Tuesday’s nods for Jordan Peele’s critically beloved horror-comedy sent a message that “the Academy sees it as an important piece of cinema,” one film critic said
If they could, Oscar voters would’ve watched it a third time.
“Get Out,” the brilliant 2017 horror-comedy about a black man’s nightmarish visit with his white girlfriend’s family, racked up Academy Award nominations on Tuesday for best actor (lead Daniel Kaluuya), best picture, best director and best original screenplay. First-time director Jordan Peele, only the fifth black best-director nominee in history, would be the first African-American to win. “Right now I’m just thinking about everyone who bought a ticket and told someone else to. You did this,” Peele tweeted after the announcement. “Thank you.”
So what exactly makes the four nods for this low-budget, critically beloved film about the literal horrors of racism so momentous?
— Jordan Peele (@JordanPeele) January 23, 2018
“It’s a big deal that ‘Get Out’ is nominated because it’s an excellent film,” April Reign, whose #OscarsSoWhite campaign shamed the Academy’s all-white nominees in 2015, told Moneyish. “It’s a searing political commentary that speaks to issues that are relevant in our country … It’s impressive for many reasons.” It’s “a very universal film,” she added: “It speaks to everyone, regardless of where they are in their own personal journey with respect to race in this country.”
Tuesday’s “Get Out” noms also sent a message that “the Academy sees it as an important piece of cinema,” said Valerie Complex, a military vet turned movie critic who writes under a pen name. “(It was) kind of like a big ‘f–k you’ to the people who had problems with it and called it racist and divisive.” And a best picture-nominated story about racism told from a black perspective and starring black actors — versus the traditional telling from a white perspective — is “significant,” said sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen, author of “Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism.” “To be able to rise up through the fray of all sorts of competition shows that the Academy and the world are thirsting for stories that have been undertold,” she told Moneyish.
With a $4.5 million production budget that banked $175 million at the box office, the film’s Academy honors prove “the little guy can win,” added Gil Robertson, president and co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association. “This film was made for under $5 million, and it has gone on to be one of the most successful independent films in history. And it’s gone on to receive awards from critics groups and guilds from around the country. So not only commercially but critically, it’s hit its mark. And that’s just such a rarity.”
Its staying power, after premiering nearly a year ago, also speaks volumes. “This film really just rode out the year,” Robertson said. “It just held on, and it maintained its popularity. It’s incited dialogue and introduced new words and phrases into popular culture with ‘the Sunken Place.’ People are running around now at parties with teacups. It’s crazy how it was able to capture the imagination of not just the Academy, but the general public.” Plus, he added, it was “cool” to see a black character actually survive to the end of a horror flick.
What’s the opposite of the Sunken Place?
— Jordan Peele (@JordanPeele) January 23, 2018
Reign refuses credit for her viral campaign paving the way for these nominations, but allows that discussions around diversity and inclusion spurred by #OscarsSoWhite could have nudged some to be more receptive to the film and its genius. “I truly believe that ‘Get Out’ stands on its own and would have been nominated in 2005 before I created #OscarsSoWhite, or in 2025,” she said, “because it’s an incredible film.”
The Academy shouldn’t pat itself on the back yet. “There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Reign said, pointing to the entertainment industry’s continued underrepresentation of the Latinx, Asian-American, LGBTQ and disabled communities, among others. “It’s kind of strange to think that we’re in 2018 and that every award season there are so many firsts for people of color and women,” Yuen said. “It just shows that we’re not exactly past our shackles of racism and sexism — not by any stretch of the imagination.”
Reign is “very encouraged,” she said, by the Academy’s ongoing commitment to double its female and minority membership by 2020. As part of her own work in the inclusion arena, she says she’ll debut a resource for studios and TV networks next month “so that we never hear again that they want to work with a specific marginalized community but don’t know where to find them.” She’s also pushing a #BlackPressMatters hashtag advocating for black media’s opportunities to highlight and review films that reflect the black experience.
“Change is coming, but it’s just slow,” said Complex. “Very slow.”
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