• A transcendent display of cinematography (The Bordwell definition- not the Academy definition which is closer to photography)- camera movement that perfectly matches the place and story
  • 90 minutes- tight- Cuaron is just a perfectionist—last film was 2006’s Children of Men and then we get a 90 minute film
  • Win for that pulsating musical score- one of 7 Oscar wins (including the first of three wins back to back for Emmanuel Lubezki 
  • The jaw-dropper is the 12 ½ minute opening take
  • There are some unfortunate platitudes in the script like Clooney (who is great here) as the Texas-based veteran of outer space who asks Bullock “Where do you pitch your tent?”- not a major flaw but could do without—I think the “universal” story-telling was mistaken for being dumb or lacking depth
  • The camera is perfectly tethered to the actors as if floating of course- a perfect marriage like on a bungee- the effect is incalculable to the film/narrative/viewer experience not to mention an absolute technical and stylistic marvel and achievement
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  • A survival meditation- 3 passes of the debris are space/time manipulation in editing
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  • Big star-power pays off with the two leads- Clooney is charming (few on screen have ever been more so than Clooney over his career) instantly and good old Sandy Bullock (not an overly talented actress per se) is instantly relatable and sympathetic- it’s narrative short-cutting through casting at its finest
  • Largely Cuaron has done away with his greens in the mise-en-scene (his 90’s work was loaded with it- and Children of Men brought it back a little) but of course Bullock is wearing a green tank when she changes in the crucial scene of rebirth as she balls up. There’s green paper later—there’s a green Aurora Borealis later, green frog at the end
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  • That scene with her in a ball is important for the subtexual element and religious reading of the film- Clooney as an angel (like Cary Grant in The Bishop’s Wife in 47’), learning to walk at the end of the film (also an evolutionary metaphor), the howling, the fire (hell of course), along with the clear religious iconography in the three satellites (the Orthodox sticker, the Buddha)- those that claim this is just a film of technical achievement aren’t doing enough work to get the subtext – “nobody taught me how to pray” in the actual text, the 3 (or trinity) as a common number which again knowing Cuaron is no accident
  • It’s not just the opening shot that’s a long take- Cuaron isn’t breaking unless the scene calls for it- tremendous blocking, and re-framing
  • Great acting by Bullock- the best work of her career- she’s not only our story surrogate and guide- but she has a great breakdown an hour in
  • As critics we don’t have to apologize for the stylistic achievement—it is ok (and a pleasure) to be awed by great filmmaking
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  • MS/MP border – I’ve seen four times- twice in theater and twice since