For "Winter's Bone" director Debra Granik, hearing about her film's Oscar nomination for best picture was dizzying.
"It’s one of those things where Roadside [Attractions, the film's distributor] just delivered this phenomenal phone call and I did think they were joking, but then we got serious and are trying to manage the level of appreciation and gratitude."
Why would she think they would joke about something so important? "It just didn’t seem possible, given that it is hard to have a small film enter into this arena. That last leap of how to make a smaller film seem a part of the mix with very prominent films -- how to get someone who is going to respond and be a part of the screening process and how you will get that screener in their machine -- it’s beguiling. But it did get into the machines, even though they didn’t know much about where this film was coming from and it had a whole bunch of unknown names. And that’s stellar."
Clearly, it was those unknown actors who pulled off the movie, as both lead actress Jennifer Lawrence and supporting actor John Hawkes received acting nominations.
What the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is good at, Granik says, is championing something it believes in. "They will always champion actors that put something real and heartfelt and deliver gifts to audiences. A performance that’s truly fueled by heart, sweat, blood, guilt. The academy is devoted to the art form of movies, and they want to see them each year, something they find memorable. When a young actress emerges and puts as much as she can into something, when an actor who’s been working hard like John puts his feet into really different shoes and has to push himself to cross a line, the academy will be there to cross that line, and I think that’s really where they were going."
For Granik, the idea of getting dressed up and actually attending the Oscars is beyond strange.