Odd Pairings

On a recent episode of the Nightly Show, host Larry Wilmore discussed the #OscarsSoWhite issue with his panel.  It was a brief discussion, but Wilmore made an observation that did not fully work for me.  He asked if black performers are getting offered the opportunities that white performers have.

The-Martian-kevin-hartThis was not actually the part that “troubled” me.  I think this is true for non-white performers in general.  But Wilmore cracked a joke about the Martian starring Kevin Hart not carrying the same weight.  And yeah, the Martian starring Kevin Hart suggests a different type of film than the Martian Starring Matt Damon.  But then, so does the Martian Starring Will Farrell.  Like Hart, Farrell tells me such a film would most likely be some brand of comedy, rather than an Oscar Nominated drama.

Put Idris Elba, David Oyelowo or Chiwetel Ejiofor (admittedly, already in the Martian) in the role of Mark Watney and I suspect you still have an Oscar Nominated performance.  I get the joke Wilmore was making, but feel it is kind of unfair to compare a dramatic actor with a comedic actor.  It might be more workable if Hart had pulled off the switch from largely comedic based actor to a more multi-layered performer, but he is not there yet.

Being the Alien (The Martian, 2015)

The_Martian_posterFor being a comedy, (thanks People’s Choice Awards) The Martian feels pretty serious.

That does not mean it is devoid of humor.  Really, most any solid drama with have humor to break tension.  And considering the situation Mark Watley (Matt Damon) finds himself in?  Tension needs to break.  After an accident leaved Watley left behind on Mars, (believed dead) he finds himself struggling to find a way to last until the next mission to Mars can pick him up…in about four years.

The Martian is a thrilling account of survival that manages to be filled with concern and joy.  Ridley Scott likes his epics, but this is very low key in that regard.  Instead, it is a focus on character and endurance.  We get a window into Watley’s thoughts by way of his video recording everything he is doing as a journal.  On the one hand, this could have felt like weighty exposition, and some might wonder why the filmmakers did not opt for the near silence of the first half of Castaway.

Damon’s delivery is light and accessible, rather than clunky, and it is easy to connect with the character.  One of the film’s strengths is how it manages to give us insight to our characters very quickly, especially the crew.  We meet them mere moments before the storm that separates Watley.  And yet, you get a feel for the relationship of this crew and the dedication they have to each other in those few minutes.

The cast is very strong, everybody turning in enjoyable performances.  The visuals are solid, considering it is a lot of reddish sand and rock.  Scott really seems to like films set on barren planets.

The Martian is an engaging sci-fi drama well worth viewing.

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