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Monday, November 4, 2013

Gravity


This was probably the most intense movie I have ever seen. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I frequently found that my jaw had literally dropped. This is intense in a very real way, not in some lame action movie sort of way.
After the movie ended, I actually found myself relieved that it only had a runtime of 90 minutes. I'm not sure I could handle that level of non-stop intensity for two or three hours. It was quite the exercise in anxiety.

The cinematography in Gravity thoroughly blew my mind! I didn't know stuff like this was possible. I applaud Alfonso Cuaron for his efforts to advance cinema technology
Something interesting about the cinematography is that they used VERY long takes.  Modern movies have an average take length (the shots between cuts) of about six seconds, but Gravity has an average take length of 45 seconds! The opening scene is one continuous shot for 17 minutes! It is simply incredible!

Besides being technically stunning, the cinematography is very beautiful as well. The cinematographer for Gravity is Emmanuel Lubezki, the same guy that did The Tree of Life, one of my favorite movies, and by far the most beautiful film I have ever seen. Gravity certainly doesn't disappoint in that department.
Another interesting thing is that the script was written by Alfonso Cuaron, and his son Jonas Cuaron. I think the idea of a father-son team is really cool.

The other thing that surprised me, is that the budget for Gravity was only about $80 Million. For a film as ambitious and ground breaking as this, I expected that figure to be much higher.

I expect that with the level of technical sophistication, and photo realistic rendering, and the 3D IMAX format, comparison to Avatar will be unavoidable. I think this is a fair comparison as far as the visuals go, and with how groundbreaking the two films are, and with how immersive the experience is, but the comparisons stop there. Avatar is a much more conventional film in terms of its plot, style, and pacing. Gravity is unlike anything I have ever seen before. It is simultaneously immensely grand in size, while being extremely small, claustrophobic, and personal. Think Castaway in space.

Gravity is one of a very few films where I left the theater in legitimate awe. I seriously have no idea how they filmed most of this movie.

Another thing I want to point out is just how incredible the soundtrack is. Much of the movie is silent, or mostly silent. I was amazed at how effective it was to have the silence of space highlighted by such incredible music.
The movie itself is 90 minutes. The soundtrack is 70 minutes. I suspect that if you cut out the portions of the film that contain no music, and are mostly silent, you would end up at about 70 minutes. What this means is that the film doesn't reuse the same music or theme song over and over again. Listening to the soundtrack from start to finish is almost like re-watching the film. The soundtrack on its own is a very cool experience.

One of the marks of a great movie is how likely I would be to go see it in theaters again. (I saw Avatar seven times in 3D IMAX.) However, I have a feeling that the intensity of Gravity will make it difficult to watch again and again. Avatar was simply an enjoyable journey, highlighted by almost reverential moments of pure beauty. By contrast, Gravity produces an almost unrelenting feeling of anxiety. That being said, I can't wait to go see it again.

For just pure enjoyment and fun, my favorite movie this year is still The Way Way Back. But I am going to say that Gravity is still a must-see, and I am giving it five stars. It just doesn't get much better than this.


*I did go see Gravity for a second time. While it was still intense, knowing what would happen did significantly reduced the anxiety level. I was also a bit surprised that with the reduced intensity of the overall experience, the movie seemed somewhat less enjoyable. I'm not sure how rewatchable Gravity will be over time, and I wonder how impressive it will be on a small (by comparison) TV screen.
After a second viewing, I would probably give this 4 out of 5 stars. Still very very good and technically impressive, but it did seem to lose something.

I also just want to make a quick little note about Sandra Bullock. She is getting a lot of Oscar buzz for her performance. I'm generally not a Sandra Bullock fan. I just don't think she is a very good actress. While she did a decent job in Gravity, and successfully carried the movie for most of its length, I don't think her performance was particularly memorable. I think almost any other actress could have performed just as well, if not better. So while I give her credit for a generally good performance, I don't think it is Oscar worthy. She'll probably still win though...