Canadian Screen Award Nominations

It's Only the End of the World  / eOne Films
Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World leads the pack of this year's Canadian Screen Award nominations, which were announced via a Facebook live stream. (Sorry for the delay. Day turned crazy mid announcement.) Overall, these nominations are a bit of the good, the pleasantly surprising, some films that I haven't even heard of, and the totally outrageous. In other words, it's par for the course with an award show.

The Canadian Oscar bid It's Only the End of the World looks to be a frontrunner given its nine nominations including Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Nathalie Baye), and Best Supporting Actor (Vincent Cassel). It's nice to see Dolan's film get a warm reception on the Canadian front and it's an optimist vote of confidence ahead of next week's Oscar nominations. The Oscar bid tends to do well, with all of them winning since Dolan's I Killed My Mother snub in 2010 except for last year's submission Felix and Meira, which lost to Room. It's a nice boost for the film too given that World hasn't crossed the million dollar mark in Canada since opening in September--a feat that Dolan's own Mommy more than tripled within its Canadian run. But, as with the Oscar shortlist, the support for the film is a relief since Dolan's film got a raw deal with critics and deserves reappraisal.

World faces off with two potential candidates for next year's bid to represent Canada in the Best Foreign Language Film: Zacharias Kunuk's Maliglutit and Johnny Ma's Old Stone. Maliglutit, which is a Best Film nominee, isn't represented as strongly as one might have expected it to be given that it landed only one other nomination: Best Original Screenplay. However, aside from the great music by Tanya Tagaq missing out, the tally is fair given that such a slow film is bound to be an acquired taste. Old Stone, on the other hand, offers a rare case of the Academy showing strong support for a first feature with the film landing noms in all of its top categories. Oddly enough, The Lockpicker, the film that bested Old Stone for the Discovery Prize, doesn't appear elsewhere.

Another acquired taste, TIFF's Best Canadian Feature winner Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves, has three nominations: Best Film, Best Director for Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie, and, in what might be a Canadian Screen Awards first, a Best Supporting Actress nomination for trans actor Gabrielle Tremblay in her bold performance as a trans radical. Her nomination highlights the notable year for diversity within the nominees. Graves deserves more recognition here, like cinematography, screenplay, editing, and score, but the radical experimental nature of the film, it's impressive to see it land with the Academy.

Tremblay has stiff competition in Molly Parker, my pick for the best supporting performance of 2016 for her outstanding work in Bruce McDonald's Weirdos. There isn't a better performance in Canadian film this year and Parker's scene-stealing turn as a bipolar bohemian mother deserves to land her another win. Weirdos is a pleasant surprise across the board with a nomination for Best Film and citations in categories like writing--a pleasant surprise since it didn't quite get the enthusiasm it deserved on the festival circuit or the slot is should have gotten on Canada's Top Ten. Yay for Bruce.

Equally nice, but incredibly strange, is the Best Actress nomination for Carmen Ejogo in the Chet Baker bio Born to Be Blue. Ejogo's performance is totally worthy, but it's very surprising to see the film's star Ethan Hawke miss out on a Best Actor nod. It's an odd omission that makes little sense since the film arguably centres around Hawke's performance that's in nearly every frame. But Ejogo would be worthy to share the honour.

Hawke's performance brings us to the inevitable point of every nomination announcement: the omissions. There are some crazy, inexplicable snubs here including some work that should have won the whole thing. Ann Marie Fleming's animated feature Window Horses, for one, certainly deserves its nomination for Original Music, but the fact that it isn't included for Best Film, Director, or Screenplay is just nuts. It's such a fun, beautiful, and original film with dazzling animation and a necessary message about the mosaic. Her choice to invite diverse artists from the international community to animate the poems is an artistic stroke that truly merits recognition for great direction. Why awards bodies consistently undervalue animation is beyond me.

Equally ridiculous is the absence of Mylène MacKay for her jaw-dropping performance in Anne Émond's Nelly. There can't be a lead performance more gutsy and complex than this one in which MacKay channels late writer Nelly Arcan and her various characters/personas in a dark web of seduction. She was robbed and the omission is frankly bizarre given her nomination last year for Endorphine--a good performance, but how any group can miss the complexity of her work in Nelly is beyond me.

Nominees wandering out from nowhere include the contenders from Kidnap Capital, Natasha, and Riverhead. I've never even heard of these movies, but I guess these submission fees were money well spent and may help obscure titles find some eyeballs.

The doc front also has some loony choices, as it always does, including a trio of NFB titles that aren't in the pack: my favourite Canadian film of the year, The Apology; We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice, which might have finally won Alanis Obomsawin her first prize in the Documentary Feature category; and Angry Inuk, which I assumed was a contender to win given that's it's swept the festival circuit since winning the Audience Award at Hot Docs. Expect Nettie Wild's breathtaking KONELINE: our land beautiful to sweep the field in the absence of these titles. But they also recognised great docs like Frame 394, Giants of Africa, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes and Oscar nominee Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah in the TV category. It's not the end of the world.

The nominees:

Best Film:
Bad Seeds
Before the Streets

Best Director:
Chloe Leclerc, Before the Streets
Kevan Funk, Hello Destroyer
Xavier Dolan, It's Only the End of the World
Matt Johnson, Operation Avalanche
Mathieu Denis, Simon Lavoie, Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves

Best Actress:
Breagh MacNeil, Werewolf
Tatiana Maslany, The Other Half
Sasha K. Gordon, Natasha
Nathalie Doummar, Pays
Carmen Ejogo, Born to Be Blue

Best Actor:
Andrew Gillis, Werewolf
Gang Chen, Old Stone
Stephan James, Race
Jared Abrahmson, Hello Destroyer
Lawrence Barry, Riverhead

Best Supporting Actress:
Molly Parker, Weirdos
Gabrielle Tremblay, Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves
Sherri Shepherd, Jean of the Joneses
Nathalie Baye, It's Only the End of the World
Kwaina Bellamare Boivin, Before the Streets

Best Supporting Actor:
Evan Mercer, Riverhead
Henry Czerny, The Other Half
Michael Revatnar, Kidnap Capital
Vincent Cassel, It's Only the End of the World
Jacques Newashish, Before the Streets

Best Adapted Screenplay:
It's Only the End of the World

Best Original Screenplay:
Hello Destroyer
Jean of the Joneses
Old Stone

Best Documentary Feature:
The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
KONELINE: our land beautiful
I am the Blues
Gulistan, Land of Roses

Earlier this month, it was announced that Christopher Plummer would receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, Tantoo Cardinal receiving a special award, and Randall Okita for the John Dunning Special Discovery Award for The Lockpicker.

The Canadian Screen Awards air March 12 on CBC.
Please visit Academy.ca for the full slate of nominees in film/TV/digital.