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OKC film fans can see an Oscar front-runner in a surprising place this weekend

Frances McDormand stars in Oscar front-runner "Nomadland." [Searchlight Pictures photo]
Frances McDormand stars in Oscar front-runner "Nomadland." [Searchlight Pictures photo]

A version of this story appears in Friday's Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.

Oscar front-runner 'Nomadland' rolls into OKC in an unusual format for an indie drama

In these unusual days for the entertainment business, an Academy Award front-runner is getting an unusual theatrical rollout.

Trailblazing writer-director Chloé Zhao's delicately understated road movie "Nomadland"opens Friday in Oklahoma City in a format not often explored by Oscar-bound independent dramas: the IMAX screen at the AMC Quail Springs Mall 24.

It's part of an uncommon release strategy Searchlight Pictures has adopted during these unprecedented days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Zhao's visually striking and emotionally resonate drama is debuting in IMAX around the country over the next few weeks, leading up to its opening in standard movie theaters on Feb. 19, the same day the film starts streaming on Hulu.

Although it's unusual for such a quiet and intimate drama to get the IMAX treatment, Frances McDormand's stunning lead performance is big enough to fill all that screen. McDormand has been nominated for five acting Academy Awards — winning for "Fargo" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" — but that still somehow feels like inadequate acclaim after watching her unadorned, film-carrying tour de force turn in "Nomadland."

Based on journalist Jessica Bruder's 2017 nonfiction book, the drama follows Fern (McDormand), a widow who loses her job and house in the Great Recession and leaves her small Nevada home to become a modern-day nomad, living out of her customized van, taking seasonal jobs and traversing the American West. The film boasts plenty of wrenchingly beautiful scenic views that are definitely worth seeing on a big — even IMAX-sized — screen.

Along with McDormand and Oscar-nominated character actor David Strathairn, the timely drama co-stars real-life nomads Charlene Swankie, Linda May and Bob Wells playing fictionalized versions of themselves.

Considered an Oscar front-runner, "Nomadland" already has earned high honors from the Gotham Awards, Venice Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which I'm a voting member.

"Nomadland" earlier this week earned four Golden Globe Awards nominations, including Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama for McDormand, Best Screenplay — Motion Picture and Best Director — Motion Picture, both for Zhao, whose next project is the Marvel Studios superhero adventure "Eternals."

Already the first female helmer to receive the Director of the Year Award from the Palm Springs (California) International Film Awards, Zhao joins Emerald Fennell ("Promising Young Woman") and Regina King ("One Night in Miami") among the best director nominees for the 78th Annual Golden Globes, marking the first time in the long-running ceremony's history that more than one woman has been nominated in the category.

The Golden Globes will air Feb. 28 on NBC. That was originally the airdate for the Academy Awards, which have been shifted to April 25 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Features Writer Brandy "BAM" McDonnell covers Oklahoma's arts, entertainment and cultural sectors for The Oklahoman and Reach her at, and Please support work by her and her colleagues by subscribing at 


Related Photos
Frances McDormand stars in Oscar front-runner "Nomadland." [Searchlight Pictures photo]

Frances McDormand stars in Oscar front-runner "Nomadland." [Searchlight Pictures photo]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Frances McDormand stars in Oscar front-runner "Nomadland." [Searchlight Pictures photo]" title="Frances McDormand stars in Oscar front-runner "Nomadland." [Searchlight Pictures photo]"><figcaption>Frances McDormand stars in Oscar front-runner "Nomadland." [Searchlight Pictures photo]</figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›