TORONTO – From a Toronto visual effects team that helped create a merman, to a veteran Toronto actor who saved a historical drama, and a Quebec director’s visually stunning sci-fi sequel — Canada has some serious contenders heading into Tuesday morning’s unveiling of this year’s Oscar nominations.
Here are some Canuck actors, directors and behind-the-scenes talent who might hear their names called:
Shaping the “The Shape of Water”
The Cold War-era merman movie was shot in Hamilton and Toronto with the help of a lot of homegrown production talent, including staff at the digital studio Mr. X, which created the awe-inspiring visual effects.
“We tried to make it as close to a Canadian movie as we could, with a Mexican in the middle,” director Guillermo del Toro, who was born in Guadalajara, said onstage when the film made its Toronto International Film Festival debut.
Sally Hawkins stars in the story of a mute janitor who bonds with a captive amphibian creature, played by Doug Jones. The drama has huge momentum going into the Oscars, after winning major trophies including best picture at the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globe for best director for del Toro. It also has a leading 12 British Academy Film Award nominations, including some for the Canadian team.
“All the Money in the World” paying off for Plummer
Toronto-born veteran actor Christopher Plummer has been widely heralded for stepping in at the 11th hour to replace Kevin Spacey as billionaire J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s finished biographical drama. He could nab another Oscar nomination (he already has two, and won the golden statuette in 2012 for “Beginners) after getting Golden Globe and BAFTA recognition for the supporting role. Some critics praise Plummer as one of the best elements of the film, which Scott reshot and released in theatres a mere six weeks after Spacey was erased from the project following allegations of sexual misconduct.
Will “Blade Runner 2049” finally break out?
Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated “Blade Runner” sequel hasn’t had as much awards-season love as some expected, after a lacklustre performance at the box office. But critics seem to agree on its stunning visual achievements and cinematography. Villeneuve did get a BAFTA directing nomination for helming the story that’s set 30 years after the events of the first sci-fi film from 1982. Ryan Gosling of London, Ont., plays a L.A. police officer alongside Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a former police operative who’s been missing for decades.
The rise of “The Breadwinner”
This animated Canadian co-production has a superstar executive producer in Angelina Jolie, a big Toronto team and innovative visuals. Toronto actress Saara Chaudry voices the lead character, 11-year-old Parvana, who has to disguise herself as a boy so she can go out in public alone and support her family under Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 2001. The story, written by Canadian filmmaker Anita Doron and based on Canadian author Deborah Ellis’s children’s novel, got a Golden Globe nomination for best animated film and has earned raves from critics.
“Fox and the Whale” makes a splash
It’s been a remarkable ride for this animated short, going from being self-financed by Toronto-based director Robin Joseph to making the Oscars short list in its respective category. Joseph directed and produced the independent film in his home studio, spending more than $40,000 from personal savings. Animator Kim Leow, his girlfriend, created the characters for the story about a fox crossing vast terrain in search of an elusive whale. Joseph says the visuals in the film — of land, water and starry skies — reflect his interest in space and a visit to Salt Spring Island in 2008.