Monday, October 17, 2016

Seen on the Small Screen in Nebraska

Whenever possible in these state films posts, I write about films that are both set and filmed in the state we’re visiting. In some states there aren’t enough such films to write about.

A number of films supposedly set in Nebraska aren’t filmed there (such as Heaven is for Real, which was filmed in Canada). But chiefly due to the efforts of one filmmaker, Alexander Payne, Nebraska has plenty of films for our purposes. Payne is an Omaha native who’s been nominated for Oscars for directing; and he’s won two Oscars for screenwriting. Over half of his feature films are set in Nebraska.

One of the screenplays that wasn’t Oscar nominated, but did win the Golden Globe for screenwriting, was About Schmidt. Jack Nicholson starred as Warren Schmidt in this droll 2002 comedy about an insurance executive who retires and begins to search for meaning in his life. It is a road film in a Winnebago. All the Nebraska locations were filmed in Nebraska -- even some of the Kansas and Colorado scenes were filmed in Nebraska. The film includes a sequence in the Great Platte River Road Monument, a popular state tourist attraction. And even the insurance office where the fictional Schmidt, Woodmen of the World, is an actual company headquartered in Omaha.

About Schmidt has a number of elements that fit well in Movie Churches. There is a funeral in a Lutheran Church. The minister tries to provide good counseling, assuring Schmidt that he can be angry at God. There’s also a wedding in a church, complete with Noel Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song.” But the most unique spiritual element in the film is Schmidt’s decision to sponsor an African child. The program in the film is Child Relief, but it seems to be modeled after Plan International. There are a number of such programs, like GlobalFingerprints (which we recently wrote about).

You may be surprised to learn that Payne’s film, Nebraska (which was nominated for 2013’s Best Picture Oscar) was set and filmed in Nebraska. It tells the story of another old man who made a trip. Bruce Dern (nominated for the Best Actor Oscar) plays the man who makes the journey from Montana to Nebraska in an attempt to collect sweepstakes winnings. June Squibb, the same actress who played Schmidt’s wife in About Schmidt, plays Dern’s wife in Nebraska.

Payne set and filmed two other features in Nebraska, both political satires. Payne’s first feature film, 1996’s Citizen Ruth, starred Laura Dern as a pregnant woman who finds herself in the middle of a fight between pro-life and pro-choice forces. 1999’s Election starred Matthew Broderick as a high school teacher who rigs a student council election to the detriment of a too perfect honor student (Reese Witherspoon’s star making performance.)

Besides Payne, other filmmakers have set and filmed features in Nebraska to some acclaim. Terms of Endearment, the 1983 winner of the Best Picture Oscar, makes great use of locations in Lincoln (including the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.) James Brooks also won Oscars for his writing and direction of the film, and Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson also won acting Oscars.

2009’s Up in the Air was nominated for a number of Oscars, including Best Picture, direction (Jason Reitman), writing (Reitman), and acting Oscars (for George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anna Kendrick) though it didn’t have a win. But scenes were filmed in Omaha.

1991’s The Indian Runner didn’t earn any Oscar nominations, but it did earn critical acclaim for the film’s writer and director, actor Sean Penn. The story of two brothers who love each other but can’t get along was filmed in Omaha and Plattsmouth.

Finally, one more Oscar winner, 1938’s Boys Town. Spencer Tracy won an Academy Award for playing Father Flanagan, the priest who founded a home for at risk boys. Filmed at Boys Town (and in the MGM studios), the film brought international attention and support to Flanagan’s work. (A sequel, 1941’s Men of Boys Town, was not a success.)

No comments:

Post a Comment