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Why are comedies seldom recognized as Best Pictures?


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#1 TopBilled

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Posted 02 February 2017 - 11:38 PM

Great question! Perhaps education and information about film and filmmaking needs to address the process and conventions of film from multiple perspectives. For example, one of the rules of drama is for the performer to never look at the camera and break the fourth wall. However, in comedy this is not only permissible but often highly effective. What do you think?

 

Yes. That makes sense. Sometimes there seems to be greater reflexivity in comedy. Like turning the jokes back on people and spoofing their unique situations. It's almost like mimicking and mirroring "reality" to present an ironic point. The reflexivity can be very post-modern-- breaking the fourth wall or alluding to things that are self-referential.

 

Personally, I think the most profound stories are ones that seem dramatic but are working on another level, making light of the basic scenario.


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#2 SleepyDogFilms

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Posted 02 February 2017 - 10:01 PM

Thanks for sharing the link to your paper. How do you think a common language or greater understanding about comedy can be fostered?

Great question! Perhaps education and information about film and filmmaking needs to address the process and conventions of film from multiple perspectives. For example, one of the rules of drama is for the performer to never look at the camera and break the fourth wall. However, in comedy this is not only permissible but often highly effective. What do you think?


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#3 TopBilled

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Posted 01 February 2017 - 12:34 PM

I actually wrote my thesis on this topic: http://digitalcommon....edu/honors/93/

 

It has to do with a lot of factors, mostly a lack of understanding of the conventions of comic film and a lack of a common language to discuss comedy.

 

Thanks for sharing the link to your paper. How do you think a common language or greater understanding about comedy can be fostered?


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#4 SleepyDogFilms

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 09:40 PM

I actually wrote my thesis on this topic: http://digitalcommon....edu/honors/93/

 

It has to do with a lot of factors, mostly a lack of understanding of the conventions of comic film and a lack of a common language to discuss comedy.


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#5 TopBilled

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 09:00 AM

In another thread I mentioned that part of what makes movie comedy so challenging is that timing hinges on how much you allow for laughter. Wrong choices can really upset the pacing if laughs don't materialize where they were anticipated, or if laughter happens in unanticipated places so that surrounding dfialogue is compromised. On stage, good actors can "surf" the laughter and maximize the comedy that way, but on film the "stage waits" have to be set in stone. It takes a very sure hand; it's a real skill which ought to be given proper recognition. And these days, when more often than not we watch films in relative privacy rather than in a group which can trigger contageous laughter, it's that much harder to create a comic pacing which can satisfy everyone. Good drama is a constant balancing act, but so is good comedy. 

 

Excellent paragraph, and of course, I couldn't agree more. About a week ago, after I made a post on this thread, I was in my kitchen making pancakes. I tried to flip the pancake in the air, thinking it would come back down into the skillet. Unfortunately, there was a bit of water on the floor and as I flipped the pancake with my wrist, I lost my balance with my right foot. I tripped while the pancake was still in the air. It came back down, and at that point because I was falling, the skillet was tilted at an angle. The pancake hit the side of the titled skillet, ricocheted off it at a 45 degree angle and bounced off a nearby wall, Within seconds, I was on the floor next to the pancake that had since slid down the wall and landed at my feet. The whole thing happened so fast.

 

I was alone, and I thought gee, if there had been an audience to see this, I would have had a standing ovation. The timing of my pratfall was perfect, and it was sheer luck that it went off smoothly and I didn't injure myself. The point I'm making is that slapstick comedians have this kind of stuff down to a science. Nothing is pure chance or luck with them. They are masters at these kinds of pratfalls, not an amateur like I was that morning in my kitchen. It's all about coordination and timing, and to pull these kinds of gags or stunts off takes a huge amount of skill.


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#6 DougieB

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 08:03 AM

I think what you are saying about light-hearted dramas being marketed as comedies is rather interesting. I guess if awards for best picture are handed out by genre, then a decision has to be made about how to classify comedy-dramas which can go either way.

 

Because budgets are so high now for studio films, and they need to appeal to the broadest possible audience to recover their investments, we are seeing a lot of films in recent years that are hybrids (with elements of three and sometimes four genres in them). More than ever, the Academy voters should not discriminate and should be able to look beyond genre classifications to focus on story and overall production values.

It's a good point that a movie being marketed incorrectly can affect public perception of the film and therefore the box office and ultimately the "legacy" of the film. The fairly recent Tina Fey film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was promoted in the trailer and ads by punching up the two or three major "jokes", but the movie itself was a basically uncomedic look at war correspondents. I don't know what the final box office was, but I'm willing to bet there were plenty of disgruntled moviegoers who had been expecting something else. The marketing was a disservice to the film and to Fey herself, who is more than able to handle dramatic as well as comedic acting roles. You mentioned Robin Williams a while back as someone who could handle both kinds of roles; he and Tina Fey are examples of actors who may sometimes be penalized because the film companies want to capitalize on their early success as comedians. (Steve Carrell too.)

 

Your point about Academy voters was well-taken. They of all people ought to be aware of the complex nature of successful comedy. They're hurting themselves by not recognizing the achievement with major awards.

 

In another thread I mentioned that part of what makes movie comedy so challenging is that timing hinges on how much you allow for laughter. Wrong choices can really upset the pacing if laughs don't materialize where they were anticipated, or if laughter happens in unanticipated places so that surrounding dfialogue is compromised. On stage, good actors can "surf" the laughter and maximize the comedy that way, but on film the "stage waits" have to be set in stone. It takes a very sure hand; it's a real skill which ought to be given proper recognition. And these days, when more often than not we watch films in relative privacy rather than in a group which can trigger contageous laughter, it's that much harder to create a comic pacing which can satisfy everyone. Good drama is a constant balancing act, but so is good comedy. 


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#7 TopBilled

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 08:43 AM

It's really the only solution to the problem, but it's a disappointing one. And even if it happened, you'd get the same bizarre choices you see at the Golden Globes with light-hearted dramas being 'marketed' as comedies.

 

I completely understand that it's hard to put a comedy and a drama together in a category, because they're completely different, tonally. But if there's a comedy that has a great story, is excellently put together and says something (e.g. Annie Hall or Tootsie, both of which were nominated for Best Picture), I don't see any reason why it should not be in the running alongside all of the weepies.

 

But, honestly, I welcome any solution to the pretentious "Comedy is Lowbrow" idea that so many members of the Academy seem to have. They need to sit down, watch Sullivan's Travels and understand (just as Joel McCrea does) that people need to laugh.

 

I think what you are saying about light-hearted dramas being marketed as comedies is rather interesting. I guess if awards for best picture are handed out by genre, then a decision has to be made about how to classify comedy-dramas which can go either way.

 

Because budgets are so high now for studio films, and they need to appeal to the broadest possible audience to recover their investments, we are seeing a lot of films in recent years that are hybrids (with elements of three and sometimes four genres in them). More than ever, the Academy voters should not discriminate and should be able to look beyond genre classifications to focus on story and overall production values.


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#8 MiddleGround17

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 04:01 AM

As for creating separate categories, perhaps this is why the Golden Globes differentiate between best picture drama and best picture musical-or-comedy. It's something the Academy should also consider.

 

It's really the only solution to the problem, but it's a disappointing one. And even if it happened, you'd get the same bizarre choices you see at the Golden Globes with light-hearted dramas being 'marketed' as comedies.

 

I completely understand that it's hard to put a comedy and a drama together in a category, because they're completely different, tonally. But if there's a comedy that has a great story, is excellently put together and says something (e.g. Annie Hall or Tootsie, both of which were nominated for Best Picture), I don't see any reason why it should not be in the running alongside all of the weepies.

 

But, honestly, I welcome any solution to the pretentious "Comedy is Lowbrow" idea that so many members of the Academy seem to have. They need to sit down, watch Sullivan's Travels and understand (just as Joel McCrea does) that people need to laugh.


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#9 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 12:59 PM

This reminds me of Robert Downey Jr.'s performance in the early 90s as Chaplin. Because the film focused on the serious issues in the great comedian's life, instead of being a light-hearted romp, it was considered worthy of Oscar recognition. But if they had removed all of the angst and scandal in Chaplin's life and just focused on the development of his comedy, it's rather likely Downey would not have been nominated. 

 

As for creating separate categories, perhaps this is why the Golden Globes differentiate between best picture drama and best picture musical-or-comedy. It's something the Academy should also consider.

 

I'm surprised the Academy hasn't created separate categories, if for no other reason then marketing purposes (which is the main goal of the awards to begin with). 



#10 TopBilled

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 08:28 AM

I think it's easy to suggest just separating the categories, but that just strengthens the idea of there being a segregation within the Academy Awards.

 

Comedy is my favorite genre, so this is a particularly sore point for me. Ryan Gosling SHOULD be nominated next year for his pitch perfect Stan Laurel-esque performance in The Nice Guys, but we all know it will instead be someone in a true story biopic about someone famous with a serious illness struggling in a very bad time of history that gets through it with Hollywood movies. The Academy will eat it up, but it'll be forgotten in a few years.

 

This reminds me of Robert Downey Jr.'s performance in the early 90s as Chaplin. Because the film focused on the serious issues in the great comedian's life, instead of being a light-hearted romp, it was considered worthy of Oscar recognition. But if they had removed all of the angst and scandal in Chaplin's life and just focused on the development of his comedy, it's rather likely Downey would not have been nominated. 

 

As for creating separate categories, perhaps this is why the Golden Globes differentiate between best picture drama and best picture musical-or-comedy. It's something the Academy should also consider.


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#11 MiddleGround17

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Posted 07 September 2016 - 03:32 AM

I see it as nothing more than a pretentious, nonsense belief -- "Comedy is not worthy of such a prestigious award." Comedy takes MUCH more technical skill, across all levels, to work than a Drama does. The Academy Awards have largely become a contest of 'who can cry the hardest?', as opposed to 'whose work was truly worthy?' Even comedy-dramas get pushed out unless it's almost entirely drama, like Up in the Air or any of Alexander Payne's movies.

 

I think it's easy to suggest just separating the categories, but that just strengthens the idea of there being a segregation within the Academy Awards.

 

Comedy is my favorite genre, so this is a particularly sore point for me. Ryan Gosling SHOULD be nominated next year for his pitch perfect Stan Laurel-esque performance in The Nice Guys, but we all know it will instead be someone in a true story biopic about someone famous with a serious illness struggling in a very bad time of history that gets through it with Hollywood movies. The Academy will eat it up, but it'll be forgotten in a few years.


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#12 TopBilled

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 07:56 PM

Obviously, there are different types of comedies. Probably by "pure comedy" I was referring to slapstick or farces, where there isn't much of a serious message-- the goal is mainly to entertain and make the audience laugh. 

 

I feel it's significant people like Keaton, Hope and Skelton were overlooked. It's as if the Academy has said clowns are low-brow and not worthy of awards. 

 

We see this where Robin Williams has to win an Oscar for a serious performance, and cannot be recognized for his sillier clowning. There was considerable skill in all of Williams' work.


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#13 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 06:55 PM

I just looked at all the best picture nominees from 1933 to 1939. Before '33 the Oscars were not based on calendar years; and after '39, Europe and soon everyone else was at war and war themes begin to dominate.

 

Mostly the comedies that were nominated in the 30s were genre hybrids-- musical comedy like THE SMILING LIEUTENANT; military comedy such as HERE COMES THE NAVY; crime comedy in form of Mae West's SHE DONE HIM WRONG, which has dramatic elements; and political satire as evidenced with NINOTCHKA. The only "pure" comedies I could find nominated for best picture were LIBELED LADY and YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (though Capra's film is underlined with a serious social class commentary).

 

Aren't we discussing all Oscar nominees and not just best picture?    As for 'pure' comedies,  well with that limitation of course there are less best picture nominations because films like Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,  The Thin Man,   and The Awful Truth don't quality as pure comedies.

 

In the early 40s there is The Philadelphia Story, Here Comes Mr. Jordan,  The Talk of the Town, and Heaven Can Wait. 

 

Starting in 1944 there are few,  if any,  of these 'less then pure' comedies;  The Bishop's Wife,  in 1947, being a Grant movie,  is one. 

 

As for other Oscars,    my quick review finds a similar pattern;   more best director,  actor, and actress nominations or wins from the 30s' until the early 40s.   

 

After that Oscar nominations for the major awards dwindled and has remained low compare to the period mention. 

 

That is my take but I'm open to be educated.



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Posted 06 September 2016 - 04:44 PM

As I already noted I would say it is a huge bias that has gone since the end of WWII.    

 

I just looked at all the best picture nominees from 1933 to 1939. Before '33 the Oscars were not based on calendar years; and after '39, Europe and soon everyone else was at war and war themes begin to dominate.

 

Mostly the comedies that were nominated in the 30s were genre hybrids-- musical comedy like THE SMILING LIEUTENANT; military comedy such as HERE COMES THE NAVY; crime comedy in the form of Mae West's SHE DONE HIM WRONG, which has dramatic elements; and political satire as evidenced in NINOTCHKA. The only "pure" comedies I could find nominated for best picture were LIBELED LADY and YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (though Capra's film is underlined with a serious social class commentary).


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#15 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 03:47 PM

Thanks. To borrow from Rodney Dangerfield, it's like comedians get no respect...at least not within the industry.

 

Yesterday, I was looking at Oscar nominees in the 1940s. How many hit movies did Bob Hope have during that decade? Quite a few. And he was good enough to emcee the Oscars, but never good enough to be nominated once for a comic performance? Other people like Buster Keaton and Red Skelton were appearing in motion pictures, and they weren't even recognized either. 

 

It's just hard to believe. Not only do comedies get neglected as Best Oscar picture nominees, but apparently, none of the performances in them are worth singling out. It's a huge bias that has gone on almost since the Oscars have been handed out.

 

As I already noted I would say it is a huge bias that has gone since the end of WWII.    



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Posted 06 September 2016 - 12:06 PM

There could be some elitism at play.  Comedies make people laugh, but lots of things make people laugh, so say critics.  I was laughing so hard at the first Hangover movie, I couldn't breathe.  Then there was a film called the Aristocrats (2005), that was about a bawdy joke comedians shared with each other, and each comedian put their own spin on it.  Gilbert Gottfried, in particular, was hilarious.  Can you imagine the outrage if any of these two pictures won the Oscar?  This is a great topic for discussion. 

 

Thanks. To borrow from Rodney Dangerfield, it's like comedians get no respect...at least not within the industry.

 

Yesterday, I was looking at Oscar nominees in the 1940s. How many hit movies did Bob Hope have during that decade? Quite a few. And he was good enough to emcee the Oscars, but never good enough to be nominated once for a comic performance? Other people like Buster Keaton and Red Skelton were appearing in motion pictures, and they weren't even recognized either. 

 

It's just hard to believe. Not only do comedies get neglected as Best Oscar picture nominees, but apparently, none of the performances in them are worth singling out. It's a huge bias that has gone on almost since the Oscars have been handed out.


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#17 cinemaspeak59

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 07:05 AM

I thought this would be the perfect place to ask this question. Comedies are often the underdogs when it comes to handing out Oscars for Best Picture.

 

Any theories about why this is often the case...?  

There could be some elitism at play.  Comedies make people laugh, but lots of things make people laugh, so say critics.  I was laughing so hard at the first Hangover movie, I couldn't breathe.  Then there was a film called the Aristocrats (2005), that was about a bawdy joke comedians shared with each other, and each comedian put their own spin on it.  Gilbert Gottfried, in particular, was hilarious.  Can you imagine the outrage if any of these two pictures won the Oscar?  This is a great topic for discussion. 


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Posted 30 August 2016 - 11:42 AM

Yes, Jarrod, I, too, like "The Fortune Cookie" and "Avanti".

 

Gary Cooper was all wrong - and quite bad, too - in "Love In The Afternoon".

 

I sort of regard "Kiss Me, Stupid" as a hate letter to Dean Martin.

 

What would it have been if Peter Sellers had been able to finish the film?

 

Better or worse or just the same?

 

If Sellers had completed KISS ME STUPID, it might have been a bit more intelligent. But yes, Dean Martin is out of place in this production. The only one who turns in a decent performance is Ray Walston. Everyone else is there to collect a paycheck.

 

I think Cooper sort of goes through the motions in LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON. It was a free trip to Paris and a chance to work with Audrey. But he seems uncomfortable, very awkward in most of his scenes. He's nearly painful to watch. It would have been more charming if they made Audrey an American girl who goes over and has a dalliance with Chevalier. They could have just cut Coop out of it, and had a much better picture.


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#19 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 30 August 2016 - 11:38 AM

SABRINA is my favorite Wilder romantic comedy. I think LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON benefits from fantastic on-location filming and Chevalier in a supporting role. But doesn't Cooper seem too long in the tooth to realistically be a suitor for Audrey Hepburn? (Coop did a similar romance in TEN NORTH FREDERICK, but that time we had his unsympathetic wife to make us cheer on his affair with the younger woman.) 

 

I consider KISS ME STUPID to be Wilder's worst film. It was his sleaziest attempt at comedy. He redeemed himself with THE FORTUNE COOKIE, which I think is a brilliant satire about greed. And I like AVANTI, an unconventional romantic comedy where Jack Lemmon meets an overweight woman (played by Juliet Mills) and falls in love. It's a little misogynistic in spots, but the performances are good and the story has an interesting message. 

 

Sabrina is also my favorite Wider romantic comedy.  While Love in the Afternoon does have a degree of charm thanks to Chevalier and Hepburn, Cooper is too old for his role and that drags down the film. 

 

Kiss Me Stupid;   Silly attempt to try to recapture the magic.  


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#20 rayban

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Posted 30 August 2016 - 11:18 AM

SABRINA is my favorite Wilder romantic comedy. I think LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON benefits from fantastic on-location filming and Chevalier in a supporting role. But doesn't Cooper seem too long in the tooth to realistically be a suitor for Audrey Hepburn? (Coop did a similar romance in TEN NORTH FREDERICK, but that time we had his unsympathetic wife to make us cheer on his affair with the younger woman.) 

 

I consider KISS ME STUPID to be Wilder's worst film. It was his sleaziest attempt at comedy. He redeemed himself with THE FORTUNE COOKIE, which I think is a brilliant satire about greed. And I like AVANTI, an unconventional romantic comedy where Jack Lemmon meets an overweight woman (played by Juliet Mills) and falls in love. It's a little misogynistic in spots, but the performances are good and the story has an interesting message. 

Yes, Jarrod, I, too, like "The Fortune Cookie" and "Avanti".

 

Gary Cooper was all wrong - and quite bad, too - in "Love In The Afternoon".

 

I sort of regard "Kiss Me, Stupid" as a hate letter to Dean Martin.

 

What would it have been if Peter Sellers had been able to finish the film?

 

Better or worse or just the same?


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