Javier Bardem for Best Actor in 'Biutiful': What's the disconnect?

Javier-Bardem-ButifulImage Credit: Jose HaroIn Cannes earlier this year I chatted with Josh Brolin, who was promoting two films of his own but seemed most excited about his pal Javier Bardem’s turn in Biutiful. “Sean Penn told me it’s a f—ing masterpiece,” he said to me. “And Guillermo del Toro says Javier’s performance is unprecedented.” When I saw the film (directed by Alejandro González Iñarritu) the next day, I understood what Brolin was talking about. Bardem, a past Best Supporting Actor winner for No Country For Old Men, is nothing short of devastating as a Barcelona dad struggling to keep his family together amidst unspeakable personal and professional tragedies. But something bizarre has happened in this awards season so far: Despite being selected by Mexico as its official foreign-language entry, the film has failed to gain any awards traction for Bardem. No Broadcast Critics nomination for him, no SAG nod, nothing from the Golden Globes even. When I got Globe nominee Ryan Gosling on the phone on Tuesday, Bardem’s was the omission he was most troubled by. “Look at Javier,” Gosling said. “How could you not acknowledge that?” 

Several of my Oscar-blogger colleagues (like The Wrap‘s Steve Pond and Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells) have expressed their displeasure at the repeated snubbing of Bardem. (I’d also add Rabbit Hole‘s Aaron Eckhart to the list of guys who are being inexplicably overlooked, by the way.) When I put together my first round of predictions for our Holiday Movie Preview issue last month, I had Bardem right next to Gosling, Jeff Bridges, and Robert Duvall in my grouping of contenders that sat just below full-on locks like Colin Firth and James Franco. And Bardem has been tirelessly supporting the film out here in Los Angeles, attending countless screenings to ensure as many voters as possible see the film in a dark theater as opposed to at home or (shudder!) on a laptop.

So what’s the problem? Since he already has an Oscar to his name, do some critics and voters feel like he’s been recognized already? That shouldn’t matter. I happen to enjoy what most people would consider “depressing movies” (as if you couldn’t tell by my love for Blue Valentine), but I fear that many people simply cannot, or do not want to, handle such an emotionally intense drama as Biutiful. No, you won’t finish the movie and want to dance a jig. But it’s a film — and a performance — that’s as life-affirming and inspirational as it is sad. Here’s hoping more people realize that.

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  • Middento

    I have seen BIUTIFUL and can also attest to really what a fantastic performance Bardem puts forth. I don’t understand the resistance to the film myself — it’s a far better film, and a more accessible film on many levels, that BABEL, which made such a splash.

  • fancypants

    Maybe Bardem can pull a Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock this year (go virtually unrecognized until the Oscars?)? But the difference is that Bardem is a previous Oscar winner.

    • Dee Jones

      So, what does that matter

    • TorontoTom

      Bridges and Duvall are previous winners and they will likely both get nominated. As the critics choices and early award noms were pouring out the last few weeks, I too wondered why Bardem wasn’t in the mix. He should be.

  • Jon

    Jealousy, pure and simple: great actor, handsome, has Penelope, and has an Oscar already.

  • Pablo

    I saw this movie opening weekend in Spain two weeks ago and was wondering why I wasn’t seeing his name as a lock like Annette Benning is for Lead Actress. He simply blew me away.

  • Amber

    Maybe voters aren’t ready to forgive anyone involved with the craptastic Eat, Pray, Love

    • cruzilla

      A good theory, except Franco is in that as well.

      • anen


  • Will

    It’s the same problem True Grit had with the Globes and that Another Year is having … when your movie is so slow to release at this time of year, you risk being forgotten.

  • Ibad

    His performance was great, but I think the film was rather sloppy. Then again it’s been picking up plenty of mentions for Foreign Film, so people can’t dislike it too much, but I think that might be out of lack of anything better to choose than this/I Am Love/Dragon Tattoo (?). I’m much more troubled by the shunning of Another Year and Lesley Manville. There’s absolutely no reason why a fifth slot should be left open for Swank’s potential taking when Lesley gave the performance of the year, full-stop.

  • Fernando valdes

    Javier bardem is a great actor, but i am agree, his performance in eat, pray, love in horrible, I don’t know what happen to him. We have to remember that he already won the best actor prize at cannes film festival for this picture, and we have to remember also that academy members don’t like to nominated these winners, some examples:
    Bjork dancer in the dark
    Charlotte Ginsbourg Antichist
    Juliette binoche copia fiel
    So, we never kown what happen in the critics heads, when they are considering someone to nominated.

  • juan

    It shouldn’t matter if he won an Oscar in the past. Penelope Cruz was nominated in 2006, then won an Oscar in 2008, and then was nominated again in 2009 for Nine. Now that movie was probably as bad as Eat, Pray, Love. Gosh, I’ll even go as far as saying Nine was worst than Burlesque. The point is if Javier Bardem is not nominated, it simply means the Academy dislikes him.

  • mary d.

    i agree with everything you say and i think penelope is wayy overrated and javier is wayy underrated…

  • Lisa

    Maybe if he had spread his legs like his wife did in Nine,they would have really loved him!
    Don’t tell me Biutiful is too bleak or depressing to watch and be nominated! James Franco cuts his arm off in 127 Hours,What the hell do you call that?
    And Javier did Eat Pray Love because he read the book and liked the real-life story.That Glee director mangled it and Javier’s Felipe was nothing like the book at all!
    Not Javier’s fault,blame that awful Ryan Murphy,he’s jerk! Javier could still be nominated for an Oscar,it’s not over yet!

  • Jalal

    I don’t think it has anything to do with him already having an Oscar. Look at a lot of the other names being thrown around that have Oscars; Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush, Hilary Swank, and Halle Berry.

  • nick

    I agree with Lisa, and… yes I agree about Cruz, too. In Nine she just had to being sexy, spread her legs in underwear, shout something and…puuff SAG, GG and Oscar noms. What a shame!! Now she can just show up in a movie being sexy to get nominations and awards. Seeing all the awards and noms she’s getting in the last 4 years it seems she’s the greatest living actress! And I really don’t understand why…she’s a good actress but not to have 3 noms in 4 years…and for so similar roles! Bardem’s roles are always so different.So, they are saying us that if you are a glamourous and “caliente”, hot sexy chick you deserve far more recognition than other ones who aren’t, even being as good or more than you. How sad for Bardem being so upstaged by Cruz in everything… being the better actor of the two.

  • moira

    Bardem was already snubbed for another great preformance in The sea inside. Yes, he’s underrated and Cruz is way overrated,unfortunately.

  • Fernando valdes

    Hollywood loves Pe, that’s the reazon she is where she is, her oscar nomination for volver is so deserved also her oscar win for vicky cristina barcelona, about nine, academy members gave her the nomination just because they love her, marion cotillard stole every scene in the picture, she should’ve been nominated this year, the film ShInes for the incredible cast involved in it, but nothing else

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