Best Picture Profile: Gravity

As we come closer to the Academy Awards on March 2nd, we’ll be posting short profiles of each Best Picture nominee, attempting, in our own ways, to not only sum up what the movie is about, but why we believe it scored one of the nine coveted nominations, and why it could possibly take home the big prize come Oscar night. Enjoy!

The Academy Awards say they’re focusing on heroes this year, but it seems to me that a sub-focus might be perseverance – or, more accurately, survival. Most of the nominees are about how to survive, one way or another, after something big – well, in Gravity’s case, something HUGE – and how our protagonists and/or antagonists grapple with it all.

Gravity, a movie with a gigantic scale and a simple plot, opens with an astounding tracking shot of our humble planet as astronauts – specifically, Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Buzz Lightyear Matt Kowalski – circulate the Hubble Space Telescope, spacewalking and performing some repairs. All of a sudden, Houston spots debris headed right for their workspace, and Kowalski and Stone find themselves the sole survivors, running low on oxygen and trying to find a way back to Earth, however they possibly can. Kowalski sacrifices himself to save Stone, and after a series of ill-fated attempts and terrible luck, Stone crash-lands on Earth, taking her first, unsteady steps back on solid ground.

The movie is dizzying and completely outstanding visually – the shots of a hapless Stone, spinning crazily in space as she separates from Kowalski during the initial crash. Clooney gets top billing, but in terms of performances, there are no other actors in this movie – it’s only Bullock. The script she’s given, while occasionally clunky and generally plot-light, is effective, and Bullock commands it almost completely alone, doing so masterfully. The moments where she finds herself completely alone, struggling to move from pod to pod just to find one that works (I mean, seriously, could MORE things have gone wrong for this woman!?), fighting to live and wondering why she’s even bothering – her given backstory is that her young daughter died, and she doesn’t have anybody else down there to come home to – are incredible and heartbreaking. Acting with that much heart against a green screen is no easy feat, but Bullock seems to have accomplished what many have believed to be impossible. Cuaron’s direction is simple and effective (even if it apparently wasn’t TOTALLY scientifically accurate), showing rather than telling whenever possible, and giving us an insane feast for the eyes.

Also, let’s not forget that going into the Oscars, Gravity has earned a huge push with its recent tie with 12 Years a Slave at the Producer’s Guild Awards – not only a first in PGA history, but a great indicator, since the PGA and the Academy have an insane amount of overlap. It’s also great to see what is widely considered to be a sci-fi film finding serious footing at the Oscars, since it’s usually a category that is totally overlooked. Voters might also appreciate Gravity‘s brevity, which is partly a product of the difficult special effects, but does make for a nice change of pace from years of incredibly long films (The Wolf of Wall Street is this year’s Zero Dark Thirty). It’s worth noting as well that this would surely be the year for Bullock to scoop up a second Oscar if Cate Blanchett hadn’t delivered such a powerhouse showing in Blue Jasmine. Ultimately, Gravity is attractive to Academy voters, being a technologically groundbreaking film with a large scale and a small point – that the human spirit is indomitable.

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