Monday, January 31, 2011


Many Filipinos are avid fans of the Oscar Awards because it draws the crème of American cinema and somehow provides an opportunity to validate their own choices.

But the coming 83rd Academy Awards has an added edge for Pinoy audiences as two compatriots vie for top awards in their respective categories.

Hailee Steinfeld is nominated for best supporting actress for her performance in True Grit.

Matthew Libatique is nominated for best cinematography for his work in Black Swan.

Steinfeld is the 14-year-old daughter of Cheri and Peter Steinfeld of Tarzana, Los Angeles in California.

Cheri, an interior designer by profession, is Filipina.

Libatique, 42, is the son of Georgina and Justiniano Libatique – his father hails from Dagupan, Pangasinan and mother is from Lucena, Quezon.

He grew up at Elmhurst in Queens, New York.

Although the ceremonies are still to take place February 27 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, many Filipinos already count Steinfeld and Libatique as winners.

Perhaps a measure of their contributions, both Black Swan and True Grit are seen as strong contenders for best picture.

If she wins, Steinfeld will be only the 3rd supporting actress to take home an Oscar before her 16th birthday – Tatum O’Neal was 10 when she won for her role in Paper Moon and Anna Paquin was just a year older when she got her Oscar for The Piano.

She plays the character of Mattie Ross who hires Rooster Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges, to avenge her father’s death.

Her co-star Matt Damon described her as a “young Jodie Foster”.

She was chosen near the end of a nationwide search. Some accounts suggested she won the producers over when she auditioned in a 1800s Western outfit sewn by her mother Cheri from clothes bought at a charity store.

Not a bad start for the Fil-Am teenager – earning an Oscar nomination on her first major feature film.

But Libatique is no newcomer to Hollywood. His credits are long as they are impressive.

He worked on both Iron Man movies with director Jon Favreau and Black Swan reunites him with his American Film Institute classmate and the movie’s director Darren Aronofsky. They last collaborated on The Fountain.

Libatique has worked with Spike Lee on Miracle at St. Anna and Inside Man, among others; and Joel Schumacher in Tigerland and Phone Booth that featured Collin Farrell.

He said he got hooked on photography the day his father gave him his first camera.

Libatique’s already annexed the best cinematography awards from Los Angeles and New York film critics for Black Swan.

Natalie Portman is nominated for best actress in Black Swan, a surreal tale of a ballerina unraveling on her way to a starring role in Tchaivoksky's Swan Lake.

He shot much of it with a Super 16mm but also used even less obtrusive cameras to capture New York subway and street scenes.

Through Libatique’s lens Aronofsky was able achieve his goal of blurring the lines between reality and inner tumult of Portman’s character Nina Sayers, producing what one critic described as a “weird, wired, wild energy teetering on the brink of madness”.

All that from a man who once delivered lechon as a teen, and someone Aronofsky swears cooks a mean chicken adobo.

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