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Coming out of the Golden Globes race this year, one of the biggest criticisms that made the rounds was the fact that The Martian not only competed for Best Musical or Comedy, it actually won. Of course, knowing Ridley Scott's film, it really seemed more like a drama with comedic overtones, which really should have saw it compete for Best Drama. That distinction is one the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is keen on looking out for in the future, and they've introduced some new rules to make it so.
News on these new changes came down from The Hollywood Reporter, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has aimed to put an end to a well-known trick in the industry that's seen films such as The Martian and even The Wolf of Wall Street compete as Best Musical or Comedy nominees when the Best Drama field seemed too crowded for a win. THR summed up the new guideline thusly:
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.
It's no secret that the distinction between Best Musical or Comedy and Best Drama nominees has been blurred in order to gain a sort of competitive advantage. Much like the categories of Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress, sometimes a role or project that seems like a moderately valued candidate in the major category goes on to be entered in the minor category and makes a killing. Not to take away from the man's acting abilities, but Christoph Waltz's two Best Supporting Actor Oscars came from roles in Quentin Tarantino films like Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained in which he felt more like a Best Actor than a Best Supporting Actor. So the issue of official classification really is an important one, especially in cases where the system is blatantly being gamed.
Of course, the distinction between a Best Musical or Comedy and Best Drama candidate for the Golden Globes is still pretty fuzzy, so a further guideline requires that once a film such as The Martian has picked an approved lane to compete in, the voting body has the option to cast a 2/3rds majority vote to swing the film in the opposite direction. So if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association really felt that the Matt Damon starring vehicle was more of a comedy, despite the film's official label as a drama, a 2/3rds majority is needed to push that film back into the comedy designation.
It may seem like a big fuss over something that doesn't really feel like a big deal, but the fight over proper classification does effect the integrity of the Golden Globes themselves. While it may not seem like it effects the matter of diversity in the nomination pool, the fact that the nominees are being so closely watched could lead to more of a push in the respect of drawing a more diverse population of nominees in both the film and acting categories. With films being more accurately classified in the Golden Globes nomination process, the field of competition could grow in response to the stricter classifications, which in turn could be applied to the acting categories in order to elicit the same sort of change.
For now, all we can do is wait to see these rules tested during the awards season cycle later this year. Well, that, and we can re-watch our copy of The Martian and laugh at the fact that it won Best Musical or Comedy at this year's Golden Globes.