Alfonso Cuaron’s Three Oscars and The Three Amigos

As Alfonso Cuaron adds another Best Director Academy Award to his long tally of accolades with his masterpiece ‘Roma’. He also bagged the Best Cinemagraphy award for Roma which was his first film as a cinematographer. Here, we look at “The Three Amigos” who have already left an indelible mark in contemporary cinema.

Alfonso Cuaron’s Three Oscars and The Three Amigos Alfonso Cuaron’s Three Oscars and The Three Amigos Source : Press

Alfonso Cuaron's adds another great film under his belt, and the latest film ‘Roma' has surely got to be his masterpiece to beat other nominees in Best Director category which were Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite, Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman, Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War and Adam McKay for Vice-all of them serious, established filmmakers with one of their finest ever and thus rewarded with at least one academy award and many nominations, but Cuaron has operated in a different ball-park, in a different stratosphere and it comes as no surprise that he has received the Best Director award for a making magical cinema. As an icing on the cake, he takes home the Best Cinematography award as well in his first attempt at playing the man behind the camera. 


Roma is poetic-delightful, nostalgic and deeply affecting. It is also incredibly human and has the truthfulness of documentary filmmaking. Part of that comes from Cuarón's decision to cast non-actors (who resemble the people in his childhood). The passion and honesty comes from the fact that it is rooted in Cuarón's own life which is why it gives a feeling of a lived experience, a reflection on observations and experiences. Sometimes a directors' best work is not their most personal, and the most personal work can at times err on the wrong side of indulgence. Cuarón proves that notion wrong as Roma being a person film is both uncompromising in vision as well as in execution.


Five times in the last six years the Academy Award for Best Director has gone to a Mexican film director. The prolific winning streak began with Alfonso Cuaron winning it for Gravity, then Alejandro Inarritu who won the award back to back for Birdman(also won the Best Picture) and The Revenant followed by a hiatus because Damien Chazelle was the auteur of universally successful musical La La Land. Then the visual filmmaking genius Guillermo Del Toro won both the Best Picture and Best Director award last year for his romantic dark fantasy film The Shape of Water. And yesterday, Alfonso Cuaron won it for Roma in 91st Academy Awards to become the 18th filmmaker in history to have won the Best Director award twice. 


Together, these three filmmakers are known as "The Three Amigos." Their films are distinct and so is their vision. To put it simply, they are all visually accomplished filmmakers but Del Toro takes thing to a different realm altogether when it comes to the visual effects, as observed in his films like Pans Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, Crimson Peak, Hellboy and The Devil's Backbone. The cinema language he engages with is visual, he strives to create a certain mood, often dark and fantastical and the atmosphere is as integral part of the story as are his characters to the point where the geography and history assumes a character of their own. In Del Toro's cinema, the aspects like sound and production design become equally important to create a world which is mysterious and intimidating. Some of his scenes are so immaculately constructed that they affect your sensations with immediate effect to find a place in your chamber of chilling experiences. Having said that, his strict Catholic upbringing has left a strong influence on the themes and subjects he explores as a filmmaker. 


Alejandro Inarritu's cinema on the other hand is intimate, personal and humane to say the least. In terms of technique, Inarritu is famous for his long takes, especially in Birdman which is filmed with such masterful craft and precision that it appears as if it was shot in one single continuous take; and the sweeping, panoramic shots particularly in The Revenant. His cinema is emotionally charged and literally breathtaking. His films feature high intensity drama but never does it comes across as overdone because of the conflicts and dilemmas that his characters find themselves facing which divulges more towards moral and philosophical enquiry rather than indulging in the practical nature of the same. Inarritu's Amores perros and 21 Grams are prime examples of this style of cinema. In spite of all that emotion, there is hardly any ‘melodrama' as the story and character remain realistic and situate well within the what we call the periphery of ‘real life', it is the skill of their writing, the characters drawn from the wealth of meticulous observations from their own life which plants the ‘rare' on the ground to make it seem ordinary and hence, palatable. Inarritu himself notes that his "early travels as a young man has had a great influence on him as a filmmaker."


If there seems to be a pattern emerging from the previous two filmmakers, like branches in a tree, Alfonso Cuaron's cinema is too broad and diverging to be unified by a single pattern of though. His filmography includes films like A Little Princes, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, Gravity and Roma. All these vastly different films are made by one single director. Alfonso Cuaron is not a gun-for-hire director, he leaves his signature in every project he undertakes, but it's a new signature every single time and the only similarity is that all of them are equally beautiful. Cuaron comes up with a different style for every film because the subject, setting, characters and themes he picks up are so dynamic in nature. The constant evolution of Cuaron as a filmmaker is as much a result of a craftsman getting better at his craft as it is of the exigencies of the projects. In A Little Princess there are elaborate sets and costumes, In Harry Potter there are visual effects and action sequences, in Children of Men there is unusual editing style and innovative camerawork, Gravity is another visual effects achievement and finally Roma seems like coming together of everything, a coalescing of all those elements and styles he has accumulated over the years and fused them into his most personal work and it turns out to be his masterpiece, as if it was destined to be from the very first frame where water and soap wash over the tiles, again and again, reminding us that it was coming, and boy haven't we been washed over yet again by The Three Amigos.




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