The best award set of the season is usually the Independent Spirit Awards — that’s the ceremony where filmmakers cut loose, and it’s the set of awards that is most likely to highlight actual achievement, rather than doling out statues to whoever campaigned the hardest for their Oscar.
Today the nominations of for the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards were announced, and they spread recognition out to a wide array of films. 12 Years a Slave scored the most nominations, but this year’s crop of films is diverse and excellent; if you spent the rest of 2013 catching up with everything you’ve yet to see on this list, it would be a great end-of-year movie run. Read More »
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Posted on Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 by David Chen
I’ve always found Alexander Payne’s work to be challenging, funny, and heartfelt. His newest film, Nebraska, is no exception. After receiving Cannes’ Best Actor prize for Bruce Dern’s performance as Woody Grant, Nebraska is now out in limited release. It’s a beautiful, understated film and worth your time if you’re interested in a darkly funny, deliberately paced character study.
Russ Fischer joined me for a brief video review. You can hear more of our thoughts on the film after the jump.
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You’ve never seen Will Forte as you’ll see him in Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne. The actor has cemented himself as a favorite comic talent who can play surprisingly intense guys with a vulnerable core, but he has never been at the center of a dramatic movie, much less something like this laconic black and white road movie.
Forte plays David Grant, a bit of a sad-sack, and the child of Woody Grant, played by Bruce Dern. When Woody insists on making the trip from Montana to Nebraska to claim sweepstakes winnings that David (and the rest of their family) know to be bogus, the younger man agrees to drive his father, both to guide him, and to strengthen the weak bond between the two men.
The film is quiet and meditative as it touches on family and the deep roots of individual characters, but also often gently comic, and occasionally uproariously funny. The funniest bits, however, are delivered by actors other than Forte, who spends much of the film as the straight man to Dern. He’s quite good at it, too. In fact, the shy but determined caregiver that emerges through Forte’s performance is something of a revelation from the actor.
I spoke to Forte in Los Angeles, and our conversation naturally ran towards the new territory in which the role placed him. But we also touched on his own obsessive and nervous tendencies, the pleasure of working with a seasoned pros like Dern and Stacy Keach, and briefly about the long-tail appeal of MacGruber. Read More »
Bruce Dern has seen it all in Hollywood. His TV work in the early ’60s positioned him to be right in the middle of the New Hollywood explosion that happened late in the decade. He’s in a mind-boggling array of great films, from Hang ‘Em High to They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, to The King of Marvin Gardens and The Driver — it’s impossible to reel off a quick summation of his career without feeling like you’ve left out five essentials.
Or maybe Dern has seen almost all of Hollywood. Dominating as the heavy, he’s never quite broken into lead status, and he’s never won an Oscar. (He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1979, an Oscar year thick with great performances, for his role in Hal Ashby’s Coming Home. Christopher Walken won, for The Deer Hunter, even as Jon Voight and Jane Fonda won the Best Actor and Actress trophies for their own work in Coming Home.)
So Nebraska feels like a singular moment in Dern’s career. He’s directed in the film by Alexander Payne, one of the modern filmmakers who feels most creatively connected to the biggest years in Dern’s career. He’s got a lead role, and it’s one which forces him to look past his own natural tendency to unleash a torrent of conversation. As scripted by Bob Nelson, his character, Woody Grant, barely talks at all. Even as we wonder about his mental capacity, he’s fixed on a goal: claiming the million bucks a piece of junk mail tells him he’s won. Dern approaches the work with quiet intensity and a real vulnerability, bouncing off co-star Will Forte‘s own uncharacteristic straight man role. The result is unlike anything else you’ll see this year.
I spoke to Dern in Los Angeles, and we discussed acting challenges and risk-taking, Payne’s quiet direction, and the goal of becoming a character, rather than simply performing as one. There’s even some trivia about The Exorcist in here, for good measure. Read More »
Sideways and The Descendants director Alexander Payne returns with Nebraska, a road trip movie about family and fantasy, starring Will Forte and Bruce Dern. The elder actor plays a man who thinks he’s won a million bucks, and is journeying from Montana to Nebraska to collect. Forte is his son, who ends up along for the ride trying to guide and protect his pop.
This first trailer is great; it shows off the film’s low-key black and white aesthetic and ambitions towards channeling the tone of ’70s film drama. It’s also funny and effective as it shows the fragile relationship between Dern and the rest of his family, and hints at the difficult balance between owning up to reality and keeping some dreams alive, no matter how unrealistic they may be. Check it out below. Read More »
Briefly: Paramount had altered a few release dates for some high-profile films. First up, Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska has shifted a week forward, from November 22 to November 15.
Then Alan Taylor‘s untitled fifth Terminator film has moved a few days later, from June 26 to July 1, 2015. That potentially puts it in direct competition with 20th Century Fox’s Independence Day 2, which Roland Emmerich suggested might get moved as well.
Alexander Payne‘s new film Nebraska stars Bruce Dern as an aging alcoholic who believes he has won a huge prize, and road trips from Billings, Montana to Nebraska in an attempt to collect. His son, played by Will Forte, tags along to keep the old man on course, but the two end up detouring to the old guy’s small home town.
Nebraska has been in the works for a while, and will debut at Cannes later this month. Before that premiere, we’ve got the first official image from the film, and the stark black and white image suggests that Payne’s trip back to his home state isn’t going to be the most light-hearted journey possible.
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Briefly: One highly anticipated awards contender and another highly anticipated genre film have just been given release dates by Paramount Pictures. The awards contender is Alexander Payne‘s follow-up to The Descendants, Nebraska. Starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte as a father and son on a road trip, it’ll be released November 22.
The Michael Bay produced, Back to the Future II influenced found footage film Almanac has also been given a date. Directed by Dean Israelite and written by Andrew Stark and Jason Pagan, it’ll be out February 21, 2014. Read more about its mysterious, time-travelling plot here. [Deadline]