Alfonso Cuaron Clears His Way to the Oscar Stage (again)

If there was any doubt left that Alfonso Cuaron was zeroing in on his second Best Director Academy Award at this month’s Oscars, then perhaps that was extinguished over the weekend.

Cuaron beat out Bradley Cooper, Spike Lee, Peter Farrelly and Adam McKay at the Directors Guild Awards (DGA) on Saturday, the latest prize in what’s become a successful awards season for him.

Cuaron’s picture, Roma, is already hot favourite in several categories for the Oscars, but the DGA gongs are a fairly reliable indicator as to where the Best Director prize is going to go.

Historically, the last time that the DGA Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film award didn’t also see its recipient clutching a Best Director Oscar a few weeks later was in 2013, when Ben Affleck didn’t even make the Academy Award directing shortlist.  

Far more often than not, though – including last year, when Guillermo del Toro won for The Shape Of Water – there’s clear and present correlation between the DGA and the Oscar prizes where directing is concerned. 

Certainly the bookies are falling into line. Appreciating that gambling comes with a sizeable number of cautions to be aware of, Cuaron is now at a staggering 1/12 price to win Oscar, with his nearest rival deemed to be Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman, way back at 12/1. Pawel Pawlikowski, who made arguably the best reviewed film of Oscar season – Cold War – sits back at 33/1. Adam McKay, by most odds, needn’t even both getting his tuxedo dry-cleaned for Vice.

What’s particularly interesting about Roma, a film the vast majority of people have seen primarily via Netflix, is that it’s the first time a film in a foreign language is likely to prevail across its main categories.

Arguably, the closest the Oscars have come to this was with 1990’s Dances With Wolves, a very American film albeit with a third of the movie in the Sioux tongue.

But Roma is currently looking the likely winner for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography for a start. And in its own way, that’s a little bit of ceiling being removed.

If Moonlight proved two years ago that a Best Picture Oscar winner needn’t cost more than $2million to make, Roma is likely to prove that you neither need a cinema screen, nor for your film to be in English anymore.

For Cuaron, the contrast between his other Oscar-winning success is suitably stark. Gravity was in its own way just as much a marvel as Roma, and should – as expected – he now take home gold for the latter, then the 2010s will have seen two directors snag the prize two times apiece (Alejandro G Inarritu winning back-to-back for Birdman and The Revenant).

More than that: all but one of the winning directors this decade will have been born outside the USA (Damien Chazelle the only American in a list that includes Britain’s Tom Hooper, Taiwan’s Ang Lee and France’s Michel Hazanavicius). Quietly, the best director category has become one of the awards-world’s most progressive.

All this, of course, assumes that Alfonso Cuaron and Roma will emerge victorious at the 91st Academy Awards on February 24th. But with a Golden Globe, a DGA award, a Golden Lion at Venice, and the BAFTAs upcoming, who’s going to be against him?


Simon Brew is the founder and editor of Film Stories magazine:

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