Two-and-a-half months after Jordan Peele’s social thriller Get Out became one of the year’s biggest hits, Universal threw a party for the film on the studio back lot Tuesday night, transforming a row of suburban houses into an unnerving garden party straight out of Peele’s film. As stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams mingled and ate colorful Rice Krispies treats, I asked what kind of reactions they’ve gotten from people on the street since the movie’s release.
“Black women come up to me, hug me, and walk away,” laughed Kaluuya. Williams, whose character Rose lures Kaluuya’s character into a life-threatening meet-the-parents situation, has not had nearly as warm a reaction. “I get a lot of people hitting their friend and going, ‘Oh shit,’” she said. After playing Rose and her polarizing character Marnie on Girls, Williams joked, “Next time, I’ve got to play someone who’s universally beloved. My next role basically has to be Tom Hanks.”
But few fortunes have changed as much as Peele’s after Get Out. Hotly pursued to make studio tentpoles like a live-action remake of Akira, Peele recently signed a deal with Universal to direct another original thriller next. “I thought about it and I took all options in,” said Peele, who’s about to start writing that next project. “But I think in the back of my head, I knew it would take something remarkable to not go for the adventure of coming up with something new again. You have to get over the initial fear of sophomore slump, but at the end of the day … fuck it.”
As Peele begins to segue to that next effort, though, it’s clear that Universal still has further plans for Get Out. While last night’s party was billed as a promotion for the film’s home-video release, several of the studio’s awards consultants were on hand, and even Peele couldn’t ignore talk that an Oscar campaign might be in the offing. “I keep hearing about this and it’s very humbling,” he said. “It’s very cool to hear people talk about the idea that a horror film could be in that discussion.”
Indeed, it’s rare for a horror movie to earn awards-season buzz, but Get Out may be uniquely positioned to break that barrier. Peele’s film was a big hit with both audiences and critics — its 99 percent Rotten Tomatoes score tops every one of last year’s Best Picture nominees, even eventual winner Moonlight. More crucially, it’s a film about something, digging into thorny ideas about racial conflict in a way I suspect Oscar voters will appreciate.
Where could it compete? Unlike other genre movies that have gone the distance with Oscar like Mad Max: Fury Road, Get Out can’t boast a raft of ostentatious tech credits, so the categories it could crash are more limited. In other words, while the production design, special effects, and costumes were on point, they’re not showy enough to go up against the big-budget action movies and period pieces that typically crowd those categories. Still, some below-the-line nominations are possible if Get Out can survive the year-end onslaught of prestige films. A Best Editing nomination would be highly welcome to reward the film’s fine-tuned suspense, and Peele made the case to me that the sound team deserved recognition, too: “It’s such an aural movie,” he said. (Truly, that teacup rattle may be the sound cue of the young year.)
I like Get Out’s odds in Best Original Screenplay, though it will be up against scripts by Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg, Alexander Payne, and Martin McDonagh. Still, voters often favor a comic wild-card pick in that category, and Peele’s inclusion just feels right. The acting races may be tougher to penetrate. Young men like Kaluuya often have trouble scoring with Oscar, and he’ll be up against a pack of tough veterans in Best Actor this year. It remains to be seen how Universal will position Get Out’s actresses: Will Allison Williams contend in supporting, up against co-stars like Academy favorite Catherine Keener and scene-stealer Betty Gabriel? A well-liked movie can often pick up a Supporting Actress nomination, but voters have a lot to choose from in this case.
And then there are the two biggies, Best Picture and Best Director. I think Get Out has a strong chance at penetrating the first field if Universal keeps the drumbeat going for it for the rest of the year, though much will depend on which presumed Oscar contenders falter. A director nomination is going to be much harder to nab for Peele’s film debut, but to hear him tell it, awards attention would simply be a bonus after the film’s gangbusters reception. “It’s a little bit hard for me to transition from soaking up this moment over the last couple of months to any sort of [awards] ambition,” Peele confessed, though he’s thrilled to hear the talk. “We already won, because we got to make the movie.”