"Oscar Town East"
AT the beginning of last month a small group of journalists dropped by the Gramercy Park Hotel for a light lunch and some wine with Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz, the director and star of “Volver,” one of the more anticipated films of the holiday season. There was no specific agenda, just a chance for press and talent to share pleasantries with a side of crudités.
The director Alejandro González Iñárritu; Andrew Saffir of the Cinema Society; the writer Eve Ensler; and Jane Fonda at a party after a screening of “Babel” last month at the SoHo Grand — a high-powered chat typical of the events this time of year in New York. Reporters and editors from Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, Elle and The New York Times were chatting amongstthemselves when Mr. Almodóvar and Ms. Cruz came in. Pausing at theentrance, Mr. Almodóvar turned and fluffed Ms. Cruz, smoothing down her hair and patting her cheek. At the sight of this quaint little domestic between the director and his longtime muse, the battle-hardened press visibly melted.
No doubt the scene also warmed the hearts of Michael Barker and Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics, who have big hopes for their little movie. “Volver,” which opened Friday, has won excellent critical notices and is now among the whispered as a contender for the best-picture Oscar.
Are the prospects for “Volver” getting brighter because it is a charming film or because its principals are charming the Manhattan mentionocracy, a heaving mass of critics, reporters, film geeks and gossip columnists? At this time of year, when the chill in the air is accompanied by a huge industry assault on New York, it is always hard to tell.