NEBRASKA — What does a son do when he feels his dad doesn’t love him? Either silently withdraw or take the road trip of his life to just spend a little time together. Director Alexander Payne has done it brilliantly again. Nebraska isn’t the road trip we took in Sideways. It’s a father-son road trip, and a touchingly redemptive ride it is, from Billings, Montana to Omaha, Nebraska with a stop in the fictional Hawthorne along the way. This beautiful, character-driven film, with a virtuoso performance by Bruce Dern as Woody Grant and a touching Will Forte as his son, David, asks a tough...

AMERICAN HUSTLE — David O. Russell’s American Hustle is a cinematic treatise on the complexities of survival. Irving Rosenfeld, Sydney Prosser (AKA Lady Edith Greensley), Richie DiMaso, and Rosalyn Rosenfeld are each, in their own uniquely perverse and destructive ways, just trying to survive. But, are they? If we remove ourselves from the intrigue of the hustle itself (based upon the FBI Abscam operation of 1980), what exactly can we learn about this particular brand of self-serving (or should I say, rather desperate) psychological survival? Each member of this troubled cast of characters is trying to “survive” the limits of their real identities. As Irving...

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB — There are two radical choices when faced with a death sentence: jolt into a potent sobriety and fight to live. Or, sink into despair so deep that drugs are a greater solace than fighting the monster killing you. Ron Woodroof, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey (Golden Globe Best Actor), chooses the former. But Rayon, a transgender woman, played with magnificent pathos by Jared Leto (Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor) can’t stop her harmful behaviors. What are the driving forces (emotional ones, that is) behind an out of character transformation versus self-destruction? Ron Woodroof, whose real life story Dallas Buyers Club tells,...