This Sunday all of Hollywood will be getting dressed up for the biggest night of circle jerking on the planet: the Oscars. As we mentioned earlier, 95% of Academy voters are old white men, which usually translates to them picking people (and films) that talk about their struggle. Still, the Hispanic community has had its share of Oscar victory moments. Here are five of our favorites.
The great Puerto Rican thespian was the first Latino ever to win an Oscar. Ferrer was awarded the tiny, golden naked man statue in 1950 for his portrayal of the titular character in Cyrano de Bergerac. His performance is still the gold standard by which everyone measures that particular role.
Rita Moreno became the first Latina to win an Oscar, winning the 1961 award for “Best Supporting Actress” for her role as Anita in West Side Story. Many– us included– feel that Moreno’s Anita was the best part of the film, which is a testament to her great acting skills and not a diss on Natalie Wood’s Rita character. Beyond the Oscar, Moreno has also collected a Grammy (1972), a Tony (1975), and an Emmy (1977), completing the EGOT quadfecta, a feat that’s only been accomplished by ten other people (eleven if you count 30 Rock’s Tracy Jordan).
Another Boricua! Benicio won for his gritty portrayal of a good cop in 2000’s Traffic. There was always something about Benicio that told you he was one day going to be a huge star. Even when he was coming after Johnny Depp in his underwear with a knife in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, you just knew he had it in him. Benicio has gone on to star in a bunch of great films, most notably his uncanny Che Guevara in Che.
In 2002, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron were in contention for the Best Original Screenplay award. Almodovar won the award (for Talk To Her) despite the fact that Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien was better known and more popular. Truthfully, Almodovar deserved the recognition more. With films like Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and last year’s The Skin I Live in, the Spanish auteur has been at the forefront of world cinema for the last 30 years. He’s also largely responsible for launching the careers of actors like Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz.
Speaking of Penelope Cruz, she’s the latest Hispanic to win an Oscar. This Spanish beauty’s performance in 2009’s Vicki Cristina Barcelona, a film in which she played the manic depressive counterpart to Scarlett Johansson. She started out working with Almodovar in Spain and made the jump to American movies a few years later. A lot of people dismissed her as just another “exotic beauty”, but she’s proven that she has some serious acting chops.
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