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October 14, 2008

Penelope Cruz: Global movie goddess


Some performances this year from art house movies -- translation: the ones made for the equivalent of the craft services budgets of the blockbusters, with boxoffice grosses to match -- truly stood out.

There's Richard Jenkins as the doleful professor who finds his groove in "The Visitor." (A few prognosticators have picked him as an Oscar candidate, and we might still do the same in one of our many dozen planned Oscar list do-overs).

And there's Penelope Cruz, whose tempestuous homicidal beauty gave "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" a jolt of unpredictability and excitement. Not that Oscar winning co-star Javier Bardem wasn't magnetic, sexy and soulful. He was. And Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson stood her ground with this force-of-nature couple. But it was Cruz who made the movie electric and memorable. Will she be remembered come awards time? We'll do our small part.

Cruz, who's been nominated for an Oscar before (for Pedro Almodovar's "Volver"), has picked up at least one early honor, with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival just naming her outstanding performer of the year for her work in the Spain-set romantic dramedy and the Ben Kingsley-starring "Elegy."

In making the announcement, SBIFF's head honcho called Cruz an "international movie goddess."

Too bad that's not inscribed on the award.

More here.


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

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  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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