I sat down yesterday night to watch the documentary everyone’s talking about, Framing Britney Spears. As a streaming subscription addict, I was confident I would be able to find it somewhere. I looked at its distributors and did the US-to-Canada mental conversion. While a US Hulu release usually spells months of delays here (see Palm Springs), its FX broadcast would surely mean that my FX Canada subscription through Teksavvy TV (yep, that’s a thing) had me covered. Alas, that uniquely Canadian feeling of missing out set in as I went from service to service in vain. Eventually I finished my popcorn and accepted that I had to wait or bend the law to join the conversation. When I saw the recent TFCA nominations, I realized this feeling would follow most of my awards-season catch-up.
The Struggles of the Canadian Cinephile
This indulgent intro is just means to say that struggling to find talked-about movies is a common issue in Canada. With a pandemic and the fall of cinemas plaguing this awards season, reading nomination lists has become tedious. You see a bunch of titles you’ve heard a lot about but have no idea how to watch. The TFCA nominations (Toronto Film Critics Association) this past weekend were no different.
The TFCA nominations press release last Sunday announced wins in the internationally eligible categories. These include Best Film and Best Documentary, as well as Best Lead and Supporting Performances. The announcement also included nominations for Louise Archambault’s And the Birds Rained Down (Il pleuvait des oiseaux), Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft, and Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas’ White Lie for the Rogers’ Best Canadian Film Award. The TFCA will announce the winner as part of their virtual gala on March 9th.
Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland led with three awards, winning Best Film and Best Director, as well as Best Lead Actress for Frances McDormand. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t caught it yet. Nomadland isn’t set to release on streaming till Feb. 19th, and even then it’s only coming to Hulu stateside. Half the awards went to movies that haven’t had a Canadian release yet, like Sundance winner Minari and the documentary Collective. On the other hand, for Best Canadian Film the nominees are all films that were part of TIFF’s lineup two years ago, although the buzziest title, Anne at 13,000 ft, still isn’t available anywhere online.
An Awards Season for the In-Crowd
It’s just part of an awards season where you can only see films if you have access to a screener. It is worth noting the many nominations for streaming-only titles. Films like Sound of Metal and The Forty-Year-Old-Version, as well as Sundance premieres like Never Rarely Sometimes Always and First Cow, would typically be forgotten by the time awards season rolls around. The delay of prestige dramas like Spielberg’s West Side Story to late 2021 has helped open up the playing field for films like these to get big nominations. At the same time, it’s hard to get excited about an awards narrative that we’re writing in a vacuum.
As I alluded to earlier, that vacuum is nothing new, especially for Canadians. However, the pandemic has shown what a sticking point it actually is in the relationship between critics, distributors, and audiences. The SAG, Golden Globes, and LA Film Critics Association have also nominated scarcely available content. The success of streaming services this past year won’t necessarily mean easier access to major awards content, especially Canadian content. We still have a ways to go this awards season, and maybe soon these movies will be more available. However, it will be interesting to see how much these awards will affect the Oscar nominations, announced March 15th.