Wednesday, February 1, 2023

‘Coda’ Wins Best Picture at the Oscars

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Daniel Durant in “CODA,” which won the best picture Oscar Sunday night. Photo/Apple TV Plus/TNS

By Joshua D. Baker

In case you had any doubts about whether or not streaming services could challenge the box office, this year streaming has finally taken the highest accolade at the Academy Awards: Best Picture. In fact, the entire docket for Oscar Awards has been loaded with streaming films since 2019–when Alsonso Cuaron’s Roma won Best Director and Cinematography.

Other streaming exclusives “The Power of the Dog” and “Don’t Look Up” also competed for Best Picture. Even more pictures with nomina- tions or awards from streaming ser- vices include “Tick, Tick…Boom, Being the Ricardos,” “The Tragedy of MacBeth, Spencer,” “The Lost Daughter”–and that’s not even including the pictures that were released to theaters and streaming services simultaneously. But enough about the competition, let’s talk about the winner: “Coda.”

“Coda,” an Apple TV + exclusive, was considered an underdog to win at first, but as awards start- ed to come in from other avenues, notably the Screen Actor Guild awards, it became clear that Coda had moved from underdog to top contender.

It tells the tale of the Rossi family, a tight-knit group of four who are all, with the exception of youngest daughter and main character Ruby, completely deaf. It follows her as she traverses the cruelties of high school, her family’s dependence on her as the only hearing member, young love and her hidden passion for singing.

But how is the movie, really?
In short: fine. I’m sure if you’ve watched any movie whatsoever, you could guess how the rest of the plot would normally play out and for the most part you’d be spot on. The majority of this movie is a bog-standard coming-of-age tale that is extremely non-offensive.

It definitely tries to pull at your heart-strings as Ruby faces being a girl torn between two worlds–the hearing and deaf world.

The film follows two plots that only really converge at the end: the family’s struggle to keep their heads above water financially in their fishing business and how Ruby joins the choir and decides that singing
is what she really wants to do. The lead actress, Emilia Jones, does a fine job portraying a burnt out high school senior; however, her dad Frank, played by deaf actor Troy Kotsur, absolutely steals the show. Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor for the role and it’s clear to see why.

Everything about him from how he holds himself to how he expresses his sign language, shows how much he truly embodies the character.

At times it felt like watching a deaf Jim Varney as Kotsur grinned, jerked and joked about anything and everything; only to see him reverse course completely as he sits with his daughter, eyes full of tears–proud and overwhelmed with the person she has become.

This film is worth watching for Kotsur’s performance alone and I honestly doubt it would have received the attention it garnered without him there. There are times, especially during its many montag- es, I felt myself waiting for him to come back on screen.

The movie isn’t especially pretty either. It really only has one shot where the characters are in
the extreme foreground with the background entirely out of focus. You know the transition shots, like walking or driving, are over as soon as the background becomes a giant blur.

Despite a few powerful audio choices, its unoriginal shot structure combined with the copy-paste plot made its pick for Best Picture feel hollow.

Overall, I would say that this is a good movie, whose actors man- aged to elevate a script that feels entirely forgettable. 6.5/10.

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