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For Your Consideration: 'Gravity'

One of the most enjoyable outings we had with Master and Miss Ionarts in 2013 was a visit to the Kennedy Space Center, at Cape Canaveral, during our winter vacation in Florida. As someone whose heart soared with the flights of the space shuttles, and who remembers the devastating sadness of watching the Challenger disintegrate in the air as if it were yesterday, I was emotionally overcome at the KSC presentation of Shuttle Atlantis, which was unveiled last summer. To be so close to that ship, hovering in the air and lit as if it were back in space in my dreams, seemingly close enough to reach out and touch, just took my breath away. We also enjoyed the IMAX 3D film about the mission to repair and extend the life of the Hubble telescope.

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Gravity (directed by Alfonso Cuarón)
What is most impressive about Alfonso Cuarón's new film, Gravity, is along the same lines as that IMAX movie, how it makes you feel like you are right there, soaring above the earth's surface. The space footage of the Hubble documentary was shot by actual astronauts, spliced together and narrated by Leonard DiCaprio, while Cuarón manufactured his, to the tune of at least $100 million. The results are indeed spectacular, but not that much more so than what Sebastián Cordero accomplished, for a fraction of the budget, in his Europa Report earlier in the year. The slickness of Gravity's visuals are likely to earn it many of those sorts of Academy Awards for which it was nominated: Best Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life, The New World), Film Editing, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, possibly even Best Director for Cuarón or Best Original Score for Steven Price (an experienced musician with few scores to his name -- one is The World's End).

Other Reviews:

New York Times | Washington Post | The New Yorker | The Atlantic | L.A. Times
Wall Street Journal | David Edelstein | Christian Science Monitor | NPR

Where the film is not so strong is its script, which stretches credulity in its absurd conclusion (not to mention scientific facts) and trivializes its subject matter at times with its dialogue. For these reasons, it does not seem to have as strong a case for the other nominations it received. 12 Years a Slave would seem the run-away front-runner for Best Film, and Sandra Bullock's work here -- although her grunting and panting were top-notch -- cannot seriously be put up against that of Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, or Judi Dench. Her work would not be extraordinary except for the wizardry that was engineered around her: it is on the same level as the glib repartee of George Clooney, as the veteran astronaut who tries to help her, a scientist and first-timer in space, survive the least hospitable environment there is. The screenplay, by Cuarón and his son Jonás (with a partial credit to George Clooney) does neither of the actors any favors.

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