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


Updated:  January 18, 2007


I've got a few exciting things to mention to you this week.  Now, in celebration of the American holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past Monday, I'm running the famous speech, I Have A Dream.  Read it - see if you feel that we've made the headway that Dr. King inspired that day. 


First of all,  While I do have my own thoughts of why there is only one month to celebrate Black history, I do enjoy the events and functions that take place in celebration of it.  Namely, two of them are at the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts - the artistic, athletic (and esthetically pleasing) dance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on February 16-17.  Then there's the unbelievable and inspiring sounds of Soweto Gospel Choir on February 27-28.  Get your tickets now as both of these events sell out!

Now I also have another exciting interview for you this week.  I caught up with choreographer and actor,
Darrin Henson (Stomp The Yard, Soul Food) this past week by phone to discuss his long and flourishing career. 

Well, I’m
moving to another new apartment at the end of February - third time in as many years.  All divinely meant to be.  Here’s my new location – which should be permanent for quite awhile if I have anything to say about it!  Really looking forward to the new spot – as of March 1, 2007 - PLEASE CHANGE YOUR RECORDS:

Langfield Entertainment
20 Carlton Street
Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5





::hot events::

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Toronto - Feb. 16-17!

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

TORONTO, Ontario – For more than 45 years, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has dazzled audiences from New York City to South Africa to China with unparalleled artistry.  After a long awaited return, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is back at The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts in celebration of Black History Month for three performances only from February 16 – 17, 2007.

Through captivating performances and unparalleled artistry, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been fulfilling Alvin Ailey’s vision that “dance is for everybody… dance came from the people and it should always be delivered back to the people.”  From jazz-inspired works and intimate portraits to explosive epics teeming with passion, “one cannot deny the genius behind Ailey’s…stirring eloquence,” says the Washington Post.

Led by Artistic Director Judith Jamison, this magnificent company celebrates an exhilarating performance, drawing inspiration from a variety of experiences - life’s joy, sorrows, passions, beauty and ultimate truths.  Their unmistakable style and unsurpassed talent, continue to leave audiences breathless.  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform several works from its classic repertory–including Revelations, Ailey’s signature masterpiece that explores African American spirituals, encompassing songs of love, struggle, and deliverance.  The engagement will also include new dances by some of today’s most exciting, daring, and visionary choreographers.

There are moments when you watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and begin to believe that the figures on stage are not quite real. The human body can't really move like that… defies human limits." 

-  Chicago Sun-Times

The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. East
Toronto, Ontario
Friday: 8:00 pm
Saturday (two shows) 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $55 - $75
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting
Or in person at The Hummingbird Centre Box Office, 1 Front Street East, Toronto  
GROUPS of 10 or more call:  416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805


Soweto Gospel Choir Makes Its Triumphant Return To Toronto – Feb. 27-28, 2007

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

Toronto, Ontario – Soweto Gospel Choir is an awe-inspiring vocal ensemble, performing in eight different languages, in an inspirational program of tribal, traditional and popular African gospel.  Returning to The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts after a standing room only performance in 2005, Soweto Gospel Choir will perform two shows only in celebration of Black History Month, from February 27 – 28, 2007.

Soweto Gospel Choir has achieved major success in Europe and in South Africa.  Drawing on the best musical talents from the many churches and communities in and around Soweto, the concert will feature a dynamic four-piece band, traditional dancers and drummers.  Earthy rhythms, rich harmonies, acapella and charismatic performances combine to uplift the soul and express, through a vocal celebration, South Africa's great hopes for the future.  The most exciting vocal group to emerge from South Africa since Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Soweto Gospel Choir, will bring their magnetic energy, joyful spirits and beautiful harmonies to Canadian audiences.  They are much more than simply a musical phenomenon. 

Soweto Gospel Choir was created in 2002.  David Mulovhedzi and South African Executive Producer Beverly Bryer held auditions in Soweto to form an all-star “super-choir.”  They were able to create a powerful aggregation made up of the best singers from his own Holy Jerusalem Choir, as well as various Soweto churches and from the general public, including a finalist on the nationally-televised South African equivalent of “Star Search.”  Adorned in traditional and beautifully coloured South African garb, the choir has been known to win audiences with their exotic blend of South African spirituals, traditional Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho gospel songs which are interspersed with popular songs and folk anthems.

"Nothing can really prepare you for the riot of exuberance and depth of emotion."  - The Scotsman

The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. East, Toronto, Ontario
8:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $35 - $75
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting
Or in person at The Hummingbird Centre Box Office, 1 Front Street East, Toronto  
GROUPS of 10 or more call:  416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805


Interview with Darrin Henson, Choreographer/ Actor/ Dancer

I ran into Darrin Henson while covering the Cayman Jazz Festival in November 2006 in his role as the host of the festival.  Darrin is now starring and dancing in the Sony/Screen Gems film, Stomp The Yard which released on Friday, January 12, 2007.  As mentioned in my review of Stomp The Yard last week, Darrin Henson is well-known to Canadians, as he shot the television series Soul Food (as the character, Lem) in Toronto and therefore lived here for five years.  Though Soul Food never aired in Canada, Darrin was a vibrant part of our community during that time. 

There are a couple of notable things about Stomp that I thought it was necessary to bring to light.  One is that in celebration of the film's release, Sony Pictures announced that 2.5% of the proceeds from its opening weekend numbers would be donated to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC.  F
or me, it was also a positive move to see the Black youth experience played out in the world of fraternities and a university rather than in the Hollywood stereotypical world of gangs and drugs. 

Darrin talks to us about Stomp, the role of dance in Hollywood, his accomplishments and upcoming projects.

First of all, I loved the movie Stomp The Yard – very entertaining i.e. lots of dance scenes and decent acting.  Did you have anything to do with the choreography?

None of it except that the battle scene.  The last one was my choreography.  All the stuff that you see me do by myself is my stuff. 

Did you grow up with stepping around you? 

I’ve never stepped before – that was my first time.  It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  It’s like drumming, keeping two different patterns at the same time.  That s**t is hard!

What was your favourite part of the film for you

Kissing Meagan Good!

Your character’s intensity really came across – no one liked you!

My character was based off her (Meagan Good)’s dad.  He was the mano y mano male.  He’s one of those guys who expects excellence out of himself and everyone else around him.  There are a lot of people out there like that. 

How important do you see dance in relation to the world of entertainment? 

I think dance has always been acknowledged and it’s always been needed and necessary.  It’s more, is it respected? 

I think the importance of it is coming back again.  Stomp brings the art of street dance and the traditional art of dancing back.

I agree and because it’s making a lot more money for mainstream now – it is the actual money-maker.  I think literally that dance has found its own rhythm now. 

And do you feel a trend of movies putting more choreography into their movies and/or music videos?  Will your phone start ringing?

I think that it’s going to be a huge trend.  Once you’ve got a hit in Hollywood, they normally follow up with five more of the same kind of film.  That’s the way it is and has been.  I think that I’ll have a rush of people calling and wanting my involvement in projects, absolutely. 

Your career skyrocketed after Soul Food - what’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make? 

Soul Food was the very first thing that I’ve done that’s introduced me to the world outside of my choreography.  I think one of the biggest things that you have to be able not to take it home with you.  Sometimes the fans don’t allow you to do that because they love your character so much that they call you by your character’s name.  Sometimes if you’re weak-minded, you feel inadequate if you’re not getting or booking another job immediately.  You really have to know who you are, what you’re doing and what you want out of this business in order to do well in this business … and survive this business. 

I use the term ‘survive’ very loosely because I don’t believe in just surviving, I believe in living.  When you’re able to live your making, you don’t have to worry about making a living. 

Do people still approach you about being Lem?

Yeah, they call me Lem all the time.  I don’t mind so much because I really love my character so it’s fine but sometimes, depending on what day it is, you want people to call you by your name.

Do you have a favourite experience of when you were working here in Toronto?

Working on a television series and then acclimating myself into the Canadian community and being accepted by them.  Doing the show for five years there and it being accepted all around the world is still an ongoing great experience for me. 

People that know you as an actor, may not necessarily know that you have dance / hip hop workout videos out? 

Originally, by the third season of Soul Food, people were tripping because they’d always see me with NSync but they didn’t understand why one of their favourite actors was always with these guys.  I think they were completely confused and didn’t know I was the same person.  I guess they started to read the same name and that’s when they found out. 

What first made you fall in love with dance?

From five years old, I was in love.  It was just something that I knew, something I was born with.  When I heard music, I just danced.  It wasn’t something that I had to think about wanting to do.  I knew I would be on stage one day, absolutely.  At five years old I knew!

You’ve worked with some major names in music Michael Jackson, Prince, Britney Spears, J-Lo, Christina Aguilera, NSYNC – any highlights?

Working with Michael Jackson was a highlight.  Winning the MTV Music Award was a highlight (for N*SYNC) and now dancing in a feature film that I’m starring in – it’s great!  I feel like John Travolta except I won an award for dancing! (laughs)

What do your awards mean to you as you’ve won an MTV Music Award for Best Choreography and a Billboard Award for biggest selling Health and Fitness Video?

They mean a lot to me – it’s from your peers and your fans.  I mean, I don’t go around shining my MTV Music Award everyday; actually it’s in the garage.  Because I feel if you sit down looking at it, praising yourself, you may not work hard to get another one.  I want to work on getting an Image Award, a Golden Globe and then an Oscar.  I plan on it!

Congrats on breaking records with the sales of the Darrin’s Dance Grooves!  Where can people buy it?

Yeah, and I just did a deal for the second one (Darrin’s Dance Grooves 2) which is available now on my website – but it will be in stores in March.  And people can buy it on my site. 

Why do you think that it’s generated so much interest? 

I think people trust me and the choreography is great! 

If you could work with any artist, living or past, who would they be? 

I’d want to work with Michael Jackson again.  I would have loved, God rest his soul, to work with Gregory Hines.  He was definitely a mentor for me.  I want to work with Shaba-Doo from the movie “Breakin’”.  I’d want to work with Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne and John Travolta. 

What was your greatest experience in your career?

Definitely working with Michael Jackson.  And finally dancing in a feature film that I’m also acting in.  And then winning the MTV Music Award. 

What’s in your MP3 right now?

50 Cent, india.arie, Floetry, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Black-Eyed Peas …

How would you like to be remembered? 

Darrin Henson is a person that cares about the world, cares about people who wants everybody to understand that they have power to make their life beautiful. 

Good answer – no doubt.  

Darrin is one busy and hard working entertainer.  He is currently on the panel for the television reality show Bump & Grind in the UK on Sky’s Trouble channel (airs in Canada as well).  Later this month he be at Sundance Film Festival with Queen Latifah to support his HBO film, Life Support which is the true-life story of a mother who overcame an addiction to crack and became a positive role model and an AIDS activist in the black community to be released in March 2007.  Then also being released this year in May, is the movie, The Salon, which premiered here at the ReelWorld Film Festival starring Vivica A. Fox

And now with the release of Stomp The Yard, you can be sure to be seeing a lot more of
Darrin Henson.  He is a symbol of what hard work, good hustle and raw talent combined can do! 


::top stories::

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - "I Have A Dream"

The speech before the Lincoln Memorial - August 28, 1963

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon of hope to millions of slaves, who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the colored America is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the colored American is still sadly crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

One hundred years later, the colored American lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the colored American is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our Nation's Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed to the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds".

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.

We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is not time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.

Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of it's colored citizens. This sweltering summer of the colored people's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hope that the colored Americans needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquillity in America until the colored citizen is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the colored person's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for white only."

We cannot be satisfied as long as a colored person in Mississippi cannot vote and a colored person in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of your trials and tribulations. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our modern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you, my friends, we have the difficulties of today and tomorrow.

I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live an a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that, let freedom, ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

Nelly Furtado to Host The 2007 JUNO Awards, April 1 on CTV

Source:  Juno Awards

(Jan. 16, 2007) Internationally renowned Canadian singer /songwriter and JUNO Award winner Nelly Furtado will host The 2007 JUNO Awards, Canada's Music Awards, CTV and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) confirmed today. The announcement was made last night by eTalk host Ben Mulroney during the broadcast of the 64th Annual Golden Globe Awards on CTV. Furtado will host The 2007 JUNO Awards from the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Sunday, April 1 on CTV. Performers for the upcoming awards broadcast will be announced in the coming weeks as excitement builds for The 2007 JUNO Awards nominees media conference in Toronto on Tuesday, February 6. "The JUNO Awards are part of the Canadian fabric and to be asked to host is a privilege I'm charmed to accept," commented Nelly Furtado in an exclusive eTalk interview airing tonight on CTV. "Hosting The JUNO Awards is a dream come true and I look forward to carrying on this rich Canadian tradition. See you in Saskatoon!"

Winner of five JUNO Awards and the recipient of 13 nominations, Nelly Furtado has taken the world by storm once again with the release of her third CD Loose, from Universal Music Canada. Certified platinum in the United States, UK and Australia, two times platinum in Germany and Switzerland, and three times platinum in Canada, Loose was the highest-selling Canadian album of 2006. The album spawned three Number 1 hit singles, including "Promiscuous featuring Timbaland," "Maneater" and the current single "Say it Right." A Grammy winner for her breakout hit "I'm Like A Bird," Furtado was named "Best Pop/Rock Artist of the Year" in November 2006 at the World Music Awards in London. The artist, who has sold over ten million albums around the world, begins an eight-city Canadian tour March 21 in Victoria, BC. "She wowed millions on last year's Canadian Idol finale, so I can't wait to see what Nelly Furtado has in store as host of The JUNO Awards," said Susanne Boyce, CTV President of Programming and Chair of the CTV Media Group. "With her continued world-wide success, she is the perfect host for an awards broadcast that continues to gain prestige on the international stage."

"The JUNO Awards have been recognizing Nelly Furtado's diverse talents since her award-winning debut album in 2000," said Melanie Berry, President of CARAS and an Executive Producer of the broadcast. "She is a very proud Canadian and we are tremendously excited to have her as our host this year!" Furtado's role of host of The 2007 JUNO Awards comes on the heels of the announcement last week that she will co-star on CTV's CSI: NY on February 7 as Ava Grant, a shoplifter accused of murder. Later in February, Furtado will also appear on the daytime drama One Life to Live. Furtado, 28, is a first-generation Portuguese Canadian born in Victoria, BC. Now an internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter, Furtado first came to fame in 2000 with the release of her debut album Whoa, Nelly! Just before giving birth to her daughter Nevis, Furtado released her sophomore album, Folklore, in 2003. Furtado is well known for experimenting with different instruments, sounds, genres, languages, and vocal styles. This diversity of her wide-ranging musical style comes from her interest in different cultures and multilingualism that includes English, Portuguese, Spanish and Hindi.

Broadcast in High-Definition and 5.1 Surround Sound, The 2007 JUNO Awards, Canada's Music Awards, will be broadcast for the sixth year in a row on CTV on Sunday, April 1 from the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon. Previous hosts of The JUNO Awards include Pamela Anderson (2006), Brent Butt (2005), Alanis Morrissette (2004), Shania Twain (2003) and Barenaked Ladies (2002). In April 2006, 1.7 million viewers watched The 2006 JUNO Awards, eclipsing The 48th Grammy Awards broadcast in Canada by 26 per cent and making it the most-watched music awards program of the year. The 2006 JUNO Awards peaked with 2.1 million viewers and attracted almost 30 per cent more viewers than the previous year, making it the second-most watched JUNO Awards telecast since Canada's Music Awards were broadcast from Ottawa in 2003. CTV began broadcasting The JUNO Awards in 2002 when it telecast the Awards from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, before taking it to Ottawa (2003), Edmonton (2004), Winnipeg (2005) and Halifax (2006). The 2006 JUNO Awards is produced by Insight Productions in association with CTV and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). Executive producers are John Brunton and Barbara Bowlby for Insight Productions and Melanie Berry and Stephen Stohn for CARAS. Louise Wood is Producer and Lindsay Cox is Supervising Producer. Ed Robinson is Senior Vice President of Comedy and Variety Programming for CTV. Susanne Boyce is CTV President of Programming and Chair of the CTV Media Group. Broadcast sponsors of The 2007 JUNO Awards are Acuvue, Bombardier, Doritos, Pontiac and TD Canada Trust. Sponsors of the 36th Annual JUNO Awards include FACTOR, Canada's Private Radio Broadcasters and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage's "Canada Music Fund", the Government of Saskatchewan, the City of Saskatoon, SaskTel and Radio Starmaker Fund.

About CARAS:

The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences/L'academie canadienne des arts et des sciences de l'enregistrement (CARAS) is a not-for-profit organization created to preserve and enhance the Canadian music and recording industries and to contribute toward higher artistic and industry standards. The main focus of CARAS is the exploration and development of opportunities to showcase and promote Canadian artists and music through television vehicles such as the JUNO Awards. For more information on the 35th anniversary JUNO Awards, visit the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' (CARAS) website at The 2007 JUNO Awards will air on CTV, on Sunday, April 1, 2007.

About CTV:

CTV, Canada's largest private broadcaster, offers a wide range of quality news, sports, information, and entertainment programming. It has the number-one national newscast, CTV National News With Lloyd Robertson, and is the number-one choice for prime-time viewing. CTV owns 21 conventional television stations across Canada and has interests in 15 specialty channels, including the number-one Canadian specialty channel, TSN. CTV is owned by CTVglobemedia, Canada's premier multi-media company. More information about CTV may be found on the company Web site at

Web Links:
CTV's JUNO Awards website:
Official JUNO Awards website:
CARAS website:
Official Nelly Furtado website:


Calgarians Heading To Golden Globes

By Tara Merrin -- Calgary Sun

(January 13, 2007) Strolling down the red carpet, surrounded by movie stars, is not something your average Calgarian will ever experience.  Chad Oakes and Mike Frislev, however, are not your normal Cowtown folk.  And, as such, the owners of Nomadic Pictures are heading to L.A. to take part in one of the biggest nights in Hollywood -- the Golden Globe Awards.  But the producers of Broken Trail, a western-themed TV miniseries that's up for three Golden Globes, including best miniseries, best actor in a miniseries (Robert Duvall) and best supporting actor in a mini-series (Thomas Haden Church), are not guaranteed a seat at Monday's ceremony at the Beverly Hilton.  "For the night of the actual event, we only got two tickets and there are six producers so we're not sure if we are going to be arm wrestling, flipping coins or best hand wins," laughs Oakes.  "Either way, the two winners will be attending and the four losers will be upstairs in a hotel suite watching it."  While scoring a ticket for the show would be a thrill, Oakes says Monday is going to be a night to remember either way. He and Frislev will attend the AMC and Sony pre-parties and many of the after-parties.  Not to mention there's a chance the two could be flying home Tuesday with Golden Globes in hand.

"The Golden Globes are from the Hollywood Foreign Press, so it's a big one," says Oakes, adding Nomadic Pictures won three Emmy Awards in 2004 for The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie.  "There are the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the Emmys. We already checked the third off the list, so we're just working our way up."  While Oakes does not make movies to win awards, he says the positive press that comes with being nominated is priceless.  "It puts you in the spotlight and, without a doubt, it opens up some doors."  The 64th Annual Golden Globe Awards airs on CTV at 8 p.m. and on NBC at 9 p.m. Monday.  Canadian Matthew Perry is also up for best actor for The Ron Clark Story, which was also filmed in Calgary.


Blues Guitarist Jeff Healey Recovering From Lung Cancer Surgery

Source:  Canadian Press

Jan 16, 2007) TORONTO (CP) - Blues-rock singer Jeff Healey is recovering from surgery to remove cancerous tissue from both lungs.  Healey's publicist says the celebrated blind guitarist underwent a major operation Thursday and is recuperating in a Toronto hospital with family at his side. Richard Flohil says Healey was diagnosed with lung cancer in December but chose to keep the news private until now.  He says doctors report a successful operation, and notes they caught the disease early due to regular testing.  Flohil says Healey is in good spirits and eager to return to the stage soon.  Healey, an occasional smoker, lost his eye sight to retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer that left him blind in both eyes by age one.

In the past 18 months, he's also undergone two operations to remove two sarcomas in his left leg.  "He varies like anybody in this situation between grumpy and depressed about it to being very positive," Flohil said of Healey's mood. "Most of the time he's pretty positive."  "As Jeff says, I've had 40 good years, you get a bump every now and then."  The operation comes just days after Healey celebrated the opening of a new blues club in the heart of Toronto's entertainment district.  He performed at a gala opening of Jeff Healey's Roadhouse on Jan. 9, an opening that was originally scheduled for Jan. 10 but moved up to allow time to prepare for surgery on Jan. 11.  Flohil said Healey was eager to play guitar again with his blues-rock outfit The Jeff Healey Band and his classic jazz group, Jeff Healey and the Jazz Wizards, with whom he plays trumpet and guitar.  It wasn't clear how the most recent operation would affect Healey's ability to play trumpet.

Black Stars Harassed, Suit Alleges

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Oliver Moore

(Jan. 17, 07) Two former federal ministers and 95 border guards are among those named in a $900-million lawsuit filed by the owner of
Murdercap Records, who alleges routine harassment of black hip-hop stars trying to enter Canada. Jerome Almon said last night that he had escaped extra scrutiny only a few times out of hundreds of border crossings since the late 1990s. Often, he added, whites nearby were treated with greater respect. "I don't see this as any different than what Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks did in Alabama," he said in a telephone interview from Detroit, referring to the lawsuit. "I would never have expected that of Canada; maybe North Korea or Iran, but not Canada." Among the many defendants are former immigration minister Denis Coderre and former revenue minister Elinor Caplan. Others include the commissioner of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and scores of border guards.  The 67-page statement, filed in Michigan on Friday in the U.S. District Court, alleges routine discrimination by border guards.

"During the dozens of searches, [the] Defendants never found any contraband on [him] or in any vehicle in which he was travelling," the claim states. The allegations have not been tested in court. In the interview, Mr. Almon acknowledged that he had been arrested twice in the United States but had no criminal record. He said that many of his border delays appeared related to a police clearance that needed to be in his file. He said he had produced the documentation repeatedly but that it kept vanishing from the database.  Mr. Almon also said that guards often appeared concerned about his music. He believes their reaction was part of a broader Canadian government desire to crack down on rap lyrics, which critics say glorify violence and misogyny. Asked whether the criticism is valid when applied to his music -- said to include songs such as On Ya Neez Bitch and How Stella Got My Backhand -- he was dismissive. "Art always reflects the society. Detroit is a city that is extremely black, extremely backward, extremely violent and extremely misogynistic," he said. "I can't create art without reflecting the reality. I don't live in a Brady Bunch world."

Not Alone In Border Hassles, Rapper Claims

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Pop Music Critic

(January 18, 2007) A Detroit rap impresario suing Canadian customs officials for undue harassment at the border says the government is "begging for more than they expect" when his case comes to court.
Jerome Almon, 41, filed a $900 million lawsuit against several high-ranking customs and immigration officials, as well as 45 individual customs agents, alleging that he's been "repeatedly subjected to unwarranted, protracted and highly punitive detentions" since 1992.  Almon, the founder and CEO of Detroit rap label Murdercap Records, claims he has been singled out for persecution not just because he's black, but because of his association with the hip-hop industry. And he says he has the "absolute" evidence to prove his claims in court. "It's as simple as this: I don't believe I should allow someone else to go through what I've been through," Almon said yesterday. Besides detailing his own experiences at the border – plus allegations of racist slurs and false accusations of having a criminal record by Windsor customs agents – Almon's court documents cite instances where Canadian officials have mobilized against American musicians, including Wilson Pickett, DMX and 50 Cent.

DMX cancelled shows in Calgary and Saskatoon in 2002 after being denied entry into Canada, despite having shot a movie in Toronto weeks before. And although he failed, a Toronto MP spearheaded a very public campaign to keep 50 Cent from touring Canada in late 2005, weeks after the rapper wrapped a movie shoot in Toronto. "If 50 Cent or DMX come into Toronto to shoot movies, the red carpet is rolled out to get the $50 million," said Almon. "But in 30 days in DMX's case, six weeks in 50 Cent's case, they're the worst criminals on the planet ..." Almon, a former U.S. fundraiser for the Caribana Festival, does extensive recording in Toronto, has had two serious girlfriends here, has registered his company in Canada and reckons "about half the people I work with are Canadian." Thus, he says, his constant run-ins with Customs have severely curtailed his ability to run Murdercap Records properly.

Local hip-hop promoter and Sony/BMG Canada head honcho
Jonathan Ramos says that Almon might have a point about rap artists and the border. In recent years, he's been forced to cancel shows by Dead Prez, The Roots, Ghostface Killah, Nas and Common, among others, due to troubles with customs and immigration officials. The main problem, he says, is the lack of consistency that arises when individual border guards are left to make decisions as to who enters the country. "Our border people have a terrible reputation internationally. Entertainers, anyway, consider Canada harder to get into than any country in the world," said Ramos, although he concedes, "it's gotten better. The profile of the average border guard has changed radically. There are now people of colour and females, when before it used to be, from my experience, a 45-year-old white guy who lived somewhere along the border. So whenever they saw anybody, some indie-rock dude with grimy hair who climbed out of a van, immediately they were, like: `Drugs.' Now we sometimes get people who say: `Hey, man, could I have your autograph.'" Derek Mellon, spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency, declined comment on the case but said officers "don't discriminate according to race or nationality or religion."

Lang Lang - Young Pianist Has Come Far

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(Jan. 13, 07)  LUCERNE–"You knew Glenn Gould? He's one of my idols, along with Rubinstein and Horowitz."
Lang Lang almost dropped his chopsticks. Almost, but not quite. The 24-year-old superstar pianist scheduled to appear in recital Jan. 26 at Roy Thomson Hall still had too much food on his plate to be entirely diverted from the task at hand. The restaurant outside Lucerne had stayed open specially to allow him to take in a late lunch. Glowing with pride, its owners personally attended to their celebrity guest, his mother and a visiting scribe from Toronto. They knew they were serving their homeland's greatest musical celebrity. Lang Lang doesn't spend much time in China these days. His North American base has been Philadelphia since his years as a scholarship student at the Curtis Institute of Music and he recently bought a condominium in Berlin as his European base of operations. But China recognizes that in musical terms, the little boy from Shenyang, whose parents endured poverty and separation to give him a musical education (beginning by spending half their yearly income to buy their 2-year-old son a piano) has become the symbol of the country's arrival on the international scene. The night before, he had given his debut recital at the prestigious Lucerne Festival: Piano 2006, following the sensational Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin and preceding the great Alfred Brendel.

It was a fascinating recital, demonstrating simultaneously how much he has matured and how far he still has to grow since I first heard him as a precocious teenager bring an entire audience to its feet with his Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto at the Ravinia Festival. Rachmaninov was once again on the program in Lucerne and the bravura manner in which he tossed off a couple of the Russian master's Preludes reinforced his reputation for owning 10 of the most formidable fingers on the planet. But so was Mozart, and the glib manner in which he tossed off the C Major Sonata, K.330 suggested how much more those fingers need to be guided by heart and brainpower. Lang Lang is now in the difficult stage of having established his "wow" persona without yet achieving the status of a fully formed artist. Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times greeted his Carnegie Hall debut recital as "often incoherent, self-indulgent and slam-bang crass," while his elderly fellow virtuoso, Earl Wild, has called him "the J-Lo of concert pianists." In person, he conforms to neither characterization. Boyish, friendly and enthusiastic, he readily acknowledges that he is still very much a student, eager to learn from distinguished predecessors. It was seeing Vladimir Horowitz on television, while still a pre-teen in Shenyang, that inspired his objective to become a piano virtuoso. It was working with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute that readied him to triumph at the Ravinia Festival. And it was Zarin Mehta, Ravinia's then director, who connected him with the musician he now identifies as his mentor, the pianist-conductor Daniel Barenboim. "He has made me a different pianist," Lang Lang insists. "We discuss philosophy, literature, not just music. He tells me about books to read, museums to visit. I have learned so much about life from him."

Lang Lang still routinely travels with one of his parents (who voluntarily separated for several years during his childhood so one could accompany him to school in Beijing while the other stayed home to earn money in Shenyang). Neither parent speaks much English but both appear to offer important emotional support. "My father is the hard one, who always makes me work harder," the pianist laughs. "My mother is the soft one who offers sympathy." Indeed, during our lunch together his mother kept busy replenishing his plate as well as mine. Unlike some of his colleagues, Lang Lang readily acknowledges listening to other pianists, particularly the great pianists of the past, Toronto's Glenn Gould among them. "Glenn Gould sounds like no one else," he says. "He is amazing. I don't try to imitate him or anyone else but he inspires me with his individuality." It is precisely this individuality, the sense of having a unique musical mind, a special sensitivity to phrasing and tone colour, that the young virtuoso has yet to develop. It is an individuality quite different from mere mannerism. Alfred Brendel embodied this kind of individuality in his masterful Lucerne recital of Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. Perhaps significantly, when he played, Lang Lang was sitting attentively in the audience. Lang Lang concluded his own recital with a series of encores of Chinese music, based on folk songs. They can be found on his new Deutsche Grammophon album, Dragon Songs, and represent an effort to introduce the music of his homeland to Western ears. He is also the featured artist on the soundtrack of The Painted Veil, a love story set in 1920s China based on the classic Somerset Maugham novel. Its score is nominated for a Golden Globe Award. When I reminded him of how many students of Chinese origin were already studying in Western conservatories he positively beamed: "You know Teng Li (the brilliant young principal violist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra)? We shared the same desk at the Beijing Conservatory. She was at Curtis too. A wonderful musician."

Hits From Matterhorn, Gyptian, Sean Paul And Cham Hailed By Rolling Stone And Vibe Magazines

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Jan. 11, 2007) *The prestigious urban music publication
Vibe magazine, has recognized Tony Matterhorn’s Dutty Wine, Baby Cham’s Ghetto Story and Gyptian’s Serious Times among its Top 60 best songs of 2006. The accolades were revealed in the publication’s January 2007 issue.   Dutty Wine was listed at number sixty, while Serious Times finished at number 21. Ghetto Story ended up at number seven. Another Jamaican also figured in the Top 60 best songs of 2006. Junior Reid is featured on rapper the Game’s Its Okay (One Blood) which ends the year at number eight. Iconic pop magazine Rolling Stones ranked Cham’s Ghetto Story at number 14 among its 100 Best Songs of 2006. The said of Ghetto Story, ‘This year’s ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ but darker, prettier, with descriptions of inner city struggle supposedly strong enough to keep it off the radio in Jamaica’.  Sean Paul’s Temperature ranked at number 81. ‘A sweaty sugar-shot hit anchored by the reggae-pop star’s zippiest beat yet’, the magazine said.

While the accolades for the songs are given by two of North America’s top music publications, its interesting to note that Gyptian’s Serious Times is the only song among the list that didn’t make strides on any of the major urban/pop charts in the US.  Commenting on the accolades from both publications, Cham enthusiastically said ‘It’s an honour to be recognized by these publications and it goes to show what hard work can deliver’. Asked what his best reflection of 2006 was, Cham said ‘Being recognized by these magazines’. Sean Paul said the acknowledgement has given him the urge to start working on his forthcoming album. ‘It’s a good feeling and this has given me the motivation to start working on my next album’, said Sean Paul. In 2006, Sean Paul, Tony Matterhorn, Busy Signal, Mavado, Beenie Man, Junior Reid and Cham registered hit singles on various mainstream charts in the US.

Rankins Mourn Death Of Sister

By Greg Guy -- Halifax Chronicle-Herald

(January 12, 2007) Tragedy has struck the Rankin Family just days before the Cape Breton entertainers were to begin a national reunion tour.  Their older sister Geraldine died Wednesday from a brain aneurysm at her home in Calgary. She would have been 50 this month.  "It is with great sadness that the Rankin Family announces the sudden passing of their sister Geraldine Coyne," said group publicist Marlene Palmer.  Geraldine is survived by her husband, Seamus, and two children, Kathleen, 10, and Frances, 6.  The funeral will be held Monday in Calgary.  Geraldine, along with her siblings Genevieve, David, John Morris and Raylene, formed the first Rankin Family in the 1970s, performing at local weddings and dances. As the older siblings went to college and university, the younger family members, Cookie, Heather and Jimmy, joined the group.  Tuesday will mark seven years since John Morris died after his vehicle hit a mound of road salt and plunged over an embankment into the water at Whale Cove, Inverness County.  The Rankin reunion tour was to begin at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, B.C., on Sunday and Monday.

"We have postponed the Nanaimo shows set for the 14th and 15th, but no decision has yet been made regarding when and where the tour will start up," Palmer said in an e-mail Thursday night on behalf of the Rankin Family and tour promoter Jeff Parry Promotions.  "We are working on rescheduling the affected shows and will advise in due course."  In November, the Rankins announced a 23-city, cross-Canada tour. Calgary promoter Parry approached the group last spring about a reunion show. The Mabou-born siblings agreed and John Morris's daughter Molly was invited to join the tour.  Nova Scotia stops are set for Feb. 9 at Sydney's Centre 200 and Feb. 10 at the Halifax Metro Centre.  On Tuesday, the Rankins released their latest CD, The Rankin Family: Reunion Exclusive Tour Edition. It was recorded in Nashville with Cookie's husband, Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer George Massenburg. Jimmy came up with some new songs for the project and also rediscovered songs written during his time with the group, like The Departing Song.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, family members headed to Calgary to be with Geraldine's family. Some of the tour's crew were already in British Columbia.  Besides her husband and children, Geraldine is survived by six sisters, Genevieve, Raylene, Carol Jean (Cookie), Heather, Nancy and Susan and four brothers, David, Paul, Ronnie and Jimmy.

Stellar Award Winners: Donald Lawrence Dominates The Stellars

Excerpt from

(January 16, 2007) The
22nd Annual Stellar Awards were held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, TN on Jan. 13. The electric trio of Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary and Tye Tribbett kept the atmosphere charged with numerous unplanned praise breaks and sermonettes.  Performances, from Patti LaBelle, Byron Cage (who opened the show), Ziel, The Caravans, Mary Mary, Myron Butler and Levi, Kirk Franklin featuring TobyMac (ex-DC Talk lead) and Tye Tribbett & G.A. were simply incredible!  Special awards were given to The Clark Sisters (recipients of the 2007 Most Notable Achievement Award, presented by singing legend Natalie Cole), Jackson Southernaires (2007 All-State James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Yolanda Adams) and Al Hobbs (special recognition for 50 years of service in the gospel industry). For the second consecutive year, Donald Lawrence bagged the most golden flame statuettes (8). Lawrence was presented the artist of the year award by big screen actors Gabrielle Union and Idris Alba who star in the upcoming Tyler Perry movie "Daddy's Girls."  Myron Butler and Levi and Tye Tribbett also carted off several Stellars. Mona Austin captured the big celebration live from the Stellar Award press room and will provide a pre-broadcast photographic tour of the event in the next EUR Report. The evening wrapped up with a star-studded performance by Bishop Paul Morton featuring Kurt Carr and Bartholomew.  Everyone waved white cloths in the air and swayed to the jubilant sounds of a live New Orleans second line band.


Donald Lawrence presents the Tri-City Singers
Finale:  Act One
I Will Bless the Lord
Issiah D. Thomas
Myron Butler
Set Me Free
Dorinda Clark-Cole
Live From Houston - The Rose of Gospel
Myron Butler & Levi
Set Me Free
Myron Butler & Levi
Set Me Free
Kirk Franklin
Donald Lawrence Presents
the Tri City Singers
Finale:  Act One
Donald Lawrence
Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri City Singers - Finale:  Act One
Myron Butler & Levi
Set Me Free
The Williams Brothers &
Their Superstar Friends-Soul Link Live 3
Soul Link Live 3-Man in the Mirror
Tye Tribbett, II
Kingdom University Presents TyeTribbett & G.A.
Victory LIVE!
Bishop G.E. Patterson
Bishop G. E. Patterson & Congregation
 Singing the Old Time Way Volume 2
CeCe Winans
Shirley Caeser
I Know the Truth
Donald Lawrence Presents
the Tri-City Singers - Finale:  Act One
Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers
Finale:  Act One
New Life Community Choir featuring
John P. Kee
The Reunion
Kingdom University Presents Tye Tribbett and G.A.  Victory LIVE!
Finale:  Act One
Limited Collector's Edition
Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers
Hezekiah Walker & LFC 20/85
The Experience
Donald Lawrence Presents
The Tri-City Singers - Finale:  Act One
Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers Finale:  Act One
With One Voice
Ramsey Lewis
Donald Lawrence Presents
The Tri-City Singers - Finale:  Act One - Limited Collector's Edition
Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers Finale:  Act One
Cross Movement Records Presents da' T.R.U.T.H.
da' T.R.U.T.H.
Children's Performance of the Year
Youth For Christ
The Struggle is Over
Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson & The Spiritual Voices
Just Being Me
Recorded Music Packaging of the Year
Philpott Design
Donald Lawrence Presents The Tri City Singers Finale:  Act One
Kevin Burroughs Neeley
A Perfect Praise "Ministering to the Lord" LIVE Volume III Live

Changes Looming For CBC Radio

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Jan. 16, 07)
CBC Radio Two will be playing more jazz and contemporary music, while Radio One is beefing up its arts programming. Those are some of the changes said to be in the works at the two national networks, as the CBC continues to revamp its radio programming. A detailed announcement to CBC staff about the programming changes is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Most of the changes are said to concern Radio Two. According to insiders, the broad plan is to create even more of a distinction between the two networks in the minds of listeners, with Radio Two as the home for the CBC's music programs and Radio One primarily as the place for news and talk. That's not to say Radio One won't have any music, one source said. But the idea is to create that clearer distinction. Rumours of a Radio Two revamp have percolated for months, especially after Radio One's lineup was adjusted in late 2005. The latest round of changes are seen as a continuation of that process.

However, the obvious question is what this means for Radio One's music shows.  The new emphasis at Radio One in late 2005 was on introducing more programming -- such as the music and pop-culture chat show Freestyle -- that audiences might listen to at work or during their busy afternoons. There was no confirmation from the CBC yesterday about the fate of Freestyle or other Radio One shows, other than an indication that Radio Two's changes may have a knock-on effect at Radio One. Also, word with CBC Radio is that the programming changes won't take place for another two months or so. Radio Two won't lose its emphasis on classical programming, insiders say. But there will probably be a broader feel to its range of music, which will include more jazz. Yet the network is already more varied than some may think. For instance, it plays jazz on the program Jazz Beat on Sunday evenings, as well as rock and new music on the acclaimed Radio 3 show Saturday nights and world music on Roots and Wings on Sunday afternoons. For many months, management has been asking staff for radio-programming and pilot ideas, and the CBC has had a formalized evaluation process in place, judging the pilot programs.


Music Stars To Pay Tribute To Joni Mitchell In Toronto

Source: Canadian Press

(Jan. 12, 07) Toronto — Singer-songwriter James Taylor, funk legend Chaka Kahn and jazz innovator Herbie Hancock are among the music stars who will pay tribute to
Joni Mitchell when she is inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Mitchell will also be honoured for writing five of the 25 songs that will enter the Hall of Fame at a gala Jan. 28 in Toronto. Taylor will sing Mitchell's song Woodstock, Kahn will perform Help Me, and soprano Measha Brueggergosman will put her spin on Both Sides Now. Others artists to be honoured are country pioneer Wilf Carter, lyricist Raymond Egan and Montreal chanteur Jean-Pierre Ferland. The gala will be broadcast on CBC Radio One and Radio Two on Jan. 29 and on CBC-TV on March 5.

Barenaked Ladies Show Their Support

Source: Canadian Press

(Jan. 12, 07) Toronto -- Deciding to support Canadian Olympians by donating a portion of the ticket proceeds from their coming tour to the
Own the Podium 2010 program was an easy choice for the Barenaked Ladies. "We've been proud supporters of Canadian athletes for a long time and we figured it was time to put our money where our mouths are," singer and guitarist Ed Robertson told a news conference yesterday. They'll hand over 50 cents from each ticket sold during their 19 stops across the country to Own the Podium, which is designed to help Canada finish first at the Vancouver Olympics.

Alice Coltrane, 69: Jazz Composer

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

Jan. 15, 2007) LOS ANGELES –
Alice Coltrane, a jazz performer and composer and wife of the late saxophone legend John Coltrane, has died. She was 69. Coltrane died Friday of respiratory failure at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, said her sister, Marilyn McLeod. For nearly 40 years, Coltrane managed the archive and estate of her husband, a pivotal figure in the history of jazz. He died of liver disease in 1967 at age 40. A pianist and organist, Alice Coltrane was noted for her astral compositions and for bringing the harp onto the jazz bandstand. Born Alice McLeod in Detroit on Aug. 27, 1937, she began learning classical piano at age 7. She studied jazz piano briefly in Paris before moving to New York, where she met her future husband in 1963. At that time, she was playing with bandleader Terry Gibbs, who has often taken credit for introducing the two. John Coltrane "saw something in her that was beautiful," Gibbs told the Los Angeles Times. She left Gibbs' band to marry Coltrane and began performing with his band in the mid-1960s. She played tour dates with Coltrane's group in San Francisco, New York and Tokyo. "John not only taught me how to explore but to play thoroughly and completely," Alice Coltrane said in comments published in ``The Black Giants.'' After his death, she devoted herself to raising their children but continued to play. Early albums under her name, including "A Monastic Trio" and ``Ptah, the El Daoud," received critical praise. Her last recording, "Translinear Light," came in 2004. Her last performances came in an abbreviated tour last fall with her saxophonist son, Ravi. Coltrane, a convert to Hinduism, was also a significant spiritual leader and founded the Vedantic Center, a spiritual commune now located in Agoura Hills.

Jazz Saxophonist Michael Brecker Dies

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail – Associated Press

(Jan. 15, 07) New York —
Michael Brecker, a versatile tenor saxophonist who won 11 Grammys over a career that spanned more than three decades, died Saturday at age 57. Brecker died in New York of leukemia, according to his agent and friend, Darryl Pitt. In recent years, he had struggled with myelodysplastic syndrome, a cancer in which the bone marrow stops producing enough healthy blood cells. Brecker's most recent recording, Wide Angles, appeared on many top jazz lists and won two Grammys in 2004. His technique on the tenor saxophone was widely emulated and taught. Jazziz magazine once called him "inarguably the most influential tenor stylist of the last 25 years."  Throughout his career, Brecker recorded and performed with some of the top names in jazz and pop, including Herbie Hancock, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell.

Nominees Named For 2007 Radio-Music Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Jan. 15, 07) Toronto — With a list of blossoming recording artists that includes Hamilton singer-songwriter Tomi Swick and former Canadian Idol contestant Rex Goudie, private radio touts the radio stars of the near future. The
Canadian Association of Broadcasters released its roll of nominees for the 2007 Canadian Radio Music Awards, to be presented at a gala in Toronto on March 12, as part of Canadian Music Week. Other nominated rookies include Toronto alternative-rock act Neverending White Lights and Montreal techno maestro DJ Champion.

Diana Ross To Mentor American Idol

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

Jan. 17, 2007) NEW YORK –
Diana Ross says she's a busy woman these days. So busy, in fact, that she hasn't had time to see the hit film Dreamgirls, which is loosely based on her life as a Motown starlet. The singer told CBS Late Show host David Letterman on Tuesday that she is going to be a mentor on Fox's American Idol and is planning a world tour in March to promote her new album, I Love You. Ross said she didn't see the musical version of Dreamgirls, either. When Letterman asked her if she was curious about the film, Ross joked: "Yes, I've heard a lot about it. I'm going to see it with my lawyers." The film, which won a Golden Globe for best musical or comedy at the awards show Monday, tells the story of a Motown trio similar to the Supremes and their rise to fame. Eddie Murphy won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor, and newcomer Jennifer Hudson, a former American Idol contestant, won for best supporting actress. Ross went on to say that she's heard there is a lot of her image and likeness in the movie. (Beyonce Knowles' character, Deena Jones, looks a lot like Ross during her early solo days.) "What I would like to do is to be able to see it," Ross said. "I like to inspire the talent that it is out there today."

The West Dominates This Year's Maple Blues Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Jan. 16, 07) Toronto — Western-Canadian blues artists dominated the
Maple Blues Awards, collecting half of 16 trophies up for grabs at the national awards at a ceremony in Toronto. Multiple prize-winners included Saskatchewan-born Suzie Vinnick (top bassist, female vocalist and songwriter) and Vancouver actor-musician Jim Byrnes (male vocalist and recording of the year, for the gospel-roots disc House of Refuge). Also part of the Western swing was Colin James, a veteran blues-rock crossover judged the electric act of the year.  Ottawa guitarist Sue Foley and Toronto harmonica-blower Carlos del Junco preserved their status as the country's best at their instruments, while blues institution Downchild Blues Band was endorsed as the genre's top entertainer. The nod for the top acoustic act went to New Brunswick trio Hot Toddy.



'Dreamgirls' Is Golden

Excerpt from

(January 16, 2007) *If you've already seen it, you can't be surprised at the wins for "Dreamgirls" at last night's Golden Globes Awards.  The acting honours (and congrats) for the flick went out to Eddie Murphy and big screen newcomer Jennifer Hudson.  Murphy took the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and Hudson snagged the statuette for Best Supporting Actress at the 64th annual Golden Globes. The two star in the musical “Dreamgirls.”  Of course we'd be on the late freight if we didn't acknowledge that "Dreamgirls" itself won the Golden Globe's Musical or Comedy motion picture category Additionally, Forest Whitaker took best actor as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."  With this win, Murphy has finally received a major film honour after 25 years in the business. The actor had been nominated for a Globe honour three times before. On the other hand, “Dreamgirls” marks Hudson’s film debut.  "I had always dreamed, but I never ever dreamed this big,” former “American Idol” finalist Hudson said. “This goes far beyond anything I could have ever imagined," said supporting-actress winner Hudson, who dedicated her award to Florence Ballard, one of the singers from the Supremes on which "Dreamgirls" is based.  "Wow. I'll be damned," said Murphy, upon accepting his award. With the Golden Globes considered the runner-up to the Academy Awards, the Oscar buzz is only getting louder for the young starlet.

As Hollywood's second-biggest film honours, the Globes are something of a dress rehearsal for the Oscars, whose nominations come out Jan. 23. The Oscar ceremony will be on Feb. 25. Nominations for the Oscars closed Saturday, so the outcome of the Globes cannot affect who gets nominated. The diss of the evening came from Justin Timberlake, who, in accepting the Best Original Song award on behalf of Prince for  His Royal Baddness' "Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet" (even though Prince himself can be seen sitting in the audience later in the show), bent his knees to speak UP into  the microphone, as if to feign being the height of the Minneapolis superstar.   See MORE photos from the Golden Globes at Nikki Dorsett's Players, Haters & Imitators blog HERE.  The complete list of winners at Monday's 64th annual Golden Globes presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in Beverly Hills:

Picture, Drama: _"Babel"
Actress, Drama: Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Actor, Drama: Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"
Picture, Musical or Comedy: "Dreamgirls"
Actress, Musical or Comedy: Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Actor, Musical or Comedy: Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Director: Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Movie Screenplay: Peter Morgan, "The Queen"
Foreign Language: "Letters From Iwo Jima," USA/Japan
Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, "The Painted Veil"
Original Song: "The Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet"
Animated Film: "Cars"

Series, Drama: "Grey's Anatomy," ABC
Actress, Drama: Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"
Actor, Drama: Hugh Laurie, "House"
Series, Musical or Comedy: "Ugly Betty," ABC
Actress, Musical or Comedy: America Ferrera, "Ugly Betty"
Actor, Musical or Comedy: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Miniseries or movie: "Elizabeth I," HBO
Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Helen Mirren, "Elizabeth I"
Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Bill Nighy, "Gideon's Daughter"
Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Emily Blunt, "Gideon's Daughter"
Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Jeremy Irons, "Elizabeth I"

Cecil B. DeMille Award: Warren Beatty

Actresses Take Globe Prizes As Royal Ruler, Hellish Boss, Ugly Duckling

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

Jan. 16, 2007) Two monarchs, a royal bitch and the divas of Dreamgirls: it was a regal night at the 64th annual
Golden Globes. Britain's Helen Mirren scored for both queen roles, at the Los Angeles dinner ceremony hosted by member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. As the reigning Elizabeth II in The Queen, Mirren surprised no one by taking the Globe for Best Dramatic Actress, Motion Picture, a prize she'll likely top next month with Best Actress at the Academy Awards. She dedicated her award to Elizabeth II, praising the Buckingham Palace occupant's "role of a lifetime" that began with her coronation in 1952. "I honestly feel this award belongs to her, because I think you fell in love with her, not with me." Earlier in the evening Mirren won for playing Elizabeth II's predecessor in the TV miniseries Elizabeth I, in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Made-for-TV Miniseries or Motion Picture. In that contest, she was competing against herself, among others, having also been nominated for her role as a savvy police sleuth in Prime Suspect: The Final Act.

The Queen also won for Best Screenplay for Peter Morgan's insightful script. But it lost the evening's biggest prize, for Best Dramatic Motion Picture. That golden bauble went to Babel, the sole trophy of the evening for Alejandro González Iñárritu's interwoven narratives of chance and destiny. Meryl Streep, who played the bitchy queen bee of The Devil Wears Prada, was the heavily forecast and highly popular pick for Best Performance by an Actress in a Movie Musical or Comedy. Taking the stage to Madonna's "Vogue," a tip to her ruthless fashion-editor character Miranda Priestly, Streep joked about how tough it was for her co-stars to work with her. "What a difficult, difficult job they had, making me seem monstrous!" A visibly moved Forest Whitaker prevailed as expected for The Last King of Scotland, taking the Globe for Best Dramatic Performance by an Actor for his portrayal of African despot Idi Amin.

The musical Dreamgirls was the night's most successful movie, taking three major awards: Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy; and both supporting actor awards. One of those went to former American Idol reject Jennifer Hudson, for her scene-stealing performance as difficult diva Effie White in Dreamgirls. "I have always dreamed, but never, ever this big," Hudson said, bursting into tears. She dedicated her award to Florence Ballard, the ousted member of the Supremes group whom her character was modelled on. Hudson's co-star Eddie Murphy made it a Dreamgirls matched set, winning for Best Supporting Actor. There was another royal winner in Mirren's Elizabeth I, as co-star Jeremy Irons claimed the prize for Best Performance by an Actor in a Made-for-TV Miniseries or Movie. He played Mirren's lover, the Earl of Leicester. "I just put my elbow on Helen's thigh and we had a relationship," he quipped. Martin Scorsese, crowned Best Director for The Departed, his multi-layered cops vs. crooks saga set in Boston, beat old rival Clint Eastwood, who had been doubly nominated in that category for his twinned World War II movies Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima.

Eastwood didn't go home empty-handed. He accepted the Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film for Letters From Iwo Jima, which is mostly in Japanese. The evening's well-lubricated festivities, often referred to as Hollywood's party of the year, included a tribute to the career of Warren Beatty as actor, director and producer (and winner of the Most Promising Newcomer award in 1962). He was feted in a tribute led by Tom Hanks, also an actor, director and producer. Beatty's rambling acceptance speech included his brief impersonation of Sacha Baron Cohen's clueless title star in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Not long after, Cohen himself accepted the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Movie Musical or Comedy. He began by wryly correcting Beatty's impersonation of Borat's cry of delight: "Warren, it's `Wa-wa-wee-wa!'"  Cohen called Borat "a life-changing experience" that showed him both the good and "ugly" side of America – the latter including the "golden globes" of his co-star Ken Davitian, whom he wrestled naked. There weren't too many human surprises last night, but some penguins may have been crying foul. Happy Feet, the cartoon musical about dancing Arctic birds, had been expected to fly in the new category of Best-Animated Film. But the prize went to Cars, setting the stage for a rematch at the Academy Awards on Feb. 25.

Kyra Sedgwick, winner for Best Dramatic Performance by a TV Actress for The Closer, walked to the stage as her husband Kevin Bacon beamed tearfully from the sidelines. It wasn't a golden evening for Canucks. Hugh Laurie aced Canada's popular 24 star Kiefer Sutherland in the category of Best Dramatic Performance by a TV Actor, winning for House M.D. Ugly was beautiful as the new TV series Ugly Betty prevailed over Desperate Housewives, a previous Globe favourite. Title star America Ferrera shed tears of joy as she accepted the award for Best TV Performance by an Actress, Musical or Comedy. The show also triumphed as Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy. Grey's Anatomy won for Best TV Series, Drama. Most truthful line of the evening had to be the quip by Britain's Bill Nighy, winner of the Best Performance by an Actor in a Made-for-TV Miniseries or Movie for his role in Gideon's Daughter. "I used to think prizes were damaging and divisive until I got one," he said. "And now I think they're meaningful and real."

Bollywood World Premiere Wows Toronto Fans

Source: Canadian Press, John Mckay

(Jan. 12, 2007) TORONTO — Forget Brangelina. Or TomKat. When it comes to Bollywood cinema, no screen couple is hotter than
Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. And Toronto's South Asian community was out in force Thursday evening for the world premiere of Guru, the pair's latest film. “Absolutely gorgeous. Both of them. Just stunning!” Arpana Vora declared with glee moments after the darling duo was whisked along the red carpet and into the screening. “They're the Brad Pitt and Angelina [Jolie] of the Indian community!” Rai, who wore a white sari, and Bachchan, who donned a black suit and headband, were several hours late for the gala because of flight schedules and didn't stop for questions. The delay only served to build momentum at the historic Elgin Theatre, where police estimated 1,200 fans had been standing and screaming on the sidewalk behind barriers for up to six hours. Another 1,200 or so filmgoers — some clad in vibrant Indian saris, ghagra cholis and salwar kameezes — were inside, along with international media outlets, many from India.

“We couldn't see her but we saw him and ... he looked so amazing!” said one fan who was amongst the dozens of ticket holders clogging theatre hallways and stairwells hoping to catch a glimpse. “He is so sexy. Sexy man!” she screamed. The producers chose Toronto for the premiere after an impressive response to another Bollywood film, Never Say Goodbye, at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The gala crowd far outnumbered that for Brad Pitt's film Babel. “The South Asian community is very important to our city and so is the film industry. Bollywood brings them together,” said Mayor David Miller as he walked into the screening. Miller also stopped to chat and rally up the giddy fans and stated with a smile, “I've never seen anything like the adulation tonight.” Producer Bobby Bedi ( Bandit Queen, Fire) said at the premiere he chose Toronto for his premiere because it “by far is one most cosmopolitan cities in the world.” Guru is loosely based on the life of a young man who rose from poverty in a small Indian village in the 1950s to defy the odds and become a major textile merchant. In the film version, the character of Gurukant Desai (Bachchan) employs unethical methods to achieve his materialistic goals but does what he has to do to crack a market firmly controlled by the rich and privileged. Rai — who has been described as giving Halle Berry strong competition for the unofficial title of most beautiful woman in the world — plays his wife Sujatha. “She was stunning. Stunning. Very beautiful,” said Adesh Vora after he caught a glimpse of Rai. Looking at his wife though, he hesitated to concur that Rai is the most beautiful woman on Earth. “My wife is number one,” he said.

Film Industry Flickers As Studio Closes

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Tim Lai

(Jan. 12, 2007) With the imminent closure of a long-time waterfront production facility, officials for Cinespace Studios remain silent on last-ditch proposals to the mayor's office to delay a notice to vacate.  Cinespace has been told by the Toronto Economic Development Corp. that it must leave 140,000 sq ft. of Queens Quay space known as MT28 by Feb. 21 so that waterfront revitalization can continue.  Cinespace hopes to hear back from the mayor's office by Monday, said spokesperson David Holmes. Until then, the company is staying tight-lipped The question of whether Cinespace received adequate notice has alarmed the city's already-anxious film industry, now in the fifth day of an actors' strike and coming off one of its worst years of production. Cinespace claims that it received notice to vacate in December, giving it less than two months. However, chief executive Jeff Steiner of TEDCO, the arm's-length government agency that owns the land, said the company has known for years that it would have to leave to make way for revitalization.  "Their lease was up in 2004 and they've known it can't be extended," said Steiner. "Over a year ago, we gave them written notice that they have to be out by the fall of 2006 ... (and then) by Feb. 21."

TEDCO and the Toronto's film commissioner's office have been working to find another location suitable for Cinespace. Steiner noted the studio apparently owns a piece of land.  Film commissioner Karen Thorne-Stone said the industry should get new life by year-end, when mega-studio Filmport is expected to be operational.  But the uncertainty about MT28 has caused unease in the film industry. Toronto-based producer Don Carmody said a $48 million (U.S.) police drama called Driver he planned to shoot at MT28 is now on hold. Last week, set builder Kirk Heney started a petition asking the mayor to delaying MT28's closing. The petition has drawn almost 5,000 names.

'Guru': Metaphor for India

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker


Starring Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. Directed by Mani Ratnam. In limited release.

(Jan. 12, 2007)  There is a lot to engage the eye and the ear in
Guru, a movie that its makers are predicting will be Bollywood's first crossover hit. The 2 1/2 hour epic, inspired by the biography of Dhirubhai Ambani, one of India's most successful industrialists, is a South Asian Citizen Kane only with a triumphant ending. Gurukant ("Guru") Desai, a failure in his headmaster father's eyes, leaves his village in Gujurat in 1951, forsaking education for a job in Turkey. In Istanbul he works his way up from a delivery boy to supervisor for Shell Oil, but he shows his defiance again by rejecting further promotion. He won't work for the white man, Gurukant says, and he returns to his village determined to start a business of his own.  With endless nerve and cunning, he secures a bride, Sujatha, as a means of acquiring a dowry to begin his textile business. With his brother-in-law as his partner and his equally determined wife at his side, Desai goes to Bombay, with nothing but two shirts to his name and the money he's ready to gamble on a venture manufacturing polyester clothing, an idea that no one else believes in.

Every time he has an obstacle thrown in his path by the clique that controls the Bombay business world, Desai is equal to the challenge, eventually breaking the licensing system that is central to the monopoly in the textile trade. Desai defies his father's warning not to dream: he dreams and he dreams big. Soon he is the "business king of India" controlling the massive Shakti corporation with its many factories and thousands of employees.  Success breeds envy and suspicion. It's never quite clear whether the business king's practices are criminal or not, and a former friend who runs a big newspaper sets out to expose him as a tax evader, smuggler and fraudster.  Desai defies the relentless reports of bribery and corruption simply by making more money. But finally the pressure becomes too much and Desai is felled by a stroke and partial paralysis. He's down, but he's by no means out.  Guru becomes a metaphor for India itself, its rise from colony to nationhood and more recent economic climb from Third World to First World status.  As the indomitable Desai, Abhishek Bachchan gives a powerful and mostly convincing performance beside the beautiful Aishwarya Rai, his faithful Sujatha. A.R. Rahman's soundtrack and some beautiful dance numbers save the movie from its preachy tendencies.

Future Of Film Is At Hand

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

(Jan. 12, 2007) My 14-year-old daughter Emily recently discovered Audrey Hepburn. She's been devouring Hepburn's films, plowing through my DVD collection for anything starring the late movie icon. She loves Breakfast at Tiffany's and Sabrina, of course, but she's even into duds like Paris When it Sizzles. Emily has become a true Audreyphile, but she says it's only natural: "Every girl loves Audrey Hepburn."  What's unusual about this adoration is that Emily has been watching all these films on her new video iPod, which she proudly bought with her own money. The screen is the size of a matchbook, which is very sharp but really doesn't do justice to Hepburn's doe-eyed beauty and it takes Emily hours to "rip" a DVD to convert a movie into the format the iPod plays. Emily could more easily get her Hepburn fix by watching films on any of the half-dozen computers and DVD players we have in the house – including the one in the basement that somebody stepped on, but which still works if you fiddle with it. She prefers the intimacy and novelty of watching Hepburn on her iPod, which she keeps in a pink case. Emily doesn't really care about the screen size, only the content. I'm quite sure she's not alone in this. I'm also convinced, more so than ever, that we are in the midst of a technological revolution that will change movies forever, for both good and ill. The day is rapidly approaching when it will be more of a novelty to go to see a movie at a theatre than to stay home and watch it on your iPod.

The announcement this week of Apple's new iPhone is the gong clang for anybody who still doubts this. The iPhone moniker is a branding strategy and doesn't do justice to what this gizmo will offer when it goes on sale in June in the U.S. (Canada could be months later).  The iPhone is an "insanely great" device, to use one of the favourite expressions of Apple boss Steve Jobs. It's a combination cellphone, widescreen iPod, BlackBerry and computer laptop rolled into one stylish handheld machine. Even if it proves to be only half as good as it looks, it's still going to be twice as good as any other device currently out there – and watch for the inevitable flood of copycats. What's most significant to moviegoers is the iPhone's potential as a portable theatre. You can turn the screen sideways and watch a film in its proper widescreen format, on a screen that by all accounts is extremely sharp. (You can see an example of it online at Here's what New York Times technology writer David Pogue wrote in his column yesterday about movies on the iPhone, which he's had a chance to hold in his hot little hands: "Movies are especially satisfying on this iPod. That's partly because of the wide-screen orientation, and partly because the screen is so much bigger (3.5 inches) and sharper (160 pixels per inch) than those on other iPods."

In other words, if Emily is happy now watching Audrey Hepburn on a matchbook-sized screen, she's going to be even happier doing it on an even bigger portable screen – and there will also be add-ons available to let you send an iPhone signal to a computer or TV screen. Many other people will be equally enchanted, including the adults who scoff at the idea of watching a movie on a handheld device. These would be many of the same adults, I'll wager, who declared the Internet to be a "fad" 10 years ago. The same people who asked me, when I bought the original iPod in 2001, "But why would you want to carry 1,000 songs in your pocket?" People have always had trouble seeing tomorrow's world in today's novelty. Henry Ford had to drive by many sceptics when he rolled his first Model T off the assembly line. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, still hears from grumps who are more upset with his bad grammar than they are impressed by his Earth-shaking vision. Everybody eventually comes around. The iPhone and its many imitators will profoundly change the experience of movie going, just as television and the VCR did. It will introduce an entirely new platform for viewing movies, one that young people like Emily will happily embrace – and the young are the most avid of all movie watchers. It won't be very long at all before you're able to watch first-run movies on an iPhone, the same day they are released to theatres.

On the up side, this innovation will create more cinephiles, just as the VCR allowed people to easily obtain and watch films by favourite directors and actors. On the down side, the iPhone will greatly reduce the need and desire to visit movie theatres for anything other than the grandest of blockbusters, and for those films there will be the home movie theatres that dads everywhere are happily setting up in their rec rooms. Cinemas will shrink and vanish, just as they have been in small towns everywhere in the past 20 years. Visit any cottage town north of Toronto, for example, and you're likely to find a movie theatre converted into a bingo hall or simply shuttered. The studios really have nobody to blame but themselves for this, if they even care. Too many movies these days come straight from TV shows, and they could just as easily be watched on a small screen. And the release of films to DVDs has been hastened so dramatically in the last few years, you no longer have to wait long to watch them in the comfort of your own home. Or your car, cottage dock or favourite coffee shop, in the case of the iPhone. The day of the portable movie theatre has finally dawned, and we'd better get used to the idea of the guy next to us at Tim Horton's watching The Pirates of the Caribbean while he eats his donut. More than ever, movies have become a part of our daily lives, whether we like it that way or not.

Depp To Make Film About Poisoned Russian Spy

Source: Associated Press

(Jan. 13, 07) LONDON —
Johnny Depp is making a film about a former Russian spy whose poisoning death in London has touched off an international mystery, the trade magazine Variety reported. Warner Bros. has bought the rights to a book about Alexander Litvinenko for Depp's production company, Infinitum Nihil, the paper reported Friday. Depp will produce the film and could star in it, the paper said. Warner Bros. is racing against Colombia Pictures, which has agreed to pay $1.5 million for the rights to another book being co-written by the former spy's widow Marina Litvinenko, and Alex Goldfarb, a close friend, Variety reported later on its Web site. The book is expected to be published in May by Simon & Schuster's Free Press imprint, the report said. Warner Bros. had tried unsuccessfully to buy the rights to the book by Litvinenko's widow, the report said. The studio has acquired the rights to a book by New York Times journalist Alan Cowell, which is expected to be published next year by Doubleday. Officials from both studios were not immediately available for comment. Mann is known for his crime sagas, including Collateral, Heat and Miami Vice, while Depp often takes on eccentric character roles in films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Neverlan” and Edward Scissorhands. The report said Columbia envisions an espionage thriller “exploring the collision between the deep rooted Russian power structure enforced by the KGB ... and the new wave of wild west capitalism” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Litvinenko died in November, several weeks after being poisoned by the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210. In a deathbed statement, Litvinenko blamed the Kremlin for his poisoning. Russian officials have denied that allegation. British and Russian authorities are both investigating his death. Litvinenko was an agent in the Russian Federal Security Service, the agency that replaced the KGB. After breaking with the agency he was granted asylum in Britain, where he became a fierce Kremlin critic and wrote a book claiming that the FSB had bombed apartment buildings in 1999 to blame the blasts on Chechen separatists and create a pretext for resuming the war in Chechnya. Litvinenko said he fell ill after meeting in London with an Italian security expert to discuss possible suspects in the killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya a month earlier. Politkovskaya was noted for her coverage of human rights abuses in Chechnya.

O'Toole Never Stopped Being A Leading Man

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(Jan. 13, 07) WASHINGTON–
Peter O'Toole's recent Golden Globe nomination for best actor in Venus caps a brilliant acting career and strongly suggests an eighth Oscar nomination. But his re-emergence as a leading man – at age 74 – also sends a defiant message: There's plenty of life in the old boy yet. As someone for whom the dawn of movies coincided with 1962's Lawrence of Arabia, I've revered him from an early age. But for almost as long, I've been fully expecting him to take his place on that Old Vic stage in the sky. To those who remember his wilder days, this seemingly macabre perspective will make sense. O'Toole legendarily caroused in the 1960s and 1970s with Omar Sharif (his co-star in Lawrence) and the two naughty Richards – Burton and Harris. That era of boozing when, as O'Toole once described it, "one went for a beer in Paris and woke up in Corsica," exacted its payment in 1974. Was it hard drinking or stomach cancer, or both, that led to surgery to remove parts of O'Toole's stomach and intestines? Accounts differ. But the ravages of alcohol were clear in that haggard, if still lively, face forever more. Watching O'Toole's slurry but spirited performance in Uncle Vanya on New York's Kennedy Center stage in 1978 – he was so exuberant, he projected arcs of saliva into the front rows – was enjoyable and unnerving. The eyes flashed as bright and blue as ever amid that luminously pallid face, and it seemed to me he was neither dead nor alive, but existentially animated. Grateful to have finally seen him in the flesh before he passed on, I mentally said goodbye.

But there I was, in a movie theatre in 1980, watching his comeback role in The Stunt Man. O'Toole was terrific, and received the sixth of his seven Oscar nominations. I caught him on television the following year, when he played a Roman general in the miniseries Masada. And he was back again for 1982's My Favorite Year, garnering his seventh nomination. As always, I enjoyed O'Toole's larger-than-life persona, his thunderous projection and that mischievous naughty-boy mien that marks every performance. But I also anticipated reading the final recap of his storied life soon thereafter, under some arresting image of O'Toole in Lawrence's kaffiyeh, glowing with beauty and youth. O'Toole was having none of this. He kept appearing and reappearing on screen, in memorable and not so memorable supporting roles. (Supergirl? Club Paradise? What's British for "oy"?) His best small turn: as the British tutor in 1987's The Last Emperor, in which he seemed to be a variation of Arthur Chipping, the schoolteacher he played so memorably in 1969's Goodbye, Mr. Chips. In this age of movies on demand, we can appreciate O'Toole's brilliance anytime. So here are some recommendations to launch you on that journey, in chronological order:

·  Lawrence of Arabia. Top of the list in every sense. He's the embodiment of beauty. Those eyes out-blue Sinatra's and Newman's, and in this epic drama, they portend military genius, moral ferment and quite possibly madness.

·  Becket, 1964. As a feverishly exasperated King Henry II, O'Toole's the one who yells the famous question: "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" He's talking about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, of course, played by his pubmate Richard Burton.

·  How to Steal a Million, 1966. Forget the bank heist plot in this romantic caper. Instead, enjoy two of the prettiest screen stars of all-time playing kissy-face: O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn.

·  The Night of the Generals, 1967. In this murder mystery set in World War II, O'Toole's role as a deranged Nazi officer gives the actor full licence to twitch, stammer and reel. Not to be missed.

·  The Lion in Winter, 1968. O'Toole is Henry II again, but this time he's even more outlandish – scheming, shrieking and squabbling with his headstrong wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, played by Katharine Hepburn, over which of his sons to appoint as his successor. One of those filial candidates is Richard, played by a very youthful Anthony Hopkins.

·  Goodbye, Mr. Chips, 1969. Perhaps Robert Donat's turn as Mr. Chipping in the 1939 version is the better, but O'Toole's schoolmaster is a charming, lovable goofball, whose adoration of the classics, his students and a young lady named Katherine Bridges, played by Petula Clark, draws tears every time.

·  The Ruling Class, 1972. O'Toole's the 14th Earl of Gurney, a demented Englishman who believes he's Jesus. How does he know, one woman asks. "Simple," replies the Earl. "When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself."

·  The Stunt Man, 1980. As flamboyant film director Eli Cross, who hires a fugitive from justice as his stuntman, O'Toole takes full command of his role and the movie. "If they touch my film," Eli says, referring to all studio executives daring to interfere, "I'll kill them. I'll kill them and I'll eat them."

·  My Favorite Year, 1982. O'Toole plays Alan Swann, a satirical version of his off-screen image, a former matinée idol and well-known drunk whose guest appearance in a 1950s-era live TV comedy show leads to predictable anxiety on the set. "He's plastered," complains one of the writers when Swann stumbles into a meeting room, completely inebriated. "So are some of the finest erections in Europe," Swann retorts.

Yes, that's nine. And, indeed, this list could also have contained the thoroughly enjoyable Lord Jim and Murphy's War. But the 10th and final spot belongs to Venus, which opens Friday. Watch that film, in which O'Toole plays an over-the-hill stage actor who falls in love with a teenaged girl, and you'll see why he will give Oscar front-runner Forest Whitaker – who plays Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland – a run for his money. And you'll also see why this fan has learned to give up the death watch and simply enjoy a great performer and survivor.

De Carlo Sank Her Teeth Into Munsters

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Bawden

(Jan. 12, 2007) "An average actor, poor dancer, so-so singer" is the way Canadian actress Yvonne De Carlo described herself. She burst onto the movie scene with the tag of "Most Beautiful Girl in the World," but steadfastly refused to believe her studio publicity. Audiences took to her for her joie de vivre and willingness to burlesque her own image. De Carlo died Monday at age 84 at the Motion Picture & Television Home in California. Following a 1998 stroke, poor health kept her inactive but she loved to read old movie magazines and plot her comeback. Her early life was one of grinding poverty. Her father deserted the family soon after she was born Peggy Middleton in Point Gray, B.C., on Sept. 1, 1922. At 17, Peggy was already in Hollywood with a contract at Paramount studios; she can be spotted as an extra in such pictures as So Proudly we Hail (1943). Producer Walter Wanger made her the lead in his costume picture Salome Where She Danced (1945); his studio, Universal, saw her as a replacement for rapidly failing star Maria Montez. She was sent to New York's John Robert Powers school for etiquette training and later recalled: "The big day came when the studio boss took me to dinner to see if I was fit to eat in public. I was so nervous I kept praying I wouldn't spill ketchup over his tie." Typecast in westerns, or "tinted turkeys" as she dubbed them, De Carlo quipped "I've broken in more actors, to use a phrase. I danced with this nice Italian boy in Criss Cross who stammered he couldn't act and dance at the same time – it was Tony Curtis. One guy delivered parcels to my house and next thing I'm starring in a movie with him: Rock Hudson."

Cecil B. DeMille was scouting for leads in The Ten Commandments (1956) by screening a Nina Foch picture Sombrero when he spotted and signed De Carlo as Sephora, Moses' wife. "De Mille was something else in his big boots and riding crop. But he had a sense of the ridiculous.... One day out in the desert, as the extras were milling about, De Mille snapped `What are they saying?' I told him `The slaves just want to know what's for lunch.' " Then came Band Of Angels (1957) with Clark Gable. "He knew how to kiss, that one. Not a measly peck on the cheek. I used to kid him about the crowds of women who'd even follow him to the portable washroom on location. He thought it was hilarious, saying he was just a big lug who'd gotten lucky." After her movie career fizzled, De Carlo joined The Munsters (1964-66) as Lily Munster, the delicious vampire who didn't look a day over 156. And she finally hit Broadway in the smash musical Follies (1971). "I auditioned for Stephen Sondheim and he wrote `I'm Still Here' for me, which became my theme song." In Toronto she played the Royal Alex in Cactus Flower, made several very bad Canadian-content movies and did cabaret. Always a big movie buff, she collected old movie magazines and watched classic films on TV. She once described her politics as "to the right of Big John Wayne." She enjoyed target shooting and boasted she could outdraw co-stars from Joel McCrea to Burt Lancaster.

She once drove through Univeral's back gates and when a guard asked what right she had to intrude, De Carlo snapped back: " `By helping to pay for half the soundstages around here, you young puppy dog.' He backed off and let me through." The day we lunched at the ultra-posh Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel, De Carlo roared up in her son's red roadster and raised a stink about her bad table. Another waiter changed it. "He said he remembered me as Lily Munster so here we are. I'm the one old broad the system hasn't destroyed. I refuse to be battered, to quote Stephen Sondheim `I'm Still Here.' "

'Stomp The Yard' Debuts At No. 1

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

Jan. 15, 2007) LOS ANGELES – The dance flick
Stomp the Yard was a step ahead of the competition at the box office, debuting as the No. 1 weekend movie with $22 million (all figures U.S.). Starring Columbus Short as a raw but talented dancer at the centre of a step competition between rival college fraternities, the Sony Screen Gems movie knocked off 20th Century-Fox's Night at the Museum, which had been the top film for three straight weekends. Night at the Museum slipped to second place with $17.1 million, raising its total to $185.8 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The weekend's other new movies had ho-hum debuts. Universal's youth drama Alpha Dog, featuring Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Justin Timberlake in a tale of drugs, kidnapping and murder, opened at No. 7 with $6.1 million.

Disney's Primeval, a thriller with Dominic Purcell and Orlando Jones as part of a news crew pursuing a serial killer, premiered at No. 8 with $6 million. Expanding to nationwide release after a limited run in December to qualify for the Academy Awards, Arthur and the Invisibles, a live-action and animated family film from the Weinstein Co. and MGM, was No. 9 with $4.3 million. Strong turnout by black movie-goers – who accounted for nearly two-thirds of the audience, according to Sony – pushed Stomp the Yard over the top. The movie followed in the footsteps of other black-themed films that debuted at No. 1 over previous Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekends, including Glory Road last year and Coach Carter in 2005. "Sony picked a great weekend to release the film," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. ``The urban audience wields a lot of clout at the box office. If you put a film in the marketplace that has that built-in appeal to that audience, look at the numbers. The numbers speak for themselves." Following are estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Tuesday.”

1. Stomp the Yard, $22 million.
2. Night at the Museum, $17.1 million.
3. The Pursuit of Happyness, $9.1 million.
4. Dreamgirls, $8.1 million.
5. Freedom Writers, $7.1 million.
6. Children of Men, $6.4 million.
7. Alpha Dog, $6.1 million.
8. Primeval, $6 million.
9. Arthur and the Invisibles, $4.3 million.
10. The Good Shepherd, $3.9 million.

Canucks To Invade Sundance Film Fest

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere

Jan. 15, 2007) There will be seven movies going to
Sundance Film Festival this year that have Canadian credentials – although some officially qualify as international co-productions. Still, it's a higher number than usual for the fest founded by actor-director Robert Redford, which opens Thursday and runs for 10 days with film screenings in Park City, Ogden, Sundance and Salt Lake City, Utah. The selections run the gamut from highly celebrated dramas (Sarah Polley's Away From Her), to formally arresting documentaries (Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes), to zombie cult comedies (Andrew Currie's Fido) and sundry distinctive shorts.  Polley's movie (featuring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent as a married couple coping with Alzheimer's) is likely to attract the most attention – primarily because, as an actor in previous Sundance entries, she's already something of a made festival star. But Baichwal's much-praised film about photographer Edward Burtynsky also looks like a likely splash. It's a combination of vibrant technique and environmental consciousness, and it seems ideally suited to both the political and cultural inclinations of the event. In both cases, the Sundance screenings will probably prove instrumental in determining future commercial opportunities in American and international markets.

The Canadian films and co-productions are programmed in four categories.

  Under Premieres are Polley's
· Away From Her and Ian Iqbal Rashid's How She Move.
  In the World Cinema Competition:
· Documentary category are Manufactured Landscapes, Shimon Dotan's Israel/Canada production, Hot House, and Petr Lom's Norwegian and Canadian co-production, On a Tightrope.
  The Park City and Midnight
· program is home to Fido and S. Wyeth Clarkson's Sk8 Life.
  Finally, there are three Canadian short
· films in the 2007 event: Jeffrey St. Jules's The Tragic Story of Nling, Steve Reinke's Ask the Insects, and Brian Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky's U.S.-Canada co-production, God Provides.

Sale Leaves Canadian Films In Limbo

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

(Jan. 17, 07) A group of independent Canadian filmmakers — frustrated because their movies aren't being released after
ThinkFilm was sold to an American — have retained lawyers to try to get their pictures out of the Toronto-based distributor's clutches. The filmmakers say the issue isn't just their movies aren't being seen, but government rules mean their funding could be in jeopardy. At risk are about 50 Canadian-made titles, including Michael Mabbott's Citizen Duane and Everything's Gone Green from director Paul Fox and writer Douglas Coupland — films that basically have been left in distribution limbo since ThinkFilm was sold last October to Los Angeles entrepreneur and producer David Bergstein. “I've written four letters to ThinkFilm demanding they release their distribution agreements to Canadian filmmakers/producers since ThinkFilm is no longer Canadian-owned,” said David Steinberg, a partner at Heenan Blaikie. “I'm not feeling all that confident right now because there has been no [formal] response.” His firm represents three producers, Darius Films Inc. (with two ThinkFilm titles, Hank and Mike and Weirdsville), Alchemist Entertainment ( King of Sorrow) and a third, unnamed client. On Saltspring Island, B.C., True West Films founder Elizabeth Yake has also sought legal counsel to figure out how to get back the distribution rights to her buzzed-about comedy, Everything's Gone Green.

What's gone awry at ThinkFilm — and got the producers' collective back up — is the fact that it is now a U.S.-owned company, which means it cannot, under Canadian law, distribute domestic titles here. When ThinkFilm was sold in October, company president Jeff Sackman anticipated that he would sell off his Canadian titles in a month. The deal never materialized. It's now almost February, and still there is no word on what will happen with ThinkFilm's Canadian library.  “Producers are afraid of suffering significant financial damage by losing their Canadian content certification,” Steinberg said yesterday. “The producers have been stuck in a holding pattern. When ThinkFilm was sold to a foreign buyer, they were assured it would all work out, that they wouldn't get screwed here. But now, time is becoming an issue, and they're still stuck. People are getting more worried and nervous every day that goes by.” The Canadian-content certification is required before filmmakers get lucrative tax credits and bridge financing from banks.  Toronto producer Nicholas Tabarrok, whose Darius Films has Weirdsville (finished and screening at Slam Dance Film Festival in Park City, Utah) and Hank and Mike (just being prepped) on the hook at ThinkFilm, says a clawback on tax credits and other bridge financing “would be a huge financial hit for me — many times over.” Then he adds, “But I can't see ThinkFilm letting it go that far. “I couldn't make either film without Telefilm or tax credits. I'm dealing with ThinkFilm employees here in Toronto who are trying their best. I assume [Bergstein] has to be aware, [but] being American he has no vested interest in the Canadian industry, so I suppose that's not his highest priority.”

The situation at ThinkFilm means Everything's Gone Green probably won't now have distribution in Canada. “It's too late,” explains Yake, who says no Canadian distributor could ramp up fast enough to meet the film's U.S. distribution debut, earmarked for early spring. “So here we are, sitting ready to release our film on April 13, and the film's not going to be released here in Canada. So we lose that critical mass of publicity from the press machine,” said Yake, who signed in the States with distributor Independent Pictures ( The Blair Witch Project) and also secured a movie soundtrack with Lakeshore Records ( Little Miss Sunshine and Mr. & Mrs. Smith). “It's just a pity. We're proud we're the first Canadian picture that Lakeshore has picked up for a soundtrack. It's all Canadian. And the Canadian-distribution component is missing. It's a letdown. It would have been really great if we had had the opportunity to do a little damage control before everything came down.” In November, Sackman told the entertainment trade publication Playback: “Somehow or other we'll work in conjunction with the producers to make sure that everything that's required [to get these films released] will occur.” Yesterday, he did not return calls. Any Canadian film (whether released or not) is at risk of losing its Canadian certification. In the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office's producer-control guidelines, it is specified that the Canadian distribution rights must be owned and controlled by a Canadian-controlled company for 25 years (from the time the production has been completed). Therefore, any Canadian-content film could be affected by the sale of ThinkFilm to an American owner.

And Telefilm, which has roughly a dozen titles under the ThinkFilm banner, is not too happy, either. Dan Lyon, Telefilm's feature film unit director, said the longer the issue “is unresolved, the more likely it is that Telefilm and other government agencies, as well as banks, will be forced to take action.” Lyon quickly adds that it's the last thing Telefilm wants to do. “We will try to avoid disaster situations ... but there are a whole bunch of regulatory requirements that are in jeopardy here,” he says. “We have to figure out something to do. We don't want to put any producers into default. We'll work long and hard to find other alternatives before that has to kick in.” (All Canadian Feature Film Fund money is premised on films being produced and distributed by Canadian distributors within 24 months.) ThinkFilm was actively seeking a buyer since last spring. And several home-grown distributors were interested in the Canadian library, including Toronto's Maple Pictures, Montreal's TVA Films. But ThinkFilm's focus of late seems to be on the high-profile acquisition of worldwide rights to documentaries such as War/Dance and Zoo, both premiering at 2007's Sundance Festival this week. A few years ago, ThinkFilm won an Oscar for Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids, and was again nominated for an Oscar for Murderball. Recently, the company has also been basking in praise over its film Half Nelson.


U.S. Producers Issue Warning About ACTRA Strike

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Jan. 15, 07) Toronto — The ongoing actors' strike in Canada "could potentially have a devastating and long-term impact on production," an American producers' association says. Continuing a war of words linked to the
ACTRA strike, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said in a statement that the strike poses "a lost opportunity" for the Canadian industry. Yet ACTRA reported late last week that it is still receiving letters of continuation from productions in Canada, some to begin filming as far as a month from now.  These letters have prevented work stoppages or picket lines since the strike began last week. Meanwhile, ACTRA says it will not disrupt the Feb. 13 Genie Awards.  Although the union is considering having actors comment on the dispute when presenting and receiving awards.



Reality Show Seeks Aspiring Canadian Filmmakers

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

Jan. 15, 2007)  LAS VEGAS – CTV has signed on as the Canadian broadcast partner of a new U.S. reality series from Hollywood powerhouses Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg.
On The Lot, a show about the search for the next great filmmaker, will feature aspiring filmmakers, including those from Canada, interested in winning a $1 million development deal with Spielberg's DreamWorks Studios. Susanne Boyce, CTV president of programming, made the announcement Monday at a meeting of the National Association of Television Programming Executives in Las Vegas. As of Monday, short films can be submitted as entry into the first part of the competition at To enter, applicants 13 years of age and older must submit a self-directed short film, up to five minutes in length, before Friday, Feb. 16. Producers will then visit Toronto in March for an invite-only casting call for Canadian competitors. On the Lot airs on Fox in the U.S. and will debut this spring. Each week over the course of the summer, 16 filmmakers selected from applicants from around the world will produce short films in every genre. Viewers will vote on the productions and eliminate one filmmaker every week. The last filmmaker standing will take home the deal with Dreamworks.

Both Burnett and Spielberg had kind words for Canadian filmmakers in a statement on Monday. "Canadians have a great track record of competing with the best from around the world, both on reality TV and otherwise," said Burnett. "We look forward to seeing what Canada has to offer." Added Spielberg: "From Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner to Norman Jewison and David Cronenberg, Canada has produced some great movie-makers over the years. On The Lot could be the big break that the next great Canadian filmmaker is looking for."

Snoop, Spike TV Team For Documentary

Excerpt from

(January 16, 2007) *Snoop Dogg has joined forces with documentary director Gabriel London, Oscar nominated filmmaker Jonathan Stack and Spike TV to make a candid show about youth crime and prison entitled "Bigg Snoop Dogg's Youth Authority: California," set to air tomorrow night (Jan. 16) at 11 p.m.   According to a press release, Snoop came up with the idea in an effort to help troubled kids and offer a way out of gang life. Snoop himself is a product of California's notorious "Youth Authority," which in recent years has come under court order for abusing and failing to rehabilitate youth.    In "Bigg Snoop Dogg's Youth Authority: California," Snoop Dogg tells of his own life experiences with gang life and dealing drugs. The show interweaves Snoop's past stories and experiences from over a decade ago, with trials and tribulations of youth today, who remain caught in the streets-to-prison cycle.    Snoop's reasons for creating the show are explained while the rapper is driving through his old Long Beach neighbourhood. "Can we have peace? That's what I am feeling like as I get older. I feel like I gotta go back and do it because there's a youngster out there -- and I can help him," says Snoop.

During one touching moment in the program Snoop meets a 12 year old who they call "Lil' Tookie," named after famous Crip founder, Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Lil' Tookie who has a talent for dancing (or "krumping") is shown getting embraced by Snoop, who encourages him to stay on the right path.   He asks Lil' Tookie if he has ever been to jail. Once the youngster shakes his head no, Snoop says, "You're too cool for jail. Jail ain't for cool people, I went to jail, it ain't for me. Since you've never been, don't go. That's my advice to you."

Courteney Cox Wallows In Dirt

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Andrew Ryan

(Jan. 12, 2007) PASADENA, CALIF. — Sometimes the irony shrieks loudly in the land of dreams:
Courteney Cox was trying to get to her press conference to promote Dirt, a hot new cable series that takes dead aim at the tabloid press and paparazzi. Four fidgety publicists and a security team flanked the gamine former Friends star as she marched purposefully through the lobby of Pasadena's Ritz-Carlton Hotel, wiry little legs pumping. The route to the press area took the Cox caravan directly past the hotel's side entrance where the French doors were chocked wide open; more than two dozen photographers hovered outside, knowingly, cameras poised. A few stood on chairs. As a pack, and as if on cue, the frantic group screamed, "Courteney! Courteney!"  Cox put on the brakes, a publicist dropped her cellphone and the suddenly beaming star agreed to strike a pose. "Just a couple, okay, guys? I'm really late." Briefly the world turned white with flash-bulb strobes and camera shutters, and then Cox's anxious handlers hustled her off. By the time her session started, 10 minutes later, the photographers had already uploaded the pictures onto their laptops and presumably sent them to wire services -- coming to a supermarket checkout near you next week.

Actors have to play the paparazzi game in Hollywood, but Cox has bitten back with Dirt. The raw-comedy drama is the most buzz-worthy new series thus far on the midwinter TV Critics Tour, and Cox is undeniably the biggest star to make an appearance. The photographers disappeared once she left. Dirt has garnered middling reviews but enormous ratings since its debut on the U.S. cable outlet FX two weeks ago. According to an FX spokesperson, a deal with a Canadian broadcaster will be announced next week. Cox is executive producer of the contentious series, along with her actor husband, the less-famous David Arquette, and assumes the central role of Lucy Spiller, ruthless editor of a scurrilous tabloid rag named Dirt. Lucy is a terrible woman, working in a dirty business. In the first few shows, Lucy tricks an actor friend into betraying his successful actress girlfriend and bribes an A-list celebrity's baby nurse to hold the child up to a window -- in order to get the first picture. "Some of the situations seem extreme, but we all know those things happen," says Cox, looking more relaxed but still very serious during the press conference. "There are so many magazines out there now, the competition is so great. I know that's what they're doing for a living and they're paying their bills. It's just some of them go a bit too far to get their pictures or stories. It becomes a frenzy." Everyone working at the fictional Dirt is equally unpleasant. Cox's top shooter is Don Kinney, played by British actor Ian Hart. He's a certified schizophrenic off his medication but still quite capable of hiding in bushes to get a precious shot. Celebrities are captured at their worst, stories are fabricated, lives are ruined.

There's no doubt Dirt involves some manner of payback for Cox, who has been hounded by paparazzi since Friends lifted off to global success. Cox's incentive to produce Dirt dates back to the final days of Friends, when she was pregnant with her daughter, Coco. The paparazzi intrusion suddenly redoubled and photographers were hanging from trees to take her picture. "It was too much, way too much," she says. "I don't mind having my picture taken most of the time, but I was furious. I suppose it was some kind of motherly instinct thing kicking in, but that was my limit. That's when this show began to sound like a good idea." Even now, four years removed from the departure of Friends, the paparazzi stalk Cox. They follow her family on outings to Disneyland, to the beach, to the local market near their Malibu homestead. "You cannot go there and not be attacked by photographers," she says. Cox seems accustomed, if weary, to the public exposure. "It was the same thing on Friends," she sighs. "Each of us was taken down in the tabloids at some point for being too thin. And you know what, we all change at different parts of our life. Sometimes we're stressed out and we get thin, but there was so much emphasis placed on it at the time. It was ridiculous, really." Still midway through shooting its first season, Dirt has already adopted an Entourage-like technique of cameo celebrity appearances. So far, Paul Reubens, a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman, and actor Vincent Gallo have dropped in. The bigger news: Cox's close friend Jennifer Aniston -- another Friends fixture who's certainly no stranger to the paparazzi's glare -- is likely to appear as herself. "Jennifer loves the show, and no one's better with one-liners. She always cracks me up, and my friend Laura Dern really wants to appear. A lot of our friends want to do a guest spot. It's going to be interesting." Cox was quite willing to talk about Dirt and life in the celebrity spotlight all day with the press, but a publicist began tugging at her sleeve to get her to the limo. The tiny star ignored the request three times, and finally began to leave, then abruptly darted back. "Wait, wait, wait," she told the publicist before turning to the small group of remaining reporters. "You guys all got enough, right?" And then Courteney Cox went out to face the flashing cameras.

The Hit Show Deal Or No Deal Starts Next Month In Canada

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Ian Brown

(Jan. 13, 07) TORONTO — You know what? A lot of girls say you know what. Anna Aragona says it whenever she looks around at the 700 women behind her, all as eager as she is to be cast as a bombshell briefcase babe on the TV game show
Deal or No Deal. It's so cold and damp outside the Royal York Fairmont Hotel where the auditions are taking place in downtown Toronto, women like Anna, who wore their strappy high heels, are rubbing their toes up and down their calves fast enough to start a fire. Anna's third in line. She's been here since 5:30 a.m. She's right behind Nicole and Danielle Newman, sisters who flew in from Scotch Lake, N.B., which is somewhere near Fredericton. Anna's a knockout too, but she has two problems: She's 35 years old, and she's 5 foot 1. Casting managers from the show have been patrolling the line for an hour, bellowing “If you're under 5 foot 7 in your bare feet, you are wasting your time.” “In all honesty,” Anna is saying, “I think my chances are slim. I mean, they're choosing one girl from all these that are here. But you know what? I came, I've been here since five o'clock this morning, so I'm not leaving.” Seldom have so many hoped so hard for something so unlikely — the definition of the modern longing to be famous on TV. Today is the last day of the five-city Deal or No Deal Model Search. One woman will be selected for a handful of episodes to be broadcast exclusively in Canada next month.

The girls are auditioning to be “case babes.” They have to be “physically able to walk up and down stairs in time to music and carry a briefcase.” Beyond that, “hopefuls planning to audition should possess a winning combination of natural charisma, wit, warmth and enthusiasm” — what John Brunton, the executive producer of Insight Production, the company that's putting the Canadian Deal or No Deal shows together for Global Television, calls “sparkle.”  Sparkle is hard to define, but “you know it when you see it.” Mr. Brunton also produces Canadian Idol and the surprise hit Falcon Beach. He knows what works on TV. But he also knows it's a mystery. Deal or No Deal, as anyone who has been semiconscious for the past year knows, is the hit game show hosted by Howie Mandel, the germophobic Canadian comedian. (He never shakes a contestant's hand.) The game has brought Mr. Mandel's career back from the dead (he was Dr. Wayne Fiscus on St. Elsewhere in the eighties), and is NBC's No. 1 show. It seduces 15 to 18 million viewers a week in the United States and about another 1.7 million in Canada. The girls are finally let into the hotel at 8 a.m. Its grand ballroom is instantly transformed into a gigantic women's changing room. Everywhere you look there are billowing breasts and boffo bouffants and eyelashes like fences and two-yard-long legs and winking rhinestones and tottering heels and cutouts and hip wraps and bra straps and bursts of colour and tans as deep as some of the cleavage.

A man could hurt himself in here. There are women from Toronto and Sudbury and Ottawa and Windsor and Scarborough and Grimsby and Winona and everywhere else — students and dental technicians and hairdressers and comptrollers and schoolteachers and receptionists. What there isn't, anywhere, is any visible shame, even though, with all the flesh and skimpy dresses on display, this could easily be a convention of high-end hookers. “What percentage of these women are strippers?” someone asks the height-chart girls. The height-chart girls ignore the question. They're too busy making sure the girls are 5 foot 7. A gorgeous girl named Sahar Biniaz, a Vancouverite who flew to Toronto from Rome just for this audition, is trying not to look like she's standing on her toes. She tries three times. “No,” says a manager from Global. “She's five-six.” “Let her in, let her in,” says a TV cameraman who has been following Sahar's story. He doesn't want to waste his footage. “She's the prettiest girl here,” says someone else. It's almost true: Sahar is fresh and pert and thin and busty in a sporty green smock from Milan, exotically dark and gorgeous, 50,000-watt smile, the daughter of Iranians.  The manager studies Sahar. The manager knows TV, too. She knows an Iranian might work in the show's ethnic mix. “Hey, you know what?” the manager says. “You're in.”

Deal or No Deal is a simple concept. It requires no skill. A contestant picks silver briefcases held by 26 bombshell models in skyscraper heels and dresses smaller than an afterthought.  Each briefcase contains a sum of money between one cent and a million smackers. The drama occurs when contestants turn down small fortunes on microscopic odds that they will win more. Watching Deal or No Deal is like watching people make terrible, terrible life decisions over and over again, even though they are surrounded by babelicious dames. It doesn't seem fair.  A big part of the show's success, Mr. Brunton feels, is Mr. Mandel, who seems uncannily suited to his Mephistophelean role as chief tempter and chider of the greedy. But an equally important feature is the case girls and their full-on brassy shamelessness, which give the show an oddly dynamic wow. “I don't know if you're into big college marching bands, but I am,” Mr. Brunton says. “And the first time I saw the Musical Ride, the Mountie ride on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, I had the same feeling. There's something like that about these girls.” At the moment Mr. Brunton is sipping a coffee, watching girls strut by to see if he can spot the mysterious “it.” He's waiting for the auditions to begin. “We had a transvestite in Montreal,” he says. “And it looked like his breasts were made of aluminum. You could see his package. He didn't make it — unfortunately, he was too short.” Equally surprising was the discovery that “the women have been very different from region to region. This sounds crazy, but in Calgary we had a lot of girls who were ranchers' daughters. There was a whole girl-next-door thing, outdoor girls.” In Montreal, on the other hand, they were indoor types — women so urbane and sophisticated, it was as if “their exposure to sensuality and sexuality was passed down through generations.”

And Winnipeg? In Winnipeg they were hood-of-the-car girls. “There's an interesting thing in Winnipeg: It's got a muscle-car culture. California is the centre of hotrod culture, and Winnipeg is one of the centres of muscle-car culture. You obviously have to be careful not to stereotype people anywhere. But there was a kind of car-culture girl, the at-the-hockey-rink girl, in Winnipeg.” Needless to say, Winnipeg's girl is “absolutely gorgeous.” But some women badly misjudge TV's demanding requirements. “We've had some women who come out who've seen a bit of road,” Mr. Brunton admits. “We've had some models, it's like — ‘Mom! How come you came out? You should be at home playing bridge.' ” Many of those women get “pre-interviewed” by crew members from Global in a small room across from the main audition hall. They're essentially culling the herd of contestants such as Daina Barbeau. Daina works at “massage and aesthetics” for a living. She left Sudbury at midnight and drove all night to get to the hotel by 6 this morning. She grabbed a shower at a truck stop on the way.  “I'm asking the girl in Tim Hortons to do the back of my dress up!” She came because she had a dream about the contest. “In the dream I was on Global TV, and doing very well, and also flying.”  She's fit, toned, attractive, with lots of blond hair. But she looks older than her 27 years, and her features are a bit blunt for perfect TV babedom. The cullers have spotted her. “Showing up is 90 per cent,” she insists. Ten minutes later, she's on her way home, a long, fast fall. “You know what?” a girl named Jeanette says. “When it comes down to it, you either have it or you don't. They want you or they don't.”

When the auditions finally start, they're music-video quick. In the judging room, six girls at a time are put through a three-part audition.  They have to say who they are and why they want the job.  They have to mount three steps, briefcase in hand, strike a pose, and walk down three more steps. They have to play “the case game,” in which they open their case, peek at the number, and express Sadness or Glee. “Big smiles, ladies,” Mr. Brunton says, just before the Deal or No Deal music beeps out of a portable boombox. “And remember, you're also kind of grooving to our music. So you need charisma.” The girls do the walk, then they do it again. The most excruciating part is the case bit: They fumble the locks but try to look natural. There's so much ham in the room someone could have a picnic. In the course of nearly 50 auditions, precisely three women have what Mr. Brunton is looking for. You can see the quality the moment Alice Panikian appears — six feet tall in her bare feet, magnetic beauty, a huge head on a body that could cause global warming all on its own.  And who is Alice? She was Canada's entry in last year's Miss Universe pageant. She is not a conversationalist. If you ask her why she's here, she says, “I really don't know anything. They just told me to come see the casting director.” But when the camera clicks on, Alice pops. She displays the mysterious thing — the injustice of the physical, the unfairness that keeps us in thrall. “Alice can move,” Mr. Brunton says after Alice leaves the room. “She has a great reaction as well. I liked the way the girl at the other end moved, but I don't think she's quite cute enough. She had some idiosyncrasies.” What was it Anna said, out on the cold street? You know what? You never know. Except, of course, when you do.

An Explosive Return To TV

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jan. 13, 07) PASADENA, Calif.–The thumping, metallic beep; the flickering digital clock: "Previously on 24 ..." Nine months ago – 20 months,
24 time – we watched Jack Bauer sail off into the sunset, shackled to a chair on a slow boat to China, enduring with his usual stoic resolve vicious, merciless, relentless torture, and the knowledge that he had been given up and abandoned by the country he had so long so selflessly served. All in a day's work for Kiefer Sutherland's terrorist-hunting hero. And another day is about to begin. The unprecedented "real time" thriller returns for its sixth hit season tomorrow, playing out its first four action-packed hours in two-hour chunks tomorrow and Monday nights (8 to 10 p.m. on Fox and Global) before settling back into its now familiar hour-a-week format over the next consecutive 20 weeks. There is only so much I am allowed to tell you about the events of the upcoming season. There is only so much you want to know. Suffice it to say, the terrorist world has not been idle during Jack's enforced absence – we are abruptly dropped right into the middle of a rash of co-ordinated attacks on major U.S. centres that has been escalating for almost a year. The level of jeopardy has never been higher in the series' five eventful seasons. And yet there is much here that is oddly familiar...

Following the disastrous, duplicitous presidency of Charles Logan (a deliciously Nixonesque Gregory Itzin), there is now yet another Palmer in the White House – the slain former president's younger brother, Wayne (DB Woodside) – though Logan and his indomitable former First Lady (Jean Smart) are confirmed for an unspecified return appearance this year. Meanwhile, back at the CTU (the L.A.-based Counter Terrorism Unit): With last season's fatality fest having just about killed off everyone we used to know, the haggard faces of surviving stalwarts Bill Buchanan and Chloe O'Brian (James Morrison and Mary Lynn Rajskub) are a welcome sight indeed ... as is the returning Milo Pressman (Eric Balfour), a young veteran from 24's very first season. But they're not the really oddly familiar part ... Isn't that the Great Canadian Food Show guy bickering between Chloe and Milo?  Yes, of course, that's Carlo Rota, the British-born Toronto actor – Traders, Nikita, Queer as Folk, At the Hotel, and also now the new CBC sitcom hit, Little Mosque on the Prairie – introduced on 24 last season as Chloe's arrogant genius ex, Morris, and back this year to chafe at Milo's newfound authority. No surprise there. That comes in Hour Three, airing first on Monday night. Not to give too much away (I am being very careful here), but a new villain is introduced at that point who may very well succeed where every other ruthless terrorist, traitor, lunatic and megalomaniac in the five previous seasons of 24 has abjectly failed ... possibly the single greatest, most potent threat in the series' entire heightened history.

Shaun Majumder. Yes, that Shaun Majumder. Just for Laughs. Hatching, Matching & Dispatching. This Hour Has 22 Minutes ... From 22 Minutes to 24 – a much bigger leap than the math makes it sound. Although Majumder himself had jokingly suggested something along these lines back in 2004, when he interviewed Sutherland about grandfather Tommy Douglas for the Greatest Canadian specials.  "We were doing a bit," the actor/comedian wryly recalls, "where I pull Kiefer aside and say, `You know, I'm on a show called 22, and you're on a show called 24 ... we should get together and do a show called 23 1/2.' And then he just shoots me a look, shakes his head and walks away. "This is my revenge." We will leave the specifics of that revenge for you to discover Monday night. The point is, how does a transplanted Newfoundlander known primarily if not exclusively for his stand-up and sketch comedy find himself in the very dramatic position of challenging the estimable Jack Bauer on his own turf?  The question actually answers itself.

Though he continues to work in Canada, Majumder has spent the last five years establishing himself here in L.A. – originally as an ensemble sketch player on the short-lived 2002 Fox comedy/variety show, Cedric the Entertainer Presents.  It was a recent audition for yet another Fox comedy pilot that led to the unexpected 24 windfall. "I got called in to audition for a pilot presentation – it wasn't even a full pilot – for a new Fox comedy show that was going to be like a right-wing version of The Daily Show," Majumder explains. "I didn't want to go. I was like, `I don't want to do this.' But I went in anyway. "So I'm improvising in this room with the casting person, and there are three producers there – I didn't know who they were. And as I'm walking out, one of them comes up and asks me, `Would you play a terrorist?' "I'm thinking it's for this right-wing comedy show. And the last thing I want to do is put on a turban and play `Osama Bin Johnson' on this thing, you know? But he says, `No, no – I may have something for you on 24.'" Turns out he was talking to Joel Surnow, one of 24's originating executive producers (and interestingly, an avowed Rush Limbaugh fan – thus perhaps explaining the right-wing comedy connection).

In a further odd coincidence, the 24 role Majumder originally read for went to his friend Kal Penn, the Indian American actor with whom he appeared in the cult comedy feature Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, as well as an unsold NBC sitcom pilot called Nearly Nirvana. Having apparently run out of Scary Brown Guys to cast as terrorists – and let's face it, the show has burned through an awful lot of them – the 24 casting department has had to widen its net to include ethnic actors with more eclectic backgrounds. (In addition to the more comedically inclined Penn and Majumder, this season quite significantly features the Sudanese English actor Alexander Siddig, who despite his stellar feature work in Syriana and Kingdom of Heaven will be remembered primarily as Dr. Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.) But then, it's always been easier for the comedian to play drama than it is the other way around.  "Comedy is so much harder," agrees Majumder. "With drama, you've just got to show up and be honest. With comedy, you've got to show up, be honest, be on your beats, be aware of the irony of the moment ... there are so many layers."    The only problem is when the comic actor-turned villain still thinks he's funny. "Coming from sketch comedy ... you crave that immediate feedback, the laugh. And a lot of times, when we're asked to do drama, we as actors will still want to go for that laugh. I mean, it's easy to go there – it's what we're conditioned for. It's something that I've had to train myself not to do." You can trust me on this one – by about 9:55 on Monday night, the last thing anyone will want to do is laugh at Shaun Majumder.

Rogers OMNI Television Funds The M Word Controversial New Documentary on Multiculturalism

Source: OMNI Television

(January 10, 2007) Canada was the first country in the world to have an official Multiculturalism Policy.  Now, more 30 years later, the “M Word” has become an integral part of our national identity for some and for others, a national disgrace.  At the first sign of disquiet in any part of the world -- be it 9/11, the Paris riots or bombing in Thailand -- Canada’s Multiculturalism Policy is called into question.  The M Word, a new OMNI-funded documentary from Third Element Productions, takes an unflinching look at the state of multiculturalism in Canada by confronting head-on such hot-button issues as:

·     Is Canada’s Multiculturalism Policy a political expedient of bygone Liberal days, which can be withdrawn at a politician’s whim? Or is it part of our legal fabric? 
·     Is multiculturalism failing the very people it is supposed to help?
·     Do we create programs to give young people a sense of belonging that they need and deserve? Or do we force integration and assimilation?
“Rogers OMNI Television is proud to support The M Word; our own history as a diversity broadcaster is as a result of a demand from various ethnocultural communities for reflection on television and a forum to share their diverse stories,” says Madeline Ziniak, Vice President and Station Manager.  “With the current climate of events casting doubt on multiculturalism, the very reason we exist, OMNI is an eager participant in the project and welcomes its exploration of wide-ranging points of view.”  
Prominent Canadians helping to take the pulse of multiculturalism today in The M Word include:
·     Former Supreme Court Justice - Frank Iacobucci;
·     Strategic Counsel Chair  - Allan Gregg;
·     Aboriginal lawyer and stand-up comic - Candy Palmater;
·     South Asian Legal Clinic Executive Director - Uzma Shakir.

The M Word also profiles Regent Park Focus, a unique film program for diverse youth who are striving to understand their own role and heritage within the Canadian mosaic, and invites a balance of further perspectives from an assortment of community leaders and associations such as: Dr. Henry Bishop, Curator for the Black Cultural Centre; Sid Ikeda of Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).  The M Word was exclusively funded through OMNI's Independent Producers Initiative, a $32.5 million independent production fund that to date has supported over 200 new documentary programmes. Interested producers can access funding criteria @

About Rogers OMNI Television:

Rogers OMNI Television is a free over-the-air system consisting of four regional broadcasters covering nine markets: in British Columbia (Victoria, Vancouver, and Fraser Valley), Manitoba (Winnipeg), and Ontario (Ottawa-Gatineau, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area). All Rogers OMNI Television stations are owned and operated by Rogers Communications in the Rogers Media division, and have the collective mandate to reflect Canada’s diversity through the airing of inclusive and accessible programming. In addition to specializing in Canadian multicultural, multilingual and multi-faith programming, OMNI TV also carries well-known American and International series and films. 

About Third Element Productions:

Third Element Productions was established by Toronto-based producer-director Lalita Krishna and ethnic media specialist producer Ben Viccari.  Ms. Krishna is internationally renowned for her work, including such honours as:  Audience Choice Award (Features) at the Sprockets Toronto 2006; Best Canadian Documentary Award at the Reel World Film Festival 2005, and Bronze Plaque - Columbus International Film and Video Festival, 2005. Further information is available @ .

Critics Sing Slings' Praises

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem

Jan. 15, 2007) PASADENA, CALIF.–It is a welcome change here at the TV critics' preview to be able to celebrate Canadian production instead of feeling like we have to apologize for it. Just a few days ago, some American producer was going on and on about how happy he was to not be shooting in Canada. We get that a lot. Apparently, all the "runaway production" back there is stealing bread from the mouths of thousands of underfed Teamsters. But once in a very long while, a Canadian series somehow makes its way across the border to be embraced by an American audience: SCTV. Red Green. Kids in the Hall. Due South ... Add to that list
Slings & Arrows, the third – and for all intents and purposes, final – season of the smartly satirical Stratford spoof now set to air on, and partially financed by, the American Sundance Channel. For which we can thank Canadian Laura Michalchyshyn, Sundance's executive vice- president and GM of programming and creative affairs, hired away in 2005 from a similar position at Alliance Atlantis. "When Robert Redford and I hired Laura two years ago," recalls Sundance CEO Larry Aidem, "she had only one condition and it was that we permit her to buy as much Canadian programming as she wanted, with a floor of 50 per cent and a ceiling of 90 per cent.

"And we said very quickly, `Number one, what's the catch? And two, where is Canada?' "But seriously ... our audience does not distinguish between the kinds of original programming that we make and the kinds of acquired programming that Laura and her team selects, often from around the world. At the end of the day, they're either good or not and they're exclusive to us, and in this case the audience just loves it." As do the American critics, at least a half dozen of whom have come up to me this week to rave about the show (as if I had anything to with it, aside from being born in the same country).  "We've been very pleased to see it on so many of your 2006 year-end Top 10 lists," Aidem gushed to the critics. "Now perhaps you could help us convince these guys to do a season 4." Perhaps not. On this subject, even I am torn. Much as I will miss Slings & Arrows, it really could not have ended more elegantly and appropriately than it did this season (having already aired in its entirety in Canada).  "We have always conceived this as a three-part cycle," explains Slings executive producer Niv Fichman, "using Shakespeare's plays to represent youth and middle-age and old age with Hamlet and Macbeth and (King) Lear.”We don't necessarily know if we would do a fourth season. Maybe we could spin off some of the characters. We're talking about that right now. Any one of these guys could have their own show. We'll see." Another issue, according to star Paul Gross, who I ran into in the hall before the session, is the absence of co-creating writer Bob Martin, currently quite busy being the toast of Broadway in The Drowsy Chaperone. "Bob really was the glue of the writing team," Gross says. "I don't know if it would be worth doing without him. But maybe if he brings Drowsy back to Toronto ... "

Co-star Don McKellar, who co-wrote Drowsy with Martin, says that's a remote possibility, though "probably not till after (the show goes to) London." The synergy goes even deeper. This final season's Slings B-plot has McKellar's Darren Nichols directing a "feel-good junkie musical" called East Hastings – a riotous Rent rip-off featuring songs by Drowsy's Tony-winning team of Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison.  "It's complicated," McKellar allows. "We were actually all on the (Slings) set the day we heard we were going to New York, (that) our show was going to Broadway. This is while we're doing this fake musical ... actually in the same space where we had done The Drowsy Chaperone when it was a small little independent theatre show in Toronto. "So it was a great feeling, having these two worlds collide."

Alliance Deal A Test Of Control

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Antonia Zerbisias

Jan. 12, 2007) First the good news about Wednesday's late-breaking announcement that CanWest Global, along with the Wall Street banking behemoth Goldman Sachs & Co., is paying $2.3 billion for Toronto's Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. Um ... er ... Okay. One: This means that, as long as it's properly managed, CanWest Global won't now be run over by the enormously successful CTVglobemedia Inc., which last summer swallowed CHUM and all its TV, radio and specialty operations – although the deal is still subject to regulatory approval.  Like it or lump it, Canadians need CanWest Global and its TV and newspaper properties as a separate corporate entity, if only to minimize news media concentration. After all, who wants to see the birth of CTVglobalcanwestCHUMmedia?

Two: The deal, when it gets rubber-stamped by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) – and it will, despite the heavy foreign-ownership element – will result in hundreds of millions of dollars getting pumped into so-called "social benefits." But what that social spending is, is up to the buyers.  That had better involve a lot of decent Canadian programming, including drama, and not millions tossed at CanWest Global's controlling Asper family charities, including their pet project, the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, which is already expecting federal support to the tune of $12 million a year. The bad news would not only fill this column, it would fill this page. That's because the complex deal contains alarming sounding contingencies such as how much of Alliance Atlantis that CanWest Global will end up owning in 2011. Simply put, the more profitable the TV operations, the bigger the share of the merged company CanWest Global will own. Said chief executive officer Leonard Asper: "How much we get is entirely dependent on our own performance."  (Pretty ironic coming from a guy who, along with other private broadcasters, was crying the financial blues to the CRTC just a few weeks ago.)

Bottom line is, over the next four years, CanWest Global has to rake in as much as it can. If it doesn't succeed, Asper might even lose the company his late father Israel (Izzy) founded. So you can bet that Global, along with CTV and its specialty channels, will jack up ad rates, with CHUM and Alliance Atlantis gone. Those costs will eventually reach consumers. You can also be sure that, given its newfound control of such specialty channels as History, Showcase, Life, Food and HGTV, channels that commissioned many hours of homegrown programming, CanWest Global will cut budgets and boost repeats.  That will hurt independent producers who already struggle to make a living. It will also annoy viewers who will likely see fewer original episodes of some of their favourite shows – and fewer new ones, period. But the biggest and scariest element of this deal is the involvement of Goldman Sachs. CanWest Global is putting in just 17 per cent towards the equity of the new merged TV company. That means – although the details on the deal are still very vague – that an American bank could end up owning Canada's biggest media company. Which would be against the foreign ownership regulations. But Asper doesn't seem concerned.

"We certainly think the issue is who controls the venture and I think the CRTC – I hope they will see this as a staged purchase or a partially staged acquisition," he said Wednesday. "We are quite satisfied this will meet the Canadian law ... "It's a control test." And so it is. The test is: who controls public discourse in Canada. In a country where the concentrated media never scream about media concentration, and where they don't report that a major Senate committee report on the subject was rejected by the Harper government, I wouldn't stay up late waiting for a peep of protest on your nightly news.

Keeping An Eye On Bindi Irwin

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon

Jan. 17, 2007) As the Talking Heads' "Wild Wild Life" blared from studio speakers,
Bindi Irwin bounded across the television set, basking in rapturous applause. Cuddled in a mustard-coloured shirt, her name stitched in tiny red lettering across the left, the 8-year-old skipped toward her mother Terri and host Ellen DeGeneres, grinning and tossing her hair from side to side. In Bindi's arms, her pet lizard. In her eyes, confidence. But in the air, an unsettling sense that something was wrong with this picture. Bindi is the eldest child of Steve Irwin, the famed conservationist who died in September after a stingray's poisonous barb punctured his heart. Chaperoned by her mother, Bindi is currently in America – one Australian paper dubbed it her "rock star tour" – as part of G'Day USA, a festival that promotes tourism to the land Down Under. Last week, they were in Los Angeles, appearing on various TV shows and at public events. Today they're in New York, with a planned visit to The Late Show With David Letterman (CBS, 11:35 p.m.). And on Feb. 18, they arrive in Toronto for an extravaganza at Yonge-Dundas Square.

But in Terri's adopted homeland, controversy rages as commentators ask pointed questions about Bindi's whirl in the spotlight. Since her father's death, she has released a music CD and exercise DVD. She writes a magazine column, has a clothing line and will soon star in a new television show: Bindi, The Jungle Girl. To be sure, there's a lot riding on her tiny shoulders. Bindi is now the most marketable face for Australia's image abroad. She is also seen as the natural heir to her father's public work and, by extension, the custodian of his private empire. And while Bindi appears to be the most well-adjusted child in the universe – bubbly, charming, bright, sharp, funny, and precocious – on occasion, she says something that cracks through this cherubic patina.  "I feel like I'm him, all over," Bindi told DeGeneres, referring to Steve. "I want to, I want to be exactly like him ... I want to, I want to try and be him. I want him to be proud of me." (Emphasis mine.)

Incidentally, Ocean's Deadliest, the documentary Irwin was filming the day he died will air Sunday at 8 p.m. on both Discovery and Animal Planet. It will be followed by a 30-minute tribute. During an interview with CNN's Larry King, Terri was asked if she worried about the "overexposure of Bindi."  "I'm perfectly happy with Bindi doing whatever she is comfortable with," said Terri. "She's had moments like everybody, but she loves singing and dancing, so what she's doing is just an extension of what she does every day," John Stainton, Steve Irwin's long-time friend and manager, recently told Melbourne Australia's The Age. "To not let her do it would be cruel. I couldn't do that to her." He makes a valid point. I'm no child psychologist, but revamping her daily routine doesn't seem like a particularly wise coping strategy. Besides, critics who claim Bindi is "exploited" or denied an "ordinary childhood" are oblivious to the obvious: her life was never "normal."

This is a child who made her first TV appearance at the age of 2 weeks, sharing camera time with a rattlesnake. Bindi is home-schooled. She literally lives inside a zoo. And as her mishmash accent suggests, she's already logged more air miles than most adults in the free world. All that said, why can't I shake this nagging feeling that something is amiss, that Bindi is destined to suffer some future breakdown? Her poetic and self-assured eulogy at Irwin's memorial service is widely cited as proof of her emotional resilience. But view that speech again and you see a child who is eerily disconnected from what she is saying. A child who is so comfortable onstage that the line between performing and being may be getting blurry.  "I just like the feeling of all the people actually cheering for me and saying, `Bin-di! Bin-di!'" she told Larry King, when asked why she likes to perform. "And I also like that, I can, I just feel like I've got a place there." When asked if she found it hard to look at images of her father, Bindi said this: "Sometimes I have good days and bad days. Sometimes it brings back memories and it's really nice and some days I just cry straight off." To watch and listen to Bindi this week is to be struck by the uncanny resemblance – in both inflection and mannerism – to her father. It's like the Crocodile Hunter has morphed into the Jungle Girl.  But maybe we should all remember that, while a third-generation Wildlife Warrior she may be, Bindi Sue Irwin is still just a little girl who lost a parent.

America the Beautiful

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Rob Salem, Television Columnist

Jan. 17, 2007)  LOS ANGELES, Calif.–It is the morning after the big night – not that the Golden Globes are exactly a major arbiter of artistic achievement, at least, not on the level of the Oscars or the Emmys. But the annual awards show staged by the hundred-or-so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has always been notable and much anticipated for one thing: its generous open bar. Also, on occasion, for its prescient recognition of real emerging talent. On the other hand, they also famously once acknowledged Pia Zadora as a "most promising newcomer." But Monday night they redeemed themselves with the more popular and emotionally resonant acknowledgment of
America Ferrera, the effervescently engaging star of the new ABC comedy Ugly Betty, as Best TV Comedy Actress, and the show itself as Best TV Comedy. Yesterday morning, an elated Betty cast and crew showed up for work as usual, some apparently a little worse for wear, and executive producer Silvio Horta notably absent – apparently still wandering around out there somewhere in a "Globes haze."

The glaring fluorescent and studio lighting bouncing off the hard whites and oranges of the Mode Magazine office sets could not have helped. Nor the presence of several dozen visiting TV critics brandishing digital and tape recorders. Resident evil diva Vanessa Williams was holding court in her character's plush office, as glamorous as any human being could be after "only four hours sleep." But even she was outshone by the contented glow radiated by America the Beautiful – and without the braces and glasses, Ferrera is quite naturally stunning – who arrived a few minutes later, virtually floating into the studio and fluttering down onto a chair in one of the inner offices. "I was extremely surprised, and overwhelmed," the awestruck young actress confirmed. "I mean, to honour a show that hasn't even had a full season.... It was wonderful, maybe even more wonderful than winning one myself." And when she did get up there by herself, her teary and heartfelt acceptance speech had some in the star-studded audience welling up themselves. "It was just so incredibly touching and wonderful," she burbled, clearly still trying to process it all. "To know you had been welcomed by a community of your peers and colleagues – it's an overwhelming sense of acceptance."

Let alone all those millions cheering her on at home. "I think that's what's wonderful about television, how it's such a mass medium, and how in one night you can be in 14 million homes. You can do an entire run in the theatre and not have that big an audience." She doesn't remember much else about it, although she did see the playback on the three-hours-later East Coast feed. "They made me watch it," she laughs. "But I was still in a bit of shock. I haven't been able to look at it again objectively. "I was just staring into space; I didn't see anyone. Although when we were up there together accepting the award for the show, I remember I saw Tom Hanks standing there and very nearly lost it." Even in the face of her own newfound fame, the young actress remains quite refreshingly star-struck. "I got to meet people last night that I have admired my entire life. I mean, I got my picture taken between Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. That was surreal. It was like I was at Magic Mountain in one of those fake picture booths. It was amazing." Of course, the one Hollywood star whose support has meant the most is Ugly Betty producer and sometime guest star Salma Hayek.

"Salma and I were crying before the awards show even started," Ferrera confesses. "We were so happy and proud to be there together. She believed in me before anybody else did. She brought me into this project and fought for me all the way. I truly owe this experience to her." Though she hit a couple of the post-award parties, one for In Style and another for the casts and crews of Betty and The Office, she and Hayek haven't had much of a chance to talk since her win. "We hugged, but then we got mobbed by people. I'm sure I'll see her today and we'll talk. She's been saying all along that I would win. But then she's like my mother, she has to say that....  "No, not my mother. She'd hate that I said that. More like my sister. That's better."

Percy Saltzman, Canada's First Weatherman, Dies

Source:  Canadian Press

(Jan 16, 2007)
Percy Saltzman, Canada's first TV weatherman and the first person to appear on Canadian television, has died. He was 91. Saltzman's television broadcasting career spanned 30 years. Using no notes, no teleprompter, he did the weather from memory, ending the report with his trademark toss of the chalk. The start of his career was also a milestone in Canadian broadcasting history. When CBC-TV launched English language broadcasting in Canada on Sept. 8, 1952, Saltzman was the first person to appear. He would spend the next 20 years at the CBC and several more at other Canadian networks. During that time, he pioneered a number of techniques now firmly established in weather forecasting and reporting. He was the first Canadian weatherman to use radar and satellite and the first to give road and forest fire reports. He was the weatherman who talked Toronto through Hurricane Hazel. Three years ago, he recalled how it troubled him if the weather didn't match his predictions. "My conscience hurt a lot and I lost a lot of sleep when I'd go home after an inadequate forecast," he said.

Born in Winnipeg, Saltzman later moved to Saskatchewan, then British Columbia, where he attended the University of British Columbia. He later studied medicine at McGill University until 1935. In 1943, he became a meteorologist and served in that role during Second World War in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Four years later, he helped arrange weather programs for CBC Radio. Despite his move into broadcasting, he remained as a full-time employee of the official federal weather service for 25 years "He kept that job at the weather office the entire time he was on television with CBC because he didn't think TV was secure. He wasn't sure that TV would last," said his grandson, CBC reporter Aaron Saltzman. Along with weather forecasting, Saltzman became a prominent TV interviewer and commentator. He worked on a number of CBC-TV's news and public affairs programs and participated in the 10-day coverage of the first moon walk. Saltzman estimated he did 9,000 weather TV and radio broadcasts during his career and interviewed more than 1,000 people. In 2002, he was invested in the Order of Canada and in 2004 he became a member of the Broadcast Hall of Fame. He was also the recipient of a Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal.


'Little Mosque' A Hit For CBC

By Bill Harris -- Toronto Sun

(January 11, 2007) Incredible hype can buy a big audience for one week. But how many people actually laughed?  That will be the question in the months ahead with regard to the CBC sitcom Little Mosque On The Prairie.  The premiere on Tuesday night pulled in just under 2.1 million viewers, which is a record for a homegrown series debut. The people who engineered CBC's pre-broadcast publicity campaign should give themselves a pat on the back. Critics' reviews of the show were mixed, however, with most observing that Little Mosque is more corny than cutting-edge.  True, the same could be said about CTV's long-running hit Corner Gas. But whether Little Mosque has that kind of staying power remains to be seen.  Little Mosque has garnered a lot of attention from the international press, primarily because it's about a group of Muslims who live in Western Canada, post-9/11.  CBC immediately risks alienating viewers by moving Little Mosque to Monday (9 p.m.) next week. Monday's show then will be repeated on Wednesday (8 p.m.), as the struggling public network continues to place a lot of eggs in the Little Mosque basket.

ABC’s ‘Raisin’ Pushed Back

Excerpt from

(January 17, 2007) *ABC’s adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's “Raisin in the Sun” [directed by Kenny Leon in Toronto] has been pushed back from a fall 2007 premiere Sto spring 2008, network execs revealed Sunday at the Television Critics Association Tour. As previously reported, the film will star Broadway cast members Sean Combs, Sanaa Lathan and Tony Award winners Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad, as well as Bill Nunn, Ron Cephas Jones, Sean Patrick Thomas and John Stamos.  



Dirty Dancing Steps This Way

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

Jan. 16, 2007) It may have been cold and slushy on the streets of Toronto yesterday, but inside the Royal Alexandra Theatre, it was hot and dirty. That was the scene of a special sneak preview of the smash hit musical
Dirty Dancing, which is scheduled to open here on Nov. 15, and whose London production achieved the largest advance sales in the history of the British theatre. The ingredients are simple. Take a beloved 1987 coming-of-age movie with an Oscar-winning song ("The Time of My Life"). Bring it to the stage with a combination of fidelity and invention, and then watch the audiences clamour for tickets. That's what's happened in Australia, Germany and England, with Toronto providing the next box office test.  Like the movie, the musical is set in the summer of 1963, at Kellerman's Resort just north of New York City.  That's where city girl Frances ("Baby") Houseman learns about love and dance moves from the charismatic Johnny Castle and grows into the self-security mirrored by the film's signature line "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." Australian producer Kevin Jacobsen told yesterday's audience of media and Mirvish subscribers that "Toronto is known internationally as a great theatre town" and was a natural choice to host the show's North American premiere.

Eleanor Bergstein, who wrote the original screenplay as well as the script for the stage version, affirmed that "this is a show about everybody being able to find the secret dancer inside them." To illustrate her point, Nadia Coote and Josef Brown from the London production moved sensuously through a rendition of "Johnny's Mambo" that proved the erotic dynamism of the show hasn't dimmed one watt since it first appeared on the screen 20 years ago. And the vocal rendition of the Oscar-winning song "The Time of My Life" by the London performers Ben Mingay and Deone Zanotto brought everyone into an appropriately exuberant state of mind. An open call for dancers begins today and it's expected that most – if not all – of the final cast will be Canadians, selected over the next few weeks. Producers are looking for male and female dancers with experience in ballroom, Latin and contemporary dance to play late teens to mid-30s ages. Preview performances will start Oct. 31.

Larger Than Life, And Just As Vivid

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

Half Life
Directed by Daniel Brooks
Written by John Mighton
Starring Carolyn Hetherington,
At the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto
Rating: ****

(Jan. 15, 07) If you've been waiting for a special occasion to open that extra bottle of Champagne from your New Year's Eve celebrations, wait no more. Now is the time to pop it open and make a toast to the triumphant return to Toronto of John Mighton's
Half Life.  Not that this unforgettable drama about memory loss, or its playwright, need any more feting. Since its world premiere in February, 2005, in a co-production of Necessary Angel Theatre Company and the Tarragon, Half Life has deservedly picked up almost every major drama award in the country. Dora, Gigi, you name her.  By the end of 2005, Mighton was $75,000 richer, when he won that year's Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, largely in recognition of this one, 90-minute play. Not bad for the first new work in nine years from a painfully shy writer.  The fuss is all the more remarkable since, in plot terms, nothing much happens in Half Life. The play unfolds over a series of stop-and-start scenes and conversations that mirror life's randomness and interruptions. Donald and Anna (Diego Matamoros and Laura de Carteret) meet at a nursing home where his mother, Clara (Carolyn Hetherington), and her father, Patrick (Eric Peterson), are residents.  Donald is a divorced psychology professor who believes in the redemptive role of memory loss: "We wouldn't survive if we remembered everything." As the possibility of a new romance between Donald and Anna is thwarted, an old one between Clara and Patrick is reignited. Could they have met in the early 1940s, just before Patrick was shipped to war? That's the lingering question at the heart of the play.

If there were any questions about remounting Half Life, they were of a more practical nature, and had to do with the logistics of its new venue: the dauntingly wide Bluma Appel Theatre. Would this quiet little drama get lost there? Would director Daniel Brooks change the self-possessed nature of the original production to fit its splashy new home? The answer to the first question is an affirmative no, while the second one gets a yes -- but in a very good way.  The play loses none of its searing intelligence or philosophical reach. Brooks, with the slightest of adjustments, allows its humour and humanity to take wing and fill up the larger stage. The new production is breezier and more relaxed.  Those coming to Half Life for the first time can admire it for all the qualities that set it apart in 2005. On second viewing, the play is even richer and more deeply felt. Although I have read it more than once, and reviewed the first production, only now do I fully understand the complexity of its views on artificial intelligence, for example. Rather than expecting machines to mirror the thought processes of human beings, it's far more beneficial for us to emulate theirs: There's no consciousness without constant loss, Donald argues. "Even the most powerful computer has to clear its memory when it's full." If such ideas seem cold and esoteric, their expression is warm and accessible. A magnificent ensemble cast takes care of that. Randy Hughson as the nursing home's Reverend Hill, crystallizes how the production has widened its parameters without losing its edge. His performance brings the house down almost in the same breath that he makes one convincing case after another for the existence of a divine being and the sanctity of the soul.  Maggie Huculak as a nurse and Barbara Gordon as a curmudgeonly senior resident make lasting impressions out of transient characters. I was also struck by the emotional and mental elegance of de Carteret's performance, while Matamoros is wise and vulnerably human in a way only this fine actor knows how to balance. (I think it's the comforting but effortlessly articulate tone of his voice.) But it's the luminous Hetherington and the irrepressible Peterson who carry the heavy psychological weight of the play. Their romance is based on the unpredictable workings of the heart and the crushing failings of the mind. Somehow, both actors find what connects their characters, and what makes Half Life the joy it is: a tribute to the persistence of the human spark that shines through even when all else fades away.  Half Life continues at the Bluma Appel Theatre until Feb. 3 (416-368-3110).


Kelsey Grammer To Star In Concert Version Of My Fair Lady

Source: Associated Press

(Jan. 12, 07) NEW YORK — The New York Philharmonic will present
Kelsey Grammer as Professor Henry Higgins and Kelli O'Hara as Eliza Doolittle in a semi-staged, concert version of My Fair Lady. The classic Lerner and Loewe musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, will play four performances, March 7-10, at Avery Fisher Hall. The orchestra will be conducted by musical-theatre specialist Rob Fisher. Also in the cast are Brian Dennehy as Alfred Doolittle, Charles Kimbrough as Col. Pickering and Marni Nixon as Mrs. Higgins, the professor's mother. Nixon was the singing voice of Eliza Doolittle in the 1964 film of the musical that starred Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Harrison and Julie Andrews starred in the stage version, which opened on Broadway in March 1956 and ran for more than 2,700 performances.

Aspiring Actors Compete To Star In A New Play From David E. Talbert

Excerpt from

(January 15, 2007) *TV One has jumped into the reality show genre with “David E. Talbert’s Backstage,” a contest that will feature aspiring actors competing for a role in Talbert’s latest play, “Love in the Nick of Tyme.”  Ten actors – five men, five women – will battle each other for the chance to serve as understudies for the production during its 20-city, five-month U.S. tour.  Talbert and actor Blair Underwood are among the judges who will eliminate two actors periodically during the course of the series. The two who survive get leading roles in Talbert's next play for the length of its road tour.  The program is produced by Edmonds Entertainment with head Tracey Edmonds serving as executive producer along with Talbert, Underwood, Michael McQueen and actor Morris Chestnut.   Chestnut and the R&B performer Avant are the stars of "Love in the Nick of Tyme."  In other TV One news, the network added more than one million new subscriber households in December 2006, according to Nielsen Media Research universe estimates, growing from 33.8 million households to nearly 34.9 from December 2006 to January 2007.   TV One increased its subscriber base by 42 percent from January 2006 - January 2007, maintaining its #1 rank in distribution year-to-year percentage growth among all Nielsen measured cable networks, adding 10.3 million households during the period.



Hip Hop Without The Guns

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -  Susan Walker

(Jan. 14, 2007) Hip hop gets a bad rap. That's how Brandon Albright, artistic director of Illstyle and Peace Productions, puts it. The intent of Illstyle's show, Same Spirit Different Movement: The History of Hip Hop, playing Brampton's Rose Theatre today at 2 and 7 p.m., is to show its real origins before the music was overtaken by associations with drug dealing, guns and gangstas.  "The true roots of hip hop were always positive," says Albright, on the phone from an earlier tour stop. "I remember when hip hop meant dancing on the street and little basement parties." The anger and the negativity came later, he claims, rubbing off from television and movies that glamorized crime.  Same Spirit Different Movement is a show of good, clean fun by a 10-member troupe of male and female dancers adept at locking, breaking, popping, house, tap and acrobatic feats. There's a live DJ on stage doing vocal percussion.

Illstyle and Peace Productions, based in Philadelphia, was formed in 2002 as the result of a merger between Albright and Forrest Webb's Illstyle Rockers. Peace – it stands for People Everywhere Are Created Equal – is Albright's stage name. He's also the assistant artistic director with another hip-hop stage show, Rennie Harris Puremovement. He's a man with a mission: to bring the spirit of dance to as many people as possible. Ballet, jazz and tap have shaped the routines in Same Spirit. Hip hop is the expression of a generation, he says: "It's a universal dance."  The dancers range in age from 19 to 43 and hail from as far away as Japan. Darryl Scott, the oldest performer in the company, says, "We're looking for hip hop to turn the world upside down. Our ultimate goal is to reach young people. We want dance to be part of their lives, a way to express themselves."

Illstyle is expanding its operations with a play, called Things Happen, that will soon reach a stage in New York City. Albright calls it "Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story and The Wizard of Oz" all rolled into one uplifting show.  At each stop on its tour (St. Catharines and North Bay dates preceded Brampton), the company offers workshops for beginners and master classes for more advanced dancers. "We do outreach and we go into communities where we demonstrate where the movement came from," says Albright. They've often been invited to visit by church congregations. Wherever they go, says Scott, "we get standing ovations."  It's testimony that the spirit of hip hop moves the masses.


For Starters, The Weather

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(Jan. 13, 07)  Life would have been easier if my husband were a jerk. I would have left him, left Canada and been home with my family and friends, with not a sliver of guilt on my conscience.  I am a foreigner who is settling in this beautiful country only because I married a Canadian. This fact invariably brings forth a shuffling, embarrassed mumble – "Is he from Canada?" – and an unsatisfied look if I respond with a simple "Yes."  I'd rather be asked outright: "Is he white?" Yes.  This is an interracial, intercultural, international marriage. In a word: unconventional.  "International" in a marriage comes with such a unique set of challenges that interracial, intercultural and gender issues between couples can seem insignificant in comparison.

Chief among the challenges is: does love mean having to leave my country? Yes, I hear you. It's a decision that should have been considered before marriage, not after. When the M word is first mentioned, our minds ought to be grounded in reality, rather than racing toward the wedding day, the when, the how, the how much and the how many.  But foresight is in short supply, the belief that love conquers all dominates, and the deed is done.  Reality begins to sink in when the plane touches the ground after a long, gruelling flight and the words "landed immigrant" are stamped irrevocably on my passport.  Then there is this seriously shocking weather.  Most Canadians don't seem to realize how inhospitable the climate is. Just because you learn to cope with something doesn't mean it wasn't a challenge in the first place. It is a triumph of mankind over nature that such terrain was ever considered habitable.  In the winter, I dream of my days in India, of slipping into sandals and walking out the door. Here, the sun, when it does appear, is a shiny showpiece in the sky. The lack of its warmth makes me feel sluggish and deprived.  But that is a matter of getting used to. Mind over matter, I tell myself. When I first came here and sat marooned in my downtown highrise condo, I felt as if I'd been plucked out of my natural surroundings and suspended mid-air, rootless.

At the beginning, there was no job, few friends, and no nearby family. Only the man I'd married.  Had I been escaping a bad life, I would have been grateful for the security here. But I've left behind a far more comfortable lifestyle and a job with a handsome salary in exchange for the drudgery of life in the glamorous West by doing my own laundry, dishes, cooking, etc.  Time can be the solution. And it was. Within two months I got a good job. (And not as a taxi driver.) I started settling into my new country. In our home, racial lines not only blur for my husband and me, they have become invisible. Neither of us sees the colour of the other's skin or hears the lilt of the other's accents.  Cultural differences are another matter. Back in India, a new bride becomes part of her husband's family. She's invited for endless meals from the groom's side until everyone knows her and she no longer considers herself an outsider.  For some people in Canada, that could be intrusive and overwhelming.  For me, coming from India's family-based society, living in an individual-based one takes getting used to.

Family time here seems to be reserved for Christmas, Thanksgiving and a few special occasions. With one exception, sundry aunts and uncles don't dream of calling, perhaps for fear of intruding or out of respect for privacy. I don't call because I don't want to seem pushy. Is it timidity? Indifference?  For whatever reason, the emphasis on independence in Canada appears to result in isolation.  Usually, it's smooth sailing between my husband and me. But in moments of stress, some differences show up more clearly. Even expressions of love and politeness aren't exempt then.  His "yes, pleases" and "no, thank yous" can grate on my nerves. My sharpness seems unnecessary to him.  When I was a child, my grandpa once chastised me for paying lip service to gratitude. I'd just said "thank you" for something he'd done for me. "Don't say thank you," he said sternly. "Show thank you. Don't finish off your sense of obligation with two words."  Growing up, his parents told him they love him almost daily. Mine never did. Indeed, "I love you" in my mother tongue is an awkward sentence. Yet both our parents love us deeply.  This difference in attitudes reflects in our thinking. It's important for him to say "I love you" frequently. I feel saying it so often trivializes it.  I am also puzzled that while expressing such deep emotions comes easily to him, he won't verbalize the obvious.  If someone we meet is unattractive, that's what I'll say. "So-and-so is unattractive." The most my husband will concede is, "He/she isn't the best looking." I find that aggravating and endearing at the same time. Since he's the tactful one, I'm not sure how he'd characterize my behaviour. Then comes the issue of issues. Would I want our child to grow up here?

Millions of children are beautifully brought up here. Toronto is a city with such a variety of skin colours that the products of inter-relationships enjoy a fabulous genetic makeup. When children mature, universities here offer countless opportunities, with their excellent research programs and an environment of intellectual stimulation.  But culture plays a role in the choices we make. I feel the same hesitation, but for different reasons, that you would feel if you found yourself, say, in India, with the prospect of bringing up a child. I feel quite alarmed at what I see of younger children here. They seem to have shorter childhoods. They are reported to be sexually active much earlier; peer pressures are high. As manufacturers target younger people in the hope of buying their loyalty, the media constantly create aspirational insecurities.  Who you are, how you look, isn't good enough. What you ought to be is always just slightly out of reach. Obsession with youth leads to ageism, which I find shocking, particularly coming from a culture with a strong ethos of respect for elders.  It would be too simplistic to say one country is bad and another good.  One solution lies in letting our marriage be a vehicle to unite the two cultures, instilling in our children an appreciation for cricket and hockey, Diwali and Christmas, Marathi (my mother tongue) and English (and possibly French), family obligations and individual expression, austerity and materialism, charity and consumerism, spirituality and secularism – all that without creating a confused child. Through our children, we might learn to better integrate our values. But there are other, personal, fears.  I've left behind deep friendships. A dear friend just had a baby girl. Another friend is desperate for a child. Yet another had a divorce while I was away. A fourth is dealing with an alcoholic husband.  There's only so much hand-holding a person can do through email and phone calls. Being far away won't break those bonds, but I fear the eroding effect of absence at important events in each other's lives.  Even closer to my heart, is my family. I ache for them. My sister and brother, I wish we were together, fighting, arguing, helping each other.

My parents are getting older. We have long chats on the phone weekly. Distance amplifies worries. They don't tell me the true state of their health. I know, because I don't tell them when I'm sick. So I search for signs in their voices. A hint of breathlessness there gives me a catch in my throat. A fit of coughing at the other end makes my heart lurch. I've flown so far from them that, should there be an emergency, it would take me at least 24 hours to get back to them. Can I ask them to immigrate, too? Uprooting them from their lifelong bonds and putting them in such hostile weather conditions would be unkind, insensitive – and the worst part is, they'd do it. They'd give it all up, their comfortable and secure lives back home, if they believed that would make me happy. Likewise, my husband has family responsibilities and can't ask his parents to move to India at their age. My in-laws, bless them, would move, too, if they thought it would make us happy. Then the shoe would be on the other foot, but it would carry the same baggage. How can the love in marriage compensate for this sadness? "Global village" is an integrating concept, but one that hasn't matured for the vast majority of people, even in privileged countries. Unless there are business linkages, how often in a year can an average Toronto couple shell out $2,000 apiece just for the ticket to fly home?  Empowerment comes with the awareness of choice and, in my case, awareness brings with it a painful web of complexity. If time can be the solution, time can also be the problem. The longer I stay here, the more bonds I build. My parents-in-law are angels and two of my friends' mothers, one from the Caribbean, the other from Italy, pamper me when they meet me because I'm so far away from my own mom. The abundance of love I've found in both countries leaves me in the terrible situation of having to make a choice between the two. For now, I've chosen to live here with the guilt and fear. But I also live in hope of a better solution down the road.

Awards Season Style Tips

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Sandy Cohen

(Jan. 12, 2007)  LOS ANGELES – With Hollywood's awards season under way, fans will see plenty of stunning gowns, sculpted bodies, flawless skin and camera-ready coifs on red carpets around town. What they won't see are the industrial-strength girdles, silicone nipple covers, fake hair and skin treatments beneath those flawless facades. Stylists work overtime during the six-week stretch from the Golden Globes to the Oscars, and it typically takes a team to ready stars for their stroll down the red-carpet runway. Some of Hollywood's most-coveted image experts took time out to share their best style secrets with The Associated Press. The first step? A body-enhancing airbrush tan, says spray-tanner-to-the-stars Jimmy Coco, who expects to wield his tanning wand at least 100 times before the Academy Awards. These tans do more than lend a healthy glow. They can add muscle definition where none exists, says Coco, who has worked with Eva Longoria, Jennifer Garner, Jenny McCarthy and Lara Flynn Boyle. "If they haven't quite been to the gym, I can make it look as though they have," he says. "I give them an even glow and lightly etch in where the muscle is.'' Next come body-shaping undergarments. Stylists swear by Spanx, a brand of bodyshapers that promise to "rescue women from love handles, waistline spillage and cellulite," according to the company's Web site.

"They go from under your bustline to the top of your knee,'' says celebrity stylist Inge Fonteyne, who has worked with models Gisele Bundchen and Adriana Lima. "It compacts all your blemishes you want to smooth out. The key is to be seamless and bumpless.'' Breasts have their own set of needs. Busty beauties who want to wear backless gowns often turn to self-sticking "bras" like Frederick's of Hollywood's new Flex Body Bra, made of adhesive-backed silicone cups that fit separately over each breast. Contoured silicone pads called "cutlets" can also be slipped into a bra to give smaller busts a boost. Less-endowed women might go braless but opt for some kind of nipple cover to maintain modesty. These days, stores sell silicone versions that are undetectable under dresses, but stylists and stars weren't always so fortunate. "We would literally put cotton balls on clients and put (tape) on top of the cotton ball," says stylist Estee Stanley, who helped develop Frederick's Flex Body Bra. "It was like a science project.'' Fonteyne recalls once putting tape over a model's nipples – ``definitely the most painful and crazy" trick she's used.

Tape is still a critical part of a stylist's toolbox. Surgical (or even electrical) tape can be wrapped beneath the breasts, squashing them together to create cleavage. But double-stick tape is even more popular. Stylists use it to hold spaghetti straps in place, keep loose dresses close to the skin and prevent plunging necklines from becoming pornographic. Before companies made special two-sided tape for fashion use, stylists relied on a brand of toupee tape called Topstick. Natural fabrics are easily marred by sweat, so stars plan ahead to keep palms and armpits from perspiring. "With a silk dress, anything you touch will make a stain,'' Fonteyne says. "One drop spreads like it's the ocean under your arm.'' One solution is botox, which paralyzes overactive glands to temporarily stop sweating. Another is Drysol, a prescription treatment Fonteyne swears by that "dries up" sweat glands. Then there's the hair. Stars weren't born with the lush manes you see on the red carpet. It's all about extensions, says Hollywood hairdresser
Michael Shaun Corby, creative director for Alterna haircare. "Celebrities get extensions like crazy for Oscar season because they want their hair to be thicker," he says. Stars who don't want to make a major commitment might opt for ``hair for a day," he says: quick, clip-on extensions that can be removed at the end of the night.

Corby even uses extra hair for updos. He wraps hair clippings in a hairnet and stuffs that inside buns and chignons "for that huge, full look.'' Corby would use ironing starch to tame hair static in a pinch before Alterna developed an antistatic hair spray, he says. Men have it easy on the red carpet. Their fashions aren't figure-flaunting so they can forego almost all of the above. But they still have to look their best, so most wear makeup, Coco says. Still, male red-carpet preparation pales compared to the Aphroditean efforts female stars make. "They can't look that great all the time," he says. "They go the extra mile for a red-carpet event. From the toenails to the tips of the strands of their hair, every inch of their body has had something done.''


Jason Reitman Gets Nod From Writers Guild

Source: Associated Press

(Jan. 12, 2007) Los Angeles — Montreal-born
Jason Reitman, the 29-year-old son of producer-director Ivan Reitman, continues the award-season success with Thank You for Smoking. The dark comedy's writer-director got a nod for best adapted-screenplay category at the Writers Guild Awards nominations yesterday. The palace drama The Queen, the crime epic The Departed, the road-trip comedy Little Miss Sunshine and the satiric Borat were among best-screenplay nominees. The Queen and Little Miss Sunshine were nominated for original screenplay. The other contenders are Babel, Stranger Than Fiction and United 93. Battling with Smoking for best adapted screenplay are The Departed, Borat, The Devil Wears Prada and Little Children. AP



Cynthia Phaneuf, Emanuel Sandhu At Crossroads In Their Figure Skating Careers

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Randy Starkman, Sports Reporter

Jan. 17, 2007) HALIFAX–
Cynthia Phaneuf was a bright young star who really disappeared from the figure skating scene. With Emanuel Sandhu, it just seems like he did. Perhaps for these two skaters more than any others, this week's Canadian figure skating championships represent a crossroads, an opportunity to prove they can still be a factor in the sport or a sure sign their time has passed. Phaneuf took some tentative steps yesterday towards showing that some promise remains in her career, winning the women's qualifying with a long program short on technical prowess but with artistry her less seasoned competitors couldn't match. She'd not competed in an event of consequence since bombing out at the 2005 world championships in Moscow some 22 months ago, felled since by ankle and knee injuries. She put on 20 pounds – "I was having more cookies because I was feeling bad," she said – and even contemplated quitting at one point. It was a dramatic plummet for a skater who won a surprise Canadian title in 2004 just before turning 16 and the next year reached the Grand Prix final. She did that on the strength of a victory at Skate Canada at the very same Halifax Metro Centre where yesterday her knees were practically knocking together in the warm-up. "The warm-up was the worst thing," said Phaneuf, who turned 19 yesterday. "It was a disaster. It was so bad that I went back to (coach) Annie (Barabeau) and she told me some stuff just to calm me down."

Her nervousness was understandable given her long layoff, but the reality despite her ability to regroup yesterday is that she only landed three triples doing a program that is very basic and a long way from making her competitive internationally. To her credit, she knows this and has set a modest goal here of reaching the top five to make the national team. "For this year, I just want to skate for me and be proud of myself at the end of the week," she said. "I don't want a medal or anything ... I don't want to compete with anyone. I just want to compete with myself." Realistic expectations and Emanuel Sandhu, though, are two things that have rarely been used in the same sentence. Sandhu's goal is a top-three finish at the worlds in Tokyo in March, yet he was invisible on the Grand Prix circuit this season and wasn't close to making the final. Commentator Tracy Wilson pulls no punches in her assessment of the 26-year-old Richmond Hill native. "I think for Emanuel it's a make or break," said Wilson. "It's kind of gone on like a slow bleed that he's got to stop. You can stand rinkside with anybody in the world and someone from Russia will turn to you and say, `He's the best in the world. What's wrong?' But he has not been able to figure it out."

Sandhu flinches at such talk, of which there is much these days. "I don't look at it that way at all," said Sandhu yesterday. "I'm excited to be here. I can put it this way: whenever I go out to skate, I want to put my stuff down. So whether it's a national championship, whether it's an international, or the world championships, that's always my goal. It's part of my journey and the reason I work so hard." This would seem a grand opportunity for Sandhu as two-time champion Jeffrey Buttle of Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., hasn't competed all season because of a stress fracture in his spine. Buttle pronounced himself fit and ready to go last week, but will be lacking fitness after missing nearly three months.  Nine of the top women's skaters from last year received a bye from the qualifying round won by Phaneuf yesterday – including Joannie Rochette of Ile Dupas, Que., favoured to win her third straight Canadian title. The key for Rochette will be to push herself despite the lack of rivals and land her first ever triple-triple combination in competition in her short program tomorrow, a jump she needs if she's going to make the next plateau internationally. The stars of the Canadian team at the moment are ice dancers, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, silver medallists at last year's worlds and this season at the Grand Prix Final. Canada also seems to have a bright future with world junior champions Tessa Virture and Scott Moir. In pairs, Valerie Marcoux and Craig Buntin are expected to win a fourth straight Canadian title but have been struggling.


Cheat Days: You Have Our Blessing!

By Jeff Wooten, Special for

Sure, you've worked hard to achieve that body of your dreams, or you are working hard to do so. So, you may ask, why ruin it by eating junk food? This is a very good question. To discover the answer, let's look at the question a different way.  Think of your fitness and exercise regimen as work (This probably isn't a stretch for most of us!), and think of cheat days as vacation. Now, you do believe in vacation, don't you? I know I do.  Many years ago my wife and I visited with a financial planner for the first time as a couple. The financial lady asked us a question that probably every financial planner has asked their clients at some point: "Why do you work?" My wife gave several answers. Among them were: to save money for our kids' education and for retirement. These are very noble reasons.  However, when the lady looked at me, I said, "So that I can take vacation!" Now, if you know me the way my wife does, you would know that this is pretty typical of me. Let me explain.

I truly believe that hard work is completely necessary to achieve anything worth having. Hard work has lots of intangible benefits as well. You feel a greater sense of achievement when you earn something through hard work as opposed to when it is given to you.  But you must have down time. You cannot do your best all the time. This is the nature of humans. As the saying goes: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It's the down time that allows you to recover and return to your work with a clear sense of purpose.  So if you spend the majority of your time exercising hard and watching what you eat, your body should be able to handle junk food if you only eat it from time to time. If you like ice cream, you don’t have to avoid it altogether. This would be a psychological disaster. In fact, eating your favourite junk food every once in a while is like taking a vacation from your normal hard work of exercise and diet.  When you eat that ice cream, don’t feel guilty. Enjoy it! If you don’t eat the ice cream that you like, or if you feel guilty because you "gave in," then you actually become a slave to that ice cream (as well as any other junk food you happen to like).

On the other hand, if you have planned junk-food "vacations," then you are free to enjoy your ice cream to its fullest because you understand that your vacation is a necessary counter to your work.  When I eat junk food, I never eat a low-fat or low-carb version of my favourites. I always go for the real, full-fat, full-sugar junk! The key is I don’t eat these things on a regular basis -- just like I don’t vacation all the time. I mostly work, but when it's time to vacation, you can believe I vacation.  So the moral of the story is this: Don't be a workaholic (We all know how stressed workaholics are). Take vacation from time to time (eat your favourite junk food). Above all, don’t work while you are on vacation (don't feel guilty about eating your junk food). When it's time to work, work hard, knowing that you are earning another much deserved vacation! This is a recipe for optimal health (psychological as well as physical).


Motivational Note - What You See is What You Get

Excerpt from - Jewel Diamond Taylor

During the 70’s the most popular and successful variety series, lasting a solid four years was the Flip Wilson Show. This TV program was one of the first American television programs starring a black person in the title role to become highly successful with a white audience. During its first two seasons, its Nielsen ratings made it the nation's second most watched show. Actor and comedian Flip Wilson knew the secret to success. His comedic signature statement was “What you see --- is what you get.”

I laughed along with the audiences as he repeatedly spoke a universal truth. Wow! You’re right Flip. I got it! What we focus on and visualize in our mind, we call forth. What we focus on (failure or success) shows up in our lives. 20 years ago I was teaching about “treasure mapping.” This is the practice of cutting out pictures from magazines to collect the images we wanted to achieve (i.e. homes, cars, business, health, travel, weight loss, happiness, marriage, pools, furniture, etc.) I still have my treasure map book. I have accomplished many of those images collected. I cut out a picture of Essence and JET Magazine --- and I have written articles for Essence. I cut out pictures of a cruise ship --- and I hosted several Mother/Daughter cruises to the Bahamas. I cut out pictures of furniture and money which I achieved. What you see is what you get. What are you focusing on? What do you see yourself being, doing and having? Your dominant thoughts are like a magnet. Job said in the Bible, "What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me." Job 3:25 I’m now creating a new treasure map book to update my goals because Flip Wilson was right --- what you see --- is what you get.