Pedro Almodovar Snubbed Again as Spain, Italy, Choose Dark-Horse Oscar Candidates

Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In” is passed over by Spanish Academy; Italian board picks “Terraferma” over festival favorite “Habemus Papam”

Once again, Pedro Almodovar has been snubbed by the Spanish Film Academy, putting him in the middle of yet another Academy Awards foreign-language controversy.

At the same time, Italy passed over Nanni Moretti's festival favorite "Habemus Papam" to submit a lesser-known film, "Terraferma."

Also read: Oscar's Foreign-Language Submissions: The Master List (So Far)

Almodovar's new film, "The Skin I Live In," which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and will be released in North America by Sony Pictures Classics, made the shortlist of three finalists but was not chosen as Spain's official submission in the Oscar Best Foreign-Language Film category. The same fate befell his previous films, "Volver" and "Broken Embraces."

Black BreadInstead, Spain chose Agusti Villaronga's "Black Bread" ("Pa Negre"), a drama set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War that has been compared to a more mainstream version of Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth."

To be fair, "Black Bread" won nine awards, including Best Film and Best Director, at this year's Goya Awards, Spain's version of the Oscars. It was nominated in five additional categories.

Also read: A Week Before Deadline, Oscar Foreign-Language Race Takes Shape

But "The Skin I Live In" had the highest profile of Spain's three announced finalists, with generally positive reviews for the creepy drama starring Antonio Banderas as a doctor performing unusual procedures on a woman in his house.

(The third finalist was "The Sleeping Voice" by Benito Zambrano.)

The snub is nothing new for Almodovar, whose films routinely prove to be too daring for the Spanish selection board – although when it did submit his 1999 film "All About My Mother," that movie won the Foreign-Language Oscar.

Spain's only nomination (and win) since then came with 2004's "The Sea Inside," directed by Alejandro Amenabar. In 2002, Almodovar won the Original Screenplay Oscar for writing "Talk to Her," which had not been submitted in the Foreign-Language category.

When Almodovar won for that film, he spoke for so long that he had to be jokingly dragged from the stage by Banderas. Afterward, he berated Oscar show producer Laura Ziskin for not letting him finish and for the Academy's policy of not inviting Foreign-Language directors to the Nominees Luncheon.

TerrafermaIn neighboring Italy, meanwhile, Nanni Moretti's Cannes and Toronto entry "Habemus Papam," which has U.S. distribution via IFC, was passed over in favor of "Terraferma," a drama by Emanuele Crialese focusing on an Italian fishing family that rescues a group of shipwrecked  illegal immigrants from North Africa.

Though Italy has more wins than any other country, it has been on a cold streak lately. "Don't Tell" in 2005 gave the country its only nomination since it won for "Life Is Beautiful" in 1998, and in recent years Italy failed to land a nod after submitting the critics' favorite "Gomorrah" in 2008 and the crowd-pleasing "The First Beautiful Thing" last year.

"Terraferma" recently screened at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize, as well as in Toronto, where it received mixed reviews.

In other recent entries into the Foreign-Language category, Cuba chose "Habanastation," Switzerland "Summer Games," and Thailand "Kon Khon." Information on all of those films has been added to TheWrap's master list of submissions in the category.