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Snubbed in Spain, Almodovar now eyes Oscar gold

Snubbed in Spain, Almodovar now eyes Oscar gold. Best Director and Screenplay nods soothe bruised feelings over Best Foreign Film snafu

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When is an Oscar success story also an Oscar snub story? When it’s about Pedro Almodovar. The Spanish auteur snared Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nods for his lauded Talk to Her. But Almodovar’s quirky romance, which earned a Golden Globe last month, was ineligible for a best foreign film nomination, since it wasn’t Spain’s official entry. (The country chose instead Mondays in the Sun.) Tom Bernard, copresident of Sony Pictures Classics, Talk to Her’s U.S. distributor, speculates the muy liberal Almodovar ran afoul of Spain’s pelicula establishment: ”Pedro’s not mainstream,” says Bernard. ”He’s very outspoken in his political beliefs.” But Almodovar — whose All About My Mother won the best foreign film Oscar in 2000 — isn’t lacking for fans within the Academy’s directors’ branch. Luminaries such as Mike Nichols and Arthur Penn promoted Talk to Her among their peers, while Sony Classics’ ongoing Oscar strategy included screening the film for voters working on about 20 movie sets around the world — from Tim Burton’s Big Fish (shooting in Alabama) to Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain (lensing in Romania). As for Almodovar, he’s more than happy to be nominated. ”I couldn’t cry, because I was so moved,” says the director, who watched the announcement in Madrid with his ”eyelashes glued to the screen.” He hopes his twin nods are indicative of America’s growing willingness to embrace foreign-language cinema. ”It could mean filmgoers are not lazy anymore about subtitles and getting into stories from other cultures,” he says. ”I think something is changing.” If only his own country could get on the bandwagon… — Jeff Jensen, with additional reporting by Allison Hope Weiner