Hot Take: Jordan Peele’s ‘Nope’ Oscar Snub Is Perplexingly Ironic

Let’s start this with a justifiable preface: an overwhelming amount of folks will already make their claims and sentiments towards why certain films and crew were wrongfully left off the plate for the catalog of Academy Award nominations. And to avoid any situational bias, there is a cornucopia of matters that startled many once the nominations rolled out a few weeks ago. Names were left off popular brackets, and some motion pictures did not get their recognition (or flew under the radar).

Viola Davis, James Cameron, Tom Cruise, Danielle Deadwyler, and others certainly had their supporters rise together once their names were left off the significant classifications in this year’s ceremony. We’ve already been in this situation before, as the Academy Awards has had an (arguably) iniquitous reputation over its lifespan, including Marlon Brando’s rejection of an Oscar to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign trending to Adrien Broody’s intimate moment with Halle Berry. And no one is shrugging off last year’s slap with Will Smith and Chris Rock, resulting in the former getting banned for ten years from the event. Plus, there are numerous questionable decisions over several awards handed out to the wrong film/individual over the years. But, we are not here to address politics or squabble over past choices.

This is a more introspective discussion of how Jordan Peele’s latest feature was not only blatantly ignored from the line-up but how its themes and plot coincidentally point to real-life scars that are still progressing in the film industry.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The “irony” comes from one of the subtle storylines in Nope, where the film industry continues to mistreat the Hollywood set’s background workers due to the enchantment of “spectacle.” To explain further, the pandemic taught the industry that big, bold plays or established IPs could only lure audiences back into the multiplex to ensure a return on investment. But, the viewed habits during that timeline prioritized convenience over curiosity, and now, they only suspend themselves when a larger-than-life movie, the next Marvel hit, or some nostalgic IP sequel (a la Top Gun: Maverick or Avatar: The Way of Water) come into the foreplay. Why bother settling for the little guy any further when the big man already makes their case?

A piece on our end has already dived into the thematic analysis of Peele’s third film further (linked here). As stated then, Peele is intent on showcasing the irreparable damages of Hollywood’s ambitions through the trauma of Steven Yuen’s Jupe and the UFO’s presence. For added measure, the black jockey that the Haywoods mention in the feature is something others do not know about, meaning the erasure of their family’s contributions to the enterprise is dying away due to Hollywood’s whitewashing, and romanticized view of the Western era. So, in return, acquiring the “impossible shot” will honor the Hawyoods’ efforts and give back some of their family’s credibility in the ever-evolving film business. Regarding Nope, Peele’s direction signifies the acknowledgment of cinema’s legacy while redressing multiple omissions and misrepresentations of history.

The Haywoods siblings got screwed off a set in the opening act, and the film itself was never mentioned in this year’s event. It simply reflects what’s occurring in our real-life events, where films and crew don’t get the spotlight they arguably deserve. Perhaps that could be a sentiment that overreaches, but what makes the case for no recognition even more astounding is several of the Nope‘s elements were more stunningly impressive than even an IP feature could ever dream of.

Hoyte van Hoytema, the same individual that catapulted Christopher Nolan’s cinematography in Interstellar and Dunkirk to stupendous success on the big screen, made every ounce of Nope‘s atmosphere breathtaking. His strategy of utilizing two cameras for the night shots created a realistic, eye-popping environment that dazed audiences. The Gordy’s Home incident moments captured the essence of unimaginable terror thanks to the intelligent maneuvering of the camera and a grand ode to Steven Spielberg’s measures in Jaws. Yet, he received no recognition from the Academy Awards but everywhere else possible.

The sound editing for the UFO’s presence was scintillating for being referred to as a “territorial predator,” and the cast’s performances, particularly of Daniel Kaluuya’s and Keke Palmer’s, warranted some appreciation, as the duo complimented each other wonderfully onscreen. Even Michael Abels’s soundtrack keeps the feature humming admirably. Jordan Peele was very inspired to make a film regarding spectacle, and he paid dear respects to Hitchcock, John Ford, and Spielberg when venturing into this territory. And almost every aspect lures one to witness it multiple times to understand the intentions and subject at hand.

Yours truly digresses for a moment to concede the first trailer (listed below) coruscated with an ingenious ambiguous direction about what Peele had planned for audiences, almost too well that one forgets the second one nearly inadvertently revealed much. If only there were an award for trailers…

Obviously, it’s not the most cohesive film out there due to some falterings with pacing in the second and third acts. Nitpickers can stretch further to assess its direction as clotted with bits of highlights mashed together and not enough to make it amalgamate. Still, Nope is such a testament to the beauties of filmmaking itself (similar to M. Night Shyamalan’s recent Knock at the Cabin) that it could and should have been nominated for at least a few categories. Some can even argue that this might be his best work, although that’s a tough comparison alongside Get Out and Us. Remember, the former won the Best Original Screenplay award and was nominated for others, while the latter got zero nominations.

Understandably, sometimes you can’t win them all, even if $171.4 million earnings are nothing compared to the blockbusters reigning atop in 2022. Maybe we are stepping out of line here, bordering on a political agenda, and our neutral stance could be decreed as predisposed toward the works of a selected filmmaker. But when Jordan Peele, one of the few filmmakers in today’s time, dances around with fascinating, original works and only gets recognition for the first time (out of three thus far) at the Academy Awards, something is off. And the snubs for Nope, thanks to its enriching context regarding the parable of cinema and addition to spectacle, were indeed confoundingly acerbic.

The one grand highlight is that Jordan Peele has defied the straightforward narrative, and if he continues to master his craft, he will continue to earn respect amongst peers. He doesn’t have to be the next Kubrick, Spielberg, or Hitchcock; he has to be Jordan Peele.

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