Oscars 2013: EW's no-nonsense Prize Fighter analysis of early contenders '12 Years a Slave,' 'Gravity,' more ...

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Gravity (Oct. 4)

Along with 12 Years a Slave, you can count this breathtaking space drama among the surefire Best Picture contenders.

Will it win? It’s still too soon to make a call like that. But the one repeated response I kept hearing at Toronto was: How did they do that? If you can get Academy members, who actually do know how to make movies, ask that – you’ve really accomplished something. Alfonso Cuaron, who co-wrote the script with his son Jonas, can expect to rank among the five Best Director nominees.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as present-day astronauts who go on a spacewalk for a routine mission to repair a satellite. After an accident destroys their shuttle, they end up stranded in orbit with only a few longshot options for survival.

Count Bullock among the Best Actress contenders. Given that these are some of the most groundbreaking visual effects I’ve seen in years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this movie walk away easily with that Oscar. Emmanuel Lubezki’s graceful cinematography will also be in the race, benefiting from Cuaron’s tendency to create long, sweeping, unbroken shots.

The father and son’s script …? The story is brilliant, but it’s not dialogue heavy and the Academy tends to reward films with memorable lines, lively, complex conversations, and unexpected plot twists and turns. This is one field were Gravity may have an uphill climb.

It will also be interesting to see how Gravity fares in the Sound Editing category. Since it’s set in space, where there is no atmosphere to conduct sound waves, the destruction of the Shuttle happens in eerie silence. The only sounds the movie presents, apart from the score, is what the astronauts would hear within their suits. Is the Academy willing to reward the absence of sound?

I’d argue voters should remember the category is called sound editing – not sound creation. Sometimes, it’s about what you leave out.

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