The Martian’s perplexing Golden Globe nomination


The Golden Globes announced its nominees this morning, and as usual, critics/bloggers/agents are buzzing about how their favorite performer/client was snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Although to be fair, in trying to pick just five performances in 2015 for each of these award categories, some amazing movies, shows, and actors will inevitably be overlooked.

But rather than griping about who was snubbed here and who was shafted there, allow me to talk about a favorite 2015 film of mine that actually did receive a nomination. The Martian, the excellent Ridley Scott film based on an equally excellent book by Andy Weir, received a nomination for Best Comedy or Musical.

Hold up! Comedy?!? So this epic sci-fi action drama somehow gets lumped into the same category as Amy Schumer’s uproariously funny Trainwreck? How exactly does the HFPA consider The Martian to be a comedy? Yes, it has some funny moments and Matt Damon, who is also up for a Golden Globe for The Martian (also for comedic performance), has a few nice zingers. But the reality is that there is little pure comedy in a film that talks about the very real stakes of being abandoned on Mars and trying to survive the harsh realities of outer space.

This goes back to Hollywood’s (and in this case the Foreign Press Association’s) basic misunderstanding of the science fiction genre as a whole. It’s as if the story isn’t grounded in reality, it can’t possibly be dramatic. Or if the movie doesn’t have an A-List actor sporting an accent or a debilitating disease, then it will get tossed into the comedy category.

To be fair, the HFPA did nail one of their nominations by giving Mad Max: Fury Road a surprise nomination for Best Drama. But because Matt Damon tossed off a couple of one liners, suddenly the reality of being stranded on a remote planet is no longer dramatic enough. Yes, I laughed a few times during The Martian. And in the book, Weir has a penchant for dialogue that makes the reader smile, if not outright laugh. But ultimately, the point of a comedy is to make people laugh. And the point of a drama is to, well, dramatize. So was there a more dramatic story this year than watching a lone astronaut try to survive against the harsh environment of a planet that is not intended to support human life? I don’t think so.

I’m happy that The Martian ultimately did get a nomination, since it is easily one of my top movies of 2015. But the fact remains that categorizing it as a comedy is patently incorrect. The Golden Globes appear to operate as if they only have two broad categories to place films in. There’s drama, which is reserved for artistically important “thinking man’s” fare that makes you question important societal issues or watch a method actor completely inhabit a role. And then there’s everything else, the catchall for any film that doesn’t fit into this narrowly defined dramatic bucket.

One could argue that the categorization doesn’t matter and that The Martian might fare better going up against lighter films like a John Cena sex scene or Melissa McCarthy as a CIA spy. But if I were a voter, I would pick Trainwreck for best comedy without a second thought, because that’s exactly what it is, a comedy. The Martian will end up getting the shaft, and that is really a shame. Even if The Martian would have had a tougher time beating the pedigree of Dicaprio and Iñarritu’s The Revenant, at least it would have been competing in the right class.

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