Oscar pundits have been speculating about the awards chances of many movies they have seen at elite film festival circuit. However, I would like to remind them and many of their followers that the critics and especially the positive or negative reaction of average movie fans have a vital say in a movie’s ultimate success at the Oscars. No one knows anything. Now one movie looks like a solid, across the board Oscar contender. Sure, Lee Daniels The Butler may have been a monster hit at the box office, but I think will come up short in the awards race beyond Oprah’s supporting performance. The critics gave it a pass due to its serious subject matter. It was hollow praise. One movie this year has delivered a strong reaction among critics and now audiences have followed suit almost just as strong. That movie is Gravity.
[springboard type=”video” id=”804973″ player=”tmbg001″ width=”599″ height=”336″ ]
Even though The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire will be the movie going event of 2013, the movie that deserves to achieve a cultural phenomenon status (but many casual moviegoers might not realize at first) is Gravity. The cinephiles have been eagerly anticipating this one since last year and it had a stunning box office debut breaking a few October records ($55 million opening weekend is one of many). An A- CinemaScore is impressive considering the slow moments and long shots which clearly connected with audiences. With Gravity, we might be orbiting around a new, 21st Century Golden Age of Cinema. This will result into numerous Oscar nominations.
After watching it twice, Gravity is a once-in-a-decade cinematic experience meant to be viewed on the big screen, and yes, in 3D. Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También) restores my faith in the return to form of filmmaking origins while embracing 21st century technology to tell an adventure story. Stunning visuals slowly overcome the viewer like a pondering attendee at an art gala, but you don’t stare at a painting to get the full throttle intensity in Gravity.
A movie with 10 to 15 minute long shots unexpectedly becomes a rip roaring crowd pleaser. With spellbinding effects and lavish cinematography, the strength of Gravity besides the technical aspects was Sandra Bullock. The camera is focused on her almost the entire time in several long takes. Her character might lose control, floating in space and dodging debris desperate to get back to earth, but not this grounded actress. This role could re-brand her career. She clearly has the talent here. Even the most vocally obnoxious, Ain’t It Cool News fan boy haters will respect her accomplishment in Gravity (This could upset them when they cant criticize her uptight, Rom-Com persona or her heroic white guilt racial dramas as many I know have bashed Sandra Bullock). Sandra Bullock delivers a masterful performance of tension as her sense of well-being unravels in an emotional engaging and exhausting way. Gravity is that incredible of a movie going experience about losing control to a higher power, survival, humanity, and the will to live. It would be challenging to find a better movie in all of 2013 than Gravity.
In talking about Oscar with Gravity, I cannot help but mention a few recent Oscar winners. Not since ARGO have I heard an audience react so strongly to the climax/ending of a movie until Gravity (thankfully it isn’t historically inaccurate nor over dramatic). Like Avatar is deserves to be seen on the big IMAX screen in 3D. And unlike Avatar, it is an emotionally engaging movie that will be a rewarding movie going experience over time and with multiple viewings. It captures the hearts and minds of audiences and word of mouth will be through the roof. This is earth shattering, gripping filmmaking, no doubt that will clean up the technical categories. Like Inception and Life of Pi before it, Gravity is likely to win the same Oscars: both sound tech categories, visual effects, and cinematography. The directorial execution from Alfonso Cuarón is nothing short of spectacular. I would be pleased if he won the best director Academy Award and would be one of the first Latino filmmakers to prevail in that category.
The Oscar race still has a long way to go with other movies being released (other big supposed contenders include 12 Years a Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska) and the critics groups picking their winners (including yours truly as the newest member of the Denver Film Critics Society). Sandra Bullock will have a challenging time competing with Cate Blanchett’s stunning work in Blue Jasmine. How exciting that Best Actress category could be a competitive race. Things can change in the road to the Oscars and I look forward to talking about it with the readers at The Movie Blog.