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Nebraska - Blu-ray Review

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Nebraska - Movie Review

5 stars

The heart of America – the real America that is – should be viewed in hard-bitten black-and-white photography.  Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) knows this about his Omaha birthplace and – while merging the brilliance of About Schmidt with Norman Rockwell-like settings then flipping both on their head – returns to the Midwest for a captivating road trip as one gruff old man, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), is escorted to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his $1 million sweepstakes prize.

Thing is, he hasn’t won a single thing.  In fact, you’ve received the same letter.  It’s a scam to sell magazines.  Woody’s Woody’s long-suffering wife, Kate, knows this.  His two kids – played by Saturday Night Live alumni Will Forte and co-creator and co-star of the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show Bob Odenkirk – know this but no one can make Woody understand that it is simply a come-on.

Due to his advanced age, he can’t drive himself.  Due to his crankiness, no one else will.  His wife, wonderfully played by June Squibb, dismisses him at every turn.  Obsessed by the idea, Woody starts walking to Nebraska from … Montana.  His son, needing his father more than ever before, reluctantly agrees to be the driver.

An unexpected family reunion – full of people Woody apparently owes money to and awkward moments – occurs along the way.  Even Woody’s formidable former business partner (Stacy Keach) attempts to lay claim on some of his supposed fortune.

Before you jump to conclusions, know that Nebraska is not your typical portrayal of the Midwest.  Drained of all color, Nebraska is first and foremost simply not romantic comedy Reese Witherspoon territory.  There’s no cutesy lesson to be learned here.  Nebraska is as real a portrayal of the Midwest; free of Hollywood’s grip.  In fact, it just might be the most authentic film released this year.

Payne and screenwriter Bob Nelson – inspired by real events – present Woody’s story as that of the aged hero, ready for his turn at living.  Always a victim of his own kindness, he’s done living for everybody else and simply wants to go to Nebraska to pick up his winnings.  The sweepstakes letter he has memorized tells him everything he needs to know.  It’s his – the money belongs to only him.

Dern, who knows this role inside and out, is a force.  Magnetically aloof, he steals the picture with own particular brand of angsty madness.  While he already won the Best Actor Award for this performance at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, he’s certainly in the running to walk away with the same award at the Oscars and Golden Globe.  Certainly, as far as male performances go, I have not seen anything that tops his characterization of Grant as an angry old man, tired of his own weakness and gullibility.

Ironically, Nebraska is a large-feeling film.  The use of the film’s canvas is indeed impressive.  There are spaces everywhere in the frame and they are used to full effect.  From the empty Main Streets in small town Nebraska to the cracked landscape passing their car window as a father and son argue about whether or not Mount Rushmore being simply a pile of rocks.

The dramedy of Nebraska is real.  This is not a stereotype of Midwesterners.  Nothing – and I do mean not one single moment of the film – feels false or hollow or wasted.  This is an example of pure Americana celluloid poetry.  Payne has done it again.

nebraska - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for some language.
Runtime:
115 mins
Director
: Alexander Payne
Writer
: Bob Nelson
Cast:
Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb
Genre
: Drama
Tagline:
Nebraska
Memorable Movie Quote: "You didn't win anything. It's a complete scam. You've got to stop this."
Distributor:
Paramount Vantage
Official Site:
http://www.nebraskamovie.com/
Release Date:
November 15, 2013 (limited)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.

Synopsis: After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) thinks he's struck it rich, and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states, Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America.

Nebraska - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 25, 2014
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, German
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0; French: Dolby Digital 3.0; German: Dolby Digital 3.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: A, B

On Blu-ray HD the black-and-white image is very clean, crisp and excellently detailed in 1080p. The black and white Cinemascope cinematography adds instant artistry and beauty to this story. Somehow, this trip of revisiting the past seems to demand gray hues. Black levels are strong throughout. Details are abundant. The film contains a strong DTS-HD Master Audio track, but again makes a traditional change and operates as a 3.0 instead of 5.1 sound mode. This gives the sounds of the film predominately to the front of a home entertainment system, but for a viewer its perfect. Nebraska's audio strength is in two areas, dialogue and music. Having both come from the front gives a listener everything they need for a clear, full effect.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

The edition doesn't come with a lot in the way of special features, but the one supplemental option digs into the movie in all the right areas to satisfy those curious. 'The Making of Nebraska' covers an incredible amount of territory in roughly 30 minutes. Among the highlights include the origins of the script by Bob Nelson, how the project reached both Bruce Dern and Alexander Payne nine years ago in 2004, the extraordinary casting, the cinematic choice to have it in black-and-white and the intricacies of shooting on locations spread over miles apart for a small budgeted film. It's an excellent special feature.

  • The Making of Nebraska (30 min)

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