Our countdown continues with new contributor Adam Armstrong on six-time nominee Alfonso Cuarón
There comes a point in everybody’s lives when the awareness of their own mortality becomes apparent. For myself, it came when I was walking to class on a particularly snowy morning and saw a bus slam into a conveniently placed guardrail on a bridge. Snow related accidents are common enough but what happened next is not -- a man in an oversized Santa Claus costume exited the bus, choosing that moment in his life to dabble in the art of traffic enforcement, directing the chaotic traffic away from his fellow passengers as they escaped to a shabby Dunkin Donuts across the street.
Life is a fragile thing and few directors understand this as well as Alfonso Cuarón.
Tenoch, Julio and Luisa (who is very aware of her mortality) are driving to a beach they've hopefully named "Heaven's Mouth" in an effort to escape their unfulfilling lives in Y tu mamá también. Theo and Kee perilously make their way through the war torn United Kingdom to reach the sea where a boat will carry them to salvation in Children of Men. Dr Ryan Stone hangs on to what will to live she has left to descend back down to Earth in Gravity. In all three of these films, which garnered Cuarón his six Oscar nominations, the characters journey to their own deliverance from death, be it in the literal or figurative sense.
Cuaron’s nominations (the script from Y tu mamá también, the editing and script of Children of Men, and the editing, directing and producing of Gravity) each showcase specific storytelling gifts that augment the characters’ struggles and triumphs along the way. Y tu mamá también’s screenplay layers character-specific dialogue, multiple agendas, and political allegory to deepen its road trip journey. The seamless editing in Children of Men sutures together unsettling drama and thrilling realistic action sequences that thrust the viewer into the scenes right alongside the characters as if we're in danger, too. Cuaron’s concise committed vision enable him to maintain control over Gravity's high concept premise, sustaining its plausibility and telling the story as he meant it to be told. (This is especially true in regards to the lead character when he was pressured consistently to cast a man in the leading role.)
A beach. A boat. The earth. All three destinations represent freedom to the travellers (however temporarily) from their fleeting mortality. Cuarón isn't literally escorting us to safety, but he crafts stories that help us fully value our lives, still in progress. That's quite a gift to bring us semi-annually.
previously in our number laden countdown
7 Oscar nominated films about AIDS * 8 time losing Peter O'Toole * 9 nominations for Twelve Years a Slave * Perfect 10 Paul Newman * 11 Days (Bette Midler) * a 12-wide best picture field * 13 years ago in Best Actress (Matthew McConaughey?) * 14 times nominated giants (All About Eve & Titanic) * 15 Days (Supporting Charts) * 16 times nominated costume designer * 17 years ago + 1917 * Meryl's 18th * 19 Days (Julianne Moore) * 20 Year-Old surprise dramas * 21 Days (Billy Wilder)