Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The Martian is a comedy according to The Golden Globes

It’s not the first genre that would spring to mind. Is it?

Tue, Nov 17, 2015, 14:18


This is not the first time the Golden Globes have allowed film studios to get away with category trickery. Two years ago, Wolf of Wall Street was successfully entered into the comedy race rather than the drama derby. When My Week With Marilyn snuck in a few t triggered at least one satirical comment on the evening. But the inclusion of The Martian in the Best Comedy or Musical category is a particularly egregious case of creative flexibility. There are, in Ridley Scott’s science fiction movie, a few scenes where Matt Damon works to the sound of disco tracks. Maybe Twentieth Century Fox, the film’s producers, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the awards, have decided that the picture is a musical. Makes about as much sense. Just to clarify that some sort of vetting does go on, the HFPA did turn down an application to have Trumbo — the biopic of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo — accepted as a comedy/musical and shuffled it off to the more competitive drama section. I have seen both films and can confirm that Trumbo is at least as funny as The Martian (though it’s obviously not a comedy either).

What’s this all about? Well, commendably enough, the Globes divide their best picture and ┬ámain acting prized between drama and comedy or musical. It’s actually a good thing to have comedy (and the occasional musical) promoted at awards ceremonies. The prize has, in the last few years, gone to such under-gonged films such as The Kids are All Right and The Hangover. A cunning plan has, however, begun to emerge. Distributors know that they have a better chance in the less busy comedy section and, each year, a few will chance their arm with unlikely prospects. American Hustle, hardly a comedy, actually won the thing two years ago. How can we define such things? Well, Paul Feig, nominated for Bridesmaids, put it quite succinctly when he heard the news about The Martian. “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,” he tweeted. You could pick at that a little, but it seems a fairly reasonable definition. Mr Feig’s own Spy will be in the running for comedy this year.

The reliable Glenn Whipp at the LA Times reported an interesting exchange on the subject at the recent Governors awards: “Told that his movie would be competing in the Globes’ comedy/musical category, [Ridley Scott] paused, took in the news and asked, ‘You mean we’re up against movies like Ted?’ Well, yes, The Martian might be in facing Ted 2. Probably more likely Trainwreck or Feig’s Spy. Scott responded with the only appropriate response when the subject is the Golden Globes: He laughed out loud and raised his hands, palms up, making the universal ‘what are you going to do?’ gesture.”