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Dying Is Easy...

...but comedy is hard. So goes the old saying, and any actor worth their salt will tell you it's true. It's much easier to wring tears than laughs, so why are comedies so disdained when it comes to movie awards? The latest in this debate come to us courtesy of Mary Pols of Time Entertainment, with her piece on why Melissa McCarthy doesn't deserve her Oscar nomination.

First of all, I sort of loathe the whole "deserve" argument. I saw a lot of this yesterday against Jonah Hill's nod for "Moneyball," and it just reeks of an anti-comedy sentiment. Hill is terrific in the film, which is essentially a tw0-man show between him and Brad Pitt. If Pitt is so deserving, doesn't some of the credit lie with his scene partner? Isn't what Hill does the definition of a "supporting actor"? It seems people are more annoyed by the idea that a comedy icon like Hill is now an Oscar nominee. There were some very funny tweets along the lines of: "When '21 Jump Street' ads play, they can now say 'Oscar nominee Jonah Hill.' " But come on--no actor has a perfect record. Kim Basinger won an Oscar for the first good movie she ever made! (And personally, I think "21 Jump Street" looks awesome.)

My main problem with Pols' story--aside from the fact she misspells Carey Mulligan as "Cary," which is kind of unforgivable for a major website--is that she contradicts herself. She wants to have it both ways, saying how great McCarthy is, then calling her unworthy. While admitting McCarthy's work is "hilarious," Pols at first makes a strong case for the nod, saying: "Because of the level of improvisation involved in making Bridesmaids, it is safe to say McCarthy wasn’t just bringing smart words on a page to life." But then she turns around and calls it "a comic sketch that could comfortably live only within an ensemble." That's the point--McCarthy is a great supporting player. And of course, characters can only exist in world their film creates. And for the record, McCarthy actually made it more than just a sketch. The most tender moment in the film occurs when McCarthy's Megan assaults Kristen Wiig's character, telling her life is biting her in the ass. It's a wonderful, original moment that is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking.

Pols also complains that "it is a very broad, one-note performance," which I find odd, as she says Mulligan deserved the nomination more. Mulligan's role as a depressed, promiscuous chanteuse in "Shame" is the epitome of one-note. But because it's a drama, she gets praised.

Another thing I noticed: Pols feels the need to frequently point out McCarthy's size, sometimes disguising it as a compliment: "Before and after she hoisted her considerable bulk onto a sink to defecate, McCarthy did do something specialshe played Megan as a large, red-faced person who did not understand, did not even consider, that people might recoil from her or treat her as anything less than a pretty, stick-thin bridesmaid." Actually, Megan's weight is never a factor. And "considerable bulk" is, at best, unkind--she also calls her character "grotesque." But then Pols tries to have it both ways, saying: "Yes, it was empowering that [she]...wasn’t ashamed of who she was or what she looked like, but she was also blindly intent on taking what she wanted." The subtle implication is that she should have been ashamed, just a little.

In a tweet posting the story, Pols said: "OK, get mad at me!" I'm not mad. I think Pols is entitled to her opinion, just as I'm entitled to think Albert Brooks should have been nominated before Max Von Sydow--though I wouldn't say Von Sydow didn't "deserve" his. And I don't think she believes her own argument, as she goes out of her way to praise McCarthy's performance. But the entire thing reeks of discrimination against people of size and comedy. When "Bridesmaids" first came out, I immediately said McCarthy deserved an Oscar nomination--but never really expected her to get one. I'm thrilled the Academy agreed. McCarthy doesn't just spout funny lines, she creates a fully realized character who expresses herself with all of an actor's tools. She's as good as fellow nominee Jean Dujardin is with facial expressions alone. As my friend Sarah said, "She deserves 10 nominations just for the shot with the van full of puppies."

--Jenelle Riley


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