Two Dudes One Film: Nebraska

Kyle Behnke

Will Rossmiller

Movies can be viewed in many ways. One view is from a consumer standpoint and another is from a more technical standpoint, like that of a filmmaker.

For these film reviews we will analyze movies from both perspectives in order to give an in-depth look at the world of cinema.

This week we are reviewing the Oscar nominated best picture,  “Nebraska,” directed by Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”). The movie stars Bruce Dern (“Monster”) as Woody Grant and Will Forte (“Saturday Night Live”) as his son, David Grant.

Photo courtesy of imp

Photo courtesy of imp

Bob Nelson makes his major motion picture debut as lead writer for the film, and Phedon Papamichael was nominated for an Oscar in best cinematography.

The film follows Woody, a senior citizen with a hazy memory, as he makes his way to Nebraska with his reluctant son, David, to redeem a hoax riddled million dollar contest voucher.

On the journey to Lincoln, Neb., Woody and David visit Woody’s home town of Hawthorne to catch up with their relatives. The plot climaxes with the realization that the contest has to be real or the whole trip is a waste of time.

The film has a very unique stylized look, as it is shot in black white. Nebraska as a state is flat in character and in landscape and the black and white filer combined with the lighting adds a lot of depth to the visuals.

Establishing shots were very prominent and brought out specific elements of the landscape, like cows and the crops.

“Nebraska” is shot in a very indie style, with neutral and soft editing, which gives the film a consistent and relaxed feel from start to finish.

Overall, the black and white is fitting for the plot of this movie. Black and white does not work for every film, but it certainly enhances the cinematography of this one.

Photo courtesy of Woody, played by Dern, and David, played by forte, visit Woody's childhood home.

Photo courtesy of
Woody, played by Dern, and David, played by forte, visit Woody’s childhood home.

The music consisted of one simple theme with multiple variations throughout. During important dialogue moments, the score was silent.

During filler scenes, such as traveling montages, the music was brought to the forefront for the viewers.

The music was simple, well timed, and provided an audio cue for viewer with knowledge of important events to come.

The plot has a small town feel that is reminiscent of small Wisconsin communities, which brought a nostalgic feel to the movie.

The plot also held a steady pace. Some go from zero to 60 while “Nebraska” was consistent around 20 mph.

The film was not necessarily slow in any part, but was more rhythmic in its pacing, leaving the audience intrigued while effectively telling a simple story.

Dern’s performance is worthy of all the acclaim he has received through multiple award nominations.

Dern provides such a realistic character that he makes viewers forget he has been acting in a multitude of roles for over 50 years.

The supporting cast, including Forte, June Squibb, who picked up an Academy Award nomination for her role in the film, and the rest of the cast put you directly into what appeared to be a real life dysfunctional situation.

This film offers a unique experience from both a technical and narrative standpoint. We both would highly recommend seeing this movie for its witty, yet serious, writing and its stylized and distinct look.

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