Nope is a master class on our attitudes towards entertainment ‹ Literary Hub

See No before all the hype is the closest I’ll probably ever get Jaws in theaters in the summer of 1975. Of all the movies I’ve been lucky enough to review, few have been as difficult to review as Jordan Peele’s new movie—not because I don’t have anything to say about it, but because I’m too afraid to say too much.

NoA clever publicity campaign has obscured much of the film’s narrative and themes (which are always the same for Peele anyway), and my concern about diving too deep is not a reflection of the fact that the film is only interesting in revealing its big… guarded events, and acknowledging that that the film is so well-contained and original that it cannot be perceived, should not be digested in any way other than intact and whole.

The story follows two siblings, Otis Jr., “Oy” (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald, “Em” (Keke Palmer), who run their family’s historic movie business while bickering over filming horses. The company is called “Haywood’s Hollywood Horses” and they are movie royalty, descendants of the jockey who rode the horse in Edward Muybridge’s famous 1878 photographic motion study, which became the first ever motion picture to have its footage projected back-to-back. They live on a horse farm in a remote, scenic valley in Southern California, surrounded by the kind of shining, dusty hills that would make John Ford drool. And it is in this valley that strange things begin to happen, and OJ sees something that looks like a flying saucer in the sky.

Though No it’s a veritable carnival to analyze, it’s still extremely accessible and enjoyable as entertainment.

The siblings aren’t quite sure what to do, especially since the presence isn’t entirely peaceful, but Em believes that by capturing it on film, they’ll give their farm some attention and money that they can use to save their business, which has been on the skids after the death of their father (the great Keith David).

To stay afloat, OJ has had to sell some of his horses—many of them to Ricky “Yup” Park (Stephen Ewan), a former child star and now impresario of the nearby Wild West, an exciting, reconstructed Old West town. along with an amusement park called Jupiter’s Claim. Jupp had a traumatic, near-death experience that happened during a TV shoot he starred in as a child in which an animal went berserk, and he processed that experience into different forms of entertainment, time and time again.

This opens up the film’s main discourse, which concerns the relationship between “spectacle” (buzzword) and experiences of horror, terror and danger; that turning terrifying, unfathomable encounters into entertainment is a way for people to cope with these things, particularly unknowable encounters with the natural world. The film talks a lot about the differences between humans and animals and about the supreme power of nature. His thesis concerns the precariousness of human intervention, the ultimate impossibility of our attempts to control and contain creatures and forces that are ultimately unlike us. That the siblings can attempt to encounter a UFO (an entity so powerful and mysterious to them) only by capturing it on film is a perfect capture of the theme. Shooting something distances the viewer from the object, makes it legible and safe.

Film has a lot to say about the difference between looking at something and “watching” it from a safe simulacrum—so much so that when I got home, I happily pulled my old film theory textbooks from my bookshelf and flipped through essays by Christian Metz, Laura Mulvey, and Thomas Elzesser. No so tight and so rich and has so much to say about our relationship with cinema that I want to write Term Paper on it instead of a review; I want to dig deeper into how this reveals meaning and continues the conversation about “the gaze” and “the gaze” and other Napilakanian philosophies about what film and entertainment in general do for us.

No has a lot to say about it, even to the point where it establishes a familial connection between itself and the first films ever made, Muybridge’s sequential photographs. The entire film is about cameras, lenses, and passion. This, in accordance with the setting of the Wild West, is a deep reflection on the “filming” of something, an assimilation, an attempt to know it visually.

While the film is a veritable carnival of analysis, it’s still remarkably accessible and enjoyable as entertainment. Basically, it’s entertainment with a capital letter! Although the film is not a horror film per seit cruises along, neatly building tension and occasionally interspersing it with genuine scares before galloping into its heartbreaking third act.

Peele is a master at creating iconic images, and it’s clear to watch No how quickly many of his aesthetic flourishes would become indelible in the history of cinema. Indeed, the film is a visual playground that combines innovative optical touches with just the right amount of cinematic nostalgia.

Its characters are also beautifully designed, archetypal enough to mesh with each other while still feeling memorable on their own terms—brought to life by a group of insanely talented actors. Show in No one of the best of the year; Palmer evokes the perfect balance of bouncy charisma and raw power, while Kaluuya’s stoic brother manages (as is his forte) to create endless pathos out of silence and grace.

Michael Wincott, with a Christy voice, plays a grizzled cameraman who has seen everything but nothing like this, a veteran among the crew, reminiscent of JawsQuint. And as a chatty electronics store employee/UFO enthusiast named Angel who becomes increasingly intrigued by the siblings’ mission, Brandon Perea almost takes over the show (a feat of atmospheric proportions).

The film was shot in IMAX, so watch it on the big screen if you can; After all, this is a movie to watch, so watch it properly. It will be another reminder of the film’s assertion that when you can’t run and you can’t hide, all you can do is watch.

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