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3/11/2018

Canadian Screen Awards Preview: Picks and Foolish Predictions

Brigitte Poupart in Les affamés - the only Best Picture nominee that's truly excellent
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
The Canadian Screen Awards are tonight and it’s an evening to quietly celebrate a so-so year in Canadian film. The roster of nominees indicates that the nomination committees went out of their way to find a diverse group of contenders and unearthed some buried nuggets, but few of these films screened theatrically and some of them barely made a peep on the festival circuit. A lot of the best Canadian work was short changed. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it qualifying runs don’t help much either when it comes to giving audiences a chance to see the films. Canadian television seems to be picking up steam with Schitt's Creek and Alias Grace expanding their wow factors beyond the land of the maple leaf, but our films are struggling.


Perhaps this year more than ever, it feels as if we’re celebrating Canadian film simply for the sake of it. And I don’t know how much the awards are doing to nurture talent when only one of the acting categories has a strong contender to win who is Canadian. Sally Hawkins certainly deserves her prize, but I feel like we’re back in the 1980s where we’re attracting foreign talent without nurturing our own and where numbskull sequels to Goon and Bon Cop, Bad Cop are draining all the resources while fresher stories are being restricted to micro-budget productions that can’t compete for screen time outside of the Carlton. There are a handful of good films scattered around the nominees—and maybe even two or three great ones—but try finding many people who saw them. It’s harder than ever to see Canadian movies in Canadian theatres, and if we aren’t celebrating films because they’re the best, then we aren’t going to get any more bums in the seats.

Predicting the Screenies is somewhat pointless, but for entertainment purposes, here’s a rundown on who could win/should win tonight. I think Oscar submission and Best Picture snubee Hochelaga, Land of Souls could sweep the arts and crafts categories (but watch out for The Breadwinner) while Maudie will take the top prizes, if only because it’s the nominee that most people saw.


Best Film


What does it say about the state of things when Les affamés won the award for Best Canadian Feature at TIFF last year, but didn’t find a release outside of Quebec? Ditto Oscar submission Hochelaga, Land of Souls, aside from its qualifying run in, like, Medicine Hat and a random week at the Regina Public Library. Hochelaga isn’t nominated here, but Les affamés is and it’s the better film, so we’ll concentrate on that. Here we have what is arguably the best genre film in Canada in over a decade, and one of the few commercially viable films that’s actually good, but our distributors and theatres just didn’t get behind it. Why? There’s an American zombie movie in theatres every other week and they almost always suck. Even arthouse theatres didn’t get this suspenseful masterpiece. So good on the Screenies for getting behind this one – I just wish the show of support would have encouraged its distributor to do more with the film. Check it out on iTunes if you can, or on Netflix if you’re outside Canada.

I think the winner will probably be Maudie. It's a bit of a paint-by-numbers biopic outside its two extraordinary performances, but it will mostly win since it had the widest run of all the contenders. I’m still amazed that it played at my neighbourhood revival the Mt. Pleasant Theatre for thirty weeks. (Although they often just don’t update the marquee when the movies change, so that may be off.) The Breadwinner is fantastic and might be the dark horse to bring the first win for animation since The Triplets of Belleville. The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches is an ambitious genre piece, if nowhere near as strong as Les affamés. Never Steady is mostly a showpiece for Shirley Henderson. Ava has a lot of fans, but it’s honestly just not very good aside from the screenplay and some of the performances. So that really leaves Maudie with The Breadwinner as a possible upset.

Will win: Maudie?
I’d vote for: Les affamés
Should have been there: Don’t Talk to Irene; Hochelaga, Land of Souls; Adventures in Public School; Dim the Flourescents



Best Director

The nominees: Les affamés – Robin Aubert; All You Can Eat Buddha – Ian Lagarde; Ava – Sadaf Foroughi; It’s the Heart that Dies Last – Alexis Durand Brandt; Maudie – Aisling Walsh

Similar sentiments as above. It’s ridiculous that François Girard isn’t nominated here. What grand work he delivers in Hochelaga! The comedic spirit of Pat Milles in the jubilant Don’t Talk to Irene really deserved a shout out too. The industry got behind Ava and while I think Sadaf Foroughi is a talent to watch and I appreciate the representational purposes for which people champion Ava, I just wish it were a stronger film. The cinematography/visual design of the film is all over the place. Ingrid Veninger’s Porcupine Lake, for example, is a much better and more restrained accomplishment about the lives of young women, while Kathleen Hepburn also does more with less. Maudie’s a lovely film and Walsh might be the winner by default, while Brandt might be content if the number of voters who saw The Heart is What Dies Last cracked the double digits. Lagarde is a surprise nominee for the auteurist satire All You Can Eat Buddha, which had a quiet love-it-or-hate-it run on the festival circuit, but it’s weird that he bumped out Simon Lavoie’s superior craftsmanship on The Little Girl who Was Too Fond of Matches. Aubert’s work in Les affamés is in a league above the nominees combined—in scope, depth, technical sophistication, and for his hand with the actors. The film takes the zombie movie to another level.

Will win: Aisling Walsh, Maudie
I’d vote for: Robin Aubert, Les affamés
Should have been there: François Girard, Hochelaga; Pat Mills, Don’t Talk to Irene; Daniel Warth, Dim the Fluorescents; Ingrid Veninger, Porcupine Lake


Best Actress in a Leading Role

Sally Hawkins – Maudie; Shirley Henderson – Never Steady, Never Still; Denise Filiatrault – The Heart is What Dies Last; Marine Johnson – The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches; Mahour Jabbari – Ava

If we're going to talk about non-Canadians getting awards, I have to say that Judy Greer was flat-out hosed for her delightful performance in Adventures in Public School. What a burst of life! It's a shame that work isn't recognized, since I think the film has a lot of audience potential.

It’s a battle between the British actresses with Sally Hawkins and Shirley Henderson both delivering some career-best work. Hawkins should and probably will take this for her mesmerising performance as arthritic painter Maud Lewis. Her physical nimbleness with Lewis’s hunched frailty is just beautiful in its delicacy. Hawkins also deserves consideration for helping to draw attention to the Canadian film scene with the Ontario-shot The Shape of Water. She didn’t win last week, so now’s her time to shine!

Will win: Sally Hawkins, Maudie
I’d vote for: Sally Hawkins, Maudie
Should have been there: Judy Greer, Adventures in Public School; Michelle McLeod, Don’t Talk to Irene; Claire Armstrong, Dim the Fluorescents




Best Actor in a Leading Role

Antonie L’Ecuyer – The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches; Tzi Ma – Meditation Park; Emile Proulx-Clouthier – We Are the Others; Gabriel Sabourin – The Heart is What Dies Last; Nabil Rajo – Boost

I really dropped the ball on this category and missed Boost during the week it screened in Toronto and will make it out to Meditation Park today. It’s a weak category overall, but there really weren’t many Canadian films with strong male leads this year. L’Ecuyer and Sabourin give respectable performances in the two films that might have reached the most voters, but they aren’t really the selling points of their respective films.

Will win: Tzi Ma, Meditation Park?
I’d vote for: abstain.
Should have been there: Marc-André Grondin, Les affamés

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Brigitte Poupart – Les affamés; Lucinda Armstrong Hall – Porcupine Lake; Clare Coulter – Les rois mongols; Oluniké Adeliyi – Boost; Bahar Nouhian – Ava

I like the youthful innocence of Lucinda Armstrong Hall’s performance as a girl flirting with first love in Porcupine Lake, and Bahar Nouhian’s work in Ava is certainly worthy of the nomination, but Brigitte Poupart’s badass performance in Les affamés is one of the year’s standout performances in my books. She absolutely steals the film as a machete-toting mother navigating the zombie apocalypse in a cloud of grief. She’s fierce and funny in a performance of calm, quiet strength. I hope this award is one the film can take home.

Will win: Brigitte Poupart, Les affamés
I’d vote for: Poupart!
Should have been there: Monia Chokri, Les affamés

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Jahmil French – Boost; Ethan Hawke – Maudie; Sladien Peltier – Indian Horse; Sylvio Arriola – All You Can Eat Buddha; Natar Ungalaaq – Iqaluit

I really enjoyed Sylvio Arriola’s droll performance as the concierge of the ill-fated hotel in All You Can Eat Buddha, but this is probably Ethan Hawke’s to win for his much showier work in Maudie. He should have won last year for Born to Be Blue, so consider it even! Natar Ungalaaq is a potential spoiler with his sensitive performance in Iqaluit.

Will win: Ethan Hawke, Maudie
Should win: Hawke
Should have been there: Bruce Gray, Don’t Talk to Irene

And the rest!

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Breadwinner
It’s the Heart that Beats Last
The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Les rois mongols

Will win/should win: The Breadwinner

Best Original Screenplay
Adventures in Public School
Ava
Great Great Great
Maudie
Never Steady, Never Still

Will win: Maudie
Should win: Adventures in Public School
Should have been there: Don’t Talk to Irene, Les affamés, Porcupine Lake, Dim the Fluorescents


Best Art Direction
Ava
Cross My Heart / Les rois mongols
Hochelaga, Land of Souls
The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches
Never Steady, Never Still

Will win/should win: Hochelaga (but Little Girl is strong too)
Should have been there: Maudie

Best Cinematography
Ava
Hochelaga, Land of Souls
The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches
Never Steady, Never Still
We Are the Others

Will win/should win: Hochelaga
Should have been there: Les affamés, Porcupine Lake

Best Costume Design
All You Can Eat Buddha
Cross My Heart / Les rois mongols
Hochelaga, Land of Souls
Maudie
We Are the Others

Will win/should win: Hochelaga

Best Editing
Ava
The Breadwinner
It’s the Heart that Dies Last
Maudie
Never Steady, Never Still

Will win: Maudie?

Best Make-up
Les affamés
All You Can Eat Buddha
Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2
Hochelaga, Land of Souls
The Man Who Invented Christmas

Will win/should win: Hochelaga

Best Music
Les affamés
Hochelaga, Land of Souls
Les rois mongols
Never Steady, Never Still
The Breadwinner

Will win: The Breadwinner
Should win: Hochelaga
-Strong category!

Best Music – Original Song
Hunting Pignut – “Rid the Dark
The Breadwinner – “The Crown Sleeps
Boost – “Thief”
Will win: The Breadwinner

Best Sound
All You Can Eat Buddha
Boost
Hochelaga, Land of Souls
Never Steady, Never Still
Les rois mongols

Will win: Hochelaga

Best Sound Editing
All You Can Eat Buddha
Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2
The Breadwinner
Goon: Last of the Enforcers
Hochelaga, Land of Souls

Will win: Bon Cop, Bad Cop 2

Best Visual Effects
Le cyclotron [what is this movie?]
Hochelaga, Land of Souls
The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches
The Man Who Invented Christmas
We Are the Others

Will win: Hochelaga

Best Documentary Feature:
A Moon of Nickle and Ice
Resurrecting Hassan
Rumble: The Indians who Rocked the World

Will win/should win: Rumble
Should have been there: Long Time Running, A Better Man


Best Cinematography in Documentary Feature:
A Moon of Nickle and Ice
My Enemy, My Brother
Resurrecting Hassan
Rumble: The Indians who Rocked the World
Unarmed Verses


Will win: Unarmed Verses?
Should have been there: A Skin So Soft


Best Editing in a Documentary Feature:
Long Time Running
Manic
A Moon of Nickle and Ice
Rumble: The Indians who Rocked the World
Sled Dogs

Will win: Rumble
Should win: Long Time Running

Who are you rooting for?