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Celine Song's 'Past Lives' rides critical wave to multiple Golden Globe nominations

Filmmaker Celine Song poses for a portrait in Toronto on Monday, May 29, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey

Korean-Canadian indie darling Celine Song captured five Golden Globe nominations Monday with her debut feature "Past Lives," a tender love story that has ridden a wave of critical acclaim to marquee races for best drama, best direction and best writing.

The relationship drama — largely set in Korea and New York with a key scene at Toronto Pearson Airport — also earned nods for best non-English picture and best female actor for U.S. star Greta Lee.

Partly based on Song's own life, the film is about two childhood sweethearts who contemplate the nature of their relationship as they grow apart and live different lives over the course of 24 years.

Song, 34, was born in South Korea and her parents moved to Markham, Ont., when she was 12. She now lives in New York. 

"Past Lives" competes for best drama against leading nominee “Oppenheimer,” Martin Scorsese's “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Bradley Cooper's “Maestro,” Justine Triet's “Anatomy of a Fall” and Jonathan Glazer's “The Zone of Interest.”

Canadian acting nominees include London, Ont.-born Ryan Gosling for his supporting role as plastic paramour Ken in the blockbuster “Barbie," and Hamilton's Martin Short who earned a nod for best TV actor in a musical or comedy for his turn as a Broadway director-turned-podcast host in "Only Murders in the Building," on Disney Plus. 

Meanwhile, Toronto-born musician Robbie Robertson, who died at 80 earlier this year, is nominated for best original score for his work on "Killers of the Flower Moon." 

Robertson and Scorsese had a creative bond spanning decades, beginning in 1976 with the famed director's work on "The Last Waltz," a documentary capturing the Canadian musician's concert with The Band. The partnership would continue to evolve, with Robertson shaping the scores of several Scorsese films, including "Raging Bull," "The King of Comedy" and "The Color of Money."

Meanwhile, "All the Light We Cannot See," directed by Montreal's Shawn Levy, is nominated in the best limited, anthology or motion picture for TV category. The four-episode series, based on Anthony Doerr's acclaimed novel, traces the journey of a visually impaired French teenager who forms an unlikely connection with a German soldier during the Second World War. This marks the first Golden Globe nod for the 55-year-old director, who is helming the upcoming Marvel film "Deadpool 3."

Song has been hotly buzzed since "Past Lives" debuted at the Sundance Film Festival at the top of the year. The film won best feature at the Gotham Independent Film Awards last month and has earned a slew of other prizes including best director at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, best indie and best screenplay at the Hollywood Critics Association Midseason Film Awards, and best directorial debut at the National Board of Review Awards.

The Globes has lost its lustre in recent years after facing criticism for a lack of diversity within its voting body, which led to the awards show losing its 2022 telecast and to the dissolution of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association this summer.

In her remarks before the nominations, Globes president Helen Hoehne said the show's voting body "has grown to 300 members from 75 countries, making the Golden Globes the most culturally diverse major awards body.”

The awards bash is set for Jan. 7, 2024 and will air on CBS and Paramount Plus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2023. 

Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press

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