Oscar must be missing his funny bone. Unless you count Shakespeare in Love or Chicago, there really hasn’t been a bona fide comedy that’s won Best Picture since Annie Hall, 34 years ago. Yesterday when the Academy announced this year’s nominees, it tellingly avoided giving comedy blockbuster Bridesmaids that 10th Best Picture slot in favor of a Supporting Actress nod for Melissa McCarthy and one for Original Screenplay, while the touching, poignant, critically adored 50/50 was left completely shut out. Actually, 50/50‘s producer-star Seth Rogen predicted just such a snub when his film’s Oscar potential was first discussed back in September. “I know for a fact that some people are appalled by the movie,” Rogen told EW.
50/50 wasn’t just a laugh-fest — though it was pretty damn funny — but a deeply personal story of a twentysomething named Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, never better), his unexpected cancer diagnosis and struggle to adapt to a new reality of chemo treatments, hair loss, and, as the title suggests, a 50/50 shot of survival. Not to mention an overwhelmed, cheating girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), and a smothering mother (Anjelica Huston) who’s determined to make her son’s ordeal all about her. If 50/50 felt especially real, that’s because writer Will Reiser (a colleague of Rogen’s on Da Ali G Show) based the film in part on his own experience being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 25.
“You see movies where people who have cancer never talk about it,” says Rogen. “But we found it to be the exact opposite. It was all we talked about it when Will had it. And sometimes we talked about it very seriously, and other times we’d be at a bar and he’d be thinking of ways it could help his single friends get laid.” Indeed, Gordon-Levitt’s Adam does succeed at scoring sympathy sex, part of the film’s more comedic take on life with cancer that Rogen acknowledges might have rubbed some Academy voters the wrong way. “I think it must be people who have very, very personal connections to the subject matter and just can’t emotionally disconnect from their own experience,” Rogen says. “I respect that. But what we found for the most part is that people like to laugh at tragedy. It makes them feel better.”
50/50 was nominated for Best Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes, and Reiser won the National Board of Review’s award for Best Original Screenplay. But the film was completely snubbed at the Oscars, where Reiser was thought to have a good shot at landing a Best Original Screenplay nod. It shouldn’t really surprise, as the Academy’s previous recognition of cancer-themed movies has steered toward the weepy, à la Terms of Endearment. “Often with films about cancer I think, ‘Wow, what a creative endeavor! You made something sad seem sad for two hours. Congratulations!’” Rogen says. “If you’re able to make that seem anything but completely miserable, I think creatively that’s a real challenge.”
Were you also disappointed that 50/50 didn’t receive any Oscar love?