Per 20th Century Fox’s submission to the eligibility committee of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association—which holds the annual Golden Globe Awards—the HFPA is deciding whether “The Martian” (yes), “Trumbo” (no) and “Joy” (still unseen and TBD) are comedies for the purposes of this year’s voting. (Nominations will be announced Dec. 10; the ceremony, hosted by Ricky Gervais, will be held Jan. 10.)
Though “Joy” is still an unknown quantity, the “Martian” move caused consternation among critics and Oscar wags—understandably, since the film, while it has moments of humor, is and was marketed as a grand sci-fi adventure epic. (In a series of tweets, former Grantland writer and awards expert Mark Harris called the HFPA submission “an embarrassment,” “an unforced error,” and “a f–k up.”)
The theory goes that some films stand a better chance of winning in the Comedy/Musical field than in Drama—the same principle applies to lead actors competing in supporting—and the HFPA, often with an eye to nabbing stars for the red carpet and primetime telecast, is usually happy to oblige. (The Academy isn’t innocent on this question, either, but that’s a list for another day.)
Is it worth it to go for comedy to gain a Golden Globe winner designation? Maybe not if it costs you necessary gravitas. As for the slotting of talent in supporting over lead, the Globes have rejected both Rooney Mara (“Carol”) and Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”) as supporting actresses. They will vie for Best Actress.
Here, we rank the six worst cases of Golden Globes category fraud from the past decade. Disagree? Argue below.
6. “My Week with Marilyn” Picture (Comedy/Musical) — 2012
Harvey Weinstein tacked on musical numbers with Michelle Williams’ Marilyn Monroe to make “My Week with Marilyn” a musical entry—arguably ruining the movie in the process. The strategy worked: not only did the film nab a Best Picture (Comedy/Musical) nomination, as well as one for Kenneth Branagh in supporting actor, but Williams went on to win the lead actress prize for her performance.
5. “Downton Abbey,” Miniseries or TV Movie — 2011
The popular upstairs/downstairs melodrama, set in Edwardian Britain, had already aired the second season in its entirety on the UK’s ITV before the first was nominated for the Miniseries/TV Movie Golden Globe—which it went on to win, a week after Season 2 premiered in the U.S. Even the HFPA and the TV Academy realized the error, though a bit too late: “Downton” has competed as a drama series for both awards ever since.
4. George Clooney, “Syriana,” Supporting Actor (Drama) — 2005
George Clooney was not the first—and won’t be the last—lead actor in an ensemble cast to be shifted to supporting, but his irks more than most because “Syriana” revolves around his character’s choices: he’s what brings the film’s disparate threads together in time for the gut-wrenching and explosive finale.
3. Kate Winslet, “The Reader,” Supporting Actress (Drama) — 2009
More obviously fraudulent (and craven) than the Clooney case, the campaign for Winslet as supporting actress in “The Reader” was so laughable that even the Academy Awards rejected it. They moved her to lead, when she won.
2. “The Martian,” Picture (Comedy/Musical) — 2015
Matt Damon is funny in this movie. Kristen Wiig may be even funnier. But a sprinkling of jokes don’t make a comedy, particularly when the rest of “The Martian” is a riveting sci-fi epic devoted to its earnest celebration of American ingenuity and courage. One can forgive the HFPA eligibility committee for mistaking its feel-good charms for comedy—especially at a time when the best dramas in film and on TV are so bleak—but it seems short-sighted of Fox to allow a superbly mounted sci-fi epic to contend for comedy when they could have fought for drama and taken their shot.
1. “The Tourist,” Picture (Comedy/Musical) — 2010
The notorious nomination of this dreadful Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp thriller in the Comedy or Musical category created such a collective groan that corruption rumors swirled: had Sony, distributor of both “The Tourist” and fellow (very bad) nominee “Burlesque,” bribed voters with a Vegas boondoggle? Whether or not payola was involved, the choice was so baffling that even Jolie and Depp seemed bemused.