Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Best Actor 2017: Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

Daniel Kaluuya received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Chris Washington in Get Out.

Get Out is an effective horror film, though I still feel it stumbles in its conclusion in part due to the inclusion of essentially a sketch comedy scene just when the tension should not be letting up, about a young black man going with his white girlfriend to visit her parents though of course not all is what it seems.

Daniel Kaluuya is a rarity for a best leading actor nominee in being nominated for a horror film, however he is not completely unprecedented in terms of Oscar history. Jason Miller was nominated for The Exorcist in supporting however that was in reality a leading turn. Both actors are essentially the "straight men" discovering this supernatural element that is the essential terror of the film, and the characters both share the burden of having lost their mothers which heavily weighs on both of them. It is still notable that Kaluuya secured this nomination for this role, as it is purposefully the least flashy performance in the film. Chris is meant to be just a pretty normal guy. In the early scenes of the film Kaluuya plays the part without manner or unneeded extravagance. He realizes just a bit of anxiousness as he asks his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) about the upcoming visit however he only carries just a bit more unease than the average man would feel in such circumstances. Kaluuya though presents him as rather calm though and does particularly well in portraying Chris as wholly smitten with Rose bringing a real honesty towards the relationship at every step. He establishes he obviously loves her a great deal, and importantly does shows that this relationship is very important Chris, important enough to stay even when things start to get weird.

The overt weirdness doesn't start right away though as he meets her whole family with her overeager father (Bradley Whitford), easily embarrassed mother (Catherine Keener), and just slightly screwy brother (Caleb Landry Jones) greet him with fairly open arms. Aside from unneeded "accommodations" by the family around his skin color the situation initially isn't anything too off the beaten path. Kaluuya's performance though is effective in that he manages to exude a certain level of embarrassment when asked about his relationship with their daughter, or his smoking habit. Kaluuya makes these though very natural in his work as just a generalized tension of still meeting new people. This is in slight contrast though to when Rose's father constantly seems to make remarks slowly due to Chris being black, and not necessarily unpleasant remarks however he over emphasizes them. Kaluuya's very good in these moments in his reactions kind of internalize this slight eye roll within presenting just a courteous enough manner in his interactions. Kaluuya's great as he meekly kind of delivers his "it's fine" when responding to the behavior as he so well portrays that Chris is being made somewhat uncomfortable by this however he more than easily attunes himsel to just letting it go.

Unfortunately for Chris things begin to get much stranger though as he comes across more people within the circle including the family's African American servants who are not quite right in any sense, and later a large group of elderly friends. This sequence reminded me most of The Wicker Man where our main character attempts to understand what's going amidst a group of people who seem courteous yet quietly hostile at the same time. Kaluuya's work here becomes a performance of really pitch perfect reactions. Kaluuya on one end just does terrific work in creating just a growing unease in Chris with every strange person, and does so well to slowly become gradually all the more nervous the weirder questions he is asked. Kaluuya though also finds a bit of humor at times in these reactions, that are interwoven well at first where he depicts Chris at first thinking maybe just a few of the people are asking odd question. When they all start asking the odd questions Kaluuya effectively moves towards a more overt yet still internalized terror in the man. That is until the titular moment of the film where he meets yet another oddly acting African American man who suddenly lashes out at him. Kaluuya properly delivers the sheer intensity of the fear and the outright confusion in his every being as it becomes clear that something is not right.

The one major challenge, past that of the requirements of the horror straight man, is found within Chris's past involving the death of his mother in a car accident which is realized through the best scene in the film, and the best scene of Kaluuya's performance where he is covertly hypnotized by Rose's mother. Kaluuya is fantastic in this scene as he manages to naturally depict Chris slowly falling into the trance of the hypnosis while also conveying within that constriction the emotion flooding within Chris as he relives the death of his mother. Kaluuya uses his tears so effectively here as he realizes Chris's terrible anguish even while so well depicting him becoming caught within the trap of hypnosis. This leads to the iconic image of the film, which Kaluuya deserves a lot of credit for which is Chris getting lost into the "sunken place". That expression is perfection as it is this summation of this hollowed terror. Now as impressive as that single scene is it is also pivotal in terms of giving understanding to Chris's actions as he stays at the house far longer than sanity should allow. This best realized in his final romantic moment with Rose who eases his fear. Kaluuya's very good in this final scene as he reveals his vulnerabilities to her, however in this moment shows how this assuages his fears. Kaluuya importantly delivers this sense of need in his tenderness in Rose, showing a sense of comfort in their connection not only for the present situation but also in regards to the death of his mother.

The final act of the film is when the most overt horror begins, as do the spoilers, as Chris finds himself the volunteered donor of his body for the highest bidder. Kaluuya here wholly delivers on his end, even as the film too often cuts away diminishing the scenes somewhat, in portraying the completely overwhelming fear in Chris as he learns the truth. He carries this properly creating the true sense of horror as he learns of his true purpose for the family. Kaluuya properly keeps this as a constant even as Chris attempts to make his escape, which he carefully does not make Chris suddenly some sort of action hero. Kaluuya instead realizes this man fighting for his life in a particularly visceral sense. Every moment of his personal battle Kaluuya keeps building the tension by bringing such a palatable sense of desperation in Chris as he essentially goes from one threat to another. Kaluuya keeps the emotions very much alive as throughout the climax builds the wear in Chris even beyond just how exhausted he is. Kaluuya makes the brutality that Chris himself must deliver to survive takes something out of him, and exudes the pain it takes in him as he witnesses this death and destruction as well as is forced to take part in it. His best scene in this sequence is perhaps in the end where he faces down the revealed to be sociopath Rose. Kaluuya as he attempts his personal revenge is outstanding in bringing the initial hatred of his betrayal in his eyes as he chokes her, however so well depicts his old love for her, which was real on his end, fade into his mind that keeps him from killing her. By the end of the film Kaluuya shows all that Chris has been through as he exits the film, though he has survived, he reveals the toll that all of it has taken on him. Although his work is the least overtly showy within the film Kaluuya delivers the best performance in the film acting as this needed anchor that not only allows the horror to get under your skin, but also anchors it to a real emotional core within his character.

68 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Man, I feel abit deflated. :(

Calvin Law said...

As I went through this review, he seemed awfully close to a 5. I'm still happy he got an extremely positive review though.

Any rating changes for the rest of the cast and since you haven't given them before, thoughts on Marcus Henderson and Caleb Landry Jones here?

John Smith said...

Great review

Luke Higham said...

I'm glad he really liked him, but I seriously thought he was getting a five.

Alex Marqués said...

Luke: that's because he deserves it.

Luke Higham said...

Robert's gonna be so pissed off if Oldman does get a 5.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: honestly I don't mind. I feel like this is a performance that if you like the film, it's an automatic 4.5, but you need to really love it to give it a 5. What pushed him to a 5 for me on re-watch was how insanely dynamic he was throughout the third act despite so often being seated or constantly on the move.

Calvin Law said...

And though I preferred Kaluuya over Oldman I'll certainly be rooting for a 5.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I tend to get over this very quickly anyway if a performance doesn't do as well as I want it to.

Luke Higham said...

Jackman's top 5 hopes have definitely improved :)

Lezlie said...

Huh, I was sure he was gonna get a 5. I guess me predicting him to be #2 was very optimistic :D

Anonymous said...

Would give him a 5 personally but great review Louis.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I appreciate the effort you've put in so great review as always. :)

Anonymous said...

Kind of hoping Chalamet doesn't get a 5 lol. I suspect the top spot will be between him and DDL.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: DDL has it in the bag, I highly doubt Chalamet will have as strong a review as he does.

Deiner said...

I would give Kaluuya the exact same rating, he gave a great subtle performance. On a side note, I watched Three Billboards yesterday and Rockwell and Harrelson are fantastic. Both would be deserving winners.

Luke Higham said...

Though his chances of a five have improved, since I felt he was coming after Washington.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I cannot even fathom giving him a lower score than Rockwell. I can’t.

Alex Marqués said...

Robert: or DiCaprio in The Revenant. But hey, to each his own.

Calvin Law said...

I don't think Chalamet will get a 5, his performance is kind of similar to Kaluuya here, mostly reactionary and quite unshowy, with one big emotional scene. Granted, I prefer Kaluuya to Chalamet and Louis might be vice versa.

Mitchell Murray said...

Without revealing my thoughts on this performance I'll say I'm fine with the review. Truly, I don't think the margin between 4.5 and 5 is big enough to get upset about.

Calvin Law said...

Kind of related but I only realized recently that it's actually Childish Gambino singing 'Redbone'.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

He's a 5 for me, but I'm glad Louis really liked him at least. Terrific work.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 60's Bone Tomahawk.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I swear, if you give Oldman a five after this and don’t give Chalamet one, I’m going to request Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending next time I win a prediction.

Calvin Law said...

In the words of Louis: don't you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby.

Anyway I'm actually not so sure if Oldman is a surefire 5. I mean, I'd hope so, but it could go either way.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: I actually think it might be between Day-Lewis, Gosling and Stanton for Louis's Lead Actor win.

RatedRStar said...

I reckon Oldman will get a 5, I would give him a 5, I reckon Chalamet will get a 4.5.

Also Louis, dont forget to add Hayden Christensen to the winning requests, I know you probably arent entirely confident on his chances despite SAG and GG recognising him, but could have been worse =D, could have been Richard Dix for Ghost Ship or Anthony Franciosa part 2 =D.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: Yeah, I mentioned it before. I think Bale and Jackman will round out the top 5.

RatedRStar said...

Robert: I am pretty sure Louis would probably get an evil kick out of reviewing Redmayne since he is laughably bad lol, I can think of so many performances that would actually hurt Louis lol.

Calvin Law said...

Also, 1980s Get Out directed by Joe Dante
Chris: Denzel Washington
Rose: Elizabeth McGovern
Missy and Dean: Dianne Wiest and Wilford Brimley
Jeremy: William Zabka
Jim Hudson: Harry Dean Stanton
Andre: Donald Fullilove
Rod: Forest Whitaker
Georgina and Walter: Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

For a 50s/60s version of Get Out, Sidney Poitier would have been amazing.

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: Indeed, and maybe Richard Widmark as Jeremy, now that'd be something.

Calvin Law said...

Luke, RatedRStar, and Tahmeed: I'm almost certain it will be Gosling, but Stanton could upset, I'd be happy with either winning.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Who do you predict for the rest of the top 5.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: If Day-Lewis ever returns to acting, I'd love to see him play a Shakespearean role, perhaps King Lear.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I'm guessing the top ten might look like this:
1. Gosling
2. Stanton
3. Day-Lewis
4. Bale
5. Jackman
6. Renner
7. Pattinson
8. Oldman
Not sure about the final two yet.

Luke Higham said...

1. Gosling
2. Stanton
3. Day-Lewis
4. Bale
5. Jackman
6. Renner
7. Franco
8. Pattinson
9. Oldman
10. Kaluuya

Calvin Law said...

1. Gosling
2. Stanton
3. Day-Lewis
4. Jackman
5. Pattinson
6. Renner
7. Bale
8. Oldman
9. Franco
10. Hawke/Kaluuya (I don't think this will be a very heavy 5's year)

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Calvin: I agree. I'm sure about the top 7 I listed, and I think Franco and Oldman have very good chances of getting 5's.

Psifonian said...

Aw, tough break. I was hoping he and Day-Lewis would be the sole 5-ratings out of the nominees.

I hope this means, however, that Chalamet and Oldman are (deservedly) lower than Washington.

Bryan L said...

1. Stanton
2. Gosling
3. Day-Lewis
4. Oldman
5. Pattinson
6. Jackman
7. Renner
8. Bale
9. Franco
10. Hawke

Calvin Law said...

Also in addition to those 8 who haven't been nominated in our prospective top 10s, it'll probably be Thomas Haden Church and one of McAvoy, Carell/Fishburne, or Cruise.

Luke Higham said...

I'd prefer Miller though Louis will probably get more of a kick out of reviewing McAvoy. Cruise will probably get reviewed for Edge Of Tomorrow which in retrospect is the greater performance for me.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'm hoping for Franco and Bale to round out the top 5, but I'd be fine with Jackman too. Shame about Kaluuya missing out on a 5 though, he could end up the highest 4.5 though.

Oldman's weird for me. He has a couple of moments that stand out as some of the best acted of the year but I'm having trouble distinguishing the rest of his scenes from each other. That might partly be because of the nature of the film, which I found to be kind of repetitive. I still have him above Chalamet, who is put at a 4 myself.

Calvin: McGovern and Wiest are inspired choices there. I think I'd actually go with Courtney B. Vance for Chris and Darren McGavin for Dean.

Calvin Law said...

Oh crap, McGavin would be both perfect and fascinating to watch. And yeah, Vance might be the better choice as he comes across as more of an 'everyman'.

I found all of Oldman's 'big' scenes to be very effective, but it's those small moments in his performance which I found him most remarkable, like him choking up when reluctantly granting permission to negotiate peace terms, his sensitivity when talking to Lily James' character, his little humorous asides to King George, and selling the hell out of that weird tube scene which in retrospect I don't really like. I'll admit I'm probably a bit biased given how much of an Oldfan I am though (this must be what it was like for the DiCaprio fanboys a few years back).

Chalamet is a pretty strong 4.5 for me, I don't see him going higher but he won't go lower either.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

What I'm hoping for the Supporting Actor line up is:
Stewart
Ford
Hamill
Shannon
Dano
Grazer/Skarsgard
Boyega/Poulter
Mitchell
Hammer/Stuhlbarg (assuming Louis will still save them after Chalamet's review)
Rylance

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: Jerome Flynn's getting in I think.

Calvin Law said...

I'm personally hoping for an unexpected Pattinson in the top 5. It's the performance (and actually film) that's grown on me the most with re-watch this year - such a despicable character and yet he tricks you into not only rooting for him, but even feeling a strange sort of sympathy.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Could you give your rating and thoughts on Coster-Waldau in Shot Caller. I don't think anyone will give him a top ten recommendation for review.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Luke: I'll take out Hammer and Stuhlbarg for Flynn. I have a feeling Louis would really enjoy writing that one.

Charles H said...

Guessing the top 10 will be

1. Gosling (My favorite of the year)
2. Stanton
3. Day-Lewis
4. Jackman
5. Oldman
6. Pattinson
7. Renner
8. Bale
9. Franco
10. Hawke/Kaluuya

Charles H said...

And i think Kaluuya got a fair rating, i would give him the same.

Matt Mustin said...

I kinda can't imagine giving this performance anything less than a perfect five, but that's jut me.

Bryan L said...

Everyone: Any performances from blockbuster/comic book movies in 2018 that you think might end up getting saved? Like Jackman, Stewart, Reilly and Keaton in 2017. Here's some who I think may have a shot.

Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther (He's getting a lot of positive buzz)
Robert Downey Jr (or someone else) in Infinity War
Tom Hardy in Venom, though it could depend on how the film turns out

Luke Higham said...

Bryan: Jordan's a definite possibility from what I've been hearing.

Evans is Infinity War's best hope if this is indeed his last turn as Cap.

Hardy in Venom is potentially the McAvoy/Split of 2018.

Charles H said...

Bryan: Hardy will probably get a review. And Black Panther is basically a coin toss.

Michael McCarthy said...

If Civil War is any indication, Bozeman is a definite candidate as well as Jordan.

Calvin Law said...

As much as I love Hardy I have almost zero interest in Venom.

I have a feeling Jordan and Boseman will live up to the hype. Don't think anyone will get in for Infinity Infinity, but maybe the next one.

Luke Higham said...

I don't see Hardy getting in either. I feel as if he'll only be reviewed for his 5 star turns.

I know we shouldn't predict possible reviews a year in advance when we haven't even finished 2017 but I predict Pryce, Schoenaerts and Diehl.

Calvin Law said...

Ben Foster could end up getting two reviews, Leave No Trace has been getting spectacular reviews.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Him too :)

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Who do you think will hit 10 fives first? Hardy or Foster. Hardy's currently on 6 if you count Peaky Blinders and I think he's gonna go up for The Drop and Foster's currently on 5 with a possible upgrade for The Messenger.

Calvin Law said...

Purely based on the frequency with which he picks projects, Foster. Hardy's selectivity counts against him in this regard I think.

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: I don't think Hardy is selective at all. He was in five movies in 2015.

Calvin Law said...

Matt: You're right. Maybe I've just been influenced by how relatively sparse his filmography has been since.

Luke Higham said...

He's been concentrating on Taboo lately.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Jones - 2.5(I don't have a problem with his performance here but he really doesn't make much of an impact either way. There's no major change in his performance with the switch he's just kind of this aggressive guy in both scenes. He's serviceable here, but that's about it.)

Henderson - 3.5(He's pretty great in each quick switch for his character. He's great at those creepy looks. He's better though in giving a properly cheery Richard Herd performance though as he speaks almost like some sort of salesman to Chris. It's unnerving yet funny at the same time. His final scene though is a terrific little moment as he manages to be chilling yet kind of heartbreaking as well in creating the sense resignation in that moment.)

Anonymous:

Bone Tomahawk 1960's directed by Robert Aldrich:

Sheriff Hunt: James Cagney
Chicory: Pat O'Brien
Arthur O'Dwyer: Dennis Weaver
Brooder: James Coburn
Samantha O'Dwyer: Susan Strasberg
Purvis: Vincent Price
Buddy: Boris Karloff