If you saw Ridley Scott’s The Martian, you know the movie has its ha-ha moments, or, at least, ones that leave the audience feeling a little gleeful. Aw, Matt Damon made potatoes! Wow, funny Iron Man reference! Surprise, Damon’s still alive!
But The Martian’s overarching tone — it’s a survival story about an abandoned scientist in complete solitude millions upon millions of miles from home — is mostly sobersided. The Martian, most will agree, is not really a comedy.
This past awards season, The Martian passed itself off as a comedy anyway, and it worked. The film won Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes on January 10, beating out flicks like Melissa McCarthy’s Spy and Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck.
It must be acknowledged that Jennifer Lawrence’s Joy and Steve Carell’s/Ryan Gosling’s/Christian Bale’s The Big Short were also nominated in this category — both of which fall into the same “dramedy” sphere as The Martian. And this isn’t new, either: Birdman was nominated in 2015 for the same category, as was Silver Linings Playbook in 2013, among some others.
When The Martian snuck by with a huge comedy win this year, not everyone was amped about it. Judd Apatow, director and producer of Trainwreck, made some half-truthful jokes about the film’s win while presenting at the 2016 Critics’ Choice Awards on January 17, a week after the Golden Globes: “I’m like a nerd on the schoolyard, and you stole my milk money. I mean, can we just pick whatever category we want to be in?”
Now, the answer is no — not if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has something to say about it.
The Golden Globes’s rule book was updated and republished in April, and some of the new modifications to the drama/comedy distinction seem like the HFPA is side-eyeing The Martian for nabbing the biggest award for comedies:
Motion pictures shall be entered in the category that best matches the overall tone and content of the motion picture. Thus, for example, dramas with comedic overtones should be entered as dramas.
We’ll have to wait and see just how closely dramedies will play by the rules next year. It’s much too soon to speculate who those contenders will be, but for now, mark down January 8 on your calendars. Next year’s Golden Globes will be here soon enough.