Angel Face

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Arrgh. What was I thinking? When Netflix's algorithm predicts I'll find a movie to be mediocre, I should probably just believe Netflix. But it looked so good! Robert Mitchum! Jean Simmons! Film noir! But no.

Mitchum plays Frank Jessup, a Beverly Hills ambulance driver with dreams of setting up an automotive shop specializing in sports cars. He's got a steady girl, Mary. He's struggling, but on the right path.

Oops! His ambulance is called out to a mansion up in the hills, where fantastically wealthy Catherine Tremayne has nearly suffocated in her bedroom, due to a gas jet somehow being turned on. She's OK, but the call gives Frank the unfortunate chance to meet the beautiful stepdaughter, Diane (that's Jean Simmons). She loves her daddy, a washed-up Brit novelist, but clearly hates Catherine. Did she try to do Catherine in? Yeah, probably.

It would just be a chance encounter, except that Diane stalks Frank back to the station, and corners him in his after-shift hangout. Before you know it, Diane has easily driven a wedge between Frank and Mary, enticed Frank into accepting a job as a driver for the Tremayne family, and displayed all sorts of devious, deceptive, and dangerous behavior.

It's all fun and games until someone drives their car off a handy cliff, though. Things go downhill (ha!) from there, with a far-fetched courtroom strategy, and far too much dialog. Mitchum just kind of goes along with everything, to his ultimate disappointment.

Nebraska

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Nebraska was nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture. (I've now seen 5 out of the 9 best-picture nominees.) Pretty good, albeit a tad sentimental.

Bruce Dern plays Woody, a cantankerous old fart who has somehow got it in his head, based on a personalized magazine-subscription/sweepstakes mass mailing, that he's won a million bucks. He sets out from his home in Billings, Montana to the contest headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the prize.

Is it dementia, or just a combination of gullibility and boredom with his Montana life? It's unclear. His family consists of his equally cantankerous wife, Kate (June Squibb), and two grown sons, David (Will Forte) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk). They are at a loss at how to deal with Woody's increasingly stubborn attempts to get to Lincoln.

David is himself kind of a sad sack, professionally (as an ineffective salesman of audio equipment) and romantically (a girlfriend to whom he was unable to commit has just moved out). So he decides to drive Woody to Lincoln, to Kate's consternation.

But they decide to take a small detour to the small town of Hawthorne, Nebraska, where the family lived before moving to Billings. Most of the movie happens there. (Google Maps recommends I-90 out of Billings, hopping down I-25 through Wyoming, and then just going east on I-80, but that would have made a less interesting movie.)

June, and eventually Ross, decide to join David and Woody in Hawthorne. While there, ancient family history is unearthed, an old nemesis (played by Stacy Keach) is confronted, and characters are revealed when Woody lets slip his "news" about being a millionaire, and people believe him.

It's a fine movie, funny and poignant. Will Forte reveals himself as a fine character actor. Only quibble: IMDB trivia claims that Barbara Bain, Cinnamon Carter herself, auditioned for a role in this movie. Alexander Payne, How can you not cast Barbara Bain in your movie?