If you haven’t heard, Jordan Peele’s racial thriller Get Out will be competing for a Golden Globe in the comedy category, which is…….not accurate. It’s hard even under the most scrutiny to walk away from that film thinking it was a laugh riot. Get Out follows Chris, a young African American man going to meet his white girlfriend’s family over a weekend. He soon discovers that something terrifying and racially motivated is going on underneath this false politeness they show. Get Out is truly one of the great films of 2017. It’s definitely among my favorites of the year, and I would feel comfortable naming it top 5 in the objectively best films of the year without thinking too much about it. It’s just that great of a film.
The Golden Globes has done this before with their faulty system of how to categorize – they considered The Martian (whose comedic moments weren’t even that funny) a gutbuster. Get Out is definitely not without its comedic moments, Peele comes from an extensive comedy background with Key & Peele, he knows how to craft a laugh. Also, LilRel Howery is the MVP of the cast with his comedic edge. Howery is just hilarious in every scene, and he’s not trying hard at all – he’s just naturally hilarious. But still, I would never say “Have you seen the comedy Get Out?” to anybody. Jordan Peele tweeted in response to all this that Get Out was a documentary. To be fair, he’s not wrong. Get Out has arguably more in common with that category than a comedy. He elaborated further with some great comments you should really check out here.
But here’s the thing, the fact that the awards community doesn’t know how to properly classify Get Out points to one of the film’s greatest strengths – it’s impossible to pin down. Get Out is unique – which is something that isn’t always used to describe a potential award winner. It’s a true compliment to the film’s singular quality that the awards community doesn’t know how classify it. There’s horror, there’s a psychological thriller, there’s moments of comedy – but above all it’s a treatise on race and modern America. There’s entire dissertations by writers better than me that can be written about this film and its depiction of race.
The best horror films are the ones that can communicate a very specific, intimate fear and make it feel universal. They can take a fear and manifest it literally. Take Rosemary’s Baby for example, how it mines very human fears about pregnancy before anything demonic gets going. Get Out is about many aspects of race, but what it all boils down to is how unsafe it always is to be a black person in a white place in our America. Even before the film gets bonkers and transcendent, it communicates these fears in subtle, quiet moments. For example, Chris sees a cop car approaching, and even though he’s the clear victim here, he instinctively puts his hands up. He knows how this is going to go. Or in the opening scene, a young black man is walking alone in a white neighborhood when a car pulls up and starts slowly following him. He instinctively knows that this won’t end well for him and tries to just keep walking. He knows how this is going to go.
I don’t ever get riled up much about Oscar snubs and stuff like that anymore, because I firmly believe that they don’t matter as much as they want us to think they do. I mean, we’re talking about a body of people that tried to tell us Shakespeare in Love was a better film than Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, and tried to tell us Crash was better than Brokeback Mountain and Munich. They gave 5 big Oscar nods to Hacksaw Ridge last year for crying out loud! How seriously can you take the opinions of people like that? The awards shows are simply celebrations of film in the given year, they aren’t end-all-be-all determinants of quality. I had a friend point out to me once that the only thing better than winning an award you deserve is not winning an award that everybody knows you deserved. What really matters is how films live on 10 years after their release, which films we’ll still be talking about 25 years from now. Get Out is one of those films I firmly believe we’ll still be talking about in the infinite future, and it doesn’t need an award show to tell me that. It’s better than all of that.