Canadian Screen Awards 2014: Preview and Predictions

Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy
Last year’s inaugural Canadian Screen Awards, which rebranded by combining the Genie Awards for film and the Gemini Awards for television and added awards for digital work, certainly offered a step in the right direction for generating excitement and exposure for the films honoured during the show. The nominations for this year's awards are set to be announced a week from today. I always feel like I’m a hypocrite for not giving the Canadian Screen Awards as much attention as I do the Academy Awards, but Canada just doesn’t have the same awards culture full of precursor awards and campaigning to stretch coverage across several months. Let’s concentrate on the campaign to get more of these films into theatres first, shall we?

Predicting the Canadian Screen Awards might seem like an affair more daunting and frivolous than guessing the Oscars, though, since there’s little to go on. Festivals and awards, enthusiastic fans/press, and negligible theatrical runs are three starting points, though. So let’s look at the Canadian Screen Awards in 3 Easy Steps.

Step 1: Spot the Oscar Submission

The easiest starting point with predicting the CSAs, as noted by Rebelle’s sweep last year and the sweeps of Monsieur Lazhar and Incendies in previous years, is to pick Canada’s Oscar entry and cut and paste its title into potential categories. It’s a no-brainer to go CTRL+C and CTRL+V with Gabrielle, then, since virtually no film stood much chance of competing with it for a shot at the Oscars. Gabrielle’s omission from the Best Foreign Language Film shortlist shouldn’t put any doubt at it being a frontrunner for the Canadian award: it’s the best Canadian film of 2013 and any exposure it gained in the early stages of the Oscar race give it obvious head start.

Rhymes for Young Ghouls

Step 2: Canada’s Top Ten

Step 2 generally follows looks to TIFF and Canada’s Top Ten as the next building block. The overlap between the CSAs and CTT are often quite good. Only two of last year’s six Best Film nominees—Inch’Allah and L’affair Dumont—failed to make Canada’s Top Ten. Before that, only The Whistleblower was the odd film out between Genie and TIFF (error on your part, Toronto) and 10½ the year before that. This year’s strong line-up for Canada’s Top Ten consists of eight films that could make the Canadian Academy’s flexible list of five to ten nominees: Asphalt Watches, Enemy, The F Word, Gabrielle, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Sarah Prefers to Run, Tom at the Farm, and Vic +Flo Saw a Bear.

Also on CTT’s list, but unable to make the Best Picture cut for the CSAs are Watermark and TIFF Canuck winner When Jews Were Funny. Watermark and When Jews Were Funny are unable to compete outside the feature documentary category. This error still stands as one area in which the Canadian Screen Awards could find improvement. In the case of Watermark, for example, the best cinematography in any Canadian film this year isn’t allowed to receive its due, well, “just because.” Does any Canadian film this year make use of the visual power and scope of the medium as well as Watermark does? No.

If only eight of the films are eligible, which of them are contenders? All of them could presumably make the cut, but Jeff Barnaby’s acclaimed Rhymes for Young Ghouls and Denis Côté’s art house hit Vic + Flo seem like the CTT films most likely to join Gabrielle. Asphalt Watches could be a dark horse, but Canadian awards aren’t too snooty to give the prize to an animated film: recall that The Triplets of Belleville scored Best Film in 2004. Sarah, on the other hand, might have better legs in the Best Actress race than it does in the race for Best Film: it’s good, but perhaps a bit too slow and familiar to earn many top votes. Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, meanwhile, could be the wild card of the nomination announcement. It’s so wild and crazy that it could be shut out altogether, yet people really seem to be responding to this avant-garde-ish experimental take on José Saramago. It would be a major boon to the CSAs to bring Jake Gyllenhaal to the awards, too, but last year’s awards made a noticeable snub of Hollywood stars in favour of Canadian content. Gabrielle Miller over the supporting cast of Cosmopolis, anyone?

I really must echo Dork Shelf’s Andrew Parker, though, and say that the Canada’s Top Ten for 2013 really is one of the festival’s better lists. CTT shows what a great year 2013 was even if few of the films in the list—and potentially on the CSA line-up—actually made it to a theatre near you. Many of them are still awaiting a theatrical release in 2014, which brings us to the trickiest part of the Canadian Screen Awards’: the double-pronged eligibility.

Tom at the Farm

Step 3: Which films submitted?

Two other Canada’s Top Ten selections could make a strong showing next week or they could not appear at all. It won’t be for questions of quality, but rather concerns of release and strategy. Xavier Dolan has found some favour by being nominated for both Laurence Anyways and Heartbeats since that bizarre I Killed My Mother snub, so Tom is a safe bet since it was such a favourite on the festival circuit last year and Dolan’s films tend to be submitted during the year of their first appearance. The film is slated for release in March 2014, so, like Enemy and Rhymes for Young Ghouls, it will likely hit theatres just in time to capitalize on any buzz it receives from Canadian awards watchers.

The F Word could be a different story, though, since it doesn’t come out until later this year. The film is set for a summer release and director Michael Dowse waited a year to submit Goon to the awards with its theatrical year, rather than its festival eligibility, so The F Word seems to be the likeliest of the CTT films to free up a spot for competition. The F Word can submit next year since the CSAs allow for films to be submitted in the year of their festival run (so long as they have played at two CSA approved festivals) or in the calendar year of theatrical exhibition.

The former guideline usually accounts for many of surprises of nomination day. Don’t count out films that have been doing well outside of the major festival circuit or in Toronto theatres. Films like Maïna have enough modest supporters and awards to bring them more attention, while theatrical hits like Louis Cyr are contenders even if they never made it outside Quebec. (Cyr is now on iTunes for those of us who need subtitles, FYI.)
The Dirties

Other films that can and likely will come into play are Matt Johnson’s sleeper hit The Dirties, which leads the only two critics’ prizes for Canadian films, Toronto and Vancouver. (The TFCA announces its winner of the prize for Best Canadian Film tonight, actually, so The Dirties or fellow nominees Gabrielle and Watermark could get a small boost.) The Dirties, a teen-set self-reflexive comedy, doesn’t really seem like a film that finds its way to conventional award shows, but it really should be there and probably has enough enthusiastic supporters to find its way in if enough younger/open-minded voters are sitting on the nominations committees.

(***UPDATE: Toronto and Vancouver announced their Canadian film winners last night. Watermark and The Dirties were the big winners from Toronto and Vancouver, respectively.)

As far as other contenders go, Empire of Dirt was a big hit at TIFF and other festivals, although it might not see a Best Film nomination if the committees decide that nominations for the film’s greatest assets—the performances and screenplay—are sufficient. Le démantèlement scored big at the Canadian box office after its modest run on the festival circuit and could make Gabriel Arcand a frontrunner in the Best Actor race. Alternatively, L'autre maison joined Gabrielle on the Golden Globes' longlist for Best Foreign Language Film, which suggests a push for recognition (although it could face the same fate as last year's Camion and just be a Québécois affair for the CSAs). Other major Canadian theatrical releases like The Colony, The Right Kind of Wrong, or The Mortal Instruments bombed at the box office, so the Canadian Screen Awards will most likely be a festival affair once again with will-they-or-won’t they contenders like Siddharth and Triptych either coming into play or waiting until next year.

That’s three steps, which brings us to the final leap:

Predictions for the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards nominations:

*See sidebar for additional reviews!

Best Picture
Le démantèlement
The Dirties
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Tom at the Farm
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Alt: Empire of Dirt, Siddharth (if there are 8-9 nominees)
What about: L’autre maison, Cas & Dylan, The Husband, Louis Cyr, Sarah Prefers to Run,

Best Director:
Louise Archambault, Gabrielle
Jeff Barnaby, Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Denis Côté, Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Xavier Dolan, Tom at the Farm
Denis Villeneuve, Enemy

Alt: Matt Johnson, The Dirties
What about: Bruce McDonald, The Husband, Richie Mehta, Siddharth, Peter Stebbins, Empire of Dirt

Best Actress:
Sophie Desmarais, Sarah Prefers to Run
Cara Gee, Empire of Dirt
Devery Jacobs, Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Tatiana Maslany, Picture Day (or Cas & Dylan)
Gabrielle-Marion Rivard, Gabrielle

Alt: Michelle Giroux, Blood Pressure
What about: Pierrette Robitaille, Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Lola Tash, Molly Maxwell

Best Actor:
Gabriel Arcand, Le démantèlement
Antoine Bertrand, Louis Cyr
Xavier Dolan, Tom at the Farm
Jake Gyllenhaal, Enemy
Matt Johnson, The Dirties

Alt: Rajesh Tailing, Siddharth
What about: Thomas Haden Church, Whitewash; Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, Gerontophilia; Alexandre Landry, Gabrielle (he’ll probably show up in supporting); Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, The Husband.

Best Supporting Actress:
Romane Bohringer, Vic + Flo Saw a Bear
Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Gabrielle
Sarah Gadon, Enemy
Jennifer Podemski, Empire of Dirt
Gabrielle Rose, The Dick Knost Show

Alt: Lise Roy, Tom at the Farm
What about: Marie Brassard, Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (I’m rooting for her); Evelyne Brochu, Tom at the Farm; Tantoo Cardinal, Maïna; Mélanie Laurent, Enemy

Best Supporting Actor:
Jay Baruchel, The Art of the Steal
Walter Borden, Gerontophilia
Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Tom at the Farm
Glen Gould, Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Owen Williams, The Dirties                       

Alt: Terrence Stamp, The Art of the Steal
What about: Marc-André Grondin, Vic + Flo; Mark Antony Krupa, Rhymes for Young Ghouls

Best Original Screenplay:
The Dirties
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Sarah Prefers to Run
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Alt: Empire of Dirt
What about: All the Wrong Reasons, The Animal Project, The Art of the Steal, Gerontophilia,  The Husband, Siddhath

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Hold Fast
Louis Cyr
Tom at the Farm

Alt: Maïna
What about: The Right Kind of Wrong (or The Grand Seduction, if it submitted)

Best Documentary:
The Ghosts in Our Machine
The Manor
Our Man in Tehran
When Jews Were Funny

Alt: Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children
What About: Hi-ho Mistahey!; My Prairie Home; When I Walk

Best Cinematography:
Le démantèlement
Tom at the Farm
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Alt: Triptych
What about: The Colony, Maïna, Mama, Molly Maxwell, Rhymes for Young Ghouls, The Right Kind of Wrong, Siddharth

Best Film Editing:
The Dirties
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Vic + Flow Saw a Bear

Alt: The Colony

Best Costumes:
The Colony
Louis Cyr
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Best Production Design:
The Colony
Louis Cyr
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Alt: Rhymes for Young Ghouls

Best Score:
Le démantèlement
The Legend of Sarila
Louis Cyr
Tom at the Farm

Alt: Gabrielle
What about: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Best Make-up:
Cottage Country
Rhymes for Young Ghouls

Alt: The Colony

Best Visual Effects:
The Colony
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Best Live Action Short:
Anxious Oswald Greene
An Extraordinary Person
A Grand Canal

Best Animated Short Film:
The Chaperone
Gloria Victoria
Subconscious Password
Two Weeks – Two Minutes

Alt: Crossing Victoria, The End of Pinky

Best Documentary Short:
In Guns We Trust
Yellow Sticky Notes | Canadian Anijam

Alt: Jimbo, Mary & Myself

What are you predicting/hoping to see when the Canadian Screen Award nominations are announced next Tuesday?