Gold Standard: Oscar Watch: ‘Martian’s’ Ridley Scott has a ‘comeback’ and ‘overdue’ story

Will Ridley Scott win his first Oscar this year for directing “The Martian”?

Director Ridley Scott at the New York Film Festival, one of many events he has attended this year in support of his blockbuster hit “The Martian.”

(Evan Agostini/Invision)

Oscar Watch, charting the smiles, the frowns, the ups and downs of the awards season, comes to you every Monday from now through the end of February.




Ridley Scott: A ‘comeback’ and ‘overdue’ Oscar narrative

The great filmmaker Ridley Scott will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday morning outside the venerable Egyptian Theater, and, right now, it’s not much of a leap to picture Scott collecting another honor a few blocks up the street when the Oscars are presented at the Dolby in February.

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Scott’s latest movie, the sci-fi survival tale “The Martian,” returned to the top of the box office this past weekend and in the next few days it will pass “Gladiator” to become the biggest hit of the 77-year-old director’s career. (Scott will blow out 78 candles on Nov. 30.)


That career has seen Scott win three Oscar nominations as director -- “Gladiator” (which won best picture), “Thelma & Louise” and “Black Hawk Down.” And, you could argue, he should have been nominated another couple of times for directing “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” two of the most enduring and influential sci-fi movies in film history.

Ridley Scott’s geek respect pays off in ‘The Martian’

In short: He’s due for an honor from the academy.

It’s important to note that, for most people, this is a rather new thought. Unlike Martin Scorsese, who finally won an Oscar for his 2006 gangster drama “The Departed,” there hasn’t been a concerted, let’s-honor-Ridley campaign over the years. Mostly, this is because Scott’s recent run of movies -- “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” “The Counselor,” “Prometheus,” “Robin Hood” and “Body of Lies” -- has been uneven. And, partly, it’s because cineastes have largely viewed Scott over the years as a flashy synthesist and commercial crowd-pleaser. (“Are you not entertained?”)


What makes Scott’s Oscar narrative this year unique is that it’s both a comeback story and an opportunity to reward an overdue legend for a movie that has connected on commercial, critical and (here’s a new one) scientific levels. It’s easy to envision the academy again splitting the picture and director honors, hailing Scott (much like it did recently for another respected filmmaker, Ang Lee for “Life of Pi”) and then giving the Oscar for best picture to a more serious film like “Spotlight.”

Any such scenario still needs to take into account the three upcoming movies -- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “The Revenant,” David O. Russell’s “Joy” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Hateful Eight” -- from filmmakers that voters have loved through the years.

Why Ridley Scott made ‘The Martian’

But Tarantino is beset by controversy over remarks made about police brutality at an Oct. 24 Black Lives Matter rally. And Inarritu, who won the Oscar last year for “Birdman,” faces the stat that only two directors have won back-to-back Oscars and it hasn’t happened since Joseph L. Mankiewicz did it for “A Letter to Three Wives” and “All About Eve” 65 years ago. (John Ford, the only director to win four Oscars, accomplished the feat with “The Grapes of Wrath” and “How Green Was My Valley” in 1940-41.)

The path to victory then is pretty clear. And the academy has seen “The Martian” and roared its approval. There won’t be any need for flares like this for the message to get through to voters.   

Email: | Twitter: @glennwhipp


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