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ARTS ISSUE: ‘Gravity’ puts weight on visual effects

Posted on December 5, 2013 | by Bob Teoh


To truly experience the atmosphere of fear and despair that Alfonso Cuarón laboriously created in his science-fiction thriller “Gravity,” one must see the film in 3-D and in an Imax theater. The grand experience of the film demands to be seen in the most extravagant way possible.

When Cuarón first pitched his film about a scientist separated from her ship in the dead quiet of space, it was so ambitious that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki said the technology to film an entire movie in zero-gravity simply did not exist. Fortunately, the project gained momentum in 2010 when Warner Bros. acquired the rights. With a budget of $100 million, a lot rested on Cuarón’s shoulders, but he refused to make any compromises and opted for his signature long, continuous shots.

Although realistic space films like “Apollo 13” have previously been achieved through wires and blue screens, Cuarón’s style complicated this method. As a result, his team tapped into an innovative use of special effects. Cuarón flipped the script of similar films by shooting only the actors’ faces and creating everything else digitally, resulting in an almost completely computer-generated film.

The arduous filming process paid off, however, making for a film so thrilling that its excess rarely feels self-indulgent. With the opening shot consisting of a single 17-minute take and only 156 shots in total, “Gravity” could have been a superior case of style over substance. But Cuarón’s style only assists the film’s already terrific pacing and performances, particularly by Sandra Bullock, who gives one of the most emotional acting of her career. “Gravity’s” extravagance demands to be seen in theaters for full effect, and in an age where theaters feel less and less prominent, “Gravity” makes an impact.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 5 print edition. Bob Teoh is a staff writer. Email him at


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Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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