“Roma” transcends Academy’s conventions

by Ursula Muñoz Schaefer/ Staff Writer

Roma might just be Netflix’s most surprising hit. The quiet drama, filmed entirely in black and white has resonated with audiences as much as its kindhearted protagonist.

It currently holds a 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, reflecting overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics.

It had a combined release on the streaming service and in theaters, giving audiences the chance to experience the top-notch cinematography and sound design in the biggest possible way.

It won its multifaceted director Alfonso Cuarón two Golden Globes and in a tie with the English-language comedy The Favourite, it now holds the most Academy Award nominations of any film this year at ten.

These include Best Picture and Best Director, along with nods to its lead and supporting actresses, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira.

And yet, the critic favorite’s chances of taking home Best Picture still seem very low.

First off, Roma is a Netflix release and God knows that outside of the documentary genre the Academy hasn’t been particularly kind towards streaming services in the past.

Second, it’s a foreign-language film.

As part of a trend, we’ve come to smirk at the Academy for only ever awarding “artsy” films (whatever that means), rather than pleasing its audience and prizing more mainstream fare.

It is here that foreign productions are often looked down on, as they usually only show in select theaters here in the States, and the average moviegoer tends to miss them.

They’re sometimes slow, they dare to go in different directions than we are accustomed to and the fact that they are in a different language already makes them an acquired taste. Sounds like the ideal Oscar-bait, right?

Wrong. Not only are these massive generalizations, but the Academy has never been particularly friendly towards foreign-language films at all.

Including Roma, only 11 have ever been nominated as Best Picture. That’s 11 out of 546 nominees in a time-span of 91 years. None of them have won.

Part of this may be due to foreign-language films having their own category (which can only hold five nominees as opposed to Best Picture’s ten), but there is no rule against a film competing in both.

If anything, the snubs that these films often get in the acting, directing and the technical categories show that it has less to do with that and more to do with the fact that the Academy doesn’t really diversify its contenders much beyond Hollywood.

Although valid, the argument that the Oscars don’t award “mainstream” films enough doesn’t hold much weight in a year when Black Panther—the highest grossing film of 2018—was nominated for Best Picture, along with Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born, which were also within the top fifteen highest earning films of the year.

This isn’t exactly a new trend, either. From the cloying Crash beating out the daring Brokeback Mountain in 2006, to the audience-pleasing—albeit odd—The Shape of Water beating the controversial Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri just last year, it’s clear that the Academy favors more conventional films, even if they aren’t exactly making bank at the box office.

As of lately, the Oscars have also received a lot of flack for their supposed political agenda.

With so many jabs at the current administration and its recent strides to increase its minority membership in order to award more diverse films, they have drawn some controversy in recent years.

But if we’re being honest, when Hollywood talks about being more “inclusive,” it’s almost never towards Latinos.

Only six Latin American actors have ever received an Academy Award in an acting category, and only one of those was for a lead role.

Additionally, Latinos are one of the least represented groups in films and television, and when we are portrayed it is often in negative light.

Last year’s Sicario: Day of the Soldado is one of many examples.

But Roma shouldn’t win Best Picture or any other award because it shows a positive depiction of an indigenous Mexican woman.

It shouldn’t win because of its originality or lack thereof. It shouldn’t win because no Netflix original movie and no Spanish-language film has ever taken home the statue.

Roma should win because, simply put, it’s just fantastic. Between the beautiful black and white cinematography and the insane-level sound design that do a spectacular job of immersing you fully into the protagonist’s world, the craftsmanship of the thing is outstanding.

The lead performance by a woman who had no prior acting experience is entirely convincing and the reconstruction of events going on in 1970s Mexico City are nearly identical.

It should win because it’s a beautiful tale of two women coming into their own and empowering themselves beyond where their sex or class puts them.

Celebrating this talent and resonance is what the Oscars are all about. Or at least it’s what they should be about.

There are likely going to be many Trump jokes broadcasted Oscar night. Awarding Roma Best Picture would make a bigger statement than any of the flaccid border wall quips that are probably in store.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Frederick Trovatten on Unsplash

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