Guy Lodge from In Contention recently made a case for Emma Stone to get consideration for the Best Actress category for her superb performance in Easy A. Her character was strong, complex and funny and the movie demonstrated that audiences are willing to turn up to watch a female-centric journey. Although the odds of Stone actually getting any kind of traction appear slim at best, it is worth wondering why comedic performances have been consistently slighted by the Academy over the years.
For some reason, it has become somewhat of a common belief in the last 20 or 30 years that comedy is a lower form of narrative art than drama. It is no secret that virtually all the acting awards and nominations go to actors playing flashy dramatic roles and every year, critics (and bloggers) collectively oooh and aaah about these bombastic performances in an endless echo — you know who you are! However, one has to wonder why flashy dramatic performances are widely believed to be superior to a fluffy comic turn or an understated dramatic portrayal. Is a seemingly effortless yet highly demanding turn like Amy Adams’ in Disney’s Enchanted being completely overlooked simply because it is too fluffy?
Aside from the well-known fact that acting awards usually do not reward the best performances anyway, some possible explanations for why comedic actors are generally slighted:
- Western audiences are conditioned to enjoy flashy and bombastic dramatic performances, such as Daniel Day Lewis’ in There Will Be Blood, over more subtle or seemingly “effortless” portrayals.
- Giving a good performance in a great movie is harder and hence more deserving of recognition than shining in a mediocre/good movie
- Comedic actors are generally less talented than dramatic actors
- Comedies are generally not as good, serious and important as dramas
- Drama is harder than comedy
- Other explanation (comments)