Is ‘Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood’ a comedy? The Golden Globes vote yes

(L-R)- Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star in "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood."
Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Brad Pitt star in “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”
(Andrew Cooper/Columbia Pictures)

A longtime favorite of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and the Golden Globes, Quentin Tarantino came into Sunday night with five nominations for his “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” recognized for picture, musical or comedy actor for Leonardo DiCaprio, supporting actor for Brad Pitt and both screenplay and director for Tarantino himself.

It won three: for Pitt’s performance, Tarantino’s screenplay and the film itself in the musical or comedy category.

The film has been a success on many levels for Tarantino. His first project since breaking from his now disgraced longtime producer and distributor Harvey Weinstein, “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” found Tarantino working with a major Hollywood studio for the first time. Produced for Sony Pictures for a reported $90 million, the film has so far brought in more than $372 million worldwide.

The complete list of 2020 Golden Globes winners and nominees


Even any controversy generated by the film — first at the Cannes Film Festival over Tarantino’s response to a question regarding the amount of dialogue given to Margot Robbie’s depiction of doomed actress Sharon Tate and then upon release by its depiction of martial arts star Bruce Lee as portrayed by Mike Moh — has been more of a conversation-starter than a roadblock.

Earlier in the evening, Tarantino picked up his third Globe for screenwriting. In his acceptance speech he namechecked writer Robert Bolt, who Tarantino tied for most wins in the category. (Bolt went three wins on three nominations, while Tarantino is now 3 for 5.)

And while “Pulp Fiction” “Django Unchained” and “Inglorious Basterds” were all nominated in the motion picture drama category, this is the first time one of Tarantino’s films has competed in the musical or comedy category.

Yes, that’s right, a movie about an aging actor, his stuntman sidekick and their next door neighbor Sharon Tate is classified as a comedy. So when three members of the Manson Family arrive at the wrong house, leading to a violent fight involving knives, a gun, an attack dog, a flamethrower and lots of blood, that’s apparently all funny. Or the elegiac sequence in which all the neon signs of Los Angeles come on at dusk — hilarious?

Such category confusion is of course nothing new at the Globes. The Adam Sandler film “Uncut Gems” was reportedly submitted as a comedy, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. classified it as a drama and then didn’t nominate it anyway. And since the category is technically “musical or comedy,” the Globes did nominate the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” in the same category as Tarantino’s “Hollywood.” The Judy Garland biopic “Judy,” made it into drama, however.

Last year the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” won both actor and picture in the drama category, where it also competed against the musical “A Star Is Born.” While “Green Book,” an examination of race relations in the early ‘60s, won the comedy film category despite more than its share of somber moments.

Follow along for live updates and behind-the-scenes happenings from the team of L.A. Times journalists inside and outside the event.

The debate over how the HFPA classifies comedies arguably reached a zenith in 2016 when Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” won the awards for best comedy and comedy actor (Matt Damon). Some changes were made to the classification process, but the decisions remain something of a mystery.

In the past Globes voters have been mocked for filling out the comedy or musical category with commercial and critical disappointments such as “Burlesque” and “The Tourist.” And one sign of how the organization has potentially changed: the widely derided “Cats,” seemingly tailor-made for the comedy or musical category this year, was only nominated for the song “Beautiful Ghosts,” written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Taylor Swift.