These are the 12 Canadians you can root for on Oscar night

Ryan Gosling isn't the only Canuck gunning for gold at this Sunday's 89th Academy Awards.

Ryan Gosling isn't the only Canuck gunning for gold on Sunday

Ryan Gosling arrives at the 89th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP) (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

The 89th Academy Awards go down this Sunday, and it may end up being a more Canadian affair than you might think. While Ryan Gosling and Denis Villeneuve are getting the most attention in terms of our homegrown nominees, there are actually 12 nominees overall representing Canada across eight different categories. And unlike Gosling and Villeneuve, some of them have a solid chance of actually winning. Let's run them all down, shall we?

A scene from 13th. (Netflix)

Howard Barish, 13th (Best Documentary Feature)

A first-time Oscar nominee, Barish has a pretty fascinating IMDb page. In 1984, he acted as "Nervous Young Man" in the Canadian film Heavenly Bodies, which stars Cynthia Dale and is about rival "dance-ercize" studios (you read that right). But lately he's come to a lot of folks' attention as the producing partner of Ava DuVernay. Their latest project, 13th, explores the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States, and is nominated in the best documentary feature category.

Chances of winning: Reasonable. O.J. Made in America is definitely the frontrunner, though many feel that at 467 minutes, it shouldn't be considered a film. 13th is the most likely spoiler, which would result in Oscars for both Barish and DuVernay, making the latter the first African-American female filmmaker to win an Oscar in any category.

Alan Barillaro, Piper (Short Film, Animated)
Theodore Ushev, Blind Vaysha (Short Film, Animated)
Robert Valley, Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Short Film, Animated)

Historically, Canadians tend to do very well in the short film categories, and this year was no exception. In the animated category, three of the five contenders have Canadians behind them. There's Theodore Ushev's NFB-produced Blind Vaysha, which tells story of a girl who sees the past out of her left eye and the future from her right. There's Pixar's Piper, about a hungry baby sandpiper learning to overcome her fear of water. It screened in theatres before Finding Dory and was written and directed by Chippawa, Ont.-raised Alan Barillaro. And then there's Pear Cider and Cigarettes from Canadian animator and visual graphic artist Robert Valley. It's about a man who goes on a wild ride to get his friend from China to Vancouver for a liver transplant. 

Chances of winning: Strong! This is Canada's best bet, with all three films having solid shots at winning our ninth Oscar in this category.

A scene from Blind Yaysha. (National Film Board of Canada)

Sylvain Bellemare, Arrival (Best Sound Editing)

Montreal-born Bellemare has worked in the sound department of over 100 films, the vast majority of them Quebec-produced. And while that has resulted in three Canadian Screen Award nominations, Arrival marks his, well, arrival at the Academy Awards. His nomination in the best sound editing category is the only one for an individual (the other nominees are all teams of two), and one of many for Canadians on the Arrival team (as you'll soon see).

Chances of winning: Reasonable. Though far from a sure thing, Arrival has a definite shot against La La Land and Hacksaw Ridge, the two films most Oscar prognosticators are calling it for. Basically, Arrival has nine nominations across the board, and they may want to at least give it something. This category is probably where it makes the most sense.

Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye, Arrival (Best Sound Mixing)

Another Arrival behind-the-scenes nomination comes via the duo of Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye. The Quebec sound wizards come to their first Oscar nomination with a collective CV that includes Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar, Kim Nguyen's War Witch and last year's best picture nominee Brooklyn.

Chances of winning: Slim. This category is much more kind to musicals than its sound editing counterpart, which bodes well for La La Land and not so much for Strobl and La Haye.

A scene from Arrival. (Paramount)

Ryan Gosling, La La Land (Best Actor)

With La La Land, Gosling has received his second best actor Oscar nod — 10 years and a day after he was first nominated for Half Nelson. While it's hard feel sorry for Ryan Gosling, one could easily argue he also deserved nominations for Lars and the Real GirlBlue Valentine and/or Drive. But either way, he is now only the third Canadian to ever receive two nominations for best actor in Oscars history — and in the past 65 years of that history, he's been the only Canadian to even be nominated in the category.

Chances of winning: Slim. Sadly, Gosling is widely considered the least likely of La La Land's 14 nominations to actually take home a prize — largely because Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington have been dominating the conversation for Manchester By The Sea and Fences, respectively.

Paul Hotte and Patrice Vermette, Arrival (Best Production Design)

Paul Hotte and Patrice Vermette probably have the most high profile backgrounds of the Arrival nominees, with Hotte working on Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can and Martin Scorsese's The Aviator and Vermette receiving a previous Oscar nomination in 2010 for his work on Jean-Marc Vallée's The Young Victoria (he won a Genie a few years before that for Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y.).

Chances of winning: Reasonable. La La Land once again seems like the frontrunner, but the production design work in Arrival is impressive in a whole other way. If they won, they'd join a rather stunning Canuck history in this category: between 1935 and 1951, Victoria, B.C.'s Richard Day won seven Oscars here (including for On The Waterfront), while more recently the nominated teams behind the likes of Barton Fink, There Will Be Blood, Lincoln and The Revenant have all included Canadians.

Shawn Levy, Arrival (Best Picture)

Arrival is not technically a Canadian film, but it sure had a lot of Canadians involved. Among them is Shawn Levy, perhaps best known for directing the Night at the Museum series that stars Ben Stiller or for producing Netflix's hit series Stranger Things. But the Montreal-born Levy (no relation to Eugene or Dan) received his first Oscar nomination for producing Arrival, a nomination he shares with three non-Canadians: Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde.

Chances of winning: Very slim. If Arrival beats out considerable favourite La La Land, it would be one of the biggest shocks in Oscar history.

Actor Ryan Gosling and filmmaker Denis Villeneuve are shown at the Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. (Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Landmark Vineyards)

Denis Villeneuve, Arrival (Best Director)

Finally, there's Denis Villeneuve, whose Incendies represented Canada in the foreign language film category seven years ago. The director has made a considerable name for himself in English-language cinema since, with Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015) both receiving strong reviews and a handful of Oscar nominations. But with Arrival, Villeneuve finds himself with his very first nomination for a best director Oscar, joining an exclusive club of Canadians who have been nominated in the category (including Norman Jewison, James Cameron, Atom Egoyan and Jason Reitman). 

Chances of winning: Very slim. This is yet another category La La Land pretty much has on lockdown.

Honourable Mention: Raphaela Neihausen, Joe's Violin (Documentary Short Film)

Neihausen was born in New York but raised in Toronto, so she definitely deserves some of our patriotic cheers too. Her film Joe's Violin centres on a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who donates a violin to a 12-year-old girl living in the Bronx, and it has an excellent shot of taking home Oscar gold — Holocaust movies very often win in this category, and the film is really, really good to boot.

The 89th Academy Awards air this Sunday, February 26th at 8:30 ET/5:30 PT on CTV.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and playing integral roles in the launch and production of series The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also a stand-up comedian, 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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