As we enter awards season, audiences want to strip away artifice, tear down walls, and watch powerful dramas, rife with depth and emotion.
At least that's what studios seem to think.
When weather gets colder, so do the films. But comedy doesn't have to die just because red carpets are around the corner. So before you're fully surrounded by sadness and decay, consider going out -- or staying in -- for a laugh. Joonbug has compiled the top 5 comedies of 2011, and all are available for viewing right now.
5) Submarine (available on DVD)
It might not have received as much press as its big studio brethren, but that doesn't mean "Submarine" didn't impress. Critics and indie fans raved about the performance of newcomer Craig Roberts, who was nominated for a British Independent Film Award, along with Sally Hawkins ("Happy-Go-Lucky") and first-time writer/director Richard Ayoade. Roberts plays Oliver Tate, a 15 year old boy with two all-consuming tasks: to save his parents' marriage, and to lose his virginity by the end of the school year. The first he tries to accomplish by writing erotic love notes on behalf of his father to his mum; the other goal is...well, we'll let you live through the pubescent angst yourself. The dark comedy champions characters without movie star looks, and vividly recalls the power and powerlessness of adolescence. Watching Oliver, it's easy to remember that you probably knew someone like him -- or worse, that someone might have been you.
4) 50/50 (in theaters)
Contrary to a bevy of awards-season films, cancer does not equal drama. At least, not solely drama, as Seth Rogen and Jason Gordon-Levitt depict a pair of goofballs facing a disease that lacks a sense of humor. When Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is diagnosed with cancer, it's up to Kyle (Rogen) to help him keep perspective -- and perspective often requires a few dirty jokes. While the story might be formulaic, the sincerity and wit of writer Will Reiser (who based the script on his own battles with cancer) helps Rogen and JGL find authenticity.
3) Terri (available on DVD)
Sundance attendees might have flocked to screenings of "Terri" for John C. Riley, but they left the theater to tell friends about Jacob Wysocki. The Jonah Hill lookalike made his film debut on the picture, which tracks a parent-less teenager through high school. Throw in Wysocki's gargantuan size, and the setting becomes a haven for downright cruelty -- as the movie begins, he's given up to the point of wearing pajamas to school, to at least add some comfort to his agony. The humor, smart and poignant throughout, finds its peak in the relationship between Wysocki and Reilly, who plays the vice principal assigned to deal with troubled youth in the semi-rural school district. Like "Juno," what could be a high school drama finds the funny in the small stuff; the everyday hardships of adolescence are elevated to tragedy in the teenage sect. Director Azazel Jacobs (who was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance) had a good script to work with, but his casting of Reilly and Wysocki created one of the year's best films.
2) Attack the Block (available on DVD)
The only film on this list to attract a huge Comicon following, "Attack the Block" is part teen comedy and part geek adventure flick. And no wonder, it's produced by the same British team that brought "Shaun of the Dead" across the pond. The film follows a pack of street-tough teens around South London as they witness the world's worst invasion of gorilla-like aliens with glow-in-the-dark teeth. If that sounds corny, it's corny in the best of ways: the debut of writer/director Joe Cornish is brazenly original and impishly silly, creating an adventure in which Nerf guns fire alongside shotguns. The sci-fi element of the film is tempered by an earnest look at South London's hoodlum culture, and creating a team that at the same time seems fun-loving and dangerous, wide-eyed yet witty.
1) Bridesmaids (available on DVD)
It's time for the adults in the room to take back this list. The same could be said for the theme of "Bridesmaids," the summer smash that proved women over 30 aren't only capable of laughs, love, and box office success: they can take a dump in the middle of the street, too. Kristen Wiig's foray into studio scriptwriting serves equal doses of feel-good gal pals and down 'n' dirty slapstick, as she plays a maid of honor desperately trying to keep herself relevant in her best friend's wedding. Annie (Wiig) is willing to do anything to make her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) happy in the lead-up to her big day, even if it's partying with her new socialite bestie (Rose Byrne) and new circle of confidants (Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Melissa McCarthy). As the pressure grows, so do the gaffes, leading up to a bridal shower blowup of epic proportions. The pleasure of this movie is seeing the confidence director Paul Feig and producer Judd Apatow place in their stars, in the form of breathing room, that's akin to feminism. Unlike the majority of Hollywood comediennes, the actresses are given ample time to let gags develop, whether through Wiig's deadpan improv or broad comedy revolving around...indigestion. Yes, let's say indigestion. The DVD is worth a look for Melissa McCarthy's performance alone, and that's not even counting what's sure to be gold in the form of deleted scenes.
Honorable Mention: The Muppets (in theaters November 23)
The new Muppet movie couldn't make the list, since no one has seen it. But that won't stop us from writing about what is sure to be one of the funnest, if not funniest, films of the year. In a classic "they're tearing down our theater to drill for oil" plot device, our furry felt friends must reunite for The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever. To do it, they'll need to reassemble the old gang, who is spread far and wide: Miss Piggy works the plus-size pages at Vogue Paris, Fozzie works the Reno lounge circuit with "the Moopets," and Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management. Starring Jason Segal and Amy Adams alongside a cameo list too long to name, Thanksgiving weekend should make being green a bit easier.