Our alphabetical march (more than halfway through already!) through the Best Picture nominees continues with “Nebraska,” Alexander Payne’s quietly moving tale of a father and son not-quite-reconnecting on a trip to the father’s home state. Written by Whidbey Island resident Bob Nelson, “Nebraska” beautifully walks a very careful line: it’s never sentimental, and yet, particularly in its final scene, touches our hearts. Payne, whose previous two films “The Descendants” and “Sideways” also received multiple nominations, boldly made this film in black and white — the better to capture the unadorned through which Woody and David drive, chasing a father’s foolish dream. That he finds just a tiny piece of it is a tribute to Payne, to Nelson — and to Bruce Dern, a perpetual supporting actor who found the role of a lifetime here.
Still in theaters? Yes, it’s currently at the Oak Tree, Guild 45th and Regal Meridian, but also just came out on DVD this week.
Total U.S. box office: $16.5 million; the lowest of the nine Best Picture nominees.
Total Oscar nominations: Six, for best picture, director, actor (Dern), supporting actress (June Squibb), cinematography and original screenplay.
Best chance for a win: Payne’s movies have won screenplay awards twice before (“Sideways” and “The Descendants”), and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a third; this movie won’t be a factor for best picture or director, but it’s the kind of film the Academy might want to recognize. Dern and Squibb have the sentimental vote going for them — they’re both the oldest nominees in their category, by decades — but are long shots at best.
Odds of this movie creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: Dern, who cheerfully wrote on an Academy questionnaire that he almost missed the nomination announcement because he was “heading to the latrine,” should be good for a lively speech if he wins.
Fun fact: Squibb, who’s the same age as Oscar (she was born just five months after the inaugural Oscar ceremony in 1929), got her big career break in 1960, making her Broadway debut taking over the role of the stripper Electra in “Gypsy,” with Ethel Merman.