Picture: producer Jorge Vergara
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Screenplay: Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki
It would have been eligible last year if it had been Mexico’s submission — but its release in the U.S. this year qualifies it for all other feature film awards.
It’s not unheard of for a well-received, popular foreign film to find its way into major categories. The past decade has seen Krzysztof Kieslowski (“Red”), Roberto Benigni (“Life Is Beautiful”), Michael Radford (“Il Postino”) and Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) secure director nominations. Only Kieslowski did not get a matching picture nomination.
Director Alfonso Cuaron’s tale, co-written with brother Carlos, of two libidinous teenage boys from different class backgrounds on a road trip with a married woman, drew plenty of moviegoers in with word of its unapologetic sex scenes. But what got Hollywood buzzing was the inspired looseness of its storytelling.
The no-holds-barred intimacy might be a tough one to get past more conservative Academy voters, but Halle Berry’s Oscar-winning role in last year’s “Monster’s Ball” included a graphic, emotionally charged sex scene. Even the X-rated “Last Tango in Paris” from 30 years ago snagged noms for Marlon Brando and the often sexually controversial director Bernardo Bertolucci.
Less likely to get acknowledged are the actors, although Gael Garcia Bernal — starring in Mexico’s foreign-lingo entry, “The Crime of Father Amaro,” and also in previous nominee “Amores Perros” — is the closest thing to a Mexican heartthrob to hit these shores lately.
Also in the movie’s corner is that director Cuaron is a known quantity in Hollywood. The Mexico City-born filmmaker’s acclaimed 1995 English-lingo debut, “A Little Princess,” received two Oscar noms (for longtime collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography and Bo Welch and Cheryl Carasik’s production design), and Cuaron is to helm the third “Harry Potter” movie. Voters may want to reward his willingness to work in Hollywood with a nomination.
Lubezki was also nominated for his lensing of “Sleepy Hollow” (2000), so recognizing his gifted work in “Mama” won’t be a stretch for the Academy, either.