Oscar Marathon 2020, Pt. 1: ‘Pain and Glory’ and ‘The Lighthouse’

Pain and Glory / Sony Pictures Classics

Hello! For the seventh year running, I’m attempting to see and write about each of the films (feature and short) nominated for an Oscar — 53 total this year.

We’re 26 days out from the Feb. 9 ceremonies (airing again on ABC), and this year, I again plan to write about two films a day, sometimes three. (You can see last year’s marathon in the notes on my personal Facebook profile.) That’ll allow me to publish my picks on Feb. 7 and take a day off before live-tweeting the ceremony itself.

Thus far, I’ve seen 29 films, leaving me nine features and all 15 short films. I’ve got access via screeners or online streaming services to all but one of the features, and I hope to get access to the live-action and animated shorts before they screen here Feb. 7 to 9. If not, that’ll cause just a minor bump — six of those 10 films are available online now. Four of the short documentaries are available online already, too. If I succeed, this will be the fourth year running that I’ve seen all of the nominated films before the ceremony. We all have our obsessions, right?

Last year, I tried to pair films logically or thematically. This year, I just randomized the full list and paired them off. Look out for some weird duos (and trios), but you’ll also see some fun matches.

Here we go!

Pain and Glory: Delightfully, the first film I get to write about this year is one of my absolute favorite movies of 2019. I’ve been a fan of Pedro Almodóvar since college, when a Spanish professor encouraged my class to catch a screening of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in some random basement classroom on campus. It was probably one of the first foreign-language films I’d ever seen. It was certainly the gayest film I’d ever seen, though I was still realizing why exactly that appealed to me.

I’ve seen most of his films since then — enough, at least, to recognize many of the themes he explores again in Pain and Glory, a melancholy journey through an approximation of Almodóvar’s own life and career. Antonio Banderas stars as filmmaker Salvador Mallo, a low-key stand-in for Almodóvar himself, down to his spiky hair and eye-popping apartment (replicated faithfully, apparently).

The opening scene, with Mallo suspending himself underwater, gives us a clue where we’re going — rebirth, in both Mallo’s personal and professional lives. The closing scene, which I won’t spoil, is one of the most beautiful and haunting of Almodóvar’s career.

In between is a majestic film, containing the finest performance of Banderas’ career. We traverse the span of Mallo’s life — from his childhood, when Mallo first encountered art and desire, to his adulthood, when he (as the title suggests) reckons with the pains and glories of his existence.

(Nominated for Best International Film and Best Actor [Banderas])

The Lighthouse: What a freakin’ trip this movie is.

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe star as the lonely keepers of a remote lighthouse off the New England coast. Thomas (Dafoe) is the veteran, Ephraim (Pattinson) the newcomer, given vile grunt work and forbidden by Thomas from seeing the light of day.

Their isolation, compounded by Thomas’ noxious personality and farts (oh, so many, many farts), drives the men crazy. And you’d think it would be just an exercise in misery, but holy shit, is this movie funny as hell.

And it’s beautiful as hell — a gloomy, shadowy hell of black-and-white shot by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Jarin Blaschke. This one’s definitely not for everyone, but those who get on this movie’s vibe are gonna love it.

(Nominated for Best Cinematography)

Up next: Frozen II and American Factory


  1. […] To be frank, I put these two together just because I wanted to make sure I wrote about them. I saw Portrait at the end of last year, but it was a distracted and rushed viewing. I haven’t seen Mother for 10 or more years, though I’ve been meaning to revisit it, especially after falling in love with director Pedro Almodóvar all over again with last year’s masterpiece Pain and Glory. […]


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