What it’s up for: Leading Actor, Supporting Actress, Best Picture, Cinematography, Directing, Writing (Original Screenplay)
This is one of the movies I was really looking forward to watching. I like independent films and this was getting lots of good reviews. Unlike most of the movies I’ve watched this season, it was exactly what I was expecting. And it was good.
The story follows an elderly man named Woody (Bruce Dern) who wants to travel from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million dollar sweepstake prize he believes he has won. His son David (Will Forte) decides to go with him after Woody tries several times to walk there himself. Throughout their journey, David learns more about his father and his family.
The movie is shot entirely in black and white which is very interesting and gives the whole movie an old world feel. Besides the cars, there’s nothing to indicate what decade it’s in. What really stuck out to me is that I never once saw a cell phone. The cinematography was really unique because it was in black and white. I felt like it should’ve been in higher contrast, but honestly, I don’t know enough about their method to understand the intent. Regardless, there were several scenes where the lighting looked awesome.
Bruce Dern does an amazing job as Woody, who’s only semi-aware of what’s going on around him. It’s hard to believe that he’s acting. It makes it an interesting study of how families can handle aging family members. June Squibb is HILARIOUS and adorable as Woody’s feisty wife Kate. I would absolutely love to see her win. Honestly, Will Forte also was great in his role. He played it very well with the right balance of humor and gravity. With all of these and the large number of other actors in the film, Alexander Payne did a tremendous job with staging and direction for many complex scenes. He chose to shoot wide for a lot of the film which was kind of hard to watch on a tv screen, but it made the framing look beautiful.
Finally, the screenplay was great. It was way more complex than a lot of the movies I’ve watched recently and was more traditionally structured. It was good to be able to watch a movie that wasn’t just one long dramatic event (ala Gravity or Her or Blue Jasmine….). The script was clever. The directions for shots were creative and different, but didn’t work perfectly with a small screen (since I rented it from Redbox).
In a cohort of less than astounding movies, this one stands out as one of the better ones. I am going to need to cleanse my film palate with some stupid comedies after all these dramatic and depressing Oscar films.
Leading Actor: Doubtful but well worth the nomination
Supporting Actress: I could actually see her winning. I just the type of thing the Academy would do…and honestly, I’d pick her over the others I’ve seen.
Best Picture: No
Writing (Original Screenplay): Doubtful