Canadians & The Oscar – 2023
By Staff Editors
(March 12, 2023 – Toronto, ON) When the 95th edition of the Academy Awards unfolds tonight as it should, the competition will be fierce with 10 feature films vying for the single Best Film award. Two films with substantial Canadian content are on the list and they are James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water and Sarah Polley’s Women Talking. Neither is a “Canadian” film, but it’s hard to deny they are two extremely good cinematic storytellers.
One of the reasons Avatar: The Way of Water is on the list is when it was launched not many people were going to movies and the entire industry was in a funk. When they stopped counting the 2022 box office take worldwide, Cameron’s film was on top with more than 2.2 billion dollars. That’s billion, with a B. Often referred to as Avatar 2, this is the second instalment in the multi-film, multi-decade saga. It is also up for awards in best visual effects, best production design and best sound. James Cameron was not nominated for Best Director.
Sarah Polley has made her mark adapting books into screenplays. The first was her first feature film, Away From Her, based on the Alice Munro story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain. She also adapted Margaret Atwood’s book Alias Grace, writing each episode of the mini-series. Her latest, Women Talking, is based on the book by Miriam Toews and Polley is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Her last Oscar-nominated film was the 2012 revealing Stories We Tell about her family. Sarah Polley, like Cameron, was not nominated for Best Director.
Another feature with some noted Canadian talent is The Whale. Nominally Canadian actor Brendan Fraser is up for a Best Actor award and the Montreal-based prosthetics whiz Adrien Morot is up for Best Makeup artist for his work creating the physical transformation of Fraser into the obese English professor. Fraser already has many nominations and several film festival awards, but nailing an Academy Award would be nice for a guy that had essentially been forgotten by Hollywood. Thirteen years ago, Adrien Morot picked up a nomination for his work on the Canadian feature Barney’s Version.
Three animated films with strong Canadian connections have been nominated, two features and a short. Domee Shi won an Oscar for her 2018 short Bao and is back in Hollywood with Turning Red. Set in Toronto’s Chinatown East area, it tells the story of a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl who unwillingly transforms into a giant red panda whenever she is overwhelmed by life as an adolescence.
Toronto’s Sheridan College is renowned for its animation program and Chris Williams is one of its stars. He directed 2008’s Oscar-nominated Bolt, then won an Academy Award for 2015’s Big Hero 6 and was co-director on 2016’s Moana, which was also nominated. This year he’s nominated for The Sea Beast about an orphaned girl who teams up with a legendary sea monster hunter.
Turning Red and The Sea Beast are competing against Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
The National Film Board already has a large collection of Academy Awards and hopes to add one more with the short The Flying Sailor from Calgary-based animators Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis. They previously worked together on the Oscar-nominated shorts When The Day Breaks (2000) and Wild Life (2012). The Flying Sailor is based on the real-life 1917 Halifax ship explosion.
Two documentaries are in the running for golden glory tonight. Ina Fichman is one of the producers behind Fire of Love, which tells the story Katia and Maurice Krafft. For two decades, the daring French volcanologist couple roamed the planet, chasing eruptions and documenting their discoveries. Director Sara Dosa has fashioned a lyrical celebration of the intrepid scientists’ spirit of adventure, drawing from the Kraffts’ spectacular archive. The volcano scientists and life partners died during a 1991 volcanic eruption on Japan’s Mount Unzen.
Daniel Roher, who gave us the remarkable and totally enjoyable Once Were Brothers about Robbie Robertson and The Band is back with a look into the life of a man who is a thorn in Vladimir Putin’s side, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Navalny is about the events related to his poisoning and the subsequent investigation. He fell sick during a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, and was hospitalized in serious condition. He was then taken to a hospital in Omsk after an emergency landing there, and put in a coma. Two days later, he was evacuated to the Charité hospital in Berlin, Germany. The use of the nerve agent was confirmed by five certified laboratories. Navalny shows how Bellingcat journalist Christo Grozev and Maria Pevchikh, the head investigator for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, reveal the details of a plot that indicates the involvement of Putin. Navlany screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award in the US Documentary competition.
Good luck to one and all. We’ll be watching.