Why Adam Sandler deserves more credit

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Graphic by Jamie Mere

Uncut Gems was without a doubt one of the best movies of 2019.

The film centers around New York City jeweler Harold Ratner, a gambling addict who always seems to be putting himself in the worst of situations. To describe this film as anything less than two straight hours of cardiac arrest would be a massive understatement.

The Safdie Brothers have officially perfected, and possibly invented, the art of anxiety films. Their follow-up to the critically-acclaimed movie Good Time, Uncut Gems, was expected to draw major Oscar buzz.

Behind Adam Sandler’s outlandish and uncharacteristic performance, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the entire cast and crew went home with little gold men.

But to my revulsion, Uncut Gems received not one nomination at this year’s Academy Awards. I was baffled: how could such a universally praised film receive such little recognition from credible voters?

I scanned the ballet over and over, scrutinizing the omission of a film so obviously worthy of global appreciation.

But as I continued to read through the list, through all the names of respectable and accomplished actors and directors I quickly realized something.

Respect. That’s what was lacking. This was not about quality of content. This was a display of prejudice and bias against the tenuous resume of Adam Sandler. How could the Academy possibly reward the same actor who exposed the world to Grown Ups 2?

Sandler could give the performance of his life, which he quite likely did, yet will continue to receive a lack of appropriate recognition. Not to take anything away from the commendable performance by Joker’s Joaquin Phoenix, but Sandler’s offbeat portrayal of Ratner was more than deserving of the Best Actor award at this year’s Oscars.

His reputation will continue to haunt him, regardless of the quality of his performances. There is a stigma to the name, one I’d like to call The Sandler Stigma.

The purpose of this article is to break that stigma. I’d like to clarify why Adam Sandler is such an important comic figure not only to the entertainment industry, but also for the public audience.

Before commending Sandler for his more highly regarded roles,      I’d firstly like to examine those movies that created the stigma and explain why they might not be so atrocious.

It is true that Sandler has indeed made some pretty terrible movies, films such as Jack and Jill, The Cobbler and Pixels.

I won’t even bother glossing over these works of insulting, blabbering trash because I think we can all agree these movies are pretty damn awful.

But there are a hefty portion of Sandler films that fall somewhere in the spectrum of respectability —      movies that have been designated with a foul reputation that I believe deserve reconsideration.

It’s true that comedies struggle to catch the eye of movie critics who tend to focus their attention on more dignified cinematic films. Unfortunately for Sandler, 80 per cent of his top 40 ranked films according to Rotten Tomatoes are comedies, lowering his relative likelihood of bringing home any hardware.

These middle-tier films (50 First Dates, Billy Madison, Big Daddy, The Waterboy and Mr. Deeds) have been classified with a bad rap, adding depth to The Sandler Stigma. Their average critic rating is a staggering 36 per cent. Now I’m not saying these films deserve a higher rating, I just want to shine some light on why I believe these movies are unfairly perceived.

Sure, they may all be filled with potty humour and jokes about having small penises but since when have we as a society been too uptight for a good poop joke? To this day, nothing makes me laugh harder than the look on someone’s face when they’ve finally accepted that they won’t be making it to the washroom.

It may not be original, stylized comedy but it’s a format that never seems to get old. It’s a traditional, established style of humour. Some see it as lazy and unoriginal, l but I see it as sticking to your roots, paying homage to those who came and created before you.

I have no expectation of the pretentious film critics to reevaluate these movies. This is not an innovative style. All I hope for is that you, the reader, will reconsider your thinking with all of this in mind.

Now I’d like to look at the films the critics agreed were worth recognition. Movies that proved Adam Sandler as a multifaceted, well-rounded actor with surprising range. The Meyerowitz Stories, Punch Drunk Love, Funny People and Reign Over Me are all highly regarded films amongst critics.

These are some of his top-tier films: the best content Sandler has created, in the eyes of the critics. These films (should) add credibility to his resume, proving that Sandler is more than a slapstick comic who’s simply phoning in his performances for the profits.

His 2018 standup special Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh is one of my all-time favourite compilations of comedy within the last century. Yes, there’s a three-minute song about accidentally sixty-nining in space with Rob Schneider — but just wait until he starts singing about Chris Farley. Tears. A lot of them.

Maybe I am biased. I grew up with Adam Sandler movies. These films remind me of my youth, flooding me with the nostalgia of innocence and naiveté. Of course I’m going to back the actor who’s been making me laugh my entire life.

But I do believe Sandler is an important figure in the world of entertainment. Who hasn’t done the Happy Gilmore swing at the driving range? The “Back to School” song from Billy Madison continues to remain a cult tradition. God knows I sing it just about every Monday in the same patented voice Sandler does it in. He’s created his own heritage, a culture of gags and humour.

Whether it’s through his idiotic comedy or his somber, heartbreaking performances, Adam Sandler is well deserving of respect from both fans and critics. His resume should not hinder the status of his current success.

We should view each film subjectively, analysing it for what it is rather than who he has been. It’s time we end the stigma against Adam Sandler.

Let Uncut Gems be his final Oscar snub and let’s work together to abolish The Sandler Stigma.


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