Thursday, July 16, 2015

Does "Trainwreck" Stand Any Oscar Chances?

Top to bottom: Bill Hader and Amy Schumer
It is a pretty great week to be Amy Schumer. Along with having a movie coming out on Friday, she has been in the news for different reasons. She is appearing on the cover of GQ Magazine and is getting press for her satirical risque pictures with Star Wars iconography. This past morning has also seen her get an Emmy nomination for her work on the even more acclaimed sketch series Inside Amy Schumer. However, this is one question that must be raised every time a comedy of above-average quality is brought out: is it possible to see these films get a Best Picture nomination? With tomorrow's release of director Judd Apatow's Trainwreck, one can only continue to wonder what's keeping the prestigious crowd from laughing a little bit more often.

You are likely reading this and are immediately rolling your eyes. Schumer is a comedian who has made a career off of raunchy feminist jokes. The Oscars never go crass. They represent prestige and class. They aren't fans of crude jokes unless they come from already established voices, such as Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street). Even the fact that last year's Best Picture winner Birdman, within its first five minutes, featured the line "Smells like balls" and would go on to have a baby pig semen joke somehow doesn't quite open the floodgates as much as desired. Of course, it has yet to be seen, but much like Scorsese, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has made his mark with multiple Oscar nominations before on films like Amores Perros and Babel. For some reason, he can get away with a meta commentary on superhero culture that is likely to be more profane and clunky than Trainwreck

It is a long shot that Schumer will register on any fronts. Even though her show has become a viral sensation, most recently with a 12 Angry Men parody about attractive women on TV, she isn't a household name. She has gotten more credit for pushing buttons and being vocal on everything. She is in many ways unprecedented and falls outside of the realm of traditional beauty. If anything, she will use any snubbing as fuel for society's views on women. Of course, to even think that this weekend will see a major Best Picture nominee is absurd. As someone who is anticipating the film, I still come away not convinced that this will be in that camp. It has just as much of a chance as Mad Max: Fury Road at getting a nomination. Both seem unlikely, let's just say.

However, I want to bring to you the secret weapon that is Apatow. I am unsure what charisma exactly he brings to his campaigning, but it has worked in the past. In 2011, Bridesmaids was a film that caused this question to pop up: "Can comedies win Best Picture?" There was brief consideration to even making a separate category like the Golden Globes. However, for all of the pointless speculation that filled the summer, the film became its own tiny triumph. It epitomized the emergence of female comedy as a viable mainstream entity. Its ensemble featured names that would only go on to bigger and better things. 

Still, Apatow took it more seriously and the results paid off. Bridesmaids may have not received that Best Picture nomination, but it did get two nominations. Not in technical fields that nobody cares about. It was in two of the more noteworthy fields for casual fans of the award. Melissa McCarthy received a Best Supporting Actress nomination while Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig earned a Best Original Screenplay nomination. While the latter category's more tolerant of comedic nominees, it seems unprecedented in recent years to see comedic performances make it into the acting fields, unless they are done in Woody Allen films. 

I have no idea if Trainwreck will be as widely discussed as Bridesmaids. I do feel that it will be more crass and less accessible. However, it has received some acclaim for its dark dissection of the romantic comedy. Maybe there will be some mechanics at play that make the film work to a larger audience. Maybe we'll be calling Schumer an Oscar nominee come next February. It is a ridiculous idea, but Apatow has surprised us before in very impressive ways. And besides, it feels like Trainwreck is to romantic comedies as Birdman is to superhero culture: two sides of the same coin. We'll just have to see if anything pans out and helps to make this Oscar season far more interesting than just a bunch of serious dramas competing against each other. 

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