Nebraska (Alexander Payne, 2013). My previous encounters with Payne have been mixed. I liked Sideways very much, disliked About Schmidt about as much as I liked Sideways, and have decent memories of Election. Nebraska is a bit schizophrenic. Payne and screenwriter Bob Nelson exhibit a level of contempt for most people (at least Midwesterners) that is tart but cruel enough to seem unfair. But the core characters (Bruce Dern as an old man, Will Forte as his son, June Squibb as his wife, and to a lesser extent, Bob Odenkirk as another son), while far from perfect, are allowed a depth that is never shown in the one-dimensional common folks of the rest of the movie. This is good news for Dern and Squibb, who received deserved acclaim for their work, and for Will Forte, who comes off like a natural. The small variations that are played on the relationships between those four keeps the film moving when “nothing” is actually happening, and Dern is a continuous marvel. Yet somehow I was more impressed than moved by it all. 7/10. If you want more Payne, I’ve noted above that I think Sideways is worth your time.
Sexy Evil Genius (Shawn Piller, 2013). When this movie ended, my first thought was that it wasn’t what I expected. Except I don’t know exactly what I did expect, and I’m not sure what I saw. It’s a dialogue-driven, low-budget “comedy thriller” without much actual comedy, and not much suspense, either. It plays like a less-pretentious version of David Mamet. Almost the entire movie takes place in a bar … there are a few brief flashbacks, and at one point two characters end up in the rest room, but otherwise, it’s just people sitting around a table drinking and talking. Four of the characters are people who have had, or are having, relations with the titular genius … the fifth character is Ms. Sexy Evil herself. The cast is geek heaven, even though I can imagine a scenario where a typical movie goer wouldn’t recognize a single name: Katee Sackhoff, Seth Green, Michelle Trachtenberg, Harold Perrineau, William Baldwin, even a cameo from Anthony Michael Hall, along with music from My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. Sackhoff doesn’t turn up in the bar until the movie is half-an-hour old, by which point her character has been built up to where no one could possibly match our expectations. I love Katee Sackhoff, think she’s v.sexy, and it’s fun that she played Evil. I liked watching her here. But she didn’t stand a chance. It’s a pleasant way to while away a Saturday evening, which is in fact when I watched it, and I wish it were better. 6/10.