One of the big questions this Oscar season is whether or not Jordan Peele’s horror thriller “Us” will reemerge as a major contender. “Us” opened way back in March and the conversation around the film has not endured as strongly as Peele’s breakthrough directorial debut, “Get Out,” which opened in February 2017 but stayed in the cultural conversation well into 2018. “Get Out” had the kind of cultural longevity (and rave reviews) that made it impossible to ignore during Oscar season. “Us” is a slightly different story.
Universal opened “Us” in theaters in late March to strong reviews and great box office. The movie ended up matching the domestic ($175 million) and worldwide grosses ($255 million) of “Get Out” while being referenced on many mid-year reports of the best movies of 2019 so far (including IndieWire’s list). While “Us” is not short on social and political commentary, it’s a more ambitious and ambiguous endeavor that lacks the clear-cut talking points that gave “Get Out” the longevity to become an Oscar season powerhouse. Peele’s intentions with “Get Out” were clearly defined and thus the movie was widely accessible. “Us” proved far more challenging in its story and themes and had a more polarizing response in public opinion. The question remains: Can “Us” reemerge as a serious Oscar contender and how will Universal go about making sure it does?
Awards pundits now have an answer to the latter question as Jordan Peele has been named the recipient of the 2019 John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing. In years past, the Britannia Awards has given the prize to Oscar winners Steve McQueen, Ang Lee, Sam Mendes, Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, and Danny Boyle, plus renowned directors like Ava DuVernay and Christopher Nolan. According to IndieWire’s awards expert Anne Thompson, Peele’s selection as this year’s Best Director winner is a clear sign Universal is backing a campaign for Peele and “Us.”
“Get Out” won Peele the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay among additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. Peele’s best director bid made him just the fifth black filmmaker nominated for the Oscar. The four Oscar categories “Get Out” broke into would seem to be the best chances for “Us” to land nominations as well. Peele’s “Us” screenplay chances might be easier than his director chances, as the latter category is jam packed with the likes of Tarantino, Bong Joon-ho, Noah Baumbach, and more. It all depends on how strongly Universal can get “Us” to reemerge on the awards circuit. Lupita Nyong’o also stands a chance in the Best Actress race (Gold Derby makes it clear top prognosticators still consider her a serious contender).
Peele will be honored at the Britannia Awards on Friday, October 25. Additional honorees include Jane Fonda (Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film Presented), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year), Jackie Chan (Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment), and Steve Coogan (Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence).