Get Out was one of 2017’s first big film success stories, racking up over $250 million worldwide over a $4.5 million budget. Tapping into the racism that permeates American culture to create a genuinely modern and challenging social critique masquerading as a horror movie, the film turned Jordan Peele from a comedian into an important writer-director who could call his next shot. It also elevated the profile of star Daniel Kaluuya. Both of them have already picked up a handful of award and nominations before the real award season has even kicked into gear.
Now that the award nominations are getting closer, distributor Universal Pictures is looking to position the film to pick up as many as it can get. It can be tough for a movie to premiere in theaters in February and then make a serious award run. By that time a lot of voters and moviegoers have forgotten about the film, or at least forgotten the emotional resonance of it, making it hard to stand out when standing side-by-side with prestige pictures and late-year awards bait.
If Get Out wants any shot at seeing some Oscar nominations at the Academy Awards next year, the best way to raise their profile in the interim is to secure some Golden Globe nominations. And when it comes to putting your best foot forward at the Globes, sometimes studios have been known to play it fast and loose with the categories they submit their films for. That’s certainly the case here as word broke Wednesday that Universal will submit Get Out into the Golden Globes’ comedy/musical categories.
At first glance, that sounds like a joke. Get Out? The movie with The Sunken Place and all that blood and killing and creepiness? A comedy?
A lot of people are already wringing their hands over the placement. Some are trying to justify the selection by noting that, yes, there is comedy to be found in Get Out. Others see it as yet another piece of the puzzle that is racism in America.
“Get Out”, is a movie about:
• Systematic Racism
• Interracial Relationships
• Black Horror Movie Stereotypes
• White Privilege
… all in one.
Definitely not a comedy.
— NUFF (@nuffsaidNY) November 15, 2017
Yes, all of that is true. There’s no denying that there is, technically speaking, comedy to be found in the film. Also, yes, it’s not a good look for a horror movie steeped in the African-American experience to be cast aside to the comedy category instead of drama.
However, the honest truth is that slotting Get Out in the comedy category has way less to do with any kind of semantic or racial discussion and way more to do with the dumb way the Golden Globes works.
First, it’s worth noting that this is far from the first time a movie that seems out of place amongst comedies is in the comedy category at the Globes. Most recently, The Martian, about a man stranded on Mars attempting to survive and get rescued, was certainly no one’s idea of a comedy even if it also contained comedic elements. Yet, the Ridley Scott film was submitted under the Musical & Comedy banner at the 2015 Globes in order to stand out from the other dramatic films and up its chances of winning (it ended up winning Best Musical or Comedy).
Before that, The Tourist, the awful Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie farce that bombed in theatres, was nominated in the Best Musical or Comedy category in 2011. How the film was even nominated is at the heart of many bribery rumors, but the fact that the spy thriller ended up here seemed absurd.
From the distributor’s perspective, the point of award shows is to build momentum for your films all the way up to the Academy Awards where you’ll hopefully earn some nominations and benefit from a whole new round of interest (and profits) because of that. It’s a business proposition and the smart business move is for Universal to position Get Out against films such as Beauty and the Beast, I, Tonya, The Greatest Showman, and The Big Sick instead of putting it head-to-head against Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, and Darkest Hour. The odds that Get Out can beat those latter films in the Drama categories is low but the odds it can win an award or two against the former is much higher. And if winning Best Musical or Comedy or Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy is what Get Out needs to pull ahead in the Academy Award races, then it makes logical sense.
The real discussion here is not only why the Golden Globes allows movies like The Martian and Get Out to compete as comedies but also why the Golden Globes refuses to modernize its categories in general? Just the idea that “Musical or Comedy” is a category already makes no sense. Those are two distinct genres that may or may not have anything to do with one another. Most comedies are not musicals and some musicals are not outright comedies. They’re smushed together based on some arbitrary decision to give more award nominations out rather than just the handful of prestige pictures nominated in the drama category.
To be clear, it’s a good thing that the Golden Globes wants to nominate more movies. It’s good for the industry and it’s good to honor films that fall outside the generic notion of what an “award movie” is supposed to be. That said, they need to rethink the way they go about it. If it’s about trying to keep things simple, just have specific categories for the Best Pictures but then lump together all the acting, directing, and writing awards. Surely comedies could be their own category, just like musicals, and then you could even add a category for horror/science fiction/fantasy films. You don’t need to dilute things down to the point where there’s a category for every movie, but you could at least create a few more slots to make things clearer, which would also cut down on situations like the one Get Out is in right now.
‘Get Out’ is a documentary.
— Jordan Peele (@JordanPeele) November 15, 2017
The Hollywood Foreign Press, the entity behind the Golden Globes, has a longstanding reputation for valuing the schmoozy aspects of award season more than truly valuing the merits of the movie industry. They’ve been accused in the past of accepting bribes in order to award one performer over more talented ones or nominate films that didn’t deserve it. It’s well-known within the industry that meet-and-greets with celebrities and lavish cocktail parties are required if you want some members of the guild to vote for your movie. There’s a reason the Globes are often referred to as the Academy Award’s boozy cousin because it’s hard to take it too seriously when you know what often goes on behind the scenes.
So perhaps asking the Globes to tighten restrictions and craft a better balance is too much given all of that. But if that’s the case, then it’s best to keep all of it in mind when you have a situation like Get Out being pushed as a comedy. It’s way less a reflection on the film itself and way more a reflecting on the award show itself. No, Get Out shouldn’t be submitted as a comedy, but also, it’s a smart move by the film distributor to game the system that’s already set up to be gamed.