My Favorite Moments in the Best Picture Nominees: Roma

Every year, the day before the Oscars, I present my favorite moments from the Best Picture nominees. I do this because things get so subjective and because lines get drawn during the Oscar race. People pick favorites, people start to have negative feelings toward certain films because they’d prefer something else have won or have been nominated. I do this to clear the air of all that. I try to remind us of what this is all about — a celebration of film and of the great films that have come out this year.

I take this day to look at all the nominees as great pieces of cinema. Forget what will win or won’t win — let’s celebrate the films themselves. The point is, when you take away the competition, the awards, the completely arbitrary nature of how no one can truly pick which film is better than another, what we’re left with are great movies. That’s what today is about.

Our next nominee is Roma. I like being dead.

5. The direction

I know that’s an obvious thing to say, but what I mean isn’t just that Alfonso Cuaron has crafted a masterpiece. We know that. What I mean is the actual direction of the scenes. He sets the movie up in masters and lets life play out in them. And he also — and it seemed that way as you watched it but then also he said this is what he did — he gave his actors opposite instructions. Which is so like life, in that no one knows how someone is gonna react. So take the moment up there — clearly he told the husband, “You want nothing to do with your wife, you just wanna get out of there with as little fanfare as possible,” and he told her, “You’re really worried he’s gonna cheat on you, so really try to make it a big goodbye and get him to engage with you.” It’s wonderful. It really helps the overall film in such a way that you don’t see very often on the screen. He just lets the actors be, and lets the film live within the life that is created during the takes. That’s the most impressive part about what he did with this movie.

4. Life

It feels like life. Here’s a year in the lives of these characters. And in seeing them at their most mundane, you feel connected to them more than you would someone in almost any other film. By the end, you are devastated for these people, you’ve gone through all sorts of different emotions, and mostly it just felt like you saw these people live. There is gonna be at least one moment in this movie that you will recognize in some way as feeling like your childhood. Because this is a collection of memories of Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood. And he built around it a life for these characters. He put them in his memories and he let the memories play out as they did. People call things a ‘slice of life’. This is truly a slice of life.

3. The cinematography

How stunning is this movie? I don’t even need to elaborate on this. Almost every shot in this movie is stunning. The way he moves the camera, when he moves the camera, how he has the patience to let things play out — it’s all just beautiful. More specifically though–

2. This shot

This shot is amazing. I know that shot on the beach at the end is the showy one, but this one blew me away. I’m just imagining the technical aspects of pulling this off. Dude set up a riot in the streets, just so it could be a pan over in the middle of this other shot. Incredible on every level. And again based on a memory he had from growing up, seeing pictures of this riot happening and seeing in the background, people up in a furniture store looking down from above. But man, is this a technical achievement.

1. The car in the driveway

This is that moment I mentioned before. The one that just feels like your childhood. Never once happened to us per se. We do have a somewhat narrow garage and the car has to be somewhat delicately pulled in, but nothing like this. Still, this moment just felt absolutely perfect. This is the kind of detail that, to me, encapsulates everything that is wonderful about this movie. It’s gorgeously shot, it’s a perfectly specific slice of life moment that also serves as a wonderful introduction to the father and becomes a motif throughout the film as well. Just incredible.

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