For Your Consideration

With the Genie Awards fast approaching, now is the time for Academy members such as myself to get reams of material in the mail, soliciting my vote for my favourite Canadian movies of 2003 that I never actually saw. As you may have noted in my previous entry, I’m a tad cynical about the awards process.

In past years, I haven’t even returned my ballot, quite correctly figuring that I wasn’t qualified to offer an opinion if I hadn’t seen all the nominees. But then, why shouldn’t my vote count when I’ve probably seen way more of the films in question than most of the people who are voting? What an unfortunate conundrum to have to deal with. I can’t believe I pay annual dues for the privilege of being faced with such a moral dilemma.

This year however, I think I’ve struck upon a sure-fire system to determine who gets my vote. I want to make it perfectly, publicly clear right here and now: I’m open to bribery. “For your consideration” indeed. You want my consideration? Gimme swag! You want my vote? Fine. It’s for sale. Buy it.

Now, I’m not suggesting nominees start delivering envelopes stuffed with cash to my doorstep. Let’s be realistic here. A Genie win isn’t going to earn your movie any extra box office. As a Canadian film, your little piece of celluloid is doomed to financial ruin from the start. But the trophy looks kinda cool, doesn’t it? Want one? Then buy my vote. It can be purchased very inexpensively.

Since it’s such an incredible pain in the ass to screen all these great Canadian epics during the fleeting moments they’re actually in the theatres, I want screeners. Simple enough, isn’t it? American Academy members get all sorts of screener copies of their nominated films. So much so, it’s become a major piracy issue. But not so in Canada. You think we get copies of all the movies sent to our doorstep? No way! On average, I get maybe one copy of one movie sent to me by a particularly enterprising production company. That’s it. And that’s gotta change.

So I’m saying right here, right now, if you want me to vote for your movie, send out copies to the members. I will vote for any nominated Canadian movie that arrives on my doorstep in a timely fashion, regardless of the actual quality of the film. If I get copies of two movies nominated in the same category, I will give preferential treatment to ones on DVD as opposed to video. Should they both be on DVD… Well then, I guess I’ll just have to watch them and pick the one I genuinely think is better. But hopefully it won’t come to that.

Act now, the clock is ticking. There’s no clear frontrunner because so far I have yet to receive even that one token screener. You can earn extra points with pretty packaging, but save the full colour fliers, movie posters, and critic quotes. I won’t read any of that crap and neither will my recycling box.

And The Winners Aren’t…

I should mention that the Writers Guild Award finalists have been announced. You may remember that I was drafted as a first round judge to sort through the various nominees in the comedy/variety category. The resulting list of finalists is both utterly expected and jaw-droppingly shocking to me.

The Made in Canada episodes I voted for all made the final cut. No surprise there. It’s a fantastic show, and I know I’m not alone in loving it. But as for the other material, I can’t help but notice that the script I gave the single highest recommendation to did not earn a nomination. That means the other two anonymous first-round judges out there had to have given it a dismally low rating. I’d like to think this is just a simple difference of opinion, but I can guess at the real reason. They didn’t read the script.

Admittedly, when I saw this entry (which shall go nameless here) on the pile, my expectations were low. In fact, I saved it for last because I so dreaded having to even give it a fair shake. Well, it turned out to be the freshest one of the lot, brimming with quality material, and genuinely funny. It so clearly stood out from the rest of the entries, many of which were mediocre, a few of which were truly awful, that aside from giving it top marks, I also mentioned it again by name when I turned in my ratings.

The fact that this script ended up slipping through the cracks leads me to believe that the other judges made the same initial assumption I did – only they never gave it the benefit of a unbiased read.

But this is hardly scandalous. You may be utterly unsurprised to learn that this is how most awards are divvied out. Politics and perceptions decide who gets which trophy, not the actual merit of the piece in question. I’m going through the exact same scenario again right now.

Last week I received my ballot for the 24th Annual Genie Awards. There’s a number of movies I can vote for in a variety of categories. Have I seen them all? Of course not. Am I required to see them all before I vote? Again, of course not. Oh sure, they suggest you go see them before you vote, but do you think anyone actually does? These are Canadian movies after all. Good for you if you manage to catch them in that narrow one or two week window of opportunity when they play locally. But most Academy members won’t. We have the option of dragging our asses all the way down to the Academy offices to borrow tapes of the nominees, but who’s really going to bother to make that trip a dozen times when we’re only allowed a maximum of three at a time and they have to be returned the next day? Even Blockbuster will cut you a better deal than that.

So once again, the best in Canadian film this year will be determined by a bunch of industry professionals who haven’t seen jack shit. Let me make a bold prediction right now and say The Barbarian Invasions will clean up. Not because it’s the best Canadian movie of the year – it may well be, but who the hell has seen enough of the other releases to know for sure – but because the American Academy already gave it an Oscar for best foreign language film. They made the call for us, so now we don’t even have to think about it.

And that’s great, really. It makes our job so much easier. Now we don’t have to mark our ballots while trying to decide between a bunch of movies we haven’t seen and probably haven’t even heard of. We have a ready-made favourite. But God help us when it comes to picking anything in a category The Barbarian Invasions hasn’t been nominated in. Then we’re screwed.