About Schmidt, go see it, and then immediately afterwards, go see Nebraska. Alexander Payne's most recent homage to his home state has probably tied Philomena as my favourite Best Picture nominee this year, and I really, really did not expect that.
Payne directs, primarily, Bruce Dern and Will Forte to understated, eccentric, awkward - but not awkward laugh awkward - performances as a father and son on a Quixotic journey to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect a publisher's clearing house jackpot.
Shot entirely in black and white, the film follows the pair from Montana to Nebraska, and includes a longer-than-anticipated stay in Woody's (Dern) hometown. Feeling out of place, and realizing he's unfamiliar with many of the people and places in town, Woody lets slip about the jackpot, instantly transforming him into a local celebrity. As the debt collectors from his past crawl out of the woodwork, so, too, do people from Woody's past that his family either didn't know about, or thought were much less important than they actually were.
Despite everyone's insistence that he has not, in fact, won anything, Woody keeps hold of every last sliver of hope, until he finally reaches his destination, and is able to connect with his son enough to make him realize why the entire journey was so important in his last years.
This was the final movie we needed to see out of the nine Best Picture nominees, and it was a fine way to end the cycle. In a lesser year, it could very well challenge for more hardware, but it is, without doubt, a Top-10 movie, and a must-see on any list.
Best Actor - Bruce Dern
Best Supporting Actress - June Squibb
Best Cinematography - Phedon Papamichael
Best Director - Alexander Payne
Original Screenplay - Bob Nelson