The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their 2012 Oscar nominees yesterday and now we're ready to unveil our picks for the best performances and films of 2012—starring Latinos, of course! Without further ado, the envelope, please!
1. Movie Awards: Zoe Saldana
The Sexiest Assassin Award
Zoe Saldana, Colombiana
We love that lithe, soft-spoken chicas like Saldana can play roles like the gun-toting assassin, Cataleya, in last summer’s Colombiana. She may have been in her skivvies for most of the movie but that didn’t stop her from putting down bad guys with her bare hands.
2. Movie Awards: Salma Hayek & Antonio Banderas
The Too Hot for Live Action Award
Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas, Puss in Boots
From scorching scenes in 1995’s Desperado and 2003’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Hayek and Banderas have been setting the screen on fire for years. For their fifth collaboration, the two friends prove that their extraordinary chemistry can’t be denied—this time as furry feline lovers in last fall’s animated hit Puss in Boots.
3. Movie Awards: Harmony Santana
The Riskiest Move Award
Harmony Santana, Gun Hill Road
In Gun Hill Road, an ex-con (Esai Morales) returns home to The Bronx, N.Y., after three years in prison to discover that his teenage son (Santana, making her film debut) is transgender. In a powerful twist, like the character she plays, the half-Dominican, half-Puerto Rican Santana is also transgender. “It’s one of the first times in the history of cinema that we’re seeing a trans character actually played by a transgendered person,” says the film’s director Rashaad Ernesto Green.
4. Movie Awards: Ana de la Reguera
Sexiest Crossover of the Year
Ana de la Reguera, Cowboys & Aliens
Everyone knows that Latinas are the sexiest crossover stars (Penélope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Sofia Vergara—enough said!), and De la Reguera is no exception. The talented actress, who was best known for her roles in several Mexican telenovelas (Azul; Pueblo Chico, Infierno Grande), brought massive sex appeal to the cast of this summer’s sci-fi western, Cowboys & Aliens, playing the role of Maria, Doc’s (Sam Rockwell) wife.
5. Movie Awards: Penelope Cruz
The Hot Mami Award
Penélope Cruz, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Fresh off her 2010 Oscar nomination for Rob Marshall’s Nine, Cruz jumped on board for this franchise’s fourth installment—even though the Spanish actress was a few months pregnant. Cruz handled the physical demands of the movie very easily, except for one thing: She had to pee often. “They left Johnny [Depp] and I on a deserted island with no bathrooms,” she said recently. “That, for a pregnant woman, can be a little bit of a problem. So for those few hours I had to keep going into the water every 15 minutes. That was one of those things that you remember forever.”
6. Movie Awards: Demian Bichir
The Role Model Award
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
A Better Life tells the story of a gardener (and illegal immigrant) in east Los Angeles, who struggles to steer his son clear of gangs and immigration officials, while trying to give him the opportunities and education he never had himself. The film features a performance by Mexican actor Bichir that’s meant to show how hardworking, decent and authentic Latinos are—but we’re not complaining. There are more than enough depictions of Latinos in negative roles in Hollywood (playing gang members and criminals), which is why this film is such a gem.
7. Movie Awards: Gael Garcia Bernal & Diego Luna
The Power Players Award
Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna
Friends and actors García Bernal and Luna set out to transform Mexican cinema in 2005 with their production company, Canana Films. And this year, Mexico is submitting Canana Films’ Miss Bala for the foreign language Oscar. The pair are giving filmmakers, screenwriters and actors from Mexico the chance to shine.
8. Movie Awards: Emmanuel Lubezki
The Prettiest Pictures Award
Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s images in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (starring Brad Pitt) are so luscious that they depict a world that you want to live in. Lubezki didn’t overthink things when he set out to create the film’s landscape, which celebrates nature, love and life.
9. Movie Awards: Berenice Bejo
In The Artist, a black and white silent film, Argentinean-born actress Bejo plays Peppy Miller, a charming actress whose star begins to rise with the advent of talkies. “I love everything about Peppy,” Bejo says of her character. “Her energy is amazing; I always have the feeling that she’s flying—she’s not touching earth,” she says. Audiences also fell in love with Peppy—and Bejo by extension.
Bejo, 35, is the daughter of Argentinean parents who moved the family to France when she was just three years old to escape a dictatorship in the ’70s. Although she left Argentina very young, she is proud of her Latin roots. “I feel Argentinean and French—both of them,” she says. She speaks Spanish, although she says that wasn’t the case growing up. “My parents spoke to me in Spanish and I answered in French—and today I have kids and I speak to them in Spanish and they answer me in French,” Bejo says with a laugh.
Just like her character, Bejo’s star in Hollywood is on the rise. Since The Artist premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, she’s had tons of Oscar buzz for her charming performance and has been nominated for SAG and Golden Globe awards. Bejo says, “It’s just unbelievable. We are living a great moment in our lives.” And for her, it’s just the beginning.