And the Oscar goes to… what you were expecting

“Nomadland” and “The Father” movie review

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Hayden Brown reviews “Nomadland” and “The Father,” two Oscar standouts.

Grab a bottle of sparkling cider and wear your finest tux or gown. Award season is finally coming to a close, but there is still time to talk about the two heavy hitters at this year’s Oscars.

Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” made quite the impression at this year’s Oscars, taking home awards for best picture, director and actress — making history. Chloé Zhao is now the second female director, and the first woman of color, to receive the award of best director. Frances McDormand’s win for best actress marks her third time receiving the award. For all involved in the picture, it was a fantastic night. 

The story follows Fern, played by Frances McDormand, who has lost everything in the Great Recession and travels through the American West growing accustomed to nomadic lifestyle. The story originated from McDormand, who was fascinated by the novel “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder. McDormand handed off the idea to producer Peter Spears and Chloé Zhao began writing the screenplay. The crew wanted the film to be as realistic as possible and utilized many non-actors to build the rest of the supporting cast.

The film’s central anti-capitalist views seemed a bit too muddled to be making much of a significant point, and most of that comes as a result of the film’s origination and the film trying to say too much. There is a struggle when crafting a film of this nature to make it a sincere experience because, despite the use of realistic settings and the use of actual nomadic people, this approach can still come off as a bit preachy. Most of those non-actors had no idea that McDormand was an Academy Award winning actress and I found this creative choice to be a bit of a tricky one. This makes those quieter moments in which they open up to McDormand a bit insincere as the trust between the two people is not as solid as the film is presenting it.

Unfortunately, “Nomadland” is missing subtlety. Many times, scenes and settings are lingered on that would have been better left inferred. The meandering of the pacing created by the use of extensive landscape shots spaced out a lot of the human interaction and made the film a bit dull at times. I wish there could have been more of a focus on the film’s storytelling as opposed to its stylistic filmmaking — as the main goal of the feature is to document the lives of the nomadic people.

Florian Zeller’s “The Father” was another contender for best picture and saw Anthony Hopkins become the oldest actor to receive the award for best actor at age 83. This sparked a controversy over the campaign to give the award posthumously to Chadwick Boseman while Hopkins slept in his bed the night of the Oscars.

The film follows a man suffering from dementia and slowly driving himself mad within the confines in his home. Actors appear as different characters and scenes appear out of order to create a genuinely captivating and uneasy narrative that captures the confusion of dementia. 

This film is heartbreaking and features one of the best performances of Anthony Hopkins’ career, and considering his resume and his age, that’s some high praise. The film utilizes horror techniques to seep under the audience’s skin and hook them emotionally so that when the film reaches its resolution, its reveals are all the more heartbreaking. Incredibly heartfelt and poignant storytelling — it was my pick for the Oscar this year. 

Here’s hoping for more wonderful picks for next year’s award season!