2023 Oscar Comedy Films

An Overview of the 12 2023 Oscar Comedy Films and a look back to 2022.
Comedy Films
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Everything Everywhere All at Once (4.5*)

The Banshees of Inisherin (4.5*)

Glass Onion (4*)

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (4*)

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (4*)

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (3.5*)

Tell It Like a Woman (3.5*)

The Sea Beast (3.5*)

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (3*)

Babylon (2*)

Turning Red (2*)

Triangle of Sadness (1.5*)

Comedy films are, admittedly, not my favorite genre.  And I also don’t get why some films are put in that category.  To me, a film might have some comic elements, but humor is a human characteristic which, usually, enhances the drama of a story but doesn’t stand on its own.  Pure comedies are, for me, a waste of time, although injecting something funny into a serious story is good story-telling.  But does that make it a “comedy”?  I don’t think so, but I don’t make the genre decisions – other folks do.  Honestly, though, I don’t think any of the twelve listed films in the genre this year properly belong there.  Anyway, let me give you my recommendations.

First, you can ignore four of them right from the getgo.  Triangle of Sadness (1.5*) is, quite literally, a piece of shit and is only comic if you find vomit and diarrhea funny.  Turning Red (2*) had a promising premise, about an Asian girl struggling with the emotions of her first period, and it had some great Pixar animation, but the story gets lost.  Similarly Babylon (2*) gets self-absorbed in its effort to tell the story of sound coming to Hollywood, and even Margot Robbie can’t rescue this movie from circling the drain.  And the last film of the year, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (3*) is just a fine British example of a movie we usually see on the Hallmark channel at Christmas time.  Nominated for costumes, there are some wonderful Christian Dior style dresses, effortless acting from Lesley Manville, but an implausible story designed to manipulate tears.

Three more are marginally recommended, but might interest some people.  The Sea Beast (3.5*) is an animated, family oriented feature, with colorful animation from Netflix Animation and a story that will entertain adults as well as children, but ends up not being memorably rich.  Tell It Like a Woman (3.5*) isn’t a feature length film but rather a collection of 6 live action and one animated short, all written, directed, and featuring women.  Difficult to review, because of its format, anyone interested in the female perspective, from around the world, will find it interesting. Finally, Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (3.5*) is a long, navel-gazing exercise in trying to capture dreams.  Built around the Buddhist notion of transitions (“Bardo”) it consists of 32 separate sequences which could be viewed in pretty much any order.  But if you start this film, you should probably expect to watch it twice to get enough out of it, and it’s nearly three hours long!

One of my favorite comedy films, and also the Best Picture Oscar Winner, was Everything Everywhere All at Once (4.5*).   One of the few movies to be considered “comedy” and not “drama”, it is because it is so wacky, exploring deep concepts like the multiverse and nihilism.  (There is also the famous hotdog fingers scene!)  Filmed on a small budget, they’ve done a remarkable job producing a funny film that will startle you in its heavy substance, treated lightly.

Another great “comedy” film is The Banshees of Inisherin (4.5*), although, once again, I don’t consider it a comedy when someone does self-harm to make a point.  But the movie stands out as great storytelling with multiple surprises as it argues that relationships must change to survive and, sometimes, end.

If that sounded a little heavy, it is.  But Glass Onion (4*) is a mystery in the Knives Out tradition and is just plain fun.  Yes there are murders, but the fun is in the superficial relationships between the business partners, trapped on an island living the rich life.  

I can also recommend two animated feature films with comic elements.  Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (4*) is rich in computer animation from Dreamworks.  Puss is faced with mortality issues as he discovers he is on his ninth life and decides to live it to its fullest.  It also plumbs depth from old nursery tales.  Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (4*) tells a heartwarming story of how relationships work, and how they end.  Not familiar with the YouTube craze of a few years ago, I was enthralled with the mix of animation and live action.  Both films were technically excellent while telling great stories.

The 2022 Oscar year had some good comedy films, or at least good films considered in that genre.  CODA (4.5*) was the surprise of the year (and the Best Picture winner), and had comic elements as part of a family learning how they have to make sacrifices to keep the family whole.  Worst Person in the World  (4*) had some terrific acting by Renate Reinsve of a millennial going through a “quarter-life crisis”.  Cruella (4*) had some downright comic elements and the chemistry between the two Emmas (Stone and Thompson) was wonderful.  I enjoyed Don’t Look Up (4*), but if you don’t believe in climate change, then you won’t appreciate the sarcasm.   And Licorice Pizza (3.5*), with a breakout performance from Alaina Haim, is about young people traversing the 70s (as I did) so it has to be funny – in places.  In the animated mode, Encanto (3.5*) was my favorite with a fun story, great graphics, and some good music (“We Don’t Talk About Bruno..”).

So, not all comedy films are funny, but there are many great movies in this category.

Everything Everywhere All at Once
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