“Top Five” is a comeback of sorts for Chris Rock, a celebrated stand-up comic and TV host whose filmic ventures have ranged from successful (the “Madagascar” animated franchise) to not so much (“Pootie Tang,” “I Think I Love My Wife,” the critically drubbed “Grown Ups” films). But with “Top Five,” which he wrote, directed, and stars in, he has gotten the best reviews of his film career. So why were he and the film snubbed at the Golden Globes?
The film has scored 81 on MetaCritic and 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Manohla Dargis (New York Times) calls it “fast and blisteringly funny … a romantic comedy that’s also an extended riff on art, identity, authenticity and what it means to be a black entertainer.” Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) adds that it’s Rock’s “best movie by a mile … authentically hilarious.”
Yet more plaudits: Scott Foundas (Variety) writes that it’s “a candid, fresh, ferociously funny snapshot of life in the celebrity bubble.” And according to Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly), “[Rock] not only makes a case for why he should be a bona fide movie star, he also proves he’s a writer-director to be reckoned with.”
It’s not every day that a mainstream comedy wins over critics the way prestige films usually do, so it should have been well at home at the Golden Globes in the Musical/Comedy categories, like past nominees “Bridesmaids” (2011) and “Borat” (2006), and surprise Best Picture-winner “The Hangover” (2009), which were similarly raunchy. However, “Top Five” was snubbed from Best Musical/Comedy Picture and Best Musical/Comedy Actor.
Part of the reason may have been the glut of prestige movies that filled the category this year, including the auteurist “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which have art-house appeal despite their often absurd tones and stories.
Then there’s surprise nominee “Pride,” which flew under the radar but is filled with social and historical import: it’s about an alliance between gay activists and striking miners while both groups were persecuted under British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“St. Vincent” is a broad comedy but it has lots of pathos involving illness and divorce (the Globes love drama, even in their comedies). And “Into the Woods” is an all-star movie musical: the Golden Globes nominate those even if no one else likes them (consider: “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Nine,” “Burlesque,” etc.).
So perhaps “Top Five” was just barely crowded out of the Globes race. But can it make a comeback at the Oscars? It may be unlikely in top categories like Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, but crowd-pleasing comedies sometimes show up in the screenplay races, like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “About a Boy,” “Borat,” and “Bridesmaids.”
The academy might be especially inclined to welcome Chris Rock to the party since he hosted the Oscars once before, in February 2005, and he recently told the Wrap that while he wasn’t asked to host this year by Oscarcast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, he would have said yes if he had been.
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