Jordan Peele’s dazzling summer blockbuster Nope has fallen almost completely out of all Oscars talk, a dark horse (no pun intended) in the race for Best Picture—and every other category, for that matter. How come?
Not only should Nope be nominated in categories like Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, the larger-than-life monster movie should be near the front of each of these races. It’s a shame that when the Academy announces the nominees on Tuesday morning, Nope will most likely only earn nods in technical categories (though those are deserved just as much). Sure, there’s a chance the movie appears in categories we weren’t expecting—a slot in the Best Picture category is probably the most likely, though still a slim possibility—but there’s close to zero chance that it actually wins the award.
Nope should be cleaning up this awards season. Keke Palmer should have a stranglehold over the Best Supporting Actress category, if only for that final motorcycle chase scene—but also for her impeccable comedic timing. She and Angela Bassett should be going toe-to-toe for the statue, for their armrest-gripping performances in action movies. But they aren’t. Bassett’s biggest competition is probably Everything Everywhere All at Once’s Jamie Lee Curtis, an actress who wasn’t even the best secondary star in her own movie. What a waste of an exciting, competitive category.
Daniel Kaluuya, too, should be in the running for Best Actor. Even though the top three slots are pretty much locked in thanks to repeated accolades for Austin Butler, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Fraser, throw Kaluuya a bone! We all loved his speech at the 2020 Oscars. “My mom met my dad, they had sex,” the actor announced as he took the Best Supporting Actor trophy, making eye contact with his upset mother. “It’s amazing.” Any slight chance to witness another speech from him would be a win for us all. And his quiet turn as OJ Haywood brought Nope to eerie greatness too.
The other stars in the film should be noted as strong competitors. Though there’s no award for best breakthrough performance at the Oscars, Brandon Perea’s killer turn should’ve earned a nod in that similar category at the BAFTAs. Both Steven Yeun and Michael Wincott’s unforgettable performances merited awards buzz. It’s a shame that Yeun, Wincott, and Perea have been eliminated from awards prognostication talks entirely, as Nope struggles to build steam in any category at all.
Then there are the big awards, which Nope is most deserving of—Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Peele is no stranger to these awards; Get Out earned a nomination in each of these categories (and Best Actor), picking up the statue for Best Original Screenplay. Oscar fans celebrated the Academy’s decision to bestow the award on Peeles’ psychologically terrifying, politically-charged script. This win was especially a step in the right direction after the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite backlash. Peele should’ve become an Academy darling like Spielberg or James Cameron after Get Out—the lack of buzz surrounding his last two horror flicks is disheartening to say the least. (Not that the subpar Us deserved a ton of Oscar noms, though Lupita Nyong’o should’ve been celebrated more.)
This isn’t to say Nope is competing in a less diverse year at the Oscars—although by the looks of it, the Best Director category will once again be a battle of the white guys (minus Daniel Kwan, who co-directed Everything Everywhere All at Once with Daniel Scheinert). This year’s offerings do have a handful of diverse stories, from Steven Spielberg’s battles against antisemitism in his autobiographical The Fabelmans to the portrayal of a Chinese American immigrant family in Everything Everywhere All at Once. The Whale, Tár, and Women Talking also prominently feature LGBTQ+ characters.
But Nope has more ground to stand on other than just what it offers in terms of Hollywood representation. (Also, it’s not Jordan Peele’s job to make movies that fix the Academy’s wrongs.) The movie is a cinematic masterpiece, from its original adventure story to its foreboding cinematography to its cast of characters, who feel like they were made to work together in a big celestial thriller. In a year where “movies about movies” dominated awards talk (think Babylon and The Fabelmans), Nope stands out as the strongest example of that theme—here is a giant creature with a camera lens for a face, who sucks up humans all over Hollywood and eats them. A traumatized child star hasn’t learned from his past and tries to control nature for his own spectacle. All the while, the thrills stack on top of each other, leading up to one grand Akira allusion.
Nope earned plenty of comparisons to Jaws and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial when it was released last summer. As awards season rolls around, it seems the blockbuster will follow in its predecessors’ footsteps: Both Jaws and E.T., although they were game-changing movies, only won technical categories. But at least they earned Best Picture noms! What’s ironic is that Spielberg himself, father of the fantastical, splashy American blockbuster, has a better chance at Best Picture and Director this year for his awards-bait drama The Fabelmans. Nope, and all of us, deserves better.