The 91st Academy Awards on March 4th will arrive at the end of an interesting year in filmed entertainment. The ceremony will play out in the wake of a long, disheartening, empowering and much overdue parade of shame for men who have used their power to cover sexual misconduct. The first year of a controversial (to put it mildly) presidency has just finished. A new film headed by black filmmakers and with a largely black cast has completely destroyed box office expectations worldwide to such a degree that you’d have to be willfully ignorant to believe that minority-led films won’t “travel.”
While the Academy is notorious for being behind the curve in their own industry, the Best Picture nominees seem to have been shaken up a bit already. There’s the requisite historical biopic (The Darkest Hour), but the other perennial Best Picture types – the war picture, the period costume drama, the coming of age tale – all have an updated appeal. Some films are better than others but there’s nothing so milquetoast as The English Patient on the list.
So as a countdown to the Super Bowl of Talking About Movies, I shall attempt to pair each nominee with a past winner that, were the 2017 film to come away the big winner at this year’s ceremony, it wouldn’t be completely lonely at a reunion of past winners.
Today’s is perhaps the easiest pairing. To date the only horror film to be awarded Best Picture, The Silence of the Lambs would be forever linked to a winning Get Out. That alone would be enough to put the films in the same conversation, but they also share an unusually early release date for a nominee (February 14th for Lambs, the 24th for Get Out) and both grossed over 250 million dollars on very modest budgets (Get Out grossed less especially when accounting for inflation, but did so on a quarter of the budget of Lambs before adjusting).
Most of all, both use a horror story to show the world from the perspective of a marginalized segment of the population. Lambs uses literal POV shots to put us in the shoes of Agent Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster), a woman in the male-dominated FBI. In a key scene, Starling famously describes of a haunting night as a young girl when she heard a group of screaming lambs at the slaughter gives the film its title. If Clarice can save a woman from serial killer Buffalo Bob, will the lambs stop their screaming?
Get Out features Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man whose weekend trip to the remote house of his white girlfriend’s family devolves into a living nightmare. In one sequence, Chris is hypnotized and sent to “the sunken place” where he drifts soundlessly away from reality in a field of stars. Writer/director Jordan Peele’s description of this mesmerizing sequence: “The Sunken Place means we’re marginalized. No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us.”
Silence as the end of pain, or silence as a prison. A worthy topic for both movies to discuss at their lonely table for Best Picture winners in the horror genre.
This one was a layup, and I’ve only got one other easy one. Wouldn’t mind some ideas about what winners could pair with the rest of the nominees!