Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oscar-Nominee The Hangover?, or: Have People Lost Their Goddamn Mind?

When the Academy announced earlier this week that they were expanding the Best Picture nominees from five to ten, the interweb went buzzing about what films were now in consideration for the top award. The most common names tossed around were Star Trek and Up, both enormous critical and commercial successes with major pluses in their corner (ST has the Dark Knight factor plus a host of shoo-in technical noms and wins while Up has Pixar in its corner plus the WALL-E snub last year). But, the strangest name that came up was The Hangover, Todd Phillips's surprise smash hit about a group of men who are trying to recount the night before after a crazy bachelor party. Granted, these are probably the same people who think Transformers was robbed of a Best Picture nomination in 2007, but I still find it alarming that people would even consider this film on the outside edges of Oscar's radar.

Before I get started, let me just say that this is not the disgruntled ramblings of a man pissed he wasted his precious money on a complete stinker of a film. Far from it, actually. I genuinely laughed heartily quite a few times and thought it was funny enough to overcome it's completely overdone and tired setup. But I have to draw the line somewhere and claiming it to be a film, not just a comedy, worthy of Oscar consideration in any category is right where that line needs to be drawn.

First, let's get the completely misguided idea that Zach Galifiankis is a possible candidate for a Best Supporting Actor nom. If you think I'm kidding, head on over to the IMDb message boards and see for yourself. Their reasoning: if Robert Downey, Jr. can get one for Tropic Thunder, than it shouldn't be out of the question for Galifiankis. Hmm, let's think about this one for a second. RDJ was a former Oscar-nominee making a grand comeback to the A-list after a fall from grace due to drugs and a couple of years working steadily in smaller films to try and build his name up who scored majorly in a huge comic book movie and playing, in Tropic Thunder, an American playing an Australian playing an African American. What in the hell does Galifiankis have going for him besides showing his ass a lot and bashing a baby into a car door? Let me put this bluntly: THERE IS NO CHANCE IN HELL ZACH GALIFIANKIS IS GETTING A NOMINATION. Moving on.

If a comedic film is going to get nominated (and possibly win) somewhere, its biggest shot is in one of the screenplay categories (preferably Original since Adaptation is usually filled with prestige pictures). I can kinda see where people are coming from on this one--hell, Borat got nominated here in 2006--but there's really no chance that it will happen for one simple reason: it's not well-written. Don't get me wrong, the film is funny and there are some great one-liners and comedic moments, but when you think about the film as a whole, there's really no structure or point to it all. I can already feel you starting to protest, so let me explain. Comedic films can be anarchic and often times the best ones are the ones that are a bit messy and all over the place. But there's a difference between the anarchy in something like Bringing Up Baby or Pineapple Express than The Hangover. Bringing Up Baby and Pineapple Express are, indeed, frenetic and teetering on the edge of sanity, but there's an actual point behind all the madness. There is a structure and the madness leads somewhere eventually. You can take any section and laugh at how random and hilarious it is at a given point (the golf game in Baby and the outrageous fight between Franco, Rogen and McBride in Pineapple) but, by the end of the film, it serves an actual purpose. On the other hand, The Hangover doesn't have that solid basis to rely on. It simply feels like the writers sat down and thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if the characters did this..." and randomly added it to any part of the story. The situations may be funny, but they aren't connected in any way and just kind of lie there, forgotten, once the film is done with them once and for all. In other words, Bringing Up Baby and Pineapple Express are the South Park to The Hangover's Family Guy. So, since none of the Apatow films have gotten close to an Oscar nomination, and those are prime examples of comedic screenwriting, I sincerely doubt that the scribes of The Hangover have any chance of hearing their name on Oscar nomination morning.

Finally, let's move on to the big prize: Best Picture. Oscar is notoriously awful with declaring comedies worthy of even a nomination in their beloved Best Pic category. Little Miss Sunshine and Juno were exceptions to the rule in their day and had strong dramatic pathos to rely on during good portions of their run time. Before that, it seems that if the film wasn't a romantic comedy of sorts, you're film had absolutely no shot of making it in. Shakespeare in Love, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Ghost, Moonstruck, Tootsie, The Goodbye Girl all made it in, but they are (obviously) in a different league of comedy than The Hangover. So why exactly are people believing that The Hangover has a shot to make it in? Oh, that's right, 10 slots to fill this year. Well, if you've never followed an Oscar race closely, let me give you a little piece of advice. The Academy would rather dismantle its membership and call it a day than give a Best Picture nomination to something foul-mouthed, crass and non-messagey like The Hangover. Nothing in their history, save for perhaps (and I do mean perhaps) She Done Him Wrong's Best Pic nomination in 1932/33, suggests that the Academy would ever nominate The Hangover for their biggest prize. I know there's no such thing as a sure thing, especially this early in the race, but no way. Not going to happen.

Like I said, The Hangover is not that bad of a film and is actually pretty funny, but it belongs with Half Baked in that odd category of comedies that are funny, but also embarrass you at the same time that you are laughing so much at them. But this Oscar talk is going too far and has got to stop now. C+


mB said...

People ARE going insane with this 10 BP nomination thing. Changing the NUMBER of nominees does not change the PROCESS of nomination, people!

Even Star Trek feels like an odd title to be throwing around but as you say, it seems like a much safer bet than an immature comedy like The Hangover (which, if we are to pit it against Juno and LMS, carries no "names" that the Academy would be familiar with... no Janney or Colette anchoring the piece, no superstar fame-whore screenwriter or married directorial couple to at least get some press out of it... etc.)

Anyways, if anything us oscar-watchers will still be following our rules later this year and understanding the crazy "reasonings" behind the nominated films, while the outrage will still breakout on February when "Joe Average" will now bemoan: "TEN nominees and they couldn't even include ______!!!"

Vance said...

you and mB have it so right (with the process and 10 Oscar noms). I don't even think Star Trek will make the cut.

Anyways, oy, saw The Hangover on the first weekend before the overbuzz and I thought it was highly overrated then. If anything was good that kept it buoyed, it was the performances, and not from Zach but Ed Helms. The pictures at the end closing credits were funny though. That's when I laughed hardest (or at all). (Actually, the full theatre I went to was surprisingly quiet so I'm not sure where all this love for the movie is coming from because it seemed like the screening I saw, most people walked out disappointed too).

Anonymous said...

Suck it!

Anonymous said...

I love hangover.. They deserve it.

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