Surrender 72: The Martian

It’s time…post Academy Awards…to watch each of the Best Picture nominated films. There were eight movies up for this top award in the film industry. I haven’t seen any of them. With great anticipation, I selected The Martian as my first 2016 Best Picture nominated movie. 

The Martian stars Matt Damon, Sean Bean, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kristen Wiig. Ridley Scott directed this drama/adventure/sci-fi, which is based on the novel by the same name, by Andy Weir. The movie has a run time of 2 hours and 24 minutes and has a PG-13 rating for strong language, injury scenes and brief nudity. 

The Martian was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Damon. It did not win in any category. 

During a severe storm on Mars, the crew aborts its mission, leaving behind astronaut Mark Watney (Damon), who is presumed dead.  Mission Commander Lewis (Chastain) is devastated by her decision to leave a crewman behind, but she must protect the rest of her crew. 

After the spacecraft Hermes has departed, Mark awakens, injured and abandoned, the sole inhabitant of the planet Mars. To survive, he must use all of the knowledge he has, plus ingenuity and strength of will. He is initially unable to communicate with Earth. He must come up with his own survival plan. 

Back on Earth, NASA realizes that Mark is alive, after studying satellite pictures that show the Mars Rover moved from its last known position. An international team comprised of Teddy Sanders (Daniels), Mitch Henderson (Bean), Annie Montrose (Wiig) and Vincent Kapoor (Ejiofor) must come up with a way to keep Watney alive until he can be rescued. 

From rationing supplies, to growing food on a hostile planet, to learning how to communicate, to running possible rescue scenarios, Watney and NASA discover that it takes a world united to bring a man home from Mars. 


This was a great, edge of my seat movie. The nerd within me loved all the science in the film. Watney is a botanist. And I enjoyed the use-the-resources-on-hand-to-survive plot that showcased brains and logic and creativity.  
Matt Damon gave an excellent performance as a man faced with impossible odds. The majority of his scenes were acted alone. He played the character with the right blend of seriousness over his situation, and humor in facing the inevitable and making the most of life anyway. Matt deserved his Best Actor nomination. 

Having had a year of firsts, I appreciated Watney’s remarks about how everything in his  Mars experience was a first. How true when you are the only person on an entire planet. True as well, for anyone who desires to move beyond his or her comfort zone and experience life in fresh ways. 

I also loved the reference to The Lord of the Rings, especially since Sean Bean, who played Boromir in the Fellowship of the Ring, was not only in this movie, but in the scene when it was mentioned. I tried to catch a smirk on his face. 

I have to admit that I was very on edge watching this movie. I deliberately avoided learning much about the storyline before viewing, and I didn’t know how it ended. I could see several possible outcomes. I really only wanted one. I won’t spoil the movie for those who have not seen it by revealing the ending. 

I can, however, highly recommend The Martian to anyone who enjoys a great mix of science and sci-fi or appreciates Matt Damon and the directorial skill of Ridley Scott.  Can they bring him home? Find out! 


Surrender 59: The 88th Academy Awards

It’s Oscar night once again, an event I look forward to each year. This is a highly anticipated, deeply meaningful evening for me. I clear the day, eliminate distractions, gather a few snacks, brew tea and settle in to watch people celebrate who they are and what they love to do.


Because the award show tends to run late, I have a difficult time getting my blog post up before midnight. So I’m doing something new and different tonight. I’m live blogging during the show, capturing the experience as it happens, and creating the blog as the evening unfolds. Greg wisely observed, when I mentioned my plan to him, that I was flowing with the flow tonight. That’s it! I’m surrendering to the flow of the evening, moment by moment.

Chris Rock is tonight’s host. He’s expected, in his opening monologue, to address the one cloud hanging over the Oscars this year, the lack of diversity among the nominees, for the second year in a row. Watching the Red Carpet pre-show, I appreciated the honest, earnest way that the attendees spoke about working together, about finding solutions, about being one, about being family.

The red carpet is rolled out. The stars are out as well, shining bright. The show is about to begin. Here we go…

The opening sequence, with a montage of this year’s films, is beautiful…imagination, talent, and heart indeed. Chris immediately addresses the “elephant in the room”. He’s a comedian. He uses his words to spark laughter, but also to bring perspective, in a constructive if humorous way. I appreciate and respect his remarks. He asks for more opportunities for black actors, and I agree. And now he moves on. “We are here to honor actors,” he says. “We are here to honor film”.

Spotlight and The Big Short take the first two Oscars, for Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay.

The Academy Awards is trying something new this year, to shorten the acceptance speech time, and therefore the show length. As the winners move to the stage, a list of people that they wish to thank scrolls across the bottom of the tv screen. So far, it’s working well, although some winners can’t seem to help thanking spouses, children and key people in their lives.

Five powerful performances…who will it be? JK Simmons presents the Oscar to Alicia Vikander, for The Danish Girl. She gives a tearful, moving and brief acceptance speech. Well done.

Mad Max Fury Road picks up three, for Costuming, Production Design and Make-up & Hairstyling. I look forward to seeing this movie!

And 3 more Oscars for Mad Max Fury Road, for Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing.

The Minions present for Animated Short Film!  The Bear wins. And Buzz Lightyear and Woody present for Animated Feature Film. The winner is…Inside Out! Love that movie, and great acceptance speech, encouraging kids to make things…films, art, crafts.

Sylvester Stallone is the favorite to win in this category, among a fine field of nominees. Patricia Arquette gives the Oscar to…Mark Rylance, a surprise win, for Bridge of Spies.

Always a touching segment, the Memoriam honors those in the film industry who have passed away recently. As Dave Grohl sings Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night, photos appear behind him of people such as Maureen O’Hara, Christopher Lee, and Alan Rickman. Leonard Nimoy completes the montage, with his endearing quote, “I have been, and will always be, your friend.” Sniff!

Vice President Biden introduces Lady Gaga, who sings Til It Happens to You.

Three of the nominated songs were performed live during the evening. Not having a favorite that I’m  cheering for, I can simply enjoy each song. The winner tonight is Writing’s on the Wall, from the James Bond movie, Spectre.

And the Best Original Score winner is Ennio Morricone, for Hateful Eight.

We are down to the big categories, and the final four golden statues. JJ Abtams presents the Oscar for Best Director to Alejandro G. Inarritu, for The Revenant.

These five women all gave spectacular performances. Eddie Redmayne presents the Oscar to…Brie Larson, for her role in Room. She was the favorite in this category. I’ve heard her share about her own challenging early life and I look forward to seeing her performance.

What an outstanding group of men. This category has been heavily speculated upon, with Leonardo DiCaprio the lead runner. Julianne Moore hands the Oscar to…Leonardo DiCaprio, his first one, for his part in The Revenant!

It’s time for the big winner tonight, for Best Picture, from a group of eight films, none of which I have seen. Morgan Freeman does the honor. And the Oscar goes to….Spotlight! What a surprise! The Revenant was expected to win.

And that’s the conclusion, for the 88th Academy Awards. I enjoyed the program. And I appreciate the changes that are already in process that will ensure that the awards are given for excellence of performance, while also promoting more opportunities, from better scripts to finished films, for all involved in the movie industry, regardless of skin color.

Blogging throughout the evening, as the program unfolded, worked perfectly! I’m ready to post, rather than just beginning to write. I love the film industry. I appreciate the talented men and women, in all aspects of movie production, for sharing their passions and their gifts with the world, with me.

Stay tuned for blog posts about each of the eight best picture nominated movies. I can’t wait to begin watching!