Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Movies Oscar Screwed: Comedies That Should've Won Best Picture

Year after year, Oscar gets it dead wrong.

When it comes to giving out Oscars, the members of the Motion Picture Academy have a serious blind spot—specifically, comedy. Though people often list comedies among their most loved and admired movies, those same films are overlooked for Best Picture Oscars year after year.

It's simply not fair that comedies continue to receive such atrocious treatment at Oscar time. Everyone knows comedy isn't merely "as difficult" to pull off as drama, it's actually much harder. It's not just wrong, but a downright embarrassment, that great comedic films, successful by any other measure, are so often overlooked during Oscar season.

It's time to make things right. It's time to give credit where it's due by recognizing the comedic films and performances that should have won Oscars. It's time for Oscar to get off his epic-loving, British-accent-loving ass and start laughing with the rest of us. Here are 30 years of the movies that should have won.

(Note: These films are listed by their year of release, not the year in which the Oscars would have been presented.)

Best Picture: "Silver Linings Playbook"

As usual, the best movie of the year will be overlooked for a stodgy historical epic (yawn). "Silver Linings Playbook" more than deserved the statue.

Best Picture: "Crazy, Stupid Love"

Granted, 2011 wasn't the greatest year for comedies, but there were some contenders. Lots of folks would cite "Midnight in Paris" as a worthy Oscar nominee (it won for Best Original Screenplay and was up for Best Picture), and "Bridesmaids" got a lot of attention, too (I say meh). But I'd pick "Crazy, Stupid Love" as the best comedy of the year. The best film of the year? Maybe not a comedy this time, but there's a long list of comedies that will stand the test of time better than "The Artist," of that I am certain.

Best Picture: "How to Train Your Dragon"

Ever ponder whether your sense of wonder is intact? Look no further than "How to Train Your Dragon." Yes, it's animated. But it's gorgeous and touching and, yes, funny as hell. Sure, "The Social Network" has some snappy dialogue, but "Dragon" matches it and leapfrogs over it in sheer imagination, heart and technical wizardry. Oh, and did I mention how funny it is?

Best Picture Runner-Ups: "Date Night," "Toy Story 3," "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World"

Best Picture: "Zombieland"

All right. It could be argued the Best Picture of the Year may not have been a comedy, but it most certainly was not "The Hurt Locker." The thing with a lot of dramas is they only do one thing. We get it. Diffusing bombs is hard. Do we need to see 20 examples of that? "Zombieland" is funny and gory and touching and smart and utterly unforgettable. The stated purpose of the Oscars is to recognize excellence in filmmaking. Let's get on that mandate, Academy.

Best Picture Runner-Ups: "Adventureland," "Up," "The Hangover," "500 Days of Summer"

Best Picture: "Tropic Thunder"

"Slumdog Millionaire" was contrived, unrealistic and sappy. How does it stack up against "Tropic Thunder"? It doesn't. "Tropic Thunder" had everything going for it, except for love from the Motion Picture Academy.

Best Picture Runner-Ups: "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Kung Fu Panda," "Wall-E"

Best Picture: "Juno"

How often have you watched "No Country for Old Men" since it won "Best Picture"? Right. But wouldn't it be fun to watch "Juno" again? It was so smart and funny and real and moving. Being nominated might be an honor, Motion Picture Academy, but comedies don't need your pity, they need your hardware.

Best Picture Runner-Up: "Knocked Up"

Best Picture: "Little Miss Sunshine"

The Academy choice for Best Picture was "The Departed," but was there anything all that different or memorable about this police drama? Is it a movie you're still excited to pop in the old DVD player? How about the true winner, "Little Miss Sunshine"? Being nominated is cool, but winning is cooler. Making a good drama is hard, but making a great comedy is much harder.

Best Picture Runner-Ups: "The Devil Wears Prada," "Cars," "Stranger Than Fiction"

Best Picture: "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"

"Crash" wasn't a horrible movie, it just definitely wasn't the best movie of the year. That honor would lie with "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," just edging out "Wedding Crashers." "Virgin" is a case study in how when a comedy works, it appears effortless. Beneath the illusion, of course, is the ugly reality that a great comedy takes a magical mix of performers and writers and directors and myriad other variables that can fail to gel, evidenced by all the horrible comedies (and dramas for that matter) out there. If the Academy was dead-set on picking a drama to win, it should have been "Serenity."

Best Picture Runner-Ups: "Madagascar," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"

Best Picture: "Shaun of the Dead"

There has perhaps never been a better example of a Best Picture nod so completely missing the mark. "Million Dollar Baby" could even make an Academy Award statue yawn. "Shaun of the Dead" is perhaps the greatest comedy ever made and was given a shaft so long and barbed that it still stings to this day.

Best Picture Runners-up: "Starsky & Hutch," "Anchorman," "Garden State"

Best Picture: "Finding Nemo"

We don't have to see the rest of the films likely to be nominated this year, we already have a winner. This funny, skillful, touching tale has it all, and it's sure to be a favorite for years to come. The likelihood of it even being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar? Not good.

Best Picture Runners-up: "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," "Elf"

Best Picture: "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding"

It's inconceivable that a dud like "Gangs of New York" got so much Oscar buzz just because of its director and pretty costumes. Such films are a great example of just how misguided Oscar voters can be. We've all heard about the astonishing financial success of "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding," but it's also a great movie--charming, heartwarming and downright funny. It's another year where the best film won't be the one that gets the Oscar.

Best Picture Runners-up: "About a Boy"

Best Picture: "Shrek"

This unforgettable comedy wasn't just slick in terms of its cutting-edge animation, it was equally impressive in its storytelling, characters and pathos. Does anyone really think the winner of Best Picture for 2001, "A Beautiful Mind," will endure like "Shrek" will? A classic case of where Oscar screwed up, bigtime. Oh, and let's not forget that Mike Meyers and John Lithgow deserved Oscar nominations, at least, for their voice work in "Shrek."

Best Picture runner's up: "Legally Blonde," "Monster's Inc.," "A Knight's Tale"

Best Picture: "Shanghai Noon"

This year was a close race. The film that got the Oscar for Best Picture, "Gladiator," was an impressive bit of filmmaking, granted, but so was "Shanghai Noon." Both were period pieces, but "Gladiator" didn't have Jackie Chan or Owen Wilson. "Gladiator" had some great action sequences, but no kung fu. Case closed.

Runners Up: "Meet the Parents," "Almost Famous"

Best Picture: "Galaxy Quest"

This was a big year for comedy. "American Beauty" won the Oscar for Best Picture. Oh, please. We're talking about the Best Picture of the year, and "Galaxy Quest" was it. It had a great story, great comedic acting (that's "comedic acting" meant as a term of admiration, not as an insult), and it had heart. Let's check back in 10 years to see which film still resides in your collection. Or which films your kids want to see, or their kids.

Runners Up: "American Pie," "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," "Toy Story 2"

Best Picture: "Shakespeare in Love"

This was the last time the Academy got it right. Bravo. This film had it all. Only complaint, how in the hell did gesticulating nitwit Roberto Benigni win Best Actor that year? Joseph Fiennes should have put in a call to somebody in Tony Soprano's crew.

Runners Up: "A Bug's Life," "The Wedding Singer"

Best Picture: "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery"

This was a close race. Not between "Austin Powers" and Oscar-winner "Titanic" (yawn), but between "Austin Powers" and "Men in Black." Is comparing "Austin Powers" with "Titanic" like comparing apples and oranges? Maybe, but few would disagree that "Austin Powers" was inspired, deft and downright hilarious (and, remember, it did manage to come in with a running time under three hours—that should be a requirement for all Best Picture contenders).

Runners Up: "Men in Black," "The Full Monty," "Grosse Pointe Blank"

Best Picture: "Jerry Maguire"

This was a year where there's no room for disagreement. No Oscar race better makes the point about how comedies don't get their due. Let's see, which was the better movie, "The English Patient" or just about any other movie made that year? What in the world were Academy voters thinking—and one can only wonder if any of them had regrets about voting while under the influence of hallucinogens? "Jerry Maguire" had such great writing (thanks, Cameron Crowe) and the acting was all top-notch (and award-worthy). Perhaps it's time the Academy instituted a new "do-overs" policy.

Runner Up: "Fargo"

Best Picture: "Babe"

All right. Some races were closer than others. "Braveheart" won the Oscar, and probably even deserved it, but "Babe" should have at least been in the running. This captivating, funny story was just as worthy of Oscar's attention.

Runner Up: "Toy Story," "The American President"

Best Picture: "Forrest Gump"

Hey, the Academy got it right again. Miracles happen, even in Hollywood.

Runners Up: "Dumb & Dumber," "Four Weddings and a Funeral"

Best Picture: "Groundhog Day"

It almost feels wrong to say that "Groundhog Day" was more deserving of a Best Picture Oscar than the film about that other Oscar, "Schindler's List." But, hey, let's say it, anyway. "Groundhog Day" was one of the most astonishing movies of 1993 or any year. It was just plain brilliant—and it even had a point. Bill Murray should have won for Best Actor. Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis should have won Best Screenplay. It's great when movies can move people to tears, but what an astonishing thing to be able to move them to laughter.

Runners Up: "Grumpy Old Men," "Dave"

Best Picture: "Wayne's World"

How does "Unforgiven" get a Best Picture Oscar? Who knows? All we know is that "Wayne's World" was far and away the more entertaining film. How many lines can you quote from "Unforgiven"? And from "Wayne's World"? "Schwing." "Party on." "We're not worthy!" Everybody loves a good Western, but Best Picture of the year?

Runner Up: "The Player"

Best Picture: "L.A. Story"

How many Oscars has Steve Martin won? A travesty! Steve Martin deserves to be more than a host of the Oscars, he deserves to have a room full of Oscar statues. It's just so sad that certain actors and films are ignored year after year after year, though their contribution to cinema in undeniable. (Let's hope their pools and servants help ease the pain of their ongoing disappointment.)

Runner Up: "City Slickers"

Best Picture: "Tremors"

Yes, it was campy, but it was intended to be. It was also wildly entertaining and funny as hell. Nothing says funny like "Graboids" as far as we're concerned. Yes, "Dances With Wolves" was a dandy film, but it didn't have Kevin Bacon, nor did it have much goo. Enough said.

Runner Up: "Pretty Woman," "Green Card"

Best Picture: "When Harry Met Sally"

"When Harry Met Sally" raised questions we all thought about but rarely discussed, and it managed to do it in a disarmingly amusing way. It was about the last time we enjoyed seeing either of the film's stars in a movie, and they had great chemistry together—there were few others more deserving of Best Actor and Best Actress nominations. The self-important "Driving Miss Daisy" won the Best Picture Oscar that year, but we know which film truly deserved the distinction.

Runners Up: "Parenthood," "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen"

Best Picture: "Big"

Whenever the so-called experts put together lists of the best movies of all time, the same lackluster names appear—"Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "Gone With the Wind," "Lawrence of Arabia," blah, blah, blah. We say you can't make a list of the best movies of all time without listing "Big" at or near the top of the list. This story of a boy who becomes big overnight is a perfectly woven tale with masterfully crafted dialogue and characters. The story is simple and moving. "Rain Man" (which won Best Picture) was a good movie, sure, but "Big" was a great movie. And Dustin Hoffman (Best Actor) was good, but Tom Hanks' performance was sheer genius.

Runners Up: "Beetlejuice," "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad"

Best Picture: "The Princess Bride"

The perfect mix of wry humor and swashbuckling adventure, this classic comedy bested the forgettable Oscar winner, "The Last Emperor," by a mile. Has any actor ever been more deserving of a Best Supporting Actor nod than Mandy Patinkin as the revenge-obsessed Inigo Montoya?

Runners Up: "Raising Arizona," "Roxanne," "Spaceballs," "Moonstruck"

Oh, all right, my hands are tired. So, let's just cut to the chase. These are the movies that should have won Best Picture in these years.

Best Picture: "Nothing in Common," just nudging out "Big Trouble in Little China," "Crocodile Dundee" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

Best Picture: "Back to the Future."

Tough year! "Ghostbusters" snags Best Picture, in a field containing "Splash," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Romancing the Stone" and "Bachelor Party."

Best Picture: "A Christmas Story."

Best Picture: "Tootsie," although "48 Hours," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and Woody Allen's "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" were on its heels.

Best Picture: "Stripes."

Best Picture: "Airplane," just beating out "Caddyshack" and "The Blues Brothers."

Best Picture: "The Jerk."

Best Picture: "National Lampoon's Animal House."

Best Picture: "Annie Hall." (The other last time the Oscar voters got it right.)

Best Picture: "The Pink Panther Strikes Again."

Best Picture: "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," but the underexposed "Love and Death" could just as easily have taken the statue.

Best Picture: "Blazing Saddles." Unless you're more of a "Young Frankenstein" person.

Best Picture: "Sleeper." One of the biggest travesties in the history of cinematic awards. "The Sting" was pretty good, but we're talking a whole different level of genius with "Sleeper."

Best Picture: "Harold And Maude."

Best Picture: "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

Best Picture: "M*A*S*H."

Sure, you might disagree with some of the individual selections here, but big picture, everyone can agree the Motion Picture Academy needs to lighten up and realize comedy deserves a fair shake when it comes to Best Picture. The recent change to include 10 nominations, rather than five, was a horrible move, but if 10 it must be, how about a fair mix of comedies and dramas?

Michael Caine once said, "Comedy is underrepresented in every actor's life, because it's so bloody difficult to write." Comedy is underrepresented at the Oscars, too, because it looks so bloody easy.


Allan Rogers said...

This list was epic, and leads me to believe that you have too much time on your hands.

Scott Roeben said...

Thanks, Allan! I actually did the bulk of this list years ago, but never published it. A discussion on Facebook got me thinking about it again, so I filled up the last five years, and there ya have it.

Anonymous said...

I am not a movie goer, though I watch movies on TV. Last trip to the movie theater was in 1990 when I was still dating. Otherwise, too expensive and I can enjoy TV movies just as much.