2014 Oscars Challenge: [17] Gravity – Ten Nominations

2014_BestPicture

Alfonso Cuarón & David Heyman

“Gravity” surprised everyone this year, bringing a female driven, original screenplay, big budget blockbuster to the masses. Warner Brothers probably couldn’t be more pleased and could mark a back to back year for the studio with “Argo” winning last year. “Gravity” lands an amazing ten nominations, with a high chance of winning most of them including Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. But does it have what it takes to win the big prize. Many people are starting to lean that way, with its competitors remaining only “12 Years A Slave” and “American Hustle”. What leaves it up to question are a few categories. For one, it does not have a Best Original Screenplay nomination and rightfully so. This is a one woman show and most of the film is her dealing with her surroundings. Not unheard of for a film to win Best Picture without the screenplay nomination, were “12 Years A Slave” to win its screenplay nomination, it could put it a slight advantage to win it all. Also, Best Directing is leaning strongly in Alfonso Cuarón’s favor, with DGA and Golden Globe wins. If Cuarón wins, he’ll make history, as will McQueen, so the history factor does not work in anyone’s favor. But if Cuarón wins, many expect “Gravity” to take Best Picture. Why not a split? Apparently never in the history of the Awards has the “popular” director and the “respected” film ever split the categories. Meaning “The Hurt Locker” won in 2009 as the “respected” film, but James Cameron did not take the directing category with “Avatar” as the “popular” vote, Kathryn Bigelow took it. “The Kings Speech” won as the “respected” film in 2010 and so did Tom Hooper, rather than David Fincher with the “popular” film, “The Social Network”. And these are just a few examples that highlight the bigger picture. That a) you cannot predict a split vote and b) it’s never happened the way people are describing it will. That doesn’t mean that history can’t be made. That’s what the Oscars are all about. But this will mark one of the hardest years to determine a winner. Personally, I’ll likely be placing my vote behind “12 Years A Slave” and the somewhat against the grain vote of Steve McQueen, not believing there can be a split vote. But “Gravity” will take a ton of golden statues with them and to be perfectly honest, for one of the first years in the five years of this challenge, if “Gravity” does win, I will not be mad, believing it to be on par as one of the best films of the year. This will definitely be an exciting year at the Oscars.

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2014_BestActress
Sandra Bullock

Nominated Role: Sandra Bullock portrays Ryan Stone, a medical engineer who finds herself stranded in space during her first shuttle mission.

Gravity-SandraBullockOriginally, this role was supposed to be a male leading role, but somehow along the way, that changed and Oscar winning Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”) took on the endeavor. With only one other major character in the film played by George Clooney, this is Sandra Bullock’s film. Floating in space and dealing with her demons, she must scream and fight her way through every obstacle that is thrown at her and, boy, do they throw a lot. Also, may I say, for 49 years old, Sandra Bullock looks great. But that’s not what “Gravity” is about. It’s about this major, visual effects heavy blockbuster being lead by a female. Yes, I’d say the visual effects take front and center, but without an equally engaging performance from Bullock, this film would still be hard to watch. That being said, there’s another actress that carries her entire film as well in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”. Cate Blanchett is the highlight of her film and she’s paired with several other major actors with zero visual effects and just Woody’s dialogue heavy scenarios to guide her. Blanchett has also won every award on her way here, so if you’re placing the safe bet, it’s probably not on Bullock, despite many people stating this is the Oscar that she would actually deserve.

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2014_BestCinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki

Gravity-cinematographyEmmanuel Lubeski is one of my favorite cinematographers, alongside Roger Deakins. Pairing most often with directors Alfonso Cuarón to which he was with “Gravity” and also with another favorite of mine, Terrence Malick, to which they paired this past year with “To The Wonder”, which was not recognized. Lubezki has a way behind the camera that speaks to the grandiose and so his pairing with “Gravity” was only natural. With a seventeen minute opening shot in space, and countless instances of cinematic genius, Lubezki’s work is easily the best of the year and rivals anyone else in the category. A favorite to win this category, there’s really no close second. This is his award to lose. This is his sixth nomination (“A Little Princess” (1995), “Sleepy Hollow” (1999), “The New World” (2005), “Children Of Men” (2006), and “The Tree Of Life” (2011), with “Children Of Men” being his last partnership with Alfonso Cuarón). Having never won in all those times nominated, this will be a perfect film to gain his first win. It’s just too bad he can’t share it with Roger Deakins.

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2014_BestDirecting
Alfonso Cuarón

Gravity-AlfonsoCuaronAlfonso Cuarón has now won the Golden Globe and the Directors Guild awards for Best Directing, which leads most to believe he has the Oscar in the bag. Also co-writing, co-producing, and co-editing “Gravity”, his auteur nature proves brilliant with this original concept, big budget blockbuster that knocked everyone out of their seats and made 3D a relevant convention. Having been nominated prior for his writing and editing on “Children Of Men” (2006) and his original writing on “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (2002), this is his first directing nomination. But there’s still one man, in my opinion, that stands in his way and that is Steve McQueen, who also grabs his first nomination for his work on “12 Years A Slave”. But with both wins marking a historic moment in Academy Awards history, I cannot lie that I am torn between who I want to win. Most of the time my decision lies with one director I fight for them all the way to the end and as much as I’m in McQueen’s corner, “Gravity” is such an amazing accomplishment that it’s a shame that both films cannot be honored. That being said, Cuarón will be the first Hispanic director to ever win this award, should his name be called on the night of the Oscars.

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2014_BestFilmEditing
Alfonso Cuarón & Mark Sanger

Gravity-filmeditingIf there’s one film that’s going to sweep most of its ten nominations, it’s going to be “Gravity”, which is also nominated for Best Film Editing. Being about just as much as knowing when to cut as when not to cut, editing is one of the things that sets “Gravity” apart, especially with the surreal seventeen minute opening long take that would have been so easy to cut, yet is seamlessly continued without the audience even recognizing it. Also a favorite to win this category, its biggest competitors would likely be “American Hustle” and “Captain Phillips” which are distance runner-ups in my opinion. This is Cuarón’s second editing nomination and Sanger’s first.

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2014_BestOriginalScore
Steven Price

Gravity-originalscoreListening to this score again, in an IMAX theater in Burbank, I must say, it is truly groundbreaking. Overwhelming at times, underwhelming at many others, this score is an experience in and of itself, especially in a large setting like a theater. My biggest worry for this film and part of why I feel like it doesn’t deserve a few awards is that when this film goes to home video, the amazingly overwhelming areas of the film and most of its grandeur will be lost in translation. However, in that moment, sitting in the theater, Steven Price’s score shakes your seat and places you in space, with all of its unyielding glory. It would be hard to name any other film/score this year that really grabs a hold of you like this and makes you feel the power behind it, rivaling even John Williams and Alexandre Desplat in their subtle scores. This is Steven Price’s first nomination and will likely mark his first win.


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2014_BestProductionDesign
Andy Nicholson (Production Design); Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (Set Decoration)

Gravity-productiondesignProduction Design is key in science fiction films and so is the case with “Gravity”. The ships are pivotal in convincing the audience that this character is roaming around in the dead of space, looking down at the earth, and floating around in abandoned capsules filled with just as many buttons as there are dangers. But as much as I believe “Gravity” could win this, there’s a strong case that many of the designs are already set forth by existing technologies with NASA likely offering up most of its designs for the recreations in this film. All this while films like “The Great Gatsby” must design mostly from scratch and at a much more heightened level, with no visual effects or floating in space to leave voids in design. Every frame of “Gatsby” must be designed to some level and most of “Gravity” relies on visual effects to fill in the voids. Not to say “Gravity” can’t or won’t win this award, but if there’s a case to be made, I would more likely pick a film like “Gatsby”. “Gravity” is loved much more than “Gatsby”, however, and could lead the vote that way as well. This marks almost everyone’s first nomination except for Joanne Woollard, who was nominated for her work on “Hope and Glory” (1987).

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2014_BestSoundEditing2014_BestSoundMixing

Editing: Glenn Freemantle
Mixing: Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

Gravity-soundediting“Gravity” provides the definition of the need for creating sound design in a film and it uses it to such a successful degree that even after the first viewing prior to the nominations, I was taking note of the sounds. Most notably the muffled noises of space caught my attention like when Bullock’s character is using power tools in space all you hear is the muffled noise of the screwdriver against the metal ship. But with all the crashing and bashing of the debris around her, the sharp noises are mixed so well that they are never overbearing to the point of headache inducing but perfectly executed to the point of overwhelming in the best possible ways. Another reason that the 3D works so well in the film is with the surround sound, which engulfs the audience in this world from the moment we set foot out the space shuttle hatch. There’s not a single other film that I could point at and differentiate why they deserve these awards over “Gravity” and with that it remains the favorite to win in both categories. With a mixed bag of first nominations and previous wins, Chris Munro and Skip Lievsay are both nominated twice this year with their work on “Captain Phillips” and “Inside Llewyn Davis” respectively.

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2014_BestVisualEffects
Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould

Gravity-visualeffectsNo matter what the reasoning, “Gravity” is basically a lock to win this category, with some of the most impressive visual effects of this year or any year prior, and with the mark of one of the first truly great 3D films. The visual effects might as well be a character in the film as Sandra Bullock floats around in the abyss for most of the film. With destruction of the set pieces remaining a pivotal portion of the film, for this to come across and attract such a broad audience, it needs to be believe and hit its mark perfectly and so it does. Although any film that can create something out of nothing is impressive, “Gravity” is also the only film to have a straw in the Best Picture category, a feat none of its competitors have. If there’s one category I will be completely sure on voting come Oscar night, it will be Best Visual Effects.

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// Produced by Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman // Directed by Alfonso Cuarón //

// Dated Viewed: Monday, February 3rd, 2014 // AMC Burbank 16 IMAX 3D //  25 films – 28 days //

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