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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Making the Case: THE MARTIAN and Oscar Films with Happy Endings

I was probably one of the biggest fans of Gravity. The idea of a woman in space, fighting to save her own life once all hell breaks lose and her entire team is demolished was endlessly captivating to watch. But what is still most intriguing is the fact that we continue to debate the ending of the film, with most speculation being that her victory was a dream and she actually perished in outer space. Why? Because it's considered far more compelling to kill your protagonist even after they spent the last two hours in the ordeal of their life.

Think about it. I know I for one hate most romantic comedies because they are too cookie-cutter, too "and they lived happily ever after." I am drawn toward films like Thelma and Louise, The Departed and Black Swan--films that trust their audiences enough to know that they won't run for the hills if their protagonists don't make it to the closing credits. Hell, even some of your favorite TV shows have killed off characters you've loved.

Which is why Oscar nominee The Martian that much more intriguing. Spoiler alert if you haven't already seen the film: it does have a happy ending. The astronaut left to die after a failed mission on Mars lives. There's a little suspense in between, but his crew comes back to rescue him in a gloriously cheesy ending that--surprise!--you actually root for. I know, I know. This goes against all of what I just finished talking about above, and that's what's great about it. It made me wonder whether we are conditioned to root for these f**ked up endings, and that that is part of what makes them great films. I mean, The Martian is a simple, cookie-cutter sci-fi drama that doesn't reinvent the wheel or, honestly, doing anything that fantastic. Does it deserve an Oscar nomination? Eh, perhaps not. Does Matt Damon deserve a nomination? Hard pass (not like he isn't good, but I can name about 10 other actors who could have stepped into the role and delivered the same decent performance). But I digress.

What I'm getting at is in the sea of solemn, depressing and astoundingly mediocre utterly non-thrilling Oscar nominated films this year, The Martian stands out as one of the very few (save for Mad Max: Fury Road and maybe 2-3 others) that is simple--without any bells or whistles. And I have to say, I was thoroughly satisfied by that.

The Martian is now available on DVD.


Brittani Burnham said...

I loved The Martian. I definitely think the film itself is Oscar worthy (Damon is iffy, but he's better than Redmayne is in that category) I like that the film had a happy ending. When I was reading the book, as I got closer to the end I couldn't help but think to myself "I'm going to be so pissed if he dies" after all he went through. I'm glad that wasn't the case.

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