Nomadland ½

every single year we arrive at the shallow end of the filmmaking pool known as awards season, and every single year there's a movie (or several) exactly like nomadland. a touristic faux-docudrama vehicle for the most banal form of misery porn, presenting itself with all the deliberately-adorned signifiers of 'authenticity' and 'deeply-felt emotion' that endear this insidious genre of film to a dishwater-dull critical audience desperate to see any portrait of society that vaguely acknowledges that weird and esoteric concept known as 'economic hardship'.

given that we're currently in a global depression the likes of which hasn't been seen since the 1930s, you'd figure that it wouldn't be exceedingly difficult for director chloe zhao to articulate at the very least an acceptably-mediocre 108-minute shard of centrist pandering that's sure to endear itself to even embittered leftists like myself with typically grandiose gestures of quiet empathy and vague political overtures. and for those with low expectations, that's definitely all here! there's wistful shots of the rural american landscape, sketches of ramshackle precariat society, and carefully-considered brush-strokes of 'ugliness' & physical revulsion, with our beloved frances mcdormand going out of her way to prove that, hey, even academy award-winning actresses can defecate in buckets!

but, of course, it's all bullshit, all a self-conscious hand-waving at some ethereal notion of 'the times we live in' and 'aren't things hard when you're poor?' and, in a particularly strange and pernicious move: 'weren't things so great before 2008?'. the white-washing of capitalist america's 'artistic' relation to economic hardship embodied in nomadland's itinerant white-working class is nothing new, of course, but that doesn't mean its romanticization of exploitation in amazon warehouses isn't also exceedingly irritating, especially when emerging from an acclaimed chinese-american director, who you'd maybe hope would be better than this sort of cheap nonsense (but we continue to be disappointed, given her future marvel studios pedigree).

much like the earlier derision faced by ron howard's inane work on hillbilly elegy, nomadland is actively invested in patronizing its audience of listless moviegoers, assuming that we're all so easily-pleased by the 'genuineness' of nomadland, how timely it is, how mighty its sentiments are, how capital-A artful it seems. but... it's not any of those things. what this histrionic film's efforts amount to is simply a colorless circus-tent of poverty-row pageants, cynically composed for an critical crowd that it clearly has nothing but contempt for, but who, because of the COVID-stricken state of cinema, will lap it up anyway like starving pigs led to a trough.

our precious time on this wounded planet is being wasted by this faux-populist garbage. hollywood thinks we are hopeless morons and they'll continue to churn out hundreds of nomadlands as long as we keep accepting that this trash is somehow legitimate. stop rewarding the artistic exploitation of poverty, stop giving films like this acclaim, stop being such an easy fucking mark for the bare minimum of quality that these companies are willing to make for you. they make films like nomadland for awards, and they'll get those awards regardless of us, but this website isn't a corporate shithole like rotten tomatoes, we don't have to be a part of the bourgeois critical establishment, we can be better, we SHOULD be better.

please, i beseech you: get some better standards before you even consider giving a worthless drama like this five stars, please do yourself that favor, give yourself more credit than this film expects of you, please use your incredible mental faculties to be better than the bottom-line of oscarbait.

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