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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Buddy Beaverhausen Catches Up with Oscars' Best Picture Nominees # 2: Gravity

Now back in select theaters since it received a Best Picture Oscar nod, Gravity, like gravity, can sometimes be a real drag. It stars 2014 Academy Award nominee Sandra Bullock along with George Clooney.

As soon as the film opens with a very long, slow tracking shot of our planet with CGI spacecraft and floating astronauts, I thought: "Houston, we've got a problem!" At the outset, the film often resembles an animated feature voiced over by its two leads. Good dialogue makes Gravity tolerable but it's much too heavy for its conceit. It wants to be Ingmar Bergman in outer space.

So lethargically paced in its first half, I was reminded of Clooney's sci-fi effort from 2002, the American remake of Solaris, which is not a good thing. Bullock's performance, however, is a strong one, considering she had to find the emotional reality of a situation largely done against green screens.

The second half of the film (less f/x-oriented) is certainly not without suspense and I was generally engaged and invested in the outcome. There are even some emotionally poignant moments largely due to Ms Bullock's acting, and the chemistry between Ms Bullock and Mr Clooney is first-class.

The story of two astronauts free falling toward the Earth, Gravity plays like a metaphor for struggling through life's obstacles. It's meant to inspire. However, if I had starred in Gravity instead of Ms Bullock, the film would have been quite different. In fact, given the sheer athleticism required of the role, my film would have to be a short subject with a running time of about 30 seconds.

As in real life, if it's not one thing, it's another. But you may find, as I did, the complications and dilemmas to be somewhat over the top. Like the serial The Perils of Pauline, Gravity does not have a plot-heavy script. Rather, it's picaresque style, so that one thing happens, then another thing, then something else, until it finally comes in for a figurative landing. Some viewers, however, might find it just a lot of space junk.

Directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), this British-American co-production is being nominated for a grand total of 10 Oscars. Now, there's some serious gravitas to that!

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