|Room team David Gross, Jacob Tremblay, Emma Donoghue.|
MacDonald might not have brought the same fire as previous hosts Andrea Martin and Martin Short (who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy), but he was consistently funny and a nice glue to one of the better broadcasts so far for the Canadian Screen Awards. Highlights from MacDonald included a shot at Stephen Harper’s new career as an Uber drive and a bit about a swag bag that offered loose leftover pancakes and Don Cherry cologne. He also joked that viewers probably hadn’t seen (m)any of the nominees, and acknowledged an elephant in the room from the outset.
The show ran smoothly, aside from a completely random/awkward rendition of “A Natural Woman” to honour the female nominees during the latter half of the show. Not only did the song bring a wave of dead air when it seemed as if presenters were rushing through awards, it felt like the Lady Gaga/Sound of Music song that offered a feel good celebration for its own sake. The portion was awkward mostly because it felt unnecessary within an industry that is already doing a lot to champion the work of women. (Re: the NFB’s new quota of 50% female talent in production.) At what point do we move artists, actors, and filmmakers out of the ghetto and celebrate the work equally? The song meant that many nominees, both female and male, weren’t visible at all, including the work of the five actresses nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The award was presumably axed because winner Joan Allen (Room) wasn’t present, but the airtime devoted to the song would have given viewers a taste of several films and the great work by some Canadian actresses had the airtime been devoted to the category. What good does a picture of Balinder Johal do if few people watching the show know a) who she is or b) what work earned her a nomination? The time might have also been better spent featuring at least one of the documentary or shorts categories, which didn’t receive any time in the broadcast other than a cutaway to winners Alan Zweig and Peter Gentile celebrating their Candy for Hurt with some scotch backstage.
The song and the absence of some of the nominees stressed that the CSAs/Candys still have to overcome the problem of celebrating something for its own sake. This year’s show once again faced the problem of getting people excited to celebrate films they hadn’t seen—or weren’t able to see if they wanted to. As mentioned previously, even an active viewer like myself struggled to see all the nominees, most of which I caught at TIFF, Hot Docs, or Canada’s Top Ten.
The winners inevitably drew from popular choices with co-production Room amassing nine awards including gongs for Best Film and Best Actress for Brie Larson—notably a no show, since last year’s Oscar winner Julianne Moore made an appearance when she knew she was probably going to lose to Mommy’s Anne Dorval. Room also scored a Best Director win for Ireland’s Lenny Abrahamson (another no show), who became the first non-Canadian director to win the prize in twenty-five years after Bruce Beresford nabbed it for Black Robe. One American star who made a welcome addition to the show was Aunjanue Ellis, a winner for her work in the CBC miniseries The Book of Negroes earlier this week, who made the night’s obligatory political statement by wearing a provocative dress calling on President Barack Obama to remove the Confederate Flag from America’s flagpoles. “We want president Obama to send a bill to Congress demanding that it be taken down on all federal properties,” Ellis told The Toronto Star.
Among the night’s other winners was Room’s fellow Canuck co-pro Brooklyn, which earned awards for two of its three nominations by netting Candys for Canucks Yves Bélanger and Michael Brooke in the races for Cinematography and Score, respectively. Paul Gross’s Hyena Road scored three technical prizes and added to an impressive tally for new distributor Elevation Pictures, which had a strong haul with Room’s nine wins and a special prize for River. The Candys notably felt like a shake-up in the major players in Canadian film, for usual powerhouse eOne landed only one award (Best Original Screenplay for Remember) after winning every single dramatic film prize and two of three documentary feature awards last year. D Films scored a gong for Sleeping Giant, while the Mongrels nabbed three awards between Brooklyn and Beeba Boys.
The night also scored points for highlighting Canadian stars who continue to work in the Canadian system despite finding considerable success in Hollywood. In additional to Martin Short’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the night honoured Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy for their work in Schitt’s Creek (they also won legacy awards earlier in the week), while Christopher Plummer was on hand as a nominee and as the presenter for Best Film. Seeing all the Canadian talent of considerable esteem on hand, the show proved that the Canadian industry has the makers for future stars, especially if Jacob Tremblay keeps up his love for the camera.
See the full list of winners here.