'Bridesmaids' for Best Picture?
When it comes to the Academy Awards, it’s no secret that comedies are sometimes a bridesmaid but almost never a bride. In the past 30 years, only a handful of them have landed a Best Picture nomination, and only one, 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, has actually won. Given this history, few would argue that last summer’s crowd-pleasing hit Bridesmaids — not just a comedy but a broad, R-rated studio comedy — screams ”Oscar bait.” And yet, with a recent Best Picture nomination from the Producers Guild, along with a best-screenplay nod from the Writers Guild and best-ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild, the film suddenly finds itself an improbable dark-horse contender for a Best Picture Oscar nod. It’s a position Bridesmaids director Paul Feig didn’t expect to be in. As he says, ”We have someone s—ting in a sink.”
To be clear, while the PGA nominees are typically a strong predictor of the Oscars, Bridesmaids is hardly assured a spot in the Academy’s Best Picture race. The film has a great shot at a Best Original Screenplay nod for co-writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo as well as a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Melissa McCarthy. But under this year’s new Academy voting rules, for a film to land a Best Picture nomination it must receive at least 5 percent of Academy members’ first-place votes. In a field crowded with more traditional Oscar fare like War Horse, The Help, and The Descendants, that’s a tall order. ”If there were 10 Best Picture nominees, there’s no question it would get in,” says one Academy member in the executive branch. ”If there are six or seven, it’s harder. But I don’t think it’s impossible. We’re not talking about an Adam Sandler movie here. It did a lot of business, and it got great reviews. It’s not embarrassing to vote for.”
Still, conventional wisdom has long held that mainstream studio comedies face an uphill battle when it comes to earning Oscar love. ”In general, the movies that get a lot of the attention are very showy,” says Feig. ”Really good comedy has to appear effortless — and when something appears effortless, it doesn’t make you go, ‘Oh, look at all the work that went into that!”’ For that reason, Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow took to Twitter last year to argue that comedies, like animated films, should be separate. ”Since comedies are rarely up for Oscars it does make sense to have a comedy category,” he tweeted. One Oscar voter who’s enthusiastically supporting Bridesmaids contends that the Academy’s bias toward more serious dramatic fare is often overstated: ”Jerry Maguire got nominated. As Good as It Gets got nominated. The problem is, if people keep writing that comedies don’t get nominated, they won’t get nominated.” For her part, McCarthy says that Hollywood often doesn’t hold comedies to a high enough standard. ”People always say comedies get slighted [by the Academy], and I don’t think that’s the case,” she told EW in November. ”I think a lot of times we lower our own bar for comedies. We just worry about making it funny. You still have to tell a story and give people real characters and dramatic arcs.”
In an unpredictable Oscar season that has been short on consensus, one Academy member believes Bridesmaids could very well ride a wave of affection all the way to the Kodak Theatre. ”Bridesmaids is one of the only films that people this year liked from beginning to end and felt satisfied by. These are tough times. People are really stressed out. And a comedy that just busts your gut is a salve.” But until the nominations are announced, Feig isn’t counting any golden chickens. ”I would be the happiest man alive if we got [a Best Picture nomination], but I look at the math and it’s scary,” he says. ”Everything I’ve got that can be crossed is crossed.”
(With additional reporting by Carrie Bell)