A quick look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture…

Synopsis: After a terrifying accident, a rookie astronaut is stranded in space and must use her wits and every other resource at her disposal to find a way back to Earth.

Total nominations: 10 (Picture, Director, Actress, Cinematography, Production Design, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects)

Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron (nominated for Best Director; sixth nomination)

Starring: Sandra Bullock (nominated for Best Actress, second nomination, one win), George Clooney (four nominations, one win)

Sandra Bullock in “Gravity.” (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Why it should win: Alfonso Cuaron’s 3-D space adventure is a technical masterpiece, investing grandeur, epic scope and breathtaking visual mastery into what is essentially an old-fashioned, will-she-land-the-plane popcorn flick. A thrill ride with smarts and surprising emotional poignancy, “Gravity” gave us a reason put down our iPhones, turn off Netflix and go back into the theater, the better to gaze at the big screen and see our world and our stars portrayed in towering, larger-than-life scale. In an era when the pictures are getting smaller, Cuaron restored a sense of size and occasion to American cinema.

Why it won’t win: In what might be called the “Life of Pi” scenario, Academy voters are likely to give “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron the Oscar for Best Director, and vote for “12 Years a Slave” for Best Picture – in recognition of its artistry as well as its historical import. There’s no doubt Academy members have deep admiration and respect for all that “Gravity” achieved last year, but some may perceive it merely as a superbly-executed genre exercise, an essentially simplistic thrill ride that benefits from exceptionally assured direction on the part of Cuaron.

Ann Hornaday’s review: 4 stars

“‘Gravity’ succeeds simultaneously as a simple classic shipwreck narrative (albeit at zero-gravity), and as an utterly breathtaking restoration of size and occasion to the movies themselves.”

Box office as of Feb. 24: $269 million domestic, $703 million worldwide

Related Reading:

Mark Kelly gives an astronaut’s view of ‘Gravity’

Why ‘Philomena’ should win the Best Picture Oscar