DVD/Stream of the Week: Nebraska

In the funny, poignant and thought-provoking Nebraska, a Montana geezer named Woody (Bruce Dern) gets a sweepstakes come on in the mail and believes that he has actually won a million dollars. Unwilling to accept the explanations from his loved ones, Woody is determined to get to Omaha to claim his fortune – by walking if necessary. His son David (Will Forte from Saturday Night Live) decides to drive him, and their journey takes them through Woody’s tiny Nebraska hometown.

At first, we see that Woody is bitter, drinks too much, is sometimes addled and drives his loved ones crazy. As the story progresses, we learn that Woody’s bitterness is rooted in frustration of his modest aspirations by both circumstance and by his own shortcomings. And we see David longing for a relationship with his father that he had never thought possible before. David makes a valiant effort, but Woody is long past any sentimentality. In Nebraska, director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) has another triumph of endearingly flawed characters.

There are many laughs in Nebraska, the funniest coming from Woody’s wife’s salty exasperation, David’s repellant cousins and the hilarious theft of a generator.

The acting is outstanding. Bruce Dern deservedly got an Oscar nomination. It’s a character that is revealed to be more and more complex. Is he demented, or is he in denial, or is he lying? Some of each for sure, but it’s always hard to tell. Dern has stated that he called upon his own experience with unsupportive parents to play the film’s most searing scene, in which David takes a reluctant Woody back to see Woody’s now abandoned childhood home. June Squibb, who play’s Woody’s wife, was also nominated for an Oscar; indeed, she gets to deliver most of the funniest lines.

But there are two other exceptional performances that I don’t want to overlook. As the son, Will Forte plays Woody’s straight man. It’s a far less flashy role – and perhaps more challenging role. But Forte lets us see past the son’s stoicism to his pain, embarrassment, frustration, determination and love.

And Actress Angela McEwan has the tiny part of the small town newspaper publisher. She just gets one brief exchange with Forte and then a second scene where she looks at a truck driving past. That look is one of the unforgettable moment in cinema this year.

Finally, my parents were from Nebraska, and I have spent plenty of time in the state. I must say that I have NEVER seen such a dead on take on small town Nebraska and Nebraskans. If you see Nebraska, you really don’t need to visit the real Nebraska to capture the full experience.

I found Nebraska to be an exceptionally evocative family portrait, and I’ve liked and admired it the more I’ve thought about it. One of my Best Movies of 2013 and nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, it is available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and XBOX Video.

Movies to See Right Now

AMERICAN HUSTLE
AMERICAN HUSTLE

The Palestinian Omar is a heartbreaking romance inside a tense thriller; Omar is nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. The Chilean drama Gloria is about an especially resilient 58-year-old woman. Harder to find, Stranger by the Lake is an effective French thriller with LOTS of explicit gay sex.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the flawless true story thriller Captain Phillips, my choice as the best Hollywood movie of the year. It’s now available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.

In theaters, you can still find Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her, which all made my Best Movies of 2013. I also strongly recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena. Dallas Buyers Club, with its splendid performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, is formulaic but still a pretty good watch. The Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts is also a good bet.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also like the Mumblecore romance Drinking Buddies, now available on VOD.

We’re still enjoying Turner Classic Movies magical month of Oscar-nominated films – 31 Days of Oscar. This week I recommend the brilliant 1971 drama The Last Picture Show and the classic Bogart/Bacall thriller Key Largo.

Movies to See Right Now

SHORT TERM 12
SHORT TERM 12

This week, I’m featuring three movies that are flying under the radar. The Chilean drama Gloria is about an especially resilient 58-year-old woman.  Harder to find, Stranger by the Lake is an effective French thriller with LOTS of explicit gay sex.

And my DVD/Stream of the Week is the compelling and affecting foster care drama Short Term 12. This movie made both my Best Movies of 2013 and my Most Overlooked Movies of 2013, with its star making performance by Brie Larson.   Short Term 12 is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video.

In theaters, you can still find Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her, which all made my Best Movies of 2013.  I also strongly recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and PhilomenaDallas Buyers Club, with its splendid performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, is formulaic but still a pretty good watch.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also like the Mumblecore romance Drinking Buddies, now available on VOD.

I saw this year’s Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts and was disappointed.  There was nothing to match recent gems like The God of Love or Curfew.  I liked the British short about a particularly bored and malevolent God masquerading as a convict, but that 13 minutes didn’t justify the two hours that I had invested.  A 30-minute Spanish film about child soldiers in Africa was to excruciatingly brutal to justify the trite attempt at a redemptive payoff.  (I haven’t seen the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, but I have heard good things about that program.)

Turner Classic Movies has launched its wonderful annual 31 Days of Oscar – filling the entire month with Oscar-nominated movies. This week I recommend the romantic French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) which is notable for three things: 1) the actors sing all of the dialogue; 2) the breakout performance by then 20-year-old Catherine Deneuve; and 3) an epilogue scene at a gas station – one of the great weepers in cinema history.  I also recommend two great performances by Peter O’Toole screening on February 20, as a lethally driven movie director in The Stunt Man (1980) and as a gloriously dipsomaniacal screen icon in the comedy My Favorite Year (1982).

Movies to See Right Now

Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey (both Oscar-nominated) in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB.
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey (both Oscar-nominated) in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB.

Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her all made my Best Movies of 2013.  I also strongly recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and PhilomenaDallas Buyers Club, with its splendid performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, is formulaic but still a pretty good watch.

Not nominated, but pretty damn good, is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also admire the compelling French drama The Past. And I also like the Mumblecore romance Drinking Buddies, now available on VOD.

I haven’t yet seen the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts, but I’m gonna because they’re always good.

I’m not a fan of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks (sentimental and predictable) or the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either).

My DVD/Stream of the Week features Philip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Hulu.

Turner Classic Movies has launched its wonderful annual 31 Days of Oscar – filling the entire month with Oscar-nominated movies. This week I recommend two wickedly funny Preston Sturges films – The Great McGinty (inside workings of a corrupt political machine) on February 10 and The Lady Eve (con artist Barbara Stanwyck tries to land the clueless but wealthy Henry Fonda) on February 11. TCM is also cablecasting the Howard Hawkes screwball comedy Ball of Fire, with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, on February 11.

Movies to See Right Now

Jonah Hill in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Jonah Hill in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

I’m planning to see the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts, which opens today – it’s always worthwhile ( plus it helps me win the Oscar pool). You can also find the Oscar Nominated Short Animated a Films and Short Documentaries. The great thing about sampling the shorts is that, even if one short film isn’t your cup of tea, another one is coming along in 15 minutes and  you might like it a lot more.  I’ve never forgotten the touching and funny God of Love, which earned the 2011 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.  God of Love won that year’s Oscar over Na Wewe, one of the best films about violence in Africa that I’ve seen.  Similar discoveries could be waiting for you this week.

Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her all made my Best Movies of 2013. I also really recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena. And Gravity has been re-released in 3D.

Not nominated, but pretty damn good, is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also admire the compelling French drama The Past.  And I also like the Mumblecore romance Drinking Buddies, now available on VOD.

I’m not a fan of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks (sentimental and predictable) or the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either).

The great Noir City film festival is still running for the next three days, this year with an international flavor. Check it out.

My DVD/Stream of the week is Prisoners. Prisoners is available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox video.

Movies to See Right Now

her1
Joaquin Phoenix in HER

Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her all made my Best Movies of 2013. I also really recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena.

Not nominated, but pretty damn good, is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also admire the compelling French drama The Past.

I’m not a fan of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks (sentimental and predictable) or the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either).

My DVD/Stream of the Week is number 5 on my Best Movies of 2013The Spectacular Now is a spectacularly authentic and insightful character-driven story of teen self-discovery. It’s the best teen coming of age story since…I can’t remember.  The Spectacular Now is now available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video.

Movies to See Right Now – with some Oscar nominees

Bruce Dern and Will Forte in NEBRASKA
Bruce Dern and Will Forte in NEBRASKA

The Oscar nominations are out, and Best Picture nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her all made my Best Movies of 2013.  I also really recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena.

Not nominated, but pretty damn good, is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also admire the compelling French drama The Past.

I’m not a fan of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks  (sentimental and predictable) or the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis  (about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either).

My DVD/Stream of the Week is Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Sundance Now and Xbox Video.

Movies to See Right Now

Jonah Hill in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Jonah Hill in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Lots of choices, including some of my Best Movies of 2013.

Recommended:

  • American Hustle is the most gloriously entertaining movie of the year – with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner at their best.
  • The French drama Blue Is the Warmest Color, with its stunning performance by 19-year-old actress Adèle Exarchopoulos, currently tops my list of Best Movies of 2013 – So Far.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s excessive, full-throttle con artist comedy – a movie that gives hedonism a bad name.
  • The city of Rome dazzles in The Great Beauty, already a favorite for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.
  • I really liked and admired the funny, poignant and thought-provoking family portrait Nebraska from Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants).
  • Philomena, with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan is an emotionally satisfying gem.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence.
  • Go for Sisters has three more great characters in a thriller from indie guru John Sayles.
  • The spare survival tale All Is Lost has a grimly powerful performance by Robert Redford.
  • I also like the wickedly subversive Holiday comedy White Reindeer, which is available streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Sundance Now, GooglePlay and XBOX.

Not So Much

  • I found Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks to be sentimental and predictable.
  • The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis is about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either.

Movies to See Right Now

AMERICAN HUSTLE
AMERICAN HUSTLE

Some of this week’s recommendations are on my Best Movies of 2013. Recommended:

  • American Hustle is the most gloriously entertaining movie of the year – with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner at their best.
  • The French drama Blue Is the Warmest Color, with its stunning performance by 19-year-old actress Adèle Exarchopoulos, currently tops my list of Best Movies of 2013 – So Far.
  • The city of Rome dazzles in The Great Beauty, already a favorite for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.
  • I really liked and admired the funny, poignant and thought-provoking family portrait Nebraska from Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants).
  • Philomena, with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan is an emotionally satisfying gem.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence.
  • Go for Sisters has three more great characters in a thriller from indie guru John Sayles.
  • The spare survival tale All Is Lost has a grimly powerful performance by Robert Redford.
  • I also like the wickedly subversive Holiday comedy White Reindeer, which is available streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Sundance Now, GooglePlay and XBOX.

Not So Much

  • I found Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks to be sentimental and predictable.
  • The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis is about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either.

Best Movies of 2013

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

Visit my Best Movies of 2013 for my list of the year’s best films, complete with images, trailers and my comments on each movies.  My top ten for 2013 is:

  1. Blue Is the Warmest Color
  2. The Hunt
  3. Before Midnight
  4. Stories We Tell
  5. The Spectacular Now
  6. Mud
  7. Short Term 12
  8. Fruitvale Station
  9. The Act of Killing
  10. Captain Phillips.

The other best films of the year are:  The Great Beauty, Nebraska, American Hustle, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Rendez-vous in Kiruna, The Gatekeepers, At Any Price, Undefeated, In a World… and Me And You.

I’m saving space for these promising films that I haven’t seen yet:  Her, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Past (Passe).

Note:  Undefeated is on this year’s list, even though it won an Oscar a year ago, because it only became available for most of us to see in 2013.