How CODA managed to pull out a Best Picture win – Vox

What is the movie coda based on

until a couple of weeks ago, no one seemed to think that the coda of sian heder’s movie, the little family drama that could win an oscar, let alone the best picture. (Of course not.)

and why would they? With a modest budget of $10 million, it premiered at a completely virtual Sundance Film Festival, with everyone in attendance sitting on their couches at home. That was 14 months before these Oscars, which is an extraordinarily long time for a movie to continue to gain momentum. (There have been other Oscars since then). No Sundance premiere has ever won Best Picture.

although it starred some well-known performers, including marlee matlin, so far the only deaf person to win an oscar for her acting (in 1987 for sons of a lesser god), and winner of best multi-talented actor troy kotsur – had no flashy names and no obvious oscar hooks. coda, named after the acronym children of deaf adults, is a film about a hearing teenager who works with her deaf parents and her brother in their fishing business, but harbors aspirations to study music. It is based on a French film (the very similar 2014 La Famille Bélier). much of it is in American Sign Language. he’s sweet, funny, a little cheesy, and very serious.

But here we are: A movie distributed by a streaming service won best picture for the first time in the Oscars’ 94-year history. And against all odds and most predictions until recently, that streaming service wasn’t Netflix, whose films The Power of the Dog and Don’t Look Up were considered among the strongest contenders for the night’s grand prize. It was apple tv+, which is low-key, maybe the best streaming service out there, but it hasn’t managed to attract much subscribers in the streaming glut, especially for its movies.

service picked up coda at sundance, but it was a big gamble for them. streamers haven’t done very well with the academy yet when it comes to winning. and coda was released on August 13, 2021, in pre-pandemic times considered a deadlock in the release schedule. it was released in theaters, but not in many of them. didn’t have much of a fuss. if he got some guild awards, maybe an independent spirit, that would be awesome.

A family at dinner.

Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin, and Daniel Durant in CODA.

Hard to say exactly what happened, but looking at the calendar, you can kind of guess. The movie’s fortunes seemed to turn when, in late February, the film won the SAG award for its ensemble cast. Kotsur won for his performance that night, too, and started to pick up awards: a BAFTA, a Critics’ Choice, an Indie Spirit. And by the weekend before the Oscars, when the film won Best Adapted Screenplay from the Writers Guild and the top prize from the Producer’s Guild, it started to look like the little movie that could was actually a snowball starting to barrel down the hill.

also, it’s…really nice to look at. he has a loving and imperfect family, a teenager with big dreams and some heartbreaking moments. never discount the power of a movie that makes people feel a bit bored by the end and feel like they’re contributing to an overlooked problem; in this case, the difficulties deaf people may encounter in navigating a world overwhelmingly biased towards hearing. if voters hadn’t seen the movie when it was released, the rush of awards would have caught their attention, and it might have seemed like a great choice, especially to those who might have been weary from the talk about other movies.

whether he deserves the award is another question. There’s a lot to love about Coda, which feels, in many ways, like the kind of movie you can see any day at Sundance or, these days, on a streaming service. It’s modest. It’s about ordinary people living an ordinary life. has some songs, lessons and a good heart.

On the other hand, it’s hard to see exactly how it fits in the best image category. the academy tends to honor films that it considers to be representative, in some way, of the last year in cinema. the winner of best picture is the film that hollywood’s largest voting body, made up entirely of people who work at the highest levels of the film industry, wishes to present as the best of the bunch, the example of what we can do .

It’s also difficult to fully square the coda with that designation. It has some prominent weak points (notably Eugenio Derbez, whose performance as a music teacher feels completely out of place) and quirks, and doesn’t feel as stable, confident and secure as any of the other films nominated in that category. p>

The fact that it prevailed may have something to do with the absurd way the academy votes for best picture, which tends to award the prize to bland films. In recent years, with changes in the demographics of academia and movies like Moonlight and Parasite (and even The Shape of Water), some of this has changed. but coda feels like the kind of movie most people can agree on, and that helps it stand out.

A teenaged girl and her father sit in the back of a truck. He has his arm around her shoulders.

Emilia Jones and Troy Kotsur in CODA.

And in a way, the selection makes a lot of sense. Look, it’s been a tough year. It’s been a bewildering year in the movie industry. People were trying to make movies in the middle of a pandemic. Theaters were sort of open sometimes but nobody seemed to know whether they could go to them. Festivals and awards were canceled and moved and just plain weird to attend. Schedules were upended. There’s a lot of fear that huge-budget megablockbusters are the only movies that can matter anymore, the only ones that studios will choose to make, since they’re the only ones that make money back. Streaming, an inherently individualistic mode of watching, is eating into an industry that built itself on the communal experience of a theater. Nobody seems to have any idea what’s going to happen next.

coda straddles that line between uncertainty and security and perhaps it’s a small message to decision makers in the industry. yes, it’s a movie most people will watch on their televisions, not in a theater. But Apple TV+ paid a lot of money to get it there, long after independent production was complete.

It’s also a film that valued the deaf community enough to bring to light some of the issues deaf viewers face when watching a movie, especially in the theater, and deliberately find ways to counter them. It’s not an original story (it did win best adapted screenplay, after all), but it’s not based on an ip that would be familiar to its audience. you can read the honor the academy paid as a message to the studios: they may not make as much money on these movies, but we still love them.

Is that enough for the studios to listen? sadly, probably not. But as a representative of the year of backwards movies, in a world turned upside down, spread over a remarkably backwards Oscars, it might not be so bad. It may not really be the best movie of 2021, but the best coda movie award might make more sense.

coda airs on apple tv+.

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