Saturday, January 31, 2004

Movie Reviewers and Comedies

I have the vague and unsubstantiated impression that movie reviewers aren't often impressed with comedies, at least not as often as they are impressed by serious drama. And it seems to be conventional wisdom that Oscars are more likely to go to serious dramatic roles than to comedic roles.

If this is true, I wonder how much it is caused by the facts that 1) movie reviewers usually watch movies alone, as part of their job, and 2) the fact that comedies are funnier when watched with a group of friends or family. On the latter point, an article in the American Scientist points out that "people are about 30 times more likely to laugh when they are in a social situation than when they are alone." I've noticed this myself: I'm much more likely to laugh at a comedy when I'm watching it with other people, as opposed to the (rare) occasions when I happen to see part of a comedy while flipping channels alone.

Now I honestly don't know how professional movie reviewers watch movies. Perhaps they gather in a group of friends and colleagues whenever they view a film. If so, my theory is shot. But my guess would be that they often watch movies alone -- either sitting by themselves in a theater where everyone else is a stranger, or watching a video or DVD in their offices. If that's true, maybe this causes them to habitually underestimate the humor in comedic movies.


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