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Review: 'Nebraska' is one of Alexander Payne's finest films

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"Nebraska

Rating:
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Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” nominated for 6 Academy Awards, comes out tomorrow on Blu-Ray and DVD. In “Nebraska,” Payne has created one of his finest examinations of American life,and the Blu-Ray is a fantastic transfer of a beautifully composed film.

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In films such as “About Schmidt,” Payne has often portrayed the doldrums of middle-class Midwestern life, but this may be Payne’s finest examination yet. Bruce Dern shines as an addled old man with a past. Nominated for Best Actor, Dern sinks fully into the role of Woody Grant, a defiant, proud man who, deep down, hopes to leave a legacy for the family he neglected for so long. Will Forte co-stars as Dern’s son, and June Squibb won a deserved Oscar nomination as Dern’s firecracker of a wife.

Forte is also strong, although the dominant theme of repressed Midwestern angst pretty much requires a lack of range and emotion on display. In this film, a character’s growth is marked by a matter of degrees, with nothing expressed openly. This is also why Squibb’s character is so great, swooping in and dominating the proceedings with her outsized personality. Her independence also serves as a source of tension between the family the Grants left behind. Stacy Keach also shines as an old rival of Dern’s. I didn’t realize I needed to see Keach sing “In the Ghetto” until I saw it.

Some critics have accused Payne of condescension towards his characters, and that charge holds some merit. (I’m thinking specifically of the cartoonish twin brothers in the film.) However, we also see honest, sincere small-town folk, such as the warm-hearted Bernie Bowen, or Peg, whose backstory with Woody hints at a different, equally interesting movie that I’d like to see.

“Nebraska” is highly recommended, honest and moving and funny in equal measure. Click on the slideshow above to view stills from “Nebraska,” and watch the video to learn more about Bruce Dern's character. For the latest Blu-Ray news and reviews, subscribe to the Blu-Ray Examiner today.

A/V Quality

Phedon Papamichael’s terrific black and white cinematography looks fantastic in high definition, crisp and clear. Dialogue and score are clear and perfectly balanced.

Extras

The disc comes with a behind the scenes extra named “The Making of Nebraska,” broken into six parts: “The Script,” “Cast and Characters,” “Locations,” “Shooting in Black and White,” “Working With Alexander,” and “A Film Family.”

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