What’s to love about the Genies? Well, for one thing, they’re about one third shorter than the Oscars. And way more relaxed.
In Toronto tonight, we saw Sarah Polley’s homecoming triumph as her beloved debut feature, Away From Her, swept the Genies, winning every one of its nominations—including best picture, director, actor and actress. Thats a total of eight Genies for Polley’s creation, if you include her Claude Jutra Award for best feature directing debut.
After showing unreasonable delight at losing the Oscar, Julie Christie won the Genie for Away From Her, but wasn’t on hand to receive it. Polley, who seemed embarrassed to be commuting back and forth to the podium so often, accepted on her behalf. “I’m trying to think of what Julie would say, and it would be something like ‘Close Guantanamo and kill Bill C-10.”
Gordon Pinsent, unfairly snubbed by Oscar, drew a standing ovation for his slow-simmering role as Christie’s husband. And he took his moment in the spotlight with a dignified leisure that Oscar would have never allowed. “You can’t give an actor too much of that. . . appreciation,” he said. Then, spelling out the absurd common ground between self-deprecation and self-aggrandizement, he said, “Last night when I went to bed I was wondering when it would be decent to compare this performance to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. . . It climbs up on you.” Pinsent went through a full and heartfelt round of thanks. As for Christie, he said, “She left me with a gift on the set. We had this way-too-short canoodling love story, and before leaving the bed, she tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Well done, Gordon!’ Well, that’s on the resumé.”
It was a good year for English Canadian film. In the main categories, David Cronenberg’s superb Eastern Promises got swept away by the Sarah love-in, but won five technical awards plus original screenplay and score.
Shake Hands With the Devil, the dutiful and prosaic drama based on Romeo Dallaire’s Rwanda memoir, salvaged just one Genie—for best song—from a whopping 12 nominations.
As for the ceremony, Sandra Oh emceed with stunning style and grace. She also unleashed a timely salvo against the feds for their bone-headed backdoor censorship legislation, Bill C-10.
“Censorship has had a little work done and is trying to make a comeback,” she said. “I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very Canadian to me.”
This country seems to produce smart, beautiful, outspoken actresses almost at the same rate as gifted hockey players. Too bad Ellen Page wasn’t on hand. She was nominated for Bruce McDonald’s The Tracey Fragments. But I guess after all the Juno hype, she’s had enough, and didn’t expect to win. Besides, Juno wasn’t eligible for a Genie. Although it has a Canadian director, two Canadian leads, and was shot in B.C., it was 100-per-cent financed by Hollywood.
It’s time for the Genies to start assessing the Canadian-ness of movies by the identity of the talent, not the colour of the money. English Canadian cinema has spilled beyond our borders.