We celebrate several director-actor partnerships, from Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio (THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, SHUTTER ISLAND) to David Fincher and Brad Pitt (SEVEN, FIGHT CLUB). One that’s often overlooked is acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and his muse, Antonio Banderas. This year, thankfully, the Academy recognized their spectacular partnership in the moving film PAIN AND GLORY.
PAIN AND GLORY earned two Oscar® nominations, and one was a pleasant surprise. The movie was nominated in the Best International Feature Film category, where many expected it to compete (though it’s likely destined to be a runner-up to Bong Joon-ho’s PARASITE). But Antonio Banderas also picked up a nomination in the Best Actor category for essentially playing a version of Almodóvar on screen.
Not that Banderas isn’t worthy of the nod. Critics praised his performance as a filmmaker nearing the end of his career, who goes through a series of emotional reunions with people who helped shape his voice.
Adam Graham, film critic for The Detroit News, wrote, "Antonio Banderas gives his best, most committed performance in years." Meanwhile, Anthony Lane wrote for The New Yorker, "The new film… is a stubborn, unvain, yet beautiful description of a man whose illusions are failing along with his mortal health, but who is somehow revived and saved by the act of describing. The glory flows from the pain."
The surprise, if you can call it that, came from Banderas breaking into a wildly competitive Best Actor field at the Academy Awards®. He will compete against Joaquin Phoenix (JOKER), Leonardo DiCaprio (ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD), Adam Driver (MARRIAGE STORY) and Jonathan Pryce (THE TWO POPES).
There were several other actors who we thought may be candidates in that category, including Adam Sandler (UNCUT GEMS), Eddie Murphy (DOLEMITE IS MY NAME), Robert De Niro (THE IRISHMAN) and Christian Bale (FORD V FERRARI). It’s not that Banderas isn’t deserving. But a foreign-language film usually has a hard time competing in top Oscar categories, so to see PAIN AND GLORY break through signifies real change.
This comes on the heels of Alfonso Cuarón’s film ROMA making headway at the Oscars® last year, earning Best Actress and Supporting Actress nominations for Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, respectively. And now there’s real talk that PARASITE could win Best Picture.
But this year, the Oscar race all traces back to the collaboration between Pedro Almodóvar and Antonio Banderas, and the stories they have been telling together for decades. Their films, over the years, have advanced the cultural conversation and enriched the lives of curious moviegoers. Almodóvar has honed his craft on the world stage, and while Banderas has dabbled in mainstream Hollywood cinema, he routinely returns to the director, so they can together explore the human condition.