Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

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mfunk9786
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Re: New Films in Production, v.2

#2 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:04 pm

That was quick! Wasn't she doing some comic book-ish thing?

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Re: New Films in Production, v.2

#3 Post by dda1996a » Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:12 pm

She is. I guess she's pulling off a Lowry and shooting something small in the interim

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Re: New Films in Production, v.2

#4 Post by Persona » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:26 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:04 pm
That was quick! Wasn't she doing some comic book-ish thing?
I feel skeptical that Zhao's version of The Eternals ever happens. Maybe a Solo type ordeal where Zhao gets replaced with some journeyman director after the start of production makes it clear that she won't be making the movie that Disney/Marvel want? I dunno. Just hard to image right now that Zhao is going to deliver something that really fits neatly into their precious MCU.

Anyways, very excited for Nomadland! Can't wait to see McDormand in something that isn't Three Billboards and I think she and Strathairn are great pairings with Zhao--at least as far as professional actors go, ha.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#5 Post by Never Cursed » Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:32 am

Been a while since I've seen any film, let alone a Serious Awards Contender, as aimless as this. I can't say I hated or even disliked it, if only because it's barely anything at all. McDormand and DP Joshua James Richards put in a lot of work trying to make this script seem meaningful or tonal or anything other than anemic, but they can't work around nonsense like the "Chekov's plates" scene (borrowing a phrase here) or any of the new age aphorisms or activities that would make Tom Waits' character in the Jarmusch zombie movie wince (hugging a tree! floating in the river naked! listening to the itinerant preacher of nomadism talk about the "tyranny of the dollar!"). Things register and maybe even work in the film from time to time - perhaps you would doubt me if I said one of the better scenes consists entirely of McDormand having diarrhea - but none of them, save a couple recurring references to Shakespeare and a quite lovely conversation concerning the ethos of one pained yet optimistic nomad, feel even a little systematic. Can't wait to watch this thing of no consequence get King's Speeched after winning multiple Oscars and dominating critical discourse for months.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#6 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:47 pm

My biggest issue with the film (and this is hardly an original thought and will likely be a point of many criticisms here and elsewhere if it hasn't already begun) is that the fusion between docu-posturing "realism" and forced dramatics is poorly handled. It's a bit ironic that the former attempts to capture Truth via non-professional actors work well enough at dictating a naturalist banality, the kind of authenticity that isn't dolled up in theatrics, and in the process this juxtaposition with professionals like McDormand and Strathairn reveals the intrusive nature of Zhao's shallow attempts at piercing this world in addition to sobering us to the artificiality of performance. McDormand and Strathairn aren't bad but neither was Glenn Close in Hillbilly Elegy, yet when these kinds of self-serious films are made as attempts to bridge its audiences closer to marginalized populations, context is everything, and while this film is packaged in a less grating and more digestible sell as 'toned-down authentic indie-fare', it actually bares more in common with Howard's offensive film than it thinks. They're both working as Oscar-bait, exploiting groups for the purpose of giving liberal elite moviegoers an opportunity to indulge in self-gratification for getting one step closer to empathizing with a population they'll forget about tomorrow, but this film is able to hide that better and become more socially acceptable in the critical stratosphere because it isn't as loudly transparent as Elegy. Zhou's film is also better, but that's not a high bar.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#7 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:56 pm

Matthew Porterfield actually did a very impressive job fusing real-life elements and dramatized filmmaking in Putty Hill, and I was told his other work does the same as well. I remember he was very critical of Winter's Bone for how it portrayed (or used? can't remember) a white, working class community. He's never attained a greater audience beyond the niche he's had, but his work deserves more attention.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#8 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:11 pm

See, Winter's Bone worked for me because it used a noir structure (and mostly professional actors, though you'd never know it!) to tackle universal acute motivators and behavioral impulses like determination and sacrifice, while Nomadland seemed a bit too steeped into its specific milieu to evoke some greater meaning. I have no doubt other filmmakers have pulled it off better, and Zhao deserves some slack since the effect this has isn't intentional and it's not an easy blend to strike, though to some degree this is just a "me" problem, since most audiences are going to eat this up.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#9 Post by ianthemovie » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:32 pm

I didn't see this film as exploitative of its subjects. It recognizes their full humanity, allows them plentiful opportunities to share their own experiences/viewpoints in their own words, and avoids the impulse to reduce them to suffering bodies. It is also to the credit of the film that it allows for a range of different responses to (and shows a range of different ways of practicing) "nomadism," with some people seemingly doing it out of necessity and others seemingly by choice, and still others (like Fern) for a mix of reasons. The movie does acknowledge the role that capitalist systems play in this phenomenon, but I didn't see it as a social-problem picture where the point is usually to single out an issue that needs to be solved and then tell us exactly how to feel about it for two hours. By the end the film has become much more of a personal or philosophical story about Fern trying to figure out her direction and her place, while leaving room for a fair amount of ambivalence around that.

As for Zhao's use of professional actors alongside non-professionals... I suppose some could question the ethics of this, but I'd argue that (considering that Zhao has thus far set out to make scripted narrative films rather than straight documentaries) it needs actors of the caliber of McDormand in order to work. I disliked The Rider precisely because the material was unremittingly miserable to begin with and the non-professional cast simply could not elevate it. This one benefits enormously from McDormand's screen persona. Would the movie be more "authentic" without her? Maybe, but I suspect it would be far less watchable.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#10 Post by aox » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:41 pm

ianthemovie wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:32 pm
I didn't see this film as exploitative of its subjects. It recognizes their full humanity, allows them plentiful opportunities to share their own experiences/viewpoints in their own words, and avoids the impulse to reduce them to suffering bodies. It is also to the credit of the film that it allows for a range of different responses to (and shows a range of different ways of practicing) "nomadism," with some people seemingly doing it out of necessity and others seemingly by choice, and still others (like Fern) for a mix of reasons. The movie does acknowledge the role that capitalist systems play in this phenomenon, but I didn't see it as a social-problem picture where the point is usually to single out an issue that needs to be solved and then tell us exactly how to feel about it for two hours. By the end the film has become much more of a personal or philosophical story about Fern trying to figure out her direction and her place, while leaving room for a fair amount of ambivalence around that.

As for Zhao's use of professional actors alongside non-professionals... I suppose some could question the ethics of this, but I'd argue that (considering that Zhao has thus far set out to make scripted narrative films rather than straight documentaries) it needs actors of the caliber of McDormand in order to work. I disliked The Rider precisely because the material was unremittingly miserable to begin with and the non-professional cast simply could not elevate it. This one benefits enormously from McDormand's screen persona. Would the movie be more "authentic" without her? Maybe, but I suspect it would be far less watchable.
I agree with this. I caught it this week and I thought it was one of the better movies this year. If nothing else, Frances McDormand proves yet again why she is an American treasure and was a pleasure to watch for two hours. What I most liked about the film (besides the use of natural light and FD's performance) is that the director didn't abuse her characters. She didn't pummel them ruthlessly and allowed them to exist on their own terms and on their own ground. There were so many opportunities for this to go for a cheap easy shock at almost every turn and the temptation is never utilized. I know it may sound weird to commend a film for not doing something, but I found the direction very mature. I'm looking forward to catching this again.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#11 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:48 pm

Perhaps it would be fairer to say it’s exploiting our desire to get closer to these groups. I agree that the film was conscientious to the ‘real’ subjects’ humanity but the contrast with professional actors, camera lingering to affect us primarily from their experiences after introducing non-professional participants, was more obviously artificial because we knew that to be the case. I’m just as much a fan of the manipulative aspects of cinema as the next guy, empathizing within a clearly constructed narrative, but this was far less watchable for me because of that bifurcation that reflected unavoidable attention to inauthenticity. Again, this is a ‘me’ problem, but it was tougher to watch the camera follow McDormand around feeling feelings after achieving an intrusive sober awareness that she’s acting and not one of the group. The irony is that venturing to achieve authenticity in incorporating real people wound up taking me right out of the movie. Maybe I’m alone.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#12 Post by tehthomas » Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:47 pm

Nomadland is at times boring and there really isn't much at risk for Fern as we learn
SpoilerShow
that her roaming lifestyle is something she could escape at least twice in this film
as she is a monk and the van is her temple. The boomers roaming the desert made me think "How it started: Easy Rider, How it's going: Nomadland" as this and certain Florida retirement communities seem to be the logical end of the hippie-boomer life cycle. The shots of the van roaming these beautiful, desolate landscapes are probably the highlights of the film which, visually, is quite stunning and the film's best asset.
Last edited by tehthomas on Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#13 Post by aox » Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:47 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:48 pm
Perhaps it would be fairer to say it’s exploiting our desire to get closer to these groups. I agree that the film was conscientious to the ‘real’ subjects’ humanity but the contrast with professional actors, camera lingering to affect us primarily from their experiences after introducing non-professional participants, was more obviously artificial because we knew that to be the case. I’m just as much a fan of the manipulative aspects of cinema as the next guy, empathizing within a clearly constructed narrative, but this was far less watchable for me because of that bifurcation that reflected unavoidable attention to inauthenticity. Again, this is a ‘me’ problem, but it was tougher to watch the camera follow McDormand around feeling feelings after achieving an intrusive sober awareness that she’s acting and not one of the group. The irony is that venturing to achieve authenticity in incorporating real people wound up taking me right out of the movie. Maybe I’m alone.
I can completely understand this viewpoint. Out of curiosity, how do you feel about some of the Italian Neorealist films who blended professional with non-professional actors? The one off the top of my head would be Rossellini's, Rome, Open City.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

#14 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:50 pm

I don't mind those, but I also have a harder time detecting a difference. Part of it is certainly the variable of star power- I know almost the entirety of McDormand's body of work, and the recognition of her star power shatters that perception of authenticity (I also think that while I think she's a terrific actress, her perf in Three Billboards left a sour taste in my mouth and seemed to be preying on sympathy in a really grimy way, which is more of McDonagh's fault but nonetheless drew a link to her perf here, which seems to be doing the same thing in how it's captured by the camera, just in an inverted nonconfrontational way). Your point is a good one- I'm not convinced that, say, a person outside (or inside) of the U.S. who has less familiarity with McDormand would have the same issues as I do.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

#15 Post by knives » Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:52 pm

Have you seen Zhao’s other films? I think you might have a different reflection if you had started with any of them.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#16 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:00 pm

I just finished watching this now. (MoMA is streaming it.) It doesn't strike me as exploitive - I saw The Rider and the strengths feel similar. (I actually liked the non-professional performances in The Rider - the cast here is good too but The Rider is even more impressive given that its main cast had no acting experience whatsoever.) Bob Wells is unsurprisingly a real-life figure playing himself (I looked him up and confirmed that hunch) - he's not a guy I follow, but I was more interested in how and why these characters listened to him. It doesn't matter if you don't buy into his philosophy, it's more about why it got across to so many. Some of the film's own philosophical implications are intriguing - in addition to the astute observations of socioeconomic marginalization, they evoke a cosmic marginalization that impressively doesn't feel dippy or out of place. But there's a sentimental streak here that I don't recall in The Rider, and it can make the film seem shallow. And I'm not sure it ties everything together when we find out how and why so much of Fern's life is by her own choice - I'm still processing that, hoping there's more to it, but for now it feels too prosaic to be really edifying.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

#17 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:01 pm

knives wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:52 pm
Have you seen Zhao’s other films? I think you might have a different reflection if you had started with any of them.
I saw The Rider and I liked Nomadland more than that.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

#18 Post by knives » Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:05 pm

Now I’m curious to hear more. I thought it was very well done.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#19 Post by domino harvey » Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:08 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:00 pm
I just finished watching this now. (MoMA is streaming it.) It doesn't strike me as exploitive - I saw The Rider and the strengths feel similar. (I actually liked the non-professional performances in The Rider - the cast here is good too but The Rider is even more impressive given that its main cast had no acting experience whatsoever.) Bob Wells is unsurprisingly a real-life figure playing himself (I looked him up and confirmed that hunch) - he's not a guy I follow, but I was more interested in how and why these characters listened to him. It doesn't matter if you don't buy into his philosophy, it's more about why it got across to so many. Some of the film's own philosophical implications are intriguing - in addition to the astute observations of socioeconomic marginalization, they evoke a cosmic marginalization that impressively doesn't feel dippy or out of place. But there's a sentimental streak here that I don't recall in The Rider, and it can make the film seem shallow. And I'm not sure it ties everything together when we find out how and why so much of Fern's life is by her own choice - I'm still processing that, hoping there's more to it, but for now it feels too prosaic to be really edifying.
Isn’t it on Hulu? You could have saved some $$$

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#20 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:23 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:08 pm
Isn’t it on Hulu? You could have saved some $$$
I don't have Hulu, but I still have my MoMA membership (it was apparently extended due to the pandemic-related closure). All films streamed through MoMA are only available to members and at no extra charge.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2019)

#21 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:27 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:00 pm
Some of the film's own philosophical implications are intriguing - in addition to the astute observations of socioeconomic marginalization, they evoke a cosmic marginalization that impressively doesn't feel dippy or out of place. But there's a sentimental streak here that I don't recall in The Rider, and it can make the film seem shallow. And I'm not sure it ties everything together when we find out how and why so much of Fern's life is by her own choice - I'm still processing that, hoping there's more to it, but for now it feels too prosaic to be really edifying.
This is a much nicer way to get across how I feel about it, well said. I should clarify that I did find the strength you point to interesting, and overall liked the movie on my first watch, but a few weeks later it's dwindling in esteem towards its flaws.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

#22 Post by aox » Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:30 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 3:50 pm
I also think that while I think she's a terrific actress, her perf in Three Billboards left a sour taste in my mouth
And, despite my praise for her earlier in the thread, I am with you here. I am in the minority where I didn't find really anything redeeming the two times I watched Three Billboards. I know it is mostly loved around here, and I have read the defenses in that thread, so I get why people responded positively to it. I thought her performance in that film was "ugly", but figured that was part of the appeal.

And yes, for anyone reading, Nomadland is streaming on Hulu and obviously I think it is worth your time even if it doesn't work for you.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

#23 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:42 pm

Yeah I enjoy McDormand but if she wins her third Oscar for this, I'll be pretty disappointed. Best Actress seems to be the most (only?) compelling category this year, with the best performance unexpectedly leading on Goldderby- though I'm not optimistic about Carey Mulligan holding onto that, and Kirby and Zendaya would both be worthy wins as well.

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

#24 Post by Never Cursed » Tue Feb 23, 2021 6:59 pm

aox wrote:
Tue Feb 23, 2021 5:30 pm
I am in the minority where I didn't find really anything redeeming the two times I watched Three Billboards. I know it is mostly loved around here, and I have read the defenses in that thread, so I get why people responded positively
I... was under the impression that the vast majority of the forum disliked or even hated Three Billboards. Wasn't it more or less just Altair, Chris, TMDaines, and the dearly departed rohmerin that had anything nice to say about it?

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Re: Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

#25 Post by nitin » Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:26 pm

(Puts hand up as someone that quite likes Three Billboards)

My take on this was similar to heartsilence's, I am not really sure I see the exploitation or the criticism that it’s exploiting our desire to get closer to these groups. To a certain extent arent most movies aiming to get you close to the characters in some way?

It is though, as heartsilence says, a lot more sentimental than The Rider, a film I thought was much better and one of my favourites from the last few years. The sentimentality also feels a little unearned to a certain extent, mainly because a lot of it is brought about by somewhat clunky dialogue or voiceover.

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