Matt Damon in The Martian

Studios Submitting Dramas as Comedies Is a “Punk Move”

Again, it all comes down to exposure and reputation. If The Martian wins a Golden Globe, it doesn’t matter that it was in the wrong category. Fox will be able to plaster the fact that it’s a Golden Globe winner all over TV ads for the movie when it hits Blu-Ray and DVD, and plenty more people who didn’t catch it in theaters will go out of their way to see it just because of that. Every studio just wants to count the dollars that will roll in from getting a nomination, and they don’t care how.

Some comedy filmmakers aren’t happy about this. Back in October when there were rumblings of The Martian and some other questionable movies going for a comedy Golden Globe, comedy director Judd Apatow spoke out against this kind of move by studios on Twitter: “Trying to dominate the comedy category when you are really a drama afraid of dramatic competition is a punk move.”

The tweet was in response to another tweet about David O. Russell’s Joy also being submitted as a comedy, and as of now accepted by the HFPA as one. But in that specific case, no one has seen Joy yet, so it’s hard to say whether or not that film really does fit into the comedy category. Though if it’s anything like American Hustle, it’ll have sparse dark comedy among the drama to qualify it for the category.

What Should Qualify as a Real Comedy?

Paul Feig added to the argument today by saying, “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.” That makes plenty of sense, but sometimes the line between drama and comedy just can’t be clearly drawn. A movie like 50/50 (nominated in the comedy category) likely didn’t just set out to make people laugh, but it did have an equal blend of hilarious comedy and powerful drama. But a movie like The Martian, where the laughs are secondary to the drama, doesn’t really seem to be comparable.

It’s not as if this is the first time that this has happened with the Golden Globes. Movies like Hugo, Inside Llewyn Davis, My Week with Marilyn and Pride & Prejudice have all been nominated for the comedy category, and that’s just in the past 10 years. Sometimes it’s hard to classify certain movies as straight-up drama when they have comedic elements, but that’s all the more reason to reconsider how this category is approached.

Battling with Musicals for No Good Reason

And let’s not forget that comedies also have to contend with plenty of movies which have been nominated simply because they’re musicals. After all, that’s the name of the category, so one just has to be included, right? But why should a musical like Les Miserables (certainly worthy of a drama nomination) or Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (not worthy of any nomination) be competing against only comedies? It doesn’t make sense beyond the HFPA’s penchant for puckering up to big Hollywood names.

In the end, I think this just shows that the Golden Globes need an overhaul by just doing away with splitting the categories for films. Or if they’re going to split the categories, they need to start avoiding all the political garbage that comes with it, where studios are just trying to sell their movies to an audience that hasn’t seen them yet. But since the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is just one big gladhanding dog and pony show, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

The bigger problem is that comedies have always been seen to be inferior to dramas in entertainment, even though many would argue that comedy can be much harder to pull off effectively. But that’s a conversation for another day.

What do you think of The Martian being classified as a comedy? How do you feel about the comedy/musical category?

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