Nomadland

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/27/21;
20th Century;
Drama;
Box Office $2.14 million;
$29.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for some full nudity.
Stars Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Bob Wells, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Tay Strathairn.

Director Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland gives audiences a gorgeous tour of the American West through the stark lens of the so-called “nomad” movement that popped up after the “Great Recession” of 2008.

The trend involves predominantly older individuals who, after their companies shut down, took to a minimalist, transient lifestyle, driving from city to city in vans and RVs in search of seasonal work to get by.

The film is based on journalist Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, which was optioned by Frances McDormand, who both co-produces and stars in the film. After being brought on board to direct, Zhao also wrote the screenplay and edited the film, in addition to serving as one of the co-producers as well.

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McDormand plays Fern, who has been living in a van since the US Gypsum plant in Empire, Nevada, closed in 2011 and the town was largely abandoned. She takes a variety of seasonal jobs, including at an Amazon fulfillment center, and begins to learn about the nomad lifestyle, which she refers to as being “houseless” but not homeless. The film plays almost like a documentary, with Fern as the focal point to bring the audience on the journey. Many of the people Fern encounters in the film are actual nomads, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, who were chronicled in Bruder’s book. Among them is Bob Wells, who acts as sort of the guru of the nomads and leads sermons on the lifestyle where he conveys his economic philosophies while people learn tips on how to survive on the road and keep their vehicles in working order. Through it all, the nomads are often compared to the pioneers of old. The film’s wisftul presentation of the vast landscapes they visit aptly demonstrates why the life might appeal to those engaged in it.

The film isn’t political or preachy, instead presenting the people and their lives as it finds them, and letting viewers come to their own conclusions. Some live the life out of necessity, with nowhere else to turn. Others live it by choice, not wanting to be bogged down by the rote requirements of suburban life. McDormand gives a quiet, unflinching performance as one of the latter, treating the natural wonders of America’s great outdoors as her playground, even when the harsh realities of her circumstances catch up to her.

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The film’s critical success comes at a fortuitous time for Zhao, whose next project is Marvel Studios’ big-budget Eternals, which is already in the can and slated for theaters Nov. 25.

The Nomadland Blu-ray includes a few modest but insightful extras. The 13-and-a-half-minute featurette “The Forgotten America” offers a general making of the film with several interviews with the cast and filmmakers, including Bruder. There’s also 15 minutes of footage from a Q&A with Zhao, McDormand and some of the nomads at the film’s drive-in premiere held Sept. 11, 2020, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., staged as a pop-up adjunct of the canceled Telluride Film Festival.

Finally, there are two deleted scenes totaling three minutes.

 

Disney’s ‘Nomadland’ to Bow in Theaters, on Hulu Concurrently

Borrowing a page from Warner Bros., Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures will simultaneously release the modern drama Nomadland, starring Oscar winner Frances McDormand, in theaters and on Hulu beginning Feb. 19.

The film festival favorite features McDormand as a middle age woman who leaves her rural Nevada town following economic collapse in van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. Due to the film’s storyline and five-state shooting locales, Nomadland will debut briefly in select Imax screens, beginning Jan. 29.

While Warner Bros. is releasing its entire 2021 theatrical simultaneously on HBO Max due to the pandemic, Disney is not streaming Nomadland on Disney+, choosing instead Hulu with 38 million subscribers. The longtime SVOD runner-up to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, has upped its profile and subscriber count in recent years with the release of award-winning original content (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and distribution agreement for edgier fare with Disney-owned FX.

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Last year at the begin of the pandemic, Hulu released indie film Palm Springs in select theaters and on its platform at the same time. Disney has slowly embraced digital-first (i.e. Disney+) distribution for erstwhile theater titles with Onward and Soul as the hamstrung domestic box office continued. It then offered live-action sequel Mulan exclusively on Disney+ for an additional $29.99 access price.

The trend finds Disney opting to move some of its smaller 2021 films to Disney+, including Peter Pan & Wendy, Pinocchio, and Raya and the Last Dragon, while keeping its Marvel tentpole movies Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals on its theatrical release slate.

“We think Soul, which was released on Disney+ on Christmas Day, likely drove substantial subscription growth for the service,” Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, wrote in a note.

 

‘Isle of Dogs’ Due June 26 on Digital, July 17 on Disc

Director Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs will be available for digital ownership (including Movies Anywhere) June 26 and on Blu-ray and DVD July 17 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film tells the story of Atari Kobayashi, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to vast Trash Island, Atari sets off in search of his bodyguard dog Spots. With the assistance of his newfound mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

The cast voicing the dog and human characters includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson and Frances McDormand.

The film earned $31.4 million at the domestic box office.

Special features on Blu-ray and digital include six featurettes, “Animators,” “Isle of Dogs Cast Interviews,” “Puppets,” “An Ode to Dogs,” “Magasaki City and Trash Island” and “Weather and Elements”; and image gallery; and the theatrical trailer.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Fox;
Drama;
Box Office $53.35 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.
Stars Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Zeljko Ivanek, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Clarke Peters.

Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards offers an intense, character-driven examination of the relationship between small-town police and the residents they serve.

Frances McDormand gives a powerhouse performance as Mildred, whose bitterness over the stalled investigation into her daughter’s murder motivates her to rent space on the billboards of the title excoriating the cops for their lack of progress.

This naturally raises tensions in the town, as supporters of the police demand she take the signs down while putting pressure on her friends and family to force her hand.

The police chief (Woody Harrelson), has his own issues to deal with, not the least of which is an alcoholic deputy named Dixon (Sam Rockwell), who is accused of torturing a black suspect in custody during an incident that allegedly happened before the start of the film’s story.

Three Billboards takes a multi-faceted view of cops’ racial attitudes in small-town America, and presents them as people and not as the caricatures some knee-jerk critics of the film would insist upon. Certainly the department must confront its troubled history of race relations, but the situation with Mildred might suggest they’re not great cops in general, or at the very least in over their head on some things.

Dixon, for example, has bigger dreams but little self-awareness, and his racism goes hand in hand with a general attitude of superiority about everyone, no doubt fueled by the toxic influences of his mother. His violent streak even extends to the white kid who sold the signs to Mildred and becomes the subject of a brutal beating in one of the film’s signature sequences — a single take of Dixon walking from the police station across the street to the advertising shop, up the stairs and back to admire the chaos of his handiwork.

Mildred and Dixon represent the opposing forces in the firestorm at the heart of the film, so it comes as little surprise that McDormand and Rockwell were among the most recognized performers of awards season.

The Blu-ray includes five deleted scenes running about seven minutes total that aren’t vital to the storylines but do offer some interesting additional character insights.

Also included is a comprehensive half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary in which McDonagh relates how seeing similar billboards on a tour of the American South inspired him to make the film. The featurette also includes a lengthy look at the making-of the single-take fight scene at the center of the film.

Finally, the disc offers McDonagh’s unrelated half-hour 2004 short film Six Shooter, which won the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short. The short stars Brendan Gleeson as a man on a train confronted with mortality and the foibles of the human condition.

Best Picture Winner ‘Shape of Water’ Among Oscar Honorees Ready to Score on Home Video

The Shape of Water won the big prize at the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony March 4, taking Best Picture among its four trophies, in addition to Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, Best Original Score and Best Production Design. The film is available now digitally and comes to Blu-ray and DVD March 13 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Fox’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won Best Actress for Frances McDormand (who previously won 20 years ago for Fargo) and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, available on disc and digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, won three Oscars — Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Best Actor went to Gary Oldman for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, available on home video from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The film also won best Makeup & Hairstyling, primarily for the work transforming Oldman into Churchill.

Best Supporting Actress went to Allison Janney for I, Tonya, which was released digitally March 2 and arrives on Blu-ray and DVD March 13.

Pixar’s Coco, available on home video from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, won Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me.”

Netflix’s Russian-doping documentary Icarus won Best Documentary Feature. It’s Netflix’s second-ever Oscar, after winning Best Documentary Short last year for The White Helmets.

Universal’s Get Out won Best Original Screenplay for Jordan Peele.

Sony Pictures’ Call Me by Your Name won for Best Adapted Screenplay for James Ivory, who became the oldest-ever Oscar winner at age 89.

Warner’s Blade Runner 2049 won two Oscars, for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins, his first win in 14 nominations.

Phantom Thread won for Best Costume Design. Universal releases the film digitally March 27 and on Blu-ray and DVD April 10.

A year following one of the biggest snafus in awards-show history, which saw the announcement of the wrong Best Picture winner, the Oscar ceremony offered a measure of atonement for presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (now marking the 51st anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde), who were brought back again to give out the top award of the night. This time things went off without a hitch, no doubt helped by envelopes with the correct categories written on them twice in big bold gold letters.

A complete list of winners is available at Oscars.com.