The Oscars may be all about Hollywood, but there's a bit of Northwest flavor to this year's nominees. Here are just a few local connections...
The Oscars may be all about Hollywood, but there’s a bit of Northwest flavor to this year’s nominees. Here are just a few local connections:
James Longley (nominee, best documentary short)
It’s a second Oscar nomination for Seattle-based filmmaker James Longley, whose feature-length documentary “Iraq in Fragments” was nominated last year. (The winner of the category was “An Inconvenient Truth.”) Now he’s contending in the documentary short category, with “Sari’s Mother,” a 21-minute film about an Iraqi mother and her 10-year-old son who is dying of AIDS.
“This was a story I’d been working on since summer of 2003,” said Longley, in town this month after spending seven months in Iran. He shot the footage in the same time period as the stories in “Iraq in Fragments,” but did not use it in the longer film. “Sari’s Mother,” he said, “shows you something about the conditions that people are living in in Iraq”; specifically, the collapse of the health-care system.
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Longley worked with Seattle companies Alpha Cine and Bad Animals to complete “Sari’s Mother,” which has been shown at film festivals around the world (and was a prize winner at the San Francisco International Film Festival). He hopes to return to Iran to continue work on another film, after attending the Oscars ceremony. The roller-coaster ride of being a nominee is easier the second time around, he said. “This time, I know the drill.”
“There Will Be Blood” (nominee, best picture)
Toward the end of “There Will Be Blood,” oil speculator Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) makes his fortune and builds his dream house, which we see in a lingering shot: a vast, multiturreted brick Tudor mansion, at the end of a sweeping green lawn. That house just might look familiar to locals: It’s Thornewood Castle, a privately owned manor in Lakewood (Pierce County). Built in approximately 1903 as the home of Port of Tacoma co-founder Chester Thorne, it is currently a luxury bed-and-breakfast inn.
Deanna Robinson, who owns the inn with her husband Wayne, said that about a dozen members of the “There Will Be Blood” crew came to the house for a day of exterior shooting last April. (No interior scenes were shot at Thornewood, and the cast did not travel here.) A locations scout for the film, looking for a lavish home of a very precise turn-of-the-century time period, had previously found the castle. While this marks Thornewood Castle’s feature film premiere, it appeared in the 2002 television miniseries “Stephen King’s Rose Red” and its prequel, “The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.” The castle’s “There Will Be Blood” screen time is brief, but its performance is impeccable.
Colleen Atwood, “Sweeney Todd” (nominee, best costume design)
The artfully tattered, Victorian-meets-S&M costumes of “Sweeney Todd” came from the imagination of a native Washingtonian. Born in Ellensburg, Colleen Atwood lived in Seattle in the ’70s, attending Cornish College of the Arts and working as a fashion consultant. She left the Northwest around 1980 to study at New York University and quickly began her successful career in the movie industry.
Atwood’s “Sweeney Todd” nomination is her seventh in the costume-design category; she’s won twice, for “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Chicago.” She’s a frequent collaborator with directors Jonathan Demme (Atwood designed costumes for “The Silence of the Lambs” “Philadelphia,” and “Beloved”) and Tim Burton (“Edward Scissorhands,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Planet of the Apes”), and will reunite with Johnny Depp for her next project, Michael Mann’s 1930s-era crime drama “Public Enemies.”
“Juno” (nominee, best picture)
Not only was much of this teen-pregnancy comedy filmed just up the road in Vancouver, B.C. (that’s Eric Hamber Secondary School, right in the center of town on 33rd and Oak, standing in for the movie’s Dancing Elk High), but its music has the Northwest all over it.
Olympia-based singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson, formerly of the Moldy Peaches, contributed several songs to the soundtrack, including “Tire Swing,” “My Rollercoaster,” “So Nice So Smart,” “Tree Hugger” and “Reminders of Then.”
And the movie’s score is from a native Seattleite: Mateo Messina, who grew up here and is now based in Hollywood. He returns home annually in November for a concert to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center. An active composer for television and film, Messina also scored “Juno” director Jason Reitman’s first feature, “Thank You for Smoking.”
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com