To kick off the critics' prize portion of this awards season, The International Federation of Film Critics has picked Pedro Almodóvar's Volver as its winner for best film of the year. Called the FIPRESCI Grand Prix, and not to be confused with the jury-awarded FIPRESCI Prize, it is decided upon by 350 critics from all over the world and is presented yearly at the San Sebastián International Film Festival (going on now thru Sept. 30th). This is a special treat for Almodóvar since he also won the first ever Grand Prix in 1999 for All About My Mother. Volver also picked up some prizes (best actress[es]; best screenplay) at Cannes earlier this year and there's a good chance that if American critics are their usual selves, it will be honored as best foreign film by many of the U.S. societies, as well. We still have to wait a few more months for those picks, of course. The reason the FIPRESCI honors their choice so early is that it chooses a film released between July and July.

None of this means that the film will have a good shot at the Oscar for foreign language film, however. Spain is known lately for ignoring Almodóvar when they pick their submission to the Academy for contention (though they did submit All About My Mother, which won the award). But if it isn't one of the foreign nominees, there is the possibility of the director being nominated in another category -- In 2003, he won the Best Original Screenplay award for Talk to Her and was nominated for Best Director.