While occasionally underrated by Spanish viewers, Spanish cinema has always been greatly appreciated beyond Spain?s borders. This is demonstrated by the prominent Spanish presence at the last Oscar Awards ceremony. This year, for the second time in his life, director Fernando Trueba will be sitting in a nominee?s chair at the Hollywood Academy Awards gala. At his side will be Javier Mariscal, co-director of the animation film Chico & Rita, competing for Best Animated Feature (a winner the of the José María Forqué Award in the same category), and Alberto Iglesias, composer of the soundtrack of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (El Topo). Furthermore, the Spanish co-production Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen, is competing in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Art Direction.
No Country for Old Men
Before filling his shelves with Spanish Goya awards (he has five of them), art director Gil Parrondo (along with his colleague Antonio Mateos) already had an Oscar in his living room. He won one in 1971 thanks to the film Patton, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, which was the big winner on that Oscar night, also taking the prize for Best Picture of the year. Gil Parrondo repeated his Oscar win the following year, becoming the only Spaniard to win two statuettes until Pedro Almodóvar. That night in 1972 Nicholas and Alexandra, Shaffner?s new film, won two Oscars for Spain, as, in addition to Best Art Direction, it also won the award for Best Costume Design for designer Antonio Cánovas (jointly with a British designer settled in Spain, Yvonne Blake).
The next year, Luis Buñuel won the only Oscar of his career, although Spain can?t take all the glory for the award, as it was for the French production The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. He didn?t receive his prize in person, as he had publicly expressed his revulsion for these awards, but, wearing a wig and sunglasses, he did have a photo taken of himself with his gold statuette.
The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie
From 1982 on, we began to see Oscar-winners who are better remembered today. That was the year in which José Luis Garci, dressed up in a white suit and a bow-tie and sporting a thick black beard, was called to the podium of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Music Center. His film, Volver a Empezar (Starting Over), was the first Spanish movie to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Twelve years would elapse before another Spanish filmmaker, Fernando Trueba, was able to thank the Academy (and his mentor, Billy Wilder) for the same prize. His award-winning film that year was Belle Epoque.
The nineties ended, of course, with Penélope Cruz gleefully shouting out winner Pedro Almodóvar?s name. With Todo sobre mi Madre (All about My Mother), he finally received the recognition the Academy had failed to give him for Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) many years before.
Talk to Her
Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside) has the honor of being the first Spanish production to get two statuettes. Alejandro Amenábar received Spain?s fourth Best Foreign Language Film Award and Jo Allen got the Oscar for Best Make-up and Hair, for her fantastic work preparing Javier Bardem to play the role of Ramón Sampedro.
At the 2007 gala, a Mexican-Spanish production (although in the foreign language film category, it was entered for Mexico) gave us the three more golden statuettes. El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan?s Labyrinth), by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, won awards in the categories of Art Direction, Cinematography, and, once again, Make-Up and Hairstyling.
The Sea Inside
Less fortunate were those other great Spanish filmmakers who, although nominated, didn?t quite attain Oscar glory. Such was the case of Plácido in 1962, when Luis García Berlanga lost out to Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Another near win was Tristana (1970), the only time Buñuel was in the running for an Oscar with a Spanish production; it lost to the Italian Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. And, in 1972, Mi Querida Señorita (My Dearest Señorita), by Jaime de Armiñan, lost to Buñuel with his discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.
Another near-winner was filmmaker Carlos Saura, who was an Oscar nominee in 1980 with Mama Cumple 100 Años (Mama Turns 100), but lost out to the German film The Tin Drum. Jaime de Armiñán tried again in 1981 with El Nido (The Nest), but that year it was nudged out by the Soviet film Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears.
As far as performances are concerned, Penélope Cruz became the first Spanish actress to be nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Performance by Actress in a Leading Role, from her performance as Raimunda in Volver (To Return), by Almodóvar, who didn?t get a nomination himself that year.
2008 wasn?t the first time that Javier Bardem sat in the auditorium waiting to hear ?And the Oscar goes to...?. He was nominated in the Best Actor category seven years before playing Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men for his performance as the homosexual Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls, by Julian Schnabel. Hunky gladiator Russell Crowe nabbed the award on that occasion.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy