UPDATE: The Martian won Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes on Sunday night.
EARLIER: Here’s a question for you: How many times did you laugh during The Martian? Five times, maybe? Six?
Far more than you probably did in Room or Steve Jobs and probably right around as many times as you laughed in last year’s dark theatrical romp Birdman. But that, my friends, is enough to get you considered in the Best Comedy or Musical category at the Golden Globes.
Yes, once again the Hollywood Foreign Press — with Fox’s tacit approval — has chosen to give a dramatic film with humorous moments the designation of a comedy. The move puts Ridley Scott’s space adventure, which has now earned $200 million at the box office, in company with other dubious ‘comedy’ choices of the recent past, such as Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, and even the 2005 Keira Knightley-starring Pride and Prejudice.
The upcoming David O. Russell film, Joy, has also been submitted in the comedy category — though it still needs to be screened and rubber-stamped by the HFPA’s eligibility committee. But considering Russell’s previous two outings — The Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle — were nominated as comedies, it’s not an outrageous or surprising distinction.
The comedy designation will offer both The Martian (and Joy, most likely) the ability to compete against lighter fare, including the Amy Schumer-starrer Trainwreck or the Melissa McCarthy summer hit Spy. It will also allow the Matt Damon-crowd pleaser to escape the stiffer dramatic competition, which will likely include heavier dramas such as Spotlight, Carol, and Steve Jobs. And for the Globes, it provides better odds that their star-studded affair stays that way, especially if Damon is nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy.
That’s all good news for The Martian. It’s bad news for the pure comedies that are looking for a little love, especially since they are consistently ignored by the Academy when it comes time to vote. Spy director Paul Feig tweeted his displeasure with the news this morning: “A comedy’s a film whose #1 goal is to make people laugh. If that wasn’t the filmmakers’ top goal, it’s not a comedy.”
It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed in the past, ironically by Adam McKay, of Anchorman and Step Brothers fame, who directed this season’s blistering drama about the 2008 financial crisis The Big Short. Back in 2013, he told EW, “Why have the category if you’re not going to use it? The good news is none of us got into comedy expecting awards, so I don’t really care that much… but we were kind of laughing [when the nominations were announced]. They finally give us a category, and now they’ve just pushed us out of it.”
Others think the shift to comedy for The Martian lessens the merit of the film, a sentiment that may not play out, as we saw with Russell’s past two movies or with Wolf of Wall Street. Those three went on to nab Best Picture nominations anyway. Also to note, even though Birdman competed as a Comedy last season and went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, it lost at the Golden Globes to Grand Budapest Hotel. At least in one sense, a true comedy got the last laugh.