The Golden Globes, which have a tendency towards awarding fluff, showed some progressiveness this year by awarding controversial, challenging films like “Brokeback Mountain” and “Syriana.” Sadly though they continued their recent trend of ignoring comedic work.
Unlike the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes has a category specifically for comedy. The catch is this category also includes musicals. This most likely goes back to the vaudevillian tradition of musical comedy, but it feels out of place today.
With the musical genre all but dead for two decades, the musical of the Comedy/Musical categories didn’t really make a difference. The word just dangled at the end looking awkward. But then the 2002 ceremonies ushered in the return of the musical with “Moulin Rouge.”
“Moulin Rouge” won Best Picture in its category that year and Nicole Kidman won Best Actress. That year was a particularly good year for female comedic work including Renee Zelleweger’s turn as “Bridget Jones,” Thora Birch in “Ghost World” and Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde.” Kidman’s work in “Moulin Rogue” was certainly award worthy, but was dramatic, so what if she happened to be singing?
The following year brought “Chicago,” which like its predecessor took Best Picture. A Best Actor award went to Richard Gere, while Nicholas Cage and Hugh Grant’s fine work in “Adaptation” and About a Boy” respectively was passed over. A case can be made that “Chicago” is just as much a comedy as a musical, so I am willing let this one slide.
The latest development in the past two years is far less excusable. Last year Jamie Foxx won Best Actor in “Ray” for his portrayal of Ray Charles. This year “Walk the Line,” the bio-pic of Johnny Cash took Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress. All of these were under the Comedy/Musical categories.
While films like “Moulin Rogue” and “Chicago” are clearly musicals and have a claim on the category, “Ray” and “Walk the Line” are dramas about the lives of musicians. While, given their subject matters, these films obviously feature music that doesn’t make them musicals.
When it comes to movie award ceremonies, there’s this idea that drama is more award worthy than comedy. The Academy Awards certainly rarely pays comedy notice and instead focuses on hard-hitting drama. The Golden Globes in the past gave a nod to comedy, but with the new popularity of musician bio-pics, that has fallen to the wayside.
If you look at the 2005 nominees list, three of the five spots for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical were filled by musician bio-pics. In addition to Foxx in “Ray” this included Kevin Kline’s takes on Cole Porter in “De-Lovely” and Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darren in “Beyond the Sea.” This left Jim Carrey in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and Paul Giamatti in “Sideways” to represent comedy.
Debatably, the two funniest movies of the 2004 were “Anchorman” and “Dodgeball.” Sure, they were rude and crude, but why not go out on a limb and nominate them? Award shows are supposed to be representing the best work in a year. Why must everything be high-brow, even comedy?
As for 2005, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in “The Wedding Crashers” were comic gold, and yet received no nominations. Even if they had been nominated they wouldn’t have stood a chance against the heavyweight work of Joaquin Phoenix in “Walk the Line.”
It would be a good idea to just drop the musical from the Comedy/Musical categories and place musicals in their proper categories. “Phantom of the Opera,” clearly a drama. “The Producers,” clearly a comedy. Odds are that will not happen, so at the very least let’s put the dramatic bio-pics where they belong and give comedy a chance again.
Final thought: thankful nothing remotely looking like a musical came out in 2003 so that Bill Murray was able to win for his brilliant work in “Lost in Translation.”