Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem did the same thing when they heard Oscar winners: hug their mother. Bardem received it in 2008 for his unforgettable psychopath in ‘No Country for Old Men’, by the Coen brothers. «Mom, this Oscar is for you, it is for your grandparents, for your parents, Rafael and Matilde. This is for the comedians of Spain who, like you, have brought dignity and pride to our profession. This is for Spain and for all of you,” the actor thanked. The following year, Penélope Cruz hugged her mother, Encarna, before collecting her statuette as supporting actress for ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’. “Thank you Woody Allen, for having written some of the greatest roles for women over the years,” he said in a speech that would be unthinkable today as the director has become a pest in Hollywood.
You would have to go back to 1969 to find the last couple nominated in acting categories in the same edition of the Oscars: none other than Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’. Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem enjoy their fourth candidacy, now as protagonists, and are the great incentive for the Spanish spectator to follow the ceremony in the early hours of Sunday to Monday broadcast by Movistar Plus (red carpet from twelve thirty at night and the gala starting at two).
Bardem has it complicated. His role as actor Desi Arnaz, husband of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman), in the Amazon production ‘Ser los Ricardo’ has little to do with the great favorite of the night: Will Smith. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has gone fifteen years without receiving a nomination (the last one was for ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’). The reason for being ‘The Williams Method’, in which he plays the father and coach of the tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, a shady and contradictory character, is precisely to provide him with the Oscar. And if he doesn’t win, there is the British Benedict Cumberbatch, the cowboy tortured by his sexuality in ‘The Power of the Dog’.
If the 94th edition of the Academy Awards can be historic for Spain, it will be because of Penélope Cruz. The thermometer of the critics’ awards and the union associations until now pointed to Jessica Chastain, favorite for her role as a televangelist in ‘The Eyes of TammyFaye’, another of those films designed to take its protagonist to the stage of the Dolby Theater. The other three rivals are not easy to beat either: Olivia Colman, a woman on vacation in Greece who reconsiders her motherhood in ‘The Dark Daughter’; Nicole Kidman, as Lucille Ball in ‘Being the Ricardos’; and Kristen Stewart, Lady Di in ‘Spencer’.
However, a last-minute buzz and media outlets like ‘Variety’ and ‘Deadline’ are betting on the Spaniard, who in ‘Parallel Mothers’ plays a photographer torn between her motherhood and Spanish historical memory. The Volpi Cup in Venice (not the Goya, which went to Blanca Portillo’s Maixabel Lasa) started the journey of a character thanks to which Cruz would become the third actress in history to win the Oscar for best protagonist for a film non-English speaking after Sophia Loren (‘Two Women’) and Marion Cotillard (‘La Vie en Rose’).
The dazzling animated short film ‘The Windshield Wiper’, by Alberto Mielgo from Madrid, and the score that Alberto Iglesias from San Sebastian has composed for Pedro Almodóvar in ‘Madres paralleles’ (his fourth Oscar nomination) complete the Spanish participation. Unfortunately, we will not see these two awards live. In an attempt to make the gala more agile, the Academy has released eight awards that will be presented beforehand and of which we will see a summary video. A controversial decision that tries to stop the decline in viewership in recent years.
In the age of YouTube, young viewers have no patience for a three-hour ceremony, in which there is no tension because this year it doesn’t matter much which movie wins. The comedians Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall have accepted at the last minute the burden of presenting the gala, a task that no one wants to take on so as not to be lynched on social networks. DJs, skaters, surfers and snowboarders will parade alongside the stars in a pathetic attempt to connect with the TikTok generation.
And which will be the best movie? The head and its twelve nominations say that ‘The Power of the Dog’ will win, the particular western by New Zealander Jane Campion, which connects with the spirit of our time by challenging toxic masculinity. It would finally be the triumph that Netflix has not achieved at the Oscars with AlfonsoCuarón (‘Roma’) or Martin Scorsese (‘The Irishman’). Campion, who 28 years ago won the statuette as a screenwriter for ‘The Piano’, is assured of the award for best director. She will be the third director to win it after Kathryn Bigelow (‘The Hostile Land’) and Chloé Zhao (‘Nomadland’ ).
If we are guided by the heart and the preferential vote of academics, which favors consensus options, the winning film this Sunday will be ‘CODA. The Sounds of Silence’, a remake of a 2015 French comedy, ‘The Bélier Family’ , which attracted 24,000 spectators when it premiered in Spanish theaters last February. The story of a teenager who helps her hearing-impaired parents and who, suddenly, finds herself becoming a promise in the song. As happened in 2019 with ‘Green Book’, the Oscars would reward harmless and good-natured indie cinema.