By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
It’s been a spectacular few days for Quebec writer-director Kim Nguyen. On Thursday his film Rebelle (War Witch) received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, just one of five titles plucked from a year of world cinema. And back home today, Rebelle tops the list of films honoured by the newly created Canadian Screen Awards, with a total of 12 nominations. Shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his modest but affecting drama about a child soldier—portrayed by Rachel Mwanza, a girl he discovered in the street—trumped much larger Canadian productions such as Midnight’s Children, Goon and Cosmopolis.
On its tail with 10 nominations is Laurence Anyways, the story of a teacher’s transsexual odyssey by Quebec auteur Xavier Dolan. Quebec features dominate the awards with four of the six best picture nominations, the two exceptions being Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children and Michael McGowan’s Still Mine. Mehta’s adaptation of the Salman Rushdie novel, led the non-Quebec field with eight nominations. Like Rebelle and Laurence Anyways, it also scored nominations for director and screenplay.
Still Mine and Nicole Robert’s l’Affaire Dumont were tied with seven nominations; both have double lead acting nods. Michael Dowse’s hockey comedy, Goon, has six nominations, including best director.
The Academy’s choices differ sharply from those of the Toronto Film Critics Associaton, which honored Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell with its $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award for 2012. The Academy has nominated Polley’s movie in the documentary feature category. Goon, one of the TFCA’s two Rogers runners-up, didn’t figure among the Academy’s six best picture nominees; and the TFCA’s other runner-up, Denis Côté’s experimental doc Bestiaire, received no nominations from the Academy.
Heading the list of TV nominees are Flashpoint, with 11 nominations, Less Than Kind with 10, and Michael with eight. Among the nation’s news programs, CBC’s The National topped the list with six nominations.
Re-engineered by the Academy’s new CEO, former TIFF director Helga Stephenson, the Canadian Screen Awards have merged cinema’s Genie Awards with TV’s Geminis. The winners of the film and TV nominees will be announced at a two-hour inaugural gala hosted my Martin Short and broadcast live Sunday March 3, 2013 at 8 p.m. (8:30 N.T) on CBC.
Replacing the Genie and Gemini trophies is a new statuette, a spike-shaped figure with a pair of enveloping cape-like arms. The form, says Stephenson, “symbolizes two screens with the public at the core of it all. The new Canadian Screen Awards statue celebrates Canadian talent and Canadian productions, now destined for multiple screens.”
Amalgamating Canada’s film and TV awards makes sense—certainly on the film side. The Genies have been limping along for many years, and just like English Canadian cinema, they’ve had a hard time finding an audience. Film is supposed to carry more prestige than TV, but that’s worthless if a Genie falls in the forest and no one hears. Film and TV are increasingly interlocked. And hitched to the industrial power of the broadcast biz, the film awards may gain more traction. With some synergy, hopefully, Canada’s film and TV glitterati can create an entertaining prime-time awards show we can proud of. And they couldn’t have a better energizer bunny than the virtuosic Martin Short, who was dazzling in his recent turn as host of SNL.
The anomaly, of course, is that the film awards include Quebec while the TV awards do not. But Quebec television is its own industry, with its own star system. Canadian film is a smaller world than Canadian TV—it sounds counter-intuitive, but the big screen is smaller than the small screen. Yet cinema is, at least theoretically, the more universal medium. Besides, if Canadian cinema can’t claim the likes of Villeneuve, Arcand, Falardeau and Nguyen among our auteurs, we would be pretty impoverished.
The TV nominees are too voluminous to list, but is the full slate films nominated for the Canadian Screen Awards:
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:31 AM - 0 Comments
I bring you breaking news from the Toronto Film Critics Association—of which I’m president but do not control. It’s what they call a democratic organization; one critic, one vote. At a weekend meeting, over platters of crustless sandwiches fit for a garden party, we voted on our favorite films of 2012. There was some spirited debate, and some very close races, but no one lost an eye. Unlike the characters in the movie we liked best, we didn’t swig moonshine or wrestle each other to the ground. The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 70 mm epic about a cult leader and the ravaged war veteran who falls under his spell, dominated the TFCA winner’s circle, taking four categories, including best picture, director, screenplay and supporting actor. This is the second time an Anderson film has won the TFCA’s top prize: In 1999, his Magnolia won awards for Best Picture and Best Director, and he shared the Best Screenplay prize with Being John Malkovich author Charlie Kaufman. (Anderson was also named Best Director in 2002 for Punch-Drunk Love, making this his third time winning that award.) Yes, P.T., we like you; we really like you.
The TFCA (of which I’m president) also announced today the three finalists for the newly endowed $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award: Bestiaire, directed by Denis Côté, Goon, directed by Michael Dowse, and Stories We Tell, directed by Sarah Polley. Each of these movies defies any fixed preconceptions about the character of Canadian cinema. They’re all films of a kind we haven’t seen before. Bestiaire is a visionary documentary from Montreal that explores our relationship to the animal world. Stories We Tell, a doc from Toronto, unfolds as a procedural home movie, investigating the filmmaker’s family secrets; and Goon, shot largely in Winnipeg and set across the country, is a viciously funny comedy about hockey violence.” Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 7:29 PM - 0 Comments
TIFF announced Canada’s Top Ten list of features and shorts tonight at a Toronto event hosted by actress Sarah Gadon and filmmaker Don McKellar. The list of feature directors offers mostly familiar names—David Cronenberg, Sarah Polley, Deepa Mehta, Peter Mettler, Michael Dowse, Xavier Dolan and Michael McGowan—along with lesser known filmmakers such as Nisha Pahuja and Kim Nguyen. The cultural balance is unusually tipped toward English Canada, with only two Quebec directors in the mix. (Denis Arcand, Denis Villeneuve and Philippe Farardeau didn’t release movies in 2012.) Four of the 10 features are set in foreign countries. Noticeable by its absence is Picture Day, which just won the Whistler Film Festival’s $15,000 Borsos Prize for best Canadian feature.
Canada’s top 10 features, ordered alphabetically:
Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg (Entertainment One Films)
The End of Time, Peter Mettler (Mongrel Media, National Film Board)
Goon, Michael Dowse (Alliance Films)
Laurence Anyways, Xavier Dolan (Alliance Films)
Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta (Mongrel Media)
My Awkward Sexual Adventure, Sean Garrity (Phase 4 Films)
Rebelle, Kim Nguyen (Mongrel Media)
Still, Michael McGowan (Mongrel Media)
Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley (Mongrel Media, NFB)
The World Before Her, Nisha Pahuja (KinoSmith)
The top 10 shorts:
Bydlo, Patrick Bouchard (NFB)
Chef de meute (Herd Leader), Chloé Robichaud
Crackin’ Down Hard, Mike Clattenburg
Kaspar, Diane Obomsawin (NFB)
Ne crâne pas sois modeste (Keep a Modest Head), Deco Dawson
Lingo, Bahar Noorizadeh
Malody, Phillip Barker
Old Growth, Tess Girard
Reflexions, Martin Thibaudeau
Paparmane (Wintergreen), Joëlle Desjardins Paquette
By Jessica Allen - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 3:42 PM - 0 Comments
This year, Venus and Serena come to the big screen
Nearly every single sports movie I can think of makes me feel good on the inside. No wonder, considering their predictable narrative arcs almost always involve an underdog–think Rocky–or a team of underdogs–think Hoosiers–who against all odds, win something, or lose at something but their personal victory is so great that no one cares they lost.
Last year there were a couple of great sports movies at TIFF: Moneyball and Goon. This year, there’s a documentary called Venus and Serena based on one year in the super star tennis sisters’ lives that details how they made it and their struggles to stay on top that premieres on September 11. And then on September 10, there’s Arthur Newman, a film about a one-time hot shot in the world of competitive amateur golf, which sounds like it might slightly deviate from the classic sports movie formula: the hot shot tanks when he hits the pro circuit, then stages his own death, reinvents himself as a “Arthur Newman” and “sets out toward his own private Oz of golf.” It starts Colin Firth, Emily Blunt and Anne Heche.
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 1:39 AM - 0 Comments
Jay Baruchel, the Montreal-based writer and star of the hockey movie Goon, seems to have goosed the City of Toronto into giving his movie some free publicity. Yesterday, the day of the film’s red carpet premiere in Toronto, the city took down 38 posters promoting the movie, according to Goon distributor Alliance Films.
The poster features Baruchel, Goon’s co-writer and star (How To Train Your Dragon, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Tropic Thunder) gesturing in a way that the city found inappropriate. Alliance Films reports that the posters have been up for two weeks yet it received neither prior notice nor any explanation as to why they were removed.
The cast of the film has been in Toronto for the last several days promoting the movie’s release. “I question whether this has to do with Jay’s tongue or his ability to burn Maple Leafs’ jerseys, neither of which are offensive in any way,” said Goon director, Mike Dowse.
Commented Baruchel: “Another classic example of the cultural divide between Quebec and Ontario, I guess.”
Goon, a hockey comedy, delivers a wicked slapshot of profanity and violence, undercut with a sharp wit and a sweet streak of sentiment. The film has already offended some critics’ sensibilities with its unabashed romance of the enforcer, and its giddy embrace of violence—especially after last year’s deaths of three former NHL enforcers. Now, with the City of Toronto’s help, Goon‘s publicity campaign, like its hero (Seann Williams Scott), is mixing things up.
Does embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford have anything to do with the ban? Is he hoping to stir up a bit of culture war to distract the citizenry from his woes? Who knows. Alliance reported the city’s poster action in a press release at 12:36 a.m. today. And I’m sure as hell not phoning the Mayor’s house in the middle of the night.