Will Genie Make Some Magic?

Monsieur Lazhar lost the Oscar, but it will win the Genie. 
(Photo courtesy of eOne Films)

It was only a week or so ago that we celebrated the best that Hollywood had to offer, so why not turn our attention to the best that Canada had to offer in 2011? This year’s Genie Awards once again bring some worthy homegrown flicks into the spotlight. Some have said that this year’s batch of nominees is a predictable one. I somewhat agree, although the element of predictability could be a good thing: perhaps this means that our films are now gaining more exposure and are making advances in distribution. We still have a long way to go, but the films acknowledged in this year’s show indicate another step forward. For better or for worse, there are admittedly some head scratchers among the lists (The Bang Bang Club?); however, these lists and choices always serve to spark debate, which is perhaps their greatest effect.

The Genies also have some new rules that aim to help smaller films. That certainly seems to be the case, since there are a few titles within the categories that I hadn’t heard of until nomination day. On the other hand, the new rules might have led to an influx in candidates, which could explain the relative mainstreaming of the nominees. (Although the concept of a “mainstream Canadian film” remains the biggest oxymoron since “jumbo shrimp”.) For example, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method continued its streak of list-topping despite receiving a generally lukewarm response from critics and audiences. I have found a few fervent fans of this film lately, though, so Method’s winning streak might not be as big a cop-out as I thought it to be. Still stinging, however, is the cold shoulder given to Sarah Polley’s Take this Waltz, which found little love aside from its brilliant lead performance by Michelle Williams. Overall, though, I’m still happy that the awards singled out the two best Canadian films of the year – The Whistleblower and Café de Flore – especially since I didn’t expect the former to get much traction aside from Rachel Weisz. Lastly, this year’s event will surely bring the trumpeting of Canada’s Oscar nominee Monsieur Lazhar. If you recall, Incendies won Best Picture last year following its disappointing loss to Denmark at the Oscars.

It’s quite different writing about the Genies than it is the Oscars because the Canadian film industry hardly has the same heavy round of precursor awards for Canadian films. (Only the Vancouver Film Critics are the ones who specifically award Canadian films beyond a token award.) Interestingly, Canada’s little darling Monsieur Lazhar got the shaft by the VFCC, receiving only a Best Actor nomination for Fellag, which he lost to Peter Stormare for Small Town Murder Songs. One critics circle won’t skew a full awards show, however, so before Monsieur Lazhar wins on March 8th, here are my picks and predictions for the 32nd annual Genie Awards. Tune in to CBC at 8:00pm on the 8th to see how I did!

Rachel Weisz in The Whistleblower. (Photo courtesy of eOne films)
Best Picture
The nominees: Café de Flore, A Dangerous Method, Monsieur Lazhar, Starbuck, The Whistleblower.

I really enjoyed Starbuck, but I doubt that this crowd pleaser will be seen as substantive enough to scoop the big prize. However, that statement could all be in vain because the academy awarded Best Picture to the brain-dead Passchendaele back in 2008. As said above, I’m rooting for The Whistleblower, but I would be equally happy if Café de Flore won. I would say that both are likely trailing A Dangerous Method and Monsieur Lazhar in terms of likelihood of winning, although the large scale rallying of the Canadian film community behind the Oscar nomination for Philippe Falardeau’s sweet little classroom drama surely gives it a heavy lead over the Cronenberg film. I, however, think that both films are a bit too safe to merit the award. On that note, I’d be quite pleased to see Café de Flore pull an upset, if only to validate my statements that it is the film we should have sent to the Oscars in Monsieur Lazhar’s stead.
Will win: Monsieur Lazhar
If I picked: The Whistleblower
Snubs: Take this Waltz (and I’m surprised that Edwin Boyd didn’t pop up here…)

Will Cronenberg win his sixth Best Director Genie? (Photo courtesy of eOne Films)

Best Director
The nominees: David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method; Philippe Falardeau, Monsieur Lazhar; Larysa Kondracki, The Whistleblower; Steven Silver, The Bang Bang Club; Jean-Marc Vallée, Café de Flore.

Steven Silver for The Bang Bang Club? Really? That film is a mess. It tells a compelling story, yet it is rather messy in terms of its production. It’s an odd choice to squeak out Sarah Polley, whose dazzling work on Take this Waltz merits strong consideration: the Scrambler scene alone offers better direction than The Bang Bang Club in its entirety! On the other hand, strong nominees for politically charged filmmaking and aesthetically flawless artistry are found in Kondracki and Vallée, respectively. I’d be happy to see either win. It would be a great opportunity for Kondracki, who made her feature debut with The Whistleblower; alternatively, Jean-Marc Vallée won in 2005 for C.R.A.Z.Y., and Café de Flore is an equally brilliant orchestration of cinema that deserves to bring him another trophy. Few filmmakers can do as much with the camera as Vallée can. Vallée might be the wild card to overthrow the inevitable showdown between Cronenberg and Falardeau. I love the films of David Cronenberg, but I don’t think that A Dangerous Method should be the film to bring his win of Best Director Genies up to 6. There’s good stuff in Method to be sure, but one doesn’t see him invest the film with an additional uniqueness that made him take the stage for Videodrome or Naked Lunch. Interestingly, both Cronenberg and Falardeau are nominated for adapting stage drama, and Falardeau demonstrates a greater success in moving his adaptation between a talky-stagy dynamic. Moreover, Falardeau looks to be the latest critical darling on the Canadian film scene and rightly so after 2008’s C’est pas moi, je le jure!. I bet Genie will crown a newbie rather than award one of Canada’s best for a film that is hardly the same.
Will win: Philippe Falardeau, Monsieur Lazhar
If I picked: Jean-Marc Vallée, Café de Flore
Snubs: Sarah Polley, Take this Waltz; Penelope Buitenhuis, A Wake

If anyone deserves a win Thursday, it's Weisz. (Photo courtesy of eOne Films)
Best Actress in a Leading Role
The nominees: Catherine De Léan, Nuit #1; Pascale Monpetit, The Girl in the White Coat; Vanessa Paradis, Café de Flore; Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower; Michelle Williams, Take this Waltz

It’s very strange to see Keira Knightley absent from this list given the strong show of support elsewhere for A Dangerous Method. I realize that her showy performance was truly of the “love it or hate it” variety, but I’m surprised that the former opinion didn’t hold for the majority of voters who submitted the film elsewhere. Her absence is even weirder considering that Pascale Monpetit made it in for a film that I haven’t even heard of, but good on the Genies for bringing attention to a small Canadian film. If they plan to award a Canadian, though, it will probably be Catherine de Léan for her tour-de-force in the otherwise awful Nuit #1. France’s Vanessa Paradis is equally worthy for her heartbreaking performance as the fanatically devoted in the 1969 storyline of Café de Flore; however, if Genie is going to award a foreign talent, the award will – and should – go to either Weisz or Williams. I’ve been pulling for Rachel Weisz ever since I saw The Whistleblower at TIFF 2010, so I hope that Genie does right and acknowledges the best performance from any Canadian film this year. I think he will, too, considering the strong showing of Whistleblower over Waltz.
Will win: Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower
If I picked: Weisz
Snubs: Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method; Macha Grenon, The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom.

Patrick Huard in Starbuck (Photo courtesy of eOne films)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
The nominees: Garret Dillahunt, Oliver Sherman; Michael Fassbender, A Dangerous Method; Fellag, Monsieur Lazhar; Patrick Huard, Starbuck; Scott Speedman, Edwin Boyd.

This is a strong line-up. I’m glad the Genies remembered Dillahunt’s quietly powerful turn in Oliver Sherman, which had its theatrical release back in February of 2011. Likewise, it’s nice to see Fassbender acknowledged after he was snubbed by the Oscars for Shame. Like Fellag, Fassbender could ride the support of his film for the win, although I think Fellag gives the better performance and is arguably the one nomination for which Monsieur Lazhar might deserve first prize. The winner, though, might be Scott Speedman: even though Edwin Boyd hasn’t yet received a theatrical release, Speedman’s been drawing raves since the film debuted at TIFF. I haven’t been able to see the film yet (it has one Ottawa screening coming up in April), but it would be nice to see one of Canada’s up-and-comers get some recognition. I’m personally hoping that Patrick Huard wins for his ultra-funny performance as the baby-daddy of 533 children in Starbuck. Huard makes the film a strong one and he could win his first Genie in his third nomination after Bon Cop, Bad Cop and Life after Love.
Will win: Scott Speedman, Edwin Boyd
If I picked: Patrick Huard, Starbuck

Hélène Florent in Café de Flore. (Photo courtesy of Alliance Films)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
The nominees: Roxana Condurache, The Whistleblower; Hélène Florent, Café de Flore; Julie Lebreton, Starbuck; Sophie Nelisse, Monsieur Lazhar; Charlotte Sullivan, Edwin Boyd.

Here come the newcomers! Genie has three newbies in this roster. First is Condurache, who makes a strong impression as Raya, the main victim whose plight drives Kathryn Bolkovac’s mission in The Whistleblower. Second is Sophie Nelisse, the strongest of the child actors who comprise Monsieur Lazhar’s pupils. Third is Charlotte Sullivan who has begun to make a name for herself in television (she played Marilyn Monroe in The Kennedys) and small Canadian films like 388 Arletta Avenue. Twitter went a flurry with excitement when Sullivan was nominated, so she could also join Speedman with a win. I think the winner will likely match my own pick in this category, Hélène Florent, who gives a startling, dynamic performance as Carole, the jilted lover in Café de Flore. However, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if young Sophie Nelisse won this instead.
Will win: Hélène Florent, Café de Flore?
If I picked : Florent
Snubs: Martha Burns really should have won her third Genie for A Wake, although that film might have been ineligible due to its release date, for it played in theatres in Feb., 2011, but premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival back in 2009. (And if that’s the case, Burns won in 2009 for Love & Savagery, anyways.) One performance that really was hosed, though, was Jayne Eastwood’s return as Betty in Down the Road Again… why didn’t this film get any love?

Paging Dr. Freud to the stage. (Photo courtesy of eOne Films)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
The nominees: Antoine Bertrand, Starbuck; Kevin Durand, Edwin Boyd; Marin Gerrier, Café de Flore; Taylor Kitsch, The Bang Bang Club; Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method

It looks like the same arguments return. Young performer Marin Gerrier lands a nomination for his impressive performance as Laurent, the son to whom Vanessa Paradis’s character loves to death. Gerrier is good, but I don’t think he will win here, especially since there are more familiar faces in the category. For example, viewers of the Genie broadcast will recognize The Bang Bang Club’s Taylor Kitsch from all the recent ads for John Carter; likewise, anyone who saw Real Steel or Robin Hood might recall Kevin Durand, who is up for his work in Edwin Boyd. I think the winner, though, will probably be one of the scene-stealers from two of the Best Picture nominees. One is Antoine Bertrand, who is hilarious as the unnamed friend in Starbuck. His main competition comes from Viggo Mortensen for playing Sigmund Freud in A Dangerous Method. Mortensen will probably bring the one major win of the night for A Dangerous Method, which would also mark his first win in his collaborative bromance with David Cronenberg after A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.
Will win: Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
If I picked: I don’t really feel strongly about any of these nominees, but I enjoyed the novelty of seeing Mortensen as Dr. Freud and particularly enjoyed Bertrand’s performance as the bumbling l’avocat.

That’s all the main nominees! Here are my picks/predix for the nominees in full. Let me know if you agree/disagree!

Will win
If I picked the winner
Snub: a nominee that I would have picked instead

Best Film
A Dangerous Method - Martin Katz, Marco Mehlitz, Jeremy Thomas
Café de Flore - Pierre Even, Marie-Claude Poulin, Jean-Marc Vallée
Monsieur Lazhar - Luc Déry, Kim McCraw
Starbuck - André Rouleau
The Whistleblower - Christina Piovesan, Celine Rattray

Best Director
David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method
Steven Silver, The Bang Bang Club
Jean Marc Vallée, Café de Flore
Philippe Falardeau, Monsieur Lazhar
Larysa Kondracki, The Whistleblower

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Catherine De Léan, Nuit #1
Pascale Monpetit, The Girl in the White Coat
Vanessa Paradis, Café de Flore
Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower
Michelle Williams, Take this Waltz

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Garret Dillahunt, Oliver Sherman
Michael Fassbender, A Dangerous Method
Fellag, Monsieur Lazhar
Patrick Huard, Starbuck
Scott Speedman, Edwin Boyd

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Antoine Bertrand, Starbuck
Kevin Durand, Edwin Boyd
Martin Gerrier, Café de Flore
Taylor Kitsch, The Bang Bang Club
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Roxana Condurache, The Whistleblower
Hélène Florent, Café de Flore
Julie Lebreton, Starbuck
Sophie Nelisse, Monsieur Lazhar
Charlotte Sullivan, Edwin Boyd

Best Original Screenplay
Anne Émond - Nuit #1
Eilis Kirwan, Larysa Kondracki - The Whistleblower
Ken Scott, Martin Petit - Starbuck
Jean-Marc Vallée - Café de Flore
Ryan Ward, Matthew Heiti - Son of the Sunshine
 Snubs: Take this Waltz, En terrains connus

Best Adapted Screenplay
Philippe Falardeau - Monsieur Lazhar
Ryan Redford - Oliver Sherman
David Shamoon - In Darkness
Steven Silver - The Bang Bang Club
--> It’s odd that Christopher Hampton isn’t here for A Dangerous Method

Best Art Direction
Edwin Boyd
A Dangerous Method
Café de Flore
Bang Bang Club

Best Cinematography
The Bang Bang Club (seriously?)
Café de Flore
Daydream Nation
Snow & Ashes
Monsieur Lazhar
Snubs: In Darkness, Take this Waltz

Best Costumes
A Dangerous Method
Afghan Luke
Café de Flore

Best Editing
The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
A Dangerous Method
Snubs: How did Café de Flore miss out on this one? BIZARRE!

Best Make-up
Café de Flore
Amazon Falls
Snow & Ashes
Take This Waltz

Best Original Score
The Whistleblower
Monsieur Lazhar
The Bang Bang Club
A Dangerous Method

Best Original Song
Cloudburst – “My Love My Love”
Starbuck – “Quelque part”
Good Neighbours – “Oeil pour Oeil”
French Immersion – “A Different Sort of Solitude”
Funkytown – “Waiting for your Touch”
Snubs: “Mystic Morning” from The National Parks Project

Best Overall Sound
Marécages / Wetlands
Café de Flore
The Bang Bang Club
A Dangerous Method

Snubs: Whistleblower

Best Sound Editing
You Are Here
Marécages / Wetlands
A Dangerous Method
Café de Flore
In Darkness

Best Visual Effects
A Dangerous Method – for the fake boat
Snow & Ashes
Café de Flore
Edwin Boyd

Best Feature Length Documentary
Beauty Day - Jay Cheel, Kristina McLaughlin, Kevin McMahon, Roman Pizzacalla
Family Portrait in Black and White - Julia Ivanova, Boris Ivanov
The Guantanamo Trap - Thomas Wallner, Amit Breuer, Patrick Crowe
La Nuit, Elles Dansent / At Night, They Dance - Isabelle Lavigne, Stéphane Thibault, Lucie Lambert
Wiebo’s War - David York, Nick Hector, Bryn Hughes, Bonnie Thompson

Best Short Documentary
75 Watts - John Cullen
Derailments - Chelsea McMullan
Sirmilik - Zacharias Kunuk, Joel McConvey, Kristina McLaughlin, Kevin McMahon, Michael McMahon, Geoff Morrison, Ryan J. Noth

Best Live Action Short
Doubles with Slight Pepper - Ian Harnarine
Hope - Pedro Pires, Phoebe Greenberg, Penny Mancuso
Ora - René Chénier, Philippe Baylaucq
La Ronde - Élaine Hébert, Sophie Goyette
Snubs: I haven’t seen any of the nominees, but I wish there was room for Rhonda’s Party and Nowehere Elsewhere

Best Animated Short
Choke - Michelle Latimer
La cite entre les murs / The City - Alain Fournier
Muybridge’s Strings - Koji Yamamura, Michael Fukushima, Shuzo John Shiota, Keisuke Tsuchihashi
Romance- Georges Schwizgebel, René Chénier, Marc Bertrand
Wild Life - Amanda Forbis, Wendy Tilby, Marcy Page, Bonnie Thompson
Snubs: Dimanche/Sunday

That’s all! Any Genie nominees that you are hoping for/ that you’d like to give a shout out to?

Tune in to CBC March 8th at 8:00pm to see the winner’s announced!