Nebraska, or Where We All Go to Die

We are not movie goers. We go to the movies maybe once every three months or more like four to five times a year. I don't know why this is--I guess because I am afraid of being shot at a movie theater now. Very occasionally, we rent movies On Demand; more often than not, we watch whatever happens to be on at the time---and, if I have my pick (which I often do) it's going to be a mystery detective show like Hard Evidence or 20/20.  I'm attracted to these shows because I like how they figure things out and how they make a gesture toward justice.  I mean, sometimes, the bad guy gets away with it, but most of the time, they come to slightly satisfying conclusion.

On Oscar night, instead of watching that awkward parade of celebrities, we rented Nebraska. In case you don't know, I was born in Aurora, Nebraska, and my whole family still lives there. But we left when I was about five, and so I can't say that I know what it's like to grow up there---but I do have some understanding of it, at least better than, say, a man born and raised in New Jersey.

From the beginning, the movie felt like a sophisticated graduate school thesis--perhaps because it was in black and white.  Visually, it was beautiful--lots of tableaus of fields and skies--and it's probably one of those films a person should see many times, because the surface story was just a way to talk about larger things--death, loss, regret, leaving this life, saying goodbye, how we don't really know our parents, how our lives are shaped by where we live or our childhoods--but the actual watching of the film and the acting felt less than enjoyable. The acting seemed stilted and forced--but then I wondered if maybe that was the intention; like it was supposed to have an Everyman feel to it where you're aware that it's not reality, but this kind of hyper reality. After watching it in black and white for about fifteen minutes, Dan asked me if it was going to be like Wizard of Oz where halfway through, they switch to color, like the guy ends up going to LA or something, where it's a magical world filled with amazing plastic surgery and glitz.

I suppose the main thrust of the movie was this old man's goodbye to his life--to the house he grew up in, to his dead family in the cemetery, to his old friends, to his former business, to the landscape and the people and the girl he loved. It was sort of beautiful in that way--one of the last scenes being this man sitting on his front lawn who waves goodbye to them as they leave town for the last time.