Unless you have been living under a rock (or avoiding Facebook, which is essentially the same thing), you have heard about the craze behind comedian Jordan Peele’s race-themed horror film “Get Out.”
The movie revolves around the theme of racism and prejudice in America, particularly in the liberal upper-class. While this is what makes the film so intense and stimulating, there is an even larger greatness about this picture. It’s slowly sparking the resurgence of great, original, American filmmaking.
In recent years, most of the top box-office films have revolved around comic book characters, sequels, and remakes. While often these cinematic endeavors can be entertaining and certainly make money, it truly did feel like original cinema was dying. Audiences were living for the trailer, not theatrical experience.
This is not to say that America did not have its share of original, though-provoking cinema. It did. However, those films were reclusive. It’s important to have deep, reflective filmmaking but if it only touches a small portion of the American audience, it isn’t truly effective in the ways that classics such as “Pulp Fiction” or “Back To The Future” are. A diverse coupling of movies, but that is exactly the point. The epitome of great American cinema is a film that encompasses all demographics. It entertains the eyes and exercises the mind.
“Manchester By The Sea” was seen as one of the best films in 2016, but it ultimately was a reclusive film. It only appealed to certain audiences. Samuel L. Jackson recently stated in an interview how it’s probably a great movie but it’s ultimately not inclusive. It is a film that members of the black community cannot necessarily relate with.
That’s what brings us to “Get Out.” This is a completely inclusive film. It makes statements on racism in America that certainly are relatable to members of the black community, but it is also a picture that the white community can honestly reflect on, questioning how they fit into the picture.
This film, though, is not dependent on its theme, however.
There is a large portion of American audiences who do not care for being reflective, if we are being honest. They do not want to think too much, or feel. They just want to be entertained. “Get Out” excels at this too. Even if you are not someone who gets wrapped up into the race debate, this is still a movie that is completely captivating and will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Its ability to balance social themes with elements of anxiety and anticipation is an example of absolutely brilliant screenwriting. It makes statements on its theme without pushing them too hard. It also plays on societal fears and blends them with the light supernatural tools of hypnosis to make the action of the film feel incredibly real, but still distant enough to not overwhelm it’s audience.
The entire of theme of race definitely dominates the picture, but it is imperative for a film to work as both a piece of art and entertainment. This is what the core of great American Cinema is derived from.
Even if you look at classic American popcorn flicks such as “Jurassic Park,” you have a picture that (at its surface) works as a great action-adventure movie for casual movie-goers, but with it’s themes of capitalism and marketing, it goes way beyond that, creating a long-lasting legacy for the film.
“Get Out” obviously cannot have the same legacy as a film like that, because of the R-rating, but a film that can both entertain casual movie-goers with its genre and intensity, but provoke the thoughts and fears of the fanatics–that is the perfect exemplification of great American cinema.
It’s obvious that large movie studios have steered away from this in the last decade. You cannot completely blame them. Why take a chance on a new story when you can promote an old story that you already know the market on? You can bank on a film that you know will at least make a hundred million or you can take a risk on a film that could make that much, but also runs the risk of only making thirty. It makes sense to promote what you know works instead of investing in something that could work.
However, without true, strong, American cinema– you are hurting your audience in the long run. You are making movies casual for them, not passionate. A passionate audience will always be a financially-eager audience.
Truly strong cinema effects society. It changes society, even if it’s just for a moment. Spitting out famous lines, debating the themes, reminiscing about your experience of seeing the film for the first time and relating your experiences with others. This is the embodiment of great American cinema.
If played right, we will see its triumphant return.