Roma Review

            Considering how important they are to the format of cinema, it’s a shame that so few directors ever become household names in the cultural spotlight.  The era of Spielberg and Scorsese is coming to the end, and the only director that feels like a household name from the current generation is Christopher Nolan. One director that deserves to be in this same echelon is Alfonso Cuaron.  With Y Tu Mama TambienChildren of Men, and Gravity, Cuaron has shown that he can make standout entries in multiple genres.  While with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he has shown that he can not only survive the blockbuster system but shine in it. Cuaron’s latest movie is Roma, a slice of life tale about a maid in 1970s Mexico.  With Roma, Cuaron creates another intricately detailed world that reveals the best about cinema.  It may not be in the top tier of his work but it’s still a really good movie.

            Roma begins by introducing us to Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio in an Oscar nominated role), a young woman working as a maid for a family in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City.  Most of the first half of the movie is just showing what Cleo’s daily life is like. It’s very low key, and if you come in expecting something as grandiose as some of Cuaron’s previous movies you may end up a bit disappointed.  However, Cuaron still brings his world-class world building skills, and due to the low-key nature of the plot it really sticks out.  Almost every bit of the screen is filled with something interesting. The subtle plot also allows a sense of quirkiness to settle into the film in a way that hasn’t happened in any of Cuaron’s previous efforts.  A one take involving a character trying to sing a celebratory song during a scene of chaos comes instantly to mind.

            As the movie moves into its second half it finally becomes a bit more plot heavy, and the grandiose tracking shots that Cuaron is known for begin to become more prevalent.  The movie certainly takes some dark turns but some authentic and powerful turns from Aparicio and Marina de Tavira (playing Cleo’s employer who is also dealing with some personal issues) are enough to make some of these scenes bearable when all hope seems to fade.  It all leads to an emotional conclusion that crescendos to what will end up being one of the most iconic images in cinema history.  

            Roma takes a while to get going and the plot does takes some dark turns.  However, Alfonso Cuaron proves yet again that he is a master of his craft.  His directing style is innovative and even his screenplay knows how to deliver emotions in a realistic but effective way.

91st Academy Awards Predictions

This Sunday is the entertainment world’s version of the Super Bowl: the Academy Awards.  It’s been a down year for prestige film and the Academy has certainly made a mess of things in the lead up to the ceremony so it will be interesting to see how they find a way to make this year memorable. That being said here are my final predictions for every award:

Best Picture

The three main precursors of this award are the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble, the British Academy’s (BAFTA) award for Best Film, and the Producers Guild Award for Best Producer of a Theatrical Picture.  All three have overlapping voter bodies with the Oscars.  For the first time in a while those awards have gone to three separate movies: Black Panther, Roma and Green Book respectively. Conventional wisdom says that Green Book is your winner.  It won the PGA award on a preferential ballot, which is what the Oscars use, and the other two movies would be unprecedented Best Picture winners (one is a superhero movie and the other is a Mexican movie from Netflix).  However, multiple controversies and negative reactions from critics seemed to have taken a toll on Green Book.  With the BAFTAs being the most recent ceremony, Roma has all of the momentum. 

Roma is also the best movie of the bunch.  It’s not top tier Cuaron, but it delivers its emotional moments in a more realistic way than any of the other nominees and it’s by far the best looking one.

Best Director
WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Cuaron isn’t a lock (PaweĊ‚ Pawlikowski and Spike Lee could pull off a big upset), but he’s won almost every single director prize out there.  His campaign stumping is clearly working as he was able to help get his two actresses nominations, and his movie is most likely your Best Picture winner too. 

Cuaron’s work was also the best of the bunch as his personal touches bring a lot of flair to what could have been a very dry story.

Best Actor
WILL WIN: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
SHOULD WIN: Christian Bale, Vice

Bohemian Rhapsody is primed for a big night on Oscar Sunday (It actually still has a shot at Best Picture). So despite a really strong set of nominees, Malek seems destined for this award.  His performance is always one of the first things that people talk about with this movie.

However, the award should go to Christian Bale who once again completes one of his stunning transformations (this time into former Vice President Dick Cheney).  Bale never allows the transformation to become a caricature.

Best Actress
WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN: Glenn Close, The Wife

Glenn Close has been riding the career achievement wave to a bunch of awards this season.  That likely concludes with the Oscar even if Olivia Colman has come on strong on the back of a BAFTA award.

Close and Lady Gaga are the best of the bunch in this field, but I give my slight preference to Close who stars in The Wife, which was a surprising delight of a movie.

Best Supporting Actor
WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Ali is on a roll.  He was great in Green Book and he’s doing even better work on television right now with the third season of True Detective. Ali has won almost every single supporting actor award out there so it would be a surprise if he loses.

Best Supporting Actress
WILL WIN: Amy Adams, Vice
SHOULD WIN: Emma Stone, The Favourite

This seems like the most up in the air category.  The two best precursors of this category, the SAG and the BAFTA, went to Emily Blunt (who isn’t nominated here) and Rachel Weisz (who could still very well win this category).  Regina King has largely held the frontrunner status throughout the season but didn’t win the BAFTA and wasn’t even nominated for the SAG.  Meanwhile, Amy Adams has overdue status with this being her sixth nomination.  I’m going with the later.

Yet the best performance in the category belongs to Emma Stone.  She brings so much energy to her performance.  She handles everything well from the dark humor in the script to a couple of well-delivered monologues.

Best Adapted Screenplay
WILL WIN: BlacKkKlansman
SHOULD WIN: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Spike Lee has overdue status.  Giving him this award for his script work on BlacKkKlansman is the easiest place to give him an Oscar.  He also won the BAFTA equivalent of this award.  WGA winner Can You Ever Forgive Me? just doesn’t seem strong enough with the Oscar voters to pull off the upset.

The best nominee is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.  It represents some of the quirkiest and wittiest work yet from the Coen brothers.

Best Original Screenplay
WILL WIN: The Favourite

The dark humor of The Favourite is very noticeable and that is more than enough to make it a frontrunner for this award.  It already has the BAFTA equivalent of this award and the Writers Guild failed to coronate a challenger (their award went to the non-nominated Eighth Grade).

Vice’s ambitious storytelling style goes for broke.  Not everything about it works but it’s enough to make it the best script of the nominees.


As for the rest of the awards I expect Bohemian Rhapsody, Roma and The Favourite to be the big winners. Bohemian Rhapsody could have many people wondering if it can win Best Picture after it wins Best Film Editing and the two sound categories (in addition to Rami Malek’s win).  The Favourite’s period setting will probably lead it to Oscars for costumes and production design, and Roma has to be the favorite for Foreign Language Film and Cinematography.

I would personally like to see Free Solo win Best Documentary (and it probably will), Mary Queen of Scots’ vibrant work win Best Costume Design (although The Favourite’s Best Picture nominee status will be too hard to overcome) and Avengers: Infinity War win Best Visual Effects (although I expect multi-nominee First Man to win that award).

Best Animated Film
WILL WIN: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
SHOULD WIN: Incredibles 2

Best Documentary Feature

Best Foreign Language Film

Best Cinematography

Best Costume Design
WILL WIN: The Favourite
SHOULD WIN: Mary Queen of Scots

Best Film Editing
WILL WIN: Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Best Original Score
WILL WIN: Black Panther
SHOULD WIN: Isle of Dogs

Best Original Song
WILL WIN AND SHOULD WIN: “Shallow”, A Star is Born

Best Production Design
WILL WIN: The Favourite

Best Sound Editing
WILL WIN: Bohemian Rhapsody
SHOULD WIN: A Quiet Place

Best Sound Mixing
WILL WIN: Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Visual Effects
WILL WIN: First Man
SHOULD WIN: Avengers: Infinity War

Best Animated Short

Best Documentary Short
WILL WIN: Period. End of Sentence.

Best Live Action Short
WILL WIN: Marguerite

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