Oscars 2022: Canadians take home awards


Canadians took home Oscars for best production design and short documentary film at a revamped Academy Awards ceremony Sunday that triumphant “Dune” artist Patrice Vermette called “a dream” come true.

Vermette won the best production design trophy for his work on Montreal director Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” which headed into the bash with the second most nominations at 10 and came away with six.

Vermette and Halifax director Ben Proudfoot each claimed their wins at an hour-long ceremony immediately before the star-studded broadcast where Villeneuve was one of several Canadians chasing hardware for best picture nominees “Dune,” “The Power of the Dog” and “Nightmare Alley.” Those films lost out on the top prize to the deaf family drama “CODA.”

“I still can’t believe it,” Vermette said in a phone call from Los Angeles during the bash.

“We’ve been working so hard on this. (This movie) was Denis’s dream since he was 13 years old, and to see everybody from ‘Dune’ getting recognition right now, it’s all in Denis’s honor and due to how he led the ship.

“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a kid and was watching the Oscars with my family and we were allowed to stay up late at night, on Sunday. We were only ever allowed to stay up that late on Christmas or New Years. So it’s incredible.”

Vermette shared his win with Hungarian set decorator Zsuzsanna Sipos, and was previously nominated for 2010’s “The Young Victoria” and 2017’s “Arrival,” also directed by Villeneuve.

In his acceptance speech, he also thanked late Quebecois director and producer Jean-Marc Vallée, with whom he worked on 2005’s “CRAZY” and 2011’s “Café de Flore.”

Vallée, who was best known for the Emmy-winning HBO series “Big Little Lies” and the Oscar-nominated film “Dallas Buyers Club,” died in December at the age of 58.

He was featured in the broadcast’s “in memoriam” segment, which also included Toronto-raised filmmaker Ivan Reitman, who died in February at the age of 75.

Bill Murray, who starred in Reitman’s beloved “Ghostbusters,” said during the segment, “He made some movies, some really good movies, married a pretty girl, raised some children, and they make movies, too. Ivan, I love your work .”

“Dune” won four categories in the pre-telecast and two more within the first hour of the live show, where cinematographer Greig Fraser and visual effects artist Paul Lambert also thanked Villeneuve for including them in his ambitious project.

Meanwhile, Halifax’s Proudfoot picked up a win for best documentary short subject with his film “The Queen of Basketball,” about Lucy Harris, the only woman to be drafted by the NBA.

“This proves that Lucy Harris’ story, after 45 years of being ignored, does indeed mean something profound to America and the world,” Proudfoot, previously nominated in 2021 for “A Concerto Is a Conversation,” told The Canadian Press when reached by text at the early bash.

In a taped acceptance speech that aired later in the broadcast, Proudfoot saluted the late Harris who passed away before the film was nominated, and noted her family was in attendance.

“If there is anyone out there that still doubts whether there is an audience for female athletes, let this Academy Award be the answer,” he said before also calling on US President Joe Biden to bring home detained Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner from Russia.

She’s been held since February when local authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges allegedly containing cannabis oil.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced the early wins on Twitter, but footage of the presentations and acceptance speeches were held for an edited version that aired as part of the live ABC/CTV telecast.

The new format saw early trophies handed out in eight categories, half of them including Canadians: documentary short, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live action short, and sound.

In the live portion, Villeneuve came up empty-handed for his nomination in the best adapted screenplay category, which went to “CODA.” He was also nominated in the best picture category, alongside “Dune” producers Mary Parent and Cale Boyter.

Montreal-based producer Roger Frappier was also up for best picture alongside director Jane Campion and the team for “The Power of the Dog,” which led overall with 12 nominations.

The top race also included Toronto producer J. Miles Dale as part of the team behind “Nightmare Alley,” along with Mexican director Guillermo del Toro and actor/producer Bradley Cooper. Toronto costume designer Luis Sequeira had been nominated for his work by him on the period noir but lost to “Cruella.”

Other Canadian contenders who lost out in the pre-telecast included Saskatoon’s Tamara Deverell and Halifax’s Shane Vieau, who shared a nomination for best production design on “Nightmare Alley,” and “Dune” makeup artist Donald Mowat of Montreal. Toronto producer Geoff McLean lost to Proudfoot in the documentary short category while the National Film Board’s Canada/UK co-production “Affairs of the Art” lost out in the animated short category.

In a statement in the days leading up to the revamped show, the NFB had strong words for the format change, predicting it “will serve to further marginalize short films, which already struggle to find large audiences.”

The academy has said the change was meant to keep the three-hour broadcast “tighter and more electric” for viewers, but it drew intense criticism from many in the film community, including Proudfoot who has said the move “debases certain categories.”

Co-hosts Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes were the ceremony’s first hosts in three years, and opened the show with jabs at industry sexism, the non-televised categories and the Golden Globes.

Other moments included a moment of silence for the people of Ukraine, and Troy Kotsur of “CODA” becoming the first deaf man to win an Oscar for acting.

Homegrown stars to take part in the show included “Shang-Chi” star Simu Liu, who shone bright in a red tuxedo to present an award and take part in a COVID-themed comedy skit with Hall, and Elliot Page, who appeared alongside ” Juno” co-stars JK Simmons and Jennifer Garner to mark the 15th anniversary of the teen pregnancy comedy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2022.