Bad work karma has kept me away from this website, and I miss reaching out to my invisible friends.Just had to write to tell you, urge you, implore you to see Alexander Payne’s movie Nebraska (trailer here), with Bruce Dern and Will Forte. Dern is the aging dad who thinks he’s won a million dollars in a bogus sweepstakes and won’t be talked out of it.

The script spot-on captures the relations between parents and children and old married couples. Heartwarming, without being sappy. Moments of hilarity when we recognize ourselves. Reviewers who say Payne doesn’t like Nebraskans (he is one, after all) miss the whole point. People like the characters in the movie can be found everywhere, which is what gives the film its appeal.

Excellent performances from the large cast of the old man’s relatives and long-ago friends whose “congratulations!” come with a predatory gleam in the eye. (Rated 91 on the Tomatometer.)

Christopher Wallenberg interviewed Dern for the Boston Globe, and the actor—a top contender for an Academy Award Best Actor nomination and Best Actor winner at Cannes—says what he tried to do was find “real moments.” And find them he did. You can never be sure how much his character really hears or knows. More than he lets on, you may suspect. His son has the insight to look past the apocryphal sweepstakes win to see that what his father really wants is “something to live for.”

Forte plays a supporting role in both the film and the story, attuned to the possibilities of an impossible quest. Familiar to Saturday Night Live audiences, Forte nails this difficult role, making not only his character feel real, but also, by the self-effacing negative space he creates, enabling his cranky dad to become a fully realized, sympathetic person, too.  

Interesting that the film is shot in black and white, in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The scenes of that lovely country—plus one long shot of Mt. Rushmore—“OK, we’ve seen it, let’s go,” says the cantankerous old coot—lose nothing in the cinematographer’s soft greys and charcoals. I once worked with a brilliant photographer who only shot in black and white. When I asked why, she said, “My black and white looks like color.” So does Nebraska’s! See these inspired photos.