Of Oscars and money

We process the disappointments of this year's Oscar nominations, and Ingrid Veninger's new film initiative gets underway

I was in an isolation tube (okay, it was an airplane) when the Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday, but fortunately my colleague Susan G. Cole was on the case, and her reaction to the nominations makes for a pretty good read.

Like Susan, I’m dismayed by the exclusion of Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell from the Documentary Feature category, but that field was exceptionally crowded this year and all five of the films that did make the cut are very, very good The Act Of Killing, in particular, is exceptional.

Kinda shocked that Robert Redford and Tom Hanks aren’t up for Best Actor (in All Is Lost and Captain Phillips, respectively), but again, it’s an insanely crowded category. Idris Elba couldn’t even get a sympathy vote for playing the recently deceased, extensively venerated Nelson Mandela. Michael B. Jordan was always a longshot for his magnetic turn in Fruitvale Station, but to see the film excluded entirely – nothing for Ryan Coogler’s original screenplay, or for Octavia Spencer’s powerhouse supporting turn – was a little surprising.

It’s curious that Philomena did as well as it did. I was expecting a Best Actress nod for Judi Dench, and maybe an Adapted Screenplay nomination for co-star Steve Coogan, who wrote the film with Jeff Pope, but the nods for Best Picture and Best Original Score came as a pleasant surprise. I guess having nine Picture slots makes it a little easier to spread the recognition.

Speaking of Best Picture, the nomination for Dallas Buyers Club means director Jean-Marc Vallée will never have to struggle for Canadian financing again the movie won’t win, but that doesn’t matter. And it’s nice that Roger Deakins’s lovely, moody work on Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners was recognized with a Cinematography nomination. It gives Villeneuve some “Oscar-nominated filmmaker” cred while acknowledging one of the film’s few unimpeachable elements.

Awkward segue alert: Prisoners also happens to co-star Melissa Leo, who made news at the Whistler Film Festival a few weeks ago when she stepped up to fund indie producer-director Ingrid Veninger’s latest creative venture.

Leo’s $6,000 cheque – provided as the result of a podium challenge from Veninger – gives the Oscar-winning actor a first-look option at the results of Veninger’s pUNK Films Femmes Lab, a project designed to generate six feature scripts in six months. (Participating with Veninger in the Femmes Lab are Sophie Deraspe, Danishka Esterhazy, Anais Granofsky, Mars Horodyski and Michelle Latimer.)

Whether any actual movies will result from this is a question for another day, of course, but it’s an interesting proposition and she has a good sense of rising talent. A couple of years ago, her $1K Challenge gave five filmmakers $1,000 apiece to make a feature one of them was Nadia Litz and Michel Kandinsky’s pleasantly moody Hotel Congress. I’m curious what comes out of this initiative.

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