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Welcome to the 2015 Awards Profiles series.  For the next two months, every day (except for Saturday), we will bring you a run down of a future 2015 film that we see as a potential awards vehicle for next year’s Academy Awards.  This is all speculative since with just about all these films, we haven’t seen a frame yet.  Nonetheless, we venture on.  If you miss a film, then click on the tag “2015 Awards Profile.”

Directed By: Ridley Scott

Written By: Drew Goddard, based on the novel of the same name by Andy Weir

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis, Sebastian Stan, and more…

Synopsis (Via IMDb): During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

Here also is the Amazon book synopsis:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Matt-Damon-Eyes-The-MartianWhy it could succeed:
The strength of the book gives me hope here. Yes, Ridley Scott isn’t the filmmaker he used to be, but author Andy Weir‘s debut novel is so good, I feel like it’ll be actually fairly hard to mess up. As much as I would prefer writer Drew Goddard have stuck with the project as its director as well, the bones are here for something that’s like Gravity on a larger scope, following a witty character not unlike George Clooney‘s in that movie. In The Martian, it’s Matt Damon playing Mark Watney, a protagonist that you’re sure to root for. It’s basically just him on the screen, except for scenes set back home at NASA (which will feature the likes of Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, and Kristen Wiig, each working to find out how to get Watney home, if it’s even possible) or on the shuttle with the crew that left him behind (including Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, and Sebastian Stan, who have to deal with what they believe to be the loss of their fellow astronaut). By and large, it’ll be Damon against the Red Planet, portraying a botanist forced to learn to adapt on Mars. Honestly, the book was one of the most compelling reads I’ve had in years, so if Scott and company can translate even some of that to the big screen, we’ll have a captivating thrill ride of an adventure that should contend for much more than just a handful of technical category citations. The Martian could very well go where Christopher Nolan‘s snubbed film Interstellar couldn’t last year, at least in terms of the Oscars. There are negatives to consider (see below), but Weir’s novel is as fertile material to start with as any Academy Award hopeful this year has in its corner.

Why it might not:
It’s impossible to forget that Scott has, frankly, not made an awards worthy film in some time now. Furthermore, he might even be getting worse as the years pass. You probably have to go all the way to Black Hawk Down to find the last time he was really on his game in a major way. That puts The Martian at more than a bit of a disadvantage, and that’s before we even get to discussing the Academy’s distaste for science fiction. They’ll have to be damn impressed by this one to give it any consideration for major wins. It’s a shame, considering how fantastic the source material is, but everything here will have to be doubly impressive to make it a true player. The tech categories could easily go for it regardless, but to be a true Oscar contender, we’ll need Scott to be back on his game. Prometheus level quality won’t due, not by a long shot. If this isn’t a return to form for the filmmaker, The Martian will struggle to go anywhere. Damon could break out without his director at the top of his game, but without the movie in play for Best Picture, a Best Actor nomination could be very hard to come by. The odds of this one failing are greater than they should be, mostly due to Scott…

75Awards Speculation:
If everything breaks right for The Martian, we could be looking at a very solid haul, nomination wise. In a perfect world, a dozen nods are potential in play, with more on the table. The big noms of Best Picture, Best Director (for Scott), Best Actor (for Damon), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Goddard) will hinge on the filmmaker’s ability to faithfully execute Weir’s original vision. Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress citations are probably a long shot, though Daniels or Ejiofor could contend for the former, while Chasten and Wiig are the ones trying for the latter. Then, we have the techs, which could be where this flick really shines. Best Production Design and Best Visual Effects seem decently likely, with Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing surely on the table as well. With a fond reception, The Martian could also look to the Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score fields as well for some love. There are no guarantees, bur I’d be shocked if this one got shut out. It could wind up with just one or two, or go all the way towards a double digit total. The likely outcome is somewhere in between, but time will ultimately tell here. Look to Picture, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay as the majors with an actual chance, besides the various tech categories that I mentioned. Regardless, this is an event film that you shouldn’t miss. If the quality of the book is upheld, we’ll be in for something truly special.

The Martian will be distributed by 20th Century Fox on November 25th, 2015

Potential Nominations:

Best Picture
Best Director (Scott)
Best Actor (Damon)
Best Supporting Actor (Daniels or Ejiofor)
Best Supporting Actress (Chastain or Wiig)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Goddard)
Best Production Design
Best Cinematography
Best Costume Design
Best Film Editing
Best Original Score
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Visual Effects

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!