Marina de Tavira’s Oscar nomination for ‘Roma’ is unprecedented in the modern era

Marina de Tavira was easily the most surprising acting Oscar nominee announced this year, sneaking into Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Sofia in Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Roma.” Not only was the actress nominated without showing up at any of the major precursors — Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, SAG and BAFTA — she didn’t show up at any critics’ awards groups either. The only organization to actually recognize de Tavira with a nomination was the newly established Latino Entertainment Journalists Association. While a handful of actors have earned Oscar nominations without showing up at very many precursors, de Tavira’s Oscar nomination is virtually unprecedented in the modern era.

SEE 2019 Oscar nominations by film: ‘Roma’ and ‘The Favourite’ lead with 10, but what about ‘Black Panther’?

Since 2010, five other actors have nabbed an Oscar nomination without getting mentions at any of the four major precursors: Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”) in 2011, Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”) in 2012, Jonah Hill (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) in 2013, and Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”) and Laura Dern (“Wild”) in 2014. However, in all of these cases, the performance showed up at multiple critics groups. Since 2000, only Clint Eastwood for “Million Dollar Baby” in 2004 and Maggie Gyllenhaal for “Crazy Heart” in 2009 have earned an Oscar nomination with a lone critic accolade beforehand.

For de Tavira to be nominated here without those award season indicators is a huge sign of support for Netflix’s “Roma.” Awards prognosticators had been doubting whether the acting branch would support the film, especially after it got nothing from the Screen Actors Guild Awards. With star Yalitza Aparicio only getting in at the Critics’ Choice Awards among the major precursors and de Tavira being completely ignored, there was reason to believe the Oscars might go for higher-profile stars like Emily Blunt (“A Quiet Place”) or Claire Foy (“First Man”). With the benefit of hindsight, though, it’s easy to see why both Aparicio and especially de Tavira were able to get into their respective categories.

First, Aparicio is the heart and soul of “Roma,” and the pathos she is able to convey through her emotional arc is a primary reason why critics and audiences have fallen so hard for the film. When you also look at de Tavira’s performance, it has many of the classic elements found in other nominated supporting turns. As Sofia, de Tavira has an emotional arc of her own as she grapples with her husband gradually slipping away from her and worries about how it will affect her family. She is more outwardly emotional than Aparicio’s humble, soft-spoken Cleo, especially in a scene late in the film where she breaks the news to her children. With such a traditional suffering wife/mother type of performance, it’s no wonder voters in the acting branch watching “Roma” would be drawn to de Tavira.

The Best Supporting Actress race has been heavily debated ever since presumed frontrunner Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) was snubbed at SAG and BAFTA, while also going on to win at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards. Some have argued that Amy Adams (“Vice”) could take over considering her overdue narrative and how well the film has done all season, especially now at the Oscars. Others have suggested one of “The Favourite” ladies — Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz — could pull ahead. But Oscar predictors must now consider de Tavira as a possible winner here, especially with such a split field. We saw in 2000 how Marcia Gay Harden (“Pollock”), another contender who didn’t hit the major precursors, pulled off a shocking win at the Oscars in a splintered Supporting Actress race. De Tavira is in a Best Picture frontrunner and delivers the most overtly showy performance in the film, and if voters can’t agree on a performance to reward among the regular contenders we’ve seen through this long award season, perhaps there is a path for the actress who defied expectations and got nominated on the pure strength of her performance.

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