Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Above Average Awards: Comedy 2014

Each year, I give the same rant about the lack of recognition that is given to comedic films, and you are about to hear a condensed version of that rant YET AGAIN!

Of course, most critics harp on crummy comedies like Blended, Tammy, and Sex Tape, and they forget that many moviegoers go to the movies with intentions to laugh. Sure, there are times when I want to be blown away with drama or suspense, but, there are many times that I just want to laugh. The actors, actresses, and films below are being recognized by me because of their ability to make me roll with laughter.

Categorizing films and performances can be extremely tricky, as many comedies have dramatic undertones and most dramas have at least some comedic presence. So, my job is not an easy one! However, in order to draw some sort of dramatic/comedic line, here is what I use to categorize films:

1) Did the film "feel" like a comedy?

If yes, then I consider that film a comedy.

And that is all...

Best Actress
Each year, I have trouble filling the comedic actress category, but it would be sexist to exclude them. So, here we are... I have two...
#2 - Melissa McCarthy
(St. Vincent)
Although the quality of Melissa McCarthy's recent films can certainly be argued against, she remains one of the funniest performers alive, in my opinion. Sure, you might get sick of her, but she ALWAYS gives it her all. In St. Vincent, McCarthy did a great job of connecting on an emotional level. In fact, I almost included her performance in the dramatic category, but her performance was so different from the others that made the dramatic list, moving her back to comedy. Surprisingly, McCarthy has managed to make my best actress list 3 out of my 4 years of blogging. Only one other person has ever made my list three times (and he will make it four, in just a few scrolls down). So, kudos to her, even if you hate her!

#1 - Jane Fonda
(This is Where I Leave You)
Jane Fonda's boobs may have been at the forefront of her comedy, in This is Where I Leave You, but she truly gave a hilariously appropriate performance. Honestly, most of this film's performances were spot on! But, Fonda, as the kooky new widow, really stole the female side of the show from two hilarious women, Kathryn Hahn and Tina Fey. Although the comedic actress field is often weak, in my mind, there is always someone like Jane Fonda there to save the day!

Best Actor
So many actors never have their comedic work fully realized. I mean, if you aren't Bill Murray or Jonah Hill, you are pretty much screwed, as far as being recognized by the big-wigs. I'm stoked to have the chance to share some of my favorite comedic performances with you, many of which went undetected by Oscar, in 2014...

Honorable Mention: Zach Braff (Wish I Was Here), Rohan Chand (Bad Words), James Corden (Begin Again), Bill Hader (The Skelton Twins), Channing Tatum (22 Jump Street)

#6 - Dave Franco
It has taken a little while for Dave Franco to impress me, as I didn't really care for him in his first couple of films. But, Neighbors brought out the best in him and truly gave him a chance to shine in a hilarious role. Hopefully, Franco will continue to pick them well, and, as long as he continues to hang around with his brother's counterparts, he should be alright!

#5 - Ralph Fiennes
(The Grand Budapest Hotel)

You have to respect Ralph Fiennes and what he was able to accomplish with his performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel. If you haven't seen The Grand Budapest, I hope that you will take the time to bask in the performance of Fiennes and the entire ensemble. Whether or not you enjoy Wes Anderson, there is no doubt that his actors give him their all!
#4 - Bill Murray/Jaeden Lieberher
(St. Vincent)
The Above Average Awards have been a great testament to my love for great child actors, and Jaeden Lieberher was the kid who really brought it in 2014. However, his humor and storyline would have been insignificant without the great performance of  St. Vincent himself, Mr. Bill Murray. These two were absolutely great for each other, and, if you watch St. Vincent, you are sure to agree!

#3 - Ice Cube
(22 Jump Street)
In 22 Jump Street, Ice Cube's character was really allowed to shine, much thanks to the hilarity of Jonah Hill. There is no doubt that the "situation" involving Mr. Cube's daughter and Hill's character created a few of the most memorable scenes of 2014, and, while much of this success is attributable to great writing, Ice Cube did a great job of doing his thing. It certainly kept me laughing!

#2 - Jonah Hill
(22 Jump Street)
In 2012, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum shared my top honor for a comedic actor for their work in 21 Jump Street. Regardless of how high, I expected the two of them to end up on this list, again, for 22 Jump Street. Unfortunately, Tatum's role and performance in 22 Jump just didn't quite impress me as much, and he did not make the cut. However, Hill remains at the top of the game and continues to be one of my favorite actors. This year marks the fourth straight appearance in the Above Average Awards, after making the list in drama, in 2011, for Moneyball, and in comedy, in 2012 and 2013, for 21 Jump and This Is the End, respectively. Kudos to Jonah Hill for continuing to wow me. Hopefully, we will see him on the 2015 list, as well!

#1 - Adam Driver
(This is Where I Leave You)
Adam Driver has quickly become one of my favorite actors, and that goes for both his loud comedy and his sporadically dramatic moments. Throughout This is Where I Leave You, Driver was hilarious, as he is in every film that he touches. However, in a moment shared with Jason Bateman's main character, Driver showed a quick flash of emotion that was so real that I almost burst into tears during its 10 second span! It was insane! Of course, that drama belongs in the dramatic category, but his comedy is what I believe makes his emotion so impactful. This is Where I Leave You may not be the best comedy of 2015, but it is one worth checking out, if only for the great performances. Kudos to Driver for making me like him, as I hope continues to be the case. And, kudos to This is Where I Leave You for creating real, funny characters for us to fall in love with!

Best Film
There is no doubt in my mind that 2014 was one of the strongest comedic years, in recent memory. In fact, comedy beat the crap out of drama, in 2014 (or at least that's what I think). So, here are a few of my favorites. Be sure to note the honorable mentions and check each of them out, as well!

Honorable Mention: Neighbors, This is Where I Leave You, Wish I Was Here
#4 - St. Vincent
I've yet to truly understand why St. Vincent made me so emotional, but, if there was one 2014 film that came close to winning Tanner Jones's "Toy Story 3 Award for Tear Jerking," it was St. Vincent. And, because of the emotion that the film brought on, I came very close to placing this film in the dramatic category. Nevertheless, here it is in the comedic category, due to the large amount of laughter that accented that drama so very well. With great performances throughout, St. Vincent is sure to impress almost anybody (particularly if you love child actors... like me!).

#3 - The Grand Budapest Hotel

While I can't boast a great knowledge of Wes Anderson's work, I will say that I have never been a fan of anything of his that I have had the chance to view. I've never hated his films, but they just didn't click with me... until The Grand Budapest Hotel! This film may be one of the most artsy, weirdo flicks of 2014, but something about it just works. If you are looking for a hilariously quirky film, The Grand Budapest is just for you. Kudos to Wes Anderson for making a film that I like! Maybe I should take the time to check out the remainder of his work...
#2 - 22 Jump Street
Some sequels do an adequate job of living up to their predecessors, but some, like 22 Jump Street, grab the sequel bull by the horns and show it who is boss! While there have been a number of successful sequels, I don't know that any other has truly embraced sequeldom as well as 22 Jump Street. Kudos to the cast and the creators for giving me something to laugh at and be proud of, as a fan of R-rated, comedic humor. In a normal year, 22 Jump Street would take the crown with ease, but 2014 is far from normal...
#1 - The LEGO Movie
The LEGO Movie is the most amazing film of 2014 (comedy or drama), without a doubt! If I had a dollar for every adult to whom I have attempted to sell this film, I would be going to Paris or something! Although the film was a commercial success, there are so many folks who have yet to see this hilarious, clever, touching animated film. It is ridiculous! I will not stop until ALL have seen The LEGO Movie! The clever nature of the film just blew my mind as I watched and continues to impress me with every viewing. Kudos to the creative minds behind The LEGO for creating the BEST FILM OF 2014. PERIOD! (Screw you, Academy!)

So... That is all from the comedic world in 2014! Be sure to check out The Above Average Awards: Drama 2014, which I will publish in the next week or two. And, don't forget...


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