Dirties director Matt Johnson.
As organizers of the Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA) awards gala continue to ponder the pros and cons of making the bash a TV event, let me weigh in: Don't do it.
It would be awful to lose the spontaneity that makes the champagne-fuelled ceremony such a gas. Unlike the January 6 New York City festivities disrupted by CityArts writer Armond White, last night's party had no heckling by any of the TFCA's critics. The event went one better, creating opportunities for hilarious and poignant speeches from the podium.
Mind you, Jennifer Baichwal and Ed Burtynsky, winners of the $100,000 - courtesy of Rogers - best Canadian feature prize for Watermark, were so surprised they could barely speak.
And you want Don McKellar at your party. He and Kim Cattrall, both soon to star in the TV show Sensitive Skin, were a hysterical pair, feigning ineptness at first. That was until McKellar did his usual mock-the-sponsors routine, referring to Jay Scott as Scotiabank Jay and Clyde Gilmour as Technicolor Clyde, name-checking the sponsors of the prizes doled out in the names of the two iconic Canuck critics.
Matt Johnson, director and star of The Dirties, accepting his emerging filmmaker award, looked like the McKellar of the future, shamelessly hitting on presenter Sarah Gadon like a star-struck schoolboy (he was joking) and referring to Atom Egoyan as a badass director, as if he didn't know who he was. Channelling Bruce McDonald, who famously promised to buy drugs with the $25,000 best Canadian feature award he won at TIFF in 1989 for Roadkill, Johnson said his $5,000 would get him a big chunk of hash.
Look out for this guy. He's gonna be huge.
Speaking of McDonald, the night took a sombre turn when he presented the inaugural Peter Wintonick Prize for documentary filmmaking to Wintonick's daughter, Mira Burt-Wintonick, to help complete the film she was working on with her dad when he died. McDonald bungled the presentation, crediting Wintonick for making Manufactured Landscapes instead of Manufacturing Con-sent, but redeemed himself by adding $1,000 of his own to the prize winnings and urging others in the audience to step up.
Burt-Wintonick received the evening's most sustained applause for her heartfelt speech thanking the association and honouring her father.
Norman Jewison, who won the Clyde Gilmour Award for his contribution to Canadian cinema, accepted via video and wryly commented on how amazing it was to receive the award from the TFCA: "I don't think I've ever received a good review from a Toronto critic in my life."
The written acceptances were also full of wit. American screenplay writer Spike Jonze (Her) addressed "my fellow Canadians" and went on as if he were from Mississauga, and the Coen brothers, directors of TFCA's best picture choice, Inside Llewyn Davis, also pursued a Canadian theme. Referring to the pic's wintry setting, they wrote, "We would have been disappointed if a warmer movie had won the award."
TFCA president Brian Johnson opened the proceedings by confirming that he's leaving his post at Maclean's, where he'll continue to blog regularly and review less frequently, which gave many presenters and winners - and NOW's Norman Wilner - reason to send tributes his way.
It's unfortunate that so many of the winners failed to attend - though, given the airport crisis, they probably wouldn't have made it anyway. Would they have planned to make the trip if TV cameras had been on the scene, turning the gala into a central component of their Oscar campaigns?
I say it doesn't matter. Reading this may make you wish you could have seen everything for yourself. But my guess is that if it had been a TV show, very little of the above would have happened.