A guide to rooting for Canadians on Oscar night (and it's not just the short films!)

There are nine Canucks going for gold this weekend, and a lot of them are up against each other.

There are nine Canucks going for gold this weekend, and a lot of them are up against each other

Clockwise from top left: Bao, Animal Behaviour, Fauve, Bohemian Rhapsody, Mary Poppins Returns and Roma, films all with Canadians Oscar-nominated for their work.

Canadians win a lot more Oscars than you might think. Sure, we've had a bit of a drought in the acting categories (Christopher Plummer and Anna Paquin are the only two Canadian-born winners since 1948). But in the past six years alone, Canucks have taken home trophies for production design (Jim Erickson for Lincoln in 2013 and then again in 2018 with Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin for The Shape of Water), sound editing (Craig Mann for Whiplash in 2015), sound mixing (Sylvain Bellemare for Arrival in 2017), score (Mychael Danna for Life of Pi in 2013) and best picture (Canadian J. Miles Dale produced last year's winner The Shape of Water). And this Sunday night, nine folks are hoping to join their ranks.

In anticipation, CBC Arts is offering up this handy guide on who to root for this weekend on Oscar night, at least far as our homegrown talent goes. Tally as the night goes along to see if we can match the national record set last year when four Canadians took home golden boys (which, given that we were only nominated in as many categories, is pretty much as much as we can ask for). 

Production design

Defend the crown! Last year, the aforementioned Shape of Water trio gave Canadians their 11th, 12th and 13th Oscars in this category, beating out their fellow Canadian Dennis Gassner's work on Blade Runner 2049. This year, there is just one Canuck in the mix: Gordon Sim, nominated with American John Myhre for their work on Mary Poppins Returns. If Sim wins, it will be his second Oscar in this category after winning previously for Chicago in 2004. But that would not come close to the Canadian record holder here: between 1935 and 1964, Victoria, B.C.'s Richard Day won a whopping eight Oscars for films like How Green Was My ValleyA Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront.

Sound mixing

When one is asked what the "most Canadian aspect" of Oscar heavy-hitters (for better or worse) Roma and Bohemian Rhapsody, one probably would respond as follows: "The dad in Roma allegedly travels to Ottawa for work a lot...and Mike Myers is in Bohemian Rhapsody?" And you would only be half-right, because what both films have in their Canadian house of common is...sound mixing. That's right. And thanks to Bohemian's Paul Massey and Roma's Craig Henighan, Canadians are represented in the Oscar race for said sound mixing for the sixth year in a row — which seems pretty impressive, until you look back at the Oscar history of Westmount, Que.-born sound mixer Douglas Shearer. Between 1929 and 1951, Shearer was nominated 15 times (including 12 years in a row), winning five Oscars in the process. It's unlikely any Canadian in any category will ever top that (sorry, Ryan Gosling).

Jeff Melvin, Paul Denham Austerberry and Shane Vieau accept Best Production Design for 'The Shape of Water' onstage during last year's Academy Awards (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Live action short

Quebec is representing a magnifique 40% of the Oscar nominees for best live action short film — no small feat. Marianne Farley's Marguerite (which follows an elderly woman as she confronts her long-repressed lesbian desires) and Jérémy Comte's Fauve (which centres on two boys who find trouble when an adventure in an open pit mine goes awry) are both in the running, and thanks to a welcomed last-minute change of plan, we actually might get to watch one of them win live! And in the meantime, you can watch the CBC-produced Fauveright here, right now.

Animated short

Canadians have a long and illustrious history in this category, with the National Film Board of Canada alone having six Oscars for best animated short (from a stunning 36 nominations — the second most of any studio after Disney itself). Come Sunday, four Canadians from three different films will continue the tradition. There's the NFB-produced Animal Behaviour, directed by previous Oscar winners Alison Snowden and David Fine (and featured here on CBC Arts), which centres on a group of animals who meet weekly for a group psychotherapy session. There's Trevor Jimenez's Weekends, which depicts director's own childhood experience as a child of divorced parents who splits his time between Hamilton and Toronto. And, of course, there's Toronto-set Bao, the Pixar-produced short from director Domee Shi that was shown before Incredibles 2 this summer. Depicting an aging and lonely Chinese-Canadian mother who makes a steamed dumpling that comes to life, the film is the heavy favourite to win.

The 91st Academy Awards air this Sunday, February 24th at 8:00 ET/5:00 PT on CTV.

About the Author

Peter Knegt

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since way back in 2016, with highlights including co-hosting weekly live talk show State of the Arts, writing the regular LGBTQ-culture column Queeries and playing integral roles in the launch of series The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.


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