Pedro Almodóvar’s cabin-crew comedy “I’m So Excited!” finally jets into US theaters on Friday, and as I suggested in my review, some of the kooky Spanish auteur’s fans may want to brace themselves for a crash landing.
But you may disagree. The critical reception for his latest is cooler than Almodóvar has come to expect, but as many die-hard fans of the director have been tickled as have been dismayed. One thing both camps will agree on, however, is that it couldn’t be the work of anyone else: from his recurring themes of fringe sexuality to his Crayola color palette, Almodóvar’s films are arguably the most immediately and universally identifiable of anyone’s in the current hierarchy of European auteurs — to the point that even the Academy has embraced him and even Almodóvar himself has taken to parodying his own stylistic tics.
“I’m So Excited!” is the 19th feature film in a career that now spans four decades, and to say it’s the weakest of them is faint praise for his glittering cinematic highs — from sketchy, vivacious early works like “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” to the more polished pleasures of “All About My Mother.” So it seemed a good time to (almost) bisect Almodóvar’s career by counting down his 10 best films.
What I ended up with, after due consideration, was an exciting, imperfect assortment that includes the wild absurdist farces on which his reputation was built, the sleek psychological thrillers he’s returned to over the years and the full-blooded, heartbroken melodramas he perfected in middle age that made converts of Oscar voters and arthouse dilettantes alike. No two films on this list are quite alike, though they have plenty of recurring elements between them, from matadors to transsexuals to extreme crimes of passion. Also evident in the list is the selection of Spanish superstars whose star personae Almodóvar helped to either establish or redefine: from Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem to character-actor mainstays like Carmen Maura.
Even with this final list consuming over half of Almodóvar’s career, the list of his films that I like certainly doesn’t stop at #10. I imagine no one’s list will look exactly alike, so check out my picks in the gallery below, then tell us your favorites in the comments section.