Seven years passed between the releases of Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men and his 2013 feature Gravity. The space thriller spent over four years in active development while the crew used state-of-the-art techniques and tools, sometimes even inventing new ones, to overcome challenges unique to the picture. For example, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney filmed the bulk of their performances in a 9-foot-square 'light box,' acting against rough computer generated images of space while a robot-controlled camera swung around them. Subject matter aside, set-ups like that one make it abundantly clear that Gravity isn't a sort of drama that is traditionally favored at the Oscars (e.g. The King's Speech, The Artist, or perhaps even last night's Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave).
In January, Chris Hemsworth and Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs revealed that Gravity garnered ten nominations. That count, shared by American Hustle, led all other films. Suddenly I had reason to believe that my beloved Gravity might land some of those little golden dudes that people like to cite as evidence of superiority.
Then, on the night of March 2nd, the Academy followed through on recognizing Gravity's quality. Alfonso Cuarón's latest went home with more awards than any other film nominated for 2013. At the same time, Cuarón overcame another 'hurdle,' becoming the first Mexican filmmaker to win the award for Best Director in the ceremony's 86-year history.
Assuming we're counting nominations as proper recognition, Sandra Bullock scored a point of her own with being named one of the five finalists for Best Actress in a Leading Role. I have to admit that as far as the Oscars are concerned, I feel this was an appropriate level of success for Bullock's golden statue endeavor. Considering the conditions she had to perform in (being puppeteered by twelve super-thin wires, spending hours every day alone in the light box, etc.), her turn as astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone was even more admirable. Also, that howling like a dog scene....
It can be argued that Gravity features three main characters. Dr. Stone, Earth, and the film's sound and music. Both of those latter elements won in their respective categories, and rightfully so. Cuarón wanted to stay true to the fact that sound doesn't travel in space, which meant all us viewers would be allowed to hear were the actors' voices, whatever sounds those characters picked up by vibrations carried through their suits, and the film's score. And what a magnificent score it was.
If I've developed any sort of reputation during my short time here on Moviepilot, it's that I'm that guy who loves pretty movies. Coherent stories are cool, heart-wrenching performances are exciting, and I like me a good score, but ultimately, the fact of the matter is that I watch movies with my eyes. Crazy, right? So yes, I appreciate a pretty movie. And man was Gravity a good looking movie. I cannot duly express my love for the extended takes that Cuarón and cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki put on film (nod to the Best Editing award here as well). The average shot length for any given movie is probably in the single digits; a matter of seconds, for sure. Gravity, on the other hand, opens with a shot that lasts twelve and a half minutes. There are extended takes strewn throughout Gravity (and most other pieces of Alfonso Cuarón's work). Thankfully, the efforts of Cuarón and his friend 'Chivo' were rewarded with an Oscar.
Last, but most definitely not least, a word must be said for the incredible work put in by the visual effects teams. The task entrusted to Framestore, an effects house that I'd never heard of (perhaps speaks more to my ignorance than anything else), was insane. Throughout almost all of Gravity, the only practical elements seen on screen are the actors' faces. Everything else, from the helmets to the suits to the space stations to of course space itself, was created in computers. Something else that must be considered is that the animators were trying to convey micro-gravity environments. That meant they had to take lessons in relevant physics, as just about every animator ever started out with simulating Earth-based physics with a bouncing ball. Blows my mind.
Before the night was over, the cast and crew of Gravity accepted seven awards in total:
- Film Editing
- Original Score
- Sound Editing
- Sound Mixing
- Visual Effects