Best Picture Nominees (Gravity) – The Scene That Sealed the Nomination
Can't Stop the Movies

Clenching the Nomination – Gravity

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This week Andrew, Kyle, and Ryan will be discussing the one scene from each of the films that they feel clenched their nomination for the Best Picture Oscar.  *Some spoilers to follow*GravityKyle Commentary BannerIf Gravity wins the Oscar on Sunday for being the first feature-length stress simulator, it won't be entirely for “the first 15 minutes,” as the discussion always seems to start and end with. Make no mistake, that is absolutely what got it nominated—as an exercise in craft, it's hard to argue that the movie isn't tremendously successful. Cuarón will win Best Director, and that will probably be deserved.

But the scene I think clinched the nomination comes a little later, after a lot of the initial chaos, and Chaos Pt 2: George Clooney's Sacrificial Spacesuit Boogaloo. The scene I think sealed things for Academy voters is the one in which Sandra Bullock sits in an escape pod immediately after learning that it's out of fuel. Her last hopes of escaping the horrifying depths of space dashed, a hopeful voice on the radio quickly revealed to be just a stray transmission from Earth—she turns the oxygen in the cabin down and starts talking, kind of to the man on the other end of the radio, but really to herself. This mostly-monologue wanders pretty quickly into the realization that she is going to die (“not just eventually, but today”), and her emotional reaction—it's the first time in the movie that we see a deeper side of the character, in a state other than “worried,” “muted,” or “screaming.”

The scene is not a great one—at one point Bullock starts howling along with the dog in the stray radio transmission, and she plays it like the onset of some kind of space dementia—but it does do two important things. First, and on a more straightforward level, it helps give viewers a sentimental moment to latch onto in an otherwise very visceral movie. More importantly, though, it forces the Bullock character from the mold of a two-dimensional action stand-in with a spare but obligatory albatross-around-her-neck backstory into the (equally superficial) mold of a character who has overcome these hurdles and wants to live (which we know because, I guess, she says she's scared to die alone in outer space). It gives us an emotional rooting for the climax to follow.

Sandra Bullock Crying in Gravity

I'd argue that for those Academy voters who may otherwise have kept Gravity at arm's length as an enjoyable technical spectacle (but not as hallowed capital-A Art), this scene is the one that helped nudge them over the edge. I'd also be in support of that if the movie really did have an effective emotional component—one that didn't seem tacked on solely for the purpose of presuming a deeper experience than is actually being presented. Why do we need the contrived excuse for emotional involvement? So what if the whole film is a terrifying theme park ride with characters standing in as mere avatars for the viewer? It was certainly well made enough to keep me engaged based solely on the fear of dying alone in outer space.

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Posted by Kyle Miner

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  1. Agreed! It’s those brief moments of respite with Bullock that sold Gravity for me. It doesn’t work without a connection to her, and the moment you mention is one of the key examples of how that forms.

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