Oscars 2014 Best Picture Nominee 'Nebraska'

Local funnyman Bob Nelson hits the big time with Alexander Payne’s 'Nebraska'
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!--paging_filter--pAs “Psychic Bob” on Seattle’s long-running sketch comedy show emAlmost Live/em (which ran 1984–1999), cast member Bob Nelson played an ersatz prognosticator who could make only the most obvious predictions (“In 1998, Hooters will continue to attract a mostly male clientele”). As an announcer in a sketch about the Low-key Baseball Network (“For people who like to watch baseball, but perhaps they don’t care for all that noise”), he became catatonic when describing home runs. “I always played low-key people or dumb guys,” Nelson says. brbrBut now, in what is perhaps the apotheosis of against-type triumphs, the humble, unassuming, super-nice Whidbey Island resident has become a successful writer in the shark tank of Hollywood. Nelson, 57, a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvW_DmfKfSk" target="_blank"wrote the script for the much-anticipated movie /aema href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvW_DmfKfSk" target="_blank"Nebraska/a /em(opening November 22), directed by Alexander Payne (emSideways /emand emThe Descendants/em). Chosen as the opening film for the Vancouver Film Festival in September, Nebraska has been gathering buzz since its premiere at Cannes, where it garnered a 10-minute standing ovation, as well as a Best Actor award for its star, Bruce Dern. brbrNelson was born in South Dakota, but his parents both grew up Nebraska, so it seems only fitting that he would choose that state as the setting of his story about a son’s desire to get to know his father. The movie tells the story of Woody Grant (Dern), a former mechanic who is suffering possibly from dementia and most certainly from the effects of alcoholism, as he sets out from his home in Billings, Montana, to walk to Lincoln, Nebraska, convinced by a piece of junk mail that he is “already a winner” in a million-dollar sweepstakes. He doesn’t get far before he’s picked up by the police, after which his son David (Will Forte ofem Saturday Night Live/em) agrees to drive him to Lincoln. With a dead-end job and nothing better to do, David hopes to show his dad the folly of his enterprise.brbrNelson says he didn’t want to make a typical father-son buddy movie. “I tried to figure out how to elevate the idea,” he says. While the movie doesn’t recapitulate his exact relationship with his father,nbsp; who was a functional alcoholic, art does imitate life to some degree. “Nebraska is more of a poem to my father, a way to honor him and others who have gone through war (and by extension, other tribulations) and come back wounded in ways we can’t see,” he says. “People have to figure out how to deal with loved ones who have addictions every day, I’m making a plea in the movie for as much compassion and understanding as possible.”brbrTen years ago, Nelson showed his script for Nebraska to Julie Thompson, a Los Angeles producer who was in town to work on The Eyes of Nye (the Bill Nye show for which Nelson was a performer and writer). She showed it to her colleague, Ron Yerxa, who had coproduced Alexander Payne’s Election. Yerxa showed the script to Payne, who is from Omaha, and asked if he knew any young directors from the Midwest who might be willing to cut their teeth on a really good low-budget movie, which typically costs about $2 million to make. According to Nelson, Payne said, “How about if I direct it, and how about if we do it for a little more than $2 million?” (Final price tag: about $13 million.)brbr“Alexander Payne likes bittersweet stories that reflect both the joys and sorrows of real life and real people,” Nelson says. “And he loves Nebraska. The producers liked the characters, and they liked that Woody has a clear-cut goal that propels the story, and in a more subtle way, so does David. It is character-driven, but there is a real purpose to their journey.”brbrNot every script that is optioned makes it to the big screen, and 10 years is a long time to wait. During that time, Nelson was a writer for Comedy Central and Fox television, and continued writing screenplays, rewriting over and over until they are as terse and poignant as the script for Nebraska. “When I tell film students I go through my scripts at least 50 times after the first draft, I see many sad faces,” he says. One of his scripts, an adaption of the French film emIntimate Strangers/em, is in development at Paramount, and he’s working with Chris Rock on an adaptation of the French film La première étoile.brbrNelson says his years spent writing short sketch pieces proved beneficial to his screenwriting. “I’d been trained by the brevity of sketch to be lean and economical in the writing,” he says. “Working in sketch also gave me some clue as to whether the humor would work.” brbrWhen he was first getting the hang of it, Nelson learned by reading other people’s scripts—one of which happened to be Payne’s Election. Back then, he never dreamed that one day he’d be working with the director. “For me to think that Alexander Payne would be the one to direct Nebraska would have been pretty delusional.”/p

The Must List: Angel Olsen, A Moveable Feast, The Pajama Game

The Must List: Angel Olsen, A Moveable Feast, The Pajama Game

What to do in Seattle in the weeks ahead
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Singer/songwriter Angel Olsen plays the Neptune this Saturday

Must Get Tickets
Angel Olsen
(2/18, 9 p.m.) Asheville, North Carolina-based Angel Olsen’s 2016 third album, My Woman, was recorded as an experiment, the singer/songwriter told Spin, a response to “the complicated mess of being a woman.” A composite of styles ranging from gritty, lo-fi, Kinks-esque pop to somber country noir to the Lana Del Rey-indebted “Intern,” the album was well received by critics, many calling it her best yet. But it’s her voice that occupies the biggest spotlight on it: aching, smoldering vocals somewhere between Sharon Von Etten and Deborah Harry, just as distinctive, just as captivating. Likely SOLD OUT. Neptune Theatre, stgpresents.org

Must Love Paris
A Moveable Feast
(Through April 2, 8 p.m.) Two theatrical venues both alike in vision, full of sound and fury, signifying a delectably entertaining evening of spectacle and dining. And each actor and waiter plays their part. Café Nordo joins forces for the first time with Book-it Repertory Theatre to transport audiences back to 1920s Paris, where Ernest Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast comes to life. Audiences will have a dinner date with struggling young Hemingway as he rubs elbows in the salon of Gertrude Stein at 27 rue de Fleurus with the likes of Sylvia Beach, Aleister Crowley, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Watch the literary drama unfold while a four-course meal underscores the action onstage. Prices vary. Book-It Repertory Theatre, book-it.org 

Must Get Fit
JAG x Fitcode Denim Fit Lab
(2/18, 12 p.m.-5 p.m.) A good pair of jeans is hard to find! Enter styling and consulting experts, Styled Seattle, who are partnering with JAG Jeans and Fitcode at Westfield Southcenter’s My Style Suite (Level 1, next to Aveda) to help you find your best fitting pair yet. JAG Jeans offers sizes from petite 0–24W in a variety of cuts, while Fitcode technology helps women find their best fit with a short questionnaire, measurements need not apply. The event includes discounts on JAG Jeans, as well as a chance to schedule a session with a Styled Seattle professional. Best of all, it’s free! westfield.com/southcenter/events/all-events

Must Remember
Year of Remembrance: Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner
(2/17 through 2018) On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing the Secretary of War to prescribe certain areas as military zones. This cleared the way for the forced removal and internment of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans. The Wing Luke Museum’s new exhibit, Year of Remembrance: Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner, examines the historic and contemporary issues of racism, discrimination and human rights through the artwork of Roger Shimomura and the poetry of Lawrence Matsuda. The show’s goal is to shed a light on injustice that’s inflicted upon American groups who are ethnically, religiously or racially diverse. The time and the players are different but the events of yesterday are eerily similar to today. Times and prices vary. Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, wingluke.org/year-remembrance

Must Pillow Fight
The Pajama Game
(Through 3/5, times vary) A 7.5-cent pay raise is at the center of a conflict between management and the workers in the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory in this triple Tony Award winner. A sensational Seattle cast stars in the musical that defined Bob Fosse’s signature style with seductive dance numbers like “Steam Heat” and “Hey There.” You’ll have stars in your eyes. Prices vary. 5th Avenue Theatre, 5thavenue.org