Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011 by Germain Lussier
Drama is easy and comedy is hard. That’s the sentiment of writer/director/producer Judd Apatow who, at a recent Oscar-themed screening of Bridesmaids, said he believes the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences undervalues humor and should give out an Oscar for Best Comedy much as they do for Best Animation.
Watch a video of Apatow’s quote and discuss this complicated issue after the jump.
Thanks to the Los Angeles Times for the video, which doesn’t have an embed so you’ll have to click on the image below to check it out.
Apatow’s point is incredibly valid but even more complicated. Let’s start with this. Making someone laugh is infinitely harder than not making someone laugh. That’s just an undeniable fact. Despite that, it’s certainly true that comedies, and comedic performances as well, always get snubbed at the Oscars. Some might think it’s because of an older voting base but it’s also because drama is much easier to relate to. Everyone’s sense of humor is totally different based on experiences, upbringing and more. A great personal example was The Change-Up, a movie I loved and found to be unbearably hilarious but almost everyone else hated. Then there’s something like The King’s Speech. Though it has comedic elements, it’s all in service of a high-brow story of everyday triumph. That’s much more universal, hence it wins a ton of Oscars.
There also the problem of how to qualify a film as a “comedy” versus a “drama.” There’s no such issue issue between live action and animation or short film versus feature, the only distinctions the Academy currently makes. It either is or it isn’t. Comedy is much more subjective. You can argue whether or not a film is funny, whether or not the laughs are intentional or if a generally upbeat tone means it’s a comedy or not. For example, is something like 500 Days of Summer a comedy? How about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? Both are funny, but is that their primary function? If they aren’t comedies, dramas or animation, where do they go?
This becomes an issue every year at the Golden Globes where there’s a Best Drama and Best Comedy/Musical distinction. First of all, grouping musicals and comedies together is totally random. Second of all, how can movies like The Tourist, Red, Burlesque, The Kids Are All Right and Alice in Wonderland be grouped together as comedies? (Those were last year’s Best Comedy/Musical Golden Globe nominees, by the way.)
Judd Apatow makes a valid point, but it’s not one any governing body would agree with and put into practice lightly.
Do you agree with Apatow? How would you go about distinguishing between comedies and dramas?