Get Out – A Review

Horror films are woke, y’all.

That’s not necessarily a new phenomenon. While horror movies are often thought the be the realm of cheap thrills, gratuitous nudity, and terrible acting, there is a tradition in the genre of making film that also tackle social commentary. Night of the Living Dead was certainly informed by the racial tensions of the 1960s, Dawn of the Dead has some thoughts about consumerism, It Follows certainly has been read as part allegory about the dangers of casual sex and/or millennial apathy, and even The Purge reveals elements of socio-economic and racial conflict.

The first time that I saw a trailer for Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out was before a screening for Fences. I was aware that Peele was working on a horror movie, but I had no idea what the concept or plot actually was. When the trailer ended, the racially diverse crowd sat there in awkward silence, not quite sure what they had just witnessed or what it meant. There were a few nervous titters of laughter, but the uncertainty of how to react was practically palpable. People are often uncomfortable talking about race, so a thriller with a premise like Get Out is going to make people squirm (and think) a bit. I resolved then and there that I was going to see Get Out, because if the trailer had that effect, I couldn’t wait to see how provocative the whole movie would be.

The set-up for Get Out is pretty simple: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) are going upstate so that he can meet her parents for the first time. Chris is slightly apprehensive, as Rose hasn’t told her affluent white family that Chris is black. She assures him that it won’t be an issue –and when Chris first meets Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford) they almost try too hard to welcome him and show how cool they are with the situation. It’s slightly cringe worthy, but more troubling is the behavior of the family’s black housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson). Chris feels something off about both of them, like they would be more at home in The Stepford Wives. His unease intensifies as he meets more of the friends of Rose’s parents, who are not openly hostile but force Chris to endure a series of microagressions. Is this the passive prejudice of the wealthy liberal elite or is there really something sinister going on here? That’s as much as you should know about the movie going in; half the fun is letting the story slowly reveal itself.

There is a lot going on in Get Out and honestly I’m still unpacking some of it, but I found this movie to be extremely smart and well-done. It’s entertaining and scary; it makes you laugh and it makes you think. Peele has crafted an excellent commentary on race that isn’t too heavy handed or predictable.  I didn’t have any idea where this story was going and just when I thought I had things figured out, it zigged when I thought it would zag. The tension and unease is present from the very beginning of the movie and Peele and his actors know how to slowly turn up the heat. Fans of horror will appreciate that Peele plays with some of the tropes of the genre while subverting expectations. He even manages to make Fruit Loops terrifying.

The actors all do a spectacular job in their roles. I was vaguely familiar with Kaluuya from his appearance on an episode of Black Mirror, and he’s really a revelation in this role. As Chris struggles to determine whether his paranoia is from generally being uncomfortable with the situation or because he is actually in peril, the viewer feels his uncertainty and is instantly sympathetic. His performance may have briefly made me think “seriously, what is up with these white people?” – a question that I don’t normally find myself having to consider given my race. This is also pretty much the perfect role for Williams and plays into every preconception that people probably have about her from her depiction of Marnie of Girls. As Chris’ wise-cracking, TSA agent pal, comedian Lil Rey Howery provides some much needed comic relief.

There is a moment at the end of Get Out that proves just how effective this movie is. I won’t spoil it, but it serves as an important reminder that some of the scariest things out there are not the boogeyman or a super-powered serial killer, but grounded in reality. I saw Get Out almost a week ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. In my very limited downtime, I find myself Googling reviews and analysis about the movie to get different perspectives and to see how different people interpreted the movie. It’s not often that a horror movie prompts that kind of self-imposed homework, but as I peel back more layers of the symbolism, the movie just gets more fascinating. Plus it’s just a damn entertaining film. Even if you don’t typically like horror movies or thrillers, this is one to see.

Get Out is currently showing nationwide.

Peter Pan Live!

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It’s that time of year again when NBC decides that the edgiest thing that they can come up with is a live production of an old musical. Thanks to big ratings for last year’s Sound of Music Live! – which I enjoyed mocking – we’ll probably be getting these events for the foreseeable future. That’s fine by me; I’m always ready for an event that gives me plenty of opportunity to unleash the snark.

As I was getting ready to settle in for the nearly 3 hour (!) broadcast, it dawned on me that I may not have ever actually seen Peter Pan before. That’s not that surprising of a revelation – my huge Disney/fairy tale blind spot has been the subject of many posts – but I was willing to concede that my working knowledge of things Pan might have been derived from the fact that a bunch of my friends were in a production of Peter Pan when they were in elementary school. I went to a different elementary school (Milton Terrace 4 life!), but this school play was discussed a lot. I’m pretty sure at some point, once all the elementary schools were dumped together, I even watched some of the home movie of this play. It even came up at our high school reunion last weekend.

However, while I am pretty positive that I’ve never seen the Disney version of Peter Pan, I do recall that at some point I saw a traveling production of the musical. I want to say it was at Proctors and that it was a Girl Scout field trip, but I’m not too certain of the details. I’ve also seen Hook, a movie that I vaguely remember but that for some reason a lot of people I know love.

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So I wasn’t going into Peter Pan Live! quite as blind as I thought I was. I knew the basics and that was probably enough.

One of the biggest problems with Sound of Music Live! was its star; Carrie Underwood seems like a lovely person and has a beautiful voice, but she cannot act her way out of paper bag. When your lead can’t act, that’s kind of a problem. That shouldn’t necessarily be an issue with Allison Williams; we know she can act and while she’s a downgrade in the voice department, we know that she can sing. So we’re already off to a better start. I predicted three things to be most worried about before Peter Pan Live! began:

  • Technical issues – there’s a lot of aerial work in Peter Pan, which means a lot of potential for something to go wrong. I won’t say that I’m rooting for a wire to snap or someone to hit a wall, but I’m not going to say I’d be disappointed by it either.

 

  • Christopher Walken – Look, Walken is a national treasure. He’s the best and he’s had a long and storied career in Hollywood. But he’s a weird dude and he can easily slip into a parody of himself. If they don’t reign him in, this production might get campy real fast.

 

  • Tiger Lily – This musical has an outdated and offensive look at Native Americans as originally written. NBC has already said that changes have been made for better cultural sensitivity, but I have my doubt that there is any way to depict that story that isn’t cringe-worthy. I guess we’ll wait and see.

 

So with those potential pitfalls identified, let’s see how they actually do. Without further ado, here’s my running diary of watching Peter Pan Live!

8:00 – This is a pretty long sweeping “aerial” shot.

8:01 – “Two is the beginning of the end for all” – that’s an uplifting thought; at three years old, we’re on the decline.

8:03 – Was Mr. Darling always this uptight? He kind of sucks.

8:04 – Umm….if these folks can afford servants, why do their kids all have to share a room with a dog?

8:04 – Who names a dog Nana anyway? Cute dog though.

8:05 – So what you’re saying is that you are worried about an intruder at the window and your solution is to leave the kids at home with a dog to supervise?

8:06 – The maid can’t watch the children because she was “instructed to make Christmas pudding?” Straight talk – YOU are her boss; you can change her priorities. These people deserve to have their children stolen.

8:08 – Those kids fell asleep pretty damn quick. I don’t know what the dude who wrote Go the F*ck to Sleep was complaining about. Bedtime seems pretty easy.

8:09 – A simple childproof lock on that window and none of this would have happened.

8:11 – Was Allison Williams supposed to be crying? Because it sure didn’t look like that.

8:12 – Nobody in this play has heard of stranger danger. It’s a miracle these kids have lived this long.

8:13 – This would have been quite the twist if that maid in the closet was dead.

8:15 – How old is Wendy supposed to be? I’d be annoyed at my bedroom being called a nursery after age 4.

8:16 – Soap? Sewing needles? These kids live in a CVS.

8:25 – None of the things that Peter Pan is bragging about in this song are all that impressive.

8:26 – CHICKEN DANCE

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The Bluths would be proud.

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8:27 – Let’s go back to the possibly dead maid. This is kind of boring.

8:31 – What’s Melissa Joan Hart doing here? And why is her husband so into Tinkerbell?

8:33 – There are mermaids in Neverland?

8:34 – Dead fairies. This just got dark.

8:35 – “She says that you’re an ugly girl and she’s mine.” Tinkerbell throwing some shade.

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8:36 – Wendy is sure desperate for some affection; she’s driving pretty hard to the hoop for a kiss from a total stranger. This may mark some deeper issues.

8:38 – “Girls are much too clever to fall out of their carriages.” Who knew Peter Pan was a feminist?

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8:39 – Wait. Totally reinforced gender stereotypes. Never mind.

8:40 – You hide from a dog in THE DOGHOUSE? Smarten up, Peter Pan.

8:41 – Are we supposed to be able to see the wires?

8:42 – Here’s Jimmy Fallon doing his best Peter Pan:

 

8:44 – How freaked out have the stage hands have to be with all these kids on wires?

8:45 – Are they drunk? They don’t seem to be flying in any discernible direction. Michael especially.

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8:50 – Pirates..this might get more interesting. Almost Walken time.

8:51 – I swear one of those pirates is Mark McGrath.

8:51 – Christopher Walken’s eyebrows are phenomenal.

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8:52 – Smee’s tattoos look very fake.

8:52 – I’d be pissed if I was on this crew and Hook didn’t address me by name. I mean, Billy Jukes got a shout out.

8:54 – Why would a pirate dream of a pink umbrella? There’s subtext here.

8:55 – “A hook for every boy and a boy on every hook.”

8:56 – WALKEN IS DANCING!!!!

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8:57 – More subtext – the way Hook sits on that cannon.

8:58 – Damn it – even in Neverland we can’t get away from racial issues.

8:58 – These kids sure love top hats. At least three lost boys are wearing them. Plus John Darling of course.

8:59 – Worst Mardi Gras Float ever. (Walken being carried)

9:01 – I am 99% sure that Smee just said cock instead of clock.

9:02 – Hook is really enjoying sitting on that mushroom.

9:01 – Very convenient that the pirates brought their fiddles.

9:03 – Smee and Hook tangoing? I have no memory of this.

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9:04 – “So damp and rich a cake? Who wants a damp cake? This plan makes no sense.

9:05 – I’m dying to know who got stuck playing the bright blue crocodile.

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9:06 – Tinkerbell was the original Mean Girl.

9:07 – Or a psychopath.

9:08 – Tinkerbell ordered the murder of Wendy; her punishment – she can’t be Peter’s friend for one week. #whiteprivilege

9:10 – Peter is obsessed with Wendy making them pockets. He’s mentioned it three times. I have no idea what that even means. Is that a British thing?

9:11 – These Lost Boys have pirates and other excitement and they are interested in Cinderella. Their priorities are all out of whack.

9:12 – Hamlet? What kids know anything about Hamlet?

9:13 – Peter said the cake is too damp and rich. I told you so.

9:14 – Wendy said not to eat the cake before dinner, not throw the cake out the window. Save it for later, dummies!

9:15 – Tweet of the night:

9:16 – A tarantella? I once did the tarantella for extra credit in my AP English class after we read Glass Menagerie. True Story.

9:17 – I won’t grow up = the original “We Don’t Need No Education.”

9:20 – Wendy is a grammar Nazi

9:21 – I don’t understand the ground in Neverland. Is that supposed to be a map or can the Lost Boys walk on water?

9:22 – Smee looks a little like Justin Kirk from Weeds

9:24 – I think Peter is having some serious buyer’s remorse with Wendy.

9:25 – The saucer fell off Peter’s head. Does that count as a flub?

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9:26 – I’m pretty impressed that some of Tiger Lily’s men can bench-press the Lost Boys

9:27 – I think the problem with this play is no one in it has any personality. Williams is fine, but she’s not all that charismatic.

9:30 – DeGiorno also had a solid tweet;

 

9:31 – Helpful hint Wendy – don’t date a guy who wants you to be his mommy. It never ends well. Not that I know. #Itotallyknow

9:32 – Hey – he wasn’t kidding about the mermaids

9:33 – He already has pockets? Then what has he been going on about???

9:35 – “Let’s get on with the fighting; I’m bored.” Preach, Pan. Preach

9:36 – Peter needs to stop flying around and get out of dodge

9:37 – I thought Allison Williams was going to be stuck upside down for a while. That would have been….something.

9:40 – I have never seen Michael with that kite.

9:41 – Peter Pan is the not the sun and the moon. That would be Khal Drago.

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9:44 – Uh Wendy. I think you have some competition.

9:47 – This dance number is going on way too long.

9:51 – Peter Pan has three women chasing after him. Let that sink in.

9:54 – “Maybe he’ll change.” That thought has kept many relationship alive.

9:56 – Considering her children are missing, Mrs. Darling is pretty calm

10:04 – The Darling are going to adopt all these kids? The better invest in some bunk beds.

10:06 – If I were Wendy, I don’t know that I’d have a lot of faith in Tinkerbell guiding me to safety.

10:07 – Peter doesn’t like to be touched; he’s the new Christian Grey.

10:08 – The Lost Boys have a surprising amount of baggage.

10:08 – The kid playing Michael is trying to infuse so spunk into this production:

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10:09 – Everyone in this play has mommy issues.

10:10 – Honestly, this is a terrible play for little girls; all they are seen as are potential mothers.

10:17 – Peter Pan is breaking the third wall.

10:18 – I remember that clap if you believe part being way more dramatic.

10:18 – How in the hell does this have 40 minutes left?

10:19 – It sure sounded like one of those pirates was meowing when everyone else was barking. Rebel.

10:20 – How did Jack the Ripper get dragged into this?

10:21 – I have seen no evidence that Captain Hook is even remotely this evil.

10:22 – An A+ to the pirate that slapped Hook’s hook and made a face of pain. That’s commitment.

10:23 – Hook has some inferiority issues. Everyone in this play should be in therapy.

10:29 – This loyalty to the King seems misplaced.

10:30 – Have Michael, John and Wendy all forgotten that they can fly? Seems like that might come in handy.

10:32 – Wendy’s last words were terrible.

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10:34 – Peter Pan, You area no Avenger. Even Hawkeye is better than you.

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10:36 – To be fair, Hook does have legit beef with Pan.

10:37 – This is the most lackadaisical climactic fight scene that I’ve ever witnessed.

10:38 – Ha! A hook-bump!

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10:39 – Hook gave that fight up pretty easily. He’s Walken the plank *badum dum*

10:40 – Peter Pan can’t lie? Is he also Pinocchio?

10:42 – Hey Melissa Joan Hart! Ever heard of a spoiler alert??

10:45 – I sincerely hope that we’re wrapping this up. I’m spent.

10:47 – The Lost Boys just agreed to be quiet then immediately break into a boisterous musical number. Mr. Darling ain’t gonna be happy.

10:49 – Would be burglars – window in the Darling joint is never locked. Pass the word.

10:50 – UGH. Stupid Minnie Driver. I forgot that she was in this.

10:53 AGAIN WITH THE F&* POCKETS!!

10:54 – So here’s the lesson of this play – Wendy falls in love with Peter, who throws her over because she’s old and then takes her daughter away.

10:55 – The Darlings are multi-generational bad parents. Sure kid – I know how dangerous Neverland is, but have a good time.

10:55 – Hooray. It’s over!

So production wise that was better than Sound of Music, but it still wasn’t very good. Peter Pan isn’t that interesting of a play and no one had any real personality. It was perfectly fine, but not all that entertaining. And there is no reason this thing needed to be three hours; they could have easily done it in two. Some trimming might have helped the pacing. Each time NBC does this, we discover another component that they are missing; next time out, not only do they have to find someone who can sing and act, but they have to be charismatic as well. Since they are doing The Music Man next, I have the most logical suggestion for the star:

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He can sing, he can dance, he can act (sort of) and he’s got charm coming out the wazoo. Plus he’s already part of the network family. Think about it, NBC!