Don’t underestimate the power of chuckles. The Oscars favor cradle-to-grave biopics and sprawling epics, but once in a while they embrace the comedy genre that so often gets passed over, especially in major categories such as screenplay and directing.
Coming off a global pandemic, voters are looking to be in a good mood — see last year’s best picture winner, “CODA.” Audiences and industry folks alike want to walk out of a movie and feel good about life and its prospects. This year presents opportunities to recognize more than one artist from the lighter genre, albeit in varying guises.
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Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” examines the dissolution of a friendship amid cute donkeys and severed fingers, all wrapped in the shroud of laughter. Essentially a two-hander featuring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the film pairs biting dialogue with McDonagh’s signature tension-filled framing — a combination that will tickle the fancy of voters.
Comedy and science fiction merge in the Daniels’ “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which is feeling more likely to garner multiple accolades as these early days of phase one continue. The film’s closest precedent is Charlie Kaufman’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), which took a loving look at two people who undergo a procedure to forget their past relationship; that dramedy won for original screenplay and picked up a lead actress nom for Kate Winslet. That bodes well for Michelle Yeoh, the “Ratatouille”-riding star of “Everything Everywhere.”
Ruben Östlund has created the year’s most satirical international feature with “Triangle of Sadness.” What pooping in a sink did for “Bridesmaids” (2011) and supporting actress nominee Melissa McCarthy, puking on a yacht could do for the Palme d’Or winner. Let’s hope it can hook in breakout star Dolly de Leon as the cleaner-turned-leader on a desert island.
To see the ranked predictions for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub.
In Oscars history, voters have warmed up to political satires or genre sendups such as “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964) and “Blazing Saddles” (1974), nominating each in multiple categories. This year, Billy Eichner’s “Bros” put a queer lens on the traditional rom-com; it received critical acclaim but will need to overcome a dismal box office return.
Comedic ensembles such as “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988) and “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) have performed well; those films earned statuettes for Kevin Kline and Alan Arkin, respectively. Finding the winning variables when computing the Oscar equation is an art form, and Rian Johnson’s whodunit sequel “Glass Onion” aims to pair its likely adapted screenplay run with any of its standout ensemble actors, such as Daniel Craig or Janelle Monáe.
An old Yiddish proverb says: “As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.” Let the laughs wash over your ballots this season.
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