While Cate Blanchett is still out front in Best Actress for her performance as a woman on the verge in Woody Allen‘s “Blue Jasmine,” Sandra Bullock is coming on fast as “Gravity” takes off with critics and audiences alike.
Bullock has the support of just three experts — Mary Milliken (Reuters) and Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil and Paul Sheehan — but another 10 have her in second place behind Blanchett, who has the backing of 18 experts in all. What would it take for them to swap these top two contenders around?
As O’Neil explains his shift to Bullock: “The extraordinary reception that ‘Gravity’ has received from film critics and moviegoers gives Bullock a new lift. It doesn’t matter that she won just four years ago. Hilary Swank claimed the category twice in five years. Jodie Foster prevailed twice over three years. As Sally Field reminded us, when academy voters like you, they really really like you – for a while anyway. Bullock also has the Babe Factor in her favor. Yes, she’s pushing age 50, but she’s a sexy hot chick when compared to all of the other grande dames in that race: Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Emma Thompson and Judi Dench. When Bullock is spinning around in space in her skin-tight undies, she looks, well, heavenly.”
Blanchett got much better reviews than her film, which scored just 76 at MetaCritic. While critics were respectful of her performance, the character — a socialite who gets her comeuppance when her husband is convicted of securities fraud — left audiences cold. Sure, she got some laughs in this seriocomic character study, but the picture ends with her in a pretty dire state.
Compare that to Bullock’s work as an astronaut in peril. This huge hit earned a jaw-dropping score of 96 at Metacritc and she is credited for much of the critical and commerical success of this risky venture. The actress is alone on-screen for 80% of the film, and she takes the audience along for a wild ride. We are on the edge of our seats, rooting for her to find a way home.
Blanchett has reaped an impressive five Oscar bids since 1998. She won just once: for her featured role as Katharine Hepburn in 2004’s “The Aviator.” Like that all-time Oscar champ, Blanchett is not of Hollywood. She makes her home in Sydney, where she just wrapped up her tenure as co-artistic director (with playwright husband Andrew Upton) of a small theater company. While she makes fairly few films, she is busy these days shooting “Cinderella” in London. That keeps her from campaigning, though she did jet to Gotham last week for a whirlwind 24 hours to be feted by the New York filmfest and meet and greet academy members at one of Peggy Siegal‘s famed luncheons.
Bullock has contended at the Oscar just once — in 2009 for “The Blind Side. She overcame the odds to prevail against frontrunner Meryl Streep (“Julie and Julia”) and win Best Actress. Her gladhanding and good sportsmanship — she showed up to accept her Razzie for “All About Steve” the night before the Oscars — endeared her to academy members. They think of Sandy as one of their own and take pride in her evolution from frothy fluff to more serious fare. That she returned to comedy this summer with the smash hit “The Heat” shows voters she knows her audience, who just came out in droves for “Gravity.”
In the months to come, expect to hear even more from helmer Alfonso Cuaron about Bullock’s dedication to the project. She endured hours of isolation, hanging from a harness to achieve the look of zero gravity and acting in a vacuum. Her efforts were well worth it as she is showcased in “Gravity,” which could well break the Oscar curse against films set in space.
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