And the Oscar goes to…

Congratulations to the Best Picture! At least it wasn’t Crash.

I didn’t watch the Oscars. Instead, I watched Roma on Netflix during the ceremony. It was a tough sell — the movie I’d seen before this one was Alita: Battle Angel, so the contrast was shocking. Cleo doesn’t battle a single cyborg even once in the whole show. It was also a long slow build, with the interminable beginning just being the floor getting washed and other mundane tasks by a young housekeeper in a Mexican home.

Also, in this one I wouldn’t have minded the dog getting shot. No one ever played with Borras, but he was always pooping on the floor, and anytime the door was opened they had to yell at the help to hold the dog. He was just another chore for Cleo.

But the movie may be a slow build, but it becomes increasingly affecting, and it deals with how the working poor have to cope with emotional trauma that is far more common and damaging than robots on roller blades. Roma isn’t a popcorn movie, and it’s the kind of movie where every frame is supposed to be art, but I think I spent my evening well.


  1. says

    Weird. 12 Years a Slave won years ago.

    Anyway, Roma is a good film. It has really moody and beautiful cinematography. The acting is quite good. I also like that its direction tries to treat the past as just is given the restrained camera work that often repeats itself in different scenes. But its screenplay is hollow. The emotion that comes out during a few scenes is the results of the scenario not the story and the emotional release just doesn’t occur. Its plotting is far too minimalistic to be engaging and it pushes the “slice of life” style way too far. The final scene relies on an act of nature to resolve the plot and it smacks of dues ex machina. (abet acts of nature occur a lot so it doesn’t come from nowhere). And as semi-autobiographical the film is mostly interesting if you are into Cuaron as a filmmaker. Most people, those who see 5-10 films a year, won’t get much from it. It is a film for and by the intelligentsia and would have been a bad best picture in light of all that.

    Oh and Green Book was the best film I saw last year despite any of the criticism (most of which I agree with) thrown at it. It just wasn’t a strong year for films.

  2. leerudolph says

    ” a film for and by the intelligentsia ”

    Shit, now do I have to go see it, or lose all my intelligentsia cred?

  3. says

    I really hate the concept of Oscar bait. As if things like Roma being shot in black/white or the Social Network being (but not really) about facebook aren’t catnip for critics to pontificate in a “serious” manner.

  4. thomasmorris says

    I doubt many people who know me in real life would consider me part of the intelligentsia, but I do like a lot of “artsy” movies so I guess that’s that.

    “Roma” was my favorite of the Best Picture slate, but there are only two nominees (“Vice” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”) I would have been really disappointed to see win. I thought it was a pretty strong year for movies, overall.

    Of course, I have somewhat eclectic tastes – I like “Roma” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and the four-hour long Chinese drama “An Elephant Sitting Still” and the Jason Bateman/Rachel McAdams comedy “Game Night” about equally.

    “The emotion that comes out during a few scenes is the results of the scenario not the story and the emotional release just doesn’t occur.”

    I strongly disagree with this. I’ve seen movies where terrible things happen, but where I felt completely disengaged because the story and filmmaking just didn’t pull me in. “Roma” wouldn’t be nearly as powerful for me without the masterful filmmaking during that long build-up and the intensity of the catharsis in those moments towards the end.

    Also, maybe it’s just because I’ve seen too many Michelangelo Antonioni and Bela Tarr films, but I wouldn’t call the plotting here “minimalistic.” It’s certainly not as narratively busy as, say, “The Avengers” – but it’s not “Satantango” either.

  5. thomasmorris says

    On a side note: I don’t really care for the term “Oscar bait” either, but I don’t think it’s synonymous with the “critic bait” you’re describing.

    There’s definitely some overlap between what critics like and what the filmmakers who make up the Academy like, but there are also many differences. In other words: there are lots of movies that critics love and “pontificate” about that never have a serious chance of winning Oscars.

  6. says

    I’d say that “12 years a slave” is a white saviour film as well. When I first watched it it struck me how Brad Pitt had himself play the good white guy who finally helps the poor black guy.
    It’s probably also why “Selma” was snubbed: not a sympathetic white face to be seen to which a white audience could hook their feelings.

  7. says

    When I said a few scenes were emotional in Roma I did not mean they were powerful. I meant I felt little bit. So for example in the hospital scene my actual thought was “oh how sad too bad this scene isn’t in a better movie.” Roma mostly lacks narrative momentum and on a TV it is bigger problem. I think being Netflix probably is what doomed it at the Oscars. Both because it doesn’t play on a tv screen as well as it does in a theater and powerful academy members, Spielberg and Nolan for example, don’t consider Netflix eligible for Oscars. (Nolan/Spielberg object to them not being in theatre outside the bare minimum to be formally eligible.)

    I really don’t want to get into a semantic argument about what counts as “minimal.” My point Roma is among the least narrative busy film nominated over the last decade, I think Boyhood is comparable.

    Also, I didn’t express myself well. Oscarbait as a concept is the notion that a film exists solely to win Oscars and its creators are cynically trying to a pull fast one over the voting block. I was not saying that is identical to critical bait, at all. I am saying that there are films that make certain choices to appeal largely to critics and if some filmmakers can cynically slat stuff to allow for Oscars attention you might as well claim other filmmakers are disingenuously trying appeal to critics.

    autobiographic films are for example catnip for critics and usually do poorly with the general public and Oscars. I think the impetus behind 8 1/2 (for example) was sincere but if I didn’t I would call it critic bait.