Alexander Payne and the Art of the Mundane.
For nearly three decades Alexander Payne has created art from seemingly mundane characters and the details of daily life. But, as there are no ordinary lives, the stories Payne tells are anything but mundane. His films present a realistic account of the complexity endured by common people on any given day. The empathy he feels toward his characters is evident and enables the audience to associate with them and their struggles. Whether we like the character or not, we can associate with their hardship and sympathize with their frustrations.
Alexander Payne films have been nominated for nineteen Academy Awards, and he has received Oscars for two of his screenplays. The first being “Sideways” (2004) starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church as two buddies bonding on a trip to wine country. The second, “The Descendants”(2011), stars George Clooney as a recently divorced father recovering with his kids. Both subjects appear rather ordinary, even tame, at first glance. But, through Payne’s twisted sense of reality, life is never as simple as it appears.
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Payne was also nominated as Best Director for “Sideways” and “The Descendants”, as well as “Nebraska”(2013). In the later film, Bruce Dern portrays a cranky old man who charges his son (Will Forte) with getting him from Montana to Nebraska to claim his sweepstakes winnings. True to Payne form, the trip is not as direct as one might expect. Nor is the outcome. The action in the film is secondary to the relationship between the two men. The undying respect of the son for his father, no matter how strained, is Payne’s focus.
As further recognition of his screenwriting talents, Alexander Payne was selected to act as a panelist for the Tribeca Film Festival Jury. He sat on the International Narrative Competition jury. He has previously served on juries at the Cannes, San Sebastian, and Thessaloniki film festivals.