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The best picture race and 'Gravity': diversity, history and Austin.

Like one of the year's contenders in "Gravity," the year's film awards race has been out of this world.

An already interesting awards season race for the Academy Award for Best Picture turned even more interesting on Saturday night when Alfonso Cuaron won the Directors Guild of America's (DGA) award for "Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film" for "Gravity."

While I am still personally pulling for "12 Years a Slave" to win best picture at the Academy Awards (aka The Oscars) in February, the building industry support behind "Gravity" evident by its earlier Producer's Guild split win and DGA success is very encouraging and could lead to a historic best picture win.

The reason such support is so encouraging is quite simple really. With two other films that many would more easily classify as "Oscar Bait" in "American Hustle" and "12 Years a Slave" in the running, the real chance exists that a film with a female lead (former Austin resident Sandra Bullock) and Mexican-born director may in fact take the whole enchilada and win Best Picture in February

Not only does "Gravity" seem to have growing industry support, but the film has the support of the people as well as the film has the potential to be the 2nd highest grossing Best Picture winner in the last 10 years with only "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" besting its box office total according to a list published by Sasha Stone of awards season news site Awards Daily.

A "Gravity" win in February would also help establish a Austin connection to the Academy Awards. If "Gravity" does indeed take the prize, the film will become the first best picture winner to screen as part of Austin's own genre film festival Fantastic Fest. In fact, the Fantastic Fest screening was only the 2nd opportunity for American audiences to see the film after the Telluride Film Festival.

According to the festival's reply to my inquiry regarding this fact, the closest the festival has come in the past to screening an eventual best picture winner was when the festival held the world premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will be Blood" at the 2007 festival. That film went on to win two Academy Awards but lose the best picture category to the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men."

While a "Gravity" best picture win would certainly be historic, one can't forget that a win for Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" would be incredibly historic. Perhaps even more so. A win by for a film featuring a black British director and primarily black cast would mean a undeniably historic moment for the Academy.

However, that possibility of "12 Years a Slave" winning has been discussed at great length amongst awards pundits as McQueen's film has long been considered an Oscar favorite. "Gravity" for the most part has been stuck with the assumption of being only a tech awards and possible director contender.

It's time to pay attention. "Gravity" is no pretender. It's a contender that's ready to play ball and make some history along the way.

"Gravity" is back in several theaters across Austin for a limited time. Tickets and showtimes are available here.

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