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The Golden Globe for Best "Comedy"

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All right, folks, HOW confusing is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's definition of which movies are considered comedies? Before we even discuss, we have to consider the list of nominees for the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. (Sidebar: before anybody gets all dismissive about how there are barely any musicals made these days, count up the ones that have won this category since 2000: "Moulin Rouge," "Chicago," "Dreamgirls," "Sweeney Todd," and "Les Miserables," not to mention borderline cases like "Almost Famous" and "Walk the Line." That's seven musicals in thirteen years, which you'll note is more than a 50% success rate.)

At any rate, the nominees this year are:

American Hustle
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
The Wolf of Wall Street

Not having made it to see these movies yet, I can only speak to how they're being marketed, and you would be hard-pressed to find a true comedy among them. "American Hustle" looks like it has funny moments (man alive, Bradley Cooper's hair alone), but the tone of the story is serious--and is proof positive that it isn't (always) a matter of filmmakers submitting themselves into the traditionally "easier" comedy category; Rebecca Keegan reported for the LA Times that Sony submitted the film as a drama, only to be rebuffed by the HFPA.

"Inside Llewyn Davis," the latest effort by the Coen brothers, looks bleak and introspective, if punctuated by moments of wit. "Her," while visually brighter,presents itself as a serious--if upbeat--meditation on the nature of modern technology and relationships. "Nebraska" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" are a little trickier, could certainly fall into the black comedy category, but they're telling serious stories. Not a single straight-ahead comedy like like "The Heat" or "Anchorman 2" managed to break into the list, a notable departure from recent years, when movies like "Bridesmaids" and "It's Complicated" were contenders, the latter even losing to "The Hangover."

So what does that actually mean? Are we becoming snobs about broad comedies, and closing them off from fancy awards? Or is the line between drama and comedy becoming harder to distinguish? It's possible that there are simply better movies being made of late, ones that blur that line and tell serious and emotional stories in witty ways, in the same way that excellent TV shows like "Orange Is the New Black" defy easy classification into one genre or the other.

Either that, or the HFPA is an odd and mercurial bunch whose whims we would be foolish to predict. That said, prognostication is the name of the game this time of year, so if you want a winner, bet on "American Hustle." Big movie, big cast, big director in David O. Russell, and big hair--maybe "The Wolf of Wall Street" edges it out, but I wouldn't count on it.

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