Canadian Cinema at the Oscars: Reactions from Canadian filmmakers

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Edited by Riddhi Jani)

If you happen to have any interest in film, then you would note the importance of March 10, 2024, the day the 96th Academy Awards ceremony was held. The Oscars are the prestigious ceremony where golden statues are awarded to what are considered the best films in the industry each year. To outside viewers, they are a chance for celebrities to gather on the red carpet and

First, a brief rundown of events  for those who didn’t see the ceremony:

Oppenheimer, unsurprisingly, was one of the big winners this year. The film’s cast and crew were awarded Best Actor in a Leading Role(Cillian Murphy), Best Supporting Actor (Rober Downey Jr.), and Best Director (Christopher Nolan).

 A surprise for many was the number of awards won by Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things; receiving the awards for Best Costume, Best Production Design, with Emma Stone, the film’s lead, winning Best Actress. The award for Best Animated Feature was given to Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron, with the animation team unable to attend. 

For Canada, our biggest win was in Best Short Documentary. Ben Proudfoot, a Canadian director, won the award alongside American co-director Kris Bowers, for The Last Repair Shop. To Kill a Tiger, co-produced by the National Film Board, was nominated for Best Feature Documentary, but lost out to 20 Days in Mariupol. Ryan Gosling was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Ken in Barbie, but he ultimately lost out to RDJ. 

Some students also watched the Oscars, though not necessarily for the award ceremony itself. Paul Keleris, a fourth-year screenwriting student, says that the year he started watching the Oscars was after “the year Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. I don’t want to miss something like that again.”. 

Indeed, despite the lavish and high-profile legacy of the Academy Awards, many Canadian filmmakers harbour mixed opinions towards the Oscars, but don’t see them as an endgame for their careers. When Keleris was asked what he would consider an indication of success for his projects, he answered: praise from a veteran in the industry. “Like if Martin Scorsese came up and said, ‘Hey, you did a good job on that film.’”

Staff at York’s film department share similar feelings. Maureen Dorey is a contract professor of York’s screenwriting program, and was responsible for the story editing of the 2011 Polish film In Darkness, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards.

In response to how she feels about the ceremony, Dorey says, “Personally, I feel that people who are really passionate about film may have preferences in who they’d given an award to and why, but that they also understand that when we look at the giving of these awards, the idea of ‘the best’ is often compromised or influenced by politics, narratives, voters’ biases — not all of which are creative — and resources for promotion and distribution. Sometimes, films or performances break through that matrix.”

Another element of the Oscars was the opportunity to show activism. This year’s award ceremony happened to start late due to demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists. When The Zone of Interest won Best International Film, Director Johnanthan Glazer used his time on-stage to make a speech denouncing Israel’s actions against the people of Gaza. 

In his acceptance speech, Glazer said: “Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people … Whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel, or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all are victims of this dehumanization. How do we resist?” 

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Josh Rottenberg reported, “While Glazer’s speech was met with applause inside the Dolby Theatre, where several Oscar attendees, including nominees Mark Ruffalo and Billie Eilish, wore pins supporting a cease-fire, the reaction on social media was far more polarized, with Glazer’s comments drawing swift and blistering condemnation from supporters of Israel and several Jewish organizations”

The show’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, even took the opportunity to make jabs at former president Donald Trump. “Well, thank you, President Trump. Thank you for watching, I’m surprised you’re still — isn’t it past your jail time?” Kimmel said, in reference to Trump’s current legal troubles in the US. 

The night capped off with a tribute to Aleksei Navalny, political activist and opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who died in prison and was announced dead on February 16, 2024. While this isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time, these acts of political activism seem to be more heightened for audiences given ongoing tensions around the world.

Although the Oscars have often been framed as the most important ceremony in the film industry, it is important to consider that filmmaking is a large, diverse, global endeavour. Success means different things to different people, and not everyone is dreaming of getting a golden statuette. But when a Canadian finds themselves up on stage, their team and the people at home will always be cheering. We would like to congratulate all Canadian filmmakers, past and present, who have made it to the ceremony.

About the Author

By Bradley Hoskins

Assistant News Editor

Bradley Hoskins is a writer, actor, theatre playwright, and filmmaker, who has been studying at York University for over eight years. He has been studying in both film and theatre, focusing on writing and performance. As the Assistant News Editor, he hopes to broaden his field of knowledge into the territory of journalism and reporting.


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