Daily Archives: April 26, 2021

Movie Review – Nomadland (2020)

See you down the road, 3.5 readers. BQB here with a review of this year’s Oscar winner.

I’ll say from the outset that if you’re looking for a neat plot where everything falls together perfectly, or clear-cut happy ending (SPOILER ALERT – whether there is one here, is debatable, as are most aspects of this movie) then this isn’t for you.

I’ll also say that in many ways, it’s a yawnfest. Boring. Meandering. Drifting. Sometimes pointless…although I think this is the point – that this is, for most, the way life is. You do some stuff. Stuff happens. Sometimes because of the stuff that happened, you have to change and do new stuff. Sometimes you’ll look back and wonder if you should have done other stuff. Then again, you would have done different stuff if you knew the changing stuff was coming and OMG how exhausting.

Frances McDormand plays Fern, a woman who lost everything due to the great recession of 2008 – her job, her town, her friends and her husband. When the gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada closed, the town literally closed with it, causing residents to flee in mass numbers to the point where the post office cancelled the area code. Alas, when it rains it pours, for while dealing with unemployment and financial woes, Fern’s husband dies and she’s on her own.

She becomes a nomad, and apparently there are many senior citizen nomads roaming America. They live in vans and campers, take seasonal work, then enjoy some semblance of a retirement for the rest of the year – driving around, visiting natural wonders, attractions, and so on. Ultimately, in today’s economy, the joys of a dignified retirement, one where Grandma and Grandpa living out their golden years in the house they bought and paid for long ago, going on fancy vacays and so on are no longer to be hoped for.

The film is more of a fake documentary. We see the way Fern lives and it doesn’t look great. She considers herself houseless, not homeless, but around the point when you see her (SPOILER ALERT) poop in a bucket, or wonder if she’s going to lose it all when a fist raps on her door, said fist belonging to a cop (will he tell her to move along? will he arrest her for vagrancy? Oh, the tension!) you begin to realize you’ve taken your home (and your toilet) for granted.

They say the best writers show and don’t tell but usually, in most mainstream Hollywood packaged films, there’s a bit of spoonfeeding here and there. Some character or some plot twist will happen that wraps it all up in a neat little bow where we all nod and say “ah” but that doesn’t happen here.

For example, as the story progresses, we see that Fern has options. Her sister and brother in law, well-off homeowners, disapprove of her lifestyle and offer to let her live with them. Not a bad option for someone who poops in a bucket but …and it’s never quite said and here’s where the film is a Rohrshach test – you can believe what you want. Maybe Fern is an idiot for not taking sis up on the offer of a roof over her head. Or, maybe Fern is smarter than everyone else. After all, nothing good in life is free. To live with sis means to live by someone else’s rules. You’ll never be fully in control of your life while you live under a roof someone else pays for. Maybe pooping in a bucket gives her more independence than we can ever hope for.

You might think Fern is a loser, only working part-time and then spending her little savings on road trips instead of, oh, I don’t know, spending it on rent or saving up for a down payment on a house. But then again, Fern thinks you’re a dummy for wanting all those things. She’s been through it. She lived life by society’s rules once. All those things you here as a kid. Work hard. Do good and do good things will happen. She built a home and a life that was taken away from her and at her age, she’s not about to do it all over again.

STATUS: Not really a happy fun time flick and not exactly rollicking good entertainment. I’m not sure it’s even up to Best Picture snuff though it did win and I can see why as it shines a light on how seniors are thrown away, how homeless people are thrown away, how not every homeless person is a “bum” and how behind every poop that ends up in a bucket, there’s a story about how that person lost their toilet. Sad.

DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT – though there were points where I wanted to fall asleep, I do think the ending was another one of those “it’s whatever you want it to be” things but I can see it being interpreted as Fern, given her situation, was right and everyone else was wrong all along. We never get that Hollywood spoonful of sugar to tell us what to think though so we don’t know for sure, or maybe we do. We never get to know for sure if what we did was right in life either so, yeah, fun times.

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Oscars 2021

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal BQB here.

Every year, I usually would have talked about the Oscars long before now. In fact, it feels weird they did them in April. But COVID has caused a lot of changes to everything.

Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good, real movie. Studios will occasionally release a semi-decent one here and there but they are mostly holding onto their blockbusters until people are going back to theaters in large numbers again. Good news is I’ve caught up on a lot of old movies I probably never would have seen but bad news is I’m not that minded on new movies lately. Minded? Does that word work there?

Also, I usually complain about how the Oscars are so darn pretty. #OscarsSoPretty Rarely do we ever see the ugly win an award. We visually displeasing Americans demand equal representation on film.

Anyway, my thoughts:

#1 – I have seen none of these though it does seem like the streaming services are taking over. Nomadland = Hulu. Trial of the Chicago 7 = Netflix. Judas and the Black Messiah was made by Warner Brothers but released on HBO Max so more people could see it due to theater attendance being down. At any rate, I know the Oscars love to use the ceremony as a way to build up obscure think pieces that otherwise would go unseen, but I believe this is the first year where I haven’t seen a one before the show.

#2 – See above where I said I haven’t seen any of these movies, ergo it is hard for me to comment on performances. On the surface, I think they should have given Chadwick Boseman a posthumous Oscar for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Often, the Oscars are awarded based on a mix of a) whose turn is it and b) is there still time for them to get another turn? with c) who gave the best performance coming in last. Again, I saw none of them so I don’t know who gave the best performance and arguably, it is hard to say which is “best” because different roles call for actors to do different things so perhaps performances can’t even be compared.

Long story short, I love Anthony Hopkins but he’s been awarded up the wazoo throughout his long career. He plays an elderly father in “The Father” about a man suffering from dementia and memory loss and the toll it takes on his adult children who serve as his caretakers. I do have to say, this is a plight that goes unnoticed by society – how oftentimes, young people will go into life thinking they will do great things and then bam, an elderly parent gets a health problem and then that young person will spend a large chunk of their youth sitting in hospital waiting rooms, helping the parent around the house and so on. It’s what families do but perhaps we need a national conversation on how to make elder care more accessible and affordable, how to have professionals who know how to assist the elderly with patience and dignity, rather than have the adult kids try their best. Of course, another layer is that many old folks would prefer their kids help them as opposed to a stranger. Then there’s another wrinkle in that sometimes adult children will take advantage of the elder parent i.e. swipe their moolah or something and there’s even another wrinkle in that sometimes some elderly will boss the adult kids around, be unkind and miserable to them, treat them like crap, etc.

Note I said “some.” Not all do this. At any rate, I don’t need to bloviate on. I just think a) I’m not looking forward to watching the Father. I might skip it because it sounds sad but also I do think more light needs to be shined on the need for elder care (though I’m not sure how many solutions are realistically available) and b) Chadwick Boseman got robbed. So sad he passed at 43 after making history as the Black Panther and it just feels like since he’ll never get another chance to deliver an Oscar performance, he should have been given the award posthumously.

Oh and sidenote it was nice to see Steve Yeun of Walking Dead fame get a nod. He was one of the main characters that kept that show together in its early years and its nice to see him go on to bigger things.

I guess that’s it. Those are more two big Oscar observations, 3.5 readers.

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