Saturday, December 2

Some very unepic Oscars

Kodi Smit-McPhee and Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Power of the Dog,’ by Jane Campion. / rc

‘The power of the dog’ and ‘CODA’ compete in a gala that reserves the suspense for the unlikely victory of Penelope and Bardem

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem did the same thing when Oscar winners were heard: they hugged 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 picking up her statuette as a 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 plague in Hollywood.

One would have to go back to 1969 to find the last married 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 are enjoying their fourth candidacy, already as protagonists, and they are the great incentive for the Spanish viewer who follows the ceremony at dawn from Sunday to Monday broadcast by Movistar Plus (red carpet from half past twelve at night and the gala from two).

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Bardem has it complicated. His role as actor Desi Arnaz, husband of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman), in the Amazon production ‘Ser los Ricardos’ has little to do with the great favorite of the night: Will Smith. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air hasn’t received a nomination in fifteen years (the last one was for ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’). The raison d’être of ‘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’s 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. Until now, the thermometer of critics’ awards and trade associations pointed to Jessica Chastain, a favorite for her role as a televangelist in ‘The Eyes of TammyFaye’, another of those films designed to bring 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 rethinks her motherhood in ‘The Dark Daughter’; Nicole Kidman, in the shoes of Lucille Ball in ‘Ser los Ricardo’; and Kristen Stewart, Lady Di in ‘Spencer’.

However, a last-minute buzz and media such as ‘Variety’ and ‘Deadline’ are betting on the Spanish woman, who in ‘Mothers Parallels’ plays a photographer who is 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 leading role for a film non-English speaking after Sophia Loren (‘Two Women’) and Marion Cotillard (‘Life in Pink’).

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Netflix Triumph

The dazzling animated short film ‘The wiper’, by Alberto Mielgo from Madrid, and the score that Alberto Iglesias from San Sebastian has composed for Pedro Almodóvar in ‘Parallel Mothers’ (his fourth Oscar nomination) complete the Spanish participation. Unfortunately, these two awards will not be seen live. In an attempt to make the gala more agile, the Academy has released eight awards that will be delivered beforehand and of which we will see a summary video. A controversial decision that tries to stop the drop in audience 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 does not matter too much which movie wins. The comedians Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall have accepted at the last minute the embolus of presenting the gala, a task that nobody wants to assume so as not to be lynched on social networks. Alongside the stars will parade DJs, skaters, surfers and snowboarders in a pathetic attempt to connect with the TikTok generation.

And what will be the best movie? The head and its twelve nominations say that it will win ‘The power of the dog’, the particular western of the New Zealander Jane Campion, which connects with the spirit of our times by calling toxic masculinity into question. It would be, finally, 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 screenwriter for ‘The Piano’, is assured of the award for best direction.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 by 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, ‘La familia Bélier’ , 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 converted into a promise of song. As happened in 2019 with ‘Green Book’, the Oscars would reward inoffensive and good vibes indie cinema.

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