Here is how a surreal Oscars 2021 season found relevance in a year without movie theaters


A man in a cowboy hat stands in an expansive field.

Brady Jandreau in a scene from Chloé Zhao’s “The Driver. ”

(Sony Pictures Classics)



How the Oscars favorite gets brilliant shows from non-actors

OPEN SKIES TINGED with the intense hues associated with twilight hang above extensive American landscapes in the movies of Chloé Zhao.

On the ground, in huge pastures or endless highways untraveled, her humanistic gaze points to the keepers associated with simpler lifestyles, people adopting worldviews detached from the preoccupations of the urban mainstream. She actually is a beholder of the hidden.

Currently on with four Academy Awards for “Nomadland, ” the Chinese-born writer, director, editor and producer has perfected an artisanal method to mold psychological truth into plainspoken however soul-stirring fiction. Her fascination with others is the not-so-secret golden touch.

There are no traditional casting process involved, especially not for her first two efforts — 2015’s “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” and 2017’s “The Rider” — in whose stories originated from individuals within their inimitable life orbits.

Anchored on empathic understanding, Zhao cultivates romantic relationships. The filmmaker, as she gets to know them, elicits the essence of her subjects, who later turn out to be first-time actors, and instructions their lived experiences in to a dramatic narrative. The outcome is scripted but the raw materials is fact. There’s a private rediscovery for the men and women onscreen as they interpret themselves in Zhao’s fabricated versions of the realities. READ FULL STORY