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Stick A 'Best Comedy' Category In The Oscars, Already

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 25/02/2016 Sara Boboltz

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Here, in reverse chronological order, are the last 10 films to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards: "Birdman," "12 Years a Slave," "Argo," "The Artist," "The King's Speech," "The Hurt Locker," "Slumdog Millionaire," "No Country for Old Men," "The Departed" and "Crash."

Dramas. All dramas. "Ar-go fuck yourself" was a funny line. I remember some tense humor between Colin Firth and his speech therapist, too. "Birdman," a darker dramedy, may be the closest thing to lighthearted in the bunch. Winning an Oscar -- Hollywood's shiniest statuette -- is, apparently, no laughing matter. Instead, Oscar movies tell grim stories about tortured souls, tragic circumstances, social injustices and loner types trying to do what's right in a world full of wrong.

Oscar movies could be funny. To think the Academy is so precious with awards that they wouldn't even give one to "Bee Movie" is to feel remorse for the state of the industry.

But, actually, if Best Picture must always favor drama, the Academy could split the category into Best Picture: Drama and Best Picture: Comedy for the first time in its monotonous history. It could hand out an award for excellence in humorous storytelling. It could take itself less seriously. I think it should. 

According to a YouGov poll conducted between Feb. 4 and 7 of this year, an overwhelming proportion of Americans -- 67 percent! -- agree. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman (64 and 71 percent, respectively, favored the Best Comedy inclusion), young or old (72 and 69 percent), black or white (69 and 60 percent), Republican or Democrat (64 and 72 percent), rich or poor (61 and 71 percent). Most people want to see comedies acknowledged, because people like comedies.

Here's another thought: Movies are expensive. "It won an Oscar" is one way to narrow down your options when you're deciding to spring for an expensive ticket and some expensive popcorn. (Indeed, Oscar-winning movies see a bump in box office sales worth millions.) 

Not everyone can go to the theater every week, and when they do go, it's often a form of escapism -- which isn't so satisfying when you feel like sitting back and relaxing for two hours, but instead, find yourself silently absorbing the pains and struggles of some sad sap onscreen until you realize how life is mainly disappointment; laughter, fleeting.

The decision to not honor comedies -- even in the pool of Best Picture nominees, which is often the case -- sends the elitist (and false) message that popular things aren't "good" things. Yet, the allure of winning an Oscar would likely spur studios to produce more "good" comedic fare. Make of that what you will.

In the end, the Oscars are a nonsense spectacle serving mainly as a sinister reminder that a small group of studio executives still control nearly all of our big-screen entertainment. This year's event on Feb. 28 -- like all the ones before it -- will be, most likely, a bore. 

But I, for one, would prefer to live in a world where "Minions" had an honest shot at winning an award for Best Picture.

Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in Internet panel using sample matching between Feb. 4 to 7. A random sample (stratified by age, gender, race, education, and region) was selected from the 2010 American Community Study. Voter registration was imputed from the November 2010 Current Population Survey Registration and Voting Supplement. Religion, minor party identification, and non-placement on an ideology scale, were imputed from the 2008 Pew Religion in American Life Survey. 

You can be highbrow. You can be lowbrow. But can you ever just be brow? Welcome to Middlebrow, a weekly examination of pop culture. Sign up to receive it in your inbox weekly.

Follow Sara Boboltz on Twitter: @sara_bee

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