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Comedy categories would make the Oscars more relevant


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Let’s face it: the Oscars are not as cool as they used to be. Oscar, at age 83, is showing signs of tarnish. It is becoming a less and less compelling event for the digital youth culture. Last year’s Academy Awards were the sixth top social TV tentpole event of the year after the MTV Music Awards, the American Music Awards and even — God help up — the Grammys. Not a good look. If the American Music Awards are getting more social media attention than the Oscars, then there is something terribly wrong with Hollywood. Movie ticket sales, incidentally, hit a 16-year low in 2011.

Oscar, quite frankly, needs to chill the fuck out. And by chill I do not mean throwing a glossy-eyed James Franco and a hyperactive Anne Hathaway at the podium. Quite the contrary: the changes to save Oscar must needs be structural, not cosmetic, to affect real change. I propose as one solid structural change that might save the Oscars that it is time to honor comedies and comedic performances in the Best Picture and Best Actor and Actress categories. Life, after all, is not all drama; it is mostly drama, but it is also the moments of levity. Why not honor those?

Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” is the last alleged comedy to win best Picture at the Academy Awards. And it wasn’t even a pure comedy at that; “Annie Hall” happened to be just as dramatic as it was comedic. Which leads me to the question: Why do the Academy Awards ignore comedies, anyway? What does Oscar have against a great comedic performance? A comedic role — the nuance, the timing — when played pitch-perfect is a wonder to behold. Anyone who thinks comedy doesn’t work the actor’s chops as well as drama ought to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2004’s “Along Came Polly.”

Melissa McCarthy just got a Best Supporting Actress nod for “Bridesmaids.” This is a step in the right direction. Insanely great comedic performances rarely get a chance to even get to this point of speculation. Perhaps it is time to create a Best Actor and Actress in a Comedy category, like they have at the Golden Globes (only far less corrupt a process), to make sure that it gets a fair shake come awards season. It would certainly youth up the Oscars, which, with all the gravity and all the gowns, is in dire peril of becoming a magnum of chloroform.

Comedy categories at the Oscars might sound a revolutionary act, but it was not until the Nagano Olympic Games in 1998 that even snowboarding became an actual Olympic sport. And at the time there were the usual overly conservative arguments that snowboarding was not a sport, it was a fad of the youth, that it would somehow “sully” the image of the Olympics. The Olympics have survived just fine, and a greater consideration of the comic in life by the Academy would go a long way in making the Oscars more relevant. This is our Nagano.

If there had been a Best Actor in a Comedy category back in 2007, Sasha Baron Cohen would almost definitely have won for “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” And who among us didn’t think that was not an Oscar-worthy performance? Perhaps not solid enough to overtake Forest Whitaker’s Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” — which won that year — but definitely Oscarworthy. Finally, Oscar has other biases, of course, and that is not unexpected of an institution that is eighty three years old. Oscar doesn’t like Sci-Fi, not as Best Picture, anyway (Sci-Fi as a genre does well in the special effects ghetto). And that’s ridiculous. “The Empire Strikes Back” should have won Best Picture in 1980. But don’t get me started on the lack of respect given to the sci-fi genre.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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