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Celebrating Atom Egoyan's Oscar nominations

It's Hollywood's biggest night. The Academy Awards are the most important awards in the entertainment industry and one of the biggest TV events in the world. The stars strut down the red carpet in their finest in anticipation of seeing who'll take home the coveted golden statuette — the Oscar. Since the awards were first handed out in 1929, Canada has enjoyed an impressive track record. CBC Archives pays tribute to a handful of Canadians whose Oscar recognition reverberated back home.

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"It's an incredible gesture for us as Canadians, that we have our place on our own terms," says Arsinée Khanjian of her husband's surprise Oscar recognition. Atom Egoyan has received not one but two nominations for The Sweet Hereafter. Egoyan has been nominated for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. "It was really so unexpected," says Egoyan who is the first Canadian director to get the nod for a distinctly Canadian film.

It's all the more surprising considering The Sweet Hereafter is not a Hollywood story. It's a dark, poignant story about a town that loses its children in a freak school bus accident. The polar opposite to that other nominated film, Titanic, directed by James Cameron, another Canadian. Cameron's blockbuster hit is favoured to take home the Best Director Oscar. But win or lose, the Academy's recognition of The Sweet Hereafter is a huge boon for Canadian films. 
. As predicted, Atom Egoyan lost the Best Director Oscar to James Cameron and Titanic. He also lost to Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson for L.A. Confidential in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
. Egoyan's film adaptation of Russell Banks's novel, The Sweet Hereafter, won three prizes at Cannes including the Grand Prix du jury.

. Atom Egoyan was born in Cairo on July 19, 1960. His Armenian parents moved to Victoria, B.C., when Egoyan was very young. He discovered his love of films while studying at the University of Toronto.
. Some of Egoyan's critically acclaimed films include: The Adjuster (1991), Exotica (1994), Felicia's Journey (1999), Ararat (2002) and Where the Truth Lies (2005).

. Egoyan is often compared to another Canadian director, David Cronenberg, who has also stayed away from big-budget, mainstream Hollywood films. The renowned director of such critically acclaimed films as Videodrome (1983), Dead Ringers (1988), Crash (1996), eXistenZ (1999), Spider (2002) and most recently A History of Violence (2005) has never been nominated for a Best Director Oscar.

. As is the case with Cronenberg, the Academy has overlooked many deserving films and performances. Some critically acclaimed films which were overlooked by the Academy include: Dirty Harry (1971), The 39 Steps (1935), The Searchers (1956) and King Kong (1933).
. Some actors who failed to win for their iconic roles include: Al Jolson in the Jazz Singer (1927), Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942), Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain (1952) and Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men (1957).
Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: March 20, 1998
Guest(s): Russell Banks, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, John Harkness, Arsinée Khanjian, Sarah Polley
Host: Brian Stewart
Duration: 16:03 Credits: The Sweet Hereafter: Alliance Communications Corporation, Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, Ego Film Arts, Gort of Canada, The Harold Greenberg Fund, The Movie Network (TMN), and Téléfilm Canada. "My Heart Will Go On" video: Sony Music

Last updated: April 2, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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