THE BLOG
02/18/2013 05:46 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2013

Why the Oscars Hate Comedy (Unless They Don't)

As we move closer to the Oscars, I've had the usual feeling of deja vu. Almost without fail, entertainment writers write the same articles during awards season, all leading up to "Hollywood's night of nights".

Among these stories:

1. The films and people that should have been nominated, but weren't, because there's no justice.
Every year, film reviewers use their columns, blogs and radio spots to protest because their favourite movie of the year was overlooked.

2. Whatever happened to the golden age?
By "golden age", I don't necessarily mean Casablanca or Gone with the Wind (or even The Godfather). This year, one blog I read has moaned about what a lame year it is for movies, and reminiscing about the '90s, when he was first paying attention to the movies, and films like Schindler's List, Titanic and American Beauty would win the Oscars. He went on to suggest that nothing this year can compete with those masterpieces. Strangely, I thought that 2012 was a particularly good year for Hollywood films, as witness the nine nominations (or four or five of them, at least).

3. God, the nominations are boring and predictable.
There have been fewer such essays this year, because there were some surprises among the nominations. No directing nomination for Ben Affleck or Kathryn Bigelow, both of whom would have easily won, apparently. This works well for anyone writing one of those aforementioned "they weren't nominated and there is no justice in the world" stories (even though both Affleck and Bigelow already have Oscars).

4. Predictions of the Oscar winners...
...usually with cynical explanations. For the record, if most of the predictions are right, history will be made. If Daniel Day-Lewis wins best actor, he'll be the first person to win that award three times. This will presumably make him the greatest actor in movie history, with the possible exception of Rin-Tin-Tin (who, sadly, predates the Oscars). Meanwhile, if Argo wins best picture, Affleck will join Hitchcock, Bruce Beresford, Ridley Scott and other greats as directors who never won a directing Oscar, even though their films won.

5. Why does the Academy hate comedy so much?
One article I still haven't seen this year, though I live in hope, is something bemoaning how few comedy films ever win best picture, because the Academy just doesn't appreciate comedy (even though most of them are filmmakers, and many have worked in comedy). Critics complained about this, year after year, during the '90s -- until one year, everyone expected Saving Private Ryan to win, but it shocked everyone by losing to Shakespeare in Love. Soon, the movie pundits, the same people who had previously complained about the predictability of the Oscars, were moaning about how they lost all credibility that night because Shakespeare in Love was so undeserving, even though it had great reviews and everyone loved it.

And that, my friends, is why comedies don't win more often.

Except that they do. Argo is currently the favourite (and since I predicted it back in September, I hope it does win so I can tell everyone how clever I am). That's a powerful drama, a thriller and a period piece (complete with bad 1970s moustaches), but it's also a comedy. You could say the same about other nominees like Silver Linings Playbook (despite all the serious aspects). Then you go back in history for previous winners. Slumdog Millionaire and Forrest Gump had storylines far too ridiculous be anything but comedies. Rain Man, as clever film buffs would know, was basically a remake of the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy Hollywood or Bust, except that Rain Man was funnier. Amadeus and American Beauty, for example, had plenty of dark humour. As for The Sting and Annie Hall... well, everyone agrees that they were actual comedies. The best films can make us both laugh and cry. Why separate the comedies from the dramas?

6. An obnoxious rave from me about how dumb everyone else's stories are.
Another story that seems to happen around Oscar season. Sorry, it's too late to avoid that one.

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