Posts Tagged ‘Mike Leigh’
A couple of years ago, I came across a great article in Prospect Magazine (U.K.) by the short-story writer Julian Gough. Why, he wondered, has western culture since the middle ages “overvalued the tragic and undervalued the comic”? Gough’s piece focused on modern literature, but his argument bears just as much weight in the context of cinema. “Brilliant comedies,” he noted, “never win the best film Oscar.” True. And he might have added that they rarely even qualify for that prestigious honor.
Take a look at this year’s nominees. The films up for Best Picture and Best Directing laurels were The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Milk, Frost/Nixon, and Slumdog Millionaire, heady dramas of one kind or another (Nazi flick, biopic, political reimagining, romantic fantasy), most of which also nabbed shout-outs in the categories for technical achievement, music score, costume design, and acting. The lone exception was Robert Downey Jr., who earned a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his outrageous turn as an Aussie Method actor who dons surgically-enhanced blackface in Ben Stiller’s Hollywood satire Tropic Thunder. No other comedies or comedic actors, American or foreign, made the list. Since 1927, the Academy has embraced musicals, war films, melodramas, social-issue flicks, epic adventures, sappy love stories, and of course, gravely serious dramas. Only a handful of comedies—Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934) and You Can’t Take It with You (1938), Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960), Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones (1963), and Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977)—have claimed the top prize. This, in a word, is tragic. Read the rest of this entry »