Fill your marathon lineup with exciting features like Nomadland and News of the World as well as streaming selections like Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian and Netflix’s The Harder They Fall.
Editor’s Note: The Real Deal is C&I’s 2021 entertainment feature where we share our recommendations for musicians, writers, entertainers, and podcasters who possess a common trait: unmistakable authenticity.
By the time you read this, Frances McDormand should be generating high-decibel awards buzz for her lead performance in Nomadland, another artful mix of fact and fiction from filmmaker Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brothers Taught Me).
In the movie, inspired by the nonfiction bestseller of the same title by Jessica Bruder, McDormand — who already has Oscars to her credit for Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — stars as Fern, a resilient 60-something widow who, after the economic collapse of her small Nevada town, embarks on a journey through the American West, joining the ranks of modern-day van-dwelling nomads.
During on-location filming over four months in seven states, McDormand and costar David Strathairn were surrounded by real-life nomads, some of whom Zhao cast in supporting roles. Also in the cast: Bob Wells, the itinerant evangelist who offers spiritual guidance and practical advice to van-dwellers.
“One of the last things we filmed,” Zhao told the Associated Press, “was Bob Wells’ final conversation with Fern. The way he articulated this lifestyle, that there’s no final goodbye, that I’ll see you down the road, that really stuck with me.” Zhao borrowed another line Wells speaks in Nomadland for the final onscreen title: “Dedicated to the ones who had to depart.”
News Of The World
Tom Hanks aims to earn his spurs in his first western, based on the novel by Paulette Jiles, which reunites him with director Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips). The two-time Oscar-winner stars as Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who serves as the 19th-century equivalent of a newscaster while traveling from town to town to deliver information about far-off events. He accepts a different sort of on-the-road assignment when he agrees to escort Johanna (Helena Zengel), a 10-year-old taken by a Kiowa tribe 10 years earlier, back to her blood relatives. Complications ensue.
Those Who Wish Me Dead
From prodigious and prolific multi-hyphenate Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone, Wind River) comes a neo-western thriller, based on the novel by Michael Koryta, about a 14-year-old murder witness fleeing relentless assassins during a Montana forest fire. Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Tyler Perry, and Jon Bernthal head the cast.
The Harder They Fall
Idris Elba will be back in the saddle again for this Netflix western costarring Oscar winner Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Zazie Beetz (of TV’s Atlanta), and Jonathan Majors (Da Five Bloods). It’s a tale of pursuit and revenge, focused on the efforts of outlaw Nat Love (Majors) to track down the varmint (Elba) who killed his parents two decades earlier.
Now in its second season, producer Jon Favreau’s western-flavored Star Wars spinoff continues apace on Disney Plus. Favreau — who also gave us Cowboys & Aliens — told ABC News he was drawn to the image of the titular intergalactic bounty hunter “because it really hearkened back to the westerns and samurai films that had originally influenced [Star Wars creator George Lucas]. It’s a deconstructed version of Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name. That’s a great, mysterious, fun character to see the world through.” And before you ask: Yes, he’s already working on Season 3.
Based on real-life events, this contemporary drama features Idris Elba (The Dark Tower) and Caleb McLaughlin (Netflix’s Stranger Things) in a contemporary drama about an edgy father-son relationship set against the backdrop of the urban cowboy subculture centered in Philadelphia’s North Street Stables.
Isaiah Washington (Grey’s Anatomy) does double duty as director and star for this Wild West adventure about legendary slave turned lawman Bass Reeves, whose real-life exploits reportedly were an inspiration for the fictions of the Lone Ranger.
C&I reader favorite Michael Greyeyes and Ed Helms of the Hangover movie trilogy head the cast of a new sitcom for the Peacock streaming service. The premise: Residents of a small town in upstate New York and a nearby Native American reservation find their lives disrupted when local legend and town namesake Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) fights the moving of a historical statue.
Photography: Images courtesy Searchlight Pictures, 20th Century Studios, Bruce Talamon/Universal Pictures, Disney, Tucker Tooley Entertainment, Mary Ellen Matthews/Peacock
From our January 2021 issue.