Langfield Entertainment
88 Bloor Street E., Suite 2908, Toronto, ON  M4W 3G9
(416) 677-5883


Updated:  January 26, 2006

Well, the votes are in and the Conservatives won a minority government.  Guess we'll have to see what this means for the arts community. 

Welcome back to the new and improved format full of your entertainment news - some really EXCITING news featuring Canadian artists that we all know and love.  Check out the scoop under TOP STORIES

This week brings you another opportunity to win yet another CD from Sony/BMG - for the gospel fans in the house.  First three to respond and tell me one of the featured artists on WOW Gospel 2006 WIN

The Show brought their brand of magic to The Drake last weekend - check out my pics in my PHOTO GALLERY.  

Tons of news including Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.


KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre

KUUMBA means Creativity in Swahili.  Celebrate African Heritage Month with Kuumba at Harbourfront Centre! Two fun-filled weekends of music, film, concerts, workshops, kid’s activities, discussion panels and more await you beginning Thursday, February 2nd!

Highlights include a rare live appearance by UK film and music legend Don Letts, the Canadian Reggae Music Summit, Showcase and After party, and the Donné Roberts CD release party.   Calypso legends Lord Superior, Mighty Sparrow, and Calypso Rose participate in a panel discussion, workshops on Caribbean Indigenous and African contemporary dance, culinary demonstrations with Chef Dwight Boswell and a celebrity

Cook-up with MuchMusic VJ Matte Babel and singer/songwriter Jully Black are also scheduled.  

For more information
the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit

All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto), and are free unless otherwise noted.


Kuumba edition

Two jam-packed weekends filled with celebration
for African Heritage Month await you at
Valerie Wilson WesleyHarbourfront Centre!


Join us for Kuumba, a festival of food, film, readings, panel discussions, concerts, kid’s activities and more!

Visit the website at or call 416-973-4000 for more details. See you then!

Kuumba Film
Screenings include Don Letts’ Sun Ra: Brother from Another Planet, La-Fabri-K, documenting the hip-hop scene in Cuba, footage of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1977 performance at London’s Rainbow Theatre, Breakin’ In: The Making of a Hip Hop Video Dancer, and Calypso at Dirty Jim’s.

Kuumba Speaks
A Caribbean Comedy Night hosted by comedy legend Kenny Robinson and featuring Jean Paul (Comedy Inc.) and
La-Fabri-KMark Trinidad, a Coalition of African Canadian Organization summit on community self-sufficiency to youth violence and an exclusive artist talk with UK music and film legend Don Letts are all on the schedule. Hear and be heard!

Kuumba Reads
Contributors to Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing, including George Elliott Clarke and Lorna Goodison explore various themes that define and illuminate the meaning of being black. Hosted by Donna Bailey Nurse, Editor. A Different Booklist co-produces the Kuumba Black Book Fair: complete with a reading with internationally best selling mystery author Valerie Wilson Wesley, book signings and a comic creation workshop.

Kuumba Moves
Bang a drumCaribbean Indigenous Dance, African Contemporary Dance, Reggae, Hip Hop and Jazz fusion are all covered in a variety of Dance workshops.

Black History Month at Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras Bistro:  This special New Orlean's style restaurant and entertainment hive has some exciting talent lined up ... and don't forget to try the baby back ribs and jambalaya - I'm telling you, it will change your life! 

What better way to celebrate this month than with good food, good people and great entertainment.  Check out the line-up below in a calendar format.  Chef
Anthony Mair insists on flawless, unobtrusive service and has managed to master this with his staff while earning their respect and still delivering the undeniable level of excellence in his food preparations.  In celebration of Black History Month and Mardi Gras we are putting together a calendar of events featuring some of the city's best and brightest musical talent. 


February 2006
1982 Bloor St West

Just outside the High Park Subway Station




Kayte Burgess Scores Showtime at the Apollo

Toronto's own Kayte Burgess got the call last week.  She scored a place onthe Showtime at the Apollo!  You
know, the same Apollo where contestants approach the stage one by one and rub the legendary “lucky tree trunk” .  Exciting news for the Canadian artist!  Kayte tapes at the end of February and I will keep you posted on the date that her appearance will air. 

A considerable list of famous artists have begun their careers, or at least made a name for themselves, on the Apollo State during Amateur Night: Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Luther Vandross, Gladys Night, Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo, even the Jackson Five and James Brown.  The primary reason for Amateur Night’s importance stems from the active engagement of theaudience, renown for its brutal yet honest evaluation of the talent of the performer on stage.  Appreciation of an act is usually exhibited in applause, cheers, clapping to the beat, singing
along, dancing in the aisles or sometimes even on stage. Disapproval comes in the form of laughing, mocking and booing, recently replaced with a unique (and therefore supposedly less harsh) collectively chanted “Woot woot!,” which calls to the stage a comical jester-figure, until recently represented by the Sandman, who coerces the embarrassed or indignant performer off stage with a combination of tap-dancing virtuosity, itself a Harlem tradition, and a satiric or mocking pantomime of the performer’s moment of infamy. The potential for success that draws so many performers to the Apollo is rooted in the relationship between performer and audience.

Showtime at the Apollo is a syndicated music television show, first broadcast in 1987, and produced by Apollo. It features live performances from both professional and up-and-coming artists, and also features the Amateur Night competition made popular at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, where the show is recorded.

Although tapings happen on Wednesdays, the show usually airs on weekends, often immediately following Saturday Night Live when aired on NBC affiliates. Various famous R&B, soul, and hip hop performers have appeared on the show, which has had a number of hosts, including Rick Aviles, Sinbad, Mark Curry, Steve Harvey, Mo'nique, and Christopher Reid.

After a dispute with the Apollo Theater Fundation in 2002, the original producers (as well as talent) left to start a rival show called Showtime in Harlem. Showtime in Harlem was produced at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It's Showtime at the Apollo is currently produced by de Passe Entertainment

Wade O. Brown Releases New Record ‘All Night, All Love’ (Groove United)

Source:  DMD Entertainment

Toronto, ON -- There are certain classic artists whose music comes to mind when you need a soundtrack to an intimate evening - Marvin Gaye,Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Barry White.  But it’s singer Wade O. Brown who is setting his sights on revitalizing the genre of lovemaking music with his new release, ‘All Night, All Love’ (Groove United/Feb 14). The first single “Maybe” is set to impact radio and video airwaves in the coming weeks.  The video is directed by noted Canadian director, Michael P. Douglas, who has received numerous Much Music Video Nominations and Awards for his cutting-edge videos. Over the past five years, Douglas
has shot an eclectic range of artists including, Choclair, Ray Robinson, BrassMunk, Al-Beeno, IRS, and Jelleestone just to name a few.

Brown's smooth, confident vocals drive all the tracks on  'All Night, All Love', making the album an ideal soundtrack for an intimate evening of lovemaking.  His music mixes an old-school sound with a new-school edge.  “I really wanted to develop a theme around “love-making” songs that would appeal to my peers,” said 30-year old Brown. “Bedroom songs that are sexy and sensual, but tasteful.”

He made 'All Night, All Love’ for mature adults who want music that turns them on, lyrics they can relate to all with an emotionally powerful delivery.  His music mixes an old-school sound with a new-school edge.   To maintain the old school sound Brown worked with industry heavyweights Barry Eastmond (Anita Baker, Whitney Houston, Barry White) and Daryl Simmons (Destiny's Child, Babyface, Pink). For the new school edge he worked with current hitmakers Estiverne, Kipper Jones (Brandy, Jennifer Lopez) and others.

Though he was born and raised in Detroit, Wade O. Brown found his musical footing north of the border. A mainstay of the Toronto R&B and soul scene, Brown is prepared to win over critics and fans alike.  Fronting his own band, he gained local notoriety, frequently singing in the city's hottest nightclubs and venues.  Brown has performed alongside Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, and Joe, among others and he has appeared on Showtime's award-winning series "Soul Food."  Brown quickly progressed from a promising newcomer to a headline grabbing stalwart of the Toronto music scene. Based on his Toronto buzz, Grammy-award winning producer Barry Eastmond signed on to work with Wade. "It is just a matter of time before the whole industry knows what I already know. Wade is a bonafide star. I was blown away by his raw energy and emotion. He is the real thing," testified Eastmond, likening his vocals to those of soul legends Teddy Pendergrass and Bobby Womack. Brown impressed other industry heavyweights with the power of his vocals and his incredible poise. Echoing Eastmond's sentiment is heavyweight producer, Daryl Simmons (Destiny's Child, Babyface) who also contributed to the album.  "Wade is a true R&B vocalist who sings with lots of soul and emotion," he said.

The potent 'All Night, All Love' finds Brown carrying the torch of lovemaking music. His assured, velvety voice is in top form atop infectious rhythms and smooth grooves that set the mood for an evening of lovemaking.

Wade's CD release, ‘All Night, All Love’, will be released on Groove United Entertainment, and nationally distributed by Universal Music Canada on February 14, 2006. 

For more information visit

Glenn Lewis: Head Honcho

Excerpt from Black Voices

(Jan. 13, 2006) Toronto-bred R&B crooner Glenn Lewis has signed with singer-actor Tyrese's Headquarter Entertainment. "Tyrese is one of the most thorough,most savviest businessmen I know. He's passionate about this thing. I'm proud to be on a team that believes in my vision! And I believe in their vision. Headquarter Entertainment is the future," said the singer. Lewis is best known for his hit single "Don't You Forget It" from his 2002 release 'World Outside My Window,' in addition to playing a wedding singer in the Jennifer Lopez film 'Maid In Manhattan.'  The multimedia company also houses a staple of music producers called the Frontline Boyz - a team of ten producers and songwriters who'll craft tracks for the label and other artists. "We're surrounded by nothing but talent. There's nothing that anyone of us can't do. We're 'bout to be unstoppable because we're pumping out good product. It's a real blessed situation," said Frontline producer James "J2" White.  One of Headquarter Entertainment's first undertakings is the soundtrack for Tyrese's next film, 'Waist Deep,' which also stars Larenz Tate, Meagan Goode and The Game. Tyrese himself is working on a double-CD-one R&B and the other rap-that will introduce his new hip-hop alter ego Black Ty. Headquarter Entertainment has also signed rapper Kurupt to its roster.

Hope – Twista featuring Faith Evans

Again, I heard this track this week and since it's the beginning of a new
year and that so many Canadian artists have breaking careers, I thought it appropriate to once again give you the lyrics and video to one of my all time favourite tracks.  (OK, not Canadian but truly I find the words inspiring!) Check out the video HERE and the lyrics below.

 [Twista talking]
 Man, I know we had a lot of tragedies lately.
 I just wanna say rest in peace to Aaliyah,
 Rest in peace to Left Eye,
 Rest in peace to Jam Master Jay,
 And everybody lost in the Twin Towers,
 And everybody lost period.
 All we got is HOPE!!

 [Verse 1 (Twista)]
 I wish the way I was living could stop, serving rocks,
 Knowing the cops is hot when I'm on the block, And I
 Wish my brother woulda made bail,
 So I won't have to travel 6 hours to see him in jail, And I
 Wish that my grandmother wasn't sick,
 Or that we would just come up on some stacks and hit a lick, And I (I wish)
 Wish my homies wouldn't have to suffer,
 When the streets get the upper hand on us and we lose a brother, And I
 Wish I could go deep in the zone,
 And lift the spirits of the world with the words within this song, And I (I wish)
 Wish I could teach a soul to fly,
 Take away the pain out cha hands and help you hold them high, And I
 Wish my homie Butch was still alive
 And on the day of his death we had never took that ride, And I (I wish)
 Wish God could protect us from the wrong
 So that all the soldiers that were sent overseas come home
 We will never break, though they devastate, we shall motivate,
 And we gotta pray, all we got is faith.
 Instead of thinking about who gonna die today,
 The Lord is gonna help you feel better, so you ain't gotta cry today.
 Sit at the light so long,
 And then we gotta move straight forward, cuz we fight so strong,
 So when right go wrong,
 Just say a little prayer, get ya money man, life goes on!!!
 Let's HOPE!

 [Chorus (Faith Evans)]
 Cuz I'm hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today,
 Take this music and use it
 Let it take you away,
 And be hopeful (hopeful) and He'll make a way
 I know it ain't easy but that's okay.
 Cuz we hopeful

 [Verse 2 (Twista)]
 I wish that you could show some love,
 Instead of hatin so much when you see some other people comin up (I wish)
 I wish I could teach the world to sing,
 Watch the music and have 'em trippin off the joy I bring, (shiit)
 I wish that we could hold hands,
 Listen instead of dissin lessons from a grown man, And I (I wish)
 Wish the families that lack, but got love, get some stacks
 Brand new shack and a lack that's on dubs, And I
 Wish we could keep achieving wonders,
 See the vision of the world through the eyes of Stevie Wonder, (you feel me) (I wish)
 And I hope all the kids eat,
 And don't nobody in my family see six feet, (ya dig)
 I hope the mothers stand strong,
 You can make it whether you wit him or your man's gone, And I (I wish)
 Wish I could give every celly some commissary,
 And the po po bring the heat on them priest like they did R. Kelly, And I
 Wish that DOC could scream again
 And bullets could reverse so Pac and Biggie breath again, (shit) (I wish)
 Then one day they could speak again,
 I wish that we only saw good news every time we look at CNN,
 I wish that we could never get the blues,
 Wish I could bring back the people that died, Eddy too
 I wish that we could walk a path, stay doin the right thing
 Hustle hard so the kids maintain up in the game,
 Let's HOPE

 [Chorus (Faith Evans)]
 Cuz I'm hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today,
 Take this music and use it
 Let it take you away,
 And be hopeful (hopeful) and He'll make a way
 I know it ain't easy but that's okay.
 Cuz we hopeful

 [Verse 3 (Twista)]
 Wish the earth wasn't so apocalyptic,
 I try to spread my message to the world the best way that I can give it,
 We can make it always be optimistic,
 If you don't listen gotta live my life the best way I can live it,
 I pray for justice when we go to court,
 Wish it was all good so the country never even went to war
 Why can't we kick it and just get em on,
 And in the famous words of Mr. King "Why can't we all just get along",
 Or we can find a better way to shop and please, And I
 Hope we find a better way to cop a keys, And I
 Wish everybody would just stop and freeze,
 And ask way are we fulfillin these downfalls and prophecies,
 You can be wrong if it's you doubting,
 With the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains,
 And only the heavenly father can ease the hurt,
 Just let it go and keep prayin on your knees in church!!
 And let's HOPE

 [Chorus (Faith Evans) X2]
 Cuz I'm hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today,
 Take this music and use it
 Let it take you away,
 And be hopeful (hopeful) and He'll make a way
 I know it ain't easy but that's okay.
 Cuz we hopeful

24th Annual BBPA Harry Jerome Awards

The Black Business and Professional Association is proud to announce the 24th Annual BBPA Harry Jerome Awards to be held on April 29, 2006 at the Toronto Congress Centre in Toronto.  Established in 1983, the BBPA Harry Jerome Awards celebrates excellence in achievement in the Black community. This formal dinner and awards gala is the premiere event in the Black community and one of the most prestigious events in Canada. A highly valued symbol of achievement, the BBPA Harry Jerome Award is a coveted possession of the business people, professionals, athletes, academics, artists and community leaders who receive it. Award recipients are selected from among Canada-wide nominees.  Nominations are open up to February 10, 2006 in ten categories. If you know an individual who should be recognized for outstanding achievements, please download the nomination package from the BBPA web site.  Should you be interested in sponsoring the Harry Jerome Awards we would welcome your support. Please contact us at (416) 504-4097 or by e-mail at


FLOW 93.5 Announces Top 10 Finalists For 4th Annual Flow 93.5 Soul Search

(Jan. 23, 2006) – This past Saturday, January 21, the Top 20 FLOW 93.5 Soul Search Semi-Finalists in the Hip Hop and R&B categories auditioned in front of a panel of industry judges for their chance to make it through to the Top 10 Finals.  The industry judges, including Farley Flex (Canadian Idol Judge); David ‘Click’ Cox (A&R Representative, Universal Music Canada); Elaine Overholt (Vocal Coach); and Debi Blair (Artist Relations Director, Urban Music Association of Canada) selected the Top 10 Finalists following the second round of this intense audition process, which began with an open call that attracted hundreds of singers and rappers on Saturday, January 14.

Now it’s up to the public to pick the winners! Starting today, the public can visit to see pictures, listen to audio clips of the Top 10 R&B Finalists and cast their votes for their favourite contestant!

FLOW 93.5 is pleased to announce that the Top 10 R&B Finalists are:

Ms. Davis
Chris Jackson
Krystle Blue
Hans Munoz
Shy Luv

The Top 5 vote-getters will advance to the final round, during which the Top 5 R&B Finalists will face off against each other on-air during the week of January 30. The R&B winner will be announced during The Morning Rush on Monday, February 6, 2006. Voting for the Top 10 Hip Hop Finalists will start on Monday, February 13.

The Grand Prize for the FLOW 93.5 Soul Search R&B Winner and Hip Hop Winner includes the following amazing items:

· $2,500 cash

· Songs produced by Rashad Smith (who has worked with superstars such as LL Cool J, Erykah Badu, Lil Kim, Nas and Aaliyah) and Saukrates (winner of the 2005 Canadian Urban Music Award for Producer of the Year)

· 2,500 units of CD manufacturing

· Professional photo shoot by Alexis Finch Photography

· The opportunity to represent Toronto at the national Urban Star Quest competition that takes place during Canadian Music Week (March 4, 2006).

Previous winners of the FLOW 93.5 Soul Search include 2003 winner Rochester aka Juice (who was nominated for two Canadian Urban Music Awards last year), 2004 winner SKITZ, and 2005 winners Jillian and Golden Child. For full contest rules and further details on the FLOW 93.5 Soul Search, please visit

Junos Nab Coldplay

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Jan. 24, 2006) The
35th annual Juno Awards promise to be an intimate gathering of big-name acts.  Rockers Coldplay and Nickelback, along with crooner Michael Bublé, are the first acts confirmed for the April 2 event, which will be staged for the first time in Halifax, at the Halifax Metro Centre.  "I think that really bodes well for the rest of the show," Melanie Berry, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said of the line-up so far.  "These three world-class acts underscore how the 2006 Juno Awards continues to grow in both prestige and popularity as Canada's pre-eminent awards broadcast," added Susanne Boyce, president of programming at CTV, which carries the show live.  "Wait until you see what else we have in store."  Regular Junos attendees will notice immediate differences in the broadcast from the Halifax Metro Centre.  "It is a smaller venue than we have been in the past three years and I think it's going to be quite an intimate show," said Berry. "And for all the fans that are there, they're going to feel really up close and personal."  But she's tight-lipped about production details, noting "every year we definitely want to go above and beyond the year before."  "It is important that first we put together fabulous talent and then we construct the staging and the production that is going to work the best with what we've got," Berry said. "Like in Edmonton we had those great two stages where we did the rock medley back to back. I guarantee you, you will see a spectacular show."  Nominations for the awards will be announced Feb. 15.

Hey Juno! You Forgot The Hot Indie Bands Again

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Guy Dixon

(Jan. 24, 2006) Toronto — Canada's recording-industry awards show, the
Junos, has been slowly opening its eyes over the last few years to the fact that the real excitement in Canadian music is in the so-called independent scene. But the first announcement of the acts to play the show seems to have forgotten that fact. On April 2 at the Junos in Halifax, the multimillion-selling Vancouver crooner Michael Bublé will perform, as will the multiplatinum Alberta-raised, Vancouver-based rock group Nickelback. But the biggest name to hog the marquee will be Britain's Coldplay. Which country's award show is this again?

Metal Queen: Jada Pinkett Smith Gone Wild

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Brad Wheeler

 (Jan. 25, 2006) Actors turning as musicians is no new game. Billy Bob Thornton did it, Keanu Reeves did it, and Russell Crowe did it too. There's Bruce Willis, Dennis Quad, Johnny Depp and even Milla Jovovich. All earned snickers and sneers for their mid-career vanity projects. Most recently Juliette Lewis has earned a few favourable reviews with her alternative-rock band Juliette and the Licks. Still, her onstage Iggy Pop routine is a bit of shtick.  And then there is
Jada Pinkett Smith, the pint-sized wife of the very rich and jug-eared actor Will Smith. With her, judging from a severe performance at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre on Monday, it doesn't seem to be such a sideline lark. There she was fronting the Wicked Wisdom, an otherwise all-male group of menace-rockers. Smith takes pains to present the band as a collective, but make no mistake, the actress-singer-wife commanded the attention. In fact, the audience of young men -- few nancy-boys among them -- were slightly taken aback by the sight of her. Smith's hair was poofed out, and her eyes bulged like Jack (The Shining) Nicholson.

 A black muscle shirt revealed formidable triceps, which were taut like the rest of her. She did the devil-horn thing with her fingers, and her demonic tongue-waving would trouble even Linda Blair. Here could be the distressed, bastard hate-child of Henry Rollins and Diana Ross, I kid you not. But then, after the show, Smith is back to a more composed state. "You leave it all on the stage," she says, sipping from a little plastic bottle of water. "That's the great part of doing it. You can put it 'wooh,' got that off my chest. Keeps you sane." Smith relaxes post-show on a tour bus, surrounded by bandmates who say they afford her no special status. "Ain't no adjustments," the guitarist says emphatically, "There's no exceptions." Smith, who travels in her own bus, is thought to be "one of the fellas." Wicked Wisdom appears on The David Letterman Show tonight, and releases its self-titled debut album in February. Things looks good, but the band and Smith have had rocky moments, particularly on last summer's Ozzfest concerts. Hardcore fans of the heavy-metal tour thought the band hadn't earned the promotion in rank. "Before people heard the music, and they heard we were going on Ozzfest, it was fiery," Smith explained. "But once we got out there, we really turned a lot of people around."

Carey, Legend And West To Perform On Grammy® Awards

 Source:   Ron Roecker, The Recording Academy, 310.392.3777; Maureen O'Connor, Rogers & Cowan, 310.854.8116; Susan J. Marks/Johanna Fuentes, CBS Television, 323.575.2118/212.975.4757

 (Jan. 19, 2006) SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Mariah Carey, John Legend, and Kanye West, all up for eight GRAMMY Awards, are the first performers announced for the 48th Annual GRAMMY® Awards telecast, it was announced Wednesday by The Recording Academy®.  The music industry's premier event will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in HDTV and 5.1 Surround Sound on the CBS Television Network at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).  The show also will be supported on radio via Westwood One worldwide, and covered online at Additional performers, presenters and special segments will be announced soon. Topping the nominations, Carey, Legend and West each earned eight nods. Two-time GRAMMY winner Carey is up for: Album Of The Year (The Emancipation Of Mimi), Record Of The Year ("We Belong Together"), Song Of The Year ("We Belong Together," with J. Austin, Jermaine Dupri & Manuel Seal), Best Female Pop Vocal Performance ("It's Like That"), Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance ("Mine Again"), Best R&B Song (with J. Austin, Jermaine Dupri & Manuel Seal for "We Belong Together"), Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("We Belong Together"), and Best Contemporary R&B Album (The Emancipation Of Mimi).     Newcomer Legend is nominated for: Best New Artist, Song Of The Year ("Ordinary People," with William Adams), Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance ("Stay With You"), Best R&B Song ("Ordinary People," with William Adams), Best R&B Album (Get Lifted), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("They Say," with Kanye West and Common), Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals ("So High," featuring Lauryn Hill), and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance ("Ordinary People").

 Three-time GRAMMY winner West's eight nods are for: Album Of The Year (two, for Late Registration and as a producer on Carey's The Emancipation Of Mimi), Record Of The Year ("Gold Digger"), Best R&B Song (with Alicia Keys, Garry Glenn, and Harold Lily for Keys' "Unbreakable"), Best Rap Solo Performance ("Gold Digger"), Best Rap Album (Late Registration), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("They Say," with Common and John Legend), and Best Rap Song ("Diamonds From Sierra Leone," with J. Barry, D. Black, and D. Harris). The 48th Annual GRAMMY Awards are produced by Cossette Productions in association with Ken Ehrlich Productions for The Recording Academy. John Cossette and Ken Ehrlich are executive producers, Walter C. Miller is producer/director, Tisha Fein is the coordinating producer, and Tzvi Small is executive in charge of production. Established in 1957, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc., also known as The Recording Academy, is an organization of musicians, producers, engineers and recording professionals that is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers. Internationally known for the GRAMMY Awards, The Recording Academy is responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment, advocacy, education and human services programs — including the creation of the national public education campaign What's The Download® ( For more information about The Academy, please visit

Rock Band Rides Again Making A Difference With Canada’s Youth

 Source:  Prizefighter Management

 (Jan. 2006) Rides Again is a young rock band hailing from Oshawa, Ontario Canada. Fans of the band describe their music as "elevating" and "profoundly passionate", combining the elements of Queens of the Stone Age, Switchfoot, Foo Fighters and 80's arena rock.  Energy and intensity are the words that best describe Rides Again's live show.  At first glance, the large sound system, the light show, live performing artists or the crowd participation could seem to set their show apart. However, 600,000 youth have confirmed that the real distinguishing factor is definitely the power of personal story. The students meet people who are close to their own age and have dealt with the same issues they are going through. It is very evident that the people on stage are real; they share about their strengths, their weaknesses, and about the reasons why they have chosen to make a difference and not follow what has become the ‘norm’.  It’s not often that you find a group of young men who stand for positive choices in a youth culture where negativity abounds.  Rides Again’s vision is to deliver their message (through their powerful songs) wherever, whenever. 
 Here is what the people are saying:

 "The show I attended was dynamic and engaging, but more importantly it was amazing to see how receptive the teens were… It is a pleasure to find an organization so committed to helping teens with real issues…”

Lorraine Zander, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, FAZE magazine, Canada's largest teen publication

 “Absolutely entertaining, absolutely engaging, absolutely relevant… The buzz around school since your performance is unparalleled… I highly recommend you for any high school audience in the country.”

Randy Gallant, Vice-Principal, Three Oaks Senior High, Summerside PEI

 “You guys came and played at my school last year. You were awesome. You changed a lot of kids’ lives. I'm on a council and believe me, I've seen some kids reach out for help who never did. They came out of their little shells. You guys are going to make a great impact on many people’s lives. You sure made a huge impact on mine. Thanks a lot.”

Tiffany Walters, Student, Calgary Alberta

WOW Gospel 2006

 Source:  Sony/BMG Music Canada

 Gospel’s greatest annual tradition takes place every January, and this coming year promises to be no exception. WOW Gospel 2006, the paradigmatic collection of the ultimate in gospel audio and video from the past year, returns again to start off your 2006 right!

 This ultimate compilation of gospel hits has everything you have come to expect from years past, spanning genres and generations to bring to you the best of 2005. Perennial chart toppers Donnie McClurkin (“I Call You Faithful”), Hezekiah Walker (“Lift Him Up”), and Fred Hammond (“I Will Find A Way”) are all featured with stand out singles from their latest releases. Breakout stars including phenom Micah Stampley (“War Cry”) and American Idol’s George Huff (“A Brighter Day”) preview the next generation in gospel up and comers with their respective tracks. Not to be outdone by the gentlemen, young ingénues Joann Rosario (“I Hear You Say”) and Kierra Sheard (“Let Go (Remix)”) represent with their powerful voices, proving why they are often cited as the next generation of gospel leading ladies.   
As a special bonus, this collection also features a special track from Paul Robbins, the winner of the Oprah Winfrey’s “Wildest Dream” contest!

 As always, a companion DVD brings to life many of the tracks from the audio release, with concept videos and live performance footage to enhance your WOW Gospel experience. Prepare to be delighted, prepare to be moved, prepare to be entertained. Prepare to be WOWed!

Audio Track List will include (may be subject to change) (2CD’s):

1. Donnie McClurkin “I Call You Faithful”
 2. Fred Hammond “I Will Find a Way”
 3. Kurt Carr “God Great God”
 4. Donald Lawrence “I Speak Life”
 5. Joann Rosario “I Hear You Say”
 6. Deitrick Haddon “God Didn’t Give Up”
 7. Tonex “Since Jesus Came”
 8. J Moss “We Must Praise”
 9. Dorinda Clark-Cole “Great Is the Lord”
 10. Marvin Sapp “Do You Know Him?”
 11. Ben Tankard feat. Shirley Murdock “Jesus Is Love”
 12. Hezekiah Walker “Lift Him Up”
 13. Mighty Clouds “House Of The Lord”
 14. Kierra Sheard “Let Go (The Godson Concept)”
 15. Karen Clark-Sheard “Authority”
 16. George Huff “A Brighter Day”
 17. Ted & Shari “Celebrate”
 18. Nicole C. Mullen “Message 4 Ya”
 19. Myron Butler “Set Me Free”
 20. Darwin Hobbs “Glorify Him”
 21. Smokie Norful “God Is Able”
 22. LaShun Pace “For My Good”
 23. New Birth “God Is”
 24. Antonio Neal “The Only One”
 25. Paul Robbins “I’ll Pray” (Oprah “Wildest Dream” winner)—WOW exclusive!

 DVD Track List will include (may be subject to change):

1. Donnie McClurkin feat. Kirk Franklin “Ooh Child”
 2. Deitrick Haddon “God Didn’t Give Up”
 3. Tonéx & The Peculiar People “Work On Me”
 4. Karen Clark-Sheard “We Acknowledge You”
 5. Smokie Norful “God Is Able”
 6. Kirk Franklin “Looking For You”
 7. Darlene McCoy “Fallen In Love”
 8. LaShun Pace “For My Good”
 9. Fred Hammond “You Are My Life”
 10. Donnie McClurkin and Joann Rosario “Saciame Senor…”
 11. Marvin Sapp “You Are God Alone”
 And more…!

Club Finished Just In Time For Lightfoot

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Anthony Reinhart

 (Jan. 20, 2006) With six decades of performing behind him, Gordon Lightfoot has certainly played worse places. That said, Canada's foremost troubadour might have expected something better -- or at least more complete -- from Toronto's newest venue, the Dominion Club, at its gala opening last night. "When I came in this room five days ago, I said, 'Are you kidding me?' " Barry Harvey, long-time manager for Mr. Lightfoot, said during a sound check in the club's not-quite-finished main hall, in the historic former headquarters of the Toronto-Dominion Bank. "But we're happy to be here," Mr. Harvey said. "It's hometown, you know?  In doing so, Mr. Lightfoot drew a capacity crowd of about 300 guests, most of them members or friends of developer Harry Stinson, who conceived of the club as a swishy adjunct to his gleaming, sliver-thin 1 King St. W. condominium/hotel. But as he ran through Sundown less than three hours before the doors opened, workers were still creeping around the club’s back stairs, not to mention the old marble front ones, carrying paint cans and orders to pick up the pace. George Jankovich, a drywaller, stood on a ladder in the lobby, plying his putty knife as Mr. Lightfoot's inimitable voice leaked through the glass doors behind him. "It's a nice change from the usual cacophony," Mr. Jankovich said. "It's been kind of a mad scramble." That much was clear from the conversation taking place a few metres away, between Mr. Stinson and two of his underlings. Since the bar refrigerators had not yet arrived, they had to use plastic bins filled with ice to chill drinks. The trouble was, they couldn't fill the bins while Mr. Lightfoot was warming up, because the performer's handlers had demanded an empty room and utter silence for the two-hour sound check. As countless cases of beer and pop sat warming atop the brand new bar, the three cooled their heels in the lobby, hatching a plan to retrieve the bins, fill them outside the room, then quietly return them.

 "Let's get on it," Mr. Stinson said, or the drinks won't be cold in time for the first guests. To anyone else, it would have looked a lot like a disaster-in-waiting. To Mr. Stinson, who has made a career out of committing himself to unsure propositions, it was just another crazy day. So what if the tables and chairs were rentals, because the permanent ones haven't been delivered yet? So what if those glittering chandeliers, installed two days ago, came from a division of Home Depot? "If you let the reasonable people run the show, nothing ever gets done," Mr. Stinson said, dressed in his typical non-style: beige khakis, sensible shoes and a black button-up shirt with a white turtleneck underneath. "You have to have a bit of false hope in a way; otherwise, people won't grasp the vision." Mr. Stinson has long been accustomed to people doubting his vision, which is why he wasn't sweating the details too much yesterday. "If you saw this place a week before tonight, you would have said this place is definitive proof that Stinson is completely insane," he said. "Just getting anyone to believe this damn thing would happen" was an accomplishment in itself. How well the Dominion Club does will be an open question for some time, though. Owners of the 572 condo-hotel suites, most of which have been sold, become members automatically, and need only pay dues of $50 a month. Outside members must pay $10,000 to join, in addition to the $50 monthly fee. To sustain itself financially, the club needs to attract at least 1,000 outside members. So far, 300 have signed on, but Mr. Stinson is aiming to reach 1,500 within a year, now that the club is operating.

 In a town that worships newness, the club leans heavily on aging icons, from the 10-metre ceilings bearing ornate crests of Canada's provinces, to the chandeliers, to its choice of opening act. The name alone, Dominion Club, smells like cigars and old money, and the fact it used to be a bank only enhances the effect. Mr. Stinson, who never met a doubter he didn't want to defy -- many bankers among them -- doesn't sound worried. Many Torontonians, he said, are ready for some "architectural comfort food," and some good, old-fashioned spectacle. "They come in here and there's a 'wow' factor to it," he said, standing at the base of the lobby's marble staircase, one foot resting in a depression worn into the stone by the feet of erstwhile bankers and clerks. "It's not like you're walking into the club of the month. You're walking into a place that's been here for a long time, and will be here for a long time." At the very least, "this is kind of different," said Mr. Harvey, and that's no mean feat for someone who's played as long as Mr. Lightfoot has. "First time in a bank, that's for sure."

For 33 Years, Jim Curran Has Guided Toronto Drivers

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

 (Jan. 21, 2006) It's an axiom in the radio business that frequent change is the only way to survive. Careers are distinguished by quixotic shifts in  style and format, timeslots and allegiances. Even in public radio, 33 years in the same on-air job is a rarity, a virtual impossibility. 
Jim Curran, the ever-present, ever-reassuring traffic reporter on CBC Radio One's Toronto weekday broadcasts, is a radio anomaly. Always calm, always the quiet guide in the city's often frenetic ebb and flow from 6 a.m 'til 6 p.m., from the start of Metro Morning to the close of Here and Now, Curran has been in the same job since 1972, doing a split shift that gives him a few free hours in the middle of the day.  He keeps a constant watch on the way Toronto moves during the working hours. We'd be lost without him.  "The split shift comes with traffic reporting territory," says Curran, 58, in the kitchen of the compact Beaches home he shares with his wife, Wendy Cochran, whose company, Rubicon Publishing, creates educational and literary texts for children. "Luckily for me, it suits my temperament and my lifestyle. I'm a morning person. I'd be up at 5 a.m. anyway, though I'd probably enjoy staying up after 9 p.m. if my working hours were different."  In the competitive business of radio, where ratings and job security depend as much on star appeal as on grabby content — and CBC Radio is no exception here, given recent radical changes in programming style and personnel designed to suit a less contemplative and a younger audience — Curran remains a steady, unassuming presence. He has outlasted innumerable Metro Morning hosts, all local radio heroes in their time, including Bruce Rogers, Harry Brown, David Shatzky, Joe Coté and Matt Maychak, and he has been Andy Barrie's most consistent sidekick for the 10 years during which the program has risen to the top of the morning pile.  "The style of the show has changed over the years," Curran says. "There's more variety in the voices we hear now, more accents. But I've never had to change. What I do is impervious to change."  What he does is no mystery, explains the Ryerson radio & TV journalism graduate whose broadcasting career began with compiling and disseminating Ontario Motor League traffic reports to a plethora of radio outlets, including CBC.  "I wanted to be a producer of information programming, and when this job came up, I took it because I thought there was no better way to step through the door to the CBC. I had no idea I'd be doing it for the next 30 years."  With an almost aw-shucks humility, Curran peels back the curtain that traditionally hides the secrets of the star radio traffic reporter's legendary mystique to reveal the very human sources and rather ordinary tools of his trade: regular calls to the TTC, which gathers information on subway traffic as a matter of course; the OPP website, where road and traffic conditions are constantly updated; a rack of radio scanners picking up live TTC, police, fire department and island airport reports; Ministry of Transport and GO Transit websites; a provincially maintained GTA transportation grid with colour-coded graphics; and calls from regular commuters and long-time listeners from their homes and offices in high-rise vantage points overlooking main roads all over the city.

 "I don't have to cultivate or credit callers," he says. "Most of them have been calling in for years. Some call to tell me they're retiring or moving away, and will no longer be able to offer their services. It's quite a personal relationship I have with these people. I get very few bogus calls, and if I'm suspicious, I check the information against other sources before going to air with it."  In a medium that enhances and in part thrives on the ego of on-air personalities, Curran has never sought star status and is constantly surprised when listeners recognize his voice and approach him as fans.  "They invariably tell me that the Jim Curran they imagine is younger, taller and blond," he chuckles.  "I've never thought I had a particularly recognizable voice, certainly not a radio voice," he adds, recalling the advice of one Ryerson instructor who suggested that his timbre was not deep enough for on-air work, and that his future in radio lay behind the scenes.  Fortunately for Curran, traffic reporting is jock-proof. And after 33 years, he says, his commuting audience relies on him more than ever — not for his personality or vocal skills, but for the quality and timeliness of his information.  "Every day is different, but there are patterns to traffic that remain essentially the same. Over the years the volume and pace have increased exponentially, but listeners want the same things they've always wanted from me," he says.  "My job is to help make things run more efficiently. It's better for all of us if people are properly informed about where and how they can drive to and from work, or even whether they should or shouldn't drive."  Curran's career was in jeopardy only once, he says, when one of his many former bosses considered cancelling traffic reports on CBC's Toronto service "because he felt cars were inherently evil and that if we stopped reporting on traffic, people would just stop driving."  Surviving in the radio business has never been a problem for Curran.  "I've learned the key to survival is to keep my head down and do my job. I'm leaving the morning shift as the bosses arrive, and I'm on air when they leave at the end of the day. I don't get embroiled in office politics. I'm content to let all that happen elsewhere, and just stay clear of it."

 Not an easy thing when the bosses lock you out, as CBC brass did last summer when, Curran says, "5,500 of Canada's most creative broadcast industry workers were forced to find creative ways of coping and earn their keep" during the often vicious seven-week action over a long contract dispute.  Curran, who still rose at five after picketing different hours of the day and night, felt the pinch.  "Money became a big issue, and people had to find other ways to make ends meet."  That might have been a bigger concern for Curran had it not been for his occasionally lucrative hobbies. CBC Radio's all-day traffic reporter fills in his midday downtime, vacations — and lockouts — shooting and editing custom video packages for private clients.  "My radio and TV training gave me the basics in shooting, and the rest has been catching up with advances in computer editing software. I'm a patient person and I like to think I've developed a clientele because I won't make compromises. If something isn't right, I do it over."  Curran has also restored more than 30 antique Canadian clocks that are racked on a display wall in his second-floor hallway, and fashions stained glass art — three or four pieces a year for open house auctions and sometimes on commission.

Rock 'N' Roll Lazaruses

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Alexandra Gill

 (Jan. 21, 2006) If video killed the radio star, will reality television breathe new life into the recording industry? It seems entirely possible after witnessing the frenzied reception for INXS's sold-out concert in Vancouver Thursday night. As fans of Rock Star: INXS are well aware, this was the launch of the Australian band's comeback tour, its first night out with J.D. Fortune, the slinky new Ontario-born, Nova Scotia-raised lead singer who beat out 14 competitors last year on Mark Burnett's star-search television show. A comeback this certainly is. Eight years after the death of INXS's original lead singer, Michael Hutchence, the group has a new hit album, Switched, that has sold more than a million copies since its release in late November, and a world tour that is heating up fast. This first show sold out within minutes, and more Canadian dates are reportedly being added next summer. Burnett, the reality-television pioneer who turned Survivor into a world phenomenon, was in Vancouver with his wife and children to watch his young protégé strut his stuff at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The producer was spotted in the audience about halfway through intermission when fans in the orchestra level began hollering and rushing him for autographs. That wasn't the first time the fans went ballistic. The entire audience arrived early to scream on the opening act -- a happening almost unheard of in concert land. Mind you, the opening act was none other than Marty Casey, the second-place contestant on Rock Star: INXS. Think of it as the Rock Star equivalent of the losing Bachelorette getting her own TV show. Burnett wasn't the only parent in the audience. It looked as though nearly half the audience had dragged their kids along. The young 'uns were having fun, to be sure, but not nearly as much fun as those people reliving their concert-going days from the eighties. The three fortysomething guys in the row ahead of me who spent the entire night swinging their hips, punching the air, and hiding their spliffs from the security guards were no anomaly. Fortune (a former Elvis impersonator) does an excellent job of imitating Hutchence's sexy swagger, even if his voice isn't as deep or nuanced. Let's just hope he doesn't take the role of rock 'n' roll sex god too seriously.

 When Hutchence was found hanging naked from a leather strap in a Sydney hotel room, the coroner ruled his death a suicide. But what's been forgotten -- or at least glossed over in this whole INXS resurgence -- is that his wife Paula Yates, who herself died more than five years ago, insisted that her late husband was a sexual deviant who had died in a bungled act of autoerotic asphyxiation. I wonder if Fortune had to sign some sort of waiver. The kid does have some of his own ideas. After the encore, he came back on stage to sing the national anthem (French lyrics and all), as he defiantly lit up a cigarette. Only in Canada, eh? "This is just the beginning," Fortune shouted, as he slinked off the stage. "In three months, we'll be . . . rocking." In three months, Burnett will be shooting the second season of Rock Star and bringing another forgotten band back from the dead. I kind of wish he were filming a behind-the-scenes documentary of this tour. I bet it would be even funnier than Spinal Tap. Of course, that sort of show probably wouldn't sell many CDs. It would just be too real. INXS plays Toronto's Massey Hall on Feb. 6 and 7.

Bon Jovi Still Sitting Pretty

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star

 (Jan. 22, 2006) He who gets the girls laughs last.  Jon Bon Jovi and, to a lesser extent, the three other chaps in the band that shares his last name — well, maybe to a similar extent in hunky guitarist Richie Sambora's case — must therefore do a lot of private chuckling to themselves.  Dismissed as a pack of over-moussed lightweights even by its peers in the American hair-metal heap of the mid-1980s, Bon Jovi today commands a global audience that has barely diminished since it first struck major commercial paydirt with 1986's 14-million-selling Slippery When Wet.  The band's current tour in support of last year's hit Have a Nice Day is, in fact, on target to be its most successful ever. Bon Jovi's agent, Rob Light, recently told Billboard magazine that, since the jaunt began on Nov. 2, it has "without question" been the group's biggest out-of-the-gate tour to date.  Indeed, the band's appeal has warranted four shows at the Air Canada Centre this weekend and next week. It's the longest stand in any city on the tour.  "Sales, attendance, dollars, merchandise — on every level, it's been great. This is monumentally strong," Light said, adding this outing has finally put Bon Jovi "in the same league as the U2s and the Stones and the Springsteens of the world."  At 43, diminutive belter Jon, meanwhile, remains an object of unrelenting adoration for millions around the world who pine variously for his full and always impeccably coiffed head of hair, his cheekbones and a butt that was apparently genetically engineered (honestly, you'll never read anything written by a woman that doesn't mention his butt, and even we straight men have been compelled over the years to acknowledge the super-human thrall in which it holds the opposite sex).  It's not just the frizzy-topped 30- and 40-somethings who grew up on Slippery When Wet and New Jersey and now throng Bon Jovi shows in giddy packs, either. The band's 2002 comeback hit, "It's My Life," was enough to seduce a new generation of female admirers.  So what gives? How has this New Jersey bar band, started by a recording-studio janitor named Jon Bongiovi in 1983, endured this long when so many peers from Poison to R.E.M. have fallen by the wayside?

 "It sounds cheesy, but it's the soundtrack of my life," says ardent Toronto fan Stephanie Machado, who at 18 falls far outside the stereotypical conception of the "Jovi cougar" and will be attending two of the four ACC shows this week. "I would have gone to all four," she says, "but my mother would have kicked me out of the house."  Machado concedes that the Bon Jovi "cute" factor was "definitely a part" of her initial attraction to the band, which came when she heard "It's My Life" on the radio in Portugal seven years ago while vacationing with her family. "But it was also really catchy, and back then I was only into really catchy stuff. Later on, though, I looked into the lyrics and — well, it's hard to explain. He's so wonderful. It's really hard to capture how I feel.  "I can relate to pretty much every song, even though Jon's 43. I just find the lyrics very meaningful. Some of them are corny, but it's fun."  "Catchy" and "fun" are two words evoked often by die-hard Bon Jovi fans, most of whom will happily acknowledge that the band's music, for all its metallic trappings, is at heart just a louder breed of bubblegum pop.  And while the critical cognoscenti tends to sneer, the band's insistence upon staying the course all these years and never straying far from the gigantic hooks, the satisfyingly predictable fist-in-the-air choruses and overwrought power balladry that made its name is usually cited as a major reason for the audience's loyalty.  "They're always upbeat," says Alana Cernjul, 29, a Catholic schoolteacher in Mississauga who's been known to perform Bon Jovi karaoke in class and to share the records (along with those of
Tupac Shakur and Kanye West) with her students for their positive messages.  "I was known as this sort of obsessive, Bon Jovi-fan teacher and a lot of the kids had never heard of the band because it wasn't their generation, so I brought some of the music in when we were doing these music journals in my classes. The kids really started to catch on to the songs.  "On every album, there are two or three songs that portray this seize-the-day, live-life-to-the-fullest message — songs like `Livin' on a Prayer' or `Keep the Faith.' I think they can sort of pull that positivity from the songs."

 There's been limited experimentation within the form — the adult-contemporary and country leanings of Have a Nice Day, for instance — but Bon Jovi and songwriting partner Sambora are to be commended for resisting the urge through fleeting trends and fashions to make a nu-metal record or incorporate newfangled samples and drum loops into their tried-and-true formulas. At the height of grunge, they dropped the typically meat-and-potatoes Keep the Faith and sold 12 million copies, slightly more than Nirvana's Nevermind.  The only time the band's fans have seriously recoiled was when it revisited a bunch of its old hits in acoustic form for 2003's This Left Feels Right. Jon would later politely apologize. ("People were saying, `Don't mess with our memories,'" he told a U.K. newspaper last year.)  "They're true. They've always stayed real," says Karen Bowen, a 30-something technical consultant from Colorado and regular presence in Bon Jovi chat rooms. "There's always stuff you can relate to. They're Jersey boys."  Bon Jovi's down-to-earth approach tends to appeal to down-to-earth, working-class people, says Bowen, which is why she's found it extremely easy to make friends from Toronto to Philadelphia to Idaho Falls online and at shows over the years.  Bowen was even inspired by the altruism Bon Jovi has shown in his frequent donations to causes ranging from New Jersey orphanages to Habitat for Humanity — which he raised $450,000 for last year and incorporated into the video for "Who Says you Can't Go Home" — to raise money with a friend to send 200 copies of the band's 2002 album, Bounce, in care packages to American troops in the Middle East.  "After Sept. 11, he and Dorothea (Hurley, Jon's childhood sweetheart and wife of 26 years) went out and made sandwiches and took them to help the people working there," she says. "Last year, he went on Oprah and donated a million dollars to Katrina victims. They've been doing that stuff for 20 years. "  The ability to maintain a credible blue-collar connection with its audience while maintaining several luxury residences only goes so far in explaining the Bon Jovi mystique, however.  At the heart of it all, even the most cynical music critic must admit that Bon Jovi writes killer pop songs. While they definitely flirt with the formulaic — "It's My Life" and "Livin' on a Prayer" are essentially the same song — they are indisputably insidious; once heard, they will replay forever in your head.  "Wanted (Dead or Alive)." "Bad Medicine." "I'll Be There for You." "Blaze of Glory." Read those titles and try to fight the hooks storming into your brain.  "They've got great choruses — great singalong choruses," says Tom Marchese, 25, of Brampton. " `Livin' on a Prayer' is the greatest example: it's always that kinda mellow `Tommy used to work on the dock ...' thing and then it explodes into that great, bellowing chorus.  "It's not sophisticated rock like a band like Yes used to be ... . It's just feel-good music. And they're the kings of monster power ballads."  Marchese, a sous-chef in a hotel, will be attending all four of Bon Jovi's ACC shows and made the drive to Buffalo on Friday night to catch another.

 He's already seen the band (including the seldom-mentioned David Bryan and Tico Torres) 24 times in Canada and "all over the States." Through the fan club, he's also furnished Jon's mother with diabetic recipes, for which he received a thank-you note and a DVD signed by the entire band.  Being male, Marchese is something of an anomaly among the stormy sea of female hormones that a Bon Jovi concert can become. But while he takes "a bit" of ribbing from his friends for his fandom ("they think I take it one step too far"), he can defend it with a certain degree of musical authority since he moonlights as a musician in a cover band called Stillwind.  "It's not a boring obsession or stalking or anything," he laughs. "I love the band. I mean, I'm a musician and I go to every possible rock show that comes to Toronto and they border upon some of the best shows I've ever seen. They're up there with McCartney, Springsteen, all of them. I've never met anybody who walked out of a Bon Jovi show who didn't think they got their money's worth."  Especially the ladies. There's still something about that lad that reduces sane, mature women to doting jelly. Jon gamely plays along, parlaying the whoops that greet his power ballads and his close-ups on the monitor in concert into a femme-friendly film and TV career including spots on Sex and the City and Ally McBeal and the film Moonlight and Valentino.  "I was 10 when I first heard Slippery When Wet and just at that age where I was starting to have crushes," says Cernjul. "And Jon Bon Jovi was just so cute. Plus, in their videos, they were always depicted as this kind of raw, `cowboy' band. When you're a teenage girl, that's very sexy. That's what you wanted every guy to be."  Just don't make assumptions about the women he's wooing in the audience, says Bowen.  "There's that typical girl who's only there to see Jon shake his butt. Those are the ones who are embarrassing and you try to stay away from," she laughs. "But I'm not some ditzy blonde. I have two masters degrees."

Tribute Paid To Sly And The Family Stone

 Source: Susan Blond, Inc., Simone Smalls / Jenn Nuccio, /

 (Jan. 23, 2006) New York, NY - On January 31, 2006 Legacy Recordings will release Different Strokes By Different Folks, an album of the timeless hits of Sly and the Family Stone covered and remixed by a generation of influential and current chart-topping stars. Reflecting the impact of Sly Stone, Different Strokes By Different Folks marries the legendary sound of Sly and the Family Stone classics to an assorted mix of modern hit makers. Highlights include "Thank You Rhythm Nation 1814" with Janet Jackson, "I Want to Take You Higher" with Steven Tyler, on "Dance to the Music," John Legend, Joss Stone and Van Hunt on "Family Affair," and Maroon 5 doing "Everyday People." In what is a true sign of Sly's personal belief in this project, the artists and producers on Different Strokes by Different Folks used the original Sly and the Family Stone master tapes for their new recordings, augmenting and altering them in a kind of reverse sampling. Though the last time the world saw Sly Stone was when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, he gave his full artistic approval to every aspect of the recordings.  Each track on the record takes a fresh look at some of the 20th Century's most revered genre-defying classics by one of rock's first truly integrated groups.  The artists on Different Strokes by Different Folks, alone or in singular pairings (Chuck D., Isaac Hayes, and D'Angelo on the same track) take wildly varying approaches to their somewhat intimidating source material: everything from reverence to complete reinterpretation.  Whatever the sound, each song reenergizes the groundbreaking hits of Sly and the Family Stone for the new millennium. Featured producers include Randy Jackson, Nile Rogers and Steve Jordan. Legacy Recordings, the Grammy Award-winning division at Sony BMG Music Entertainment founded in 1990, is charged with the task of revisiting, restoring and enhancing one of the world's greatest music catalogues. The label has become an industry leader, and critical and fan favourite, by taking that rich and diverse music to never-before imagined or attained levels of listening pleasure. A complete track list of Different Strokes By Different Folks:

 01. Dance To The Music-
 02. Everyday People- Maroon 5
 03. Star- Roots
 04. Runnin' Away- Big Boi (ft. Sleepy Brown & Killer Mike)
 05. Family Affair- John Legend & Joss Stone w/Van Hunt
 06. (You Caught Me) Smilin'- Scar, Ceelo, Big Boi & DJ Swiff
 07. If You Want Me To Stay- Devin Lima
 08. I Get High On You- The Wylde Bunch
 09. Love City- Moby
 10. You Can Make It If You Try- Buddy Guy & John Mayer
 11. Sing A Simple Song- Chuck D, D'Angelo, Isaac Hayes
 12. I Want To Take You Higher- Steven Tyler w/ Robert Randolph
 13. Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey- Nappy Roots & Martin Luther
 14. Thank You Rhythm Nation 1814- Janet Jackson & DJ Reset

The Beastie Boys Gave Fans Video Cameras

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

 (Jan. 23, 2006) PARK CITY, Utah—Pop iconoclasts to the core, the Beastie Boys weren't going to have just any old press conference at the Sundance Film Festival.  A Saturday afternoon invitation to talk to Adam Yauch (MCA), Adam Horovitz (Adrock) and Michael Diamond (Mike D) about their mind-blowing new concert film Awesome: I F—kin' Shot That! took the form of a mini-scavenger hunt.  Journalists were told to look for "Burton Lounge," located "near the First-Time Chair Lift" at the Park City Mountain Resort.  Except there is no Burton Lounge at the resort, and even the first-aid workers next to the chair lift weren't sure what the invitation meant. They pointed to an inflatable red igloo at the base of the hill with "Burton" marked on the side, situated between dive-bombing skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. Could that be it?  Sure enough, it was. But the unheated igloo could barely hold 50 shivering journalists and technicians — the lucky ones who managed to find it in the first place.  "It's a little chilly in here, I think," Diamond said, smiling mischievously. No kidding, but the band members all had individual votive light candles in front of them to warm their hands.  The Beasties, as usual, were messing with our heads. This is a band of white Jewish New Yorkers who managed to outrage both rappers and punkers when they first appeared on the scene at the dawn of the 1980s. They didn't look or act like rappers, or even punkers for that matter, but they could slice-and-dice the two genres like samurai swordsmen.  They changed attitudes with their first album License to Ill in 1986, the first rap album to hit No. 1 on the charts. They've been breaking new ground and setting sales records ever since, hitting No. 1 once more with their more recent album, To The 5 Boroughs. The Beastie Boys were also one of the first major bands to have a professionally designed website, not bad at all for a group that began when vinyl LPs still ruled and music videos were a hot new idea.  They're flouting conventions again, not to mention grammar and profanity standards, with Awesome; I F—kin' Shot That!, a concert film unlike any other.  The band didn't want to do the usual thing of hiring a big-name director and fancy cameras to document a show. Instead, they bought 50 video cameras and handed them out to fans at their Oct. 9, 2004 homecoming show at New York's Madison Square Garden.

 They then spent a year editing the footage together into a 90-minute movie, supplementing the fan-shot material with some professional digital-video footage shot from the stage for the big overhead screen used in the live performance.  The result is incredibly raw, rough and occasionally raunchy. One fan immortalized himself urinating, others depicted themselves buying beer, dancing in the aisles or singing along with the songs — which everyone seems to know by heart.  Most of the fans also managed to grab footage of the Beasties performing. Some scenes are so close you can practically count nostril hairs; others so far away it might have been shot from the parking lot. There is a lot of camera shake, flaring and other amateur snafus; the film is subtitled "An Authorized Bootleg" for good reason.  But it's pure energy and for music fans, it's an absolute blast to experience. The film is scheduled to open in theatres on March 31, and the Beasties don't seem terribly worried about the movie title causing them any problems: the movie posters here have the full rude name. Let the exhibitors worry about that.  The original idea was to make a DVD, said Yauch, who acts as the band's unofficial movie and video director under the deliberately pompous pseudonym Nathaniel Hörnblowér.  He thought of involving the fans after seeing grainy performance video a fan shot using a cell phone, which he uploaded to the band's website.  "It was a real last-minute decision to do it at that Garden show," Yauch said. "We actually just decided three days before the show to try to pull it together."  The conscripting of the 50 amateur camera people, who all apparently worked for free, was done almost at random, although Horovitz allowed his younger brother Oliver, a film school student, to have one of the cameras.  Said Yauch: "We went on our website and asked if people had tickets for the show. The show was already sold out. We asked people who already had tickets if they'd be interested in filming.

 "We looked at a seating chart and picked people who were spread out all over the arena. That was the only criteria — although maybe they had to be over 18."  The cameras all had to be returned after the concert and every single one of them came back. Then the band returned them to the store they had purchased them from, to get a refund.  "Some people out there probably have cameras that were from our movie that they're filming their vacation on," Diamond said.  The Beasties are not only iconoclasts, they're thrifty ones, at that.  They estimate the movie cost just $1.2 million (U.S.) to make, with half of that going to licence fees for the music samples used in their songs, 24 of which are in the movie.  The hardest part of making the film, Yauch said, was editing the movie. It took more than a year going through 64 sources of concert footage, the 50 fan tapes, plus 14 professionally shot tapes.  The band is delighted with the results.  "Seeing stuff shot from an audience perspective to me definitely seems stronger," Yauch said. "You definitely get a different feeling from looking at the footage shot by people who are into it, you know what I mean?"  Horovitz agreed.  "The thing I really like about the movie is that the people shot it. The essence of hip-hop and punk rock is that we all make it ... the kids made it, we all made it together."  He doesn't want to take this audience participation thing too far, however.  "I'm not having them over to my house."  Diamond said that watching Awesome gave him a chance to finally experience a Beastie Boys show from the audience's perspective.  "I kept wanting to see what was going on with the audience. That's what I thought was so cool about them filming it. Being a performer, I'm never allowed to see that. I don't have an insight into that world when I'm performing."  The Beastie Boys celebrate their 25th anniversary this year, astounding longevity for any pop act. They credit it to their one-for-all, all-for-one pact that requires all three members to sign on to a project to make it happen.  "We do have a lot of pillow fights," Horovitz said.  The band members are all in their early 40s — Yauch's hair is quite grey — but experiments like the Awesome project keep the pop life fresh for them.  What could they possibly do next to top it?  "Toiletries," Diamond said, without skipping a beat.  "Everybody's got to smell good, you know what I mean?"

Wilson Pickett, 64; Hits included Mustang Sally

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jan. 19, 2006) RESTON, Va. (AP) — Wilson Pickett, the soul pioneer best known for the fiery hits “Mustang Sally” and “In The Midnight” Hour, died of a heart attack Thursday, his management company said. He was 64.  Chris Tuthill of the management company Talent Source said Pickett had health problems for the last year.  “He did his part,” Michael Wilson Pickett, his son told WRC-TV in Washington after his father’s death.  “It was a great ride, a great trip, I loved him and I’m sure he was well-loved and I just hope that he’s given his props.”  Pickett — known as the Wicked Pickett — became a star with his soulful hits in the 1960s. In the Midnight Hour made the top 25 on the Billboard pop charts in 1965 and “Mustang Sally” did the same the following year.  “A fellow Detroiter, Wilson Pickett was one of the greatest soul singers of all time.” Aretha Franklin said in a statement.  “He will absolutely be missed. I am thankful that I got the chance to speak to him not too long ago.”  Pickett was defined by his raspy voice and passionate delivery. But the Alabama-born picket had his start singing gospel music in church. After moving to Detroit as a teen, he joined the group the Falcons, which scored the hit “I Found a Love” with Pickett on lead vocals in 1962.

He went solo a year later and would soon find his greatest success. In 1965, he linked with legendary soul producer Jerry Wexler at the equally legendary soul label Stax Records in Memphis and recorded one of his greatest hits, “In the Midnight Hour”, for Atlantic Records. A string of hits followed, including “634-5789”, “Funky Broadway” and “Mustang Sally”. His sensuous soul was in sharp contrast to the genteel soul songs of his Detroit counterparts at Motown Records.  Without appearing in the film, he cast a long shadow and served as a role model in The Commitments in 1991, the same year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.  Roger Friedman, a journalist and friend who featured Pickett in his 2002 documentary on soul greats, “Only the Strong Survive”, said Pickett was “really Atlantic’s answer to James Brown.”  “He wrote his own songs ... he was very, very musically adept, and look at his contribution — look how many of his songs have been covered?” Friedman said Thursday.  As Pickett entered a new decade, he had less success on the charts but still had a few more hits, including the song “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You”.  “Like all these great legends of R&B, when disco came in, it really impacted their careers,” Friedman said.  “(But) what Americans don’t realize is they have all continued to be incredibly popular in Europe — every summer, touring Europe to incredible crowds.”  But Pickett suffered through some tough times.  Also in ’91, he was arrested for allegedly yelling death threats while driving a car over the mayor’s front lawn in Englewood, N.J., and less than a year later was charged with assaulting his girlfriend.  In 1993, he was convicted of drunk driving and sentenced to a year in jail and five-years’ probation after hitting an 86-year-old man with his car. In 1987, he was given two-years’ probation and fined $1,000 U.S. for carrying a loaded shotgun in his car.  Besides his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1991, he was also given the Pioneer award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation two years later.

“If I wasn’t in show business, I don’t know what I would have been — a wanderer or something, you know?” he said in a 2001 interview.  “But God blessed me with the talent and the chance. I knocked on enough doors and this is what I can give myself credit for.”

Soul Legend Wilson Pickett Dies At 64

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, Ny

(Jan. 19, 2006)
Soul/R&B legend Wilson Pickett died of a heart attack today (Jan. 19) at a Reston, Va., hospital near his home, according to a spokesperson for the artist. He was 64.  Born in Pratville, Ala., Pickett moved to Detroit as a teen and joined the Falcons, singing on their 1962 hit "I Found a Love." By 1965, he had signed a solo deal with Atlantic, scoring a No. 21 pop hit with "In the Midnight Hour," which he co-wrote with legendary sessions musician Steve Cropper.  A slew of late '60s R&B/soul hits followed, including "Land of 1,000 Dances," "Funky Broadway," "634-5789," "She's Lookin' Good" and "Mustang Sally." As the '70s dawned, Pickett scored three consecutive top 20 pop singles with "Engine Number 9," "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" and "Don't Knock My Love Pt. 1."  In all, five of his singles reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts. Pickett associated himself with some of the top sessions musicians of the time, and was a frequent visitor to Stax and Muscle Shoals Studios. He even hired the late Duane Allman to play guitar on his 1969 cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude."  Pickett recorded regularly into the mid 1980s and was a 1991 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That year, his career was revived thanks to the film "The Commitments," which followed an unknown Irish soul band of the same name pursuing its dream of performing with Pickett. The artist also joined the band for performances at the Los Angeles and New York film premieres.   The artist's last studio album, 1999's "It's Harder Now," won WC Handy Awards for soul/blues album of the year and comeback album of the year, while Pickett was named soul/blues male artist of the year.  Pickett is survived by his fiancé and four children. He will be buried beside his mother Lena in Louisville, Ky.

Heather Headley Returns To Music Limelight

 Source: Chrissy Murray / CPR MEDIA /

 (Jan. 24, 2006) (New York, NY)  RCA Records vocal powerhouse Heather Headley, whose new single “In My Mind,” snagged the coveted #1 most added slot at urban radio formats overall in its debut week and is currently soaring up the Top 20, is putting the finishing touches on her eagerly awaited sophomore album of the same name, scheduled to hit stores on Jan 31st.  In My Mind is another standard-setting effort from Headley, whose stunning 2002 debut effort, This Is Who I Am, (‘staggeringly powerful’ raved one reviewer) garnered the multi-talented performer a slew of first-time-out awards and nominations, including two Soul Train Lady Of Soul Awards, dual nods from both the BET Awards and NAACP Awards, and two Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best R&B Vocalist. The new album, according to Headley, is not only a ‘labour of love,’ but a ‘restorative’ process that once again finds the singer/songwriter wrapping herself around a song like no other vocalist in R&B or pop.

 “I wanted the album to be like a book, almost,” she says.  “Where the songs provide glimpses into my personality, taking you to some very different places musically, and hopefully are full of fun and surprises along the way.”   Joined by some of music’s most compelling producers, Headley reveals her keen musical instincts on the new album, bucking the trend to ride the ‘name-checking’ production merry-go-round and choosing, instead, a subtle mix of deft collaborators who perfectly complement her wide-ranging musical tapestry.    Whether its veteran production stalwart Babyface, who helps flip the script on the playful/pampering anthem “Me Time,” or Grammy nominated Shannon Sanders (India.Arie), who co-wrote and produced the title track, or the one-and-only Shaggy, who zeroes in on the Dancehall-flecked “Rain,” Headley expands her horizons on the provocatively textured CD like never before.  Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (who collaborated on her debut album) also step up on the new disc, with rap icon Lil Jon contributing one of the album’s most unique gems, the effusive “Back When It Was.”  “Your second album is always a little more worried over,” says Heather, “Because there are suddenly expectations to what you’re doing.  But I felt very comfortable working with these guys.  I love the notion that good music can still affect you in an instant, and I don’t mind saying I think we can affect a lot of people with this one.”

Jazzing It Up With Some Love

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

 (Jan. 25, 2006) He has the Hollywood heartthrob moniker and a voice reminiscent of a '40s crooner, but
Denzal Sinclaire isn't trading on gimmicks.  With the release of his third major label album, My One and Only Love, the Toronto-born, Vancouver-based jazz vocalist is boldly declaring his intentions; as his choice of material and delivery demonstrates, the goal is neither mainstream appeal nor the swooning femmes who lap up the boyish charm and comedic bent of his household-name counterparts, Matt Dusk and Michael Bublé.  "Several years ago, my motivation was different," explained Sinclaire, 39, in an interview earlier this week.  "I was probably a lot more dependent on people liking what I do, like I was coming from a begging kind of place. Now I feel more that I'm sharing the work I'm trying to do on myself — trying to maintain a positive outlook and share that through music.  "If I can experience niceness and then do that while I'm singing, then I know it will have an interesting effect. I'm trying to be an instrument for good energy on this earth."  On the new record, Sinclaire's already sedate, eloquent tenor, comparable to Nat King Cole's, is slowed to a risky crawl. The ballads include the requisite Gershwin tunes ("Here Comes the Honey Man," "For You, for Me, for Evermore") as well as covers of Stevie Wonder ("Happier Than the Morning Sun,") and Johnny Nash ("I Can See Clearly Now").  "There's a tendency to remain pure and just limit yourself to a certain body of work, but as I grew older and a little more confident about myself, I realized `Hey! I'm a musician.' Also, the jazz musicians that I so much admired — Miles Davis, Nat Cole, John Coltrane — were actually playing popular songs of their time. They're standards now, but they were just pop tunes, or songs from the musicals in their day. So why not interpret the music of our time?"  But when you select songs by Genesis ("Follow You Follow Me") and Willie Nelson ("Always on My Mind") you can expect quizzical looks.

 "What is jazz?" muses the singer. "I don't know. I was thinking about it. Why is it that when I sing it it's jazz? Because people know me as a jazz vocalist, therefore everything I do is jazz?"  Though the lyrics are largely upbeat, Sinclaire's interpretations have a woeful tinge, evidenced also in the personality he reveals over lunch.  "I've been trying to come from more of the positive, but there is a bit of sadness there," he concedes but won't be pulled into elaborating. "It exists at the moment. And as much as I am trying to sort of avoid that — it's not denial, but I'd like to express optimism more — some of the songs do have a melancholy tone to them and the reason for that is along the journey sometimes you do have the challenges that you face, sometimes you have to re-look at what love is."  The enigmatic artist points heavenwards when asked about his one and only love.  "Not with a physical being, but I do have a love," he explains.  "I'm singing about the big love and people will tune in to that however they want. The love we have come to know now automatically has built into it sorrow. Most things that give us happiness now also give us sorrow, too; and we've come to expect it with a `That's life!' resilience. But it wasn't always like that. So I'm trying to tap into that."  And ideal for his quest is the relaxed, earthy vibe in Vancouver where he has lived for the last decade.  "Because nature is so close, there is a different energy there. You can get away and reflect more readily. That's where I rediscovered the spiritual side of myself. It was always there, but it certainly is more reflected in my outlook on life and obviously the way that I perform."  Denzal Sinclaire performs at Montréal Bistro, 65 Sherbourne St., 416-363-0179, at 11 p.m. Thursday; $15, no reservations.

Two Icons, One Style

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

 (Jan. 25, 2006) If
Bob Dylan had succumbed early in his artistic life to the seductive rhythms of reggae, and Bob Marley had grown up with country-folk, blues and bluegrass, would their songs still retain their spiritual kick, revolutionary zeal and enduring relevance?  Is style more important than content when it comes to appreciating these musical giants?  Toronto musician and songwriter Fergus Hambleton, front man of the Sattalites reggae band, thinks he can answer these musical questions with the help of Jamaica-crazed colleague Jason Wilson, who heads the reggae-jazz fusion outfit Tabarruk, when they get together with a group of seasoned country and reggae musicians Friday night at the Dundas St. W. concert club Hugh's Room.  "It's not such a stretch, when you think about it," says Hambleton, who stumbled on the idea when Wilson sat in recently at a Sattalites gig at the Orbit Room. "We usually do reggae covers at that gig, and we suddenly got the idea to try a couple of Dylan songs as if Bob Marley had written or played them. We were struck by the parallels in their recorded output, the lasting appeal of the meaning of their songs, their reliance on folk and gospel forms and traditions, their understanding of the elements of folk and country music.  "As easy as it was to give Dylan songs a reggae treatment, we had no problem flipping Marley over to country and R&B. The result was astonishing, so we decided to take it a step further and do a big show with musicians who really know both sides of that street."  Tabarruk members Michael Herring, on upright bass, guitarist Don Scott and drummer Sun Ray Grennan will interpret Dylan as reggae artist; Chris Whiteley on pedal steel, guitarist/mandolin player Tim Bovaconti and drummer John Adames will take on the countrified Marley material. Hambleton and Wilson share vocals throughout.  In their own musical lives, Dylan and Marley made similar cross-territorial journeys: Dylan when he used fabled reggae rhythm section, bassist Sly Dunbar and drummer Robbie Shakespeare on his 1983 album Infidels; Marley in the early 1970s, when he hung out in New York trying to make a mark as an R&B singer, co-writing songs with Jimmy Norman, the legendary Nashville-born blues/country composer/producer and longtime Coasters front man.  Besides, Jamaicans have a natural affinity for American roots music, Hambleton says.  "When I went there for the first time in 1978, country music was all I heard: Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Reeves, Marty Robbins. It wasn't what I expected at all, but I should have known better. The roots of reggae and country and blues are very similar: simple chords and rhythms, lyrics that tell stories about real people and events."  Dylan's "Political World," "Memphis Blues Again," Visions Of Johanna" and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" are perfectly adaptable to reggae arrangements because of their chord structures, strong backbeats and repetitive melody patterns, Hambleton adds.

 "And Marley's `Natural Mystic,' `Country Jungle,' `Stir It Up' and `Thank You Lord' could just as easily begun as American country or gospel songs."  While reggae has never thrown up another artist of Marley's stature, its textures and rhythms have seeped into the bedrock of western popular music. Britain's UB40 made music history in 1990 with an eternally popular novelty, the reggae-paced cover version of Neil Diamond's pop trifle "Red Red Wine." Irish pop diva Sinéad O'Connor's 2005 release Throw Down Your Arms powerfully embraces both the form and the message of Rastafarian reggae. Country music star Willie Nelson's most recent CD, Countryman, is a seamless blend of American traditional music and reggae recorded in Jamaica with crack reggae musicians. And Is It Rolling Bob?, an all-star reggae compilation paying tribute to Dylan, is a huge hit in Jamaica.  "Reggae is part of the greater culture now, just as country music is," says Wilson, who, like Hambleton, is a Scot by heritage.  "Blending them is surprisingly natural. The two forms already speak to one another, and Dylan and Marley are ideologically compatible, even though Bob is long gone and Dylan just keeps rolling on.  "You just have to remember not to accentuate the backbeat too much in the country versions of the Marley songs, or suddenly it slips back into reggae.  "We did this for a laugh and the response was overwhelming. Now we're curious to see how far we can take it."


Hallelujah! Cohen in Songwriters Hall of Fame

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Reporter

(Nov. 17, 2005) Legendary Canadian composers and poets Leonard Cohen and Gilles Vigneault are among five new inductees in the 2006 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame's third annual gala, to be staged Feb. 5 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre's John Bassett Theatre.  Canadian ragtime composer William Eckstein, big-band leader Carmen Lombardo, and classical composer and lyricist Lionel Daunais will also be inducted at the ceremony, which will honour jazz singer Lucille Dumont, Canada's songbird Anne Murray and Canadian recording industry pioneer Herbert Berliner for their contributions to — and support of — the Canadian songwriting industry.  Among 26 songs also being inducted into the hall of fame this year are the traditional folk ballad "Farewell to Nova Scotia"; The Stampeders hit "Sweet City Woman," written by Rich Dodson; Andy Kim's "Sugar, Sugar"; "A Québec au clair de lune" by Marius Delisle; Gene MacLellan's country gospel classic "Put Your Hand in the Hand"; Lombardo's "Sweethearts on Parade" and "Boo Hoo"; and Cohen's "Bird on the Wire," "Suzanne," "Ain't No Cure for Love," "Hallelujah" and "Everybody Knows."  The gala will air on CBC Radio One Feb. 6 at 11 a.m. and on CBC Radio Two and Radio-Canada at 8 p.m.

Tanto Metro And Devonte's New Album Musically Inclined Drops In January 2006

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Nov. 17, 2005) Dancehall's dynamic duo,
Tanto Metro and Devonte will release their new album Musically Inclined via VP Records in January next year. The set features some already familiar material as well as new tracks with producers including Tony 'CD' Kelly, Christopher 'Longman' Birch, Robert Livingston (of Big Yard Productions), Troyton Rami (of Black Shadow) and Richard 'Richie D' Martin. The duo has stepped up the game on this upcoming disc with primed tracks including In There and Sexy Lady. The radio hit single I've Got News For You produced by Ryan Leslie, a Bad Boy Entertainment affiliate, has been making moves on the video channels. Having scored hits as solo acts and as a duo, Tanto Metro and Devonte are credited for the success of two of the biggest reggae/dancehall records on the Billboard pop and R&B charts. The songs Give It To Her and Everyone Falls In Love effectively propelled the duo to international status. Musically Inclined is the group's third release on VP Records. Collaborations with artistes on the album include Morgan Heritage on the upbeat Time To Party, Courtney Melody on Cross The Boarder and Lady Ru on The Only One. Also included in the set are the dancehall favourites Hey Girl and Burn. In an interview with this column, Devonte said: "We are trying to get across to the people that we are still there and still making good music. The album is blending all sorts of music, it shows our versatility and during the recording process, the vibe in the studio was good. It took a while to put together as all our energy was focused and we put a lot of work into the album. It is a healthy mix of singles and tracks recorded specifically for the album."

Warren G “In Case Some Sh$# Go Down”

Source: MVD Inc.

(Oct. 7, 2005) New York— Legendary hip-hop artist/producer Warren G is back to re-introduce the world to the “G Funk Era” with his fifth studio album, and first release in four years entitled “In The Mid-Nite Hour.” The West Coast meets the South with the current single making its way up the charts “In Case Some Sh$# Go Down,” featuring Mike Jones. The nostalgic flow of Warren G and the screwed-up hook by Mike Jones over the smooth feel of the track has all the makings of a future classic. The release date of “In The Mid-Nite Hour is October 11th, 2005. The “G-Funk Regulator” has returned.

New R&B Sensation Na'sha's Music To Be Featured In 'In The Mix'

Source: Ben-David Fenwick,

(Nov. 21, 2005) MIAMI, FL -- Music from up-and-coming R&B sensation
Na'sha (pronounced Nay-sha) will be featured in Lion's Gate film In The Mix.  She has contributed two songs - "Fire" and "Saturday" - for the romantic comedy that features Usher in his first starring role.  The movie bows nationally this Wednesday, November 23. Blending R&B, hip hop and outright soul, Na'sha is turning heads with her September 20th debut release My Story on Miami-based Pure Records.  The fifteen-track ride, 14 of which were penned by Na'sha, is called "stunning- a seamless assimilation of 30 years of pop, R&B, gospel & soul," by the Miami New Times. My Story brings out a cast of all-star talent. The album is produced by an array of hitmakers including Grammy Award winners Scott Storch (Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Terror Squad) & James Poyser (Common, Jill Scott, Leela James), Sting International (Shaggy) and R&G Productions.   Na'sha is joined by Shaggy on the sexy track "What U Waiting 4" and features Cash Money alum B.G. on "No Good." The lead track "Get To Go Home" was co-written with newcomer Ne-Yo.   Na'sha made her national television debut with Shaggy on The Tonight Show on September 23rd filling in for Olivia on Shaggy's latest single "Wild 2Nite."

The Emotions & Chi-Lites Headline 25th Annual Chicago Music Awards

Source: ACM PR: A.C. McLean, TEL: (312) 373 1778,,

(Nov. 21, 2005) CHICAGO, IL – Celebrating 25 years of total commitment to Chicago area artists like no other organization, Ephraim Martin, executive producer of the 25th Annual
Chicago Music Awards announces headliners The Emotions and Chi-lites of this year’s historic event. They will top a host of other performers including Willie Rogers of the Soul Stirrers, the Sudakial Family, Adero Neely, Redstorm and Carl Brown amongst others on December 10, 2005 at the Museum of Science and Industry. This year’s Awards will be dedicated to over 80 years of Gospel Music. The 25th Annual Chicago Music Awards will also present Special Awards of Honour to those who have made exceptional contributions to the music industry. They are V-103’s Ramonski Luv, Listen Here Radio’s Neil Tesser, The Illinois Entertainer, Mama Curtis, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the Creative Arts Foundation. “For 25 years, the Chicago Music Awards have recognized home-grown talent,” Mr. Martin commented. “The main objective of the Awards celebration is to give recognition to Chicago musical artists.” This year’s gala event will be held on Saturday December 10, 2005 at the Museum of Science & Industry, 57th Street & South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL. VIP pre-show reception is 7:00PM and the Awards ceremony begins 8:00PM. Tickets are $49 general admission; $75 [$125 per couple] for VIP tickets (includes reception with special guests); Groups of 25 or more and adults 25 and under pay $25 in recognition of the 25th year anniversary. Tickets are available at [] and at all Ticketmaster outlets.  Call (312) 559-1212.  For general information, call Martin's Inter-Culture: (312) 427-0266, email:, or visit

Tom Green Gets Back To His Rap Roots

Source:  Canadian Press

(Nov. 22, 2005)  VANCOUVER—
Tom Green's cellphone number is 310-717-1919. Call him, and he'll tell you about his special passion for rapping about naked ladies.  This, he says, was his true calling long before he became a famous shock comedian on MTV.  At a quiet Vancouver restaurant he showed elderly diners exactly how much he loves to rap, cranking up beats on his boom box and singing a song about Hooters off his new album.  Grey heads craned over their scrambled eggs trying to figure out what was going on as Green shouted: "I like naked ladies! I like making babies! I want to make them with girls all around the world! I like to go to Hooters."  Green has a background in rap with Organized Rhyme, the trio he started at Colonel By High School in Ottawa. They were nominated for a 1993 Juno.  His new album, Prepare for Impact, has an old-school sound. Green uses DJ EZ Mike, the producer behind the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique.  Green says the most serious song on the record is "My Bum Is on Your Lips," based on a song he did on MTV.  Later, rapper Eminem talked about the ``Bum Bum'' song in one of his mixes, and took the gag further, saying "My bum is on your lips." For his new album, Green turned that line into a song.  Green will be playing dates across Canada starting in January. They have not yet been announced. The album comes out Dec. 6.

Laurels For Canadian Songwriters

Source: Canadian Press

(Nov. 22, 2005) Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and Trooper's "Pretty Lady" were among five oldies added yesterday to the list of homegrown classics by the
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.  Jann Arden's "Insensitive," Paul Carrack's "Don't Shed a Tear" and Nick Gilder's "Hot Child in the City" were other tracks that passed the 100,000-airplay mark on domestic radio.  Benatar's 1980s hit was penned by Toronto's Eddie Schwartz. The singer once gave him credit of sorts in an interview with Songwriter magazine.  "One night — you know sometimes you announce people's names, this is by so-and-so? — when I said Eddie Schwartz, I swear to God, the room (of) about 1,500 people just went dead silence, like `Eddie Schwartz?' I really don't know much about him, I know we met him one time in Canada." Benatar's producer added, "He's Canadian and he's very short. He was nice."  Socan also cited new songs which dominated radio last year. They included Nelly Furtado's "Powerless" and "Try," Sarah McLachlan's "Fallen" and "Stupid," Sarah Harmer's "Almost," k-os's "Crabbuckit" and Emerson Drive's "Waitin' on Me."  The songwriters were to receive trophies at a gala last night.


The Start Of Black History On Film

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Warren Clements

 (Jan. 20, 2006) The notion of February as Black History Month is, as actor Morgan Freeman told 60 Minutes last month, a poisoned chalice. "You're going to relegate my history to a month? I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."

 On the other hand, the designation does focus a studio's mind on what's sitting in its vaults. The Green Pastures, out next Tuesday, is the faithful 1936 black-and-white film of a 1930 play that won its white author, Marc Connelly, the Pulitzer Prize for drama. With an all-black cast affecting a Louisiana dialect, the movie imagines Adam and Eve and other characters in the Bible as black folk myths being passed along to Sunday-school children by a preacher. In this telling, God is De Lawd, who poses as a preacher to observe the world's wickedness and who creates Earth because there isn't enough firmament in the boiled custard in heaven's fish fry. That so many black actors found work was a good thing. Eddie Anderson, best remembered for his role as Jack Benny's chauffeur, Rochester, plays Noah, and the great Rex Ingram, later the genie in the 1940 classic The Thief of Baghdad, plays De Lawd, Adam and a fighter named Hezdrel. (Noah's banter with De Lawd anticipates Bill Cosby's similar routines in the 1960s.) And given the racist hatred that had infused D. W. Griffith's epic The Birth of a Nation only 21 years earlier -- with the Ku Klux Klan as heroes and white actors in blackface playing the villains -- a sympathetic fable was a positive step, even if its attitudes were patronizing and often demeaning. Connelly, who based his play on the folk tales in Roark Bradford's Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun, had the sense to reject that book's conception of God as a white plantation owner lording it over humble blacks who knew their place. Connelly's Almighty is strong and black, evolving from a wrathful God to a self-doubting, more forgiving one. And the film benefits enormously from the spirituals sung throughout by the Hall Johnson Choir.

 But it's still what New York University professor Ed Guerrero, who shares a commentary track with actor LeVar Burton and author-activist Herb Boyd, calls an example of the "plantation idyll" genre. The plantation culture had collapsed after the Civil War; the black reality in the United States was of descendants of slaves moving north to the cities to find jobs and fuller lives. But when black Americans went to see blacks reflected in the cinema, what they got was this nostalgic reverie of a halcyon Old South. As scholar Thomas Cripps wrote in a 1979 annotated version of the film's script, The Green Pastures is "a fable that symbolized the American accommodation to a racial history that granted black suffering without requiring whites to feel guilt." Warner Brothers has given the film a beautiful transfer, with fine extras. Most fascinating is Rufus Jones for President, a 1933 musical short in which a mother (Ethel Waters) tells her son (Sammy Davis, billed without the Jr.) that he can be president one day -- a fantasy promptly acted out in song. The casual racism is breathtaking -- the black Senate is preoccupied with watermelons and chickens -- but seven-year-old Davis is already a protean performer. He gets to sing I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You.  Related Warner titles set for release on Tuesday are Vincente Minnelli's 1943 Cabin in the Sky, a musical fantasy with Waters and Anderson; Purlie Victorious (1963), an anti-slavery satire with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; and King Vidor's Hallelujah (1929), a romantic drama shot in Tennessee and Arkansas with an all-black cast. 20th Century Fox's tie-ins to Black History Month begin with Stormy Weather (1943), about an entertainer (Bill Bojangles Robinson) reliving his passion for a singer (Lena Horne). There's a scheming best friend played by Dooley Wilson, fresh from his role as the piano player in Casablanca, but the film's real pleasure comes in its raft of musical numbers by a few of the greats. The Nicholas Brothers dance, Fats Waller sings Ain't Misbehavin', Cab Calloway sings Jumpin' Jive, Robinson tap-dances and Horne sings the title song. Film expert Todd Boyd notes in a commentary that many of the scenes "don't travel so well" from the segregationist 1940s, but it's "a great time capsule."

Derek Luke, Mehcad Brooks And Al Shearer In ‘Glory Road’ Journey

 Excerpt from - By Marie Moore

 (Jan. 19, 2006) It was producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s undaunting passion that brought “Glory Road” to the screen, and his cast left the project with a fervor unmatched by any cinematic path they have taken thus far. So determined to do “Glory Road,” Bruckheimer said he didn’t care if the film made money or not. "Sports and entertainment are things that change images of individuals and groups of people,” he explained.  “When you see phenomenal African American athletes, you want to be like them," the producer said. "You forget their skin color. White kids from the suburbs, from wealthy homes want to be Michael Jordan. They want to be 50 cent. They want to be these celebrities because they excel at things. Back in 1966 basketball players who were African American were sandlot players. They might have three African Americans on a team in the North and that was it. What's interesting is, if you saw the SC Texas football games, which was a national championship game, Texas didn't have an African American playing in their program until 1969. That's unbelievable when you think about it.” Derek Luke, who plays Bobby Joe Hill, saw the film as a great piece of work. “To me, it wasn’t a sports movie. It was a good story and that’s how I’m looking at it. I look for just good stories. It was harder back then and I wanted our generation to go like, ‘Man, how did they do it?’”  Luke’s collegiate look is a far cry from what it was when he headed for Hollywood, he told The Film Strip:  “When I came to Hollywood they were saying, ‘Hey D, you are really rough around the edges. You’re kind of street,’ because I used to wear the jewellery, had gold teeth in my mouth, the whole nine. So people were like, ‘Yo, D, I don’t know if they’re gonna accept you.’”

 Enthralled about the turn of events in his life, Luke went on to say, “When people ask me about my role in ‘Antwone Fisher,’ it charges me up. Scripts have been knocking on the door, which is a blessing. I just did a film in South Africa with Tim Robbins. It’s a political thriller called ‘Hot Stuff.’ Hot stuff was any paraphernalia that was anti apartheid.” So is it happenstance or a concerted effort that he lands the parts that he does? “I think it’s grace. My mother taught me about grace. It’s like unearned favours or unearned situations. When I grew up not being around my dad, all the inner city was made up of issues. Most of the issues the inner city was depending had to do with the men.  I’ve always had a heart for men issues. So I’ve been blessed to get a chance in a lot of film that have something to do with male issues.” more than just social issues.” There may be a lot of scripts knocking on Luke’s door, but he just might not be home. He has his own production company.  “I have a lot of film in preproduction that I’m behind the scenes with as well as in front of. I’m really excited because my motto is whatever you can see,  you should be. That’s the name of the production company. Whatever I see Productions.” Mehcad Brooks, the top rebounder Harry Flournoy in “Glory Road,” says he had to “go to a dark place” in order to get into the mindset of the movie because of the racial climate of the 60s.” Part of the preparation for the film dealt with watching documentaries and looking at a “lot of pictures.”  After a brief pause, he says, “You know what? There's one picture that sticks out in my mind that kind of gives me goose bumps 'til this day. There’s a picture of a man, who is about 65, holding a sign during the Memphis garbage strike that says ‘I am a man’ and it brought me to tears the first time I looked at it. I’m just thinking to myself what the hell kind of world do we live that you have to go home and write ‘I am a man?’ It's a society that does not reciprocate your existence as a law abiding, tax paying citizen, or even as a human being that has been through certain experiences. It says everyday you wake up, ‘I'm gonna treat you like shit. I'm gonna treat you like a boy no matter how old you are, what you do or what your character deserves. You can kiss my ass.’ And you're just like, ‘Oh my God.’”  Al Shearer played with a broken ankle during the filming but says it was nothing compared to what his character, Nevil Shed, went through back in the 60s. “You really must appreciate anybody who lived in the civil rights era,” he advises. I saw so many pictures when getting ready for the film of people getting water hosed, hit by batons, bitten by dogs, whatever and you kind feel guilty that you didn’t experience any of that. Big deal I have a broken foot. I just let them pad me up and continued to play because I just wanted to experience some of the pain these guys went through. Personally, I don’t have the temperament. I would be either in jail or in a box.”

Disney Confirms Pixar Acquisition

Excerpt from - By Jill Goldsmith

(Jan. 24, 2006) Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios Tuesday unveiled a hotly anticipated merger that marks the end of Pixar's status as possibly the most successful independent film company ever, and promises a renaissance at Disney's animation division.  Disney will acquire Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth about $7.4 billion expected to be completed by this summer.  Terms call for 2.3 Disney shares to be issued for each outstanding share of Pixar.  As most deals do, it's likely to bring a degree of culture clash and a number of layoffs -- particularly in Disney's animation division.  Pixar president Ed Catmull will serve as president of the new Pixar and Disney animation studios, reporting to Disney CEO Bob Iger and to Dick Cook, chairman Walt Disney Studios.  Pixar exec VP John Lasseter will be chief creative officer of the animation studios. He'll also become principal creative adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering, designing attractions for Disney theme parks, and reporting directly to Iger.  Pixar chairman Steve Jobs will join Disney's board as a non-independent director. He owns 50.6% of Pixar and thus will become one of Disney's largest shareholders.  "Disney and Pixar can now collaborate without the barriers that come from two different companies with two different sets of shareholders," Jobs said in a statement.  The companies know each other well but their 15-year production and distribution pact threatened to collapse several years ago under Disney's former CEO Michael Eisner and Jobs weren't able to come to terms. Iger, who formally took the Mouse's reins last Oct. 1, has moved fast -- turning the long-term relationship into a marriage.  The boards of both Pixar and Disney have approved the deal. Pixar shareholders must approve it as well.  The companies will be hosting a conference call to discuss the deal at 5:15 ET Tuesday.

Movie Studio Takeover Activity Puts Spotlight On Lions Gate

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Shirley Won

(Jan. 25, 2006) With Walt Disney Co.'s $7.4-billion (U.S.) blockbuster deal to buy Pixar Animation Studio Inc., investors are now getting a clearer picture of Canada's largest publicly traded independent movie studio. Analysts suggest it is only a matter of time before Vancouver-based
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. will be snapped up by one of the major Hollywood giants as part of the industry consolidation. "There are fewer and fewer independent studios left on the market, and it just makes investors feel that Lions Gate's time is coming to be taken out," said Corey Hammill, analyst at Paradigm Capital Inc. of Toronto. That assessment was driven home last month when Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures beat out General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal to buy DreamWorks SKG -- the live-action studio founded and controlled by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Lions Gate, whose executive office is in Santa Monica, Calif., is a low-budget, live-action studio that targets niches like young males with horror flicks, such as its recently released Hostel, and Afro-Americans with Madea's Family Reunion -- sequel to Diary of a Mad Black Woman -- which will make its debut next month. But the takeover scenario is not the primary driver of Mr. Hammill's "buy" recommendation and one-year target of $15 on the stock. He likes Lions Gate's large film library that generates a recurring cash flow, and "basically covers the operating costs of the company" for a year. "The upside comes from the production business," Mr. Hammill said. But he said there is "risk" to this side, and that was evident last month after the company slashed its profit guidance for fiscal 2006. Lions Gate chief executive officer Jon Feltheimer blamed the revision on disappointing box office sales of In the Mix, starring rhythm and blues singer Usher. That's in addition to lower margins on its library business for the first six months because of the product mix, and softness in sales of new family-oriented DVD releases. The company's shares took a hit after warning that its full-year profit would drop to $15-million from an earlier estimate of $35-million. Because Lions Gate reaffirmed its free cash flow estimate of $100-million -- the way many value the company -- the revision didn't affect targets of many analysts.

The stock, which plunged to a 52-week low of $7.47 in December on the New York Stock Exchange, closed yesterday at $9.11, up 10 cents. In Toronto, it rose 12 cents (Canadian) to close at $10.50.  Lions Gate's shares have enjoyed a bit of a lift on speculation following media reports of a potential deal between Disney and independent studio Pixar, known for animated films such as Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. The two parties finally announced the deal yesterday after the markets closed. A Disney-Pixar marriage bodes well for possible takeovers of Lions Gate as well as DreamWorks Animation SKG -- the publicly traded animation unit spun off last year from DreamWorks, suggested Robert Routh, analyst at New York-based Jefferies & Co. Inc. Mr. Routh, who has a target of $14 (U.S.) on Lions Gate, says the company would also benefit from its intention to create a "horror channel" this year. It may be with a partner like U.S.-based cable provider Comcast Corp. or satellite provider DirecTV, but Lions Gate would provide content and "put no money upfront," he added. There is also media speculation that Lions Gate is interested in buying United Artists, a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. that was acquired last year by an investment consortium led by Sony Corp. If Lions Gate does a deal with United Artists, it would likely be a "shrewd low-cost acquisition" for a portion of its film library, suggested Thomas Egan, analyst at New York-based Oppenheimer & Co. Inc.  Mr. Egan, who has a target of $10.75 on Lions Gate, likes the stock as an entertainment pure play, and notes its free-cash flow multiple is significantly lower than that of its peers. "As the entertainment industry restructures in 2006, we expect multiples for pure play companies like Lions Gate to increase," he wrote in a report. Mathew Harrigan, an analyst with Denver-based Janco Partners Inc., has a one-year target of $13 on Lions Gate, and believes it "could be an eventual takeover target." But Mr. Harrigan said that speculation is "overblown" about an imminent takeover for Lions Gate simply because of a Pixar-Disney deal. "Pixar's a unique situation given their animation franchise."

Wedding Bells

A Disney-Pixar marriage bodes well for a possible takeover of Lions Gate, Canada's largest publicly traded independent movie studio. Lions Gate is a low-budget, live-action studio that markets often controversial films such as Hostel.



Last close


Change from previous

Up 12¢

52 week intraday high


52 week intraday low


P/E ratio, trailing


Market cap


Price/book ratio


1 year total return


Revenue, fiscal 2005 ($U.S.)

$842.59 million

Profit, fiscal 2005

$20.28 million


Jerry Bruckheimer Produces Huge Hits For Both Movies And TV

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

 (Jan. 21, 2006) Hour by hour, screen by screen, there's no producer in Hollywood whose shows have such a command of movie and television audiences. 
Jerry Bruckheimer's motion pictures have brought in more than $14 billion U.S. in worldwide revenues. By March of this year, he'll have his name on nine network TV shows, including the three hugely popular CSI series, Cold Case, The Amazing Race and Without a Trace.  As a testament to the diligence he applies to each of stage of his movie projects, Bruckheimer was in Toronto last week on a 15-city promotion tour for the latest film he has made for Disney, Glory Road. And, in keeping with his record of connecting with his audience, Glory Road was near the top of the North American box office on its opening weekend, although it did not fare as well in Canada.  The youthful-looking 60-year-old, a Detroit native who got his start making TV commercials while still in his early 20s, Bruckheimer is known in the business as a perfectionist and a round-the-clock worker.  For all that he appears stress-free and wears a casual air — in between business calls on his cell phone — in a Toronto hotel hospitality suite.  The story behind Glory Road — something close to Bruckheimer's 40th movie since his start as a producer with Culpepper Cattle Co. in 1972 — was related to him 10 years ago.  "It came from (basketball coach) Pat Riley," says Bruckheimer.  "We'd been looking to make this story for a long time but just couldn't find the rights to it. Then (screenwriters) Chris Cleveland and his wife brought it to us, because they had the rights to Don Haskins and some of the players."  A classic American tale of the triumph of the underdog, Glory Road tells the true story of how the underfinanced, no-account Texas Western University basketball team came from behind to win the 1966 NCAA championship.  The man who did it was Don Haskins, a former high school girls' basketball coach, who recruited black players into an almost all-white game and defeated racist attitudes with sportsmanship.

 Bruckheimer and first-time feature director James Gartner, a copywriter and commercial director, had a lot to work with. Nearly all the players on the 1966 Texas Western team are still alive and volunteered their stories to the scriptwriters, Cleveland and his wife Bettina Gilois.  Haskins not only told his story, but participated in the making of Glory Road, coming on set to work with Josh Lucas, who portrays the brash young coach.  The producers set up a boot camp and Haskins ran a basketball practice just as he'd done in the 1960s.  Apart from Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, Sweet Home Alabama), Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) and Jon Voight, who plays the gruff coach Adolph Rupp of the defeated University of Kentucky, the cast of Glory Road are unknowns.  "Initially, we found a bunch of good actors who claimed they could play basketball," says Bruckheimer. "Then we tried them and they were terrible, so we had to reverse the process. We went out and had open calls in a number of cities and found terrific basketball players who could also act. Two of them had never been in front of a camera before.''  Damaine Radcliff, recruited in the Bronx, was so eager he showed up at 4:30 in the morning for the casting call. He wound up playing the part of Willie Cager, who helped lead the team to victory despite a heart ailment. "He was wonderful," says Bruckheimer.  Throughout shooting, Haskins continued to reminisce over dinner with Bruckheimer — with stories like the one about the player who gets his nose broken and comes back on to the court in a baseball catcher's mask — even as shooting was underway. Bruckheimer, known for his creative input as a producer, would have them added to the film.

 Known from his earliest days, especially when he was partnered with the late Don Simpson, as a maker of action films like Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Bad Boys and The Rock, Bruckheimer has on the other hand been drawn to the themes found in Glory Road before. Five years ago he made Remember the Titans, also based on a true story, starring Denzel Washington as T.C. Williams, a high school football coach who leads an integrated team to victory. In 1995 he produced Dangerous Minds, casting Michelle Pfeiffer as the real teacher and ex-marine in Palo Alto, Calif., who gave a class of inner-city students a chance to succeed.  The inspirational true story is working for Bruckheimer again: Glory Road topped the list of last weekend's box-office revenues. Yet this producer dismisses market research as a bad way to make movies.  "I don't know what an audience wants. I know what I like. Anybody who thinks they know what an audience wants is going to fail."  Surely a man who can create a blockbuster movie based on nothing more than a Disneyland ride — two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels are in the works — must have a handle on popular taste.  Bruckheimer has a disconcerting habit of using the royal "we," as in, "We're involved in everything that goes across our desk." Or maybe he's just reluctant to take personal credit for the Bruckheimer dominance of the screens. "We try to make effective entertainment," he says.

Sundance-Bound Canadian Julia Kwan Draws On A Rich Chinese Culture

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Liam Lacey

 (Jan. 19, 2006) Look across the spectrum of Canadian filmmakers working in English and most of them can legitimately claim to be part of at least one minority: Jewish, Armenian, Asian, Indian, black, lesbian, gay and . . . and, well, then there's Don McKellar as the exception who proves the rule.  The post-modern idea that the margins define the mainstream is demonstrated throughout the arts. So, on the face of it, it's no surprise that filmmaker Julia Kwan, whose Eve and the Fire Horse is the sole Canadian feature at the 25th-annual Sundance Film Festival, has Chinese-born parents.  More unusual is that Kwan's parents are working-class -- her father managed a restaurant in Vancouver and her mother was a laundry presser. Film is an expensive hobby, and most movie brats come from at least middle-class backgrounds. Kwan spent six years doing data entry at the Bank of Montreal ("I type 105 words a minute") while writing in her spare time, before she got up the nerve to apply to Toronto's Ryerson University to study scriptwriting. Always shy, she was surprised to discover she enjoyed working with actors and began to enjoy a film career. Perhaps the source of her determination was that she was born in the Chinese Year of the Fire Horse, which occurs every 60 years and produces notoriously headstrong children. The last Year of the Fire Horse was 1966, so, although Kwan looks 20, she can't deny that she's approaching twice that age.

 Those born under the Fire Horse have certain notoriety. "Abortion rates in China spiked that year," Kwan explains. "Nobody wanted a Fire Horse because they have this potential to bring great misfortune to the family. They're really independent and strong-willed, and in Confucian culture, independent thinking isn't really encouraged." Eve and the Fire Horse is the story of two sisters growing up in Vancouver in the mid-seventies and it takes a comic look at family troubles and cross-cultural pressures. Impetuous nine-year-old Eve and her prim 11-year-old sister Karina find themselves developing a personal mythology, caught up in a mix of Buddhism, superstition and Catholicism.  The movie includes visions of Jesus and Buddha dancing together, a grandmother who dies and is reborn as a singing goldfish. An audience favourite at festivals across Canada (it won the People's Choice award in Vancouver), it opens commercially across Canada on Jan. 27.  "As a child, I was instilled with a sense of what a girl -- and especially a Chinese girl -- was supposed to be," Kwan says in an interview in a Toronto hotel. "And for a very long time, I felt as though I was silenced. I didn't have the confidence to do what I wanted. So, it's very exciting to finally be allowed to have a voice, although I feel a little strange doing interviews where so many sentences start with the word 'I.' "

 Vancouver-born Kwan says the "emotional core" of the story is personal, although details have been changed. There were two incidents in her childhood that shaped the story. When she was 5, her maternal grandmother died and her father told her "a really beautiful story about how she was reincarnated as a goldfish." Later, when she was 8, she was "recruited" into joining a Catholic Sunday-school class, where she was told "that my grandmother was in Hell because she was a Buddhist."  Kwan wrote the first draft of Eve and the Fire Horse in the mid-nineties, in a three-day creative burst, although she says it had been with her since childhood. "In a sense, the topic is still fascinating to me, and in a sense I keep rewriting the script because I haven't come to the point where I can say this is what I am definitely."  She counts among her influences the American novelist Maxine Hong Kingston's novel The Woman Warrior, "which really defined what it was like being an Asian living in North America." She also admired the experimental late-eighties films of Ann Marie Fleming, who is also partly Asian and once, as a student, called her up to have a coffee with her and offer advice. Kwan was particularly committed to the dreamlike scenes that book-end the movie, of a young girl underwater, surrounded by swimming horses, but there seemed no easy way to it bring it to life. ("For obvious reasons, there isn't a lot of stock footage of drowning horses," she explains.)  At one point, she seriously considered importing miniature horses from Arizona and putting them in a water tank. Eventually, they worked out a method of shooting horses on a ranch against a green screen, using wind machines while holding a little girl on a harness. The water imagery came from outtakes from a horror film. That scene, along with the singing goldfish, took up a sizable chunk of the modest $1.7-million budget.

 A sense of "having one foot in each world" is her major source of creativity and the contradictions between her two cultures. Her next project is to write a Chinese ghost story. "I grew up with a lot of ghost stories and I've heard a lot of ghost stories from family and friends. There was one summer when it seemed all of my Asian friends felt they had a ghost in their house and it wasn't at all an unusual occurrence. They spoke of it in a very matter-of-fact way. My parents brought in a Buddhist priestess. And these other friends had a ritual of chopping meat on their porch at midnight to get rid of a ghost. It's all part of the culture."  An earlier film reflects her Chinese culture: Three Sisters on Moon Lake, which won the audience award at the Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival in 2001 and was also accepted at Sundance that year. "It was loosely based on a story I heard from Hong Kong about three sisters who killed themselves with rat poison after overhearing their parents talk about how they couldn't afford to send their son to college. It's part of that tradition of self-sacrifice." She feels both proud and a little nervous when talking about her role as a representative of the Chinese-Canadian community ("Does Steven Soderbergh represent the white male perspective?"). But it helped her parents understand their Fire Horse daughter when people came up to them after the Vancouver screening of Eve and the Fire Horse and told them how much their daughter was doing for the community. Back when she decided to go to Ryerson to study writing (she later was accepted into the Canadian Film Centre), she learned that her mother had misunderstood her intentions, and had told friends that Julia would be learning calligraphy.

 Though Kwan didn't witness it herself, a friend sitting near her parents near the end of the screening saw tears coming down her father's cheeks, "which, coming from my repressed Chinese home, was really a surprise."

 Canadians at Sundance:


 Eve and the Fire Horse
(Canada; dir. Julia Kwan). The international debut of Julia Kwan's dramatic feature is in competition for the World Cinema drama competition.

 Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (U.S.; dir. Lian Lunson). A documentary on the soulful 70-year-old Montreal-born poet, with performances by musicians he has influenced, including Nick Cave, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Beth Orton and Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johsons. The documentary was filmed at a series of concerts organized by producer Hal Willner in Sydney last January. Cohen himself performs with U2 singing Tower of Song near the film's end.

 Neil Young: Heart of Gold (U.S.; dir. Jonathan Demme). Demme directed one of the great rock-concert films, Stop Making Sense with the Talking Heads. This time, he offers a portrait of Neil Young, shot over a two-night performance at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It is a world premiere.


Seventy-three short films have been selected out of about 4,300 submitted in the international short-film category. These include five entries by Canadian directors.

 Aruba (dir. Hubert Davis). An 11-year-old boy seeks escape from his abusive home life and bullying at school through his imagination, and a postcard of a vacation spot far away. It's a dramatic debut of Davis, a veteran editor who was nominated for an Oscar last year for Hardwood, about his father, a former Harlem Globetrotter.

 Le rouge au sol (dir. Maxime Giroux). After hitting rock-bottom, an alcoholic man shares his feelings with his mother as they drive to Ikea.

 Smudge (dir. Gail Maurice). Completed through the National Film Board's fledgling Momentum program for emerging filmmakers, Smudge pays witness to how a small group of aboriginal women celebrate their right to worship in the city -- their way in the midst of nature, although the drums, chanting and sweet grass draw unwanted attention.

 At the Quinte Hotel (dir. Bruce Alcock). A handsomely animated representation of Al Purdy's poem of the same title from Vancouver director Alcock, it depicts a drunken bar fight and a meditation on beer and flowers.

 The Bleeding Heart of It (dir. Louise Bourque). From an Acadian director who now lives in the Boston area, a film about lost innocence in which the artist dreams of a raging war.


A spinoff alternative to the Sundance festival, Slamdance includes one Canadian feature.

 Things to Do (dir. Theodore Bezaire). One of 11 films selected from 1,000 submissions in the Narrative Feature category. Shot in Windsor, Ont., it's the story of guilt-ridden Adam Stevenson, who leaves his big city-job to go home and re-evaluate his life. He and a friend named Max, whom he meets at a grocery store, set out to complete a things-to-do list.

Six Questions with James Todd Smith ... A.K.A. LL COOL J.


 (Jan. 19, 2006) For more than two decades LL Cool J, (born James Todd Smith) has held a solid grip on the elusive and ephemeral stage of success. Having navigated a career path that includes rapping and acting, LL has also managed to build his career without the usual controversies associated with celebrity.  Charmingly cool, in great shape and keenly focused, the 38-year old entertainer is currently promoting his 20th film, “Last Holiday” (opposite Queen Latifah). LL gamely took part in the Robertson Treatment’s “6 Questions Series” where we asked about his joy of life, his favourite meal and the best part of his anatomy. 

 Robertson Treatment: This movie is about living past your fears. Can you relate to that message in any way?

 LL Cool J: Oh yeah because a lot of times, even in my own life would the success someone would think I have, there had been times in my life where I sabotaged my own success out of fear of not wanting to rise too high; and I think that we all that sometimes. A lot of times fear of success is bigger than fear of failure. Every time you are about to succeed, every time you are about to do something, every time you are about to take it to the next level, you do something silly or make a move just to ensure that you don’t achieve that success because your comfort is here in the middle somewhere. Moving past your fears is a very important part, a very important thing, especially for those who really want to succeed.

 RT: What was it about your role that you liked?

 LL: I just thought it was a great role. I thought that it was something different for me. The benefits of it were given people opportunities to see me do something that they probably would assume or at least in films they would assume I may not be capable of or wouldn’t immediately perceive me to be the guy that would do this type of role because of the nature of the character who is much more of an everyday guy and a plain guy and a regular guy and all of that.

 RT: What do you hope people walk away with after watching this film?

 LL: Well, if they are going they are going to walk away with a message, well I guess the message should be that you were born to enjoy life and to live life and have life. There are priorities in life, and relationships are important. What dinner invitations would you except if you knew that you were going to die tomorrow? What decisions would you make? How would you live your life if you knew you didn’t have much time left? I think what we found out was that she grew as a human being. She was willing to take risks. It seemed like that the dreams that seemed so dangerous are no longer dangerous once you know that death is around the corner. So, go after your dream and live your life. Be kind, be caring, but go after your dream. Don’t just sit back and wait for it to happen.

 RT: Food plays such a big role in this film; so what kind of food would you want if you were sitting down for your last meal?

 LL: Well, I guess if you handed me anything right now, I would add my grandmother to the mix and get some fried chicken, some macaroni and cheese, some yams and some greens, cornbread and just be done with it. That would be good for me.

 RT: On another note, you probably have the most talked about lips in Hollywood. Why do you think they are such an appealing part of your anatomy?

 LL: (Laughs) It’s because of the consistent truth always comes out from them.

 Best Bets: Home Entertainment

 “Fair Game”  (Urbanworks/Ventura Entertainment)  - The games that people play in matters of the heart is the well-worn story premise at the center of this hilarious new romantic comedy from actor/director Michael Whaley (who also stars in the piece). When co-workers Michael (Whaley) and Stacey (Gina Torres) are unexpectedly forced to become roommates, sparks fly that unleash a hilarious turn of events for this winsome pair. Both Whaley and Torres do a good job at delving into their frustrations of not being able to take their relationship to the next level. They are support well by actors Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), Christopher B. Duncan (The Jamie Foxx Show, Soul Food,), Terri Vaughn (The Steve Harvey Show, All of Us), Michael Jace (The Shield), and radio personality Mother Love who add doses of humour and mayhem to the action.  “Fair Game” is an innocuous piece of cinema magic that might even provide fodder for a few cocktail conversations. Grade: C

 Best Bets: Automotive Spin

 2006 Buick Lucerne  - The 2006 Buick Lucerne is an all-new large sedan that serves as a replacement for the discontinued LeSabre and Park Avenue. The vehicle  has a distinct European look to its exterior that is particularly noticeable in the broad-shouldered rear fenders. Wow Factor: Heads will definitely turn when you drive up in this car. First of all, the Lucerne is the kind of car that’s easy on the eyes… It’s sexy, classy and powerful, which offers a rare board scale appeal that will appeal to  drivers young and old.  Whether  cruising down Hwy. 101, Crenshaw Blvd. or the Sunset strip, driving the Lucerne is gonna catch you  lots of smiles. Ride: The performance of this car is phenomenal. The Lucerne offers a very comfortable ride, with a quite engine that just purrs down the road. Add to that a tremendous sound system blasting XM satellite radio and you’ve got one cool ride. But let’s face it… the most impressive thing about the Lucerne is its fuel economy. This ride can stretch a gallon, which is a good thing when the price tag at the fuel pump is so high.  Comfort:   Space is a real factor with this car. Although it’s not a huge car, the Lucerne is nevertheless so roomy that it can accommodate up to 6 adult passengers. Add to that it offers nice truck storage space, which is a big plus for driving vacations.  In terms of driving experience, the Lucerne is a good steering vehicle that handles well on curves and bumpy roads. The  suspension system on the Lucerne will give its driver the best of both worlds between functionality and smooth ride.


New World, Old Words

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - By Scott Deveau

(Jan. 19, 2006) Audiences attending the film, The New World, starring Colin Farrell, this weekend will have a chance to hear something no one has in more than two centuries. In an attempt the make his interpretation of the story of Pocahontas as accurate as possible, director Terrence Malick commissioned the resurrection of a long-extinct dialect of the Algonquin language. The last time the dialect is known to have been used was in 1785. Using a technique called "language revitalization," Blair Rude, a University North Carolina linguist, was commissioned to resurrect the language for the film. His recreation was accomplished by using both records left by British settlers and the two remaining dialects of the Eastern Algonquin language. Now movie-goers can hear an approximation of how the language, known as Virginia Algonquin, sounded when the tribe met John Smith and other British colonists at Jamestown, the setting for the film. Originally, Mr. Malick commissioned only two scenes from Mr. Rude, but upon hearing the language itself, "he fell in love with it," Mr. Rude said. Mr. Malick changed his plans to include more than 50 scenes of dialogue, something that shocked Mr. Rude. "I showed up two weeks before shooting thinking I'd be coaching the actors," Mr. Rude told Thursday. But the director had already set his heart on using the dialect in every scene that with Natives talking to each other. "I proceeded to explain to anyone that would listen -- which was no one -- that it took two hours to translate one line of dialogue."

Nevertheless, Mr. Malick was determined and Mr. Rude was forced to the confines of his hotel room for the next two weeks, translating dialogue 12 hours a day. The process of revitalizing an extinct language is quite complex. First Mr. Rude poured over the only two known dictionaries in existence of the ancient language. The first was a 50-word dictionary written by Mr. Smith, the second was a 600-word dictionary written by an English gentleman, William Strachey, in 1609. While Mr. Smith's dictionary was quite simple, Mr. Strachey, who was well versed in Shakespearean English, had riddled his interpretation of the language with metaphor. "There were all kinds of idioms and metaphors in there that a Native speaker would not say or think," Mr. Rude, who is an expert in Eastern Native languages, said. Mr. Blair then took what he knew of the only two existing Eastern Algonquin dialects, Mi'kmaq and Passamaquoddy-Malecite, and cross-referenced the two languages with the Elizabethan phonetic interpretations. Some words were easier than others to interpret. Mr. Strachey's records indicate the words for "shoes" was "mawcasuns," or moccasins in modern English. But other words carried a much more convoluted interpretation when cross reference with modern Algonquin languages, like the term Mr. Strachey recorded for sky, which most closely resembles the modern Algonquin word for "it is cloudy." That sort of ambiguity, or possible misinterpretation, made the process much more difficult, Mr. Rude said.

Mr. Rude then took English dialogue from script from The New World and attempted to translate it into Virginia Algonquin. Generally, revitalizing a language is done for academic purposes or because a culture's descendants want to retrace their past. But, the upshot of it all is that if Mr. Rude is wrong in how he translated it, no one, save handful of academics, will ever know. "I call it the Blair Rude's dialect of Virginian Algonquin," Mr. Rude said, something he made sure to let everyone know on the set. "I told them they had to be nice to me, because if they weren't, I could put a recipe for chocolate fudge in their dialogue and they would never know."

Acting On Impulses

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Jan. 18, 2006) She'd never heard of Colin Farrell before being chosen to kiss him in The New World. She was only vaguely aware of Christian Bale, even though he plays her husband.  Q'orianka Kilcher was even more in the dark about the film's director Terrence Malick, the reclusive auteur who chose her to play the most important female role he has ever cast. She still hasn't seen two of Malick's four movies, Badlands and Days of Heaven, because the Blockbuster store near her Santa Monica home doesn't stock them.  The actress's naiveté is entirely forgivable, given that she's just 15 years old. She was a year younger than that when she travelled to Virginia with Farrell, Bale and Malick to play Indian princess Pocahontas, the mystery woman of American history.  "I didn't know who Colin Farrell was," says bright-eyed Kilcher, during a Toronto press stop. Her first name is Quechua Indian for "Golden Eagle," and pronounced Cory-AHN-ka.  "I knew a little bit who Christian Bale was because I saw him in Little Women. But they were such accomplished actors, when I met them. The entire cast was like that. I felt so honoured and so lucky to be able to work with them. I learned so much from being on set with them, even if I was just watching them and not doing a scene."  She did know who Pocahontas was, but only because she'd seen the Disney cartoon.  Her innocence was obviously a plus for Malick, who doesn't give interviews. It also fits with history. The real Pocahontas was a young teenager in 1607, when her tribe encountered the English settlers of Virginia, the first permanent European colony in America. As the story goes — and Malick sticks to the legend — Pocahontas fell in love with Capt. John Smith (Farrell) before choosing to marry fellow settler John Rolfe (Bale), a tobacco farmer.  Malick wouldn't let Kilcher meet Farrell, 29, or Bale, 31, until it was time to film with them in The New World, which opens in Friday. The scene where she and Farrell gaze in wonder at each other across a field of tall grass was actually the first time they laid eyes on each other.

The first time she and Farrell kiss onscreen qualifies as her first romantic smooch. She's never been on a date.  "I hadn't dated before, and I'm not dating now, either. Because I feel that I need to discover more of who I am and make myself a stronger person before I have my feelings involved with another person. I see it in my friends that you change who you are a little bit to be like the guy you're with. So I really want to know who I am and what I stand for before I do that. When it happens, it'll happen."  Kilcher's candour is as refreshing as it is rare. But it does seem hard to believe that a girl as well travelled and well spoken as she is, and one with such artistic ambitions — she even designs her own distinctive furred outfits — could be this undiscovered.  She was born in Germany to itinerant parents, her dad a hippie activist and her mom a Peruvian artist. The family later moved to Hawaii, where her younger brother Kainoa was born, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue Kilcher's dream of becoming a singer and dancer. It was a dream also shared by her mom, Saskia Kilcher, 37, who is the second cousin of pop singer Jewel Kilcher.  As so often happens with these things, Kilcher got into acting almost by accident. She had an extremely small part in a child choir in Ron Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but that didn't really lead anywhere— until a casting agent had a good look at her photo.  "This same casting office was also casting The New World. The assistant who discovered me, whose name is Joanna, I owe everything to her. She saw my photo on the table and she thought I looked like an Indian Julia Roberts.  "She was telling people, `I think you should bring her in.' But they said, `Nope, we don't even want to see her; she's way too young.... She risked her job for three days by persisting, and so they finally brought me in. I was there for about an hour doing an audition."  They kept telling her she was too young. But they also kept calling her back. Malick had her talk, sing, dance and play the Indian flute, another of her skills. When he finally made his mind up, and producer Sarah Green called her cell phone with the good news, she was crossing a street in Hollywood.

"I couldn't believe it! I stopped right in my tracks in the middle of the street. I started screaming at the top of my lungs and dancing around until I got honked out of the street."  Once she secured the role, she made it her job to learn as much as she could about Pocahontas, a woman who could rightly be called America's original First Lady. Kilcher found Disney's take to be "a little bit stereotyped. The Indians are kind of stereotyped. It was the image of a beautiful woman but it was a fantasy Pocahontas."  She's much happier with Malick's version. "It's close to being historically accurate. It shows that it's not all glitz and glamour, pretty this and pretty that. It shows more of the roughness that the colonists as well as the Native Americans went through. It's more realistic."  Her family is happy for her, especially her mom, who is travelling with her on her whirlwind press tour as both chaperone and family video documentarian.  "Everyone is so happy for me and they feel it's such a huge honour. I feel the same as well. Because Pocahontas had the first inter-racial child and her child was a symbol of peace, if you want to call it that. It was the coming together of two worlds."  She can't understand why people think Malick is so odd, just because he's only made four movies in 32 years and appears in public about as often as Halley's Comet.  "I think the reason people maybe say he's such a hard guy to work with is that he's such a spur-of-the-moment director. He will get inspired by the wind blowing in a field of fennel. And I love that about him. I love acting on my impulses, even at the risk of looking extremely stupid or being wrong or something. He's like that, too."  She wants to continue acting. She has caught the bug. But having hit a home run at her first big at-bat, she doesn't want to end up making dumb teenage comedies, as happens to so many young stars."I really would love to do meaningful films. Things that have good messages in them or give you something to think about when you walk out of the movie theatre.  "I don't care if a film has the lowest budget, or if I wasn't getting paid at all for it, if it's a meaningful film. If I had a choice between that or American Pie 5, I'd choose the film I wasn't getting paid for if it was more meaningful."

Profile: Greg Kinnear

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle MacDonald

 (Jan. 20, 2006) In the new anti-hit-man film The Matador, Greg Kinnear plays the nicest man to have ever set foot on the planet. As Danny Wright (it should be do-right), Kinnear is a cherubic husband who is crazy in love with his long-time wife (Hope Davis). In the opening scene, they're having energetic, early-morning sex in the kitchen.  A budding entrepreneur with a high-tech company, Danny Wright then hops a plane to Mexico, where he must sign an important client to keep food on the table. Things do not go swimmingly, but our Dudley remains unfailingly upbeat. Then one night, while nursing his insecurities over a few martinis in the lobby bar, Danny meets a total louse, Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan), an alcoholic hit man on the verge of career collapse. What does Wright do? He befriends him. And the wacky story goes on. Kinnear readily agrees that Wright was a tall order of benevolence to play. "He was impossibly swell wasn't he?" smirks Kinnear, who portrayed the sex-crazed, downright nasty Bob Crane in Paul Shrader's Auto Focus. "We shot this movie two years ago, but I remember [director] Richard Shepard continually coming up to me and saying: 'Greg, he sounds a bit angry. Tone it down.' And I'd say: 'He is? Okay, let me hit the nice throttle. How much nice throttle can I give you here? We're losing altitude.' But, yes, Richard was very much a fan of Danny's and he was into protecting his innocence and his sweetness at all costs." All of that is not to say that Kinnear doesn't seem like a perfectly swell sort himself.  Dressed in a white v-neck and jeans, he jumps heroically to the rescue when my tape recorder quits in mid-conversation. "Does anyone have a set of spare batteries?" the 42-year-old shouts to his handlers. "Double-As?" Once delivered, he takes the machine, removes the tape that held it together, and patches everything neatly back up. "Not only do I save Pierce in this movie, but I save you in the interview about Pierce in this movie!" Kinnear cracks. "It's unbelievable what I'm capable of." But the Oscar-nominated actor (he was feted for his role as Jack Nicholson's urbane gay neighbour in As Good as It Gets) sobers up slightly when asked what drew him to The Matador in the first place.

 "I liked the originality of it. I mean, hit-man-and-buddy stories are usually very cliché, and always conjure up images of guns and explosions, and stuff I just don't like," he explains. "But this script read like a play in a way. And there's an emotional centre here to these two guys. I liked the idea that these two men are in wildly different places, but we find them at a point where they're both falling into this quiet desperation. And I liked that a friendship was born out of intrigue with each others' lives. The grass is never as green, of course. But they learn something about themselves through each other." Shepard says Kinnear was his first choice to play Noble's morale-minded sidekick. "I knew this role was going to be a difficult one for Pierce because he's in an enormous amount of the movie, and he's also having to do stuff he's never done before," the director explains.  "This is not a movie with a lot of car chases. This is a character-driven film. I needed him to be opposite an amazing actor, who is also very funny, so Pierce would be at the top of his game. A lot of directing is just getting the right cast to make these characters real. Greg got it from the beginning." A son of a diplomat with the U.S. State Department, Kinnear was born in Logansport, a town in Indiana. He and his family moved all over, including stints in Beirut and Athens. While in Greece attending high school, the actor dabbled in broadcasting, hosting a show on U.S. Armed Forces Radio called School Daze with Greg Kinnear. He worked in a variety of news/entertainment jobs, before hitting close to the major leagues as host of E!'s Talk Soup. In 1994, he was hired by NBC to do a popular late-night program, Later with Greg Kinnear.  Soon after, he broke into feature films, landing the part of David Larrabee in Sydney Pollack's Sabrina (1995). Since then, he's been in a steady stream of movies, including comedies such as You've Got Mail and Mystery Men, as well as dramas, such as The Gift and Schrader's Auto Focus, about the twisted Hogan's Heroes star.

 The other part of The Matador script that attracted Kinnear, he says, was the husband-wife relationship.  "Here's this couple who has been married 10 years, and they're still madly in love with each other. Richard came to L.A. and we had lunch, and he explained that he wanted a pro-marriage movie. Not the bickering husband and wife thing, or the cheating husband and wife thing. And I thought: 'Wow, that is really sweet.' " In real life, Kinnear is married for six years to a non-actress, Helen Labdon. (Two years ago, they had their first child, a girl.)  Most of The Matador was shot inside beautiful old buildings and plazas in Mexico City, but there is one scene in an old bullring. Kinnear is convinced -- and he's probably right -- that the killing of a bull (not shown on screen) will raise the ire of audiences far more than the moral ambiguity of Noble, who knocks off people. "The filmmakers were worried how people would respond to the bull element," he says. "And I'll guarantee you someone will watch this movie about a despicable man who kills people, blows people away for god's sake. And they'll walk out and go, 'The problem with that film is that they're hurting bulls.' "

Indie Beginning

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Liam Lacey

 (Jan. 21, 2006) Park City, Utah — On Thursday afternoon, as Robert Redford looked back on the last 25 years of American independent film and the pivotal role of his Sundance Film Festival, he recalled standing on the street corner trying to lure people into the theatres, one of them the local library. A few more than 300 people attended during that first year, which is about the length of the average washroom line-up here nowadays. Nowadays, also, it's a rare thing to see Redford, except during the opening of the festival, and the streets are jammed with the 45,000 filmgoers and hangers-on who crash the event. The pretty youth in their North Face jackets, loud voices and jewellery, bare tummies exposed in the gaps of their designer sweatsuits, crowd about the boutiques and bars of the movie-front Western town on Main Street. The discordant cell phone orchestra plays accompaniment, and everyone looks around to see who might be famous. (My first sighting was last year's It boy, Gael Garcia Bernal, star of The Science of Sleep, looking less like a sex symbol than a young rabbinical student in his heavy beard and glasses; we shared a three-hour wait on the tarmac in Denver while wings were de-iced.) Every year is a party in Park City, and this year is a birthday of sorts. In 1981, the festival relocated from the Mormon capital in Salt Lake City to this one-time mining town and turned it into an alpine Hollywood outpost. Thursday night's opening film, Friends with Money, was from writer-director Nicole Holofcener, whose 2001 hit, Lovely & Amazing, was ushered through the Sundance process, as was her first film, Walking and Talking, more than a decade ago. Friends With Money, with Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and Frances McDormand, brought star presence to Sundance. It was an entirely suitable anniversary present for this odd festival, founded on Hollywood liberalism and cash.

 A gently slicing portrait of four Los Angeles women friends, Friends With Money captures a world of privilege and vacuous liberalism. One of the four, played by Aniston, has quit her job as a teacher and is now working as a housemaid. They have personal trainers. They go to $1,000-a-plate dinners for causes they can't quite remember the names of. And though they are depressed or stoned or insecure, they really, really feel good about the free cosmetic samples in department stores.  This is, in fact, a portrait of the Hollywood crowd, which, for all the concern about declining box office in the last year, are people with money.  Variety, the show-business bible, reportedly has the richest demographic of any magazine in the United States, but by and large, they're liberals in a conservative country. The pre-Oscar buzz for 2006 has emphasized how much Hollywood is at the front of the culture wars: Movies such as Brokeback Mountain, Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck have placed the movie community squarely in opposition to the values of George Bush Jr. and his media defenders.  Sundance, though set in a red Republican state, is the epicentre of Hollywood's anti-Republican opposition. Redford, a golden-boy Hollywood liberal who made his money in the seventies with such hit films as The Way We Were and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, was as disenchanted as anyone by Hollywood product by the end of the seventies. He started his Sundance Institute, which eventually took over the U.S.A. festival, to support alternative filmmaking and to promote his liberal agenda. "Independent film is, when you think about it, pretty American," said Redford on Thursday, but he emphasized that his view of America is a tradition of liberty and dissent. According to Peter Biskind, author of the Sundance history Down and Dirty Pictures, Redford was never anti-Hollywood, but in favour of improving the product. He felt that, "Independents had something to say but didn't have the skills to say it, and that Hollywood had nothing to say but said it with great skill." The goal has always been the synergy of good business and good causes that Sundance represents, what the Hollywood Reporter defined as "the Holy Grail: accessibly entertaining, low-budget, high-quality movies with known stars and indie cred."

 There remains an intriguing dissonance between the flashy L.A. buyers, dangling multimillion-dollar deals, and the festival's emphasis on injustice, racism, diversity and poverty. Sundance may be liberal, but it's still painfully exclusive. Only 120 features are selected (the Toronto International Film Festival carries twice that many) out of a mind-boggling 3,148 submissions (1,764 from the United States and 1,384 internationally). To accommodate the overflow, spinoff festivals such as Slamdance and Slamdunk have created their own alternative programs. Each year, the number of submissions represents a jump from the year before. There's a mordant humour in juxtaposing the downbeat documentary and drama subjects with the swag bags, parties and casual glitz of the festival. In this very white festival, there are films about anorexia, suicide, cancer, war, child refugees, racism, war, illegal Mexican immigration, the Greenhouse effect, coping with ALS (the theme of the dinner no one in Friends with Money could remember), and sleep deprivation (Who Needs Sleep). The latter, shot by master cinematographer Haskell Wexler, starts with the effects of sleep deprivation in the movie industry and expands the discussion to a wider cultural problem. A typical dramatic catalogue description emphasizes, not the great universal themes, but idiosyncratically personal ones. Here's a description of the film The Hawk is Dying, starring Paul Giamatti: "George Gattling is an auto upholsterer who lives with his sister, Precious, and her mentally challenged son, Fred. Occasionally in George's life, there is sex with Betty, a 20-something pothead. But George's passion and meaning in life are training hawks, even though he has fumbled falconry and killed several birds." Though Sundance can be easy to laugh at, there is an extraordinary story in the past 25 years. John Pierson, the guru producer of independent film (he helped Spike Lee complete She's Gotta Have It, made Clerks famous and sold Roger & Me for $3-million U.S.), once told me that, in 1979, you could literally count the number of American independent movies on one hand. By 1984, that number had reached about 50, by the early 1990s, around 400 and now, is in the thousands. Hollywood's increasingly corporate and safe practices during the early eighties created a need for an alternative. More film schools, cheaper equipment, a vastly expanded number of television channels created new opportunities, but Sundance created the focus. At a very rough guess, perhaps 5,000 to 7,000 feature films are produced in the world each year for theatrical release: About half that number are being produced in the United States alone each year. To a great extent, the publicity surrounding Sundance turned filmmakers into the new rock stars.

 Through the heyday of what used to be called cinephilia in the 1970s, when art-house cinemas were common and it was the mark of a cultured person to be conversant with Kurosawa rather than George Lucas, filmgoers were always looking for the next big thing. What would be the equivalent of the French New Wave of the early sixties? Was it the German new wave of the late seventies? Not quite. Asian cinema? Almost. Yet, under their noses, the biggest change in movie-making occurred, without much respect but an immense amount of activity — the rise of the American indie wave. Such films have changed Hollywood and have certainly altered the Oscars, where smaller, personal and more political films are now expected to win prizes. Though often considered too wide a category to be easily defined, you know an indie film when you see one. The dismissive, but all-purpose word "quirky" usually applies. This includes regional films, including those from New York's East Village by Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise, Down By Law), Abel Ferrara (The Addiction, Bad Lieutenant) and Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol); gender-bending dramas and comedies such as High Art, Go Fish, Boys Don't Cry and Monster; original shockers like Reservoir Dogs and The Blair Witch Project.  As Emanuel Levy points out in his book Cinema of Outsiders, indie films are not, generally speaking, "artistically provocative or artistically ground-breaking, despite the unusual stories, experimental pacing and fractured narratives." Few, for example, have followed the developments of American avant-gardists Stan Brakhage or Jonas Mekas. But the films of the indie movement, bolstered by Hollywood friends with money, are no longer on the margins. While they may not have the financial clout of King Kong or Revenge of the Sith, American independent films are now just the other side of the mainstream.

Down Went The Lights, Up Swelled The Anger

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Mark Mackinnon

 (Jan. 21, 2006) JERUSALEM -- Going to see Paradise Now in a Jerusalem movie theatre is an experience that starts to get uncomfortable before you even reach the box office. As soon as you arrive at the door of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, you're reminded of how close to home the award-winning film about would-be Palestinian suicide bombers is about to get. A young woman asks you to open your coat so she can give your body a once-over with her hand-held metal detector. Another guard, an older man carrying a pistol, watches the process carefully, ready to confront anyone who seems suspicious. While Paradise Now -- which won a Golden Globe this week as best foreign-language film -- is an exploration of what motivates young Palestinians to consider becoming suicide bombers, Jerusalem is the other side of its story.  It is a city scarred by the effects of such attacks, a place where you line up to have your bags searched before you line up for popcorn. The Cinematheque, the city's most venerable movie house, is a laid-back place by Jerusalem's uniquely uptight standards. If the movie were being screened at one of the city's big multiplexes -- because of the topic, it wasn't and it won't be -- you'd have to pass through even stricter, almost airport-style, security before entering. But the Cinematheque is nonetheless an edgier venue to watch Paradise Now than perhaps any other place the controversial film will be shown. The movie house is in Jewish West Jerusalem, but sits perched on a steep hill that overlooks the Arab east of the city. It's less than a 15-minute walk from Liberty Bell Park, where the last suicide bomber to hit Jerusalem detonated himself on a bus during morning rush hour in February of 2004, killing eight people and wounding dozens more. An hour before I went to the theatre, I received an e-mail from a man who said he lives in Tel Aviv and who lost his daughter in another suicide bombing. He complained that the movie was an "extremely dangerous piece of work" and that the Golden Globes, by giving it an award, were promoting terrorism.

 Thus, many of those who packed into the theatre Wednesday night to see why director Hany Abu Assad's movie was generating so much fuss came loaded down with personal baggage. It was as far as possible from the escapism that most people seek when they go to the movies. This was a film about life just beyond the theatre doors, albeit from a perspective that few in the crowd of 290 cinemagoers were used to seeing. The opening scene of a young Palestinian woman standing at an Israeli military checkpoint waiting to be allowed into the West Bank city of Nablus drew murmurs of recognition. The easygoing banter at the beginning of the movie between Khaled and Said (Ali Suliman and Kais Nashef), the two bored and likeable youths who are the film's central characters, sparked chuckles. A dead silence, however, reigned from the moment the two were approached by a bearded extremist who tells them they have been jointly selected to carry out a "martyrdom operation" in Tel Aviv. The palpable unease in the audience mounted as the film followed Khaled and Said through their last nights at home, and their preparations the following morning to commit the mass murder of Israelis. As Khaled and Said recorded videos explaining their reasons for becoming suicide bombers -- including a reference to Israel's hold over Jerusalem -- the man in front of me shifted again and again in his seat. The woman sitting beside me sighed repeatedly, heavily and disapprovingly. Several times, I thought she was about to leave. The tension finally broke toward the end as Said, who had wavered throughout the film about whether or not he would actually carry out his assignment, decided he had no other option. He laid the blame for his decision squarely on Israel and its 39-year-old occupation of the West Bank: "They left me no choice but to be the murderer and the murdered at the same time," he says near the end of his angry soliloquy. For some in the audience, emotions that had bubbled below the surface all evening finally boiled over. "It's a shame to show this in Israel!" shouted a woman in a wool-knit cap sitting at the back of the theatre. "This film helps the murderers, the terrorists!"

 When others in the audience loudly shushed her, she yelled back that her child had been killed in a suicide bombing. Continuing her shrill protest for several long minutes, she was joined by others in her shouting. Anxious ushers eventually calmed the situation, but the audience's mood had already slid from disquieted to something that seemed to border more on depressed. Many sat slumped in their chairs long after the movie ended, several holding their heads in their hands as if dismayed by the movie, the yelling match, or both. A group of young Arab men I'd seen come in just before the movie started -- I noticed them because they seemed to the only Arabs in the theatre -- left before the houselights went up. Director Abu Assad comes from a background as complicated as the conflict at the centre of his movie: He's an Arab born in the Israeli city of Nazareth who considers himself Palestinian. He said he made Paradise Now -- which is a taut and compelling film, but makes no effort to humanize the nameless Israelis who are the movie's antagonists -- in the hope of drawing global attention to the Palestinian cause. By winning a Golden Globe, he's done that. What his film didn't seem to do -- at least one night in Jerusalem this week -- was bring the two sides any closer than they've ever been.

Alliance Unit Signs Movie Distribution Deal

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Grant Robertson

 (Jan. 24, 2006)
Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc.'s movie distribution subsidiary has reached a multiyear pact to market films in Canada for Weinstein Co., a young but influential Hollywood studio. The deal will see the Movie Distribution Income Fund, an income trust that is 51-per-cent owned by Alliance, handle the release of 80 films for Weinstein Co. over the next four years. The studio, launched last year, was created by producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who founded Miramax Film Corp. in 1979 and whose films have drawn nearly 250 Oscar nominations. Terms of the distribution deal were not disclosed, but Lloyd Wiggins, chief financial officer of the income fund, said up-front costs will affect the company's balance sheet. The fund expects its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) will be reduced by roughly $3.4-million owing to advertising and marketing costs of several theatrical releases included in the deal. Mr. Wiggins said those costs would be recouped when the films make their way to the more lucrative home theatre market and the fund can capitalize on marketing rights for the DVD and television release of the films. He did not provide an estimate of what those earnings would be. Among the Weinstein Co. movies being released in Canada under the deal are the fourth instalment of the Scary Movie franchise, and School for Scoundrels.

 Though the fund has negotiated similar agreements with the producers before, Mr. Wiggins said it wasn't sure the contract would be landed this time. "There was a lot of speculation as to who [Weinstein Co.] would actually get to exploit their films in Canada," he said. Alliance Atlantis, which has been looking to sell its stake in the income fund after identifying it as a "non-core asset," has received some interest from buyers, but has not found a potential sale. Andrew Akman, vice-president of corporate development for Alliance Atlantis, said the company is in no rush to sell its stake, which produces $23-million in distributions for the Toronto-based company. In putting the income fund on the block, Alliance Atlantis has shifted its focus to its specialty channels, such as the Showcase network, and the distribution rights it holds for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its two spinoff programs. The movie distribution announcement comes on the heels of a similar deal with New Line Cinema announced in December that lasts through 2008. Units in the fund rose 44 cents to $8.99 on the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday.

The Illusionist, A `Terrific Romantic Thriller' Cost A Fraction Of What Most Hollywood Pictures Do

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

 (Jan. 24, 2006) PARK CITY, Utah—The Sundance Film Festival is famous for presenting unknown filmmakers on shoestring budgets with shaky cameras telling contemporary stories.  So what's a handsome period piece set in 1900 Vienna, with top-drawer talent and a score by Philip Glass, doing here?  This was exactly the question posed by festival director Geoffrey Gilmore at the world premiere Sunday night of writer/director Neil Burger's The Illusionist, a terrific romantic thriller starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel that is a classic example of how to do more with less.  Burger, a Yale fine arts grad from New York, says he made the movie for a sum "in the lower mid-teens ($13 million to $16 million U.S.)." Yet it looks like a Hollywood studio picture costing five times that much or more.  It's a welcome indication that "independent" no longer has to be considered synonymous with "amateurish," as has so often been the case here.  Gilmore told the Eccles Theatre audience he didn't know what to make of The Illusionist when he was first presented with it, because it was so far from the standard notion of indie filmmaking. Period pieces with full costumes and big sets rarely play Sundance.  But the film's quality speaks for itself, Gilmore said, and the audience agreed with a standing ovation after the screening.  This is likely to be one of the big sales here this week, challenging the $10 million (U.S.) for current festival favourite Little Miss Sunshine.  Norton is Eisenheim the Illusionist, a mysterious gent blessed with uncanny powers that seem beyond the ken of mere mortals, especially for the son of a humble cabinetmaker.  He has been dazzling 1900 Vienna with feats of magic so astounding, they have attracted the attention of Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), the scheming heir to the Austrian throne. Leopold distrusts Eisenheim, all the more so because the prince's fiancée, Duchess von Teschen (Biel), seems enchanted with the artist for more than just his stage tricks.  Leopold conscripts his shifty head of police, Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti), to find out what Eisenheim is really up to.

 The prince is justified in his suspicions, but all other assumptions about this movie are upended by Burger's clever screenplay, which he adapted from the short story Eisenheim the Illusionist by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser. You may want to see it twice just to figure out the final reel.  The sepia-tinted movie looks blue chip all the way, despite being shot in Prague in 46 days for less money than the big studios use to promote a single movie.  Composer Philip Glass contributed a stirring score, magician Ricky Jay taught Norton how to be a convincing sleight-of-hand artist, and all of the talent surpass their previous performances, even though each of them had to affect a German accent (with no clangers, thankfully).  It's only Burger's second feature — he has also done commercials for MTV, MasterCard, IBM and Amnesty International — but he's definitely a filmmaker to watch.  He said he wanted to film Millhauser's short story as soon as he read it, but he had reservations about trying to present magic on the big screen, because people often find it hard to believe.  "Cinema is magic, and you can always just cut away and the woman is in the box," Burger explained at the Q&A session following the screening.  He decided the best thing was to try to make the magic tricks as authentic as possible, using computer imaging sparingly.  "We tried to do most of the illusions as they would have done it then (in 1900). We tried to stay away from CGI."  The cast members were in sync with Burger's intentions. Most of them made the trek to Park City with him, with the exception of Norton, who is in New York shooting another film.  "I got to smoke a pipe and wear a cool hat," Giamatti said, when an audience member asked him why he took the role of Inspector Uhl.  After the laughed died down, he elaborated.  "The script was great and the period thing was incredibly appealing to me. I'd never done anything like it before. You know, those costumes do a hell of a lot of the work for you. You put that stuff on and it feels great."  Biel looks smashing in her gowns, far removed from the bikinis and bimbo wear that have become her designer statement recently.

 She said she'd been at Sundance just once previously, when she was 14 years old in 1997. That was for her movie debut playing Peter Fonda's daughter in Victor Nunez's Ulee's Gold, and she was in Park City for just about 24 hours.  "So I would call this my first time here and it's awesome!" Biel said.  The Illusionist was working another kind of magic Sunday night.  So taken was a young female audience member by Giamatti's sharp-suited look in the picture — a far cry from his usual sad-sack style — she stood up and asked him if he'd go out on a date with her that very evening.  Giamatti seemed genuinely flattered, but it's unclear whether he took her up on her offer to paint Main St. red together.  You know how it is with celebrities: now you see them, now you don't.  Meanwhile, the advance buzz is justified for Christopher Quinn's God Grew Tired of Us, an insightful and beautifully lensed documentary about the "lost boys" of the Sudanese civil war of the late 1980s and early 1990s that also premiered here Sunday night.  Through the personal stories of three refugees — named John, Daniel and Panther — Quinn examines the plight of some 27,000 orphaned children, many of them just toddlers, who marched thousands of kilometers across desert sands to flee the battleground.  They ended up in refugee camps first in Ethiopia and later in Kenya, where they have lived for years with few prospects.  "It's like waiting for your grave," one of them says.  But through the charity of foreign-aid groups, some of these "lost boys" — as they came to be known — managed to leave the camps and immigrate to America, where they experienced for the first time many of the things we take for granted: electricity, running water and toilets.  They are now in their early 20s, and we watch as they excitedly prepare to move to the land of plenty that awaits them: "In America, you can't go to bed with an empty stomach," one of them says.  John is bound for Syracuse, N.Y.; Daniel and Panther for Pittsburgh. But they also feel guilty about leaving behind so many of their friends, who will remain in the refugee camp.  "If I got a good place, why not them?" John asks. "That is my first question."  The revelation of the film is in watching how the three adapt to foreign schools, menial jobs and completely unfamiliar urban environments.  There is much humour — they prefer their own refugee rations to airplane food — but also a surprising amount of regret.  We see America through the eyes of complete innocents, who aren't sure if they've made real progress or not.  There are no talking heads on the screen to speak about aid groups or to make political or philosophical statements.  It's a portrait of the complications of immigration. So often we take for granted the notion that everyone wants to move to North America because they consider the country they left behind to be inferior.  That's not the case with these lost boys, who long to return to Sudan. They dream of making their homeland a better place than they left it.  God Grew Tired of Us is executive produced by Brad Pitt and narrated by Nicole Kidman, so it has some real Hollywood muscle behind it.  Watch for it to show up in Toronto sometime this year, possibly as part of a film festival.

Actress Beverly Todd: Looking For The Oscar Nod

 Excerpt from

 (Jan. 25, 2006) You may not recognize the name Beverly Todd, but you should. Todd’s very impressive work spans four decades – and she’s just getting started. Truly a Renaissance woman, the latest feather in Todd’s cap was her stellar role in “Crash” as the mother of Don Cheadle’s character, Detective Graham. The actress may not have had top billing, but her performance has been acclaimed as such. In fact, Todd is working toward an Oscar nod for her supporting role. This has been her modus operandi for quite some time – coolly powerful performances. Todd has graced the casts of other acclaimed works such as “Lean On Me,” “Clara’s Heart,” “The Call Me MR Tibbs,” and an unforgettable part in the most watched mini-series, “Roots.” Todd has been a star of stage and screen and has the resume to prove it, but it’s her versatile and immersed acting style that has made her, to some degree, overlooked. Now, Todd’s come to the point where fans and critics are singing her praises. And this has motivated her to shoot for Oscar. “I was lucky enough to get a role in crash last year. It was a small role, but it was such a powerful role,” Todd modestly stated. “I had no idea the impact that that role would have on people. In fact I’m vying for an Oscar nomination. Never in my entire career, and I’ve done some amazing projects – with a lot of the major names in the industry – never have I received such a massive amount of calls as I got with this role. I was so happy that it touched people the way that it did.” Touched people it did. Whether angered or sympathetic, Todd got audiences to connect and confront her character – and that’s the buzz in Hollywood. “People were saying stuff like, ‘Oscar nomination.’ So I said, ‘Hey, since everybody’s feeling it, let me not be passive and [instead] be aggressive. Let me see if that in fact can happen, and it may or it may not, but I took action.” Though Todd considers herself a ‘natural,’ she is continually challenged and challenging herself. Her role in “Crash” was no different. She explained to EUR’s Lee Bailey that she’d actually been studying for the part for a long time.  “When I read the script, I knew that character immediately. I started a school called Sunshine Circle…for young African American kids in New York. We found a space on 125th and Park Avenue. At that time it was considered junkie haven. There were heroine addicts all up and down that street. On the third floor where we were also housed a methadone clinic. So all day long, outside the building and up and down the elevator I saw these women and men trading one addiction for another. I watched these women never knowing that I was studying for this role in ‘Crash.’ As an actress, I’ve always people watched and always watched behaviours. When I read the script, I knew that woman right away.” In addition to people watching, Todd said that she is constantly learning and honing her craft. She confides that even as a veteran actress who’s worked with legends, she stays in the learning mode. “There is always something new to learn. I think that you can never learn too much about your craft. Superstars, they work all the time. If you go from film to film to film, you’re constantly using your craft and you're constantly exploring it and stretching it. But if you are not working all the time, I think school is key. I think it’s important to keep studying,” she said. Todd actually didn’t start studying acting until she arrived in Los Angeles. Her initial years on Broadway and on stage in musical theatre were showcases of her innate acting ability.  “I was never really trained,” she admitted. “I didn’t learn to use my body as an instrument. Staying in character and being in character is the way to go. My best work is having being trained like that – when I am feeling the emotion. When I did my first role, I didn’t know how to cry. Every night I had to cry on stage, and I pretended to cry and I was very effective … but I felt cheated because I didn’t really know how to become that character and feel whatever emotion. However, for me, I love the fact that I know how to get that emotion and work with my body to the place where what I’m doing is feeling it.”

 She also described that her style of immersion was both a blessing and a curse in Hollywood.  “I have always been an actress who never looked the same in the roles. I prided myself in trying to become a character instead of being Beverly.  And I think that played against me a lot because sometimes I was not recognizable,” she explained. “Even now sometimes people say, ‘Was that you?’ It’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good think in that you really do what you set out to do in creating the character, but it’s a bad thing because nobody knows who the hell you were doing it.” So, Todd offers this advice to aspiring actors: “If you want to keep your name in the spotlight, you certainly need a PR agent. And what I tell young people is to learn how to do everything. Learn to write, produce, and direct. If you can learn how to run that film or operate that camera, do that. So that you can become a one-man band and you don’t have to sit around and wait for anybody to give you a job – you create your own work.” Furthermore, the multi-talented Todd – who was a singer and a stand-up comic – suggests that artistic people expand their artistic skills, too. She has. She is currently the partner of the event design firm Pace & Todd Creations, and has also partnered with Dionne Warrick in a production company, which is currently producing a documentary about Warrick’s career. “I travel around as an interviewer for Dionne’s documentary,” she said, reeling off such legendary names as Clive Davis, Sir Michael Caine, Stevie Wonder, Holland Dozier Holland, and George Duke. Coming up tomorrow night (Jan 26), Todd is joining promoter/producer David Gest in an all-star tribute at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre to Dionne Warrick, saluting her 45 years of music. “We’ll be taping part of the show and some of the celebrities to include in the documentary.” Todd has had a grand career and is very positive about the coming accolades. “It’s a great thing to look back at my body of work and see all the good projects I’ve been associated with,” she said humbly. “I’ve had a good run. Someone reminded me of how fortunate I am that after all these years I’m still current and I’m still working, and that I’m still in a movie that was one of the hottest movies of all time. It’s a good thing.”   Paging, Oscar.

Inuit Filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk Has Followed Up His Acclaimed Debut

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle MacDonald

 (Jan. 25, 2006) Many years ago, Inuit filmmaker
Zacharias Kunuk made a pact with his people -- he would always show them his work first. So when his debut feature film, Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, was finally complete in 2001, the 48-year-old director bought a projector and a large screen, and rented the gymnasium (the biggest space available) in his Nunavut hometown of Igloolik. He then invited, over three nights, the roughly 1,200 townsfolk who then lived in the isolated Arctic community. They came in droves, many more than once, to see a film that went on a few months later to scoop Canne's prestigious Camera d'or. Now, five years later, Kunuk is in the final-editing stages of his second film, which he plans to premier in the same Igloolik hall on March 9. In the ensuing years, the remote Baffin Island town has grown to 1,800 people, so he expects he might have to add a screening. Needless to say, everyone has circled the date on their calendar. Kunuk's highly anticipated new movie, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (whose $6.3-million budget is roughly three times that of Atanarjuat), is a command performance in these frigid, barren parts, 2,800 kilometres north of Toronto. For this premiere, Kunuk has to go out and buy another new projector -- this one high-definition since The Journals of Knud Rasmussen was shot exclusively in HD, the latest in cutting-edge video technology. Reached by phone at his office, Kunuk explains that this film, like Atanarjuat, is a spiritual tale that mines the Inuit's rich history. As before, he has hired locals to work on and act in his movie, as well as some Danes and Greenlanders. While Atanarjuat was based on a 4,000-year-old oral tale, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen is based on detailed accounts kept by the 1920s Danish ethnographer/explorer Rasmussen (played by the Danish actor Jens Jorn Spottag) and his companions, who travelled in the Arctic and chronicled the dramatic impact of Christianity on what was then called the Eskimo way of life. The heart of the epic tragedy is the story of Ava, the last great Inuit shaman and his beautiful and headstrong daughter, who struggle to survive and adapt as their world evolves (or devolves, depending on your perspective). "It's the story of the nomadic world and the Christian world colliding -- and Christianity won," says Kunuk, who has five children with his common-law wife. "When I was growing up, we were learning about Jesus Christ who walked on water, ran out of wine, and made water into wine. To us, that was a shaman. I was brought up on the Anglican side, and our minister didn't allow us to dance or story-tell. In the seventies, those things were totally banned. They were the work of the devil. You had to go to church whether you liked it or not. The only time I didn't go was when I was sick.

 "In the sixties and seventies, our community was divided into two groups, the Anglicans and the Catholics. We couldn't go out with Catholic girls. And on Sunday, we couldn't play outside with our Catholic cousins. Now it's really mixed. You can live on either side." With religion at its core, Kunuk knows the film is bound to stir up memories (good and painful) among the elders in his community. He expects there will be some debate about the film's merit among his own people, but he feels it was a critical story to tell because it's a window into his people's past. "I just always wanted to do a shaman/Christianity story," explains Kunuk, who speaks both English and Inuktitut. "Like Atanarjuat, Ava figures large in the collective psyche of the region. He was like the messiah. Shamans became shamans when they were alone and saw the light. Jesus wandered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Then he saw the light." Kunuk's long-time creative and business partner, Norm Cohn, says they hope to take Knud Rasmussen to Cannes, and then on to the Toronto International Film Festival this fall. Twenty years ago, the two men formed Igloolik Isuma Productions, and have been making documentaries, TV programs and feature films ever since. This project, a co-production with Copenhagen's Barok Film, is their most ambitious work to date. "This film is deliberately not Fast Runner," says Cohn, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was reached at his office in Montreal (he also lives part of the year in Igloolik). "We think our second film will be as surprising as our first film, meaning it'll take people somewhere they've never been before. I think a lot of people are going to love it, and I guess some people won't. The audiences will have to decide." Cohn is producer of The Journals of Knud Rasmussen and co-wrote the script. Cohn began his career as a videographer, and emigrated to Canada in the 1980s. He was teaching camera techniques in Iqaluit when Kunuk, a sculptor turned self-taught video cameraman then working for the Inuit Broadcasting Corp., walked into his class. The two have never looked back.

 But the meteoric success of Atanarjuat (the first feature ever filmed in Inuktitut) changed their lives for good. Where it took years of scrambling to drum up $2-million to make Fast Runner, this one was far easier to finance. (The box-office success of Atanarjuat, for example, ensured Kunuk and Cohn's production company was one of a handful to qualify for Telefilm Canada's coveted multimillion-dollar production envelopes, normally bequeathed to the likes of Robert Lantos and Atom Egoyan.) Still, physically, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen was no walk in the park to make. Shot in April and May of last year -- in Igloolik and at a makeshift camp 65 kilometres north in the middle of nowhere -- their cameras regularly froze and broke down in the minus-30 weather. They survived blizzards, melting igloos and meagre meals (local hunters were often hired to shoot lunch or dinner). Despite the challenges of filming north of the Arctic Circle, Cohn believes the end result will be as breathtaking and inspiring for audiences as Atanarjuat. "We did our first film under the worst possible circumstances," says Cohn. "It was a war to get it financed. Paul [Apak Angilirq, Kunuk's long-time friend and collaborator] was sick and died in the middle of it. And even when we did get it financed, it was under-budgeted by half, at least. "This time we didn't have the same level of problems so we were actually able to devote more attention to the creative filmmaking, and less to the political warfare that goes with it. Did we produce a better film? The people will have to decide." So in less than two months, the locals of Igloolik will get the first crack. It's a given that Kunuk and Cohn will be watching their faces closely to see if they were able, once again, to lay bare the heart and soul of this fascinating culture on the big screen.


John Singleton To Helm Clancy’s ‘Remorse’

Excerpt from

(Jan. 19, 2006) *John Singleton has signed a deal to adapt and direct author Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse,” a spy thriller for Paramount thatcenters on former Navy SEAL and CIA operative John Kelly, code-named Mr. Clark, who first appeared in "Clear and Present Danger." The project reunites Singleton with his one time CAA agent Michael Ovitz, who will serve as the film’s executive producer.  "I've known Mike my whole career in the business," Singleton told the Hollywood Reporter. "I was signed by CAA when I was in film school. Mike took an early hand in my career, so it's really good to be working with him. We get along really well."   Singleton, who directed last summer’s “Four Brothers” for Paramount, said he aims to make the film in line with the Phillip Noyce-helmed Clancy thrillers he is a fan of, "Clear and Present Danger" and "Patriot Games." The filmmaker is also attached to direct "Convoy" for Paramount, which he would start after "Without Remorse."

Innovation Fund Offers $300,000 To New Projects

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Jan. 24, 2006) Toronto -- Canadian mavericks in film, new media and television will now have access to the
Telus Innovation Fund, which will offer up to $300,000 annually to three innovative projects. To be administered by the Canadian Film Centre, the fund is open to any applicant who pitches original Canadian content with the potential to reach the general public. The fund's goal is to support projects that put Canadian ideas, talent, and media at the forefront of the future of entertainment, the Canadian Film Centre said in a press release. Applicants must apply by Friday. A cross-country jury will then select a small number who will be invited to submit full proposals. Staff

Winning Students To Explain Film-Rating System

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Jan. 24, 2006) Toronto -- Five college or university students will receive up to $7,500 each from the
Ontario Film Review Board and the Ontario Ministry of Government Services to prepare 60-second public-service shorts to run in movie theatres that explains the province's film-classification system. The five are to be chosen in a province-wide competition, details of which are to be announced today. Contestants will be asked to submit a 300-word pitch plus storyboard by March 31. The pitch must place particular emphasis on the province's PG rating, one of five classifications introduced by Ontario in 2003 and incorporated into its new Film Classification Act passed last August. Staff

Actor Chris Penn Found Dead

Source:  Associated Press

(Jan. 25, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Actor
Chris Penn, brother of Sean Penn, was found dead Tuesday at a condominium near the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., police said.  Police said they discovered the 40-year-old actor's body around 4 p.m. local time. Lieut. Frank Fabrega said there were no obvious signs of foul play.  Sean Penn's publicist, Mara Buxbaum, issued a statement saying: ``The Penn family would appreciate the media's respect of their privacy during this difficult time."  Chris Penn's body was found inside the four-storey condominium complex after police were called by someone from within the building, Fabrega said.  An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death, authorities said.  Chris Penn's credits included Mulholland Falls, Rumble Fish, All the Right Moves, Footloose and Rush Hour. He also played Nice Guy Eddie Cabot in the 1992 Quentin Tarantino crime drama Reservoir Dogs.  His late father, Leo Penn, directed television shows. His mother, Eileen Ryan, is an actress whose credits include I Am Sam, Magnolia and Parenthood. Another brother is musician Michael Penn.  Chris Penn's latest film, The Darwin Awards, was scheduled to premiere Wednesday at the Sundance Film Festival.

Emmitt Till Story To Be Made Into Movie

Excerpt from

(Jan. 18, 2006) *Plans are in the works to produce a film about the life of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black boy who was killed in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, producers Frederick Zollo and Thomas Levine are teaming on the project with director Keith Beauchamp, whose documentary "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till" is currently in theatres.  Zollo told the trade magazine: "I have always wanted to do a film about the Till case but was never sure how to tell the story. When Tom and I met Keith Beauchamp and saw his powerful film, it became much clearer.”       Till's murder by a mob of white Southerners is widely recognized for sparking the civil rights movement. The men were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury after less than an hour of deliberation. Four months later, they boasted about the crime in an interview with Look magazine but were never brought to justice because of laws against double jeopardy.   Zollo said the film will focus on Till's life and slaying as well as the crime's immediate aftermath and will include elements of Beauchamp's life that parallel Till's.       Zollo’s producing credits include "Mississippi Burning," which told the story of three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi in 1964, and "Ghosts of Mississippi," which centered on the killing of Medgar Evers, a leading figure in the civil rights movement.

More Honours For Brokeback Mountain

Source: Associated Press

(Jan. 23, 2006) Los Angeles — Adding to its list of honours, Brokeback Mountain scored again by taking the top prize Sunday at the 15th annual Producers Guild of America Awards. Diana Ossana and James Schamus, who produced the Ang Lee-directed story of two ranch hands who conceal an ongoing homosexual affair from their families, took home the guild's top prize, the Darryl F. Zanuck producer of the year award. Ossana also co-wrote the screenplay with famed Western author Larry McMurtry. Brokeback won four Golden Globes last week -- including best picture honours in the drama category -- and has been lauded by critics' groups around the country. The man-and-dog buddy adventure Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit earned Claire Jennings and Nick Park the producer of the year award for animated film. Other winners at the awards ceremony held at the Universal Hilton included:

-- Long-Form Television: The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, HBO.
-- Episodic Drama: Lost, ABC.
-- Episodic Comedy: Entourage, HBO.
-- Variety Television: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Syndicated.
-- Non-Fiction Television: 60 Minutes, CBS.

Da Vinci Code To Open Cannes, Out Of Competition

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Jan. 23, 2006) Paris -- The movie version of best-selling book The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard, will open the Cannes Film Festival on May 17, two days before its worldwide release, the organizers said in a statement. The thriller will be not be competing for a festival award, said the statement Saturday evening. Dan Brown's book, about a series of high-profile murders behind a Vatican plot to conceal the true meaning of the Holy Grail, has sold more than 30 million copies in around 40 languages. Producers invested $100-million in the film version of the book, which stars two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks, French favourites Audrey Tatou and Jean Reno, and British actors Sir Ian Mckellen and Alfred Molina. AFP

Casting Call For Criminals Draws 3,000

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jan. 23, 2006) NEW DELHI (AP) — Bombay police might want to check out this movie.  Little-known director Nabh Kumar Raju says he's making a mafia-themed film with an entire cast of criminals or people who say they've at least attempted a crime, The Times of India newspaper reported Monday.  About 3,000 hopefuls turned up for the audition. The paper did not say when it was held.  The paper said Raju asked all the wannabe actors only one question before their auditions: "Have you ever attempted any crime?"  The six people chosen include a sharpshooter, a local mafia boss facing trial, a man involved in past kidnappings and a thief, the report said.  Raju could not immediately be reached for comment.  India's Bombay-based Hindi-language film industry, dubbed Bollywood, churns out massive numbers of song-and-dance movies each year which are watched by millions of people around the world.


Salem: CBS Turns To The Past

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem

 (Jan. 20, 2006) PASADENA, Calif.—They are (one of them literally) a kind of prime-time "first wives club," back to take a second stab at sitcom success.  CBS, the cop-show network, with its comedy line-up of doofus husbands married to sarcastic shrews, has turned to the past hits of other networks to find two successful single gals for whom having it all is not nearly enough.  Jenna Elfman, the former Dharma of ABC's Dharma & Greg, plays a wacky-yet-driven corporate lawyer looking for love in Courting Alex, which debuts Monday night. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, ex Elaine of NBC's Seinfeld, is now an amicably divorced gym owner and doting mom about to re-enter the dating scene in The New Adventures of Old Christine, due in March.  Both women came off long-running sitcom hits to a relatively lukewarm reception elsewhere, Elfman in movies, Louis-Dreyfus on another sitcom, the initially innovative (thus inevitably doomed) Watching Ellie.  Both are now trying to reconcile those indelible earlier incarnations with new characters in new situations that are perhaps a bit more reflective of themselves.  "I wasn't specifically looking for something that was totally different," Elfman says. "I wasn't looking for something that was similar. I did Dharma, and I know what that was for me. I did that, and that was complete and satisfying, and very known to the public . . .  "When I decided I wanted to do television again, I went, `All right. What do I want it to be? What do I want to do?' I knew I wanted to be a single woman in Manhattan, I wanted men around me ... I wanted my character to be strong. I wanted her to be dynamic and alive. I wanted her to be really good at something and then, obviously, with some kind of Achilles heel, because that's where the comedy would come in."

 And television comedy was something she was good at, and was therefore, ultimately, eager to return to. "I missed making people laugh," she says. "I missed the live audience. I missed doing the physical comedy that I love to do. I missed the mental challenge of comedy.  "It's definitely not an easy task. Because if I'm doing it, I'm going to do it, and it's going to be good, and I'm going to work really hard."  This is a trait she shares with her new persona. "I too have a set of blinders when it comes to work. I enjoy working. I'm a workaholic ... I care a lot about being really good at what I do. I'm not a fan of being a dilettante, and I think that I share in common with Alex."  Julia Louis-Dreyfus too is, unlike her new sitcom character, still happily married, to fellow Saturday Night Live grad (and Watching Ellie co-producer) Brad Hall. At the same time, the character of "old" Christine — the nickname she is aghast to earn when her ex-husband starts dating a girl with the same name — quite intentionally reflects her real-life role as a mom.  "When I was trying to figure out what could I come back to TV doing ... that's kind of tricky. `What's the role? What's the job? Who's this person I want to bring and make funny?' And then I thought, `Well, of course, I know mothering. I know that really well. I've got two young boys. I mean, that's my life."

 And it was right around this time that she was handed the Christine script by Kari Lizer, a former actress (she was Matlock's secretary) and a single mom herself.  "Coincidentally, my agent sends to me this script, written by Kari, fully formed, and so the development process ended. I read it, I loved it, I thought it was funny ... end of story."  It was also, significantly, not Elaine.  "It's not that I really wanted to break away from her," Louis-Dreyfus says. "I feel very proud about playing that part for such a long time. It was funny. And that's my goal, to play somebody who's just plain funny.  "I think the difference with this character is that perhaps she's a little more grounded, and perhaps she's a little bit more real in a way that Elaine never was.  "I would say that she has a pathetic quality that is similar. I mean, I think that the idea of humiliating circumstances for this character who's trying to do the very best she can by her child and in her life and doesn't really always succeed ... I think that's relatable, because we all kind of feel that way to a certain extent.  "And there's an inherent conflict there that's comedic."

Princely Canucks Rule U.S. TV

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem

 (Jan. 22, 2006) PASADENA, Calif. "Tom, you gotta come see this!  Skating! They've actually got people skating in here!" 
Jason Priestley comes running over, eyes alight, excited at the incongruous sight of two lone skaters twirling listlessly around a six-foot patch of plastic, surrounded by uprooted pines and firs and mounds of fake cotton snow inside a former airplane testing facility in sunny, suburban Southern California.  No one here is quite sure what the "winter wonderland" theme of the CBS talent party is supposed to signify. Priestley, Tom Cavanagh and the handful of Canadian journalists present elect to assume that it's all about us, from the faux snow to the dead trees to the white-capped mountain vistas projected on the walls.  "They want to make us feel welcome," Cavanagh suggests. "And I, for one, am genuinely moved."  In truth, there are mixed feelings down here about the increasing influx of Canadian talent into this very insular industry. "There are an awful lot of you, aren't there?" an American colleague whispers, conspiratorially, as if expecting the answer to blow the lid off some covert Canadian cabal.  "We're taking over  from within," I whisper back, in an effort not to disappoint.  It's not that they don't like Canadians  quite the contrary, in fact. We are generally perceived to be honest, polite, forthright, hard-working professionals.  As very much personified by Cavanagh, the Ottawa-born former light beer pitchman who arrived here, via Broadway, to more-or-less instantaneous acclaim as the affable attorney hero of the NBC prime-time romantic comedy, Ed.  And now, several TV movies and indie flicks later, he's on another network, CBS, in Love Monkey, in a similarly sympathetic starring role as an uncommonly sincere and sensitive record-industry talent scout, on a quest for true love and the next chart-topping pop phenom through the funky clubs and coffee-houses of New York.  Priestley walked this cross-border career path first (just as both have since gone on to direct), as a star of the iconic teen soaper, Beverly Hills 90210. Now he is Cavanagh's second banana, the lead character's brother-in-law and longtime pal.  And pals they do appear to be  though in fact, prior to being cast, the two had never met before.  "Tom, you know, pretends to be from Ottawa," Priestley disses. "But he's really from British Columbia, which is where I'm from. So we have a lot in common that way. Sasquatch sightings ..."  "I would say that's a conversational cul-de-sac," allows Cavanagh, sensing imminent, massive disinterest and the far-off sound of crickets chirping.

 And how do a couple of B.C. boys end up being cast as native New Yorkers, anyway?  "There's a tax break you get in New York if you hire Canadians," jokes producer Michael Rauch, who adapted the Love Monkey series concept (the hero was originally a boring old journalist) from the novel by Kyle Smith.  (Earlier on, Rauch had attempted to endear himself with his first-hand knowledge of, and love for, Toronto: "Ah yes, I know it well: Bloor Street, Yongeville, Spadeena" ... He was less than convincing.)  "In our defence," offers Cavanagh, "Jason and I both spent a lot of years ... we've both lived in New York, on and off, since 1989. Apart from Canada, it's a second home."  One association Cavanagh will never quite shake is his well-earned reputation as a genuinely nice guy.  "When you have people writing well for you," he demurs, "that's the persona that gets presented to the public. You know, when 10 million people watch, and through deft writing, somebody does something that seems nice, you somehow get portrayed as that person.  "But I will say it's better to be considered likeable than it is to be considered arrogant."  "I just want to jump in here," interjects Rauch, "and say that he really is a prince of a human being."  "A prince of Canada," blushes Cavanagh. "And Jason is my king."  CANADIAN CONSPIRACY: Another known hotbed of northern infiltration is the Fox Network and its returning cult hit, 24, which started out with five Canadians in the cast and has added at least one new one per season (this year it's Geraint Wynn Davies).  Coincidence or conspiracy? "Actually, it's more a combination of both," laughs Kiefer Sutherland, 24's covertly Canadian co-producer and star.  "Joel and Bob (creator/producers Surnow and Cochrane) shot La Femme Nikita in Toronto for five years. So many of the actors that they knew through the casting process of that show, and other people that they wanted to use but that might not have been right for a part at that time, have all conveniently found their way here."

 The next Canadian addition to the Fox family is young Edmonton improv ace Josh Dean, the star of the network's new mid-season slacker comedy, Free Ride.  And how could a story refer to both Canadians and skating  and the Fox Network  and not include at least a passing reference to Jillian Barberie, the transplanted TV personality (Good Day L.A., Fox NFL Sunday) and celebrity contestant on the network's new Skating with Celebrities.  Raised in Burlington by adoptive parents, Barberie eventually tracked her birth family back to Toronto.  "I haven't been there in 11 years," she says, "but they keep inviting me up, and I would love to go back."  She is the only one of the show's non-professionals with any appreciable figure-skating experience.  "Growing up in Canada, I skated after school," she says. "It was sort of what I did to keep me out of trouble. That lasted until I was 14. And then I decided I wanted to invest in boys instead of skates. And I stopped skating.  "Going into this, I figured, `I've been skating my whole life. I know exactly what I'm doing.' But what you remember yourself doing at 14 and what you can actually execute at 39 are completely different things.  "I mean, I had never pair-skated," she says of her partnership with skating star and fellow Canadian, Lloyd Eisler.  "I never had a guy lift me over his head like that  on the ice, at least."

NBC Cancels The West Wing

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star

 (Jan. 22, 2006) PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — The new president on The West Wing will be a real short-timer: NBC announced Sunday it was pulling the plug on the Emmy-winning political drama after seven seasons in May.  NBC, struggling to regain its footing after the worst season in its history, also outlined several midseason schedule changes — including the moves of popular dramas Law & Order and Las Vegas.  The West Wing announcement wasn't much of a surprise. Although this season's story line with a presidential campaign involving a Democrat played by Jimmy Smits and Republican portrayed by Alan Alda has been strong critically, ratings have sunk with its move to Sunday nights.  The decision to cancel it was made before actor John Spencer, who played former presidential chief of staff Leo McGarry, died of a heart attack Dec. 16, said Kevin Reilly, NBC entertainment president.  "There's a point when you look at the ratings and say, it feels like it's time," Reilly said.  The series finale will be May 14, preceded by a one-hour retrospective. The campaign to replace the fictional Josiah Bartlet as president will be settled, NBC said.  Producers Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, who created the show and guided it through its early years, will not be involved in the finale, Reilly said.  The West Wing won four Emmy Awards for best television drama in a row for its tales of political intrigue. At its prime, it also offered NBC two valuable benefits: critical acclaim and the most upscale audience on television, an important drawing point for advertisers.

 NBC's revamped schedule offered veteran Law & Order producer Dick Wolf good and bad news. NBC is putting Wolf's new drama Conviction, about young prosecutors in New York, on Friday's schedule starting March 3. But it is moving Law & Order up an hour to Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET — competing directly with ABC's blockbuster Lost.  NBC is also moving Las Vegas from Monday to Friday starting in March. Donald Trump is changing addresses again, with The Apprentice moving to Monday where it will be preceded by the Howie Mandel-hosted game show Deal or No Deal.  The network has two more midseason shows: Heist, a cops-and-robbers drama from the director of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Teachers, a comedy about a high school English teacher.  The Office will go off the air at the end of March so star Steve Carell can film a movie, Reilly said. He said he also hasn't figured out what to do with the ill-fated Friends spinoff Joey, which has 12 new episodes done but no place on the schedule.  "NBC is stable and our vital signs are encouraging," Reilly said. "Most predictions were that we were going to go from bad to worse this year, and that hasn't happened."

Will & Grace Writers Plot Final Send-Off

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem

 (Jan. 24, 2006) LOS ANGLES, Calif.—It's the beginning of the end for
Will & Grace, though judging by the unnatural calm here on set, they haven't yet had time to wrap their heads around the inevitable.  "I think we're in denial a little bit," acknowledges Eric McCormack, the Toronto actor who became a sitcom icon as the gay male half of the titular team.  "We keep thinking, `Oh, we've got 12 left.' And then the next thing you know, you've got seven. We work fast on this show, so a week goes by really, really quickly."  "I actually think they're going to feel it when it's over," allows W&G co-creator Max Mutchnick. "They're actors (who) are very much in the moment, and they're just doing their jobs every week, and I think that it's going to dawn on them when it's over, the day they don't come to this stage."  Will & Grace, now in its eighth season, will shoot its final, hour-long episode the first week in April, for broadcast (following an hour-long retrospective special) on May 18. And then this storied studio soundstage, former home to Ball and Newhart and Seinfeld, will be made ready for another TV tenant.  McCormack and Sean Hayes will each devote themselves full-time to their budding independent production companies. Debra Messing will focus on movies, and Megan Mullally her new daytime talk show.  Writer/creators Mutchnick and David Kohan and their veteran director, James Burrows, have already started a gradual transition to a new sitcom collaboration, Four Kings.  But not before sending off Will & Grace (and their "bizarro" counterparts, Jack and Karen) in a style they feel they have earned.  And what will that entail? "Basically," says Kohan, "we want to sort of just give a sense about what their lives are going to be like after the show ends. That's really about it. I mean, that's really all we can really disclose."  In truth, at this point, that's about all they know. "Honestly," adds Mutchnick, "we have to sit. We have a basic idea of what we're going to do, but it will really happen in the room when we sit down to write this thing.  "I think we have a responsibility to send them out on a good note. It's a tricky question. Right now, we're thinking that the last episode's just going to be what we've always wanted it to be ... Karen bites everyone on the neck and they die ...  "And then she folds her arms over her chest, falls out the window, turns into a bat and flies away. So you know she will be happy because her blood lust will have been sated. The other three, I don't know ..."

 "We'll be dead!," protests McCormack.  "Yes," grins Mullally, clearly tickled by the notion. "But they'll have eternal life!"  THE WIND BENEATH THE WING: While the Will & Grace crew hopes to go out on a high note, The West Wing company is facing the end with a bittersweet resignation.  And they do so without their friend and colleague, the recently departed John Spencer.  "Frankly, we had conversations about whether it was even appropriate to continue to do the show without John," reveals producer John Wells. "He was such a close friend and a wonderful actor, and such a central part of the ensemble and of our lives together as a group.  "But ultimately, as we started to see the (low) numbers that we were getting on Sunday night, we had a decision to make, which was do we try to press NBC to continue to make the series where we'd go into another presidency, or were we coming to the natural end of our storytelling, a place that would be a really beautiful place to end?"  With Spencer gone, the answer seemed obvious. "It feels like a very organic ending to the show, with him gone, because I just can't imagine doing it without him," says co-star Allison Janney. "He was one of the most important parts of the show for all of us on so many different levels."  The final one of the five episodes Spencer had shot at the time of his death will air next week. The week after will be the episode dealing with the corresponding death of his character, Leo.  The long-delayed election episodes are scheduled to air April 2 and 9. Martin Sheen's President Bartlett will hand over the keys to the kingdom — to Jimmy Smits or Alan Alda — in the inaugural episode, a two-hour finale following an hour-long retrospective, on May 14.  ON DECK: With all the holes opening up in its schedule, and a slide to third place in overall ratings, NBC's development slate has become increasingly important.  Two new hour-long dramas will debut in March: the first, Conviction (March 3), is a kind of Law & Order: Jr., a transparently youth-skewed take on the same New York district attorney's office, produced by franchise overlord Dick Wolf.  The second, Heist (March 22), is an anti-hero crime drama starring Dougray Scott that is already facing considerable cable competition: FX in the lead with Thief, a vastly superior hour (and star, Andre Braugher) that has not yet been picked up for the Canadian market. Neither has Hustle, a British variation already airing on American Movie Classics, featuring former Man from U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn.  Similarly, one of NBC's greatest hopes for next season, director Paul Haggis's The Black Donnellys (alas, not our Black Donnellys), will be beaten to the punch by Brotherhood, a remarkably similar, Showtime-produced, Phillip Noyce-directed Irish-American mob drama (also with no Canadian carrier yet).  The network may, however, score an unlikely (and, for a change, thematically unprecedented) summer hit with Windfall, the soapy saga of 19 youngish suburbanites who split — with increasing acrimony — a $368 million lottery prize.


WB, UPN Merge


And then there were five.  CBS Corp., Warner Bros. Entertainment and Tribune Co. announced Tuesday they’re shutting down both the struggling WB and UPN and merging the two into a new entity called The CW.  Move will unite shows such as "Everybody Hates Chris," "Gilmore Girls," and "Veronica Mars" on one network, distributed by CBS and Tribune-owned stations.  The new fifth network, a 50-50 joint venture between CBS and Time Warner, will be distributed on CBS and Tribune-owned stations, reaching 95% of the country.  The net will be staffed by a combination of UPN and WB executives and an undisclosed number will be laid off as a result of the merger.  Dawn Ostroff, current president of UPN, will become President of Entertainment of the new entity and WB’s John Matta, now COO of the WB, will become COO of The CW.  Move comes as the WB in particular has been struggling through tough times, with ratings down and profits non-existent. There's been much speculation in recent months that Time Warner might be poised to make a radical move to fix its WB problem, but the merger of UPN and the WB caught most industry observers by surprise.  "This new network makes sound business and creative sense at every level -- for our viewers, advertisers, affiliates and for the shareholders of our companies," said Barry Meyer, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment.  Fox stations currently affiliated with the UPN will be looking for new programming as of August when current affiliate agreements expire.  Fox owns 9 UPN affiliates across the country.

Former 'N Syncers plan Odd Couple TV series

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jan. 20, 2006) PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — There may be life after 'N Sync for Lance Bass and Joey Fatone — as television stars.  The former boy band members are developing a new series about their lives for UPN described as a modern-day Odd Couple, said Dawn Ostroff, the network president, Thursday.  Fatone is Oscar, the slob. Bass is Felix.  Tentatively dubbed, Out of Sync, and planned for this fall, it's a hybrid of reality and comedy, she said.  "They came to us," she said. "Joey and Lance are such fun, interesting people and they truly are an odd couple — even if you sit in a room with them, it's Felix and Oscar in many ways."  It's a classic kind of story that could resonate with a new generation, Ostroff said.  'N Sync ruled the music world at the turn of the decade, until Justin Timberlake's departure sent them tumbling into obscurity.

‘Tyra Banks Show’ Renewed For Second Season

Excerpt from

(Jan. 24, 2006) *It’s been a prosperous two weeks for Tyra Banks. The former supermodel saw her UPN reality series “America’s Next Top Model” renewed for cycles seven and eight last week, while Monday came with news of her talk show being picked up for a second season. Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution announced Monday that “The Tyra Banks Show” has been renewed for the 2006-07 season during the first day of the NATPE 2006 conference at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.  “Banks,” which airs on Fox affiliates across the country, is one of three strips introduced for national syndication this year. The other two, Martha Stewart’s “Martha” and the court show “Judge Alex,” have already been renewed for a second season. Meanwhile, other shows being sold this week for a fall launch are "The Keith Ablow Show," a psychiatrist and author, helping people deal with challenges and lead more productive lives; Sony Pictures Television's "The Greg Behrendt Show," hosted by the author of  “He’s Just Not Into You”;  NBC Universal's "The Megan Mullally Show" and King World’s “Rachael Ray,” via Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.


A Bridge Between Canada, Russia

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Kamal Al-Solaylee

 (Jan. 20, 2006) Monday's election may shift current Canadian politics closer (more likely) or further away (here's hoping) from our American neighbours, but either way Toronto theatre is sticking with its Russian forefathers. Two theatres, one fresh from a building boom and the other about to get the wrecking-ball treatment, are staging adaptations of Russian classics starting next week. Morris Panych's treatment of Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector is part of Soulpepper's 2006 season at its new Young Centre for the Performing Arts, while Artword Theatre bids farewell to its Portland Street premises with Ronald Weihs's adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella The Gambler.  Laying the grounds for both, a University of Toronto conference this weekend examines the legacy of Russian actor-director Constantin Stanislavsky, founder of the performance methodology known as "The System." His contribution as an actor -- Astrov in Uncle Vanya and Vershinin in The Three Sisters, for example -- to original productions of Chekhov's plays at the Moscow Art Theatre at the turn of the 20th century is legendary. From Theatre Smith-Gilmour's ongoing adaptations of Chekhov's fiction to Soulpepper's acclaimed productions of Uncle Vanya or Platonov to Jason Sherman's suggestion that a festival dedicated to the works of the Russian master (as opposed to Shaw or Shakespeare) is more in line with our cultural wavelengths, something about that region's literary heritage in the 19th and early 20th century resonates with Canadian theatre artists today.  "Being a Newfoundlander, the Russian sensibility is at times so similar it's uncanny," says David Ferry, actor, director and playwright, who stars as both Dostoevsky and his fictional alter-ego Aleksei, a character in The Gambler. "I'm writing an adaptation of Three Sisters, set in Newfoundland during the First World War, called Grand Falls. It's amazing how well it works in terms of those people."

 However, as Ferry suggests, the appeal of Czarist Russian literature extends beyond similar shifts from agrarian to industrial economic structures or a shared northern climate. "The chip on the shoulder that Russians had about Europeans is so similar to the one we have about Americans and once upon a time had about the British," he continues. "There was a kind of nationalism not unlike the one we still have in Canada -- although that's disappearing quickly."  A meticulous researcher, Ferry has immersed himself in the world of Dostoevsky and "the explosion of Russian literature that came out of folk tales" to prepare for The Gambler. The play reconstructs the world of the gambling casinos where the novella is set and is framed by the story of its composition: Dostoevsky dictated it to stenographer to meet a three-week deadline that would have otherwise cost him copyrights to his entire body of work.  "That really attracted me to this story," he says. "The Gambler is one of the most exciting pieces of writing that deals with gambling and addiction in all of literature."  Diego Matamoros (most recently seen in Ferry's production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot in November) is equally passionate about the Russians' "great tradition of theatre" of the last two centuries. He plays a nobody mistaken for the title character in The Government Inspector (1836), a satirical tale of political corruption in a small Russian town. The timeliness of the production, coinciding as it does with recent allegations of Liberal Party corruption, may be a stroke of luck, but, says Matamoros, it's to be expected from such a socially attuned writer as Gogol. "If you're looking at the major writers of the past, you're going to hit on some wonderful themes. Their themes are going to come up in so many wonderful ways in the dailies because there's nothing you can't make relevant in some sense, I suppose."

 Citing Chekhov, Gogol and Ibsen as the most influential names of 20th-century drama, Matamoros is keenly aware of the challenges in staging their work in Canada today. The Government Inspector is a huge piece that could easily utilize up to 40 actors onstage. Then there's the language and translation problems. " "The reason we don't have a big festival of Chekhov or Ibsen is that they didn't write in English," says Matamoros. "What you have between them is a translator. And that's a huge, huge obstacle. If we don't do more Ibsen, it's because some of our artists don't feel we have satisfactory translations or directors who understand them or enough rehearsal time to do the proper work on the characterization." The new adaptation by Panych is the perfect bridge between Russian past and Canadian present. "We weren't really happy with the translations that existed," says Matamoros. "This project is fascinating because it's a combination of two things: You're taking a play that was written more than a hundred years ago and you're creating a new, Canadian adaptation of it."  The Gambler begins previews Jan 26, opens Jan. 31 and runs to Feb. 19 at Artword Theatre (416-872-1212). The Government Inspector previews from Jan. 24, opens Feb. 2 and runs until March 23 at the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (416-866-8666). A conference titled Stanislavsky and Directing: Theory, Practice and Influence is at the University of Toronto's Robert Gill Theatre today and tomorrow.

Goodbye Big Top, Hello Arena

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Matthew Hays

 (Jan. 23, 2006) MONTREAL — Visiting the rehearsals for Delirium, the latest Cirque du Soleil show, which premieres on Thursday, means travelling beyond the outskirts of Montreal, to Mirabel, the city's now-retired airport. Past the fleet of FedEx planes and left of the Transat hangar, the Cirque troupe is dancing and singing their way through their new show. The traditional space at Cirque du Soleil headquarters, as it turns out, just wasn't humongous enough. In addition to its vast new rehearsal space, Cirque du Soleil, Quebec's greatest cultural export, is facing another challenge. For this show, the circus famous for its wildly inventive acrobatics, is dropping its high-wire act, abandoning the tent and moving into an arena-venue music-and-dance spectacle. It's a first for the Cirque. Instead of their traditional tent space, they will be headlining at places like Montreal's Bell Centre, where Delirium kicks off. Think of it as a bit of box-office compression: The ticket-sale numbers that used to take weeks to accrue will now take a few evenings. Any given night in the Cirque's traditional big tent would mean a capacity of 2,500 tickets; by comparison, one night at Montreal's Bell Centre means 12,000. The Montreal gig will kick off the first leg of a North American tour, one that will include Albany, N.Y. Columbus, Ohio, and finally Toronto, on Feb. 20. The Cirque's partner in the show is Live Nation (formerly known as Clear Channel Entertainment), which will be taking care of the heavy promotion for Delirium. This new, bigger approach points to a long-standing dilemma faced by Cirque creative types, one identified by founder and chief executive officer Guy Laliberté in an interview granted to this reporter in 2001.

 "In 1984, when I first started the company, I said our success will come when we manage to balance the artistic aspect of our work and the commerce aspect of it," he said at the time. "And I really believe that we have -- this is one of our greatest achievements, to balance these two. They're naturally not together." Laliberté has tried to continue taking risks, while pumping up those things the Cirque does best. It is a pretty astonishing success story -- indeed, the Cirque seems to perfectly embody the term cultural industry. When Delirium launches, it will be the 12th show the Cirque has up and running (seven touring and five in permanent venues). The Cirque now lords over Las Vegas, with massive ticket sales for their hugely popular shows there. And this June will see the Vegas premiere of their 13th show, based entirely on the music of the Beatles -- a dream of Laliberté, who was good friends with late Beatle George Harrison. (How the Cirque's New Age aesthetic will mesh with the Beatles' music remains to be seen.) And Jonathan Hochwald, executive VP of creative development for Live Nation, has sung the praises of Cirque, calling them the "Pixar of live entertainment," arguing further that the troupe has never had a show that didn't work. The Cirque's live shows have proven extremely successful, but some of their other ventures haven't entirely worked. In 1998, regular Cirque du Soleil director Franco Dragone was given the chance to create a film adaptation of the popular live Cirque show Alegria. The film didn't fare well at the box office and was deemed a dismal critical failure -- what worked on stage, as it turned out, did not translate to the big screen. The Cirque has not made a feature film since. As well, in 2001, Laliberté was talking up the idea of a Cirque boutique hotel, in which acrobats and circus performers would deliver room service. Perhaps thankfully, within two years the Cirque announced that that particular concept had been shelved. And even their live shows, though untouchable in terms of ticket sales, have had their detractors, with some dismissing the Cirque's style as New Age kitsch. After seeing the Cirque show Dralion in 1999, one Montreal critic accused the Cirque of being "a three-ring version of Celine Dion."

 With Delirium, the hope appears to be that a concoction of the old and new -- taking music from past Cirque successes and melding it with a new storyline, choreography and design -- will keep things fresh while appeasing their fan base. Inspiration for the show was born after Montreal-based directors Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, veterans of the international multimedia stage-show milieu, staged a Cirque show last summer during the Montreal International Jazz Festival. When Laliberté saw that show, he approached the creative team about doing Delirium, a show based on an anthology of musical compositions from previous Cirque shows. Lemieux and Pilon said they were thrilled at the prospect. "Choosing from 21 years of such incredible shows," Lemieux says. "Can you imagine? We started by choosing our top 40, and then had to eliminate -- no easy process. We ended up with our top 20." Then came the process of creating a narrative thread. "This show was different, in that we were arriving at the story after we had the music," Pilon says. "Our theme was the loss of individuality in such a technological world. Our central character, who walks on stilts, was trying to find a way to ground himself in a world that's more and more technological, more virtual." Inspirational models for the show range from Alice in Wonderland to The Little Prince, The Wizard of Oz and the work of French poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. "The show is about this character's search for identity after he leaves his planet," explains Lemieux. "His planet is very straight, very conformist. He's a poet -- he flies away and then finds himself elsewhere. Then he must return to the planet, after being in a dreamscape, to teach others what he has learned."  As far as the plot goes, there doesn't seem to be much stylistic deviation from previous Cirque shows. (The troupe has never been famous for gritty realism, after all.) But the venue shift and absence of acrobats is something that might concern Cirque purists. A sense of intimacy has often accompanied their shows, which have taken place in relatively smaller confines (certainly compared to an airport hangar). Now, 44 dancers and musicians will manoeuvre on a massive stage, with audience members on both sides of the platform. Huge screens will allow for projection of Imax-size images during the dance numbers.

 Despite any cynicism one might have about the Cirque, witnessing their rehearsal process means getting caught up in their act. Watching the performers run through an energetic rehearsal, it's impossible not to be drawn into their movements, as they strut across a mammoth stage to an African-inspired tribal beat. "This is like the extreme-sports version of the circus," says Lemieux. "Just call us the extreme circus." "Putting on a show like this is always scary," says Pilon. "Of course we're nervous. We're doing all of the elements of this show as we go along, from conception to costumes to choreography. This show really will be quite different -- creating it has been very unique as well." "We're still breaking the mould," adds Lemieux. "That's part of the fun, part of the challenge of doing a production with the Cirque."

Billy Dee, Perry, Heavy D Among NAACP Honourees

Excerpt from

(Jan. 20, 2006)
*Billy Dee Williams, Tyler Perry, Heavy D, Magic and Cookie Johnson and Mitsy Wilson were named as honourees by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP for its 16th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards, to be held on Monday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Theatre (7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles).    On hand at the historic Hollywood Roosvelt Hotel in Hollywood to announce the honourees were "Entertainment Tonight" weekend anchor and correspondent Kevin Frazier; and actors Valarie Pettiford (UPN's "Half & Half"), Louis Gossett, Jr. (TV's "Stargate SG-1" and Academy Award winner), Malinda Williams (Universal Pictures' "Idlewild" and NBC's "Windfall"), and Chico Benymon (UPN's "Half & Half").  Ticket prices are $200, $125 and $75.  For ticket purchases or more information, visit or call (323) 464-7616.    The following distinguished individuals will be honoured with special awards at this year's ceremony under the theme "A Patchwork of Excellence in Black Theatre,"

• Billy Dee Williams will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to an individual who has made numerous contributions to the entertainment industry.

• Tyler Perry will be given The Trailblazer Award, presented to an individual who has made their mark in the entertainment industry, therefore, paving the way for others to follow.

• Heavy D will collect The Spirit Award, presented to an individual who brings energy, tenacity, innovation, commitment, talent, and spirit to the theatre scene. 

• Magic and Cookie Johnson will receive The Community Service Award, presented to a group or an individual who have a history of giving back to the community. 

• Mitsy Wilson, Senior Vice President of Diversity Development for Fox Entertainment Group, will be handed The President's Award, presented to a corporation or an executive who has made a commitment to promote diversity and advancement of minorities in the community. 

Island Booming With New Hotels

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star -  Dominick Merle, Special To The Star

 (Jan. 19, 2006) BRIDGETOWN, Barbados—Hardly anyone is out of work, business is booming and the sun shines year-round.  Today, in Barbados, the sweet scent of optimism is unmistakable.  New construction and major renovation projects are at an all-time high and investors seem to be lined up at the shore. Consequently, although the entire island is a mere 34 kilometres long by 22 kilometres wide, it can take an hour and a half to drive from one point to another during rush hour, which is most of the time.  Everyone, it seems, is bullish on Barbados.  Take Marilyn Soper. She left her job as general manager of the Toronto Hilton to run the Barbados Hilton, a start-up property with no guarantees. "Everybody thought I was a little crazy," Soper said, "but I didn't see any way we could fail down here."  So far, so good. Open for less than a year, the hotel began with a 37 percent occupancy rate and was virtually full when I visited in December.  Just up the road, as just about everything is on this cozy island, is the plush Sandy Lane resort where a night will cost you anywhere from $850 to a whopping $25,000. You read right— $25,000 for one night in a 7,300-square foot, five-bedroom villa during Christmas and New Year.  The sprawling resort was built in 1961 and, since then, Queen Elizabeth, Aristotle Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Frank Sinatra, David Niven and even the reclusive Greta Garbo have slept here.

 In 1996, in a dazzling display of confidence, the entire resort was demolished, then rebuilt and expanded in the same neo-Palladian style as the original. This multi-million dollar overhaul took five years, and a lot of moxie. "We were confident that our guests would return," said chief executive Michael Pownall. "The soul of the original complex is still here."  Sprinkled between the luxury resorts is accommodation to fit any budget.  You can rent a car or hire a taxi driver — be warned there are no meters and you'll have to negotiate a rate — but why bother when, for less than a dollar, you can take the bus anywhere you like on the island. Service is usually every 30 minutes.  The southwest port of Bridgetown is definitely the heart and soul of Barbados.  Hundreds of thousands of cruise-ship passengers come ashore annually for a half day of sightseeing and duty-free shopping, with items ranging from local crafts to South African diamonds.  Once they've made their buys, they usually settle down at one of the outdoor restaurants for a typical lunch of flying fish and cou cou (okra cooked in cornmeal), the national dish.  Other local specialties include jug-jug, a mixture of corn and green peas; pepperpot stew, a fiery variety of meats and seasonings; and two other dishes colourfully named jump-up ribs and limbo lamb.  The island is fast becoming one of the culinary hotspots of the Caribbean, with renowned international chefs flown in regularly to some of the major resorts for cooking demonstrations and fine dining.  On our last evening, we took part in a four-hour gastronomic feast, served up by a French chef just in from Shanghai.  I preferred the quickie cou-cou.

 ·  For more information on Barbados, see


‘Digital Market Took Shape' In 2005

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jan. 21, 2006) LONDON—Sales of music via the Internet and mobile phones continued to boom in 2005, the recording industry reported Thursday, reaching six per cent of global record company revenues.  The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, also called on Internet service providers to join the fight against music piracy, which it claims severely erodes the profits of its 1,450 member record companies across the globe.  The London-based IFPI said record company revenues reached $1.1 billion (U.S.) in 2005, up from $380 million in 2004. Music fans around the globe downloaded 420 million single tracks in 2005, more than double the 156 million downloaded the previous year.  "2005 was the year that the digital music market took shape," said IFPI chairman John Kennedy.  The IFPI says research showed that in Europe's two biggest markets, Britain and Germany, more music fans are now legally downloading music than illegally file-swapping.  Kennedy said another big success story was sales of mobile phone music, which now account for around 40 per cent of record company digital revenues.  "In the cellular or mobile world, there is a culture of payment" that didn't exist in the early days of the Internet, said Adam Klein, EMI's executive vice-president for strategy.

For The Love Of Restaurants

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Amy Pataki

(Jan. 21, 2006) The restaurant business is a fluid one, what with all the closings, openings and staff changes.  That's why it's nice to have a friend in, a one-of-a-kind Internet database that keeps track of chefs and their careers. is to restaurants what is to movies, that is, an indispensable research tool. The Toronto-based site now has the goods on 9,300 restaurants, chefs, managers and owners from Abaco (Bahamas) to Zurich.  The majority of the archive is built around the Toronto scene. I visit the site regularly to put a new restaurant in context or dig up a chef's résumé, and I'm not alone: gets 200,000 page views a month, plus rave reviews from industry types and foodies.  The site is run by Brian Will, a 36-year-old who combined his love of food and restaurants with his passion for web programming. He supports himself, and the site, by working in information technology at a Bay St. law firm; is free of charge.  "I'm going to do it whether people read it or not," Will says.  He launched the site more than two years ago, while on a sabbatical in Edinburgh. The scope has since expanded, along with the need for help. Will has since been joined in his labour of love by his father George, a retired civil engineering professor.  The duo vet the information sent to them, but Will warns that "it's not going to be the gospel."  Still, the occasional mistake is a small price to pay for the ability to access Susur Lee's extensive résumé, or find out who designed The Century Room (both are Top 10 hits on the site).  The biggest users, though, are those in the industry. allows them to publicize every job change and opening.  "It's a great way to promote your career or restaurant at no charge," Will says.  And don't forget the fun. Under "Pics & Lists" is a collection of local restaurant ads dating from the 1940s. I have two words for it: Time. Warp.

Debra Lee Officially Takes Over BET

Excerpt from

(Jan. 25, 2006) *BET founder Robert Johnson has officially given up his chairmanship to the company’s CEO Debra L. Lee.  Johnson, who created the African American-focused network more than 25 years ago, walked out of BET's Northeast Washington, D.C. headquarters one final time last week following a balloon-filled farewell by senior executives and employees.  "As Bob Johnson begins his second act as a business leader and entrepreneur, I wish him well and thank him for all he has done to create this amazing company and institution," said Lee in a statement. "Today, BET Networks is a collection of powerful brands and businesses. We have an excellent executive team in place to lead the next evolution of BET. We will continue to focus all strategy and resources toward leading and shaping this genre of entertainment targeting African Americans."   Lee, a Harvard-educated lawyer, takes control of the network at a time when the brand is the most dominant consumer icon for African Americans, is coming off its most successful viewership season ever and enjoys an all-time distribution high of more than 80 million homes in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.


Lemieux Retires Due To Health, Age Concerns

Source:  Reuters

(Jan. 24, 2006) NEW YORK (Reuters) -
Mario Lemieux, one of the greatest players in the history of the game, announced his retirement on Tuesday. The 40-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins player cited health and age concerns as the chief reasons for quitting. "I'm here today to announce my retirement from hockey," Lemieux told a packed news conference at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. "It's always a difficult decision to make for any athlete but the time has come. It's in the best interests of myself, my family and the Penguins." Lemieux will remain as owner of the Penguins. "I can no longer play at the level I was accustomed to in the past," he added. "That has been very frustrating for me throughout this past year." Lemieux has not played since December 16 because of problems caused by an irregular heartbeat. (Writing by Steve Ginsburg in Washington)

Kobe & Shaq Make Up On MLK Day

Excerpt from

(Jan. 17, 2006) *Monday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal finally made peace. Then Kobe and the LA Lakers beat Shaq and the Miami Heat 100-92.   Bryant told reporters that O'Neal first approached him while he was stretching before the game, and congratulated him on the birth of his daughter and the impending birth of a second child.  "It made me feel good," Bryant said, adding he was surprised at O'Neal's gesture. "We've been through so many wars together. Now, just be able to move on, try to do the best for this team, wish him the best in South Beach. "I think it's good for the city of Los Angeles, good for the NBA, good for the youth, being Martin Luther King Day."  After the game, O'Neal admitted that it was an NBA legend who got in his ear and convinced him to move on.   "I had orders from the great Bill Russell," O'Neal said. "Me and him were talking in Seattle the other day, and he was telling me how rivalries should be. I asked him if he ever disliked anybody he played against, and he told me, 'No, never,' and he told (me) that I should shake Kobe Bryant's hand and let bygones be bygones and bury the hatchet.  "Today is a day of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King was an ambassador of peace. So when I talked to Mr. Russell, he told me he said that him and Chamberlain spoke once or twice a week before he passed away. And even though people thought they hated each other, there was nothing but love there."

Kobe Fires Away For 81(!) Points

Excerpt from

(Jan. 23, 2006) *Last night
Kobe Bean Bryant had another one of those nights where he went on a scoring tear. The Los Angeles Lakers star scored an incredible 81 points Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors in a 122-104 win.  "It just happened," Bryant said. "It's tough to explain. It's just one of those things."  "It really hasn't set in," he said. "To sit here and say I grasp what happened tonight, I'd be lying."  The NBA's leading scorer left to a standing ovation with 4.2 seconds remaining, having shot 28-of-46 from the floor and 18-of-20 from the foul line. He was 7-of-13 from 3-point range.  The late Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain, also a Laker,  scored 100 points against the New York Knicks when he played for Philadelphia. That game was played in  at Hershey, Pa., on March 2, 1962.  "Kobe's range is unreal, and he does it his way," said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lakers assistant and the NBA's all-time leading scorer. "It was a real treat. His ability to shoot from long range and also attack the hoop, split the defense and get in close for opportunities near the basket is unique. He's made a niche for himself and he deserves it."

Grant Hill To Unveil Art Collection At Duke

Excerpt from

(Jan. 23, 2006) *Orlando Magic star
Grant Hill and his wife Tamia Hill will display their extensive art collection at The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (2001 Campus Drive at Anderson St.).  “Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art” will be on view at the athlete’s alma mater from March 4 through July 16. The collection, nine years in the making, features 46 paintings, collages, sculptures and works on paper by the most important African-American artists of the 20th century.    Included in the collection are works by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, John Biggers, Hughie Lee-Smith and the late Arthello Beck Jr.    The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays.    Suggested admission is $5 adults, $4 for seniors and members of the Duke Alumni Association, $3 for non-Duke students with I.D. and free for children 16 and younger. Admission is free to Duke University students, faculty and staff with Duke I.D. Admission is also free to Durham residents who present a valid I.D. with proof of residency, courtesy of the Herald-Sun.        Additional information is available at