Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Just kidding. But now that I have your attention, I would like to discuss the bit of controversy the famous comedy director/producer, Judd Apatow has stirred up. You probably know Apatow best as the director of 40 Year Old Virgin, and producer of the surprise hits Pineapple Express and Bridesmaids. We all saw them, we all talked about them and quoted them for months. The films made so much money, and got so much attention Apatow himself was like a star about to go supernova. So logically, everyone thought this comedy director/producer could be the first one in a long time to get the nod from the Academy. Well, we all know how that worked out. And judging from this interview he is still a bit bitter not only about his own lack of an Oscar, but his fellow comedians as well (though he disguises it with some humor). So, Mr. Apatow, took the opportunity, while on an interview with the LA times to explain why The Hangover deserves its own category. You can check out the full LA Times video interview here. I encourage you to watch it before you read the rest of this article. It's 2 minutes long.
 "It doesn’t seem like it’s screwing up Schindler’s List for Hangover to have its own category. 
It didn't mess up the animation people to do it. Then we could kinda get rid of the Key Grip 
category. (boos from audience). I love the Key Grips they do a fantastic job, but at hour
four, I would rather watch Zach Galifianakis come on, than my friend Curtis"

Apatow makes a decent point about trying to compare the merits of one genera versus another. However, he ruins it by suggesting that somehow the antics of some actor is more worth celebrating than the hard work key grips do, day in and day out. 'Curtis' might not be famous or hilarious, but ask yourself this, what if Zach Galifianakis was your key grip? Now I understand that Apatow says most of this in jest, and I get that he is just spitballing. But I think he is tapping into something very real. Anyway, I digress. 

The way the Academy seems to work is, if you work for a certain number a years and if you reach a certain level of success, you'll get your Oscar. I think the Clint Eastwood Million Dollar Baby Oscar was a bit of a gimmie. For Apatow, his films, and his own stardom have begun to eclipse that other dramatic film directors. Yet, for all his success, for all the money, there is one thing he hasn't gotten, that illusive gold statue. Perhaps he feels as if he and his fellow comedians will never get one if they continue to work in comedy. So rather than change up the style to appease the Academy, he seems to want the Academy to make more room for him and others like him on the ticket. It is a fair enough request, but the real question is, do we honestly think, that out of every hard working filmmaker around the world, that Apatow, is the type of filmmaker the Academy needs to make room for? If Academy Awards were about attention garnered, Apatow and his buddies would win, hands down. But I tend to think that the Oscars are more than just entertainment. I think they are an opportunity for peers to give praise to those who are pushing new boundaries in filmmaking.

I think Apatow makes a good point about how difficult it is to compare comedy and drama. But I believe that wether a comedy, drama, or somewhere in between a film needs to be able to stand on its own as a great piece of art. The problem with comedy films today is not that people hate to laugh, but that the films only push boundaries when it comes to dirty jokes, risque subject matter, but they do very little to redefine the genera, or push the envelope cinematically. Comedy films today are all about who can be the most outrageous and still escape a NC-17 rating. Many comedy films are blatantly sexist and cast women as either the buzz kill or the psycho bitch.

However, I do have to mention that Bridesmaids was quite groundbreaking in the the sense that it showed that women can also be funny, only problem is, they are 30 years too late. Comedy films also play too often to the lowest common denominator with fart jokes, poop jokes, penis jokes, Three Stooges style physical comedy, and the all important funny boob reveal. But very rarely do these films tap into what is at the core of humor. Pulp Fiction is a funny, high quality movie because it taps into our devilish side that wants to laugh at someone getting their head blow off on the freeway. The Hangover is funny while you sit in the theater with your popcorn, and it might even be worth coughing up the 20$ for the DVD, but does it really deserve the highest honor in cinema? I tend to think no.

Let us look at just one of the comedy films in theaters right now. Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill has a 4% rating on The film was called 'disingenuous,' and Sandler's performance was called 'curdled.' This film is doing nothing to convince this movie goer that comedy is the smart one being left out by the snobs. The best comedies are the best because films like Jack and Jill are the competition.

So I think before Mr. Apatow says that the Academy needs to celebrate comedy, I think he needs to ask himself if the comedy genera is really giving us anything worth celebrating?


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