Originally posted on my Open Salon blog.
When I think of the best foreign films of 2009, the very first film to come to mind is Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces (Los abrazos rotos). Starring his muse Penelope Cruz and actor Lluis Homar, this Spanish film told the story of love and the love of film in the style of neo-noir.
Though I had a personal beef with Almodovar for being one of the first to sign the “Free Polanski” petition at the end of last year (a whole ‘nother story all in itself), I’ve been a long-time fan and have a special place in my heart for this particular film of his. The story behind my first viewing of this movie is somewhat magical: I was a senior in college studying film, and I got into this studio’s 2-week Cannes Program. Ecstatic and beyond honored, I got to stay in the South of France with ten other filmmaking kids, work on the studio’s screening, and best of all – attend some of the events at the 2009 Cannes International Film Festival.
I’ll stop the bragging here, I promise. My only reason for bringing it up is that I somehow lucked out in getting into the premiere of Broken Embraces. (And by “lucked out,” I mean “clicked refresh a hundred dozen times on the ticketing webpage.”) Anyway, the experience and the film were both glorious. It was very Almodovar-esque in terms of beautifully ridiculous plot twists and turns, but overall it was just…scrumptious. Cruz was at her best since Volver (another recent Almodovar masterpiece), and the director himself got to really express his love for cinema and writing in this movie about a blind writer and filmmaker who gets the chance to finish his last movie from 14 years ago.
But, le sigh, this all means nothing to the Academy, seeing as how the film was completely overlooked from the nominations for the 2010 awards. Alright, alright, the snub from the Best Foreign Language category is not the Academy’s fault. It’s Spain’s. No, really. For whatever reason, Spain did not include Broken Embraces in its submissions to the Oscars in September. The writers are Incontention.com covered this and explained that “Almodovar and the Spanish Academy selectors have an on-and-off relationship.”
Okay, fine. So the Academy really had no control over the lack of nomination for Broken Embraces as Best Foreign Language Film. But what about all the other categories? The ones that would make the most sense would be, maybe, Best Original Screenplay, or Best Director, even Cinematography, or Best Actress. Oh wait! Penelope is nominated for Best Actress! But…for her role in Nine? Is that some kind of consolation prize? No one really cared about Nine this year anyway! Why not just nominate her for her brilliant performance in Broken Embraces? (Not to mention that the general opinion has been that French actress Marion Cotillard deserved it, if anyone, for that film.) Why, Oscars, why did you have to overlook Almodovar’s film completely?
I’ll start taking deep breaths now and put an end to my stream of consciousness rant. But the point is this:
Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces got screwed by Spain and snubbed by the Academy. And for that, I am eternally confused and disappointed.