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A father and son road trip, from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska that gets waylaid at a small town in central Nebraska, where the father grew up and has scores to settle. Told with deadpan humor and a unique visual style, it's ultimately the story of a son trying to penetrate his impenetrable father.
For more about Nebraska and the Nebraska Blu-ray release, see Nebraska Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 17, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Bob Nelson
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk, Missy Doty
» See full cast & crew
Nebraska Blu-ray Review
A prize-winning film.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 17, 2014
Big money may bring old acquaintances, new friends, and forgotten enemies out of the woodwork, but at the same time it may bring with it togetherness and family, rekindle relationships, and expose the truths, purposes, and good deeds in life that even all the money in the world cannot buy. Nebraska tells the heartwarming and, in some ways, heartbreaking story of an elderly Montanan who mistakenly believes he's won a million dollars from a Nebraska sweepstakes outfit. Though he's mocked and disparaged for his faith -- even by those closest to him -- he pushes on against everyone's wishes but his own in his quest to prove them wrong, collect the money, and live his dream. The picture is a beautiful slice-of-life story, an experience that's uniquely engaging and emotionally satisfying on a number of levels, not the least of which is its championing of focus and determination, strength in adversity, togetherness in family, integrity, and purpose-driven living. It's subtly spiritual in some ways, overtly human in most others, and never artificial. It's a tremendous story in which outward simplicity and inner complexity mesh in perfect harmony to tell a timeless story that's much more than its basic plot and simple appearance would leave audiences to believe.
Woody (Bruce Dern) is flagged down by police and hauled to the station when he's found wandering the streets of Billings, Montana. His son David (Will Forte), a home theater salesman, recovers him and learns his father has his heart set on a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the $1,000,000 a mailing claims he's won. Neither David nor his mother Kate (June Squibb) take the prize notice seriously, and they're only irritated at Woody's absentminded persistence. Nevertheless, David fudges an illness for work and drives his father to Nebraska. Before reaching Lincoln, they stop in Woody's old hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska, a couple of hours away from their final destination. When word gets out that a millionaire is in town, local chatter heats up and Woody becomes an instant celebrity. As his star rises, his past, present, and future come into focus not through the prism of the almighty dollar but through the grace of time shared with family and friends.
Nebraska creates such an enveloping atmosphere, tells such a complete story, and elicits so many emotions that it's a film much better experienced -- preferably more than once -- than it is explained secondhand. It's a masterpiece at every level, on the technical end, in its acting, in its story, in its themes. Simplicity shapes the picture's exterior, both simplicity of style and simplicity of story, constructed of lifelike acting, point-and-shoot direction, and a subdued black-and-white palette. Nebraska's best, however, is found under that black-and-white surface, beyond the acting, past the story basics, hidden in that simple framing. It's touching and honest right down to its core, a core that slowly comes into focus as the journey nears its end. Few pictures have found the sort of success Nebraska so effortlessly earns, depicting a reality of life that explores the best and worst in people, people who will seize an opportunity for their own gain, people who will identify dreams and faith as a negative rather and a positive, people who will refuse to understand beyond their own understanding, and people who will open their eyes to find truth, love, and hope in an honest soul shining brightly under a frazzled exterior.
Boiling it down to a word, Nebraska is a film about faith. It tells a story of little desires shaped over a long life and the belief that there's the possibility of something good even in something that's too good to be true. It's not about greed or proving someone wrong. Woody pursues the one million dollars with an admirable drive and determination, but not for reasons one might think. In fact, a valid question would be just how much Woody knows about what exactly it is he's doing, and his prospects for success, before even stepping foot in Nebraska. Is there a master plan, or at least a pretty good idea, inside that head? Where people see only wild hair, a gashing forehead wound, and a crazy old man, is there a purpose beyond collecting money? Or is Woody truly a senile old man whose adventure, and whatever may come of it, is a complete product of whatever's left of a largely warped imagination? The film hints a little bit in both ways, but considering its simplistically uplifting finale, one cannot help but hope it's the former, that Woody somehow expects good to come of the trip whether he returns home with a million extra dollars in his pocket or not. Either way, the movie allows for some wiggle room that adds immense replay and discussion value in the search for answers which perhaps only an imagination as wild as Woody's and a heart as strong as that which beats in his chest can find.
Though the film's exterior is overshadowed by its deeper purpose and spirit, there's no mistaking that exterior as anything but sublime. Director Alexander Payne's (The Descendants) picture captures an impressively authentic slice-of-life feel in every scene, with robust yet fully believable characters, a small town that's only big enough to fit the story but that's as charming as they come, a simple photographic cadence, and a colorless canvas on which he's able to further direct the audience's attention to the story rather than any surrounding visuals. His accomplishments are accentuated by an incredible cast that finds the characters' spirits and the film's center from the first frame. Bruce Dern's acclaimed performance is indeed a remarkable one, leaving his audience to wonder, as noted above, just to what extent his mission is based on plan or based on some combination of senility and gullibility. Dern walks that fine line beautifully in every moment, in his interactions with every character and in his quieter moments within himself. The performance goes much deeper than the nearly comical exterior, though how deep is really open to interpretation. The rest of the cast is superb, too. Will Forte is a match for Dern in every scene, playing his part with a tender, though slightly aggravated, simplicity that's slowly replaced by something else, something better, by the end.
Nebraska Blu-ray, Video Quality
Nebraska features a gorgeous black-and-white high definition presentation. Paramount's Blu-ray release, sourced from an HD video shoot, reveals incredible details throughout. Image clarity is striking, and the image's accuracy helps accentuate the finest facial and clothing textures, not to mention an abundance of beautiful, everyday elements throughout the film, including sofa fabric, brick façades, worn paint, smudges on a car window, tattered gas pumps, dented bus siding, and much more. Every scene springs to life with a beautiful natural accuracy that feels almost accentuated in black-and-white, allowing the viewer to focus more on object detail rather than both detail and color simultaneously. The black-and-white photography looks wonderful, too, with deep blacks and natural shades of gray gracing the screen. The image suffers from no perceptible banding, excess noise, or blockiness. This is a fine, reference-quality transfer that will dazzle, even in the absence of color.
Nebraska Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Nebraska's DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 lossless soundtrack offers a limited-range listen, but one that's nevertheless well-defined within those parameters. There's only simple sound effects, with passing traffic at the beginning, for instance, lightly swooshing across the front with little more than a basic structural realism. A few other ambient effects, such as background George Strait music and scattered patron chatter at a Nebraska bar, play with a decent lifelike presence, at least as much as a track minus surround channels can create. Musical delivery is smooth and accurate, playing with neither shallowness nor aggressiveness, finding instead a firm, pleasing middle ground. Dialogue dominates the picture and plays with effective front-center presence and volume. Fans need not expect much, and the track delivers all that's required of it with ease.
Note: the disc includes a Spanish Dolby Digital 3.0 soundtrack, not listed in the disc specifications at the top of this page.
Nebraska Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Nebraska has "future special edition" written all over it. All that's included is The Making of 'Nebraska' (HD, 28:50), an intelligent and absorbing look at the project's origins, story depth, characters, the father-son relationship, the blend of drama and humor, casting and performances, Alexander Payne's direction, shooting locations, and shooting in black and white. DVD and digital copies are also included.
Nebraska Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Nebraska is a fundamental story of love and simple desires, neither of which are fully exposed or realized until the end, a perfect ending that explores true joy and satisfaction and how they may be embraced and experienced in the most unexpected of ways. It's also a story about faith, not in money but in people, and particularly family. Whether there's a million dollars at the end of the rainbow or just an "aw, shucks, no money but here's a cheap Chinese-made consolation prize" is of no matter; it's family, it's love, it's understanding that make the journey to whatever may lie at the end worth the sacrifices. This is a remarkable film, easily deserving of its Oscar nominations, and a good bet to have a big night on March 2. Paramount's Blu-ray release of Nebraska features superb video and excellent audio. Supplements are limited to one, but this is nevertheless a must-own release that earns my highest recommendation.
Nebraska: Other Editions
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Nebraska Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: February 25-March 4 - February 23, 2014
For the week of February 25th, Warner Home Entertainment is bringing the Academy-Award nominated Gravity to Blu-ray. Other titles include Paramount's Nebraska disc, Disney and Marvel's Thor: The Dark World, and Criterion's release of the great - and graphic - ...
• Nebraska Blu-ray: Exclusive Giveaway - February 20, 2014
Blu-ray.com and Paramount Home Entertainment are offering three members the opportunity to win a copy of director Alexander Payne's Academy Award-nominated Nebraska, starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach. One grand prize winner ...
• Nebraska Blu-ray - January 21, 2014
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of director Alexander Payne's Academy Award-nominated Nebraska, starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach. The film arrives on Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo pack on ...
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