‘Nope’ Proves Keke Palmer Deserves Every Lead Role Hollywood Has to Offer—and an Oscar

Jordan Peele’s Nope is everything movie fans have come to expect from him. 

The director’s third feature film is over the top, odd in the best ways, terrifying, smart, original, and captivating, as well as perfectly cast. The film also follows the trend of Peele’s mysterious films continuously summoning audiences to theaters in an era where Marvel, franchises, and reboots rule the box office. Nope opened with $44 million on its opening weekend, making it the best for an original film opening since Peele’s Us, which made $71.1 million in April 2019.

The director knows that people are thirsty to be entertained, while others want to be stimulated. That’s why he made Nope a spectacle that is also injected with thoughtful commentary and symbolism that will feed the curious minds who love to dissect his films. Peele’s casting choices are also one of his greatest strengths as a filmmaker and that was reinforced by having Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as his leads in his third directorial project. 

The sci-fi thriller’s storyline is about siblings OJ Haywood (Kaluuya) and Emerald Haywood (Palmer), who have been Hollywood horse trainers since they were children. The film picks up six months after their dad’s bizarre death and OJ is the one living and working full time at the ranch, while his sister pursues other paths like acting, directing, singing, producing, etc. OJ is the muscle behind the operation; he cares for the horses and the ranch, but he is too introverted and reserved for a Hollywood set. Emerald is the one with the charisma and the upbeat energy needed to work in showbiz. OJ looks to his sister for rescue when they’re on set for a commercial at the start of the movie, and from the first time you see Palmer on the screen, all your focus shifts to her.

As the film progresses, we learn that there is an otherworldly object, or creature, living in a cloud above the ranch that may have caused their father’s death. Down on their luck and short on money, the Haywoods set out on a mission to capture the creature on video so that they could have the “Oprah shot” that could launch them into fame and wealth. There has been a connecting thread of societal commentary throughout Peele’s films that he often leaves open to interpretation for the audience, and Nope was no exception. In this case, the film explores Hollywood and the film industry and how Black people have had “skin in the game” since the beginning of filmmaking. 

The chilling horror moments in the film provide plenty of jump scares while also showing the great lengths people are willing to go to get that one viral moment that could change their lives because anyone in their right mind would pack a bag and leave. Nope also explores the trauma that child stars often live with through Ricky “Jupe” Park’s (Steven Yeun) story, as well as the importance of siblings—who are oftentimes the people by your side when shit hits the fan regardless of your differences, which Emerald and OJ so perfectly represent here.

Both of the characters are so incredibly dissimilar, but so are Palmer and Kaluuya in their delivery as actors. Palmer’s character Emerald helps the tense film breathe a little easier. She adds levity, humor, and an authenticity that’s difficult to portray if that’s not something you already carry within. During a global press conference for the movie, Complex asked the actors what they learned from each other as professionals during filming, a question that gave them both pause. “I found it hard to show joy and be natural. And be extroverted and natural with it. It’s a very hard balance to do. It is way harder than people realize,” Kaluuya said. “People look at drama and think (it’s difficult)—but it’s kind of really simple. But in terms of being joyous and exuberant and then having a reality and a realness to it is very difficult, and Keke has that for free, naturally.” 

He added: “She’s just got it. That is what I was taking in a lot, the decisions she made, like, ‘Oh, that’s how you do that? That’s how you could do that? I didn’t see it that way or think of that way, I never would have arrived at that.’”

Emerald’s humor is perfectly sprinkled throughout Nope, and at times you almost forget you’re watching a horror film. Palmer, alongside Brandon Perea (who plays an electronics store employee named Angel Torres and also delivered a standout performance), add the necessary comedy to make the story feel more realistic. Even in real life, sometimes we laugh to keep from crying. Both Emerald and Angel don’t seem to take things as seriously as OJ does at first, so in the hectic moments where they do panic, the audience knows it’s for good reason. Palmer shines the brightest in the third act, though, going from the film’s comedic relief to a full-on horror and then action star—adding even more excitement for all the roles she will inevitably land after Nope.

Palmer’s relaxed acting style is comparable to some of the most seasoned and respected actors out there. She’s genuine and raw and completely natural at what she does, which makes for the best acting. She may have decades of experience, but Nope is her best performance yet. Emerald is her vessel to let the world know what she is all about. Peele recognized that in her when they met, and he told Complex in an interview that he wrote the role specifically for the actress. She hits the full spectrum of human emotion throughout the film—joy, fear, sadness, confusion, resilience, etc.—and those last 15 or so minutes of the film undoubtedly belong to her. Palmer is a star, and an Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actress category seems appropriate here.   

Palmer is also obviously not alone in her greatness. Kaluuya delivers yet another masterful performance as OJ, who is a quiet, focused man of few words, and whose priority is the ranch and its animals. In the film’s most frightening moments, Kaluuya’s character stays calm. OJ keeps his cool while managing to also show slight glimpses of fear, intimidation, heart, and determination as he dodges the creature in the sky. The actor’s poise in the roles we’ve seen him in so far is what made him a star and an Oscar winner so early on in his career. I’ve referred to him as the Denzel Washington of our generation, but that doesn’t seem like enough anymore. Peele referred to Kaluuya as being to him what Robert De Niro is to Martin Scorsese, which is the most fitting comparison, and my only hope is that there will be more collaborations between them down the line. READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/keke-palmer-nope-lead-roles/third-act

Magary: Daniel Kaluuya proves he’s the world’s best actor in HBO’s ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

“Judas and the Black Messiah” opened on HBO Max last weekend and I’m not gonna bother with a formal review of the film because you can find those anywhere, and because “Judas” is already on its way to amassing a stockpile of award show trophies that a dragon could comfortably rest upon. Most of those trophies, including an Oscar, are gonna be handed out because of this man, Daniel Kaluuya:

You might remember Kaluuya from his breakout role in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” Kaluuya got nominated for Best Actor for “Get Out,” and holy s—t did he deserve it. I remember I spent the entirety of that movie terrified for poor Chris. I also remember that when Kaluuya didn’t win Best Actor that year (fellow Brit Gary Oldman got it for playing Winston Churchill), it was okay because anyone who saw Kaluuya’s performance knew he’d be nominated for many, many other roles afterward. Three years later, after sharing the bill for “Widows” and for “Black Panther,” he’s delivered a performance in “Judas and the Black Messiah” that fulfills all of that promise, and far beyond. I saw the trailer for “Judas,” featuring Kaluuya spewing hellfire and brimstone as civil rights legend Fred Hampton, and I was like, “Oh yeah, I’m watching that. He’s gonna kick ass.”

I did and he did. Kaluuya is gonna be back at the Oscars this year, and he’s gonna win that s—t this time around. Because “Judas and the Black Messiah” proves that he’s the best goddamn actor on Earth right now.

Now, Warner Bros. submitted Kaluuya in the supporting actor category for “Judas,” because his “Get Out” co-star LaKeith Stanfield plays the spiritual lead (and is REALLY good) as FBI informant William O’Neal. But “Judas” belongs to Kaluuya’s Fred Hampton.

Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. His name and his story were completely unfamiliar to me before I started watching Judas. This is because I’m ignorant, and because American schools were far too stingy back in my childhood, and remain so, about allowing nonwhite material into the curriculum. Hampton’s story should be taught. This movie should be taught. And perhaps it will be, because the force of Kaluuya’s performance all but demands it.

You can’t take your eyes off of Daniel Kaluuya. Even in the tender scenes Kaluuya shares with love interest Dominique Fishback, his presence still bleeds off the screen. If Kaluuya spent the rest of his life in character AS Fred Hampton, I would vote him for president. I would pay him money to come to my town, give a speech as Fred and get everyone so fired up they could run through a god damn brick wall. I would like an expanded Fred Hampton Cinematic Universe.

In fact, that’s not far enough. I would like Daniel Kaluuya to be in EVERY movie now. Usually, when you go to an actor’s IMDb page, they have 900 future projects in development, half of which make you wince in anticipation. Kaluuya has just one: a Netflix adaptation of the science fiction novel “The Upper World.” I do not trust Netflix to make this show good — Netflix is like if you went to a brick-and-mortar Blockbuster store and everything in it sucked — but I do trust Kaluuya to play the hell out of his character.

He’s also due to star in “Black Panther 2,” and if they choose to make W’Kabi the next Black Panther (Marvel has already said that they will not recast the late Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, but will find another character to assume the mantle of the Black Panther; now you know as much as the rest of us do about it), you won’t see me complain. This world requires a massive Kaluuya stimulus. Democrats should send every household at least 2,000 Kaluuyas, and not a piddly-s—t 1,400. Hollywood should spin off his tinyass “Sicario” character and make good movies with that character instead of making garbage like “Sicario 2,” which looked like it was produced by Vince McMahon. Make Kaluuya the next Bond. Give him a standalone “Star Wars” franchise that Kathleen Kennedy is barred from ruining. Actually, you know what? F—k “Star Wars.” Daniel Kaluuya is too good for “Star Wars.” Keep Kaluuya away from “Star Wars” and make him Ahab instead. Make him Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” Make him Holden Caulfield. Make him Dracula. Make him “JAWS.”

Better yet, make Daniel Kaluuya a character no one has seen or heard of before. This man is part of a breakout mainstream movement in Black cinema that’s the newest, best thing coming out of Hollywood right now. Kaluuya is proof that the movement is already producing more exciting work than the incessant IP-humping that constitutes the bulk of studio products.

This man is not only talented, but he’s also got the juice to keep pushing Hollywood out of its deadened comfort zone. F—k, I’d pay to watch Daniel Kaluuya read the transcript of an investment firm’s Zoom call. I don’t care. Great actors elevate bad material and consecrate great material. That’s what Daniel Kaluuya can do. There’s no stopping him. There’s no need to try. Give him every Oscar, and then get out of his way.

How Hustlers Danced Away With America’s Heart—And Box Office

Perhaps the greatest thing about Hustlers is the number of ways it finds to surprise. Yes, Lorene Scafaria’s movie about a pack of scamming strippers led by Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu hits all the expected beats: a pole dance from J. Lo here, a sensuous shower of dollar bills there. But its greatest delights are the moments that defy what audiences are taught to expect from films like these—and from female characters more generally. In fact, one of those delightful tricks happens early on, when Wu’s green dancer character, Destiny, climbs up to the roof of her new place of work to smoke a cigarette and finds Lopez’s intimidatingly talented Ramona already up there, luxuriating in an impossibly voluminous fur coat. Given the competitive environment Destiny has already found inside the club, it’s easy to assume Ramona will give this newbie the cold shoulder—or at least size her up for a moment. Instead she pulls Destiny into the billowy warmth of her coat, wrapping her arms around her in a Madonna-like shot so serene that its warmth almost radiates from the screen.

Hustlers just wrapped up a fantastic weekend at the box office, where it grossed $33.2 million across 3,250 North American theaters. Given the film’s concept—a group of strippers scamming and drugging corrupt Wall Street moguls just after the 2008 recession—it can be easy to see its success as foretold. But that would underrate its artistry. Hollywood has squandered many a genius concept and “sure thing,” and for many a reason. Casting miscalculations, unfocused writing, bad editing… the list of reasons Hustlers could have failed is nearly infinite. Instead every detail of its execution is a triumph. More important, however, is how Hustlers also satisfies a number of cravings that the entertainment industry has been slow to quench—including diverse casting, a subtle and deeply American understanding of money and class, and a distinct examination of female antiheroes.

There’s something distinctly satisfying about watching Lopez and her merry band of scammers do their thing. Hustlers does indeed feature a diverse cast—but more crucially, the women in this group gel seamlessly, and each role feels tailor-made for the person occupying it, from Lopez as a character as underestimated as she has been throughout her acting career (though Hustlers may put an end to that) to Wu, just a few months removed from a Twitter scandal, as a woman with something to prove. Each of these women represents a different kind of female antihero, female Walter Whites who are doing it all for their families…but also, they’re really, really good at it. It’s not often we see a gaggle of female antiheroes traveling as a group and supporting one another as the Hustlers do. Their compassion for one another is almost enough to make you wonder what makes them “anti”heroes—for a moment, until you remember that they make their living drugging people and stealing large sums of money.

These are characters who have spent their lives on the fringes of society, and chose to build a support system all their own, one that includes the families they already have. Ramona frequently beams over her daughter, affectionately describing motherhood as a “mental illness,” while Destiny has an inseparable bond with her grandmother, who gets some of the film’s most unexpected punch lines. What these women seem to find in one another—and in the crimes they commit—is safety. In one of the film’s warmest scenes, all of these women and their various family members gather for Christmas morning, opening lavish presents but also reveling in one another’s company. Yes, Destiny squeals with glee over the chinchilla fur Ramona buys her—a status symbol that also represents just how far Destiny has come. But she seems even more emotional when she sees her grandmother seamlessly blend in with her friends, effectively transforming what was once a small, isolated family unit into one part of a larger supportive whole. Don Draper could never.

The shared communion these women find in one another might be unorthodox; indeed, it literally exists outside the law. But the genius of Hustlers is the number of ways it finds to challenge its audience to think of a better, more legal place its antiheroes could have looked for such connection and stability. Just look at Destiny’s initial struggle to find a job post-recession, as a potential manager scoffs at her GED and previous job experience. In many ways one gets the sense that Destiny is alienated not only from the job market, but from “polite” society as a whole. The film does not judge Destiny’s behavior. Instead it allows her and her friends to express different viewpoints on the untenable situations in which they find themselves. And it seems like no mistake that for all the love she has for Ramona, Destiny can never quite pinpoint exactly how she feels about the criminal outfit they once ran after it comes crashing down. Instead the only thing that’s achingly clear is how much she misses Ramona. Because for all the materialistic euphoria this film contains, its one true love story is between these two women—and it was clear from that first embrace under Ramona’s fur.

HARRIET – Official Trailer [HD] – In Theaters November 1st

Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, HARRIET tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

Hustlers’ Trailer: Cardi B Helps J. Lo and Constance Wu Get Revenge

“These Wall Street guys, you see what they did to this country? They stole from everybody. Hard-working people lost everything.” And that’s not all. “The game is rigged, and it does not reward people who play by the rules.”

No, that’s not an excerpt from Bernie Sanders’s latest stump speech. Rather, it’s spoken by Jennifer Lopez as a New York City stripper who turns the tables on some of her biggest-money customers in the flashy, just-released trailer for her forthcoming film, “Hustlers.”

The real-life revenge tale — it’s based on a New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler — co-stars Constance Wu (“Crazy Rich Asians”) as a single mom whom Lopez’s character teaches how to pole-dance. The impressive ensemble also includes the music divas Cardi B and Lizzo as well as Lili Reinhart, best known as Betty Cooper on CW’s Archie Comics adaptation “Riverdale.”

Unlike earlier stripper-centric movies like “Showgirls” and “Striptease,” this one was adapted and directed by a woman, Lorene Scafaria (“The Meddler”). Lopez produced the film with her business partner, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, and manager, Benny Medina, along with Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Jessica Elbaum of Gloria Sanchez Productions.

“Hustlers” hits theaters on Sept. 13.

25th Annual SAG Award Nominees

MOTION PICTURE

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

  • “A Star Is Born”
  • “Black Panther”
  • “BlacKkKlansman”
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • “Crazy Rich Asians”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Emily Blunt, “Mary Poppins Returns”
  • Glenn Close, “The Wife”
  • Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
  • Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
  • Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
https://www.tntdrama.com/shows/sag-awards/clips/25th-annual-sag-awards-nominations-ceremony

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

  • Christian Bale, “Vice”
  • Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
  • Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
  • John David Washington, “BlacKkKlansman”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams, “Vice”
  • Emily Blunt, “A Quiet Place”
  • Margot Robbie, “Mary Queen of Scots”
  • Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
  • Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
  • Timothee Chalamet, “Beautiful Boy”
  • Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
  • Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

TELEVISION

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

  • “The Americans”
  • “Better Call Saul”
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  • “Ozark”
  • “This Is Us”

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series 

  • “Atlanta”
  • “Barry”
  • “GLOW”
  • “The Kominsky Method”
  • “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series 

  • Amy Adams, “Sharp Objects”
  • Patricia Arquette, “Escape at Dannemora”
  • Patricia Clarkson, “Sharp Objects”
  • Penelope Cruz, “Assassination of Gianni Versace”
  • Emma Stone, “Maniac”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series

  • Antonio Banderas, “Genius: Picasso”
  • Darren Criss, “Assassination of Gianni Versace”
  • Hugh Grant, “A Very English Scandal”
  • Anthony Hopkins, “King Lear”
  • Bill Pullman, “The Sinner” 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

  • Julia Garner, “Ozark”
  • Laura Linney, “Ozark”
  • Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  • Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
  • Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

  • Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
  • Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
  • Joseph Fiennes, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  • John Krasinski, “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”
  • Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
  • Alison Brie, “GLOW”
  • Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
  • Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”
  • Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Alan Arkin, “The Kominsky Method”
  • Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
  • Bill Hader, “Barry”
  • Henry Winkler, “Barry”

STUNT

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

  • “Ant-Man and the Wasp”
  • “Avengers: Infinity War”
  • “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
  • “Black Panther”
  • “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama

  • “Glow”
  • “Marvel’s: Daredevil”
  • “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”
  • “The Walking Dead”
  • “Westworld”

Film Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to Moonlight is an adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel. It confirms the director as one of the most talented working today, writes Caryn James.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 10.48.26 PM

After Moonlight won best picture at the 2017 Academy Awards, director Barry Jenkins used his leverage to bring a long-standing dream of his to life: to adapt James Baldwin’s emotionally potent 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk.

It’s easy to see why Jenkins was so drawn to the story, of a young black couple whose romantic dreams come crashing up again the powerful reality of white society. Jenkins’ approach, here as in Moonlight, mirrors Baldwin’s own, using a poetic style to reveal harsh social truths. His film is lush and ambitious, its theme of racial bias as relevant now as it was when Baldwin’s novel first appeared. The film is also too pretty for its own good at times, and more compelling in parts than as a whole. But at its best it confirms Jenkins as one of the most talented film-makers working today.\He sets up the contrasts in his story at the start. Set in the 1970s in New York’s Harlem and Greenwich Village neighbourhoods, Beale Street introduces its main characters in a lyrical scene, as an overhead shot views them walking in a park on a beautiful autumn day. Tish (KiKi Layne) is 19 and Fonny (Stephan James) is 22. Both are fresh-faced innocents who gaze into each other’s eyes and say they are ready to face the world together. From this swoony, idyllic flashback we cut to a scene of Tish looking at Fonny through the glass of a prison visiting room, telling him she is pregnant.

Tish is the narrator, her brief voiceover recurring now and then. Flashbacks reveal the earlier days of their romance, and the story moves fluidly ahead, as Tish talks to a lawyer and tries to get Fonny out of prison. James Laxton, the cinematographer who created the cool, deep blue palette for Moonlight, presents a warmer look in Beale Street, infusing the film with glowing colours against a darker background. Like those rich colours, Fonny and Tish’s relationship remains strong even as they lose their innocence.

We eventually learn why Fonny is in prison. A belligerent white policeman, whom we have seen threaten him, later arrests him for raping a white woman, although Fonny was nowhere near the attack. Historically, the accusation resonates with more than a century of such wrongful charges against black men, particularly in the US South.

At the start and again at the end of the film, Jenkins includes photos of black men being arrested, beaten and forced to their knees by white police officers. “The system has been rigged and the courts see it through,” Tish says near the end. Jenkins lets these moments land without overplaying their social purpose. The contemporary resonance and allusion to the Black Lives Matter movement are so apparent, he doesn’t need to make them explicit.

Jenkins has not created a message film, but one about love and family that also conveys a message. Tish’s mother, Sharon (Regina King), her father (Colman Domingo) and her older sister (Teyonah Parris) are unfailing in their support. King is especially poignant, her face capturing quiet strength and compassion. When Tish confides that she is pregnant – the last thing any of them needs under the circumstances – Sharon gathers the family for a toast. “We are drinking to new life,” she says, an embrace of the future that in no way denies her awareness of the difficulties her daughter will face.

All the actors are convincing, even in the close-ups that Jenkins often turns to and that require such honesty for the camera. King is the most heartbreaking, because her performance reveals complexities even beyond the layered character Jenkins’ script has given her.

Adding to the story’s contrasts, Fonny’s mother (Aunjanue Ellis) is a shrew who tells Tish, “I always knew you’d be the destruction of my son.” His father (Michael Beach) and Tish’s are old neighbourhood friends who commiserate, at times too bluntly, as if for the film’s viewers and not themselves, about how difficult it is to be a black man trying to get ahead. And with just a couple of scenes, Brian Tyree Henry adds to his list of terrific supporting roles (including one in Steve McQueen’s latest, Widows) as a friend of Fonny’s just released from prison.

Despite the close-ups and the sympathetic characters, a distant, cerebral beauty underlies the film. The camerawork and production design are so lovely they can be distracting. In the scene that introduces Tish and Fonny, the mustard yellow in Fonny’s shirt is echoed in Tish’s coat and in the turning leaves on the trees, all captured in the overhead shot. The romantic look feels a bit too calculated, just as the strings that sometimes soar on the soundtrack are a few levels over the top. Impassioned moments stand out – Fonny yelling at Tish from behind the prison glass that he is going to die there – yet overall there is an almost austere tone, unlike the emotional pull of Baldwin’s novel.

Whatever its weaknesses, If Beale Street Could Talk, only Jenkins’ third film, is a strong addition to a distinctive body of work. Anyone who became aware of him with Moonlight might want to catch up with his first film, 2008’s Medicine for Melancholy, a lyrical little gem about a night-long date in gentrifying San Francisco. It was evident from the start that Jenkins’ commanding voice and graceful style are like no other director’s.

★★★★