Movies & TV

Comedy or not, ‘Get Out’ a unique Oscar contender

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Betty Gabriel in a scene from, "Get Out." (Universal Pictures via AP)

NEW YORK: The movie year seems destined to conclude the way it essentially began: With everybody talking about “Get Out.” Jordan Peele’s horror sensation is again the subject of debate after it was reported that Universal Pictures submitted the film for Golden Globe Awards consideration as a comedy, rather than a drama. The film’s classification will ultimately reside with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but whatever the outcome, the controversy shows how “Get Out” is already challenging the conventions of Hollywood’s prestige movie season.

Peele, himself, has showed no desire to quell the backlash, only to slyly prod it.

“Get Out,” he said simply on Twitter, is a documentary. Appearing on “The Late Show” Wednesday night, Peele stuck with that label for his race-savvy social satire.

“The movie is truth. The thing that resonated with people is truth,” said Peele, before seguing into a joke. “For me, it’s more of a historical biopic. The original title was ‘Get Out: The Kanye West Story’ but I had to lop off the end.”

Most experts believe “Get Out,” which made $253.4 million worldwide on a $4.5 million budget, is a favorite for a best picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Universal has mailed for-your-consideration screeners, and an awards campaign has been mounted.

If “Get Out” were to be nominated, it would be unusual on many counts. Seldom are directorial debuts, February releases or horror films nominated for best picture. (Among the few horror films that have been are “The Exorcist, “The Silence of the Lambs” and “The Sixth Sense.”) And then there’s the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ poor record of nominating African-American-led movies and the “OscarsSoWhite” protests that have accompanied several recent Academy Awards.

The hard-to-define “Get Out” is poised to be an Oscar contender unlike any seen before, but not just for those traits. Peele’s acclaimed film is an uncommonly sharp big-screen commentary on the real horrors of black existence and the hollowness of liberal progressiveness. It’s a monster movie where society, as seen through African-American eyes, is terrifying.

“It doesn’t fit into a genre,” Peele told Colbert. “It sort of subverts the idea of genre. It is the kind of movie that black people can laugh at but white people not so much.”

That’s why many reacted strongly to simplifying “Get Out” as a comedy, even though Peele (half of the comedy duo of Key and Peele) is a comic veteran. Calling it a comedy in a way trivializes the racism it’s depicting. “Was this a joke?” asked Lakeith Stanfield, who co-stars in the film.

The Globes have previously confounded with their divisions between drama and comedy, most recently with the award-winning sci-fi adventure “The Martian.” Judd Apatow and others objected to Ridley Scott’s film being lumped in with the likes of Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck,” and thereby finding an easier route to taking home hardware. When “Martian” star Matt Damon, who won best actor in a comedy for his performance in “The Martian” returned last year to present, he called his comedy win “funnier, literally, than anything in ‘The Martian.’”

But “Get Out” is a unique case. And nothing on Mars is as scary as what lies here on Earth in Peele’s film.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 20, 2017, on page 11.

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