‘Nomadland’ is a work of art (van, go)

“Nomadland”: Buy the ticket, take the ride.

We watched “Nomadland” last night via Hulu, and the verdict is two thumbs up.

It’s art, not journalism; for the latter, you’ll want to read Jessica Bruder’s book. But some real people from those pages get to participate in the telling of their story, and the pros are going to have to up their game after they see how well the amateurs hit their marks and delivered their lines.

Frances McDormand was excellent, as always. Swear to God, I’d watch her read from the Oklahoma City Yellow Pages. David Strathairn, who I’ve seen only in a few things (“Home for the Holidays,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and three episodes of “The Sopranos”), kept it dialed way down low as a kinda-sorta love interest with one foot in a van and the other in a house not his own.

The film is less about a new breed of migratory worker — older people who discovered too late that their nest eggs were actually stones, and then set about making stone soup — and more about a woman who thinks she maybe spent too much of her life “just remembering.”

It’s beautifully acted, shot and scored, neither glamorizes nor trivializes its subjects, and leaves you wondering just who is it that’s sleeping in that battered old Econoline in the big-box parking lot, where they’ve been and where they’re going, and what their dreams might be.

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15 Responses to “‘Nomadland’ is a work of art (van, go)”

  1. Dale Says:

    You mentioned David Strathairn. He narrates a series of videos produced by the Foreign Policy Association. The series is titled “Great Decisions” .

  2. Shawn Says:

    Remembering. Remembering that we always have more time to plan for the future. Remembering that we’re going to someday be happy and grow older. Remembering that life is pretty good and we can always live in a small house, in a trailer, in an RV, in our cars.

    Yes, I think about every parked car with blankets on the windows, a roof rack with a lot of worldly goods and a dog blanket sitting on the ground outside. I think about who they are and where they are from. Are they warm enough? Are they cool enough? How long will they be able to stay there before they are asked to depart? I think about them.

    Francis McDormand – The Katherine Hepburn of this time.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Odd how you don’t notice them until suddenly you do. And then you see them everywhere.

    • Sir Percival Prattlesworth Says:

      About time to read “Grapes of Wrath” by Steinbeck, or maybe just watch the film.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Ever read “Blue Highways?” That’s another keeper. What “Travels with Charley” could’ve been. Another wanderer, turned out on the road by a failed relationship and a lack of gainful employment.

      “Not Fade Away” by Jim Dodge is a fun one too, but fictional. So far as I know, anyway.

  3. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Thanks for the official Mad Dog okie dokie on the flick. I was already to watch it, now I can’t wait.

    Changing subjects un momento, por favor, I used the Sony for pix today on our hike. Are the ergonomics on that camera as bad as I think? Mine is getting close to the auction block. Has Hal still got his?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Ergonomics on the Sony are indeed bad, for me, anyway. And I wonder if they might be behind my camera’s tendency to turn itself on and off at will. Pressure in the right place at the right time will turn the camera on without hitting the power button. I only use it now around the house, where it’s unlikely to make me mad enough to repair it with the claw hammer.

      The service company Sony recommends doesn’t seem to know what “service” means. They have next to no useful info on the website, and they answer neither phone calls nor email. I won’t ship them a camera at my own expense and pony up more than $350 for their estimated repair before they tell me what I get for my money, time, and trouble.

      Meanwhile, Hal is shooting almost exclusively with his iPhone SE (2nd edition). I’m mostly using my 1st-edition SE for photography too.

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        I took some pix today of a flock of wild turkeys we saw on the hike today. They were not on the camera when I got home. My fat thumb hits the movie button by mistake or menus pop up cause I touched the round control wheel by mistake. Any subject that is slightly back lit causes the flash to fire even in bright outdoor light. I am going to make sure it works tomorrow and put it up for sale. My old Canon SD780 Digital Elph has never let me down and is all I need. By the way, the old maintenance engineer’s rule of thumb is if a repair is two thirds of the purchase price, don’t do it.

    • Dave Watts Says:

      Shooting with phones and tiny cameras. Yuck. Can’t do it. My wife has a tiny Canon from years back sans any sort of ergonomic considerations. She loves it because it is so small and fits in a pocket. I’m a pro dslr kinda guy, which I guess goes hand in hand of being an advanced amateur photog, which gains me no income whatsoever. Once you get used to the those good cams in the hand, you can’t really shoot with anything else ever again, if that’s what you’re outside to do.

      Carry one thing — a phone — that can do all things? I get it; I do. They’re incredible machines. But a decent dslr with a “kit lens” can now be had for a fraction of what phones cost, especially if you get a good deal on a refurb at the right time and price. Worth the money in my book.

      OK. That had nothing to do with what Patrick posted. Sorry. I guess I need to check out Nomadland.

      • B Lester Says:

        Don’t apologize, Dale, you’re spot on. From rangefinders to ttl slr to dslr we’ve had the goods. Phones are wonderful for their convenience, but I’d rather have the hardware.

        Of course, I was the kid with the darkroom in the basement.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        The best camera, as the fella says, is the one you have with you. Most of are already dragging camera-equipped phones around, and they’re even simpler than their operators. This makes both camera manufacturers and actual photographers crazy and short of funds.

        A DSLR is the shit for a serious shooter, for sure. But even the new ones are expensive, bulky and heavyish, and there are a lot of knobs and buttons and menus to navigate, and additional purchases required (lenses, filters, cases, flashes, etc.). And so if you’re not serious, well. …

        I’m not a photographer. I’m not sure exactly what I am, but I do know what I am not. I almost never go out with the goal of taking a photo of something. For me, photography has always played second fiddle to something else — like illustrating an article, when no real shooters were available, or a blog post. For the latter, when you’re shooting for a 96-dpi audience, having a pricey, cumbersome DSLR draped around your neck feels like composing a symphony for kazoo.

        Goddamnit, I do like technology, though. If I had even a starter DSLR like a Nikon D5600 or Canon EOS M50 II I’d use it. But lately I’ve been directing disposable income to audio gear, which frankly seems equally pointless. I could create my little podcast using the iPhone too, instead of using quality mics, interfaces, and recorders. And probably nine of of 10 listeners — if I ever get that many — would never notice the difference.

        • Pat O’Brien Says:

          I can only afford one hobby at a time. My last music equipment purchase was an Henriksen Bud 6. The reason I bought it was amazing performance for the size and simple controls. However, they ain’t giving them away.

  4. Tony Geller Says:

    David Strathairn is a fantastic actor and it’s worth seeking out anything he’s in, especially his work with John Sayles: Return of the Secaucus Seven (what the Big Chill should have been), Matewan (Union!), Eight Men Out (also Union!), Passion Fish, Limbo. After that you can work through the entire John Sayles oeuvre, books as well as movies.

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