Close But No Cigar: Science Fiction’s Best Picture Nominations — And Losses

By David Wharton | 6 years ago

AvatarAvatar (2009)
I’m not going to sit here and argue that Avatar should have won best picture over The Hurt Locker, or really any of the other films nominated that year. It shouldn’t have. To be honest, I don’t particularly think Gravity should win this year, either. Will I be horribly disappointed if Alfonso Cuaron and company go home with some new hardware? Not at all, but it’s far from the best movie of 2013. They should walk away with a cinematography trophy, however, if they don’t that’s a travesty.

As an immersive spectacle, as a pure movie-going experience, Gravity is second to none this year, though from a story perspective the film leaves something to be desired. This is where Gravity and Avatar intersect. Each film is, without question, a piece of technical mastery. Both Cuaron and James Cameron place you fully and completely inside these incredible worlds they’ve rendered, which is a feat that few films are able to accomplish.

While both of films are big, visually impressive works, when you start to dig into the story and character, things get a little thin. Avatar has the benefit of multiple storylines going on simultaneously, but Gravity is mostly just about one person. Sure, George Clooney pops in now and again to say hey, but outside of the first act, you have Sandra Bullock and very little else else. Given the shortcomings of the script, Bullock does an admirable job — she’s nominated for Best Actress, so some people somewhere think she’s doing something right.

Being asked to carry a movie is no easy task, but in reality, it’s Cuaron’s sweeping visuals that propel the movie, and I can’t help but wonder how that translates to the small screen. A big part of Gravity’s success is that the IMAX and the 3D suck you in and surround you. Avatar suffers when you watch it on your TV, and all the shortcomings and flaws — things you can forgive in the midst of the epic theater-going experience — bubble to the surface. It’s difficult to imagine Gravity escaping a similar fate. Then again, I expected the same experience watching Pacific Rim at home, but I’ve given it multiple go rounds and love it just as much, if not more than I did in the theater. – Brent

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