Countless people who visit Hollywood & Highland from across the globe pass the names of Best Pictures gone by. The Academy selected an exceptional list of nominees this year for consideration to be next to join film history. Although I have many favorites, the movie I would place in the time capsule outside the Dolby Theatre is “Get Out”. It is also the film which is being unfairly written off by many people as a film which won’t win Best Picture. While their arguments make sense in a vacuum where the old rules of the Academy certainly applied, they are failing to see that the film industry has changed and is continuing to change. That change is enough to suggest that “Get Out” stands a far greater chance to win Best Picture than most people are willing to let on.
“Get Out” has already proven to stand the test of time. It came out a year ago and people are still talking about it, as evidenced by its recent screenplay win at the Writers Guild (WGA). It reminds me of when “The Silence Of The Lambs” took the box office by storm before taking the Oscar. I think “Get Out” can do the same. Both transcend genre with added depth by featuring lead characters who escape their respective situations while overcoming the judgment society places on them. For Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, in a performance for the ages, she solves the crime while withstanding the comments, criticisms, ogling and worse from the men around her. The movie resonates as much today as it did then.
For Chris Washington, played by recent BAFTA Rising Star winner Daniel Kaluuya, he faces the initial evaluation we all fear when meeting the parents of someone we love or think we do. The added tension arises from the fact that Chris is black and her family is white. Before he gets there, he has to deal with a situation unfortunately all too common for someone like Chris, a harassing traffic stop. After this incident, he senses something more sinister. Ultimately this family wants to subjugate his mind and inhabit his body. These moments demonstrate what makes “Get Out” a brilliant satirical thriller. As if to say the only way we can all get along is if we think alike and act the same or behave the way the majority wants you to.
Jordan Peele’s screenplay excels because he could have made the family stereotypically bigoted. He subverts expectations by making them appear more open-minded at the start. “I would’ve voted for Obama for a third term” is one of many perfect lines of dialogue which highlight this. Prejudice has no political affiliation. More than one movie in this year’s lineup openly deals with race. “Get Out” makes a strong impact on the viewer because it is contemporary (Thus showing we have a long way to go) and written by someone who is biracial. Personal experience enriches the narrative. Peele’s exceptional direction masterfully balances tension and comic relief. He assembles a fantastic cast and fills the film with memorable moments. Don’t believe me? People will be referencing the Sunken Place for years to come.
In a race this close, every vote counts. Sometimes when it comes to voting, people question choosing something or someone they doubt can win. Anyone who thinks “Get Out” can’t win because of its lack of below-the-line nominations or its genre are not opening their eyes. “Get Out” won several awards to signify that it indeed can win the big prize on Oscar Sunday. “Get Out” earned the PGA Stanley Kramer Award, the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director, the WGA Award for Original Screenplay, three Gotham awards and two Critics Choice awards. Not to mention, it snagged two Next Best Picture Film Community Awards! It landed at the top of more top 10 lists than any other film according to Metacritic. Daniel Kaluuya won eight awards for his lead performance. The cast received a nomination by SAG for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in Motion Picture, as did Kaluuya for his work as the lead in the film. According to the Metacritic Film Award Scorecard, the film garnered the most first place and second place prizes throughout the year including 27 wins for its screenplay, which is 20 more than its closest competitor for that category. The film that has finished first on this scorecard has won Best Picture six out of the last eight years. So, while it may not look like the “typical” winner such as “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” or “The Shape Of Water” which have won awards at the Golden Globes, BAFTA’s and various guilds, “Get Out” has not been entirely shut out either.
Another reason why “Get Out” stands a good chance to win Best Picture is because of the preferential ballot. Most people will agree that no film is going to win on the first round of voting this year due to the wide spread love over various films. So, if it goes to multiple rounds of voting, one has to wonder which film will rank the highest on people’s ballots. Recent wins for “12 Years A Slave” and “Moonlight” suggest that the sad but real group of voters who don’t vote for films featuring people of color are growing smaller and smaller year after year as the Academy’s membership grows and diversifies. Sure, “Get Out” has a genre hill to climb being a horror film. Or is it a comedy? Or a social commentary? Truth be told, Jordan Peele’s film is all of those things and thus, it has wide appeal. Many will undoubtedly rank it at number one on their ballots but due to the success of the film and its above the line nominations, one has to also believe it will rank in the top 5 on most people’s ballots as well. Anyone who argues that it cannot win and is not in contention to pull a “Spotlight” with wins in Original Screenplay and Best Picture (The two of its four nominations it’s very widely predicted to possibly take home), are clinging to old Academy voting habits before the preferential ballot and the larger Academy membership were introduced. This could very seriously happen!
In addition, “Get Out” would reflect success for the recent inclusion initiative and the selection process for Best Picture. By bringing in new members, the goal of diversity appears to be working from a nomination standpoint. However, victories prove to be more powerful. A televised speech by Barry Jenkins last year or potentially one by Jordan Peele this year could inspire the future filmmakers of color to pursue their dreams within the filmmaking industry. Diversity drives box office as evidenced by the record-breaking success of “Black Panther” and the strong buzz building around “A Wrinkle In Time.” The ratings for the show has fallen each year over the past three years. Viewership drives advertising dollars the Academy needs to thrive. Since the expansion of the number of nominated films beyond the traditional five, only two winners grossed more than $100 million domestically. A win for “Get Out” (Domestic gross: $176 million) could bring viewers back to the ceremony if they know that their favorite blockbuster actually stands a chance to win awards. It would be a worthy winner that would bring excitement and potentially a new generation of Oscar viewers for years to come. We’re at a tipping point in history not just for the Oscars but for the industry as well. Hopefully, voters will recognize that and thus recognize “Get Out” for not just what it represents but for also being a damn good movie as well.
“Get Out” is nominated for four Oscars including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.
You can follow Paul and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @AcademyPicks