Canadian Screen Awards Preview and Predictions

Joan Allen as Grandma, William H. Macy as Grandpa and Brie Larson as Ma in Room.
Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg, courtesy of Elevation Pictures

The Canadian Screen Awards always seem to mirror the Oscars in some way. This year’s doubling comes in one easy fact: it’s an open race with no sure frontrunner. The obvious money probably goes to Room, but it isn’t as hugely successful at the Canadian b.o. as some hoped it would be, whereas Brooklyn most recently pulled in a per-theatre average that was five times higher than Room’s on eight times as many screens for a weekly take of over $400 000. That’s impressive for a Canadian film in Canada. The Best Picture Oscar nominees are likely to be top contenders in next week’s Screenie nominations—if industry peers embrace these co-productions as “Canadian,” which I think the do/should/will. Overall, though, this year has one of the stronger fields.

While two Oscar contenders are top Screenie hopefuls, this year also marks a probably end to the five-year streak of Canadian submissions for Best Foreign Language Film topping the show. Will voters remember Felix and Meira long after it quietly entered and exited the Oscar race? Will they remember a film that was in theatres before last year’s awards were even handed out? Maybe. Probably. But this sweet and subtle cross-cultural love story also feels like a Francophone Brooklyn in comparison to hot ticket fare. The question of Felix and Meira, however, really all depends on whether the team submitted it last year (which they could have given its festival run and February release), but they probably didn’t submit in anticipation of its Oscar candidacy post-Toronto. It’s always a question of the theatrical releases, the festival films, and, when it comes to films like Room and Brooklyn, the co-productions for breaking down the Screenie contenders.

Let’s look at these three factors.

The Forbidden Room.
Mongrel Media

2015 Theatrical Releases

A few obvious candidates appear here: Philippe Falardeau’s riotous satire My Internship in Canada and Anne Émond’s Les êtres chers are two respectable films to join Felix and Meira as tried and tested films with a shot at Best Picture. Ditto (to some extent) the Quebec box office hit/singing nun movie The Passion of Augustine, which has a huge box office tally despite not having a theatrical run outside the province. This year also has the rare case of a film using a qualifying run for eligibility before its theatrical release in April. This film, as mentioned in previous posts, is festival sensation Sleeping Giant, which offers a top contender if voters embrace a young talent. (Remember the first Dolan snub?) Other under the radar films that could peep in include the great but underseen Two 4 One (maybe acting noms for Gavin Crawford and Gabrielle Rose?), the funny Guidance (Pat Mills gives a performance that’s hard to ignore), Canada’s Top Ten surprise The Demons (a critical hit and box office dud), crowd-pleaser Turbo Kid, and the animated remake of La guerre des tuques (dubbed Snowtime outside Quebec).

The other big challenger is Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s The Forbidden Room, which could amass the largest overall tally or a scant smattering of arts and tech noms. It’s the best Canadian film of the year by a long mile (or kilometre, to keep it Canadian), but he has a fairly tenuous relationship with Academy voters despite being one of Canada’s most consistently praised filmmakers. He has not a single Best Picture nominee on his résumé and a lone Best Director nomination for The Saddest Music in the World. His one win is for a short and his last nomination was for the doc My Winnipeg. Aside from that, his movies get a tech nom here or there, if anything. In fairness to Screenie voters, though, Maddin makes risqué avant-garde films that are acquired tastes and are films that struggle to gain recognition from any voting body. It would be a bold move for the Academy to recognize a film as flat-out crazy as The Forbidden Room, but there’s no question that this work is one of Maddin’s best and most satisfying films.

Other possibilities include some Academy favourites looking for some love. Paul Gross’s Hyena Road is one of last year’s critical and commercial disappointments on the Canadian front, but the “Prince of Populism” (as Maddin calls him in Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton) has a solid film from a technical point of view, so peers might acknowledge the effort to make commercially viable Can Con. On the other hand, Deepa Mehta’s well-intentioned misfire Beeba Boys (which features Gross in a bizarre performance) isn’t awards material by any means, but efforts to diversify the field could work in her favour. However, any category in which the film has a fighting chance is one of the stronger races. Maybe a costume nom is all the film will get. Finally, Atom Egoyan’s Remember is bound to appear somewhere, especially in the acting races with Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau giving award-calibre work. The film has a chance if Egoyan’s critically-maligned The Captive managed four nominations last year.

Into the Forest
Elevation Pictures

The Festival Films

This part is where it gets tricky. Screenie rules allow films to submit if they have two or more screenings at approved festivals. (Generally festivals of mid to high calibre.) However, films must also screen theatrically prior to the awards ceremony in March. This seems fair—much like how Oscar contenders use qualifying runs to secure eligibility and then capitalize on a theatrical run once nominations are out. (Note: the theatrical screening rule does not apply to films submitting for the new Discovery award, which acknowledges a film from the festival circuit with a budget under $250 000.)

A few festival films have confirmed theatrical releases set for the Screenie deadline and are therefore possible contenders. Add The Witch (February 19), Born to Be Blue (March 11), River (March 4), and Into the Forest (March TBA) to the mix. The Witch and Into the Forest are the two strongest contenders of the festival films, although the latter of which is bound to have the stronger showing given the draw of Patricia Rozema and Ellen Page. (I’m rooting for both!)

The festival contenders are sometimes tricky since films can squeak by via special allowance, usually if they have a healthy showing from the festival circuit to show they proved themselves in the year before. For example, Bang Bang Baby came out in August despite being a Screenie nominee and special prize winner for Jeffrey St. Jules. The film won Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF and screened at ample festivals, so few seemed to mind the late release. This factor could throw TIFF’s Best Canadian Feature winner Closet Monster into the mix even though Quebec distrib Remstar lists a July 8 release.

The rule of intended release does not apply to docs and shorts with ‘Best Film’ wins at approved festivals.

Saoirse Ronan as "Eilis Lacey" and Jim Broadbent as "Father Flood" in Brooklyn.
Photo by Kerry Brown. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.

The Co-Productions

This is the part where it gets even trickier. Majority co-productions like Room are eligible across the board since Canada is the primary investor. Minority co-pros are eligible for Best Picture and for craft/performance awards if the contender is a Canadian; however, if the film has a Canadian director or writer, then everything is eligible. This rule pulls a film like The Girl King into contention for categories like costumes or actress since writer Michel Marc Bouchard is a Canuck. Alternatively, the favour doesn’t apply to a co-pro like The Witch or Brooklyn since the directors/writers are foreigners.  One must simply play ‘spot the Canadian’ to guess the nominees. So, this means when it comes to co-pros, Brie Larson is eligible, but Saoirse Ronan is not.

But here’s the real question: is The Witch’s Black Philip eligible? Surely, the goat must be Canadian if they shot the film here? Best Supporting Actor, I say!

With those in mind, let’s move on to some predictions—just for fun!
Nominees are announced Jan. 19


Best Picture

What about: Remember, Beeba Boys, Closet Monster, Corbo, The Passion of Augustine, Sabali, Turbo Kid, The Witch, Born to Be Blue, Ville-Marie

Best Director:
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Andrew Cividino, Sleeping Giant
Philippe Falardeau, The Forbidden Room
Patricia Rozema, Into the Forest

What about: Anne Émond (Les êtres chers), Paul Gross (Hyena Road), Atom Egoyan (Remember), Maxime Giroux (Felix and Meira), Léa Pool (The Passion of Augustine)

Actor in a Leading Role:
Maxim Gaudette, Les êtres chers
Ethan Hawke, Born to Be Blue
Patrick Huard, My Internship in Canada
Christopher Plummer, Remember
Jacob Tremblay, Room

What about: Pat Mills (Guidance), Paul Gross (Hyena Road), Jasmin Geljo (The Waiting Room), Rossif Sutherland (River/Hyena Road), Michael Eklund (Eadweard), Gavin Crawford (Two 4 One), Connor Jessup (Closet Monster), Randeep Hooda, Beeba Boys, Jackson Martin (Sleeping Giant), Kiefer Sutherland (Forsaken)

Actress in a Leading Role:
Céline Bonnier, Passion of Augustine
Brie Larson, Room
Ellen Page, Into the Forest
Karelle Tremblay, Les êtres chers
Hadas Yaron, Felix and Meira

What about: Evan Rachel Wood (Into the Forest), Marie Brassard (Sabali), Sophie Demarais (Gurov& Anna), Chloe Rose (Hellions), Pascale Bussières (Ville Marie), Monica Bellucci (Ville-Marie), Leah Goldstein (Diamond Tongues), Nadia Litz (Big Muddy)

Actor in a Supporting Role
Irdens Exantus, My Internship in Canada
Martin Landau, Remember
Reese Moffat, Sleeping Giant
Louis Negin, The Forbidden Room
Nick Serrino, Sleeping Giant

What about: Tom McCamus (Room), Rossif Sutherland (Hyena Road), Roy Dupuis (The Sound of Trees), Stephen McHattie (Big Muddy), Luzer Twersky (Felix and Meira), Donald Sutherland (Forsaken), Callum Keith Rennie (Into the Forest/Born to Be Blue)

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Joan Allen, Room
Valérie Cadieux, Les êtres chers
Suzanne Clément, My Internship in Canada
Sarah Gadon, The Girl King
Christine Horne, Hyena Road

What about: Evan Rachel Wood (Into the Forest), Gabrielle Rose (Two 4 One), Katie Boland (People Hold On), Balinder Johal (Beeba Boys), Sarah Allen (Beeba Boys), Zahra Bentham (Guidance)

Best Original Screenplay:

What about: Beeba Boys, Closet Monster, Corbo, Guidance, Gurov and Anna, Hyena Road, Passion of Augustine, Ville-Marie

Adapted Screenplay:

What about: Diary of an Old Man, La guerre des tuques/Snowtime

Achievement in Costumes:
Born to Be Blue 
The Forbidden Room

What about: After the Ball, Passion of Augustine, Turbo Kid, The Witch, Forsaken
*Oops, my bad. I had Brooklyn here but the designer isn't Canadian.

Achievement in Cinematography:

What about: Ville-Marie, Felix and Meira, Backcountry, Beeba Boys, Big Muddy, Chorus, Les êtres chers, Hellions, The Sound of Trees, Aloft, The Girl King, Endorphine, The Editor

Achievement in Production Design:

What about: Turbo Kid, The Girl King, Endorphine

Achievement in Film Editing:

What about: Into the Forest, Backcountry, The Editor, Hellions, Remember, Turbo Kid, Ville-Marie, Endorphine

Achievement in Make-up:
Turbo Kid

What about: The Witch, Ville-Marie, Backcountry, Remember

Achievement in Music – Original Score
Born to Be Blue

What about: Life, Remember, Room, Sleeping Giant, Ville-Marie

Achievement in Music – Original Song
Le guerre des tuques 3D (Céline Dion!)
Passion of Augustine (could nab multiple noms)

What about: Gurov and Anna

Achievement in Sound Mixing
Born to Be Blue

What about: Room, Turbo Kid

Achievement in Visual Effects:
Turbo Kid

What about: Hellions, The Girl King, Brooklyn

Best Documentary Feature:

Achievement in Cinematography – Documentary

What about: Hadwin’s Judgement

Achievement in Editing – Documentary

What about: HURT, of the North

What are your Canadian Screen Award Predictions?
What films are you rooting for?