Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nebraska

Nebraska
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY
12.3.13

So last night, I had a Twitter conversation with my pal Page, who, as I've mentioned before, lives in Oklahoma City, a place so far out of my range of experience it might as well be Mars. I have this perpetual image, though I know it's not true, of her living out on the prairie, amidst coyotes and tumbleweeds - you know, where the buffalo roam. Where the deer and the antelope play. Last night I half-jokingly said that I keep thinking of where she lives as being like The Last Picture Show. (She said it was more like Texasville.)

"Flyover country," people call the territory between the two coasts, and with that nickname come a lot of ideas about what this part of America is like. I spent a year living in Ohio (a generally liberal and metropolitan part), but of course, the Midwest has a lot more wide open spaces to it.


I suspect that to be truly comfortable living in those wide open spaces, one likely needs to be born to it. Even when I was deciding on where I wanted to move, I knew I wanted to live someplace smaller than New York, but big enough that I wouldn't be bored. I need to live in a town with some kind of life to it, with different kinds of people. If I were in a small town with the same people every day, especially one that's reliant on cars to get around, I guarantee I wouldn't last long...

...which is not to say that it doesn't have its charms. The shots of the plains and farmlands in the film Nebraska were hypnotic and soothing to look at, especially with the gentle score accompanying it. It made me think of all the times I've traveled through the fields of states like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Maryland by bus, when I've gotten tired of reading my book and I've finally settled into a state resembling comfort and I lean into the window and simply look out my window for awhile.


Nebraska is about an old dude, Woody, who thinks he won a million dollars, but it's actually one of those magazine subscription scams. Still, he's determined to collect what he thinks is his reward no matter what. I was reminded a little bit of one of my all-time favorite plays, Death of a Salesman: an old dude whose dreams interfere with his reality, and his family suffers the consequences. There's one scene in particular in which Woody's wife Kate has to defend him to the rest of the family, and it reminded me a lot of Linda's attitude toward Willy in Salesman. In both cases, the wives know their relationships with their husbands haven't been the strongest over the years, and that they aren't all there mentally now as a result of old age, but the love, despite the odds, is still there.

I liked this movie, but it took me awhile to really get into it. Director Alexander Payne is from Nebraska, so he has a natural affinity for this kind of setting and these kinds of people, and while it wasn't off-putting, I didn't get completely comfortable with it right away. In something like Fargo, the idiosyncrasies of the locals are played for broad laughs; not so much here. For example, there are scenes of Woody's family sitting in front of the TV blank-eyed, and they don't come across as funny. It's more like, this is how these people are; maybe you'll find them humorous, maybe you won't. That said, Kate, played by June Squibb, is genuinely funny and totally steals the movie from Bruce Dern.


Nebraska opened last Friday at the Kew Gardens, but Paramount has put some kind of restriction in place in which they don't want discount deals offered for the first two weeks of its release. The Kew normally offers discounts all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Of course, the film opened nationwide earlier than last Friday, but I don't know if that same restriction was in place. Does anybody know what that's all about? I've encountered similar studio restrictions on a more regular basis at other theaters in Queens, like the Kew Gardens Hills and the Sunnyside theaters, but the Kew Gardens rarely gets it. Maybe it's a demographic thing; I dunno.

2 comments:

  1. You have intrigued me. I shall certainly give "Nebraska" a look.

    I like the idea of the countryside, but my overall thinking is along the lines of something Holmes said to Watson in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches": "You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there."

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  2. Isolation, definitely; crime? Well, I guess that never occurred to me. But then, I'm not the World's Greatest Detective.

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