Strong showings for "Eighth Grade" and "You Were Never Really Here" highlight the Independent Spirit Award nominations                Review: Round-Up: "At Eternity's Gate", "The Clovehitch Killer", "Jonathan", and "The Last Race"                "Green Book" is a crowd pleaser of the highest order and a definite Oscar contender                Steve McQueen and a phenomenal ensemble cast help make "Widows" look effortless                "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" offers something for every type of Coen Brothers fan                Updated Academy Award predictions for early November                Review Round-Up: "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch", "El Angel" "The Long Dumb Road", and "Outlaw King"                Taking a look at potential Best Documentary Feature contenders                "The Front Runner" is a terrific and timely film for right around Election Day                Hollywood Film Awards Marked the Launch of Awards Season                Taking a first crack at Golden Globe predictions                “The Favourite” and “The Front Runner”: Films to see in November                Awkwafina to Host 22nd Hollywood Film Awards                Review Round-Up: "Bodied", "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms", and "The Other Side of the Wind"                Rosamund Pike is a force to be reckoned with in "A Private War"        

Matt Damon and Ridley Scott appear at the top of their game in early looks at “The Martian”

the martian Matt Damon
By now, I hope all of you have seen the downright amazing First Trailer for Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Starring Matt Damon, this potentially epic science fiction adventure has been my most anticipated film of the year ever since I learned that it had a 2015 release date. I really think this has ridiculous potential. To be fair, I’m a huge fan of the book of the same name by Andy Weir, which was one of the fastest and most compelling reads I’ve had in some time. While reading the page turner, I couldn’t help but imagine the movie version, one that could be a perfect blend of fun and intelligence. If my hunch is right this fall, we might have the rare sci-fi flick that the Academy can’t resist in The Martian.

The story is pretty straightforward, at least initially…what if an astronaut was accidentally stranded on Mars? For Mark Watney (Damon), that worst case scenario comes true when his crew thinks he’s been killed while on the Red Planet and takes off for Earth. Still alive, but injured and only with supplies for a short period of time, Mark has to use his science skills as a botanist to figure out how to survive for literally years until something can be figured out. Back home, NASA goes from assuming he’s been lost to wondering what can be done for him, and his crew-mates formulate plans of their own. Scott directs, while Drew Goddard penned the adaptation of Weir’s novel. In addition to Damon, the star studded cast includes Sean Bean, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Mackenzie Davis, Chiwetel Ejifor, Donald Glover, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan, and Kristen Wiig. The cinematography is by Dariusz Wolski while the underrated Harry Gregson-Williams handles the score. Maybe I’m nuts, but I really do see Oscar potential here for The Martian. The ingredients are all there.

I know that the genre has been burned many times before and I got my hopes (and perhaps yours as well) up for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar last year, but the slightly lighter tone might be a benefit in the case of this one. The X factor of course is Scott. Damon fits this character very well, if slightly more A-list than I envisioned the character (though that’s just my mental image), so the central part is well cast. It’s up to Scott not to come up short like he sadly has repeatedly over the past number of years. He always seems on the verge of breaking through again, so The Martian could be what inspired him. Personally, I was hyped when Goddard was directing as well as writing and wasn’t initially wild about Scott taking over, but that Trailer really turned me around. It just looks great.

Assuming I’m not off the mark, the award potential for The Martian is all over the map. As you saw last week, I really took a leap of faith with it contending to lead the nominations. That’s probably a long shot, but it has a chance just about everywhere. It goes down the line, starting with Best Picture, Best Director (for Scott), Best Actor (for Damon), Best Supporting Actor (for Daniels or Pena, given their characters in the book, though both are unlikely), Best Supporting Actress (for Chastain or Wiig, with Chastain the more likely one), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Goddard), continuing all the way through Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. If The Martian is a home run, double digit nominations are not out of the question. Unlikely? Sure. Out of the question? Not at all.

Essentially, this is an early shot in the dark and only the first of likely many articles about the film, but I wanted to get my take in early. The Martian might not be a player, but it certainly could be. The recent date change to October 2nd (moving it up a month) is a sign of faith, so it’s been all the right moves for the flick so far. We’ve still got four months to go, but until I actually see the film (crossing my fingers for the New York Film Festival), it’ll just be speculation about. The movie has my attention though, obviously…

Stay tuned for lots more on The Martian between now and then!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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