“My rock bottom is still your wildest dreams” .. but Canadian Screen Awards at least a start

Mar 5th, 2013 | By | Category: In Brief

Host Martin Short, left, and Kristin Kreuk present an award at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on Sunday, March 3, 2013. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS).

This past Sunday night, in between David Starkey’s tidy explanations of the start of the authentic British (as opposed to just English) monarchy, on TV Ontario, and the premiere episode of Vikings on the History Channel, we dipped into the first Canadian Screen Awards on CBC.

A half dozen domestic headlines —  from the Pacific to the Atlantic — summarize certain essentials : “Rebelle with a cause …  Quebec film wins best picture, director, screenplay and seven other honours” ; “Rebelle wins big at first Canadian Screen Awards” ; “The highs and (many) lows from the Canadian Screen Awards” ; “Martin Short makes Canadian Screen Awards a night to remember” ; “Prix Écrans canadiens — Nguyen rentre de Toronto auréolé” ; and “Martin Short muses about hosting the Oscars” (spoiler alert : he thinks “it’s a tough, daunting situation” — regardless of how well you’ve done at the first Canadian Screen Awards).

Murdoch Mysteries : a Canadian TV series that some of us actually do know about, but that no one important apparently wanted to honour at the Canadian Screen Awards 2013. Maybe like NCIS in the USA today?

My own first reaction, watching perhaps the last third of the thing, was that it was better than I thought it might have been — and that Martin Short, at least in Canada an iconic Canadian who has made good in the United States where it really counts, certainly did a great job. Of course, when Andrew Ryan at the Globe and Mail (eg) asks “Has anybody in Canada actually seen War Witch” [the English name for the winning Quebec film, Rebelle, about a 12-year-old African girl mixed up in civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo], he is making just one of many telling critiques. But Scott Stinson’s Postmedia News report in the Vancouver Sun may be telling another small truth : “if the show was lacking several things, it was at least a start.”

It is, no doubt, hard to watch such things without recalling some version of Robertson Davies’s memorable apercu : “Some countries you love. Some countries you hate. Canada is a country you worry about.” And having just heard (and watched) David Starkey’s account of how James VI of Scotland finally became James I of England on March 24, 1603, uniting at least the English and Scottish crowns, it was hard not to remember how Jay Leno once explained on his TV show that he understood Canada, because his mother was Scottish.

Winnipeg after snowstorm, January 2005.

It similarly struck me that Martin Short’s most memorable quip of the evening came when, having lost “in the two categories for which he was personally nominated … he faked being a gracious loser …  ‘Just remember,’ he said to those who beat him …  ‘my rock bottom is still your wildest dreams.’” Whatever else, he can return to his house in Pacific Palisades, California, knowing that he still doesn’t have to shovel snow in Hamilton, Ontario ever again.

I nonetheless came away from the first Canadian Screen Awards of 2013 still suffering from the delusion that Canada actually does have some kind of potential future as what South Park and so forth call a “real country.” Not at all as weighty and hefty as the friendly giant next door, of course. (And as Martin Short also quipped this past  Sunday night : “I flew in on Air Canada, or as Ben Affleck calls it, American Airlines.”) But as some kind of independent aboriginal, bilingual, and multicultural place that, along with sensible health care and stable financial systems, has a creative vitality which more or less usefully supplements the vaster regional perceptions of Hollywood, Bollywood, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Melbourne, and on and on, throughout the increasingly complex global village of the challenging 21st century that lies ahead! O Canada, terre de nos aieux / Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux / etc (or, as the SCTV graduate Mr. Short satirically intoned in this case, “the greatest country on the face of the Earth”).

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