Oscar-Worthy but Ignored Part 1: Comedy
At the end of every year, the articles involving the Academy Awards always start coming out. They are about who should be nominated, who should win, and who got snubbed. What inevitable comes up every year is how some genres are simply ignored by the Oscars. Comedy. Horror. Science Fiction. Every year becomes worse and worse as the movies that will be favored by the Academy become more and more obvious even before they open in the theaters. Most of those are not even debuted for major audiences to see until after they came stamp “Academy Award Nominated/Winner” on the movie poster, trailer, and DVD box. Recently, I was pretty bored and the conversation I had with my friends eventually ended up here, so I decided to write some articles appreciating those often forgotten genres.
Best Screenplay – Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Monty Python will now and forever be remembered for their accomplishments in not just comedy, but in all cinema and television. They successfully embrace the vaudevillian comedy pacing while pushing the limits of content and their own ability to be clever. Among the most influential people in comedy, only a fool would leave them off the top rankings. While Monty Python and the Holy Grail will reign supreme in the court of public opinion, I cannot help but go for their religious/political satire Life of Brian instead. It is the most proper film of theirs to date. Meaning of Life and Now for Something Completely Different… are essentially feature length skitch shows, while Holy Grail carries with it that same spontaneous comedic style with the basest throughline to connect all the scenes together. Monty Python has a healthy distrust in organized religion but have the utmost respect for the beliefs before they are corrupted by institutionalizing. They set out to make a movie satirizing the sheep instead of the shephard. Despite this, there is no way it would last in this day in age. One might say it was before its time.
Best Supporting Actress – Catherine O’Hara in Orange County
When Orange County wasn’t showing off how many comedic actors it had hired (Chevy Chase, Lily Tomlin, and Ben Stiller all make cameos), it bolstered a surprisingly sweet story about a boy trying to get into his first choice school so that he can study with his favorite author. Cast in the role of his clingy alcoholic mother was Catherine O’Hara. Some may recognize her from Home Alone or Beetlejuice, but she cut her teeth on the tv sketch show, SCTV, and has gone on to appear in the critically acclaimed cult hits of Christopher Guest. In Orange County, I can’t help but be drawn to her performance. She walks around in an alcohol soaked haze without chewing the scenery. This effectively makes a humorous character out of a stereotype that is predominately sincere, and she does so without sacrificing any of the sincerity. A near perfect comedic performance.
Best Supporting Actor – John Goodman in The Big Lebowski
People salivate when they hear The Big Lebowski. It is the least traditional movie to gain such major popularity. It is a phenomenon, for sure. At the epicenter of the love for The Big Lebowski is Walter, the ill-tempered Vietnam vet and bowling partner to the protagonist, The Dude. Goodman swings for the fences in every scene and bats a 1.000 doing it. Where Catherine O’Hara succeeds at preserving the sincerity in her comedic character, Goodman does the opposite but still gets a near similar result. Goodman just has a screen presence that follows him to every film project and every character. He takes on the challenge of creating an insufferable asshole into a well-liked character. And of course, the iconism of the character is hard to ignore.
Best Actress – Sally Hawkins in Happy Go, Lucky
Sally Hawkins was not just nominated for a Golden Globe for this role but won! This was a star making role for Sally Hawkins. It was refreshing to see a character who is so upbeat and happy all the time. The movie proves that it is not easy to be that way. It takes work. People talk down to them because they come off naive, even though Hawkins goes beyond naive. You can see the gears working in her face as she forces that smile on to her face after every discomfort. It takes a lot of charisma to make that kind of character interesting for an entire feature. I don’t think most actresses today are up for that kind of challenge.
Best Actor – Bill Murray in Groundhog Day
Not many actors can say they played a character that runs the gamut of human emotion in one day. It probably helps that the character is reliving the same day over and over, but that is beside the point. Bill Murray’s screen presence is one of the best in the entire industry, and as far as comedic timing, he is head honcho. His best strength as an actor has always been how normal he can sound when selling zingers, He’s like a bar buddy telling a joke or a story. This helps when he starts interacting with the other actors (who do a damned fine job of repeating themselves over and over again while Murray riffs away) as he needs to come down from those big, campy solo moments, but for this movie, he excels at tweaking his comedic timing for his ever changing frame of mind.
Best Picture – 40 Year Old Virgin
There is a horrible trend in comedies lately where the last 10-15 minutes are devoted to over sentimentality. That would be fine in theory, but they always seem to forget they were supposed to be funny. Even worse, the sentimentality always seems to come out of nowhere to try to wrap up the storyline(s) with some kind of heartfelt closure. The last thing you want to do is spend the closing minutes of your movie being the opposite tone of the movie. To me, 40 Year Old Virgin is funny to the very end while including a romantically sentimental plotline among the fart jokes. Also it was platonically sentimental too. Andy, who was never properly socialized finds friends through his, for lack of a better word, plight, where most people would probably just snicker and make fun of him. For all its swear words and blunt sex talk, it is an incredibly sweet movie
I’m not saying that these should have won or even been nominated necessarily. I just think they are bigger contenders than most people are willing to admit. Comedy as a whole is greatly underappreciated by the Academy, and I felt like giving them their deserved justice. Hopefully, people dug this because I hope to write one for horror and science fiction as well.