It’s Famous Friday!

Jordan Peele

“One of the best ways to enter the conversation about race is through art.  If we can have a shared experience in a movie theatre, it gives us more of a basis for conversation.”

Jordan Peele (Born Feb. 21st, 1979) is a famous biracial American actor, writer and director.  He is well known for staring on the, Key and Peele Show, which ran on Comedy Central from 2012 to 2015 and for writing & directing the critically acclaimed horror film, Get Out, in 2017. Key and Peele won a Peabody Award in 2013 “for its stars and their creative team’s inspired satirical riffs on our racially divided and racially conjoined culture.” One of my favorite sketches on the show was called, “the substitute teacher” in which they poke fun of the way the suburban students’ names are pronounced.

The movie Get Out was enormously successful, earning over $250 million dollars worldwide, and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards in 2017.  It was even nominated for Best Picture.  Jordan Peele was nominated for Best Director and Peele won an Oscar in the category of Best Original Screenplay.  Peele described the movie as a “social thriller” where society itself is the villain.

Peele’s biracial heritage is African-American and Caucasian, as his mother was white while his father was black.  He was raised in New York, in a single parent home after his father unexpectantly died when Peele was only 6 years old.  In a recent biography, “Peele admitted that being biracial often made him feel like an outsider, such as when he had to place himself in the racial category of ‘other’ when taking standardized tests (he began selecting ‘African American’ as he grew older).  Some of his classmates didn’t believe his mother was white, and growing up he sometimes felt his voice sounded too ‘white.’”

Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Museum of Modern Art, Department of Film



Jordan Peele Wins at Academy Awards


Jordan Peele won an Academy Award Sunday for the movie “Get Out.” Some news outlets are calling him the first black  or African American to win, but he self-identifies as biracial. CNN has refused to use the terms “biracial” or “multiracial” to describe someone of more than one race. It’s back to the one-drop rule for them. NPR and other broadcasters have acknowledged multiracial and biracial heritage. “Get Out” is a thriller film that centers around an interracial relationship. Congratulations to biracial Jordan Peele.

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Movie Review – “Get Out”

Get Out NYT

Those arms and smiles all but engulf Chris (the British actor Daniel Kaluuya, going deep in a breakthrough performance), a photographer with a sweet pad, adorable dog and equally frisky, adoring girlfriend, Rose (a perfectly cast Allison Williams, from the HBO show “Girls”). The story opens with them preparing for a long weekend with her parents. “Do they know I’m black?” Chris gently asks. They don’t, but Rose assures him not to worry, and off they go into the countryside and narrative complications. Mr. Peele, making his feature debut, sets a cozy, innocuous scene complete with coos and loving glances, a tranquillity that shatters with an eerily inopportune deer crossing.

By the time Chris and Rose pull up to her parents’ house — a stately brick building with imposing white columns and rocking chairs on the front porch — ripples of unease have disturbed the calm. The nicer Rose’s parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), behave, the greater the ripples. They don’t blink at him or his race (Ms. Keener is a virtuoso of the deadeye stare), but instead adopt the forced geniality of people who seem anxious to hide their discomfort. Missy’s the watchful one, while the voluble Dean cozies up to Chris, dropping embarrassing slang and relating an odd story about Jesse Owens, the black Olympian who shocked Hitler.

Mr. Peele is best known for his work with Keegan-Michael Key on their titular comedy sketch show, where politics mixed freely with the laughs. Together they starred in the 2016 comedy “Keanu,” a lampoon of action cinema that was a (slack) piece with the movie love that was a mainstay of their show. In one memorable bit from the show, heckling cinephiles voice their complaints (“this movie has an inconsistent visual language!”); in another, two friends realize that the reason the zombie hordes aren’t attacking them is they’re flesh-eating racists. “Get Out” expands on, and considerably deepens, a similar idea by turning white racism into disquieting genre shivers.

But Mr. Peele is after more than giggles and shocks; he’s taking on 21st-century white racism and its rationales. The opener — a black man talking on a cellphone on an empty suburban street — briskly sets the tone, unsettles the mood and announces Mr. Peele’s way with metaphor. He’s working within a recognizable horror-film framework here (the darkness, the stillness), so it’s not surprising when a car abruptly pulls up and begins tailing the man. You may even snicker because you think you’ve seen this flick before. Except that when this man anxiously looks for a way out, the scene grows discordantly disturbing because you may, as I did, flash on Trayvon Martin.

It’s a jarring moment that might have been catastrophic for the movie if Mr. Peele didn’t quickly yank you back into its fiction. (He’s got great timing, no surprise.) There’s relief when the offscreen world recedes just then. Yet part of what makes “Get Out” both exciting and genuinely unsettling is how real life keeps asserting itself, scene after scene. Our monsters, Mr. Peele reminds us, are at times as familiar as the neighborhood watch; one person’s fiction, after all, is another’s true-life horror story. ” For his part, Chris, separated existentially, chromatically and every other way, spends so much time putting the white world at ease that he can’t recognize the threat coming for him.

Mr. Peele knows that threat, plays with it and eviscerates it with jokes and scares, only to top it off messily with full-on Grand Guignol splatter. But some of his finest, most genuinely shocking work is his quietest. One of the best scenes I’ve seen in a long while finds Chris talking with one of the parents’ black servants, a maid, Georgina (a fantastic Betty Gabriel). Chris confesses that he gets nervous when around a lot of white people, an admission that Georgina answers by advancing toward him with a volley of “no, no, no,” cascades of tears and a smile so wide it looks as if it could split her face in two. Something has gotten under her skin and it’s frightening.

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