The Spanish Academy has selected Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory” as its submission for the international feature film Academy Award, from what was seen by many as the country’s strongest group of candidates in years, including fellow Oscar-winning director Alejandro Amenabar’s Spanish Civil war-set drama “While at War” and Salvador Simo’s animated feature “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles,” a Gkids pick-up for the U.S.
Almodovar is often considered a shoo-in to be selected for submission by the Spain’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with three films having been nominated for Oscars – “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and “All About My Mother” (both for foreign-language film) and “Talk to Her” (director and screenplay). However, since winning a then-called foreign-language film Oscar for 1999’s “All About My Mother,” only three of his eight features have been selected by the Spain’s Academy with none receiving an eventual nomination.
The question then is, can “Pain and Glory,” a smash hit at Cannes and sure-fire contender for the Spanish Academy Goya best picture, break the streak.
Many are calling the film his best work since 2006’s “Volver,” one of the three features to be submitted from Spain. In his Variety review, Peter Debruge described it a “Mature work of meticulously tuned metafiction, erupting with so many of the director’s signature touches — bold colors, passionate embraces, and copious references to his cinematic inspirations (from Liz Taylor to Fellini).”
Then, as now, the film was a high-profile international hit featuring a major box-office draw in Penelope Cruz. “Volver” still stands as Almodovar’s most successful U.S. box office draw at nearly $13 million.
In France, traditionally one of Almodovar’s biggest foreign markets, cinema theater admissions for “Pain and Glory” at 819,259, are his second-best since “Volver,” only bested by “Broken Embraces,” at 924,644. In its first two weeks in U.K. theaters, a market where anything over $1m for a foreign language films is considered a strong result, the film has already pulled in $988,000.
This time around however, the cast is headlined by Spain’s most recognizable leading man in Antonio Banderas. With the newly named international feature film Academy Award category now broadened to 10 contenders, sentiment at least in Almodovar’s native Spain is that the real news would be if he does not score a nomination.
The real question might be if Banderas can follow suite in the lead actor category having won that plaudit for his performance in the role of Salvador Mallo, a fictionalized stand-in of Almodovar himself, at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.