At first glance, Jordan Peele’s social thriller Get Out doesn’t seem like a likely Best Picture winner. In the last 20 years, the Oscar for Best Picture has gone to serious historical dramas (12 Years a Slave, The King’s Speech), movies about Hollywood (The Artist, Birdman), and sweeping epics (The Lord of the Rings, Gladiator). Get Out is none of these things.
When it was released over a year ago in February 2017, I’m guessing not even in Peele’s wildest dreams did his cutting satire about race in America make over $255 million worldwide at the box office (on a $4.5 million budget!) and earn four Academy Award nominations. Anything it wins on Sunday is probably just gravy at this point. And yet, I think it has an excellent chance to win the biggest prize of all at the Oscars this weekend.
The Moonlight Precedent
After the #OscarsSoWhite controversy two years ago, the Academy made strides to bring in younger and more diverse members. It seems like that choice has made a difference so far. This year’s crop of nominees features more minorities and women than years past and typical “Oscar bait” like The Post has been relegated to the sidelines, while unusual award movies like Get Out and Lady Bird gained more recognition.
Of course, a Get Out win this year wouldn’t be nearly as conceivable without Moonlight shocking the world last year. In case you forgot, here’s the tape.
Moonlight upset La La Land, the stylish musical nominated for 14 Oscars and the overwhelming favorite to win Best Picture. Could The Shape of Water be this year’s La La Land? Director Guillermo Del Toro’s strange romantic fantasy garnered 13 nominations and, along with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has great odds to take home Best Picture. However, the two favorites feel vulnerable, especially with an influx of new voters in the last year or two.
Get Out’s main hurdle to becoming the next Moonlight? It only received four nominations, as opposed to Moonlight’s eight. Also, the only other category Get Out stands a decent chance of winning is Best Original Screenplay. Most Best Picture winners take home a few other awards besides the big prize — although it’s worth noting recent winner Spotlight only snagged two Oscars (Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture) in 2016.
The Silence of the Lambs Precedent
Horror movies don’t historically fare too well at the Academy, if they are recognized at all. So putting aside whether Get Out is actually a horror movie in a strict definition of the term (I think it’s more thriller than horror), you’d assume many voters wouldn’t see Get Out as an Oscar-worthy film. From the very first scene (where Lakeith Stanfield’s character gets kidnapped and stuffed into a trunk), it is provocative and unsettling, never letting you relax for a second. Several months later, that “No, no, no” scene still haunts me.
However, there is precedent for horror-adjacent movies winning Best Picture. 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs is the most obvious parallel. That film was doubly abnormal for a Best Picture, since it was a much-loved horror movie released in February of that year. Most winners are usually rolled out near the end of the year so voters have them fresh in their minds. For comparison’s sake, Get Out is also a horror movie released in February that was universally admired. We’re not in uncharted territory here.
The Movie Of The Moment?
Finally, we come to the most compelling reason why Get Out could win it all. Every year, the Academy chooses the one film that they want to represent the year in Hollywood. Sometimes it’s a well-crafted period drama, other times it’s an impactful story rooted in present-day and relevant to our time.
Well, you may have noticed that American politics are slightly unsettled right now (Understatement of the year?). It’s not far-fetched to believe Oscar voters are going to search for the choice that best reflects the moment. For some that could be the furious, albeit muddled message of Three Billboards. For others, Get Out’s sharply-written ideas on racism and the black experience will simply feel more urgent than the other Best Picture nominees. It’s a clear and bold take on society that hasn’t yet receded from our memories over a year later.
This year’s Best Picture race is more crowded than it’s been in a long, long time. It genuinely seems like up to five movies have a shot, those being The Shape of Water, Three Billboards, Get Out, Dunkirk, and Lady Bird. Most years, we have only one to three legitimate competitors for the crown. If Get Out can pull off the upset in this historically intense race for Best Picture, you can officially call it the movie of the moment.