Do you like to laugh? I do. Have you ever watched a film made with such cinematic wit and comedic genius that you continued to marvel at its gags for long afterwards? I have. So I wonder (see photo, above!) – really wonder – why so often our culture more often reserves the highest rewards for works of a more serious bent. As a man with an impish disposition, I swear up and down that my love of comedy, or of the irreverent bon mot, does not in any way mean that I don’t take life or the problems of this world seriously. And I think a lot of good and sincere dramas have deservedly won Oscars™. But a look at a list of the Best Picture Oscars™ given since 1927 shows a clear bias towards the serious over the comedic. Why do you think that is?
Here’s the list:
Some of the above films are dramas with significantly funny writing, such as Casablanca or The Apartment (thankfully Billy Wilder won for at least one of his wittier films, rather than just for the awful The Long Weekend). Some of the above are musicals, which have silliness built into them, like the two Vincente Minnelli films An American in Paris and Gigi (as well as The Sound of Music), although their plots also have elements of high melodrama. Which of the winners, though, would we categorize as pure comedies? Annie Hall? Tom Jones? You Can’t Take It With You? The Artist? All of them are funny, but not necessarily solely comedies. Even Annie Hall – the purest of the lot – has some melodrama in it. Chicago is silly, but it’s a musical, so even the darker elements cannot help but be tinged with the fantastic. I think, in fact, that Annie Hall may be the only film that most people would call a comedy to have won an Oscar™.
I don’t have the space here to list all of the nominees for Best Picture over the years, but if I did, you’d see that very few comedies have even been nominated. Not even Some Like It Hot made it in 1959 … As a kid, I remember being very upset, in 1982, when Gandhi beat out Tootsie. But at least Tootsie was nominated!
Ponder this the next time you feel yourself being transported to another dimension as your ribs hurt from laughter while you watch a great comedy. Is this not art? If it is, then why don’t we recognize it as such?