The Engrossing New Film “Nomadland!” Frances McDormand Is Riveting! Filmed In “Empire”, An American Ghost Town!

Take A Journey Through “Nomadland!”

This brilliant new film has just begun streaming on HULU, and also available in theaters where open and to rent online as well.

Frances McDormand gives another career-making performance – completely fearless and totally exposed – as a woman who loses everything, and ends up living in a small van in the American West – one of a million “Nomads”…

“Nomadland” Begins A “Golden” Oscar Run…

As Awards season is well underway, the film has been winning many Critics Awards.

“Nomadland” is directed by Chloé Zhao, who also wrote, edited, and co-produced. The film is based on the 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder…

Here is the film’s star Frances McDormand – she and the Director lived in vans while filming the movie, as did the crew. This powerful new movie tells the story of a woman who leaves her small town to travel around the American West, living in her small van…becoming part of a culture and life that is “Nomadland”.

The terrific Actor David Strathairn stars as well, another of the many “Nomads” that McDormand encounters as she learns to live a new and difficult life in her van.

Here is a trailer for “Nomadland”:

The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, and also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on the same day.

The film won the Venice festival’s top honor, the Golden Lion. At Toronto, the film won the People’s Choice Award.

It was the first film ever to win the top prize at both Venice and Toronto.

“Nomadland” uses many real “Nomads”, people who live this life outdoors, on the road – it shows how they go from state to state doing seasonal work…Amazon is featured in the film as a place that offers good jobs and more importantly, a safe place to park their campers and vans, which they sleep in…this is real life for so many.

Welcome To Nowhere!

The opening scenes of the film were shot on location in Empire, Nevada – a modern American ghost town.

Some of you know by previous posts that I am fascinated by the ghost towns that are scattered across the United States: every state has them, due to changing demographics, or in this case, the departure of the only business in town!

The Rise And Fall Of Empire, Nevada…

Frances McDormand’s character in the film worked in Empire, until the town literally shut down.

The town of Empire was founded in 1923; that was the year that Miners formed a tent city while mining a claim originally established by the Pacific Portland Cement Company in 1910.

The mining company U.S. Gypsum took over ownership of the town in 1948, and it became a place for their employees to live – all houses and businesses were strictly for their staff! That led to a maximum population of 750 in the early 1960s.

The Empire Gypsum mine was one of the longest continually operating mines in the US, operating for 88 years from 1923 to 2011…but then, times changed for the town forever.

In its heyday, the town had a graveyard as well as a church, a public pool, a 9-hole golf course, a post office ( zip code 89405), and even a small airport for light planes.

The town’s convenience store with a gas station was the only store for more than 50 miles.

Empire Becomes A Ghost Town…

When the recession of 2008 hit, the Gypsum plant in Empire struggled to survive, and ultimately closed its doors in 2011, eliminating 95 jobs.

“Nomadland” opens with this fullscreen graphic:

That’s right, after the plant shut down, Empire effectively became a ghost town. In response, the local ZIP Code, 89405, was also discontinued!

In 2016, United States Gypsum sold the town and the mine to Empire Mining Co., and the mine has been partially reopened, but it’s hard to imagine that this town will ever become more than a place for a few workers to live close to their job.

Now, you can see a bit of Empire thanks to “Nomadland.”

I shared another book that tells the story of Nomads in America:

Author Richard Grant tells the story of the millions who live in cars, vans and RV’s…a vagabond life that some love, and others are forced into.

It’s a great book and you can read more about it here:

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Categories: Academy Awards, Art, Awards, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Exotic Travel, Film Fight Club, Great Films, Independent Cinema, Memoirs, Movies, nature, Obscure Movies, Talent/Celebrities, Travel Memoir

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24 replies

  1. I really want to watch this movie! I met a lot of nomads during our travels in the southwest. Many were there out of choice, but some not. ALso, she is a fabulous actress!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was only about 10 years ago, when I read Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep, that I realised how many people in the USA live in these camper vans. People generally think of America as being a rich country and don’t realise how much poverty there is. In saying that, of course, a big portion of our population here live in squatter camps which is a lot worse than a camper van. You don’t expect this in America though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a lifestyle not only caused by homelessness, but I have shared a look at the book “American Nomads” which dives into the reasons, some financial but many just the desire to “get away” from society…we do have a horrible homelessness problem here in the US Robbie…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I know that. I am seeing it on a lot of blogs. I can also understand the choice perspective. It is an attractive thought to be free and nomadic although I’m not sure if it really works. I guess I’ll have to read the book …


  3. I saw a couple of trailers for this film recently and I was interested by undecided — after reading this I am definitely going to watch it. I like Frances McDormand very much and her performances are always compelling, Thanks for the info!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was sent a screener as I vote for the Producers Guild Awards…held off because I wasn’t sure – even though I have a book called “American Nomads” which is terrific….finally watched the film last night and loved it….McDormand’s performance is FEARLESS…moments of raw candor and honesty that are gut-wrenching


  4. How interesting! I would love to see ghost towns out west.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m going to see based on your review and the fac that the great t Ms McDormand is in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m really really, really looking forward to this!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My friend Julian just posted a gloing review for this film too. He loved it.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Bravo “My Octopus Teacher!” Academy Award Best Documentary Nominee! Plus Oscar’s Groundbreaking Year For Women! – johnrieber
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