When a certain someone worries publically about caravans reaching our southern border, he may be thinking about an invasion of Mexicans farther north where they are stepping over his plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, scooping up Oscar nominations and absconding with electroplated gold.
The leaders of this caravan are Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, multi-hyphenate filmmakers who have amassed 22 Oscar nominations among them and a total of nine wins. They have won four of the last five best director Oscars, with Cuaron expected to make it five out of six for “Roma,” and they have won two of the last four best picture awards, with “Roma” favored to make it three out of five.
These self-labeled Three Amigos are also looting the vaults of the studios and financial institutions pumping millions into the making of their movies and paying them millions to do it.
It’s a scandal! A national emergency! Send the troops!
It is not news that Mexicans have had success in Hollywood before, but since 2000, they have been in hot pursuit of Oscar. Through the first 73 years of the Academy Awards, Mexicans accumulated 27 nominations with five wins. In the last 18 years, they’ve had 37 nominations and 15 wins.
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And that does not count the 10 current nominations for “Roma” and however many wins it will have Sunday.
Production designer Emile Kuri was the first Mexican to receive an Oscar nomination, for the 1942 Western “Silver Queen,” and the first to win, for the 1948 “The Heiress.” He went on to pick up six more nominations and a second win for “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
Jose Ferrer was the first Mexican actor to earn a nomination, for his role in the 1948 “Joan of Arc,” and Anthony Quinn was the first to win, for the 1952 “Viva Zapata!” Quinn had four nominations altogether with two wins. The only other acting nomination before 2000 was for the wonderful Katy Jurado in the 1954 “Broken Lance.”
Mexican-born actors have been nominated six times since 2000, picking up a lone win for Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave.” Nyong’o was born in Mexico to Kenyan parents and identifies as Kenyan-Mexican, though she now calls Brooklyn home.
It’s noteworthy that “Roma” is about to end a string of eight losses by Mexican movies for best foreign-language film.
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Mexican art directors have done particularly well, winning three Oscars from 15 previous nominations. Eugenio Caballero is up for another for “Roma.” They have also been strong in cinematography, receiving the first of 13 nominations for “The Night of the Iguana” in 1964 and their most recent for Cuaron’s filming of “Roma.”
The hottest cinematographer in the business now is Emmanuel Lubezki, who has tied Kuri for most nominations by a Mexican with eight, including three wins in a row for “Gravity,” “Birdman” and “The Revenant.”
If you’re sensing a trend, it is that Mexican filmmakers have had an eye for design and the moving image dating back to the films of Luis Bunuel and Arturo Ripstein in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and that magical realism, a staple of Latin-American literature, has had a major influence on them.
Magical realism is integral to Innaritu’s Oscar winner “Birdman” and to Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” as well as his stunning 2006 “Pan’s Labyrinth.” And it’s the element in Cuaron’s early work that caught J.K. Rowling’s eye and got him the directing assignment on the third – and first magical — “Harry Potter” movie.
All three filmmakers were born and raised in Mexico, studied there and began their careers there. Each one introduced himself to the international film world with bold homegrown pictures that were impossible to ignore.
Cuaron, who began his career in television, caught Hollywood’s eye with his first feature, a 1991 hit sex comedy titled “Solo con tu Pereja” (“Only With Your Partner”). That got him a TV directing assignment from the late Sydney Pollack followed by the features “The Little Princess” and “Great Expectations.”
Neither English-language movie did well at the box office and Cuaron returned to Mexico to make the picture that would really make his name, “Y tu Mama Tambien” (2001). Next came “Harry Potter,” “Children of Men” and “Gravity” and then he was back home again making his most personal film, “Roma.”
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Del Toro, a former special effects makeup artist with a taste for fantasy and monsters, broke out with the now classic 1993 horror film “Cronos,” followed a few years later by the ghost story “The Devil’s Backbone.” He has stayed in the fantasy business with the “Hellboy” franchise, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and last year’s Oscar winner “The Shape of Water.”
Innaritu ran Mexico’s largest film and tv production company before making his directorial splash with the 2000 “Amores Perros.” That got Hollywood’s attention and the money to make “21 Grams” and “Babel,” films that completed what he calls his Trilogy of Death. “Babel” also got him his – and Mexico’s — first Oscar nomination for directing.
Innaritu won back to back directing Oscars for his last two pictures, “Birdman” and “The Revenant.”
There will be no films from the Three Amigos this year and probably next.
Del Toro is attached to a remake of the 1947 “Nightmare Alley,” which was about a seedy carnival barker who teams with a phony mentalist to take money from people, and he is still said to be working on a stop-motion adaptation of “The Adventures of Pinocchio.” ]
Cuaron has been a little too busy on the long promotional grind for “Roma” to be working on his next project, though it’s been announced that he’ll be directing a horror series for HBO called “Ascension” starring Casey Affleck. So, his next awards run may be for an Emmy.
Meanwhile, Innaritu is on a long break following 2015’s “The Revenant,” but like the others, he’ll be back.
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