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Opening this week: 'Winchester' and more



THIS WEEK: This week's column is the first one I've submitted since the 2018 Academy Award nominations were announced. So now we all get to enjoy together the resolution of one of the thorniest controversies of the past year.

GOLDEN GLOBES: Get Out is a comedy. JORDAN PEELE: Get Out is a documentary. OSCARS: Get Out is a narrative feature. JORDAN PEELE: That's fine.

Yeah, there's nothing like a Best Picture nod to make you wonder why you were splitting hairs. But since I don't get to share in the glory, I can keep asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions. Like, what does this nomination even mean? Is it further evidence after District 9 that the Academy will reward genre pictures as long as they display a significant social conscience? (If so, who gets to claim The Shape of Water: Greenpeace or the American Society for the Mute?) Would The Stepford Wives have been recognized had the Best Picture category in 1976 allowed for 10 nominees instead of five? Should the makers of the Purge films start pursuing Daniel Day-Lewis? Would a nice gift basket help? More immediately, what are the implications for the month of February? Once a dumping ground for crap horror, is it becoming a launching pad for woke scares? That's something to think about as we prepare for the weekend's one big release: Winchester In 1884, Sarah Winchester, widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, commissioned the building of a house like no other. It was a seven-story monstrosity erected literally from the ground up, with little to no advance planning or emphasis on internal consistency. Stairs went nowhere, windows overlooked other rooms, and the overall architectural asymmetry was enough to make M.C. Escher, Shirley Jackson and Stanley Kubrick all say, "Take your base." There was a method to Mrs. Winchester's madness: She was convinced she was being haunted by the ghost of everyone who had been killed by one of her late husband's rifles, so she needed a single edifice in which she could entrap them all. And boy, isn't that a timely metaphor. Maybe in 100 years or so, we'll get a movie in which Mrs. Bushmaster has to fend off the vengeful spirits of the Las Vegas victims. For now, we can merely hope that Winchester rises to the challenge of gun-culture critique its subject matter inherently poses. The presence of Helen Mirren in the lead role would seem to portend the required seriousness; I'm less encouraged by the retention of directors Michael and Peter Spierig, whose last picture, Jigsaw, wasn't exactly hailed as an impassioned plea for public responsibility. So like anyone who dates Taylor Swift, I'm going to hope for the best and prepare for crushing disappointment. Worst-case scenario, I can convince myself that what Get Out really heralded was the permanent spillover of Black History Month onto the screen. Wakanda forever! (PG-13)

Also playing: Padmaavat This Indian-made feature dramatizes the legend of a Hindu queen who led the women of her city in mass suicide rather than be violated by foreign invaders. You ask me, they should have just been packing. (NR)