And today our Oscar countdown through the Best Picture nominees takes us to “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful space odyssey. Like many of its fellow nominees, “Gravity” had a long road to the screen: Cuaron and his son Jonas wrote the script years ago, but it lingered in development until it was acquired by Warner Bros. in 2010. Ultimately filmed in England (that’s partly why it was eligible for, and won, the category of Best British Film at the BAFTAs last week), “Gravity” employed many innovative techniques to give the impression of shooting in space; most notably, the creation of a nine-foot-wide light box in which star Sandra Bullock (who’s alone on screen for most of the film) shot most of her scenes. The result is an eerie and unexpectedly soulful film, set in space but about something more: life and death, spirituality, a yearning for home. Cuaron, whose eclectic career runs from children’s movies (“A Little Princess,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) to futuristic thrillers (“Children of Men”) and raunchy coming-of age tales (“Y Tu Mama Tambien”), took seven years between his last feature and “Gravity”; it was worth the wait.
Still in theaters? Yes, currently the Regal Meridian, Lincoln Square and AMC Alderwood
Total U.S. box office: $267 million, the highest (by a mile) of any Best Picture nominee this year
Total Oscar nominations: 10, for best picture, director, actress (Bullock), cinematography, film editing, production design, original score, sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects.
Best chance for a win: “Gravity” is sure to scoop up many of the technical awards, and perhaps cinematography as well due to the film’s innovative camera work. In the big awards, it gets more interesting. A lack of a screenplay nomination makes a Best Picture win unlikely (but not impossible); but many say Cuaron’s the one to beat for director — following last year’s pattern of awarding best director to the helmer of a technically challenging and beloved film (Ang Lee, for “Life of Pi”), while giving best picture to a more conventional choice (“Argo”). And Bullock, a much-liked previous Oscar winner, would be the front-runner for Best Actress in a year that didn’t include Cate Blanchett’s performance in “Blue Jasmine.”
Odds of this movie creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: The Best Picture/Best Director split isn’t exactly weird — it’s happened fairly often — but it does make for a more interesting night. And who else is predicting that we might see Ellen De Generes in a space suit at some point in the evening?
Fun fact: Before Bullock was cast, the role was reportedly offered to Angelina Jolie, Marion Cotillard and Natalie Portman.
Sandra Bullock, alone in “Gravity” (photo courtesy of Warner Bros.).