The Oscar Project
Happy Friday and Happy Christmas Eve Eve. I hope you have enjoyed my first five films on the list of my top ten of 2022 so far and will come back for the top five next week. Today, I give you my number six film of the year.
#6 – Nope
I’m not sure if this will be a longer term trend, but this is the second year in a row I’ve had a film starring Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah (affiliate link) last year) in my top ten with this year’s Nope.
This film had so much hype, especially after the success of Jordan Peele’s previous films Get Out and Us (affiliate links). Peele is establishing himself as a horror stalwart in the industry, and I think it’s because he takes the idea of horror and gives it a fresh spin. Get Out was something no one had ever seen before, and it was a huge word of mouth hit in 2017, earning him an Oscar for the film’s original screenplay. Us was similarly acclaimed by critics, but perhaps a bit less so by fans, so when trailers started dropping for Nope, the internet was abuzz with anticipation for the film.
Nope takes the horror genre and shifts it a bit to the side, closer to an alien horror film. Kaluuya plays OJ Haywood, owner of a ranch that raises and trains horses for use in television and film. His siter Em (Keke Palmer) assists from time to time and when the ranch falls on hard financial times, the pair try to document a nearby UFO so they can sell the footage and save their ranch.
I love films about movies, especially when we get to see a part of movie-making that doesn’t normally get the spotlight. Animal trainers are something I don’t think I’ve ever seen as the focal point of any film or television show, so that makes Nope unique. But we also get the added layer of the character “Jupe”, played by Steven Yeun, who runs a theme park near the Haywood ranch, and is a former child TV star. We get several flashbacks to an incident in his past where a chimpanzee working on the show went wild during a taping and killed several members of the cast right in front of a young Jupe. They are things that might not appear to be related on the surface, but when you take the film as a whole, you start to see bigger connections.
The cast noted above is all wonderful. Kaluuya’s OJ is understated while Palmer’s Em is over the top, but in a natural way. The two siblings are polar opposites, but in a way that makes sense. Yeun’s character is a confident showman, but the way he plays it, you can tell there is some underlying trauma there from the incident described above.
One of the things that elevates this film for me is the beautiful cinematography. It is a film about film in a way, and as such it has to show you what film is capable of. The Haywood ranch is set in an arid canyon outside of Los Angeles, and the desert vistas captured in the film are stunning. We get to see the stark contrast of the brown and yellow desert of daytime against the bluish black desert of the night. Peele knows how to set the cameras in such a way that we see everything necessary, without giving away too much. We know in the back of our mind that there is some sort of UFO through most of the film, but the way it’s presented, there is always a shred of doubt until the final act.
I know some people say they don’t like horror films, because I used to be one of them. But I would urge anyone who loves movies and good stories to watch Nope (affiliate link) It’s almost too simple to put this film in a small box of “horror” and does it a disservice for those who would avoid it just because of that genre label.
The rest of the posts in this series are all linked below.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?