A strong year for popcorn movies is also a fabulous one for Canada in nominations for the 95th Academy Awards announced Tuesday.
Two Canadian filmmakers are represented in the 10 Best Picture nominees for films big and small: Ontario-born James Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which has four nominations overall; and Torontonian Sarah Polley’s art house drama “Women Talking” has two, the other for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Multiverse spectacle “Everything Everywhere All at Once” leads the Oscar race with 11 nominations, among them Best Picture, Best Director (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu) and Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan).
Just behind it with nine nominations apiece, including Best Picture, are the German war epic “All Quiet on the Western Front” and dark Irish comedy “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Then comes superstar biopic “Elvis” with eight, Spielberg family memory piece “The Fabelmans” with seven, flyboy rouser “Top Gun: Maverick” with six and the celebrity-skewering drama “TÁR,” also with six. Rounding out the Best Picture field is Cannes 2022 Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness,” a class satire that has three nominations.
There were many surprise nominations in a year when no clear front-runner had emerged from the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards and other precursor contests.
The biggest shock of all may be the Best Picture nomination for Polley’s “Women Talking,” which many Oscar pundits had written off as a serious contender due to its poor box office results. The drama of Mennonite women gathering in a barn to discuss what to do about sexual assault in their remote community is based on a 2018 novel of the same name by Manitoba author Miriam Toews.
“I’m very happy today and so grateful to the incredible collective of cast and crew who made ‘Women Talking.’” Polley tweeted after the nominations were read out in Hollywood early Tuesday. She is nominated personally for Best Adapted Screenplay, the second time she’s competed in the category. Her first was for “Away From Her” in 2006.
Polley was MIA in the Best Director category, even though she’d been considered a sure thing early on in awards season. The nominees this year are all male: Kwan and Scheinert for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Martin McDonagh for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Steven Spielberg for “The Fabelmans” and Ruben Östlund for “Triangle of Sadness.”
Just eight women have been nominated for Best Director in Oscars history, with three winners, all of the wins happening in the 21st century: Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” (2009), Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland” (2020) and Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog” (2021).
Other Canadian Oscar nominees include Toronto’s Domee Shi, whose Toronto-set Pixar film “Turning Red,” about a teen girl who morphs into a giant red panda, will compete for Best Animated Feature honours. In the Best Animated Short Film category, meanwhile, Calgary animators Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis are in with “The Flying Sailor,” the strange-but-true story of the mariner who survived the Halifax harbour explosion during the First World War.
Another Torontonian celebrating an Oscar nomination is Daniel Roher for “Navalny,” competing in the Best Documentary Feature category for the story of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In the same category is “Fire of Love,” a Canada-U.S. co-production by Sara Dosa about two French volcano hunters.
There will no doubt be other Canadian Oscar contenders to emerge from the many names and films announced Tuesday, but there’s at least one honorary Canuck we already know about: Best Actor nominee Brendan Fraser of “The Whale.” He was born in the U.S. to Canadian parents, but he went to school in Toronto and has many fond memories of the city.
It’s quite the sight to see James Cameron and Sarah Polley competing for Best Picture gold in the same year, one for a movie that has earned more than $2 billion at the international box office and the other with a considerably more modest showing.
Comedian Chelsea Handler joked about the disparity at the recent Critics’ Choice Awards, comparing how much it cost to make and sell “Avatar: The Way of Water” with how Polley chose to film her movie: “James Cameron was given $350 million and Sarah Polley had to film ‘Women Talking’ in a barn.”
Among the other surprises Tuesday were a Best Actor nomination for Paul Mescal in “Aftersun” and a Best Actress nod for Andrea Riseborough in “To Leslie,” two critically praised indie films about troubled protagonists that many pundits deemed too small to make the Oscars list.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” star Angela Bassett made history three times over with her Best Actress nomination. She’s the first woman, the first person of colour and the first actor in a Marvel Comics movie to be up for acting honours at the Oscars. She was first nominated 29 years ago for playing Tina Turner in the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
The many snubs included Tom Cruise, who failed to get a Best Actor nod for “Top Gun: Maverick” while the film’s helmer, Joseph Kosinski, struck out for Best Director. Viola Davis, meanwhile, was overlooked for Best Actress consideration for her star turn in “The Woman King.”
The 95th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be handed out March 12. Ballots are cast by nearly 10,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 80 countries.
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