Paul Whitington: Academy Award nominations exceeded all our expectations
No one, not even the wildest optimist at the Irish Film Board, could have predicted our filmmakers' incredible showing in this year's Oscar nominations. Back in 1990, the country went mad when Jim Sheridan's 'My Left Foot' got nominated for five Academy Awards and eventually picked up two of them. But in 2016 no less than nine nominations have been awarded to Irish films and acting talent.
It's a new record, and a remarkable achievement for a national film industry that's always had to box clever and work on a smaller scale. The nominations in the Best Actor and Actress categories for Michael Fassbender ('Steve Jobs') and Saoirse Ronan ('Brooklyn') were not unexpected, but the really jaw-dropping moment came when both 'Brooklyn' and 'Room' were included in the Best Picture category. And Dubliner Catherine Biggs is part of the make-up team nominated for their work on 'Mad Max'.
'Brooklyn' was directed by John Crowley and based on Colm Toibin's novel, while Lenny Abrahamson's 'Room' was adapted from her own novel by Emma Donoghue. She's been nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, as has Nick Hornby for 'Brooklyn'. In the Best Actress category, Saoirse Ronan will be joined by 'Room's' Brie Larson, whose performance in that harrowing film has already won her a Golden Globe. And congratulations must also go to young Dublin filmmaker Benjamin Cleary, whose 'Stutterer' has been nominated in the live action short film category. Lenny Abrahamson's nomination for Best Director brings the Irish-related tally to nine, and raises our chances of not leaving the Dolby Theatre empty-handed on February 28.
Larson, whom we will happily claim on the night, must now be a favourite for Best Actress, but Ronan still has an outside chance. And though Leonardo DiCaprio looks a shoo-in for the Best Actor Oscar, Fassbender is likely to provide the stiffest opposition. I don't think 'Room' or 'Brooklyn' will win Best Picture, but Emma Donoghue stands a good chance in the Best Adapted Screenplay race, as does Nick Hornby for 'Brooklyn'.
It's possible, then, that Irish films and talent could walk away with two or even three Oscars at the end of this month, and wouldn't that be something. But the nominations are a huge achievement in themselves, and should persuade the powers that be that this is an industry worth investing in.