A guide to rooting for Canadians on Oscar night: From Christopher Plummer to The Shape of Water

There are 14 Canucks going for gold this weekend, with a few even up against each other.

There are 14 Canucks going for gold this weekend, with a few even up against each other

11 of the 14 Canadians nominated for Oscars this year worked on The Shape of Water, which many consider the frontrunner to take home the most trophies. (Fox Searchlight)

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 five years alone, Canucks have taken home trophies for production design (Jim Erickson for Lincoln in 2013), sound editing (Craig Mann for Whiplash in 2015), sound mixing (Sylvain Bellemare for Arrival last year) and score (Mychael Danna for Life of Pi in 2013). And this Sunday night, 14 folks are hoping to join their ranks across 8 different categories...

In anticipation, CBC Arts is offering up this handy guide on who to root for on Oscar night, at least far as our homegrown talent goes. Tally as the night goes along to see if we can break the national record set 20 years ago when Kapuskasing, Ontario-born James Cameron helped lead Canadians to an Titanic-fueled Oscar hat trick (and if we do, it will almost certainly be in large part thanks to unofficial Torontonian Guillermo del Toro).

Vancouver-born Dennis Gassner is nominated for the production design of Blade Runner 2049, and is competing against a trio of fellow Canadians for the award. (Warner Brothers)

Best Production Design

No less than four Canadians are nominated in this category, which perhaps shouldn't be a surprise given history: we've won 10 of 89 Oscars for production design (or art direction as it was once referred to as), dating back to the whopping 7 awards that Victoria, BC's Richard Day won between 1935 and 1954 for for films like How Green Was My Valley, A Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront. And there's a pretty good chance we're about to turn it up to 11 thanks to the teams behind The Shape of Water or Blade Runner 2049, which are widely regarded as the two frontrunners. Shape's team includes the Toronto-based trio of Paul Austerberry, Jeff Melvin and Shane Vieau, while Blade's includes Vancouver-born Dennis Gassner, who already won this award in 1992 for Bugsy (and has been nominated a total of 6 times). The most Canadian thing for us to hope for us is a rare tie between both films (which does happen every few years) though I think it's pretty safe to say that one way another, an Oscar is coming home in this category.

Best Costume Design

While Canadians have over 40 nominations for production design, its costuming counterpart has only seen us receive... 2. One in 2010 for Monique Prudhomme's work on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and one this year for Luis Sequeira's contribution to The Shape of Water. Thus Sequeira — whose resume includes everything from Shape director del Toro's TV series The Strain to CBC's own Being Erica — would be the first Canadian to ever win in this category if they fend off the favourite, Mark Bridges for his work on Phantom Thread.

Best Film Editing

Winnipeg-born Sidney Wolinsky already has a few Emmys under his belt for editing the likes of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, but Sunday he's aiming to complete half his EGOT if his work on The Shape of Water wins an Oscar. Oddly enough, he would join a trio of of other Canadian editor Oscar winners, including Douglas Stewart. In 1984, Stewart won the editing Oscar for The Right Stuff, beating out Terms of Endearment — which just so happens to be one of the films Wolinsky got his start on as an assistant editor.

Best Animated Feature

All signs point to Pixar winning its ninth Oscar in this category (which is only 17 years old) with the intensely acclaimed Coco, but if any film is going to upset, it's The Breadwinner. Executive produced by none other than Angelina Jolie, The Breadwinner follows a young girl living in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. It'I dos based on Cochrane, Ontario-born Deborah Ellis's 2001 book of the same name, though Ellis wouldn't be the Canadian taking home the Oscar if it happens to win. That would be Anthony Leo, who produced the film and grew up in Bolton, Ontario. Though even if Leo loses, he has a good shot at making up for it next weekend, when The Breadwinner is up for six Canadian Screen Awards.

The Breadwinner is nominated for best animated feature. (Elevation)

Best Sound Editing

Canada's only Oscar last year came in this category thanks to Arrival's Sylvain Bellemare. Can The Shape of Water duo Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira make us go two-for-two? They have some tough competition in the teams behind Blade Runner 2049 (which despite Arrival director Denis Villeneuve behind that film, doesn't include any Canadians this time around), Dunkirk and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but there's a lot of momentum behind Shape so who knows.

Best Sound Mixing

Okay so every year somebody asks what the difference between sound editing and sound mixing is, and you know what? I'm lazy, so I direct those questions here. What's more important is that Canadians are in the mix (get it?) for both categories, with Brad Zoern, Christian Cooke and Glen Gauthier all nominated here for The Shape of Water.

Christopher Plummer in All The Money In The World. (Sony)

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer follows Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling to give us our third straight year of a Canadian Oscar nominee for acting. It's his third Oscar nomination too, and certainly his most unexpected — at least if you had suggested it three months ago. Plummer wasn't even cast as J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott's All The Money In The World until November, when Scott quite remarkably decided to reshoot Kevin Spacey's scenes a month before the film's release. That's all history now, as is the fact that Plummer became — at 88 years old — the oldest best supporting actor nominee ever in the Oscars' 90 years. If he wins, he'll break his own record for the oldest male acting winner, which he accomplished when he finally took home a little gold man in 2012 for Beginners (though Sam Rockwell is very, very likely to win instead).

Best Picture

Odds ever-so-slightly favour The Shape of Water in the hotly contested race for best picture, and if it wins Toronto-raised producer J. Miles Dale will share the prize with Mr. del Toro. He'll be the fifth Canadian producer to win best picture, following Jack L. Warner (My Fair Lady), Albert S. Ruddy (The Godfather and Million Dollar Baby), James Cameron (Titanic) and Paul Haggis (Crash). And according to this article, Dale would be taking the stage with a tux he bought at Tom's Place in Toronto's Kensington Market. 

Toronto's Karina Rotenstein co-produced documentary short nominee Edith+Eddie. (Kartemquin Films)

​BONUS: Best Documentary Short Subject

Though technically if the incredibly moving Edith+Eddie wins this prize it goes to producers Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright (rules limit how many recipients get actual Oscars), their co-producer Karina Rotenstein will most certainly be in the audience cheering them on — and we'll be cheering her on. The Toronto-based producer was a CBC Arts staffer last year, and she is absolutely our honourary 15th Canadian nominee.  

The 90th Academy Awards air this Sunday, March 4th at 8:00 ET/5:00 PT on CTV.


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