Oscar watch: Is Netflix’s heart-wrenching ‘Roma’ the film to beat this year?


NEW YORK — “Roma” is one of the very best films you’re likely to see this year. But how far can it go in a jam-packed 2019 Oscar race?

That’s the question awards prognosticators have been asking ever since the movie premiered at Venice International Film Festival in August, bringing audiences to their feet at Toronto and Telluride fests in weeks after, before landing at New York Film Festival this weekend.

On paper, “Roma” has almost everything working against it: For starters, it’s a black-and-white, Spanish-language drama with English subtitles. The two-plus-hour film has no recognizable stars in the United States and charts a year in the life of a live-in maid named Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, a nonprofessional actor) working for an upper-middle-class family in 1970s Mexico. It will be released December 14 in select theaters and on Netflix, which until “Mudbound” and “Icarus” last year, has struggled to be taken seriously by Oscar voters.

But “Roma” has a silver bullet in Alfonso Cuaron, the visionary filmmaker behind 2013’s Oscar-winning “Gravity,” whose credits also include “Children of Men,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Cuaron, 56, has long been beloved by critics and his industry peers, as one of Hollywood’s so-called “Three Amigos” with fellow Mexican directors Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“Birdman”) and Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”).

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