Award-winning director Pedro Almodóvar will be honored this year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his lifetime of work on December 13th. The Spanish director has won international acclaim for his films, which include the Oscar-winning “Talk to Her” and “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”
Excerpts from Mr. Almodóvar’s films will be played for attendees in an attempt to showcase the “breadth of his artistic explorations, his passionate engagement with the human heart, and a worldview often articulated by powerful female leads,” said the Academy in a statement.
The tribute will also feature interviews with his colleagues, family and friends, including his brother Agustín Almodóvar and designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Take a look at our picks for the top ten films by Almodóvar.
10. The Skin I Live In (2011)
Newcomers introduced to Almodóvar by this 2011 dark thriller are the worse for it. The film is slick and mesmerizing, but cold. Plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) develops a kind of super-skin designed to repel damages like the burns that disfigured his late wife. To perfect his invention, he practices on human guinea pig Vera (Elena Anaya) and imprisons her to watch her progress. Her escape is exciting, the reveal of her origins devastating, but the end result is rather flat.
9. Matador (1986)
A match made in…hell? Former star matador, Diego (Nacho Martínez) commits murders because it turns him on. Lawyer Maria Cardenal (Assumpta Serna) kills men because it turns her on. Their paths cross after matador pupil Ángel (Antonio Banderas) confesses to murders that Diego committed. The convoluted plot is a study of love, danger and desire.
8. Broken Embraces (2009)
One of the finest examples of the chemistry between Almodóvar and his muse, Penélope Cruz. She shines in her role as Lena, secretary to high-powered screenwriter Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar). The movie begins in the present then moves us to the past as Mateo, a.k.a. Harry Caine, recalls the first time he met Lena and the passionate affair that followed. Almodóvar shows off his love of film, referencing classics and his own works as well as displaying a mastery of cinematography.
7. The Flower of My Secret (1995)
Novelist Leo Macías (Marisa Paredes) disguises her identity as Amanda Gris to write wildly successful romance fiction but realizes the success has stifled her creativity. Desperate for a change, Leo takes a job at a newspaper but of course there’s a classic Almodóvar twist: Leo is assigned to cover Amanda Gris! Burdened by her failing marriage and family obligations, Marisa Paredes plays Leo as someone audiences can identify with and makes this film one of Almodovar’s most restrained and thoughtful.
6. Bad Education (2004)
Sex defines this movie: its pleasures, abuses and confusions. The film deftly weaves a narrative between past and present, man and woman to tell the story of Enrique (Fele Martínez) and Ángel (Gael García Bernal), childhood friends. Critics have lauded the film for its intricate storytelling and multi-layered characters.
5. Live Flesh (1997)
Sexy and suspenseful, Almodóvar delivers this thriller with emotional punch. Victor (Liberto Rabal), born to Penélope Cruz in a Madrid bus, shoots a policeman while visiting drug-addicted Elena (Francesca Neri). The policeman (Javier Bardem) lands in a wheelchair while Victor goes to prison. When he gets out, he finds that the policeman has married Elena. The three reunite with scary results. It’s easy to identify with all characters despite their darkest tendencies. Political criticism of the Franco era underscores this mystery that leaves viewers captivated until the very end.
4. Volver (2006)
No movie on this list explores the relationships between mothers and daughters quite like “Volver.” Almodóvar casts his leading ladies Carmen Maura and Penélope Cruz as mothers trying to protect their daughters from the men in this film who, even off-screen, impact the women in permanent ways. The film is set in Almodóvar’s home town of La Mancha, Spain and the wind-swept terrain is as much a player in the movie as the actors.
3. All About My Mother (1999)
Dedicated to Almodóvar’s mother, this film revolves around the past of organ transplant coordinator Manuela (Cecilia Roth). Once an actress, Manuela revisits her former life to fulfill the dying wish of her son and find his father. As he often does in his films, Almodóvar investigates the boundaries of sexual identity; in her search, Manuela meets two transsexual prostitutes, a pregnant nun and warring lesbians. A fascinating and visually stunning film about love, loss, family and redemption.
2. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
The movie that catapulted Almodóvar to international fame was hailed for its wacky style and superb actresses. The wild, manic comedy places its main character, Pepa (Carmen Maura), in an impossible situation. She has just been dumped by her married lover; now she must track him down, tell him she’s pregnant, save her best friend from being arrested for terrorist links, fix the hapless romance of her lover’s son (Antonio Banderas), and in the end save them all from an international terrorist plot. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1989.
1. Talk to Her (2002)
A gripping tale of two men who forge a friendship while their girlfriends are in deep comas. Nurse Benigno Martin (Javier Cámara) carefully attends to his charge, Alicia (Leonor Watling), dressing her, cleaning her and, of course, talking to her. He instructs his friend Marco Zuluaga (Darío Grandinetti) to do the same for his girlfriend (Rosario Flores), a bullfighter who has suffered a tragic injury in the ring. The line between devotion and obsession grows uncomfortably thin midway through the movie when Benigno commits a horrifying act. The warped love story challenges every viewer’s moral compass and wowed the Academy, winning Almodovar two Oscars for original writing and best screenplay.