On Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" & a Christmas Without the Internet

So I happened to see the awesome/sad/hilarious film Nebraska, another classic by Alexander Payne, at a swanky art house theater (the Plaza Frontenac) in St. Louis before Christmas, but was unable to post anything about it, as I left the city the next day to travel to my mountain hideout in Colorado, only to discover that my ISP was malfunctioning, and basically all the holidays I had no internet. Yeah, sure, I could go to an “internet cafe” like every other terrorist in the world, but this is a tiny town in the Rocky Mountains, and twice when I did try to visit the local hippie coffee shop that has Wifi, it was closed. Ah well. So I lived without being online. Was my life made richer? Did the air smell better? The elk snort louder? The Great Horned Owls hoot more hauntingly? Did I enjoy the mountains any more than usual? (Usual being a state where I do have internet access up there, anywhere in the house, and even the yard.) Not really. I grouse about the internet but I think part of that grousing wears off in that I try not to let it take over my free time. But when I want it—mainly for business/communicating (as opposed to, say, online poker, which I eschew)—I want it, and it was irritating and annoying not to have it, rather than making me feel relieved to have all that extra free time. I set up a toy train set, like all good fathers have done since Jimmy Stewart played George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. I read the novellas of Jim Harrison in Brown Dog, and Chang-Rae Lee’s new novel On Such a Full Sea. And I played the old-timey board game Life, which has an astounding obsession with money, something I didn’t remember from my foggy childhood reveries.
But back to Nebraska. It’s ultimately sad and heart-breaking, as Bruce Dern plays a good man gone wrong and gone to seed & drink, but along the way of telling that story, Payne gives us his bawdy, awful wife/mother (to Will Forte, who does a good job as the caring son), and a couple of cousins who remind me of some ex-stepbrothers I had. Half the movie we were laughing hard, and the other half squirming in that Death of a Salesman kind of way, when you realize you are Willie Loman. See this movie. I liked Payne’s last film, The Descendants, but this was twice as good, more like the flip side of About Schmidt. Schmidt told the story of a moneyed man in his final years, while in Nebraska its about an ex-auto mechanic, husband of a beauty parlor operator.

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