5 reasons why Marina de Tavira (‘Roma’) could pull off an upset at the Oscars

During our last and lively slugfest in December, I questioned Gold Derby founder Tom O’Neil about the fifth slot in the Oscar contest for Best Supporting Actress. It was clear that Amy Adams in “Vice,” Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “The Favourite” ladies Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz were all written in stone. But the fifth female was a major question mark. Would it be Claire Foy in “First Man?” Michelle Yeoh in “Crazy Rich Asians?” Or some crazy curve ball?

“What about Marina de Tavira in ‘Roma?’” I asked, as I admittedly butchered her name.

In class O’Neil fashion, he quickly shot me down.

“No, no – it’s not happening!” he hollered, proceeding to make his case for Nicole Kidman in “Boy Erased.”

Tom has probably erased this from his memory by now, but the video shows that he clearly remarked “I’m not buying this ‘Roma’ thing,” in regard to the Supporting Actress sweepstakes.

So you can imagine my delight a month later, when I heard Kumail Nanjiani announce to the world that de Tavira had in fact made the cut. (Meaning that Tom would be eating crow. He knows by now that it tastes just like chicken.)

With that feather firmly in my cap, I’m now laying one more fearless prediction. One that will have O’Neil bawking and the rest of Derbyland squawking. Is this a golden egg? Or a total turkey? (Either way, this is no time to be chicken.)

Here are five reasons why Marina de Tavira will pull off an upset to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

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1. She’s a revelation in “Roma.”
I can’t properly praise her performance without revealing key plot points, so please skip this if you haven’t Netflixed “Roma” yet. The film begins depicting her Sofía as a solid and stable wife and mother, plus employer to Cleo (Best Actress nominee Yalitza Aparicio.) Within minutes into the picture, we see her world start to fall apart. There’s the juncture where she watches in despair as her husband drives away. Her body trembles with grief as her face communicates the realization that he’s probably never coming back. We later listen as she conveys her frustration in an unseen telephone conversation, after which she scolds her son and Cleo for eavesdropping. Her crisis ensues when she drunkenly bangs the car while entering the garage, telling Cleo that “We women are always left alone.” By the end of the film, we witness Sofía finally coming to terms with her predicament. Her most poignant scene is perhaps the one in the restaurant, where she explains to her children that their father won’t be returning home. (Another intense exchange follows at the nearby beach, where she tells Cleo how much the family loves her.) What’s beautiful about de Tavira’s work is the skillful execution without exaggeration. The simplest sentences, the glazed glances and the most muted moments illustrate the full arc of the character. Marina’s performance is nothing short of a master class in acting.

2. She’ll ride along the “Roma” express.
The film reaped an impressive ten Oscar nominations, tying it with the fantastic “The Favourite.” “Roma” is now widely viewed as the Best Picture favorite, given its broad support and great critical acclaim. Creator Alfonso Cuarón appears to be a lock for at three trophies – Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film – but his film may struggle everywhere else. Surely voters will want to honor another individual from the “Roma” empire. With Aparicio facing long odds and the Screenplay/Production Design/Sound categories probably not in contention, de Tavira may the best place for additional “Roma” recognition. Her victory could make it a fitting high five for the Academy’s most favored flick.

3. There’s no clear frontrunner.
Early on, all the talk was for critics’ queen Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” She hit a major roadblock when SAG shut her out, and the BAFTA snub further derailed her route to destination Oscar. With “Beale Street” scoring just three nods and notably missing Best Picture, it’s increasingly looking like a dead end for her. Amy Adams in “Vice” seemed poised to surpass King and ascend the throne. Then SAG selected Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place,” bluntly leaving Adams’s awards buzz in an eerily quiet place. Rachel Weisz in “The Favourite” appears to be the hometown favorite at the coming BAFTA laurels. Even if she prevails there, can she withstand the inevitable vote-splitting with co-star Emma Stone to rock her way to Oscar triumph? Somehow, it just doesn’t seem wise to go with Weisz. All this is good news for de Tavira, as a divided race is a dark horse’s best friend. Just ask Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny.” If the chips fall in a certain way, de Tavira could soon join Tomei in the Oscar family album of Supporting Actress shockers.

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4. She hasn’t been nominated for a single precursor.
That isn’t a misprint. Allow me to explain. Marina missed the boat at all of the pre-Oscar regattas, leaving her seemingly lost at sea. Then the Academy threw her a life jacket and instantly resuscitated her chances. Many assume that her inclusion is her reward, and that she poses little threat. But here’s why that’s a dangerous dictum. Oscar voters have increasingly grown tired of seeing the same people cruise to conquest. They don’t enjoy rubber stamping the choices of everyone else, turning the Academy Awards into a virtual DVR of previous ceremonies. (Last year is a prime example.) This is a rare opportunity for them to ignore the critics, the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and the BAFTA – and actually go their own course. That could signal smooth sailing for Marina, finishing with a delightful docking at the Oscar podium.

5. It’s a chance to make history.
To date, only three individuals have won acting Oscars for foreign language films: Sophia Loren in “Two Women,” Roberto Benigni in “Life Is Beautiful” and Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose.” That’s two from Italy and one from France. Yet no Mexican thespian in a Mexican movie has ever been recognized. That’s hardly the way to treat our nearest neighbor. This year the Academy can finally change that. Furthermore, keep in mind that the organization’s membership is increasingly international. In recent years alone, hundreds of foreign artists have been invited to join. That’s good news for non-Americans. If enough Oscar voters decide to speak the same language, that could translate to “Muchas felicidades!” for Marina de Tavira – and all of Mexico.

Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on February 24.


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