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Comedy or Not, 'Get Out' is a Unique Oscar Contender

Jordan Peele poses for a portrait at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, Feb. 9, 2017. Peele's directorial debut, "Get Out," functions both as a taut psychological thriller and as searing social commentary about racism in the modern era.

The movie year seems destined to conclude the way it essentially began: with everybody talking about Get Out.

Jordan Peele's horror sensation is again the subject of debate after it was reported that Universal Pictures submitted the film for Golden Globe Awards consideration as a comedy, rather than a drama. The film's classification will ultimately reside with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but whatever the outcome, the controversy shows how Get Out is already challenging the conventions of Hollywood's prestige movie season.

Peele himself has shown no desire to quell the backlash, only to slyly prod it.

Get Out, he said simply on Twitter, is a documentary. Appearing on CBS's The Late Show on Wednesday night, Peele stuck with that label for his race-savvy social satire.

"The movie is truth. The thing that resonated with people is truth,'' said Peele, before seguing into a joke. "For me, it's more of a historical biopic. The original title was Get Out: The Kanye West Story, but I had to lop off the end.''

Most experts believe Get Out, which made $253.4 million worldwide on a $4.5 million budget, is a favorite for a best picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Universal has mailed for-your-consideration screeners, and an awards campaign has been mounted.

Few predecessors

If Get Out were to be nominated, it would be unusual on many counts. Seldom are directorial debuts, February releases or horror films nominated for best picture. (Among the few horror films that have been are The Exorcist, The Silence of the Lambs and The Sixth Sense.)

FILE - Director Jordan Peele and actress Chelsea Peretti attend the Universal Pictures special screening of "Get Out" in Los Angeles, Feb. 10, 2017.
FILE - Director Jordan Peele and actress Chelsea Peretti attend the Universal Pictures special screening of "Get Out" in Los Angeles, Feb. 10, 2017.

And then there's the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' poor record of nominating African-American-led movies and the "OscarsSoWhite'' protests that have accompanied several recent Academy Awards.

The hard-to-define Get Out is poised to be an Oscar contender unlike any seen before, but not just for those traits. Peele's acclaimed film is an uncommonly sharp big-screen commentary on the real horrors of black existence and the hollowness of liberal progressiveness. It's a monster movie where society, as seen through African-American eyes, is terrifying.

"It doesn't fit into a genre,'' Peele told The Late Show's Stephen Colbert. "It sort of subverts the idea of genre. It is the kind of movie that black people can laugh at but white people not so much.''

'Was this a joke?'

That's why many reacted strongly to simplifying Get Out as a comedy, even though Peele (half of the comedy duo of Key and Peele) is a comic veteran. Calling it a comedy in a way trivializes the racism it's depicting. "Was this a joke?'' wondered Lakeith Stanfield, who co-stars in the film.

The Globes have previously confounded with their divisions between drama and comedy, most recently with the award-winning sci-fi adventure The Martian. Judd Apatow and others objected to Ridley Scott's film being lumped in with the likes of Amy Schumer's Trainwreck, and thereby finding an easier route to taking home hardware. When Martian star Matt Damon, who won best actor in a comedy for his performance in The Martian, returned last year to present, he called his comedy win "funnier, literally, than anything in The Martian.''

But Get Out is a unique case. And nothing on Mars is nearly so scary as what lies here on Earth in Peele's film.