Discuss: Can Cuarón's 'Gravity' Reverse Oscar's Sci-Fi Dry Spell?

October 7, 2013


By now I hope most (if not all) of you have seen Alfonso Cuaron's terrific new film Gravity at least once. Some of you have probably even seen it a bunch of times already. Not only is it an epic piece of cinema and among the year's best movies, it also represents a rare science fiction Oscar contender (and yes, I know calling it "sci-fi" is debatable, but it's close enough). That genre has had a hard going in the Best Picture field over the years, but it's possible that the days of knowing that a sci-fi flick was a surefire Academy loser might very well be over this year. I don't actually think that Gravity will take home the Oscar at this point, but it could make a stronger play than just about any other contender of its ilk over the last decade or so.

Some of you might be curious about the history of sci-fi and the Academy Awards. Well, it's not the longest history ever. Basically, of the over 500 films nominated for Best Picture to date (503, if you want the specific number), only a half dozen have ever been science fiction. Yes, only six. The first was Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (surprisingly 2001: A Space Odyssey was not nominated for Best Picture but did win Best Effects) and the most recent was Nolan's Inception. Between those two, Avatar, District 9 (in the same year for those, a feat we may never see again), E.T., and Star Wars were also nominated for Best Picture. They all lost too. So sci-fi is zero for 503. Gravity will almost assuredly become the 504th nominee, but will it be a serious player to win? I doubt it, but it's not impossible.

To get to the bottom of that particular question and the reason for my answer, you have to look at Cuaron's Gravity both as a sci-fi masterpiece and on its own as an awards contender. What it has in common with those aforementioned sci-fi movies is that it is likely to go down as an all time classic for the genre. The trouble is, that kind of longevity takes years to establish, not months, so by the time most accept it as a classic, the Oscar ceremony will be long over, for this year at least.

Now, considering how Gravity is one of the more universally praised sci-fi outings in a long time (just look here at all that Alex had to say) and a certified blockbuster now to boot, does that improve its chances somewhat? Sure it does, but at the same time, if the Academy rejected the highest grossing film of all time, that doesn't bode well for this one here. Money is a factor here, but Oscar likes to have "their" sorts of films make money and then reward, as opposed to leaving their comfort zone to reward a financial success.

If you want something to grab on to as a reason for why the film could possibly pull the upset, you can look to how this is the rare movie of its ilk that displays a very auteur-ish bent. This feels almost more like an indie flick than a true blockbuster, so that could certainly sway some voters. Going by my predictions from a few days ago here, I have Gravity scoring nine nominations, but double digit nods are hardly out of the question. In fact, many have it getting a dozen noms. That would put it in play to be the most nominated film of the year, something it will need if it wants any chance to compete for the biggest prizes out there.

Gravity - Sandra Bullock

You can mark the movie down for Best Picture, Director, Actress, and most technical nominations, so where we'll truly see if the Academy adores Gravity is in the Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay fields. If Oscar truly is on board with this flick, the Screenplay nomination should be easy, but if George Clooney can score a nod for his small part, that'll truly say something. He's a dark horse in this race now for sure.

As for wins, if only Sandra Bullock hadn't already won, this would be the spot for Gravity to dominate (she's not assured of a loss, but I wouldn't bet on her winning a second Oscar so soon). Bullock does have a chance to pull a major upset though. I'd put her in third place right now, behind Amy Adams (in American Hustle) and Cate Blanchett (in Blue Jasmine), so if the former disappoints and the latter fades during the precursors, it's possible Bullock could wind up the last woman standing. She certainly has her crusaders, as we saw with the Criticwire Critics' Poll from TIFF which embraced her quite a bit and the movie itself.

As it stands now, I think Gravity will take the majority of the tech categories (notably Best Visual Effects, which seems a forgone conclusion already). Should it do better than the four wins I currently predict, that could mean something for sure. For example, Avatar won three Oscars while coming in second place to The Hurt Locker. Granted that had District 9 also competing in some of the same categories and splitting votes (something Gravity won't have to deal with), but the tech categories are where the film will do its damage.

Keep this in mind… not everyone agrees with me about Gravity probably not taking Best Picture. A cursory search on Twitter (tweets here, here, and here for example) will find plenty of folks who feel strongly that this is a frontrunner for Best Director and/or Picture. Also working in its favor is that the Academy could be warming towards sci-fi. 2010 was a pretty good year for the genre, though up until then it was sort of a wasteland for films of its ilk, so one line of thinking has this potentially groundbreaking film being the one to finally shatter this glass ceiling, as it were.

Even if Gravity doesn't wind up winning Best Picture, and again, I expect that it won't when all is said and done, fans of the movie (myself included) can take solace in the fact that this likely going to go down in the annals of sci-fi history as an all-time classic. That should mean something, right? What do you think?

Find more posts: Awards, Editorial, Sci-Fi



it's definitely sci fi. it exists in a world where we continued to use the shuttle program and the chinese built a space station.

Linkfx on Oct 7, 2013


Well, there's that...

Joey Magidson on Oct 7, 2013


actually I think it is more fantasy given how the laws of orbital mechanics conveniently don't seem to apply to the movie. Space suits seem to be impervious to damage despite all the abuse. everything is all colocated within floating distance of each and the super new MMU has limitless propellant until it needs to run out. a barely trained medical doctor knows not only how to fix the Hubble but also work the ISS, Russian and Chinese spacecraft. Pure Fantasy in Low Earth Orbit.

michael interbartolo on Oct 8, 2013


Many movies, fictional, science fictional, thriller, action movie or drama stretch the limits of our credulity as an audience. that doesn't make them fantasy. this film deals hands on with notions of science and our environment and physics but in a very over the top way. It doesn't mean it is a fantasy film, it just means that it is sometimes stretching the laws of physics to make the story compelling in the narrative structure they created. A fantasy film would be like Lord of the Rings, or in a way or if you need a space-based fantasy example, Star Wars. But this film adheres to a lot of our current realities or near future problems and has a statement about how we are responsible for our environment and can't go around just randomly blowing things up without expecting horrible consequences, which is definitely at least, genre-wise a common science fiction type trope.

Linkfx on Oct 8, 2013


this adheres to physics as much as Armageddon. Using a shuttle and the ISS is the only adherence to reality I will concede.

michael interbartolo on Oct 8, 2013


I'm sure this movie is good, however I hardly expect it to live up to all the hype. I will gladly wait for a home viewing on this one. As good as Cuaron is, he has got to be THE most hyped guy in Hollywood since, well I can't remember anyone getting as much hype as this guy.

Chuckee Knowlton on Oct 7, 2013


well you will be missing out on the terrific theatrical experience. this movie is like seeing a band live and in concert...unless you have an IMAX screen and a killer sound system, your relatively tiny viewing experience can never live up to the insanity of seeing this on a giant screen. it's Jurassic Park epic. a theatrical must see, and there are few of those.

Linkfx on Oct 7, 2013


Indeed. Most films can survive the transition, but this one almost demands to be seen in IMAX if possible...

Joey Magidson on Oct 7, 2013


I'm not a huge Cuaron fan either, but this is really the rare film where it loses a lot waiting until it hits Blu-Ray...

Joey Magidson on Oct 7, 2013


Chuck I just saw it . Unless u drop at least 15 for the 3D ( 19 for IMAX 3-D you will miss out SEVERLY .. No home TV or Theater could reproduce the picture quality of the IMAX print .. So forget the debatable mistakes you'll sit the whole film just stunned by the reproduction of Earth from near orbit . Ever been on a plane at night ? up 30-40,000 ft ? You can see city lights below in patterns but hardly anything else . In the movie you see those same light patterns , but now the mountain ridges , inlets ,coastal plains , and whole continents are so easily seen it's unbelievable

Dominic on Oct 10, 2013


It's a great theatrical experience, yes.

Joey Magidson on Nov 8, 2013


Scifi dry spell? Not for me! Looking forward to checking Gravity, so far the reviews have been banjos!

Carpola on Oct 7, 2013


It's well worth seeing...

Joey Magidson on Oct 7, 2013


Amazing movie, oscar worthy performances? Don't think so. Lol

dvt on Oct 7, 2013


Duly noted...

Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


I have it down for 4 too but after Pi would not be surprised if it stole a couple more. You are right. It comes down to the extra noms outside of expected. If Clooney and screenplay get in, watch out.

thatpj on Oct 7, 2013



Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


A question Joey : If they were acting "nobodies ( yeah I know , movie wouldn't have been bankrolled BUT ) with the same level of performance Bullock and Clooney give , would you still say they could take Actor/Actress awards ?? I think it'll sweep the Technical awards but Hollywood isn't ready to give a scifi flick Best Picture . They need The Highest-Grossing Movie Oscar : then our generation's faves will win .

Dominic on Oct 7, 2013


I actually enjoyed their performances more than some it seems, even if I have issues with the film elsewhere, so I'd say yes, especially for the female role...

Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


It's not out in Ireland until November 8th. I swear First Showing is just teasing me personally. Got to be patient, still haven't watched the last couple of trailers

Richie G on Oct 7, 2013


You can do it...

Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


Come on guys get your head out of your ass. Blinded by the flashy CGI, awesome sound and music. Yeah. Those all rock. But really everything else is medicore. Please stop this Oscar nonsense aside from technical awards. Best picture...plueassse.

Buzzfunk on Oct 8, 2013


Well, I'm somewhere between your opinion and those crying for Best Picture...

Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


Fair enough, Joey!

Buzzfunk on Oct 8, 2013



Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


I agree with what you said. It's a shame 2001 wasn't even nominated for best picture, I had completely forgotten about that!

DavideCoppola on Oct 8, 2013


The list of snubbed films in the genre is not a short one either...

Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


Gravity has an ice ball chance in hell of winning best picture. Can nerds not just get it into their heads that this film was overrated. Take away Clooney and Bullock and you have a very lame CGI fest. This is not a best picture winner. 12 Years A Slave and Long Walk To Freedom or even Blue Jasmine are, not this. Also, the fact that Inception or even Looper didn't get much love in the past tells you that Gravity sure as hell stands no chance. It was lame anyhow.

Big Chap on Oct 8, 2013


Considering the middling reviews for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, I'd argue that one has far less of a chance...

Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


Sure, but it's about Mandela, it's historical and that's all that matters with Oscars.

Big Chap on Oct 8, 2013


Not true. The list of snubbed historical films is quite long. It's the type of history that matter much more...

Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


About 80 percent of the movie is animation, so what about that category?

naundob on Oct 8, 2013


The Academy doesn't recognize CGI as animation, so it won't be eligible there...

Joey Magidson on Oct 8, 2013


I've seen it a few ours ago and it definitely no sience fiction! It's a disaster movie in space! It was realy beautiful and pure eye candy for your brains! I was totally blown away by life of pi and this is of the same kind! Best picture hmm no, but best special effects yes! For me is the battery the movie of the year, and especially if you know that movie is made for 60 000 dollars! Great script, great acting and a great ending!

Avi on Oct 10, 2013


I'm not as wild about the script, but I get what you mean...

Joey Magidson on Nov 8, 2013


I myself have never seen anything like this before. I saw it in 3D twice in two days, I couldn't get it out of my head. I consider this film minimalist. Some of the best novels and films are so. We are used to lots of bells and whistles to lead to no theme beyond good guys vs. bad guys. This is a film where there is no antagonist, except silent space itself. We are not used to that. Even Kubrick's 2001 had Hal. Any novel or film is usually based on Man vs. Man, Man vs. Machine, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Money, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Himself. This film was Woman vs Herself vs.Space vs Gravity --- a truly original concept in film. It's understandable some don't get it. I hope the Academy does.

Awife Onabudget on Oct 12, 2013


Time will tell...

Joey Magidson on Nov 8, 2013


I know it's a long shot to hope for this, because other people prefer other actresses to Sandra Bullock, but to me, Gravity was a good enough role for Sandra to win Oscar #2. Best female performance I've seen of the year. (SPOILER ALERT) When she re-acclimates to the earth at the end, I was in awe. She barely had to give any sappy speeches during the film to completely enchant the audience. She was SO good in this. If she does not win Oscar #2 (I know, there's probably less than 50% chance it would happen), than I do hope she is at least acknowledged by the Academy and still nominated. This has to be my most favorite 'Sci-Fi' female performance since Sigourney Weaver in Aliens!

Natalie Sanders on Oct 14, 2013


She's going to be in play, no doubt about that...

Joey Magidson on Nov 8, 2013


I bet it doesn't win.

Jess on Nov 7, 2013


I agree, but it's going to have a better chance than I thought last month.

Joey Magidson on Nov 8, 2013


Doesn't it help that it's probably the highest grossing of the eventual nominees?

Kim on Nov 8, 2013


It definitely doesn't hurt...

Joey Magidson on Nov 8, 2013

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