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If there was an Oscar for most culturally influential comedy, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner would win it at a walk. Their 1984 classic This Is Spinal Tap invented the mockumentary genre that has virtually become the sine qua non for cutting-edge comedy. (The best-picture Oscar for 1984 went to Amadeus, incidentally, with The Killing Fields, Places in the Heart, A Passage to India and A Soldier’s Story the other nominees—all very worthy, some better than others, but dated and of their time, unlike the perennially razor-sharp Spinal Tap.)

Since then Christopher Guest has directed plenty of superior comedies with his repertory ensemble, including Waiting for Guffman, about small-town amateur actors, an entertaining and sweet film about a dog-breed competition, Best in Show, and a disappointing one about folk music called A Mighty Wind.
Now they have skewered the neurotic and ego-driven world of the Academy Awards with For Your Consideration, the tale of some have-been actors who find themselves in line for the gold statuette. The title is the stately, fastidiously reticent phrase that movie companies use for the full-page ads they take out in trade papers such as Variety, begging the Academy’s 6 000 voters to remember their movie. The film has great gags (an achievement never to be taken lightly) and some genuinely subtle scenes, but also disappointingly blunt comedy and geezerish, behind-the-curve material that looks and sounds elderly compared with ultra-hip TV celeb satires such as The Larry Sanders Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage or, indeed, The Simpsons, Harry Shearer’s regular pay cheque.

Shearer and Catherine O’Hara play Victor and Marilyn, actors in a hokey wartime drama called Home for Purim, about ageing Jewish parents longing for their errant daughter to come home for a religious holiday. Co-writer Eugene Levy plays Victor’s abysmal agent and Ricky Gervais has a kind of homage-cameo (he’s paying homage to Tap; they’re paying homage to Gervais’s comic creation David Brent) playing a wheedling exec. Suddenly an influential blogger says Marilyn is Oscar material—and everyone gets very overexcited.

For Your Consideration is a solid laugh, but at the expense of basic credibility. Nothing the Shearer/Guest/Levy team does could be anything less than funny, but the power chords of comedy genius are not thundering out and the dials are only up to about six or seven.—Â

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