"Gravity" vs. "12 Years a Slave"? That certainly seemed like the narrative we were heading into for quite some time, which would have shared commonalities with the "Avatar" vs. "The Hurt Locker," "Hugo" vs. "The Artist" and "Life of Pi" vs. "Argo" showdowns that met the last three years (an expensive, 3D critical and commercial hit versus a smaller film tackling history in one way or another)... History won all three times, but this year is clearly closer than ever.
My vote is usually for the history film - I'm a huge fan of history (The King's Speech still makes me cry happy tears!) - with one exception. When history comes up against really-well done, visually stunning, thought-provoking science fiction, I'm really torn.
I haven't seen 12 Years A Slave, so this is totally unfair for me to root for Gravity to win. (Personally, I'm surprised The Butler didn't get nominated, another good historical).
But Gravity was such an excellent story and such a vivid portrayal of space, with all its beauty and stark danger, that I can't help but root for it to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
I have never been so tense (in a good way) while watching a movie before. By tense in a good way I mean, yes, the character is in grave danger, but there's also the excitement of a challenge that can be overcome by applying expertise, courage, and perseverance. And I especially love it when an unlikely character, like Sandra Bullock's nervous, fearful, heartbroken character, manages to overcome her fears and rise to the occasion and accomplishes things at first she's too terrified to even try.
Encouragement from George Clooney's character (sometimes in a really surprising way!) gives Sandra's character the strength and inventiveness to save herself against almost unimaginable odds. The lullaby she hears sung across space from a remote radio operator in Greenland... hauntingly beautiful.
I just finished writing a young adult science fiction story, Star Tripped, set in space (my logline begins: Camria and her twin sister were the first children born on the International Space Station), and I did A LOT of research on the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions. So it was really exciting to me to see a lot of information I'd learned confirmed and even more exciting to discover one spot in the movie which didn't match with what I'd learned about movement in space, but was probably added as a device to increase tension.
While reading more about the scientific accuracy of the movie: I learned some neat little details about zero gravity:
Stone's tears first roll down her face in zero gravity, and later are seen floating off her face. Without sufficient force to dislodge the tears, the tears would remain on her face due to surface tension (Wikipedia)
But what I loved most about the movie was it really made you feel, with amazing cinematography and 3D technology, as if you were in space. I probably won't have a chance in my lifetime to visit space (unless a commercial venture becomes possible, but then I'm not sure I could afford it), so any opportunities like this, I eat them right up. Praise from critics does such a better job than me at describing the wonder that is this movie:
"a huge and technically dazzling film and that the film's panoramas of astronauts tumbling against starfields and floating through space station interiors are at once informative and lovely"... (Matt Zoller Seitz)
"restores a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen" (Justin Chang)
the film "in a little more than 90 minutes rewrites the rules of cinema as we have known them." (A.O. Scott)
What's the last movie that amazed you?