Every year, when the Oscar nominees are announced, there's always a few oddball gems nestled in among the big budget blockbusters and Weinstein-approved awards-bait. This year, the little picture that could is "Nebraska":
In the movie, a crotchety old man heads to Nebraska in order to claim a $1 million prize. Unfortunately, the "prize" is a Publishers Clearing House-style marketing gimmick, and the old man's put-upon son has to chaperone him the whole way. What follows is a sometimes poignant, somtimes uproariously funny odyssey about life, family, and the father-son relationship.
The film's a sharp departure from the last Alexander Payne movie I saw, "The Descendants." Though both films are dramedies about family life, Payne trades in the lush vistas of Hawaii for the desolate plains of the Midwest, which suits his directing style a lot better (Payne is from Omaha). The decision to shoot the movie in black-and-white only heightens the effect, and the naturalistic tone is completed with a pitch-perfect performance from veteran Bruce Dern and funny turns from June Squibb and Bob Odenkirk ("...better call Saul").