The Oscars, the Genies and the French

The Oscar juggernaut and ways to avoid awards show buzzery

The biggest movie story of the weekend is, of course, the 82nd annual Academy Awards on Sunday night – or it would be, if everything didn’t feel so predetermined.

Avatar, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Christoph Waltz, Mo’Nique, Kathryn Bigelow, we’re done.

I’m still hoping A Prophet snatches the foreign-language prize out from The White Ribbon, but that category never goes the way I want it to. At this point, I’m more interested to see whether the Animated Feature category breaks toward Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up or Coraline.

I’ll be live-tweeting the ceremonies at @nowtoronto, so follow me there as of 8 pm EST. (And come back to the NOW Daily pages on Monday afternoon for a post-mortem podcast, where Susan G. Cole and I will surely find something on which to disagree.)

The Oscar juggernaut has overshadowed the announcement earlier this week of the Genie nominations – though I can’t really say I’m surprised that they were buried. Avatar made more money in its first weekend than all of the Genie nominees combined, and that’s just one of the studio titles being splattered across every TV screen, magazine cover and newspaper in North America this week. Much as the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television might like to spin something like Kari Skogland’s Fifty Dead Men Walking as a major motion picture, it just can’t compete.

But it’s gratifying to see Denis Villeneuve’s Polytechnique lead the pack, with 11 nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress it deserves every accolade it reaps, and I’m happy to see the Genies embrace not just that film but also Charles Officer’s daring (if problematic) drama Nurse. Fighter. Boy, and remember Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool with key nominations for Director, Screenplay and actor Stephen McHattie. I guess we’re still not at the point where a zombie movie rates a Best Picture nomination, but it’s their loss.

The Genies will be handed out on April 12th in Toronto. Most of the nominated films are readily available on DVD, if you feel like catching up.

If you’d rather carve out an oasis from all the awards buzzery, get thee down to the AMC Yonge & Dundas this weekend for Cinéfranco’s Jeune Cinema program. Eight films, featuring young characters (or issues concerning young people) will screen over two days, offering a sampling of the full Cinéfranco program coming later this month as well as a few exclusive titles.

Skirt Day (Saturday, 5 pm) stars Isabelle Adjani as a frazzled teacher who triggers a hostage situation in her classroom the venerable Costa-Gavras delivers Eden Is West (Saturday, 9:15 pm), a surprisingly light-hearted tale of an illegal immigrant (Riccardo Scamarcio, star of My Brother Is An Only Child) trying to make his way across Europe to Paris. And Philippe Lioret’s Welcome (Sunday, 5:30 pm) is another immigration story, following the relationship between a middle-aged Calais swimming instructor (Vincent Lindon) and a young Kurd (Firat Ayverdi) plotting to swim the English Channel.

Any one (or two) of those will take you to a world removed from awards campaigns and Oscar pools. As long as you don’t accidentally wander into Crazy Heart one auditorium over, of course.[rssbreak]

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