Lupita Nyong’o deserves the Oscar for Us. Yes, I know she already has an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave. Yes, I know Us is a horror film, and the Academy seems to think horror films aren’t as prestigious as historical dramas. Yes, I know Us came out in March and these days it’s hard to recall anything that happened even last week. But I said what I said and I’ll it again, for emphasis: Lupita Nyong’o deserves the Oscar for Us.
If you missed it when it was in theaters, you’ll want to be sure to catch Us on HBO, which is airing at 8 p.m. ET tonight. Jordan Peele‘s follow-up to Get Out—his massively successful 2017 horror film that won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and earned nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor—Us stars Nyong’o as a woman named Adelaide Wilson, who’s trying desperately to protect her family from evil forces. It also stars Nyong’o as Red, Adelaide’s “tethered,” who looks like her, sounds like her, thinks like her, and is determined to kill her.
The writing and directing, both done by Peele, are objectively excellent. It’s maybe not quite as narratively satisfying as Get Out, but really, what movie is? That said, no one can argue that Nyong’o didn’t just deliver a great performance, but one of the greatest horror performances of all time. Actually, she delivered two of the greatest horror performances of all time.
Nyong’o is not the only actor in the movie who plays multiple roles—her husband (Winston Duke), daughter (Shahadi Wright Joseph), son (Evan Alex), and friends (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) all have evil doppelgangers too—but it’s undoubtedly her movie. Whether she’s Adelaide or Red she commands every scene. When she’s Adelaide, you acutely feel every micro-emotion that crosses her face, from joy to trauma to fear to pain to quiet determination. When she’s Red, you feel uncomfortable in the face of her raw, deranged wrath. It’s the kind of discomfort that makes you want to look away from the screen, and then feel ashamed for wanting that, when there is no escape for Red. And of course there’s that raspy, bone-chilling voice, which provoked a bit of controversy around release.
Nyong’o will go down in history alongside other horror actors like Jodie Foster, Jack Nicholson, and Mia Farrow, and if that’s not the kind performance that deserves an Oscar, I don’t know what is. In an excellent Vanity Fair essay published this week, writer Mark Harris spoke to how ridiculous it is that Nyong’o—along with other non-white actors including Cynthia Erivo, Awkwafina, and Alfre Woodward—is, at this point in the Oscar race, currently struggling to even be considered a leading contender for a nomination, much less a frontrunner for a win. According to the award season prediction aggregation website Gold Derby, Nyong’o is ninth on the list of Best Actress hopefuls, behind Renee Zellweger (Judy), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), and Saoirse Ronan (Little Woman).
Ninth? Ninth? C’mon, people. I love all of those women, but Nyong’o deserves this one. Do the right thing, Academy, and give Nyong’o the Oscar for Best Actress for Us. Do that, and maybe I’ll stop my tethered from murdering you. Maybe.
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