The Oscars are coming on the 25th of this month, and many of us have been buckling down and watching the nominated films—all intricate and unique in their own ways. Every year, a variety of movies are nominated for awards such as Best Picture and Best Sound, along with short animation/documentary awards given to films that stand out and spread artistic, poetic, or meaningful messages to us all. The award that I'm looking forward to is Best Picture (every year), and I'm excited to see the Academy's choice for this challenging year of filmmaking. (Many of the films nominated were made in 2019 due to the halt of COVID19.)
The films nominated for best picture are:
The Father (PG-13)
Judas and the Black Messiah (R)
Promising Young Woman (R)
Sound of Metal (R)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (R)
Critiques and movie fans are sharing their predictions and hopes for this year's show, and I myself am yet to see the outcomes of the awards this year. Nevertheless, through challenging times, I can say with great admiration that these eight films have done outstandingly well when the filmmaking world paused.
Unfortunately, I was unable to watch all eight films because of age and content restrictions, but I managed to watch Minari (directed by Lee Isaac Chung ), The Father (directed by Florian Zeller), and Nomadland (directed by Chloe Zhao.) Here is my review of Chloe Zhao's outstanding drama/indie film that's streaming now on Hulu and in theaters.
Nomadland was originally a New York Times Notable book written by Jessica Bruder which was published in 2017. The book follows the Great Recession of 2008, and Linda May, an elderly woman who lives in a camper and is known as what one may call a "nomad." The film, a quiet and rather depressing movie follows Fern, a woman in her 60's who is jobless after quitting Amazon and living in a run-down, ratty van. While rated R, the film is entirely watchable to viewers who can handle extreme tragedy and loss, with only one nude scene that shows Fern floating in a river in stillness. I think this film is important in terms of spreading job-hunger awareness, and the darkness of the economy for those who are homeless. Here is why.
Frances McDormand is Incredible in this Movie
Sadly enough, I haven't been aware of Frances McDormand for quite a while, because I am distant from R-rated films. However, I have seen her on award shows, and my gosh, she is talented.
One of the things I wish could've been done better in this film is the pacing, and I'm sure many other film critiques have stated this as well (not that I'm one.) There isn't necessarily a plot to this movie, and it can sometimes feel like you're bombarded with sadness, grief, and more sadness. However, what makes up for this is McDormand's awe-striking performance as Fern in this movie. She is tough-minded, extremely independent, stubborn, kindhearted, and definitely a little bit strange. I remember as I was watching how much I wished there would be a change, shift, or something other than scenery that took up almost a third of the movie—but I realized that Fern was the story. I think that's what made it special.
Amazing Scenic Long Shots
My favorite shots from this movie were from when Fern was driving through windy roads, and the perspective of the campsite shots were incredible. Some sequences were just static closeups of cactuses or a long shot of a sunset. What I found unique about the cinematography was the rawness of the film—because I know on some screens it will be different, but as I was watching on my computer, the film was grainy, and you could see the noise in dark areas of the film. That was what made it stand out, because either way, the shots were beautifully composed, and you wouldn't care about the clarity if you saw Fern's face in a perfectly dark-lit room, or the soft glow of her white dress as she looks at the campers driving through windy camp roads. The cinematography wasn't typical. It was engaging—which made up for the parts where it was indeed boring. I will touch on that later.
Why it's Sad
You would think that a film about people losing their jobs, and living lives with remorse and depression would be sad. This film is very sad.
It was as if you knew when to cry, and you knew when to listen as one of the characters spoke. The film manipulated you in a way—because even though you became uninterested at some points, you still can't get that scene out of your head when one of the characters (Bob) sobs after the loss of his son.
What makes it even sadder is the fact that Fern never cries. She encounters countless numbers of people similar to her—losing loved ones, wanting to kill themselves, learning they have cancer. To Fern, it almost feels as though her life is normal in those areas—and she has learned that this world she lives in, this world of not knowing what to do, is her world she will have to stick with. It's just so utterly sad.
Is it Too Boring?
I will start off by saying that if you expect this film to entertain you as much as others will—it won't. It isn't particularly entertaining like some movies are. Some movies are just entertaining, but don't have Nomadland's beautiful cinematography and writing, such as Godzilla vs. Kong that came out not long ago. This film is sentimental, and is more artistic than containing moments of surprise, horror, or satisfaction. It's none of that. It's just pure art, and the story that drives it.
When I was mentioning the pacing issues of this film, a lot of it has to do with the timeline of the film itself. What I mean by that is let's say Fern is at a diner drinking a glass of water. Then, the movie immediately cuts to a shot of her walking down dark streets. We don't see her getting up out of her seat, and walking out of the diner—the film sometimes cuts similar to a music video. Other examples are campsite scenes, because nothing particularly changes on those days when Fern is greeting the neighbors, taking a walk, or sitting by a campfire. It's just the same thing every day until Fern decides to take a leave. That's what makes the film boring in a sense, because without the change of setting, there is absolutely no character development, and nothing big happens for Fern. Nothing new happens, and it's similar to a story that has already unfolded—we're just being introduced to new things, and seeing Fern shiver by herself in snowy weather or poop in a bucket. That's the nomad lifestyle for you!
Best Picture Nomination
Personally, I'd like to see this film win Best Picture. Many votes go to Judas and the Black Messiah, and I think both spread messages on different topics that need to be touched on. However, the beauty of Chloe Zhao's film is unbeatable in the sense that the Academy will have a difficult time choosing. It truly does deserve the win during these times. Not to mention that Chloe Zhao is a Chinese-American filmmaker, which you don't see a lot of in the filmmaking industry, so I'm rooting for her to win Best Director as well.
Cover photo copyright from Nomadland