[Alfonso Cuarón takes us around Mexico City.]
All this might be for naught if it weren’t for Netflix’s deep-pocketed awards bid. Foreign-language Oscar contenders usually merit a scant few tastemaker parties if they’re lucky, but Netflix has mounted a “Roma” campaign more akin to what you’d give a Marvel movie. Hollywood is blanketed in billboards bearing Aparicio’s face, “Roma” events are thrown nearly round the clock, and many industry figures received a heavy $175 book about the film published by Assouline. Rival publicists estimate that Netflix is spending $10 million to $20 million on award-season promotion, though some put that figure even higher.
It’s an unprecedented campaign for a black-and-white foreign film, but then, a best picture win for Netflix would be unprecedented, too. The streaming service has never so much as fielded a best-picture nominee, and the company is gunning for the win.
Still, strains of anti-Netflix sentiment remain, and that’s one of the headwinds facing “Roma.” Many in the industry fear that the theatrical component of moviegoing will be depreciated as Netflix continues to gain ground, and though the streaming service tried to assuage those concerns by giving “Roma” a brief, exclusive theatrical window, the imminent arrival of Disney and Apple in the streaming space will only pull more focus from traditional distribution methods.
There is also the fact that no foreign-language film has ever won best picture. The closest analog may be “The Artist,” another black-and-white movie that took the prize seven years ago, but though it was made by the French director Michel Hazanavicius and starred French leads, it was ultimately a Hollywood-set film made in English. In the academy’s yearslong bid to increase diversity, it has begun courting a far more international membership, but a foreign-language best picture win would still prove notable in a year with plenty of homegrown Hollywood product to choose from.
I also wonder if Aparicio’s lack of best-actress traction may indicate that passion for “Roma” is high but not wide. Though she was nominated at the Critics’ Choice Awards (losing to Glenn Close and Lady Gaga, who tied), she was snubbed by the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, and the latter is particularly concerning given that actors make up the academy’s biggest voting branch.
Foreign-language performers like Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) and Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”) have broken into the best-actress category without the benefit of Netflix’s marketing money or the heat of a major best-picture contender, so if she’s left out of the final five when Oscar nominations are announced next week, Netflix ought to be concerned: Only 11 films have gone on to win best picture without scoring any acting nominations.