A Most Unentertaining Film

Source of pic: see wiki link below

Worst-title 2: How things look while you wait for American Dream death.

Worst-title 3: Pseudo-Review of the documentary Nomadland.

No. Seriously. Dear worst-reader. Nomadland has to be one of the most bizarre if not surreal movies ever. No. Seriously. I’d even compare it to the ending of 2001 Space Odyssey. You know. All the colourful mind-fcuk Stanley Kubrick did with the death (rebirth?) of Bowman. The only difference to Nomadland is that after the first ten or fifteen minutes of it my mind’s eye kept showing me images of worst-writer asking himself in front of a shiny, black monolith:

But. Wait. There’s no story here.

Or is there?

A few hours after watching it I came up with the following mind’s eye explanation for Nomadland. Are you ready? Here it goes.

This is the greatest master degree thesis submission in the history of #Americant university curricula that is Radio, Television & Film.

Does this mean I wouldn’t recommend the film? No. Stream it now, dear worst-reader. It’s actually kinda cool. I mean. It has no point. It has no story. It certainly doesn’t have any sex and violence or comic book value. But it is kinda cool. So what does it do for worst-writer? Ok. You asked for it. Buckle up buttercup.

First. Movies like this usually motivate worst-moi to read the book. You know, artsy-fartsy films. A film about vandwelling in a country like my beloved & missed #Americant, though, doesn’t motivate. Oscar nominations don’t motivate much either. I should add that I didn’t mind waiting for the film to be available via streaming, with or without Covid. So it took me a while, after its release, to get to it.

According to sources (Wiki), the author of the book is an “American author who writes about subcultures”. Ok. That’s fancy, I guess. Then there’s the inclusion of lots of real-life folk in the film. You know. The director only used a few seasoned actors. Which means the other characters weren’t characters at all but instead real people, filmed in their environment, which makes this film a documentary, IMHO. Am I wrong?

One of the biggest questions I have about the film is the director. This film certainly motivates me to watch some of her other work, but I’m not gonna rush out to do it. I will simply tip my worst-hat off to her for putting this subculture in a confused movie that is worth your while, if you like artsy-fartsy films.

Which brings me to McDormand. What a resume she has, eh! Oh, how being married to one of the Coen Brothers can make for great film making. Personally, I think she’s great in Raising Arizona, Burn After Reading and Three Billboards. But her crown jewel has to be Fargo where to this day, after so many years, I can still hear her Dakota accent and those boots crushing through frozen snow in every damn scene. That worst-said, for the life of me I can’t figure out what earns her an Oscar for Nomadland. The film earning an Oscar? Yes. But it’s a documentary. And she won best actress. Repeat: for best acting. In a documentary. Sarcasm off.

The thing that gets to me about this film is the confusion between content and context. Vandwelling is nothing new in my beloved & missed #Americant. When I was a kid (in the 1970s) the dream of every working-class stiff in rural bum-fcuk, redneck, white-trash #Americant, was going on a cruise or owning an RV. Heck, those who were able to manage the purchase, also managed to make an already ugly neighbourhood uglier with noodles and oodles of these massive car-houses on wheels parked in yards, on account they didn’t fit in driveways, rotting like everything else. Ah. The spoils of consume-to-survive post WW2 #Americant, eh. That RV living was replaced with van living only means that all those damn hippies in their VW Busses I guess did leave an impression (on society). Moving on.

Obviously an RV is different from living in a van–until one considers the ramification of Reaganism, which, ironically, according to worst-writer, the same cruise ship, RV, VW Bus people enabled and facilitated and thereby turned their nomadic dreams into the/a downtrodden van nightmare. Which brings me to the only scene in this film that stands out for having any dramatic, redeeming value.

While McDormand’s character is borrowing money from family to fix her broken substitute home (van=poor man’s RV), there is a conversation about real-estate. McDormand sits idly by while others discuss the potential of #Americant’s last hope to make money in the crooked and misaligned economy that is the before and aftermath of the great (2008) depression-recession. You know. The buying and selling of real-estate which always requires someone else’s money. During this conversation McDormand blurts out a question that goes something like this:

Why would you buying something that you can never own?

Good question, eh, dear worst-reader. The question is especially good when you consider this film is based on a book written by someone who specialises in subculture and it was directed by Chloé Zhao who is from China and has a not so uninteresting family. I mean. Remember the context here. This is a film slash documentary about #Americant and how it has fallen prey to the whims of having elected morons and greed mongers as political and economic leaders. Of course, being nomadic has nothing to do with being forced into poverty because you’re a fcuking idiot and you spend your entire life chasing after candy that’s being held in front of you by moneyed and political ideological interests. Candy that has never held a grain of truth. Come and get some, baby. Come and get some.

The thing this film fails-upwards at is replacing the obvious (poverty) with new-fangled imagery (nomads). Perhaps that’s what makes it charming. Yeah. I guess it’s charming to play around with the obviousness of what has given rise to #Americant. Is the obvious better interpreted through the book? Maybe. But. Like I wort-said. I’m not interested in reading it. I grew up in and around the subject matter tackled here. The problem worst-writer has with this film is its portrayal of generational wanton political and social ignorance and ineptitude that is well hidden, disguised, avoided. Instead. Everyone in this film wears that new-fangled #Americant symbol that has replaced the stars & stripes, the bald eagle, Rosie the Riveter. That new symbol is nothing less than the smiley-face. You know. That non-dimensional figure that has the for-ever forced human expression of having to cope with meaninglessness galore and never understanding how or why. Or something like that.

Rant on.

-T

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