The Oscars | Funny films, like Barbie, don’t do well in awards season

The Oscars | Funny films, like Barbie, don’t do well in awards season

In the lead up to the Oscars on Sunday 10 March (Pacific Standard Time), an RMIT expert explains why uproarious comedies don’t tend to do well in awards season.

Associate Professor Stephen Gaunson, Associate Professor in Cinema Studies

“The Academy Awards (commonly known as the Oscars), often accused of a lack of humour, reflect a predictable trend in this year's awards season nominations.

“Historically, comedies have struggled to secure Best Picture nominations and wins, and those that do succeed – like Birdman – are more dramadies, focusing more on the tragedy than humour.

“Straight comedies like Barbie continue to struggle for Academy attention, despite this particular film ranking as one of the most successful comedies of all time and, arguably, bringing back the female audience to the cinema after the COVID lockdown.

“The Academy had even revised its nomination rules to potentially include more popular hits like this. However, despite the overhaul, the outcome remained disappointingly familiar.

“By revamping the nomination process, the Academy aimed to recognise exceptional films while eliminating filler contenders. Yet, despite these efforts, acclaimed comedies like Barbie were overlooked, while pedestrian biopics like Maestro received nominations. 

“The aftermath of the nominations saw critics and fans lamenting the oversight of Barbie in key categories, a film that not only entertained but also reshaped perceptions of women in cinema. This snub adds to a long list of groundbreaking comedies ignored by the Oscars, revealing a bias favoring dark adult humour over teen films.

“There seems a genuine issue in how Academy voters assess exceptional acting and direction through heightened emotions, rather than the nuance of comedy in the complexity of what it does.

“Despite the myriad factors influencing Oscar nominations, the consistent exclusion of uproarious comedies warrants scrutiny. It's high time the Academy embraced a broader spectrum of cinematic achievements, including those that provoke genuine laughter.”

Associate Professor Stephen Gaunson is a film historian who researches on national and international cinema industries.


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