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Could “The Martian” be this year’s blockbuster Hollywood Best Picture nominee?

the martian matt damon

I’ve written a fair amount about The Martian already this year, and still have more planned in advance of its release next week, but having seen the film now, I have more to say. First of all, it’s a terrific movie, one of my favorites of 2015 so far, and a legitimate Academy Award contender. Where exactly will depend on a few factors, but what I want to focus on today is how it can score a Best Picture nomination. Essentially, it will have to be a big financial hit and be the blockbuster nominee of the group. Can it do it? Believe it or not…I think that it can.

I mentioned that this will need to make money, and by that I mean that often Oscar will have a financial hit or two in its Best Picture lineup. Honestly, they almost always need to have made some money, but I’m specifically looking at things that were breakout financial hits. Just look at some of the previous nominees in the categories that have been of this ilk:

2014 – American Sniper
2013 – Gravity
2012 – N/A
2011 – The Help
2010 – Inception, Toy Story 3
2009 – Avatar, The Blind Side, Up
2008 – N/A
2007 – N/A
2006 – N/A
2005 – N/A
2004 – N/A
2003 – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2002 – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
2001 – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2000 – N/A

Obviously, there’s an exception with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, as it won Best Picture, but often it seems like these are meant as filler nominees, meant to boost ratings. Looking at those blockbuster nominees, aside from Avatar, which was kind of a one off situation, and Gravity, none were definitely considered heavily as winners. Luckily for The Martian, it does fit in with those, so that keeps its hopes very much alive…

Matt Damon THE MARTIAN

As always, let me now double back for a quick summary of what The Martian is about, in case you’ve been ignoring this section all the previous times. For astronaut Mark Watney (Damon), the worst case scenario comes true for him on a mission to Mars when his crew (led by Jessica Chastain) thinks he’s been killed while on the surface and takes off for Earth without him. 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 friends and former crew-mate formulate plans of their own. Ridley Scott directs, while Drew Goddard penned the adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel. In addition to Damon in the lead role and Chastain in one of the main supporting ones, the star studded cast includes Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Mackenzie Davis, Chiwetel Ejifor, Donald Glover, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan, and Kristen Wiig. The cinematography is by Dariusz Wolski while Harry Gregson-Williams handles the score.

I can vouch for the film being great, which is one battle down. Critics at the Toronto International Film Festival seemed to really dig it, so the critical love will certainly assist in generating the mass audience appreciation. That will help in getting the box office numbers up, though unless the Academy just enjoys the movie enough on its own merits, we’re looking at a minimum of $150 million domestically to be taken seriously. Realistically, getting over the $200 million mark will be what it needs, but the situation could evolve differently, so that’s mostly just an educated guess on my part. It will make money, the question is just, how much?

Next week, audiences will get to feast their eyes on The Martian, likely finding the flick to be just as good as I’ve found it to be. Exciting, nerdy in all the right ways, and just a top notch adventure, it’s mass entertainment that values the intelligence of the masses. We don’t get that sort of thing too often, so Oscar may very well take notice. Even if it doesn’t in the main categories, technical fields should definitely be up for grabs. We’ll find out in the coming months how that goes, but I want you all to get set for a special film next Friday. I’ll remind you next week again, but mark this one on your calendar…

Matt Damon the Martian

Stay tuned for more on The Martian before its release date on October 2nd!

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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