Canadian Screen Awards kick off with comedy sketch and brisk, hostless format

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TORONTO — The Canadian Screen Awards kicked off in quippy Canuck style Sunday with a comedy sketch on homegrown celebrities involving the cast of “Baroness von Sketch Show,” singer Jann Arden and actor Jerry O’Connell.

The “Baroness” women — in the vino-guzzling personas of their Red Wine Ladies sketches — were imbibing and gossiping about Canadian stars in a backstage lounge area of Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts when they were joined by Arden, star of the new CTV series “Jann,” and O’Connell, of “Billions” fame.

Actor Andrew Phung of “Kim’s Convenience” also joined them in the introductory skit before kicking off the festivities onstage, noting this year’s show didn’t have a host and boasting how 60 per cent of the films nominated were directed by women.

Drag queen Tynomi Banks appeared on stage alongside Phung, serving as the “party ambassador.”

CSA organizers chose not to have a host this year in a bid to experiment with the awards-show format, which resulted in a brisk pace at the start.

Early winners included Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse, stars of CTV’s detective drama “Cardinal: Blackfly Season.”

In a tearful speech, Virginia-born Campbell thanked the local cast and crew of northern Ontario, where the show is filmed.

“I’m a Yank and I’m particularly grateful for Canada being Canada these days,” he said.

The show capped off a week of ceremonies in which the bulk of the trophies were handed out.

At a gala earlier Sunday, Maxime Giroux’s allegorical drama “The Great Darkened Days” took a leading five film awards, including best cinematography for Sara Mishara and best supporting actress for Sarah Gadon. The surreal wartime story, which follows a Quebecois draft dodger who works as a Charlie Chaplin impersonator in the American southwest, was also up for three more awards to be handed out later in the evening, including best director.

Nabbing two awards apiece were Daniel Roby’s disaster thriller “Just a Breath Away” and Robert Budreau’s “Stockholm,” which stars Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace in a drama based on the 1973 hostage crisis in the Swedish capital.

“Stockholm” took best adapted screenplay while the comedy “Slut in a Good Way” won best original screenplay.

Other early film winners included Nicholas de Pencier for best cinematography on “Anthropocene: The Human Epoch,” and the Oscar-nominated animated short “Animal Behaviour” by Vancouver-based couple Alison Snowden and David Fine, and their producer, Michael Fukushima.

Another Oscar nominee, Jeremy Comte’s “Fauve,” won best live action short drama.

Best supporting actor went to Richard Clarkin for the 1970s-era drama “The Drawer Boy,” which is an adaptation of Michael Healey’s stage play and is directed by Arturo Perez Torres and Aviva Armour-Ostroff.

Charlie Tyrell won best documentary short for “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” and Geneviève Dulude-De Celles took the John Dunning best first feature film award for the coming-of-age drama “A Colony.”

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television administers the awards, which honour Canadian talent in film, television and digital media in 135 categories.

Earlier this week, the CBC series “Anne with an E” and the CTV detective drama “Cardinal: Blackfly Season” got a leading five awards.

“Anne with an E,” which is inspired by Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel “Anne of Green Gables,” won honours including best supporting actor for R.H. Thomson and best supporting actress for Geraldine James.

“Cardinal”‘s wins included best limited series as well as honours for direction and writing.

Comedy star Mary Walsh received the Earle Grey Award for her body of work during Sunday’s show, while Deepa Mehta was to get the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe showed up to get the Academy Icon Award, and actor Stephan James was to receive the inaugural Radius Award, which goes to a Canadian making waves globally.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press