Where Is the Oscars’ Love For ‘Nope’?
Jordan Peele’s latest horror film was completely shut out of the Oscars.
The Oscars ignite a volley of confusing feelings in film fans every year. There’s joy when a well-made movie is nominated for awards, and even wins them. But at the same time, there’s also some resentment when a film that should have clearly been nominated is completely shut out. That’s the case with Jordan Peele‘s sci-fi/horror film Nope. Despite receiving critical acclaim, Nope wasn’t nominated for a single award. This is baffling, given how Peele has become a singular voice in horror and how the film is a carefully constructed story about the dangers of spectacle. So, why was Nope completely snubbed at the Oscars?
‘Nope’s Parables About Spectacle Might Be Too Real For the Academy
Perhaps a large part of what may have affected Nope‘s Oscar chances is its story — especially its underlying themes. At first glance, it sounds like your standard sci-fi thriller: siblings Em (Keke Palmer) and OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) encounter a mysterious alien named “Jean Jacket” that devours anything that looks upon it. But like Peele’s previous films, there are plenty of layers to unpack. Once again, there’s the folly of man daring to play God with forces he doesn’t understand — especially in the case of former child star Jupe (Steven Yeun), who attempts to cash in on Jean Jacket’s presence with disastrous results. And there’s the underlying story about how chasing spectacle can lead to ruin. Jupe suffered immense trauma on the set of the sitcom Gordy‘s Home! when the titular chimpanzee went berserk and attacked his co-stars, yet he’s made a living by embracing it. And OJ and Em’s father Otis (Keith David) was a horse trainer for Hollywood until the first appearance of Jean Jacket led to his death.
That unusual mix of social commentary with genre thrills may be a little too heavy for the Academy, or at the very least not in line with their usual picks. Many of the films that are nominated usually fall into one of two tropes: period pieces or films that are overtly about filmmaking. Take some of these year’s nominees. Babylon is primarily about the Golden Age of filmmaking, and despite receiving a critical drubbing as well as bombing at the box office it’s scored quite a few nominations. And Top Gun: Maverick, despite being a sequel to an ’80s action film, might as well be about the current state of Hollywood. Replace all the talk about fighter jets and military jargon with “franchises” and “movie stars” and it’s not hard to see why it appealed to the Academy. But this mindset is extremely limiting — as well as insulting to other films and a clear sign the Academy desperately needs to evolve.
‘Nope’s Technical Achievements Should Have Received a Nomination
Even barring the Academy’s rather narcissistic approach to selecting Best Picture candidates, the fact that Nope wasn’t selected for any technical awards is deeply baffling. Peele joined forces with legendary cinematographer Hoyt Van Hoytema for Nope, and the results are stunning. Hoytema brings a genuine sense of dread to the film, especially in the sequences where Jean Jacket appears. The massive extraterrestrial casts a shadow over everything in its path, leaving viewers on the edge of their seat. There are also plenty of visually striking shots that don’t involve Jean Jacket, which leads to Nope being one of the best-shot movies of the year.
And it’s not just Nope‘s cinematography that’s award-worthy. The visual effects that went into crafting Jean Jacket are nothing short of miraculous; if we didn’t know any better, we’d swear that we were looking at a living, breathing being. The same goes for Gordy — yes that’s not only a chimpanzee, it’s a man in a motion-capture suit! Once again, the Academy’s bias rears its head as this year’s nominations mostly cover major blockbusters. The fact that all the work that went into Nope is being ignored is yet another sign that things need to change, and fast.
The Double-Edged Sword That Is the Academy
What truly makes Nope‘s exclusion from this year’s awards show baffling is how the Academy raced to award Peele following the success of his debut film, Get Out. Like Nope, it was an expertly crafted horror tale that boasted strong social commentary. But unlike Nope, it was nominated for four awards at the 2018 Academy Awards — and walked away with one for Best Original Screenplay. Peele has only grown as a director since then, so for Nope to be completely shut out given the overwhelmingly positive reaction it’s received is nothing short of baffling. But it proves that the Academy should definitely expand its horizons when it comes to picking award candidates.