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Movie Time! American Wasteland: Nomadland (2020) and Ghostbox Cowboy (2018)
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Movie Time! American Wasteland: Nomadland (2020) and Ghostbox Cowboy (2018)

We look at 2.5 films that chronicle surviving the American Dream in a post-recession America – and beyond.

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It’s Popzara’s Movie Time! Podcast!, where our own movie nerds Nathan Evans and Ethan Brehm take you on an unscripted journey yakking and chatting about some of their favorite movie moments and cinematic scenes, from past and present, presented without snark and snobbery for your listening pleasure. Let’s begin!

For the first episode of 2021 we’re starting things off by looking at two very different, yet similar takes on the intangible American Dream™ in a post-recession America – and what some people will do to survive.

Up first is 2020’s Nomadland, a fictionalized interpretation of Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction bestseller Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century written, directed, and edited by Chloé Zhao. Featuring a powerhouse (and surely award-winning) performance by Frances McDormand as a van-dwelling, and possibly mentally unstable, nomad who travels from one seasonable job to the next following the total personal and economic collapse of everything she loved.

Next up is 2018’s Ghostbox Cowboy, a little-seen gem from writer/director John Maringouin that’s been labeled a comedy by some, a surrealistic blend of gonzo journalism by others, and a cautionary horror tale of unearned exceptionalism by our hosts. It’s a journey deep into the seedy underbelly of Chinese grey markets, the manufacturing underclass of IP theft, bootlegs, etc., that demonstrates the American Dream™ didn’t die; it just got outsourced.

Also, stay for an all-too-brief, yet still important, look at 2014’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, another film that blends fact with fiction, using 1996’s Fargo as inspiration to connect both Nomadland and Ghostbox Cowboy in strange, unsettling ways while simultaneously showing that disillusionment with modern civilization crosses borders, cultures, and our own tenuous grasps of reality.

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