No movie set out in outer space has won Best Picture at the Oscars. Could "Gravity" be the one to break that curse?
The 3D spectacle opened Friday to some of the best reviews of the year. At Rotten Tomatoes, it is scoring a jaw-dropping 100 among the top critics and it comes in at 97 over at Metacritic. The picture is sure to do boffo business this weekend and should have legs to last.
Many reviewers have likenened Alfonso Cuaron's film to 1968's "2001: A Space Odyssey." However, that cinematic masterpiece was not even nominated for Best Picture, which was won by "Oliver!" That sugary musical also beat the sci-fi flick in two other categories -- Director (Carol Reed over Stanley Kubrick) and Art Direction -- while Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke lost Original Screenplay to Mel Brooks ("The Producers"). It did win Best Visual Effects.
Other films have tried and failed to take the top prize at the Academy Awards: "Star Wars" lost to "Annie Hall" in 1977, unable to break the academy bias against sci-fi fare. George Lucas also lost the directing and original writing races to Woody Allen. However, "Star Wars" did claim six competitive Oscars -- editing, art direction, costumes, score, sound mixing and visual effects -- as well as a special award for sound editing.
And "Apollo 13" -- another lost in space picture -- was bested by "Braveheart" in 1994. Despite winning the DGA award, "Apollo 13" helmer Ron Howard was snubbed at the Oscars with "Bravheart" director Mel Gibson winning there. "Apollo 13" only prevailed in two of its nine races -- editing and sound mixing -- with "Babe" even beating it for best visual effects.
"Gravity" could well lead with the most nominations at this year's Oscars. It is sure to contend for 11 prizes: Picture, Director, Actress (Sandra Bullock), Original Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. And academy favorite George Clooney could sneak into Supporting Actor.
While the film may be set in space, it has a social message that resonates on earth -- the devestating effects of pollution (in this case debris caused by the Russian destruction of a satellite). That sense of importance could elevate "Gravity" into a serious contender for Best Picture. Do you agree?
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While Oscar routinely slaps young studs, refusing to give awards to male matinee stars like Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio, he lustily embraces babes. In fact, the lead actress race looks like a beauty pageant in recent years with champs like Marion Cotillard, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts. Over the past 20 years, only two stars over the age of 50 have won Best Actress -- Helen Mirren ("The Queen") and Meryl Steep ("The Iron Lady")
Oscar's babe in 2010 was Natalie Portman, who titillated "Black Swan" viewers with a masturbation scene plus frisky girl-on-girl action with co-star Mila Kunis. She bested 52-year-old Annette Bening, who had been an early frontrunner for "The Kids Are All Right." Despite four nominations, Bening remains Oscarless.
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