I've been spending a great deal of time thinking about Sandra Bullock in Gravity lately. It's only natural when an actress is headlining an unqualified blockbuster that I'd do that but some of the time spent making like a contemplative Rodin-statue is my disconnect with the performance. I didn't love it or dislike it. I fall right in the middle. She's up to the task but no more or less.... to me. It doesn't remotely feel like an actor's movie to me -- though in all honesty I actually expected it to be given its one character focus. As a result I've been rather at a loss for explaining all the performance raves that have flown 'round ever since. And I've been stubbornly reluctant to concede that she was an Oscar lock. [Updated Best Actress chart]
My disconnect was aggravated by the fact that on the day it premiered and the explosion of "give her a second Oscar!" tweeting began... I had such a hard time imagining Cate Blanchett's hurricane force work in Blue Jasmine as a runner-up in this "versus!" contest in terms of quality. What's more Sandra's star turn wasn't even among the five best performances I had seen that month... let alone the whole of the year. While everyone was enjoying Sandra's survivalism on opening weekend I was still: reeling from Luminita Gheorghiu's savage mom in Child's Pose which would be a film-carrying nomination threat if it were in English along the lines of a Anjelica Huston in The Grifters (...and if it were being released in time); marvelling at Marion Cotillard's technique in The Immigrant which would be a threat if Oscar had shown any interest in Marion post-Oscar win (...and if it were being released in time); and falling head over heels in love with Paulina Garcia in Chile's Oscar entry Gloria, a performance so good that it'd be a threat to win the statue if it were in English, and if Oscar loved leading ladies over 50 (they don't)... and, say it with me now... if it were being released in time. That's too many "if"s, I know.
So I asked on Twitter, Guy Lodge thought too aggressively!, what people saw in Sandy's performance that I was missing. Why were they so enthused? (And I probably should have asked the lot of you as well!)
The most common answers I received were for 'selling the illusion' and for her 'game physicality'... both of which are valid points, I concede. But I find that the performance is lacking in vocal nuance and in the eyes (beyond terror). I just didn't feel like it transcended the simplistic characterization in the screenplay in any way and when you're talking FIVE BEST OF THE YEAR you'd better transcend! Otherwise just enjoy solid respectable "we love you, you superstar" reviews and leave it at that. Joe Reid was teasing me earlier today with the internet's binary thinking that this makes me a Sandra hater and no one should ever believe that i've ever enjoyed her in anything. But I have! I've just never though she was a "great" actor, only -- and this is not an insult -- a super likeable and talented one. She's the kind of star for whom global popularity and bottomless coffers of gold coin feel like just rewards.
This is all a long way of saying that I'm happy for Sandra's success since she seems like such a good person and she's so likeable, but that I still don't get why she's now an "Oscar Actress" as opposed to a Beloved Movie Star. Sometimes those things should go totally hand in hand of course, don't misunderstand. But in this case...?
Why am I bringing this up now, three weeks after Gravity has conquered the world and has the loudest Oscar fanbase this year?
Well, while looking for something else entirely in the Vaults of The Film Experience I came across this old post about the casting of Gravity after Angelina Jolie passed in 2010 and this strange "what if" visual detail...
IT'S SUCH A TIME CAPSULE.
These women were all actually mentioned in the trades as viable Angelina Jolie replacements! It's hard to imagine Gravity with most of these girls (if not quite all of them) in the role. Funny, right, that the studio were so invested in the futures of Blake Lively, Abbie Cornish, and Sienna Miller... or that they thought Scarlett or Natalie were old enough to play a scientist with expertise that the space program needed, or that they allowed for the possibility that Naomi Watts or Marion Cotillard might be bankable enough?
Now that Gravity has settled in as our possible nomination leader, how are you feeling about it? And Sandra's place in the Best Actress race? Whether you think I'm crazy or only half-agree, do chime in.