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January 5, 2014 4:51 PM   Subscribe

How the Golden Globes definition of "musical or comedy" has been stretched to the limit and why that matters
posted by Artw (67 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Wolf of Wall Street is an interesting case, because I think it's the comic elements that let us tolerate the main character (who is a massive, massive asshole). It winks at itself too much to be taken seriously as a drama and there is a spectacular bit of physical comedy involving a Lamborghini and a boneless DiCaprio, which is one of the funniest things I've seen in years.

I don't know how I'd classify the movie, but calling it a comedy isn't wrong.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:06 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


With the right number of consumed beers, any movie can be a comedy.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:35 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


I haven't seen any of these (and at least one I have never heard of), but not one has been marketed as a jolly romp in any material I have seen.
posted by Mezentian at 5:35 PM on January 5


I am just disappointed to learn that The Wolf of Wall Street is not actually a musical.
posted by kyrademon at 5:45 PM on January 5 [11 favorites]


I can see The Wolf of Wall Street being a comedy, but American Hustle certainly is not.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:47 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


All the comedy in Wolf of Wallstreet had an assholish edge to it - even the 'ludes / lambro scene, a friend of mine with cerebral palsy had to leave the theater because a throwaway line around the time he drops to the floor made her feel like everyone was laughing at her condition.
posted by idiopath at 5:50 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


That's OK. Their definition of "best" has never been accurate either.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:53 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Thoughts about women and The Wolf of Wall Street [h/t].
posted by pxe2000 at 5:56 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


I think it's SO-O-O CUTE that people are trying to act like the Golden Globes are relevant to anything, just because Tina & Amy are hosting again. Could it have been ten years since The MeFite Formerly Known As Wendell wrote about the Globes with a "historical timeline" that was so snarky the editors slapped a "PARODY" tag onto it? (The first draft included some all-joke items but was rewritten so every item contained SOME truth)
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:07 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


I think it's SO-O-O CUTE that people are trying to act like the Golden Globes are relevant to anything,

But they're an indicator for the OSCARS! Hollywood's Night Of Nights!
Why do you hate Tinseltown?
posted by Mezentian at 6:17 PM on January 5


From pxe2000's link:
There’s no part of the movie that addresses how Belfort got clean and launched a new career as a motivational speaker after being barred from ever working in finance again. There’s also zero time spent on his time in prison, other than a slow pan over a cushy prison green while DiCaprio's voiceover reports that money was an opener of as many doors there as it was anywhere else. (This New York magazine article notes that Belfort’s “cubie” was none other than career stoner Tommy Chong, who encouraged Belfort to write his memoir after hearing his uproarious stories.) There’s nothing anywhere in the film to suggest that Belfort regrets any of his actions. He’s a drug addict, then boom—he’s sober. He’s drummed out of the financial sector, then boom—he’s raking it in on infomercials promising to reveal the secrets of sales success. And through it all, the audience never sees him suffer in any significant way.
That was kind of the point, was it not?
posted by brundlefly at 7:00 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Clearly, the price of a nomination in Comedy/Musical is lower. Scorsese's a cheap bastard.
posted by Etrigan at 7:09 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Okay, there are enough consistent laughs in American Hustle (science oven!) to make its inclusion understandable.

American Hustle is the funniest movie I've seen since Bridesmaids, so there's that.

I sort of wonder if part of the problem is that there haven't been as many great comedies in the last few years.
posted by lunasol at 7:17 PM on January 5


I definitely saw American Hustle as a dark comedy. Among other things. If there's a problem here it's the same problem modern theatre faces by not fitting cleanly into "Tragedy" or "Comedy."
posted by Navelgazer at 7:33 PM on January 5


"American Hustle" was funny in the same way "Boogie Nights" was funny. And I mean that in the best way.

No movie in the past year has been as uproariously funny to me as "Wolf of Wall Street" which was--yes--terrible and depraved and horrible (the people, not the film itself). But I saw it sitting next to a group of middle-aged moms and their pearl-clutching response to EVERYTHING made the move ten times funnier to me.
posted by ColdChef at 7:39 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


I miss the good old days when conservatives were doing the pearl clutching and the leftists were the perverts and depraved ones.
posted by idiopath at 8:22 PM on January 5 [14 favorites]


I just came back from seeing "American Hustle" and I, too, laughed my ass off. One of many things it does have in common with "Boogie Nights" is that it features a number of dimwitted characters and is seeming to tell the audience, "Of course they're making stupid decisions! Look at what they're wearing!"
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:23 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


American Hustle was hilarious, don't get me wrong. But it fell somewhere between a crime film and a heist film. I saw it as a heist flick, since the twist at the end is straight-out heist-style misdirection.

David O. Russell has made a career out of movies which feint in one genre's direction but are actually another. Like how Silver Linings Playbook was an old-school screwball comedy, down to the grandiose ending dance number, but its tone and subject matter kept you wondering how the hell everything was going to resolve to the finish. Every movie I've seen of his feels like an attempt to redeem an old, hackneyed genre by making it as fresh and unexpected as possible.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:12 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


David O. Russell has made a career out of movies which feint in one genre's direction but are actually another.

I love Three Kings so much. I spend the first 3/4 of the movie laughing and enjoying the ride and the last 1/4 sobbing and angry.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:30 PM on January 5 [10 favorites]


They should be split into separate categories IMHO. I think the idea is to establish a clear watermark for "middle/high-brow comedy" but the best shit does a great job no matter where it stands on the class spectrum, while still being a little low brow unless it's oozing pure cleverness.

I'm talking about Airplane, The Naked Gun, Wayne's World, The Toy, Blazing Saddles, Christopher Guest Movies, The Great Outdoors, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary, and I certainly have a weakness for the latest batches of Apatow movies, and the various male or female buddy comedies; I actually liked Identity Thief quite a bit...birth year = 1980

As an example of where I draw the line between "too serious, too much conflict, just a funny drama" and "comedy lulz" would be Dogma vs. Chasing Amy. They both have some SRS themes but Dogma is a comedy to me. I found most of those Kevin Smith movies to be tedious. For some reason Ferris Bueller verges on "As SRS as Wargames" in my book.

Good comedies have little sense of uncertainty and the conflict is sort of important but is just a background device to good jokes and a human-nature requirement when watching something for 90+ minutes. This is all my bias.

TLDR, the musical + comedy lumping is rooted in laziness and classism
posted by lordaych at 9:38 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Sssh. Don't given them any ideas, or we'll end up with Best Urban Movie.
posted by Mezentian at 9:52 PM on January 5


American Hustle was hilarious, don't get me wrong. But it fell somewhere between a crime film and a heist film.

But that doesn't mean it can't also be a comedy. See: 80% of the Coen Brothers oeuvre (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, etc.)
posted by lunasol at 12:09 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Wright, Pegg, Frost, et al, deserve a million awards for The World's End - especially Pegg for his performance.

I haven't seen any of the nominated films due to lack of interest.
posted by jb at 1:57 AM on January 6


American Hustle needs a special Oscar for hair acting
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:23 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


American Hustle? It's Donnie Brasco as if made by Coen Brothers.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:31 AM on January 6


I went to see American Hustle with what seemed like most of the Rutgers graduating class of 1999. The consensus was, "OF COURSE this was set in Camden."
posted by pxe2000 at 3:42 AM on January 6


OK, I can see the argument for American Hustle as a type of black crime comedy. Although I'd rather think of it as a movie with comedic elements, but whatever.

But Inside Llewyn Davis? What? No. That's some straight up bleak stuff right there.
posted by gaspode at 5:20 AM on January 6


American Hustle is clearly a comedy if the criteria is comedy vs. tragedy. Less clear if the question is comedy vs. drama. But since Hollywood wants every movie to have a happy ending, I guess Aristotle's definitions aren't particularly helpful in classifying movies.
posted by layceepee at 5:46 AM on January 6


I can see The Wolf of Wall Street being a comedy, but American Hustle certainly is not.

Is extreme overacting no longer comedy? So much for Tommy Wiseau's career.
posted by any major dude at 6:09 AM on January 6


But Inside Llewyn Davis? What? No. That's some straight up bleak stuff right there.

Remember the category is "musical or comedy." I can see the case for submitting Inside Llewyn Davis as a musical. It's still a stretch, but it's not in there as a comedy.
posted by payoto at 8:42 AM on January 6


I'm puzzled how anyone could object to calling American Hustle a comedy. It's one of the funniest films I've seen in years. I think it must be the fact that so many US comedies are such completely empty, formulaic crap that people have come to think that that is what "comedy" means. "Comedy" has come to mean "something starring Will Ferrell or Ben Stiller based on an unfunny, mostly forgotten Saturday Night Live routine or 60s sitcom and written in one long, coke-driven night by the producer's son and his "super-talented" frat brother."
posted by yoink at 8:54 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I can see the case for submitting Inside Llewyn Davis as a musical.

That case being "it's a musical"?
posted by yoink at 8:56 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Well, it's got songs in it, I guess it counts as much as something like Walk the Line.
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on January 6


Oh, duh.

I'd actually just had a big argument with someone about whether Inside Llewyn Davis was a musical or not, so I'll blame that.
posted by gaspode at 9:07 AM on January 6


Well, not in the sense of Les Mis, and lets face it if you're that broad anything with a character who can sing counts.
posted by Artw at 9:32 AM on January 6


American Hustle has singing in... terrifying singing
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:38 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Well, not in the sense of Les Mis, and lets face it if you're that broad anything with a character who can sing counts.

Well, no, not at all. There are numerous interviews with the Coen brothers in which they talk about how the songs in ILD are designed to "move the story along" and how they're the backbone of the story of the film and set its mood and tone etc. etc. etc. It's a film about music and in which music is central to the storytelling. That's very, very different from a drama in which one of the characters happens to sing a song.
posted by yoink at 9:40 AM on January 6


American Hustle has singing in... terrifying singing

Oh God! That scene is such a perfect thesis-statement for the movie as a whole. It's simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.
posted by yoink at 9:41 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I'm all in favor of giving comedy awards to movies that are actually funny, not just restricting them to movies that claim they're trying to be funny in big red letters on a white background.
posted by straight at 9:49 AM on January 6


In my high school yearbook senior year, the same popular girl won both "Biggest Overachiever" AND "Biggest Slacker".

I'm guessing the selection process in Hollywood is similar.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:55 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


"Comedy" has come to mean "something starring Will Ferrell or Ben Stiller based on an unfunny, mostly forgotten Saturday Night Live routine or 60s sitcom and written in one long, coke-driven night by the producer's son and his "super-talented" frat brother."

No, it hasn't. I'm not going to bother responding your elitist bullshit with a list of actual comedies that don't meet your definition but movies with humor, even lots of humor, don't magically become comedies just because people who don't like comedies want them to be.
posted by lordaych at 10:05 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Great, a wave of hipsters want to shit on comedies now and redefine a genre as old as cinema. Go watch The Toy and The Blues Brothers and Great Outdoors and tell me how they differ from your favorite hipster edgy flick with funny moments of hip depravity or whatever the latest movie watcher fetish is.
posted by lordaych at 10:09 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I am a snob about SNL movies. Most are just SNL jobs programs but some are sustainably funny and get to be recognized as comedies rather than than a single bit drilled into the ground. There are a lot of shitty comedies just like there are tons of lifetime original drama movies but that's OK.
posted by lordaych at 10:12 AM on January 6


The messed up thing is I haven't even seem American Hustle but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's hilarious in many of the same ways Pulp Fiction was but just from the previews alone I can identify with saying that it isn't intended to be "a" comedy.

PF made me laugh quite often and is infinitely quotable. But a comedy it ain't. Comic relief is to drama as dramatic tension is to comedy. You can have both but your movie is either primarily a vehicle for laughter or it uses laughter to take the the edge off.
posted by lordaych at 10:20 AM on January 6


but movies with humor, even lots of humor, don't magically become comedies

If you want to go with age old definitions of "comedy," then I'm afraid American Hustle is about as solidly a comedy as it is possible to be. I don't want to give any spoilers, but take any classic definition of "comedy" and American Hustle clearly fulfills it. It's a movie that works towards resolution and a "happy ending." It's clearly a "comedy" in the sense that "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" or "The Comedy of Errors" is a comedy.

But I'm sorry I upset you so much by my comments about the sad state of US comedy. You misunderstood my point which is not that there are no good comedies being made and marketed as "comedies" by mainstream US movie companies. Sure, Blues Brothers is great. My point was simply that so many of them are tedious, forgettable crap. I'm not objecting to the genre, I'm objecting to the half-assedness of so many of the specific instances of the genre. Both Stiller and Ferrell have done some outstanding work (as have Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler et al.), but did you really think Little Fockers was a comedic gem? Or Bewitched?
posted by yoink at 10:22 AM on January 6


Last comment: Pineapple Express was weirdly violent and seemed a bit funky because it was trying to transgress out from "buddy comedy" into "70's action suspense movie that is still a comedy but is trying to make you sufficiently uncomfortable so you'll be a little fazed by the weirdness." Definitely intentional, but the ha ha we're all best buds after all here are some LULz ending seals it into the comedy column.
posted by lordaych at 10:26 AM on January 6


Why did I say last comment? Last comment: consider whether we call movies like Beverly Hills Cop, The Golden Child, or 48 "comedies," "action movies," or "Eddie Murphy movies." They are all decidedly funny as shit IMHO but the effort is made to choose the action / suspense category. As we also see with "Tarantino movies."
posted by lordaych at 10:35 AM on January 6


consider whether we call movies like Beverly Hills Cop, The Golden Child, or 48 "comedies," "action movies," or "Eddie Murphy movies."

They are all easily and unproblematically all three simultaneously. The very existence of the term "Romantic comedy" should clue you into the fact that films are allowed to (and usually do) belong to more than one genre at a time.
posted by yoink at 10:39 AM on January 6


I'm supprised that In a World hasn't gotten more attention, but I guess it didn't really get much attention at the box office either.
posted by Artw at 11:28 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


any major dude: "Is extreme overacting no longer comedy? So much for Tommy Wiseau's career."

See also: Nicholas Cage.

Can the Razzies start a new category for "best unintentional comedy?"

Also, what about Snakes on a Plane? It was snarky as hell in its conception, but depressingly serious in its execution....
posted by schmod at 11:42 AM on January 6


I'm sure some poor soul thought that driving cars through a mall filled with people or having Aretha Franklin cast as an at-least near-stereotype was an example of "depravity" when the "Blues Brothers" came out (and I love "The Blue Brothers" and thoroughly enjoyed "American Hustle."). Can we stop the overuse of "hipster," please?
posted by raysmj at 11:57 AM on January 6


Really it's easy to spot a comedy... if the film's title is in big red letters on the poster, it's a comedy.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:27 PM on January 6


What if it's an indy comedy?
posted by Artw at 3:38 PM on January 6


Quirky font
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:13 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I don't know how I'd classify the movie, but calling it a comedy isn't wrong.

Of course it is. The definition of comedy isn't "something that makes me laugh". Dramatic movies often have comic relief, lighter moments, and jokes. Comedy and Drama are completely different narrative forms, and in cases like Wolf Of Wall Street it's pretty obvious which form it is. It's a drama.

I sort of wonder if part of the problem is that there haven't been as many great comedies in the last few years.

The problem is that, if the whole point of the Globes is as a lead-up to the Oscars, there's really no room for nominating actual comedies, because comedies basically never win Oscars. So the Golden Globes "comedy or musical" field is reserved for musicals or commandeered by dramas that think they stand a better chance in that category for whatever reason.

They should just get rid of the whole category and have double the number of Best Film nominations.
posted by Sara C. at 5:36 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Julie Delpy has been nominated for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Before Midnight. Such arguing. So comedy. Wow.
posted by crossoverman at 6:10 PM on January 6


I'm enjoying the people who are saying, "The genre comedy has a fixed, immutable definition and these movies don't fit!" and they don't mean "a story with a happy ending."
posted by straight at 6:31 PM on January 6


But Before Midnight is a romantic comedy. Again, "comedy" doesn't just mean "there were jokes" or "I laughed" or even "has a happy ending". Comedy and Drama are two very different things. A romantic comedy film is a comedy, not a drama.

That said, if American Hustle is a heist movie, that's fair. There's a long tradition of comedy heist caper style movies. Ocean's 11 and Sexy Beast are more comedy than drama. There are at least two Woody Allen movies that fit into the category. So I'll give American Hustle a pass for the moment.
posted by Sara C. at 6:39 PM on January 6


"The genre comedy has a fixed, immutable definition and these movies don't fit!"

More "the genre comedy has a fuzzy, mutable definition and these movies don't sit very near the core of it", really.
posted by Artw at 6:49 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


But Before Midnight is a romantic comedy.

I would class Before Sunrise as a romantic comedy, but neither of its sequels fall into that category.
posted by crossoverman at 7:27 PM on January 6


How's that? I've not seen Before Midnight yet, but Before Sunset is definitely in the category of romantic comedy in my opinion, and the plot summary of Before Midnight puts it squarely in comedy territory. Not belly laugh roll on the floor comedy, but I would call all three films comedies before I called them dramas.
posted by Sara C. at 8:58 PM on January 6


Okay, I think we'll have to disagree on this, Sara C. I mean, there is a lot of humour in Midnight (probably more than Sunset), but I didn't come out of either thinking about the comedy. I think the comedy in both is to lighten the mood so the drama hits harder. They aren't comedies, though they are romantic.
posted by crossoverman at 2:20 PM on January 7


Oh man, better not tell these people what the genre "Romance" used to mean.
posted by straight at 2:34 PM on January 7


crossoverman, the issue isn't with how many comedic moments a given film had.

Comedy is a narrative form in film, completely separate from Drama. There are also subgenres which nest under each form. If a movie is a romantic comedy, it is by nature a comedy, even if it isn't "funny" per se. A heist can go either way, but IMO most heist movies that come out nowadays are more under the rubric of comedy as opposed to crime dramas or thrillers (which would be dramas by default just like a romcom is a comedy by default).

That said, Wikipedia calls Before Sunrise a romantic drama, which I disagree with pretty stridently. But I don't know, maybe I'm just wrong, and there is a hard dramatic edge to these movies I've never understood before? All three work under the framework of boy meets girl, obstacles keep them apart, can they find a way to be together type romantic comedy structure/tropes.

Before Midnight is a little different because it starts out with the couple already married, and the central question of the film is whether they'll stay together, not whether they'll get together. But they do stay together in the end, and it seems to be a lighthearted romp of a relationship movie, not, like, Kramer vs. Kramer.

Pretty much all of Richard Linklater's movies fall under the rubric of comedy largely because they're light in nature and lack the stakes and narrative structure of a drama. A movie where people wander around and get into situations and riff about stuff and the tone stays light is pretty innately a comedy, unless, a la Pulp Fiction, the whole thing centers around dramatic events.
posted by Sara C. at 3:00 PM on January 7


Golden Globes 2014: the awards season's ramshackle opener
posted by Artw at 1:22 PM on January 10


Well... that was a mess.

Did someone try to press the button on the vagina joke? Beccause if so they totally did not manage to. Imagaining that guy scrambling is the best bit.
posted by Artw at 10:27 PM on January 12


Golden Globes 2014: 10 things we learned from this year's ceremony
posted by Artw at 12:37 PM on January 13


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