7/10 Following “Land” and “No Man’s Land”, I conclude my week of theatrical “land” films with Best Picture winner “Nomadland”, the film I was looking forward to most of the three. The reason I was excited was due to writer/director/producer/editor Chloé Zhao. I hadn’t seen a single one of her films (this is her third) so I watched “Songs My Brothers Taught Me”, followed by “The Rider” and finishing up with this. All three of her features have a common thread of taking place in the Midwest and dealing with groups of people that elitist Hollywood doesn’t care about and often looks down upon. The indigenous people like Native Americans on reservations and white cowboy/rancher types whom often are just seen as a negative stereotype are given a voice. Besides the works of Taylor Sheridan and Chloé Zhao, these people are extremely underrepresented in mainstream Hollywood today. It’s so refreshing to have these two film makers tackle subject matter with groups of people in Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Arizona, Idaho, etc. as opposed to the cliché, repetitive and overused New York and California. Zhao’s films are so authentic that you’d think she grew up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, as opposed to China, where she hails from. Yet she understands the subjects she writes about and truly humanizes these wonderful people. Her films all have heart and despite being Chinese, has a better grasp on much more of America than many American writers/directors. “Nomadland” is bringing her the most acclaim in her career and even though I don’t think it is her strongest film, I am certainly glad she is becoming a bigger name and will have a chance to go mainstream by writing/directing a Marvel feature in the form of “The Eternals” this November. As someone born and raised in Arizona and who is in the process of purchasing a tiny house, “Nomadland” had some elements that felt very personal to me. Seeing glimpses of people’s lives, many of whom are grieving or suffering from all kinds of hardships ranging from loneliness to economic troubles to deteriorating health, is refreshing to see. Zhao uses real life people and not only actors in her films and in fact uses far more average Joes than professional actors, adding to the sense of realism and authenticity. I do have a few problems with this film but not many. The story is very thin (although in its defense, it is more about the lifestyle of the lead character than the plot) so there is never a big obstacle our protagonist has to overcome. I was waiting for some big, emotional moment to bring me to tears (which is rather easy to do in films that I watch) but nothing ever came to pass. So although the film has heart and we connect to our leading lady, played subtly and beautifully by Frances McDormand, we don’t see enough of her past and former life to feel heartbroken like she does. The film is a tad slow in some places too so a little trimming could have benefited the film. Overall though, the close ups of the cinematography paired with the natural lighting and all of the scenic shots of nature make this an absolutely gorgeous film. Ludovico Einaudi’s score is used sparingly (particularly in the first half of the film) and is absolutely gorgeous. Zhao is smart enough to not over saturate her films with music but knows the importance of silence and dialogue. When music is used, it is that much more memorable and powerful. Zhao is quickly rising as a film maker and has grown across the three films she has made. This film may not be for everyone but I am certainly thrilled that film makers like her have a voice so she can continue to represent more of the voiceless in America. I can’t wait to see what she does with a superhero film, a completely different undertaking than any of her previous works. If it is anything like “Nomadland” however, we are in for an emotional, heartfelt and authentic film to remember. Although I do not believe this was worthy of Best Picture, I am glad its Oscar wins bring recognition to Zhao. If you see this film, let me know and I’ll see you down the road…

#OnTheCanInTheVan / #LindaMayHelpYouOut / #GoFar / #PromisedNomadland / #FernAfterReading / #EmpireStateOfMind

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