And now for the movie that came fifth in the Guardian’s top 20 of 2017. It also had Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Film and Best Actor for Daniel Kaluuya, pictured above, who was also nominated for a BAFTA. He didn’t receive the main award but he won the Rising Star award, decided by the public. It recently won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Jordan Peele, who also directs. Get Out has a 99% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is a film that blends race-savvy satire with horror to especially potent effect and is a bombshell social critique from first-time director Jordan Peele, who proves positively fearless.
Peele cracks open one of those simple premises destined to end on a slippery slope with a pile of corpses and a distant siren. It begins with a lovey-dovey interracial couple—Chris (Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams). They prepare to spend the weekend at her parents’ posh home in the woods for the first time. He’s nervous, even more so when he learns Rose hasn’t told the parents he’s African American. As they drive past a strangely passive black gardener on the long driveway to her parents’ estate, Peele amps up the suspense before the couple even reaches the oversized front door—and her parents, Missy and Dean Armitage (a cunning pairing of Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford).
From liberal dad’s claims he’d have voted for Obama a third time (see, I’m no racist) to the desperately strained looks Chris gets from the family’s black maid (Betty Gabriel), the lover’s heebie-jeebies escalate. A black man in a white bastion, he feels his isolation intensely, even as Rose tries obliquely to reassure him. And, this is the movie’s beauty: the audience shares Chris’ paranoia and unease in the company of these apparently welcoming white folks. Rising star Kaluuya empathetically draws viewers in with large, popped, expressive eyes and a reticence that reflects his character’s sense of the danger of speaking his own mind in mixed company. Without a moment that sacrifices humor or shocks or narrative speed, Peele uses the mainstream thriller form to get under the skin—and behind the eyes—of a black man navigating the dominant white culture. At first, we jump at the scares just beyond the door, the sudden movements and the strange nonsequiturs of supporting characters that only clarify as the plot progresses. Our rising sense of foreboding arises from Peele’s ability to embed the audience inside the black male gaze using horror-comedy conventions. The hero may get struck down—but Peele refuses to knock the audience over the head with a message that’s nevertheless compelling: to understand the insidiousness of racism, you have to put yourself in a marginalized man’s shoes (and sweat it out). And the only way that can happen in movies is if Hollywood diversifies, encouraging people of colour behind the camera—and in the spotlight.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall