Friday April 18, 2014


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Inaugural edition of Canadian Screen Awards celebrate TV and film

TORONTO - The inaugural Canadian Screen Awards combine the previous Gemini and Genie Awards into one joint TV and film celebration, but that's not enough for comic Naomi Snieckus.

In the name of efficiency, she suggests throwing in the theatre world's Dora Awards as well as a miming competition for good measure to create an all-encompassing prize.

"It's going to be called the Mime-sies. Or the Dora-ginies," says Snieckus, best known as smart-aleck gym teacher Bobbi on CBC-TV's "Mr. D."

For those still wrapping their heads around Canada's newest entertainment prize, the Canadian Screen Awards honour the best in homegrown film, television and digital projects and will be broadcast Sunday on CBC-TV.

It replaces the previous Gemini Awards, which saluted Canuck-made TV, and the Genie Awards, which celebrated Canuck-made movies.

"We are in a time when no one has time for two awards nights. We have to put them together we get it down, we party hard for one night. Compact," explains Snieckus, who will co-host CBC's online live stream from the red carpet.

"You know, I think it could be done in 10 minutes," adds fellow comic Matt Baram, from the City sitcom "Seed."

"We don't need a long awards show just because we've combined all the awards. In fact, why don't they just make one award and give it to the best Canadian?"

"Flashpoint" star Enrico Colantoni suggests we're already inching down that road, lamenting that past bashes haven't been loose enough, fun enough or offered enough of a spotlight on homegrown talent.

"As long as CBC doesn't do it in a half-hour special because there are a lot of categories to cover in a half hour. Maybe the winners could just walk by the stage and wave as opposed to actually taking 20 seconds to say thank you," says Colantoni, a best actor contender in the TV drama race.

"It's incredibly uncomfortable when you've won something and aren't allowed to thank anybody in your own way. To be rushed like that and make it all about, 'OK, this is a show.' I think the Golden Globes do it the best."

The revamped bash is part of sweeping changes the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television brought in to draw bigger audiences to "a bigger show with bigger impact."

When the merged bash was announced last year, Academy chair Martin Katz pointed to the Golden Globes and British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards as worthy role models. He suggested that combining the power of Canadian A-listers for one big event would elevate the industry as a whole.

It's no surprise then that homegrown star power is a key part of this weekend's broadcast.

Martin Short adds Hollywood heft as show host and a slew of cross-border stars have been recruited to present trophies: Sandra Oh, Genevieve Bujold, Jay Baruchel, Adam Beach, James Cromwell and Catherine O'Hara among them.

Short, who hosted the Geminis in 1989, says he's intent on making the inaugural gala entertaining, noting that he might unleash "a song or two."

And he approves of the combined format, admitting that he's fed up with the seemingly endless parade of award shows in the United States.

"Why not put it under one umbrella," Short says in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles, where he is based.

"Down here there are too many award shows. I mean, when I was a kid there were the Oscars and the Emmys. And now there are five examples of the Oscars before the Oscars. So it does kind of upstage a little bit and make it a little less special than it used to be."

Colantoni's recently ended CTV cop series is a leading nominee in the TV categories, while the Oscar-nominated child soldier drama "Rebelle" ("War Witch") heads up the film contenders.

Shaw Media's content boss Barbara Williams says melding the best in film and TV strengthens both fields.

"I think our combined screen industry could really use the power and the weight of doing it all together at once," says Williams, whose company oversees Global and 18 specialty networks including Showcase, HGTV and History.

"Building a week of events and industry pieces around it was just a smart way to capitalize on everyone coming together for one night anyway so let's extend the experience a bit."

Still, there are plenty of people who say more could be done. Reality show guru John Brunton says "they've taken half-measures."

"If it was me, I'd go full-on Golden Globes," says Brunton, whose productions include TV reality series "Big Brother Canada," "Top Chef Canada" and "Intervention Canada."

"The Golden Globes is a great model. And it doesn't have comedy sketches and it doesn't have some disconnected rock band that comes out and plays a song for some reason."

He called for a free-wheeling dinner gala where guests could drink and watch a streamlined ceremony that only featured the top celeb-studded categories.

Others pressed for a more populist approach in the nominees list, where ratings and mainstream appeal held a bit more sway.

The Geminis were notably slammed for shutting out CTV's comedy smash "Corner Gas" in its final season while the Genies earned derision for largely ignoring Xavier Dolan's Cannes sensation, "I Killed My Mother."

This year's film contenders include the rude and crude hockey comedy "Goon," which producer Don Carmody suggests never would have made the cut under the old guard and signalled a move towards broader tastes.

"Goon" co-star and screenwriter Baruchel agreed.

"Had this movie come out even five years ago, it would have gotten love and respect from the places where it matters which is the Canadian ticket buyer, the average Canadian hockey fans who we made the flick for," says Baruchel, who is up for best supporting actor and best adapted screenplay prizes.

"But the sort of intelligentsia, this minority of people that determined for a long time in large part what NFB movies were made, what was on the CBC and what movies came out and then what movies got attention, I still don't think they take ownership of us."

Baruchel slammed the old Genies for being out of touch with the average movie-goer.

"It's just been the most Canadian in every respect, you know self-defeating, humble to a fault, but also degrees of sycophancy throughout. It's been the way that it has because, of course, how could it be our awards show and be anything else? That being said, if we pull it off this year and this is one that kids (care) about that's awesome," he says.

The bulk of the TV trophies were to be handed out in two non-televised industry bashes Wednesday and Thursday nights. More will be handed out in a pre-telecast ceremony immediately before Sunday's broadcast.

Baruchel says anything that boosts attention for Canuck film and TV gets his support, noting that he treasures recognition from his homeland.

"It means infinitely more than any award in any other country would because this is ours," he says.

The Canadian Screen Awards will be broadcast Sunday from Toronto on CBC-TV.


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