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Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma marked a number of firsts for Netflix when the 2019 Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning. The black-and-white, autobiographical drama not only received the streamer’s first best picture nomination, but also nabbed Netflix’s first noms for best director, actress in a leading role for Yalitza Aparicio, original screenplay, foreign-language film, production design, sound editing and sound mixing. Marina de Tavira was also nominated for best supporting actress, while Cuaron received a nod for cinematography — but these are not firsts for Netflix.
In another first, Roma is the first best picture nominee for which there are no box office grosses. The vast majority of cinemas won’t play a Netflix title since the streamer doesn’t honor traditional windows. Netflix was able to book Roma in roughly 100 cinemas in the U.S. — many of those were rented — for several weeks or more, but it hasn’t reported any numbers.
Overall, Roma earned a total of 10 nominations (tying with The Favourite for most noms), while Netflix nabbed 15 in all.
Since 2014’s The Square, Netflix has received 15 noms from the Academy, excluding this year. On the doc side, it received seven for documentary feature (winning in 2017 for Icarus) and three for documentary short subject (winning in 2017 for The White Helmets). Mudbound garnered four noms last year for supporting actress, adapted screenplay, original song and cinematography.
Cuaron’s deeply personal film, as he re-creates his youth in 1970s Mexico City, has also become the 11th non-English — and second Mexican, after Babel — Oscar nominee for best picture. Considered a frontrunner in the best foreign-language film category this awards season, Roma was nominated alongside Capernaum, Cold War, Never Look Away and Shoplifters. The last film nominated for both best picture and best foreign-language film hailed from France, 2012’s Amour. In scoring 10 nominations, Roma has tied the record held by 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for most noms received by a foreign-language film.
Cuaron’s foreign-language nod for Roma also marks the ninth nomination for Mexico, with previous noms including 1960’s Macario, 1961’s The Important Man, 1962’s Tlayucan, 1975’s Letters From Marusia, 2000’s Amores Perros, 2002’s El Crimen del Padre Amaro, 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth and 2010’s Biutiful.
Roma is the fifth movie to be nominated for both best-foreign language film and best picture in the same year. The previous four — 1969’s Z, 1998’s Life Is Beautiful, 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and 2012’s Amour — won for foreign-language film but not for best picture.
Cuaron has become the fifth person to receive four nominations in four different award categories for the same film. Warren Beatty achieved this landmark twice for 1978’s Heaven Can Wait and 1981’s Reds with noms for best picture, director, original screenplay and actor in a leading role (and winning best director honors for Reds). Orson Welles also reached this milestone for 1942’s Citizen Kane, sharing his win for best original screenplay with Herman J. Mankiewicz and with personal nominations for best picture, director and actor in a leading role. Joel and Ethan Coen received mentions for best picture, director and writing and shared a nomination for film editing under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes for 2007’s No Country for Old Men, while Alan Menken received four nominations in two music categories for 1991’s Beauty and the Beast.
Roma producer Gabriela Rodriguez has also become the first Hispanic woman to ever receive a best picture Oscar nomination. Aparicio is the second actress nominated for a debut performance in a spoken language other than English. The first was Catalina Sandino Moreno, nominated for her leading performance in 2004’s Maria Full of Grace.
The last black-and-white film to win best picture was The Artist in 2012. Only two other black-and-white films have won the best picture Oscar in the last six decades: Billy Wilder’s The Apartment in 1960 and Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List in 1994. The latter is also the first black-and-white film since 1967 (when the black-and-white and color cinematography categories merged into one) to win for best cinematography.
Cuaron has become the first to receive a cinematography nomination for a film he also directed. As Roma and Cold War, helmed by Cuaron’s friend Pawel Pawlikowski, both received cinematography noms, this marks the first time multiple black-and-white films in a single year have received such recognition since 1966. Cuaron and Pawlikowski’s noms also signify the first time two helmers of movies nominated for best foreign-language film have received directing nominations as well.
Roma has already proved to be an awards darling this season, having won two Golden Globes, the Golden Lion top prize at the Venice Film Festival, four Critics’ Choice Awards and an AFI special award, and it was listed as one of the year’s top 10 films by the National Board of Review.
Netflix’s moment overshadowed another Oscars first. Hulu scored its first nomination for the feature documentary Minding the Gap. Directed by Bing Liu, the doc tells the story of three skateboarders in Rockford, Illinois. Hulu acquired the project in June following its premiere at Sundance in 2018 and released it both on streaming and theatrically in August.
While rivals Netflix and Amazon have moved swiftly into the original film space, Hulu has focused most of its efforts on television shows, garnering awards acclaim for The Handmaid’s Tale and The Looming Tower. In recent years, it has supplemented its robust licensed film library with a handful of documentary acquisitions like Minding the Gap. Another of its docs, Stephen Maing’s Crime + Punishment, made the Oscar shortlist but was not nominated.
For its part, Amazon will have a more muted presence at the Oscars than in years past. The e-commerce giant’s streaming video arm nabbed just three noms for Pawlikowski’s Cold War, which was mentioned for foreign-language film, directing and cinematography. The streamer had a number of Oscar hopefuls this year, including Beautiful Boy, starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet. Despite Chalamet’s Golden Globes and SAG nominations, he was snubbed in the Oscars’ supporting actor category.
In years past, Amazon has had a stronger showing than the Oscars because of its commitment to releasing films theatrically. It became the first streamer nominated for best picture in 2017 with Manchester by the Sea, ultimately taking home two trophies that year for best actor (Casey Affleck) and best original screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan). Under the new leadership of Jennifer Salke, Amazon will now focus on broader, bigger-budget films than it has in the past, which may make it less of a regular on the awards circuit.
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