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Australians at the Oscars: Our greatest moments

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Cate Blanchett is expected to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards this Monday for her performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and, in doing so, she will become the only Australian to have won two statues for acting.

But Australia has a long and illustrious history at the Oscars, even if we aren’t always the winners. Some of our best moments have come from underdogs, but we have also revelled in the moments when favourites such as Russell Crowe, Geoffrey Rush and Nicole Kidman took home one of the golden statues.

Here is The New Daily’s guide to Australia’s greatest Oscars moments.

Milestones

First nomination: May Robson (born Mary Robison) became the first Australian nominated for an acting award (Best Actress) in 1933, for her role in Lady for a Day. Robison was an actress and playwright who was born in Melbourne and emigrated to London at age seven. She is still the oldest Australian to be nominated – she was 75.

First winner: Australia’s first win came for the 1942 documentary Kokoda Frontline! 

Most wins: Orry-Kelly, a Hollywood costume designer credited for work on more than 200 films, won three Best Costume Design Oscars from four nominations for An American in Paris (1951), Les Girls (1957), and Some Like it Hot (1959).

Most nominations: Since her first nomination for Elizabeth in 1998, Blanchett has received five more nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Catherine Martin has also received six nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design.

On screen

Most awarded: No Australian actor has won two Academy Awards. Blanchett will change that if she wins on Monday.

Biggest upset: Geoffrey Rush, a relatively unknown actor outside Australia at the time, was awarded the Best Actor award at the 69th Academy Awards in 1996 for Shine, beating Tom Cruise for Jerry Maguire and Ralph Fiennes for The English Patient. Rush played Australian pianist David Helfgott to claim the award. Helfgott stole the show when he played at the ceremony.

Best Supporting Actress: Only seven Australian women, starting with Judith Anderson’s hypnotically evil performance as Mrs Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, have been nominated for this award. Blanchett was the first (and only) to win for her performance in Martin Scorsese’s 2004 film The Aviator.

Photo: Getty
Nicole Kidman with her Best Actress Oscar for The Hours in 2003. Photo: Getty

Best Actress: The first Australian actress to be nominated for a leading role after Robson was Judy Davis in 1984 for A Passage to India – she didn’t win. Kidman was disappointed in 2001 when she lost to Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball, but she took the top female acting award a year later for her turn as Virginia Woolf in The Hours.

Best Actor: Peter Finch succeeded in being the first male Australian to be nominated and win a Best Actor Oscar. He won in 1976 for the acclaimed film Network. He was not succeeded until Rush won in 1996. The most recent Australian to win this award was Russell Crowe for Gladiator in 2000.

Best Supporting Actor: Rush has been nominated twice (Shakespeare in Love and The King’s Speech) and never won. Heath Ledger won (posthumously) for The Dark Knight in 2008.

Behind the camera

Biggest Upset: Australian editor Kirk Baxter won two from two nominations, the first for The Social Network in 2010 and the following year he beat favourites Hugo and The Artist for the editing of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Groundbreaking moment: When Adam Elliot picked up the Best Short Film (Animated) for Harvey Krumpet he memorably became the first gay winner to openly thank a partner.

Source: Getty
Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel Source: Getty

Best Picture: Of the eight Australian-produced films nominated for Best Picture, Australia has won two Oscars. The first was for Braveheart in 1995 and the second was for The King’s Speech in 2010.

Best Director: Mel Gibson picked up the only Australian Best Director win for Braveheart in 1995, beating fellow Aussie Chris Noonan (Babe).

Best Animated Feature: George Miller narrowly missed picking up an Oscar for Babe but took home the prize for Happy Feet in 2006.

Best Cinematography: This is one of Australia’s strongest categories, with 11 nominations since 1950 for films such as Rain Man, Witness, The English Patient and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Best Costume: Aside from Orry-Kelly, Catherine Martin has dominated, winning for Moulin Rouge! and being nominated for Australia and The Great Gatsby. Special mention must go to Janet Patterson (Oscar and Lucinda, Bright Star and Portrait of a Lady), and who could forget Lizzy Gardiner’s credit card dress when she collected the Best Costume Oscar for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1995.

Best Song: The only Australian song to be nominated or win this award was Peter Allen, for Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) in 1981.

There have been many Australians involved in the Academy Awards. We salute them all and mean no disrespect if one of your favourites is not mentioned.

Visit The New Daily for the 2014 Academy Award ceremony news this Monday, March 3. We will be live blogging the event, critiquing the fashion and bringing a sharp eye to the red carpet.

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