Saturday, January 17, 2009

Award Season's Greetings from Goya, Oscar, et al

With another Christmas and New Year's celebration gone by, film fans are now enjoying the festive annual award season. So far we have been treated to presentations from Golden Globes, Critics Choice and various circles, guilds and groups, in what amounts to the big build up to the Oscars, whose nominations have not even been revealed yet.

Here in España, meanwhile, the contenders for Los Premios Goya, Spain's Academy Awards, were announced in December. The Spanish statuettes, small bronze busts of the artist Francisco de Goya, will be handed out to winners during a televised awards show on February 1st.

As a preview to that event, last weekend the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España (Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences) held its traditional reception to honor the nominees, which this year include Mexico's Benicio del Toro, for best actor in “Che: El Argentino,” and Penélope Cruz, for best supporting actress in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Although neither of those two internationally known stars were at the late night gathering in Madrid, hundreds of Spain's cinema industry members attended the event to mix, mingle, plug and pose.

The most photographed seem to have been good friends and best actress rivals, Ariadna Gil and Maribel Verdú. (See photo above.) In comments about the Goyas, Gil ("Sólo Quiero Caminar") gave reporters the classic, “the nomination is what is important,” line, while Verdú ("Los Girasloes Ciegos") added an equally traditional "a nomination always surprises." She then went on to predict that neither of them would win: "I believe that this year they are going to give it to Carme Elias" for her role in “Caminar.”

Other attendees included all of this year's best director nominees Álex de la Iglesias ("The Oxford Murders"), Javier Fesser ("Camino"), José Luis Cuerda ("Los Girasloes Ciegos"), and Agustín Díaz Yanes (Sólo Quiero Caminar). De la Iglesias was quoted as saying he was "frankly pleased" with the six nominations for "Oxford," which was filmed in Britain with an English script, and a mostly non-Spanish cast and crew. He failed, however, to shed any light on how such a tepid thriller could be singled out for any honors, in any country.

More understandable are the multiple nominations received by four other films. "Los Girasoles Ciegos" garnared a total of 15 nominations, while "Solo Quiero Caminar" picked up 11, and "Camino" and “Sangre de Mayo” each received seven.

"Los Girasoles Ciegos" (“The Blind Sunflowers”), which stars Maribel Verdú and Javier Camara, is based on a popular novel by the same name. This post-Spanish civil war tragedy tells the story of a priest who romantically pursues a war widow. This movie received nominations in all of the major categories, as well as in a number of technical ones such as costumes, editing, make-up and sound.

"Solo Quiero Caminar" (“Just Walking”) is a visceral crime thriller about four female bank robbers (Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Ariadna Gil, Victoria Abril, and Elena Anaya) whose latest caper leads them into a confrontation with Mexico City's crime syndicate. Mexico's Diego Luna is the male lead in this one.

"Camino," (“The Way”) is about the final days of the terminally ill daughter of a religious family. The story was “inspired” by a real child, Alexia González Barros, who in 1985 died of a rare illness at the age of 14, and who is currently in the Catholic church's canonization process. Its nominations include best film, director, original script, and new actress, Nerea Camacho. (Each year the Goya's honor a best new actress and best new actor, as well as a best new director.)

“Sangre De Mayo” ("The Blood of May") is a period piece set during the Madrid street uprising against Napoleon's troops that started on May 2, 1808. The movie was released during the bicentennial observance of this event. Among its seven nominations is one for best supporting actress for Tina Sainz.

The best actor and actress categories are being watched closely, since the co-stars of two of 2008's biggest films are all in competition. This has pit Maribel Verdú and Raúl Arévalo of “Los Girasoles Ciegos” against Ariadna Gil and Diego Luna of “Sólo Quiero Caminar.”

The best supporting actress category is also generating a lot of interest, and not only in Spain. This is, of course, due to the nomination of Penélope Cruz, or “Pe” as she is affectionately known by the Spanish media. The Goya nomination is one of several others she has received this year, all of which contribute to the Oscar buzz she has been getting for her performance in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." (By the way, if there is an award anywhere for worst movie title, don't you think this one deserves a nod?)

Pe, who already has two best actress Goya's for La Niña de Tus Ojos (1998) and Volver (2006), has so far this season won honors from critics' associations in Boston, Los Angeles and New York, as well as from the USA's National Board of Review of Motion Pictures; then this past Thursday she was nominated for a BAFTA, Britain's Academy Award. However, with her recent losses to Kate Winslet at the Golden Globe and VH1 Critic's Choice awards, some may wonder if her momentum has slowed.

On January 22nd, when the American Academy Award nominees are finally announced, her fans will learn if Pe makes the Oscar cut. Then on February 1st we will see who receives Spain's top film industry accolades, including whether or not Pe will collect her third Goya -- this time for a supporting role in an English language film.

Hasta entonces amig@s,


P.S. For a list of Goya nominees, click here.