I wrote this just after the Gemini Award nominations were announced, but, due to one thing or another, never got around to posting it. Now that the Gemini Awards were actually handed out last night, this reflection on the nominees is a bit late. But I'll post it anyway (with appropriate revisions mentioning some of the winners)...
I'm writing this because someone might as well comment on the recent announcement of the 19th annual Canadian TV Gemini Awards nominees. Whenever high profile US awards are announced -- Oscars, Emmies, even the Tonys for goodness sake (awards that only apply to plays shown in New York, yet nonetheless garner international notice even though must commentators will never see the productions in question) -- there are plenty of columnists ready to play back seat judge. Yet the Canadian awards -- Genies, Geminis, etc. -- tend not to elicit the same post mortem analysis.
Maybe they do, but not so that I've readily noticed leafing through various newspapers at the local library. The coverage tends to be pretty much of the "just the facts, ma'am" variety -- who was nominated and for what. One paper did something more passionate...but it seemed, at a quick glance, to be more an ironic joke. Not only did it not seem to really care who was and wasn't nominated, but it seemed to be mocking the notion that anyone should care. But it was just a quick glance, so I may've misunderstood (I was racing the parking meter). In one article I read, the writer was so out of touch with the material that they described the movie, The Investigation, as being about the serial killer of prostitutes in Vancouver...when it was about the equally notorious Cillford Olsen killings of years ago. The same article also listed Paul Gross as having been nominated 14 times over the years...uh, has Paul Gross even appeared in 14 TV productions?
Overall, there's little of the enthusiasm ("good to see so-and-so receive some recognition") or outrage ("how could they have nominated ___ while ignoring the brilliance of ___") that would accompany the much sexier US awards shows.
Oh, there was some raising of eyebrows that This is Wonderland garnered numerous nominations in various categories...but none for Best Drama Series.
Of course, the reason for the lack of in depth analysis is that often Canadian film and TV critics aren't really familiar with the programs being nominated and so can't comment. Really! It's not just the Canadian public that misses these shows. Granted, this is more true of movies than TV, but it still is probably a factor. And I freely admit that I'm not intimately familiar with every thing being nominated. Even when I've seen a series in question, I might not have seen the specific episode, or guest actor appearance, that is actually being nominated. As such, I'll try to refrain from criticizing the choices for nominees, and instead comment on who wasn't on the list...but maybe should've been. Or some particularly good choices that were made.
So, for starters: well, I've already alluded to it. This is Wonderland not being nominated for Best Series? What's behind that, eh? Of those that were nominated, Slings & Arrows (a mini-series, not even a series) is really the only serious contender. If they felt the list was getting too big, they could've bumped one of the others to make room for This is Wonderland. Of course, I'm biased. I think This is Wonderland is arguably the best show. Cynic that I am, I can't help thinking that those in the biz feel that way too, and that's why it wasn't nominated. It would be embarrassing if, after years of critics browbeating us with claims that DaVinci's Inquest and The Eleventh Hour are great shows, a show that really is good steam rolled over them in its first year. So, maybe they decided not to give it the opportunity by denying it a nomination. But I'm cynical. (For the record: DaVinci's Inquest won Best Series)
I'm a little baffled by the failure to nominate Amy Price-Francis of Snakes & Ladders as a Best Actress in a Continuing Dramatic Role. Her co-star, Catherine Disher, got the nod instead. I would've said, of the two, Price-Francis (who was top billed) was the Lead, so maybe Disher (who's a fine actress, I ain't disputing that) should've been nominated for Supporting Actress. But if they felt Disher was in too big a part for that, maybe both should've been nominated in the lead category (two guys from the Eleventh Hour are nominated in the Best Guy category). (Disher won, FYI)
Cara Pifko can't complain, being nominated as Best Actress in a Continuing Role for This is Wonderland, and Supporting Actress for Human Cargo...but surely her part in Human Cargo warranted a Leading nomination? Of course, that would've put her in competition with co-star Kate Nelligan...but since when is that a factor? Besides, the Best Actress in a Drama or Mini-Series was woefully shy of names and could've used some extra competitors (only three nominees -- which presumably says something disturbing about the dearth of starring roles for women in TV movies and mini-series). (Diane D'Aquila won Best Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series for Elizabeth Rex)
I'm particularly pleased to see Doug McGrath getting a nomination as Guest Star for his emotionally charged turn as an homosexual being threatened with eviction in an episode of This is Wonderland. This is Wonderland seems to account for a number of the guest star nominations (male and female) and I have no problem with any of them, or a few dozen others, besides, that could also have warranted nominations, such as Gary Farmer in another episode, an actor who can speak volumes with silence. I'm not sure what the time frame is for the Gemini nominations, but since the TV movie Open Heart received a number of nominations, and it only aired a couple of days before the Gemini announcements, I'm guessing it's pretty up to date. As such, The Collector might offer up a couple of worthy nominees. The Collector isn't a great series, but it seemed to be improving bit by bit, and it does offer a good showcase for Guest Star actors. Tom McBeath, as a man creating his own little Adam and Eve in miniature, was memorable, and Winston Rekert was fun in another episode, proving that 15 or so years after winning a Gemini for Adderly, he can still play the loveable rogue better than most. Matthew Walker was also memorable in an episode of Jeremiah (proving, in a series -- nominally -- about young people, a grey-haired guy can still steal a few scenes).
Despite the number of This is Wonderland nominations, Richard Chevolleau won Best Male Guest Star for an episode of The Eleventh Hour.
I was also glad to see Diana LeBlanc nominated for her Guest appearance in Snakes & Ladders -- that particular episode's politics were unfortunate, but LeBlanc's performance was a stand out. (Nicky Guadagni won for an episode of Blue Murder)
The Geminis have often included a few token nominees from the big-budget, sci-fi series that are usually produced with US partners (Andromeda, Mutant X). Usually I have some qualms with them, because the nominees are so obviously tokens (you don't really expect them to win) and the shows themselves just aren't that good. This year, though, there seems to be none nominated. But as much as I object to any blatant pandering, neither should the Geminis get too wrapped up in élitist snobbery by deliberately excluding them. Peter Stebbings has generally done fine work in the sci-fi drama Jeremiah, and a Supporting Actor nod wouldn't be out of place.
Curiously, the Best Individual Performance in a Comedy ignored the sitcoms entirely, yet gave two nominations to Gavin Crawford for two separate sketch comedy shows. Uh, nothing against Crawford (who did, indeed, win) but two nominations in the same category for essentially doing the same thing? What about Corner Gas' Lorne Cardinal or Fred Ewaniuk. Or even one of the puppets from Puppets Who Kill (seriously, there is an actor delivering a genuine performance under the velcro and stuffing). I'd probably give a nod to Cuddles, though Buttons is a close second.
To be honest, awards for Canadian film and TV (whether the Genies or the Geminis) can be problematic -- there just aren't that many productions to choose from, and even the staunchest defender of Canadiana would admit what's out there isn't always inspiring. Often, the cynic might argue, it seems an actor can earn a nomination just for showing up on time. A nominee should excite you, should inflame your enthusiasm -- certainly the winner should. But too often, the categories are comprised of a lot of people who have done good work, competent work, but it should be more. I like Nicholas Campbell, for instance, but I'll confess I barely remembered he was even in Human Cargo until I saw his name listed in the nominees. Co-star and fellow nominee Bayo Akinfemi certainly delivered a performance that left a greater impression. (The winner of the Male Lead in a Movie or Mini-Series was Brent Carver for Elizabeth Rex).
I'll admit that many of the names I've suggested I haven't really considered in depth, or dissected every tick and nuance of their performance. What I went by was just a general impression, in the sense that, if, months later, I can still reflect back on the role, then the actor must've been doing something right.
So I just thought someone should consider who was and wasn't nominated, and why. And to point out just some of the neglected performances you should keep an eye out for in reruns.
That's all for now,
The Masked Movie Critic
Dec. 14, '04
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