20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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December 13, 2007

I'm definitely feeling the festive bug!  I love when it hits - makes you feel generous and there's something about the joy of this season that makes you overlook the small stuff.  But my heart goes out to those that are feeling loss or stress of wanting this time of year.  Remember all in your prayers.  Still lots of time to give a coat or a toy to a child ...

Get festive and don't forget to bring your canned food for Daily Food Bank to the showcase of showcases at the
Monday Night VIP Jam reunion at Revival on December 17th!  And I can't say this enough -  The Gospel Christmas Project is a must-see show.  Why not purchase tickets and give to someone for a gift? 

How about celebrating New Years Eve at Harlem with Chef Anthony Mair?  Call for reservations!



Monday Night Revival Jam Reunion – Monday, December 17, 2007

Yes, that’s right folks – all the original players – Shamakah Ali
(percussion), Rich Brown (Host and bass), Joel Joseph, (keys) Anthony Wright (sax), Alexis Baro (trumpet) and Dane Hartsell (Guitar) will be reuniting on Monday, December 17th at Revival for a festive version of VIP Jam!!  Many special guests will be joining this famous crew as well!

Did you ever go to the Monday night jams at
Revival?  Practically every big visiting artist would stop by and hit the stage with our amazing Toronto musicians!  It was such a great vibe and very well-attended.  Well, now it’s time for the REUNION

cover but PLEASE be generous during this needy time of year as we are collecting food for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Check out the best of R&B, funk, rock and blues this holiday season! 

783 College St. (at Shaw)
9:00 pm

Two Shows, One CD - The Gospel Christmas Project – December 21 (Ottawa) and December 22, 2007 (Toronto)

Source:  Andrew Craig

You’re invited to the Christmas musical events of 2007: the
Gospel Christmas Project, live at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and Toronto’s Massey Hall! Audiences are calling this show “fabulous”, “amazing”, “thrilling beyond expectation”, “music to God's ears” and “a wonderfully joyful spiritual evening”.

“The Gospel Christmas Project - LIVE!” is two hours of the world’s greatest Christmas carols, in all-stunning new arrangements made by musician, producer and broadcaster
Andrew Craig. The songs are rendered by some of our country’s greatest voices:

Jackie Richardson, Canada’s Queen of Jazz and Blues,
Alana Bridgewater, “Killer Queen” in the Mirvish production of “We Will Rock You”
Kellylee Evans, 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Female Vocalist of the Year
Chris Lowe, a tremendous new voice recently-emerged from the Gospel community
and the Juno-award-winning
Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale

“The Gospel Christmas Project” is already a wildly-popular radio show, a Gemini-nominated TV special, and a brand-new CD, called “The Gospel Christmas Project”, available in all major retail outlets right now, and on ITunes as of December 4.

“The Gospel Christmas Project” was originally performed in
Ottawa in December 2006.  It returns to Ottawa this Christmas, joined by the National Arts Centre Orchestra on December 21.

And the next night (
December 22) The Gospel Christmas Project makes its Toronto debut at the legendary Massey Hall!

Visit the website: www.gospelxmasproject.com
Purchase CD at CBC Records, HERE!

Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Harlem

Carl Cassell and Anthony Mair invite you for dinner at Harlem this New Year's Eve.  Master Chef Anthony Mair (formerly of Mardis Gras) will be preparing a four course Soulful Feast for you and your loved ones.  Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in Harlem's art-filled dining room, then go upstairs to the Renaissance Room for some bubbly and get your party on in 2008. It will be a night to remember. Two seatings are available: 6:30pm and 9:00pm.

 As an aside, Chef Mair will be featuring new, soulful, tasteful and mind-blowing items to his Soul Food Menu weekly!

Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s,
Harlem (67 Richmond St. E. - Church and Richmond) celebrates the joy of Toronto's cultural diversity and the art of entertaining. It is a rebirth of creativity in Food, Art, Music, and Cocktails.
To make a reservations please call 416-368-1920.

Monday, December 31
Harlem Restaurant
67 Richmond St. E. (Church and Richmond)
Two seatings are available: 6:30pm and 9:00pm
Reservations: 416-368-1920


Ike Turner, 76: Rock pioneer, Tina Turner's ex

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 12, 2007) SAN DIEGO –
Ike Turner, whose role as one of rock's critical architects was overshadowed by his ogre-like image as the man who brutally abused former wife and icon Tina Turner, died Wednesday at his home in suburban San Diego. He was 76.

"He did pass away this morning" at his home in San Marcos, in northern San Diego County, said Scott M. Hanover of Thrill Entertainment Group, which managed Turner's musical career.

There was no immediate word on the cause of death, which was first reported by celebrity website TMZ.com.

Turner managed to rehabilitate his image somewhat in his later years, touring around the globe with his band the Kings of Rhythm and drawing critical acclaim for his work. He won a Grammy in 2007 in the traditional blues album category for Risin' With the Blues.

But his image is forever identified as the drug-addicted, wife-abusing husband of Tina Turner. He was hauntingly portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in the movie What's Love Got To Do With It, based on Tina Turner's autobiography.

IOC Holds On To Jones' Olympic Medals

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Stephen Wilson, The Associated Press

(December 10, 2007) LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The IOC has decided to postpone the reallocation of the five Olympic medals returned by
Marion Jones following her admission that she began doping before the 2000 Sydney Games.

The International Olympic Committee had been expected to rule on the medal changes – which could affect more than three dozen athletes – during its three-day executive board meeting that started Monday.

But board member Denis Oswald said the IOC wants more information from the BALCO steroid investigation before deciding whether to upgrade doping-tainted Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou to Jones' gold in the women's 100 metres.

Oswald said the IOC also would afford hearings to Jones' American relay teammates before deciding whether to strip them of their Sydney medals.

"We don't want to do it piece by piece," he said. "We want to wait until we have full information."

The IOC executive board is still expected to formally strip Jones of her medals Wednesday. However, final decisions on how to readjust those medals will probably take months, Oswald said.

Oswald, a Swiss lawyer, sits on the three-member IOC disciplinary commission investigating the Jones and BALCO case.

Jones won gold medals in the 100, 200 and 1,600-metre relay in Sydney, and bronze medals in the long jump and 400-metre relay. After years of denying drug use, she acknowledged in court in October that she started doping before the Sydney Olympics. She has returned her medals.

Last month, the International Association of Athletics Federations erased all of Jones' results dating to September 2000, and recommended that her eight relay teammates also be disqualified and lose their medals.

"The IAAF decided they would lose their medals and basically we are supposed to follow what they proposed," Oswald said. "The question is whether to hear the athletes. They have never been tested positive. They would just lose the medals because of Jones. We have to be careful to protect their rights."

The IOC disciplinary panel is seeking all the documents and names linked to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO. Jones and baseball slugger Barry Bonds are among the athletes caught up in the case.

The IOC wants to find out whether Thanou or any other Olympic athletes were involved.

"This is why we are requesting through different channels complete information in the BALCO affair," said IOC vice-president Thomas Bach, a German lawyer who heads the panel. "We do not know finally who was involved, who may be involved. We need to be sure we have everyone who was involved on the screen."

Normally when an Olympic medallist is disqualified, the standings are adjusted so that the next-place finisher moves up and those below also go up a spot. However, there is reluctance among some IOC officials to upgrade Thanou because she was involved in a high-profile scandal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"If we upgrade her we would have to be sure," Oswald said.

One option under consideration is leaving the gold medal spot vacant.

"This is an open question all the time," Oswald said. "We have to study the legal basis and the flexibility we have."

Thanou and fellow Greek runner Kostas Kenteris failed to show up for drug tests on the eve of the Games and claimed they were injured in a motorcycle accident. They were forced to pull out of the Olympics and were later banned for two years.

Without evidence that Thanou was guilty of any doping violation in Sydney, the IOC would need other reasons for not awarding her the gold.

In October, lawyers for Thanou, Kenteris and their former coach, Christos Tzekos, said investigations have found no evidence that the three were involved in BALCO and that Greek prosecutors had dropped a probe into the case.

The IOC is working with the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to get the full BALCO files.

"It's not easy because the investigation is still ongoing," Oswald said. "USADA is not free to produce all the documents received from the Department of Justice."

The IOC operates under an eight-year statute of limitations provision, a rule enacted by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The Sydney Olympics finished on Oct. 1, 2000, so the IOC will be under pressure to settle the issue before October 2008.

The next IOC board meeting is in Beijing in April.

"A statute of limitations is always open to interpretation," Bach said. "I'm not worried so much about that."

IOC president Jacques Rogge said last month that medal upgrades would not be "automatic," and that only athletes deemed to be ``clean" would be bumped up.

The bronze medallist in the 100 in Sydney was Tanya Lawrence, with fellow Jamaican Merlene Ottey fourth.

In the 200, Pauline Davis-Thompson of the Bahamas took the silver behind Jones and now stands to move up to gold. Sri Lanka's Susanthika Jayasinghe was third and Jamaica's Beverly McDonald fourth.

Jamaica took silver behind the United States in the 1,600 relay, with Russia third and Nigeria fourth. In the 400 relay, France was fourth behind the Americans.

U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth has said the American relay athletes should voluntarily return their medals.

Lawyers, however, can point to a ruling in the case of American runner Jerome Young, who was stripped of his gold medal in the 1,600-metre relay from Sydney because of a previous doping violation. He ran only in the preliminary.

The IAAF and IOC sought unsuccessfully to strip the entire American team, including Michael Johnson. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in 2005 that there were no rules in place at the time of the Sydney Games calling for a whole relay team to be disqualified for an offence by one member.

Bach said the cases were different because Jones admitted being doped at the time of the Olympics and ran in the relay finals.

"The Young and Jones case is not 1-to-1 comparable," he said.

Jeopardy! Host Trebek Has Minor Heart Attack

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Robert Jablon, Associated Press Writer

(December 11, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Longtime Jeopardy! host
Alex Trebek was hospitalized today after a minor heart attack, a spokesman for the game show said.

Trebek, 67, was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center late Monday night and was expected to remain there about two days for tests and observation, said show spokesman Jeff Ritter.

"Thankfully it was a minor heart attack," Ritter said. He did not give other details.

A post on the official Jeopardy! website said Trebek was ``resting comfortably in a Los Angeles hospital, and he will be back in the studio for the next scheduled tapings in January." His heart attack was first reported by Entertainment Tonight.

Trebek escaped a car crash unhurt in 2004 when he fell asleep at the wheel, sideswiped a string of mailboxes and wound up in a ditch, according to the California Highway Patrol. The Jan 30, 2004, accident happened in the town of Templeton, not far from Trebek's thoroughbred horse ranch.

Jeopardy! has been one of television's top-rated syndicated programs for more than 20 years. The Canadian-born Trebek has been its host since 1984.

He has been nominated numerous times for daytime Emmy Awards for game show host, winning twice.

Trebek, who holds a philosophy degree from the University of Ottawa, was a TV and radio reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Company before moving to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen in 1998.

He launched his U.S. game show career in 1983 as host of a show called The Wizard of Odds. Other shows he's hosted include Pitfall, Battlestars, The $128,000 Question, Double Dare, High Rollers, Strategy and Reach for the Top. He also hosts the annual National Geography Bee in the U.S. and Canada.

Trebek and his wife, Jean, have two children.

Barbadian Livvi Franc Signed To International Recording Company Jive Records!

Source:  Circuit Magazine

Livvi Franc, the 19-year old singer/songwriter who is perhaps best known (in Barbados)  as the featured voice on J-Co's hit track Pon Fire, is now preparing to launch an international singing and songwriting career.  The deal, which is the first label direct deal signed by a Barbadian artist in recent times, is the culmination of 3 years of artist development, which all took place in Barbados.

The Livvi/Jive deal was officially inked on October 25, 2007 in New York, after months of negotiations with Jive.  The deal effectively makes Livvi labelmates with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Pink, Chris Brown and Usher.  The deal provides Livvi with access not only to a number of globally recognised artistes for potential collabs, but also further access to a slew of international industry insiders. 

Livvi's ‘worked with' list is an impressive one, despite her still being in the embryonic stage of development of her career.  In an exclusive interview with CiRCUIT magazine, her manager of three years, Kerrie Thomas-Armstrong, revealed that to date, Livvi has worked with Toby Gad who co-wrote Big Girls Don't Cry for Fergie, and with songwriter Angela Hunte who was one of the songwriters behind Showstoppers, the first Danity Kane single.  She has also worked with SRP's Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, who are credited with discovering Bajan superstar Rihanna. In a statement released by SRP to CiRCUIT magazine, Rogers stated: 'Livvi is a brilliant writer with an amazing voice - totally unique and distinctive. Her appeal will cross many boundaries. She also has all the star quality you could ask for - the whole package, which is rare. We (SRP) are excited to be part of the project!'

Strong Barbadian Links Remain

Armstrong also revealed that access to international industry insiders does not necessarily imply that Livvi's future project will exclude Barbadian industry professionals.  It was, after all, the strength of her local management and local production team which heavily influenced Jive's interest in the Livvi project.  Armstrong will continue to manage Livvi in a co-management deal with Armstrong's longtime friend, Allison Hunte, who is also Kevin Lyttle's manager and a Barbadian.  The co-management deal allows Livvi to continue her work with Armstrong, who has guided the singer/songwriter's budding career, while being further supported by a management link already familiar with the complexities of managing a Caribbean artist in a global music environment.

Livvi's other local ties include songwriting/production collaborations with Tony ‘Rebel' Bailey, Chris Allman, De Red Boyz and Eyan.  She is likely to continue working with other Barbadians within the coming months.

Just who is Livvi Franc?

Livvi's Jive deal may come as a surprise to the vast majority of Barbadians, as not many Bajans are familiar with the name Livvi Franc.  Livvi's management team seems to have employed a strategy of lying relatively low on public appearances while focussing on songwriting, voice training and studio recording.  And so far, the strategy seems to have paid off.  Livvi has now managed to add her name to a relatively short list of Barbadians who have secured deals with international record labels.  Now that the news that another local artist has broken into the international arena, the obvious question remains: just who is Livvi Franc?

Born Olivia Charlotte Waithe to a Barbadian father and English mother, Livvi Franc's multicultural, multiethnic background is reflected in her music style.  Livvi herself notes that from an early age, her parents exposed her to a wide cross-section of music - ‘everything from Bob Marley to the Beatles.' She also developed a love for artists such as Etta James, Nelly Furtado, Krosfyah, The Cranberries, Alanis Morrisette and Lauryn Hill.   Livvi has spent years crafting her own personal style which has turned out to be an interesting blend of pop, R&B, folk and country.

Livvi's fans are well aware of her musical stylings via her myspace page www.myspace.com/livvifranc.   Free, Bliss, Shiver and Tap Tap, all produced by Barbados-born producers Classic Soul Productions, have struck a chord with Livvi's growing online fan base and are sure to shine a spotlight on Classic Soul as a production unit.

During the CiRCUIT magazine interview, Armstrong repeatedly stressed the importance which her team placed on holistic artist development, noting that the signing didn't just come out of the blue.  Livvi's camp had laid out a developmental plan for the artist which involved rigorous physical fitness sessions-compliments of Ray Armstrong (former lead vocalist of Krosfyah and Second Ave) and years of songwriting, studio sessions and vocal training-compliments of local jazz vocalist, Marissa Lindsey.

The Next Step

Livvi's camp has been relatively tight-lipped on the details of the Jive deal.  No info has been released regarding how many albums Livvi's deal entails or how much money was involved in the deal.  According to Armstrong, what is important for their team is continuing the foundation which has been set for an enduring musical career.  What is known, however, is that her team is moving forward with plans for Livvi's international debut, even though no timelines for Livvi's first album have been released to the public. According to Armstrong, her team's first priority is producing and delivering to Jive a 'solid album.'   Similarly, the former Queen's College student, Franc states, 'getting the deal now appears to be the easiest part of this process. Packaging my sound and brand into a form that will be embraced by my label and my market, is the focus. I work hard and sacrifice with my team to realise this goal. Over the last three years I've learned that you've got to love what you do and surround yourself with a team of supporters who are equally committed to the journey, because in this business you can spend a considerable amount of time on the journey before you actually reach the destination. Yes I am ELATED to have signed a record deal, but I am well aware that my journey continues. So just as I did before my deal, I continue my songwriting, meeting potential new producers for possible collaborations and recording. And when I have a spare moment, you'll find me cooking in the kitchen. I love to cook! It de-stresses me and makes me almost as happy as music!'


Will Smith Is Set In Stone

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 12, 2007) *
Will Smith took his place among Hollywood legends Monday with imprints of his hands and feet planted in the cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. "I'm humble, I'm honoured, my heart is just beating right now," said an emotional Smith, 39.

"I don't really understand it -- I'm not used to feeling like that ... There's something in the concrete about being etched into the fibre of Hollywood." Among the friends and family on hand for the occasion were Smith's two youngest children, Willow and Jaden, and friend Tom Cruise. After the ceremony, the two-time best actor Oscar nominee told KCAL9 television that he's looking forward to Friday's release of his new film, "I Am Legend."   

"This one is special," he said. "We made a really aggressive attempt at a different type of movie, so I'm anxious to see how people respond to it."


Jazz Singer Milman Pleasant But Predictable

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(December 10, 2007) With few marquee jazz artists passing through Toronto this fall – John McLaughlin, Preservation Hall Jazz Band – it was great to see a couple of locals play to a near-capacity crowd at Massey Hall Saturday night.

In an exciting, communicative trio, equally adept at ragtime, pop and blues, pianist-singer Michael Kaeshammer kicked things off with songs and stories mostly related to his current disc, Days Like These.

But this was
Sophie Milman's shining moment.

Since her 2004 self-titled debut, which has sold more than 100,000 copies, the 24-year-old University of Toronto commerce student has toured internationally and topped iTunes jazz charts with her sophomore follow-up, Make Someone Happy.

But nothing says success like her quick ascent from clubland and the festival circuit to the legendary 2,800-seat Victoria St. venue.

"Oh, my God! It's Massey Hall, you guys," said the songstress shortly after taking the stage. She described as "magical" the feeling of performing at same venue where she'd witnessed greats such as Oscar Peterson and Annie Lennox.

Outfitted in an asymmetrical blond bob and equally trendy sack dress, the petite singer stuck to a fairly predictable formula for her mix of standards, originals and pop covers: sing a few verses, back off for a musician's solo while doing a two-step, take it from the top.

Only occasionally – on the percussion-driven "Something In The Air Between Us," for instance – did the arrangements deviate, allowing her to showcase some versatility.

Consequently, though Milman has definitely refined her stage presence and husky, sensual pipes over the last few years, and she was surrounded by exceptional players (guest trumpeter Guido Basso played his glasses right off his face during "Matchmaker, Matchmaker") the overall effect was ho-hum pleasant, garnering applause that was gracious but never euphoric.

The highlight was the Russian-born and Israeli-raised Milman's cover of the Guess Who's Undun near the end of the night.

"This country has given so much to my family I wanted to put a Canadian song on my album," she explained before executing the tune with a panache that resonated through the hall and carried the remainder of the 90-minute set.

Milman may have a devoted following, but she's still a work in progress.

Together, Solo Stars Make Beautiful Music

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(December 07, 2007) The best concerts aren't always behind the biggest marquees.

A case in point is a program by two young Canadian stars yesterday afternoon at University of Toronto's Walter Hall under the auspices of the 110-year-old Women's Musical Club of Toronto.

This was one of the best Toronto recitals of 2007.

Manitoba native and violinist
James Ehnes, 31, who yesterday received his first Grammy nomination, teamed up with Toronto boy Stewart Goodyear, 29, on the piano, in a program that mixed old masterworks with something new.

Last month, both musicians impressed Toronto Symphony audiences at Roy Thomson Hall. Yesterday it was time to experience a more intimate magic.

The highlights were the "Chaconne" from J.S. Bach's Partita No. 2 for solo violin and Richard Strauss's Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 18, for violin and piano.

No one has managed to match the architectural creativity of Bach's compositions for solo violin and cello in the three centuries since. In making the player drag the bow over two strings at once (double-stopping), Bach builds a virtual harmonic and contrapuntal universe.

He also builds in difficulty that Ehnes brushed off with incredible poise. He was mesmerizing as his bow skipped from string to string.

The collaboration on Strauss's extravagantly expressive 1887 Sonata was equally spellbinding. Ehnes is not a physically demonstrative performer. Instead, he channels everything into his right arm, carrying us off with him in full late-Romantic flight. (It's no surprise he was nominated yesterday for a Grammy for his album of Barber, Walton and Korngold violin concertos.)

Goodyear's playing verged on too discreet but otherwise was a model of clarity and careful phrasing. Putting two solo stars together in a chamber-music collaboration doesn't always work, but Ehnes and Goodyear performed together as if they have been doing this for years.

The pair started with a Mozart Sonata (No. 35, in A Major, K. 526), neatly articulated, but emphasizing movement over warmth. Goodyear also took a solo turn onstage, in the public debut of Dogged By Hell Hounds, a tribute to bluesman Robert Johnson commissioned by the Women's Musical Club.

The 10-minute piece has plenty of fire – and keyboard fireworks – in its belly, sounding a bit like the Mississippi Delta via Keith Jarrett.

The music sounded as if it should be improvised, but Goodyear had written out every note. He followed the score closely, lending a doggedness to the playing. Hopefully he'll keep playing this piece and make it truly his, and bring Hell Hounds to more vivid life in the future.

Hip Hop Artist Doug E. Fresh Is Still On The Beat

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(December 07, 2007) He hasn't released a record under his own
name since 1995, but Doug E. Fresh is still hip hop's go-to-guy.

This year alone, the originator of the human beat box performed on the American Idol finale, hosted David and Victoria Beckham's "Welcome to L.A." party and Usher's wedding reception. He's now working on a VH1 reality show.

The Star chatted by phone with the 41-year-old Harlem, N.Y., native, who still lives just five blocks from where he grew up, in advance of his show at Kool Haus tonight.

Q Have you ever had any musical training?

I played trumpet and percussion in elementary school. Percussion gave me the ability to use my hands and with trumpet I learned how to position my lips. I love the trumpet, because it creates the announcement. A lot of records that I've done start off with trumpets. My music teacher had a jazz background, (but) hip hop was the dominant force and it drew me in. Hip hop leaned more on the drums and I was so good at memorizing percussion sounds that I would duplicate them in my mind and just let it out with my own little twist with it.

Q Is there any challenge to what you do? How do you keep your chops in shape?

You've got to know how to use a microphone, where to position it to get the right sound. You learn about circular breathing, which is making the air circulate without stopping the music. It takes a lot of wind. If you catch a cold it's hard to get the kind of wind that you need to make people feel exactly what you're doing. I keep my chops up by performing a lot, but even then I still sit around and play with it to increase my level of control.

Q I take it you're a non-smoker?

My smoking days is never. You have to be in good shape to do the things that I do. I walk, run, do callisthenics. I haven't eaten meat for more than 20 years. I don't drink, really, occasionally a little champagne.

Q Two of your teenage sons have started their own rap group (Square Off). Did you try to discourage them?

I've been doing hip hop since I was 13 and I feel like my contribution has made a major difference in the world of hip hop. So I just think that my sons should have the same right to do that. If I tell them "No, you have to go to college or else," I would have been a hypocrite because that's not what I did.

Q Their song "Dear Pops" is full of drama. Is it an accurate reflection of their relationship with you?

I think it was an accurate reflection of how they felt when they wrote the song. And I think it's going to be an accurate reflection when I write the answer to it.

I'm a very real kind of father. I got six sons (ages 2 to 20); there's not too much femininity around here. It's straight-up, hardcore, real talk. And as young men will in life, sometimes they make good choices, sometimes they make mistakes, so it's real.

Feist Up For Grammys

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(December 6, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Kanye West, Amy Winehouse and the Foo Fighters were among the leading
Grammy contenders announced Thursday, with several Canadians also up for key awards.

West received a leading eight nominations. Winehouse received six, including for best new artist, record and song of the year for her hit "Rehab," and album of the year for Back to Black.

Record of year candidates included Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," the Foo Fighters' "The Pretender," Rihanna's "Umbrella," "What Goes Around Comes Around" by Justin Timberlake and Winehouse's ``Rehab."

The album of the year category also featured the Foo Fighters, for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, as well as Winehouse's album. Vince Gill's four-disc set These Days was also cited, along with Herbie Hancock's tribute to Joni Mitchell, River: The Joni Letters, DECand West's Graduation.

Toronto-based artist Feist scored three nominations. She'll compete against Winehouse in the best new artist category and also got a nod for pop vocal performance for her song "1,2,3,4" and best female pop vocal for her album The Reminder.

Other best new artist nominees are Paramore, Taylor Swift and Ledesi.

Victoria-raised Nelly Furtado was nominated in the categories of best female pop vocal and best pop collaboration with vocals.

Vancouver crooner Michael Buble scored a nod for best male pop vocal/traditional pop vocal.

Legendary power trio Rush is nominated for best rock instrumental and Montreal's Arcade Fire for best alternative music album.

Perennial Grammy favourite Walter Ostanek of St. Catharines, was nominated for best polka album, his 21st nod.

U.S. Musician Creates A Fresh Jazzy Sound By Mixing Old And New Styles With Multimedia

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(December 6, 2007)
Marc Cary's jazz credentials are impeccable, but his music cuts a wider swath.

The gifted composer and improviser, who apprenticed with some of the genre's legends – vocalists Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter, drummer Art Taylor – and collaborated with its young lions – trumpeter Roy Hargrove and vibist Stefon Harris – will showcase his boundary-pushing mélange of old and new during a two-night stint at Trane Studio this weekend.

Tomorrow, he and New York vocalist Samita Sinha present a scaled-down version of their multimedia project, Anatomy, which usually includes a videographer, puppeteer and percussionist.

Cary will utilize a grand piano and laptop for the concoction he describes as "the marriage of Hindustani vocals and rhythms aligned with jazz and pre-fused through (Washington D.C.'s indigenous) go-go rhythm."

"I chose to put a lot of energy in the area of jazz all my life, but that does not define me," says the affable 40-year-old by phone from his Harlem, N.Y., home.

"I'm more of a musician of the music of my time. I'm not even coming from a viewpoint of hip-hop; I'm coming from live music. (Popular in the early '80s) go-go was live music. It has improvisation and all the other elements of jazz.

"As a matter of fact, go-go in its purest form – I'm not talking about covers and songs that have been made – that's the only rhythm to me that swings as hard as jazz."

But Cary hasn't abandoned tradition. On Saturday night, he'll play solo piano in dedication to Oscar Peterson.

"It's all a tribute to Oscar," said the tunesmith of his first Toronto appearances in about six years, "(but) I'm not going to play a bunch of Oscar Peterson tunes. I'm going to show how he affected me. The depth of his sound is amazing."

There's also a personal connection: Peterson was acquainted with Cary's grandfather Otis Gamble, who played trumpet in Cootie Williams's orchestra in the '40s.

"I inherited his collection, which had just a wealth of Oscar Peterson music; that was my introduction," Cary says.

Between his vocalist/cellist mother, percussionist father and concert pianist great grandmother who played for silent movies, Cary's career seems fated.

"I can remember having a trumpet in my mouth right after I got teeth," he recalled with a laugh. "I always had instruments around me. I got serious when I was around 12 and formed a go-go band in my (D.C.) neighbourhood. We used to practice at my house. I remember trying to organize people to rehearse and learn songs that the other bands were playing and try to play our version. We won battle of the bands at the school – I still have the plaque!"

Cary, who cut his first disc as a leader in 1994, is attached to several bands, including his own acoustic Focus Trio and Stefon Harris's Blackout.

Additionally, he's co-founder of a non-profit organization called The Langston Hughes House, which maintains a studio, offices and performance space in the celebrated poet's renovated Harlem brownstone.

"I don't consider myself only a musician or a piano player," said Cary of the impetuous to create a facility dedicated to youth- focused artist development.

"I'm active in the preservation of this music and the preservation of history.

"When I started playing music, my goal was to make history and (I) did that back in the `90s, by playing with Betty Carter and recording with her and Abbey Lincoln and Arthur Taylor.

"This is a continuation of that initial goal. It's just getting broader now."

Just the facts

Marc Cary
WHEN: Friday, Saturday @ 9:30 p.m.
WHERE: Trane Studio, 964 Bathurst St., 416-913-8197
COVER: $20

Hallelujah, The Messiah Is Back

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(December 6, 2007) History has the last laugh. Just take Georg Frideric Handel and his immortal oratorio
Messiah as examples.

Handel (1685-1759) is revered as England's greatest Baroque-era composer. Yet he was born German. Messiah is the favourite large-scale classical music composition performed at Christmas in the English-speaking world. Yet it was meant for Easter.

It's a sacred work, yet it had its 1742 debut in a music hall – in Dublin, Ireland. Handel only wrote it because his company producing Italian operas was failing, and he desperately needed to raise some cash. Yet it was so successful that the composer nearly abandoned opera-writing thereafter.

To many, a Christmas without Messiah is unthinkable. So we asked conductors of four upcoming productions (among many others) to set the stage:


Stephanie Martin, Pax Christi Chorale

Do you remember when you heard Messiah the first time?

The most influential recording I heard was as a student in the early ’80s — a bootlegged tape of a Tafelmusik performance. It was a revelation that Messiah was not a collection of disjunct pieces, but that the whole drama could unfold like an opera.

When and with whom did you perform Messiah for the first time?

It was in the early ’70s and my dad and his friends were starting up an ambitious new venture called “Mennonite Massed Choir,” which would bring together about 230 singers to perform with a college orchestra from the States. At age 11, I was the youngest person in the choir. At the sold-out performance, while we sang the last “Amen” chorus, I could hardly see my Dad conducting, since there were tears in my eyes.

How many times do you think you have heard or performed Messiah in your life?

Averaging twice a year for about 25 years — around 50 times. I’ve sung both alto and soprano in the chorus, played harpsichord and organ continuo in the various orchestral performances.

Which is your favourite Messiah recording?

Probably Christopher Hogwood’s, because I heard this just as I was becoming crazy about Baroque performance practice, and who could resist (soprano) Emma Kirkby in the ’80s?

Messiah alternatives?

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Hodie, Britten’s Saint Nicolas, Mendelssohn’s oratorio Christus has a wonderful Christmas section and Canada’s own Healey Willan wrote the charming Mystery of Bethlehem.

When: Tomorrow to Sunday
Where: Grace Church-on-the-Hill, 300 Lonsdale Rd.
Tickets and info: 416-491-8542 or www.paxchristichorale.org


Lydia Adams, Elmer Isler Singers

Do you remember when you heard Messiah the first time?

The first number of times I heard Messiah was as a young child in Cape Breton. ..... I already knew the score well when I was very young as my mother had placed some oratorios, Messiah included, on my piano from the time I was 7 or 8. Nothing was more fun for me than to read through the whole score — choruses and solos alike — accompanying myself at top voice.

When and with whom did you perform Messiah for the first time?

My first actual performance of Messiah happened in England where I was taking post-graduate studies at the Royal College of Music. I sang with the Bach Choir under Sir David Willcocks.

How many times do you think you have heard or performed Messiah in your life?

I have probably been involved in at least 60 and have heard many more than that.

Which is your favourite Messiah recording?

I normally like a full-throated, dramatic version of Messiah and so a favourite is the Andrew Davis Toronto Symphony recording with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir prepared by Elmer Iseler. I really love what Trevor Pinnock does with the piece as well.

Messiah alternatives?

The Christmas Oratorio of J.S. Bach.

When: Tomorrow at 8 p.m.
Where: Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen St. E.
Tickets and info: 416-217-0537 or www.elmeriselersingers.com


Nicholas Kraemer, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Mendelssohn Choir

Do you remember when you heard Messiah the first time?

My mother used to play with the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union. She would get up at 8 a.m. on Jan 1 and go to rehearse. I went with her one year and remember being overwhelmed by the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I must have been about 8 or 9.

When and with whom did you perform Messiah for the first time?

I played in many performances as continuo player before I conducted it for the first time. The first I ever conducted was over 20 years ago in the Barbican concert hall with the English Chamber Orchestra. On two occasions since, I went back to Edinburgh to conduct Messiah with that very same choral society. That was a really extraordinary moment.

How many times do you think you have heard or performed Messiah in your life?

About 40 times.

Which is your favourite Messiah recording?

I don’t think I have ever listened to a Messiah recording other than one I played on — Sir Neville Mariner and the Academy of St.Martin-in-the-Fields, which is not the way I perform it.

Messiah alternatives?

J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is much more suitable for Christmas. Or Berlioz’s Childhood of Christ. Messiah is about so much more than Christmas, it doesn’t seem particularly appropriate to perform it then.

When: Dec. 15, 16, 18, 19 & 21
Where: Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.
Tickets & info: 416-593-4828 or www.tso.ca


Ivars Taurins, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir

Do you remember when you heard Messiah the first time?

Recording: Sir Malcolm Sargent and the Royal Philharmonic, followed soon after by a live concert in Massey Hall circa.1971 with the Toronto Symphony & Mendelssohn Choir, with Lois Marshall, Theodore Gentry, Albert Greer and Gary Relyea, directed by Elmer Iseler.

When and with whom did you perform Messiah for the first time?

Tafelmusik, 1981

How many times do you think you have heard or performed Messiah in your life?

Performed: around 150 times. Heard: countless

Which is your favourite Messiah recording?

It would have to be a compilation of many, many different recordings, each having its special moments: I still remember hearing Elly Ameling’s moving rendition of “Thy rebuke hath broken his heart,” or the fleet-footed choral work on Neville Mariner’s ground-breaking recording when it first came out.

Messiah alternatives?

Christmas without Messiah is like a Christmas without family, or a Christmas tree. I can’t imagine it.

When: Dec. 19-22. Sing-Along Messiah Dec. 23
Where: Trinity-St. Paul’s Church, 427 Bloor St. W. (Sing-Along at Massey Hall)
Tickets & Info: 416-964-6337 or www.tafelmusik.org

A Lot Like Vegas, But No Supper

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com – J.D. Constantine

At Massey Hall in Toronto on Tuesday

(December 06, 2007)
Paul Anka's last couple of albums may have created some confusion about just what the fifties teen heartthrob is up to these days.

Some listeners have assumed that his big-band interpretation of various nineties' rock classics - first on 2005's Rock Swings, and then on the current Classic Songs My Way - is meant to show his contemporary side without, um, actually sounding contemporary. Others have taken it as a sort of hipster joke, an unlikely but straight-faced fusion of Frank Sinatra cool and Kurt Cobain angst.

Nope - it's just part of the longest-running supper-club act in history.

Anka's 50th Anniversary Tour, which arrived in Toronto two nights after a performance in his hometown of Ottawa, may have looked like a standard pop concert - Massey Hall had no waiters delivering Manhattans and prime rib, just the usual assortment of ushers with flashlights - but the feel made it easy to understand how, in 1960, Anka came to be the youngest performer ever to play New York's legendary Copacabana.

It wasn't just the brass-heavy, 17-piece backing band, or the way he evoked the lean, suave confidence and effortlessly powerful voice of the Kennedy-era Sinatra. Anka's approach (figuratively) tore down the proscenium arch and obliterated the distance between stage and seats, until he seemed to be performing mere feet from his dazzled fans.

Often, in fact, he was just inches away. For his opener, a brash, string-synthesizer-soaked rendition of his 1958 hit You Are My Destiny, Anka entered from the rear of the theatre and sang most of his songs from the aisles - an impressive feat, given how many hands he shook and cheeks he bussed.

Nor did he make any effort to keep his distance as the show progressed. Noticing a bit of photo flash from the audience, Anka reached down to grab a fan's camera - then shot a few snaps of himself before handing it back, telling the crowd to take as many pictures as they liked.

"And use flash, it's okay," he assured them.

Later, while reprising a string of oldies - Puppy Love, Lonely Boy, My Home Town - he roamed relentlessly, dancing with fans, posing for photos, even grabbing someone's cellphone to improvise a couple of verses to whoever was listening on the other end.

Anka didn't just sing oldies, of course; he also did four selections from Rock Swings, including a dark, brassy treatment of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit that doubtless left some in the crowd wondering why he was bellowing, "A mosquito/My libido."

But given the tour's anniversary theme, there was naturally a lot of looking back. He introduced (All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings by joking, "I recorded this song a long time ago. In fact, it was so long ago, the Dead Sea was just sick."

His performance of Times of Your Life was a retrospective in itself, illustrated by film clips culled from Anka's career.

There was also a strong undercurrent of Rat Pack nostalgia, which seemed fitting, given the Vegas floor-show finish Anka's act has taken. Using the video screen, he delivered a duet with the late Sammy Davis Jr. on I'm Not Anyone, and piped in a bit of Sinatra's voice for a triumphant, crowd-pleasing run through My Way.

Was it a bit hokey? Maybe. But Paul Anka's stage show made it clear that what works in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas.

Paul Anka performs in Belleville, Ont., tomorrow, St. John's on Dec. 9 and Halifax on Dec. 11.


The goods


Not counting the extra, encore version of Diana (and a brief Viagra-ad parody), Anka did eight of his 11 Top-10 tunes, as well as several hits he wrote for others, including It Doesn't Matter Any More (which Buddy Holly cut), My Way (a smash for Frank Sinatra), and She's a Lady (a big one for Tom Jones).


Despite encouragement from the stage, almost nobody jumped for Jump, his jazz take on the Van Halen hit, and Smells Like Teen Spirit was definitely too hip for the room.


Many couples, and most old enough to have bought the original 45 of Diana.


Try the veal!

Keeping Jazz's Traditions Alive

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(December 07, 2007) Since it first hit the road in 1963,
New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band has evolved from three different touring ensembles to a single septet drawn from a roster of 10 musicians.

But the magnitude of the group, whose members range in age from their 20s to early 80s, has increased in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"We're now the cultural ambassadors for the whole city," said creative director Ben Jaffe on the phone from New Orleans. Jaffe is the son of Alan and Sandra Jaffe, founders of the venerable French Quarter music venue from which the band is derived.

"It's an amazing time to be living here, but it's also emotionally challenging and draining."

But the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which brings A Creole Christmas – New Orleans jazz standards and unique arrangements of traditional holiday songs – to Roy Thomson Hall tonight, marches on.

"To see our band overcome all of these adversities ... five of the musicians who will be in Toronto lost their homes, their photographs, record collections, instruments."

The group may have recovered personally and professionally (their current disc is Made in New Orleans: The Hurricane Sessions), but its ability to replenish band members is questionable in jazz's devastated birthplace.

"We can only put forth our best effort to ensure that our cultural traditions are perpetuated for other generations to experience and to learn from," said Jaffe, co-founder of the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, which organizes housing, health care and performance opportunities for the city's players.

"By allowing certain cultural traditions like funeral parades, or what we call second line parades, that happen here every Sunday, or helping a church to reopen where there's music, or helping a school band get instruments, we're allowing students and youth to experience firsthand the cultural traditions that many of us were so fortunate to grow up with."

Recently, however, there have been reports of New Orleans authorities halting funeral parades.

"One would expect our police and our government to support things like parades or outdoor music," said Jaffe of the conflict, which has been brewing since a mid-'90s crime wave that saw a hike in funerals for African American youth.

"The style of music that was being performed at the parades began to evolve and become more youthful and reflect more of the hip-hop generation." But the arts vanguard is undaunted, Jaffe said.

"When I recognized that it was up to us, the people of New Orleans, to ensure our cultural future, that's when I said I'm going to dig my roots even deeper in New Orleans, become an even bigger part of the community here. That's why an institution like Preservation Hall has a much more important role now than it did two years ago."

Wyclef Jean's Traveling 'Carnival'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 6, 2007) *Rapper/producer
Wyclef Jean will mount a club tour in January to support his new studio album, "Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant," which arrived in stores on Tuesday. The outing is scheduled to begin Jan. 14 in Providence, RI, and will run through the middle of February, with stops along the way in about 20 cities.  "Carnival Vol. II" is Clef's sixth studio album since launching a solo career. The former member of hip hop trio The Fugees features guest artists Mary J. Blige, Paul Simon, Chamillionaire, Shakira and System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian.  Jean produced the disc with help from singer Akon, will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas, and longtime producer/collaborator Jerry "Wonder" Duplessis, who is also the performer's cousin. Here are Wyclef Jean's tour dates:

January 2008
14 - Providence, RI - Lupo's
16 - New York, NY - Nokia Theatre Times Square
17 - Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head Tavern
18 - Washington, DC - Love
19 - Atlantic City, NJ - House of Blues
20 - Norfolk, VA - NorVa
22 - Cleveland, OH - House of Blues
23 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues
25 - Atlanta, GA - Venue to be announced
27 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues
29 - Denver, CO - Gothic Theatre
30 - Aspen, CO - Belly Up

February 2008
1 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues
2 - Tempe, AZ - Marquee Theatre
4 - San Diego, CA - House of Blues
6 - Anaheim, CA - House of Blues
8 - West Hollywood, CA - House of Blues
12 - Seattle, WA - Showbox
13 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore Theatre
15 - San Francisco, CA - University of San Francisco 

Keyshia Cole Gathers Family For Drama-Filled Season Finale

Source: Tosha Whitten Griggs, Sr. Director,  BET Corporate Communications, tosha.whitten-griggs@bet.net

(December 11, 2007) *Los Angeles -- Tonight, the sophomore season of BET's critically acclaimed "
Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is" draws to a dramatic close. 

Noted as "one of the few reality shows that feels genuine in its portrayal of its lead character" by Multichannel News and "an intriguing, tension-packed family drama" by Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it's the top returning series premiere in BET history as well as the #1 original series premiere of the year.  And it's easy to see why. 

This docu-drama has all of the right components-a lead character who truly opens up to show the human side of celebrity life, a family that adds fuel to the fire but is also there to ease the burn, and most importantly, an incredible path to healing and recovery. 
In the special one-hour season finale premiering at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, Keyshia and her mother Frankie receive the results of a DNA test to reveal whether a man claiming to be Keyshia's long-lost father actually is. 

Meanwhile, her manager Manny organizes a family reunion to bring together Keyshia's foster family and biological family, including two siblings she's only recently become acquainted with.

"That's always been my dream," said Cole.  "This is my day - I want the family to come together, and I want everyone to get along,"

But the tension is high as Frankie, who continues to deal with the emotional guilt of abandoning her children during years of drug addiction, shows up at the reunion inebriated and confronts Keyshia's adoptive parents.  Meanwhile, her sister Neffe, who in last week's episode discovered that she was pregnant, makes a final decision of whether to keep her baby.   Despite the opinions offered by her mother and sister, Neffe resolves not to be influenced in her decision-making.  

"This baby situation is always heavy on mind," Neffe reveals in the episode.  "They don't have to live with this for the rest of their life, Neffe does."

From heart-wrenching therapy sessions and family pathos to handling the day-to-day life of a platinum-selling artist, "Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is" gives one-of-a-kind insight into the world of one of music's most captivating and complex rising stars.

Behind-The-Scenes Book Dishes About Grammy

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times

(December 11, 2007) LOS ANGELES–"Excuse me, could you turn down the music? I mean, I like Sinatra, but ..." The waiter at the Italian restaurant gave the customer,
Ken Ehrlich, a puzzled look before shrugging and walking off in search of a volume knob. Even when he's sitting beneath dangling Chianti bottles and eating antipasto in Hollywood, the executive producer of the Grammy Awards still has strong opinions about the way music should reach the public.

Ehrlich is one of the most powerful gatekeepers in the music industry and, with nominations for the 50th Annual Grammy Awards announced last Thursday, his cellphone will be burning up with calls from label executives, managers and sometimes artists themselves, all lobbying, demanding or begging for a moment in one of the brightest spotlights in the music industry. A sparkling performance on the Grammys not only can yield a commercial windfall, it can shape careers.

The 63-year-old Ehrlich knows the pressure of all that (he is only two years removed from a quadruple heart bypass that he partly assigns to the stress of 27 years of the Grammy show) and he also feels the weight of the history. That's clear on every page of his just-published backstage memoir,
At the Grammys!: Behind the Scenes at Music's Biggest Night, which, despite the breathless title, is like Ehrlich himself: understated, candid and impatient with those celebrities he deems arrogant or, worse, possessing only flimsy talent.

Take for example his reprinting of a handwritten note from Britney Spears that arrived on the eve of the 2006 show requesting a spot for her as a presenter ("I wanted to write you personally in hopes that you might find a place for me on the show ..."). Ehrlich was unmoved; a few years earlier, he had been advised that he shouldn't speak directly to the star, only to her manager, and he was still seething. In his book, he reports his response to Spears's overture: "I think we ought to keep the relationship the way it was then."

All of the expected Grammy moments are accounted for in the memoir, among them the bizarre "soy bomb" incident, when a loopy fan with body paint jumped onstage with Bob Dylan at the 1998 show, and the sublime, last-minute performance of "Nessun Dorma" by Aretha Franklin, filling in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti that same year.

The more interesting stories, though, are the smaller ones that never made it on camera but reveal just as much about the strange physics of the celebrity universe.

For a lesson in jockeying, there's the 1991 Grammys, when Ehrlich dearly wanted to book his old friend and idol Tony Bennett, but the Recording Academy leadership balked until Ehrlich had the idea of pairing Bennett with Harry Connick Jr., who was not far removed from his When Harry Met Sally ... success.

Connick was thrilled with the idea that would have him sing and then introduce Bennett, but then, after everything was set, his manager said Connick would drop out of the show unless the performance order was switched: the younger singer wanted Bennett to "open for him" and introduce him. Ehrlich fumed, but Bennett agreed.

The story doesn't end there: Bennett was so sensational in rehearsals that he received a standing ovation from the crew at Radio City Music Hall. Five minutes after that, Connick's people had a change of heart: they didn't want to follow Bennett after all. Ehrlich, with some glee, announced that it was too late. "I had no great desire to please the manager," he writes.


Avant Gains Capitol; Prepares For Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 07, 2007) *One of
Avant's biggest hits, "Separated," nowdescribes the relationship he has with Geffen Records.  The R&B singer has signed a new deal with Capitol following a four-album run with his former label, reports Billboard.com. "They've shown that they're dedicated to push their resources for my projects," says the Cleveland native of Capitol. "I look forward to a long lasting relationship with many, many hit records." The as-yet-untitled Capitol debut is due next summer with production from Rodney Jerkins and DJ Smurf, among others. A single will be released in March.   Meanwhile, Avant will be touring with TGT, the R&B trio made up of singers Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank, and will star in the play "Love in the Nick of Tyme," featuring Morris Chestnut.

A Well-Executed Stew

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

Wyclef Jean
Carnival Vol II: Memoirs Of An Immigrant (Sony BMG)
(out of 4)

(December 4, 2007) With the Fugees reunion dead in the water, the Haitian-born, New York-based entertainer whose bio describes him as "musician/rapper/producer/social activist" is moving forward with a sequel to his 1997 solo debut. With a diverse guest line-up – Paul Simon, reggae artist Sizzla, Louis Farrakhan on violin – ringmaster Jean, who does very little rapping on the disc, lives up to the rest of his billing with an anthemic and well-executed dance-oriented stew of pop, hip-hop, Caribbean, Latin American and South Asian rhythms. Top track: Mary J. Blige's emotionally wrenching verses on "What About The Baby," a track about estranged parents.

Angie Stone
The Art of Love & War (Stax/Concord)

The South Carolina native remains consistent with this fourth disc: sultry soul that exudes strength and vulnerability with an affirming, but realistic exploration of love. She doesn't belt like Chaka Khan, but the 41-year-old mother of two similarly evokes wisdom and earthiness. Note a couple of interesting duet partners: John Legend soundalike Chino and an ineffectual Pauletta Washington – yeah, Denzel's wife. Top track: The groovin' "My People" celebrates African American achievement with a list of notables such as Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton.

Miles Davis
The Complete On the Corner Sessions (SonyBmg)

The ideal Christmas offering for the Miles Davis fan on your list, provided they aren't stuck on one of the late trumpet great's earlier eras. This six-disc box set, which includes 12 previously unreleased tracks and a 120-page colour booklet, captures Davis's free-flowing funk period with accompanists such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Mtume, on 16 sessions that yielded On the Corner (1972), Get Up With It (1974), and Big Fun (1974). With his horn yawning lazily ("Ife"), wah wah pedal warped ("Calypso Frelimo") or nestled in smooth jazz ("Maiysha"), Davis's Indian and African influences are explored on thick grooves that contemporary world music enthusiasts will also appreciate.

Maroon 5, Fergie Top Sellers Of The Year On iTunes

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 11, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Maroon 5 and Fergie hold the top spots on
iTunes' year-end sales roundup. The online music store released its top-selling albums and singles Tuesday, though it declined to release actual sales figures. Maroon 5's sophomore album, It Won't Be Soon Before Long, was the No. 1 seller on the site, followed by Amy Winehouse's Back to Black and Kanye West's Graduation. Winehouse and West are also leaders heading into the 50th annual Grammy Awards – he has eight nominations, she has six. Rounding out the top five best-selling albums were American Idol alum Chris Daughtry's band's self-titled debut, Daughtry, and Coco by newcomer Colbie Caillat, who has the hit "Bubbly.'' Fergie came in at first and fifth place in single sales. Her hit ``Big Girls Don't Cry" was the top-selling single of the year for iTunes, while "Glamorous" finished in fifth. Gwen Stefani's "The Sweet Escape" came in second place, followed by Plain White T's ``Hey There Delilah" and Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend.''

Stefani Scholarship Helps Students Who Lost Homes

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 11, 2007) SAN DIEGO –
Gwen Stefani is contributing $166,000 from her local concert to provide scholarships for students who lost their homes in San Diego's recent wildfires. Proceeds from her Oct. 30 concert in San Diego were donated to The San Diego Foundation's fire relief fund. "When I heard about the devastation of the fires, at first I felt I should cancel my show out of respect. But then it occurred to me there might be a more useful solution," the 38-year-old singer said in a recent statement. The Gwen Stefani After-the-Fires Scholarship will be open to college students and graduating high school seniors who lost their homes or their source of income in the October fires, which killed at least 10 people and destroyed more than 1,700 homes. The scholarship application deadline is Jan. 28.

Erykah Badu Readies Double Album

Excerpt from

(December 11, 2007) *
Erykah Badu has announced that her new double album, due February 26 via Universal Motown, will be titled "Nu AmErykah." "I named this album 'Nu AmErykah' because I'm dealing with whatever is to come instead of what was," Badu told Billboard.com. "In taking on a project like this, I'm taking the responsibility to talk for my race and my planet. I'm sure the record company will make their money and they've given me the blessing of time." "Nu AmErykah" features 18 songs that will be spread over two separately sold discs. The first single, "Honey," was produced by 9th Wonder and the '70s soul-tinged "Soldier 7" may be the follow-up track, Billboard reports.  "We've waited almost 10 years for this album to come," said Universal executive vice president and Motown president Sylvia Rhone. "She inspires, sets trends and does music that no one's done before. Male, female, black [and] white can listen to her and come away with something." The double disc was previously rumoured to be named "Kabbah," but Badu says that that title was never final and that she prefers to wait and title her albums once they're finished.


Julie Christie Thrust Into Awards Spotlight

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - David Germain, The Associated Press

(December 10, 2007) SANTA MONICA, Calif.–
Julie Christie jokes that she comes out of seclusion to do a movie about once a decade. And just about as often, the Academy Award-winning actor earns an Oscar nomination for the effort.

The same could happen with Christie's remarkable performance as a woman succumbing to Alzheimer's in the Canadian film Away From Her, the directing debut of Sarah Polley, who adapted the screenplay from Alice Munro's story The Bear Came Over the Mountain.

The Oscar buzz began more than a year ago when the movie debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, continued after the movie hit theatres in May and remains strong as ever on the eve of the Golden Globe nominations. A Best Actress Oscar winner as a model who sleeps her way to the top in 1965's Darling, Christie quickly became choosy about films. Yet she found plum roles that earned her two more nominations, for 1971's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and 1997's Afterglow.

A homebody who prefers to stay on her small farm in Wales, the 67-year-old Christie dreads the thought of being back in Oscar contention.

"Deep anxiety. Huge anxiety," Christie said of the awards rigmarole, which drags on for months until the Oscars finally are handed out Feb. 24.

In an interview at a luxury beachfront hotel, Christie described how out of place she feels when publicists and awards handlers plot strategy to keep her in the minds of voters for the Oscars. "It's like, `You may have to go to Mars and pretend to be a Martian,'" Christie said. "I think, oh, I don't know any Martians. Can you give me some rules? And you're told, `No, you've just got to make up how to be like a Martian, and you must not be discovered.' So the moment anyone says the word `Oscar,' the anxiety sets in."

The O-word was inevitable for Christie's performance in Away From Her. She plays Fiona, a woman whose long, sometimes shaky marriage to a once-adulterous but now steadfast husband, Grant (played by veteran Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent), goes into decline as her memory fades from Alzheimer's.

To ease Grant's pain, Fiona checks herself into an institution while she still retains most of her faculties. But she deteriorates so quickly that she no longer recognizes Grant, who suffers through quiet jealousy as his wife begins a flirtation with another aging patient.

Christie remains as luminous as in her Darling days, radiating the effervescence of the woman Fiona once was, even amid her mental decline. Did the role make Christie consider her own mortality?

"It might have, but I think a lot already about my own mortality. It made me think much more practically. Thinking about your mortality is an extremely practical thing to do," Christie said.

"It made me think, I've got to get down to some really serious thinking when I write my will about what I want to happen and what not happen."

Convincing Christie to take the role was a challenge for Polley, who first read Munro's story flying home to Canada from Iceland, where she had just finished the 2002 film No Such Thing, in which Christie had a small part.

Polley immediately imagined Christie as Fiona. But Christie has made as much of a career turning down films as she has acting.

"I knew it would be difficult, because she's not the most ambitious of actors in the world, and she's not that interested in working all the time," Polley said. "She really liked the script and spent about two months really agonizing over it, then gave a very definite, `No.'"

It took months of arm-twisting before Christie finally agreed, "and once she did, it kind of became clear why it's so hard to get a `yes' out of her," Polley said. "Because she gives all of herself to what she does. Once she said `yes,' she was more committed than anybody."

Christie continues to take small parts in such films as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Troy and Finding Neverland, saying the workload is slight and the paycheques help cover the upkeep of her centuries-old farm.

Polley and Christie share a desire to do interesting, unusual work, which generally means staying away from Hollywood.

"It's been a kind of greed and a kind of egotism, but it's not necessarily wanting to avoid the Hollywood thing, but in fact, it incorporates wanting to avoid the Hollywood thing, because the Hollywood thing is so inevitably not original," Christie said. "It's avoiding non-originality, so that means you're really down to a very small choice."

Christie now has nothing on her schedule and said she's in no hurry to go back to work.

"I might never make a film again. Maybe that 10-year thing won't happen," Christie said.

"Or maybe it'll be 40 years and the call will come in, and I'll have just had my heart attack and go, `God, I missed it.'"

Gabrielle Union: The Perfect Holiday Interview with Kam Williams

By Kam Williams

(Dec. 11, 2007) Born in Omaha, Nebraska on October 29, 1972,
Gabrielle Monique Union was more of an athlete than an actress during her formative years, going on to play point guard on her high school’s basketball team and soccer for the University of Nebraska. Ironically, when she set her sights on showbiz, the 5’7” beauty found her breakout role as a cheerleader in Bring It On.

On her way up the ladder to superstardom, she got her start in teensploits like She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate about You. But after Bring It On, she became a staple of urban-oriented fare such as Two Can Play That Game and The Brothers, and landed the lead role in Deliver Us from Eva.

Since then, Gabrielle has made the transition to summer blockbusters, co-starring opposite Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II and opposite Cedric the Entertainer in The Honeymooners. Earlier this year, she handled the lead role in Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls opposite Idris Elba. And now she’s appearing in a film for the fourth time with Morris Chestnut in The Perfect Holiday.

As for her personal life, Gabrielle’s divorce from retired football star Chris Howard of the Jacksonville Jaguars was finalized in 2006.

KW: Hi Gabrielle, thanks for the time.

GU: No problem.

KW: I loved your performance in The Perfect Holiday. What made you decide to play Nancy?

GU: You know, I generally don’t play women with children. I think I’ve only done it one other time. But seeing what my sister and what my girlfriend go through raising three kids, it was a role I definitely had an interest in exploring. And when Latifah and Shakim [producers Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere] came to me, I was like, “Let me give it a go. The worst that could happen is that I try and it doesn’t work out.” I definitely gave it my best. 

KW: Didn’t you just play a mother in Daddy’s Little Girls?

GU: No, they weren’t my children. 

KW: That’s right. Those were Idris’ kids. Well, how was it working with Morris again? You two have such a natural chemistry.

GU: Every time we work together, it’s like putting on a pair of old comfy jeans, or your favourite pair of shoes that you’ve had since high school that never failed. He’s just so easy to work with in this day and age where everybody wants to be a diva or a divo. He’s so not that. He’s so humble and has no clue that he’s one of the best looking people on the planet. He’s just so easygoing that whenever they give me a chance to say who I want to work with, I pick Morris as often as I can.  

KW: How was it having so many other big names in the cast? Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, Charlie Murphy, Katt Williams, Faizon Love, etcetera?

GU: What’s great about the African-American entertainment community is that you’re kind of around for so much of people’s careers. So, I’ve known everyone in this movie for years. I’ve known Katt since he was just doing standup, and now he’s Katt Williams! The same with Charlie and Faizon, and Latifah and Terrence. They’re just my friends. I never think of them as more than that, but the cast is very impressive. It’s a great community of people who got to come together.  

KW: So, the black acting community is kind of small.

GU:  Very small. You know everybody. It’s kind of the same with musicians. It’s a very small world. It doesn’t matter what city you’re in, everyone is kind of in the same place. So, you see people literally from when they’re starting out and asking you for tips to when they blossom into some of the hugest stars we have today. And it’s a great feeling to know that you’re a part of this great community that kind of nurtures talent, because Latifah didn’t have to come to me. She could have gone to anybody. It says a lot about our community that we really try to lift each other up and give each other jobs and opportunities.

KW: Coincidentally, I just got Bring It On 4 in the mail today. What’s funny is that the story has the cheerleaders somehow back in high school, even though they were already in college in Bring It On 2. I know you’re not in any of the sequels, but do you care to comment, since it was the film that really kickstarted your career?

GU: Yeah, it was about the fourth or fifth movie I’d done, but it definitely gave me the biggest boost. I’m just so glad that the franchise has this life, and that it keeps getting reincarnated. It’s kind of cool that something you were a part of creating has that staying power. I am probably asked about Bring It On more than most of my other movies, because it’s always on cable TV and remains a popular rental. It’s one of those movies people watch over and over again.

KW: Which of your films is your favourite?

GU: The one that kinda stands out, because we made it for so little and because we were all such good friends to begin with, was Deliver Us from Eva. That was when I really began to understand FUBU [For Us By Us] filmmaking, and just how good it feels to not be the only person who looks like you in front of or behind the camera. We all really came together. Everyone would just hang out and be supportive on the set. And we played music between takes. It was like this great functioning family. So, that was one of my best experiences, though they’ve all been great in different ways. 

KW: Is there a question you always wish someone would ask you, but no one ever asks?

GU: [Laughs] No, people pretty much ask whatever pops into their minds nowadays.

KW: Well, then let me ask you the Columbus Short question. Are you happy?

GU: Yeah! I’m having a great run right now. I can’t ask for more, except maybe for the writers’ strike to be over.

KW: And the Jimmy Bayan question. Where in L.A. do you reside?

GU: I’m in the hippy part of L.A. The Valley.

KW: Does The Perfect Holiday have a theme or a message you want audiences to come away with?

GU: One of the things that I sort of liked about the script when I read it is that it’s about finding a balance. Speaking to mothers, I think you have happiest children, when the mom’s happy. So, it’s saying, don’t think of it as being selfish to take time for yourself, because if the mother feels great, she’s going to be happier about everything else in her life, including her marriage or relationship, and the time that she spends with her children. So, the movie’s about trying to find that balance. You can sort of have it all, provided you kind of strike that balance.

KW: I see you have a sci-fi comedy coming out in 2008 with Eddie Murphy called Starship Dave. What’s that about?

GU: We play two-inch tall Martians. We lose this orb that’s vital for our existence, and it crash lands on Earth. So, we come to Earth searching for the orb. It’s sort of about how we are on our search for this orb and how Eddie’s character navigates around the streets of Manhattan and life, and finds his true calling and passion and love along the way. 

KW: I’m on the NAACP Image Award nominating committee and I know you’ve been nominated for one four times before. Are any studios planning to promote any of your performances for an Image Award this year?

GU: Oh, I hope so. That would be nice. Anytime that I get nominated for anything, whether it be something as prestigious as an NAACP Image Award, or for Best Butt in Black Tail Magazine, I feel honoured that anyone is thinking enough of me in any way, shape or form to acknowledge it. So, it just feels nice to even be thought of. If I make it onto a ballot, that’s great. If I make it to be a nominee, it’s even better. It’s sort of wonderful to have my name tossed about.

KW: How often do you go back home to Nebraska? 

GU: Often. More often than I think people realize.

KW: Does that help you keep grounded, and to feel normal as opposed to the pressure of being a celebrity in Hollywood?

GU: It’s funny, because when I come back to Nebraska, my family makes sure that no one thinks of me as normal. My aunts are calling press conferences, and people are coming! That’s the funny part. I feel most at ease and at home in L.A. I don’t stand out at all. Still, I love being back in Omaha, because my family is humongous, and very, very supportive. I just love being with them, so, if it draws a little attention, I don’t mind, because I can’t not see my family. And we have a good time, so people can’t not see us.

KW: In L.A., can you go to a mall or a movie theatre?

GU: I can definitely go. Well, maybe a mall would be a little difficult. Where I live, Dr. Dre and Xzibit live around the corner, and he’s more exciting to these kids than I am. They don’t care about me looking for socks at Target.

KW: What’s your advice for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

GU: If you want to follow in my footsteps, that includes going to college, valuing education, taking an interest in you community and in charity, and in getting involved with causes that you’re passionate about and can make a difference in. But first and foremost, get an education. You only strengthen your craft with more knowledge and, for me, that was through a formal education. If I didn’t have the knowledge that I gained through my university experience, I don’t think that I’d be the actress or the person  that I am today. And I think it’s also about humility, and understanding that we’re not curing cancer here. We get to do something that’s really fun, and brings a little levity to people’s lives. So, let’s keep it in perspective. And finally, be on time. Just being on time is half the battle, and that’s how we shoot ourselves in the foot more often than not in our community, making a bad impression before you even get to open your mouth.

KW: You were thinking about attending law school when you were in college? Have you entirely abandoned those plans now?

GU: I have such a passion for law and justice that I may still go to law school, when it’s all said and done with the entertainment industry. But for now, I’d love to play a lawyer. That’d be cool.

KW: How about directing?

GU: No, I’ve never had a passion for directing, but I am producing a book that we optioned, and I’m getting my hands into a couple of other projects. I’m trying to be like Mekhi Phifer. It’s a book by Mitzi Miller and couple of other ladies called The Vow. It’s about four women who make a vow to be married in a year.

KW: That’s great, because if we want to see more rich representations of black females in films, we need more black female producers.   

GU: Exactly. If we want our stores told in the way we feel that they should be told, we need to take a more proactive role in getting these projects on their feet and in making them come to life. We don’t need to wait around for anybody to hand us anything. We just have to get out there and hustle. So, that’s what I’m trying to do, hustle.

KW: Are you making a guest appearance on any TV series? You’ve been on so many shows over the years, Night Stalker, Moesha, Sister, Sister, Steve Harvey, Friends, ER…

GU: I’ll be doing an arc on Ugly Betty.

KW: Really? I recently interviewed Vanessa Williams?

GU: Well, I’ll be playing her sister.

KW: How will your character be worked into the storyline?

GU: When the writer’s strike is over, I can tell you more about it. All I know now is that I’m playing her sister with a mysterious past. That’s as far as we’ve gotten.

KW: Well, thanks for the time Gabrielle, and best of luck and I’m looking forward to hearing more about it and your other upcoming projects.

GU: Yes, definitely. Thank you. 

Loretta Devine: The Dirty Laundry/This Christmas Interview With Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – by Kam Williams

(December 6, 2007) *Houston's
Loretta Devine is a classically-trained thespian and vocalist who burst onto the scene in 1981 when she played Lorrell as a member of the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls.

She then used that stage success as a springboard for an enviable career on TV and in film which has landed the versatile actress five NAACP Image Awards.

Among her eighty acting credits are memorable appearances in such well-received films as Crash, Waiting to Exhale, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and Woman, Thou Art Loosed, and recurring roles on TV shows like Grey's Anatomy, Boston Public and Everybody Hates Chris.

Loretta is now enjoying something of a renaissance on screen, as she is starring in two movies currently in theatres,
Dirty Laundry and This Christmas. Plus, she has another, First Sunday, set to open next month.

Kam Williams: Hey, Loretta, thanks so much for this opportunity.

Loretta Devine: Yes, my pleasure. How are you?

KW: Very well, and you?

LD: Good. good.

KW: How did you decide to do Dirty Laundry?

LD:  What really interested me was the writer/director Maurice Jamal. You know how you meet somebody and there's something special about him? Plus, the size of the role. When you're black in Hollywood, it's very hard to get that kind of piece to do. Have you seen the movie?  

KW: Yes.

LD: Remember the monologue at the dinner table at the end? That was such a challenge, especially because we had such a small window to complete it in. I really wanted to see if I could meet that challenge. It was very low budget, so we worked long hours, and hard. And I thought the content was incredible. It was about Maurice's mother to some extent, so it was a personal experience for him, and that made it more interesting to me. Also, it was sort of a different character from the sweet, wonderful person that I usually get to play.

KW: It's funny that you have two movies out at the same time where you're playing a family matriarch. 

LD: But they're flips of each other. They're totally different women. We actually shot Dirty Laundry two years ago. Maurice had been struggling to get it mainstreamed, and finally it happened for him. Things happen when they happen. 

KW: So, it's just a coincidence that they've been released together. How would you describe you're character in Dirty Laundry, Evelyn?

LD: She's a washer woman who smokes, and drinks and curses, and is not considered a very good mother, yet is a wonderful mother in her own way.

KW: How do you decide whether to take a role?

LD: Well, you're lucky just to get roles. Be mindful of who you're asking. [Laughs] My career has been blessed. Sometimes I feel like I'm so favoured. Like now, having three films opening back-to-back. First Sunday is an ensemble piece, but I still have a very good role in that. This is feeling like the beginning of my career, even though I've been doing it forever, since the Dreamgirls days 25 years ago.

KW: Do you remember Deborah Burrell who was also in the original Broadway cast?

For full interview by Kam Williams, go HERE.

Brazil Heats Up The Screen

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(December 07, 2007) The first
Brazilian Film Fest presents a warts-and-all picture of a country whose movies get little play in North America, even though up to 30 features a year are made in the most recent surge of Brazilian film production.

The festival presents 12 features, half drama and half documentary, and opens today with a screening at 7 p.m. in the Royal Ontario Museum of The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, directed by Cao Hamburger.

The feature is set in 1970, as a military dictatorship is taking over the Brazil and a 12-year-old boy is separated from his parents during the World Cup playoffs.

Brazil is a country of extremes of wealth and poverty and those who live without a permanent roof over their heads are nowhere more numerous than in São Paulo, where more than 10,000 people live in the streets and tens of thousands more occupy slum dwellings.

In House-warming Party, Ryerson film graduate Toni Venturi and co-director Pablo Georgieff profile four women co-ordinators of Movement of the Homeless of the Centre of São Paulo and follow them on a night when the homeless organize a mass occupation of vacant downtown buildings. The documentary screens on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Ginga gets its name from the word for all the things that make Brazilians so good at soccer: dribbling, passing, scoring and putting everything you have into the game.

The documentary covers the country to show how a national passion gets played out, from beach, to dirt lo, to full stadium, among all classes of Brazilians. Ginga will be shown on Saturday at 5 p.m.

The man who brought capoeira to the world's attention is celebrated in Mestre Bimba, a documentary that begins with the history of capoeira as a martial art the slaves invented to oppose their masters.

Born in 1899, Mestre Bimba – Manuel dos Reis Machado – devised a teaching method and helped elevate capoeira to a dance and musical form practised by men and women around the globe. The film screens Sunday at 3 p.m. and Monday at 1 p.m.

Women of Brazil is directed by Malu De Martino, who interweaves fiction and documentary to give a portrait of Brazil through five women writers. Their stories are the basis for vignettes about Brazilian women living in five different cities. It runs Sunday at 7 p.m.

Antônia is a film that has also been a popular Brazilian TV series, about four young women in São Paulo who form a rap group in their poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city.

Female director Tata Amaral directs four fantastic actor/singers in a drama that shows the women struggling amid poverty, male violence and machismo in the music business.

The closing film of the festival, Antônia will be shown Monday at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $7, or $5 for students, @ 888-222-6608. Go to brazilfilmfest.net for more information.

Hollywood Heavy Still A Brampton Beanpole

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(December 07, 2007)  LOS ANGELES — The world keeps waiting for
Michael Cera to go to Hollywood.

Stubbornly, he remains in Brampton, Ont. – in a physical sense, at least.

The 19-year-old comedy sensation, hot off of starring in the raunchy hit movie Superbad and co-starring in the awards-buzzing teen-pregnancy dramedy Juno, still lives at his parents' home in the working-class Toronto suburb where he grew up.

And, like his hometown, Cera is understated in his presence.

In person, there is rarely a flash of the huge buzz surrounding his meteoric rise to the top of the comedic-actor heap.

What is evident is the charming awkwardness and trademark deadpan delivery that has made him king of nerd-hero comedies, and also an unlikely heartthrob for women of pretty much all ages.

If Cera is stubborn, it's in the most polite, don't-look-at-me, I'm-just-a-guy-doing-my-job kind of way.

He's a prime example of the quality that Juno director Jason Reitman says distinguishes many of those in the new generation of Canadian film actors, “a maturity that has held onto innocence, whereas the kids who grew up in L.A. or New York seem immature and they've lost all their innocence.”

That said, Cera still seems like a bewildered youth when asked about his skyrocketing stardom. Even when he's making a joke.

“I haven't really felt any kind of buzzing,” the beanpole actor says in the high, tentative voice that sounds so funny onscreen but also lends him a deer-in-the-headlights air.

“I don't really feel that stuff. I don't know; this stuff all happened so fast and you can't really control it and all. It's more about working on the movie for me.

“Y' know, I've been acting for, like, 10 years now,” adds Cera, dressed in grey corduroys and an elaborately constructed black Topman duffel coat. “It's all still about just going on to the next thing and hoping for the best. Just keep working.”

He says that with a nervous laugh, like he thinks that maybe he won't.

Fat chance of that happening: Collaborators sing Cera's praises as if he were the next Marlon Brando rather than the adolescent geek flavour of the year.

What makes his screen presence so memorable is not just that it's funny, but it seems to come straight from the soul of a painfully shy but deep-feeling guy.

“Michael is someone that we're all in awe of,” says Judd Apatow, producer of Superbad and the brains behind such recent comedy blockbusters as Knocked Up, Talladega Nights and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. “We don't understand how it works; he's a little bit of a savant. People tell me he's been this good from day one. I like that he's so funny and has such a great sense of comedy, almost a Bob Newhart sense of comedy. But at the same time, he's a very good actor. And he has a very accessible heart when he works. He's very emotionally vulnerable and really knows what he's doing.”

And his Juno co-star, Halifax-born Ellen Page, whom Cera's unassertive Paulie Bleeker somehow manages to knock up and even win some affection from in the film, simply gushes. “Michael is just a stunning human being. He's incredibly sweet and unbelievably honest. And so talented that it's just, like, obvious he's going to be a legend. I feel pretty lucky that I got to work with him.” And if you know Ellen Page, she doesn't gush easily.

Where does it all come from? No place special, according to Cera.

The only son of a Sicilian-immigrant father and an anglophone mother from Montreal (he has an older and a younger sister), he describes Brampton as pretty much just a place to grow up. He attended Conestoga Public School, Robert H. Lagerquist Senior Public School and, for one year, Heart Lake Secondary School, and completed his education online as acting assignments took up more and more of his time.

He also devoted some time to sports: baseball, karate and soccer. “I never spent enough time in each, though, to get really good,” Cera says.

What? No hockey?

“I play road hockey with my friends once in a while. I never played hockey much. I was taking karate when all of my friends started playing hockey, and got really good at it. Then I started acting. Despite that, they still speak to me, we still hang out.”

Cera's interest in acting began at an early age, when he took weekend classes that included putting on shows for the parents. A teacher suggested he should get an agent. Amanda Rosenthal, who remains his Toronto agent to this day, started him with commercials, and a career gradually grew through appearances in numerous Canadian TV productions, including the films My Louisiana Sky and Christmas Miracle and the animated, Nelvana-produced series, Braceface; in Lifetime movies; and occasional parts in American films such as Frequency and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

The young actor eventually contracted with a Los Angeles management team, and the first thing they brought to the table would prove to be his breakthrough: the critically hailed, off-the-wall sitcom Arrested Development. Cera co-starred with Jason Bateman, who also appears in Juno, and also met fellow Canuck Will Arnett on the show. That led, in a roundabout way, to perhaps the coolest perk of Cera's post- Superbad life: Arnett's wife, Amy Poehler, invited him via text message to host a stage version of her show, Saturday Night Live, last month, which the cast put on in the wake of the Writers Guild Strike that's kept the venerable comedy series off the air.

“I only rehearsed for about an hour that day, which was really scary, but it was a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it,” Cera reports. “It's totally a Canadian dream to host SNL, and, if anything, this was more exciting to be a part of, since it was a one-time thing that they'd never done before.”

Even SNL's creator, Torontonian Lorne Michaels, showed up. But asked how it feels to be part of the proud tradition of Canadian comics to conquer the U.S. entertainment industry – or even to be numbered among the latest wave that includes Superbad writer/ Knocked Up star Seth Rogen, Reitman and Page, Cera gives a surprising, if typically kind of sweet, answer.

“I don't feel like that,” he says. “There are a lot of funny people everywhere, all the time. There are a lot of funny Americans, and people doing comedy all over L.A. and New York. I don't think it's a new wave; I think audiences are becoming aware of some new people, but that's just due to some success recently.”

As for his own snowballing success, Cera would rather not get too into that. He does want to get a place in L.A. eventually, but all in due time. “It's kind of scary,” he says with another nervous chuckle. “Y' know, it's really expensive out here! I have a lot of friends out here now and it would be nice; then I could always go home to Canada and stay with family whenever.

“I do have a lot of stuff out here, just junk that you accumulate. I have it in public storage right now. And I have a car out here that I always have to leave at a friend's house. It'd be nice to not have to worry about that stuff.”

In case you were wondering, that car's a Toyota Corolla S. The kid just doesn't seem to get that he was a big reason why his last movie grossed more than $120-million (U.S.).

“It's all so glorified anyway, it's just ridiculous,” he says of celebrity. “People think they know you. It's understandable, but it's weird. It's strange if I'm with my girlfriend [Charlyne Yi, the comic actress who played one of Rogen's housemates in Knocked Up] and I get recognized or something. But that doesn't happen too much; it's not taking over my life or anything.”

But want to or not, he can't hide from fame forever.

Not even in Brampton.

“I went to a bar once where I live,” he recalls. “I had just turned 19, the drinking age, so I went to a bar. I think it was right when Superbad came out. That was pretty unbearable, because people were drunk and there's no discretion. People got physical; it was overwhelming.

“But you can kind of avoid that stuff,” Cera says, hopefully. “I just don't go to bars now.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Figuring Out Early Contenders In Oscar Race

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(December 07, 2007) This year's
Oscar derby has only just begun and already it has turned into the hilarity of This Is Spinal Tap.

Remember Nigel Tufnel, the Spinal Tap guitarist who wanted his axe so loud he cranked his amp up to 11 rather than 10?

Obviously guided by Tufnel's enthusiasm, the National Board of Review this week broke with tradition by placing 11 films on its annual Top 10 list of the year's best. The Coen Bros.' No Country for Old Men was named Best Film of 2007, followed by 10 runners-up.

The board used similar Tufnel math for assessing foreign films, naming six of them to its annual Top Five list. Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly won for Best Foreign Film, followed by five runners-up.

It's just another reason to snicker at the NBR, a dubious and mysterious group of New York film buffs, academics and popcorn munchers. They seek to hand out as many awards as possible, so they get a really good celebrity turnout to their annual banquet.

But the NBR does help shape the long race towards the Oscars on Feb. 24, since it's the first major group to sound off at year's end. And you have to sympathize with the board's plight this year in trying to narrow down the field of an extraordinary film year.

A lot of people are comparing 2007 to 1999 as the being one of the greatest years ever for movies. But 1999 didn't have anywhere near as many great movies as 2007, and in so many genres: there were quality comedies, dramas, romances, westerns, gangster films and teen flicks.

Even with its bucket load of prizes for all manner of movies and performances, the NBR still managed to overlook a large number of award-worthy pictures and talent.

The board showed no love for a veritable A to Z of films that critics have been raving about: American Gangster, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Charlie Wilson's War, Eastern Promises, Enchanted, Hairspray, I'm Not There, Knocked Up, There Will Be Blood, 3:10 to Yuma, The Orphanage, Sicko, Superbad and Zodiac, to name just a few.

Most of the films on that list would have made highly respectable NBR choices – maybe even all 14 for the NBR's Top 10 – to turn up the Tufnel math even higher.

And what about all the snubbed talent? For starters, there's Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There), Amy Adams (Enchanted), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd) and Daniel-Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood).

Many of the films and names passed over by the NBR will get their due in the orgy of prize-giving to come, including the Critics Choice Awards, the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.

As my good friend Charlie Dickens says, this is the best of times and the worst of time for movie buffs. December always brings a bounty of celluloid riches and too few prize categories to slot them into.

Every critic has the daunting task of compiling a personal Top 10 list from the 300-400 films viewed each year. But the job is more onerous this year than ever.

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post, one of my fellow soothsayers on the Gurus o' Gold panel at MovieCityNews.com, is making his year-end picks in two stages. He's already published his Top 25 list of films for 2007, which he plans to narrow down to a Top 10.

I'm sweating over my own Top 10 list for 2007, which will run later this month. There are probably at least 30 movies that I could put on it. Any ideas how I can do that, Nigel?

Rockmond Dunbar Airs His 'Dirty Laundry'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 07, 2007) *Actor
Rockmond Dunbar seems always find himself in some pretty quality film work and, according to him (and the critics), his next film is more of the same. 

He stars alongside Loretta Devine, Sommore and writer Maurice Jamal in the new dramedy "
Dirty Laundry," opening this weekend in selected cities.

What's the film about? Just what the title says, but from a figurative stand point of course. Dunbar plays a gay man returning to a home he fled long ago to put things in order.  EURweb asked the question, "Why a gay role?" With that ol' boy kind of jumped down our throat with both feet.  

"I'm an actor and I have no problem with playing different characters and I have no problem doing characters with different judgments and lifestyles. Other people have issues with that, then that's their problem.  This decision is between me and my God," exclaimed Dunbar emphatically.

OK, we understand the artistry and the need to be fluid when selecting

roles and, well, any actor would have reacted the same.  

"I've studied and I've trained for a very long time and I don't think there's any character out there that I can't play.  I'm an entertainer.  When I find characters out there that don't bore me halfway through the script I don't have any problem with that at all."

Based upon only a mention of the film's title, and Dunbar's role in it, we're sure some have already made up their minds whether to see it or not.  But the actor says things are never as simply as what's on the surface even though no effort has been made to hide the film's intent.  

"The message is very clear and honest and I think a lot of people will walk away from it feeling like they need to get all of the skeletons out of the closet.  Picking this role was easy for me."

Later in the interview, when things settled down a bit, we thought we'd dare venture down the "gay" avenue of questioning.  We defended our line of questioning by mentioning many actors, African-American actors in particular, are still squeamish about playing gay characters because of a lingering stigma surrounding the subject.   

"There definitely is (stigma), but at the end of the day that has nothing to do with me. I'm very secure in my sexuality.  Even if I were a homosexual, still I'm an actor and an entertainer. I'm a heterosexual and I Have friends of all walks and races and sexual preferences and different colors."

"Dirty Laundry" is a comedy about family drama. It is a independent

film that has compelling characters,  witty dialogue and great production value.  Shot in just three weeks, the film screens to sold-out festival audiences this summer.  It won both the Best Performance audience awards the American Black Film Festival. 

"Dirty Laundry" opens a limited engagement this weekend in New York and LA. It will be released nationally on December 28 by CodeBlack Entertainment in conjunction with FOX pictures.

For more info, visit: www.dirtylaundrythemovie.com

Another Sutherland Falls For The Family Biz

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com – Jennie Punter

(December 6, 2007) Actor
Rossif Sutherland possesses a luxurious, gentle baritone similar to the vocal tones of his father, veteran actor Donald Sutherland, and his older half-brother, Kiefer Sutherland (24's Jack Bauer).

That distinctive "Sutherland" voice, not to mention his lanky 6-foot-5 frame and relaxed, thoughtful, almost dreamy demeanour, make a memorable first impression when the younger Sutherland stands up and greets the next interviewer during the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. He doesn't immediately strike one as an actor who could convincingly play a fresh-out-of-prison boxer from a violent neighbourhood. But that's exactly what Sutherland does in Clément Virgo's latest film, the hard-knocks drama Poor Boy's Game, which picked up four awards at the 2007 Atlantic Film Festival in October and also played the Toronto and Berlin festivals.

Although both his father and mother, Quebec-born Francine Racette, are actors, the 29-year-old Sutherland, a singer-songwriter (you can check out a few of his latest folk-tinged tunes on his MySpace page), didn't heed the family calling from an early age as did Kiefer, who got his first starring film role at 18 in The Bad Boy. Rossif's sole thespian credit from his teen years was a multipart role in a high-school play about the Vietnam War. "One of my characters had no legs," he recalls. "I remember one performance I completely blanked and was so embarrassed I walked off stage. Imagine that - it's a miracle!" he laughs.

During philosophy studies at Princeton University, Sutherland directed a short film. When the lead actor didn't show up for the shoot, the director stepped in. "I showed that film to my father. He noticed the acting, not the directing, and said that's what I should do. My father isn't one to think everything his child does is brilliant, so it was a huge compliment. But I still resisted for years."

Sutherland believes that his work as a musician and an actor are intertwined. "They're both about being real and truthful and vulnerable," he explains. "They are both an expression of myself, so although I'm playing somebody else, that person is rooted inside me."

But it took him a while to understand the connection. "For a long time, I thought acting was just pretending to be somebody else. After taking some acting classes in New York, getting up there and getting over myself, I realized acting is an adventure in which you get to explore a part of yourself that is dormant," he continues. "Then you can either keep it or defeat it or abandon it."

Sutherland lobbied hard to win the part of Donnie in Poor Boy's Game, a film about a community's legacy of violence and one man's struggle toward redemption that unfolds across the race divide in Halifax. Director Virgo (Lie With Me, Love Come Down, Rude), who co-wrote the screenplay with Halifax filmmaker Chaz Thorne (Just Buried), is a boxing fan and says, "I think viewers intuitively understand the metaphorical side of getting knocked down and getting back up again and going the distance."

As the film opens, Donnie is released from prison having served time for beating up a young black man so severely it left him physically and mentally handicapped for life. Challenged by local boxing champ Ossie Paris (Flex Alexander) to a match he is sure to lose, Donnie ends up being coached, secretly, by George Carvery (Danny Glover), the father of the boy Donnie almost killed.

Virgo auditioned a lot of actors for the role, who played Donnie "tough and grunting." Sutherland had something different. "He had a beard, was wearing a long coat and was about 30 pounds too heavy, but there was something about his energy I liked," says Virgo, who flew to Los Angeles to hang out with the actor. "I told him, 'You don't look like a boxer, you're too fat.' Three months later, we went to a boxing gym and I was impressed. "Rossif's gift is his ability to communicate through behaviour, finding ways to reveal character through action," Virgo continues. "During the editing process, we constantly took dialogue away from both Rossif's and Danny's characters. They both have this great ability to tell us so much without speaking."

Sutherland, who had never played a lead film role, describes Donnie as a "beautiful challenge. Here is someone who leaves prison and is actually rehabilitated, but the only way he can lead a full life is to go back and confront a past he wants to forget."

The actor, who found he had to stop occasional bouts of shadow boxing because the character of Donnie wouldn't leave him, is now playing Billy in Gary Yates's screen version of the award-winning play High Life, which is shooting in Winnipeg. He still seems a bit surprised about his "discovered" profession.

"When I found I could sing, it was like love at first sight," Sutherland explains. "But acting was more like falling in love with a childhood friend - someone I've grown up with and known all my life. One day, you look and it's like seeing her for the first time - it's a deep-rooted love."

Special to The Globe and Mail

'He Saw 6-Foot-8 In My Eyes'

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(December 11, 2007) Iranian actor
Homayoun Ershadi had just finished reading The Kite Runner - a novel he loved - when he got a surprise call from a London casting agent asking him to audition for a role in the Hollywood film based on Khaled Hosseini's bestselling book.

Two weeks later, the 60-year-old architect-turned-actor was on a plane to war-torn Kabul, where the movie's director, Marc Forster, was auditioning scores of Afghan kids and adults to be in the $20-million (U.S.) film.

Ershadi - a charming, but solemn man with hawkish features and the long, delicate fingers of a surgeon (or architect) - remembers how he was struck by his first look at Kabul, a once-vibrant metropolis whose life has been snuffed out by successive decades of tanks and tyranny.

"I had thought, listening to the news, that lots of money was going to Afghanistan now. But I didn't see any sign of it," Ershadi says.

"When I came out of the airport, the first thing I saw is a school on the street in a tent. The people are friendly and kind, but there is just so much poverty," says the father of two and grandfather of five, who got his first acting role in the 1997 Iranian film A Taste of Cherry.

Then Ershadi tells the story of meeting Forster and promptly trying to convince the award-winning director (Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball) that he wasn't the best candidate to play Baba, the strict, principled father in The Kite Runner.

"The first thing I told him was that, physically, I'm not at all similar to Baba. In the book, he is a giant of a man, 6-foot-8, with big hands. A burly guy," Ershadi says. "I'm a foot shorter than that. I asked him, 'Why did you choose me? I'm not the right person. I love that book. I don't want to ruin the book.' But Marc looked me in the eye, and said, 'Homayoun. Read me your lines.' So I read three times my lines. And he said, 'Okay. That's it.' Then I realized maybe he saw 6-foot-8 in my eyes."

Ah, yes, those eyes. Black as midnight. When he speaks, the eyes never waver. They are piercing, giving his words (and performance) instant gravitas that transforms him into the giant of a man that the fictional Baba was.

Ershadi is a natural storyteller and he weaves another yarn around a chance meeting - which led to his career change - while he was sitting in his car at a stoplight in downtown Tehran.

"Suddenly, somebody tapped on my window," he chuckles. "I thought they were looking for directions, so I rolled down my window. He introduced himself as Abbas Kiarostami [the iconic Iranian filmmaker/photographer]. Then he said to me, 'I want to make a film. Would you like to be in it?' I said, 'Yes, why not?' "

Ershadi auditioned and got the lead role in A Taste of Cherry, a film that went on to win the Palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, launching Ershadi's professional acting career.

"Like I did with Marc, I asked Abbas, 'Why did you choose me? I'm just a man. Not a professional actor.' And he said, 'Don't worry. If something happens and it's not a good film, it's not going to be your fault. It's going to be my fault.' And I wasn't nervous any more. His words gave me confidence."

Ershadi earned his architecture degree at the University of Venice. In 1980, after the revolution in Iran, he and his wife moved their young family to Vancouver, where Ershadi lived and worked at an architectural firm until the early 1990s. He then moved back to Iran after his marriage broke up and his kids had grown, to be near his mother, father and various siblings. Ershadi's two children live in Vancouver, a place he visits often to see his five grandkids.

Ershadi says he considers himself a blessed man. "I got into acting by accident. But, two times, I've been especially lucky. First, when I became an actor. And second, when I was chosen for this role," he says, referring to The Kite Runner. The film, in theatres this Friday, is highly anticipated by the legion of fans of Hosseini's debut novel, which came out of nowhere in 2004 to shoot to the top of bestseller lists around the globe.

Hosseini's story is a haunting tale of friendship, family, betrayal and redemption that spans three decades of Afghan unrest, including mujahedeen strife and Taliban terror. It revolves around two childhood best friends, Amir and Hassan, whose friendship ends after a brutal rape. Amir and Baba move to America as the Soviets invade Afghanistan. Twenty years later, Amir returns to his homeland to find himself and try to forgive his past actions.

A huge challenge for Forster was recruiting boys - and he wanted non-actors - to play the children Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), Amir (Zedkiria Ebrahimi) and Sohrab (Ali Danish Bakhty Ari), who speak Dari in the film (one of two main tongues spoken in Afghanistan). He eventually found them after several trips to Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.

Another hurdle was location scouting. The novel, set in Afghanistan, could not be shot there because of the violence and virtual lack of a film industry. Forster settled on San Francisco and Kashgar, a thriving film centre in western China. Shooting wrapped in December of 2006 and the film was initially slated to be released last month.

But concern for the safety of the young Afghan actors - whose families feared reprisals because of the film's depiction of a culturally inflammatory rape scene - forced the release date back to this Friday. (A few weeks ago, Paramount Pictures temporarily transported the boys to the United Arab Emirates.)

Ershadi says the kids who act in The Kite Runner were "fantastic" to work with. "They are very intelligent, and learn very fast," he says. "We had only one rehearsal in each scene with the kids. I think if you rehearse too much, you lose the spontaneity."

Forster has said he cast Ershadi for a similar reason - the actor's heart shines through his eyes.

"Ershadi was challenged with creating a man who is fiercely intelligent and decent, yet unable to connect with the son who he sees as so unlike him - only to come around years later to find a connection with him and express his love," he has said. "When I met Homayoun, I immediately felt there was an emotional quality in him that was very important for the character of Baba. If he didn't have that ability to make people care for him in his most crucial scenes later in his life, then his strong characterization in the beginning of the film would not work. Homayoun makes that transition beautifully."

Ershadi says one of the many highlights of making this film was having the opportunity to meet the book's author, Hosseini, who travelled to the set in China with his aged father. Actor and writer quickly were able to relate to each another, perhaps because both have made radical transitions mid-career. Hosseini is a physician. His second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is also topping charts.

Ershadi also credits screenwriter David Benioff (Troy, Stay) for doing an admirable job of adapting the book for the screen. "It could not have been easy," the actor observes. "It spans three decades, and crosses continents. So much had to be left out to turn a 400-page book into a two-hour film.

"But whether you read the book and then see the film - or vice versa - it doesn't matter. Because the film is very different from the book. And the film talks for itself."

Late bloomers

It's a rare thing for an actor to be discovered late in life. So outside of sports - think about athlete-turned-thespian O.J. Simpson or Dean Cain, who signed a pro football contract in his early 20s - most performers don't have much experience beyond odd jobs. Yet Homayoun Ershadi isn't quite the only screen actor with a real off-screen résumé.

When Dennis Farina started playing cops (and gangsters) in the early 1980s, he had lots of experience to draw on; he spent 18 years as a Chicago police officer before his second career took off.

At the age of 18, Jason Lee took up a very Californian career path: pro skateboarder. Doing tricks in a Sonic Youth video with Spike Jonze changed all that, though. He and Jonze acted together in an indie film a few years later, and by his mid-20s Lee was starring in Kevin Smith's Mallrats.

Alan Rickman spent his student years learning graphic design and ran his own London studio for years before winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1972, at the ripe age of 26. But Rickman didn't make it from stage to Hollywood for another 15 years - fittingly, in Die Hard.

Coens' Film Named Best By N.Y. Critics

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

(December 10, 2007) NEW YORK – The
Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men was named best picture Monday by the New York Film Critics Circle, further adding to the crime drama's awards haul in the lead-up to the Oscars.

Joel and Ethan Coen also each won for their direction and screenplay adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name. Javier Bardem, who plays a menacing serial killer with the hairdo of Prince Valiant, also won best supporting actor.

This awards season has been viewed as wide open, but No Country for Old Men already has been honoured for best picture by the National Board of Review, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Washington, D.C., Area Film Critics Association.

Stephen Whitty, film critic for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., and New York Film Critics Circle president, said he considers No Country for Old Men the Coen brothers' best film since 1996's Fargo.

"It's been a couple years of fairly light movies from them and I thought this was really dark and mature and controlled and really had something to say about changing times," said Whitty. "A lot of us are Coen brothers' fans but I think this film really struck a deeper chord with most people."

The critics circle, a group of 29 writers for New York-based newspapers and magazines, awarded Daniel-Day Lewis best actor for his performance as an obsessive California oil baron in There Will Be Blood. Robert Elswit was honoured as best cinematographer for shooting the film.

There Will Be Blood is also well positioned for the Academy Awards race, having been chosen on Sunday as the year's best film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It also shared best picture from the New York Film Critics Online with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

The New York Film Critics Circle named Julie Christie best actress (Away from Her) and Amy Ryan best supporting actress (Gone Baby Gone). Canadian actress-turned-director Sarah Polley won best first film for helming Away from Her.

The Lives of Others, which won best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards earlier this year, won for best foreign film. Best animated film was Persepolis, France's Oscar candidate this year for best foreign-language film.

The nominations for the Golden Globes will be announced Thursday. The Globes, which will be handed out Jan. 13, will be followed by Oscar nominations on Jan. 22, with the awards ceremony scheduled for Feb. 24.

The New York Film Critics Circle, which is also honouring director Sidney Lumet for lifetime achievement, last year made United 93 their best film. In 2005, they chose Brokeback Mountain.

Filming Near Completion On Chinese Epic

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 11, 2007) HONG KONG – Director
John Woo has finished shooting the Chinese historical epic "Red Cliff," a massive production that has been beset by casting changes and set problems, and is already editing the raw footage, Woo's producer said Tuesday.

The big-budget movie marks Woo's return to Chinese-language film after a stint in Hollywood, where he made hits such as "Broken Arrow," "Face/Off" and "Mission: Impossible 2."

"We have finished principal photography, and John is heavy into post-production," producer Terence Chang told The Associated Press in an e-mail, referring to the process of editing the film and creating sound and visual effects.

He did not say exactly when Woo finished shooting.

Shooting for "Red Cliff," about a well-known battle in feudal-era China, started in April.

Chang was quoted as saying by Hollywood trade publication Variety in a report Monday that most of the shooting had finished on Nov. 30, although some second-unit filming will continue until February.

One of the film's stars, former Cannes best actor winner Tony Leung Chiu-wai, was still shooting as recently as Saturday, when he was unable to personally accept the best actor trophy at the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan for his performance in Ang Lee's spy thriller ``Lust, Caution."

Leung spoke to reporters covering the ceremony by phone instead.

Chang said earlier the budget for "Red Cliff" was more than US$80 million – huge by Chinese standards. Woo later said that figure was overstated, but didn't provide a new number.

The film, which also stars Taiwanese-Japanese heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro, has suffered several setbacks.

Earlier, actors Chow Yun-fat and Leung pulled out, although Leung later returned to the cast. Woo also wasn't able to shoot at China's largest river, the Yangtze, and so he had to create a similar backdrop with special effects. He didn't say why his team wasn't allowed to film there.

Torrential rains also washed away part of an outdoor set in northern China.

Chang said earlier the Chinese government views the movie, which is partly backed by state-run China Film Group, as an important showcase of Chinese history and wants it released before the Beijing Olympics next year. The Olympics start on Aug. 8.

Chang said he has sold the film to European countries but hasn't sold it in the U.S.

TIFF selects Canadian top 10

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Star staff

(December 12, 2007) Film buffs who missed movies judged to be
among Canada's Top Ten of 2007 will get a chance to see them when Cinematheque Ontario starts screenings next month.  Many of the movies in the list, released last night by the Toronto International Film Festival Group's experts, did not get widespread theatrical release, especially the 10 top short films TIFF added to its annual honours list this year.  Public screenings with filmmakers present for introductions, Q&As and panel discussions will be held Jan. 25-Feb. 5 at the Art Gallery of Ontario's Jackman Hall.  Schedules and ticket information at topten.ca, 416-968-FILM and at TIFF's box office in the Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor St. E.

The top 10 Canadian feature films of 2007 are (in alphabetical order):

L'âge des ténèbres: Denys Arcand, director
Amal: Richie Mehta, director
Continental, un film sans fusil: Stéphane Lafleur, director
Eastern Promises: David Cronenberg, director
Fugitive Pieces: Jeremy Podeswa, director
My Winnipeg: Guy Maddin, director
A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman: Peter Raymont, director
The Tracey Fragments: Bruce McDonald, director
Up the Yangtze: Yung Chang, director
Young People F------ : Martin Gero, director
Short films
For the first time, the TIFF group has announced a separate list for short films. The top 10 Canadian short films of 2007 are (in alphabetical order):
Code 13, Mathieu L. Denis
The Colony, Jeff Barnaby
Dust Bowl Ha! Ha!, Sébastien Pilote
Farmer's Requiem, Ramses Madina
Les Grands, Chloé Leriche
I Have Seen the Future, Cam Christiansen
I Met the Walrus, Josh Raskin
Madame Tutli-Putli, Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski
Pool, Chris Chong Chan Fui
Terminus, Trevor Cawood


Samuel L. Jackson Goes 'Country'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 6, 2007) *Hollywood star
Samuel L. Jackson continues to stack film roles. His newest gig is the hospital thriller "Unfinished Country," which stars the actor as the chief administrator of an overcrowded hospital located in Johannesburg's violent Soweto township.  His treatment methods are put into question when an American student arrives to do his residency and the hospital gets caught in the crossfire of local gang warfare, according to the Hollywood Reporter.   The indie film is based on a true story, which takes place in the largest hospital in the world, Soweto's Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.   Jackson's recent credits include "1408" and "Resurrecting the Champ." He has completed work in "Jumper," "Iron Man" and "Lakeview Terrace," and recently signed on to star opposite Bernie Mac in the film "Soul Men."

Chris Brown To Star As Basketball 'Phenom'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 6, 2007) *
Chris Brown has been cast as a basketball superstar in the upcoming Screen Gems film "Phenom."  The teen heart throb will play a high school hoops legend who goes pro after the media discovers he's the illegitimate son of the NBA's best player, reports Variety. The boy and his dad are on a collision course as their teams eventually face each other on the road to the playoffs.   The movie will also feature "Ugly Betty" actress Vanessa Williams and Henry Simmons of the CBS drama "Shark." Shooting is scheduled to begin early next year.   George Tillman Jr. will produce the project along with Robert Teitel and Will Packer. Filmmaker David Anspaugh, whose credits include the sports films "Rudy" and "Hoosiers," will begin shooting the project early next year, after Brown completes a tour for his fall album release, "Exclusive."

Will Smith Gives Rosario Dawson A 'Pound'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 07, 2007) *
Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson are in final negotiations to star opposite Will Smith in the upcoming feature film, "Seven Pounds. As previously reported, Smith stars as a guilt-ridden man who inadvertently falls in love while attempting to kill himself. Dawson will play a love interest who suffers from a serious heart condition, while Harrelson will portray a motel attendant who becomes intrigued by his suicidal new tenant.  The Columbia Pictures drama is being helmed by Gabriele Muccino, who also directed Smith in the critically-acclaimed film, "The Pursuit of Happiness." Smith is also co-producing the project, which is scheduled to begin shooting in February for a late 2008 release.  Dawson, meanwhile, is currently shooting "Eagle Eye" opposite Shia LaBeouf. She recently produced "Descent" under her Trybe Films producing banner.

Louis Gossett Jr. Makes Most Of 'Least'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 10, 2007) *Academy Award winner
Louis Gossett Jr. will star opposite Lauren Holly in the independent film "The Least Among You," according to the Hollywood Reporter. The story centers on a black man named Richard Kelly (newcomer Cedric Sanders) who after graduating from college and becoming successful in the corporate world, is falsely arrested in the 1965 Watts riots.   Kelly faces racial prejudice from professors and students after his agreement to a plea bargain that involves spending two semesters at a seminary.    Gossett will play an elderly ex-con who lives in the basement of Kelly's dorm and inspires him to conquer his demons. Holly will play a professor at the seminary who has become a closet drinker after losing her husband and two children while doing missionary work in Africa.  Shooting on "The Least Among You" began Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Critics Go Wild For Penn Alaska Drama

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(December 12, 2007) Oscar prospects for
Into the Wild have been revived and those of Juno bolstered in Critics' Choice Awards nominations by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Sean Penn's extreme adventure saga Into the Wild received a leading seven nominations for the Jan. 7 prizes by the association, the largest film critics' group in North America. The nods are for Best Picture, Director and Writer (both for Penn), Actor (Emile Hirsch), Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook), Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener) and Song (Eddie Vedder's "Guaranteed"). It's the first significant showing for Into the Wild in the current run-up to the Academy Awards. But the much-honoured Juno, directed by Montreal-born Jason Reitman, was right behind with six nominations for Best Picture, Actress (Canada's Ellen Page), Acting Ensemble, Writing, Comedy and Young Actor (fellow Canuck Michael Cera). The 10 films vying for Best Picture also include: American Gangster, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Kite Runner, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd and There Will Be Blood. The Critics' Choice Awards are historically the most accurate predictor of Academy Award nominations, to be announced on Jan. 22. For 2006, the association chose The Departed as Best Picture, weeks before its Oscar triumph.


Alberta Supermodel Turns To The Silver Screen

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(December 07, 2007) WHISTLER, B.C. — As difficult as this might be
for Tricia Helfer's devoted fans to believe, director Robert Cuffley had trouble convincing some people that she was the right actress to star in his film Walk All Over Me. Helfer (best known for her role as Cylon Number Six in Battlestar Galactica) plays Celene, a successful dominatrix with acting ambitions. While it would be hard to argue that Helfer doesn't suit the part physically, with her excellent looks and Playboy-worthy body, some people involved with the film (Cuffley won't say who) weren't convinced she had the chops to tackle the part.

"I think ... there's an extra kind of sheath of armour to slice through, just because of how she looks and [her] history of supermodelling," the 40-year-old Calgary director said last week while sitting across a table from Helfer at British Columbia's Whistler Film Festival. It's a wall Helfer, 33, is used to coming up against. The Donalda, Alta., native began her career as a model (after famously being discovered in a movie theatre line), then moved to acting late in the game (she started classes when she was 27, ancient by Hollywood standards). She believes she is judged with a more critical eye because of her modelling background - but she also knows it helped her get an agent and some recognition. "In one way, it opens doors, but I think you have to prove yourself harder, maybe because they've let you in the door. You have to really prove yourself for them to feel validated that they let you in," Helfer said at Whistler, where Walk All Over Me was being screened.

Described as a "coming-of-age crime thriller" by its distributors, the film tells the story of a cashier named Alberta, played by Leelee Sobieski (Joan of Arc, Eyes Wide Shut). Alberta flees from her bad-news boyfriend in a small Alberta town, hoping to start a new life in Vancouver. Once there, she bunks with her old babysitter Celene, who is working as a dominatrix. When Alberta becomes desperate for money, she tries her own hand at dominating men for cash. That's when the women get mixed up with some bad guys from back home - and the trouble really begins.

Shot in Vancouver and Winnipeg on a $3.25-million budget, Walk All Over Me had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It was there, says Cuffley (who also co-wrote the film), that doubts about Helfer's performance were erased. "[I] got the satisfaction of seeing jaws drop," he says, "and I think it's partially because of the surprise [that she can act]." Following the festival, U.S. distribution rights were sold to the Weinstein Company, earning Cuffley and his film a fair bit of publicity and prestige. The movie has also been sold to Britain, Australia, Russia, Thailand and Belgium. (To cater to the potential international audience, Cuffley changed the working title of the film from Alberta-Bound.) The film comes out today in theatres in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary and will be released in Montreal and Winnipeg in February.

For both Helfer and Cuffley, there is a lot riding on this. Helfer is hoping to establish herself as a serious actress, particularly for feature films. "Even though Battlestar's critically acclaimed and that opened a lot of doors for me, I have to show something else besides that to really be taken seriously as an actor and not just [as someone] who plays the robot." She says she has heard Walk All Over Me described as her "make-or-break" film. So forgive her if she's a little anxious as it's set to open.

Cuffley is also anxious about Walk All Over Me - just his second feature, following Turning Paige (2001). He has been working long days running around, printing publicity materials, doing interviews, trying to get the film noticed. "I want it to do well and Canadian films are really hard to [attract audiences to]. This movie, I know with complete certainty, if we can get people there, problem's over. It's just getting people there."

(Consider this: The top English-language Canadian film in Canada last week was Eastern Promises, which has brought in $3.1 million since it opened 11 weeks ago. The top English-language film in Canada overall, Enchanted, made $2.6-million last week alone.)

Cuffley is nervous about its fate as it opens against blockbusters like Atonement and The Golden Compass during the busy holiday season. "It's not really the kiss of death, but it's not a good time to open," he says.

Having two marketable actors like Sobieski and Helfer in the starring roles (wearing skimpy leather and latex to boot) certainly helps get the film noticed. The Weinstein deal has helped as well. But Cuffley finds all the pre-release work really stressful. "I never in my wildest dreams thought you could do a 14-hour day just getting [stuff] ready," he says. "It's almost as busy as when we're shooting."

But not quite. And Cuffley is keen to get back into the director's chair. He spent time at Whistler pitching three projects, including a wrestling film called Choke Slam: A Love Story.

Helfer says she has things brewing as well, and believes her work in Walk All Over Me is helping her star rise - especially through the publicity the film received at TIFF. "It definitely got people to pay a little bit more attention," she says. "I still have a long way to go, but definitely I can sense a bit of change."

A Breakthrough In TV, But Where's The Money?

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com – Grant Robertson

(December 5, 2007) When CTV agreed to put episodes of the television series Gossip Girl, Big Shots and Pushing Daisies on Rogers Communications Inc.'s
video-on-demand service this fall, it was the kind of breakthrough Canadian cable companies had been waiting for.

The addition of the three series practically represented a geyser of new prime-time content on free video-on-demand (VOD), compared with the slow trickle of TV programming that had so far been available.

Before that, U.S.-based AMC's critically acclaimed series Mad Men, and MTV's twenty-something drama The Hills were among the few notables to take the plunge on VOD, which is a key selling point for the cable companies.

"It's what I would call a watershed moment," David Purdy, vice-president of Rogers Cable said of the deal CTV reached with U.S. producer Warner Bros. to put the series on VOD. "This is the first time we've seen prime-time, network episodic programming available free to customers on an on-demand basis."

Ask anyone in the broadcasting industry and they will agree: On-demand viewing is where television is headed. How the industry will get there, however, is another question.

Canadian cable companies hope VOD, which allows subscribers to watch previously aired shows or movies whenever they wish, could finally be making the push beyond pay-per-view programming into fresh and free TV content. They are now in a race to establish VOD as a more viable source of archived shows than the Internet, which has been hampered by a lack of content deals between U.S. producers and Canadian broadcasters.

But it's not going to be easy.

Because Canadian networks buy exclusive rights to broadcast prime-time shows — and then sell advertising for those broadcasts — they are unwilling to let U.S. networks stream Web content across the border. So anyone trying to view hits such as Desperate Housewives at ABC.com or House at Fox.com is rebuffed. Consequently, most Canadians who view TV shows on their computers download them through BitTorrent sites — with the ads stripped — which benefits neither broadcaster nor network.

Canadian broadcasters have recently started streaming a small selection of shows online. CTV broadcasts the same three shows that are part of the Rogers VOD deal on its website, as well as others, including Corner Gas, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Global broadcasts the hit show Heroes, but not until a week after it airs. Regardless, the amount of content on CTV's and Global's websites pales in comparison to what viewers can find on U.S. networks' sites — entire line-ups of prime-time shows.

But even if the Canadian broadcasters started streaming more content, many viewers are still more interested in catching up on missed shows in front of the television than in front of a computer. Cable companies such as Rogers believe this creates an opportunity for video-on-demand to build TV audiences, and they plan to revamp the service to make it more appealing.

Mr. Purdy said Rogers is working to change the current clunky interface to make it more attractive and responsive. The company has added features, such as karaoke songs, and now counts about 6,000 hours of content, including pay-per-view movies and adult films.

However, there is a major hurdle blocking VOD's growth in Canada.

In recent documents filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CTV said it is getting no money from the Rogers deal and is essentially handing over its content as more of an experiment in audience trends than any real hope of generating revenue.

"VOD services have yet to become profitable for broadcasters. Currently, we pay for program rights and other associated costs and deal with rights clearance issues," said Paul Sparkes, executive vice-president of corporate affairs for CTVglobemedia Inc. "But there are currently no associated revenue opportunities."

But there is, at least, a silver lining. CTVglobemedia, which owns CTV and The Globe and Mail, is expected to advocate, at approaching regulatory hearings, inserting fresh commercials into VOD episodes.

Right now, shows run with their original ads. But if new commercial time can be sold on VOD, it could open the door for more series to be offered. That's the direction Rogers wants to see the industry go as well.

"We're in discussions with Global and with CBC, and all the networks including our own, CITY-TV, about what we can do in terms of putting more of these prime-time shows on-demand," Mr. Purdy said.


5,000 — Number of titles in the Rogers video-on-demand catalogue, including pay-per-view-movies.! 1,500 — Number of free programs on Rogers VOD! 30 — Number of movies when service was launched four years ago.! 1.2 million — Number of homes with VOD through Rogers digital set-top boxes.

600,000 — roughly the number of Rogers customers who use VOD.

1.3-million — number of weekly orders for TV shows or movies.

18 per cent — rate at which VOD use has grown in the past 6 months.

300 — number of karaoke songs available on VOD.

51,000 — number of song downloads in the first 10 days after karaoke was added this fall.

5,081 — number of times the most-popular song, American Pie, was ordered during that time, ahead of Billie Jean, (3,164) and Baby Got Back (2,485).


Finally, Some Encouraging News In The Writers' Strike

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(December 07, 2007) LOS ANGELES–The union representing striking
Hollywood writers said Wednesday that contract negotiations with studios were finally "substantive," including on the key issue of digital media. But the Writers Guild of America, while sounding a rare optimistic note in the dispute, cautioned it had yet to get a response on proposals including residuals for movies and TV shows streamed online. The latest round of talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which began Tuesday, was set to resume yesterday. The strike is in its fifth week. "For the last two days we have had substantive discussions of the issues important to writers, the first time this has occurred in this negotiation," the guild said. Among the issues: union jurisdiction over the Internet and reality TV. The producers alliance also offered optimism Wednesday, saying in a statement it believed the sides could find common ground that would allow the industry to "survive and prosper" in a changing global marketplace.

X To The Z Cast In 'X' To The 'Files'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 07, 2007) *Rapper
Xzibit is about to get his paranormal on with a plum role in the forthcoming film adaptation of the Fox TV series "X-Files."  Director Chris Carter is keeping the plot line under wraps, but it has been revealed that the former "Pimp My Ride" host and actress Amanda Peet will play FBI agents alongside David Duchovny's Mulder and Gillian Anderson's Scully, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The supernatural thriller will be a stand-alone story, not a sequel or continuation of the 1998 feature adaptation, "The X Files: Fight the Future"  Carter, who co-wrote the screenplay with Frank Spotnitz, is expected to begin production on the film this month in Vancouver for a July 2008 premiere.


Story Evokes Both Terror And Beauty

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

Snow Queen
(out of 4)
Composed and adapted by Patrick Cardy. Until Dec. 15 at the Young Centre, 55 Mill St., Building 49. 416-866-8666

(December 6, 2007) It will take an attentive child with a well-developed ear for music to fully appreciate Theaturtle's production of
Snow Queen. But this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's vivid tale of a girl's quest to rescue her friend, lured away by the Snow Queen, has the power to enchant older children and their parents.

Snow Queen is a show that takes place in our imaginations, the narration assisted by Patrick Cardy's stirring composition performed by the Tokai String Quartet and Andrea Lundy's video projections of wintry scenes and shimmering northern lights. As the narrator of Cardy's dramatization of the story, Alon Nashman does a kind of one-man show, prompting visions of the many characters in the show, including the two children, Kay and Gerda. Nashman is especially amusing as a talking crow and as pigeons, trilling his R's for their dialogue.

Dancer Kate Alton, in fabulous feathered Snow Queen gown and headdress, weaves in and out of the scenes, dancing bits from a solo, The Snow Queen Remembers, choreographed by Claudia Moore six years ago. She is both alluring and sinister, as the queen of the snowflakes, or "snow bees" should be.

The music is splendidly evocative of a story that has elements of terror and beauty.

Kay and Gerda, we are told, are friends who "love each other like a brother and sister." In keeping with the Christian elements that Andersen incorporated into his tale, this is a story of the triumph of good over evil.

Hank Azaria: Father Of Invention

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(December 11, 2007) What's your definition of versatility?  Mine is a guy who can play Apu from the Kwik-E-Mart with the same flair he brings to communications giant David Sarnoff or can deliver a line like the French Taunter's "I fart in your general direction" as convincingly as Police Chief Wiggum's classic observation, "Fingerprints are like snowflakes; they're both very pretty."

In other words,
Hank Azaria.

The smilingly intense 43-year-old performer is widely acclaimed throughout the show business profession as one of the most skilled voice artists around, but he's also acted with distinction in more conventional projects, like his Emmy Award-winning turn opposite Jack Lemmon in 1999's Tuesdays With Morrie.

Currently, Azaria is playing the corporate card, striding around the dual-level set of Des McAnuff's production of
The Farnsworth Invention as though he owned it and bringing a real sense of entitlement to his performance as David Sarnoff, one of the most important men in the history of television and radio.

Wearing a blue pin-striped suit like a second skin and moving with Teflon-coated ease through every level of society, Azaria is definitely the focus of Aaron Sorkin's new play, even though his chief opponent, inventor Philo Farnsworth, gets the title and the audience's sympathy.

The historical jury has been deadlocked for years as to whether Farnsworth had his revolutionary approach to television stolen by Sarnoff and his technicians, or if he was just an alcoholic loser who couldn't bring his one promising notion to fruition, leaving it ripe for Sarnoff to take over.

"Ask Hank Azaria if he thinks Farnsworth got shafted," he begins, "and he'll tell you 100 per cent yes. But ask David Sarnoff and I bet he'd just tell you that he didn't lie and he didn't break any laws and no one could prove anything."

Taking a break during an arduous schedule of previews and rehearsals (the show opened Monday) Azaria stretched out backstage and talked about the challenges and rewards of playing an actual historical figure.

"It's a double-edged sword," he observes. "It's easier because there's lots of definite facts about the character that you can research, but it's harder because you feel a responsibility to get it right. You have to weigh where you can take liberties and where you can't."

This particular project has been around for years, first as an unproduced screenplay and now as a $4-million Broadway show. When Sorkin (best known for creating The West Wing) first began to tackle the story, he planned to concentrate on Farnsworth, the consummately self-destructive nebbish who also happened to be a genius.

"But a funny thing happened," Azaria smiles, "as Aaron got deeper and deeper into things, he became more and more fascinated with Sarnoff. He was a guy with much more to him than meets the eye. It's just as easy to deify him as it is to demonize him."

Azaria relishes stacking up the contradictions in the man side by side and letting them rub against each other.

"On one hand, he was incredibly idealistic about television. His vision was a lot like PBS wound up being. He wanted to keep advertisers out of it and aim for a high level of quality content. And yes, he made billions of dollars from the business, but he didn't keep the money for himself. It all went to the investors and the company."

But then there's the dark side of Sarnoff, one that Azaria also relishes playing.

"He was always very, very polite...even when he was delivering devastating death blows to people and the worse the blow, the more polite he could be. "Part of it was his vanity. He has decided that he wanted to be known as `the father of television' and he didn't want anyone to get in the way of that, especially not someone like Farnsworth. He would simply crush them."

Azaria concedes that Sorkin may have put a lot of his own negative experiences with television executives into the duel between Sarnoff and Farnsworth.

"Don't ever forget that from its very inception, TV has this business vs. creativity battle going on and it's gotten worse, not better. Look at the writers' strike. I rest my case."

But in the end, Azaria has acquired much more than a grudging admiration for the man he's playing.

"His genius was in knowing what to do with this medium, knowing what it could be, how it could happen, then having the balls to make that vision true.

"You know, some of the people we've got around on the top of the heap today, guys like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, they owe it all to Sarnoff. He proclaimed himself the first communications magnate and he was right to do so."

But what would Azaria do if he found himself in a time machine and had the opportunity to sit down with the man he's playing? (David Sarnoff died, by the way, in 1971 at the age of 80.)

"I would ask him how he really felt towards Farnsworth," said Azaria after a pause. "Did he feel regret? Oh, I would press him, I wouldn't accept any easy answers. When he got ready to meet his maker, how did he feel about what he'd done?"

Azaria sighs: judge, jury, defendant and prosecutor all in one.

"I know this. If his conscience was clean, then he was a pretty shallow guy."

Getting personal with Hank Azaria

1. What was your first job?

It was the first audition I ever went on. I was 16 years old and it was for Italian television.

2. If you weren't an actor, what would you be doing?

I'd probably be a therapist.

3. What's on your iPod?

Elvis Costello. Lots of him.

4. What's the last good movie you saw?

I enjoyed Sunshine, that movie about a bunch of astronauts in the future trying to reignite the sun. Cillian Murphy was wonderful in it.

5. What TV show must you watch every week?

I have to confess these days to working out my obsession for Project Runway. What can I tell you?


Tyler Robinson: From Hat Tricks To Plies

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dance Writer

(December 6, 2007) When
Tyler Robinson was accepted this year as a full-time student at the National Ballet School he had to make a difficult choice.

Besides dancing in ballet schools since he was 3, the 11-year-old was a competitive soccer player and a AAA hockey player. At NBS, "They said you can keep playing soccer, but you can't play hockey, because you could get injured and you won't be able to dance." The left winger hasn't been on the ice since April.

But Tyler, a slender lad with delicate features – his father says people think he looks Russian and that can't hurt in the ballet world – had few qualms about giving up hockey, especially if it meant achieving his goal of playing Misha in the National Ballet production of The Nutcracker.

He was still a toddler when he saw his first production. By the time he was 6, and a junior associate at the school, he was performing in it, as a mouse. Right then, he knew he wanted to dance Misha. For the last two years he's been a chef, a guard and number one boy in the family scene, so he is already a Nutcracker veteran.

(He has also performed the ballets Giselle, Madame Butterfly, Petrouchka and Balanchine's Don Quixote.)

Cast as one of three Mishas, he'll partner Alyson Mackenzie, as Marie, at Saturday's opening. It will be the first of nine shows for Tyler.

The third of four children, Tyler followed his older sister Lucy into dance. She took the opposite course and gave up ballet for hockey and soccer. An older brother plays lacrosse and soccer, and younger sister Ruby is also an NBS student.

Hockey playing, he says, has some utility in ballet. "It kind of helps with balance, because of the skating, and it gives you strong leg muscles," says Tyler. And maybe it makes Misha just a bit scrappier in the battle scene.

Just the facts

What: The Nutcracker
Where: Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W.
When: Saturday at 2 p.m., running until Dec. 30
Tickets: $41/$31 to $110/$99 at 416-345-9595 or ballet.ca


Argos Hand Stubler The Ball

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(December 06, 2007)
Rich Stubler is the new head coach of the Toronto Argonauts.

The announcement was made Thursday at the club's practice facility after being rumoured for weeks. Stubler, the club's defensive co-ordinator since 2003, replaced Michael (Pinball) Clemons, who became the Argos' chief executive officer earlier this week.

"I'm very appreciative of the opportunity," said Stubler. "We want to find a way to get more Grey Cups to this city."

Stubler is renowned for his defensive strategies and has 18 years of CFL experience under his belt. The head coaching job is his first.

"There was no other decision," Clemons said. "This was the only decision for the success and progress of the Toronto Argonauts.

"Present company included, he is the best man for the job."

Stubler, a 58-year-old native of Glenwood Springs, Colo., joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' coaching staff in 1983 and helped lead the team to a Grey Cup championship in 1986, the first of four in his career. In 1990, Stubler spent one season as defensive co-ordinator for the Argonauts before joining Edmonton's coaching staff for five seasons (1991-95), winning his second league title in 1993.

After a two-year stint as defensive co-ordinator at the University of Oregon, he rejoined the Eskimos from 1998-99 before moving on to help the B.C. Lions capture the Grey Cup in 2000. He also won a championship with the Argonauts in 2004. Toronto finished first in the East Division this season but lost to Winnipeg in the division final.

"Rich was the unanimous choice for this position," Argos GM Adam Rita said in a statement. "Rich has done an outstanding job for us as assistant head coach/defensive co-ordinator and has a desire to do this job so it's a match made in heaven.

"This move provides us with leadership, continuity and experience."

Over the past five seasons, Toronto's defence has allowed a league-low 163 touchdowns in 90 regular season games. Since Stubler took over, the Argos have named 19 defensive players to the CFL all-star team and 27 defensive players to the East Division squad.

Hometown Hero Thrives Out Of The Limelight

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Robin Brownlee, The Canadian Press

(December 06, 2007) EDMONTON–All the hype and hoopla surrounding Sidney Crosby's first game in Edmonton commanded the spotlight, and that was just fine with
Fernando Pisani.

While Crosby's debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins at a sold-out Rexall Place didn't disappoint in a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, Pisani's latest step in a compelling comeback from a bout of career-threatening ulcerative colitis went almost unnoticed.

Pisani played his first home game with the Oilers since last March – a game the soft-spoken 30-year-old and those who know him feared might never come just two months ago.

His story is one of quiet courage.

"I'm fine with the spotlight on the other team," said Pisani, who played just over 17 minutes against the Penguins. "I prefer it that way because I just like to focus on playing my game and on kind of getting back into the swing of things."

Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis – inflammation and ulcers of the colon – in 2005, Pisani played with it during the Oilers run to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final, leading playoff scorers with 14 goals. He did likewise last season.

But the condition worsened last summer and Pisani lost 30 pounds in three weeks. He was too weak to walk a flight of stairs without stopping to rest and had to be hospitalized for weeks. He faced what would have been career-ending surgery.

By the time the Oilers made Pisani's plight public in early September, the hope was he'd recover enough to lead a normal life as a husband and father. Resuming his NHL career was an afterthought.

"I had to stay in bed," said Pisani. "I couldn't do anything. It was no way to live. Everybody says, 'Stay positive. You'll get through this,' but there were times when it was just ugly.

"Ultimately, your health is the first thing, but nobody ever wants to hear that you might not be able to play again. This is my livelihood. This is what I've done since I was four years old. To think it might be taken away from you is a scary thing."

Even when Pisani turned the corner in late September and avoided surgery with intensive drug therapy, the prognosis was that it would take most of this season for him to recover to the point where he'd be physically capable of playing again.

"When he was 30 pounds down, I thought no way," teammate Shawn Horcoff said of Pisani's chances of returning.

In a stunning turnaround, Pisani was skating on his own the first week of November and was near his playing weight of 205 pounds after pushing himself to the limit in the workout room.

When Ales Hemsky and Geoff Sanderson went down with injuries before a road trip to Anaheim and Los Angeles Dec. 2-3, Pisani made his return. He played 12:43 against the Ducks and 13:26 against the Kings.

No goals. No points. Lots of smiles.

"You don't have a choice," said Horcoff. "You either fight it to the point where you're going to save yourself or you give up. We all know Pies, and we knew that wasn't an option.

"He always said surgery was not an option for him. As close as the doctors said he was, in his mind it wasn't. He was going to keep trying things until they found something that would work and allow him to play. That shows you his will. The guy is a fighter."

While Pisani's comeback will certainly make him a candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy – awarded for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey – his battle with the disease continues.

"There's always a possibility," Pisani said of the potential for a setback. "You can't say it's never going to happen again. I don't know, but I'm not going to worry about it.

"I'm going to go out and live my life accordingly. I'm not going to worry about what could happen again. That's no way to live. I just want to put everything that happened behind me."

Crosby's visit Wednesday coincided with Pisani's 271st NHL game.

Sid the Kid will be back. Pisani already is.

"It feels good," said Pisani. "Really good."

Avery Disillusioned With Toronto Hockey Talk

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Mark Zwolinski, Sports Reporter

(December 06, 2007) Tarrytown, N.Y.–
Sean Avery's patience with his hometown has all but run out.

"I don't even like going back to Toronto any more; I don't know if I'd consider it my home," Avery, a Pickering native, said here yesterday as the New York Rangers prepared for tonight's game against the Leafs at Madison Square Garden.

But Avery won't be facing the Leafs tonight because he is sidelined after last Thursday's surgery on his left hand.

Avery said he only has to look as far back as the last Rangers game in Toronto to find reason to avoid the hockey-mad city. Talk of his pre-game incident involving Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker won't go away despite the fact it happened almost a month ago.

Avery has a history with Tucker and the Leafs dating back two seasons. He has also allegedly made anti-French comments and racist remarks and verbally jousted with Kings announcer and former Canadiens player Brian Hayward, which has only heightened the relationship he has with hockey fans who either love him or love to hate him.

"I have a lot of interests other than hockey. ... People (in Toronto) are talking about hockey 24 hours a day," said Avery, who attended Dunbarton High and has parents and plenty of friends remaining in the town just east of Toronto. "Oh well, to each his own, I guess. I don't have a problem with it, but I try to avoid it ... there are other things."

In several reports immediately following the Nov.10 pre-game confrontation, he insisted he never "said a word" regarding Blake's cancer battle. He was fined $2,500 (all figures U.S.) by the NHL and the Rangers were nicked $25,000. Tucker ($1,000) and the Leafs ($10,000) also got fined.

Rangers coach Tom Renney met with Avery privately, while NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, according to sources, stressed the subject of personal conduct to Avery and the absolute need to eliminate pre-game incidents.

"I don't watch (hockey-related) television or read about it in the newspapers," said Avery, who was voted by 66.4 per cent of 283 NHL players as the game's most hated player.

"It doesn't really affect me (the constant media attention that follows him). If anything, it affects my parents and my friends. That's how I hear about it, through them."

Avery appears to have found a home he likes in New York. He arrived last February in a trade from Los Angeles and broke up with his girlfriend, Canadian-born actress Elisha Cuthbert (Kim Bauer on 24) over the summer.

That relationship – the couple was popular with paparazzi and photos of them appeared in newspapers and magazines – vaulted Avery into rock-star circles. He has been spotted at New York nightclubs with Mary-Kate Olsen and the New York Post yesterday reported Avery was keeping company with actress Lake Bell.

While sidelined with the hand injury, which Avery blames on a fight with Tucker, he has ventured up into the upper bowl of Madison Square Garden to join fans watching his teammates play.

The pre-game incident with the Leafs has been set aside in the two teams' dressing rooms and Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said it will almost certainly stay that way. "Hockey is a game where you can be angry at one team one night, then angry at another team some other night. With Sean out of it (because of the injury), I don't think there'll be much to it. Both teams will focus on the points."

Sidney Crosby Wins Lou Marsh Award

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Star Staff

(December 11, 2007) Pittsburgh Penguins captain
Sidney Crosby has been named the winner of this year’s Lou Marsh Trophy honouring Canada’s top athlete.

The 20-year-old centre from Cole Harbour, N.S., in just his third season with the Penguins, won the NHL’s scoring championship last season and the Art Ross Trophy that goes with that distinction, as well as the Hart Trophy for league MVP and the Pearson Award for top player voted on by his playing peers.

“Winning this award is obviously a tremendous honour and I’m humbled by it," Crosby said in a statement released by the Penguins.

"To receive an award that's been won by guys like Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky and other great Canadian athletes says it all. Growing up in Cole Harbour, you don't even think of things like this -- being named Canada's athlete of the year."

"At the same time, I just want to keep improving and help my team and thank everyone involved in awarding me with this honour."

Having turned 20 in August, Crosby became the youngest player to win the scoring title (tallying 36 goals and 84 assists) and was also youngest ever to be named to the league’s first all-star team.

Crosby becomes the first hockey player since Mario Lemieux in 1993 to win the Lou Marsh award, voted on by a panel of sports editors, broadcasters and sports personalities.

The trophy was first awarded in 1936 in the name of Marsh, the longtime editor of the Toronto Star and a former NHL and boxing referee.

Crosby emerged on top out of a strong field of contenders headlined by basketball’s Steve Nash (winner in 2005), skier Erik Guay, third in the World Cup downhill standings last season, IBF world super bantamweight boxing champion Steve Molitor and kayak world champion Adam Van Koeverden.

Recent winners of the award include auto-racing driver Jacques Villeneuve (1997, 1995), baseball player Larry Walker (1998), Olympic athlete Catriona Le May Doan (2002), golfer Mike Weir (2003), and skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier (2001).

Olympic speed skating star Cindy Klassen won the award last year after winning five medals at the Turin Olympics.

The Lou Marsh panel this year was comprised of representatives from the Star, The Canadian Press, the FAN590/Primetime Sports, Globe and Mail, CBC, Sportsnet, CTV/TSN, Montreal La Presse and the National Post.


Michael Vick Update: Former NFL Superstar Sentenced To 23-Months In Prison

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 10, 2007) *Suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback
Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison Monday for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy that involved gambling and killing pit bulls.  Vick could have been sentenced up to five years by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. Vick, who turned himself in Nov. 19 in anticipation of his sentence, was wearing a black-and-white striped prison suit. After Vick apologized to the court and his family, Hudson told him: "You need to apologize to the millions of young people who looked up to you." "Yes, sir," Vick answered. Vick acknowledged he used "poor judgment" and added, "I'm willing to deal with the consequences and accept responsibility for my actions." Federal rules governing time off for good behaviour could reduce Vick's prison stay by about three months, resulting in a summer 2009 release. Before the hearing started, Michael Vick's brother, Marcus Vick, sat with his right arm around their mother, comforting her as she buried her head in her hands and wept. Vick pleaded guilty in August, admitting he bankrolled the "Bad Newz Kennels" dogfighting operation and helped kill six to eight dogs. He has been held at a jail in Warsaw, Va., since he voluntarily began serving his sentence. In a plea agreement, he admitted bankrolling the dogfighting ring on his 15-acre property in rural southeastern Virginia and helping kill pit bulls that did not perform well in test fights. He also admitted providing money for bets on the fights but said he never shared in any winnings.

Tiger Woods, Willie Mays In Cali Hall Of Fame

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 10, 2007) *
Tiger Woods and Willie Mays were among the notables inducted Wednesday into the California Hall of Fame, which honours the leaders, inventors, sports figures and celebrities who have shaped California.   Woods said he was moved to be able to introduce Mays, who had been an idol of his late father.  "Jackie Robinson changed the face of baseball, but Willie Mays changed the way the game was played," Woods said Wednesday at the ceremony, held at the California Museum near the state Capitol, at the ceremony. "He was speed and power. Grace and strength. Guile and athleticism. Excitement and style and cool — all in one package."  Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Moreno were also inducted into the Hall, while Jackie Robinson and John Wayne were given posthumous entries. Robinson's widow, Rachel, accepted the award on the baseball pioneer's behalf.  The California Hall of Fame began last year with the induction of Ronald Reagan, Cesar Chavez, Walt Disney, Clint Eastwood, Billie Jean King and others.



Art Meant For Subway Stop

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Goddard, Visual Arts Columnist

(December 11, 2007) While talks continued yesterday among family and friends deciding on
Norval Morrisseau's final resting place, plans were being finalized for a show of seven generally unknown major works by the great Indian artist who died last week at age 75.

Yet, if the Ontario-born painter had his way, unseen work such as Thunderbird Transformation would have been part of Toronto's daily life from the 1980s on, after it had been translated into enormous displays of tile for the University Ave. subway station adjacent to the Royal Ontario Museum.

"He had an agreement with the City of Toronto in the '80s," Joseph McLeod, of the Maslak McLeod Gallery in Yorkville, said yesterday.

"But there were problems about details and about whether he was getting the proper amount of money. In the end, the original paintings were turned over to a single buyer who decided to sell them about a year ago," McLeod said.

"Norval Morrisseau: RSVP," an exhibit of the seven large-scale "subway" canvases, opens Jan. 11 at the gallery.

Individual asking prices for the seven Morrisseau works such as Standing Brave are "around $100,000," said McLeod, who insists they were determined well before the painter's death from complications associated with Parkinson's disease.

News of his death has sparked renewed interest in Morrisseau's work.

In Vancouver, where he sold artwork to survive his nights living on the street, collectors are turning up at the House of the Spirit Bear Gallery with works big and small – "even with bits of gypsum wall that he drew on," said gallery operator Darrell Gilmore yesterday.

The "RSVP" in the title of the Maslak McLeod Gallery exhibit is intended to facilitate viewing times in the tiny space at 118 Scollard St. A bigger space might now be needed, McLeod admitted.

Least Fascinating Of 2007

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon, Television Critic

(December 6, 2007) Yes, it's time again.  And, no, I'm not
referring to Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2007 (ABC, 10 tonight). As an antidote to the grand dame's squishy spectacle, The East York Bunker Presents: The 10 Least Fascinating People of 2007:

10. Kim Kardashian

Reality show? Check. Playboy spread? Check. Leaked sex tape? Check. Yes, Kardashian is following The Celebutante's Guide To Getting Famous. Problem: It's not working. But watching her try – was she actually robbed at a New York airport or was that a publicity stunt? – is becoming unbearable. Anybody who can make Paris Hilton seem like Ayn Rand should be banished from the conversation.

9. Sanjaya Malakar

He became a household name on American Idol this year. But it wasn't for the singing, which often sounded like it was escaping the lungs of somebody being tortured with a molten prod. Then there were the hairstyles, the apparent handiwork of Dadaist monkeys armed with garden shears and spackle. So long, Mr. Fauxhawk. Turn off the lights on your way out.

8. Amy Winehouse

This year, Winehouse put her singing career on hold to begin a grim tango with self-destruction: drugs, booze, brawls, meltdowns and public displays of batty-eyed lunacy. By giving her demons a backstage pass, Winehouse has generated enough scandal to fill her own tabloid. Here's hoping she listens to her own hit, "Rehab," and uses those tattered ballet shoes to pad away from the public eye.

7. Andy Dick

You know, there's a problem when Jon Lovitz is moved to physical violence. But when he roughed up Andy Dick this year over a remark about the late Phil Hartman – who was a dear friend of Lovitz – few in Hollywood wagged a disapproving finger. Instead, it was high-fives all around. Andy Dick is a barnacle on the S.S. Fame and his increasingly unhinged demeanour eclipsed irritating a long time ago. The guy's last name says it all.

6. Tila Tequila

Is she a bisexual in search of true love or a shameless self-promoter? Doesn't matter because Tila Tequila is a yawn. From MySpace phenomenon to MTV star, the giddy lass has cultivated a following among half-soused college brats and online weirdoes. Now if she could just do something the rest of us would find mildly entertaining. Or, better yet, vamoose.

5. Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt

The death this year of Anna Nicole Smith created a media circus. And emerging from a side tent was Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, a rich, German-born eccentric known mostly as the ninth husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor. The Prinz claimed to have had an affair with Smith. He also claimed to be the biological father of her daughter, Dannielynn. Right. It is time, good sir, to crawl back from whence you came.

4. Tori Spelling

With a giggle in her throat and a blank stare on her face, Spelling continues to flit around the margins of celebrity. Her TV show Tori & Dean: Inn Love could be a powerful treatment for insomniacs. And the fact she's now an ordained minister – damn you, Internet! – proves only that God is a rascal. Tori, please make like Donna Martin and vanish in 2008.

3. Isaiah Washington

The weird thing is even his character on Grey's Anatomy wasn't likeable. Isaiah Washington used a homophobic slur. Then he denied it. Then he apologized for it. Then he got fired. Then he went on a tour of defensive counterattack. But throughout the year, the one thing he never seemed was remorseful. Good luck on Bionic Woman, Isaiah, however long that show lasts.

2. Britney Spears

The train to Crazyville left early this year, with a bald Britney making faces out the window. Along the way, y'all, the train made stops in Reckless Driving, Umbrella Attack, Lost Custody, Rehab, Parking Snafus, All-Hours Partying and Shockingly Bad Live Performance. Pull up your underpants and pull yourself together, girl! This routine is getting old, as are you.

1. You

No offence, but what was Time magazine thinking in 2006 when it declared You as the Person of the Year? In the ensuing 12 months, what exactly have You done? Posted vacation videos on YouTube? Started a blog? Joined a group on Facebook? Yes, we live in a narcissistic age. And, yes, we keep hearing about the hyper-democratization of media. But here's the thing: if everybody is famous then nobody is famous. Besides, this is what Time missed: You are a bore.

Raising The Bar And Turning Heads

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Sarah Milroy

(December 10, 2007) When you think of corporate art, the picture in your mind is probably pretty consistent: the polite enfilade of paintings and prints down the hallway, the Big Kahuna landscape paintings in the boardrooms, the deceased paterfamilias in his gold frame presiding over the stale Dad's cookies and reheated coffee. Boring.

Torys LLP, a leading Toronto law firm, has been one of a handful of corporate collectors in the city to have broken with this dire tradition. Though they have been buying art since the seventies (the firm now owns more than 400 works of art), the notion of crafting a collection really took hold in the nineties, when the firm's art committee – lawyers Richard Balfour and Philip Mohtadi – appointed Fela Grunwald as consultant to help them redefine their focus.

Instead of decoration, the collection came to express ideas and meanings relevant to this working community sometimes pushing past the collective comfort zone only to redefine it. (One of their most talked about acquisitions, for example, has been the giant colour photograph of a bulging garbage bag by photo-conceptualist Kelly Wood, a work that toys with viewer curiosity – what's inside? – suggesting, to my eye at least, a comic commentary on client confidentiality.)

As well, the firm has collected the work of such established artists as Yves Gaucher, Gershon Iskowitz, Guido Molinari and rising stars Rodney Graham and Ed Burtynsky, expressing a patriotic Canadian identity appropriate for one of the country's leading blue-chip firms. Today, this seems like the obvious thing to do. In those days, though, it was leadership.

This fall, with the unveiling of two new commissions for their recently revamped 33rd floor, Torys has once again moved the bar. Redesigned from the ground up by Marianne McKenna (of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects) and her colleague Steven Casey, this new space is now equipped with a series of north- and south-facing board rooms, which are linked by folding screens that can ascend or descend. (The screens tuck up, flush to the ceiling, when they are not in use.) This might seem like a rather unlikely canvas for art, but there's the surprise. The resulting art commissions – those by Montreal artist Pascal Grandmaison on the north side, and Toronto's Robert Fones on the south — constitute one of the most sophisticated forays into corporate art this country has to offer. Here, the art is braided into the architectural DNA of the space, becoming not just part of the environment but part of the brand. This is more than decor.

Visiting the firm not long ago, I was able to see how these commissions have rallied the lawyers and staff at the firm, and engaged their visitors.

“Who is she? That's the question that most people begin with,” said Andrew Bernstein, a partner at the firm. He was referring to the hauntingly lovely, wall-high apparition beside us, the androgynous beauty photographed by Grandmaison whose image is reiterated on the series of north-side screens. In some of these panels, she is seen close up – we are into every follicle and pore of her pale skin. In others, her image appears to be captured on a thick plate of glass, tipped on a variety of oblique angles, slipping away from view.

“It's either that question, or they want to know if it's a man or a woman. People will have long arguments about this,” Bernstein continued. “Gender is a big deal. They'll ask me, and then I will walk them down the hall to show them the others in the series, and then we're off.”

She's nobody in particular, of course – a model chosen by the artist. In fact, if you talk with Grandmaison, he was more captivated by the opportunity to marry her face with the moveable geometries of the panels, and by the way the images echo the windows of these boardrooms. Yet for those who use the spaces, she maintains a hold on the imagination. “Sometimes it's a bit spooky being here alone, particularly at night,” said Marc Gignac, who leads client services at the firm. “There's a presence here and you're not going to escape it.”

As well, Gignac says, the images create a sense of respite. “We've all had that blank moment when nothing is going on inside us,” he said, a moment of suspension brought on by exhaustion, stress, or an inner wandering of the spirit. It's only human.

On the south-facing side of the building, Robert Fones takes you somewhere different. Here, words from the opening passages of Cervantes's Don Quixote float above a background of water imagery, echoing the dazzling view of Lake Ontario out the window. Barely legible in their ballooning script (designed by Fones, a typeface aficionado), the words are drawn from passages that revel in ambiguity and the difficulties of language, like the moment when Don Quixote goes mad from his efforts to parse the crazy-making convolutions of chivalric literature.

Trying to penetrate impenetrable text is a subject close to many a lawyer's heart. Fones has found a poetic way to acknowledge this part of what they do, and the often heroic persistence of their efforts. Drowning in a sea of paper is something lawyers can identify with. By day, the panels dance with light, leading the eye out to the water, and a kind of visual escape from toil. At night, though, Fones's screens create an atmosphere of enclosure, focusing energy inward like a pressure cooker. By day or by night, the experience is intense. “I think Torys has tended to have a fairly conservative reputation,” said Deborah Dalfen, who runs professional recruitment at the firm. “We had some students in here a few weeks ago and I could see that this had an effect on them. People don't normally associate creativity with what lawyers do, but of course what lawyers do requires a lot of creative critical thinking. Students are at a very idealistic phase of their careers, and I think this marks us as having a more progressive culture.”

For architect Marianne McKenna, though, the key thing was to engage the architecture of this resonant site intelligently. Torys' offices are located in one of the five black-glass-clad office towers that make up the Toronto Dominion Centre, in the downtown core. Two of these towers, plus the plaza and the low-rise banking pavilion, were originally designed under the direction of the modernist master, Mies van der Rohe. The other three – like the TD Waterhouse tower in which Torys resides, are really, she says, faux-Mies. In the redesign, though, she and Casey sought to bolster kinship with the originals on the north side of the street by instituting a Miesian material palette – marble slab, dark walnut flooring – as well as seeking to enhance the relationship between the client floor's interior space and the external surroundings.

“Up there you stand shoulder to shoulder with the city,” McKenna says of the north-facing boardrooms. “This is arguably the best place from which to view the original Mies towers. Grandmaison engages that view. He puts his figure right up against that curtain wall, heightening our awareness of those walls and windows as membranes that hold us in while also allowing an overview of the city below.

“The mood he creates also suggests the gravity of the kind of decisions that lawyers make every day,” she says. “He shows us the figure in such a way that we experience her softness and her human presence, but she is looking out onto the Cartesian grid of the Mies complex. Could we have asked for more? I don't think so.”

Pascal Grandmaison's touring retrospective is currently on view at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, until Feb. 17, and a survey of his more recent work will open at Ottawa's Carleton University Art Gallery on Jan. 14.

That Wild, Crazy Guy Was Coolly Constructed

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Shaun Smith

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
by Steve Martin
207 pages, $28.99

(December 9, 2007) The beauty of
Steve Martin's stand-up routine back in the 1970s was that it all seemed just a big red herring.

The "wild and crazy" white-suited Martin sang ridiculous songs about King Tut, or brought absurd confidence to the making of utterly shapeless balloon animals, or got indignantly worked up at his audience to the point of screaming his trademark "Well, excuuuuse me!"

All of it went nowhere, all those silly banjo tunes, inept prop gags and mindlessly artless antics. There was never a punch line, not in the traditional sense anyway, and much of his shtick appeared so effortless that any fool could do – or at least mimic – it.

Yet Martin was up to something much bigger.

As we learn from Martin's new memoir, Born Standing Up, which chronicles his life from age 5 till he quit stand-up in 1981, all that artlessness was, for him, serious stuff – the result of years of rigorous training, sober analysis and dogged practice.

By the time Martin made it big in 1976, hosting Saturday Night Live in its second season, he had been treating the stand-up club circuit like a laboratory for a decade, testing theories of comedy. Through the mid to late 1960s, he had studied philosophy at university (which kept him out of Viet Nam) and he brought an uncommon analytical sensibility to his comedic work.

Martin began his career in the entertainment industry at age 10, in 1955, selling guidebooks at Disneyland. Fascinated by the musicians, comics and magicians in the park, he ingratiated himself with them, soaking in their methods, learning technique from carneys and once-great vaudevillians.

By the time he left Disney in 1962, to join an acting troupe at Knott's Berry Farm, not only had Martin mastered a standard repertoire of age-old gags and tricks, he had also experienced an epiphany that laid the foundation for his oeuvre: Audiences loved it when those gags and tricks flopped.

Martin spent two years at Knott's, then began touring coffee houses and nightclubs on his own, experimenting toward a comedy that turned comedy itself on its ear. Additional breakthroughs followed.

Studying the work of comics like Lenny Bruce and Mike Nichols, he made "a Darwinian discovery: Comedy could evolve." He mined unlikely sources for new material, such as deductive reasoning techniques learned in logic classes at university, and the rhythmical poetry of e. e. cummings. He even wrote a treatise on comedic tension for a psychology class.

In 1967, he joined the writing staff of the groundbreaking, controversial The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and later wrote for The Sony and Cher Show. He made dozens of guest appearances on talk shows such as The Merv Griffin Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

All the while, his stand-up became more obtuse and challenging, to the point of so alienating Carson in one appearance – by reading the phonebook on stage while cracking eggs over his own head – that he was relegated to appearing only with guest hosts.

But as his profile grew through the early 1970s, what grabbed people's attention, what no one had seen before (at least not on TV), was a comedian whose larger subject was comedy itself. Martin was a meta-comic whose act ultimately became a parody of the inept stand-up comic. Arrow through his head, "happy feet" dancing uncontrollably, he became the butt of his own joke. When he was not being his own foil, he was radically breaking frame – marching night club audiences out into the street, where he would hail a taxi and leave, or take the crowd into a neighbouring club to watch another comic.

By 1974, Martin had weeded the more overtly conceptual and unfunny bits out of his routine and was settling into the unbridled nonsense that would make him famous. When Carson welcomed him back into the fold that year – his 16th appearance on the show – Martin was penniless. By the end of the decade he would be the most successful concert comedian ever, selling 45,000 tickets at New York's Nassau Coliseum.

The paradox of Martin's success was that his everyman appeal was built on analytical coldness. Unfortunately, that frost carries over into this memoir.

While Martin provides a fascinating analysis of his technical development in Born Standing Up, he provides precious little direct insight into his own persona. Why was he capable of so successfully exploiting his ability to stand outside a subject (i.e.: comedy) and look at it sideways? Why could he not now bring that same faculty to bear on his own character?

For much of his adolescence and adult life, Martin tells us, he was emotionally estranged from his father, a failed actor who bitterly refused to acknowledge his son's talent and success until he was on his deathbed. Told this, we are left to connect the dots.

Martin says he quit stand-up because of the isolation caused by fame. If nothing else, Born Standing Up is, perhaps despite itself, a self-portrait of a calculating genius in isolation still.

Passions Ran High On Eight Is Enough's Set

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

(December 11, 2007) Onetime TV star
Willie Aames is typically self-deprecating when told he once played a starring role in the teenage fantasy life of his interviewer and many of her friends.

"Oh, I'm sorry – did you guys turn out okay?" he says with a laugh on the line from rural Kansas, where he and his wife of 20 years, actor Maylo McCaslin, are raising their teenaged daughter far from the hard-partying pace of Hollywood.

Aames, 48, is famous for his role as the wholesomely hot Tommy Bradford on Eight is Enough, the television megahit that was on air from 1977 to 1981, and then as Scott Baio's sidekick on Charles in Charge throughout much of the 1980s.

A surfer who grew up in California's Orange County, Aames became a pin-up boy during what was arguably the heyday for male teenaged TV stars. He was joined on the pages of Tiger Beat and Teen Beat by his pal Baio, Leif Garrett, the Brady Bunch boys and the Cassidy brothers, among many others.

But in recent years Aames been better known for finding Jesus and leaving behind his once-wild ways. In his new book,
Grace is Enough, co-written with his wife (as Maylo Upton-Aames), he tells of the perils of teenaged stardom while McCaslin chronicles her own horrifyingly abusive childhood and how she survived it.

"This would be a great story no matter who it is: a girl who was a daily rape victim and ran away to Hollywood and ate out of trash cans on the streets meets a TV celebrity and they fix each other; they really bring each other together," he says.

Baio once dubbed his Charles in Charge co-star "the mayor of the Playboy Mansion," Aames says with a giggle, and it's true he lived hard and fast during his years as a TV star, partying, doing drugs and bedding his fair share of starlets.

But none of it brought him any lasting happiness and in fact resulted in the demise of his first marriage. Grace is Enough tells how he and Maylo met, courted and became born-again Christians as they dealt with their painful pasts.

"I kind of wanted to not make it a kiss-and-tell thing but really to be as transparent and brutally honest about what it was like, as a person and emotionally, to be a child actor and then try to make that transition into an adult, especially with all the Lindsay Lohans out there right now," Aames said.

What's going on with Aames's professional life today? He's currently shooting the next instalment of Celebrity Fit Club and is still close to some of his Eight is Enough castmates, including Grant Goodeve and Dick Van Patten.

Aames confesses he was seriously, secretly smitten with one of his Eight is Enough siblings – Nancy, portrayed by Dianne Kay – and tells how Connie Needham, who played his youngest sister Elizabeth, badly broke his heart following a year-long love affair during the show's first season.

"I had the biggest crush on Dianne – she was the sweetest, the nicest, the most beautiful girl. She and I always got along and I just loved her to death," Aames says. "And Connie broke up with me for some guy in Texas; she devastated me."

Dinosaurs Made For ROM's Crystal Condo

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(December 12, 2007) If you stand on a certain part of Bloor St. W. on the north side after dark, from certain angles you can catch a glimpse of Gordo, the 27-metre-long Barosaurus skeleton emerging this week as the star attraction of the
Royal Ontario Museum's sensational new Age of Dinosaurs galleries.

Yes, the ROM has had dinosaurs for decades, but Gordo – the largest dinosaur ever seen in Canada – was never on display before now. And even the specimens that have been at the ROM for eons have never looked liked this.

Until now, you had to peer at them in a dark, cave-like setting. Now Daniel Libeskind's Crystal gives them their dream home: a whirling, curving, light-filled space that's part Jurassic Park and park luxury condo.

Its opening this week (with first public access on Saturday) comes not a moment too soon.

The question that looms at the moment is this: can Gordo and the other dinos get the ROM back on track at the end of an opening year marked by a series of unplanned bumps along the road?

Yesterday morning the lengthy, complicated process of assembling the jigsaw puzzle of ancient bones into the complete Gordo was completed with the ceremonial placing of Gordo's head at last on his massive body, which sprawls from the west end of the Crystal to the east end.

But there is a comical aspect to this crowning gesture. The head seems absurdly tiny for such an incredible hulk.

"It's hard to believe enough food could get through that mouth to feed such a massive body," remarked William Thorsell, the museum's CEO, who has long been dreaming of the day when dinosaurs would roam the Crystal.

"The other day as soon as it got dark," confides Thorsell, "I ran out to see if what I'd been saying – that you would be able to see the dinosaurs from the street – was actually true." Luckily, it is.

If only the dinosaurs had been able to move into their glitzy new digs six months ago, as scheduled, 2007 would have been a much less rocky year for the ROM.

Thorsell's savvy master plan called for the launch of the James and Louise Temerty Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs to coincide with the opening of the Crystal in June.

But owing to a series of construction snafus, the building was months behind schedule. Thorsell was determined to stick to the June opening date for the Crystal, but the only way that could be achieved was to open an almost empty new wing.

At first the city was fascinated and crowds lined up all night for a glimpse. But once the empty sections of the Crystal were no longer open, confusion reigned and crowds stopped coming. Many people thought the museum was closed, though in fact the old building was open and there were two Japanese exhibits on offer in the Crystal.

Unfortunately, they were not the kind of summer blockbuster that the dinosaurs would have been.

In July and August, attendance (higher than the summer of 2006 but well below the peak of 2000) was so far below projections that 29 part-time employees hired to deal with the anticipated surge had to be laid off.

Meanwhile, bashing Libeskind and his Crystal became a favourite game of Toronto's smart set. Those of us who love it almost felt the need to apologize before saying so.

Now it's time to take another look. The space is no longer vacant. As Thorsell puts it, these creatures of long ago can now be viewed in a whole new way in a brilliantly illuminated sculpture court instead of fake forests.

As soon as you step inside, prepare for an epiphany.

The dinosaurs and the Crystal were made for each other. They go together like a horse and carriage.

All along, Thorsell's gamble was that this unique pairing would bring in the crowds.

If he is right, the ROM will enter a golden age, and the $42 million needed to pay for phase two of the museum's reinvention will flow.

If not, there will be trouble in Jurassic Park.