Film Review: Steve Jobs - by Wade Sellers

Michael Fassbender as the Apple Computers co-founder in Danny Boyle's new film Steve Jobs. by Film Editor Wade Sellers

There was a time that being allowed to see backstage at a concert, movie set or a performer’s personal life for those not in the entertainment industry was a magical and special moment. Just hearing the words “behind-the-scenes” brought chills. We were getting to see the “real” life behind the show. Now, it is a marketing must-do. The magical, never-seen moments don’t exist anymore. A tour of a home is a promotional tool, footage of models changing or dancers stretching part of the marketing package. Every live concert event offers, at an insanely steep cost, the opportunity to take part in this exclusive backstage, one-on-one experience.

Since the death of Steve Jobs, there have been many fictional and non-fictional attempts to offer the world a glimpse behind-the-scenes of his life. Many books and movies that offer us a look at the “real” world and history of a man who was the leader of late 20th century cultural and technological change. So when Danny Boyle read Aaron Sorkin’s brilliantly written script Steve Jobs, he must have experienced simultaneous ecstasy and panic at the chance to tell this story of Jobs’ life.

Sorkin loves dialogue. His career highlights such as The West Wing, A Few Good Men, and The Social Network are known in most casual conversations as really good television and film. But each has a lot of dialogue. A lot of words are an actor’s dream and sometimes a director’s nightmare. These Sorkin scripts had directors who knew how to wrap their creative arms around Sorkin’s words, keep it focused, understand its cadence and let the actors have their fun. Danny Boyle wraps his experienced and well-versed arms around Sorkin’s screenplay and delivers a solid film from what on the page must seem dangerously close theater. Boyle’s personal bridge of experience in theater and filmmaking is the film’s greatest strength.

The film takes place in three acts. Each act directly precedes three product launches that Jobs was responsible for; the Mac (1984), NEXT (1988), and the iMac (1998). These three vignettes are blocked backstage, behind the curtains of the venue each product is being launched in. There is constant movement backstage. Stress is high and each movement and line delivery of the actors is kinetic.  We feel the energy and movement as if we are there at each venue. Each act is filmed with cameras that are appropriate for the time; heavy grained film stock, cleaner film stock and digital. It is a choice by Boyle that seems a bit self-gratuitous. The transitions between each act are separated by appropriate historical news clips and voice overs that hurriedly transition us from the previous year to the present. This is not the most original of creative options, but at least it wasn’t a spinning clock. The real directorial strength comes from Boyle’s willingness to trust a certain playfulness with his cast.

Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Inglorious Basterds) takes on the role of Jobs. He embraces all of the characteristics that we have been told about Jobs—the lack of empathy, the narcissism, the incredible creative focus—and mixes them with his own interpretation of the man. Jobs was a very visible person. His speech and mannerisms are well-known and Fassbender has no interest in mimicry. Always at his side throughout the film is Kate Winslet (Titanic, Revolutionary Road) playing Job’s confidant Joanna Hoffman. It is the perfect role for Winslet, taking full advantage of her talent for dialect and maturity as actor, as evidenced in the film’s final act with her matriarchal ultimatum to Jobs. Winslet stands out in a crowded field of talent. A narrative thread binding each act is the appearance of Job’s daughter Lisa and her mother backstage during each launch. Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardin play Lisa at the ages of four, eight and nineteen, with each young actress capably taking on the character’s growth. This narrative is an interesting choice for the film. The tepid relationship he has with his daughter seems to exist as a manifestation of Job’s struggle with his own adoption, to humanize him. Early on Jobs denies that he is her father, but the relationship grows over the course of the film to suggest that Lisa has been Job’s muse throughout. That Jobs’ inspiration for each of the devices he designed were in parallel with Lisa’s own growth, finally ending with Jobs looking at her before the iMac launch and stating that he “will put 500-1000 songs in her pocket,” replacing the worn Walkman she has been listening to the entire film. Jeff Daniels stands out as the former handpicked-by-Jobs Apple CEO John Sculley. Daniels (The Newsroom, Dumb and Dumber), just seems to get Sorkin’s words. His talents have always been underrated because he is natural and inviting, no matter the temperament and compass of the character he plays. Seth Rogan takes on the role of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. This must be the hardest role to cast in recent history because no actor I have seen in any the Wozniak portrayals has been inviting.

Steve Jobs is an original look into three small moments in the life of a worldwide cultural icon.  One can imagine that it must be much easier to portray someone as powerful and wealthy as Jobs as a complete narcissist without fear of direct litigation. When he is on, Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is a gift, and he is dead on in Steve Jobs. In the end, the problem is not with the film. It is an overwhelmingly entertaining and stylistic biography that touts an incredibly talented cast and helmed by one of a few directors who could capably tell this story. But when the lights come up after our tour behind the curtain, it doesn’t seem as special because we have been allowed behind this curtain too many times already.

Steve Jobs plays at the Nickelodeon Theater today through October 29th. Showtimes and tickets can be found at

Do I Sound Gay?: A Q&A w/ documentary filmmaker David Thorpe

Director David Thorpe seeks advice from vocal coaches, linguists, historians, friends,  strangers, celebrities and others in order to better understand his voice. "Where does my 'gay voice' come from?" he asks. Photo Courtesy of ThinkThorpe by: Wade Sellers and Jake Margle

Writer and filmmaker David Thorpe’s feature documentary Do I Sound Gay? has been gaining steam since its screening at the Toronto Film Festival. A graduate of Irmo High School and now living and working in New York City, Thorpe has put together an entertaining and poignant film about cultural perceptions and stereotypes. Enlisting the help of recognizable names in the gay community (i.e. Dan Savage), close friends, family, and interviews with random people on streets from Paris to New York, Thorpe examines people thoughts on the male gay voice, a subject born from insecurities about his own. Jasper sat down to talk with Thorpe before his film begins its run at The Nickelodeon on September 10th.

Jasper: How did the initial concept for the film begin?

DT: I really had this lightning bolt moment, where I realized that the voices of my own community were really alienating me and persecuting me. It was flash point for alienation that I was feeling at the time about being gay, you know? It made me wonder, why are some gay men the way they are, why do we all talk like this? Is it something society forced on us or is it who we really are? Even scarier or more strange was wondering about myself and, “did I sound like this?” I think I knew, I kind of did at times. So I wondered, why did I sound like this? Why didn’t I like it? It was just this hurricane of emotion about my voice. And this emotion about my voice all came in the form of questions about voice and I think there’s a perfectly good reason for that, which is that, for a lot of gay men our voices are our “tell.” We feel like it is what, for lack of a better phrase, gives us away.

Jasper: You are a writer, correct?

DT: I was a journalist doing mainly lifestyle journalism but also a fair amount of gay-related journalism. Then I was a communications director for five years prior to making the film, at a large AIDS organization in New York City. That’s where I was able to do a lot of creative activism in trying to get media attention and political attention around AIDS issues which had kind of fallen off the map. In many ways, it prepared me to work out this story about my voice. Because in a lot of ways I think the film is a form of creative, funny activism around a serious topic.

Jasper: Had you ever approached filmmaking before?

DT: Yeah, I had dabbled in film for sure. You know even in Do I Sound Gay?, you see clips from a public access show that I did with friends, in which I put in way too much time and energy. So, I knew that I loved film, but I had such a love for writing that it wasn’t the fullest idea that came to mind. I was gonna write a book about the gay voice, but the deeper I went into it the more I realized that it would only make sense to [make a film].

Jasper: How long was the filmmaking process?

DT: It was sort of between 4 and 5 years depending on where you start and depending on what you call the end.

Jasper: Did you kind of have a loose outline of what you were trying to achieve?

DT: Oh God no. We did not have an outline or a plan. The project kind of unspooled in a really kind of organic way over the years. You know, from just sort of a topic that I felt I needed to explore to just kind of shooting and exploring ideas, to kind of the trailer. It all kind of organically layered on top of itself as more people heard about the project and there seemed to be deeper and deeper interest in seeing it made. Which includes everything from my investors, to the Kickstarter which had like 2,000 individual backers and raised $120,000. I would never have dreamed that in the beginning. that I was going make a feature independent doc-film that was going to have a national profile in the media and with critics. I think it’s much better that I didn’t know that going into it because it might have been too scary. I might have been more calculating than I should have. The project was really kind of a genuine expression of a first-time filmmaker.

Jasper: Was there a point when you were making the film that you realized that a lot of people were reacting in an electric way?

DT: Yeah, I mean very early on I saw the power of the question alone, “do I sound gay?” Because 10 out 10 people that I would talk to about the stereotype of the gay voice suddenly would light up and tell me what they thought it was, or that they had always wondered what it was, or they talked about their own voices, gay and non-gay people alike, so I always knew that the topic was very resonant with people, and that was very exciting and among the reasons I felt compelled to keep going. We did many, many rough-cut screenings over the course of a year and, you know, we did our homework, and we knew from those screenings a lot of people were finding the film very thought-provoking and compelling regardless of whether or not they were gay.

Jasper: What were some of your friend’s reactions when you first told them about making the film?

DT: (laughs) Well I think my friends and family were taken back. I think they were really surprised to hear that I didn’t like my voice, that I still had issues about being gay or sounding gay. And, you know, it was something I had never spoken about with them, but, you know, certainly my gay friends, as taken back as they might have been by the idea of going to a voice coach. All of them right away knew exactly what I was feeling in terms of internalized homophobia, and shame, and my self-consciousness. There was always, I think, a lot of empathy from gay people. And, you know, at the beginning of this I really didn’t know how gay audiences would react, and I was fearful that I would be criticized for airing dirty laundry, for talking about shame. Instead, it seemed like, by and large and overwhelmingly, gay audiences find the film a useful way of opening up that conversation. That being gay or being a minority or frankly, being an individual is, for a lot of people, definitely a challenge. That sometimes we’re better at being another.

Jasper: One of the strongest moments in your film is meeting the young man who was being beat up in class for the sound of his voice.

DT: I read about the assault online. It made national news and headlines around the country as a lot of these vicious attacks do. What I kept reading in interviews was that his voice always played a role in his getting bullied, and that really jumped out at me. So I reached out to him. I spent a day with them and got to know them. And I have stayed in touch with them, last I heard from his mom is that he’s doing well. I think a lot of people found that scene very touching and very telling about how dangerous it can be to make yourself visible or, in this case, audible, as gay or feminine.

Jasper: Did your point of view, or focus, change as you got deeper into making the film?

DT: I kind of understood how I got from A to B but maybe not how I got from A to B to C to D to E to F to G and so forth. I always knew my sense of where we would end up once I had done all the shooting and actually lived the experience of the journey. But I think there was so much more between A and Z that I didn’t clearly know or understand and that’s what the film is, is all that stuff in the middle.

Jasper: Having a wide positive response like this, does it validate any of the questions you were asking when you began making the film?

DT: Yeah, this was always a very personal project that I was going to complete regardless of the form that took. Whether it was watching it in my living room or sort of a large feature film. I was gonna do it no matter what. But it is gravy, it is the cherry on top when it turned out that what I wanted to do and say and explore resonated with so many people. And it does give you confidence you know, like, “Hey maybe what I have to say is something a lot of other people would be interested in hearing.”

Jasper: How do you find this message resonating with the people and the groups and communities that it’s been playing in?

DT: With every Q&A that I’ve done, and I’ve done a lot at this point, there are always a lot of questions for me but there are always a lot of people who share stories from their own lives: gay people, women, people of color. And they talk about their own perceived flaws and how they have or haven’t gotten past them. One of the most ratifying things for me is that the film seems to prompt people to think about themselves and maybe embrace perceived flaws or have a sense of, “Hey! Everybody has insecurities,” and you can reach out to family and you can reach out to friends and try to grow and move forward.


Do I Sound Gay? runs at The Nickelodeon from September 11th through September 17th. Director David Thorpe will be present and participate in a live talk back after the September 13th screening.

Nickelodeon Theatre Screens Tom Hall's Compromised 

Proceeds from screening of Compromised, a documentary about the Confederate flag on the South Carolina State House Grounds, to benefit Emanuel AME Church.


The Nickelodeon Theatre, South Carolina's only non-profit art house film theater, will screen Compromised, a documentary film about the saga of the Confederate flag, memorials, grave markers, statues and symbols on the S.C. State House grounds. Proceeds from Compromised screenings on June 27, at 12 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. will benefit Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.


Compromised, by Columbia filmmaker Tom Hall, features other prominent South Carolinians, and analyzes the reasons the South Carolina General Assembly voted in 2000 to remove the Confederate flag from the State House dome to its current position facing Main Street in downtown Columbia. The screening will also have a post-film discussion with the director.


“As South Carolina is at a crossroads regarding the fate of the Confederate flag on the South Carolina State House grounds following the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, we’re again screening Compromised,” said Andy Smith, executive director of the Nickelodeon. “The Nick has the ability to be part of relevant cultural conversations, and we hope this film will add context to the discussion we’re having in South Carolina and throughout the United States about the Confederate flag, its history and its future.”

Tickets for the two screenings are $10 each and no member discounts are available. For more information on the Nickelodeon Theatre, please visit or follow the Nick on Twitter and Facebook.  Check out the Facebook event to see the other cool kids going to this event.


Chatting with Jiyoung Lee, Whose film Female Pervert Screens at Indie Grits 2015

IG-Logo By: Wade Sellers

Female Pervert director Jiyoung Lee took the time to answer a couple of questions about life in Atlanta and her film, which screens in competition tonight [The Nickelodeon, Downstairs Theater- 7:30pm] at Indie Grits.

How is life as an indie filmmaker in Atlanta?

It's nice to be an indie filmmaker in Atlanta. You have access to great community of actors and film professionals. (Many Hollywood productions are shot in Atlanta.) And the Atlanta Film Festival is very supportive of local filmmakers.

The downside of being a filmmaker in Atlanta is that you have few local sources for funding. But funding is hard these days, regardless of location. Also, the hot and humid summers in Atlanta can make film shoots challenging.

The synopsis of Female Pervert mentions that your film touches on classic issues of young men and women, such as finding true emotional connections in the world, but digs deeper into your protagonist’s eccentric interests. How has the film been received so far and what are some of the responses you have gotten?

Female Pervert is an idiosyncratic movie and I didn't necessarily try to please people when making it. People either love or hate the movie. Very few people have a middling opinion of the movie. However, most people agree the lead actress Jennifer Kim did a fantastic job. So the movie's definitely worth seeing just for her performance alone.

First Fridays are about Lowbrow Cinema - Friday September 5th


The First Friday Lowbrow Cinema Explosion began in October 2013.  The Nickelodeon invited Bickel to curate a “B movie” series, and he enthusiastically ran with it.  Bickel says, “Rather than do straight ‘B movies,’ I wanted to have the series profile movies which fit a loose set of parameters that I like to call ‘lowbrow.’ We’re mostly dealing with horror and exploitation titles, all with elements that I’d describe as ‘over the top.’”

Past films include Rats: Night of Terror, Pieces, Black Christmas, Hard Ticket to Hawaii, Dolemite, Maniac, Cannibal Ferox, Blood Feast, Bloodsucking Freaks, Pink Flamingos, and MS 45.  Of these films, Bickel says, “Pink Flamingos was the biggest crowd we had.  Black Christmas creeped people out the most.  Hard Ticket to Hawaii had the audience laughing the most.”

While these are all films that Bickel loves, he selects the films in the series “for their authenticity of execution as well as their over-the-top content.”  He tries to pick “the most mind-meltingly oddball films from the golden age of splatter and exploitation.”  Upcoming films include Ilsa She Wolf of the SS, Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, Cemetery Man, Silent Night Deadly Night, Sleepaway Camp, and My Bloody Valentine.

Screenings take place at 11:00 pm on Friday nights, and the audience is fairly warned about what they are getting themselves into.  While the films undeniably push multiple boundaries, the series has been incredibly well received.  Bickel says, “After the movies I am generally thanked for bringing something to the screen that someone had only ever heard about or showing something someone remembered renting on VHS when they were a teenager and thought they would never get to see in a crowded theatre.”  Bickel would like for attendees to learn something new about this type of cinema that’s most likely quite different from what they’re used to, but he mostly hopes people enjoy the film and have a great time.  The films do go “too far,” but the audience seems to appreciate them for this very reason and be willing to go “too far” along with them.  “Columbia is suddenly more open-minded than we all thought!” says Bickel.

- Abby Davis


Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS will be playing at the Nickelodeon Theatre on Friday, September 5th at 11:00 pm.  Tickets can be purchased at

Movie Review -- The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna

MV5BMjEzNzQxNzUxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDY5MTY1MDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_ The Nick has always been good about keeping a nice selection of well-curated music documentaries rotating through their programming calendar, and The Punk Singer is no exception. The story of the riot grrl movement of the 1990s is one that still urgently needs to be told again and again, and the career of the explosive and charismatic Kathleen Hanna is a fitting, although not entirely unproblematic, vehicle in which to do that.

The film does an excellent job of distilling not only the essential details of the movement, but also the spirit and sense of excitement that surrounded its emergence as a powerful punk subculture. Rooted in the home bases of the Pacific Northwest and DC area, a collection of female musicians formed bands that explicitly addressed issue of patriarchy, sexual abuse, and rape and sought to empower other women to make music, write zines, and becomes activists. An explicitly revolutionary movement, riot grrls held meetings and organized protests and concerts in the hopes of forging a new kind of third-wave feminism.

#2 - Kathleen Hanna in Australia (1996). Photo courtesy of Sophie Howarth

In focusing specifically on Kathleen Hanna, documentarian Sini Anderson somewhat oversells how central the Bikini Kill leader was to the creation of the movement at the expense of her many collaborators and kindred spirits, but the film definitely captures what made the singer so essential to the whole thing. Through footage of just a handful of live concerts interspersed and supported by Bikini Kill studio recordings, Hanna’s undeniable stage and vocal presence, as well as her ability to meld punk and DIY ethos with feminism with a commanding poise makes it clear just how electrifying, and impossible to ignore, Bikini Kill was. The first half of the film essentially tries to recreate the atmosphere and sense of empowerment that the riot grrrl movement inspired as it intersperses archival footage of Hanna doing interviews and Bikini Kill performances with interviews on Hanna's influence with, among others, Joan Jett, Kim Gordon (Body/Head, Sonic Youth), and Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney).

The second half of the film moves quickly through Bikini Kill’s breakup, Hanna’s romance with eventual husband Adam Horowitz (Beastie Boys), her move to more electronic, and somewhat more accessible, sonic terrain in Le Tigre, and that band's extended hiatus around 2006 due to Hanna’s mysterious illness, which dominates the final section of the documentary. The fast pace yields mixed returns, as at times it feels like Anderson is ably filling in the gaps of Hanna’s life, and at other times like she’s pushing too fast through the last 15 years or so of her story to reach the end. Having said that, the film’s punchy 80 minute run time is definitely one of its strengths, and it provides ample time for Hanna to shed light on both her condition and the general plight of those with late-stage Lyme disease, which is notoriously difficult to diagnose. Hanna even makes a nice connection between the kind of hurdles lyme disease sufferers face (and, by extension, other people suffering from disabilities) to the ones that feminism more traditionally tackles.

Kathleen Hanna

The film ends with Hanna’s triumphant return to music, as 2013’s Run Fast, a full-length album recorded by her resurrected moniker/band The Julie Ruin, can attest. It splits the difference a bit between the electroclash of Le Tigre and the shoutalong punk of Bikini Kill, and is a surprisingly sharp return to form for Hanna given her years away from music-making and songwriting.

Some of the more problematic elements of the film were pointed out by the Girls Rock Columbia organized panel that followed Monday night’s screening. The panel featured five volunteers from last year’s camp, Jennifer “Bingo” Gunter, Meeghan Kane, Katherine McCollough, Ony Ratsimbaharison, and Mollie Williamson, many of whom noted the movement’s white middle-class exclusivity and some of the difficulties of translating the riot grrrl movement across divides of race, class, and nationality even as they praised the profound impact and importance of Hanna. This essay by music journalist Laina Dawes entitled “Why I Was Never a Riot Grrrl” became a valuable touching point for the discussion and should be required reading whether you see the film or not.

On a personal note, as a white male music writer who has written explicitly about the gender of some of the members of the panel in the past, the discussion of how female musicians are portrayed in the press and constantly asked to interrogate the relationship between their gender and their art provided an uncomfortable yet necessary reminder of both my own extraordinary privilege and the ways in which even the best of intentions can often bare traces of the very structural inequalities that feminism seeks to subvert.

The film screens once more at The Nickelodeon on Friday, January 31st, at 11pm.

Bonus Feature from Last Night’s Screening: A short set by members of Hauswerk and Those Lavender Whales (Jessica Bornick – drums, Ony Ratsimbaharison – guitar, and Katherine McCollough – vocals) before the film that ripped through two Bikini Kill songs and two Hauswerk originals that fit the spirit of the evening to a T.

-Kyle Petersen






MOVIE REVIEW: Nebraska--A Road Trip through Regret, by Wade Sellers

   Bruce Dern stars as Woody Grant in Alexander Payne's "Nebraska"

Nebraska plays at the Nickelodeon Theatre through January 2nd. Visit for timJune Squibb, center, and Mary Louise Wilson, right, co-star in Alexander Payne's "Nebraskaes and ticket information.



Nebraska is a powerful story of the relationship between fathers and sons.

"This is the power of this film. It captures honest, tender moments between a father and son, when defeat is admitted, the truth is realized. ... Rarely has this been shown so beautifully in a film." - WS 

No matter the personality of our parents, their own personal history is selectively given to us as we grow older. They seem to censor the information, choosing what is appropriate for us to hear and to learn as children, then, as we grow older and life as a family takes over, the stories that are re-told seem to revolve around the more pleasant memories. As children, this is only recognizable to us as we grow older and are able to relate to the experiences of our parents. Nebraska, from Director Alexander Payne, is a simple story of family that approaches those moments when children begin to see a small part of the world through the their parents’ eyes and understand the choices they made years before.


Veteran character actor Bruce Dern (Big Love, Coming Home) plays Woody Grant. Grant has received a letter in the mail claiming that he is the recipient of a million dollars. In the opening scene, Woody is stopped by a police officer while walking on the side of the road in his home of Billings, Montana as he begins his journey to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his prize. His youngest son David, played by Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte, is called to the local police station to pick up his father. After seeing the letter David attempts to convince his father that it is a scam. Payne gives us a clean, close shot of the letter, communicating to the audience that, without question, Woody is walking toward a disappointing reception. Stubborn and confused, Woody refuses to accept that the letter is fake and makes it known that he will travel to Lincoln to collect his prize.


David Grant, at a crossroads in his own life, sells stereo equipment in Billings. A thankless job that he struggles with. His older brother Ross, played by an understated Bob Odenkirk, is on-air talent at a local television affiliate and is seen as the star of the family. June Squibb has the role of Kate Grant, Woody's shrill voiced, wife, who is as much critical of Woody as she is concerned. After a second attempt to walk his way to Lincoln and collect his prize, Woody asks his son to drive him to Lincoln. “What the hell else do you have to do” Woody crackles at his son, and the two set off through the plains of the Midwest.


Nebraska could be viewed as the third in a trilogy of cathartic road movies from Payne, preceded by About Schmidt (2002) and Sideways (2004). Dern's Grant is an old drunk. Woody is viewed by his sons as a man who cared more about drinking than being a father. A soft-hearted David views this trip as a way of connecting with his father. The similarity between the two men is obvious. Both men are stubborn and weak in the same breath.


The turning point of the film is during a short detour David takes, at the beginning of the trip, to view Mt. Rushmore. Thirty minutes off the Interstate, the father and son stand beside their parked car outside the park entrance. Woody looks curiously at the monument. “What do you think?” David asks. “It doesn't look finished” his father responds. Standing below the patriarchs of our country, the meaning is clear. Payne sets the scene as a wide shot, outside the gates. He lets us see the reality we all eventually witness when we visit an iconic area: entrance gates, waiting in line, the banal efforts that are never seen in promotional posters and history books. On this trip, we will all share Woody Grant's trip through an unfinished life of small regrets.


As father and son continue down the Interstate, Woody leans against the passenger side door, much like a dog seeing a world that is recognizable but completely new. During rest stops, David urges his father to not start drinking again. Dern's drunken entrance into their hotel room ends with a gash on his head that lands him in the hospital for a day. Cautious at traveling any further, David calls his mother and plans are made for Kate to join them and to reunite Woody and his brothers for a meeting in their hometown in Nebraska.


When Woody and David arrive at his brother's home they are greeted by Aunt Martha, played by Mary Louise Wilson. It one of the most wonderfully simple scenes in the film. Having not seen each other in decades, she feels the responsibility to hug and be courteous. They are family, but there is an awkwardness to the hugs that is familiar and unspoken. Payne's humor pops up again when we meet his brother Ray, played by Rance Howard- father to director Ron Howard and grandfather to actress Bryce Dallas Howard. A post-modern theme of the patriarch begins to show itself. Dern was formerly married to actress Diane Ladd and is father to academy award nominated actress Laura Dern. It is a brief tip of the cap to all patriarchs of American cinema. The joy of having two well-oiled, Hollywood character actors share the screen is a pleasant surprise.


David and Woody slump into a local tavern, Woody reunites with his former business partner Ed Pegram, played by an always welcome Stacy Keach. While his son is in the bathroom of the bar, Woody prematurely, lets word out that he has come into money. Word spreads quickly around town that Woody has come into a million dollars and quickly becomes the talk of the town. Old friends and acquaintances begin to seek out Woody and congratulate him on his good fortune.


David takes it upon himself to squash the news of his father's false good fortune. He visits the local newspaper. Word has spread and the paper wants to do a story on Woody's homecoming and recent winnings. There he meets Woody's former high school girlfriend, Peg Nagy, beautifully played by Angela McEwan. Surprised by the news that his father ever dated anyone other than his mother, David listens as Peg describes a father that he never knew. David learns deeper details about his father's service. Woody was a Korean War veteran. A spot on character background by Payne. Known as “The Forgotten War,” Korean veterans have always been shifted aside in history books—sandwiched between the honor of World War II and the conflict of Vietnam. Woody Grant is the embodiment of this.


The story becomes a bit uneven at this point. Woody's wife has joined her husband and son and quickly begins reuniting with the women of the family. Sitting around the kitchen table, the women of the family begin gossiping like school girls, as if they picked up a conversation that paused years before. But soon, as word has spread to all points of the town that Woody is rich, the hard off residents, including immediate family, begin pressuring Woody for money. Ed Pegram traps David in a tavern's bathroom, bringing up decades old loans he lent Woody. At a family reunion, in-laws trap David and Ross, pressuring them to settle up on old debts. David's two cousins, two bumbling caricatures with less than mediocre ambition, set up a half-baked mugging to steal Woody's prize letter.


The whole section seems obvious. Intended to open Woody up as the gentle caring member of the family, it instead paints the entire family in a negative way, destroying the earlier set-ups of family; men watching football, the women cooking and gossiping. They are not at all likable anymore and that taints the honesty of the story.


“Nebraska” also falls onto a bit of a crutch as Woody's wife Kate visits the local cemetery to pay her respects to family members. Filled with a new energy after leaving Montana, Kate finds her youth. But this quickly devolves into her own personal high school tales of teenage boys from the town trying to get more from her than a simple kiss. It is the funniest scene of the movie, but shouldn't be. The brashness overshadows the effect that her words have on Woody. After her third crass tale of teenage lust, Woody slumps away. It is a tender moment of genuine pain, but is easy to lose in the laughter.


Two films quickly come to mind while watching Nebraska- David Lynch's The Straight Story and Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show. The Straight Story for its stubborn lead character played by Richard Farnsworth as he travels on a lawnmower to reunite with his brother and The Last Picture Show for its black and white film palette of a barren Texas town.


Black and white is always a misnomer when speaking of cinematography. The beauty is always in the mid tones. Payne and collaborator, cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, give us a harsh canvas of Midwestern life. Payne demanded for years that this film be shot in black and white. It is a decision that triumphs. From the opening frame of Woody walking on the side of the road to the grey images of David's stereo store set inside a run-down strip mall, there is a specific tone of  honesty that is set early in the film. As the two travel on the barren Interstate, the flat plains, filled with dirty, half melted snow, make us feel harsh winter crosswinds blowing across our faces. And when the camera is set at the end of the bar in any of the multiple taverns the father and son visit, the harsh Midwestern lines on chiseled faces of the men and women planted on their stools, beers gripped stoically in their hands, give us a solid sense of place. We know these characters without having to hear any words at all.


Ultimately, the town finds out that Woody is chasing fools’ gold and begins to mock him. They take advantage of his fragile mind as they took advantage of his generosity years before. David witnesses this first hand. It is a moment between a father and son that is painful to watch. No matter the strength of a father through a son's eyes, it is wrenching to watch him in a true moment of weakness. This is the power of this film. It captures honest, tender moments between a father and son, when defeat is admitted, the truth is realized. After years of poor decisions that have stained a paternal relationship, the reasons for those decisions are realized by a son. In that moment there could not be a stronger bond than family.  Rarely has this been shown so beautifully in a film.


Nebraska is not a lyrical film. It is not an overarching metaphor for the current state of family. Nebraska is the very definition of a small movie. Through its gentle hand-holding it leads us through one singular moment where a son begins to understand his father's life. Dern brings a depth of honesty to his role that only comes with decades of experience. Forte's work holds promise for future roles outside sketch comedy. June Squibb threatens to steal the film as Woody's wife, but Payne's smart direction rides her brashness at just the right level. The film is uneven at times, as Payne seems to grit his teeth, unable to hold back his superb ability to get a smart laugh through a sight gag. But these are small interruptions that do nothing to take away from the pleasure of riding with Woody and David as they begin to listen to what each other is saying, if only through short bursts of words, grunts and shrugged shoulders. This is most evident in their first scene together in a bar when Woody stares directly into his adult son’s eyes and states, “Come on, don't you want to have a beer with your old man?” For any son, it is a moment of comfort that can't be put into words.

 -- Wade Sellers

Nebraska plays at the Nickelodeon Theatre through January 2nd. Visit for times and ticket information.




Two More Posts from Andy at Sundance (just pretend he isn't home yet)

The Press and Industry screenings don't issue tickets to the individual screenings, but rather you use your badge to get into whatever you want (after waiting in line). To control re-entry, they stamp your hand with a different color stamp for each screening which means that after a full five-film day like today your hand looks like this. It's kind of a badge of pride.
(editor's note: We apologize that, due to unknowable computer malarkey, we are unable to reproduce the image of Andy's hand provided by the author. Suffice it to say that it was quite stunning.)
Once again we started our day at Eccles with the public screening of The Look of Love, this new Michael Winterbottom movie starring Steve Coogan as Paul Raymond, the British entrepreneur who made a fortune from adult magazines and strip clubs (there's a bit of a theme we're picking up on this year).
From there I dashed back to the Holiday Cinema to catch Concussion. One of the best films I've seen so far, the film is about a wealthy, suburban lesbian housewife whose life turns upside down after suffering a severe head injury. She seeks out a secret life in the city but it soon becomes impossible for her to keep her double life hidden.
I then caught Breathe In, the new film by Like Crazy director drake doremus. Guy Pearce plays a seemingly happily married husband, high school music teacher and concert cellist who begins to feel a pull for a more exciting life after an exchange student from England comes to stay with the family. (Again, some more common themes popping up here).
Next up was Inequality for All a documentary on former labor secretary Robert Reich and his decades long work on income inequality in the United States. Reich is such a smart and charming guy, the doc was a real pleasure to watch while also being very informative. It's been one of my highlights of the festival so far.
We had to have another rushed dinner because we knew we'd have to line up early for Escape from Tomorrow, a film getting a lot of buzz around the festival. The buzz is all due to the fact that the movie was secretly filmed on location at Disney World and everyone knew that Disney's legal department would never let the film see the light of day. The screening was packed, but the film was ultimately pretty underwhelming, though the effort was very admirable. It was a full five-film day and I was so ready to hit the bed to get ready for Monday's lineup.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints was another big buzz film here at Sundance so I was determined to get into the Monday morning screening. Sure enough, the lines formed early but we made it in. Directed by David Lowery (whose short film Pioneer played Indie Grits a couple of years ago) the film stars Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster in a sort of neo-western. Beautifully shot and nicely paced it was one of my favorites of the festival so far.
The schedule was such that everyone was rushing out of that screening to quickly hop over to C.O.G., a film based on a David Sedaris essay. It was a bit of a mad dash, but we made it in. COG follows a young grad student from Yale as he ventures out to Oregon to work on an apple orchard. It ended up not being as funny as you'd expect from a David Sedaris essay, but as you would expect it had some incredibly emotional and revealing moments in it.
Next up was Fruitvale, which Isaac mentioned. It's proven to be the most powerful film of the festival so far, with sniffles being heard throughout the theater and teary eyes evident as we left.
We had a surprisingly adequate amount of time to grab diner tonight, so with we sat down with Russ Collins from the Michigan theater in Ann Arbor, as well as our friends from Maiden Alley Cinema and Aperture Cinema.  Actually getting to eat some vegetables and some protein, I was in much better shape (I've pretty clearly reached my granola bar limit).
(Samantha Berg, left, a former SeaWorld trainer, and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite from the movie "Blackfish." Photo credit -- Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The final film of the evening was Blackfish - a shocking and revealing documentary on Orcas in captivity. Like The Cove, which played at the Nick years ago, the film does a great job documenting the clear intelligence and consciousness of these whales.  It convincingly links the many attacks on trainers at Sea World and other aquatic parks to frustration that builds in some of these animals after being forced into captivity for so long.  Really a great film.
Only four films today because our friends from the Art House Convergence are having us over for a party tonight. Looking forward to it!

On the Road with the Nick -- 5th and Final Post in their Guest Blog Series

Our Friends at the Nick have taken to the highway and are out on one of the greatest of American adventures – the ROAD TRIP! Happily, they’re sharing their news from the road with us via the Jasper blog. Below is the final installation from the great adventurers’ travel(b)log. Thank you everyone for reading about our travels this week.  We couldn't have had this amazing experience without Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), and we couldn't have had a better outlet to share our story with than the wonderful people at Jasper.  If there is one thing this trip has taught us, it is that an art scene is necessary for any city to truly be great.  Columbia has a wonderful art scene, and we know that Jasper plays a big role.

Our final official day of the trip happened at the awesome Belcourt Theatre in Nashville.  We all got to spend time with our counterparts at the theater, learning how we can be better, and how we can bring new knowledge to the Nick!

Andy started the day off before all of us. He went in early to hang out with Stephanie Silverman, Executive Director of the Belcourt.  He learned a lot, and is eager to get back and start getting all of us to try some new things.  He even had the opportunity to talk about programming with Toby Leonard, who is also a former Indie Grits juror.

Heather wasted no time, hanging out with Melinda Morgan, the Director of Operations.  So much so that she volunteered to scoop popcorn and fill drinks for two of the showtimes!  Claire had a lovely time with Elle Long, their membership coordinator.  (unfortunately no picture exists).  We even ran into another juror at the offices of Janus Films Nashville (in the Belcourt).  It is always a pleasure to see Sarah Finklea, she is a really fantastic person, and we were thrilled she had moved to Nashville and was conveniently located at the Belcourt. We were able to unwind with a nice meal at Southern where Heather got to pick out her steak!

Today we head back to Columbia, and I think the staff all needs a little down time to take in everything we saw.  Thanks again to Jasper, and we look forward to the future of the Nick!

On the Road with the Nick -- Part 4 of a Guest Blog Series

Our Friends at the Nick have taken to the highway and are out on one of the greatest of American adventures – the ROAD TRIP! Happily, they’re sharing their news from the road with us via the Jasper blog. Below is the fourth installation from the great adventurers’ travel(b)log.  

Today, our wait to see the Belcourt officially ends! We were so excited to get to Nashville that we left a little bit early, which led us to do some Nashville sightseeing. After we checked into the hotel, we immediately left to go see the incredible Third Man Records.  We are all big fans of Jack White's work across a variety of bands, so we went into the shop, which is about the size of our ticket booth.

From there, we decided to see some of Nashville's true history, while some of us thought that may be the Grand Ol' Opry on the sprawling Gaylord Opryland estate....

I think all of us felt an even greater special connection at The Duke's of Hazzard museum.


We ate at the fantastic restaurant City House for dinner, however the food was so good, it would be shameful to share the pictures with you. Again, today is going to be a fantastic day with the Nickelodeon Staff learning from the incredibly talented Belcourt staff.  If you can't stand the wait, visit their website and see what we are talking about. Until tomorrow, Your Nickelodeon Staff

On the Road with the Nickelodeon - Part 2 of a Guest Blog Series

Our Friends at the Nick have taken to the highway and are out on one of the greatest of American adventures – the ROAD TRIP! Happily, they’re sharing their news from the road with us via the Jasper blog. Below is the second installation from the great adventurers’ travel(b)log.  

It is 8am CST and we are about to leave beautiful Memphis for Paducah, KY and the River's Edge Film Festival.  Yesterday was a day full of surprises.  We started our day off with a stroll down legendary Beale St. to a little coffee shop named Starbucks.  It appears we had missed our chance to see Justin Bieber.

After we got our caffeine fix, it was back to Holly Springs, MS to get Andy his lifetime membership to Graceland Too. While the experience was a bit of a disappointment, it did gain Andy his lifetime membership card, and gave us this wonderful picture.

The whole trip, the name John T. Edge has been on our minds.  He runs for the Southern Foodways Alliance, and hired the new Belle Et Bete in Columbia to produce a short piece about BBQ. We tried the awesome Saw's Thursday, so yesterday we went to a legendary Memphis no frills BBQ joint called Payne's, the food was delicious, unfortunately, we ate it all before we could get a picture.

After another decadent meal, we were off to knock out some short films and features at Indie Memphis.  We had the opportunity to see an entire short film program with Memphis-only made shorts, and a feature that follows the route of Southern Circuit.  The festival has really helped us gain an understanding of what we do well at Indie Grits, and what we can improve on.

One thing is for sure, we can't wait to have a full marquee outside the Nick like the sign they used for Indie Memphis.  That reminds us, if you have heard of our Design the Sign Contest, head over to our website for more details.  We can't wait to get a breakfast in, and hit the road.  Stay tuned tomorrow.... who knows what's in store!

On the Road with the Nickelodeon -- Part 1 of a Guest Blog Series

Our Friends at the Nick have taken to the highway and are out on one of the greatest of American adventures - the ROAD TRIP! Happily, they're sharing their news from the road with us via the Jasper blog. Below is the first installation from the great adventurers' travel(b)log.

Hello Columbia!


It is a pleasure to be writing this from the road in Memphis, TN.  We would like to thank the wonderful staff at Jasper Magazine for allowing us to take over their blog for a little while. This week, Andy Smith, Heather Bauer, Claire Sumaydeng-Bryan and myself (Isaac Calvage) are currently on a tour of southeast film courtesy of a travel grant from the amazing people at Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC).  The goal of our trip is to gain some knowledge of how other film festivals of similar size are run (Indie Memphis and River's Edge Film Festival), and to learn how one of our favorite peer theaters works in Nashville (the Belcourt).  We are hoping this trip will provide valuable insight to make everything that happens at the Nickelodeon Theatre, a little bit better.  Here is a mini travelogue of our trip so far...

Our day kicked off at 6am out of Columbia.  We were very tired, and even had to get ourselves a pick up meal at Bojangles.

Which promptly had everyone asleep afterwards.


We then powered on to Birmingham, AL to meet up with Heather Bauer's friend and eat at the legendary Saw's Soul Food Kitchen.

Along the way to see Graceland Too, for which the proprietor was out, (sad face), we saw a sign that already had us homesick

After the initial disappointment, we finally pushed through to Memphis and checked into our hotel.

We then went to the Indie Memphis Film Festival and had the opportunity to see a film called SUN DON'T SHINE last night which stars Indie Grits alum, Kentucker Audley.  Today, we are going to try to go back to Graceland Too, so Andy Smith can become a lifetime member, like Hardy Childers (you have to go three times). Then we will continue our quest to see some other good films, and hopefully find a few that may even play at Indie Grits 2013.  What is next for the coming week?  Hopefully some more pictures with people, and a lot of new knowledge coming our way.

Until then, signing off from the Road,


         -Isaac Calvage, for the Nickelodeon Theatre

(ed. note: Tune in tomorrow for another installation in the travel(b)log of those wacky film aficionados - On the Road with the Nickelodeon, right here at What Jasper Said.)

Nickelodeon Celebrates New Home With 33 Films From 33 Years

by Christopher Rosa, Jasper Intern  

The movies are moving.  And it is causing a swirl of emotions.

The Nickelodeon Theatre, Columbia’s flagship local film theatre, and one of the most acclaimed in all of the Southeast, will be moving to a new home starting on August 31, 2012. The theatre will be taking a trip down Main Street, from its original 937 address to 1607. The move, according to Nick marketing director Isaac Calvage, has been in the works for several years now. “The Nickelodeon Theatre simply has needed to expand our offerings and capacity.  We currently have a maximum of 75 seats in an aging building, and we needed to expand. In our current location, we simply do not have space to grow.”

Physical expansion was certainly a top priority for Nick leaders as they planned this move; however, the new space will allow them to artistically expand as well. “The move will also allow us to delve deeper into experimental film, and also show more mainstream independent films. The Nick is also really excited that we'll own our space. We're currently just renting this building.”

The move from 937 Main to 1607 Main is quite the financial endeavor. What sealed the deal for the move were two generous donations from the Ford Foundation and the Nord Family Foundation. Both were integral to the Nick’s journey up the street. “We could not have been more excited to receive grants from such truly inspiring organizations. The fact that they really want to invest in creative place-making, further encourages us that this move is absolutely the next step for the Nick. These prestigious organizations are making it possible to make our move,” Calvage said.

Picking the spot to move was a difficult decision, but 1607 was eventually chosen for its already rich cinematic past. “1607 Main St. was the former home of the State Theater, and then later the Fox Theater.  It is also the only remaining theater that was left on Main St. All of the other spaces were either demolished, or completely changed into other spaces.  We want to save the cinema history of our city, and also provide a new space on Main Street to help revitalize downtown,” Calvage notes.

Calvage also believes that the new location will have a positive economic impact on the surrounding area. “When we open, we will be open 7 days a week providing a space that is open not only in the daytime, but also at night, and we're projecting that we'll welcome 60,000 unique visitors to Main Street each year, which means that those folks are also spending money in our downtown restaurants and shops.”

The new space is going to be innovative in both its interior and exterior. “We are expanding to offer media education and filmmaker services in the future.  Once the capital campaign is fully finished, we will also be opening a second screen, which has a capacity of 192 seats,  and which will allow us to offer two different films at one time. We have improved concession areas, bathrooms outside of the movie theater, and greatly improved offices for our ever-growing staff,” Calvage beams.

The new Helen Hill Media Education Center is of particular interest. Calvage cites the digital age as the primary reason for the center’s inception. “In this modern age, where media is thrust at us from every direction, it is important to be able to analyze and interpret these messages, and their roles in our lives.”

There is only a little over a month left in the old space. “We are feeling great, but are quickly realizing how little time is left here.  We are so proud to be offering the  33  films. 33 years retrospective at our current location, and we hope the community will use this as a time to say goodbye to this theater,” Calvage says.

The 33 films. 33 years event is a commemorative cinematic experience that pays tribute to the dozens of movies shown at the Nick.  One film from each year that the Nick’s doors have been open to the public will be screened. Titles and dates are as follows:

'79 - Sunset Boulevard - Friday, August 10 at 5:30pm

'80 - Casablanca - Friday, August 10 at 8:00pm

'81 - The Seventh Seal - Saturday, August 11th at 5:30pm

'82 - Annie Hall - Saturday, August 11th at 8:00pm

'83 - Breaking Away - Sunday, August 12th at 3:00pm

'84 - Rashomon - Sunday, August 12th at 6:30pm

'85 - Weekend - Monday, August 13th at 5:30pm

'86 - Monty Python's The Meaning of Life - Monday, August 13th at 8:00pm

'87 - Rear Window - Tuesday, August 14th at 5:30pm

'88 - Touch of Evil - Tuesday, August 14th at 8:00pm

'89 - Heathers - Wednesday, August 15th at 5:30pm

'90 - Do the Right Thing - Wednesday, August 15th at 8:00pm

'91 - Cinema Paradiso - Thursday, August 16th at 5:30pm

'92 - Slacker - Thursday, August 16th at 9:00pm

'93 - Like Water for Chocolate - Friday, August 17th at 5:30pm

'94 - Orlando - Friday, August 17th at 8:00pm

'95 - Three Colors (Blue/White/Red) - Saturday, August 18th at 3:00pm (Blue) 5:30pm (White) 8:00pm (Red)

'96 - Bottle Rocket - Sunday, August 19th at 3:00pm

'97 - Waiting for Guffman - Sunday, August 19th at 5:00pm

'98 - Smoke Signals - Monday, August 20th at 5:30pm

'99 - Buena Vista Social Club - Monday, August 20th at 8:00pm

'00 - Timecode - Tuesday, August 21st at 5:30pm

'01 - Yana's Friends - Tuesday, August 21st at 8:00pm

'02 - 8 Women - Wednesday, August 22nd at 5:30pm

'03 - Bowling for Columbine - Wednesday, August 22nd at 8:00pm

'04 - Lost in Translation - Thursday, August 23rd at 5:30pm

'05 - Junebug - Thursday, August 23rd at 8:00pm

'06 - The Squid and the Whale - Friday, August 24th at 6:00pm

'07 - Volver - Friday, August 24th at 8:00pm

'08 - Man on Wire - Saturday, August 25th at 2:30pm

'09 - Let the Right One In - Saturday, August 25th at 5:00pm

'10 - A Single Man - Saturday, August 25th at 8:00pm

'11 -  The King's Speech - Sunday, August 26th at 2:30pm

'12 - The Artist - Sunday, August 26th at 5:00pm

The last screening will be followed by a party on August 26th to officially say goodbye to the 937 address. The new Nick will open its doors on August 31st. “We cannot believe the success we have had. It is our goal to become more than a movie theater, and really be a community center, as well as a resource for filmmakers and film education in the realm of media literacy,” Calvage says.