Every so often a marginal, not-bad genre film released in the early part of the year becomes the recipient of wild over-praise by the foo-foos.
Last year it was Dan Trachtenberg‘s 10 Cloverfield Place, which prompted some to suggest that John Goodman or even the highly actorish Mary Elizabeth Winstead had delivered an award-worthy performance. I called bullshit on this early on — needless to add no one said boo about Cloverfield down the road.
This year’s recipient is Jordan Peele‘s Get Out. The fact that New Yorker foo-foo king Richard Brody is calling it not only “great” but “a recapturing of the spirit of the films of Luis Bunuel” underlines this phenomenon.
Opening graph: “In Get Out, one of the great films by a first-time director in recent years, Jordan Peele borrows tones and archetypes from horror movies and thrillers, using them as a framework for the most personal of experiences and ideas: what it’s like to be a young black man in the United States today.”
This is actually a valid point. A critic in 1956 could have similarly said that Don Siegel‘s Invasion of the Body Snatchers borrows tones and archetypes from horror movies and thrillers to dramatize what it’s like to be a middle-class, numbed-out conformist in the Eisenhower era. The difference, I believe, is that Siegel’s film is significantly smarter — better written, more intelligently plotted — than Peele’s. Siegel played it straight while Peele is going for (but doesn’t quite find) John Carpenter-like genre chuckles.
You want some serious Carpenter-style humor? Consider some of the jokes in Assault on Precinct 13 (’76), especially the moment when Darwin Joston‘s Napoleon Wilson and Tony Burton‘s Wells play potatoes to decide who will risk his life first — that one gag is fifteen times funnier than anything in Get Out.
Back to Brody: “This subtle, strange, bitterly comedic emphasis on the totemic and symbolic power of objects, as seen through the eyes of the film’s protagonist, lends Peele’s direction classical reverberations. Even more than a Hitchcockian tone, Peele recaptures and reanimates the spirit of the films of Luis Bunuel, whose surrealistically eroticized Catholic heritage made him a supremely sly Freudian symbolist.
“In Get Out, Peele’s own cinematic historical consciousness, transformed through his own inner architecture of political thought, blasts this classical style into the future.”
The ghosts of Bunuel and Hitchcock have just stirred. Vibrations from the home planet have disturbed their cosmic flotations, and they are now contemplating a response. I was going to mention that I’ll be flabbergasted if Brody or anyone else tries to re-ignite Get Out six or eight months from now, but the foo-foos might try this just for consistency’s sake.