Record number of Cdns up for Oscars
LOS ANGELES – The biggest cliche in awards show circles is simple and stress-free: ìIt was great just to be nominated!î That is how most of the record number of Canadians up for Oscars this year have to deal with being at the Academy Awards today.
ìWe are interested spectators – and I donít expect to win,î Vancouverís Neill Blomkamp (of District 9 fame) says cheerily about his prospects.
Blomkamp is one of 13 Canadians involved and they have generated a total of 17 nominations bearing their names. Unlike at the triumphant Winter Olympics in Vancouver, most of the Canadian contenders are going to lose, according to most predictions. The only front-runners are Montreal-born filmmaker Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) and Kapuskasing-born James Cameron (Avatar), both of whom are involved in all-American productions.
For that matter, none of the Canadians in the Oscar race is involved in an all-Canadian film. But that does not diminish the talent of the individual and the prestige of the nomination.
ìFilmmaking is an international artform – it is not exclusive to any one country,î legendary Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison told me this week as he surveyed the list of nominees from his homeland. ìIt is really exciting. I think we are producing more and more talent and that (the nominations list) is the result. But there are no borders in art. We should just celebrate talent and accomplishment.î
There is plenty of that among the Canadians nominated this year. For example, while Blomkampís best picture contender District 9 is officially an American-New Zealand co-production, Canadians command most of the key credits on the filmmaking side.
ìDo you sense there is a bit of a wagon train going on here?î says the playful David Fransen, consul general of Canada in Los Angeles. As he had a month before for the 14 Grammy Award nominees from Canada, Fransen hosted a luncheon this week honouring some of the 13 Oscar nominees (Cameron was a no-show because of prior commitments). Fransen noted that the giddy highs of the Grammy Awards and then the Winter Olympics have carried over into the Oscar celebrations. ìThis has been an extraordinary year for Canada!î
As for the nominees, Reitman is nominated in three categories as best director, as co-author of the best adapted screenplay and as co-producer of one of the best picture contenders. His Oscar should come in the writing category. Reitman will share that with an American, screenwriter Shelton Turner. Together, they adapted the book Up in the Air by American novelist Walter Kirn into a screenplay.
Meanwhile, one of Jason Reitmanís co-producers is his Slovakian-born, Canadian-raised father, Ivan Reitman, who is famous for directing films such as Ghost Busters. This is Ivan Reitmanís first nomination in a career stretching back four decades.
Like Jason Reitman – and like he was himself a dozen years ago with Titanic – Cameron is also nominated in three categories. In his case, he is contending as best director, as best film editor and as co-producer of a best picture contender. Cameronís best chance is for best picture, with Avatar going head-to-head with The Hurt Locker.
The other Canadians, all with one nomination each, are:
– Christopher Plummer (The Last Station): Shockingly perhaps, the Toronto-born Plummer had to wait until he was 80 years old to be nominated for an Oscar – as best supporting actor for playing Russian author Leo Tolstoy in Michael Hoffmanís drama. Plummer was born just two years after Hollywood launched talkies, ending the silent film era. While he has also established himself as a star of the stage, Plummer made his television debut in 1953 and his feature film debut in 1958 (in Sidney Lumetís Stage Struck with Henry Fonda). Despite dozens of movies since, he never got Oscar consideration before The Last Station.
– Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (District 9): They are up against Reitman in the best adapted screenplay category after turning Blomkampís electrifying 2005 short, Alive in Joburg, into a feature film under the tutelage of producer Peter Jackson (of The Lord of the Rings fame). Alive in Joburg was a Canadian production, made after the Johannesburg-born Blomkamp emigrated to Vancouver at 18 and went to the Vancouver Film School. Tatchell is Toronto-born and also Vancouver-based. She also attended the Vancouver Film School.
– Julian Clarke (District 9): Blomkamp says Clarke, who is nominated for best film editing, stands the best chance of winning anything for District 9, even though he is up against Cameron in this category. Most predictions in this category, however, lean towards the team of Bob Murawski and Chris Innis for The Hurt Locker.
– Peter Muyzers and Robert Habros (District 9): These guys, part of a four-man team credited in the nominations, helped create the dazzling special effects for Blomkampís hit movie. They are contending in the best visual effects category with Avatar and Star Trek. But District 9 is expected to lose this craft category to Avatar.
– Anastasia Masaro (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus): She was nominated for her art direction on mad genius Terry Gilliamís latest fantasy. But Avatar is expected to take this category, too, in a sweep of most of the craft categories.
– Monique Prudhomme (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus): She was nominated for costume design for Gilliamís film, demonstrating how much he likes to employ Canadians in key creative jobs after making an earlier film on Canadian soil.
– Gordon Sim (Nine): Sim was nominated, along with John Myhre, for best art direction, a category which also includes set decoration (which is Simís part of the nomination). The Sim-Myhre team won the Oscar in this category for their work on Chicago. But donít expect a repeat for the musical Nine. This category will produce another Oscar for Avatar.
– Patrice Vermette (The Young Victoria): This creative Quebecer is up against Sim and Myhre in the art direction category. In Vermetteís case, he shares the nomination with set decorator Maggie Gray. In his earlier Quebec career, Vermette worked with Jean-Marc Vallee (who directed The Young Victoria) on Valleeís masterpiece, C.R.A.Z.Y.
At the Consulate luncheon for the Canadian nominees, a number of those honoured fired off brief, spontaneous speeches. Here is a sampling:
– Jason Reitman: ìI grew up here in Los Angeles. And it really wasnít until I met my wife (Michele Lee) that I realized how Canadian I was. My wifeís from Vancouver and she really wouldnít date me, much less fall in love with me, until I started playing hockey, following hockey … She taught me the national anthem. She oddly made me a Canadian re-born. And I never feel so Canadian as I do when my films play the Toronto film festival. I take a lot of pride in the fact that each one of my films has shown for the first time there.î
– Ivan Reitman: ìIím just really proud and happy and feel really privileged to be here. Iím proud as a Canadian; Iím proud certainly as a filmmaker; and Iím very proud as a father. This was a wonderful experience for me.î
– Neill Blomkamp: ìIf you had told me when I was standing in a slum in Johannesburg with seven pig heads next to us (for use in a shot of an exploding human), while we were making a genre film about aliens, that I would be honoured essentially by the Consul General of Canada … I would have said that was kind of insane. So I feel very honoured and I want to thank Canada for this.î The wry Blomkamp also thanked the consul for lending him a pair of sunglasses for the outdoor event.
– Terri Tatchell: ìIím as Canadian as it gets. This means the world to me! Because, every year I watched the Oscars since I was six years old, I always found out who was Canadian and was cheering for them and was so excited. I donít think, until the nomination came, that it ever even occurred to me that I might one day be one of those Canadians!î
– Patrice Vermette: ìThat was surreal enough,î Vermette said about being offered the art direction assignment on ìa period piece about Queen Victoria.î But it was even more surreal to find himself as an Oscar nominee, he added.
– Monique Prudhomme: ìI always thought that working in film was a privilege, and also an adventure. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was an odyssey. We travelled a lot, we lost an actor (Heath Ledger died during production), we shut down, we started again, we madly finished the movie. And I have a great, great privilege to be part of the art of filmmaking, which to me is an art of creation … So, for me to be here today as a Canadian, as a French-Canadian, as part of this fantastic industry, I am really proud, I am really honoured.î
Record number of Cdns up for Oscars