Last year, awards experts had their work cut out for them. In the aftermath of the autumn festivals, just two films (La La Land and Moonlight) emerged victorious, culminating in both teams mounting the steps of Hollywood’s Dolby stage on Oscar night. The landscape today is a lot less certain. Who deserves a trophy? A scrappy first-time film-maker? An overlooked 89-year-old screenwriter? One thing we know for sure is that the following films represent the best of this award season’s extraordinary output.
1. Get Out
The flash of a camera. The clinking of a teaspoon. The humming of crickets in a suburban street. Get Out’s accumulation of seemingly banal details makes it so masterfully unsettling. The movie is something of a modern-day Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? that sees an African-American (Daniel Kaluuya) visit the parents of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) and gradually discover a sinister truth brewing beneath mind games and micro-aggressions.
Such a searing satire on the ailing state of race relations in the US could not be more timely. The film was released a month after the inauguration of Donald Trump, a man who questions the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate, dismisses the Black Lives Matter movement and is endorsed by the KKK. Propelled by a playful undercurrent of dark humour, Get Out became a runaway success, grossing a staggering $254 million with a modest budget of $4.5 million. The film marks the sketch comedian Jordan Peele’s first foray into cinema as a writer-director, and has already established him as an auteur to watch. Get Out may have hit multiplexes 10 months ago (making it by far the year’s oldest awards contender), but its sucker punch to the status quo has ensured it’s impossible to forget.