Oscar who?

Toronto Daily Reporter
Sat, May 1, 2004

Oscar who?

Genies won’t try to copy Hollywood’s hoopla By bruce Kirkland

The Genie Awards often have been called Canada’s answer to the Oscars.
“Who’s kidding who?” asks Paul Gratton, chairman of the Academy of
Canadian Cinema & Television and an executive at Bravo in the CHUM
Television group, which will broadcast the Genies live on a
cobbled-together, cross-Canada network. The action kicks off a 8
p.m. from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

“It’s not the Oscars,” Gratton says. “We don’t have the star power. We
don’t have the recognition factor.”


While Mayor David Miller has proclaimed this Genie Awards Day in
Toronto, that honour is limited. So CHUM, working with the Academy for
a year’s trial, will present the 24th Canadian film awards as a funky
party hosted by Kids In The Hall comic Scott Thompson.

“CHUM very specifically is trying to change the energy in the room,”
Gratton says, “and one of the first ways we did this was to emulate
the Independent Spirit Awards more than the Oscars.

“Let’s not try to do a traditional show. Let’s throw a party because
there is stuff to celebrate this year — honestly! The success in
Quebec is part of it, but the overall quality of the movies that we
had to evaluate — all bulls— aside — really was higher this year
than in some recent years.”

After what Gratton calls “the Ararat/Spider fiasco” of 2003, the
Academy also overhauled its faulty nomination procedures. Last year,
Atom Egoyan’s Ararat won as best picture, but Egoyan was not even
nominated as best director. David Cronenberg won as best director, but
his Spider masterwork was not even nominated as best
picture. Cronenberg complained bitterly about the injustices,
including the exclusion of his star, Ralph Fiennes, as a best-actor

“It was embarrassing,” Gratton says. “This system was flawed. David
Cronenberg was extremely upset about the results and this was one of
those cases where you say: ‘I don’t blame him.’

“So we re-invented that this year as well … There was far less
controversy this year. There were quirks, but there weren’t too many
things in there that were manifestly bizarre.”

Going into tonight’s awards, Quebec films — riding the crest of a
stellar year — dominate with the eccentric comedy Seducing Doctor
Lewis (La Grande Seduction) leading with 11 nominations. The Barbarian
Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares), which has already won the Oscar as
best foreign language film, and The Snow Walker, a B.C. production,
both have nine nominations. Also nominated as best picture are Owning
Mahowny and La Face Cachee De La Lune.


Says Gratton of the lineup: “There are at least three or four movies
that did not make the cut for the five best films that I think, in
numerous other years, would have. We’ve had some years where it was
hard to come up with five worthy best-picture nominees. This year, it
was not hard. So that’s worth celebrating and drawing attention to,
even if much of the audience is indifferent.

“This is really a re-invention of the Genies. I don’t think anyone
expects the bun to come out of the oven fully baked the first
year. So, what you want to see are elements that can be built
upon. You want to avoid a total disaster.

If it works, next year is the 25th anniversary, so it’s an important