Coda review: Why this year’s favorite should win the Best Picture Oscar
PPeople love to argue about the Oscars, even when they don’t know exactly what they’re arguing about. And awards season this year hasn’t really given them a tidy narrative to work from — biopics, like Tammy Faye’s eyes and spencer, are a little too self-aware to play strictly conventionally. The A-list satire Don’t look upand the lush traditional musical West Side Storyfell by the wayside at the start of the race.
by Kenneth Branagh Belfast is the most obvious Oscar bait in the pack, but he’s lost a lot of ground to The power of the dog, the western meticulously directed by Jane Campion. The latter is the current favorite to win, but the industry‘s stubborn attitude towards its distributor Netflix (see: green paper conquer Alfonso Cuarón Rome in 2019) continues to weaken its position.
It’s pure chaos, which you think would add some much-needed excitement to the process. Instead, we’re still watching the internet wildly grab the heroes and villains of this story. And in a way, Siân Heder CODA ended up being the butt of people’s ire, after his crucial Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild wins confirmed him as a bona fide contender for this weekend’s Oscars.
CODAan honest and heartfelt drama about a hearing child in a deaf family, was somewhat of an underdog when it first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021. The film received rave reviews and a healthy dose of publicity, and s walked away from Sundance with a record $25 million acquisition deal with Apple TV+.
The power of the dog may still be in the lead at Sunday’s ceremony, with 12 Oscar nominations and a Best Picture Bafta in his pocket, but CODA could potentially take home the Best Picture win despite only appearing in two other categories at night. Stranger things have happened. And, if it prevails, that can only be a good thing.
The backlash to CODA’Best Picture buzz seems largely disconnected from the real material impact of the Oscars. Ultimately, these awards don’t decide which individual films we’ll remember in a decade or two. The power of the dog and that of Ryusuke Hamaguchi drive my car will continue to be discussed as previously discussed. But they dictate the kind of names, ideas and faces that Hollywood is willing to put its money behind.
It was important when Parasite won, because it helped to shake the fear of subtitled films a little from English-speaking audiences. It was important that Chloé Zhao win for nomadland, because it offered genuine hope that the barriers for women directors, and especially women of color, were beginning to fall. And if CODA wins, it will matter because of the opportunities it will create for other mostly Deaf actors.
Those who reject it do so largely because they view it as superficial crowd pleaser, but the label is only appropriate if you are faithfully bound to the assumption that any expression of sentimentality should automatically be equated with naivety. There is nothing light or simplistic in CODA.
The family at its center – Frank (Troy Kotsur) and Jackie (Marlee Matlin) along with their children Leo (Daniel Durant) and Ruby (Emilia Jones) – remains a stubborn, seething mess of conflicting desires and personal duties. Ruby wants to be a musician but, as a hearing child of deaf parents, positioned as their de facto performer, she worries that going it alone will sever one of their few concrete ties to hearing culture. Meanwhile, his father’s job in the fishing industry is under threat from corporate interference, with 60% of his catch now turned over to middlemen.
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There’s nothing cutesy about the tough choices these characters are forced to make between what they want and who they’re devoted to. And Heder’s no-fuss approach to the film allows its cast to create a family dynamic that feels firmly rooted in the experience, as they tease and argue, each gesture isolated by love. CODA only allows his hearing audience one moment of concession, as the sound cuts out in the middle of one of Ruby’s performances. Her parents, reading the micro-gestures and stifled sobs of the other spectators, finally realize how gifted their daughter is.
If the Oscars want to reward something of this simple emotional purity, what could be the harm in that?