Hulu scored a big win with Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland,” a shoe-in — or so it seems — in the Academy Awards race.
It was my selection of the second best movie of 2020 (after “Driveways”), when it got a limited release, and it tops our streaming picks this week, now that is available for everyone who subscribes to to Hulu. Our picks this week also include Rosamund Pike flashing her evil side again on Netflix, along with our find of the week: a quirky British comedy about a mom and son spending a summer together.
Here’s the rundown.
“Nomadland: What happens when your spouse dies, the industry town you live loses its industry and there’s no place to call home? If you’re resourceful Fern (Frances McDormand), you pack up a camper van and journey through America’s heartland, where you make fleeting, unforgettable friendships while working odd jobs. As she did with “The Rider,” filmmaker Chloe Zhao integrates real characters with fictional ones and the results here couldn’t be more insightful or emotionally wrenching. This haunting adaptation of Jessica Bruder’s nonfiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” shows Zhao to be a master at holding up a mirror to the faces of forgotten Americans. This is an elemental film in which everyday conversations and actions — and even gthe pauses the punctuate them — hold tremendous weight. It’s also the one to beat come Oscar time. Details: 4 stars out of 4; available Feb. 19 on Hulu.
“I Care a Lot”: Rosamund Pike does her “Gone Girl” unscrupulous best as a swindler who delights in wiping out bank accounts of the elderly. In this wickedly entertaining double crosser from director/screenwriter J Blakeson, Pike’s Marla Grayson is the epitome of pleated confidence with her sunglasses and blonde bob hairdo. But has she met her match in her latest target/ward (Dianne Wiest), who has ties to a local gangster (Peter Dinklage)? “I Care a Lot” coils and strikes like a snake as it slithers toward a shocking finale. Details: 3 stars; available Feb. 19 on Netflix.
“Breaking News in Yuba County”: How did “The Help” director Tate Taylor corral such an elite team of Allison Janney, Regina Hall, Mila Kunis, Awkwafina and so on for such a tone-deaf, relentlessly unfunny slapstick disaster? One look at the erratic screenplay from Amanda Idoko should have had this talented team running for the hills. Idoko channels Tarantino and John Waters and socks it to suburbia, yet the blows make no contact. The result is a belly flop of a film with Janney sputtering along as Sue Buttons, a clueless Yuba County resident who becomes a viral sensation after her philandering husband (Matthew Modine) has a fatal heart attack while having sex with someone else. She buries the body and then says he’s been kidnapped. Har, har. Drug baddies (including Awkwafina, in her worst performance yet) yell tortured lines before the obligatory yet unnecessary Tarantino-esque violence ensues. This is beyond terrible. Details: Zero stars; available to stream on, unfortunately, multiple platforms and playing in select theaters.
“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”: Not so long ago “SNL” characters landed starring roles in their own movies. Some were fun (“Wayne’s World,” “The Blues Brothers”), others were terrible (“It’s Pat,” “Coneheads”). “Barb and Star” was not an “SNL” skit but it sure feels like it was. It plays like a series of extended skits (some hilarious, others duds) strung together by a toilet paper script. The campy setup finds fired besties Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) escaping on a Florida beach where they fandango with a pretty-boy (Jamie Dornan) and wind up in the middle of murder plot that involves mosquitoes. It’s endlessly silly and if you surrender to it, you’re in for an amusing time. But there’s just not enough killer comedy to support the film’s 1 hour, 47-minue running time, despite terrific comedic performances from Wiig and Mumolo (who teamed on “Bridesmaids”). Details: 2½ stars; available on various platforms.
“Supernova”: Some have dismissed this indie as over-eager Oscar bait for leads Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth. Forget them. Writer/director Harry Macqueen’s gentle, quiet “road” picture poetically captures the crushing reality of watching your partner’s mind erode away from Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t sound like a fun night at the movies, for sure. But this is worth the watch: An intimate two-hander that structures itself around poignant, precious moments that are neither sweeping nor overly dramatic ones. Firth breaks your heart as Sam, the musically inclined husband of writer Tusker (Tucci). He’s plotted out a camper van trip to stop in on friends, family and places that the couple holds dear. Never does “Supernova” try to bite off more than it can handle as it winds toward an inevitable but beautifully rendered destination. Details: 3 stars; available on various platforms.
— Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]
Dan Carter was a reporter for nomad Labs, before becoming the lead editor. Dan has over forty bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to tech and science. Dan studied at CSUF.