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The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning and, as expected, The Martian had a good day. It walked away with seven nominations including one for Best Picture as well as a Best Actor nomination for the film’s star Matt Damon. By any metric, today was a success. However, there was one glaring omission that puts the entire thing at odds. Ridley Scott received no nomination for Best Director.
Considering everything else the film received, the lack of a Best Director nomination is a glaring omission. Ridley Scott has received three Best Director nominations in the past, but he’s never won the award. It would be one thing if the director had won the award previously and the Academy wanted to let in some new blood. That’s certainly happened before. Instead, Scott has put together an incredible filmography of both popular and critically acclaimed films, and he’s never won the Oscar. This is exactly the situation that awards shows tend to love. The director with a long and storied past finally winning the prize.
It would be one thing if this was just a token award for Ridley Scott but make no mistake, The Martian is a great film. It’s absolutely worthy of all the acclaim it has received. Scott, for all the great work he’s done, had been in a bit of a rut in recent years with less than stellar films like Prometheus and Exodus: Gods and Kings, but The Martian is a return to the form that we knew he was capable of. One of the world’s great directors made a great movie. Whatever barometer you’d like to use for deciding these things, Ridley Scott should have received the nomination.
It’s possible that Scott actually cost himself the nomination inadvertently because he’s listed as a producer on the film. While Ridley Scott has been as prolific a producer as he has been a director, he’s never been a producer on the three films where he received a Best Director nomination. As a producer on The Martian, it means that if the film wins Best Picture, then Scott wins his Oscar that way. Was this a trade off so that the Academy could recognize more films? Lenny Abrahamson's nomination for Room, while absolutely valid, is a bit of a shock as the director had not been nominated for any other high profile directing awards. And Scott was nominated by the DGA earlier this month -- usually a good indicator of Oscar success.
The lack of a Best Director nomination for Ridley Scott also does put The Martian’s Best Picture chances in perspective. While it’s far from a forgone conclusion that Best Picture and Best Director will be the same movie, there has always been, and will always be, a connection between the awards. Maybe Ridley Scott will win an Oscar next month regardless, but he certainly would have appreciated recognition for his direction of The Martian. It’s a shock he did not receive it.