Finally saw Roma this past weekend. I’ll be honest, I only watched it because it was nominated. I had no interest in it outside of that aspect of its appeal. I have been pretty good at viewing all of the best picture nominees the last few years thanks to the AMC Best Picture Showcase. Unfortunately due to the nature of the film’s release (it’s a Netflix movie that had the limited run in independent theaters required to be considered by the Academy) AMC is not featuring it in its lineup for the BPS. So, I watched it in its intended environment: streaming on my TV with a basic home audio setup.
For the first twenty minutes of the film (better known as the opening credits) I thought there was an issue with my stereo. The audio is very quiet and it was only at the end of the film, when the preview for the next Netflix film started and that audio nearly blew out my speakers, that I realized how low the audio for this film was. I guess I could have just turned the volume off since I was reading the subtitles anyway and still had trouble hearing any of the other audio. Although then I would have missed the appearance of a song from Jesus Christ Superstar, which was my favorite moment in the film.
As to the story, the film centers on a year in the life of a live-in maid in Mexico City in the early 70s. Beyond that setup there isn’t much structure to the story. There are some seemingly pivotal events that happen in this woman’s life but there isn’t a frame of reference for how influential these events will end up being. I found the characters all fairly bland and the pace of the film excruciatingly slow. I paused the film at one point (because you can do that with a streaming service, and interrupt the flow of the experience) and actually cursed out loud when I realized I wasn’t even an hour into it.
I think the film looks fine. Some people have praised its Cinematography but I found the contrast too low, and didn’t feel like the look of the film was that unique or exciting. Maybe my thoughts would have been different if I’d seen it on an actual theater screen and could see the details.
Overall I thought the film was fine, if only as a mediocre viewing experience. I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t see anything “Best Picture” worthy in it. I think my biggest complaint is one that many people have echoed. This to me is a TV movie. It was released on a streaming service and wasn’t made widely available for theatrical release. As such, it’s viewing is going to be dependent on the quality of setup for each person that watches it. I mentioned the audio and look of the movie, both of which I had issues with that might not have been problematic in a theater setting. If the Oscars are for the best films of the year, what distinguishes films from television-based content if not the release platforms of the pieces? I think a great film should transcend the viewing platform issues but I also think that movies made for theatrical releases should be seen in a theater because there often is something extra added to the experience. As many times as I’ve seen Jaws, I always love seeing it with a live audience and surround sound. Watching it at home on blu ray is nice but it’s not the same as seeing an entire theater jump and scream at a forty-four year old movie. I still don’t think Roma would have been a great film had I seen it in a theater but I would have been less bothered by its nomination. As for its current inclusion, I think it sets a precedent for future considerations that will inevitably push the accolades for, and maybe even the art of, good filmmaking farther from the original intent of the craft.