(March 14, 2016 – Toronto, ON) That old expression, “Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans,” really rang true for me this year in regards to the Canadian Screen Awards. With work underway completely revamping and updating Northernstars, plans for a greatly expanded use of video on the site, lining up potential contributors in key cities across Canada, I was looking forward to photographing this year’s gala events. The first, last Tuesday, saw me in my doctor’s office earlier in the day dealing with a sore throat and mild ear pain. Later that night at the Westin Habour Castle, I had a sudden feeling of unease and left the ceremonies before the first award had been handed out. By midnight I was more than a little woozy and Wednesday morning I could not get out of bed. A massive inner ear infection had robbed me of my equilibrium. I was still unable to stand without risking collapse on Sunday and knew that for the first time in a long time of covering the Genies and then the Canadian Screen Awards, this year I would be just another viewer. It was an interesting change in perspective.
About an hour into the big broadcast gala it struck me that the Canadian film and television industries can finally say there is a star system of sorts in place. There is recognition that this isn’t some haphazard collection of misfits struggling to churn out a few good films each year. The industry is vast, for the most part healthy, and can lay legitimate claim to decades of growth, slowly amassing experience, talent, knowledge and ability. It also has the foundation needed to build that star system that nurtures and supports the up and comers while cherishing the work of those who have gone before.
Thinking back to host Norm Macdonald’s opening remarks, where he seemed embarrassed to be heading to Canada to host this awards show made me think it’s time to stop inviting this kind of comic. Sure, we’re Canadian, and that means we’re self-effacing and ready to poke fun at ourselves, but you would think that for a couple of hours once a year when the industry gathers to applaud its own the cheap shots could be left unsaid.
As for renaming the CSAs the “Candys” in honour of actor John Candy, let’s kill that idea before it gains any traction. It might take me 30 or 40 seconds but I could easily provide a long list of names that would be far more deserving of being remembered and honoured in this way. That’s not a shot at the late actor. He was good, he was fine and had flashes of greatness, but to attach his name to an award that should stand for the highest possible excellence is just too much of a stretch. To be fair, the award deserves a more distinctive name, and it shouldn’t be named for anyone. I’ve long thought it could be called the Angel Award. Not just because of its entrancing design, but anyone who works in the biz knows not much happens without a whole lot of angels. A Golden Angel, or Ange d’Or, would certainly signify that your work was of the highest quality.
There are some other changes I would like to suggest, now having had a chance to sit back and watch the show. I would like to see the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television take a page from the Golden Globes and expand some of their categories. The list of TV awards far outnumbers the film awards and the film awards would benefit if there were some additional categories like Best Comedy, Best Drama, Best French Language Film, Best Film in a language other than English or French. I also think a Newcomer Award would be appropriate. While it was cute to see Jacob Tremblay best Christopher Plummer for the Best Actor Award, had a Newcomer Award been available both actors could have been properly honoured and encouraged.
The only technical glitch I noticed was when our Heritage Minister, Mélanie Joly walked out on stage alone and missed her mark ending up far from any microphone. Where was her guide? Where was Paul Gross, for example? The co-producer, director, screenwriter and costar of 2015’s Hyena Road may have been busy elsewhere, but was there no actor, director, producer of significant stature who could have been a friendly escort for a few minutes?
All in all it was a terrific show. A great production on a great set with a terrific live band, lots of laughter, a few poignant moments, wall-to-wall stars and enough glitz and glamour to satisfy even the biggest egos. Northernstars congratulates all the nominees and winners. Also congratulations to the producers of last night’s broadcast. Great work, and here’s to 2017. I’d say that I’ll be there… but I don’t want to jinx it.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and Publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.