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LE NEWSLETTER

January 31, 2008

 

Talk about blustery weather!  And imagine my surprise to wake up at 4am yesterday morning to the crashing of building materials to the street from 35 floors up in the air - the condo across the street was spewing off material due to the high winds we are experiencing.  Luckily no one was injured ... but many lost hours of sleep!

February is right around the corner so mark your calendars for the special events!  An amazing night of entertainment is on its way to Toronto - Richard Loring’s
African Footprint at the Sony Centre coming in early February!

Don't forget to get your tickets for Andrew Craig's Valentine's concert entitled
Celebrate Love - a special night out with your special someone!

Now there's the cue to you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

 

::HOT EVENTS::

Celebrate Love – Thursday, February 14, 2008

Source:  Andrew Craig

You’ve made all the plans for the perfect
Valentine’s Day. You’ve reserved your favourite table at your favourite restaurant. You have the flowers, the chocolates, the card, the gift.

The limousine picks you both up after work, and you slip across town to dine. Once you arrive at the restaurant, everything is perfect: the ambience, the food, the wine, the conversation. You decide to top off a sumptuous meal with a decadent dessert and coffee.

It’s only 7:30 p.m. Now what? It’s too early to retire to the bedroom, and yet you don’t want the magic to end. What to do?

It’s time to
Celebrate Love!

Celebrate Love is, simply put, an evening of the world’s greatest love songs, sung by some of Canada’s greatest voices, accompanied by top-flight musicians. Celebrate Love is the brainchild of musician, producer, broadcaster and impresario Andrew Craig, and is the realization of a decade-old dream: to create a Valentine’s Day event so compelling and beautiful that it would draw fans back year after year.

Molly Johnson, Canada’s first lady of jazz, headlines a stellar cast of vocalists, including Kellylee Evans (the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards Female Vocalist of the Year), rising star DK Ibomeka, Indo-Canadian vocal sensation Kiran Ahluwalila, and Mary Jane Lamond, Canada’s preeminent interpreter of Gaelic songs from the East Coast. Add to this mix some of Toronto’s finest emerging vocal talents, the exquisite sounds of the Toronto-based cello quartet Lush, and the Celebrate Love Orchestra, and the result is magical.

Don’t think this show is just for couples! Featuring a unique blend of classic popular songs, rare musical gems from across the planet, poetry and reflections, Celebrate Love is the perfect Valentine’s Day activity for people in all stages of love: from new love, to unrequited love, to jilted love, to old love, to true love.

Andrew Craig first produced Celebrate Love as a proof-of-concept show in 2004, in Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre. Despite minimal advertising, the show sold-out completely, and patrons anxious to get in caused a major traffic jam at Bloor and Avenue Rd!

Audience response to Celebrate Love was overwhelmingly positive. Here are but a few quotes from ecstatic attendees:

“Congratulations on an outstanding performance. Wow! We were totally blown away. The music selection, the individual vocal performances, the tremendous musicians, lighting, sound, and an enthusiastic audience just spoke volumes about the true heart of Canadian music.” - K.S., Toronto

“I want to say that last night was FANTASTIC 10 out of 10, please do it again, Toronto missed the best show in town, if you do the same as last night you will have triple as you did last night.” - J.A., Toronto

“Celebrate Love - WOW! I attended Saturday night’s show...and was blown away. Andrew Craig...remarkable job. The mix and choice of music and culture and diversity beautifully represented the Toronto scene.” - R.T., Toronto

“Amazing Valentines Performance! Thank you so much for making our 9th Valentines together so special.” - S.T., Toronto

“I was at the "Celebrate Love" concert on Saturday, February 14.  It was one of the greatest concerts I've ever been to (and I've been to quite a few concerts).” - I.D., Toronto

“What a great show! The last time I left a show feeling that good was when I saw Luther Vandross and the Voices of Blackness at Maple Leaf Gardens. Keep up the great work!” - C.P., Toronto

Celebrate Love 2008 promises to be even bigger and better. There simply is no better place to be this Valentine’s Day than The Music Hall.

Log into www.celebratelove.ca and get a taste of what the show will be like.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2008
Celebrate Love: An Evening of the World’s Greatest Love Songs
The Music Hall
147 Danforth Ave., east of Broadview
8:00 p.m.
$50
Click HERE to purchase tickets

Richard Loring’s African Footprint – February 7-9, 2008

Source:  Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

African Footprint combines dance and song in an incredible 90 minute spectacle. The show melds the hypnotic heartbeat of the African drum, with the soulful saxophone and the haunting pennywhistle, marrying Afro- and Euro-centric music and dance to create an exhilarating series of numbers featuring Kwela-jive, traditional gumboot, tap, contemporary ballet and hip-hop pantsula! African Footprint is so entertaining that critics have dubbed the show “the Riverdance of Africa”. Yet by structuring the show around the poetry of Don Mattera, South Africa’s foremost poet, African Footprint also makes an important and emotional commentary on how Africa can heal the past and reach the hopes and dreams of the future.

In 1999, Richard Loring, television and theatre star and show producer, recruited a group of young people from the dusty streets of Soweto. From hundreds of hopefuls, only 30 young aspiring performers were chosen. The next year was taken up with vocal classes and intensive dance instruction which, for most of these youngsters, was their first opportunity to enter the world of professional theater. Seemingly going nowhere, the long hours of rehearsal were rewarded when, on December 31st 1999, African Footprint was invited to perform before Nelson Mandela in Block B on Robben Island, the very place where South Africa’s leader had been a prisoner for some 18 years. The result was an explosive and emotional performance televised around the world and seen by over 250 million viewers. This is how the journey began…

GET A SNEAK PEEK ONLINE!  

“Don’t miss this hugely successful show!”
-
          Atlantic Sun, South Africa

 “African Footprint is to South Africa what Riverdance is to the Irish and Stomp is to the Brits!”
-
          Entertainment iafrica.com, South Africa

 “A night of amazement!”
-
          Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany

 “A show of polished gold!”
-
          Newcastle Herald, Australia

“Run to get tickets to this exhilarating spectacle!”
-
          Times Picayune


FEBRUARY 7-9, 2008
RICHARD LORING'S AFRICAN FOOTPRINT
The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts
1 Front Street East
Tickets: $25 to $75
Buy Tickets HERE


Performance times:
Thursday February 7 @ 1PM (Special Senior’s Price $25!*)
Thursday February 7 @ 8PM
Friday February 8 @ 8PM
Saturday February 9 @ 2PM
Saturday February 9 @ 8PM

*Some conditions apply. Service charge applicable.
For tickets: www.ticketmaster.ca or (416)872-2262
For group tickets, call (416)393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805

::TOP STORIES::

'How She Move': Dance Movie Steps Up

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

How She Move
(out of 4)
Starring Rutina Wesley, Tre Armstrong and Dwain Murphy. Written by Annmarie Morais. Directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid. 92 minutes. At major theatres. PG

(January 25, 2008) In the increasingly crowded field of
movies based on urban dance – from Rize to You Got Served, Stomp the Yard, Save the Last Dance and Step Up – How She Move stands out as a well-written and well-acted drama with an appeal that reaches beyond dance fanatics.

Not that scriptwriter Annemarie Morais or director Ian Iqbal Rashid entirely avoid the clichés of the genre, because in dance movies, as in movies about sports heroes, there would be no story without conflict and obstacles to success.

The conventional plot line goes all the way back to Flashdance: Underprivileged, come-from-behind aspiring dancer wishes to get out of the ghetto/dead-end job/life of crime and against all odds makes good on his or her talent and determination. Sometimes the protagonist has lost a sibling to drugs, gang warfare or crime, and has more to prove to parents who are terrified of losing another child in a competitive and potentially dangerous milieu.

Such is the case with Raya Green in How She Move. Her older sister has died of a drug overdose. Her parents are in financial ruin and Raya is forced to leave the private Seaton Academy that she has been attending. Back in the 'hood – clearly a Toronto environ resembling Jane-Finch or Rexdale – Raya is plunged back into public high school to face considerable resentment from her peers who think she counts herself too good for them.

Raya's difficulties mount as she attempts, and seems to flub, the exams that could earn her a university scholarship. Getting into a step competition could bring her the money she needs to pay tuition, but first she must persuade her friend Bishop to let her join his all-boy crew called Jane Street Junta. That she does, with a little help from Bishop's brother Quake, a nerdy-looking kid who is a secret stepper.

All the pressures – school, parental and peer – come to bear on Raya, as they always do in these movies, in a climactic dance competition. She has a lot riding on being in the crew that takes the top prize of $50,000.

For all that its plot follows a familiar path, How She Move hits home some truths without being heavy-handed about race, poverty, immigrant struggles, crime and punishment. Rather, we deduce these ever-present currents from the way they twist the characters out of shape. Shot with a lot of handheld camera work in a gritty 16-mm format, the movie feels more like life than an imitation of life.

As Raya, American actor Rutina Wesley, less than two years out of the Juilliard School when this movie was made, gives a performance so grounded and true as to make the similarly motivated strivers in Dreamgirls look like amateurs. Wesley had to be a dynamite dancer too, and she pulls off the part of a dazzling, passionate stepper.

Toronto supplied most of the dancers in the movie, beginning with Tré Armstrong who plays Raya's chief rival Michelle, a role that required her to be as good an actor as she is a dancer. There's no faking or stand-ins, as far as the roving eye can tell, in How She Move.

Bishop, leader of the JSJ, is played by Dwain Murphy, an engaging Toronto actor and convincing dancer, who also has a part in Clement Virgo's Poor Boy's Game. B.C.-born Brennan Gademans, another dancer with all the right moves, plays Quake, the bookworm who secretly choreographs step routines.

How She Move is a roll call of recognizable faces from Toronto's performing community: actor/playwright Djanet Sears plays a vice-principal; actor Alison Sealy-Smith plays teacher Mrs. Davis, poet Lillian Allen makes a brief appearance as a student's mother. Singer/songwriter Shawn Desman plays Trey, the white member of JSJ.

The Toronto step crew Black Ice shines in one of the competition scenes, dressed up in hospital scrubs. And local hip-hop artist Cali (Sarah Francis) has a spot on Michelle's crew FemPhatal and a song on the soundtrack.

Avoiding the sentimentality and most of the earnestness of the urban dance drama, How She Move takes the prize with kick-ass dancing and on-the-mark acting.
Nikki Yanofsky: Jazz Baby

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com

(January 26, 2008) Nikki Yanofsky is correcting her mother. “No, Mom. It was 2005 the first time,” she says. “I remember because I was in Grade 5, and I got that shirt, the one with the ruffles, and I wore it there. I remember it very, very clearly,” she asserts, looking at her mother who is seated near her in the kitchen of the large family home in the Montreal suburb of Hampstead. “It was in December, and then in 2006, I did the [Montreal International] jazz festival.”

Her mother is obviously accustomed to her teenager's exuberant confidence. “That's right,” her mother says slowly in recollection.

“Of course it's right,” the young Yanofsky responds brightly. “Look who you're dealing with.” She taps her forehead. “Best memory.” She laughs.

 “You're right.” Her mother nods, certain now of the date.

“Say that again,” her daughter implores.

“You're right,” her mother repeats, laughing.

“That's what I like to hear,” Yanofsky says, bobbing her head of dark, glossy hair in a show of approval. Her confidence is precocious, but charming. She offers a huge smile, complete with shiny braces. “It's not very often I get to hear that,” she continues, slapping a hand lightly on her thigh in mock congratulation of herself.

Yanofsky is 13 years old, 5-foot-1 in height and weighs 89 pounds. Her heft is all in her spirited personality and in her prodigious talent as a jazz singer who can scat sing like the legend she most admires, Ella Fitzgerald. Since performing in Montreal in December, 2005, with her father's garage band at a local club for a fundraiser, she has quickly caught the attention of the music industry's biggest players.

She has performed at several international jazz festivals and charity events. “Stunning doesn't begin to describe it,” wrote Globe and Mail jazz critic J.D. Considine of her performance at last summer's Toronto Jazz Festival.

In the spring of that year, under the guidance of Tommy Lipuma, the legendary chairman of Verve Music Group, she recorded Fitzgerald's Airmail Special for We all Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song, a tribute album to mark the 90th anniversary of the jazz singer's birth. She had learned the complicated vocal-improvisation piece in two days. Produced by another music legend, Phil Ramone, the album includes performances by Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Diana Krall, k.d. lang and Michael Bublé, among others. She's in discussions with Ramone about recording her first solo album.

But her biggest gig is around the corner. On the heels of two concerts in Toronto early next month, she will make her debut at New York's fabled Carnegie Hall on Feb. 8, which happens to be her 14th birthday.

“It's, like, freakishly huge,” she says, laughing. “Any kid my age probably wouldn't know what Carnegie Hall is.”

Marvin Hamlisch, the multi-award-winning conductor, composer and pianist, will lead the New York Pops orchestra in the evening's program of swing-era classics. Grammy Award-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater headlines the event. Yanofsky will sing When You Wish Upon a Star and Fitzgerald's hip version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

“I don't feel that I've changed,” Yanofsky says, as she chats animatedly at the kitchen table, popping fresh blueberries into her mouth. “My parents have succeeded in keeping me grounded, because they always teach me that if you believe that you can grow as an artist and as a person, you'll never get too cocky or full of yourself because you always feel that there is room to grow.”

Her parents, both native Montrealers, who have been married for 21 years, describe their daughter as “a force” who has commanded attention from an early age. Her 50-year-old father, Richard, a principal and founder of WowWee, a toy company, has always had a studio in the house for his band, which he has since folded as he focuses his musical interest on his daughter's career. He plans to remain her manager.

“She would come and noodle around with us from an early age,” he recalls.

“And then they were, like, wait, something is weird here. She can sing!” Yanofsky gleefully exclaims.

“I always say that she has a photographic ear,” he explains. “She hears something once or twice, and it's done. I've never met anyone that musical in my life.”

With her two older brothers, Michael, now 19, and Andrew, 17, she would often give musical performances during family meals on Sunday night. When she was 2, she learned all the songs in the hit musical Rent and would compete with her brothers about who could remember the most words on long car rides to the family ski chalet in Stowe, Vt. At 4, she was singing Britney Spears songs. At 5, she discovered the Beatles. By 8, she was hooked on jazz.

“She found jazz by herself. She is driven to knock off exact replicas of Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles, and so these people became her teachers,” explains her father, adding that his daughter often begs him to help her learn jazz and R & B classics.

Yanofsky didn't take any formal voice lessons until last year. “Now I know how you are supposed to breathe,” she says, leaping to her feet to give a demonstration.

The family purposefully kept her talent under wraps until that fundraising event in December, 2005. They wanted her to develop her talent without the influence of the music industry, which can be damaging to child prodigies.

“We said to each other that night that our lives were going to change. We had let the cat out of the bag,” says Nikki's mom, Elyssa Yanofsky, 46. Even though they were aware of her musical gift, they were not inclined to enter her in talent shows. “The JonBenet Ramsey thing, that's not my speed,” Elyssa Yanofsky says, wrinkling her nose. “I am not a stage mother. She is her own force, and we just go with it. We don't push her.”

“I pull them,” the younger Yanofsky pipes up brightly, explaining that if she goes too long without being onstage she feels she is in withdrawal. “I think my parents were worried that, ‘Oh my God, she's going to get discovered.' But now they see that I've put in a lot of work for this, and now they see I'm capable of doing it.”

Last year, her father, uncle and three other investors started A440, a company set up to handle her career. Her father hired a vocal coach and musicians who rehearse with her three times a week. “We are prepared to invest up to seven figures,” Richard Yanofsky states. To date, they have spent close to $200,000, he figures. “We want to keep her career really organic and natural. If we can seed her with a brand centred around art and goodness, it will stand her in good stead for when she wants to sell a record. We have created in Montreal her own private Juilliard [School], with access to a studio, to shows and to musicians.”

With his background in business and marketing, he carefully planned how to introduce his daughter to the music industry. “From a visibility perspective, from a credibility perspective, I wanted to have her ushered into the industry by its leaders.” He has been able to arrange for introductions to “everybody at the highest level,” he says, including Canadian music producer David Foster, singer-guitarist John Mayer and jazz icon Wynton Marsalis.

Watching Nikki move about the house, it's clear that her family has had little choice but to organize itself around her. She is a diva in a little girl's body. She speaks her mind with no inhibition or threat of censure from her parents. She poses for photographs as effortlessly as she might skip rope, if she had the time.

“It's like we're living with a Wayne Gretzky or a Louis Armstrong or an Ella Fitzgerald,” her father says, with a slightly dazed look of awe.

“She's an old soul,” her mother says. “It's like she's been doing this for thousands of years.”

A maturity beyond her years has not always been easy to handle, however. “Lots of the girls don't get me,” Yanofsky says. “I often feel like an outcast. And I don't talk too much about what I'm doing, because they'd get all snooty and think I'm being egotistical.”

Currently enrolled in Grade 8 on a flexible learning program at St. George's, a private co-ed school in Montreal, she is a top student.

A year and a half ago, girls in her class put wads of chewing gum in her hat and boots. “No one ever owned up to it,” she says with a pout.

Were they jealous?

“Oh, maybe,” she says, waving one hand dismissively in the air. “To each his own. I have no clue. I didn't do anything to them. I just had to get over it.”

The friend that never lets her down is the microphone. In rehearsal, she is all force and nuance, using her voice like a finely tuned instrument.

Her father enters the studio to listen to her after returning from doing some errands.

“That's good,” he says to her as she finishes When You Wish Upon a Star.

“I know,” she replies with a laugh.

“Can't I hear [Stevie Wonder's] Signed, Sealed, Delivered?” he asks, referring to a song in her jazz repertoire. She tells him she has already rehearsed it.

“You'll hear it in Jamaica,” she squeals, holding his hands as she leans affectionately into his lap. The band is heading south for the Jamaican Jazz Festival this weekend.

“He pays the bills,” the drummer cajoles.

“Yeah, but I'll be paying them really soon,” she retorts playfully as she steps up onto the wooden platform to indulge her father's wishes.

Luminato arts festival, in partnership with TD Canada Trust, presents Nikki Yanofsky in her solo concert debut Feb. 5 and 6, in Toronto.

Juno Not Canadian Enough For Genies

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

(January 29, 2008) The Oscar-nominated comedy smash
Juno has a Canadian director (Jason Reitman), two Canadian stars (Ellen Page and Michael Cera), and it was filmed in Vancouver and area.

Yet it's not Canadian enough for the
Genie Awards, even though British and American films and talent do qualify as Canadian.

The omission of Juno from yesterday's nominations for the annual celebration of Canadian film was just one of many puzzlers in an otherwise sterling year for maple leaf cinema.

The London-filmed Eastern Promises and the Rwanda-filmed Shake Hands With the Devil dominate the noms for the March 3 awards at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, with 12 bids apiece.

They're followed by Away From Her with seven nominations, The Tracey Fragments with six, Continental, un film sans fusil (a Film Without Guns) with five, Silk with five and L'Âge des ténèbres (Days of Darkness) with four.

Juno wasn't submitted for Genie consideration, said Sara Morton, the CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

Yet even if it had been, Morton said it's unlikely Juno would have been eligible for a Genie, owing to the complicated requirements for Canadian status laid down by the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office, part of Heritage Canada.

The office requires that at least a portion of a film's funding come from Canadian sources and Juno was funded by Fox Searchlight, a U.S. company.

It's not unlike the situation that caused a national ruckus in 1991 when Vancouver rocker Bryan Adams was declared un-Canadian by federal content watchdogs, because his album Waking Up the Neighbours was co-written with a Briton and recorded in London.

"Juno did not apply, so it's really hard for me to comment on why it might not be Canadian," Morton said in an interview.

"I'm making a guess based on the fact that it's got a clear association with a U.S. studio. Chances are it wouldn't fall within the CAVCO requirement, even though it has some Canadian talent in it."

No one from Fox Searchlight was available for comment last night.

Had Juno been submitted and ruled eligible, it would have made this year's Genies seem more like an Oscar-calibre event than it already is. This year has a record number of nominees who are also in the running for Academy Awards, although not all of them are strictly Canadian:

Halifax's Ellen Page, nominated for a Best Actress Oscar as the title star of Juno, qualified for the same category at the Genies as the title star of The Tracey Fragments.

Toronto's Sarah Polley, nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Away From Her, drawn from an Alice Munro short story, is also recognized in the same Genies category. Polley also has a Genies nom for Best Director for Away From Her, her helming debut.

New York-born Viggo Mortensen, the star of David Cronenberg's London thriller Eastern Promises, has a Genies nomination for Best Actor to add to his Oscar nom in the same category.

Britain's Julie Christie, the female lead of Away From Her, is competing with Page for Best Actress both at the Oscars and the Genies. And this time, her Canadian co-star Gordon Pinsent joins her in the spotlight with his own Best Actor nomination, something the Oscars denied him.

Montreal's Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski add a Genies nomination for Best Animated Short to their Oscar nomination and Cannes festival win for Madame Tutli-Putli, their story of a dark and scary train ride.

Another surprise no-show from the Genies list was the Oscar-nominated I Met the Walrus, directed by Toronto's Josh Raskin. This film also wasn't submitted for Genies consideration, Morton said, but in this case it likely would have qualified since "it does look as though it were a Canadian production."

Raskin was unavailable for comment last night.

Gilliam Reportedly Working Hard To Save Ledger's Last Film

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(January 30, 2008) VANCOUVER — Director Terry Gilliam is trying to figure out a way to save his film, the Canadian co-production The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, following the death of its star, Heath Ledger.

"Terry's throwing himself into the job of trying to salvage the picture," co-star Christopher Plummer, who plays Parnassus in the film, is quoted as telling People.

Plummer says Gilliam may take advantage of the film's magic-based story to save the picture - perhaps by turning Ledger's character into other people, using stills or using computer-generated-imaging effects.

The Imaginarium was supposed to begin 40 days of shooting in British Columbia this past Monday, following about three weeks of shooting in London.

The Canadian-British co-production is produced by Vancouver's William Vince, head of Infinity Features, along with Samuel Hadida and Gilliam's daughter, Amy Gilliam, who lives in Vancouver.

The film is about a man, Parnassus, who acquires magical powers by making a deal with the devil (Tom Waits) that affects the fate of Parnassus's daughter (Lily Cole). Ledger played a mysterious stranger who joins Parnassus's travelling theatre troupe.

Vince, clearly distressed by Ledger's death and its impact on the $30-million production, has refused interview requests. Instead, Infinity released a statement on Friday.

"Heath was a great actor, a great friend and a great spirit. We are still in a state of deep shock, saddened and numb with grief. Over the coming days Terry and the producers will be assessing how best to proceed."

The film's production office at Bridge Studios in Burnaby, B.C., is still being staffed, but all inquiries are being referred to a public-relations firm in Los Angeles.

Ledger's death has also delayed the production of Blue Valentine. The film co-stars Michelle Williams, with whom Ledger had a child, along with Canadian actor Ryan Gosling. The film's distributor is the Toronto-launched company THINKFilm.

Ledger, 28, died last week in his New York apartment. The cause of death has still not been confirmed, as medical officials await test results.

The day after Ledger's death, Plummer told The Globe and Mail that he thought the actor, who had been shooting exterior scenes in damp, wintry London, may have had pneumonia or walking pneumonia.

"Of course, if you take sleeping pills with that, you can stop your heart," he said.

Plummer, who had been due on the set at Bridge Studios today, told The Globe that he was shocked and saddened by his young co-star's death. "There was a great sweetness about him and a great joy."

Writers Union Blesses Grammy Ceremony

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber, The Associated Press

(January 29, 2008) LOS ANGELES – The
Grammy Awards will be in full voice next month, with the striking writers guild agreeing Monday to allow its members to work on the show.

The Writers Guild of America gave its blessing last week to a picket-free Grammys. Now that the guild's board of directors has decided to sign an interim agreement for the Feb. 10 ceremony, the Grammys will escape the fate that befell this month's Golden Globes.

The Globes were stripped of stars and pomp when the guild wouldn't agree to an interim deal and the Screen Actors Guild encouraged its members to boycott the ceremony, which was reduced to a news conference.

The agreement allowing guild-covered writing for the Grammys is in support of union musicians and also will help advance writers' own quest for "a fair contract," the guild said in a statement.

"Professional musicians face many of the same issues that we do concerning fair compensation for the use of their work in new media," Patric M. Verrone, president of the guild's West Coast branch, said in the statement.

Payment for projects distributed via the Internet is a central issue in the contract dispute between the writers union and the alliance that represents studios.

Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, called the guild's Grammy decision gratifying and promised a 50th anniversary show "with an amazing lineup of artists and performances.''

Earlier this month, Portnow had vowed to stage a full-scale show with or without guild support.

Informal talks began last week between the union and several studio chiefs in an effort to resolve the nearly three-month-old strike that has disrupted movie and TV production. Formal negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke down in early December.

During the impasse, the Directors Guild of America reached a tentative deal with the alliance that addressed new-media issues and created pressure for the writers to resume talks.

The writers guild has agreed to allow next month's NAACP Image Awards to proceed with guild support, a courtesy also granted to Sunday night's Screen Actors Guild Awards.

But the guild has declined a waiver for the Academy Awards, raising doubts about how the Feb. 24 ceremony will be staged if the strike continues and actors stage a boycott. The ceremony's producer has vowed the show will go on, hinting it could be padded with clips from 80 years of Oscar history if writers and stars do not cooperate.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Climbing Black Mountain

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Jennifer Van Evra

(January 30, 2008) VANCOUVER — It begins with a few slow, ominous notes on the electric guitar - a Hells Bells-style warning that says you, sir or madam, are about to rock. Then come the drums, hammering out the kind of beat that inspired an entire generation of tight pants and long hair, and the stadium-sized guitar and keyboard riffs to match. The ghosts of early Fleetwood Mac stir as a woman's voice howls out the backing vocals, and before long, listeners are swept into a vast, stormy world full of witches, lords, hunting hounds and frightened daughters.

It's a fittingly grand entrance for
Black Mountain, a Vancouver indie rock band that hasn't released a full-length album since their 2005 self-titled debut, which they thought would sell 500 copies and allow them to play around town. Instead, it landed them on Top 10 lists around the globe, attracted the attention of Rolling Stone magazine and won them an opening spot on tour with Coldplay. While the feverishly anticipated new record is titled In the Future, it definitely harks back to the past.

"We wanted to make a double gatefold album," says Black Mountain lead man Stephen McBean, referring to the seventies rock records that would fold open like a book, and then fold open again. "It's that whole thing of remembering being a kid, when you would lie in the bean-bag chair with your new record and your headphones on while you looked at the cover."

Dressed in a puffy brown jacket and brown sneakers, the grey in his beard hinting at his 38 years, McBean couldn't be further from a larger-than-life rock hero. Taking a sunny stroll through a seaside park near his East Vancouver home, the soft-spoken, self-effacing singer and guitarist looks down toward the ground and smiles as he quietly admits that when he first played Stormy High's thundering riff, he thought it was funny. "It reminds me a little of KISS," he says.

Stormy High is only the beginning. The eight-minute epic Tyrants alternates between thundering guitars, bass, drums and keys, and stripped-down Neil Young-style vocals about how warmongers will die by the sword. Others, such as the dizzyingly trippy Bright Lights - which takes twists and turns for the better part of 17 minutes - are part psychedelia, part modern atmospherics.

The lyrics are equally tempestuous.

Inhabited by angels and demons, soldiers and queens, lightning and howling winds, they perfectly match the epic tone of the music. "They usually come at the same time," says McBean, who adds that playing the songs through big amps onstage is so much fun, he feels like a little kid. "And if Stormy High had angry country lyrics about washing dishes in a restaurant," he jokes, "it just wouldn't work the same way."

In contrast, the album also offers quieter, more contemplative moments, including the stunning Night Walks, which has Amber Webber's reverb-drenched vocals shimmering over Jeremy Schmidt's droning keyboards. Rich with falsetto harmonies, Stay Free - which was recorded in Los Angeles by big-time rock producer Dave Sardy and included on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack - is a beautiful ballad about learning to stop running away.

"We've always had this idea that we don't want to completely be a rock band, so we battle with ourselves to tone things down. Especially if you're on tour and having fun and drinking too much, then you tend to be really loud and forget. But I like the soft stuff," McBean says. "But it's a challenge to pull it off and not do it in a lighters-in-the-air kind of way."

Given the response to the album so far, there will probably be a lot more lighters in the air when Black Mountain heads out on an expansive North American tour on Thursday that includes stops right across Canada, an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and a stint at the uber-hip British festival ATP vs. Pitchfork.

Already, critics from Rolling Stone to the Guardian are singing the band's praises and predicting their imminent entry into the mainstream.

But while some groups would sell their souls at the crossroads for Rolling Stone mentions, Coldplay tours and Spider-Man soundtrack spots, the members of Black Mountain - several of whom work with a non-profit housing society on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside - aren't particularly taken with fame. Hearing that their musical heroes are fans of the band, however, is another story.

"Finding out that J. Mascis [of Dinosaur Jr.] liked our record - that's the stuff that really makes it all special and teary-eyed for us," McBean says. Having Wayne Coyne, lead man for underground icons the Flaming Lips, appear at their Oklahoma show, he adds, was a dream come true.

"We ended up staying at their houses, and they gave us their bubble machine from Lollapalooza '94. I mean, I appreciate that we went on tour with Coldplay, but finding out that Keith Morris from the Circle Jerks and Black Flag is a fan really means something to me."

Now a full 25 years after he formed his first punk band, McBean, who grew up listening to Husker Du, Black Flag and Minutemen - what he calls "weird kid in school stuff" - is already working on new music for his popular side project, Pink Mountaintops, and gearing up for a long stint on the road. In The Future may have barely been out for a week, but he argues that its fate no longer rests in his hands.

"There is always a lot of self-doubt and confusion when you finish something, because you have been working on it so hard. And when it's actually done, it doesn't belong to you any more. It's like a stray dog that goes off and anyone can treat it any way they want to," McBean says.

"But I think sometimes it's made a bigger deal than it is. It's just music and it's just fun. And if things get too serious, you just have to get back to what made you want to do it in the first place.

Special to The Globe and Mail

*****

Black Mountain bio

1982 At 13, Stephen McBean forms his first punk band, Jerk Ward, named after a scene in a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. The band plays its first live show a year later with Scream, Dave Grohl's pre-Nirvana hardcore group.

1996 McBean's band Jerk With A Bomb begins as a four-track project and later expands to include vocalist Amber Webber, drummer Joshua Wells and pianist/bassist Christoff Hoffmeister.

2004 Jerk With a Bomb breaks up - at the same time that hipster U.S. label Jagjaguwar offers to sign them. Bassist Matthew Camirand and Jeremy Schmidt join Webber, Wells and McBean and Black Mountain is formed. They record their first EP before they've even played a live show together.

2005 Black Mountain releases its self-titled debut. The album ends up on Top 10 lists around the world. Coldplay invites Black Mountain on tour.

2006 After heading to the studio to record a new album, the band isn't happy with the results and shelves it. At an Oklahoma tour stop a few months later, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips invites the band to stay at his house.

2007 The band camps out at the Hive Studios for two weeks to record In The Future. Says McBean, "We ended up just staying there and ordering food and having a good time. But, I mean, we did see daylight and stuff."

Black Mountain records a song for the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack. McBean calls the experience "a high point in my life."

2008 In the Future is released. The Guardian calls the opening track "as thrilling a rock song as one could hope for" and Rolling Stone says the album is "a high-voltage mix of Black Sabbath riffs, Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett-era psychedelic sensibility and the Flaming Lips' eccentricity." Band prepares to tour North America.

*****

Canadian tour dates
Feb. 26: Moncton; The Manhattan
Feb. 27: Halifax; the Marquee Club
Feb. 29: Montreal; La Sala Rosa
March 5: Toronto; Lee's Palace
March 27: Winnipeg; Pyramid Cabaret
March 28: Regina; The Distrikt
March 29: Saskatoon; Amigo's
March 31: Edmonton; Starlite Room
April 1: Calgary; The Warehouse
April 2: Kelowna, B.C.; Habitat
April 5: Vancouver; Commodore Ballroom

Call Michael Buble Mr. Irresistible

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(January 25, 2008) With stubbled jowls, a loosened tie, windblown hair and a jaundiced eye,
Michael Bublé still couldn't render the ennui that underscores Leonard Cohen's sardonic masterpiece "I'm Your Man," the song that opened his sold-out show last night at the Air Canada Centre.

Maybe Leonard doesn't swing as well as the composers of the standards that make up the bulk of the Vancouver-born post-modern crooner's repertoire – well-travelled gems such as "Me And Mrs Jones," "Fever," "Call Me Irresponsible" and "I've Got The World On A String."

Or maybe Bublé, at 32, just hasn't had time to plumb the depths of adult male self-loathing. Either way, the song lacked gravitas as an opening statement, its meaning buried in a big and brassy arrangement and sidelined by Bublé's sexy swagger, faux dance steps and cheeky grin.

Just short of the kind of snarling lounge lizard routine that made Bill Murray famous too many years ago to recount, it was, fortunately, a minor stumble in an otherwise unconventional and engaging performance that relied less on musical proficiency – though he's backed by a crack, young and hungry 13-piece assembly and possesses a voice that at times is sensationally smooth and rich – than on the artist's charm, good-natured wit and self-deprecating manner.

The swing grooves and big horn bravado aside, there's nothing really retro about Bublé at all.

Too young and too Canadian to have drunk from the well of early 20th-century jazz that nurtured the crooner idols of the 1940s and `50s to which he is often and unjustly compared – Sinatra, Bennett and even Anka, one of his early mentors – Bublé sounded more at ease last night scatting hockey playoff predictions hip-hop-style than in the very few legit vocal improvisations he attempted, more suited to the top-selling pop hits "Home" (apparently about Toronto) and "Everything" than to period classics.

For all that, he clearly loves fronting a big band, and the attention of an arena-sized audience – that he drew 15,000 last night seemed to impress and surprise him – and looks, if you squint just right, like a rock star in banker's drag.

In many ways Bublé has reinvented the crooner for the video generation, one that doesn't know or care about the deep foundations of the vocal style, about the acquisition and employment of improvisational skills or soulfulness.

It seemed to matter little to them that Bublé could not imbue "Fever" and "Me And Mrs. Jones" – songs that earned an earful of approving hollers – with the aching lust and guilty longing they require. He made them sexy and breezy, throwing them off with the same kind of cheekiness he displayed when he abandoned the stage early in the set to hug and mug with audience members, and to allow one woman to squeeze his buttocks shamelessly for the TV cameras.

That self-effacing good humour is Bublé's real stock-in-trade. He may have sold 11 million albums, he may be a bona fide international star touring the world with a big band of top-notch, well-trained American musicians (and one Canadian – trombonist Josh Brown, from Burlington, Ont.), and he may have the voice that, some believe, will revive the classic jazz vocal standard.

But at the heart of it, he's a lovable lad with the gift of the gab, and a playful practical joker who loves centre stage. What's not to like?

Bajans Take A Bow At Awards

Source: Nation News - by Wendy Burke

(January 29, 2008) SEVERAL LOCAL ARTISTES earned well deserved
Barbados Music Awards on Sunday and put in splendid performances.

But the event hit a sour note when it dragged on passed the appointed finish time.

The 7 p.m. scheduled start went over by half an hour and the show ran in excess of four hours after an extended intermission.

It meant that some patrons missed out on krosfyah's dynamic performance including some thrilling choreography.

On the inside the audience was in agreement with most of the winners, but the Media Award-Radio which was won by Hurricane of 98.1 F.M., left some a bit baffled at the list of nominees which did not include favourite John Doe.

He got his revenge by winning the People's Choice Award.

The big awards of Entertainer Of The Year female and male went to Rihanna and Lil Rick respectively, which went down well with the audience from its rousing response.

As expected Rihanna also took away four awards and was given a special award, while Lil Rick also won Best Soca Single.

Three for jazz

Others coming out on top were David Kirton with three awards Best Reggae Single, Reggae Artiste Of The Year and Best Music Video male.

Rubytech & Damian Marvay also took home three BMA's in the rap category, and Arturo Tappin three for jazz.

krosfyah received Band Of The Year and Best Soca Album Duo or Group.

Kimberley Inniss and Keann took home two for "Sweat", Mr Dale two, including Writer Of The Year and Best Ragga Soca Single Male for Soka Junkie of which he gave a delightful performance with his "addicted dancers" putting the audience in fits of laughter.

The media award for Print/Internet went to former NATION Publishing journalist Andrea King.

Overall, the show seemed to be at a slightly lower key than last year's and lacked the razzmatazz that accompanied the red carpet arrivals in 2007.

Divine intervention

The carpet missed the hot fashions making it easy for a few of the awardees and VIPs to stand out with a welcoming by "angels".

The stage setting was somewhat confusing as the area where the actual awards were presented did not seem the most suited and the "bridge" used by the ushers delivering the awards was not functional.

Part of the excitement of the night was dampened by the number of absent winners.

On the other hand other performers who stood out were Tara, Philip Scantlebury, Machel Montano, who got a Lifetime Achievement Award, Patrice Roberts, Shontelle and Beenie Man, Livvy Franc, Hal Linton and Sizzla who brought the audience to its feet.

However, a dapper Lil Rick showed why he was the top entertainer moving the stoic VIP section into a bit of "wukking up" to his Caan Wait.

February Officially Declared As Reggae Month In Jamaica

Source:  Caribbean Net News

(January 29, 2008) KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS): February was officially declared as
Reggae Month by Jamaica's Governor-General, Professor Sir Kenneth Hall, at a ceremony held last week.

Sir Kenneth read the formal proclamation, which will also provide for the annual celebration of the music genre, for which Jamaica is known around the world.

Several dignitaries, headed by Prime Minister, Bruce Golding and key stakeholders in the local music industry, participated in the historic launch, which followed Golding's announcement on January 9 of Government's decision to declare February as Reggae Month annually.

In a brief address, the Prime Minister noted that the music has served to clearly and definitively distinguish Jamaica from the rest of the world, adding that Jamaicans could be proud of the fact that Reggae is what has given the country global recognition.

In paying tribute to the music's pioneers, the Prime Minister noted that "none has captured, explored, and expanded the music's potential more than Bob Marley. There's no country in the world that you go (to) where Bob Marley is not known and recognized. Bob Marley is Jamaican music. He personifies, (and) he symbolizes Jamaican music."

According to the Prime Minister, the music genre had evolved over the years through many stages and varying influences.

"Our music was influenced by our own indigenous mentor but it (also) absorbed jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and it fashioned all of that into a musical expression that I don't think has been done in any other music form in any other part of the world. It is Reggae that is (now) influencing other music (genres)," Golding pointed out.

Stating that much of Reggae music is a profound commentary on life, he said that, "it has become a powerful medium to carry a message, not only in Jamaica, but all over the world. I'm not sure that we understand its power and how it can be used as a transformational tool, not just to transform our own country that needs transformation in so many ways, but to change the culture of the world and the way in which people relate to and treat each other."

While noting that this year's celebration would serve as a "learning curve", the Prime Minister said that the aim was to make the annual celebration an international event.

"We want it to be an international event. We want to advertise it all over the world. I want the (Jamaica) Tourist Board to get involved and promote it, I want Jamaica Trade and Invest to recognize it as an area for investment. I want us to really come together and say to the world 'we dey ya and we ain't going nowhere', because Reggae music is here to stay".

The occasion also saw the unveiling of the Reggae Month logo, which depicts the pioneers of the music.

Temptations Take Fans 'Back'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(January 30, 2008)  You know what they say, the first 48 are crucial.
The Temptations know that very well, releasing their 48th album, “Back to Front.”

 The disc has the five-some paying tribute to legendary artists and some of the best sounds to come out of the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Barry White, LTD, and the Bee Gees.

 “It’s something we’ve done before,” said Otis Williams – the only surviving member of the original group. “The company wanted us to do another covers album, except not to do any Motown songs. So we ventured outside and did some other classics that I’ve always loved.”

 The vocal group released the cover album of standards called “For Lovers Only” in 1995 and one titled “Reflections” in 2006, which featured Motown hits.

“‘Reflections’ did fairly well,” Williams said of the motivation to release another disc of famous hits, but promised that the group would still do original music, too. He also added a few more motivations for the legendary group to release an album of remakes.  

“If you look, a lot of artists of our ilk are doing cover jobs,” he said, referring to popular blue-eyed soul man Michael McDonald’s 2005 disc “Motown” and the Boys II Men 2004 release “Throwback.”

“And there are not many great songs being written, so that’s part of the problem. And artists of our ilk are catching a lot of flack for not getting a lot of air time,” he continued, recalling an article on R&B songbird Angie Stone, who said she just focuses on putting out a good record and not on getting mainstream airplay.

 “Here’s a young lady that just got on the scene and she can’t even get airplay.”

 Williams, a veteran of the music business with almost 5 decades with the Temptations, says that the group’s lack of play on radio doesn’t really faze him.

 “I don’t let it bother me to the point it bugs me. I just know that that’s just what the business has come to,” he said. “And the one thing that’s constant in life is change. We still make our money giggin’ and doing other things. It would be great to get mainstream [airplay], but it’s geared for the young, and we understand that. That’s what time it is. They want to hear the cussing and the rapping and the hip-hop. Artists like us; we have to go a whole other route to let our fans know that we’re still recording. Mainstream will not play acts of a certain genre.”

“Back to Front” certainly has hits that got a lot of mainstream airplay originally. The disc features The Temps’ rendition of Barry White’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” “Love Ballad” made famous by Jeffrey Osborne-led LTD, “Don’t Ask My Neighbors” by The Emotions, and the Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love,” just to name a few.

 “When [our label] New Door asked us to do a second cover job, they said ‘Otis, pick out some other songs’ and I just picked out the ones that I’ve enjoyed over the years,” he said. “They’re songs that I grew up with and admired the artist that did them.”

At 66 years old, Williams has no current plans to stop singing and performing in the near future.

 “I don’t want to retire. I still enjoy it. I enjoy making music. I enjoy performing. I’m going to ride the hair off the horse,” he declared and humbly added, “I had no idea what we started in ’61 that we would be doing this 46 years later.”

 Forty-six years and 48 albums later, Otis Williams and the Temptations are still thrilling music lovers and audiences.

 “I’ve been through enough to know that the record business is one of those things that will forever change. It’s something we’ve been through enough times already. We’ll just continue doing what we do,” he said. “We work our fannies off and we’re doing very well in that perspective.”

 For more on the new disc and to HEAR samples from the new CD, check out www.thetemptations.com.

Miles Jaye Spotlights: 'Will Downing – The Downing Factor'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 30, 2008) If
Will Downing had a clothing line it would sell at Barney’s New York, Saks Fifth Avenueand Neiman Marcus and I’d be one of the first in line to sport Downing Wear.

If he had an SUV endorsement like Eddie Bauer had with Ford, you might very well see me behind the wheel of a Will Downing Expedition.

The point is; some names represent a proven standard of quality and excellence and the name Will Downing is one of them.

When you first hear a Downing CD his velvety smooth baritone and effortless phrasing are immediately apparent.

What is not so apparent is the standard Will applies to each and every project.

Hours, weeks, months and years of preparation are transparent – he makes it seem effortless.

We’re not supposed to notice it, we’re supposed to feel it and we do – I call it the Downing Factor.

When the Downing Factor is applied the result is predictable – excellence. Someone once said, “Excellence can be obtained if you: care more than others think is wise; risk more than others think is safe; dream more than other’s think is practical and expect more than other’s think is possible.” Artists like Will do care more, risk more, dream more and expect more. Will shared an experience with me that will underscore my point about the man.

Unknown to many of his fans, he is an accomplished photographer.

I asked how he was introduced to photography and he recalled a photo shoot for one of his CD covers in which he thought certain aspects of the concept could be adjusted.

The photographer challenged Will to get behind the lens and try it himself. Not long after that shoot he purchased his own camera gear and got busy. He says it took exhaustive trial and error, the patience of Job and many, many rolls of film before he began to develop the multiple skill sets required to master photography.

He had a vision.

He had the determination.

He expected to succeed and he did.

Aristotle referred to excellence as habit – it’s one of Will’s.

Excellence becomes formula like great putting or free throw shooting.

Anyone who has done either knows there are at least a dozen elements to consider for consistent success at what appear to be very simple actions; hit a small round ball into a hole in the ground ten feet away with a long metal club or toss a large round ball, unchallenged, into a cylinder ten feet from the ground and fifteen feet from the baseline.

Catch up with Shaq at the upcoming All-Star game and ask him about free throws.

Physical consistency requires among other things, Muscle Memory. Mental consistency requires a formula – a mental path to follow each and every time.

Warren Buffet’s ability to “pick” winning stocks time and time again has made him legend.

He owes it, at least in part, to tried and true formula’s from which he does not waiver.

Will has a simple but very practical formula for successful recordings: great songs, perfectly crafted rhythm arrangements with only the best musicians and top notch production, and of course - that voice.

A Dream Fulfilled was the project that first made me aware of the Downing Factor.

It was clear to me that he had raised the bar and set a new standard by which all other vocal projects in similar categories would be measured.

For years I wondered how he did it.

What do I mean by perfect?

I mean as soon as the proverbial needle hits the wax, something good happens to the space you’re in - not just sonically but psychologically - it’s a vibe thing.

The mood becomes a wrinkle free zone, like the final smoothing stroke of a hand on a perfectly made California king.

The tones you hear seem to automatically dim the lights in the room.

Everything around you slows down a beat per minute.

It’s like the Twilight Zone… you no longer control the vertical or horizontal.

He’s got you… you’re absorbed.

You want to hear every lyric and every line – this is Downing Time.

Ironically, Will has another perspective on the so-called perfect record.

He suggests that a recording that is fifty-five minutes of quantized, sonically correct, mistake free, squeaky clean may, in fact, be too perfect if it lacks warmth.

He also notes that such productions often lack originality as labels and producers eager to capture success in a bottle, model successive productions after the latest radio hits.

It’s the music industry’s version of cloning.

Who can be the next Mary J. or the next Chris Brown?

Simple and to the point Will says; “I just do what I do… I do what I do best.”

Confucius said; “A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.”

Will expounded; “There are so few of us left it looks like I’m doing something unique, but I’m not.” “Everyone else is singing tenor today so it makes me appear unique.”

I appreciate Will’s rare sense of generous humility, but I must insist that Will Downing is unique.

He says he simply does what he does best, but his artistic range has spanned dance tracks to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” making it evident to me that Will Downing’s artistic engine is just getting warmed up and the only place left for him to go is a place Canadian jazz pianist Paul Bley likes to refer to as beyond excellence.

Where ever beyond excellence is and whatever Will decides to do once he arrives, you can be sure that he will continue to generously apply the Downing Factor and the results will continue to be predictable - magical.

Will’s newest release After Tonight is #1 on Billboard’s R&B chart. Hear the title track here.

Miles Jaye Davis, like his namesake the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, is one of music’s most gifted, distinctive and dynamic artists. Miles laid the groundwork for excellence with his three highly acclaimed and successful CDs "Miles," "Irresistible" and "Strong" on Island Records. Miles is also an accomplished author. He has written a novel called "Margerette" and frequently pens articles like the one above for various media outlets including EURweb.com. For MORE on Miles Jaye Davis visit his website: www.milesjaye.com.  

The Arrival Of Mika

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(January 26, 2008) If Life in Cartoon Motion is, as Mika claims, his "schoolyard album," then the next should probably be his "last laugh at the schoolyard album."

Like many a confident pop peacock before him, the Lebanese-born Londoner responsible for last year's inescapable hit, "Grace Kelly," had a decidedly rougher time of it back in the playground days. His school years in Paris and London's South Kensington neighbourhood saw him "bullied to the death," he recently told British newspaper The Times, to the point he suffered a "complete breakdown" before he'd even hit his teenage years.

Now, at 24, the operatically inclined, decidedly sexually ambiguous singer, pianist and songwriter born Mica Penniman has spun gold – nay, platinum – from the very same fantasy world of DayGlo doodles and theatrical music in which he sought escape during his childhood. His unapologetically garish debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, has moved 4.5 million copies worldwide since its release last February, effectively making him the biggest British pop star of 2007.

It's been a meteoric rise to stardom, then. But Mika assures us he's the last person anyone will hear bemoaning the agonies of fame.

"Although I'm not like most other people who do this pop thing, I am fully aware I'm a pop musician and that I always wanted to be a pop star and that I always wanted to do this job. I wanted to make a pop record that came from a real place, that came from songwriting and that was true to myself, and I'm very comfortable with that," he says, kicking back in his London flat after a week-long vacation at a "totally ridiculous" hotel on a private South American island.

"I'm not necessarily tabloid fodder. I'm extremely private. The one thing I respect more than anything else is my privacy, and if that means I lose a few inches on the tabloid columns, it's fine by me."

The past year's whirlwind, he says, has kept him far too busy to succumb to "the madness and cliché" that often comes with sudden stardom, anyway. Indeed, Mika has been on the road steadily since the end of 2006, and will only wind touring chores for Life in Cartoon Motion down after the brief North American tour that brings him to Kool Haus on Tuesday night and an appearance on the Brit Awards – where he's up for Best Male Solo Artist and Best Album, among other nominations – next month.

"Quite frankly, the whole experience has been defined by 2007 being the year when I really learned what it was like to be on the road and to tour and to do gigs night after night with a day off between every three days, and to just travel around the world, literally working for your supper, getting sick all the time and having to deal with it," he says. "I've been touring now for about a year and a half, and that time has really been defined by the gigs.

"There are perks y'know ... I know now I can do shows in almost any country. Some of them will obviously be bigger than others, but I know I can do a show, whether it's to 500 people or 15,000. It's quite an incredible situation to be in."

A situation largely of Mika's own making, too, as he's the rare contemporary pop star of his stature and global reach who can take complete credit for his own art.

This eases the pressure of crafting a worthy follow-up to Life in Cartoon Motion somewhat, since, "I don't have that idiot syndrome of having to rebel against my first album because it was someone else's work," he says. Besides, he was already writing and demo-ing songs for the second album while he was recording the first, so the prospects of creative exhaustion saddling him with the dreaded "sophomore jinx" seem slim.

He's musing about doing an acoustic tour at some point. But for now, one gets the impression his more immodest ambitions will win out. Those same ambitions, by the way, mean audiences who take in the Canadian and U.S. dates on his latest tour will still be getting the ridiculous, confetti-splattered production Mika takes to much larger crowds across the Atlantic.

"I'm making absolutely no adjustments whatsoever and I'm spending an insane amount of money on the tour. I really couldn't give a f--- because that's what it's all about," he laughs, proclaiming the show "completely big and fantastical. I have a responsibility to bring the same thing over and not compromise or be cheap about it, or otherwise it would be a disappointment.

"I hate the word `over-the-top.' Nothing's ever over-the-top. There's just magic creating another world, and I think I have a responsibility with this show to do that because it's all based on that."

Composer Kenins Held Craft, Tradition In High Regard

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - William Littler, Special To The Star

(January 26, 2008) Talivaldis Kenins, who died at the beginning of the week at the age of 88, belongs, along with such colleagues as Istvan Anhalt, Udo Kasemets and Oscar Morawetz, to a remarkable generation of foreign-born composers who made Canada their home in the years following World War II.

In the Latvian-born Kenins' case, home more specifically turned out to be Toronto, first in 1951, when he became organist and choirmaster at St. Andrew's Latvian Lutheran Church (where his funeral took place yesterday afternoon), and shortly thereafter when he joined the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music, where he taught for more than three decades before retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1984.

Counterpoint and keyboard harmony were his teaching subjects, along with composition, and Kenins practised what he preached, producing music guided by a high level of academic craftsmanship and respect for tradition.

No great innovator, he is quoted in an essay by Lee Hepner in the reference book Contemporary Canadian Composers declaring that "sound experiments of the type of piano-lid slamming, amplified gargling, or cello playing in the bathtub (however beautiful the lady may be) make me sick."

He did experiment with indeterminacy and he did not shy away from dissonance. All the same, the terms often used to describe him –"contemporary romanticist" and "conservative modern" – ring true for the most part.

His musical formation in his native land and in France included work with such major figures as Joseph Wihtol, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakoff's successor as composition teacher at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and Olivier Messiaen, with whom he studied analysis and aesthetics.

But life proved difficult during and immediately after the war. The young man from Latvia was forced to dig trenches in Germany in the war's final year and subsequently found himself playing for dancing classes and in night clubs to support five years of rigorous training at the Paris Conservatoire.

The training bore fruit when his "Sonata for Cello and Piano" won the Premier Prix in composition in his graduating year before a formidable jury including Honegger, Milhard, Poulenc, Enesco and Nadia Boulanger. No less a conductor than Hermann Scherchen premiered his "Septuor" in Darmstadt the same year and, had Kenins remained in Europe, who knows how far his career might have developed?

He did retain strong ties with Latvia, founding the Latvian Concert Association of Toronto, taking part in numerous song festivals and returning to his homeland for concerts of his music and to receive an honorary professorship at the Riga Conservatory.

For the most part, though, he made Canada his base of operations, numbering the composer Bruce Mather and the pianist Arthur Ozolins among his students and the presidency of the Canadian League of Composers among his honours.

Although the recipient of many commissions, he did not enjoy so high a profile in the concert hall as some of his Toronto contemporaries. I personally regret the small number of performances given his music in recent years – he deserved better. An urbane, cosmopolitan, thoroughly civilized man, he wrote well, perhaps more as a citizen of the world than as a self-conscious Canadian, and left behind a substantial body of vocal, orchestral and chamber music.

Is it too much to hope that more of this music can find its way into our concert halls? As Shakespeare had Marc Antony say in remembrance of Julius Caesar, the good men do is "oft interred with their bones."

It would be a pity if the good that is Talivaldis Kenins' music suffered a similar a fate.

Scarlett Sings The Blues For Tom Waits

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(January 29 2008) As far as her covers go, nothing beats
Scarlett Johansson's Vanity Fair fold-out front from 2006, when the blond bombshell with fellow starlet Keira Knightley posed elegantly nude for super-shooter Annie Leibovitz. If her upcoming album of Tom Waits's cover tunes goes over half as well as that photo spread, Johansson will have a blockbuster on her hands.

There's nothing odd about an actress-turned-singer - Minnie Driver recently flopped at it - but Johansson's choice of material intrigues. Waits is a burly voiced weirdo genius whose songs have graced the sultry throats of Norah Jones and Chan Marshall, among others, including Canadian chanteuse Holly Cole, who acted on the idea of a Waits tribute disc with 1995's Temptation.

But where Cole interpreted Waits in a pensive jazz setting, Johansson's project is apparently more in the vein of cinematic rock, at least according to Steve Nails, who co-owns Dockside Studio, the southern Louisiana facility where the album was recorded last summer. "It's like theatre, big screen," Nails told the local Daily Advertiser shortly after the month-long sessions were completed, "lots of heavy bass tones to it."

According to Nails, the Match Point star sounds similar to Marilyn Monroe, an assessment that shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with Johansson's credible smoky-voiced take on the Gershwin classic Summertime from the 2006 charity CD Unexpected Dreams: Songs From the Stars.

The new album is scheduled to be released in May, possibly titled Anywhere I Lay My Head or, more descriptively, Scarlett Sings Tom Waits. With the dubious history of actors' music-dallying, critics will be wary. Waits himself is reserved, telling online music site Pitchfork that he didn't know if he was excited to hear it, but that he was at least curious. "More power to her," he said, graciously.

Johansson, 23, is busy these days. Upcoming films include next month's The Other Boleyn Girl, and reports indicate Courtney Love wants the half-Swede to play her in the Kurt Cobain biopic she's producing. Speculation has Ryan Gosling as the lead. Speaking of Canadian actors, the pretty Ryan Reynolds (Johansson's current beau and former flame of Alanis Morissette) dropped by the rural-retreat recording studio in Maurice, La.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Feist, Cirque Du Soleil Among Grammy Acts

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 30, 2008) Canadian singer
Feist and Quebec-based dance troupe Cirque du Soleil are among the acts set to perform at this year's Grammy awards. The Canuck stars join previously announced performers Beyoncé, Foo Fighters, Carrie Underwood, Aretha Franklin and the Time. The 50th annual Grammy Awards take place Feb. 10 in Los Angeles. The casts of the Vegas stage show Love by Cirque du Soleil and feature film Across The Universe will perform as part of a special Beatles segment. Feist is up for four trophies, in categories including best new artist and best pop vocal album. Kanye West and Amy Winehouse lead the pack with eight nominations each, while Canadians Nelly Furtado, Michael Bublé and Joni Mitchell are also up for trophies.

Lavigne Trademarks Her Name

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 30, 2008) Could there be an "Eau de Avril" in the works? Pint-sized pop star
Avril Lavigne wants to trademark her name in connection with a variety of bath products, igniting speculation that a fragrance line could be on the way. Documents filed last month with the United States Patent and Trademark Office say the singer wants exclusive rights to her own name when it comes to products including fragrances, aftershave, bath soap, body lotion and talc. The move has got blogs and fan sites wondering about a possible product line. A spokesman for Lavigne could not be immediately reached. Musicians including Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Britney Spears all have their own fragrance.

Norman Granz Presents Improvisation

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(January 30, 2008) A must for jazz buffs, this two-disc set features the final-form version, previously unavailable, of the legendary 1950 jazz film created by veteran jazz entrepreneur Norman Granz and famed photographer Gjon Mili, who had collaborated on the Oscar-winning short Jammin' The Blues (also included) in 1944.  The movie contains brilliant clips of Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Buddy Rich, Ella Fitzgerald and Coleman Hawkins, among others, at work in a perfectly jazz-infested environment – stunning performances, all, with excellent sound and high-grade picture quality. Watching Parker and Hawkins trade licks and Duke Ellington jamming with his trio in a private concert for painter Joan Miro at the Cote D'Azur are worth the price of admission. But the package contains so much more: performances by Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis at the 1977 Montreux Jazz Festival, plus a set by Count Basie; Montreux '79 sets featuring guitarist Joe Pass and Ella Fitzgerald; additional footage and still photos of the Miro sessions; interviews about Parker with jazz greats Jay McShann, Slide Hampton, Phil Woods and others; and an illuminating introduction by longtime jazz critic and historian Nat Hentoff.

Alicia Keys Launches 'As I Am' Contest

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 30, 2008) *
Alicia Keys has teamed with Seattle-based online and mobile community Treemo to launch the "As I Am" contest, a mobile and web enterprise to support the Keep A Child Alive (KCA) charity. The contest celebrates the third track on the album titled "Superwoman" by allowing fans to create a Treemo.com account at http://alicia.treemo.com and upload via their mobile phone or web, a photo, video, or text, telling a story about someone they know who is a "Superwoman."  Treemo will donate $1 to KCA for every user who enters the "As I Am" contest, up to $10,000. Keys is the Global Ambassador for Keep A Child Alive, a charity providing an urgent response to the AIDS pandemic ravaging Africa.  "This contest and Treemo's support will not only increase our ability to spread the word about the realities of this pandemic, but also recruit more potential donors who can easily see they can indeed save the life of someone who needs their help. It's only $1 a day to sustain a life; it's time we all start giving a buck," said Leigh Blake, Founder and President of KCA.  KCA provides comprehensive AIDS care to over 20,000 people living with AIDS; including provision of life-saving AIDS medications, nutritional support and treatment for AIDS-related illnesses. For more information about Keep A Child Alive, visit http://www.keepachildalive.org/.  

::FILM NEWS::

Colin Hanks Rises In 'Untraceable'

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Hiscock, Special To The Star

(January 26, 2008) SANTA MONICA–For Colin Hanks, being the son of one of the most famous actors in the world is something of a double-edged sword.

Yes, it helps to have a father who can give you roles in his films and make appearances in yours. But it is a disadvantage when it comes to your love life because girls tend to want to know you because of your famous dad.

At the age of 30, Colin Hanks has developed a finely tuned radar that allows him to immediately distinguish between those who want to know him for himself and those who are drawn to his household name.

"It's pretty obvious what their intentions are," he says. "I'm able to pick them out very quickly. It's an intuitive thing. I'm very careful who I let into my private life and, needless to say, I never brought a lot of people home to meet mom and dad. I can count on one hand the number of people I've introduced to my parents."

His famous name and close resemblance to his dad are partly the reason Hanks has never gone in for blind dates or Internet dating.

"It's unfair because people know who I am. I went on a blind date once and I realized she knew who I was and I was the one who didn't know anything about her. It's so unfair," he says, laughing.

Colin, who now lives with his girlfriend of three years, was talking about dating because in his new thriller
Untraceable, he plays an FBI agent who is an avid Internet dater. He and his co-star Diane Lane portray partners on the trail of a tech-savvy Internet predator who displays his graphic murders on his own website. The fate of each of his tormented captives is left in the hands of the public – the more hits his site gets, the faster his victims die.

"My character has a doubly weird sense of humour, considering he patrols the Internet for bad guys and it's also his main source for meeting people of the opposite sex," Hanks says.

Hanks is speaking at a beachfront hotel in Santa Monica during his recent visit from New York, where he currently lives. Tall and lanky, with friendly boy-next-door good looks, Hanks is affable and relaxed.

Although his career got a kick start when his father cast him in That Thing You Do! – a 1960s-set look at a one-hit wonder rock band that marked Hanks Sr.'s directing debut – Hanks has since established himself as a talented actor in his own right. He had a regular role in the sci-fi TV series Roswell and appeared in several teen comedy films, including Whatever It Takes and Get Over It, before landing his first leading role in Orange County in 2002. He also appeared in the TV miniseries Band of Brothers and had a major role in Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of the classic King Kong.

Hanks was born in Sacramento, Calif., and was brought up by his mother, Samantha Lewes, who got divorced from Tom Hanks when Colin was 10 years old.

"Like a lot of kids in this day and age, I'm a product of a divorced household. But I saw my dad more than some kids do," he says. "He made every effort to be important in our lives and I'm really grateful for that. He taught me so much, from how to drive a car to how to pay my taxes to how to talk to the press – it's all-encompassing. The little bit of acting advice he gave me was to tell me to show up on time, have my lines memorized and hit my marks. He said if I did that, I'd be all right and maybe I wouldn't get fired."

When he was 17, Colin moved to Los Angeles and began acting. But three years ago he decided to pack up and move to New York. "I needed a change of pace," he explains. "I sort of got burned out on Los Angeles, although I'm very lucky to have worked on projects that have taken me on location to London and New Zealand and different places.

"I wanted to live in more of an urban environment in which I could walk around and have the world at my disposal whenever I wanted to, rather than sitting in a pod and driving somewhere. The life of an actor in Los Angeles can be pretty lonely because the majority of your time is spent in a car driving an hour-and-a-half to an audition that lasts 15 minutes and then you have maybe a two-hour drive back, depending on the traffic, to think about the 15 minutes you wish you could have done a little bit differently."

After this interview, Colin's next stop was the Sundance Film Festival where The Great Buck Howard is one of the entries. Hanks stars in the film, while his father has a cameo role and also handled producing duties.

"I play a young man who leaves law school and starts working as an assistant to a B-level magician. It's a very sweet movie and I've been trying to get it made for four years now. It's very close to my heart," the younger Hanks says.

"I've never been to Sundance so I don't know what it's going to be like. I've made a lot of movies that I thought would get into Sundance and they never did, so I'm very excited to go there at last. Hopefully, it will be a lot of fun."

Hanks sees himself as someone who, like his father, can tackle anything that comes along.

"I'll do whatever's asked of me, it doesn't matter," he says. "I don't like to label myself. I just like to do good work. I want to be in movies that I, personally, would want to see, and my tastes are pretty far and wide. I like comedies as much as I like serious movies and I've done both.

"For me, it's about the work and trying to do the best job I can."

How A Canadian Unknown Directed Sharon Stone

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(January 25, 2008) PARK CITY, UTAH — At the bottom of the ski lift in downtown Park City is a two-storey-high half-tent, half-building, which serves as a party centre for the
Sundance Film Festival. A couple dozen people in winter clothes are sipping coffee, slapping each other on the backs and kissing hello. The event is a casual reunion of the cast and crew of the film The Year of Getting to Know Us, before it premiered last night. In the crowd are actors Jimmy Fallon, Tom Arnold and Illeana Douglas, three of the stars of the comic-edged drama. The other stars, Lucy Liu and Sharon Stone, aren't here yet.

The film's Canadian co-writer and director,
Patrick Sisam, is also awaiting friends and family from Toronto, various parts of the United States and as far away as London and Dublin for his first feature film, and although he says he's getting nervous, it doesn't show. He's one of those people who seems to know almost everyone, but, contrary to the stereotype of a hired gun who has worked it out in the trenches of commercial advertising for the past few years, he comes across as low-key and introspective.

As we're sitting on a bench upstairs in the tent building, Fallon comes by to chat briefly: "This is a very talented guy," he says of Sisam.

Fallon stars in the film as Christopher Rocket, a commitment-phobic 35-year-old New York journalist who returns to his Florida home when his father (Tom Arnold), a fanatic golfer, has a massive stroke while enjoying the golf round of his life. Christopher must also deal with his mentally unbalanced mother (Sharon Stone) and struggle through his relationship with his girlfriend (Lucy Liu). This is a high-profile cast for a $5-million film. When Sisam prepared to start shooting, he remembers, he had a brief attack of nervousness. Then he told himself: "But this is what you want," and settled down.

The process of directing, he says, is all about empathy and attention. Shooting Sharon Stone on her first take of a scene, he came over to her and suggested how he wanted her to adjust the performance. She looked at him in surprise and said, "You watched."

"And then she did it again, and I felt like I was watching one of the best actresses in the world, and I came over and told her how good she was. And she said, 'That's what I do.' "

Sisam grew up in North Toronto, the son of a sports marketing executive, and growing up around many sports celebrities he made him blasé about fame. He headed off to study literature at McGill University and spent his summers working as a writer in the British Airways group at the London offices of Saatchi & Saatchi. That spurred him to go to New York University's film school, where his thesis film, in 1996, was a sweet little drama called Love Child. It starred Dov Tiefenbach (Flower and Garnet, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle) as a nine-year-old in love with a hot teenager (a pre-Scream Neve Campbell). The film aired on HBO and Channel 4 in England. You can watch it along with a couple of his other films at http://www.atomfilms.com, the site of a company set up by Sisam's friends.

Since then, Sisam has made his living primarily as a commercial director with the commercial firm Imported Artists, doing spots for Coors Lite and Mike Weir and an award-winning short drama to promote BMW, which aired at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. He also worked on the crew of Road To Avonlea, often going to see guest stars in their trailers to bring them to the set or spending time chatting with them about their work.

A couple of years ago, Sisam came across the short-story collection The Year of Getting to Know Us by Ethan Canin, a writer who has been compared to John Cheever for his aesthetic and his preoccupation with suburban life. Sisam's interest in dysfunctional families isn't directly personal - his parents have been happily married for almost 50 years - but he grew up watching the recently divorced parents of friends "desperately trying to show their children that life was still normal."

For Sisam, The Year of Getting to Know Us is a story about the continuity between childhood and adult life: "It's like that line in [director Paul Thomas Anderson's] Magnolia - you may be through with the past, but the past isn't through with you. The other idea is about children having anxiety and going through the things you don't expect. I was at a funeral once for a young person who had committed suicide and the minister said something I'll never forget: 'The worst thing you can tell a young person is that this is the best time of their life, because then they have nothing to look forward to.' "

The first draft of the script blended two of Canin's short stories together; Sisam wrote the scenes of Christopher as a child while fellow NYU alumnus Rick Velleu wrote the adult scenes. The script was what sold the film, attracting the William Morris Agency and the actors. Sisam says there was never any discussion about his right to direct it. The Hollywood attitude, he says, seems to be that if you're good enough to write the script, you're good enough to make the movie. Besides, he already had several years of directing experience.

"I just can't imagine what it would be like to try to direct a movie if you weren't used to being on sets," Sisam reflects. "The world doesn't want to be made into a movie. There are people and there's traffic and weather and they all want to go their own way. You have to cajole and persuade all the elements, human and not, to be participate in that frame. And you have this time quotient on top of it - solve this now, solve this now, solve this now. It's an incredible, intense experience. ... And then it takes great restraint and confidence to leave it a bit open, to show the rough edges and messiness that make life interesting."

DAILY REVIEW: BALLAST

This film, made by a first-time director with non-professional actors, has emerged as the cinephile fave in the American drama competition. Director Lance Hammer, working in an austere tradition that is more European than American, appears to have been influenced by Belgium's Dardenne brothers (Rosetta, The Promise) and France's Bruno Dumont (especially his Life of Jesus). As with the Dardennes, this is a drama of working-class people struggling against a harsh landscape and immense social odds. The film is set in winter in the Mississippi Delta (where, apparently, not much has changed since Robert Johnson moaned the blues there). This is a desolate environment of treeless fields and shabby prefab homes with broken cars in the yard.

The story follows three black characters, 13-year-old James (Johnny McPhail), his mother, Marlee (Tarra Rigs), and a man, Lawrence (Michael J. Smith). Lawrence is first seen sitting catatonic in front of his television when a white neighbour knocks on the door. The neighbour enters and finds Lawrence's twin brother lying dead in his bedroom. Before the neighbour can stop him, Lawrence picks up a gun and shoots himself, though the wound doesn't prove fatal. When Lawrence emerges from the hospital, James bangs on the door, holds the same gun to the older man's head and demands money.

The information unfolds like pieces of a jigsaw dropping into place in what at first seem isolated scenes: James, who runs drugs to impress older teens, is now in debt to some local hoods. After a run-in with the gang, his mother takes him away in the night to a small house on Lawrence's property, where, eventually we begin to learn the history that has separated the three of them and which now brings them back together. There are movies that please crowds and there are films that can affect a roomful of individuals; Ballast is definitely in the latter group.

SAG Has Starring Role

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

(January 27, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Normally a small cousin to the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards could end up being the biggest party of Hollywood's film-honours season this time.

The swanky Globes were cancelled because of a strike by the Writers Guild of America, which refused to let its members work on the show, and the fate of the Oscars on Feb. 24 is in question because of the same labour quarrel.

Not so for the SAG honours. The actors' union has been steadfast in support of striking writers, who in turn gave their blessing to the SAG ceremony.

Instead of the debacle for the Globes, which were curtailed to a star-free news conference after actors and filmmakers made it clear they would not cross writers' picket lines, the SAG ceremony was expected to come off with a full complement of Hollywood A-listers.

"We're really proud of the solidarity we've built with the Writers Guild," said Alan Rosenberg, SAG president. "Our members have understood that and taken it to heart. I was really moved by their decision not to go to the Golden Globes, our nominees. It's tough times, but it's been gratifying, as well."

Plans for the SAG Awards included a bit more gloss than usual, with the ceremony marking the union's 75th anniversary. The show will feature chandeliers, arches, wallpaper and other decor harking back to the 1930s, when the guild was founded.

But the event wasn't without its issues – the weather, with a forecast of wind and rain on the red carpet. Organizers hastily tented the arrivals area, ensuring that the glamour of what could be the only movie awards of the season retained its glitter.

Among the evening's nominees were George Clooney, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson for the legal thriller Michael Clayton; Angelina Jolie for the terrorism tale A Mighty Heart; Daniel Day-Lewis for the oil-boom saga There Will Be Blood; Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones for the crime story No Country for Old Men; Emile Hirsch, Catherine Keener and Hal Holbrook for the road drama Into the Wild; Julie Christie for the Alzheimer's drama Away From Her; and Cate Blanchett for both the historical pageant Elizabeth: The Golden Age and the Bob Dylan chronicle I'm Not There.

Into the Wild and No Country for Old Men also were nominated for overall cast performance, along with the western 3:10 to Yuma, the crime tale American Gangster and the musical Hairspray.

No Country for Old Men won top honours Saturday night at the Directors Guild of America Awards for Joel and Ethan Coen. The winner there almost always goes on to take home the directing Oscar.

If it also wins the cast prize from the actors guild, No Country for Old Men could emerge as the favourite to win best-picture at the Oscars.

As with the Golden Globes, the Writers Guild has made it clear that its members would not be allowed to work on the Oscars. While stars generally have said they would skip the show rather than cross picket lines, Oscar organizers insist their telecast will take place as scheduled.

Amy Ryan, a SAG and Oscar supporting-actress nominee for Gone Baby Gone, said at the Directors Guild awards Saturday that she would not cross a picket line to attend the Oscars.

"I hope it ends but, more, I hope the writers get their due," Ryan said. "I think that, at the end of the day, is more important than a party. But I really hope it works out because I'd like to go to the party."

Many in Hollywood hope a new contract recently negotiated by the Directors Guild of America might help jump-start a deal between producers and writers, who went strike Nov. 5 over their share of revenue from programming on the Internet and other new media.

The SAG awards generally have been a solid forecast for who wins at the Oscars. Three of the four guild victors a year ago – Helen Mirren for The Queen, Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland and Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls – went on to receive Oscars.

SAG's prize for overall-cast performance, the show's equivalent of a best-picture honour, has been a less-reliable Oscar barometer, with only 5-of-12 guild winners going on to receive the top Academy Award. Last year's SAG winner, Little Miss Sunshine, lost for best picture at the Oscars to The Departed.

This time, only one of the SAG nominees – No Country for Old Men – scored a best-picture nomination for the Oscars.

Airing live on TNT and TBS, plans for the SAG ceremony included a life-achievement honour for Charles Durning.

Katrina Doc Played Like Thriller

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

(January 28, 2008) PARK CITY, Utah–A real-life Cloverfield with a different kind of monster took top documentary honours at the closing of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Trouble the Water, the video diary of a New Orleans couple caught in the eye of Hurricane Katrina, won the grand jury prize for docs in Saturday's prize-giving ceremony.

Directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal built their film around the home- video footage of New Orleans rapper Kimberly Rivers Roberts and her husband Scott, which the couple shot while struggling to survive rising floodwaters. Their determination to keep filming despite imminent danger resembles the HandyCam monster chase of current box-office champ Cloverfield.

The audience award for documentaries went to Josh Tickell's Fields of Fuel, a tale of one man's battle to curb fossil fuel consumption. In world cinema, both jury and audience awards for docs went to James Marsh's Man on Wire, a British film about a French daredevil who walked on a tightrope between the World Trade Center towers in 1974.

On the dramatic side, Frozen River, Courtney Hunt's tale of two women in upper New York State attempting to smuggle illegal aliens across the Canadian border via the St. Lawrence River, took the grand jury prize for U.S.-made features.

The audience award for U.S. dramatic features went to The Wackness, Jonathan Levine's quirkfest about a love-struck teen dope dealer who pays his psychotherapist (Ben Kingsley) with bags of grass.

The world cinema dramatic competition also had two winners. The grand jury prize went to Swedish director Jens Jonsson's King of Ping Pong for its moving depiction of a troubled teen ping-pong star, while Jordan's Amin Matalqa nabbed the audience prize for Captain Abu Raed, the life-affirming fable of an Amman airport janitor who convinces neighbourhood children that he's really a pilot.

Nothing, though, could match the true-to-life story of Kimberly Rivers Roberts and Scott Roberts, who participated in two world premieres at Sundance: the debut of Trouble the Water and the arrival of daughter Skyy, at a hospital in nearby Salt Lake City.

Go to sundance.org/festival/ for a complete list of winners.

Species Star Natasha Henstridge's Career Evolves

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

(January 28, 2008) Natasha Henstridge soared to fame in 1995 as a genetically altered, comely human-alien with a deadly urge to breed with a man in the hit sci-fi thriller film Species.

The blond, blue-eyed model-turned-actress also starred in the sequel, Species II, and had a cameo in the direct-to-video Species III.

Henstridge wasn't in the fourth instalment, Species: The Awakening, last year, though. And perhaps not surprisingly, she says she doesn't plan on reprising the role any more.

"I think I'm over it," Henstridge said with a laugh in a recent phone interview from her office in Los Angeles, where she lives with her spouse, Scottish musician and actor Darius Danesh, and her two sons, ages 6 and 9.

"It was an amazing part of my life, time of my life, a great vehicle for me, but I think it's been done to death quite frankly."

Henstridge, who was born in Springdale, Nfld., and raised in Fort McMurray, Alta., has enjoyed much success since the first Species. Her major film credits include Dog Park, The Whole Nine Yards and The Whole Ten Yards, while notable TV roles include The Outer Limits and the short-lived Commander in Chief.

This month, Henstridge stars in two TV projects: Would Be Kings, a four-hour Canadian miniseries which began last night and continues tonight on CTV, and Eli Stone, a buzzed-about dramedy series debuting Thursday on CTV and ABC.

Would Be Kings, filmed in Hamilton in 2006, stars Currie Graham and Ben Bass as cousins who work on a police drug squad together and are torn apart by corruption within the force.

Henstridge plays the depressed and confused wife of Graham's conflicted character.

"She's a woman who wants everything in life to be the 2.2 kids, white-picket fence and even though she has a lot of that, it's never going to be enough because ultimately she's not happy within herself," said Henstridge, 33.

The story is loosely based on Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part 1. Said Henstridge:

"It's dark – it's bloody dark, there's no doubt about that."

The mood on Eli Stone is decidedly more uplifting, she said, as it involves much humour – and singer George Michael.

You see, Michael is part of the hallucinations of the title character, an ambitious lawyer played by Jonny Lee Miller of Trainspotting fame. Eli's visions are a result of a brain aneurysm, but he thinks they're a divine calling.

Henstridge plays his fiancée, who is also a cutthroat lawyer, and Canadian Victor Garber plays her dad.

Henstridge said Michael was affable on set and even joked around after suffering an embarrassing fall.

"He took a little trip once on the stage," said Henstridge, who has a cottage in Triton, Nfld.

"There was a stage built for one of the scenes and he had a little trip. Everybody else around him ... made such a big deal about him being there and yet he was the most humble of them all, which is really funny. We had a good time."

Amy Redford: Sundance Kid’s Daughter Makes Mark

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

(January 26, 2008) PARK CITY, Utah–She has her father's blue eyes and her mother's wide smile.

But gifts of the genetic sort are enough for
Amy Redford, daughter of actor Robert Redford, the founder of the Sundance Film Festival, and his ex-wife Lola Van Wagenen, an activist and educator.

Amy Redford insists she isn't looking for special treatment as a filmmaker, even though many attending Sundance '08 naturally assume family connections helped her land a primo opening weekend slot for
The Guitar, her feature directing debut.

"My dad certainly is not the kind of person who would request that they take (The Guitar)," she says, accepting the question gracefully.

"It would be against everything that Sundance is, and it's not the way I've lived my life. I've made my own choices since I was quite young, and it wouldn't benefit anybody at Sundance for them to take my film if it wasn't deserving of being here. They don't owe me anything."

Anyone who doubts her sincerity need only look at her résumé. At 37, she's older than most first-time filmmakers at Sundance. It's not like she rolled out of bed one morning and announced she wanted to direct feature films.

Redford directed short movies and stage plays in high school growing up in Utah, when she called herself Amy Hart to avoid the limelight, but her professional career has been mainly as an actor.

She has appeared in episodes of TV's Sex and the City, Law and Order: SVU and The Sopranos. Her film work includes small roles in Maid In Manhattan, The Music Inside and Sunshine Cleaning, the latter a comedy that just premiered at Sundance.

But she's best known for her extensive stage work, including a well-received recent run in Daisy Foote's Bhutan at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York. She has also trod the boards in Toronto, taking the lead role of Evelyn in Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things during a 2002 run at CanStage's Berkeley Street Theatre.

Redford's first involvement with the Amos Poe screenplay for The Guitar came while she was wearing her actor's hat.

She was considering playing the lead role of Melody, a women diagnosed with a terminal illness who seeks to make the most of her final days by embarking on a frantic whirl of shopping (her purchases include a symbolically meaningful red electric guitar) and sexual discovery.

But the more Redford considered the project, the more she felt she wanted to be behind the camera. Part of that came from her keen interest in photography, another of her artistic passions.

"The story kept revealing itself in my head. Just the imagery and all that. I kept `firing' myself in the part, thinking about other actors I would like to see do it. So I said, `Okay, I don't want to be in this story. I want to tell this story.'"

Doors didn't open immediately for her as a director, even with her famous surname. For one thing, she wanted to shoot The Guitar in Super 16mm film, an expensive proposition in the digital era. And she needed to find an actor capable of portraying a dying person without being maudlin.

Redford also needed an actor amenable to the film's substantial amount of nudity and sex, both straight and gay. Melody is no shrinking violet, and clothes for her are definitely optional.

She found her Melody in Saffron Burrows, who also has film, TV and stage roles to her credit.

In fact, it was really Burrows who found Redford. She loved the script and went after the role with gusto.

But there were two main obstacles: Burrows is British, and Melody is a New Yorker. Burrows is also a knockout, and Melody is supposed to be a "mouse burger supreme" (to use Redford's words). So some persuasion was needed.

"I said to Saffron, `What should I watch of yours that would tell me you should play this role?' And she said, `Nothing. That's why I want to play the role.' And I knew at that moment she was straightforward and smart and serious about it."

If Burrows had no qualms about the nudity and sex, American film censors might.

Redford didn't take the easy way out there, either.

"The only thing the (censors) really have a problem with is that you see pubic hair. That's the biggest sin. She could have been gang-raped or blown her head off with a gun in close-up and they wouldn't cut it, but a woman's body is a big no-no.

"I feel like the sensuality and the nudity in the story is really about where she's at in her journey. This isn't about exploiting this person; this is about unfolding this person and her rebirth."

It remains to be seen how much of the nudity and sex will remain when The Guitar hits theatres sometime this year. Redford will resist any call to make cuts to the movie, which is very much in keeping with the Sundance ethos of questioning authority and taking risks.

"I don't think that's such a bad thing to perpetuate."

Redford also has genuine empathy for Melody's situation. She has friends who have fought serious illness and she's no stranger to troubled times, even for someone who grew up as part America's cultural royalty.

Amy is the youngest of Redford's four children, but she never knew her older brother Scott, who died of crib death in 1959.

"I've lived a very simple life. I'm not engaged much in the celebrity culture and my dad and I sing for our supper. Privileged or not, we all have our trials and tribulations. I'm as emotionally porous as the next person."

And even though Robert Redford didn't help her make The Guitar or get it into Sundance, he was very much the proud father last weekend, sitting in the audience in the Eccles Theatre watching the world premiere.

He also has something new to talk to his daughter about: They're now both filmmakers. "He was making Lions for Lambs when I was making The Guitar, and we swapped a couple of war stories along the way: `How are you? You slept yet? No?'

"It's great to be able to say, `I actually really know what you're going through.' I think I've learned from him to tell stories that you really believe in, because when the chips are down, that will get you through more than anything else."

::TV NEWS::

Blair Underwood: The Go-To Guy For Neurotic Women

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(January 26, 2008) Series television has become a haven for female characters who are stubborn, sexy, clever and more than a little neurotic. (See: Mary-Louise Parker, Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter and the entire cast of Private Practice.) And Blair Underwood is their current go-to guy when they need a little love.

In the sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine (with fresh episodes due back on the air Feb. 4), Underwood plays the dreamiest grade-school teacher ever. No matter how much single mom Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) flies around the room - the first time they met, she couldn't stop saying the word "black" - Underwood's gaze holds her steady. As a hot doctor on Sex and the City, he was able to melt Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) like a dish of ice cream. On the night-time soap Dirty Sexy Money, he battles businessman Tripp Darling (Donald Sutherland) while bedding his maddening daughter Karen (Natalie Zea).

And starting Monday, on the new series In Treatment (HBO, TMN and Movie Central), Underwood plays Alex, a U.S. Navy pilot reluctantly undergoing therapy with sad-eyed shrink Paul (Gabriel Byrne). Soon enough, he's having a steamy affair with fellow patient Laura (Melissa George), a sex addict with transference issues.

When we meet in a Toronto screening room, Underwood is blush-inducingly handsome, with a voice so sonorous it makes listeners reverberate like piano strings. "The go-to guy for neurotic women in need of love, I haven't heard that one before," he said, letting loose a long, slow chuckle. "Well, I do love women."

Underwood's not looking for love, though. He's in it, with his wife of 13 years, Desiree DaCosta, a former assistant to Eddie Murphy. They have two sons, Paris, 10 and Blake, 6; and a daughter, Brielle, 9. "I love women, but I love my wife more," he said. "She's the ultimate woman."

In Treatment runs five nights a week, with each 30-minute episode consisting of a single conversation: Doctor and patient(s) sit in a room talking. That's it. On Mondays, Paul treats Laura; on Tuesdays, Alex. Wednesdays, he sees Sophie, a suicidal high-school gymnast; Thursdays, he contends with a squabbling couple. On Fridays, Paul sees his own shrink (Dianne Wiest), with whom he has a complicated past. At first, the show feels disconcertingly spare, but the writing is so vivid, so full of obfuscations, revelations and alternating points of view, that after a few episodes I was shouting at my TV set and dialling my old therapist to ask why she didn't understand me like Paul.

Each episode is shot in two days, in long, 10-minute takes. "I call it an actor's paradise," Underwood said. "I get to act every minute, really play a character, opposite a great actor. You're wide open to whatever comes at you."

As if three current series weren't enough, Underwood also recently directed his first film, The Bridge to Nowhere, about four blue-collar friends in Pittsburgh who start a high-end escort service. "I was energized every day," he said. "Working with great actors, telling a great story." He grins. "And lots of eye candy." He and two partners are also writing a series of tongue-in-cheek detective novels: The first, Casanegra, was published last July; the sequel, In the Night of the Heat, is due this summer.

In fact, since his breakthrough on L.A. Law, Underwood has only ever taken one hiatus from work, 18 months about 8 years ago, when no good scripts came his way. He used that time to, as he puts it, "go into the lab," eventually writing and performing a 90-minute, one-man, audience-participation show called IM4 (as in "I am for...").

"I posed the question to the audience, 'What are you really about?' " he said. " 'What's your passion, what are your convictions?' Martin Luther King said, 'If you're not willing to die for something, you're not fit to live.' "

Here's what Underwood is for: Travelling. "I'm an army brat, so I lived all over," he said. (His father retired as a full-bird colonel.) "One of my mandates is to expose our kids to as much of the world as possible, while we got 'em under our wing and on lockdown. We did the Disney cruise last month for Christmas. We may go to China in March. We did a safari in Kenya last summer. So often I found myself just watching them watch whatever it was, the animals or the villages. I found myself full."

He's also for acting, "becoming different people, because it's experiencing different lives. As an actor, you have to believe what the character is saying in order for the audience to believe it. So looking back, I feel like I've been a fighter pilot, like I've been a marine, a baseball player in the Negro leagues, a lawyer, a cop. Obviously I haven't, but I feel like I had a taste of it. It's taking a bite out of life."

He's for "the empowerment of others, for people living their dreams," Underwood said. "Part of the reason is biblical, 'To whom much is given much is expected.' I was raised with that, and I believe that. Now a lot of my focus is finding ways to give other people those opportunities, by producing my own films and TV shows and creating employment."

And naturally, Underwood is for love. "I have a great relationship with my mother. And my father is my hero," he says. "I feel so fortunate to have had those two examples in my life. My father to teach me by example how to be a man, and my mother by example how to treat a woman. My father was a black officer in the 1960s, which was rare then. My mother would say to us, 'Always be careful how you comport yourself, because when you walk outside this door, you represent not only you, but this family, your father's rank, and your country.' And part of how you respect yourself is how you treat women. Little things - you open the door for your sister. There's no excuse to hit a woman. And my dad treats my mother like a queen to this day. She has MS, she went through a depression, but she's great now, she's in a wheelchair. So just watching their love story, and how my dad takes care of her. He was this superstar, the officer, the Colonel. And he still is, but he's also committed part of his life to taking care of her. They're amazing."

Here, his publicist interrupts my swoon to give me the "last question" signal. Has Underwood ever been in therapy? He laughs. "I haven't, but I would," he says. "If I felt it necessary, I definitely would."

For now, he's just fine as the rescuer. And, speaking for neurotic women everywhere, we're just fine with that.

*****

Notable TV roles

Knight Rider (1985): Potts

The Cosby Show (1985):

Denise's friend

L.A. Law (1987-1994):

Jonathan Rollins

City of Angels (2000):

Ben Turner

Sex and the City (2003-2004): Robert Leeds

LAX (2005): Roger De Souza

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2007): Miles Sennet

Dirty Sexy Money (2007):

Simon Elder

CBC Board Okays Broadcast Rights Sale

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman, Entertainment Columnist

(January 25, 2008) The
CBC's board of directors has given its seal of approval to a controversial deal involving a back-room sell-off of international broadcast rights to shows produced with Canadian public funds.

At a teleconference session on Wednesday, the CBC board gave the management of its English-language TV network permission to proceed with the sale of international distribution rights and assets currently managed by CBC's international division to Fireworks International, a division of the British company ContentFilm.

No competing offers were invited or considered.

The CBC's recently appointed new president, Hubert T. Lacroix, made the announcement.

Through this deal, announced internally at the network five weeks ago, Fireworks will handle international rights to 700 hours of 135 programs.

"We believe this represents a significant win for CBC, for Canadian taxpayers and for the producers, actors and others who have a stake in the programming, which will now have an opportunity for greater exposure," Lacroix said.

That is not the way the deal is seen by players in the Canadian film and TV industry, who have been scathingly critical of the deal, which was negotiated secretly without allowing other potential buyers, both Canadian and foreign, a chance to make competing offers.

"What the CBC has done stinks," Ian Morrison of Friends of Public Broadcasting said yesterday. "It's a betrayal of public trust. It doesn't withstand scrutiny. It would be improper even in a private company."

Financial details have not been disclosed.

Water-Logged Role Goes Swimmingly For Zoie Palmer

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

(January 25, 2008) You might think somebody who nearly drowned as a child would not want to grow up to play a water rescue specialist on TV.

Yet there is
Zoie Palmer, taking the plunge every week on The Guard. The Vancouver-lensed drama airs Tuesday nights on Global.

Palmer plays Carly Greig, part of a crew of daring
Canadian Coast Guard saviours who put their lives on the line to help others even when they can't always save themselves. Steve Bacic (Andromeda), Jeremy Guilbaut (Edgemont) and Claudette Mink (The Days) play the other key members of the offshore rescue team. JAG star David James Elliott has a recurring role as Mink's character's reclusive boyfriend.

Palmer, a native of England who grew up in Toronto (and attended York University to study drama), says her own real-life rescue occurred when she was around 9.

She and her older sister were swimming about an hour north of Toronto near Sutton, Ont. Both had recently taken swimming lessons and were testing their limits. Palmer panicked when she got in over her head.

"I went under and she rescued me," she says.

How did her parents react? "I don't know if we ever told them."

Palmer emerged with a fear of water. But as she related over lunch last week in Toronto, her father was in the Royal Air Force in England and she credits him with her sense of adventure. So when it came time to audition for The Guard, she wasn't fazed by the swimming requirements. Palmer and co-star Guilbaut are the two leads most often in the water, and part of the testing for their roles involved distance swims and retrieving weights from the bottom of pools.

"The show is really character driven as well," she says, "but we were told up front that, 50 per cent of the time, we would be in the water."

So far that experience has gone swimmingly, she says. The wet suits help, especially the thicker, 7-mm ones, and there is usually a hot tub to dunk into between takes. Professional divers are always on the set, "ready to swim over with oxygen whenever we need it," she says.

There are action scenes aplenty in the pilot, including a daring nighttime helicopter search and rescue on a stormy sea. The series opened with Palmer and Guilbaut diving underwater in an attempt to rescue a young family from a submerged automobile.

Some of Palmer's most daring scenes, however, occur on dry land. After a failed rescue bid, a rattled Greig hits a local bar and gets picked up by an eccentric stranger (Ryan Robbins). The two share a steamy tryst aboard his makeshift houseboat.

Shooting love scenes in front of a dozen or so crew members is no biggie, says Palmer.

"They're really not that interested in what we're doing," she says of the crew. "They were more interested in making sure the prop didn't break when I opened the door."

The first eight episodes of The Guard were produced last September-November in and around Squamish, B.C., with the series forced into hiatus due not to a writers' strike like so many other B.C. productions this winter, but to colder weather conditions.

Production on this season's final seven episodes is scheduled to resume in March or April, weather permitting. Judging by the ratings, Global will be hoping for sooner rather than later.

The Guard premiered Tuesday to an estimated 813,000 viewers, tops among domestic dramas this season.

Cooking Up Controversy

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor

(January 28, 2008) Two students are late, one dish is burnt, another is half raw and a third is swimming in fat.
Chef Neil Baxter looks deeply, deeply pained.

"You're breaking my heart," he says as he watches one student butcher an assignment.

Things aren't going so well for the first year class at the Stratford Chefs School, which means they are going very nicely for
Chef School, the new reality-TV series that follows a class through two years in this prestigious training program for the culinary arts.

"It shows all the kind of joys and sorrows of students in this program. It's very true to the experience," observes Eleanor Kane, owner of The Old Prune restaurant in Stratford, Ont., and co-founder of the school.

Kane and fellow restaurateur James Morris, owner of Rundles, founded the school in 1983, launching classes in the off-season when both the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and these high-end restaurants are shut to the public. The school, the only model of its kind in the country operated by working chefs and restaurateurs, rapidly gained a reputation for producing graduates ready for Canada's top kitchens. It has alumni working everywhere from Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island to Scaramouche and Jamie Kennedy Kitchens in Toronto.

With its graduates also opening a range of local eateries including the York Street Kitchen and Bijou, the school has helped solidify Stratford's reputation as a culinary destination as much as it is a theatre town. A reality series on the Food Network? It's the icing on the cake.

Thick, gooey icing as it turns out: The first episode of Chef School devoted a great deal of time to a dispute over who was to get the best room in the bed-and-breakfast where six of the students lodge, building the mouthy Alex Landheer up as the character who is going to be trouble. Then the second episode included observations from the students about the sexual attractiveness of the others; this week, Mike Brennan and Kelsey Murray will pair off to much commentary from their peers.

"Some of what we are seeing we have never seen before," Kane says with quiet understatement. "As directors of the school, Jim [Morris] and I are going, oh, my goodness. ... But that's how it should be, the students have an after-school life."

Last week's episode was much more tightly focused on the trials and tribulations of cooking as Baxter, who is the chef responsible for the famed kitchen at Rundles, gave the students their marks on their first exam.

"We found as the series went on, a lot of it came from the food," said Rachel Low, executive producer of the series and president of Red Apple Entertainment. "It wasn't about who is sleeping with who."

On the exam, the cocky David Lingard, who has the most prior restaurant experience of the bunch, got his comeuppance when he burnt a piece of salmon. And Landheer was finally reduced to silence when he was caught using the wrong utensils yet again and got the lowest mark in the class. This week, the students move to the kitchen at the Old Prune, where chef Bryan Steele will supervise them as they prepare competing stir-frys to win a day in the kitchen of Rain, a leading Asian restaurant in Toronto.

The producers of Chef School selected 12 of the 36 students enrolled in the 2006-07 year as the ones they wanted to follow, and characters are certainly starting to emerge. There's the inspirational story of Richard Francis, who grew up on a reserve in the Northwest Territories and wound up in a drug-and-alcohol rehab program in Toronto: He is now trying to put his life back together with equal doses of yoga and cooking. The erudite Andrew Coristine was about to launch into a PhD in physics when he switched career tracks and readily admits he knows little about cooking. The flirtatious Allison Jones, a former pastry chef who the producers are setting up as the class hottie, wound up in tears this week when she discovered she doesn't know the difference between a fish chowder that is flavourful and one that is tasteless.

"They want to be chefs but they haven't really thought about what it is," observes Low. "It was dramatic. This wasn't a bunch of super highbrow candidates. ... We live in a culture where chefs are such celebrities, but we found such a gap ... and that made it fascinating."

Indeed, the would-be restaurateurs can seem painfully unsophisticated. They have been shown rolling their eyes at a port-and-Stilton tasting, puzzling over public-speaking classes and complaining bitterly about Morris's movement classes. He believes that service in the dining room should be balletic.

Low, who was initially approached by second-year student Crystal Asher with the idea for the show, said it seemed like a natural for reality TV. Red Apple soon dismissed the idea that it needed to add any extra element of competition, such as a prize for the best student.

"If we really trusted our gut feeling about it, the elements were there. Here are a bunch of people who are basically marooned in a small town, and some of them are going to live together," Low said. Still, it took Red Apple 1,000 hours of footage from the classroom, the bed-and-breakfast and local bars to produce their first 13-episode season.

Behind the scenes (and with advance knowledge of what's to come), Kane says things are going better for everyone as the cameras follow the group into its second year. The TV crew is faster and less intrusive: It has learned how to get what it needs, she said. Chef School producers have revealed that one female student will fail, but the remaining 11 are prospering. If they were sometimes too immature to seize learning opportunities in Season 1, Kane can report that a recent parmesan-and-Barolo tasting produced nothing but silent appreciation as the cheese and wine worked their magic.

Chef School airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 11 p.m. on the Food Network.

Canada AM Tries To Cover All Time Zones With Six-Hour Format

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, Television Columnist

(January 29, 2008) "
Canada AM is going to six hours on Monday," I was informed by my editor late last week. "I want you to watch and write about it for Tuesday."

Appalled as I am at the very notion of getting up to "watch" anything at 6 a.m. – a time of day I am customarily "watching" the insides of my eyelids – well, duty calls ...

5:30 a.m. That can't be right. It feels like I only just got to sleep. I know that there are lots of people who leap out of bed at this time every day. I am not one of them. There is no way I am going to be able to keep my eyes open, short of prying the lids apart and keeping them there with paper-clips, Clockwork Orange-style.

6 a.m. And so it begins ... the Canada AM "Early Edition" (no kidding), leading with the sorry state of the world market and tragic bus crash in Alberta, both in keeping with my dazed, dark mood. But here's anchor Marci Ien, looking fabulous and wide-awake. Damn her.

6:06 Riots in Beirut, Suharto's funeral procession, temperatures in B.C. in the minus 20s, freezing rain in the Maritimes ... despite a partly sunny local forecast, I am feeling "at one" with the rest of the country, which is I gather the whole point of this expanded AM. Though perhaps intended in a broader context.

6:30 Primary AM co-hosts Seamus O'Regan and Bev Thomson take the hand-off, a tad earlier than usual, to which they have apparently still not quite adjusted. I can relate.

7:08 A good 10 minutes on the impending testimony of disgraced Ontario pathologist Charles Smith, including an interview with wrongly accused parent Sherry Sherrett. When they move on to the MPs' return to Parliament, I must confess, I start to nod off ...

7:22 The first in-show acknowledgement of the extended six-hour running time, accompanied by the first of several clips from AMs past, including Pamela Wallin's first day on the job – the then two-hour show's 10th anniversary – suggesting that, perhaps one day, it could run "all around the clock" (Note to editor: if this ever happens, get someone else to cover it).

7:49 More AM nostalgia: Ex-host Sandie Rinaldo recalls going into false labour on air in 1980, and 35-year veteran Craig Oliver reveals that when he left the CBC to launch the show his boss Knowlton Nash assured him "it won't last six months."

Perhaps a sign of growing pains, these affectionately amusing anecdotes are cut off mid-sentence by a commercial break.

8:01 Breaking news out of Pakistan of a high-school hostage incident. Pretty much everything else is recycled from the previous hour.

8:46 Corner Gas star Brent Butt checks in live from Vancouver.

8:49 As we approach the old sign-off time, O'Regan and expert Libby Norris discuss failed fitness resolutions.

9:01 Wait a minute ... that's Regis and Kelly. Frantically flipping, I discover that the extended AM only applies to the West Coast and CTV Newsnet.

9:02 Over on Newsnet, there's an encouraging update, a resolution to the Pakistani hostage crisis. There is also a fresh report out of St. Catharines about starling overpopulation and the resulting plague of bird poop. West Coasters will no doubt find this hilarious.

9:48 A live musical performance from Toronto by Katie Melua.

10 a.m. Charles Smith arrives at his inquest. Vancouver-born news newbie Omar Sachedina makes his debut from Toronto. Dashing fellow: think Eric McCormack with a tan. He is very shortly joined electronically by West Coast co-host Mi-Jung Lee and weather person Rena Heer.

In stark contrast to the clearly bleary first-half hosts, these three seem so gosh-darned happy to be there my teeth are starting to hurt.

10:13 Lee leads with an Edmonton interview with the parents of plane-crash-surviving 4-year-old Kate Williams.

10:25 The pooping starlings again. Already.

10:42 Lee sits down to talk environmental issues with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell.

10:50 Brent Butt's back, for an in-studio interview ... when does the man have time to shoot Corner Gas?

10:57 An awkward transition bids farewell to Alberta. I can't fight it any longer and finally fall asleep.

11:39 I wake up just in time to catch original AM co-host and now B.C. finance minister – and still absolutely stunning – Carole Taylor.

11:36 More awkwardness introducing a new Pamela Wallin clip; like Taylor, still very much the stunner she was back in the day.

11:49 It's possible I'm only dreaming, but isn't this the exact same Libby Norris interview, on the exact same set, with Sachedina instead of O'Regan?

Noon As Canada AM finally fades into the PM, my final thoughts before falling back into bed: six hours of anything is just too much TV.

Leave it to the professionals. Do not try this at home.

New CTV Show To Air On CBS

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(January 30, 2008) CTV has scored a major coup with its upcoming new series Flashpoint, which will air on a major U.S. network – CBS – at the same time it runs on a Canadian network.

"It's very exciting for the production community and for CTV," said Susanne Boyce, CTV's president of creative content and channels.

"This is the first time since 1994 that a Canadian-produced and owned series is on a main American network. I call it great news on a dull January day," Boyce said, referring to the CTV series, Due South, which starred Paul Gross as a Mountie working in Chicago.

The network has previously scored similar successes on smaller U.S. networks with shows, notably Degrassi: The Next Generation and Corner Gas.

Even more exciting for executive producers Anne Marie La Traverse and Bill Mustos is that the series will be set in Toronto – an unusual move for a U.S. network – and a "sexy" Toronto at that.

"This is something that we have been working our whole careers to accomplish. So it feels really amazing," Mustos said.

"I think Toronto looks beautiful and it's also an incredibly sexy location the way we've shot it. I think (CBS executives) really, really responded to the aesthetics of the show and to the fact that Toronto is, yes, a sexy, beautiful city," La Traverse said, referring to the pilot, which was filmed here last summer.

Production ramps up in Toronto in April for a 13-episode run of the series, which stars Enrico Colantoni (of Veronica Mars, Just Shoot Me), Hugh Dillon (Durham County) and David Paetkau (Whistler).

While Canadian series and movies shown in the U.S. are rarely identified as taking place north of the border, La Traverse and Mustos said CBS executives welcomed the idea.

"When Anne Marie and I were in the meeting in L.A. with the CBS execs, they thought that it would be really interesting for their audience to see Toronto. For their audience, having the opportunity to see a kind of fresh location like Toronto – not Toronto disguised as Chicago but Toronto as Toronto – would actually make for a fresh way into a dramatic series," Mustos said.

Boyce agreed that kind of U.S.-centric thinking is disappearing. "I think we've grown up a bit about that stuff. They bought this series on the basis that they liked the scripts and the pilot."

The series – written by newcomers Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern as part of the network's Writer Only drama development program – is inspired by the real-life exploits of the Toronto Police Service Emergency Task Force dealing with high-risk situations involving firearms and hostages.

Unlike most cop shows, Flashpoint will have a stronger "emotional" heart, La Traverse said.

"What we wanted to examine in a really compelling way is what happens to those people who are heroes and what is the personal cost of what they do? What is the human cost of heroism?"

Nina Tassler, CBS president of entertainment, said that pitch is what hooked the network.

"The particular theme ... which we thought was so extraordinary and really appealing, was that the show would explore the human cost of heroism. That really resonated with us," Tassler said.

Tassler expressed confidence that U.S. audiences will be comfortable with a series set outside their borders.

She added that the strike by the Writers Guild of America played no part in the network's decision to greenlight the series.

CBS has been "aggressively combing the world" for new formats and ideas and is developing projects from other countries, including the U.K. and Israel. "It was about exploring and looking for new business models. We said that this was the year that we were really going to focus on finding new methods, new ideas, and this is what turned up," Tassler said.

TV TIDBITS

Keith David Books TV Pilot

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 28, 2008) *Actor
Keith David has been cast in the two-hour Spike TV pilot "S.I.S.," or Special Investigation Squad.  The unit is housed within the Los Angeles Police Department and takes on cases involving major crimes and major criminals.  David, whose credits include the feature "First Sunday" and recurring roles in the series "7th Heaven" and "ER," will play assistant chief Joseph Armstrong, head of the squad.  Omari Hardwick, last seen on the small screen in TNT's "Saved," will play a member of the S.I.S. unit.  Matt Nable, Peter Stebbings and Colleen Porch round out the cast as other members of the squad.

Schieffer Plans To Step Down From 'Face The Nation'

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(January 30, 2008) NEW YORK–Veteran CBS Washington hand Bob Schieffer, who has anchored Face the Nation since 1991, said Tuesday he plans to step down from the Sunday morning political talk show with the inauguration of a new president. The start of a new administration next January provides a natural transition, he said. "That's when I'll stop doing what I'm doing now," said Schieffer, who turns 71 next month. "But I'll still have some relationship with CBS, at least I hope so." Schieffer has talked retirement before. The bladder cancer survivor once planned to step down when he reached 70, but he spent a year and a half filling in as CBS Evening News anchor between the exit of Dan Rather and entrance of Katie Couric. He helped improve the ratings, got good reviews and enjoyed a chance at the top job that he never thought he'd have. Since Couric's arrival in the fall of 2005, Schieffer has stopped commuting to New York and concentrated on Face the Nation. There's no obvious successor in place at CBS News. Jim Axelrod and Scott Pelley have both filled in during a rare circumstance when Schieffer was absent. Schieffer said he hoped to keep an office at CBS and contribute occasionally, the way Tom Brokaw has at NBC News with documentaries and some primary night commentary. "Bob can work at CBS News as long as he wants to and I hope that's a long time," said CBS News president Sean McManus. There's always the chance of a second career: Schieffer plays guitar in the country band Honky Tonk Confidential and recently played a party at New York's "21" club. "If I ever get to the Grand Ole Opry, I'll move right into country music," he said.

Haggis's Crash Set To Land On TV Screens

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(January 30, 2008) NEW YORK — Paul Haggis's Oscar-winning film Crash is being turned into a TV show this year. The 13-episode, one-hour series will air on the cable channel Starz in the United States as its first original dramatic series, the network announced late Monday. Key members of the feature's production team will be back for the series, including London, Ont., native Haggis, its director, co-writer and producer; co-writer and producer Bobby Moresco; producer Bob Yari; producer Don Cheadle; producer Mark R. Harris and executive producer Tom Nunan. Lionsgate, which distributed the film, is co-producing the series with Starz. Revenues from the show will be shared by the two companies. In addition to Best Picture, the 2004 film also won the Academy Award for best original screenplay and for editing. An examination of the complexities of racial tolerance set in Los Angeles, its ensemble cast included Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris (Ludacris) Bridges, Thandie Newton and Ryan Philippe. No casting decisions or shooting locations have been announced for the series, which is scheduled to begin production this spring. "This is a big step up financially for us," Stephan Shelanski, executive vice-president of programming for Starz, told Variety.com. An average production cost for a broadcast-network hour is about $2.5-million (U.S.) an episode and Crash is unlikely to cost any less than that. "We'll use the style of storytelling from the movie," Variety quoted Kevin Beggs, president of programming and production for Lionsgate, as saying, "but there'll be new characters and new stories to get into the subjects of race and class, and the bigotry that's simmering under the skin of a city like Los Angeles." With 30 million subscribers, Starz is one of 16 premium channels owned by Starz Entertainment LLC.

Mike Wallace Recovering From Bypass Surgery

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(January 30, 2008) New York — Veteran TV news correspondent Mike Wallace is recovering from triple heart bypass surgery that was performed last week, CBS News said yesterday. Wallace, who turns 90 this spring, is already walking after the surgery Friday to bypass blockages near his heart. Doctors are calling the operation "a great success," the network said. Recovery from heart bypass surgery generally runs about six weeks. Wallace, who is essentially retired from current-affairs show 60 Minutes, recently interviewed baseball player Roger Clemens about allegations of steroid abuse.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Contestants Drawn By The Sound Of Music

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

(January 25, 2008) The hills were alive on Friday morning.

We're not talking about the Swiss alps here, but the somewhat more forbidding landscape of the CBC Atrium, where close to 400 young women lined up for their chance to play Maria von Trapp in the production of
The Sound of the Music scheduled to open in Toronto this October.

It's a repeat of the British process where a nationwide search for the right star was the basis of a highly popular television program called How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

The same thing will happen here in Canada, where an eight-week CBC-TV series will culminate in the viewers voting for their favourite candidate.

And so the eager hopefuls started lining up at 6:00 a.m., waiting for a chance at fame, fortune, or at least a few minutes on television.

They came from as close as down the street, or as far away as Arlington, Virginia.

Some were so young they brought their mothers along as chaperones. Others had husbands staying home to babysit their own children.

Everyone got a chance to sing a bit of their chosen tune a cappella. After that, most were politely thanked and sent back out into the sub-zero weather to shed their tears privately, while others were told they could advance to the next round of auditions.

One of the lucky ones was Riley Raymer from Markham, a vivacious 22 year-old who looked around the room and said "Every single girl here has dreams of making it ... but only one us can."

The process will continue across Canada over the next two weeks where thousands of candidates are expected to try out. Then come more auditions, more judging and a session at "Maria School" for a chosen 50, from whom 10 will be selected to go on air and face the judgement of the Canadian viewers this summer.

Climb every mountain, as the song says, until you find your dream.

Performing Arts Pulse Is Strong

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(January 28, 2008) Toronto performing arts groups sold a healthy 2.5 million tickets worth $169.3 million during the 2005/2006 season, according to a detailed survey to be unveiled at a media conference today.

Moreover, those numbers represent an impressive increase over comparable figures for the previous year (2004/2005) when 1.2 million tickets worth $148.8 million were sold.

The survey – first of its kind conducted in this city – was conducted by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts.

The organization has 117 members, but the results are based on the participation of 86; 19 members were unable to take part, and all but 12 of those who could provide information chose to do so.

The report was a pet project of Jacoba Knaapen, executive director of the alliance, who hopes it will be a benchmark and become an annual tradition. Information was gathered in early 2007, but it took months to analyze the data.

"What the report shows is that we have a massive opportunity for growth," Knaapen told me Friday. She would like to see more awareness of the role alliance members played in making Toronto a creative capital. "We need to recognize showbiz is big business so that we can capitalize on the potential."

She refused to reveal any numbers, but my spies obtained a copy of the report, which has been circulated among arts insiders.

It's clear her agenda is to paint a rosy picture that can be used to secure more financial support from government and private donors.

Among the stats:

These 87 member organizations employ 7,700 workers (including 1,600 full-time ones).

The 13,000 performing arts workers who live in Toronto represent about 1 per cent of the labour force.

More than 60 per cent of member organizations are involved in partnerships or cross-promotion.

Ticket sales represented about 77 per cent of total combined revenue for all the groups participating in the survey, which came to about $2.8 million in 05/06, up $400,000 from the year before.

The 86 participating groups staged 875 productions in 05/06 (compared to 762 the year before), with a total of 8,752 performances (compared to 8,275 in 04/05).

Among those 86 groups, 70 per cent said theatre was their main focus; 14 per cent dance; 3 per cent opera and 13 per cent other.

Just under one-third of them (31 per cent) operated at least one theatre of their own, while 69 per cent staged their work in rented spaces.

There's a wide range between smaller groups, which may put on one or two shows a year in a 100-seat space, and big players like Mirvish Produtions, the Canadian Opera Company and the Canadian Stage Company. But these numbers do not include shows presented by non-members, such as most offerings at the Hummingbird Centre. And it excludes the Stratford and Shaw festivals.

The survey makes no attempt to compare Toronto's statistics with those of other cities. But according to Knaapen, the city that is Toronto's twin in terms of the size and range of performing arts activity is Boston.

One thing she would like to learn is why Boston's half-price ticket booth is booming while Toronto's (in Yonge-Dundas Square) is overlooked.

In the 1990s, at the peak of the Broadway North period when Toronto had many long-run musicals playing at once, we claimed to be the No. 3 theatre city in the English-speaking world, after London and New York. That is no longer true, if it ever was. Chicago has a lock on that claim. According to Knaapen, it not only has far more performing arts activity; it also sells close to twice as many tickets.

Nevertheless, Toronto's performing arts scene is a rich, varied canvas that compares favourably with almost every other competitor city in North America.

It would be foolish to take that for granted. It's something that needs to be appreciated and nurtured.

::OTHER NEWS::

Canada Needs To Stand Up For Its Artists, Industry Says

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Brett Popplewell, Staff Reporter

(January 25, 2008) Is Canada a virtual pirates' cove?

According to representatives from the
Canadian publishing, music, television and film industries, Canada is far too lenient when it comes to protecting the intellectual property of its artists.

"Canada has what amounts to a culture of piracy; we have one of the highest online piracy rates in the world," said Graham Henderson, president of the
Canadian Recording Industry Association.

As the federal government stands poised to introduce new copyright legislation, many detractors argue it's readying to sell out to the demands of lobbyists and the U.S. government.

However, Henderson, along with leaders from performers' union ACTRA, the Canadian Publishers' Council, the American Federation of Musicians and the Canadian Film & Television Production Association, is asking the government to strengthen Canada's copyright laws and crack down on piracy.

Canada and other countries negotiated the World Intellectual Property Organization Internet treaties in 1996 to set rules for the protection of intellectual property online. Canada has yet to ratify them.

Jacqueline Hushion of the publishers' council and Alan Willaert from the U.S. musicians' federation said Canadian musicians and authors have had difficulty negotiating marketing rights outside Canada because the government can't guarantee appropriate rights for foreign artists whose work is published and distributed in Canada.

Henderson said the prevalence of piracy in Canada has cost many Canadian artists their livelihood. "We have fantastically popular musicians, filmmakers, authors and actors ... they're all seeing their livelihood just shut down."

Henderson and the others challenge those who argue that copyright is dead and that even if new legislation is passed, piracy will prevail. "You have to operate on the presumption that when you pass a law, people, more often than not, are going to obey it," he said.

In the absence of strong copyright laws and with a surplus in Internet piracy, the $1.4 billion recording industry has virtually been cut in half, while royalties for our authors and revenues from home-grown films have also dropped, Henderson said.

John Barrack of the Canadian Film & Television Production Association said Canadian content can't survive if rules aren't put in place to support the intellectual property of Canadian artists.

The representatives met with the Star's editorial board yesterday.

Anne Of Green Gables Turns 100

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Daphne Gordon, Staff Reporter

(January 26, 2008) Anne Shirley may be getting on in years but she hasn't lost her spark.

"She's mischievous, which I sort of like," says Greta Whipple, an 11-year-old who recently read
Anne of Green Gables, the classic Canadian novel about an orphan who gets adopted by a farm family in Prince Edward Island.

"I was always wondering what she was going to do next."

Anne, who's about to celebrate her centennial birthday, has been captivating readers since June 13, 1908, when the Page Company of Boston, Mass., published her story, a first novel by Canada's Lucy Maud Montgomery.

The book was an immediate bestseller, with more than 19,000 copies sold in the first five months. Since then, an estimated 50 million copies have been sold worldwide.

These days, it's an enthusiastic reader who would be willing to take the time to decode the book's old-fashioned language, notes Eleanor LeFave, owner of the Toronto kid's bookstore Mabel's Fables.

"It takes a well-read child to be able to take that on," she says, admitting the novel is not a huge seller in her store. Still, many kids know Anne because they've read other versions of the novel, including abridgements, adaptations and picture books, which tell the story in simpler language.

But some young readers still eat up Montgomery's version.

"I think it's just intriguing how life was back then," says Greta, a student at Forest Hill's North Preparatory Junior Public School. "Life was a lot different and the problems they had back then were different. But in terms of the lives of the characters, it's easy to relate to. Like, with the dress code, it's not that different. We're not supposed to be all ... wild and stuff."

So it's no surprise even after 100 years, Anne's status has reached that of an international celebrity. Trappings of Anne's stardom include a literary reputation that stretches across oceans (thanks to the publication of the novel and its seven sequels in more than a dozen languages), a burgeoning field of academic study, online fan communities, two musical plays about her life, several television adaptations, a booming tourism industry in her homeland, annual festivals, frequent academic conferences, plus museums, theme parks, and a growing collection of paraphernalia based on her likeness.

The parties to celebrate her birthday will begin next month with Penguin Canada's publication of a collector's edition of Anne of Green Gables and a new prequel, Before Green Gables, by Nova Scotia author Budge Wilson, which recounts the first 10 years of Anne's life. The book was commissioned with the permission of Montgomery's heirs.

There's also a prequel movie, Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, set to air on CTV this spring. With no connection to the prequel book, the film was created by Toronto-based film company Sullivan Entertainment and will star Barbara Hershey, Shirley MacLaine and Toronto native Hannah Endicott-Douglas as a young Anne Shirley.

It's rare for a Canadian children's literary character to achieve such global glory. So why has Anne's reputation endured? Her early success had to do with Montgomery's depiction of an independent heroine – a revelation for young readers at the start of the 20th century.

"Before (Anne), you'd have to say that many children's stories were moral tales," says Leslie McGrath, head of the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books at the Toronto Public Library.

"They had characters that were invented to serve the plot. They were cardboard figures with little personality. They didn't grow and develop," she adds, pointing to the character Elsie Dinsmore, one of Anne's predecessors, as an example.

"Elsie was famous for her pietistic priggishness. She was born good, lives a good life and never changes ... She had conventional good looks, an angelic face.

"If you look at Anne in contrast, she's quite a departure. She's a skinny, angular child. She was freckled at a time when ladies tried to keep a porcelain complexion and red hair wasn't admired. It was seen as a mark of a flaring temper."

Anne certainly had a temper, notes McGrath. But she was also intelligent and well-read. She loved to learn and went on become a teacher, which made her a strong role model.

Though Anne wasn't the first defiant heroine of children's lit – Jo March of Little Women and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm's Rebecca both preceded her – she was a leader in the clique of young women who ushered in a more realistic kind of children's literature, one that entertained as much as it educated.

But kids these days fully expect books to be fun, and female characters to have minds of their own, so Anne's strong character doesn't fully account for her enduring popularity.

Kevin Sullivan, founder of Sullivan Entertainment and writer and director of a trilogy of television adaptations based on the Anne series, says contemporary audiences love Anne because she and her friends act as an antidote to the modern world. "There's a sense of forgiveness and strength of community, and that's what people are looking for now," he says.

By placing Anne in Prince Edward Island, Montgomery brought the Canadian countryside to life for young readers around the world, most notably in Sweden, Poland and Japan, where Anne is practically a national obsession.

"What makes the book stand out is not just the heroine, but also Prince Edward Island," says Elizabeth Epperly, a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island and one of the world's foremost Montgomery scholars.

"It's as prominent a character as Anne. The descriptive passages, the number of sunsets and sunrises – you find that passion for landscape that is the basis for Prince Edward Island tourism."

Anne's international fame was also boosted by Sullivan Entertainment. The Anne of Green Gables miniseries first hit the screen in 1985 and has since been translated into 30 languages and broadcast in more than 140 countries.

Wherever Sullivan's adaptations are aired, an upsurge of interest in the book often follows.

As the 100th anniversary of the publication of Montgomery's first novel approaches, there is renewed interest in the author's life.

A series of anniversary events in Prince Edward Island this summer will highlight Montgomery's personal story and her literary contribution. (See details at www.anne2008.com.)

As well, Montgomery scholar Mary Rubio will publish a comprehensive biography of the author this year, and Sullivan notes his television prequel is really about the intimate connection between Montgomery and her most famous character.

The connection is also deeply explored in Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks, which will hit shelves next month.

"The P.E.I. scrapbooks start in her teens," explains scholar Epperly who, in the book, illuminates the personal mysteries contained within Montgomery's colourful collages by annotating full-colour reproductions of selected pages.

"They have cat's fur, pressed flowers, souvenirs from parties, memorabilia of all kinds. When she was writing, she was constantly going back to those scrapbooks and was inspired by the poems and pictures she collected."

The scrapbooks exhibit the author's greatest literary gift to her readers, explains Epperly, who read Anne as a girl in Virginia and later moved to Charlottetown to study literature in her heroine's homeland.

"What's unique about Montgomery's contribution," she says, "is a consistent and powerful way of teaching others to create metaphor for themselves, to find the larger patterns in their lives and learn from them, just as Anne did."


A Brief Biography Of L.M. Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, in 1874.

Her mother died two years later and her father moved west, leaving Maud, as she was known in girlhood, to be cared for by her grandparents in Cavendish, P.E.I.

An enthusiastic student and an avid writer, Montgomery published her first poem when she was 17, went on to become a teacher, and studied for a year at Dalhousie University – a rare achievement for a woman of her era.

In 1898, Montgomery returned to Cavendish to care for her ailing grandmother. Inspired by her own childhood, she began writing Anne of Green Gables. Five publishers rejected it before the Boston-based Page Co. published it in 1908. A year later, Page published Anne of Avonlea, the first of seven Anne sequels.

Montgomery's grandmother died in 1911. Later that year, she married Ewan Macdonald, a Protestant minister, and moved with him to Leaskdale, Ont., where he had accepted a ministry.

After the wedding, Montgomery learned her husband suffered from "religious melancholia," an affliction that would now probably be called bipolar disorder.

She gave birth to three boys, though one was stillborn, an experience that affected her deeply. She grieved also over the death of her cousin and closest friend, Frederica Campbell, in 1919. Her husband suffered a nervous breakdown that same year.

In the small community of Leaskdale, Montgomery covered for her husband's mental illness, which sometimes left him unable to minister. He spent time in a mental institution in 1934, and as Montgomery's children reached maturity, she supported the family through her writing.

Economic pressure motivated Montgomery to write, and she admitted in her journals that she wasn't always proud of her books. Critics and readers agree many of her later works did not approach the greatness of Anne of Green Gables. As World War II began, Montgomery suffered from depression.

When she died in Toronto in 1942, she left 22 fiction books, many poems and short stories, plus personal scrapbooks, photographs and journals.

Robert Weaver, 87: Godfather of CanLit

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(January 29, 2008)
Robert Weaver was a behind-the-scenes giant of the Canadian literary scene, nurturing generations of authors – among them Alice Munro, Timothy Findley and Mordecai Richler – through radio, print and anthologies.

But if you've never heard of Weaver, who died this past Saturday at the age of 87 after a brief illness, it was because he was Canadian to the core – and that meant being modest to his roots.

"He (Weaver) was just an amazing human being," said Elaine Kalman Naves, who created a two-part series (set to air on CBC Radio One's Ideas on Feb. 12 and 13) on his life and authored Robert Weaver: Godfather of Canadian Literature, a book set to be launched tomorrow at an event that will instead become a memorial to him.

Among the speakers is Margaret Atwood.

"Perhaps the most salient thing about him was his modesty. He was a gregarious man, a sociable man who did not like talking about himself. So it was very hard to interview him ... and eventually I gave up trying to get him to admit that he'd done anything extraordinary," Kalman Naves said.

"Instead, I switched to interviewing Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro and Robert Fulford and Alastair MacLeod, who talked about how amazing he was."

Filmmaker David Weaver recalled how his father turned down the Order of Canada several times before accepting the honour in 2000.

"He (Weaver) was just a very modest man who really loved good writing, all sorts of writing, and all sorts of different sorts of writers, poets as much as short-story writers," Weaver said.

Born in Niagara Falls, Robert (Bob) Weaver served in the Canadian army during the World War II, got his education at the University of Toronto and joined the CBC in 1948.

Weaver became a quietly effective promoter of Canadian literature and talent spotter for a new generation of authors, first through a show called Canadian Short Stories and, over a 40-year career at the public broadcaster, on shows such as the long-running Anthology.

In 1979, shortly before his retirement, he created the CBC Literary Awards, which in the past seven years has been expanded to include French-language literature.

In 1956, he and others founded Tamarack Review – which kept publishing until 1982 – which featured the works of fledgling Canadian writers like Timothy Findley, whose first published short story appeared in the magazine's first issue.

On Anthology, Weaver persuaded Leonard Cohen to sing his poetry on air for the first time, "years before Leonard Cohen ever cut a record," Kalman Naves said.

Weaver also edited collections of short stories for the Oxford University Press and co-edited, along with William Toye, The Oxford Anthology of Canadian Literature.

"He really was an editor and that's what editors do, their work is invisible. I think he felt it was more appropriate the writers themselves take centre stage," David Weaver said.

Author/broadcaster Robert Fulford called Weaver "the most influential editor in Canadian literature in the 20th century. He had a large part to play in the lives of Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler and about six or eight important figures. He also did a lot for many minor figures, such as myself."

Fulford added, "He was smart, aggressive and patient. If he thought a writer was good, he'd wait five or 10 years."

Weaver also wrote for the Toronto Star, making his first contribution in 1969 and writing a regular column reviewing murder mysteries from 1972 to 1979.

Besides his son David, Weaver leaves his wife Audrey and daughter Janice, a children's book author.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Take Heart, Golf Lovers: Simulator On The Way

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(January 26, 2008) You don't have to ask a golf lover how painful Toronto is in January. And while a sunny fairway might only be a three-hour flight away, not everyone has the time or money to indulge in their favourite pastime during Canadian winters.

There is, however, another solution for golf nuts to get a quick fix at home or at the office.

Unveiled earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Woodbridge, Ont.-based Electric~Spin showed off its new Golf Launchpad Tour simulator (www.golflaunchpad.com), delivering an authentic golf experience when paired with a compatible game, such as EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 (sold separately).

Due out this spring for $199, the new and improved Golf Launchpad is a USB-based accessory that plugs into your Windows or Mac computer or PlayStation 3 console, and lets you use your golf clubs to drive, chip and putt a tethered Surlyn golf ball. Eight sensors read and process the impact in real-time – such as clubhead speed, path, angle, and so on – and the result is seen onscreen inside the video game. Needless to say, a real swing, followed by a thwack, is a lot more gratifying than using a mouse or gamepad.

This upcoming golf game accessory is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, making it easier to transport, and is faster and more accurate thanks to additional sensors and an onboard processor. The Golf Launchpad Tour will also include a wireless Remote Caddy (with belt clip) to easily set up for the next shot instead of reaching for the mouse or controller.

"Ultimately, this product will enhance the overall user experience and change the way golfers and gamers interact with their televisions," says Electric~Spin president Anees Munshi.

Electric~Spin says this new model is also compatible with XTVReady, a software module embedded within some TV set-top boxes that allows for interactive multiplayer golf matches on the same courses the pros are playing on during televised events. More info is available at NDS.com. Munshi says Golf Launchpad Tour will be available in April nationwide at leading golf retailers, such as Golf Town.

Elite Canadian Basketball Grads Show Promise

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

(January 28, 2008) Kalisha Keane has just finished a long day of classes followed by a gruelling practice on the basketball court at Michigan State. She's on a bus rushing to the airport to catch a flight to Champaign, Ill., where her team will face the Fighting Illini the following night.

The schedule is a grind, but it's nothing Keane hasn't seen before.

The rookie forward from Oshawa, Ont., is part of the first-ever grad class of NEDA – the
National Elite Development Academy – which brings together Canada's top high school basketball players to train year-round at McMaster University in Hamilton.

The program, with its rigorous training schedule and attention to academics, isn't unlike what the players face when they arrive at university.

"I've spoken to a lot of (college) coaches over the last six months, they've all commented on how the girls coming from the NEDA program were prepared as if they've already played their freshman year," says Christine Stapleton, head coach of NEDA's girls program.

The NEDA boys program is in its inaugural year.

Keane has shone in her rookie season, fitting in seamlessly in the Spartans starting line-up. She's the team's second-leading scorer (13.2 points a game) and rebounder (6.6), and earlier this month poured in a career-high 23 points to lead Michigan State over Northwestern.

When she arrived in East Lansing, Mich., this past fall, she discovered she was well-prepared for what lay ahead.

"The (NEDA) training was really intense, and I would say the biggest thing would be the whole living away from home. I don't get homesick at all, because I already lived a year on my own," said Keane, whose younger sister Takima is currently in the NEDA program.

"The practice schedule, because we would practise from 7:30 to 9 every morning, then go to class, then come back and practise again. It was really hectic days, and just the strain on your body. . . it was like what we go through at university."

All seven players from NEDA's class of 2007 are playing significant roles on their new teams. Krysten Boogaard (Kansas Jayhawks), Vanessa Kabongo (University of Delaware), and Yinka Olorunnife (University of Idaho) are starters; Kelsey Adrian (No. 10-ranked Cal-Berkeley Golden Bears) and Kaitlyn Burke (Nebraska Cornhuskers) are usually the first off the bench; while Zara Huntley is playing solid minutes with the UBC Thunderbirds.

These women, says Stapleton, hold the promise of a bright future for Canadian basketball.

But Canada Basketball officials find themselves scrambling for a sponsor after NEDA's funding from Sport Canada – which provides the lion's share of money for the program – was axed earlier this month. NEDA received $250,000 from the Road to Excellence program, the summer equivalent of Own the Podium, which aims to propel athletes to the top of the Olympic podium.

Canada's women's basketball team failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games, after the No. 11-ranked Canadians landed on the wrong side of a bad draw at the Olympic qualifying tournament. The men still have a hope – they'll play in a last-chance tournament in Greece in June.

The funding cut from Sport Canada has Stapleton shaking her head.

"With a team sport, you have to invest at this age with a group," she says. "It's very important to have the finest athletes all in one place, working with a national level coach, in an environment where you can create that world-class experience.

"This is the perfect age to really tough them and shape them and then set them on their way."

The current crop of NEDA players is as strong as the class of 2007. Kayla Alexander, a six-foot-four forward and Grade 11 student from Milton, Ont., has garnered interest from over 100 NCAA schools.

"She's that good," Stapleton says. "She's very, very good."

The NEDA staff counsels their players through the process of picking the right school.

"It's overwhelming for Kayla and her family," Stapleton says. ``One of our staff here put together a huge spreadsheet of who the college coaches are, how many years they've been at their schools, the type of performance the team's had, what their roster looks like. . . we do all that work for the girls, so that now the players and their families can make an educated choice."

With Canada's best all on one team, the NEDA program is one-stop shopping for college coaches. NCAA rules prohibit scouts from attending NEDA practices, so the team regularly travels to tournaments abroad. The team played at tournaments this past fall in Ohio and Rochester, N.Y., and drew clipboard-toting scouts from over 50 NCAA schools.

"The coaches know they're getting a quality-trained athlete," Stapleton says. "When we recruit to the NEDA program (we ask) `What's her character like? Is she going to be able to maintain the rigorous schedule, can she train on her own, will she manage her time appropriately, does she have the strength of character to move away from home?'

"The coaches know they're getting an athlete who's been through that filtering system, there's a higher percentage of retaining the athlete, and achieving excellence with that particular player."

Keane is a prime example.

The Spartans would go on to edge Illinois 65-62 in their Big 10 matchup, the Canadian playing a substantial role in the victory. Keane stole an Illinois inbounds pass with three seconds on the clock to secure the win, en route to a 10-point, 10-rebound performance.

And she's only just begun.

"I always think there's everything I have to work on, just continuing to rebound and stay positive, because it's a very long season," Keane says. "I have to work on keeping my focus game to game, and not looking too far ahead and not dwelling on the past . . . just trying to improve every night."

Middaugh Crowned Ontario Curling Champion

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Brian Mcandrew, Staff Reporter

(January 28, 2008) Sherry Middaugh felt relaxed going up against defending titleholder Krista McCarville yesterday in the final of the Ontario women's curling championship.

Middaugh's 7-6 victory in an extra end over McCarville, who won the past two provincial championships as Krista Scharf before her marriage last August, was especially satisfying, since the two met in the final last year.

Middaugh, one of the biggest names in women's curling despite never achieving a national championship, had a chance to win last year but couldn't put away the Thunder Bay skip, who has not played regularly on the cash bonspiel circuit.

"That was a heartbreaker," Middaugh recalled moments after winning her fourth provincial title as skip in Espanola. "There's nothing I'm looking forward to more than going to Regina in the middle of February."

The Saskatchewan native will play for the national championship in the Tournament of Hearts in Regina starting Feb.16. She has reached the semi-final in all three previous appearances.

"I don't know if it was revenge, but I felt pretty comfortable playing her again," said Middaugh, who finished first in the round-robin preliminary but lost a playoff game to McCarville.

That meant Middaugh had to play an extra playoff game, beating Toronto's Alison Goring on Saturday, to get a rematch in the final.

"I felt more comfortable playing in the final after playing well against Alison," Middaugh said. "They (the McCarville team) had curled well all week and they were watching that game, so they knew what we could do."

Even being forced into an extra end to settle the championship didn't bother Middaugh, who held the lead and controlled the game all the way up until McCarville stole a point in the 10th end for the tie.

"The fact she stole that point didn't faze me," said Middaugh, who has reunited with third Kirsten Wall from their 2004 championship team.

"We missed her last year, so it was really nice to have her back," said Middaugh, who has last year's teammates Kim Moore at second and Andra Harmark playing lead.

Middaugh had last rock in the 10th end after giving up a pair in the eighth and playing a scoreless ninth, but a McCarville stone was nearly covering the button and behind a guard.

Middaugh was able to bring a rock around the guard, but it curled to the far side of the shot rock. Despite making contact, her own rock rolled just inches away from scoring. Middaugh kept the game wide open in the eleventh end by removing opponent rocks from the front of the house.

That left her with an easy draw that needed to only reach the eight-foot ring for the win.

NHL's East Wins All-Star Game

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Kevin Mcgran, Sports Reporter

(January 28, 2008) ATLANTA–The answer was an easy one for Jamey Ducros, a Leaf fan from Ottawa celebrating his 13th birthday with a trip to the NHL's all-star weekend.

Decked out in his blue-and-white No.15 Tomas Kaberle jersey, Ducros was asked what the best part of the weekend was.

"Tomas Kaberle winning the most accurate shot," said a smiling Ducros, an admitted outcast in his own family of Senator fans.

Ducros, his family and the rest of the fans who attended the all-star festivities – card shows, Stanley Cup photo shoots, the skills event and the practices – all seemed to enjoy themselves.

The players did, too.

Especially Marc Savard, who scored the winner in last night's 8-7 Eastern Conference victory.

And Ilya Kovalchuk, who hammed it up for the hometown crowd.

And Rick Nash, who notched the 15th hat trick in all-star history.

And Eric Staal, who was named the game's MVP for his two-goal, one-assist performance. His second goal tied the game 7-7, while his assist set up Savard's winner.

The irony of the moment was not lost on Savard. The former Thrasher was the only Eastern Conference star regularly booed, but he managed to get the fans back on side with the winner.

"It felt great, especially after getting booed all weekend," said Savard.

Nash was truly magical, stealing the puck to score on a breakaway just 12 seconds into the game and scoring while skating backwards on a breakaway in the second period.

For his part, Kovalchuk revved up the crowd whenever he could.

"He loves that stuff, it's good to see," said Savard. "He's one of those guys who enjoys the spotlight and the crowd loves it."

In the absence of any physical play whatsoever there was drama, as the West rebounded from a 5-1 deficit to take a short-lived 7-6 lead at the midway point of the third.

Overall, the all-star weekend was a successful and entertaining event. The Willie O'Ree tribute on Friday brought out Atlanta's movers and shakers, trying to sell the game to the African-American community.

"This event will help build the brand of the Thrashers locally and hockey in general," said Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council.

Whether this event actually aids the Thrashers in selling tickets in the short term – the team is struggling and ownership is in a shambles – is anybody's guess.

This was about helping to build a fan base, and for its efforts the NHL gets a passing grade.

The Philips Arena was sold out for both the skills competition and the game last night, no mean feat in this city. The Thrashers never sell out.

"When you come to an event like this you're here to see the best players in the world play their best, see some creativity," said Guelph's George Kouvalis. "I've had a blast. I was at the all-star game in Toronto in 2000 and this weekend was way better."

But Kouvalis quickly found out that the local's knowledge of the game is limited.

"We were in a mall and we were telling people we were here for the all-star game, and they were like, `the NBA?' " said Kouvalis.

The NHL knows it has its work cut out for it to continue to try to sell the game in the Sun Belt. The Thrashers are 21st in NHL attendance and the number of homes in Atlanta that watch a Thrashers game on TV is about 2,300.

"There's a core following for the Thrashers here in Atlanta," said Stokan. "Not being as old as a Toronto, it takes time to grow. Events like an NHL all-star game are one of the facets to help that growth."

::FITNESS::

Super 20-Minute Home Workout!

Raphael Calzadilla, BA, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

If you've suddenly been hit with a busy schedule or just need something quick, I have the workout for you.

The workout is simple, quick and absolutely effective. No hour-long sessions in the gym or long bouts of cardio, and no dreading the thought of exercise. Just a realistic alternative to all the noise in the world of fitness that makes us hate exercising. No anatomy lessons today, simply something you can do in your living room or office. The only weight you'll need is your own body.

This series of movements will take about 20 minutes or less. Yep, you're reading correctly -- just 20 minutes. You can do them 3-4 times per week. Your entire body will be stimulated, and you'll feel rejuvenated without all the added stress of having to go to the gym.

I've designed this routine so that one exercise stimulates multiple muscle groups. This way, you'll get the best bang for your buck in the least amount of time. Perform each exercise in succession. After completing one movement, immediately continue to the next one. After you've completed all the movements, perform them one more time. Attempt 20-25 repetitions of each movement. Don't worry if you can't perform all the reps -- it will come. If you're a beginner, take your time and go at your own pace.

1. BENT KNEE PUSH UPS Start with your hands and knees on a mat. Your hands should be shoulder width apart and your head, neck, hips and legs should be in a straight line. Do not let your back arch and cave in. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows. Lower your upper body by bending your elbows outward and stopping before your chest touches the floor. Contracting the chest muscles, slowly return to the starting position. Inhale while lowering your body. Exhale while returning to the starting position. After mastering this exercise, you may wish to try the full push-up.

2. LUNGE (with household cans) Stand straight with your feet together. Hold a can in each hand and keep your arms down at your sides. Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. Contracting the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh), push off your right foot slowly, returning to the starting position. Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set. Inhale while stepping forward. Exhale while returning to the starting position.

The step should be long enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor. Make sure your head is up and your back is straight. Your chest should be lifted, and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement. Your right knee should not pass your right foot, and you should be able to see your toes at all times. If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less-dominant leg first. Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

3. ABDOMINAL BICYCLE MANEUVER Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Put your hands on either side of your head by your ears. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle pedaling motion, alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. This is a more advanced exercise, so don't worry if you can't perform a lot of them. Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back. Also, don't pull on your head and neck during this exercise. The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.

4. BENCH DIPS Using two benches or chairs, sit on one. Place palms on the bench with fingers wrapped around the edge. Place both feet on the other chair. Slide your upper body off the chair with your elbows nearly but not completely locked. Lower your upper body slowly toward the floor until your elbows are bent slightly more than 90 degrees. Contracting your triceps (back of the arm), extend your elbows and return to the starting position (stopping just short of the elbows fully extending). Inhale while lowering your body and exhale while returning to the starting position. Beginners should start with their feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. As you progress, move your feet out further until your legs are straight with a slight bend in the knees.

5. ABDOMINAL DOUBLE CRUNCH Lie on the floor face up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Place both hands crossed on your chest. Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position (stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor).

Exhale while rising up and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck. Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

Bonus! Get more great ab exercises here.

There you have it! Five exercises performed for two cycles in just 20 minutes. You'll begin to notice a tighter feel in your muscles in a few weeks, and you will naturally perform more reps as time progresses -- all in 20 minutes or less.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German author and philosopher

"Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded."