It’s that time of year again, where all the back and forth between category favourites throughout the myriad of global film festivals culminate with the final list of nominees for the big prize, the Academy Awards. While the nominees are set to be announced tomorrow, January 24th, I myself can hardly wait and have decided to take a last-minute look at the Canadian hopefuls, as well as who is in with a good shot of taking home the prized golden statue.
I’ll begin with the blue elephant in the room, as we see James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water continue to dominate the global box office (it has only just eked out a profit by crossing the $2 billion mark) which, paired with the power of Cameron’s name and ability as a filmmaker, make this latest entry in the franchise a dark horse for the Best Picture nomination, though it is by no means a sure thing. What are undeniable locks, however, are its nominations for Best Production Design, Best Sound and, of course, Best Visual Effects. It would be fair to assume that its best hopes of landing a statue lie with its visual effects, but Top Gun: Maverick has a great deal of momentum at the moment and could very easily nab the award in spite of Avatar’s groundbreaking work. And while stranger things have happened, don’t bet on Cameron landing a Best Director nod this time around. There are four practical locks in this category, and even with that one opening it would be a reach for him to secure a nomination over the likes of Joseph Kosinski for Top Gun: Maverick and Edward Berger for All Quiet on the Western Front.
Next up is Toronto native Domee Shi’s feature-length directorial debut Turning Red, which is also Pixar’s first full-length feature set in Canada. Having the names of Disney and/or Pixar behind a well-received animated film is a massive boon in and of itself, but competition is noticeably stiff this year next to acclaimed contenders such as Marcel the Shell with the Shoes On and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, though this category likely belongs to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. Shi already has previously won Best Animated Short for Bao at the ceremony, and while it would be wonderful to see her brilliant work recognized yet again, it is difficult to begrudge del Toro another Oscar, particularly considering all he has done for the Ontario film industry.
Canada’s biggest hopeful for a major category, however, is Sarah Polley for her work on Women Talking. While the Best Picture category, given its larger nominee pool, can become a crapshoot of deserved nominees and features that are there more because of name recognition or commercial success than actual merit, Women Talking should manage to earn a nod in this category. Whatever the case, the award will surely belong to either Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, Top Gun: Maverick, or Spielberg’s The Fabelmans. There’s a chance Polley could also land a Best Director nod, but regardless it’s Spielberg who is favoured here, with the dark horse being Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for their incomparable work on Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Where Polley is a strong favourite, however, is in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, with most publications listing her as the one to beat. I am a huge fan of Polley’s work, so here’s hoping she earns some long-overdue recognition for impressive work here.
There is also a notable amount of potential Canadian nominees in what are deemed the “minor categories” of the Academy Awards, though the achievements here are anything but. Fire of Love, a Canadian co-production, should be a lock for a nomination in the Best Documentary Feature category, though the overwhelming favourite to win seems to be the HBO film All That Breathes. Then there are some notable potential nominees in the shorts categories, with the first being The Flying Sailor by Canadian directors Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, as well as its Canadian producer, David Christensen. This category feels like a toss-up, especially since none of the major production studios, such as Disney, Pixar, Netflix, Dreamworks, Sony, Skydance, or Aardman have made any submissions, which is quite unusual. Similarly, there seems to be a tight race in the Best Documentary Short category, with the favourite being the Canadian contender Nuisance Bear, from directors Gabriela Osio Vanden and Jack Weisman.
Of course, these are only my predictions, and we won’t know the final nominees until tomorrow, but there is clearly a wealth of Canadian talent deserving of recognition this awards season, and this year there is a good chance a Canuck could even take home the coveted gold statue. Until then, we can only wait with bated breath.