Antonio Banderas won his first competitive Goya Award for Best Actor in Pain & Glory.
Antonio Banderas won his first competitive Goya Award for Best Actor in Pain & Glory. COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
On Saturday, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar won big at the 34th Goya Awards, the Spanish movie industry equivalent of the Academy Awards. While the ceremony is by no means a predictor of what will win at the Oscars next month, the event was noteworthy for a near sweep of all major categories by Almodóvar's semi-autobiographical Dolor y gloria (Pain and Glory), winning seven out of sixteen nominations (whew!).

In addition to picking up the top accolade of the night for Best Film as well as ones for editing and score, Almodóvar took home Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, Antonio Banderas nabbed Best Lead Actor (his first win after five nominations), and Julieta Serrano won Best Supporting Actress. In his acceptance speech according to THR, Almodóvar asked the newly elected prime minister Pedro Sánchez to support “auteur cinema, independent, outside the margins of the platforms,” which, he said, is "in serious danger of extinction" due to streaming platforms like Netflix. He should definitely have a word with Scorsese, then.

In the context of the upcoming Oscars, Pain and Glory has an extremely slim chance of taking home either prize it's nominated for, Best International Film and Best Actor for Banderas. Bong Joon-ho's thriller Parasite and Joaquin Phoenix's performance in Joker are what many consider to be locks for their respective categories. Which is a shame for Almodóvar's film as I believe it to be one of his best in years.

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Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, an aging Spanish auteur who has decided to retire after struggles with chronic illness and mental health overwhelm him. When a retrospective of one of his earlier films leads to a turbulent reconciliation with its lead actor, Salvador turns to drugs to ease both his physical and emotional pain, dreamily conjuring memories of his childhood. I love seeing Banderas directed by Almodóvar (this is their fourth collaboration), especially in this role which is obviously a stand-in for the director himself. He uneasily occupies the screen, clearly trying to manage both his pain and his loved ones' response to it.

The film also made John Waters's top ten list of his favorite films of 2019. I can't stop thinking about his two-sentence review that somehow encapsulates nearly everything about what makes it great. I'm currently studying it:

The first Almodóvar movie to shock me—it’s not one bit funny or melodramatic and even the colors are muted, yet it goes beyond the valley of maturity and over the top of riveting self-reflection to gay mental health. You’re not dying, Pedro, independent cinema is.

If you're feeling adventurous and want to hear a round up of the awards in Spanish, I absolutely encourage you to do so. Dolor y gloria (Pain and Glory) is available for rent and purchase on Prime Video, YouTube, and available for purchase on Blu-ray DVD.

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