By Josh Tarpley
With the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals all but complete, we in the awards watching community finally have an idea of what the Oscar season is going to look like. If you take a look at our various Oscar predictions, you’ll see that some movies have fallen out of the field (sorry “Detroit”) while others have risen to the top (hello “The Shape of Water,” “Battle of the Sexes”). It is no surprise that (sadly) the Oscar race consists mainly of films released in the last 4 months of the year. Sure, 2015 had a May release (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) and 2014 had a March release (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), but the current awards model favors movies released in the Fall, with campaigns usually starting at one of the big three festivals. I’m happy to say this year will see another early release join the Best Picture nominees, and that film is “Get Out.”
“Get Out?” The directorial debut from comedian Jordan Peele released under the Blumhouse horror brand that tackles race relations and features jokes about TSA frisking old ladies? How would that ever be a movie to be predicted for a Best Picture nomination?
Well I’m glad you asked….
In this early phase of Oscar predicting “Get Out” is the most divisive film amongst predictors. Whether it be predictions listed at Next Best Picture, Awards Watch or Gold Derby, you can see folks predicting “Get Out” to be a top contender, to a “maybe,” to “not at all.” I can admit that I was late to the party when it comes to predicting “Get Out,” but as of right now I am fully convinced the film will be announced come nominations morning.
The 2017 Backstory
Though we may argue about the movie’s Oscar chances, one thing that is not up for debate is the idea that “Get Out” is one of the top tier movies of 2017. After Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele” ended, many expected to see the two actors continue their careers in the comedic space. It turns out that Jordan Peele’s comedic genius comes from a place of social relevance, and he is going to continue to make social commentary, only now it will be through a top notch horror movie.
“Get Out” currently holds a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an impressive average rating of 8.3. Whether they loved it or liked it, the Rotten Tomatoes score is correct in reporting that there is a true consensus amongst critics and that consensus is “this is a good movie.” Of 283 submitted reviews, only two were negative. The film earned $175 million on a $5 million budget, Jason Blum has proven that you need not spend $100 million in order to have a hit in this country.
The film has remained in popular culture since its February debut. Whether it be various “sunken place” memes or Jordan Peele’s great presence on Twitter, “Get Out” has provided the absurdist vocabulary we needed just as our institutions (government, media) became absolutely absurd in 2017. For the record, dank memes do not translate to Oscar nominations, so with all this in mind let’s breakdown how a Best Picture nomination can take place.
The Critics’ Revival
Make no mistake, that strong consensus amongst critics will be a key strength in the uphill battle Jason Blum faces in getting “Get Out” into the Oscar conversation (a reminder that Jason Blum received an Oscar nomination for producing “Whiplash” in 2014). Whether it be excellent analysis from Screen Prism or that 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, critics have taken to “Get Out,” and the December regional critics awards will see the film come back in a major way.
Whether it be Los Angeles or New York or Washington D.C. or Dallas or the state of Indiana, there are over 30 regional critics groups that give out their awards every year and they have the potential to help shape the Oscar race. To be fair, they can’t work miracles. “Snowpiercer” was never going to be an awards player and Andy Serkis was never going to be nominated for his work in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, no matter how many critics awards they received.
On the other hand, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is our key example here. The movie came out in May of 2015, had people (mainly critics and twitter folks) talking and analyzing the film all summer, saw its buzz die down in the Fall, but then saw a huge resurgence in almost all critics awards (not to mention some other precursors we’ll get to below). That 99% Rotten Tomatoes score should see “Get Out” show up throughout the critics season, thrusting its momentum back into the Oscar race.
The Precursor Awards
Outside of the regional critics, there are various other organizations and awards bodies that we can expect to reward “Get Out.” The National Board of Review (NBR) and American Film Institute (AFI) still hold to a mandatory 10 nominees with a nominating system similar to what the Oscars had in 2009-2010, we can expect to see “Get Out” in both of their lineups (NBR being important as they are first out of the gate).
Agree or disagree with the placement, “Get Out” will be submitted as a Comedy at the Golden Globes which all but guarantees Jason Blum and Jordan Peele will have the film recognized in their Comedy/Musical categories. Depending on the strength of the field, it is very possible “Get Out” and Peele could receive wins at the Golden Globes, continuing to build the buzz for the movie.
Lastly, and most importantly, will be all of the guilds. You build a Best Picture nominee with consensus, and we will see if there is consensus as the actual guilds (the only precursor awards with actual Academy members participating) put out their awards. WGA will nominate the screenplay (which has always been a safe bet amongst Oscar predictors), DGA will recognize Peele (whether in the main 5 or in their “First-Time Feature Film” category), and PGA’s Top 10 will certainly see “Get Out” in the mix.
If all of this takes place (the critics, the Globes, the guilds), the Academy would have to take a clear and decisive stance against “Get Out” to go the opposite of the consensus that I expect to be present as voters and filling out their ballots. That is why there is one more variable in the “Get Out” Oscar train.
#OscarsSoWhite Is Not A Thing Of The Past
I don’t know if we have fully considered just how huge it is that “Moonlight” won Best Picture over “La La Land.” The fiasco of Envelope-gate took the conversation away from a conversation going something like “the Academy’s diversity push is working and new members hold some real power against the status quo.” With over 700 new members invited this year (the most in Academy history), there are rumblings that our definition of an “Oscar Movie” is quickly changing, and films that champion the underrepresented can be expected to be championed.
I do not think Academy voters have put the #OscarsSoWhite controversy behind them and I think the shame of 2014/2015 will continue to affect their votes. Let me be clear, films that feature actors/filmmakers of color should be rewarded and they will be bring about change in the industry. With that in mind, what films are going to benefit from a newer, younger, more diverse Academy voting group?
Maybe “Mudbound” (if Netflix can actually campaign it)? Maybe “The Big Sick?” Maybe “First They Killed My Father” overcomes the language barrier and breaks into the Best Picture race? With all of the (expected) buzz we will see in November-January, it only makes sense that “Get Out” will be the benefactor of this new Academy’s direction.
That is how I see the next few months shaking out. Now of course, if any one of these precursors fails, then the lack of momentum will kill “Get Out’s” chances at Oscar glory. If the critics or NBR or AFI or the Golden Globes or the various guilds fail to honor the movie, I will immediately remove it from my predictions.
“Get Out” isn’t the film to make it solely on love from the industry, it needs the same momentum that “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Avatar” received, a movie that is championed as a zeitgeist for our times. Expect to see FYC ads touting the movie as “The first movie of the Trump era.” And that right there might just be the narrative it needs as we come up to the end of the first year of his presidency.
What do you think? Is “Get Out” going to be nominated for Best Picture? Will we see the “Oscar Movie” take on a new definition, or can we expect more of the same? Let us know in the comments below!
You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @JoshTarpley7