New from Peter Spedale on Be Movie See Movie: Movie Review: Nope

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General [SPOILER] Warning for Nope, it’s best going in cold…

It continues to boggle the mind that one of the best directors in Hollywood got his big break during a Comedy Central Sketch Show. But Jordan Peele has earned that reputation through his brilliant films, which leave lasting, searing impressions every time you see one (I shudder every time I Got 5 On It comes on). Nope is no different, and it continues to show the seemingly endless imagination Peele has transitioning from straight horror to science fiction, channeling film history through his own unique perspective with incredible results.

After a truly chilling sitcom set opening, Nope takes us to Haywood Ranch, a black owned horse training facility where the animals are used in the movie industry. The ranch is run by Otis Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) Haywood: OJ trains the horses all day everyday while Keke is the elusive salesperson with the magnetic charm. Struggling to make ends meet, OJ has been selling Haywood horses to Jupe (Steven Yeun), who uses them for his shows at an amusement park nearby. Then, after one strange night, the Haywoods see a way out of their financial troubles, enlisting the help of Fry Electronics’s Angel (Brandon Perea) to set up cameras to capture what they saw.

Peele wastes no time diving into his study of entertainment’s relationship to exploitation with that truly terrifying opening sequence on Gordy’s Home, a 90s ish sitcom with a chimpanzee star. Amidst the unsettling sequence, is a shoe perfectly vertically standing straight up, a “bad miracle” as OJ would say later in the film. Those “bad miracles” happen in Nope usually when someone’s own hubris/greed make the person lose respect for the wild animals they are profiting from. Peele gives us characters on all sides of the hubris spectrum here, essentially implying that the greater the salesperson equates to greater exploitation and diminishing respect for the animals. That’s because respect is earned through hard work and mutual understanding: OJ, for example, knows exactly how his horses will respond of they are overstimulated because he’s worked with them consistently, while the production crew around him just look at the horse and see $$$ for their commercial, or whatever. And the minute the animals get scary? They’re cast aside, sometimes violently so, a not so subtle metaphor for how black cowboys were treated in Hollywood in the past as well. Humanity, being at the top of the food chain for a while, has let its place on Earth go to its head for the most part, and Peele use that unearned confidence against those who think they can control the uncontrollable. Nope, not possible.

So what is so big and unfathomable to threaten humanity’s place in the cosmos? The trailer clearly shows us a flying saucer. Peele still has pieces of Alfred Hitchcock in his style, but here he throws in an unholy mixture of early Steven Spielberg. He treats the mysterious UFO like the shark in Jaws, giving us enough images to scare the bejesus out of us but leaving the worst of it to our imagination until the very end. Close Encounters is obviously all over Nope, similarly giving us an otherworldly experience as well as humanity’s pursuit of the unknown, for all the reasons they might want to do so. The giant Western setting gives us Big Sky to capture the big spectacle Peele is going for, and mostly achieves. What makes Peele so brilliant is his way of finding simple, benign images to stick in your head for a long time after the movie ends. In Nope, it will be impossible to look at tube men, nickels, western themed amusement parks, and simply clouds/the sky the same.

So screw you Jordan Peele, for ruining the sky and 90s sitcoms for me. But thank you as well, for making another banger of a film that I won’t soon forget. I’m so confused, cause all I can think about now is the craziest disasters that could have befallen 90s sitcom sets: Jordan Catalano descending into the Joker on My So-Called Life and turning Angela Chase into Harley Quinn, Tim Taylor turning into a serial killer called the “Tool Man,” and the Olsen twins turning into the Shining twins and murdering everyone on the Full House set. I think I have a new TV pitch!

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