Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far: https://largeassmovieblogs.com/2018/01/the-lamb-devours-the-oscars-2018-roster.html
Today, Daniel Lackey from Lackey on Film is here to look at another Best Picture nominee, Get Out.
The Academy isn’t known for its appreciation for the horror genre — especially when it comes to the Oscars’ most prestigious category. By my reckoning, only three horror films have ever been nominated for Best Picture, and I had to stretch my definition of “horror” to come up with that many. So I’m shocked to see two nominal horror movies on this year’s slate, and I’m here to discuss one of them: Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele.
It is, admittedly, closer to what most people think of as “horror” than the other nominee (Guillermo del Toro’s historical-dark-fairy-tale-romance The Shape of Water). But it is by no means a conventional specimen of the genre. The Golden Globes endured no small amount of ridicule for nominating it as a comedy, and yet Peele did build it on a foundation of socio-political satire.
Horror and social commentary are natural bedfellows, with its monsters and psychotic killers standing in for real-world fears and anxieties. Get Out begins with Chris and Rose, who have been dating for five months, preparing to meet Rose’s parents. This is an unease that most of the audience will be familiar with. Compounding this unease are the less universal elements of each character’s experience. Chris is an African-American of working-class background, whereas Rose is white and from a family so rich it can afford to employ live-in servants.
Rose tries to relieve Chris’ anxiety by making light of her parents’ level of “wokeness”—she (correctly) predicts that her father will tell Chris that he would have voted for a third term for Obama if he could. But this doesn’t keep Chris from feeling like an outsider: “All I know is, sometimes, when there’s too many white people, I get nervous, you know?”
The 2008 election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, ushered in a new era of post-racial culture and politics. Or at least, that’s what it was supposed to do, according to a bunch of people who, it turned out, had no idea what racism actually was. Obama’s election struck many white American leftists — myself included — as the culmination of decades of progress against the racism long entrenched in the country’s institutions and culture. We had a black President and you couldn’t say the N-word in public anymore. Not seeing anything that looked like racism anymore, we decided we won.
The thing is, of course, that racism doesn’t only look like a white man with an undercut, a Pepe the Frog button, and an insufferably smug expression. It can look like a well-meaning liberal couple who mean well but haven’t put the work into looking beyond their own whiteness. (It can even look like a liberal middle-aged amateur film critic who almost wrote “Racism looks like you and me” on the assumptions that most of his audience is white.)
Rose’s parents are so stereotypically white that they immediately set off alarm bells in the attentive viewer’s mind, but they also strike me as sincere. I believe that Rose’s father really would have voted for Obama again. And that’s the most insidious type of racism: the kind that says, as one character comes close to doing late in the film, I don’t have any problems with you because of your race, but that doesn’t mean I won’t exploit you because of your race.
This is not to say Jordan Peele has directed the feature-film equivalent of a sermon or an op-ed piece. Get Out has a message, true, but it’s one encased in one of the best horror films (and all-round pieces of entertainment) of 2017. You could take out all the social commentary and I’d still have a hard time deciding whether I liked it better than It Comes at Night (which was also totally amazing, by the way).
He proves himself to have a canny sense of what will keep the audience on edge; he knows how to maintain a discomfiting miasma of atmospheric dread, and he knows how long to keep a suspense scene going before pulling the rug out. As a work of horror fiction, Get Out works on the intellectual level (I just spent five or six paragraphs on that) but also the existential level (the stomach-churning terror of a literal fate worse than death) and the visceral level (gross-outs employed sparingly but effectively). The Sunken Place sequences, in particular, are beautiful in their aesthetic cruelty.
In addition, Peele has assembled a cast so strong that to single out any one member of the ensemble seems grossly unfair. Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Chris, deserves every inch of his Best Actor nomination and I can only hope this will lead to greater things to come (he’s already in Black Panther); Allison Williams’ performance as Rose should similarly prove star-making. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener (as Rose’s parents) turn their innate likeability to chilling ends; Caleb Landry Jones (as Rose’s brother) does something similar with his innate unlikeability. Lil Rel Howery, as Chris’ best friend Rod, steals every scene and gets all the best lines. And I can’t forget Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel as the creepy servants, or the sinister Stephen Root, who is great in everything.
Get Out is up for four Oscars; will it actually win any? I can’t see it winning Best Picture (where the tea leaves point to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with The Shape of Water as a dark horse) or Best Director (which will probably go to Guillermo del Toro). Similarly, there’s no chance the Academy will favor Kaluuya over Gary Oldman.
The film’s best chance is in Original Screenplay; even though it’s up against heavyweights Three Billboards and Shape, the category often rewards quirkier fare like Get Out and the other two nominees, Lady Bird and The Big Sick.
What do you think of Get Out‘s chances at winning Best Picture?