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Why are comedies seldom recognized as Best Pictures?

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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...?  

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Of course, there are some comedy-dramas that get recognized. Among them-- HANNAH AND HER SISTERS and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL.

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I think precisely because they are not serious films. No deep story, not usually lending themselves to innovative direction and not usually one for intense acting. Good thing that we like them.

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I think precisely because they are not serious films. No deep story, not usually lending themselves to innovative direction and not usually one for intense acting. Good thing that we like them.

Do you really believe comedies do not lend themselves to innovative direction? I have a feeling the Charlie Chaplins and Buster Keatons of the cinema world would disagree!

 

Why does serious content have to be a requirement for an Oscar?

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I think there is a widespread misconception that comedies are somehow easier to make than dramas.

 

A well-made comedy like "The Shop Around The Corner" is actually a cinematic marvel, in my humble opinion.

 

It is just as difficult to achieve as a well-made drama.

 

I do wish that there was a lot more recognition of comedies and the actors and actresses who often make them memorable.

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I think there is a widespread misconception that comedies are somehow easier to make than dramas.

 

A well-made comedy like "The Shop Around The Corner" is actually a cinematic marvel, in my humble opinion.

 

It is just as difficult to achieve as a well-made drama.

Most definitely. I think some comedy performances are actually harder to pull off than the more dramatic ones. If you watch Norman Wisdom in his films, you will see that like Chaplin, he brings a lot of athleticism to the stunts he does to make the audience laugh. That flexibility (literally) plus a remarkable sense of timing takes considerable skill. I'm sure Jerry Lewis would agree.

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You ask a good question! This has frustrated me for some time. I remember talking about film in a different forum (not TCM or film related actually) and many of the posters claimed that comedy was the lowest form of film making. In my opinion, comedy is the hardest form of film making.

Comedy has layers just like any other film. You still have to have well thought out characters and an engaging story line, even the most ridiculous. Performance of the actors is vital. I don't care how "funny" the joke may actually be, if the actor doesn't execute the joke with the correct timing and delivery then...crickets. In other genres of film, a bad performance may not hurt the film as other aspects of it can surpass that. But in comedy, if the jokes don't go over with an audience, the film will fall flat.

Comedy is incredibly subjective.To be consistent and seamless in capturing laughs from a wide audience is impressive and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes and in front of the camera should be rewarded. 

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You ask a good question! This has frustrated me for some time. I remember talking about film in a different forum (not TCM or film related actually) and many of the posters claimed that comedy was the lowest form of film making. In my opinion, comedy is the hardest form of film making.

Comedy has layers just like any other film. You still have to have well thought out characters and an engaging story line, even the most ridiculous. Performance of the actors is vital. I don't care how "funny" the joke may actually be, if the actor doesn't execute the joke with the correct timing and delivery then...crickets. In other genres of film, a bad performance may not hurt the film as other aspects of it can surpass that. But in comedy, if the jokes don't go over with an audience, the film will fall flat.

Comedy is incredibly subjective.To be consistent and seamless in capturing laughs from a wide audience is impressive and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes and in front of the camera should be rewarded. 

 

And I would say it's much harder for comedies to stand the test of time. This is because humor changes considerably from one generation to the next. 

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And I would say it's much harder for comedies to stand the test of time. This is because humor changes considerably from one generation to the next. 

 

Well today's Jean Arthur film line up isn't consistent with 'comedies don't win Oscars'.     Of course Capra films with Arthur were highly nominated films as well as landing two best picture Oscars and two for best direction as well as numerous others like best screenplay etc..

 

(I don't consider Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to be a comedy,  but there are comic elements).

 

Even in the 40s Arthur continued to star in highly praised comedies like The More the Merrier which won Coburn a best supporting actor Oscar,  and other nominations included Best Director, Best Picture, Best Writing, Original Story and Best Writing, Screenplay.

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Well today's Jean Arthur film line up isn't consistent with 'comedies don't win Oscars'.     Of course Capra films with Arthur were highly nominated films as well as landing two best picture Oscars and two for best direction as well as numerous others like best screenplay etc..

 

(I don't consider Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to be a comedy,  but there are comic elements).

 

Even in the 40s Arthur continued to star in highly praised comedies like The More the Merrier which won Coburn a best supporting actor Oscar,  and other nominations included Best Director, Best Picture, Best Writing, Original Story and Best Writing, Screenplay.

 

Maybe it shifted after the war. In the postwar years, the world (and Hollywood's sensibilities) had changed. There's a reason THE MORE THE MERRIER was George Stevens' last comedy. Social message dramas in the late 40s and 50s that examined the ills of society were taken more seriously by audiences and Academy voters. It's something that still continues today, even though satires can make just as many salient points about human afflictions.

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Maybe it shifted after the war. In the postwar years, the world (and Hollywood's sensibilities) had changed. There's a reason THE MORE THE MERRIER was George Stevens' last comedy. Social message dramas in the late 40s and 50s that examined the ills of society were taken more seriously by audiences and Academy voters. It's something that still continues today, even though satires can make just as many salient points about human afflictions.

 

I think the war had a lot to do with the changes you mention.    Only Preston Surges kept making screwball type comedies and even his films lacked the magic of 30s \ early 40s comedies (ones he wrote the screenplays for, until he became a director).

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I think the war had a lot to do with the changes you mention.    Only Preston Surges kept making screwball type comedies and even his films lacked the magic of 30s \ early 40s comedies (ones he wrote the screenplays for, until he became a director).

 

Yes, I think it is no coincidence that Sturges and Capra had pretty much fallen out of favor by 1950. They had difficulty adapting. Capra attempted a few comebacks before he retired, but his later stuff didn't do too well. It was as if his and Sturges' brand of comedy/social commentary had become old-fashioned. These guys didn't even transition to television, which really says something about how their material was no longer embraced by audiences.

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Today, comedies are so blatant and crass - for example, "American Pie".

 

The sensibilities of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges are long gone.

 

Even Billy Wilder fell into that trap - with "Kiss Me, Stupid".

 

I prefer his other comedies like "Sabrina" or "Love In The Afternoon".

 

(I'm not saying that I didn't laugh at a lot of "American Pie", but I think that it was more "the shock factor" than outright hilarity.)

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Today, comedies are so blatant and crass - for example, "American Pie".

 

The sensibilities of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges are long gone.

 

Even Billy Wilder fell into that trap - with "Kiss Me, Stupid".

 

I prefer his other comedies like "Sabrina" or "Love In The Afternoon".

 

 

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. 

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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