‘Pain and Glory’ could help Pedro Almodovar make a glorious Oscars return to writing and directing races

With “Pain and Glory,” Pedro Almodovar turns the camera on himself for a penetrating look at art and aging, using his own life and memories as dramatic fodder. The result is his best reviewed film in years, one that could return the Spanish auteur to the writing and directing Oscar races for the first time in 17 years.

SEE Alberto Inglesias Interview: ‘Pain and Glory’ composer

Almodovar last contended for writing and directing “Talk to Her” (2002), for which he won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. His Best Director bid made him the first — and so far only — Spanish filmmaker to be nominated in that category. Prior to that his “All About My Mother” (1999) took home the Best Foreign Language Film prize, and before that his international breakthrough “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (1988) was nominated.

However, he’s had a long Oscar drought since his 2002 victory, despite receiving other accolades for “Bad Education” (2004), “Volver” (2006), “Broken Embraces” (2009), “The Skin I Live In” (2011) and “Julieta” (2016). Three of those films — “Volver,” “Broken Embraces” and “The Skin I Live In” — earned Golden Globe bids for Best Foreign Film, while all five contended for that award at the BAFTAs, with “Skin” winning the category. “Volver” also earned an Oscar nom for Penelope Cruz‘s lead performance.

SEE ‘Pain and Glory’ reviews: Antonio Banderas gives ‘quite possibly his finest’ performance in his ode to Almodovar

His luck could improve with his latest release, which casts Antonio Banderas as a filmmaker who closely resembles the former enfant terrible of Spanish cinema; Banderas grew a white beard, wore the director’s clothes and shot in his apartment for the role. It’s a vibrant, deeply personal story that — as usual with Almodovar — unfolds in surprising ways.

The story could certainly appeal to the academy’s directors branch, which — in addition to enjoying stories centered on themselves — has become increasingly international in recent years, as evidenced by the 2018 nominations for Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”) and Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”). Many of the 33 filmmakers invited to join the Academy in 2019 hail from around the globe, and the same goes for the writers branch, which has seen a similar uptick in foreign-born talent.

“Pain and Glory” could contend in several other categories as well, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Banderas (who won that prize at the Cannes Film Festival) and Best International Film, not to mention craft and tech categories. So there’s a good chance Oscar voters will reward the man whose pain produced the glory.

Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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