By Glenn Whipp
9:00 AM EDT, October 7, 2013
Neighborhood theaters weren't the only places turning away moviegoers looking to see "Gravity" this weekend.
Academy members packed the roughly 1,000-seat Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Saturday night to see Alfonso Cuaron's spectacular space survival story, forcing staff to rebuff those late-comers arriving near the movie's start time.
The evening's turnaway crowd was all the more impressive given that those attending came for just the movie. Most academy showings feature a post-screening Q&A with the filmmakers and actors, and the discussions often help fill the seats. (Academy members can sometimes seem as starstruck as the tourists shuffling along Hollywood Boulevard.) On Saturday, the film was the event, and judging from the applause when the credits rolled, voters found much to appreciate.
Taken together with the film's imposing weekend box-office numbers (the biggest October debut ever, $55.6 million) and the critical raves greeting its opening, "Gravity" seems poised to be a major player in this year's Oscar race. The visual effects award is probably being engraved as you read this. Nominations for sound mixing and sound editing would seem assured and five-time Oscar nominee Emmanuel Lubezki should have a strong chance to finally win the Academy Award for cinematography, a trophy he should have already won at least a couple of times for his phenomenal work.
Meanwhile, Sandra Bullock has received better reviews for her turn as the film's isolated astronaut, a virtual one-woman show, than she did for "The Blind Side," the movie that won her the lead actress Oscar four years ago. It's a role that serves both her intellect and energy and, given the mental and physical demands of the shoot (long periods of isolation in a 9-foot-by-9-foot light box or hanging from 20 foot ceilings), Bullock's work here offers plenty of different ways to appeal to voters.
The buzz surrounding the movie won't hurt her cause, either. People in the industry are passionate about "Gravity. Tweets like this one from filmmaker (and geek god) Edgar Wright illustrate how a certain segment of Hollywood is bowing before Cuaron's ground-breaking, 3-D movie. (James Cameron calls it the "best space film ever made.") The overflow crowd at this weekend's academy screening demonstrates that members not only want to see the movie, but they want to see it now and on the big screen, not a DVD screener. That's a good sign, both for the film and filmmaking itself.
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