Canada has never cranked out as many films at such a high level as it has over the past few years, and the ability of the most successful of those titles ““ films like Incendies , Polyetechnique and Away from Her ““ to permeate into the National popular consciousness shows that the public is starting to get how great our National Cinema has become.
That’s what makes this year such an interesting one for the Genies.
Of the five films nominated for Best Picture there are two critical darlings that have done well for themselves already in the midst of awards season ( Monsieur Lazhar and CafÃ© de Flore ), a huge box office smash from Quebec ( Starbuck ““ Canada’s highest-grossing film of 2011) and two English-language films with international scope and star-power ( A Dangerous Method and The Whistleblower ).
The five represent the spectrum of what the Canadian film industry has come to represent, everything from auterism to audacity and from talent to tax credits.
But on to the Awards themselves. Here’s what I believe will unfold once the business of handing out statues begins.
Best Picture: In my mind, this comes down to a battle the most acclaimed film of the night vs. the most acclaimed film of the year. Logic would dictate that CafÃ© de Flore has an excellent shot thanks to its pack-leading 13 nominations. However, Monsieur Lazhar is still riding the wave of popularity it’s received thanks to an Oscar nomination. Both films are loving and layered films that could probably have taken a prize each in many other years had they not been forced to face-off. While my heart says CafÃ© de Flore , my gut says that the acclaim and slightly broader appeal of Monsieur Lazhar will win out.
Best Director: The race here is similar to Best Picture, with the exception of Steven Silver stepping in for The Bang Bang Club ahead of Ken Scott’s Starbuck . The Genies haven’t been afraid to split its Director and Picture prizes in the past and I believe that’s what we’re in for this year. While I called Lazhar to edge for the big prize, I think Jean-Marc Vallee is the kind of talent that the Genies won’t have the heart to completely shut out. Yes, he’s won this prize before (for 2006′s C.R.A.Z.Y. ), but I believe he takes a second this year to allow the Genies to effectively dub two top films.
Best Actor: This one should be academic. Monsieur Lazhar is carried by a subtle and nuanced turn on behalf of Mohamed Fellag. So much of the tenderness and emotion that’s made people love the film comes from the personage of Fellag himself, so I’d really be surprised if anyone else takes home the statue. It must be noted, however, that few people were as hilarious as Starbuck ‘s Patrick Huard this year and that Canada’s English cinema would be a lot more popular if more performances like Scott Speedman’s Edwin Boyd was seen by more audiences.
Best Actress: In a category that features an Oscar-winner ( The Whistleblower ‘s Rachel Weisz) and an Oscar nominee ( Take This Waltz ‘s Michelle Williams) I believe it’ll be the stunning work of a third actress that storms through the competition. While not everyone found the modern-day story of CafÃ© de Flore accessible, the love expressed by Vanessa Paradis’ Jacqueline in the face of raising a special-needs child on her own seemed to resonate with just about everyone I know that saw the film.
Best Supporting Actor: I’m sure the five nominees in this category are just thankful that Christopher Plummer chose an American film for his career-best performance. This is one of the few categories that is wide open to me. I feel like the most resonant performances here come from some of the film’s that may not emerge from the night as big winners. My gut says the levity and support of Antoine Bertrand in Starbuck emerges victorious. However, it also would not surprise me to see the Award go to Edwin Boyd ‘s Kevin Durand for his one-legged runaway.
Best Supporting Actress: This one’s a real coin-flip in my opinion. Julie LeBreton already has a Genie, despite being excellent in Starbuck . Sophie Nelisse turned in a fantastic performance in Monsieur Lazhar – especially for her age ““ but I don’t know if her nomination wasn’t an award in and of itself. So my gut seems to say that Helene Florent’s turn as a woman trying to cope with her ex-husband’s newfound happiness in CafÃ© de Flore takes this award in a very tight race.
Screenplay: I hate to boil down these awards so simply, but with the year’s two best films competing in separate categories, it seems obvious to me that they’ll each come away with a statue. I’d be stunned if anyone other than Jean-Marc Vallee wins best original screenplay (despite my clear affection for Ken Scott’s Starbuck ) or if anyone tops Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar for best adapted.
Watch the 32nd Annual Genie Awards tonight at 8:00 pm on CBC, or stream it live from the CBC website.