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James Mottram’s “Nebraska” Is an Example of Terrific Writing & No Critique

In response to James Mottram’s 301‑word review of Nebraska on The List

By ,

How can one write so poetically yet give so little effort? James Mottram’s “Nebraska” is a perfect example of a sub-par critique that only holds up due to good writing. No one can dispute that Mottram writes with a fine keystroke, and surely no one will question the critic’s passion for film—but the work barely covers the essentials. There are excellent critiques for one to enjoy, and there are also far too many that summarize and provide a few thoughts of analysis.

Nebraska is a work that could have been memorable. The general reader seeks to find a critique that is worthwhile and says something important. Mottram appears to either have a poor understanding of the audience, or is just unwilling to give a decent effort. The critic mentions that Bruce Dern won Best Actor at Cannes in the final paragraph, but refuses to offer any thought on the performance except a single throwaway line. The co-star Will Forte is also given one line of analysis. It’s just not good enough.

Mottram writes four paragraphs in Nebraska, which is the perfect amount to convey that the film was seen: intro, plot summary, reference and close. Yes, the writing acumen of the critic is solid, which is a reason to share the gift with the world. Mottram reflects on director Alexander Payne’s past films, but the review simply ends before the critic says anything noteworthy. Where is the critique? There is a starling lack of effort and heart in the piece.    

Quality of Writing Quality of Argument Spoiler Avoidance Presentation