Oscar doesn’t have a sense of humor as seen by the lack of comedies ever winning best picture at the Academy Awards. Oscar definitely has a bias towards serious dramas and social-problem films. He also likes large-scale epic historical productions with big budgets. Oscar doesn’t dig laugh out loud comedies…way to pedestrian for the high-browed Academy. In the 86-years of the award show only 6-comedies have ever won and and three of them won before 1940. The other three are Tom Jones (1963), a movie I’ve honestly never heard of or seen, The Sting (1973) starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, decent movie but far from gut busting, and Annie Hall (1977), a Woody Allen movie which I enjoyed but is still that neurotic Woody movie which you first have to pretend to understand before you can laugh. I would put these three under the “Sophisticated Comedy” category. Is the Academy really this dense? What about the “Laugh Until I Almost Throw-Up” comedies? In 1980 Ordinary People, a drama about an upper-middle class family dealing with the death of their son, won Best Picture. It was a decent movie…I saw it once. Also in 1980 Caddy Shack was released starring Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Ted Knight. It was a comedy that was hysterically funny and I’ve probably seen it about 25-times. It literally has a cult following. What the Academy isn’t considering is that what looks easy in making you laugh out loud is a lot harder to translate on the big screen than a dramatic performance is. It is hard to make people bust up. In 1998 The Hurt Locker won best Picture, the same year The Hangover (original) was released…gimme a break. The Hangover was so f’in funny I had to watch it another 15+ times and I could still put it on and get a laugh. Stu: “She’s got my Grandmother’s Holocaust Ring” , Alan: ” I didn’t know they gave out rings at the Holocaust”. The Hangover grossed $467 million worldwide and is the 3rd highest grossing “R” movie ever while The Hurt Locker grossed just $49 million, but critics loved it. I saw it, kinda liked it, but which movie stands the test of time better? I’m now going back to 1979 when The Jerk, directed by Carl Reiner and featuring Steve Martin in his first starring role, was released. This is the first of what I call ” Light Comedy”, movies that aren’t very deep but make you laugh. ” Dumb & Dumber is a poster child for this type of comedy.
My favorite comedies include a lot of my favorite SNL actors such as Tommy Boy ( Chris Farley & David Spade), Vacation ( Chevy Chase), Animal House (John Belushi), Beverly Hills Cop (Eddie Murphy), and the recent Bridesmaids ( Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph). All fall under my light comedy category and all were side-splitting funny. These comedies often jump to #1 at the box office as audiences are desperate to see a comedy they can laugh out loud at – but critics and Oscar refuse to honor them. I’m not just talking about winning the Oscar for Best Picture but none of these type of movies are even nominated. The Academy likes to give lifetime achievement awards to honor their own such as Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Lord Laurence Olivier and others…great , but how about a Kick-Ass Comedy Award for John Hughes whose film credits include Ferris Buellar’s Day Off, Weird Science, Vacation, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen-Candles, Pretty in Pink, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, Home Alone, and a dozen more where he was a writer or director. Long live John Hughes…he’s what? Oh, sorry about that. Poor guy went out while just walking in Manhattan at age 59 (yikes). He gave us some classic comedies. Will Ferrel is another favorite… I will go out and see anything he does. ELF (2003) is on my top 10 of all-time and his ability to be ignorant, innocent and funny is fixating. It has been accepted by critics as one of the best Christmas movies, a staple at the Kinney House and can be recited line-by-line by Alex, but was not even nominated for Best Picture that year. Lost In Translation was.
There has been a historic bias against light comedies. Laurel & Hardy, The Three Stooges, Marx Bros., and WC Fields never got a chance to meet Oscar. In the 80’s there were some satires such as Airplane & Naked Gun (Zucker Bros.) that had audiences rolling in the aisles. It was a machine gun firing of jokes that many compared to the old ” Abbott & Costello” movies that weren’t Oscar worthy either. I still crack-up just seeing Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the co-pilot seat. Recently Seth Rogan and his crew; Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, have turned out some seriously funny comedies that have audiences asking for more . He either wrote, acted in, or directed, hits like 40-year Old Virgin, Superbad, Pineapple Express ( Stoner Humor), and Knocked Up. I thought all these were fantastic movies, hopefully Seth will get recognized by the Academy and be the person to break through and at least get nominated for Best Picture. I think it’s hard to make people laugh, especially laugh out loud and it is truly a skill that goes over the Academy voter’s heads. I’ll continue to go to dumb ass comedies as i’m sure others will too just on the hope of getting a good laugh and one day a true “Light” comedy will make Oscar laugh too. (As the plane prepares to take off…Airplane, 1980) Hanging Lady ” Nervous?”, Ted Striker: ” Yes”, Hanging Lady: ” First time?”, Ted Striker: ” No, I’ve been nervous lots of times”