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Crash-ing Brokeback Mountain
or: Where are the Genie Awards controversies


The Oscars enjoyed an unusual degree of controversy this year. In a year where critics seemed giddy at the respectability of the Oscars, as all of the films nominated in the Best Picture category were seen as serious, thought provoking films dealing unflinchingly with serious topics, critics initially had seemed almost ecstatic.

Sadly, I guess though all issues are equal...some are more equal than others.

When the night ended, the racism drama Crash had won Best Picture, beating out sentimental favourite, the gay cowboy drama, Brokeback Mountain. Frankly, one would be inclined to think the choice was based on no more controversial a factor than that the voters couldn't decide which to give the award to. And so they flipped a coin. After all, each movie won for best script (one for original screenplay, the other for adapted screenplay) which left only two major awards to divvy between them -- director and picture. Since the common wisdom is that the best picture should also win best director, the fact that Brokeback Mountain won for director and Crash for picture probably hints that the voters tried to find a compromise, by dividing the spoils down the middle -- the message: both films were worthy efforts. (So why not give Brokeback Mountain the Best Picture and Crash the Best Director...probably because Brokeback Mountain was directed by a veteran director beloved by the academy, while Crash was directed by a television-bred interloper).

If that were the case, if it was intended as a nice compromise, it backfired. No sooner had the night ended then, apparently, controversy erupted. Brokeback Mountain fans were furious their film didn't win. Apparently one webmaster, so incensed, announced he would no longer up-date his movie site he was so disgusted with Hollywood.

I'll admit, the fuss left me rather bemused. I mean, awards are all very fine -- fun to watch, great to win -- but they're hardly anything to get worked up about. Not only can I probably point to dozens of movies and performances over the years that I felt should've won and didn't...I can point to hundreds more that never even got nominated (I mean, William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban were robbed -- ROBBED, I say -- in 1982)! I just don't see awards as being something you can take that seriously. I don't mean that to be disrespectful. I just mean, awards simply reflect an opinion -- a consensus opinion, but an opinion nonetheless. Applaud when your favourite wins. Gripe when your favourite loses. Have fun debating the winners and losers. But don't lose your head about it.

Personally, I haven't yet seen Brokeback Mountain, but the commercials looked slow as molasses, and I only just saw Crash and, to be frank, I thought Crash was a somewhat...um...problematic effort. But that's just me.

The irony in the controversy is that prior to its win, critics had been heralding Crash as a great, challenging film. But now that it's beat out Brokeback Mountain, people seem to be attacking it as trite and safe. But really, since both movies tackle issues, shouldn't it be considered nice that either won?

Actually, lets simply say what everyone's thinking. Everyone who thought Crash was better than Brokeback Mountain is homophobic, and everyone who thought Brokeback Mountain was better than Crash is racist. And we can all pat ourselves on the back for our tolerance in loving our "challenging" movie, secure in our knowledge that anyone who disagrees with us is a Nazi. There. Everyone happy?

Nah. I didn't think so.

But this rather long, somewhat mocking into leads me into talking about the Canada's Genie awards. You see, as much as I think the controversy over the Oscars was overwrought and a tad silly, what's nice is that people even got worked up about it. And that's something you just don't usually see with the Genie Awards -- an award ceremony where most of the English-speaking public has never even heard of the nominees, let alone seen them. Let alone care.

Don't misunderstand. Every year there's usually at least one movie that everyone's happy with. This year C.R.A.Z.Y. took more than half the awards, and critics generally seemed to feel it deserved it. But surely an awards show should be something else.

Like, I dunno, a competition!

Usually, going into a Genie awards, there is a clear front runner in every category, and the other nominees are just there to fill out the ballot. Or, barring that, there's an assumed winner-by-default who gets the nod simply because it was a slightly more high profile movie than the other, largely unknown films. For instance, this year, Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies won for best adapted script -- a movie that, as near as I can tell, was a commercial failure and received mixed, fairly lukewarm reviews. Lukewarm reviews...and it still walked away an award winner!

I've remarked before that people sometimes seem to get nominated at Canadian awards shows just for showing up on time. But shouldn't a list of nominees be names that excite you? That get you interested? That have you wrestling, even with yourself? "Oh, I sure hope so-and-so wins...then again, whosis was really good, too. Okay, so-and-so or whosis -- those are my choices. Although, whatsisface practically broke my heart with that scene in..."

You see my point?

Maybe I'm being unfair -- well, I know I am. But there's just a feeling with the Genie Awards (and their TV cousins, the Geminis), that it's an award show in search of something to celebrate. When one movie can sweep most of the awards, clearly the inference is the competition is a bit thin. When critics can rarely be bothered to write op-ed pieces, analyzing the nominees and who should/shouldn't/would win; when fans can't be bothered to get incensed, or write angry blogs about how so-and-so was snubbed, or how whosis only won because of politics, what seems to be missing is an awards show that is truly celebrating the best and the brightest...because the best and the brightest should inflame passions, among critics and viewers.

But, then, what do I know? Most years, whether were talking Genies or Oscars, the people I'd vote for often don't even get nominated.

That's all for now,
The Masked Movie Critic

May 6, 2006

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