Comedies are a tough sell when it comes to Oscar nods and boxoffice blockbusters often find success makes Oscar question their integrity. Oscar voters also tend to forget pictures released before the halfway point in the year. But “My Best Friend’s Wedding” still has a good shot at several serious noms, due to pedigree and recognition by the critics that this hit laffer was several cuts above the norm. The precendents here are of course “It Happened One Night” and “Annie Hall,” both of which were huge hits and major laugh fests. Somehow they managed to do what virtually all of the masterpiece screwball comedies from Hollywood’s Golden Age failed to accomplish; they tickled Oscar’s funny bone and got him to give up the gold.
The picture put one-time megastar Julia Roberts back in the winner’s circle after a string of dogs such as “Mary Reilly” and “I Love Trouble” and is a potent reminder of her star appeal and the fact that she’s a double Oscar nom, first as Supporting Actress for “Steel Magnolias” then as Best Actress for the megahit “Pretty Woman.” Her comedy chops were deftly displayed in a supporting role in Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You,” but this pic inexplicably failed to get Roberts or any of the cast or perennial Oscar guy The Woodman into the running last year.
Rupert Everett, costar of the Oscar-nommed “Madness of King George” got the reviews of a lifetime for his supporting role as Julia’s gay guy pal and looks a lock for a nom in this category. Add to that the four-time Oscar-nommed track record of composer James Newton Howard, the number of Oscar-contending pix (“Mask,” “Frances,” “Paper Moon,” “Shampoo” “Easy Rider”) that cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs has lensed without a single nom, plus the Oscar that screenwriter Ron Bass already has on the mantle courtesy of Barry Levinson’s “Rain Man,” and you’ve got a potent lineup capable of overcoming the entertainment value and success that Oscar usually sticks up his golden nose at.
Classic Oscar credentials: 3 (Roberts still serious star)
Cause celebre: 3 (Everett’s gay star turn a plus)
Vanity element: 2 (Studio gets chance to tout hitmaking)
The David vs Goliath syndrome: 2 (Comedy underdog)
The feel-good movie of the year factor: 8 (Roberts repents, Diaz gets hitched, Everett shines)
The unavoidable, inexorable buzz pic: 1 (Everett, again)
Idiot savants have more fun: 0
Timing is everything: 1 (Mid-year slightly better than 1st qtr.)
O.Q. total: 20