This was a pretty good year for action and horror… comedy not so much. Honestly the blame for this one might sort of be on me, there were some promising comedies this year like The Night Before which I neglected to see, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that a lot of the mainstream comedies like Sisters and Ted 2 which seemed to underwhelm and kind of looked like a waste and there weren’t even many purely comedic indies to make up for it, so this is largely going to consist of borderline cases.
- Chi-Raq: Spike Lee has always kind of secretly been a comedy director but sometimes he’s more overt about it than others. With Chi-Raq he’s in full-on rip-roaring satire mode and is more than willing to break the common rules of respectability to get a good joke in. Sometimes he goes a little too far like in a scene involving a confederate flag enthused military figure, but for the most part this feels like some really righteous comedy.
- The Martian: When The Martian was nominated in the comedy category at the Golden Globes a lot of people thought it was a cynical ploy, and it very well might have been, but I actually think they have a fairly strong case. The movie makes a very deliberate decision to drive the screenplay in a jokey direction and put humor front and center and it knowingly lessens the tension and suspense by doing so. If The Big Short is a comedy then so is this.
- Mistress America: I generally hate indie comedies about hipsters living in Brooklyn, but this one worked for me for some reason. I think it has to do with the fact that all the hipster stuff is being seen through the eyes of a college student who has a slightly different perspective than the usual and it isn’t content to just rest on the laurels of being “relatable” to a tiny subset of the population. Also, the movie comes close to transforming into a full on screwball comedy in its third act and is really amusing when it does so.
- Tangerine: I’d be lying if I said that this movie really made me laugh all that much, it isn’t really the kind of comedy that’s going for belly laughs, but it is a movie that has a real wit and energy going for it. For a movie that’s trying really hard to make its audience empathize with its outsider characters it’s also very willing to show just how dysfunctional and crazy they can be. At times their lives can feel like something out of the Jerry Springer show, but the film never feels like its leering in and laughing at them so much as chuckling with them in a warm sort of way.
- Trainwreck: The best no-question 100% bona fide mainstream comedy of the year was probably Trainwreck, a film which merged the comedic talents of this generation’s most influential comedic filmmaker Judd Apatow with comedy it-girl Amy Schumer. The film is basically an extension of both Schumer’s wild party-girl persona and Apatow’s interest in deconstructing the romantic comedy and it offers quite a few laughs along the way.