nebraska was a pleasant surprise and I thoroughly enjoyed the multiple facets of the film including, but not limited to, the acting and black and white cinematography.

Nebraska is ranked as the 9th least populated state in the U.S., so as you can imagine… a lot happens there. This factors into the narrative of the film as the main character Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is an alcoholic with little to live for in his humdrum life. He receives a letter in the mail claiming he has won $1,000,000 and he need only to claim the prize alongside his magazine subscriptions in Lincoln, Nebraska. Woody lives in Montana with his family, though he was born and raised in Nebraska; their relationships are broken, verbally abusive, and droll. His youngest son decides to humour his father and take him on a trip to Lincoln to claim his prize — the film is about their journey.

Nothing thrilling happens in the film and I believe that is exactly the point. The black and white cinematography, although apt in capturing beautiful landscapes, mostly highlights the black and white attitudes, motivations, and the dullness of life in Nebraska. The lack of character progression is fascinating and confronts the reality of lives for people in small towns — things don’t change unless you do. From my description, this film probably sounds somewhat boring, but I was captivated the entire time. The acting performances were phenomenal. Bruce Dern’s apathetic performance was brilliant and I’m rooting for him in the Best Actor category so far. Though oftentimes too venomous for my sensitive heart, June Squibb as Kate Grant was both striking and hilarious — the moment in the grave yard will suffice for a lifetime in terms of laughter! I wish I had an easier time explaining my initial reaction to this film, but it’s hard to sum up… and I think that’s why I believe it’s worthwhile. Nebraska will not win Best Picture, but I expect it to grab a couple of Golden Boys in the end.

I’m hoping to see Dallas Buyers Club this week to see if Matthew McConaughey will change my mind about the Best Actor Academy Award. Until then, if you’re interested in casting your own vote, be sure to check out Panhandle PBS’ Oscar Poll here. But choose wisely…

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