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A Mainer's guide to the 2020 Oscars

You need to look hard to find Maine connections on the Oscar ballot.

LOS ANGELES — Before Hollywood's biggest night officially gets underway, let us know who you think will take home the biggest awards in this poll:

If Sally Field had a 207 area code, she might have this to say about the Oscars: "You like Maine. Right now, you like Maine."

That's probably an overstatement considering the shortage of Maine ties to the 2020 list of nominees. But those connections are there if you just look hard enough.

"Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" is one of the most honored movies of the year with 10 nominations, including Best Picture. In a cast that includes such heavy-hitters as Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, you'll also find Breanna Wing from Auburn. She has a small role as a hitchhiker.

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Breanna spoke to NEWS CENTER Maine's Lindsey Mills about her excitement at being part of such a highly acclaimed movie. Even Breanna didn't realize how she had predicted her own success until Lindsey pointed out her high school yearbook entry with the caption, "Future plans: make movies, win an Oscar."

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Mainers also have a rooting interest in the competition for Best Cinematography. "The Lighthouse" is nominated for its moody, black and white camera work. Despite being set on a remote island off the coast of Maine, the movie was actually filmed in Nova Scotia.

Although they were ignored by the Oscars, several movies from the past year that put Maine front and center still found an appreciative audience. 

"It: Chapter 2" continued the story of a killer clown who terrorizes a fictional Maine town. Based on a book by native Mainer Stephen King, the sequel was a massive hit upon its release last September with a box office haul of more than $470 million.

But that wasn't the first King adaptation of 2019. Hitting theaters in April, "Pet Sematary" earned a more modest $112 million at the box office. It tells the story of a father who brings his dead son back to life with horrible consequences. 

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If the plot of "Pet Sematary" sounds familiar, that's because it was previously made into a movie in 1989. While the first movie was filmed around Ellsworth, the remake used the woods of Quebec as a stand-in for rural Maine.

"Doctor Sleep" was the year's third King adaptation, and in hindsight, it might have been one too many. It told the story of the grown up son of the man who was driven insane by the haunted hotel in "The Shining."  But as its box office total of $72 million can attest, fans largely declined a second visit to the Overlook Hotel, and the movie disappeared from theaters soon after its November release. 

Lewiston's Patrick Dempsey branched out into new directions as a filmmaker in 2019. His name appeared in the credits of "The Art of Racing in the Rain," not as an actor, but as a producer. 

The main character is an aspiring race car driver who loses his wife to brain cancer. At the movie's premiere in Boston, Dempsey talked about the kinship he felt with the protagonist as a racer himself. He also stressed his desire to show the impact of losing a loved one to cancer, having lost his mother to the disease.

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Not every big movie release was shown on the big screen. "Noelle," starring Portland's Anna Kendrick, debuted on the new streaming service Disney+. Kendrick plays the daughter of Santa Claus who, upon his death, must take over the family business of delivering toys on Christmas.

Mainers said goodbye in 2019 to an actress who made the jump from Bangor to Hollywood. Stephanie Niznik was 52 years old when she died last June. In one of her biggest movie roles, she played a supporting role in "Star Trek: Insurrection." But TV was where she found her biggest success as a series regular on "Everwood."

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The Academy Awards ceremony on February 9 serves as sort of a curtain call, not only for the nominated movies, but for the entire 2019 movie season. Of course, the 2020 season is already almost two months deep. Who knows? Maybe at this time next year, when we hear "and the Oscar goes to...," it could finally be a Mainer who takes the stage.

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