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Toronto critics honour Monsieur Lazhar, Tree of Life

Other winners include Attack The Block and Take Shelter.

Philippe Falardeau, director of Canada’s Oscar submission for best foreign language film Monsieur Lazhar, was awarded C$15,000 in cash by the Toronto Film Critics Association as Rogers Best Canadian Film by comedian Andrea Martin at the 15th annual awards show last night.

“The $15,000 cash prize sets some time aside to write the next script,” Falardeau told Screen. “Monsieur Lazhar is coming out in two weeks so the timing couldn’t be better,” he noted during his thank you speech.

Monsieur Lazhar is about an unorthodox educator who helps teens come to terms with the suicide of their teacher.

The Quebec film beat A Dangerous Method, directed by David Cronenberg, who was on hand to present the Clyde Gilmour Award to the late movie maverick John Dunning whose Cinepix shingle produced the thrill-master’s early Rabid and Scanners.

“Cinepix was my film school and John was my teacher,” Cronenberg told Screen. “It was a fantastic time; it was a sexy time—it was the beginning of my career as a movie-maker, as opposed to a filmmaker.”

UK director Joe Cornish was in town to pick up two previously announced awards including Best First Feature, Attack the Block, a thriller in which a South London gang battles an alien invasion.

 “This is not the kind of film Britain usually makes,” Cornish quipped. “There’s coloured people in it and there’s no royals.”

As one of three writers as well as one of three executive producers on The Adventures of Tintin, Cornish also accepted the Best Animated Feature award, on behalf of director Steven Spielberg.

“As Steven Spielberg’s designated person, I could really fuck up my career right now,” he joked to a huge burst of laughter from the 250 film players in the historic Carlu venue. Regarding the film, he said: “They spent three years colouring it in and at no point did they go over the lines.”

After the event, Cornish told Screen he’d “never been to an event quite like this,” and was surprised by “what you might think would be opposite sides of the fence,” meaning critics and filmmakers celebrating together.

As previously announced, the Best Picture award went to The Tree of Life and Terrence Malick was named Best Director. TFCA president Brian D. Johnson told Screen that the critics appreciated it’s importance in addressing “birth, life, death and infinity.”

Take Shelter picked up two awards via Michael Shannon for Best Actor (as a father plagued by apocalyptic visions) and Jessica Chastain as Best Supporting Actress for her role as his conflicted spouse.

Toronto filmmaker Ingrid Veninger (i am a good person/i am a bad person) won the Jay Scott Prize (and $5,000 cash) for best emerging artist, and York University student Janice Lee won $5,000 in post-production services and the 2011 Deluxe Student Film Award for her short film faraway.

Other previously announced awards included:

Michelle Williams as Best Actress for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn.

Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners as an elderly man who comes out of the closet after learning he has terminal cancer.

Best Screenplay went to Moneyball, the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, story by Stan Chervin, based on the non-fiction book by Michael Lewis.

Two Chilean directors were also honoured. The late Raul Ruiz and his Mysteries of Lisbon was named Best Foreign-Language Film. And Best Documentary Feature was Nostalgia for the Light, Patricio Guzmán’s meditation on Chile’s Atacama Desert.

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