“The body, she says, is subject to the force of gravity. But the soul is ruled by levity, pure.” – Saul Bellow

Gravity is a film worthy of being in the same room as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 in that the visual effects are as groundbreaking as the message is deep. In truth, so many films I’ve seen here in Telluride have been an answer to what ails Hollywood. If the Academy had a category for effects-driven films (and they really should by now) Gravity would win hands down. Effects-driven films don’t have to be mindless and shallow. They don’t have to be what’s expected. Instead, they can reach you from a distance and pull you into them. They can expand the minds of audiences, challenge them intellectually as well as visually. Gravity accomplishes this.

Gravity is a film that feels like it’s almost holding you under water for 90 minutes. You don’t really breathe while you’re watching it — you kind of sip air, like wine, until it comes to a close. It is a spectacular feat of filmmaking, that doesn’t let up nor show you any mercy. The truth about this film is that it should be seen without you knowing anything about it. I already knew a major spoiler going in but it didn’t ruin the experience, still, not knowing in this case is better than knowing.

It seems like an easy call to say Gravity is in line for a Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, Screenplay, Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing, Score, Cinematography, Art Direction also possible. Normally I think it’s pointless to make such predictions until the film actually lands. And indeed, Gravity or any of the films raved about here could ground out once Oscar season starts, No one ever knows a film’s fate once it leaves the coddled atmosphere of the festival circuit. Right now, hope springs eternal. These films feel so immediate, so alive, so exceptional. But Toronto is coming, and many more films will be opening. If tradition holds, the Best Picture winner will have been seen heading into Toronto. We keep asking each other what will win? What can win? No one would have thought after Telluride last year that Argo was the winner. But it’s likely here somewhere.

Gravity could have been just a film about its stunning visual effects -= but it’s the unlikely meditation on the inner world of a woman in her 40s — a fully developed human being with a past, actual depth of character, in charge of her fate. Cuaron had insisted that they not change the lead from a woman to a man as the studio had wanted. Movies with male leads often make more money — it’s written somewhere in the handbook on how to manipulate the herds into spending maximum dollars on reliably formulaic movies — only a handful of directors have ever worked with a singular woman in space – Ridley Scott, most notably, who surprised everyone with Alien by putting Ripley in charge. Gravity feels as rare as Alien must have all of those years ago. It’s just not something you see every day.

The focus on Sandra Bullock is what sets Gravity apart at the outset. George Clooney is her co-star but the story is solely and mostly about her — she is the one who must rely on her wits, her training, her courage, her strength, her iron will to survive. The film then falls into two distinct categories — it’s a visual effects space movie and it’s a survival movie. It goes hand in hand with All is Lost and 12 Years a Slave, but it also can be seen as an effects-driven blockbuster — to say anymore would be a spoiler so I won’t go there.

The score is riveting, matching the intensity of what’s happening on screen. Is that your heart pounding or the sound effects? It’s impossible to tell. The 3-D is as essential as it is in Avatar or Hugo or Life of Pi. You probably wouldn’t get the same feeling of being in space were it not for the 3-D. It always feels real and very very frightening. Of all of the things to be afraid of in life, tumbling through space with nothing to hold on to is probably not one many people think of — or if they do, it’s unfathomable. This is one among many reasons that makes Gravity a unique experience at the theater. The visual effects will bring them in, but they will take home the story.

Sandra Bullock has given one of the best performances of the year. She will join Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench as frontrunners in the race. What I most loved about Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone was that she doesn’t need to be a female character acting like a male character — she is allowed to be a woman and still kick ass. Did Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron know that Gravity is such a personal fear for women? Did they know that it was a metaphor for our fear of gravity’s toll?

We humans have adapted to Earth’s force of gravity and rely on it daily. It hugs us to the Earth without our giving it a moment’s thought. For women, it’s almost a curse — it pulls our skin downward, makes our breasts sag. Many of us curse it — we long for weightlessness. But after watching Gravity, nothing feels more welcome.

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  • Derek 8-Track

    “No one would have thought after Telluride last year that Argo was the winner. ”

    Ebert knew… Right? Now I’m doubting myself.

  • Vincent

    I adore Sandra Bullock. I can not wait to see this film. Hopefully people will finally shut the hell up about her Oscar win from a few years ago?? Dare to dream …

  • Thanks for not revealing any spoilers, Sasha! Though it’s gonna be tough for me to avoid them until it’s released in the UK in November!

  • Well, nobody knew. At that stage, it looked like a viable contender. But this early in the year, nobody can say for sure. The winner will probably be a film that’s already being considered, but the crowd hasn’t even nearly thinned out enough yet.

  • Christophe

    Then I guess we’ll have to use a Ouija board for accurate predicitons: “Roger, are you in the room?”

  • Derek 8-Track

    Ah, just looked it up. He proclaimed it the winner after Toronto.

  • Derek 8-Track

    We just need to contact Ouija Ebert 10 days from now. Then he’ll tell us.

  • jorge

    2 times academy winner SANDRA BULLOCK

    if hillary swank can get two oscars, sandra definitely can!!!

    i dont see judi dench or cate blanchett winning the oscar…

    meryl streep wont win soon…

    i dont buy naomi watts diana i think it will be a massive flop in every aspect..

  • Bob Burns

    good for Bullock. a working actress. hard to get the next big part, one that works, after Oscar.

  • Watermelons

    There is no doubt in my mind that Cuaron and Bullock will earn plenty for this collaboration, but can the simulated otherworldliness of Gravity begin to touch the powerful inner-worldliness of Oscar-winner Kate Winslet’s (Titanic, Revolutionary Road) performance in the Telluride Film Festival entry Labor Day??

    So far it looks like Telluride has revealed at least a couple strong Best Actress contenders (and, perhaps in Winslet, the Best Actress WINNER?!). Sasha’s write-ups have me excited to see both performances for myself!

  • Karl

    Take attention to Marion Cotillard because she does a wonderful performance in The Immigrant. She deserves more attention.

  • I’ve been dying to see this completed since the test screening I attended back in February, which had unfinished FX and was 2D. Even then I was completely swept up in the mastery on display. The portions of the film that were finished were so impressive, I knew we were in for one hell of a ride. Bullock is really, really good in this movie.

  • jorge

    i definitely think this will be the second win for one of the actress in contention… it looks like the top 5 will be blanchett, bullock, dench with streep, thompsom (but i think the will fail big time), kidman , winslet, maybe cotillard…although i would like to see somene like berenice bejo or the girl of blue is the warmest color make it

    amy adams leading for american hustle is def not happening, mark my words…

  • Jpns Viewer

    Thanks for the film review, Sasha.

    “Cuaron’s Masterpiece: ….”

    Well, last time I called a film masterpiece, that is, All the President’s Men, it felt as if some people were telepathically letting me know in response that one man’s cream could possibly mean another’s unfavorable piece of sort. That said, given the buzz at Telluride and kind words, including Sasha’s, in general, I believe it is safe to assume that the film will be just fine, especially in terms of visual effects. Good for all involved.

    Looking forward to seeing it for myself.

  • Jerry Grant

    This is my #1 most anticipated. Cuaron was so overlooked for “Children of Men”–which will be rediscovered as one of the great apocalyptic movies, and prophetic in its depiction of 21st c. sectarian civilization, not to mention its extraordinary cinematography and set design–that his next time around he would have to gain him huge attention.

    If it’s as good as Sasha says, I hope the Academy doesn’t shy away from a space thriller for BP. Hopefully the time will come when pundits who say “they’ll never let a ____ win” will not be given much credence.

  • david

    Hey Jorge you want to know who’s goin to get nominated and win the Oscar for best actress? Brie Larsen (Short Term 12) she has given the best performance of the year by a female lead so far!!!! Mark it down you heard it here first

  • KT

    I’m so excited to see this movie. I want Sandra Bullock to get raves and prove her dramatic chops for the doubters. It’s always amazing when an actor surprises and delivers a career-best quality performance. If she goes all the way, and it’s too early to tell now without the major critics’ reviews and all the politicking, NO ONE would have expected any actor let alone Sandra Bullock to win an Oscar for a sci-fi picture, almost at age 50 no less. I’m very happy for her!!

  • Jerry,

    While I’d do backflips if Gravity found itself in the race, I’m afraid I have to join the chorus of doubters. The Academy clearly doesn’t respect genre fare, and I’m not thinking they’re going to just suddenly change their tune this year. Perhaps if the 10 nominees rule was still the M.O. (I’m calling that a mini golden age that is now ruined by this crappy 5 to 10 nonsense) then it would have a shot. District 9 DID get in, after all. But how many of these boring old white guys are gonna give this a number one vote? Realistically, I don’t think that number reaches the magic number to secure a nod, as sad as that sounds.

  • Isaac Quesada

    Is the name of Bullock’s character based on Ryan Adams and Sasha Stone?

  • jorge

    yes she is def a strong contender for a nomination, but a win is out of the question…

  • Bball_Jake

    The Invisible Woman is getting rave reviews! I predicted it from day one. We have another Best Picture contender.

  • john oliver

    First of all, great review as always, Sasha.
    Like the guys, now the Best Actress race is heating up-I luv it.
    Regardless of what anyone says, I admired Sandra’s drama talent in Crash.

  • Bball_Jake

    And now with Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Labor Day, and The Invisible Woman all getting rave reviews out of the festivals, and all the other promising films to come, I feel like The Butler might get left in the dust. Its too strong of a year, it would have been an 84th Academy Award Best Picture nominee, but this year is jam packed.

  • Goodvibe61

    Sasha, I’m really glad you attended the festival. I haven’t seen much this year to get excited about. But you’ve restored some hope for the fall. It sounds like the good stuff is finally on the way.

    It feels like it was an incredible 72 hours or so of story telling immersion. I’m juiced for the coming season. And, unless the Steve McQueen movie completely overwhelms the competition, perhaps this will be a genuinely intriguing awards race, if several contenders can put up a fight. It could be a great race as well.

  • john oliver

    This year’s Oscar nominations are going to be the most anticipated, yet bittersweet and contentious in years, because of all of the great performances. This is one time they should extend the number of slots in the acting categories. So many great performances are going to be left out-and you know what that means, it’s going to be a blood bath here on Awards Daily, as to who should or who should not have gotten in.
    I don’t know if I will be able to weather the fights.

  • GoOnNow

    so once again: why did Portman and Jolie drop out of this? I keep forgetting.

    It kind of looks like a modern masterpiece already.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Why didn’t Gene Hackman find another Best Actor Oscar nomination enticing at all this late in his life? Maybe then I would have been excited about an Alexander Payne film for the first time. Bruce Dern + Payne? I just can’t.

    I’ll only see it because at this point it’s already essential viewing to keep up to date with the season.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    You really think so? Have you been excited about this film because you’re convinced about Fiennes’ talent as a director (CORIOLANUS) or are you in it for the material? Both?

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I’m sure you mean that you saw ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN -for the first time- not too long ago, and not that you haven’t seen any other film you consider a masterpiece since 1976. I have a weird classification for truly great films like Pakula’s.

    ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN is a perfect film

    NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is a perfect film and a masterpiece

    ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA is a masterpiece

    I’m particular like that.

  • Jerry Grant

    I agree. I wouldn’t be surprised if The Butler, Fruitvale Station, and Blue Jasmine all get left in the dust.


    this year ‘life of pi ‘ ?

    11 oscar nomination – Picture, Actress, Director, Screenplay, Visual Effects, Sound effect , Sound Editing, Score, Cinematography, Art Direction , Editing ( Cinematography / Visual Effects seem LOCK for win)

    worldwide boxoffice – 6 billion

  • Jorge

    Because Angelina asked 20 millions for the film, and they refused and offered just 12 and Natalie was pregnant by that time

  • Tony

    It appears that those of us who don’t get to see movies at these festivals will have tons of good movies available later this year. Yay for that!

    As for Sandra Bullock at the Oscars, I see this more as a Julia Roberts situation than a Hillary Swank situation. When your first Oscar win is questionable, a second one is possible in a relatively weak year only.

  • filmboymichael

    this is the kind of review i like….boom, it’s a visual masterpiece that should stand shoulder to shoulder with 2001. Boom, performances by the actors and the director are second to none. Boom, just see it…This is the kind of review that gets me into a seat!

    Thanks Sasha – great review!

  • Helen

    But Bullock doesn’t deserve the nomination for gravity.

  • Andre

    AAAH I must watch this!!!

    my favourite film of this year is one of my 10 best films of all time (“Upstream Color”). I reckon I might add this to my list. thanks for the spoiler-free review Sasha!

    loved your photos from the previous post, also!!

  • Bball_Jake

    Both man. I think that Ralph Fiennes is proving to be a great director, and I really like the subject matter.

  • I loved Children of Men, and I thought (contrary to the majority of posts on here) that Sandra Bullock was just fine (i.e. not Oscar-worthy) in The Blind Side. Hints of a Cuaron run-home and a career best performance from Bullock puts this at the top of my most anticipated list for the Fall season.

  • Ted

    Just saw GRAVITY …… un.real. I’ve seen all of the buzzed about movies from the fest and I think GRAVITY might just take the cake for me. It’s going to blow people’s minds, I can’t wait for it.

  • Jpns Viewer


    Thanks for your response.

    Matter-of-factly speaking, I was just referring to the fact that we are measure of all things — to each his own. (Possibly, my masterpiece, others’ piece of merde.) : )

    Anyway, if my mem still serves me far too well: I first saw All the President’s Men in 1990s; I love it so well. To begin with, the beginning is already a real killer, loving every minute of it and the rest of the film; even the intro (beginning) itself we could see but gem galore, talking about the white-thing (I’m being vague on purpose so that it won’t ruin other readers’ fun in case they haven’t seen this, er, well, masterpiece….).

    Re the so-called weird classification, I love the way you’ve put it, Bryce: in fact, I think you’ve got a beautiful mind in this sense (not that in any other you haven’t. I find it inviting that some people are specific enough about how they rate their favorite pieces of art form; for instance, to me it is but impeccably appropriate […] to rate a pop-music album as, let’ say, 78.75/100 rather than just 7/10 or 8/10. This rule also applies to films.

  • Christophe

    “worldwide boxoffice – 6 billion”

    That would be 2x Avatar and 10x Life of Pi!
    Everything is possible, especially if it turns out to be a revolutionary masterpiece, but still $6bn sounds really out of this world…

    Seriously, Gravity would already be a BO success if it manages to go beyond $100m in the US and $250-300m WW.

  • filmboymichael


  • K. Bowen

    2001 is obviously outstanding. And I’m looking forward to Gravity.

    But the best space station film, iMO, is Solaris. Not very spacy, though.

  • K. Bowen

    There were probably better performances that year than Bullock in The Blind Side. But I thought she was the best of the nominees. It’s a classic Big Star performance. The film is better than it should be, and that owes her a debt.

  • Joe

    Sandra deserved no nomination from that mediocre performance in that mediorce film, not to mention the win. Period.

  • Squasher88

    Awesome review!

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