‘Interstellar’ Feels the Pull of Oscar’s Gravity

Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” has been compared to “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but for awards voters, Christopher Nolan’s eco-epic may bring to mind a space odyssey from just last year: “Gravity.”

To be fair, “Interstellar” is a total original and the film’s state-of-the-art below-the-line-work is guaranteed to be a talking point during awards season, but voters’ memories of Alfonso Cuaron’s sci-fier present both a big advantage and a challenge for Nolan’s film, which opens Nov. 7.

Last year, “Gravity” went on to earn a total of seven Oscars, including best director, and nearly swept the tech categories, and was also nominated for best picture. It’s also a reminder that a VFX action movie set in outer space can be serious, emotional and substantial.

And of course, there’s the $700 million at the box office. “Gravity,” like Nolan’s last three movies, was a commercial hit and an easy topic of conversation for awards pundits because, let’s face it, no one missed it.

It’s a similar strategy as “Interstellar” (which Paramount is releasing domestically), which takes the space setting and family-themed explorations in a completely different direction than “Gravity.” In the past, Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” and “Inception” each earned eight Oscar nominations, the majority in craft categories. Nolan has earned two writing Oscar noms but, incredibly, none as director. “Interstellar” is an opportunity to change that; it’s clearly a director’s movie.

The other kudos factor to consider: screenplay. “Gravity” didn’t earn a nomination in that category, even though the filmmakers carefully reminded voters that every vivid visual image had first appeared in the script.

“Interstellar” has a slightly different snag. It is long (169 minutes), with some confusing plot twists and heady scientific theories — there’s more talk about quantum data, wormholes and time-space-gravity than all the episodes of “Cosmos” combined. That may give a pause to some voters, but the script gets bonus points for tackling big ideas on a big scale. In a 2012 interview with Variety, Ted Turner bemoaned the lack of serious films addressing the depletion of earth’s natural resources and our need for solutions. “How many stories can you think of where we’re preparing for the future?” he asked with concern. “And if it’s not coming out of the entertainment business and the information business (i.e., the news media), where else is it going to come from?”

Nolan and his co-writer, Jonathan Nolan, sound the alarm loudly and that alone makes the film worthy of voters’ attention.

While it’s not really an actors’ movie, leads Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain do terrific work and have been tubthumping the film heavily in recent weeks, which should help. Also helping the cause is that Nolan, despite the cutting-edge technology, is in some ways a traditionalist. “Interstellar” uses soundstage sets rather than greenscreen, with a lot of shooting done in L.A.; he also prefers film to digital and he uses good ol’ 70mm. Nobody is going to vote for a film just because of these factors, but they’re positive talking points for Academy members.

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  1. I liked this movie… But I can’t see it winning an Oscar. The story was pretty damn wacky… I feel like the really interesting parts happened before they land on the first planet. It was beautiful looking and as usual Nolan’s direction and style was great but I can’t really think of a single truly oscar worthy feature of the film, besides a possible visual effects nomination

  2. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    I’m not a fan of the Nolans, but this is a very good film indeed. However, this is NO 21st century 2001.

  3. Sandra Flack says:

    This was an awesome movie and a special treat. I have medical issues and don’t get out very much. But, it was a birthday gift for me from my husband. Mattew McConaughey has been my dream boat for a long time. You are very lucky Camilla!! I’m glad you have a wonderful and blessed family. I also love Anne Hathaway. both were Stellar!!! We went to a small theather not far from home. Crystal River Florida. It’s holding on by a thread but movies like this one hopefully will help!!
    Thanks Sandy

  4. Rusty Citron says:

    Let’s just hope that younger filmmakers, who become inspired by Mr. Nolan significant achievement, will be able to make movies that actually play in theaters and not just in living rooms or tablets. Unless we change the distribution/marketing business model, there could very well be 10,000 fewer screens in the US in less than 10 years. And if that happens, it will take more than ‘tentpole’ movies or higher ticket prices…

    • Sal U. Lloyd says:

      @Rusty Citron, that should gives a pause to think about.

      • What makes you say that? Box Office scores are still gigantic. Most high level films are recooping their budgets with little difficulty. Are you talking about theatres closing down? I’m not looking to argue, just asking what your line of thinking is based on

  5. john kelso local 44 SPFX says:

    Dear Tim Grey: Thank you for giving Los Angeles some “Respect”.
    Nolan sure did.
    Nolan wins in my book for doing the unthinkable – Filming with Los Angeles expert crafts people !!
    I and hundreds of other expert craftsmen worked our asses off to make this a great looking picture.

    “And the Oscar goes to”………. Mr. Chris Nolan…. “All-Right , All-Right , All–Right “

  6. HAL9000 says:

    2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY – a cultural/technical game-changer – wasn’t even nommed for Best Pic back in 1969 (one of the Academy’s great unbelievably dumb oversights). INTERSTELLAR may get nominated early next year…but look for Linklater’s BOYHOOD to clean up.

  7. Mike says:

    Sandra Bullock was not one of the seven wins for Gravity. Cate Blanchett won last year in that category.

    • timgray2013 says:

      I never said Sandra Bullock won. Did the story say that at some point? Maybe it got changed in editing. My original point was that “Gravity” was not just appreciated as a techincal marvel. It went beyond its seven below-the-line nominations, earning nominations for picture, actress and director, with Alfonso Cuaron winning. Maybe the story got garbled along the way. If so, someone corrected it, I’m happy to say. And as a PS, I gotta say Sandra Bullock was pretty amazing in that movie…

      • Steve says:

        Geez you’re getting defensive there, Mr. Professional Writer.

      • timgray2013 says:

        No, just confused. Several people repeated that Cate Blanchett won, but the story I wrote and the story I read online never indicated otherwise. So I wasn’t sure what the discussion was about. Sincerely, Mr. Professional Writer

  8. Calvin Wilson says:

    Sandra Bullock didn’t win for Best Actress last year. The winner was Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine.”

  9. Coach Bobby Finstock says:

    Ms. Bullock didn’t win. Cate Blanchett won for Blue Jasmine.

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