Funny Person Melissa McCarthy Possibly Directing

It looked for a while like Melissa McCarthy, like so many funny actresses with big breakout films before, was going to fade out of the spotlight after Bridesmaids and into the comfortable banality of CBS comedy forever. Thankfully, that has not been the case, and she has a big spring with two comedy features coming out (with several more vehicles in the works)—the recently-released Identity Thief with Jason Bateman and The Heat, a buddy-cop comedy where she kicks ass alongside Sandra Bullock. (The trailer for the latter is intriguing and generated a few laughs from the theater, but I’ll be damned if everybody else sitting there didn’t think it was going to be another Miss Congeniality movie.)

Anyway, this has been a good week for news about funny women getting opportunities behind the camera, with Rashida Jones and Will McCormack signing with Fox to write a number of projects. Now, it looks as though McCarthy is in talks to star and co-direct a raunchy New Line Cinema project called Tammy alongside her husband, Ben Falcone. After Beth McCarthy, Rob Reiner and Tate Taylor were tied to direct the project at various points, Melissa McCarthy and Falcone may be taking a stab at the road trip comedy.

Tammy centers on a woman who, after a string of bad luck (laid off from a fast food job, cheating husband), hits the road for a trip to Mount Rushmore alongside her foul-mouthed, hard-drinking grandmother, a part that may go to Shirley MacLaine. This would be McCarthy’s second road-trip-related project in a short span, and there’s only so many directions you can really take that in, but a McCarthy-MacLaine R-rated buddy comedy would be pretty fun. 

Personal Faves: Maya Rudolph Hosts ‘SNL’

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Joe Reid writes about Maya Rudolph’s return to Studio 8H as host of Saturday Night Live.

Since the beginning and the "Not Ready for Primetime Players," Saturday Night Live has always boasted something of a familial atmosphere. Even when—as has been documented often—those families were fucked-up and quarrelsome. The eras of SNL close ranks around themselves in our memory, though, and even when the reality resists it, we write these narratives anyway. This is why I will never not be fascinated by what goes on during the goodbye hugs at the end of each episode. Such a great peek into family dynamics. This sense of family on SNL has been especially strong on the last several years. The overlapping Tina Fey/Seth Meyers eras have been characterized by constant opportunities for crossover—on 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon—and a sense that graduated cast members are welcome back at Studio 8H any time.

And yet even by those standards, Maya Rudolph’s hosting gig last February felt especially familial. In the nearly five years since Rudolph ended her time as a cast member, she’d been back several times, but this was her first gig as host, and the sense of rallying around her for her big moment was palpable. Despite the fact that she was already starring in a sitcom on NBC, there was no reference made to Up All Night (the same would be true of Christina Applegate’s hosting gig in October, helping to cement Up All Night as one of the great "is that still on?" sitcoms of our time). It was the previous summer’s Bridesmaids that provided the boost in stature for Rudolph to host herself. Bridesmaids was a big influencer on SNL last season. Melissa McCarthy had been on to host in October, and the success of the film was probably that last push that Kristen Wiig needed to declare this her last season on the show. Which meant, in addition to Rudolph experiencing an old home week, there was also a sense that she was helping to usher Wiig into that great Beyond-SNL phase of her career, a sense that was only galvanized by Amy Poehler’s extended cameo.

Everybody figured Poehler would be back for a reprise of Bronx Beat, her and Rudolph’s popular recurring sketch. Betty and Jodi fell right back into their world-weary rhythms (it feels like Hoarders was a phenomenon created specifically to be gabbed about on "Bronx Beat"), and it only felt appropriate that their guests would be the sound guys played by Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake (one of the more popular recurring hosts of the Fey/Meyers era, keeping us on trend). 

NEXT: "The 2011-12 season had turned into Senior Week at high school."

Both Poehler and Timberlake would show up again during the show: Timberlake as Bon Iver in an "At Home with Beyonce and Jay-Z" sketch (though he would later TOTALLY puss out by carrying an "I <3 Bon Iver" sign during the goodbyes), and Poehler in her triumphant return to Weekend Update, and specifically to "REALLY??!! With Seth and Amy." That Beyonce and Jay-Z sketch was one of those treasure boxes filled with random fantastic celebrity impersonations, specifically Taran Killam’s Brad Pitt and Nasim Pedrad’s Nicki Minaj (which tragically was never paired with Kristen Wiig’s Bjork before Wiig left the show). But it was the return of "REALLY??!!" that sold the homecoming theme better than anything else. Seth and Amy had such great chemistry together, and his happiness at having her back for a week was practically radiating through the TV.

With Wiig and Samberg on their way out the door (and Jason Sudekis rumored to be as well), the 2011-12 season had turned into Senior Week at high school, with sketches seeming loopier and more likely to devolve into a pile of giggles. Wanton character-breaking like that can often test an audience’s patience with the show (see: the entire Jimmy Fallon-Horatio Sanz era), but for viewers who knew what was up, the season felt like watching fantastically funny old friends have a well-deserved goof-off day. (That day lasted 22 episodes, but whatever.) Thus the appeal of something like "Super Showcase," which consisted entirely of Wiig and Rudolph using weird voices to make them (and Bill Hader) laugh. The fact that Vanessa Bayer—new, still-trying-to-prove-herself Vanessa Bayer—was the only one to hold it together only strengthened the "Senior Skip Day" impression. 

NEXT: "The entire episode was consistently strong, a near-impossible feat for SNL."

The entire episode was consistently strong, a near-impossible feat for SNL. At 90 minutes worth of crammed-together sketches, perfection is an unattainable goal. (It also means that even the worst episodes can be redeemed by one great sketch, so it works both ways.) But Rudolph’s episode was remarkably steady: the cold open about racist "Lin-sanity" is so much more dated than anybody ever thought possible (it’s only been ten months but feels like ten years) but it also nailed that moment in time. The "what would it take for African Americans to not support Obama?" sketch was better than what usually gets tossed out at 12:45 AM. "What’s Up With That?" is never going to be for everybody, but it manages to get me every time, if for no other reason than the gleeful look on Sudekis’s face while he’s doing the running man. But, fine, say that’s the one "bad" sketch of the night. It’s more than redeemed by something like Maya Angelou’s prank show, if only for the part where Angelou assures Dr. Cornel West that her goof on him was not an act of malice but an act of whimsy. 

But really, what are we even talking about? Why did I just spend all that time talking about the rest of the episode when the show attained perfection via 30 short seconds in the second-last sketch? Not even the full "Obama Show" sketch. Just those perfectly calibrated Cosby Show opening credits. My favorite moments from those credits, in order: 1) Maya as Michelle Obama as Clare Huxtable, wagging her index finger at the camera; 2) Maya as Michelle Obama as Clare Huxtable dancing; 3) Jason Sudekis as Joe Biden as Theo Huxtable dancing; 4) Fred Armisen as Barack Obama as Cliff Huxtable doing the thing with the fingers; 5) Fred Armisen as Barack Obama as Cliff Huxtable dancing around Agent Conners. In the months since, I have watched those credits roughly seven thousand times. They don’t lose their luster. I only regret that the tag at the end of the sketch, where Poehler shows up as Hillary Clinton to lip-sych Ray Charles in parody of the greatest moment in Cosby Show history, isn’t available online due to the scourge of our time: music rights. MUSIC RIIIIIIIGHTS!!! [shakes fist]

It was only fitting, really, that this particular episode of Saturday Night Live was highlighted by a parody of one of television’s great families. Here’s hoping there’s one more of these homecoming episodes before Meyers, Hader, and company all move on. When does Kristen Wiig’s next movie open, anyway?

Follow Joe Reid on Twitter.  

‘Bridesmaids”s Chris O’Dowd Says Women Writers Aren’t Given Enough Opportunities In Hollywood

Be still my heart: Chris O’Dowd, who plays the adorable Irish cop in Bridesmaids and a starring role in all my personal fantasies, is a feminist.

O’Dowd spoke with the London Guardian‘s Observer magazine this weekend and said this about Lena Dunham, the writer/star of HBO’s Girls:

The bottom line is that female writers aren’t being given enough opportunities by male producers. The strength of Girls is that it’s not just a female voice, it’s a really cool female voice. There’s no show like that about men, no piece of great modern writing.

O’Dowd appeared on Girls‘ first season (rocking an American accent). He’s smart enough to see he owes his career in America to projects by women — Girls and the Kristen Wiig/Annie Mumulo-penned Bridesmaids — to hitch his wagon just so.

Sigh. Yet another reason to swoon …

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Leslye Headland Talks About Her Brutally Hilarious ‘Bachelorette’

Bachelorette is perhaps one of the raunchiest and brutally funny films of the year. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan as a trio of friends begrudgingly acting as bridesmaids in their high school friend’s wedding, the three women spend a manic 90 minutes boozing, drugging, and attempting to relive the best years of their lives while trying not to acknowledge that they’ve become stagnant and broken in their late twenties. But it’s all from the brain of writer-director Leslye Headland, who adapted the screenplay from her stage play, that this disastrous, debauched night has its origins. Rather than going for the typical, Hangover-style treatment of a bachelorette party, Bachelorette takes a hard look at the gluttonous cultures of weddings and femininity. I spoke to Headland about adapting her play for film, it religious roots, and its feminist overtones.

I read the play last night, and I wanted to talk about its origins. It was part of a series of plays you’ve been working on?
The Seven Deadly Plays. Bachelorette was the second play I’d ever written. I was doing them in order, the order they appear in the Divine Comedy: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. What I like to do when I’m writing one of the sin plays is to think about the old idea of the sin. What’s the thing we feel comfortable judging and pointing our fingers at, and what’s the sort of sneaky, new idea that people haven’t really tuned into yet? With Bachelorette, I thought of these really thin, beautiful women, who if you saw walking down the street you’d think, “These girls have their lives together and it makes me feel bad about myself.” I wanted to examine how they are gluttonous through drug addiction, materialism, sexual voraciousness, eating disorders—literally take, take, take, consume, consume, consume. Then there is their friend, Becky, who is moving into adulthood. She’s the one who appears to be the gluttonous one, who you might point at and say she has a problem because she’s overweight. You might feel better about yourself and move on. But she’s the one who’s getting out of the prison that these characters have created for themselves.

What was the response to the play?
We did it at Second Stage in 2010, and the Q&As were like riots. There were these old subscribers who freaked out; they were really angry at me and the play. At first, I was like, “Whoa, why is this upsetting people so much?” In a way, that’s good; you want your work to get a reaction, to have people either think it’s great or think it’s the worst. But I was not prepared for how divisive it was going to be. Luckily, I’ve had enough time to expect that with the film. I don’t read reviews, but I’m telling you now: they’re going to be divisive. There will be the people who love it and really care about it and get the characters and will really champion it, and there will be people who just think it’s trash because that’s exactly what happened with the play. But what’s also happened with the piece, both as a play and as a film, is that the audience it’s meant for always finds it. Ultimately, it will touch people and become their movie, not my movie, the same way that movies have meant something to me because of the first time I saw them.

The film is quite different from the play, especially in tone. You’re much more brutal to the characters in the play. Even Becky comes across as very manipulative, whereas in the film she’s much more sweet and neutral.
We could have made In the Company of Men, or Tape, or Hurlyburly. I came into the project thinking, “I’m going to make one movie, and I’m going to make the movie I want to make.” Fingers crossed, I’ll get to do more, but most female filmmakers don’t even last three movies. What I decided was the strongest thing about the play was the characters, so I asked myself, what movie would these women want to be in? What movie would they fit in? And once I did that, I was like, “What plot are we going to use?” Because the play doesn’t have one. Look, I’m really proud of it but…I even saw it in DC recently—a great production of it—and there’s some stuff that does not work. So I wanted to figure out how I could improve upon it. But I also didn’t want to soften it up.

You have to be more broad on stage, and you don’t have enough time to examine the subtlety of things.
It’s so true, yeah.

I think the film has some small touches that really made those characters more fully realized. I read the play after I’d seen the movie, so I recognized familiar lines and moments that didn’t have the same build-up as in the film.
I think that also that’s another good way of putting it. I had a broader canvas to actually do some stuff with with these characters and—

And put them into action.
Yes, and improve upon it. As you can tell from reading the play, the dress is such a missed opportunity. Literally, I watch it and I’m think, “So did they fix the dress? Did we make a decision on that?” You know, I don’t think that makes it a bad play; I just don’t think it was ever answered. But it’s the beating heart of the movie. It’s like, in every scene, something terrible is going to happen to the dress. This is your ticking clock; you’ve got to get it done by this point. But in the play it’s like, “I don’t know, maybe…New York City fixes it?”

A lot of the reaction I saw to the trailer questioned why there has to be another female-driven comedy about a wedding. Was that a convenient event to center the film around, or was there something you wanted to explore about wedding culture?
I find some of the reactions to the film really fascinating. What always comes up is how they’re such bad friends for ripping the dress. No one says, “It’s so interesting that you had these women destroying a symbol of femininity that seems a bit outdated!” Everyone’s like, "Oh my God, I can’t believe you made them ruin the dress.” I really grossly misunderstood how people care about wedding dresses. I thought everyone would get it, that this was a big metaphor for what was going on, this whole culture that’s being sold to women, and how silly it is. I mean, nobody looks good in white, and there’s this poor girl squeezing herself into this idea of femininity and goodness, and she doesn’t need to because she’s already that way. Weddings seem so absurd to me. It’s just not at all what I want; I’ve never wanted it, I don’t understand how is this the defining moment of your life. I could understand the birth of a child, but spending all that money? What do you think the average that an American white female spends on a wedding? A semester of college or whatever, depending on where you go. One day for that much money. So to set it there just made the most sense to me.

Not to put myself on the same level, but most of the filmmakers that I really love have subverted genres. Those are the guys—and I say “guys” because most of them are men unfortunately—that I lean toward. Here’s Tarantino’s war film, what’s going to happen? How does Kubrick make a horror movie? I wanted to make a wedding movie that wasn’t like the typical wedding movie. If you think of wedding films from the last ten or fifteen years, everybody knows exactly what’s happening at the end of the movie. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them. You can totally say, “That’s a clever line or that’s a clever obstacle or that’s a great performance,” but at the end, they get together, there’s usually a speech about why they love each other or why they’re such good friends, and then it’s over. With my characters, I just wanted them to do the right thing. I didn’t want them to talk about it; I didn’t want them to apologize. I wanted the audience to have to sit through what owning up to your mistakes is like, because that’s what the characters have to sit through.

I think that works in the film really well. In the play, on the other hand, Regan [Kirsten Dunst’s character] is completely humiliated and broken by the end.
She had to be completely destroyed. She has to be destroyed in the play because each play has a company man—a character that has been so consumed by the sin that they only see in the last five minutes of the play how lost they are. With film, however, you don’t really want to see someone destroyed. No one wants to be sitting there wondering about the esoteric thoughts that I have about being a woman and drug addiction.

Well, you’re a little easy on them in the movie, but at the same time they’re learning from their mistakes without completely changing. But I think that works better in the film because it still has that uncertainty to it. They’re still friends, they’re still fucked up, but they’re at least aware of it a little bit more.
Right, there’s not this huge change but there’s definitely not the punishing vibe of the play. I think as an artist, whether it’s what you do or what I do, when you start looking back you’re fucked. It slows you down. And it’s a little hard to sit through the play now. I’ll probably feel the same way about the movie some day where I can see the things I did wrong and think of all of the things I have learned. But the play was born out of such pain and fear about what was going to happen to me, what was going to happen to all of us. It’s sort of why I called it Bachelorette. There were a couple of people that encouraged me to change the title because the wedding genre, and then of course when Bridesmaids opened we were four weeks away from shooting. But the reason I called it that was because I was like, “We’re fucked. This is the only word we have for these people.” Like, they don’t even have a name. Think of a movie title like Swingers. That’s such a great title, and those guys are trying to be cool but they’e not, and then there’s the swing dancing and it all makes sense. But I couldn’t for the life of me think of one good moniker for these women and who they are that wasn’t punitive. You know what I mean, like Sluts or Bitches, and who would see a movie called that? All we’ve got is this feminized version of this male idea, that’s, by the way, a great thing if you’re a man. If you’re not married and you’re a straight guy, the world is your fuckin’ oyster, but if you’re single and you’re a woman and you’ve got something going for you, it’s just so sad you’re not married yet. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But what do I know? I’m sad and alone.

Speaking of Bridesmaids, your movie is obviously being compared to that based entirely on the concept. And there’s this idea that Bridesmaids and Girls have cornered the market when it comes to female-driven comedies. Have you encountered that and was that a roadblock when it came to producing and publicizing Bachelorette?
mean, I do know what you’re saying, and it’s nothing about Kristin [Wiig] or Lena [Dunham], but I think there is this tinge of like, “Okay we got it, you’re funny, relax.” It’s like, don’t get too excited, ladies.

“Women” sort of turned into a trend that was going to eventually fade away.
Right, like, we’ve got a female auteur already, she’s over here. Whereas like you look at the revolution that happened with film in the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls era or what happened in 1999, and you don’t see everyone going, “Ugh, I don’t get it.” Instead of thinking of comparing women to each other or a female auteur’s work to another female writer’s work, I would like to encourage people to maybe just embrace this for something that’s even bigger than just the “trend of women.” This actually might be what everyone keeps bitching about. Instead of going, “Well you don’t fit into…, we’ve already got that…,” have an open mind. As a huge film nerd, all I ever hear is how they don’t make good movies anymore. That is the conversation I have after having sex with everybody. It’s like, I’m wiping come off my stomach and I have to hear about how nobody makes good movies anymore. Jesus Christ, dude, maybe it’s happening right now, and if you weren’t so worried about cornering the market on it, you could let people sort of flourish in their creative spaces. I don’t know. If they don’t, who cares? That’s a really great note to end on.

Actress and Writer Lauren Miller Gets Raunchy in ‘For a Good Time, Call…’

For a Good Time, Call… is one of the first of what promises to be an avalanche of new female comedies that studios picked up on the strength of last summer’s tidal wave of Bridesmaids. When I saw it a couple of weeks ago, I was prepared for it to be a kind of boring, copycat piece. What I watched, instead, was a very funny girl-buddy movie about Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller), and her friend Katie (Ari Graynor), who, derailed from their chosen career tracks by a bad economy, go into business together as phone sex operators. The jokes are, to put it mildly, unprintable, but I found myself laughing at them partially because they were so unabashedly raunchy. Bridesmaids looks quite prissy beside this pair.

Miller wrote the script with her college friend Katie Anne Naylon, basing their characters on themselves, although with key variations. When they could not find a studio willing to take them on, they ended up making the movie themselves. They found an acclaimed director of short films, Jamie Travis, through an article in The New York Times. Funded by Miller’s brother and assisted by a host of friends and acquaintances, including Graynor, Seth Rogen (Miller’s husband), and Kevin Smith, they shot it in 17 days a year ago. At Sundance, the audience adored it.

I loved the raunch of the movie, which felt native to a female voice in a way I hadn’t seen before. Was there some other kind of inspiration for the movie, or was this just how you talk?
Katie and I, we met in college. We were a random rooming match. We were different people, you know, and she made fun of me because I asked where the recycling was. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t become best friends, and that’s what we started with when we sat down to write the script. We wanted to make a movie that we wanted to see, that showed characters we really relate to, who spoke in a way that we spoke, and had the kind of relationship that we had.  And we started with that, and then the sort of backdrop of that emotional story was the phone sex, which Katie did in college; she ran her own phone sex line out of her dorm room our freshman year in college. That raunch that you’re talking about, it was really an organic thing. It was not like we said, let’s make a movie that is dirty and funny and that would be what [the movie] was about.

That put it in an uncomfortable place of having the structure and tone of commercial movie but the raunch making it sort of ineligible to become a studio movie. Did you ever feel that way about the development process?
It was frustrating, because we tried to get it out there in a pre-Bridesmaids time, and it had been a while since an R-rated female comedy had done well, and studios generally, you know, they have a very specific model. And we were met with resistance, and that is what ultimately led us to make it on our own. But in a way, thank God that happened, because we were able to say what we wanted to say, and we were able to talk the way girls really talk. Had we made it through a studio, I don’t know if that would have been retained, if that would have stayed in there. We probably would have had to take a lot of real raunchy things that girls say to each other out and replace them with things that were a bit broad.

You’ve seen Bridesmaids, obviously?
Right, of course.

It seemed to me like your movie went a little farther [with the raunch] than theirs did.
Thanks. That’s a compliment! I mean, I love Bridesmaids so much. Obviously the content of our movie certainly requires to push something a little bit further because that sexy talk is in there; it’s not subtext. So obviously the content is going to be around sex. We certainly had that as an opportunity to see where we could push that.You know, I talk about a lot of dirty things with my friends and we are really graphic and do talk about things running down our legs at a certain time. That’s how we talk with each other. Unfortunately for my dad, it’s been happening for years that we’ve talked like that. We just wanted to put that up on the screen.

Often, people get scolded for doing this in the culture. I’m thinking of Lena Dunham, a little bit, and Girls.
There is still, and I wish this was not the case, but there is still a double standard, and people are uncomfortable with women talking a certain way and when they say certain things. And we’re just trying to do our parts to say look, we’re humans, we’re sexual, these are things we talk about. I’m not embarrassed to say that. That is certainly something I want to portray in the films that I write and the ones that Katie and I write together.

It’s definitely a part of female—

I mean, the issue of sex in general, in my own opinion it’s confusing to me why people are so afraid to talk about it. In theory it’s something that we all do if we’re lucky enough at this point. I don’t see why it should be shied away from. It could be beautiful and loving and a connection between two people.

And it could also be hilariously funny.
Yeah, why not have fun with it. Body parts flopping around—that’s funny!

I thought it was interesting, and in some quarters you will get a lot of praise for the character of Sean (Mark Webber), a client who Katie ends up with feelings for. It’s an interesting portrayal of the fact that there could be warmth in phone sex. It’s both really funny and flat sometimes, but it’s possible for someone to have an actual connection in it.
Yeah, Katie, who ran her own phone sex line, that is not something that happened to her, but it happens. I’m not necessarily one to comment on real life phone sex lines, but people are just looking for a connection in every aspect of their lives, and if that’s calling someone on the phone, I’m not gonna say that’s wrong. It’s not my place.

It was just a very sensitive portrait, I found. How did he develop over time?
Yeah, it is a scary question. Who is this guy who’s going to call the phone sex line and have the operator become his girlfriend? We were so luck in that Mark Webber himself is so talented and brought such a sensitivity and realism to Sean. And it was clear in the connection that Ari and Sean had; it was such great chemistry. And so, in the rehearsal process, where Sean got to the place where he was in the movie, that’s where he got there. He feels very three-dimensional to me. Why couldn’t there be a guy like that? He’s shy. That’s such a simple, nice moment between the two of them, that they both admit they’re shy and that’s why they hide behind the phone.

It seems like the environment of the production was one where there were no straight guys around, is that fair?
I mean, no, we had a full crew… all shapes and sizes. It is very female-heavy, and Gaymie… oh my god, Jamie [Travis, the director] is gay. [Laughs] Ari [Graynor] is next to me, and laughing. Oh god that is so funny, although clearly we are gonna have to call him that now. [It takes a while for everyone to compose themselves.]But Jamie, being a gay man, had this love for women… One of the things he talked about when he was pitching himself to direct the movie was that he worried that a straight man would over-sexualize the movie, and a woman would over-sentimentalize it. So the whole thing was a celebration of women! But our editor is a straight man, and our DP is a straight man.

Which maybe is a bit unusual for Hollywood? You tell me?
I mean, sure, there are groups of people who work together, and guys who work together, but you know what? I can’t deny that Hollywood has been, in the past at least, has been male-dominated. But Amy Pascal [of Sony] is the longest-running studio head. And women are there, but especially now; there is an incredible movement of women making movies, writing movies right now.

There’s some kind of movement there in the culture right now.
It’s clearly in the water in L.A. They’re always making jokes about the water in L.A.? I guess it’s in there.

2011 Oscar Nominations Go More or Less as Expected

With the speed of a lumbering engine powered by critical hubris and self-importance, the 84th Academy Awards nominations dropped into our newsfeeds this morning with predictable result. Did you know that people liked The Descendants this year, The Artist as well? Brad Pitt and George Clooney scored the requisite Hollywood heartthrob acting votes (they will lose to the no-name French guy who doesn’t talk), while Meryl Streep got her due for sticking around. Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese were also nominated, just like they always are. It’s another Oscar ceremony, y’all!

But not to sound cynical or anything. It’s somewhat surprising, though definitely nice, to see Terrence Malick get official recognition for The Tree of Life, even if there’s almost no way the hype-happy Academy will give their highest awards to a movie with more than a handful of inscrutably artsy scenes. Equally surprising on the other end is the inclusion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a movie that no one seemed to like but not for any inscrutably artsy reasons, simply because it’s kind of schmaltzy and not very good. Why not give the spot to something innocuous like Bridesmaids or even the last Harry Potter movie, if they’re trying to go commercial? Madness, it’s all madness. (I won’t even get started on Albert Brooks’ snub for Drive.) You can look at the important nominees below, or go to the Academy’s website for the full list.

Best Picture
The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Actor in a Leading Role
Demian Bichir – A Better Life, George Clooney – The Descendants, Jean Dujardian – The Artist, Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brad Pitt – Moneyball

Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis – The Help, Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady, Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

Michael Hazanavicius – The Artist, Alexander Payne – The Descendants, Martin Scorsese – Hugo, Woody Allen – Midnight in Paris, Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branaugh – My Week with Marilyn, Jonah Hill – Moneyball, Nick Nolte – Warrior, Christopher Plummer – Beginners, Max von Sydow – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Actress in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo – The Artist, Jessica Chastain – The Help, Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer – Albert Nobbs, Octavia Spencer – The Help

Ten Great Comedic Performances That Deserved Oscar Nominations

Steven Spielberg, Terrence Malick and Marin Scorsese all made lauded films in 2011, but their Oscar buzz has been stolen by a brave performer that delivered the year’s most tear-jerking sink defecation moment. Unless something goes terribly wrong — always a possibility when it comes to the Oscars — Melissa McCarthy is a lock to earn a Best Supporting Actress nod for her work in Bridesmaids, and Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo also have a reasonable shot at Best Original Screenplay. To which we say “great, and go ahead and give Wiig a Best Actress nomination while you’re at it, Academy.” Both actresses did commanding work that gave Bridesmaids a solid, emotional core to stack hilarious profane jokes on, and helped turn the movie from a fun summer comedy into a cultural phenomenon.

McCarthy’s nomination would not just be a victory for funny ladies (a subtext valiantly explored throughout 2011 by our nation’s think-piece authors), it would be a victory for all cinematic funny people. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has historically ignored comedic performances, even from big names in hit movies, even when it’s a performance that balances laugh getting with making a character’s journey feel real and hard-earned, no matter how silly. (Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and everyone in Broadcast News being laudable outliers.) Everyone knows that winning the Best Actor statue is an easy feat for a Serious Dramatic Actor — just emote while in the vicinity of a Nazi. The ten giants in the following list had much harder jobs than any of those “serious actor” wusses could have stepped to. They each made us howl with laughter for nearly an entire movie while still going through a character arc, delivering a performance with earned emotion and all that other  thespian stuff, and for that they deserve a list-form tribute.

Steve Martin, The Jerk  (1979)
It goes without saying that the Oscars are stupid and no one should take them seriously, and not just because they gave Best Picture to Crash (honestly, we’ve never seen it. Maybe it’s better than its reputation?) but because they’ve never nominated Steve Martin. Not even once. That’s a massive body of work to ignore, and for our money he’s never been better than his first lead role the 1979 idiot opus The Jerk. Martin fully commits to Navin R. Johnson’s childlike innocence and zeal to discover the wider world, and it’s genuinely heartbreaking when that wider world begins to corrupt him. And really, he deserved the nod for “he hates these cans” alone.

Laura Dern, Citizen Ruth (1996)
As currently seen in the HBO series Enlightened, Laura Dern is a uniquely egoless actress, always willing to look as terrible as possible (in all senses) if it will lead to comedy or a greater truth. And she was never braver than in this underrecognized Alexander Payne blacker-than-coal comedy, an absolutely brutal satire of all sides of the abortion debate. As the fume-huffing, oft-pregnant Ruth Stoops, Dern captures the cadence and spirit of her character, a woman worn-down by life but not as dumb as expected, and absolutely nailed one of the greatest “oh shit, she really said that” lines in cinema history. 

Roddy McDowall, Lord Love a Duck (1966)
Proof positive that Generation X didn’t create the meta-movie, George Axelrod’s scalding satire of 1950s and ’60s teenager films goes to absurd length to tweak its subject materials (something about beach parties must have really stuck in Axelrod’s craw). But Duck  is kept from dissolving into pure mania by Roddy McDowall’s arch yet deeply sad performance as Alan Musgrave, a love-struck loser who do anything, including a bizarrely drawn-out murder attempt, to make Tuesday Weld happy, even as he knows his love will never be reciprocated.

Bill Murray, Groundhog Day (1993)
There’s no shortage of genius Bill Murray performances ignored by the academy, and choosing just one was a Herculian task. But really, it had to be this. Though Phil Connors’s surroundings, appearance and day never change. Murray subtly plays his character’s confusion, growing frustration and eventual transformation of a selfish man that learns to care about others. He also goes big for the most hilarious suicide montage in cinema history.

Myrna Loy, The Thin Man (1934)
As one-half of married detective couple Nick and Nora Charles, Loy set a standard for lightning-fast witty repertoire that has rarely been matched — though outspoken fans Quentin Tarantino and Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino certainly gave it a try. Loy helped define booze-soaked elegance throughout the Thin Man film series, but she also managed the much trickier balance of making her character’s love for her partner seem as exciting as the white-knuckle cases they were trying to crack. Loy was never nominated for her work, but her famous fans and industry peers campaigned for her to get an honorary life-time achievement award in 1991.

Reese Witherspoon, Election, 1999
The greatest role Reese Witherspoon has ever had (on some level even she must know this) sharpens her natural perkiness and poise into a lethal weapon that lays low all in its path, especially poor Matthew Broderick, the only one to see the quiet menace that pulses just beneath Witherspoon’s sunny demeanor. And the scene where she raises her hand to answer every single question is just too damn honest.

Eddie Murphy, Bowfinger, 1999
The last funny Eddie Murphy movie deserves some recognition, doesn’t it? While we’re not sure how he was able to pull deep enough within himself to play a paranoid, deranged movie star, the academy should have given him a Best Supporting Actor nom for his work in Steve Martin and Frank Oz’s witty parody about the movie business, which is notable for being one of the few “inside Hollywood” movies that is actually funny instead of toxically myopic. Though it’s sad that Murphy apparently absorbed none of Bowfinger’s messages about vanity destroying talent, Murphy tears into Kit Ramsey’s paranoid delusions about aliens and the KKK with a gusto that still serves as a reminder of what this man is capable of when he actually gives a shit.

Steve Carell, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, 2005
We’re not saying that Carell’s depiction of Andy Spitzer’s not-too-late maturation from man child to adult should have beaten Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote turn, but it’s a crime the best comedy of the first decade of this century didn’t even get some token recognition. While Hoffman’s weight loss was impressive, we’re not sure if even he would have been brave enough to submit to that chest-waxing scene. But beneath all the hilariously boorish behavior, Carell delivered a performance that was as sensitive and well-observed as any “real” acting, and had a lot to say about finding your place in an often terrifying modern world of modern dudedom.

Groucho Marx, Duck Soup, 1933
Groucho Marx, often considered the father of cinematic comedy, was never nominated for an Oscar, instead receiving an honorary award in 1974. If this depresses you, cheer up by watching Duck Soup, a film so famously stuffed with mischief, double entrees, and finely tuned physical comedy that it famously convinced Woody Allen’s character in Hannah and Her Sisters not to kill himself. Groucho and his brother Harpo’s “mirror scene” is one of the most iconic sequences of early Hollywood, and has been paid tribute countless times by everyone from Bugs Bunny to the X-Files, but it still wasn’t enough to earn him some damn respect in his time. 

‘Friends With Kids’ Is Like ‘Bridesmaids’ but With Kids

If you loved Bridesmaids but wanted to see more scenes of screaming women giving birth, I’ve got good news: a huge chunk of the Bridesmaids cast, including Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, and Chris O’Dowd, have reteamed — this time with Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt — for a comedy about parenthood and sex. 

Here’s the premise: sometimes adults want kids without the trouble of a relationship. That’s why two friends, played by Scott and Westfeldt, agree to make a baby and share the responsibilities while keeping an eye on other romantic prospects? Will hilarity ensue? Oh, I do think hilarity will ensue. 

What’s a little productive sex amongst friends that results in an adorable baby? What, are we supposed to expect some sort of conflict when the pair of friends show interest in other hotties like Ed Burns and Megan Fox? Pffft, I don’t believe it! This seems all simple and normal to me! In fact, I would be incredibly surprised if Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt’s characters wake up one morning and realize that they are meant for each other on account of their strong friendship and the fact that they are the parents of a child!

Friends With Money Benefits Kids opens March 9.

Afternoon Links: Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel Get Engaged, Martha Stewart Signs Off

● Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are engaged, and all of our childhood dreams are ruined. If we don’t at least get a new album out of this, I am going to have to take down those posters. [Us]

● Amber Rose claims that "homewrecker" Kim Kardashian was sending pics to Rose’s then boyfriend, Kanye West, while she was still dating Reggie Bush. Game on! [NYDN]

● Nick Cannon was hospitalized for kidney problems while vacationing in Aspen with Mariah Carey and dem babies. "Please pray for Nick as he’s fighting to recover from a mild kidney failure. #mybraveman," Carey tweeted. [People]

● Ludacris is opening a new resturant, serving chicken and beer, in the Atlanta airport. [Vulture]

● Ratings waning, Martha Stewart’s The Martha Stewart Show will sign-off for good at the end of April. [NYP]