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March 8, 2013

Canadian film awards seeks moniker

Veteran American actor James Cromwell has charmed and terrified people in such diverse screen fare as “Babe” and “American Horror Story,” portrayed no less than four U.S. presidents and been nominated for many awards, including an Oscar and three Emmys.

Yet, as the towering 73-year-old muttered as he loped to the stage in Toronto Sunday night, he’s “never won anything.”

What exactly Cromwell won is a bit unclear. Officially, he won the Best Actor award for the film “Still Mine,” which has yet to be released in theaters in Canada or the United States. But the trophy the presenters handed him does not even have a name yet, being a newly created chunk of congratulatory hardware.

That televised gala was the debut of a brand new awards event in Canada, one melding the former television arts awards (Gemini) with those from the domestic film industry (Genie). It was called the Canadian Screen Awards, and the actual award ornament looks like some golden ghost in a flowing cloak with outstretched, beckoning arms.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television is mindful of the problematic anonymity of its new creation, and it’s opened up the virtual suggestion box for ideas to name the northern equivalent of the Golden Globes (though the foreign entertainment press have no vote.)

A couple of early entries are the “Martys” or the “Shorts” in honour of the estimable Martin Short. The perennial Hollywood funnyman and native of Hamilton, Ontario, took on the risky task of hosting the inaugural show and, thanks to some well-timed zingers and the appearance of two of his best-loved characters, Jiminy Glick and Ed Grimly, received rave reviews.

One of those wisecracks took aim at Ben Affleck, whose film Argo won the Oscar for best picture but in Canada stirred controversy and even anger for how it minimized the true role of Canadian diplomats in freeing the hostages in Tehran. Quipped Short: “I flew in on Air Canada — or as Ben Affleck calls it, American Airlines.”

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