What a night it was for Canadian film and television.
In the final tally at the second annual Canadian Screen Awards, the big winners for TV were the fan favourite sci-fi series Orphan Black and the raunchy cable drama Call Me Fitz, while the earnest films Gabrielle and Enemy took home top film honours.
As a TV event, the Canadian Screen Awards were literally the opposite of last weekend’s Oscars. In lieu of glitz and glamour, the two-hour show was homespun and pressure-free and at times achingly amateurish. Some highlights/lowlights:
HOORAY FOR MARTY-WOOD
Compared to last year, Martin Short was subdued in his sophomore stint hosting the Canadian Screen Awards, but he was still responsible for most of the show’s high points.
The show began with a pre-taped bit with Short kibitzing with David Cronenberg, which naturally led to Short’s head exploding, a la Scanners.
Short’s brisk opening monologue began with, “I’m so thrilled to be back in Toronto especially since you legalized crack.”
The former SCTVer repeatedly referenced Toronto mayor Rob Ford in his opening, with lines like, “If things don’t go right tonight I can blame it on one of my drunken stupors.”
Short then told the teleprompter operator to run through a supposed raft of Ford jokes. “We’re better than that.”
Then things got a little weird when Short launched into a lounge-lizard musical number about “Uncle Marty” being available to console the female nominees who didn’t win in their category.
“All the hot rejected ladies need some lovin’/Uncle Marty’s here to wipe away your tears.”
So many stumbles and fumbles throughout the two-hour broadcast.
Cases in point: The stilted, badly-scripted banter between The Amazing Race Canada host Jon Montgomery and Big Brother Canada host Arisa Cox. Really, the only topic for comedy was Montgomery’s pale skin tone?
Or the moment when Call Me Fitz was named surprise winner of Best TV Drama. Eight Fitz people flooded the stage and series star Jason Priestly probably should have made the speech, but instead two unknown writers or producers grabbed the mike and began babbling away.
Canadian movie legend Gordon Pinsent was the recipient of Best Supporting Actor in a film for his work in The Seduction, but the 83-year-old thespian couldn’t make it to the ceremony.
The trophy was accepted by The Rodwyman’s actress daughter, Leah Pinsent, who passed along a message from her father to the crowd: “He loves you all,” she said. “There you go.”
BACK IN BLACK
Nobody seemed shocked that Tatiana Maslany won Best Actress in a TV Drama for Orphan Black, but the crowd certainly roared its approval.
Newcomer Maslany’s voice trembled in her acceptance speech, in which she thanked everyone associated with Orphan Black, and also, “My family for letting me do this weird job.”
Orphan Black also won Best TV Drama, which led to a dozen or so creative staff flooding the stage. They took turns thanking each other until the stage band played them off forthwith.
Tracy Dawson sure didn’t seem to be expecting to win Best Actress in a TV comedy, but she did.
Dawson’s acceptance speech was probably the most endearing moment of the evening. “I’m shaking like a f–ng leaf,” said the actress. “I’m forgetting everything I got to say. I had something else…Thanks to my agent. My thanks to my parents and my dog. I love you. Oh, crap!”
Gabrielle Marion-Rivard received Best Film Actress honours for her role in the French-language film Gabrielle, in which she plays a musically-talented woman with the genetic disorder known as Williams syndrome (which Marion-Rivard herself has).
And you could see her unbridled joy all over her face. Marion-Rivard began her speech by announcing, “I’m so ‘appy!” and wrapped with, “Thank you very much for my family and I love you, Canada!”
Martin Short has been around show business long enough to know that you can’t lose with the broad comedy shtick when performing before a live crowd.
Which presumably explains why, midway through the show, Short donned a red shock-wig and freckles to play a ventriloquist dummy named “Leon,” who appeared onstage with his alleged former partner, Dave Foley, to present the award for Best Actress in a TV Drama or Miniseries.
With singer Serena Ryder busting a gut and Foley playing straight man, Leon directed a few vicious barbs at his handler, including, “At least I don’t resemble a bouncer in a lesbian bar” and “He looks like a colouring book that hasn’t been coloured yet.”
It wasn’t edgy or sophisticated comedy, but it was pretty funny stuff, especially when Leon started flipping his little hands around.
THE BIG SURPRISE
CBC Radio personality Sook-Yin Lee was the surprise winner in the category of Best Actress in Drama or Miniseries for her portrayal of Olivia Chow in the CBC biopic Jack.
Lee thanked everyone she could remember, including her bosses at CBC Radio for the leave of absence to appear in Jack. “I was kind of crazy while trying to make this movie,” she said.
“Well done!” barked Leon, still unfortunately in microphone range at the time.
WAY TOO CUTE
CBC fixture George Stroumboulopoulos already looked like a lawn gnome standing next to statuesque French-Canadian actress Jessica Pare, but things got way too cutesy when Strombo tried to get her to divulge details on the upcoming season of Mad Men.
Pare’s big reveal: “There are going to be characters who are smoking cigarettes and drinking liquor!”
We would have much rather seen Pare singing Zou Bisou Bisou.
PROPS TO THE MASTER
The bestowment of the lifetime achievement award to Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg was certainly well-deserved, but achingly overlong.
The Cronenberg tribute began with a prepared speech by Jay Baruchel, who read off the teleprompter at breakneck pace.
Next came Cronenberg muse Viggo Mortenson, who didn’t seem to have a speech at all, but pointed out that Cronenberg had never been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.
“Mainstream movie people seem very reluctant to reward him,” mumbled Mortenson.
And then the man himself: Cronenberg gave a long and rambling speech that touched on Scanners, Dilbert and other topics before giving all the credit to his wife, Caroline.
CRYPTIC QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
What exactly did French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve mean when he closed his Best Director acceptance speech (for Enemy) with, “I would like to thank my parents for my subconscious.” Huh?
THE ABRUPT END
Obviously, the show went long and the last award of the night, for best film, was announced in a breathless rush by Short and Maslany. The stars and producers of Gabrielle streamed onstage and one of them gamely tried to make a speech, but the band started playing them off and the show was over, just like that.
Only in Canada, you say?