Here’s how Sandra Bullock (‘Gravity’) can pull off Oscar upset

According to the 27 Experts polled by Gold Derby, the Oscar frontrunner for Best Actress is Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine“), as Tariq Khan pointed out. But is that really true? I’m skeptical because lying in wait is Sandra Bullock (“Gravity“), who I think is perfectly positioned for an upset.

In some ways, Blanchett gives exactly the kind of performance the academy loves: big, boozy, and emotionally unhinged. But it’s also caustic in a way they don’t usually go for. As a socialite who loses everything, she’s all downward spiral and no uplift, and even if we sympathize with her and her damaged psyche, we never really root for her.

Bullock, on the other hand, plays one of the most heroic characters of the year, a stranded astronaut using her wits to get safely back to Earth. She’s not as broadly emotional as Blanchett, and there are a lot of special effects in “Gravity” competing for attention, but the entire point of the film is how much we’re rooting for her to succeed. And, let’s remember, the Rooting Factor is often what determines who wins.

It doesn’t hurt that Bullock carries “Gravity” all by herself. For most of the film she’s the only actor on-screen, mourning past losses and facing her mortality in a physical role that is a drastic departure for her.

You might argue that Bullock won Best Actress only four years ago for “The Blind Side” after a career of mostly romantic comedies; will voters think it’s too soon to honor her again? On top of that, does she deserve two lead-acting Oscars before an actor’s actor like Blanchett even has one?

Those questions may be going through the minds of some voters, but there’s too much precedent suggesting those numbers don’t matter to them as much as they do to us Oscar-watchers. Tom Hanks and Spencer Tracy won Oscars two years in a row. Christoph Waltz just won his second award last year after only a three-year wait. Sally Field and Sean Penn won Oscars five years apart.

Hilary Swank‘s two Oscar wins were also five years apart, and I think she’s the closest direct comparison to Bullock. After less-than-prestigious roles in “Beverly Hills 90210” and “The Next Karate Kid,” Swank became a critics’ darling in 1999 for her role in “Boy’s Don’t Cry,” winning Best Actress. Then in 2004 she starred in the Best Picture winner, “Million Dollar Baby,” and won Best Actress again.

The second time, Swank’s Oscar fate was tied up with the success of her film, and I suspect the same will be true for Bullock. It’s very possible “Gravity” will win Best Picture, and if it does, won’t a voter checking off a one-woman show for the top prize also probably check off the one woman for acting?

Even if it doesn’t win Best Picture, “Gravity” is certain to have more below-the-line support than “Blue Jasmine,” with likely nominations and possible wins for music, production design, editing, sound, visual effects, and cinematography. All those behind-the-scenes artists and technicians will be voting for the Best Actress winner along with the academy’s acting branch. That could be where Bullock pulls ahead.

Can Bullock really beat Blanchett? And do you think she deserves a second Oscar so soon? Make your predictions, then post in the comments below.

34 thoughts on “Here’s how Sandra Bullock (‘Gravity’) can pull off Oscar upset

  1. I am pulling for Sandra all the way. There are a multitude of reasons beyond those mentioned.
    She is the heart of “Gravity”, the reason the film has heart and is not just a technical marvel. We care
    about her survival. Sandra is also breaking through glass ceilings for women of a certain age in
    Hollywood. At 49 she had “The Heat” and “Gravity.” Both successes largely based on Sandra.
    Finally, Cate has won an Oscar. I don’t think it really matters if it is for lead or supporting.

  2. Almost every year, someone manages to lead one of the four acting categories wire-to-wire; this year it’s Cate Blanchett. Even if “Gravity” wins Best Picture, all that means is Bullock’s snub could well be the biggest since the Oscars honored everyone in “A Streetcar Named Desire” *EXCEPT* Brando!

  3. I forgot to mention the intense physicality of Sandra’s performance. Her performance was done in complete isolation. Every movement carefully matched to zero gravity specifics. All of this along with giving a terrific performance. Sandra performed a high wire act of a performance.

  4. Actually, Blue Jasmine is the kind of actors role that the Academy loves to reward. And both Cate Blanchett and Woody Allen are very respected in Hollywood. Blanchett has maintained her front runner status since last summer when the film came out. Best Actress is done.

  5. By far…CATE BLANCHETT… AMAZING!!!!!!! Emma, Meryl, and Dame Judi are GREAT BUT…. the Best Actress goes to CATE!!!!! Give me a break… Sandra Bullock … never in a million years.

  6. Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side was one of the weakest winning performances ever. The Academy owes Cate Blanchett Best Actress – after losing it to Gwenyth Paltrow. Like Bullock, another marginal actress.

  7. This article said of Blanchett’s Jasmine that we never really root for her. Untrue! I did so much want her character to grow and evolve, just not through lucky breaks. I was sad for Jasmine getting assaulted by her employer/dentist which was a major setback. Blanchett’s Jasmine was so complex; proud yet vulnerable, aware yet delusional, strong yet needy, self-possessed yet falling apart. Great portrayal of this complex character by Cate, and I bet this movie will be studied and pointed out long beyond the Oscars.

  8. In an article published today, Tim Gray of Variety said that “Blue Jasmine” has a huge advantage over many of the other films: A lot of voters have seen it. He also said that in conversations with Academy members, he’s surprised how many still haven’t seen the supposed front-runners. And, aside from seeing it, people really like it. Gray went on to say “Jasmine” deals with the economy and the fight for survival, a recurring theme in 2013 films. So it’s a “little” film but with big themes.

  9. Completely disagree with all of you who say that Cate Blanchett has this locked up. Saw the movie and was completely unimpressed with the performance because I’ve seen this before with A Streetcar Named Desire. What a ripoff of Blanche Dubois; Vivien Leigh did it better. Blanchett is an overactor which is why she has only the one Oscar. Sandra Bullock portrayed a character who was an everywoman, someone that we all can identify with, someone who is resourceful, someone that we should all strive to be (man or woman) in times of crisis, not like Blanchett’s character who is weak. She does not portray women in a positive light. Bullock all the way to the Oscars. She may not win the Critics Choice or the Golden Globe, but the SAG award and Oscar will be hers. Completely agree with the author of the post.

  10. Viviana – Well, I completely disagree with you. I’ve seen A Streetcar (the film, 2 staged productions including the one Cate was in & the TV mini movie Alec Baldwin was in w/ Jessica Lange) & as much as I loved Leigh’s portrayal of Blanche, Cate blew her performance out of the water! And I’m not alone in that assessment, have you read the reviews? Having said that, this was a VERY different role. Similar situations of course, with her going to live with her poor sister & ridiculing her lifestyle, however, Jasmine/Jeanette and Blanche couldn’t be more different. And I was not blown away by Bullock. Just because you can relate to a character doesn’t mean their performance is superior, it’s the impact of the character which counts and Sandra’s performance just wasn’t mind blowing enough for me. Cate, on the other hand, had the audience by the throat the entire way through & was gripping until the very last scene. That is a performance which will be referenced in years to come, whereas I don’t get the feeling Sandra’s will. Cate’s one of the greatest actors alive and the industry and other actors agree, so, that Best Actress Oscar has Cate’s name written all over it. Hell, it’s been hers since last July.

  11. Viviana – Sandra Bullock will not win the SAG. SAG has never given out Film Lead more than once to the same performer – with the exception of Daniel Day Lewis. Not even Meryl Streep has won it more than once. Blue Jasmine is more of an actor’s role. And Cate Blanchett is definitely more an actor’s actor.

  12. Cate Blanchett has never won Best Actress, despite being considered one of the best of her generation. She is the critics darling; way ahead in the precursors. She is very well liked in Hollywood. She is the reason for the success of Blue Jasmine whereas it’s really Alfonso Cuaron who is the creative force behind Gravity. Bullock wasn’t even the first or fifth choice for the film. She is in a space fantasy – not the type of movie the Academy gives awards too. Bullock failed to even rank in the Top 6 for Best Actress at LAFC, when Gravity won Best Pic, Cuaron Director.

  13. To those of you who disagree that Sandra Bullock has real shot at winning, I respect your opinion for what it is, an opinion. I hope you were able to hear Bullock’s enduring speech at the Palm Springs Film Festival last night, what a class act. It is clear that Sandra Bullock has a great deal of support. Just a flashback…how many precursor critics awards did Bullock win the year she won the Academy Award, that’s right NONE. If the academy loves you, you can overcome the critics as she did in 2009. Look what happened to Julianne Moore in 2002, she won all the critics awards and then faded away as Zellweger and Kidman took the major prizes. I am not saying that that will happen to Blanchett, as she will win the Globe and Critics choice, but mark my words, Sandra will win the SAG and the OSCAR. The physicality of her role will not be ignored.

  14. Bullock’s performance was bollocks…she put women’s rights back a generation with that performance that sounded like rough sex, coitus interruptis ….no wonder poor Clooney cut himself free from her and drifted off into space and certain death ; he was probably glad to get out of a lousy movie

  15. Viviana: just because you WANT Sandra Bullock to win, does not mean it will happen, no matter how many times you say it. Bullock won in a year where there was no clear front runner. Blanchett is a very popular actress in a very popular Woody Allen film. Her performance will have much more appeal to the actors in SAG. As noted, aside from Daniel Day Lewis, SAG has never given Lead Film Actor to anyone more than once, not even Meryl Streep.

  16. Cate Blanchett has the tougher role; gives the better performance. Sandra Bullock is more about the dazzling special effects. I agree with critics and pundits that this deservingly should be Blanchett’s year. Her win will be one of best all time Best Actress.

  17. It depends on your definition of tough. Sandra Bullock had the tougher role in terms of physicality and still gave a stunning performance, one for the ages. I left the theater mesmerized by her when I saw Gravity. No one else could have pulled off the subtle and not so subtle nuances of the role. Whereas Blanchett was acting the whole time and you could feel it. Not a pleasurable movie experience.

  18. I really hope that Bullock doesn’t win any a wards for Gravity, Gravity was nothing but a weak drama centred a round Bullocks character set in space , the special effects was the only thing that was worth watching in the film, it was over hyped by critics.

  19. For whatever its worth: many of my SAG friends have gotten screeners and are not liking Blanchetts character. And its for precisely the reason Daniel mentioned in the article; you cant root for her. They appreciate the nature of the work Blanchett is doing but the movie doesnt offer a way in, to like or care about the character. Again Im just reporting the opinion of a few SAG actors Ive talked to. The other thing going for Bullock at the SAGs is that she will be the most widely seen nominee. Most SAG members havent gotten a screener of Gravity (instead they get a link to a site to watch it on), but most I know have already seen it in theaters anyway. So they rent even bothering with the site. The tricky thing with the SAG awards is who will actually vote.All the members love getting free screeners in the mail…but not all of them actually take the time to vote.

  20. Speaking of the Best Female Performance of the Year….. Have you watched ADELE EXARCHOPOULOS in BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR. For me, that’s the real acting performance, it’s raw, human, so affecting and authentic. Adele’s character grew throughout the movie, even the real Adele playing is just 19 years old. She deserves a nomination for her work and I know that Blanchett will win this, but I want Adele to be recognized for a performance that is for the ages.

  21. Why does a character have to be ‘like able’ There are all types in this world! If anything that’s a more realistic portrait of humanity. Also I don’t remember anything likeable about Jake Lamotta, and the academy handed De Niro the award! And rightly so…I’m hoping the same for Blanchett

  22. Well. I had seen all the comments before me. First thing, I never doubt cate’s perfornance because the first time I saw her in lord of the ring. I was so captured to her. So do Sandra, when I first saw her in speed. But let us consider the overall requirement or hard work that pour in to carry the characters and compare with the end results. Cate is working with some great Co actors in the blue jasmine. We do have to accept that wwhen you work with with great actor, it will either make u better or worst but cate did it great. As for Sandra, she has the great George clooney but let’s be fair. George screen time is less than 30mins. It means the whole movie is solely depend on Sandra performance to ensure the audience keep connecting to the movie. Such ability is no easy task. Plus, acting with almost nothing in constant isolation is something that a lot great actor or actress will turn down to. Becoz the entire movie are so focus on how well the actors do. Hence, we should not simply deny Sandra her rights for the Oscar. Plus if u had watch the behind the scene footage for gravity. U will know why I said so

  23. Reese
    I have watched the behind the footage for Gravity and that isn’t a reason to say Sandra bullock should get a Oscar, plus her acting in Gravity was average at best, its thanks to the special effects that made the film interesting in 3D, the storyline was fairly weak in the film.

  24. If Academy voters take EVERYTHING into consideration, I think Sandra Bullock becomes the best choice.
    Cate was great, but the level of difficulty of Sandra’s performance was of a much higher level. Sandra was the reason “Gravity” had a heart, and her amazing work complimented the incredible visuals and score audience members witnessed. Likewise, “Gravity” was the highest accomplishment in film this year. “Blue Jasmine?” Not so much.

  25. Cate was GREAT! Even after seeing Blue Jasmine back in August, her performance is still in my mind.
    Sandra was good, but I have completely forgotten her and the movie. A true oscar performance stays with you and you never forget it. Cate has the ability to do many characters and make a weak movie better than you would imagine. Cate gave the best performance male or female in 2013.

  26. hi couldhavebeen better and michael larson. if sandra preformance in gravity is only consider as average. well, then i dont think cate deserve an A for her role in blue jasmine. but anyway, i believe the experts know what they were doing. but let me give you some hint. when sandra got her first oscar, the group of nominees are as much same like it going to be for 2014. hence, if sandra can get her 1st oscar for blind side. i dont think there is any problem for her to get the second one. because her performance in gravity is way much better than what she did in the blind side. plus, sandra is always the winning dark horse

  27. I’m a little confused as to why the author thinks Sandra Bullock winning would be considered an “upset.” It would be an upset to him, but to the majority of moviegoers, I am rather certain they are rooting for Sandra. More people have seen Blue Jasmine. Now does the public opinion matter? Not particularly, and I would argue that just because a movie or actress is popular, doesn’t mean it’s deserving of such a reward. Yet after seeing both films, I would say Bullock has the edge. We’ve seen Blanchett’s character before many times in other films and executed just as well, if not better, but other actresses – that’s where she’s going to lose some support. Sandra’s character is one we haven’t seen and she impeccably executes this role.

  28. I don’t think Sandra can pull an upset. Blanchett is Hollywood royalty without a Lead acting Oscar. Sandra’s win was widely disputed and too recent. Yes, Bullock carries the film, but I think the real acomplishments for Gravity will come in the technical categories, as well as Best Director. Blanchett is a lock for me and she deserves it. I disagree with the author, I found her character compelling and I did root for her.

  29. Cate was amazing in Blue Jasmine, but I think Sandra deserves to win… if you watch Gravity’s behind the scene video you’ll see how hard that woman worked and she sure deserves her second Oscar. In my opinion, this is one of the best years .. they all deserve to win and I really hope Leonardo DiCaprio will finally get his statue.

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