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December 17, 2009

One more week untilChristmas Eve!  One more week until a few days off for most.  One more week of over-eating, drinking, late-nighting ... or is that just me?  ;)  So, the anticipation is building and I've already noticed that there is an extra smile given between strangers indicating that people's spirits somehow get a little higher and sweeter this time of year.  The magic of the season.

Speaking of magic, check out the VERY special event below - it's
Kardinal Offishall's Annual Charity Gala in support of breast cancer.  What a star filled evening - hosted by the one and only Russell Peters.  Tickets will surely SELL OUT - get your tickets now and don't be disappointed!  Pick up a couple of tickets and give to your friends as a holiday gift!

This week not only covers new news, but also is reflective in some articles about the past year in entertainment and the past decade given that we will be shortly arriving at 2010.  Many new CD releases coming too which include some of my faves, namely Jully Black, Sade, Erykah Badu, Kardinal Offishall, to name a few. 

And this week mentions
Tiger Woods - but perhaps not in the context people have been talking about incessantly.

If you haven't already, check out Leaving the Dream State - which uses spoken word fused with urban electronica - get all the details under SCOOP.  Go for the ride!

Scroll and enjoy as we near the end of yet another year ...

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS


Kardinal Offishall Presents His The 12th Annual Christmas Charity Gala To Benefit The Breast Cancer Society Of Canada

Source: Mansa Trotman

(December 4, 2009)  On December 23rd 2009,
Kardinal Offishall will throw his 12th Annual Kardinal Christmas Gala at This Is London (364 Richmond Street West) and has enlisted his long-time friend, comedian Russell Peters to host. 

Four time Juno Award winner, Kardinal Offishall’s video for his smash hit Dangerous is the all time most viewed YouTube video in Canada at over 35 million views and counting.  He was a judge on the highly rated Much Music VJ Search show, has won four Much Music Video Awards and has had show stopping MMVA performances including his 2008 performance with Akon.  Kardinal’s album, Mr. International is due out Spring 2010.

Comedy superstar Russell Peters has become a household name in Canada following his hosting duties of the last two Juno Award ceremonies and sold out shows.  During a recent tour of Dubai, Russell sold tickets at the rate of one ticket every two seconds – crashing the online sales outlets as soon as the tickets went on sale. 

Special appearances include: Grammy Award-winning British R&B singer-songwriter Estelle; Breakfast Television’s Dina Pugliese; N.E.R.D.’s new member, Rhea; Canadian Idol Judge Farley Flex; and of course Kardinal Offishall himself.

All net proceeds will benefit the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, a national charitable organization established to fund Canadian research into improving the detection, prevention and treatment of breast cancer, as well as to ultimately find a cure and create awareness through education.

This is London
364 Richmond Street W,
Tickets are $25 in advance/$35 at the door and are available at www.ticketweb.ca,
Play De Records and Broadway Fashions
Doors open at 9 p.m.
View the official event poster and donate in support of this cause by visiting


Leaving The Dream State – New on Itunes

Source:  Max Pereira

Leaving The Dream State is designed to make people aware of certain esoteric truths.  Evren produced the album (evrenmusic.com) and was performed at Armageddon and Reality. The album was mastered by Deryck Roche at Level 2 Music Productions and it is currently distributed through Indiepool. The album is a journey - political, historical and finally spiritual, definitely observational.  Hence the name of the musical entity "Leaving The Dreamstate".

Leaving the Dreamstate presents 'The Orion Project'... Indiepool.ca has created their own, new music genre. Using spoken word fused with urban electronica, this politically provocative piece of work challenges the listener to re-evaluate our society and its preconceptions. Enjoy the journey...


On Itunes: HERE

At IndiePool: HERE

The Orion Project homepage: HERE  


Canada Loses A Music Icon : Haydain Neale (1970-2009)

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Erica Phillips

(Winter Issue) This story was originally titled "Haydain Neale is Back" — it was supposed to focus on SOULMate, the latest musical effort from jacksoul, the band headed by frontman Haydain Neale.

Instead, this piece is a celebration of his life and music.

Haydain Neale, the lead singer of jacksoul died on Sunday, Nov. 22 of lung cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital, surrounded by his loved ones: wife Michaela, daughter Yasmin, brother-in-law Shawn Hudson and friends Davide DiRenzo and Jennifer Hyland.

"Through all these challenges, Haydain's sense of humour and love of music were ever-present. He constantly brightened the room with his singing and his smile. His joyful presence and beautiful voice will be missed by us all," said Michaela in a press release.

In August 2007, Neale suffered a serious motor accident, which left the Hamilton native in a coma. The motorized scooter he was riding collided with a car in Toronto; the driver was charged. Concerned fans were relieved by his recovery. But it came as a shock for many when they also learned that Neale was quietly battling cancer the last few months.

That Haydain Neale continued as a joyous spirit right until the end can be heard in the music on his final album. The first single, "Lonesome Highway," is upbeat, brimming with hope and joy. As ever, Neale's voice is rich, smooth, a throwback to the days of Sam Cook and Otis Redding, but still distinctly Haydain — our Haydain.

What many fans may not know is that SOULmate was started almost three years ago. "I named it for my wife Michaela," said Neale. "She never left my side. I owe a lot to her for her dedication to my health, well-being and for being my advocate. This record wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for her," Neale said, less than a week before his death.

Each track celebrates milestones belonging to the Neale family and one song in particular stirred strong emotions for the romantic front man.

"'You're Beautiful' was very special to me," said Neale. "I wrote it for Michaela for our 10th anniversary. Just before my accident, we had a show in Hawaii and it was on the same day as our 10th anniversary. I gave her the song as the sun was going down through the big bay window overlooking the waves."

Neale left his fans with a legacy of love that can be felt in every line of every song that left his lips. SOULmate encapsulates the career of this iconic Canadian artist and seems to have hit the mark with his vision behind the album.

"Yes, there's a wiggle-your-hips kind of song in there, but mostly it's about hanging with your family and friends. I'm hoping people will surround themselves with the ones they truly love and just listen."

All proceeds from SOULmate will go to the Haydain Neale Family Trust. "The Haydain Neale Family Trust was started by Sony Music to help with the financial burden of this ongoing recovery treatment and therapy from the accident," says Erica Silver of Sony Music Entertainment Canada.

- For more information on Haydain Neale and Jacksoul, visit jacksoul.com. To send condolences or share your memories with the Neale family email: haydainnealefamily@gmail.com.

Does Monogamy Matter?

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Rachael-Lea Rickards

(Winter Issue) Sway speaks with Black Daddies Club president Brandon Hay about relationships and being faithful

Do you think men were meant to be monogamous?
No, but I do think we are given messages, whether it be from religion or family, that make us believe that this is how it should be. I was speaking with some men in a barbershop the other day and one man said he doesn't think men can be monogamous; another man piped in and said, "I'm more faithful to my barber than my wife." It's a tough question. I think all men in relationships want to be monogamous. I just don't know if we were all meant to be.

Do you think Canadians look at monogamy differently than African and Caribbean communities?
I was raised by a single mom with half brothers and half sisters. My dad had multiple kids. Growing up in Jamaica for the first part of my life, monogamy was just not practiced. In no way am I saying that all Jamaicans are not practicing monogamy. I'm saying that in my household I didn't see it. I sometimes wondered when I met a girl that there might be the slight possibility of her being a relative. The outside brothers and sister thing is just too common and it needs to stop.

Do you believe in the saying "what you don't know won't hurt you?"
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Before I got married and decided to commit to a monogamous relationship, I would cheat. Fortunately, my partner at the time decided to stick it through with me. I asked her afterwards if she would have preferred if I didn't tell her; honestly, I think she would've rather not known. However, I do have a double standard here — I would definitely want to know if the roles were reversed.

What makes a man cheat?
Various reasons. Sometimes it's just because he can. Men with power or great looks and money, those men have women throwing themselves at them all the time. Look at Bill Clinton and David Letterman, for example.

But what about the man who lives next door or the guy at the office?
For the everyday guy it is an opportunity that reveals itself. In my situation, we were friends. The physical was just the icing on the cake. She was a co-worker. I started to have easier conversations with this woman. I didn't have to worry about breaking up a relationship or being judged. She was open to accepting who I was. She understood me. It was a mutual attraction and it was hot. Ultimately it was an escape.

As a father, do you feel it's your duty to be monogamous?
I don't know if it's a duty. I grew up without a dad. It's very important for me to keep the family unit together. It's what drives me. Whether it's when I'm working at the Black Daddies Club or just my day to day life. As far as being obligated, I'm human, I have imperfections. Just because I get married and have children, doesn't mean I'm dead. It means I have bigger scales to use before I move forward with my actions.

What advice would you give men who are struggling with infidelity when they truly want to remain monogamous?
When I first started working through my infidelity issues, the first thing I could think of was to open the Bible. When I did, to be honest, although I did find some light from the scriptures, I often also walked away feeling like a heathen. I figured if I could create a space where men could talk, share and ask questions, I wouldn't feel as alone, and neither would the men who came out to share. For that reason I created my first panel discussion event regarding this taboo topic "Monogamy: is it Relevant?" It's time that our community starts talking and sharing and making changes together. We cover topics that are not talked about in the community and all we ask is that people come with an open mind.

- To find out more about the Black Daddies Club and upcoming events, visit blackdaddiesclub.com EMAIL: LETTERS@SWAYMAG.CA

Little Black Book : Jully Black Opens Up About Life With Her Latest Album

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Leroy Graham

(Winter Issue) There is little doubt that Jully Black reigns supreme as Canada's current queen of R&B. Over the past decade, Black has churned out hits that have satisfied the pop sensibilities of club district regulars, while also hitting the mark with soulful bass heavy hooks that betray her hip-hop origins. With The Black Book, Black intimately shares both the personal and professional landmarks that have lined her life over the last decade.

"Have you ever had a notebook that you wrote everything in? A reminder to call someone, a phone number that's changed, a note to read something inspirational or simply a great idea? That's what The Black Book is about," says Black. "It is more than just a book, a diary, an agenda, a phone book or a glossary. It's the place where the mental notes, important details and words of wisdom have manifested themselves into songs.?These are lessons that I've learned and lessons that were taught to me through experiences of mine and of others."

With strong record sales and mainstream acceptance of her previous album Revival, Black has gained the confidence to explore an uncharted musical landscape with this latest effort, and show fans a different side of her artistry.

"I was ready to grow creatively but this would mean taking complete control of my artistic expression. It was time for a new sound, a new look and to expose the other side of my personality," says Black. "The side you won't see on TV but rather the side you will feel when listening to The Black Book. I was ready to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself to expand as a writer, an artist, a producer and a performer."

Black took a different approach in creating this album. Instead of duplicating the normal industry practice of going into the studio and working out lyrics and sound in the booth, Black looked to the past and adopted the creative approach of established industry icons.

"We studied the legendary musical relationship between Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton and the late Michael Jackson and created the songs at home. We brought only the worthy ones into the studio for tweaking and often recorded as many as three songs in a day. Our mandate is 'if it doesn't give you chills, it's not in the will.'"

With The Black Book, Canada's queen of R&B hopes to build a deeper connection with her fans, while engaging new ears and hearts with her sincere and surprising musical take on life.

"Is The Black Book going to take my fans by surprise? Of course it will," she says. "A pleasant surprise, that is! It's dance, it's urban, it's rock, it's 'durban rock'. It's 38 minutes of music for the people. Songs like 'Running' will leave you feeling liberated. 'The Plan' will mend your wounded heart. 'Recalculate' will help you let it go and 'Glass Ceiling' will inspire you to accomplish whatever your aspirations may be."

- For more information on Jully Black and her new album, visit JullyBlack.com.

Canadian Directors Shine In Golden Globe Nominations

Source: www.thestar.com - David Germain, Fred Prouser/Reuters

(December 15, 2009) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. – Films from Canadian directors Jason Reitman and James
Cameron were among those leading the Golden Globe contenders Tuesday, with Reitman's recession-era tale Up in the Air and Cameron's sci-fi epic Avatar both racking up nods in key categories.

Up In The Air leads the pack overall with six nominations, among them best drama and acting honours for George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, and nods for directing and writing for the Montreal-born Reitman.

"I can't put into words how exciting it is to feel and to know that I'll be going to the Golden Globes with everyone I worked with on this film," Reitman said. "This was one of those ensembles that we really enjoyed working together. We're a tight-knit family. The idea that we're going together is just wonderful."

Avatar scored four nominations, including best drama and director for the blockbuster filmmaker Cameron,
originally from the mining town of Kapuskasing, Ont.

The directing category pits him against ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for the Iraq War tale The Hurt Locker, also up for best drama. Other directing nominees were Clint Eastwood for the South African rugby drama Invictus and Quentin Tarantino for his World War II rewrite Inglorious Basterds.

Inglorious Basterds also landed a best drama nod, as did the Harlem drama Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

The musical Nine ran second with five nominations, including best musical or comedy and acting slots for Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard.

Up against it for best musical or comedy are the romance (500) Days of Summer, the bachelor-party bash The Hangover and two Meryl Streep films, It's Complicated and Julie&Julia.

Up in the Air generally has been considered a comedy, but its inclusion in the drama category could give it more weight as a potential favourite for the Academy Awards, where dramatic films tend to dominate.

It's a third-time triumph for Reitman, the 32-year-old son of legendary Canadian director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters).

His previous two films both scored nominations at the Golden Globes as well, with the 2007 teen pregnancy comedy Juno, earning a best comedy nod before going on to nab additional nominations at the Oscars.

Reitman's first film was the acclaimed Thank You for Smoking in 2005, which racked up two Golden Globe nominations.

Playing a frequent-flyer junkie in Up in the Air, Clooney competes for best dramatic actor with Jeff Bridges as a boozy country singer in Crazy Heart, Colin Firth as a grieving gay academic in A Single Man, Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in Invictus and Tobey Maguire as a prisoner of war in Brothers.

"I suspect we will do a little bit of celebration, not a whole lot, you know. But it's wonderful news," said Freeman, who got the nomination news in South Africa, where he is appearing for premieres of Invictus.

Cameron's triumph comes as the visionary releases his most ambitious outing yet, a 3D technological feat billed as the most expensive film ever made. His long-awaited return to the feature film spotlight comes 12 years after his Oscar-winning historical epic, Titanic.

Sandra Bullock had two nominations, as dramatic actress in the football story The Blind Side and as a dragon-lady boss forcing her assistant to pose as her fiancé in The Proposal.

"I am beyond stunned," Bullock said. "Just to be included in the company of these amazing women I have so admired through the years has left me slack-jawed with awe."

Matt Damon picked up two nominations, as well, as musical or comedy actor playing a whistleblower spinning wild fabrications in The Informant! and as supporting actor playing a South African rugby star in Invictus.

Other dramatic actress nominees were Emily Blunt as Britain's monarch in her early reign in Quebec Jean-Marc Lavallee's The Young Victoria, Helen Mirren as the imperious wife of Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station, Carey Mulligan as a 1960s British teen in an affair with an older man in An Education and Gabourey Sidibe as an illiterate, abused teen turning her life around in Precious.

Sidibe was nominated for a powerhouse performance in her screen debut after she won the role at an open casting call. One of her big thrills was over the star who announced her nomination.

"I'm watching it with my roommates, with my manager and all these people, and we're watching at the same time, and we all jumped. Well, I jumped, certainly, because Justin Timberlake said my name," Sidibe said.

Julia Roberts was a surprise nominee for musical or comedy actress as a corporate spy in Duplicity, a box-office underachiever that generally was not on the awards radar. Along with Roberts, Streep and Bullock, Cotillard rounded out the category as the wife of an unfaithful filmmaker in Nine.

Day-Lewis as the Nine filmmaker scored a nomination for musical or comedy actor. Besides Damon, the category also includes Robert Downey Jr. as the London detective in Sherlock Holmes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a lovesick man in (500 Days of Summer) and Michael Stuhlbarg as a 1960s Jewish academic besieged by crises in A Serious Man.

Up in the Air co-stars Farmiga, playing Clooney's frequent-flyer soul mate, and Kendrick, playing a smart but inexperienced efficiency expert, are competing against each other for supporting actress. Also nominated are Cruz as the filmmaker's insecure mistress in Nine, Mo'Nique as a hateful welfare mother in Precious and Julianne Moore as a grief-stricken professor's best pal in A Single Man.

Damon is joined in the supporting-actor category by Woody Harrelson as a military man delivering bad news to next of kin in The Messenger, Canadian Christopher Plummer as aging author Tolstoy in The Last Station, Stanley Tucci as a serial killer in The Lovely Bones and Christoph Waltz as a gleefully savage Nazi in Inglorious Basterds.

In TV categories, nominations for drama series went to HBO's Big Love, Showtime's Dexter, Fox's House, AMC's Mad Men and HBO's True Blood. Musical or comedy series bids went to NBC's 30 Rock, HBO's Entourage, Fox's Glee, ABC's Modern Family and NBC's The Office.

Nominees in the miniseries or movie category went to Lifetime Television's Georgia O'Keeffe, PBS' Little Dorrit, and three HBO offerings, Grey Gardens, Into the Storm and Taking Chance.

Hollywood's second biggest film honours after the Academy Awards, the Globes are a key ceremony that sort out the prospects leading up to the Oscar nominations Feb. 2.

The 67th annual Globes will be handed out Jan. 17, six days before nomination voting closes for the Oscars. Globe winners can get a last-minute bump for an Oscar nomination, particularly on smaller films such as 1999's Boys Don't Cry, whose Globe triumph for Hilary Swank helped put her on the map for a best-actress win at the Oscars.

Last year's best drama winner at the Globes, Slumdog Millionaire, went on to win best picture and dominate at the Oscars. Other Globe recipients who followed with Oscar wins included Heath Ledger as supporting actor for The Dark Knight and Kate Winslet, who won supporting actress at the Globes for The Reader and best actress for that film at the Oscars.

The Globes are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 critics and reporters for overseas outlets.

Why Do We Love Awards Season? The Envelope, Please

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Rick Groen

(Dec. 11, 2009) Once again, the Globes are about to go
Golden, the People are set to make Choices, and the Academy is poised to parade the venerable Oscar. The movie-awards season, with it own peculiar jolliness, is hard upon us. Short lists (freshly stretched to 10 in Oscar's case) will soon be appearing; indeed, critics and their societies are already hard at work producing their own humble lists. I savour An Education , but your thoughts are Up in the Air . I'm liking Colin Firth and you're all over George Clooney. And will it be Meryl again, must it be Meryl again?

Oh, let the holy debate rage, but, for now, let's step back from the fray and ask a not-so-simple question: Why do we care? And, more interestingly, why do we seem to care more than ever? Used to be, not so very long ago, that the Golden Globes were a joke, just a gaggle of “foreign press” geezers huffing and puffing and opining about movies they probably slept through. Now the same geezers and their little statues are gilt-edge totems of respectability. How did that happen?

Liam Lacey on Up in the Air

Directed by Jason Reitman, Up in the Air stars George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick.


Well, awards are essentially lists. Not the utilitarian kind, like a grocery list; or the empirical kind, like a list of the planets in ascending order from the sun; or the corporate kind, like a hit list with your name on it. No, awards are subjective lists that reflect a subjective judgment. Of all the films, hundreds of them, that flood the market in a given year, the list confidently says that these few are the best, and that one is the very best. From the morass of dull actioners and unfunny comedies and sappy romances, a soft logic gets applied and a hierarchy is established. Or appears to be.

But here's the difference. What has long been a practice in the narrow realm of the movies is spreading to the broader world of our information age. Since so much of that info is confused and confusing, as messy as a bad flick, the drawing up of lists – the same softly subjective kind – is growing more popular by the day. The media love the things: Biggest Scandals Involving Overpaid Athletes; Best Cheese Stores in the Greater Metropolitan Area; Top 10 Reasons Obama Deserves a Failing Grade. Easy to read, easier to digest, they create order from the informational chaos. Or seem to do.

Liam Lacey on An Education

Directed by Lone Scherfig, An Education stars Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard.


Of course, when televised in glorious high-def, movie lists have the further advantage of wearing sexy dresses and snappy tuxes, and that's always fun to watch. (Bonus: It even gives us a reason to generate more lists – Best Frock, Worst Hairdo, Dumbest-Ass Speech.) Now, snooty critics tend to look down their out-of-joint noses at awards shows. But none of us should, if only because the pronounced judgments are at least loosely based on the same high-minded aesthetic principles that we claim to employ in our weekly reviews. You know, all that non-box-office stuff about theme and coherence and character development and nuanced acting and scintillating wit and affecting drama. Lately, though, I've begun to wonder how relevant these principles are. Lots of smart moviegoers head out on a Saturday night to see a flick they know to be junk, yet precisely to revel in its junkiness, or to ogle its star, or just to get loudly distracted.

That's a very different aesthetic yardstick, but a valid one whose widespread application would put conventional critics out of a job. (Hey, mute those cheers.) So my critical ilk should be grateful to award shows, appreciative that, every year, they gather us around the campfire of old-fashioned merit, of high-art aesthetics, and we can all feel warmed by its glow. Or pretend to be.

And here's another difference. For many of us still lucky enough to be employed, something relatively new has popped into our workaday lives. It too is an annual event. It too involves critical judgment. It too is a kind of subjective list, with an applied ranking and established hierarchy. Yes, the gods of Human Resources have decreed, and damned if we aren't routinely treated to our very own “performance review.” There we are, lesser Clooneys, little Streeps, our efforts up on the computer's version of the silver screen, at the mercy of some reviewer and of a measuring rod that stretches and shrinks from year to year. Ranked high on the list, we applaud the rod's perceptive accuracy; ranked low, we lament its stupid arbitrariness. Whatever. From the chaos of the corporate jungle, order has been carved. Or pretends to be.

So maybe these days, when watching Clooney triumph and Firth fail, we're feeling in our small way a part of the process, and looking on with piqued interest. Not with empathy, necessarily. Typically, the victors are barely remembered the morning after and totally forgotten a week later. Could be we forget the few winners because the many losers, the four out of five, or nine out of 10, judged not good enough, are collectively more resonant, a rich mine of schadenfreude just waiting to be tapped. Maybe we're consoled by them. Or want to be.

For all these reasons, movie awards, and the shows they give rise to, are a fascinating bore. A bore, because we know deep down that such lists are meaningless – that they're arbitrary and wildly subjective and often politicized and not to be taken seriously. Fascinating, because we also know, on the surface where life is lived, that such lists are meaningful – that we're surrounded by them; that we're increasingly informed by them, falsely or not; that we often derive pleasure from them, hypocritically or not; and that, like it or not, we're on some of them, and are richer or poorer as a result.

But, hey, enough of this. Back to the holy debate. And I've changed my mind. I'm going with Up in the Air , I'm going with Clooney. In a time when so many are getting the axe (struck right off the list), George turned the hatchetman into a walking/talking bundle of magnetic charm. How we laughed and were happy. Or tried to be.

Emily Blunt's Take On Victoria Is Anything But Fusty

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(December 14, 2009)  It might seem like a sizable leap from her scene-stealing role as a venomous fashion assistant in The Devil Wears Prada to portraying a stately sovereign in The Young Victoria. But as British actress Emily Blunt explains, this is no dry historical epic. Directed by French-Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée (and co-produced by the Duchess of York), the film is a humanizing love story about a ruler in the making. As 26-year-old Blunt explained during an interview in Toronto this fall - where her film closed the Toronto International Film Festival - this Victoria is feisty, robust and loves to go out dancing.

How did you land this role?

My agent got his hands on the script really early because he's pushy and excellent, and called me and said I really want this for you, so I got in quite early, which was lucky. I knew it would be something a lot of people would be after. I went in, I met [producers] Graham King and Dennis [O'Sullivan] and was similarly pushy about wanting to do it, and that seemed to work. Maybe there was something incredibly royal about me demanding the role.

Why did you want it so badly?

Because I thought it was a rare period drama, essentially, because it was a more intimate take on her and Albert. I thought it captured the love and the passion in her life that nobody knows about - everyone has this preconception of her as being old and grizzled. And fat. And so I was like, I'd like to play the Victoria that's in better shape. She loved to dance and she'd go horse-riding, she was robust and vivacious, and that's a side people should know about.

Did it take a lot of study to nail down Victoria?

I did have to read a great deal about her. Her diaries were actually the most revealing to me. I got a sense of her voice. She'd talk ferociously about people if she hated them - she loved passionately and she hated passionately. She was emotional and emphatic. ...I got a sense of the kind of feistiness and the rebellious nature of her.

Why do you think Jean-Marc Vallée, a French-Canadian, was chosen to direct this?

I think he was chosen mainly for his work in C.R.A.Z.Y., which was extraordinary. Visually and aesthetically, he's quite dynamic and modern, and that's what I think this film needed because the script was a modern approach to a historical love story, so you needed someone who was going to capture that and not hold anything in too much reverence. I think it would have been a different film if a British director had done it because there's a sense to sort of covet what's historically ours and protect it and shield it from being relatable or accessible. It's supposed to be other-worldly, still. Jean-Marc just dove right in and said, "Be a rebel." That's what he said to me the first meeting and I thought, I love this guy.

He described you as "one of the boys."

[Laughs.] There are fewer female parts, so I inevitably end up working with men. This was definitely a very male set, but yes, I don't feel like I'm someone who acts on my femininity much. I'd rather just have a good time with the guys, honestly.

What else is coming up for you?

So, The Wolfman's coming out, with Anthony [Hopkins] and Benicio [Del Toro], who are both just extraordinary and wacky. Tony just wants everyone to have a good time and he hates it if you get too serious. And Benicio just has this raw, animalistic instinct approach to everything. I think the film's great. I think it's going to be a very noble nod to those old classic horror films, without too much CGI.

The Young Victoria opens Friday at select theatres.


Cuba Looks To Net A Million (Canadian)

Source: www.thestar.com - Janie Robinson

(December 12, 2009)
VARADERO, CUBA–Cuba is expecting a record-breaking one million Canadians this winter.

Just over 800,000 Canadians visited Cuba last year. The first eight months of 2009 have nearly matched those numbers – a whopping 14 per cent increase over the same period in 2008.

"Our goal to reach one million in 2010 is not that much of a stretch," says Jesus Garcia of the Cuba Tourist Board in Toronto. "Cuba is known in Canada. We have the capacity, the market and the flights."

With WestJet adding Cuba as one of its new destinations, there are even more flights this winter. There are now six Canadian carriers flying into all 10 Cuban international airports.

Cuba is second only to Mexico on Canadians' list of Caribbean favourites, according to the Cuba Tourist Board in Canada. Canadians continue to flock to Cuba for a variety of reasons, and many of us are repeat customers.

The Cuban Tourist Board says that the friendliness of the Cuban people is listed first and foremost by their Canadian guests, followed by feeling safe, cleanliness, and good health services.

Of course, Cuba offers all the usual Caribbean attractions we long for on icy winter days – all-inclusive resorts on palm-fringed, white sand beaches, jungle-covered peaks and pristine cays.

But unlike other fun-and-sun destinations, things seem less crowded in Cuba, where we're not bumping elbows with our U.S. neighbours. The chance that could soon change may see some Canadians choosing Cuba this winter, before the anticipated "American invasion."

Proposed U.S. legislation to open up the island to American travellers was introduced earlier this year. If passed, it would allow all Americans to travel to the Caribbean island, ending a 47-year-old travel ban.

With Canadians looking for easy getaways that are affordable and don't require long-haul flights, last-minute booking deals again this winter could certainly help Cuba reach the one million Canadians mark.

Varadero remains the No. 1 favourite of Canadians, according to the Cuba Tourist Board. It has more than 60 all-inclusive hotels stretching along the 20-kilometre silky-sand shoreline.

The sea and water sports are the lure by day, while the sexy rhythm of Cuban music entices by night. And historic Havana is just a day trip away.

Christopher Columbus called Holguin the most beautiful place on Earth when he spotted Cuba's picturesque northeastern coastline back in 1492. He may have been the first tourist here, but Cuba's "ecotourism destination" has now pulled into second place with Canadian travellers.

Beach-loving Canadians looking for seclusion fly to sunny Cayo Coco – one in a string of tiny islands dubbed the "Cuban keys" strung off the country's north coast. A 27-kilometre causeway now connects the tropical keys to the rest of Cuba, but for most Snowbirds, the seclusion, sand and surf is what Cayo Coco's all about.

Janie Robinson is a Barrie-based freelance writer. Her trip to Cuba was subsidized by the Cuba Tourist Board.


Ann Nesby Up For Another Grammy


(December 11, 2009) *Atlanta, GA - Jokingly referring to herself as the "Susan Lucci" of the Grammy Awards, Ann Nesby adds two additional Grammy nominations to her previous four nominations since her departure as lead vocalist of the inspirational soul group the Sounds of Blackness.

Collectively, Nesby and the Sounds of Blackness won two Grammy Awards in 1991 and 1992 respectively. Her two current nominations - Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for her duet with R&B crooner Calvin Richardson's "Love Has Finally Come at Last" from his latest album, Facts Of Life - The Soul Of Bobby Womack and "Sow Love" from her The Lula Lee Project garnered a nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, marking a career total of six (6) nominations since her 1996 solo debut album.

With past nominations including her hit single "Put it On Paper" featuring Al Green, her contemporary Gospel album, Make Me Better, her soul stirring duet "The Stone" with Shirley Caesar from the Fighting Temptations movie soundtrack in which she made her major motion picture debut alongside Caesar, Beyonce Knowles, and Cuba Gooding, JR, to her 2007 Grammy nomination for her R&B ballad "I Apologize," Ann Nesby knows what it feels to be so close yet so far.

"It's an honour to be recognized by my peers, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be nominated for a career total of six times, to win this time would be a dream come true," says Nesby.

In addition to her Grammy nominations she recently released her first ever Christmas DVD/album, Soulful Christmas. Taped in front of a live studio audience for the Gospel Music Channel TV Network, Nesby ushers in the yuletide spirit with timeless holiday tunes - "Silent Night," "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," and the Sounds of Blackness holiday classic "Soul Holiday." "Soul Holiday" also serves as the score during a very poignant scene in the current Lee Daniel's blockbuster Precious and was written by Nesby and her god-brother, noted songwriter/producer Big Jim Wright, music director of the popular BET late night talk show The Mo'Nique Show.

The 52nd Grammy Awards will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast live on the CBS TV Network on Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 8pm EST. 

For the latest Ann Nesby News & Updates visit: 
www.facebook.com/annnesby | www.myspace.com/annnesby|www.twitter.com/AnnNesby | www.AnnNesby.com

Check out Ann's video for "I Found A Place" from "The Lula Lee Project":

Badu Prepares To Release 'Amerykah II'

Source: www.eurweb.com -
By Chris Richburg

(December 15, 2009)  *Erykah Badu's sixth studio album, "New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh," is scheduled to drop on Feb. 23, 2010 via Universal Motown, reports Billboard.com.

 The 38-year-old Dallas native says the set is not as conscious-driven as "New Amerykah Part I: 4th World War." Part II, she says, is "more free and full of life."

 "I called it 'Part II: The Return of the Ankh' because this album is the sister of the left side of my brain -- it is the right side," Badu explained during a listening session this week at New York City's Chung King Studios.

 "'Part I was the left side of my thoughts -- it was more socially political and my thought process was more analytical," she said. This time there wasn't anything to be concerned with -- the album is more emotional and flowy and talks about feelings. It reminds of the days of 'Baduizm' -- this is just about beats and rhymes in a cipher."

Per Billboard:

 Tracks like "Window Seat," featuring The Roots' ?uestlove on the drums and James Poyser on piano, finds Badu requesting "a window seat...I don't want nobody next to me," over drums and clasps. Meanwhile, she questions "What did I do to make you fall so far from me?" atop keyboard riffs on the 9th Wonder-produced "20 Feet Tall."

 On the banjo-laden "Don't Be Long," Badu pleads her lover to return soon although she understands "you gotta get your hustle on."  She taps into her inner B-girl and pays homage to the Notorious B.I.G. on tracks like "Get Money," which features elements of the Junior M.A.F.I.A. feat. Notorious B.I.G. track of the same title, and "Incense," on which she harmonizes the Biggie lyrics, "there's gonna be a lot of slow singing and flower bringing if my burglar alarm starts ringing," over a beat reminiscent of Alicia Keys' "Unbreakable."

 Some of the other stand-out tracks include "Fall In Love" which finds her candidly warning potential lovers, "You're loving me and I'm driving your Benz / you're loving me and I'm fucking your friends;" the harp-heavy " Out of My Mind Just in Time (Part I) (Undercover Over-Lover)," on which she pleads, "I hate for you, when I hate you too, if you want me to;" and " Out of My Mind Just In Time (Part 2)," on which she confesses, "I am a recovering undercover over-lover / recovering from a love I can't get over / and now my lover thinks he wants another," over piano strokes.

 "Jump In The Air" was slated to appear on the album, but parts of it leaked on the internet earlier this week, and as a result Badu is unsure if she will include it on the set. "If anything leaks, I won't put out this album," she said about potential future leaks. "I worked too hard for that to happen. Let a bi*** make some money some kind of way."

 The track is said to feature nine MCs including Lil Wayne and her son Seven's father, rapper Andre 3000.

Key To Maintaining Voice? 'Keep The Smile In It'

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(December 11, 2009) Jazz songstress Dianne Reeves promises a Toronto show this Saturday that will put you in the holiday spirit.

Performing with an impressive quintet – longtime pianist Peter Martin, bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Terreon Gully and Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo – the Detroit-born, Denver-bred artist will dish up Christmas favourites and songs from her current album When You Know in an effort to recreate the Christmas atmosphere of "family, friends and great stories, cooking, talking and laughing" that she enjoyed growing up.

Titled "Christmas Time Is Here" – after her 2004 album of the same name – the four-time Grammy winner's concert at the Bluma Appel Theatre is part of the Jazz Performance and Education Centre's inaugural concert series. The big-voiced performer is best known to non-jazzers for appearing in the 2005 movie Good Night and Good Luck, which starred George Clooney. She spoke with the Toronto Star by phone.

Why did you return to live in Denver after stints in New York and L.A.?

I love the quality of life there. It's a beautiful place. It's a big town, but a small city. It's a very healthy place and the community that I grew up in and love. There's all kinds of amazing stuff to do.

What are some of your off-stage pursuits?

I ski and I love to cook. I plan on going to culinary school, because I love it that much. I want to know how to make certain basic things without even looking at the recipe.

What's your specialty now?

Well, Colorado is a very big meat state, so I'm really good at grilling, excellent at grilling, actually. It's the seasonings, the patience, being able to manipulate the heat. And more than anything is having a passion for it, because my grill is right outside my back door, on my porch so that I can grill all four seasons.

You're noted for exceptional scatting. Do you practise that?

Early on, I practised moving through harmony, but on the stage when we're doing that kind of thing it's usually heart to mouth. It has a lot to do with what the musicians around you are feeding; certain harmonies will change the colour or pattern and it just feels right and I go with it. It's really an intimate exchange between all of us.

Do you rehearse your voice daily?

Yes, but the thing that keeps my voice more than anything is to keep the smile in it. And to keep peaceful surroundings. Not only do I practise the physical practice, but I practise peace and it makes all the difference, in that everything is relaxed in the body and I can soar.

Was there a moment when you made a definitive choice between pop and jazz?

I never thought of it in terms of genre. Growing up I just... even when I put my first records out a lot of people, critics, at the time said `It's so broad, it's not this, it's not that.' But it was me. And it was all the things that I loved, would arrange, or write for myself. I always looked at music without boundaries and still do it that way.

For info, see www.stlc.com

The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth through Music

Florence Wetzel

The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music
Victor L. Wooten
Paperback; 288 pages
Co-author of Perry Robinson: The Traveler and reviewer for All About Jazz-New York
ISBN: 9789022993538
Berkley Books

Victor Wooten's book The Music Lesson is a tour de force, a bold and courageous exploration of how to shift one's consciousness and engage the world from a nonordinary perspective. This is not your usual jazz autobiography, but then Wooten is not your usual musician: the forty-four year old bassist is the only three-time winner of Bass Player magazine's Bass Player of the Year award, and he is renowned for his work with the Grammy-award winning group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. For anyone wondering how Wooten gets his special sound, this book offers some surprising answers.

When the book begins, Wooten is a young musician struggling to make his mark on the Nashville music scene. His life is at a low point, with no gigs, no girlfriend, and no money for the rent. Then a mysterious man named Michael walks into his living room and changes his life. Right from the start, Michael is a thoroughly engaging character: what's not to like about a man who plays a mean guitar, sings to frogs, and wears an American flag on his head?

But there's much more to Michael than that; he's nothing less than a mystic guide, a teacher whose goal is to change the fundamental way Wooten perceives the world. Michael does this through teaching Wooten the ten elements of music: notes, articulation, technique, feel, dynamics, rhythm, tone, phrasing, space, and listening. Michael and Wooten's ongoing conversation about music takes them on an engaging journey that includes gigging at funky Nashville hot spots, running on all fours at a Native American power spot, and communing with animals at Nashville's Radnor Lake. In addition to Michael, Wooten meets Sam, an eleven-year-old musical prodigy; Uncle Clyde, a harmonica player and healer; and Isis, a feisty gift-wrapping psychic. All the characters use unusual methods to show Wooten how to eliminate the grid of "normal" perception and see life freshly.

One of the book's great strengths is the way it includes the reader. As Wooten goes on his journey with Michael and the other characters, he is not afraid to show himself in all his colors, whether naive, arrogant or flat-out confused. Wooten's humility allows the reader to identify with him and learn alongside him. Another aspect of this inclusion is the way each lesson combines philosophical contemplation with extremely practical exercises, and occasionally detailed musical instructions. Although this is not a blatant how-to book, the exercises are so simple that any reader can try them and reap their benefits.

The book's true magic lies in the fact that the reader's consciousness is expanded in the process of reading. Wooten achieves this in several ways. For instance, the book is full of lovely insights, such as when Michael says, "There is always beauty to be found, and it is necessary to find it in all things and in all people if real change is to be made in this world....It is always easier to build upon this beauty than to pretend it is not there and try to create it from scratch." And just reading about Michael and the other teachers asks the reader to think bigger. Michael engages in many nonordinary activities, and like Wooten himself, the reader wrestles with what's "true," or even physically possible. The best way to approach this book is to give over to its magic, and not get stuck in logical ruts—which is exactly what Wooten learns to do over the course of the book.

This is a daring book, a work of art that's sure to engage both musicians and nonmusicians. With its emphasis on opening the heart and the mind, The Music Lesson is a new kind of jazz biography, perfect for the new era we've just entered.

Nneka Steps Out Of 'The Concrete Jungle'


(December 10, 2009) *Pop music is a "here today, gone tomorrow" world. A starburst of YouTube notoriety and then oblivion. Or at least it is for most.

But when your journey has been as long and extraordinary as
Nneka's - when you've travelled 10,000 miles and are still only just starting out - then instant celebrity is the last thing on your mind.

When your heart is as big as your Afro, when your talents stretch from teardrop soul-singing to freestyle rapping to a first-class degree from a top Continental university, when you've got so much to say about so much, then you are in it for the long haul.

Nneka is this artist. Every year since her musical career took off in 2005, this Afro-German warrior princess has built on her successes, stretched her muscles, and widened her range.

Her debut album, Victim of Truth (released in the UK in 2007) - an inspirational mix of hot loops, black consciousness and 21st-century soul music with equal parts Bob Marley, Nina Simone and Erykah Badu in the mix - was garlanded with praise by the British media. 'As good as The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,' said UK's The Sunday Times. Her sophomore release, No Longer At Ease, stepped up the game, generating a growing fan-base across Europe and beyond, building strong foundations France and Germany, as well as putting her center-stage on tour with the likes of Lenny Kravitz among others.

Nneka's first US release, Concrete Jungle (in stores February 2, 2010), stands as an offering of love, hope and optimism dedicated to the people of Warri & the Niger Delta of Nigeria. Holding it all together is the emotional focus of her beautiful voice, located in a place somewhere between yearning and rage.

Nneka fans number in the hundreds of thousands across two continents, as she divides her time between homes in Lagos and Hamburg, Germany. Get ready to add a third continent to the mix, as Nneka prepares for her U.S. debut. With everything we're going through here these days, the timing of Nneka's optimistic message couldn't be better!

Watch Nneka perform 'The Uncomfortable Truth':

Marsalis Has Massive Case Of The 'Blues'


(December 10, 2009) *Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, is composing an original symphony for orchestra that seeks to reflect American history from Revolution to the present.

 "Blues Symphony," celebrating the blues through the prism of different moments of our nation's past, will be performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. at Morehouse College's King Intl. Chapel as part of annual events for Martin Luther King Day, according to Reuters. The group performed two of its movements in November.

 Marsalis, 48, has previously produced two epic works: "All Rise" and "Blood on the Fields," which won the 1997 Pulitzer for music. He spoke to Reuters about composing "Blues Symphony."

Q: What got you excited about the Blues Symphony project?

A: "Ever since I started with music, I always wondered about the appropriation of actual things that jazz musicians play for orchestral musicians. I have had a fantastic time playing gigs with orchestras. Orchestral musicians are the best trained musicians in the world."

Q: Was it tough to translate the ideas for a blues symphony into an orchestral form?

A: "It is difficult. You have to find what will sound good. The instruments are used in a different way. The whole process took four months of working straight and I'm still doing it in addition to all the other work I have to do and being on the road."

Q: What can young people learn about jazz greats such as Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton on whom this symphony is based?

A: "I always encourage young people if they want to know something to check it out. The thing we all want to do, young or old, is we want to continue our education. In music you are always young."

Q: Were you nervous about writing a symphony with such a broad theme?

A: "I am never nervous about anything. I am only writing music. I would be nervous if we were in a war or something. Music works or doesn't work.

"I grow up playing a lot of (different types of) music. I did play in marching bands ... a funk band ... a community band ... a jazz band .... My concept of music is expansive. My concept of American history is expansive because being in New Orleans it is a historic city. You are always around history."

Q: Why has this symphony taken so long to come together?

A: "It's just difficult to write and difficult (for the orchestra) to play."

Q: How do you write?

A: "I do everything long hand ... I write out first the piano score ... I get the outlay of the entire composition. When I get the piano score, then I begin to orchestrate it.

"The composition takes kind of long but I am fortunate because I never really have a problem with ideas. I have difficulty with the technical part because I am not really trained in orchestration. It takes me much longer to figure out how it is going to sound."

New Keke Wyatt Song Strikes Personal Chord

Source: www.eurweb.com -
By Chris Richburg

(December 15, 2009) *“Who Knew?” may be the title of Keke Wyatt’s new album, but the singer is well aware the project marks a new chapter in her life as she prepares to re-enter the world of single ladies.

Speaking exclusively with EUR’s Lee Bailey on the set of the video for the project’s first single and title track, Wyatt confirmed her almost 10-year marriage to Rahmat Morton is on its last legs.

“Those 10 years are over. They’re over,” said the songbird, as she alluded to parallels between the “Who Knew?” song and her marriage. “You go through so much as a woman and you can’t take too much of the hands on type of thing. I refuse to do it anymore and so I’m done. I’m done.”

The end of Wyatt’s marriage concludes an era of ups and downs for the singer, who married at a young age. In 2001, the entertainer was arrested and charged with allegedly stabbing Morton up to five times with a steak knife at their home. According to reports, authorities responded to a domestic violence call on December 25, 2001. Morton, who was Wyatt's manager, was found with stab wounds on his chest, arms and hands. Morton was later taken to the University of Louisville Hospital, where doctors removed part of the steak knife from his back.

In 2002, Wyatt was indicted on one count of second degree assault. Despite the indictment, the singer served no time for the incident in light of the charges against her being dropped when Morton decided not to press charges against her.

Although she confirmed a looming divorce with her husband, Wyatt, refused to elaborate as she did not “want to put my personal life out there right until everything is done.”

Looking back, the songbird attributed the union and her willingness to marry young with being “dumb and young and in love.”

“But you know, you live and learn and people change and they end up not being who you thought. But whatever, I have three beautiful children out of it,” Wyatt said as she noted one of the positive things to result from her marriage.

Best known for “My First Love,” her hit song with fellow vocalist Avant, Wyatt has garnered fans over the years with her vocal ability since officially coming on the scene at age 16. Despite a successful run with her solo debut album, “Soul Sista,” and the buzz generated by the single “Put Your Hands On Me,” the singer’s sophomore album, “Emotional Rollercoaster,” was ultimately shelved by her recording home at the time, Cash Money Records/Universal Motown Records.

As she gears up for the release of the “Who Knew?” album, Wyatt is also finding support at her new label, Shanachie Entertainment.

"We are extremely excited to be bringing out Keke’s new music,” Shanachie general manager and head of A&R, Randall Grass said in a statement. “She is one of the outstanding singers of her generation and is recognized as a true singer. Keke achieved success at a young age and now she is poised for even greater success."

In addition to the title song, “Who Knew?" will offer a variety of R&B ballads (“I’ll Never Do it Again” and “Without You”) and mid-and up-tempo material. Other songs include “Daydreaming,” “Good Man and “Peace on Earth,” an inspirational tune written by Rachelle Ferrell.  

Keke Wyatt’s “Who Knew?” album is slated to hit stores on February 23, 2010.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct ABBA

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(December 15, 2009) Cleveland - ABBA is dancing its way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, The Hollies and The Stooges.

The list of the next class of inductees was released Tuesday by the Cleveland hall. ABBA and The Stooges made it in this time after being nominated previously but not making the cut.

ABBA, a Swedish pop group that became one of the most successful acts in pop history, continues to sell millions of records each year and has been finding new fans through the popularity of Mamma Mia , a stage musical and film incorporating its songs.

ABBA broke up in 1982 and its members have resisted reunion offers.

Genesis began in the late 1960s as an art-rock act fronted by Peter Gabriel and evolved after his 1975 departure into a more mainstream act, with drummer Phil Collins taking over as lead singer. Some of the band's more familiar songs include Follow You, Follow Me and Invisible Touch .

Cliff, a Jamaican singer, is credited with introducing reggae music to a broader audience through his album The Harder They Come and the movie of the same name, in which he starred in the early 1970s.

Part of the British Invasion, the Hollies had a long string of pop hits in the 1960s characterized by the three-part harmonies of original members Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Eric Haydock.

Led by the Iggy Pop, The Stooges came sneering out of Ann Arbor, Mich., in the late '60s with a primal, growling sound that paved the way for punk, new wave, grunge and other, edgier music genres.

The Rock Hall also announced that its Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-performers would go to music industry executive David Geffen, the songwriting teams of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, and individual songwriters Jesse Stone, Mort Shuman and Otis Blackwell.

Ertegun, the founder and chairman of Atlantic Records, died in 2006.

The hall's 25th annual induction ceremony is scheduled for Mar. 15 in New York City.


Susan Boyle Cancels Toronto Appearance

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(December 11, 2009) Susan Boyle's already delayed stop in Toronto has now been cancelled. Originally set to make a noon-hour autograph session and brief performance at First Canadian Place on Nov. 26, she eventually postponed that date to Dec. 21. That event has now been cancelled. "The trip will be rescheduled for 2010 to allow more time between international promotional trips," read a statement released Friday by Simon Cowell's Syco Music company. "Please accept apologies for any inconvenience, and Susan is very much looking forward to visiting Canada next year." Boyle rocketed to worldwide fame this year after performing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables on the U.K. reality show Britain's Got Talent. The video of that performance has been viewed 300 million times on YouTube. Her debut album, I Dreamed a Dream, has hit No. 1 in the Canada, the U.S., and Britain, among other countries, since its release late last month.

Drake Signs With ICM For Management


(December 11, 2009) *Rapper-actor Drake has signed with management company ICM for representation in all facets of his career, reports Variety.   The Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist, whose "Best I Ever Had" single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Rap Charts and No. 2 on the Hot 100 -- all without having been signed to a label, got his start as an actor in his native Canada's "Degrassi: The Next Generation," now playing on TeenNick.  This year, his mentor Lil Wayne and Lil Wayne's longtime manager Cortez Bryant assisted in launching Drake's hip hop career, and the success of Drake's "Best" single helped land a deal with Young Money Entertainment/Universal Motown, resulting in a $2 million development payday, as reported by the LA Times.   The song has two Grammy nominations – for best rap solo performance and best rap song – and he also received an American Music Award nod for hip-hop newcomer of the year.   Drake is working on his label LP debut, "Thank Me Later," which will be released next year. The artist's self distributed mix-tape compilation, "So Far Gone," has sold 267,484 units to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The Element of Freedom: Alicia Keys

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

 (J Records/Sony)
(out of 4)

(December 15, 2009) The blogosphere has been abuzz about the back-and-forth Twittering between
Alicia Keys' rumoured beau, producer Swizz Beatz, and his soon-to-be-ex-missus, who accuses Keys of breaking up their marriage.  The New York singer has taken the silent high road, preferring to let it all hang out on her fourth album. Not that Keys, 28, divulges anything obviously autobiographical on the disc. But she's co-written an intensely passionate fourth album about triumphing over heartache. (You can listen to a stream of the album here.) With her imploring vocals and piano-driven melodies, the results are a mixed pop-soul bag: from the gritty, drum-fuelled "Love is Blind;" to "Doesn't Mean Anything," one of those soaring, but bland, love-lost tunes of the Leona Lewis variety; to "Love is a Disease" which combines raggedy, blues-like vocals with a reggae beat; and "Put It in a Love Song" which employs Beyoncé for some of that "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" swagger – "Send me gifts/ And show me the romance" – that doesn't quite suit Keys.  Dropping this delayed disc late in the final quarter, she is competing against her own guest turn on Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," which is turning out to be one of the year's top tracks; joining 'em, she closes out her record – a well-crafted collection that surprises with every listen – with a contemplative, rap-free version of the tune. Can't wait to hear all these songs live. Tickets go on sale Friday for her March 10 ACC show. Top Track: Keys is as sexy as she's ever been on the sultry "Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)," which features co-writer Drake.

Nickelback Named Group Of The Decade By Billboard

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(December 15, 2009) Bad news
Nickelback haters: the rock band so many love to hate has been named the group of the decade by Billboard magazine. Billboard has released a list of the top music stars of the 2000s based on chart success, and Canada's Nickelback was the top group or duo, ranking No. 7 overall. The list was compiled by tabulating the rankings on the Billboard top 200 albums and the Billboard Hot 100 songs lists from Dec. 4, 1999 to Nov. 28, 2009. The list was topped by rapper Eminem, followed by Usher, Nelly, Beyonce and Alicia Keys. Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" was also named the top rock song of the decade, and was No. 4 on the Top 10 songs of the 2000s list. The much-maligned rock band also had five other Top 10 singles in the 2000s, and its last four albums all cracked the Top 10 of Billboard's album charts. The 2005 CD "All the Right Reasons," with the hits "Rockstar" and "Photograph," spent 156 weeks on Billboard's top-selling albums list.

Sex Therapy: The Session: Robin Thicke

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Star Trak/Interscope)
(out of 4)

(December 15, 2009) On his fourth album,
Robin Thicke maintains the mature sensual vibe that brought him to the fore in 2006, but alongside the Al Green and Marvin Gaye samples, the 32-year-old California native (and son of Canadian actor Alan Thicke) employs rappers like veterans Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg and newcomers Nicki Minaj and Kid Cudi to engage younger ears. Understandable, effective even, but erstwhile fans may not appreciate the inclusion of rhymes by The Game (who bites Kanye West's style for his first verse) on a tune like "Diamonds," which is in the vein of '70s R&B; or the Eurodance flavour of "Rollacoasta." It's also loverman Thicke's most overtly sexual disc – down to inane "Let me put some cream in your coffee"("It's in the Mornin") lyrics. The straightforward ballads – "2 Luv Birds," "Jus Right" – are a treat; ideal for downloading. Top Track: With its Brigitte Bardot vocal loop, bossa nova beat and Sammy Davis Jr. attitude, "Meiple" is clever, trite and immensely entertaining.

Rock Musical Nabs CBC's Maria

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(December 16, 2009) The Sound of Music stage star
Elicia MacKenzie is bringing her do-re-mis to Toronto's Rock of Ages. The Surrey, B.C., native has nabbed the lead role in the upcoming local production of the hit musical, which features rock tunes from the '80s. MacKenzie will play Sherrie, who moves from Kansas to Los Angeles to make it in show business. She takes on the role after a Dora Award-winning turn as Maria von Trapp in Toronto's The Sound of Music, a part she won on the CBC-TV series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? Other cast members just announced for Rock of Ages by Mirvish Productions include Yvan Pedneault, who will play Drew, a rock singer and Sherrie's love interest. Pedneault played the lead role, Galileo, in the Toronto production of Queen musical We Will Rock You. London, Ont.'s Aaron Walpole – a finalist in the third season of CTV's Canadian Idol – will play Lonny, a sound guy at a Hollywood bar who also acts as narrator for the story. David W. Keeley, whose career spans the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and Broadway, will play the owner of the bar. In the role of rock star Stacee Jaxx will be Peter Deiwick, who got his big break as Sky in Mamma Mia! in Toronto. Award-winning musical veteran Victor A. Young will play Hertz, the evil businessman. Rock of Ages has won five Tony Awards and will make its Canadian premiere at the Royal Alexandra Theatre on April 20, 2010. The remaining cast will be announced in the new year.

Blige, Badu, Bailey Rae On Revamped 'Lilith' Tour

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Ferguson

(December 16, 2009) *A revived
Lilith Tour will return in 2010 with a more racially-diverse line-up of women artists than the tours of its heyday more than a decade ago.  R&B acts Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott and Ke$ha, as well as pop star Corinne Bailey Rae, will join returning veterans Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Indigo Girls, Tegan and Sara and Erykah Badu for a tour of at least 18 major markets in the U.S. and Canada next year. Nettwerk Music Group CEO Terry McBride said in a statement, "The 2010 Lilith Tour isn’t just a celebration of women in music, but a celebration of diverse female voices across all genres." Other performers include recruits from rock and pop (Metric, A Fine Frenzy, Brandi Carlile, Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, the Submarines, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals), and country (Sugarland, Miranda Lambert).  Specific dates have not yet been announced, but cities included in the 2010 trek are: Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Calgary, Alberta; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; London, England; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Montreal, Quebec; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; Toronto, Ontario; Vancouver, British Columbia and Washington, DC.


Eastwood Film Shows How Sports Can Heal And Hurt

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ben Rayner

(December 12, 2009) Hollywood couldn't have invented a more perfect symbol of sport's power to unite: Nelson Mandela, newly elected the president of South Africa, wins the hearts of his white countrymen simply by donning the national rugby team's green-and-gold jersey and wandering out onto the pitch for the 1995 World Cup championship.

That fateful moment marks the climax of director
Clint Eastwood's new film, Invictus. The movie, which opened Friday, is about sports and nation-building and finally fulfils a request made by Mandela years ago that Morgan Freeman play him onscreen.

Mandela wasn't the first person to recognize sport's utility as a motivating force, as a tool that might – as sports historian and Northeastern Illinois University professor Patrick Miller puts it – "help mark some pathways toward the expansive ideals of equality under the law, integration, and social, economic, and political opportunity." Sporting events, after all, take place on "level playing fields," which provide some convenient symbolism for those inclined to exploit it.

Long before the events depicted in Invictus, South African black activists like Dennis Brutus employed every forum possible, including Track & Field News back in the 1970s, to use sport as a kind of pivot – a lever – to transform a society.

Such activists were following in the footsteps, laid half a century before by black journalists like Edwin Bancroft Henderson in the U.S., says Miller, "who averred that more people read the sports pages than book reviews, so that should be a platform for racial reform in America. So we talk about the era of Jesse Owens, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson in the U.S., and later the era of Muhammad Ali.

"The shared strategy was that the rhetoric of the `level playing fields' could be used against the existing reality and that through headlines in sport, other breakthroughs would follow."

The downside of using sports as a means of fomenting racial harmony and nationalism at home, of course – as anyone acquainted with, say, the "English disease" of soccer hooliganism can tell you – comes when that nationalism, the tribal spirit that tends to well up in people when one of their teams is competing on the international stage, is taken abroad.

Egypt and Algeria, for instance, are currently embroiled in a very real diplomatic crisis stemming from the rioting and soccer-fan violence that broke out after a pair of World Cup qualifying matches in Sudan last month.

The Algerian team bus was pelted with rocks and three players were injured as they passed through Cairo. Some Algerians responded by looting and burning the offices of Egyptian companies in Algiers, causing tens of millions of dollars' worth of damage. Likewise, the Algerian embassy in Cairo was attacked. And back and forth and on it goes, to the point that ambassadors have been withdrawn, a vicious war of words continues to be waged in the press in both nations, and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has adopted "protecting" Egyptian nationals abroad his latest cause célèbre. The Arab League is said to be intervening to thaw the frosty relations between the two countries.

It's all a bit overblown, mind you, but that's testament to the passion competitive sports brings out in people. Smart observers have pointed out that Egypt, in particular, has found soccer a most convenient distraction to shift the population's focus away from weightier domestic problems like the country's dismal economy.

"There's nothing like the threat of war to mobilize the support of a nation. So perhaps it's not surprising that posturing over a soccer war with Algeria may be the most popular move the thoroughly unpopular Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, has made in a long time," Time magazine contributor Abigail Hauslohner observed from Cairo in late November.

"In the aftermath, Egyptian and foreign observers alike marvelled at a level of nationalist fervour and mass mobilization rarely seen before, and at a time when Mubarak, 81, is facing a rising tide of domestic dissent."

Invictus, meanwhile, takes on the other side of the story. Based on a book by British journalist John Carlin entitled Playing the Game: Nelson Mandela and the Game That a Made a Nation, it might be guilty of smoothing over the decidedly rocky road post-apartheid South Africa has been travelling ever since. But the significance of Mandela's gesture – which pointedly and publicly broke with South African tradition of rugby as predominantly the sport of whites and soccer the sport of blacks – shouldn't be understated. It certainly meant a lot to South Africans.

As one South African blogger, commenting on Invictus, noted on the Daily Maverick this week: "We forget, sometimes, how scared some of us were in the early days of the Mandela government. The stocks of canned goods were still pretty high in many white households, and while the elections had gone off okay, anxiety was the order of the day. It took Nelson Mandela with his wave and that jersey to tell us it was all going to be all right, that actually we weren't two nations in one set of borders, and that to him, whites were his people too. That feeling, that moment, has been captured absolutely."

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that even governments can get caught up in the high-flown rhetoric and flaring tempers that often go hand-in-hand with sporting events. They are competitions, after all, and we, as fans, compete vicariously through them. That's where the passion we feel for sport derives. And, to be fair, the phrase "sportsmanlike conduct" is a bit of a misnomer, anyway.

Let's defer to George Orwell on this matter: "Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words: it is war minus the shooting."

Leading Men? That's What The Ladies Are Doing

www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(December 11, 2009) Men are getting the crap kicked out of them this holiday season, emotionally speaking. In movies as diverse as Up in the Air, It's Complicated, The Blind Side and Nine , fellas are opening up and breaking down, while hard-charging women drive their lives.

One scene in Up in the Air encapsulates the trend. Ryan (George Clooney), who has spent his life flying away from emotional entanglements (literally – he lives on planes), is having a mess-free affair with the equally relationship-averse Alex (Vera Farmiga). They meet in hotel rooms when their schedules cross, which suits them fine. That is, until Ryan takes Alex to a family wedding, and lets himself fall in love. In one of those swoony, “Harry runs after Sally on New Year's Eve” movie moments, Ryan shows up unannounced on the doorstep of Alex's brownstone and rings the bell.

While waiting for her to answer, he steps down a couple of stairs, so that when she opens the door, we see her from his angle: on a pedestal, haloed by the porch light. But instead of throwing herself into his arms, she nearly shuts the door in his face. When he gets her on the phone days later, she's not contrite – she's furious. He's violated their pact, invaded her space. She crumples his newly opened heart like so much junk mail.

“George looked at me the second day and said, ‘You know this is going to be a career-ender for you, don't you?'” Farmiga joked in an interview in September. “The one role where he unabashedly falls for a woman, and she does that to him. Women are expected to be feminine and loving and obliging, so it was hard not to worry, ‘What will the audience think?' because it's very easy to think, ‘Bitch.' But Jason [Reitman, the writer/director] was adamant with me: Alex is very clear. This is what she needs, this is their agreement, and he betrayed that trust. She's a man like that.”

If Clooney is willing to play “the woman” in a relationship, you know there's something in the zeitgeist. And sure enough, no less a testosterone factory than Alec Baldwin does the same thing in It's Complicated , which opens on Christmas Day. It's Complicated was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, and it follows her formula of real-estate porn + quirky middle-aged-heroine commercial success. This film, however, goes particularly around the bend: It's like a Penthouse Forum letter for the estrogen-patch set. Jane (Meryl Streep) has been divorced from Jake (Baldwin) for 10 years. She has three doting grown children, a spectacular house, and a successful business. Jake has a 30-year-old wife with flat abs, a bratty five-year-old and a hankering for baby number two.

But dear Hot Flash Forum, you'll never believe what happens to Jane: Jake falls for her again. He likes her more than his trophy wife. He likes her house more, her body more. He says she's the better mother, lover, listener. He even likes – pardon me, but I'm not making this up – her vagina more. He admits he made a dreadful mistake leaving her; he didn't listen to her enough; he's so, so sorry. He gets it now. He sees her. And she's more fabulous than she's ever been.

God knows, we've seen enough insane male fantasies in movies (strippers with hearts of gold putting themselves through university, etc.), so I suppose Nancy Meyers is entitled to her insane female one. But I was rolling in the aisle. I was especially disappointed to see Baldwin so toothless, because what's the point of an Alec Baldwin with no bite? During one of the many scenes in which his eyes brim with tears, my 16-year-old daughter moaned, “No, Jack Donaghy, no!” (Donaghy being the rip-roaring, self-loving – and much more delightful – bastard Baldwin plays on 30 Rock ).

Suffering even more extravagantly than Jake is Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), the Fellini-like director at the centre of the musical Nine , also due Dec. 25. Guido is completely in thrall to the intoxicating, powerful women in his life, including his mama (Sophia Loren), his muse (Nicole Kidman), his costume designer (Judi Dench), his mistress (Penelope Cruz) and his wife (Marion Cotillard). (This has to be the most Oscar-laden cast in history.)

He's miserable, searching for something that only women can give him, no matter how insatiable and soul-sucking they are. He asks his lover to “be savage.” He begs his wife for work advice, because “without you, I won't know what I'm thinking.” He calls Italy “a country run by men who are run by women, whether they know it or not.” And by the end, he is devoted to being “a man trying to win back his wife.”

The examples go on and on. A war hero in Brothers (Tobey Maguire) survives atrocities in Afghanistan, only to be undone by imagining his wife's (Natalie Portman) infidelity. On the new TV series Men of a Certain Age , the heroes (Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula) freely admit that they make no sense without women. The favourite pastime of the successful fast-food franchise owner (Tim McGraw) in The Blind Side is to cheerfully obey every crack of his feisty wife's (Sandra Bullock) whip.

In the magnificent The Last Station (which has opened in the United States, but won't arrive here until February), no less a personage than Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) is completely dominated by his wife, Sofya (Helen Mirren), while Tolstoy's celibate secretary, Valentin (James McAvoy), is taken firmly, um, in hand by his lover, Maria.

Even the irrepressible thief voiced by Clooney in the excellent animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox is humbled by his missus (Streep). “I love you,” she says at a low point, “but I shouldn't have married you.” Writer/director Wes Anderson just lets the line fall; it's the most startlingly grown-up sentence I've ever heard in an animated movie.

I'm not sure what explains this crisis of the male oversoul, but I think it has something to do with the large chunk of the population that is now coping with the disappointments and softenings, both physical and emotional, of late middle age. (This is the way the baby boom ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.) I also think we've seen quite enough stories about men who are boorish louts. (I've often wondered why men haven't risen up and complained about that reductive portrayal.)

And maybe, after 40 years of feminism, we're finally seeing onscreen what equality really looks like – a shared sense of human befuddlement that knows, or needs, no gender.

The Princess And The Frog: Destined To Become A Classic

Source: www.thestar.com -
Linda Barnard

The Princess and the Frog
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Animated. Starring the voices of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody and Jim Cummings. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. 97 minutes. At major theatres. G

(December 11, 2009) Disney provides a fairy-tale ending for animation lovers, returning to its roots with the artful
The Princess and the Frog, a lovely toon destined to join the Mouse House's best-loved classics.

With a message that hard work gets you what you want in life, not wishing on stars or counting on princes, one of the most-worshipped little-girl idols – the Disney princess – finally joins the modern world.

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin), The Princess and the Frog will soothe the eyeballs of the CGI-weary. Soft-edged and colour-saturated in hand-drawn good old 2-D, it offers an uplifting yet simple story that trips along with the help of jazzy toe-tappers, spirited Zydeco and inspiring gospel styles infusing a score of forgettable songs by Oscar-winner Randy Newman.

The mansions and lush gardens of 1920s New Orleans, streetcars trundling down gas-lit streets, a shadowy voodoo world and the Spanish moss-draped bayou provide the glorious backdrops.

This Princess is more than just a looker. Thanks to the movie's star, she's also got smarts, charm, drive and a sense of humour. The latter initially eludes spirited African-American wannabe restaurateur Tiana (voiced by Dreamgirls' Anika Noni Rose). But then, there's not much to amuse when turned into a frog.

Tiana is unlike frothy Disney princesses past, from her generous curves – she's a chef and looks like she eats – to her focus on hard work over daydreams. Labouring at two waitressing jobs leaves no time for wishing on stars for love, like her boy-crazy pal Charlotte (delightfully zany Jennifer Cody).

Neither is Tiana interested in trying to catch the eye of visiting royal hunk, the aimless Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruno Campos), who has come to New Orleans to listen to jazz. Now if she could land the contract for making her late daddy's legendary gumbo for the palace, that would be another story.

Evil slithers in wearing a skull-and-crossbones-festooned top hat. Sly Dr. Facilier (Keith David), a snake-hipped Creole voodoo villain with a pencil-thin moustache, has a direct line to the spirit world and can conjure up all manner of ghoul and spectre to do his bidding.

He's to blame for turning Prince Naveen into a frog and when the web-footed victim begs for his liberating kiss from Tiana, the spell backfires and she finds herself turning into the cutest amphibian this side of the Mississippi.

From there it's just a hop and a jump to the bayou to seek a cure. They meet up with Louis, a neurotic alligator who yearns to join a jazz band, and laid-back love bug Ray (Jim Cummings, wonderful), a sweet-talking Cajun firefly suffering the pangs of unrequited love.

Tiana has no time for her lazy frog prince and his let-them-eat-flies attitude. But he's not as shallow as he seems and she realizes that love can be more than skin deep – even green, slimy skin. "It's not slime, it's mucous!" the prince huffily informs her.

The tale, although lightweight, is told with good humour and enough goofiness to keep smaller audience members laughing at the antics of the crazy swamp critters.

Parents will appreciate the messages about the value of hard work and the rewards it can bring – although they are so oft repeated you may be tempted to sigh "enough, I got it."

But it is a good antidote for all those years of singing "Some Day My Prince Will Come" while mooning at a twinkling first star. The prince is still very welcome, but no rescue required.

Rochelle Aytes : The “The Forgotten” Interview

Kam Williams

(December 13, 2009) Rochelle Aytes is quickly establishing herself as one of Hollywood’s brightest, young starlets on the rise. In 2004, she made her big screen debut playing Shawn Wayans’ love interest in the gender bending comedy White Chicks, directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans. She can currently be seen in the ABC drama series “The Forgotten.” 

Aytes has also shot guest leads on ABC’s My Wife & Kids, and on FOX’s Johnny Zero. Furthermore, she’s starred in the Fox series “Drive” and enjoyed a guest-starring role on the HBO series “Sex & The City,”  although she is perhaps best known for her breakout lead role in the Tyler Perry hit movie Madea’s Family Reunion.

Rochelle was born on May 17, 1976 in NYC, where she developed a love for ballet at an early age. As a classically-trained ballerina, she appeared with Ballet Hispanico as well as the national tour and Broadway cast of Aida. Fuelled by her growing passion for acting, she quickly built up an impressive modeling resume’ by appearing in the commercials for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, L’Oreal and Mercedes Benz, to name a few.  And she was subsequently featured in ad campaigns for Dasani, Tylenol, Gillette, Johnson & Johnson, Heineken and Burger King.

Kam Williams: Hi Rochelle, thanks for the time. What interested you in The Forgotten?

Rochelle Aytes: I loved the concept and the strength of the character.

KW: How would you describe the show?

RA: The Forgotten is about a volunteer group that assists the police in identifying the unknown and capturing the guilty. It's filled with passion, darkness and humour.

KW: Tell me a little about your character.

RA: Detective Russell is a tough, smart, passionate detective from Chicago.  She works very closely with the network to solve these cases and bring closure to the victim's family. She also has a soft spot for the character, Alex [played by Christian Slater], her former partner, and tries her best to keep him and the rest of the group out of danger.

KW: How is it working with Christian Slater and the rest of the cast?

RA: It has been such a joy working with him. He has been kind and generous in his work and inspirational. His work ethic is amazing. The same goes for the rest of the cast. We work hard, but laugh a lot!

KW: Where in New York City did you grow up?

RA: I grew up in Harlem

KW: What high school did you attend?

RA: LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts

KW: When did you develop your interest in acting?

RA: After working in a Broadway show, called Aida.

KW: What’s the difference between working with the Wayans’ Brothers in White Chicks versus Tyler Perry in Madea’s Family Reunion?

RA: Working with the Wayans Brothers was my first film and just a lot of fun to do. It was much less demanding of my time and emotions than working with Tyler. Though they were both comedies, Tyler's movie required more depth and focus, therefore, creating a more serious working environment. I learned a great deal from them both.

KW: What do you prefer TV or film?

RA: Film.

KW: Who would you like to be paired opposite in a romance drama?

RA: Matt Damon.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

RA: No.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

RA: Last night, watching my girlfriend try to learn this new dance.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?

RA: The Beatles. I just watched Across The Universe on cable.

KW: What is your favourite dish to cook?

RA: Spaghetti with turkey meatballs.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

RA: The Alchemist. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061122416?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0061122416

KW: The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question. Where in L.A. do you live?

RA: Miracle Mile

KW: The Boris Kodjoe question: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

RA: Every new project I'm involved in is my biggest accomplishment.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favourite designer to wear?

RA: Bebe.

KW: The Mike Pittman question: What is you best childhood memory?

RA: Dancing at Lincoln Center every year with Ruth Williams' dance recital.

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

RA: My mother.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

RA: Most of the time.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

RA: Yes.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

RA: Not caring about what other people think.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?

RA: I pray and I use those challenges and disappointments as a learning experience. Criticism or rejection drives me to be better.

KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

RA: By going on influential websites and saying, " We want to see Rochelle

Aytes in more movies!" [Laughs]

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

RA: Someone striving to do better.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

RA: Believe in yourself and speak success into your life. Hard work and determination equals success.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

RA: As someone who made a difference in the lives of others.

KW: Thanks again, and best of luck with everything.


To see a trailer for The Forgotten, visit HERE

It's Better In The Bahamas For Johnny Depp

Source: www.thestar.com

(December 14, 2009)  Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Depp suspects he'll never get used to receiving awards for his acting work.

Depp, best known for his Oscar-nominated role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean blockbusters, made the comments Sunday night before receiving a career achievement award at the
Bahamas International Film Festival.

"Whenever anybody says they are going to give me some kind of award, I'm always a little stupefied by the notion. The first thing I say is `why?'" Depp said. "I just go to work like anyone else, except my job happens to be a little stranger."

Depp said he planned on spending Christmas on his private island off Exuma.

"The place is as close to paradise as anywhere you can get," said Depp.

Fellow acting superstar Sean Connery, who also owns a home in the Bahamas, presented Depp with the award in Nassau.

The festival's founder, Leslie Vanderpool, described Depp as an "icon" who is one of the finest actors of his generation and who has a "true love" for the region because he has a home there.

Depp's diverse screen credits through the years include starring roles in Donnie Brasco, Edward Scissorhands and What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

A new Pirates film is on the horizon. Depp will reprise his role as Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, slated for summer of 2011.

For Avatar, Star Trek Actress Saldana, A Very Good Year

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(December 15, 2009)
Zoë Saldana, the most high-flying actor of 2009 with her roles in Avatar and Star Trek, appreciates anyone who remembers the umlaut over the "e" in her first name.

She doesn't insist upon it – she's used to writers leaving it out – but it's a courtesy that indicates to her that someone else cares about the details as much as she does.

"I really like the umlaut!" the proud Latina says from New York, her hometown.

"I'm so used to not being asked direct questions about things I want in my life."

She'd better get used to much greater attention to her name, her desires and her talent. This has been the big breakthrough year for Saldana, 31, a former dancer turned actor whose determined rise through 10 years of below-the-line acting roles is finally gaining her marquee attention.

Her personal skyrocket starting flying last spring when she impressed both critics and fans with her portrayal of Enterprise communications officer Uhura in the Star Trek prequel.

Her rocket will go into orbit with Thursday's release of James Cameron's Avatar, the 3-D science fantasy movie that is shaping up to be one of the year's biggest blockbusters. She plays a blue-skinned alien warrior named Neytiri, co-starring next to Australia's Sam Worthington.

"I've been in space all year, I have to say!" Saldana jokes.

Avatar was in production for so long, it's no exaggeration to say that Saldana really lived the role.

"I joined the production in 2006 and we began shooting in the early spring of 2007. So from 2006-07, I was training: six months of martial arts training, movement training, horseback riding, archery, weight training and learning a language that was created for the movie."

She also had the additional burden of having to remain completely mum about the movie. Control freak Cameron demanded absolute silence about his first mainstream feature since the release 12 years ago of Titanic, the most successful movie in history.

"It was hard, but because it was going to be so special, in the end I was so happy to have been a part of it from the beginning," Saldana says.

"It was the character that challenged me the most in my entire career. We were shooting under the technology of performance capture; it wasn't as easy as everybody thinks where you just show up and lend your voice and have these visual illustrators try to create a character out of it. Everything we did – 95 per cent of it – was translated onto the screen."

Performance capture, which translates human movements into pixels, requires actors to wear special suits fitted with sensors. It can take some getting used to, especially when you have to wear them during love scenes, as she had to.

"It's as if I would have woken up at 3 o clock in the morning every day and turned blue and everything," Saldana says.

"It was weird at first because it was new, but it was immediately replaced by the fact that I felt like I was really there. We worked with this for so long, for over 14 months that it grew to feel normal to me."

And those romance scenes?

"It was just like acting on a stage, and no different from if we would have been wearing prosthetics. Just another technical thing you have to take into consideration. Once you do all the work, it's no different in any approach that you would have towards any traditional film."

Avatar is getting a galaxy's worth of attention by virtue of Cameron's involvement, the film's advanced 3-D technology and the rumoured $500 million (U.S.) production price tag, which would make it the most expensive movie ever made.

Earlier this decade, though, Saldana had a run of small-budget pictures, some of them well reviewed by critics, which attracted little attention from the public: films like Center Stage (which used her dancing prowess), Get Over It (a teen comedy that almost didn't get released) and Drum Line (a college comedy in the Bring It On vein).

Saldana laughs at mention of her earlier work, but she's proud of it.

"I was just happy everyday to be doing amazing films at that time in my life and it made the most amazing sense to me. It was helping me in one way or another. Center Stage is a little bit of a cult classic ... I think there's a dancer in all of us."

A hint of the acclaim to come came in 2003 for Saldana, the daughter of a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother. That year she had a small but attention-grabbing turn in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. She played a female pirate named Anamaria who tore a strip off Johnny Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow for stealing her ship.

The fictional Sparrow is a pussycat, though, compared to the real Jim Cameron, who is by most accounts a demanding taskmaster on the set. But Saldana admired him as a guy who sweats the small stuff, just as she does.

"It was absolutely amazing. He's such a generous artist with his knowledge and talent and his time. You can only make amazing films by having that much patience with all the detail that you put into it for what you do."

You can bet that Cameron doesn't forget the umlaut in Zoë. But how about all those stories of him screaming at actors? The tabloids and blogs are full of tales about Cameron's short fuse.

"Really? I'm learning this right now through you!" Saldana replies, making her wink almost audible.

"Well, when you're working meticulously at something and you're giving 150 per cent, there's a certain approach that you're going to have that sometimes anyone on the outside coming in may not find welcoming. But I've been on the inside and it was okay. It was the appropriate tone to have because this film demanded a lot from us.

"And," she adds coyly, "who's to say I don't have a temper in me?"

Sarah Polley's New Work Gets Oscar Debut

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(December 15, 2009) Canadians who tune in to this year's Academy Awards will get an unexpected bonus when CTV airs the latest film from Sarah Polley, one of this country's best-known and busiest actors/writers.

The not-yet-titled short, a two-minute film, was commissioned by Becel (the "love your heart" margarine brand from Unilever) to inspire women to take better care of that particular vital organ. It will be executive produced by CTV and Bravo!FACT (Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent, the largest financer of shorts in Canada - to the tune of $15-million since it was set up 14 years ago).

Polley was Oscar-nominated for her adapted screenplay of the full-length feature Away from Her, a touching tale based on Alice Munro's short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain, starring Julie Christie (who garnered a best actress Oscar nomination) and Gordon Pinsent.

Polley, who is currently filming the short in Toronto, could not be reached for comment. But she is joined in making the film by the same production team who worked on Away from Her, including Toronto's Jennifer Weiss (Chloe) and Simone Urdl (Sabah).

The short is slated to premiere March 7, and stars Sarah Manninen (The Line) and Jean-Michel Le Gal (Shanti Baba Ram and the Dancers of Hope). It will follow a woman through phases of her life and explore the chambers of her heart to shed light on Heart Month (February) in North America.

Chosen by Variety magazine as one of 10 directors to watch in 2007, Polley will next appear on the large screen in two sci-fi thrillers, Vincenzo Natali's Splice and Jaco van Dormael's Mr. Nobody.

Her other acclaimed shorts include 1999's Don't Think Twice and 2001's I Shout Love.

Oscar-Winning Director Talks About His New Movie And More

Source: Kam Williams

(December 16, 2009)  
Ang Lee was born on October 23, 1954 in Chauchou, a town located in Pingtun, an agricultural region of southern Taiwan. He was raised there by strict parents who put an emphasis on education, especially on cultivating an appreciation of Chinese culture. He attended Taiwan’s National University of Arts and served in the military before immigrating to America where he earned a .B.F.A. in Theatre Direction at the University of Illinois, and a Master’s degree in Film Production at N.Y.U.

Mr. Lee made his directorial debut in 1992 with Pushing Hands, a dramedy highlighting the tension between tradition and modernity which arises when a retired Tai Chi master moves to the U.S. to live with his Westernized son. His next two offerings, The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), each landed an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Film category.

Since then, the versatile director has successfully tackled an impressive variety of genres, reflected in a resume which includes a literary classic (Sense and Sensibility), a dysfunctional family drama (The Ice Storm), a Western (Ride with the Devil), a gay-themed romance (Brokeback Mountain), an erotic, espionage thriller (Lust, Caution), a comic book adaptation (Hulk) and a martial arts fairytale (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Although Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did take home the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the deserving Mr. Lee himself was overlooked by the Academy as the picture’s director. He finally won in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain, a tale of forbidden love starring the late Heath Ledger. Here, he talks about his latest film,
Taking Woodstock, a comedy about the 1969 concert which helped define the Hippie Generation.

Kam Williams: Mr. Lee, thanks so much for the time. I’m honoured to be speaking with you.

Ang Lee: Oh, you’re welcome.

KW: What interested you in telling this particular story?

AL: Well, a couple things. It just came upon me. While I was at a TV station in San Francisco promoting my last movie, Lust, Caution, I met Elliot Tiber, the author of Taking Woodstock. We were both appearing on the same show. He was coming on after me. When my segment had finished, while they were preparing for him, he gave me a two-minute pitch. It struck me, because years ago I had made The Ice Storm, which was set in 1973, as a sort of hangover of 1969. So, my mind became really intrigued thinking about ’69 when he started telling me about Woodstock and some of the anecdotes. Also, I was looking to do a comedy, after shooting a series of six tragedies in a row. So, I read the book, and it all just happened very quickly.

KW: You’re a very versatile director. Laz Lyles was wondering whether you feel any pressure to make movies about China? 

AL: Chinese culture is my roots… where I grew up… Taiwan…  So, yes, I do feel compelled and also a lot of pressure to make Chinese movies. But they take a lot out of me. It is very hard for me to make art out of them. [Chuckles] It’s too close. It can be painful and very heavy. Plus, I want to upgrade the production to the level I think it is in America. That’s an added stress for everyone who works with me, and even on the audience, too. I’m kind of in the vanguard of the industry’s development and cultural events, and that adds a lot of weight on me. It’s just not freedom. After I make a Chinese film, it takes so much out of me that I usually feel like I need to do a few English films to recover. [Laughs]   

KW: How is making a movie in America more free?

AL: Nobody makes movies like America, where you have a very healthy support of the industry, abundant materials and worldwide distribution. So, by doing English-language films you can fulfill a lot of dreams. That’s the freedom part of making non-Chinese films. 

KW: I remember when I attended a critics’ screening of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon before it opened, there was cheering in the middle of the movie simply at the stunning special effects. All of us knew we were witnessing something very special.

AL: I hope that emotion was part of that cheering, too. I went back to my childish wishful thinking. It’s a fantasy. In some way, you relate to the innocence when you go to the movies to begin with. I think the movie deals with my innocence, and a lot of people could relate to that. Because it was a foreign film and because it was martial arts, it was something that they were sort of aware but didn’t quite know. I think that allowed people to go to an emotional world which fulfilled their fantasies. I think that’s why that movie works, but I didn’t have that in mind when I made it.

KW: I also remember being upset that Crouching Tiger did not win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Script Adaptation and Best Editing. I know you’re much too polite to say it, but I can say it for you. You were robbed! I wrote that at the time. I also thought it was a crime that none of the actors in the movie were even nominated, especially Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang. And the same thing happened this year to the actors in Slumdog Millionaire. None were nominated, yet it won Best Picture.  

AL: Well, there’s a community in Hollywood, I think, the Academy. Sense and Sensibility got nominated in seven categories, including Best Picture, but I was not nominated. I guess it might take a few movies for them to become aware of you. [LOL]  

KW: Let’s talk a little about Taking Woodstock. I haven’t seen the movie yet. It’s based on the memoirs of a gay man. Did you keep in much of his childhood?

AL: No, I didn’t use much about how he grew up. That’s too long a story to tell. I started with his encounter with Woodstock. Honestly, I didn’t find a lot of his gay issues to be that fresh. My main interest was in seeing how he connected to Woodstock, the event, from his angle. We don’t get to see the stage. That’s sort of besides the point. I followed the lead of the book. If you take Woodstock to heart, that’s what happened to most of the people who attended, and to the world at large. Woodstock’s sort of an abstract idea that’s very inspiring. The film is a small family drama focusing on his experience just on the outskirts of the stage and the event. It’s probably a very good way to have a slice and taste of Woodstock. He’s gay and everything, and we deal with that, but only in so far as it pertains to Woodstock.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen was wondering whether since winning your Academy Award for Best Director you feel pressure from either people at home or from the media that, from this point on, every single movie you make has got to be Oscar-worthy?

AL: I don’t think anybody’s saying that I have to win an Oscar or have to shoot for it. But I just came back from the Cannes Film Festival, and they certainly talk about it. So, that’s a kind of pressure, but only my personal feelings. If I can put that aside, I don’t think anybody really gets upset. [Chuckles]. It’s not like the sort of pressure the Lakers feel playing for the City of Los Angeles. With a movie, people sometimes speculate about whether an actor or actress who did a good job might get nominated. It’s a plus for the project, but you don’t always aim for the awards.

KW: You directed the late Heath Ledger to his first Academy Award-nominated performance in Brokeback Mountain. How did you feel when he died and what did you think of his Oscar-winning outing as The Joker in The Dark Knight? 

AL: that’s a hard question for me to answer. I was eager to see the movie, but I delayed, because I wanted to avoid it, too. Finally, about two or three weeks after it was released, I went to see it. It was quite disturbing, especially with him playing that character. I didn’t have a good time. It disturbed me to watch him. It was just very difficult, personally.

KW: You were at NYU at the same time as Spike Lee. Is there any truth to the rumour that you were the cinematographer on his student film, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop?

AL: He was a year ahead of me. I was a camera assistant, but not the only one.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

AL: No, not off the top of my head. I really wish they asked fewer questions. [Laughs]

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

AL: Yes. Fear is actually one of the motivations for me to take on something. It gives me the thrill.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

AL: Yes.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?

AL: That’s a tricky question to try to answer, because I actually had to make some effort to be happy. Shooting Taking Woodstock, I had some good laughs. But if you had asked me that same question after I finished making the movie before this one, I would be hard pressed to say when I last had a heartfelt laugh. I am so heavy, and that’s why I need to do a comedy when I feel this inner exhaustion. So, Taking Woodstock was a project that came at the right time because it helped dig me out of that heaviness. There was something I was looking for in search of the subconscious, something I don’t understand about myself, to get deeper. And then I needed to be healthier, happier, and more in love with everybody around me and making the movie with me. That’s why I chose a project dealing with happiness and innocence. I miss that as much as people miss the Sixties. So, when this project came along it was pretty handy. But still, I had to make the decision to be happy, and I had to make sure that everybody around me was happy, which takes a certain sophistication. And it did happen, and I did have some good laughs. I feel that all the time in the excitement of making a movie, but I won’t admit. Speaking of fear, you think something terrible will happen if you admit you’re excited and happy while in the middle of making a movie. [Laughs] I sort of felt that I had earned that right, to just enjoy making a movie. So, this was that project for me.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

AL: A book about religion called A History of God.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays? 

AL: Right now, I’m beginning to listen to Indian music. Normally, I’m more into Classical. But for Taking Woodstock, I had to soak up a lot of pop music.

KW: What would you say has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

AL: The biggest obstacle? In making movies?

KW: In life.

AL: Insecurity.

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

AL: Oh there are a lot. So many people can be heroes. Right now, Kobe Bryant’s the hero. That’ll last for maybe a week.

KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

AL: By being open-minded, and sharing in my growth experience. Some of my fans, if I’m allowed to say “fans,” are very nice and see everything I make. Others get stuck on a certain movie they really love, and can get angry if the next one’s not along those lines. That places a lot of pressure on me, not that I would do anything differently. But I just hope that whether they like a film or not, they would watch me grow and see what they could get from the experience. That would be best.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

AL: Myself. I think it’s very important to be honest, to be able to look yourself in the eye and say, “That’s me.” 

KW: What is your favourite meal to cook?

AL: I only cook Chinese. I make a pretty good noodle sauce and also a dish called Lion’s Head. It’s Chinese meatballs.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

AL: Oh, I say, “Don’t!” [LOL] Over the years, I’ve noticed that the people who make movies are the ones that cannot be discouraged. You can tell them all the bad things, but they still want to do it. they can’t help themselves. So, I don’t thing anybody needs my advice. I will say, that if you want to be a director, it’s best if you learn to write and create your own material. 

KW: When you’re creating, do you think in English or in Chinese?

AL: In Chinese, most of the time. But for something like Woodstock, where the original material comes directly from English, much of my thinking about it would be in English.  

KW: Where do you live?

AL: I live in upstate New York.

KW: Near Woodstock?

AL: No, not that far north.

KW: What’s next on your agenda?

AL: I’m going to Asia to do some research.

KW: Well, thanks for giving me such a thought-provoking interview, Mr. Lee.

AL: Thank you. Some of your questions were hard to answer, like the hero question. In terms of filmmakers, I’d say [Ingmar] Bergman is one. His movies were an epiphany for me to go into the business. But there are so many great heroes in the world of filmmaking, it would be unfair for me to name just a few. But Bergman’s a safe bet.

KW: Well, thanks again, and best of luck with Taking Woodstock.

AL: Thank you, bye.

To see a trailer for Taking Woodstock, visit HERE.  

Roy Disney, Nephew Of Walt Disney, Dies

Source: www.thestar.com - Sandy Cohen

(December 16, 2009) LOS ANGELES–
Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney whose powerful behind-the-scenes influence on The Walt Disney Co. led to the departure of former chief Michael Eisner, has died. He was 79.

The company announced that Disney died Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif., after a yearlong bout with stomach cancer.

Company president and chief executive Bob Iger said Disney was ``much more than a valued 56-year company veteran.''

"Roy's true passion and focus were preserving and building upon the amazing legacy of Disney animation that was started by his father and uncle," Iger said in a statement. "Roy's commitment to the art of animation was unparalleled and will always remain his personal legacy and one of his greatest contributions to Disney's past, present and future.''

Although he generally stayed out of the spotlight, Roy Disney didn't hesitate to lead a successful campaign in 1984 to oust Walt Disney's son-in-law after concluding he was leading the company in the wrong direction.

Nearly 20 years later, he launched another successful shareholders revolt, this time against Eisner, the man he'd helped bring in after the previous ouster.

Eisner and his wife issued a statement expressing their sympathies immediately after the company confirmed Disney's death.

Born in 1930, Roy Disney had practically grown up with the company. His uncle Walt Disney and his father, Roy O. Disney, had co-founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio seven years before, later renaming it The Walt Disney Co.

Two years before Roy E. Disney was born, the company gave birth to its iconic cartoon character, Mickey Mouse. While Walt was the company's creative genius, his brother was the one in charge of the company's finances.

Starting in the 1950s, the younger Roy Disney worked for years in the family business as an editor, screenwriter and producer. Two short films he worked on were nominated for Academy Awards: the 1959 "Mysteries of the Deep," which he wrote, was nominated as best live action short, and the 2003 film "Destino," which he co-produced, was nominated as best animated short.

Despite his heritage, Roy Disney never got the chance to lead the company as his father and uncle had. But as an investor who grew his Disney stock into a billion-dollar fortune, he ultimately had a huge impact on the company's destiny.

In 1984, dissatisfied with the leadership Walt's son-in-law Ron Miller was providing, Disney resigned from the company's board of directors and sought investors to back a bid to install new management. (Miller was the husband of Diane Disney Miller, Roy's cousin.)

His efforts resulted in the hiring of Eisner and Frank Wells, who led the company as a team until Wells died in 1994.

During that time, Disney rejoined the board and rose to become the company's vice chairman and chairman of its animation division, where he helped oversee the making of such hit films as 1994's ``The Lion King.''

He also became a savvy investor over the years, forming Shamrock Holdings with his friend and fellow Disney board member Stanley Gold in 1978. The fund grew to become a major investor in California real estate, the state of Israel and other entertainment and media companies.

In his spare time he bought a castle in Ireland and indulged his passion for yacht racing, setting several speed records. For years he was a fixture at the Transpacific Yacht Race between California and Hawaii.

After years of dissatisfaction with Eisner's leadership and the company's lagging stock price, Disney and Gold resigned their board seats in 2003 and launched a shareholder revolt.

In his resignation letter, Disney called for Eisner's ouster, complaining that on his watch the company's standards had declined, particularly at theme parks like California's Disneyland and Florida's Walt Disney World.

Initially rebuffed, Disney rallied small investors and enthusiasts who responded to his folksy complaints about peeling paint at the theme parks and his anger at being told he would have to leave the board because he was too old.

"One of the reasons for my leaving, other than the fact that they fired me, was that I saw that quality slipping away from us,'' Disney told a 2004 meeting of memorabilia collectors.

Slowly, Disney built support for his cause, and at the company's annual shareholders meeting in 2004 he received a standing ovation.

Shareholders eventually delivered an unprecedented rebuke to Eisner, withholding 45 percent of votes cast for his re-election to the board.

The chief executive was later stripped of his role as board chairman and announced his retirement in 2005, a year before his contract was up.

Disney initially opposed Iger, Eisner's successor, but they reconciled and in 2005 Iger named Disney a board member emeritus and welcomed him back to company events.

Born in Los Angeles on Jan. 10, 1930, Roy Edward Disney was Roy and Edna Disney's only child. As an adult, he often wore a moustache, which gave him a striking resemblance to his legendary uncle.

After graduating from Pomona College in 1951, he briefly worked at NBC as an assistant editor on the "Dragnet" TV series.

Disney was also an active philanthropist, supporting the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, a school founded by his father and uncle.

In 1999, he matched a gift from The Walt Disney Co. to establish an experimental theatre space as part of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The theatre was named the Roy and Edna Disney-CalArts Theatre or Redcat.

Mark Murphy, executive director of the Redcat Theatre, said Disney always had a "kind smile and a twinkle in his eye regardless of the topic on the agenda.''

In 2005, Disney pledged $10 million to establish the Roy and Patricia Disney Cancer Center at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.

A Tough Year For Best Movie Choices

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(December 16, 2009)
Movie awards are so hotly contested this year, prize givers are starting to see double.

The real twin trauma could be a tough choice between multiplex and art-house favourites, once all the gold dust settles.

The Golden Globes nearly had a tie Tuesday between its two leading nominees, with the layoff drama Up in the Air leading the musical Nine by just six nods to five in the overall tally.

(On Monday, the Critics' Choice Awards split between Nine and Inglourious Basterds, with 10 nominations apiece.)

The Globes also had double Best Actress votes for Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock, with Streep getting two noms in the comedy category for Julie & Julia and It's Complicated, and Bullock getting one in the drama department for The Blind Side and the other in comedy for The Proposal.

The Globes will be handed out by 84 well-fed members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at their televised dinner on Jan. 17.

The 38 members of the Toronto Film Critics Association, meanwhile, have a tie in their final vote for Best Picture, announced Wednesday, between two period dramas, Inglourious Basterds and Hunger. Runner-up was The Hurt Locker. Prizes are to be handed out at a Jan. 12 dinner.

There was also a tie in the Toronto group's screenplay category, with Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds splitting the trophy with Jason Reitman's Up in the Air.

So many critics groups and trade associations are announcing their annual best-of kudos this month, it's hard to keep track of them all.

The only invincible contender at this stage is Christoph Waltz, whose mesmerizing turn as Nazi Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds has been greeted with almost unanimous approval, Toronto critics included, for Best Supporting Actor honours. An eventual Oscar win is almost assured.

Close behind as a near-lock is hip-hop star Mo'Nique, whose portrayal of a cruel mother in Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire is a Best Supporting Actress performance for the ages, as most critics agree – except for Toronto scribes, who gave this category to Up in the Air's Anna Kendrick.

Some broader trends are starting to emerge, and the fault line between mainstream and special interest films is more evident than ever.

Populist sentiment is currently tilting towards two films, Up in the Air and Nine.

Reitman's intelligent crowd-pleaser Up in the Air is a drama that plays like a comedy, with George Clooney giving the performance of his career in the bittersweet role of a life-challenged corporate downsizer.

Rob Marshall's Nine, opening Dec. 25, actually has its roots in an art-house film, Fellini's surreal Italian glamour classic 8½. But it comes to the screen by way of a Broadway musical adaptation that added another half to the title and a lot of hoofing to the story.

Nine is studded with A-list talent, including Marion Cotillard and Penélope Cruz (Globe-nommed for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively), Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Kate Hudson.

On the serious cineaste front, Kathyrn Bigelow's Iraq bomb squad drama The Hurt Locker is getting big love from critics, even though it largely received a big shrug from regular moviegoers when it opened this past summer. It added San Francisco critics to its Best Picture win column Tuesday, having already been named the top film of 2009 by critics in Los Angeles, New York and Boston, plus the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

There is also strong critical support for two crossover foreign-language contenders, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon and Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces, although owing to arcane academy rules, only the Haneke is eligible to win the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film.

The compromise choice between the multiplex and the art house is Tarantino's boundary-straddling and history-diddling Inglourious Basterds, which plays like a summer blockbuster with Brad Pitt in the lead role, yet has enough snob cachet – including a few subtitles! – to appeal to even the most demanding of film lovers.

A few negative signs are also apparent in the current kudos balloting. Momentum for Precious appears to be slowing, after a year of non-stop successes that begin with multiple wins at its Sundance premiere last January.

This relentless urban drama about an obese Harlem rape and incest victim garnered just three Globe nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Gabourey Sidibe) and Best Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique).

Director Lee Daniels was missing from the Best Director board, his slot apparently having been given to Clint Eastwood. But Daniels can console himself with the Best Picture nod, which was surprisingly denied to Eastwood's Nelson Mandela saga Invictus.

Another no-show in the Globe nominations list was The Hurt Locker's main star, Jeremy Renner. His chance for Best Dramatic Actor gold was apparently grabbed by surprise nominee Tobey Maguire, star of the almost-overlooked war-homecoming drama Brothers.

It's also hard to get a read on the awards potential of James Cameron's sci-fi spectacular Avatar, which opens Thursday at midnight. It has four Globe nominations, including Best Dramatic Picture and Best Director, but that's only half the Globe noms that Cameron's previous feature Titanic received in 1997, leading that year's field.

With so much glory being spread around Tuesday, actors and directors had to work overtime feigning surprise at their nominations.

But leave it to Clooney, twice blessed in the Globe noms as Best Dramatic Actor for Up in the Air and as the title character of animated film contender Fantastic Mr. Fox, to add a classy note of calm to the proceedings.

"Not a bad way to start a Tuesday," he wryly observed.


Tyler Perry's Mom Dies


(December 10, 2009) *Tyler Perry is thanking fans for their prayers following the death of his mother Tuesday at age 64.   "Willie Maxine Perry. February 12, 1945 to December 8, 2009. Thank you for all your prayers," read a message on Perry's Web site Tuesday. No further information was given regarding the circumstances of her death.  Maxine Perry was a preschool teacher who worked at the New Orleans Jewish Community Center for most of her life, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tyler Perry, 40, has credited her as the inspiration for his most popular character, Madea.   Perry recently recounted details of his troubled childhood, including how his mother tried and failed to leave his abusive father.  He talked about the joy of spoiling his mom financially during last night's primetime interview with Barbara Walters for her "10 Most Fascinating People" special.


Cynthia Dale's Christmas Dreams

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(December 12, 2009) Note: This story has been edited from a previously published version. Christmas Dreams will air Wednesday at 8 p.m.

It's a cinch that she's no Grinch.

When it comes to Christmas,
Cynthia Dale is the queen of the chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire/Jack-Frost-nipping-at-your-nose fan club.

No surprise, then, that when the time came to produce her first TV show, it would be called Christmas Dreams – and it's being aired this coming Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBC-TV.

"It's my favourite time of year," Dale declares, settling down for a cozy chat in front of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. "I've never been disappointed in it, never."

Her nose crinkles in distaste. "Okay, once we went south to Mexico for Christmas and it just didn't seem right. But the rest of the time ... " She throws her arms open wide as if to embrace the season and all it contains.

"What do I love so much about it? The purity of the emotions it generates, the intensity of the sharing and the traditions. Oh, the traditions! They're really important to me. I put decorations on the tree that I've had for 25 years. And every year, when I pack them up again, I pray I'll be able to use them again next Christmas."

Dale's devotion to the holiday is so intense, in fact, that you'd be forgiven for fearing that any Christmas show she produced might be just a bit too heavy on the candy canes and marshmallows.

Thankfully, she was fully aware of that fact, and so she turned to actor/author Susan Coyne (Kingfisher Days, Slings and Arrows) to write an original story.

"I knew Susan would give us a story with a strong, strong skeleton and that she'd keep us all truthful. That's what makes one of these Christmas specials stay evergreen."

The end result is a charming mixture of happiness and heartache, with Dale as a kooky shopkeeper named Rose who befriends an 11-year-old girl named Sam, who's hunting for a present for her older sister on Christmas Eve.

There's singing, dancing and a couple of Canadian names with U.S. street cred, like Tom Cavanagh and Henry Czerny.

If that's not enough, how about Ed Asner as Santa's brother, Jerry, who's in charge of Lost and Found Presents and croaks his way through a touching rendition of "Toyland"?

But underneath, there's a tug of darker emotions as well, which give the work some grit and substance to go with the holiday glitter. Part of that, of course, is due to Coyne, but Dale also understands the mixed messages that Christmastime can send out.

"I think so many people get depressed at this time of year because of the heightened energy between what they feel should happen and what actually does. The need for love at Christmas can be raw, painful. Sure, the desire to connect is there all the time, but come December, it grows more urgent."

Acting on television held no terrors for Dale, who came to prominence in Street Legal and has also done more than her fair share of variety specials.

But this time, she was producing as well, and she found the responsibility "absolutely enormous, far greater than just performing. Listen to me! `Just performing.' I never thought I'd hear myself say that."

Unlike many shows that are shot in Canada but pretend to be taking place somewhere nameless in America, Coyne and Dale boldly set their tale in Stratford, where Dale lives and where the piece was also shot.

"The moment of the cast and crew gathering in my hometown to work was huge. I was in gratitude the whole time because every single person who did it stepped outside of their comfort zone for me. I bow down to how brave people were about the whole thing."

Bravery is also a word one could apply to Dale and her decision to stay in Stratford even after the new regime headed by Des McAnuff told her in 2007 she was "not wanted on the voyage" for future seasons after 10 years as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's musical leading lady.

At the time, there was anger and pain, but now, Dale is clear-eyed as she talks about the past. "That was 400 years ago," she says. "I look back on it as another chapter in my life. That was then; this is now.

"At the beginning, I kept checking in with myself: `Hey, Cynth, do you want to be back there?' and the answer was always, `Really, no.'"

She can admit now that what made it easier to keep away was the fact that her mentor, Richard Monette, was no longer holding the festival's reins. He died in 2008.

"My time there was so tied up with Richard," she says softly. "When someone loves you, you blossom in their love. I was so lucky. He endowed me with so much that I then became what he thought I could be.

"How? You just do it. You rise to the occasion. I opened up into a depth that I would have never known had I not worked with him. How lucky was I?"

Looking back on that decade, Dale has no trouble picking its high point.

"It's hard to top the experience of My Fair Lady (2002). It was the most golden moment. The company Richard gathered together, the energy of everyone who worked on the show. And it was Stratford's 50th anniversary as well."

Her final Stratford project was the more lightweight My One and Only, but she vehemently defends choosing it.

"Why did I want to do that particular musical? Because I was 47 years old and got to tap my tits off. That was a killer of a dance show."

When not performing, her life – as always – is devoted to her husband, CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge, and their son, William.

"I love being a mother. It's the best part in the world. In my next life, I want to have 10 kids."

But for the time being, "I can't complain. I'm really lucky I get to do what I love to do. And my goal is to just keep doing this: making more work happen."

And although she's hoping it's a long time in the future, she's already decided what she wants her epitaph to be: "She was a good mom ... and she did a hell of a time step."

Elvis Costello And Stars Who Won't Talk

Source: www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(December 11, 2009) Elvis was in the building. And Bono was with him.

It was one of worst-kept secrets of last September's Toronto International Film Festival. While George Clooney and Oprah were downtown walking their red carpets,
Elvis Costello was uptown, quietly shooting the second-season opener of his hit interview/jam series, Spectacle.

Maybe not so quietly. After all, U2 was in the house – the Masonic Temple, former home of the late, unlamented Mike Bullard Show – a vastly more intimate concert venue than the Rogers Centre gig the band had played just hours earlier.

The first new Spectacle airs Friday night on CTV at 10, with the rest of the seven-episode second season following early in the new year. The Season One DVD set, with additional performance footage, hit video shelves last month.

Costello says his on-camera skills have improved since then.

"As time went on, I felt more at ease and I didn't have so much need of the supports of the cards and the teleprompter," he allowed in a recent phone conversation. "I found that I could retain all the things. I didn't want to go blank and forget that we had a clip lined up there that would illustrate something well."

It helps that Spectacle is unique among talk shows, in keeping with its uniquely collaborative host.

"They are pleased to be talking longer," he says of his famous guests. "They realize that they can really talk forever, by comparison to most television shows, and then you can see they are quite relieved to get to sing.

"You know, even after this first episode of Season Two, I reflected that perhaps I had waited too long to ask Bono and Edge to do a number. Because we talked for quite some time before they played, and although when we edited it together, they said some great things, simply because you could sense that they didn't know when it was going to end.

"Once they had sung a song, then the funny stories came out. So in the end, by accident, we got a great show because the serious, more revealing things were said in that first period when they were going, `When the hell is he going to ask us to sing?'"

Another highlight of the upcoming season, he promises, is his sit-down/session with rock god Bruce Springsteen. "Springsteen did 3 3/4 hours. You sometimes end up with more stuff than you imagined you would."

Not just anyone can qualify as a Spectacle guest – though that, too, he admits, was something of a learning curve.

"We realized that there's probably no real reason for some people to do this show, because they speak more eloquently in their own arena or in another arena.

"You can theorize all you like. I remember going back to the original list that we drew up around a lunch table one day when the show was first being discussed, and saying we're going to have a show about Detroit. `We'll have, like, E-Pop and Madonna and Eminem and Diana Ross, and we'll have them mud-wrestle ...'

"I don't know what we were thinking. One, it would never happen, and two, it would be a catastrophe if it did."

There are, on the other hand, several "gets" on Costello's wish list who have thus far, for various reasons, eluded him.

"There is of course always a standing invitation to Bob Dylan," he says. "I wouldn't care if he came just to talk about painting. But, you know, he has a radio show, and maybe that is the medium for him to talk about music. ...

"There are other people that I know well – well enough to know it wouldn't be their most pleasurable experience, even if they're on there with me – some friends of mine that you would think in theory would be great guests, but I know they wouldn't have a degree of comfort with the show. I wouldn't ask it of them.

"And then there are people who, I think ... their name jumped a little bit from the wish list to the guest list, you know? Paul McCartney's name appeared in print in a couple of places. Never confirmed. ...

"Some people have a level of comfort with doing something like this, and other people are more trepidatious about whether or not they feel that their story is complete.

"I remember going to see Leonard Cohen (in concert) and thinking, `He'll never be on Spectacle because he doesn't need to do it.'

"He need never do another interview for anybody, because the show is perfect, the most perfect show I think I've ever seen. Everything is explained to the degree that I think is appropriate, anything else I feel would be an intrusion into his life that I wouldn't want to make."

Decade's best TV included Buffy, The Sopranos

Source: www.thestar.com

(December 14, 2009) The Sopranos was sublime, Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais gave us the giggles, and the fictional towns of Dillon, Texas, and Stars Hollow, Conn., became beloved TV destinations.

After weeks of debate about the past decade's small-screen offerings, the writers and editors of The Canadian Press settled upon a list of 10 of their favourites.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Arrested Development (2003-2006)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Friday Night Lights (started 2006)
Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
Lost (started in 2004)
The Office (U.K.) (2001-2003)
The Sopranos (1999-2007)
30 Rock (started in 2006)
Veronica Mars (2004-2007)
The Wire (2002-2008)

Honourable mention went to Band of Brothers, Freaks & Geeks, Rescue Me, Survivor and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Only three shows, Arrested Development, The Sopranos and Lost, also made the Associated Press list of the decade's Top 10 television achievements, as tapped by the wire service's TV writers.

In no particular order, they are:

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (premiered October 2000) and the franchise it inspired.
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (yes, they know he came aboard in 1999) and The Colbert Report (premiered October 2005)
Survivor (premiered May 2000)
American Idol (premiered June 2002)
High School Musical (January 2006)
The Osbournes (2002-2005)
The Sopranos
The Shield (2002-2008)
Arrested Development

– with files from Associated Press


Golden Globe Nominations Give Glee At Fox

Source: www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber

(December 16, 2009) LOS ANGELES–There is hope for broadcast TV comedy and for smart, tough women of a certain age, according to Tuesday's Golden Globes nominations.

After a fallow period in network comedy, this season's line-up is so strong that four of the five nods for Best Comedy or Musical went to broadcast shows, including ABC freshman Modern Family.

NBC's 30 Rock and The Office also received nominations in the category, as did Fox's Glee, a sassy, clever take on the high school musical. The one cable contender is HBO's Entourage.

Veteran actresses also proved hot, with Glenn Close of Damages, Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer, Courteney Cox of Cougar Town and Edie Falco, star of Nurse Jackie, receiving nominations for Best Actress in a Comedy or Drama Series.

Youth was not ignored, with Lea Michele of
Glee earning a bid for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.

"I got up right after 5 this morning and figured I'd turn on the TV to see if our show got nominated, and literally the first thing I heard was, Glee got two nominations – for Jane Lynch and Lea Michele. And I thought, `Did that just happen?'" Michele said.

Glee also earned a Best Actor nod for Matthew Morrison, who plays a teacher and glee club adviser, and a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Jane Lynch.

If comedy is making a comeback on network TV, it's still cable that prevails in drama, according to the Globes. The Best Drama contenders are HBO's Big Love and True Blood, Showtime's Dexter and AMC's Mad Men. On the network side, Fox's House got a best drama nomination.

"I can't believe we're in our sixth year. It still feels new. The fact is we are, and it is very difficult to keep it fresh. ... It's gratifying that people are responding and people think we're still fresh," said executive producer David Shore.

Hugh Laurie, who received a Best Drama Actor nod, is great and "makes the show," Shore added.

HBO, as is its habit, claimed most of the glory in the miniseries or movie category, with contenders including its Grey Gardens, Into the Storm and Taking Chance. Nominations also went to Little Dorrit, PBS, and Georgia O'Keeffe, Lifetime Television.


A Holiday From Virtue

Source: www.thestar.com -
Garnet Fraser

(December 13, 2009) At Christmas time, Bill Murray remarks at the end of Scrooged, people become nicer, and happier; for a moment, he says, "we are the people we always hoped we would be." But if you're just not up to it, that sentiment gets a bit oppressive, and at a theatre on the Danforth, it's triggering a backlash.

"I just wanted to indulge my inner Grinch," says Jan Caruana of Bad Dog Theatre, whose improv performers are putting not one but three spoofs of the holidays.
A Twisted Christmas Carol, a tweaked take on the Dickens chestnut, has been an annual offering at the theatre for years, but this year it's just one course in the big seasonal spread by Caruana's company.

It's A Wonderful Improvised Life takes up the Frank Capra classic, but Caruana's personal inspiration is Christmas is a Bitch, a highly cynical vision of holiday television. Expect that one, in particular, to get a bit rude.

"I was keen on doing something a bit cheekier" than the family-friendly liberties Bad Dog takes with Scrooge and George Bailey, says Caruana, an associate producer at Bad Dog as well as a veteran actor who won this year's Canadian Comedy Award for best female improviser.

The holiday season has lots of fodder for comedy, with many different potential angles; Second City's show just for kids, What the Elf?, runs around Christmas, and Yuk Yuk's has special holiday shows of its own on Dec. 23 and Boxing Day.

More than a dozen familiar improv cutups (Kerry Griffin, Sandy Jobin Bevans, Paul Bates and many more) will join the Bad Dog shows and each might have something they yearn to mock. But for Caruana, raised in Etobicoke on an annual diet of claymation Rudolph and Frosty, it was obvious what aspect of the season she really wanted to take a run at: the implausible television specials, with cobbled-together casts and events that no one would dare try at any other time.

"My favourite is the barstool ballad, where a star just drops by to sing a song and play the old piano," recalls Caruana, 33. "Of course, David Bowie are Bing Crosby are neighbours." She recalls with particular amusement an Andy Williams special from 1985 – visible on YouTube, for the curious – featuring the veteran crooner, the kids from The Cosby Show, and Mindy Cohn from The Facts of Life as they unite to ... save Santa Claus?

Some holiday specials will remain off limits from her lampooning instinct; Caruana confesses fondness for The Grinch (naturally), A Charlie Brown Christmas and Toronto's favourite, the partly-locally-filmed A Christmas Story – though she wasn't raised to think of it that way.

"It was only about two years," she says, "that I learned its title wasn't You'll Shoot Your Eye Out."

It's a Wonderful Improvised Life and Christmas is a Bitch each run Dec. 18 and Dec. 19. A Twisted Christmas Carol runs Dec. 20-23. See baddogtheatre.com for times and ticket prices.

Bradley Rapier: A Calgary Kid Finds His Groove

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(December 14, 2009)  Vancouver — Bradley Rapier was destined to follow in his father's footsteps, one way or another. As a boy growing up in Calgary, it seemed that meant going to medical school and becoming a doctor, like his dad. But there was a point when he realized that following in those footsteps was going to be more literal: He, like his dad, was going to dance.

"My father would dance at Caribbean events in Calgary, not as a performer or anything, but he and Mom would get out on the floor and groove," Rapier recalls. "I actually have memories as a very young kid dancing around the house standing on my dad's feet."

Rapier's second career choice is paying off. This week, his moves will be seen across North America on the highly anticipated finale of So You Think You Can Dance. And his hip-hop show
Groovaloo has just opened off-Broadway, and will begin a U.S. tour next year.

So how did a hockey-loving, football-playing, science geek from Alberta (he was born in Edmonton and moved to Calgary when he was 7) wind up bringing a hip-hop show to its birthplace, New York?

It started with genetics (his mother also danced) and blew up when a high-school friend showed him a beat-up video of dancers popping (rhythmically pantomiming and contracting their muscles). "I lost my mind," Rapier, 47, said during an interview from New York last week. "I was like: Oh my God, I have to learn this."

Still in high school, Rapier joined a dance troupe called StreetScape.

They performed at weddings and banquets; they even got the odd commercial - the Pied Pickle restaurant, a muffler shop.

He gave up on a medical career. His father was crushed, worried that his youngest child wouldn't be able to make a living. "The entertainment world for my dad was a scary thing," Rapier says. "So he didn't want to hear about [my dance aspirations]."

After winning the title at the live show Canadian Talent Search, then teaching dance in Vancouver, Rapier moved to Los Angeles. Money was tight; he shared a studio apartment with three other people ("taking showers by candlelight with cockroaches running around") and was evicted from there. But, eventually, he established himself as a dancer and choreographer. He worked with Diana Ross and Queen Latifah, and performed in the Super Bowl half-time show.

It was around this time that he started what he called "groove nights" on his apartment rooftop. Then in 1999, at National Dance Day, a big event hosted by Debbie Allen, Rapier and his fellow groove night dancers - by this time called the Groovaloos - put on a show featuring different dance styles - locking, popping, breaking. "When we did it, people went crazy. Here I am a guy from Canada doing this show and now these people in L.A. went crazy. So it launched the Groovaloos."

A few years later, the Groovaloos were putting together a series of how-to hip-hop DVDs. There was room for some bonus footage, so Rapier interviewed the dancers about their life stories.

"It turned out that nobody was from L.A. Everyone was from another city, and me another country. We all came to L.A. like orphans in a sense to try to make it, chase our dreams. And the answers they gave me were like: 'If I didn't dance, I wouldn't exist'; and 'If I didn't dance, I would be dead'; 'If I didn't dance, I'd be in jail.' "

Rapier knew he had something powerful. He took the audio from the interviews and combined it with the dancing footage. It gave him the idea for Groovaloo: a stage show in which the Groovaloos would tell their stories using voice-over and live dance.

After a couple of self-produced incarnations in Los Angeles, the show was picked up by a New York theatre producer and opened last week.

A notable segment in Groovaloo involves Steven Stanton. The Detroit native was visiting Vancouver in 2003, teaching a hip-hop class, when he was shot at a nightclub. He was told he would never walk (or dance) again. His story is a pivotal part of the show, as is his line: "Life isn't always choreographed; sometimes you've got to freestyle."

Groovaloo is getting mixed reviews. The dancing has been praised but the stories seem a little sappy for some critics. Rapier says he doesn't care.

"All of the audiences are just so inspired and affected and lit on fire by this show. And that's all I can ask for, that they get a glimpse of what I saw when I first saw this dance that electrified me and inspired me to keep pressing on and figure out my life."

Rapier's mother has been cheering on his success from Las Vegas, where she now lives (Rapier calls her a "Groovaloobie"), but his father died four years ago. Still, he lived long enough to see his son make a living - and a name for himself - as a dancer.

"He just wanted to know I was happy," Rapier says. "At the end of his life, he'd say: Just do it, don't regret, just do it, go."

The Groovaloos will appear on the finale of So You Think You Can Dance Wednesday in a segment taped last week.

Second City Turns 50

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(December 14, 2009) CHICAGO–The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future met for a ménage a trois in The Windy City this past weekend, which proved that comedy is alive and well in the new millennium and that we have Second City to thank for that.

On the surface, the three-day celebration was in honour of the fact that the venerable organization was marking its 50th anniversary, but it wound up serving as a living, breathing, laughing reminder of just how much joy they've helped give to the world.

Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, David Steinberg, Jim Belushi, Bonnie Scott, George Wendt, Rachel Dratch, Fred Willard and dozens of other stars were there. Shelley Berman, now 83, brought down the house with the kind of monologue he won a Grammy Award for 50 years ago, but he shared the stage with 20somethings from the current Chicago company who also had the rafters ringing.

And Canadian nationalists would have been proud at our showing. An entire night was devoted to the work of SCTV on Friday and they've never been sharper or better.

Andrea Martin and Marty Short ad-libbed a raucous dance number that ended with the ever-limber Martin in a full split, while Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy convulsed us with the most egregiously awful Canadian song medley ever heard.

On Saturday night, when Second City alumni filled four hours with a retrospective of the company's history, two of the most loudly cheered sketches were from the Toronto company of Second City, with Naomi Snieckus, Jim Annan and Lauren Ash and a delicious sketch about parents hacking into their kids' MSN accounts.

And then there was the one and only Melody Johnson, joining with Scott Montgomery and Jack Mosshammer in the hilarious "Glass Mamet" sketch, where a shy, limping Johnson, who has only been in productions of The Glass Menagerie, breaks out in a torrent of four-letter words while auditioning for a David Mamet play.

Steinberg, as lean and acerbic as ever, did one of his evergreen sermons from a reform rabbi so hip it hurts, simultaneously reminding us of the kind of humour that got The Smothers Brothers cancelled more than 40 years ago and the fact that true satire has no best-before date.

The wonders of intergenerational performance were driven home when Jim Belushi and his son Robert performed a sketch about a father and son having a booze-soaked reunion. A nice wake-up call from all the sentiment was provided by the kinetic Jack McBrayer, known to most of us as the wide-eyed puppy-dog page, Kenneth, on 30 Rock. But this Second City graduate dazzled the house with a pair of astonishing over-the-top comic dances, stopping the show without speaking a single word. Cast that man in a musical, please!

In the end, if you asked anybody in the theatre what moment they'd remember most from the alumni show, I'm sure there would be no question.

It began when megastars Colbert and Carell appeared onstage together near the end of the first act. The driving forces behind The Colbert Report and The Office were once in the Chicago company at the same time. Colbert, in fact, started out as Carell's understudy.

But now they were conquering heroes, back on home ice, and the applause that greeted their entrance alone was impressive enough.

Then they started to perform. The piece they chose was one they had improvised on the spot one night in 1993, when two people in the audience had shouted out "Maya Angelou" and "coming home."

Colbert and Carrell stood onstage in shiny suits, white shirts and sincere ties, looking like a pair of earnest WASP businessmen after a hard day's travel.

But it soon developed they were in Colbert's hometown, which was Southern, and that everyone who entered addressed him in a strange manner, as though he were ethnic, female and elderly.

As Carell grew more and more puzzled, Colbert finally revealed the comic secret with which he fuelled the scene. "Every time I come home," he explained, "I turn into an old black woman."

The climax was reached when veteran Chicago improviser David Razowsky entered as an elderly Jewish haberdasher who had once secretly loved Colbert's black lady in her youth.

They played out a scene of turgid romance with deadpan sincerity, building to the moment when Colbert passionately kissed Razowsky on the lips. The capper of the scene was the hitherto-dumbstruck Carell bursting out in anger at the racial inequality that had occurred so many years ago and launching into one of his firecracker rages that prove so hilarious.

It was a moment of sheer, anarchic, comedy bliss, first improvised 16 years before by two young men who were then struggling unknowns but were now at the top of their profession.

You couldn't have summed up the half-century history of Second City any better than that. Let's hope it's around for another 50 years.


At Home With: The Bullens: Built For The Rhythm Of Family Life

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Geena Lee

(Winter Issue) Facing a small forest bordered by the Rouge River, the Bullen residence is 5,000 square feet of comfort that provides the perfect ambience for musician Eddie Bullen's artistic family. Having settled in 10 years ago, their move was prompted by dissatisfaction with the style of their previous non-descript home; typical of suburban areas, "all the homes were the same colour and had the same style. I felt there's more to life than that, especially when it's a place where you spend a lot of time," says Bullen.

The idea of purchasing a new home was inspired by Bullen's wife, Joaney. Her constant redecorating and home improvements "got to the point where she wanted to put in bay windows." Thinking to discourage her, Bullen proposed that considering the high cost of replacing the windows, they might as well get a new house. "I thought that would cool the situation off a bit, but she went with it and started looking for homes." The search was on, and in the eastern outskirts of the GTA, Joaney found a house that Eddie fell in love with. "It was just a shell at the time, it wasn't finished, which made me fall in love with it even more, because I got to choose the colours."

The Bullens had a major hand in designing their home, choosing everything from the colour and model to the windows and bathroom fixtures. This time around, they wanted a house that was distinct. "[We grew] up in the Caribbean where every home is different and has a certain vibe to it. We wanted to recreate that tropical feeling." With earthy textured tiles, houseplants and massive ceilings, ranging from nine to 18 feet, Eddie was able to recapture a setting reminiscent of his childhood home in Grenada.

Being from warmer climes, he had no interest in having a large backyard, as it wouldn't be used much due to Canada's notoriously long winters. "It made no sense because you only really have about four months of the year where you can enjoy it, and then you're
back inside for another eight months." Opting for less space outdoors allowed for more room indoors where the Bullens spend most of their time. With two guest bedrooms, and a living and dining room used for frequent gatherings and movie nights, the Bullen abode possesses an environment that is family focused.

Since he's a talented songwriter, producer and pianist, it's no surprise that Bullen's sons are also gifted. Tré Michael (13) is an actor; his eldest, Quincy (17), is an accomplished pianist and actor. (The couple also have two other children, Disa and Ian.) Father and son often practice together in the piano room. "I've taught Quincy over the years how to play, so we sit and trade notes." Even the basement is a studio, furnished with drums and amplifiers, providing the perfect creative space for band rehearsals. "Music is so rewarding. I play it for recreation." With a house tailored to his taste, Bullen is content with his surroundings and appreciates one element in particular: "You can have a beautiful place, but it's your family that makes it a home."

Oral Roberts, 91: A Trailblazer Of Televangelism

Source: www.thestar.com - Justin Juozapavicius

(December 16, 2009) TULSA, OKLA.–
Oral Roberts, a pioneer in televangelism who founded a multimillion-dollar ministry and a university that bears his name, died Tuesday. He was 91.

Roberts died of complications from pneumonia in Newport Beach, Calif., according to his spokesman, A. Larry Ross. The evangelist was hospitalized after a fall on Saturday. He had survived two heart attacks in the 1990s and a broken hip in 2006.

Roberts was a pioneer who broadcast his spirit-filled revivals on television, a new frontier for religion when he started in the 1950s. He was also a forerunner of the controversial "prosperity gospel" that has come to dominate televangelism. The evangelist's "Seed-Faith" theology held that those who give to God will get things in return.

The Rev. Billy Graham said in a statement that he spoke to Roberts three weeks ago by phone, and that Roberts told him his "life's journey" was ending. "Oral Roberts was a man of God, and a great friend in ministry. I loved him as a brother," Graham, 91, said.

Roberts overcame tuberculosis at age 17, when his brother carried him to a revival meeting where a healing evangelist was praying for the sick. Roberts said he was healed of the illness and of his youthful stuttering. He said it was then that he heard God tell him he should build a university.

Roberts rose from humble tent revivals to become one of America's most famous preachers.

He gave up a local pastorate in Enid, Okla., in 1947 to enter an evangelistic ministry in Tulsa to pray for the healing of the whole person – the body, mind and spirit. The philosophy led many to call him a "faith healer," a label he rejected with the comment: "God heals – I don't."

By the 1960s and '70s, he was reaching millions around the world through radio, television, publications and personal appearances. He remained on TV into the new century, co-hosting the program, Miracles Now, with son Richard. He published dozens of books and conducted hundreds of crusades. A famous photograph showed him working at a desk with a sign on it reading, "Make no little plans here."

He credited his oratorical skills to his faith, saying, "I become anointed with God's word, and the spirit of the Lord builds up in me like a coiled spring. By the time I'm ready to go on, my mind is razor-sharp. I know exactly what I'm going to say and I'm feeling like a lion."

Unity of body, mind and spirit became the theme of Oral Roberts University.

His ministry hit upon rocky times in the 1980s. There was controversy over his City of Faith medical centre, a $250 million investment that eventually folded.

Semiretired in recent years, he returned to Oklahoma in October 2007 as scandal roiled Oral Roberts University. His son, Richard Roberts, who succeeded him as ORU president, faced allegations of spending university money on luxuries at a time the institution was more than $50 million in debt.


Facebook Redraws Privacy Boundaries

www.globeandmail.com - Alexei Oreskovic, Reuters

(December 10, 2009) San Francisco —Facebook, the world's No.1 Internet social network, took a step toward opening up parts of its site to outsiders Wednesday by introducing more options for user's privacy settings.

The changes will make it easier for Facebook's more than 350 million users to limit who sees their musings, videos, photographs and other personal information, but will also give them the opportunity to expose a wider swathe of their information to a broader Internet audience.

The move comes as Internet search engineshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.giflike Google and Microsoft are increasingly interested in incorporating the growing trove of user-generated content from social media websites into their search results, and as Facebook faces competition from rival services like Twitter, in which all information is viewable to the public.

“We certainly want to respond to the requests of people to be able to share information in all sorts of different ways,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook Vice President of Global Communications and Public Policy.

Schrage said Facebook users will be greeted with a message Wednesday presenting them with new options to customize privacy settings and directing them to a new, simplified overview page of all their personal privacy settings.

The changes will not, in any way, alter Facebook's policies governing the kind of user information that is shared with advertisers, he said.

Earlier this year, Canada's privacy commissioner said Facebook lacked certain safeguards to prevent unauthorized access of users' personal information by third-party developers like game and quiz makers. Facebook addressed the concerns in August.

The new privacy features, which Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg mentioned were coming in a blog post last week, will make it easier for a Facebook user to limit certain messages to a subset of their friends, such as family members but not work colleagues.

Users will now also have the ability to broadcast messages beyond the borders of Facebook so they are viewable across the broader Web. Facebook began testing the public message feature with a limited group of users during the summer.

In October, Microsoft announced plans to incorporate Facebook messages flagged for the general public into its search enginehttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifresults.

Google recently announced plans to incorporate certain Facebook data in its new real time search product, though the data will be limited to the special public profile Facebook pages created by celebrities and companies.


So You Think You Can Dance' Finale: Injured Krumper Russell Takes The Crown

Source: www.nj.com

Russell Ferguson was kryptonite to his partners (first Noelle Marsh suffered an ankle injury, then Ashleigh Di Lello dislocated her shoulder), and apparently to himself -- within the first 45 minutes tonight's "So You Think You Can Dance" finale, he injured his leg and had to be helped out onto the stage to hear the results. No worries -- he was solid gold with "So You Think You Can Dance" viewers, who voted him America's favourite dancer over more technically gifted hoofers like Jakob Karr of Orlando, Fla., and Kathryn McCormick of Burbank, Ca., the first and second runners-up, respectively.

The Roxbury, Mass., krumper with little formal training and no experience in many of the dance forms he had to tackle this season was a favourite of the judges all season. Even when the judges placed him in the bottom two after his foxtrot with choreographer Melanie Lapatin (Noelle was benched because of her injury) supposedly disappointed, it was more a big fat nudge to viewers to give the krumper a boost.

Seriously, what was so wrong with that?

Russell's had a number of memorable moments, include an Afro jazz routine with Noelle and Tuesday night's hard-hitting hip-hop with a surprising Kathryn. And his rare appearances in the bottom has resulted in sizzling solos (though we weren't a fan of his pandering Santa routine). He's been a joyful, winning presence onstage.

The judges have swooned over contemporary dancer Jakob all season, and rightly so, but we felt Nigel Lythgoe sensed a victory for Russell and was softening the blow for Jakob on Tuesday when he told Jakob that he would reach his immense potential as a soloist by joining a professional troupe.

Personally, Jakob has been responsible for most of our favorite moments from the season -- his "hungry jazz" chacha with Ashleigh, his sweet waltz with Mollee Gray, his intense Sonya Tayeh contemporary routine with Ellenore Scott (not to mention their Bob Fosse-via-Tyce-Diorio Broadway from Tuesday), plus that lovely closing number from the finale with Kathryn.


Fitness Guru Roland Semprie Turns A Passion For Helping Others Into A Thriving Lifestyle Empire

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Kenai Andrews

(Winter Issue)  As a kid growing up in Toronto, Roland Semprie was super hyperactive. Teachers didn't know what to do with him. "They thought I had some kind of mental deficiency," says Semprie. "But never tell that to a black woman about her kid, or she'll go off on you." It turns out that frequent park visits were all the doctor ordered so the young Semprie could expend all that bound-up energy. "I was genetically hardwired to be active," says Semprie.

With two brothers and a sister, the Toronto born dynamo was brought up by strict Trinidadian parents, both with careers in the Toronto police force. The Semprie household was always bursting with an energy that had a lasting effect on his future.

"It's always great to have someone point you in the right direction and believe in what you can do," says Semprie. Of course, he is referring to his parents — and also his grade school basketball coach, Tom Sheedy. "Had he not said, 'Go to a school that's going to challenge you both athletically and academically, not a school that all your friends are going to,' I wouldn't be on the path I am today."

As expected, Semprie excelled in sports. In high school he did track and volleyball and received offers to play basketball in the US. Although he never made it to the big leagues, at the University of Toronto he had a chance to play in the NBA Summer Pro League's Toronto Raptors mini-camp. And what he took away from his playing days is the mantra he still lives by today.

"The way you do anything is the way you do everything," says Semprie. "But the thing about sports is that you learn teamwork; you learn how to be competitive; you learn discipline, integrity, respect — all the things you need in business. I've always said that athletes make the best business people because they can easily transfer those skills into the business world."

He fluctuated from wanting to become a doctor to a dentist to a lawyer. But deep down all he ever wanted to do was to heal people. "I always knew I wanted to be in fitness and healthcare, because in university I was always training other students and athletes."

But with so many choices and as many directions, Semprie embarked on a very pragmatic curriculum, including shiatsu, acupuncture, laser therapy and cranial massage. It became evident that he was headed for a career in holistic health.

With his studies behind him and a unique and freshly cultivated professional philosophy, the sports buff was soon to become a certified fitness guru. And in just a few years, the risk-taking entrepreneur opened his own fitness studio, Roland Semprie Rosedale. Today, when Hollywood A-listers come to town, they pay big bucks for a Semprie workout. Who does he count among his devotees? Kanye? Halle Berry? Oprah? We'll never know — Semprie won't divulge. His celebrity client list is confidential.

But for his local devotees, Semprie is the celebrity. Says makeup artist Estee Levine, "Roland pushes you to give 110 per cent and he accepts no less. Because of him, working out has become a beneficial addiction. This past year I was on anti-depressants, blood pressure pills and sleeping pills. Roland put me on a plan and within one month, I was off everything."

Semprie can also be seen on his wellness wave outside of his gym in front of TV cameras. "He is a determined trainer, who makes you feel like his total attention is on you," says Christine Diakos, co-host of Slice TV's Three Takes, a show about women that Semprie guests on. (He was also the fitness and nutrition expert on Slice's Re-Vamped.) "He is tough without being overwhelming; he instinctively knows what your limitations are and he will push you to be better than you ever thought you could be."

It doesn't hurt that the former model is also very easy on the eyes. But clearly his appeal is more than skin deep. "Roland has guided me to believe that I can achieve anything and everything that I set my mind to," says former Flare and Chatelaine beauty editor Miriam Gee.

Despite his success, and two book projects in the works, he continues to look onward and upward, careful not to rest on his laurels. "Entrepreneurs drive business and provide the opportunities and direction for other people to take risks," says Semprie. "Canada was founded on risk. Every country was founded on risk. My philosophy is to go big or go home."

- For more information go to rolandsemprie.com


Woods Picked As Athlete Of The Decade

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Ferguson

(December 16, 2009) Even after a shocking sex scandal that tarnished
Tiger Woods, it was tough to ignore what he achieved on the golf course.

He won 64 times around the world, including 12 majors, and hoisted a trophy on every continent golf is played. He lost only one time with the lead going into the final round. His 56 PGA Tour victories in one incomparable decade were more than anyone except four of golf's greatest players won in their careers.

Woods was selected Wednesday as the Athlete of the Decade by members of The Associated Press in a vote that was more about 10 years of performance than nearly three weeks of salacious headlines.

Just like so many of his victories, it wasn't much of a contest.

Woods received 56 of the 142 votes cast by AP member editors since last month. More than half of the ballots were returned after the Nov. 27 car accident outside his Florida home that set off sensational tales of infidelity.

Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor who won the Tour de France six times this decade, finished second with 33 votes. He was followed by Roger Federer, who won more Grand Slam singles titles than any other man, with 25 votes.

Record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps came in fourth with 13 votes, followed by New England quarterback Tom Brady (6) and sprinter Usain Bolt (4). Five other athletes received one vote apiece.

Woods, who has not been seen since the accident and has issued only three statements on his website, was not made available to comment about the award.

Few other athletes have changed their sport quite like Woods. His influence has been so powerful that TV ratings spiked whenever he played, even more when he has been in contention. Prize money has quadrupled since he joined the PGA Tour because of his broad appeal.

A new image emerged quickly in the days following his middle-of-the-night accident, when he ran his SUV over a fire hydrant and into a tree. He became the butt of late-night TV jokes, eventually confessed that he "let my family down" with ``transgressions" and lost a major sponsorship from Accenture.

Even so, AP members found his work on the golf course over the last 10 years without much of a blemish. Woods took an early lead in balloting, and continued to receive roughly the same percentage of votes throughout the process.

"Despite the tsunami of negative publicity that will likely tarnish his image, there's no denying that Woods' on-the-course accomplishments set a new standard of dominance within his sport while making golf more accessible to the masses," wrote Stu Whitney, sports editor of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader.

"The only proof needed are the television ratings when Tiger plays in a golf tournament, compared to those events when others have to carry the load."

Woods tumbled from the pinnacle of his sport in just about three weeks. The 10 years that preceded that fall, however, represented perhaps the greatest decade in golf history.

He won the career Grand Slam three times over, including one U.S. Open by a record 15 shots at Pebble Beach and another U.S. Open on a mangled leg in a playoff at Torrey Pines. He twice won the British Open at St. Andrews, the home of golf, by a combined 13 shots.

Woods won 56 times on the PGA Tour this decade, a rate of 30 per cent that is unprecedented in golf. Nine of those victories were by at least eight shots. He was No. 1 in the world ranking for all but 32 weeks in the decade, that when he was revamping his swing.

He did his best work in the biggest events.

Along with his 12 majors this decade – he has 14 overall, four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus – Woods was runner-up in six other majors. He won 14 times out of 27 appearances in the World Golf Championships.

Woods finished the decade with US$81,547,410 in earnings from his PGA Tour events, an average of $482,529 per tournament.

Blue Jays Confirm Halladay Trade For Prospects

Source: www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell

(December 16, 2009) The
Toronto Blue Jays have at last finalized a multi-team deal that will send ace pitcher and six-time all-star Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies.

In return the Jays will receive a two minor league prospects – pitcher Kyle Drabek and catcher Travis D'Arnaud – and 23-year-old third baseman Brett Wallace from the Oakland Athletics. Originally the Jays had received Phillies outfield prospect Michael Taylor as part of the trade, but promptly shipped him to Oakland in exchange for Wallace.

Even with young talent arriving in place Halladay's place, the trade still leaves the Jays without an established, top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Although Drabek was one of the most highly-rated prospect in the Phillies' organization, he split last season between single and double-A, and may still be a season away from joining the Jays' rotation.

Details of the deal have been trickling out of Philadelphia since Monday, when Halladay travelled there for a pre-trade physical exam, but the deal only became official Wednesday afternoon.

The trade ends a 12-year run in Toronto that saw Halladay become one of the most successful pitchers in club history. His six all-star selections and 148 wins rank him second behind Blue Jay legend Dave Stieb, while the 22 wins he collected in 2003 are a single-season record for the club.

This past season Halladay went 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA. In early July former general manager J.P. Ricciardi made public the club's willingness to listen to trade offers for their top pitcher, and Halladay played the second half of the season under mounting speculation about his future.

A three-game losing streak in late August prompted even more talk about whether the pressure had finally worn him down, but he finished 2009 with back-to-back complete game shutouts.

Argos Fire Head Coach After 3-15 Season

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Young, Cathal Kelly

(December 14, 2009)  A month after completing their worst season in 16 years, the Toronto Argonauts fired head coach Bart Andrus Monday morning, the club announced in a press release.

The Argos had a 3-15 W-L record and missed the Canadian Football League playoffs for the second successive year under Andrus. He was hired last January as the team's 40th head coach after serving as an assistant coach with the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

"We would like to thank Bart for his efforts during a challenging season," Argonauts president and CEO Bob Nicholson said in the press release.

"Bart came to us with an impressive resume and we wish him all the best in the future. Our search for a new Head Coach has begun and we look forward to building a winning team on the field."

The most memorable storyline Andrus was able to construct all year was a titanic battle of the wills with the team's best player, receiver Arland Bruce III. Andrus won that battle when Bruce was shipped out to the Hamilton Tiger Cats.

In the same release, the Argos said they will not discuss their search for a new head coach, which begins immediately.

The move continues the revolving door on the Argos' sidelines. The team lost its final eight games of the season under Andrus, who replaced Don Matthews after the latter served as interim coach following the 2008 midseason dismissal of Rich Stubler, a campaign that ended with a 4-14 record.

Stay with thestar.com for more details as they become available.

Speedskater Shani Davis Heats Up Utah

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Chris Richburg

(December 15, 2009) *Shani Davis, the African American Olympic speed skater, heads into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics having broken a world record and won two titles in three days at the final long-track speedskating World Cup in Utah, reports the AP.

 The athlete won the 1,000 meters in 1 minute, 6.67 seconds Sunday at the Utah Olympic Oval, again beating rival Chad Hedrick, who was fifth.

 "I'm really excited. Skating's been really good, strong performances, consistent performances," he said at a press conference.

 Davis won the 1,500 on Friday, lowering his own world record by eight-tenths of a second. He also owns the world mark in the 1,000, but didn't come close to breaking it on the final day of competition.

 "I've never been in the shape that I've been in and it just goes to show that I'm really strong," he said. "I just hope that I can continue to keep this momentum throughout the season and Vancouver."

 Davis famously chose not to participate in the team pursuit at the 2006 Turin Olympics, setting off a beef between him and Hedrick. At that time, Davis had already made it clear that he didn't want to skate the pursuit, believing the first-time Olympic event would hurt his individual races. He went on to become the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Games.

 Hedrick — who entered five events — felt Davis let down his country by skipping a chance to give the Americans another speedskating medal. With Davis on the sideline, the U.S. team had to use a slower skater and was eliminated in the early rounds.

 Hedrick owns the only U.S. berth in the 10,000, but if he decides not to compete in the gruelling race, then Davis could claim the spot as the first alternate. However, Davis indicated that was unlikely, saying, "I just have no ambitions or motivations to skate a 10,000. I'm a middle-distance skater."

 Skaters have until Dec. 24 to commit to specific events.


Mark Ingram Wins 2009 Heisman Trophy

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 11, 2009) *Mark Ingram dabbed his eyes, took a deep breath and tried to steady himself. All set, he accepted the Heisman that completes Alabama's trophy case.  The tough-running tailback turned tearful after winning the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in the closest vote in the award's 75-year history. Next, he'll try to lead the most storied program in the South to a national championship. Ingram finished 28 points ahead of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. The sturdy, 212-pound Ingram took a moment to get composed before starting his speech. Dressed in a dark suit with blue pinstripes, his voice wavered throughout. "I'm a little overwhelmed right now," he said. "I'm just so excited to bring Alabama their first Heisman winner." Ingram received 227 first-place votes and 1,304 points. Gerhart got 222 first-place votes and 1,276 points, while Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, last season's runner-up, received 203 and 1,145.

Sidney Crosby Wins Lou Marsh Award

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard

(December 15, 2009) Sidney Crosby, who last spring became the youngest player to captain a Stanley Cup champion, has been named winner of the 2009 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete. The 22-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins centre, who also won the award in 2007 after a season that saw him eclipse Wayne Gretzky to become the youngest player to win the NHL scoring title. Gretzky has four times been named winner of the award, which is named for a former Toronto Star sports editor and is voted on annually by sports journalists from across the country. Crosby, a native of Cole Harbour, N.S., who has long been dubbed "the Next One" – a take off on the Gretzky's moniker "the Great One" – was taken first overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft. In just his second season, Crosby became the only teenager to win a scoring title in any major North American sports league while also capturing the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player, as determined by writers, and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the most valuable player as chosen by players. After losing to Detroit in the 2008 Stanley Cup final, Crosby led his team to a thrilling victory in the seventh and final game over the Red Wings.