It really is a crying shame that The Hangover and The 40-Year-Old Virgin didn't win Best Picture Oscars.
Judd Apatow thinks comedy should have its own Oscars category. Does he have a point?
by Kate Ward
Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow would like to see something new at the Oscars. Seems the Academy’s categorization system is making him somewhat blue (okay, I’ll stop with the wedding puns): At a Los Angeles Times forum, the funnyman complained that the Oscars have largely ignored comedies, and would be smart to create a separate category for the entire genre. After all, Apatow argued, animated features have been separated into their own category. “It doesn’t seem like it’s screwing up Schindler’s List for Hangover to have its own category,” he said. “Since comedies are rarely up for Oscars, it does make sense to have a comedy category. It would just add more fun categories.”
He has a point, from a creative and business perspective. One of the most common — and perhaps flawed — arguments for comedy getting its own Oscars category is that it’s simply more difficult to make a quality comedy. As a young, naive film lover, I used to argue this point almost daily. Why do we give all the accolades to films that predictably demand tears, rather than those that successfully elicit laughter? A comedy is so much more vulnerable and subject to ridicule and biases — shouldn’t we be in awe of one that wins praise from all sorts of critics? (Of course, laughs does not necessarily a good movie make. I’ve laughed harder at Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle than almost any film in the last ten years, but I would never argue it deserved any sort of award recognition.)
Indeed, the genre is long overdue when it comes to Oscars recognition. Robert Downey Jr. might nab the rare acting nomination for his comedic work in Tropic Thunder, but strongly reviewed features like The Hangover, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Borat, and Best In Show never even had a chance. And even though the Best Picture category expanded to 10 pictures in 2009, out of the 20 films nominated in the category thus far, only five could be possibly considered as “comedies,” insofar as they had a large number of scenes designed specifically to make people laugh: A Serious Man, Up in the Air, The Kids Are All Right, Up, and Toy Story 3, the last two of which already picked up an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category. Would it hurt to give some of the more irreverent comedies a chance? Then again, it is a bit of a slippery slope. If comedy gets its own category, why shouldn’t action films their own categories as well? Pretty soon, we’re awarding Priest for being the Best Picture About Vampire-Hunting Clergy.
Perhaps the best argument for a comedy category, though, is the quality of the ceremony itself. The Academy opened up its Best Picture category to 10 nominees in part to attract a larger viewing audience. It’s likely a comedy category would attract even more viewers. There’s a reason the Golden Globes are more fun to watch (and not just because of Ricky Gervais). It’s because the Globes are the one awards show that does honor the goofy comedy, freely admitting that It’s Complicated and Hairspray were great, fun films, no matter how frivolous they may be. Viewers have had trouble connecting with the serious-minded Oscars, often viewing them as pretentious and inaccessible — could laughter be the best medicine when it comes to the Academy’s ratings ills?