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December 31, 2009

Happy New Years Eve!
  The last day of 2009 which also brings a decade to a close as well.  Lots of magazines and articles wrapping up opinions, views, critiques and logs of things that have taken place in the past year.  Something that always strikes me is the timeline of those lives we've lost in the past year in entertainment. 

Check out some exciting
New Years Eve options at Harlem Underground at 745 Queen Street W. with Anthony Mair (that's where I'll be celebrating!) or at Harlem at 67 Richmond St. E. with Jervis.  Both have extensive and yummy menus planned with a celebratory afterparty.  Whatever you choose to do, please celebrate safely! 

I wish you all a joyous new year with lots of fulfillment and sense of purpose.  I, personally, feel that 2010 is going to be a stellar year for me and many others! 

Check out my PHOTO GALLERY for photos from Kardinal Offishall's Annual Charity Gala in support of breast cancer.  Tons of Canada's entertainment elite came and supported.   A great night! 

Artist alert!!  Check out the full list of grants available to Canadian artists for 2010 - READ IT and grab the opportunity to finance your art!

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


Harlem at 67 Richmond St. E. – New Years - Thursday, December 31st

Join us for a special New Year's Eve dinner followed by a night of dancing & celebration. Ring in the New Year in Style!

Enjoy a 3 Course Dinner Harlem Style and stay for the Party:

$50 Dinner and Party
$30 Party Only

To book a reservation please call:


1st Course:

Choice of:
Soup - Corn Cowder
Choice of Salad

2nd Course

Choice of:
Surf + Turf
6oz Beef tenderloin with Lobster Tail
Herbed Supreme Chicken
Escovetch Snapper

3rd Course

Spiced Rum Cake Topped with Pecans


Follow us on Twitter for updates:

Harlem Underground at 745 Queen Street W. – New Years - Thursday, December 31

Exclusive New Years Eve Bashment inside Harlem Underground. A newly renovated lounge where you will enter through the side and walk on the red carpet lined with velvet ropes. While the flashing lights of 2009 remain behind, we invite you to join us and raise your glasses high filled with complimentary champagne.

As we ring in the New Year and step into 2010, we look forward to making this a memorable night with all of you.

Harlem Underground
745 Queen Street West.
Admission: $25
For Advanced Tickets and more info please call 647-309-5243.

DJ Line-up:

-Double Dragon
(DJ L'Oqenz & DJ NaNa)
-Mike Stoan

Spinning the best in Hip Hop, R/B, Reggae, Ol'School, and House.  Big-it-Up giveaways, Good music...Good vibes! 

***For those that have joined us in previous years you know, to avoid disappointment, get your Limited Advanced Tickets to guarantee your admission.***


RASTA: A Journey From the Middle East To Africa

Source:  Film Market Access,

(December 29, 2009) In Search of Rastafari Inc., producer of the feature documentary
In Search of Rastafari: A Soul’s Journey is set to begin shooting the second phase on December 30, 2009.  The documentary, recently renamed “RASTA“, takes an in-depth look at Rastafari and its cultural and historical links to other people and groups around the world. The production crew - including Donisha Prendergast, Rita and Bob Marley’s granddaughter - will travel to Israel, South Africa and Ethiopia.

The film will feature interviews with some of today's most celebrated reggae artists, Rastafarians and academics who have studied the Rastafarian movement.  Scheduled interviews include reggae royalty, DAMIEN MARLEY, TARRUS RILEY, SOLJA, and DIGGING ROOTS a reggae-influenced First Nations music group. The film will also feature Prendergast as she travels to new locations and invites audiences to learn about Rastafari, the movement that inspired her grandfather, Bob Marley, to write many of his most powerful songs.  Given that Marley’s music and lyrics were informed by his Rastafarian beliefs, it’s important for people to have a deeper understanding of who Rastafarians are today and the impact the movement has had on peoples of the world.

Phase one of the documentary was completed earlier this year with a shoot in Washington, D.C., where Prendergast visited the DISCOVERING RASTAFARI exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute.  The production team recently interviewed, famed Hasidic reggae artist, Matisyahu. The third phase of the production is scheduled to begin shooting in March 2010 in England and India, while the fourth and final phase will be shot in Toronto and Jamaica in June 2010.

“RASTA” will be a ninety minute documentary produced by In Search of Rastafari Inc. and was conceived by Patricia Scarlett, Marilyn Gray and award-winning Director, Stuart Samuels, who is also one of the producers.

The production company and its crew invites you to travel along with them in real time as they set up shoots in each country. To take part in the real time experience please visit the official website (www.ReggaeJourney.com). ReggaeJourney.com allows users to communicate directly with Donisha Prendergast through her interactive diary, Q&A sessions, blogs and Twitter updates (http://twitter.com/rastadaughter

Kardinal & Black; Hip Hop And R&B Stars Team Up For Charity And Reflect On 2009

Source:  Ben Kaplan, National Post

(December 23, 2009) Jay-Z played the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Halloween, and before he called it a night after performing, he turned the spotlight onto the crowd.

"I see you,
Kardinal Offishall," he said, as the Scarborough native's smiling face flashed onto the giant television screens erected at either side of the stage. The audience, of course, went crazy, and Jay-Z teased his friend after the show.

" 'Yo, I guess T-Dot really does like you,' " Kardinal says, imitating Jay-Z with a laugh. "I was like, 'Of course, you stupid idiot. I've put in a good amount of work for T.O.' "

The work Kardinal Offishall has done for Toronto, besides being the face of Canadian hip hop before Drake had ever been shot on Degrassi High, has always involved giving back. Tonight, as Kardinal has done for the past 12 years, the rapper will perform at a benefit party to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. Russell Peters, "the only Indian dude doing a Jamaican accent when we were all 16," according to Kardinal, is hosting the show.

"I knew Russell before he even had his first Lexus," says Jully Black, who, along with Estelle, Divine Brown and Saukrates, will also be performing at tonight's event. The National Post put Black and Kardinal together on a conference call, and Black said that breast cancer awareness was an issue that was very near to her heart.

"When I was 27, I had my own scare with breast cancer, and it's important to have young people pushing the cause," says Black, whose latest album, The Black Book, was released a month ago today. "Tonight's a celebration. But it's important that people remember the cause."

Black and Kardinal have been working together on and off for the past 15 years. They first met at a local Toronto community centre program called Fresh Arts in 1994 and have appeared on each other's albums through the years. When Kardinal first signed with a major music label, he took Black, Saukrates and a few others to Jamaica to celebrate.

"That's the trip where he came up with this lethal concoction [called] The Bullet, which has become kryptonite to so many of us," says Black of the libation, one of the reasons she no longer drinks.

"Over-proof rum, banana cacao and Baileys," Kardinal says, laughing. "Though the drink for tonight is Mango Turbulence. You can drink it for an hour and not feel anything, then you're flat on your ass and have no idea why."

We asked Black and Kardinal to reflect on the past year.

"I'm disappointed in Tiger Woods," Black says. "He could've stopped at one ... but nine?"

"Are you surprised?" Kardinal asks.

"Not surprised, just confused," Black says. "He's a billionaire golfer, but probably didn't pay someone's phone bill. The richest people are always so cheap."

What else struck them in 2009?

"I was disappointed by various movies. 2012? Big, huge letdown. And what's that one with the spacecraft over Africa?" Kardinal asks.

" District 9?" Black offers.

" District 9!" Kardinal screams. "The worst movie I've seen in 10 years. Don't even watch it if it comes on CityTV."

How about the music in 2009: Was it a good year for hip hop and R&B?

"Hip hop is in a scary place," Kardinal says. "I just came back from New York and I literally had to sit down in a corner and bang my head against the wall for six hours to get all that garbage out of my system."

"What about the wife of hip hop, R&B? She's at her house waiting to get picked up for a ride to the prom," Black says, "but in 2009, no one came. Although R&B didn't fare any better: If you weren't showing your crack, no one cared."

Still, the year wasn't all gloom and doom according to Toronto's marquee performers. They mention strong records by Jay-Z, Drake and Alicia Keys. There's excitement about sharing a stage tonight for a good cause and with lots of local friends and family. It even turns out that seeing Jay-Z perform on Halloween night in Toronto is a cause for guarded optimism in the new year.

"I remember sitting there, thinking about Jay-Z and seeing it as an incredible accomplishment: to be 40 and relevant in hip hop," Kardinal says. "In 2010, my hope is that hip hop grows up."

- The Kardinal Offishall charity gala is tonight at This Is London, 364 Richmond St. W. To make a donation to the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, see cbcf.org.


A List Of Artists, Entertainers Who Died In 2009

Source: By The Associated Press

(December 29, 2009) A roll call of some of the notable people in art, entertainment and popular culture who died in 2009. (Cause of death cited for younger people if available.)


Johannes Mario Simmel, 84. Austrian-born author; topped German-language best-seller lists. Jan. 1.

Jett Travolta, 16. John Travolta's son. Jan. 2. Seizure.

Betty Freeman, 87. Modern art collector, music patron. Jan. 3.

Olga San Juan, 81. Actress, dancer known as "Puerto Rican Pepperpot." Jan. 3.

Pat Hingle, 84. Tony-nominated stage actor; Commissioner Gordon in "Batman" movies. Jan. 3.

Ned Tanen, 77. As Paramount and Universal chairman, he greenlighted a string of hits ("Top Gun," "E.T"). Jan. 5.

Ron Asheton, 60. Guitarist for the Stooges, whose raw sound helped inspire punk rock. Jan. 6.

Cheryl Holdridge, 64. Mouseketeer on "The Mickey Mouse Club." Jan. 6.

Jon Hager, 67. Half of Hager Twins on TV's "Hee-Haw." Jan. 9.

Coosje van Bruggen, 66. Artist; collaborated with husband Claes Oldenburg on his giant sculptures. Jan. 10.

Tom O'Horgan, 84. Directed "Hair," "Jesus Christ Superstar" on Broadway. Jan. 11.

Claude Berri, 74. French actor, director ("Manon of the Spring"). Jan. 12.

W.D. Snodgrass, 83. Pulitzer-winning poet ("Heart's Needle"). Jan. 13.

Pedro "Cuban Pete" Aguilar, 81. Star mambo dancer in 1950s. Jan. 13.

Patrick McGoohan, 80. Emmy-winning actor; star of TV classic "The Prisoner." Jan. 13.

Hortense Calisher, 97. Fiction writer known for dense prose ("False Entry"). Jan. 13.

Ricardo Montalban, 88. Actor in splashy MGM musicals; Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island." Jan. 14.

Andrew Wyeth, 91. Acclaimed artist whose portraits and landscapes combined traditional realism, modern melancholy. Jan. 16.

John Mortimer, 85. British writer; created curmudgeonly lawyer Rumpole of the Bailey. Jan. 16.

Grigore Vieru, 73. Poet who courageously promoted Romanian language in Soviet republic of Moldova. Jan. 18.

David "Fathead" Newman, 75. Jazz saxophonist; played with wide range of luminaries. Jan. 20.

James Brady, 80. Author, Parade magazine celebrity columnist. Jan. 26.

John Updike, 76. Pulitzer-winning novelist, essayist. Jan. 27.

Billy Powell, 56. Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboard player ("Sweet Home Alabama," "Free Bird"). Jan. 28.

John Martyn, 60. British singer-songwriter ("May You Never"). Jan. 29.

Hans Beck, 79. Created colourful Playmobil toy figures. Jan. 30.

Milton Parker, 90. Owned NYC's Carnegie Deli, known for gargantuan sandwiches. Jan. 30.


Lukas Foss, 86. Avant garde composer. Feb. 1.

Dewey Martin, 68. Drummer with influential band Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth"). Feb. 1.

Lux Interior, 62. Lead singer of horror-punk band the Cramps. Feb. 4.

James Whitmore, 87. Many-faceted actor; did one-man shows on Harry Truman, Will Rogers. Feb. 6.

Philip Carey, 83. Played tycoon Asa Buchanan in "One Life to Live." Feb. 6.

Molly Bee, 69. Country singer; teamed with Tennessee Ernie Ford ("Don't Go Courtin' in a Hot Rod Ford"). Feb. 7.

Blossom Dearie, 84. Jazz singer with unique baby-doll voice. Feb. 7.

Robert Anderson, 91. Broadway playwright ("Tea and Sympathy"). Feb. 9.

Orlando "Cachaito" Lopez, 76. Bassist for Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club. Feb. 9.

Estelle Bennett, 67. One of Ronnettes, '60s girl group ("Be My Baby"). Feb. 11.

Hugh Leonard, 82. Irish playwright; won Tony for father-son drama "Da." Feb. 12.

Gerry Niewood, 64, and Coleman Mellett, 34. Members of Chuck Mangione's band. Feb. 12. Buffalo, N.Y., plane crash.

Alfred A. Knopf Jr., 90. Influential publisher; son of publishing legends. Feb. 14.

Louie Bellson, 84. Jazz drummer; performed with Duke Ellington, wife Pearl Bailey. Feb. 14.

Al-Tayeb Saleh, 80. One of Arab world's top novelists. Feb. 18.

Snooks Eaglin, 72. New Orleans R&B singer, guitarist; top rockers among his fans. Feb. 18.

Kelly Groucutt, 63. Bass player with Electric Light Orchestra ("Don't Bring Me Down"). Feb. 19.

Howard Zieff, 81. Directed films ("Private Benjamin"), TV ads (Alka-Seltzer's "Spicy Meatballs." ) Feb. 22.

Sverre Fehn, 84. Norwegian architect; won prestigious Pritzker award. Feb. 23.

Philip Jose Farmer, 91. Celebrated science fiction and fantasy writer. Feb. 25.

Wendy Richard, 65. British actress; working-class matriarch of "EastEnders." Feb. 26.

Paul Harvey, 90. Radio news and talk pioneer; one of nation's most familiar voices. Feb. 28.


Ernie Ashworth, 80. Grand Ole Opry singer ("Talk Back Trembling Lips"). March 2.

Sydney Chaplin, 82. Tony-winning actor; son of Charlie Chaplin ("Bells Are Ringing"). March 3.

Horton Foote, 92. Playwright ("The Trip to Bountiful") and screenwriter ("To Kill a Mockingbird"). March 4.

Schuyler Chapin, 86. Arts champion; was Metropolitan Opera general manager. March 7.

Jimmy Boyd, 70. Child actor, singer ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"). March 7.

Ernest Trova, 82. Artist known for "Falling Man" series. March 8.

Hank Locklin, 91. Smooth-voiced country singer ("Send Me the Pillow You Dream On"). March 8.

James Purdy, 94. Author of underground classics ("Cabot Wright Begins"). March 13.

Anne Wiggins Brown, 96. Soprano; the original Bess in Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." March 13.

Betsy Blair, 85. Actress, Oscar-nominated for role as shy woman courted by homely Ernest Borgnine in "Marty." March 13.

Millard Kaufman, 92. Oscar-nominated screenwriter ("Bad Day at Black Rock"). March 14.

Ron Silver, 62. Won Tony as tough Hollywood producer in David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow." March 15.

Jack Lawrence, 96. Lyricist for Frank Sinatra's first hit, "All or Nothing at All." March 15.

Natasha Richardson, 45. Gifted heiress to British acting royalty ("Patty Hearst"). March 18. Skiing accident.

Eddie Bo, 79. New Orleans blues singer-pianist; worked with greats such as Irma Thomas. March 18.

Jade Goody, 27. British reality TV star, hailed in final months for her courage. March 22. Cancer.

Uriel Jones, 74. Drummer whose passionate beat fuelled Motown hits. March 24.

Dan Seals, 61. Half of duo England Dan and John Ford Coley, later top country singer ("You Still Move Me"). March 25.

John Hope Franklin, 94. Towering scholar of African-American studies. March 25.

Steven Bach, 70. Movie executive who oversaw the debacle "Heaven's Gate"; later wrote memoir about it. March 25.

Irving R. Levine, 86. Bow-tied NBC newsman who explained the fine points of economics. March 27.

Helen Levitt, 95. Photographer famed for scenes of New York street life. March 29.

Maurice Jarre, 84. Oscar-winning film composer ("Lawrence of Arabia," "Doctor Zhivago"). March 28.

Andy Hallett, 33. Good-guy demon Lorne in TV series "Angel." March 29. Heart disease.


Bud Shank, 82. Jazz saxophonist, flutist ("California Dreamin"'). April 2.

Tom Braden, 92. Helped launch CNN's "Crossfire"; wrote memoir "Eight is Enough" that inspired a TV show. April 3.

Dave Arneson, 61. Co-creator of groundbreaking Dungeons & Dragons fantasy game. April 7.

David "Pop" Winans Sr., 76. Grammy-nominated patriarch of gospel music family. April 8.

Randy Cain, 63. Member of "Philadelphia sound" soul group the Delfonics ("Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time"). April 9.

Marilyn Chambers, 56. She helped bring adult films into mainstream with "Behind the Green Door." April 12. Heart disease.

Jack D. Hunter, 87. Wrote novel "The Blue Max," made into 1966 film. April 13.

Peter Rogers, 95. Produced British "Carry On" films, hallmarks of lowbrow comedy. April 14.

J.G. Ballard, 78. British author known for dark vision ("Empire of the Sun"). April 19.

Tharon Musser, 84. Tony-winning lighting designer ("A Chorus Line," "Follies"). April 19.

Jack Cardiff, 94. Oscar-winning cinematographer famed for innovative use of Technicolor ("The Red Shoes"). April 22.

Ken Annakin, 94. Directed World War II epics "Battle of the Bulge," "The Longest Day." April 22.

The Rev. Timothy Wright, 61. Grammy-nominated gospel singer, and composer ("Jesus, Jesus, Jesus"). April 23.

Bea Arthur, 86. Her sharp delivery propelled "Maude," "The Golden Girls"; won Tony for "Mame." April 25.

Salamo Arouch, 86. Jewish boxer whose Auschwitz experiences inspired movie "Triumph of the Spirit." April 26.

Vern Gosdin, 74. Country singer ("Chiseled in Stone"). April 28.


Danny Gans, 52. Singer-actor-impressionist; one of Las Vegas' most popular entertainers. May 1. Complications of medication use.

Marilyn French, 79. Feminist writer; her 1977 novel "The Women's Room" sold millions. May 2.

Dom DeLuise, 75. Portly actor with offbeat style ("The Cannonball Run"). May 4.

Sam Cohn, 79. Powerful agent for top actors (Paul Newman, Meryl Streep), directors and writers. May 6.

Mickey Carroll, 89. One of last surviving Munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz." May 7.

Bud Shrake, 77. Co-author of golf best-seller "Harvey Penick's Little Red Book." May 8.

John Furia Jr., 79. Prolific film, television writer ("Bonanza," "The Waltons"). Announced May 8.

Stephen Bruton, 60. Guitarist, songwriter; worked with Kris Kristofferson. May 9. Throat cancer.

Wayman Tisdale, 44. Accomplished jazzman; earlier, a college, NBA basketball star. May 15. Cancer.

David Herbert Donald, 88. Pulitzer-winning Civil War historian; expert on Lincoln. May 17.

Mario Benedetti, 88. Renowned Uruguayan author ("The Truce"). May 17.

Lee Solters, 89. Hollywood publicist; clients included Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand. May 18.

Jay Bennett, 45. Ex-member of rock band Wilco ("Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"). May 24. Painkiller overdose.

Amos Elon, 82. Israeli author ("The Israelis: Founders and Sons"). May 25.


Koko Taylor, 80. Regal, powerful singer known as "Queen of the Blues." June 3.

Sam Butera, 81. Las Vegas saxophonist; teamed with Louis Prima, Keely Smith. June 3.

Shih Kien, 96. Veteran Hong Kong actor; Bruce Lee's archrival in 1973's "Enter the Dragon." June 3.

David Carradine, 72. Actor ("Kung Fu," "Kill Bill"). June 4.

Fleur Cowles, 101. Author, founded legendary magazine "Flair." June 5.

Kenny Rankin, 69. Pop vocalist, musician, songwriter. June 7

Norman Brinker, 78. Casual restaurant mogul (Chili's Grill & Bar.) June 9.

Christian Albin, 61. He fed luminaries for decades as executive chef of NY's Four Seasons. June 13. Cancer.

Bob Bogle, 75. Guitarist, co-founded instrumental band The Ventures ("Walk, Don't Run"). June 14.

Ed McMahon, 86. Ebullient "Tonight" show sidekick who bolstered Johnny Carson. June 23.

Farrah Fawcett, 62. 1970s sex symbol, star of "Charlie's Angels." June 25.

Michael Jackson, 50. The "King of Pop." June 25.

Gale Storm, 87. Perky actress; one of early television's biggest stars ("My Little Margie"). June 27.

Billy Mays, 50. Burly, bearded television pitchman. June 28. Heart disease.

Fred Travalena, 66. Las Vegas impressionist. June 28.

Pina Bausch, 68. German choreographer known for her pioneering work. June 30.

Harve Presnell, 75. His booming baritone graced Broadway musicals ("The Unsinkable Molly Brown"). June 30.


Karl Malden, 97. Oscar-winning actor; a star despite his plain looks ("A Streetcar Named Desire"). July 1.

Allen Klein, 77. No-holds-barred music manager; worked with the Beatles, Rolling Stones. July 4.

Vasily Aksyonov, 76. Prolific Russian writer ("Generations of Winter"); one of last dissidents exiled from Soviet Union. July 6.

Sir Edward Downes, 85. One of Britain's most renowned conductors; longtime head of the BBC Philharmonic. July 10.

Julius Shulman, 98. His photos of Modernist buildings were hailed as works of art. July 15.

Walter Cronkite, 92. Premier TV anchorman of the networks' golden age. July 17.

Gordon Waller, 64. Half of the British Invasion pop duo Peter and Gordon ("A World Without Love"). July 17.

Frank McCourt, 78. Former schoolteacher who enjoyed post-retirement fame, and a Pulitzer, for memoir "Angela's Ashes." July 19.

Heinz Edelmann, 75. Graphic designer; art director of the 1968 Beatles film "Yellow Submarine." July 21.

John "Marmaduke" Dawson, 64. Co-founded psychedelic country band New Riders of the Purple Sage. July 21.

E. Lynn Harris, 54. Best-selling author who pioneered gay black fiction ("Love of My Own"). July 23. Heart disease.

Merce Cunningham, 90. The avant-garde dancer and choreographer who revolutionized modern dance. July 26.

George Russell, 86. Jazz composer; theories influenced greats like Miles Davis. July 27.


Naomi Sims, 61. Pioneering black model of the 1960s. Aug. 1.

Billy Lee Riley, 75. Rambunctious early rock performer ("Flyin' Saucers Rock & Roll"). Aug. 2.

Charles Gwathmey, 71. New York architect known for influential modernist home designs, famous clients. Aug. 3.

Amos Kenan, 82. Israeli writer who helped modernize the Hebrew language. Aug. 4.

Budd Schulberg, 95. Novelist ("What Makes Sammy Run?") and Oscar-winning screenwriter ("On the Waterfront"). Aug. 5.

John Hughes, 59. Writer-director of smash youth-oriented comedies ("Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Home Alone"). Aug. 6. Heart attack.

Willy DeVille, 58. Singer, songwriter; founded punk group Mink DeVille. Aug. 6. Pancreatic cancer.

Mike Seeger, 75. Co-founded traditional folk group The New Lost City Ramblers. Aug. 7.

John Quade, 71. Character actor; the heavy in several Clint Eastwood movies. Aug. 9.

Andy Kessler, 48. Trailblazer of NYC's skateboarding scene; designed skate parks. Aug. 10. Heart attack after wasp sting.

Rashied Ali, 76. Jazz drummer; worked with John Coltrane. Aug. 12.

Les Paul, 94. Guitar virtuoso; invented solid-body electric guitar, multitrack recording. Aug. 13.

Virginia Davis, 90. As child actress, appeared in Walt Disney's "Alice" films in 1920s. Aug. 15.

Robert Novak, 78. Combative TV and newspaper pundit who loved "making life miserable for hypocritical, posturing politicians." Aug. 18.

Hildegard Behrens, 72. German-born soprano hailed as one of the finest Wagnerian performers of her generation. Aug. 18.

Don Hewitt, 86. TV news pioneer who created "60 Minutes," produced it for 36 years. Aug. 19.

Larry Knechtel, 69. Grammy-winning arranger and keyboardist; accompanied Ray Charles, other big names. Aug. 20.

Dudu Topaz, 62. Charismatic and handsome Israeli variety show star whose late-career struggles led to criminal charges and suicide. Aug. 20.

Elmer Kelton, 83. Acclaimed Western novelist ("The Good Old Boys"). Aug. 22.

Ellie Greenwich, 68. Co-wrote some of 1960s' most enduring songs ("Be My Baby"). Aug. 26.

Dominick Dunne, 83. Best-selling author who told stories of shocking crimes among the rich and famous. Aug. 26.

Sergei Mikhalkov, 96. Prolific Soviet author, a Stalin favourite but still admired by contemporary Russians. Aug. 27.

Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein, 36. Celebrity disc jockey; also a reality TV figure who attempted to help fellow drug addicts. Aug. 28. Overdose.

Chris Connor, 81. Smoky-voiced jazz vocalist ("Trust in Me"). Aug. 29.

Marie Knight, 84. Gospel music legend ("Beams of Heaven"). Aug. 30.

Sheila Lukins, 66. Store owner (The Silver Palate) and cookbook author, helped introduce Americans to new cuisines. Aug. 30.


Wycliffe Johnson, 47. Keyboardist and producer; major figure in Jamaica music. Sept. 1. Heart attack.

Erich Kunzel, 74. Conductor, longtime head of Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Sept. 1.

Bill Hefner, 79. 12-term North Carolina congressman; also a gospel singer. Sept. 2.

Keith Waterhouse, 80. British playwright, novelist ("Billy Liar"). Sept. 4.

Army Archerd, 87. His breezy Daily Variety column kept tabs on Hollywood doings for more than a half-century. Sept. 8.

Frank Batten Sr., 82. He built media giant Landmark Communications, created The Weather Channel. Sept. 10.

Jim Carroll, 60. Poet, punk rocker; wrote "The Basketball Diaries." Sept. 11. Heart attack.

Larry Gelbart, 81. Slyly witty writer for stage and screen ("Tootsie," "M-A-S-H"). Sept. 11.

Pierre Cossette, 85. Record label founder; turned Grammy Awards into a popular televised ceremony. Sept. 11.

Zakes Mokae, 75. Tony-winning South African actor (Athol Fugard's "Master Harold ... and the Boys"). Sept. 11.

Crystal Lee Sutton, 68. Her fight to unionize Southern textile plants became the film "Norma Rae." Sept. 11.

Willy Ronis, 99. Last of France's postwar photography greats; captured everyday life in Paris. Sept. 12.

Paul Burke, 83. Two-time Emmy nominee for his role as Detective Adam Flint in the gritty crime drama "Naked City." Sept. 13.

Patrick Swayze, 57. Dancer turned movie superstar for "Dirty Dancing," "Ghost." Sept. 14. Pancreatic cancer.

Henry Gibson, 73. Comic character actor; recited offbeat poetry on "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." Sept. 14.

Trevor Rhone, 69. Jamaican playwright; co-wrote the reggae film "The Harder They Come." Sept. 15.

Mary Travers, 72. One-third of the hugely popular 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary ("If I Had a Hammer"). Sept. 16.

Linda C. Black, 65. Syndicated columnist and astrologer. Sept. 17.

Art Ferrante, 88. Half of the piano duo Ferrante and Teicher ("Exodus"). Sept. 19.

Timothy J. Russert, 85. Immortalized by his late son, Tim Russert, in "Big Russ & Me." Sept. 24.

Alicia de Larrocha, 86. Spanish pianist who thrilled music listeners for decades. Sept. 25.

William Safire, 79. Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist and word warrior. Sept. 27.


Peg Mullen, 92. Her fight to learn the truth about her son's death in Vietnam inspired book, movie "Friendly Fire." Oct. 2.

Mercedes Sosa, 74. Argentine folksinger; the "Voice of Latin America" who inspired pro-democracy activists. Oct. 4.

Ben Ali, 82. Founded Ben's Chili Bowl diner, a Washington landmark. Oct. 7.

Irving Penn, 92. Photographer famed for stark simplicity in portraits, fashion shots. Oct. 7.

Stephen Gately, 33. Singer with Irish boy band Boyzone ("All That I Need"). Oct. 10. Fluid in the lungs.

Al Martino, 82. Singer ("Spanish Eyes"); played the Frank Sinatra-type role in "The Godfather." Oct. 13.

Daniel Melnick, 77. Producer of acclaimed films "Straw Dogs," "Network." Oct. 13.

Lou Albano, 76. Pro wrestler; appeared in Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" video. Oct. 14.

Collin Wilcox-Paxton, 74. Portrayed the false accuser in "To Kill a Mockingbird." Oct. 14.

Vic Mizzy, 93. Songwriter; did catchy sitcom themes ("The Addams Family"). Oct. 17.

Joseph Wiseman, 91. Actor; played the sinister Dr. No in James Bond film of that name. Oct. 19.

Soupy Sales, 83. Rubber-faced comedian whose anything-for-a-chuckle career was built on thousands of pies to the face. Oct. 22.

Ray Browne, 87. Bowling Green State professor credited with coining the phrase "popular culture." Oct. 22.

Lou Jacobi, 95. Actor who excelled in comic, dramatic roles ("Arthur"). Oct. 23.

Roy DeCarava, 89. Photographer who captured Harlem's everyday life and its jazz greats. Oct. 27.

Claude Levi-Strauss, 100. French intellectual who was considered father of modern anthropology. Oct. 30.

Michelle Triola Marvin, 76. She fought a landmark "palimony" case in the 1970s against former lover Lee Marvin. Oct. 30.


Lou Filippo, 83. World Boxing Hall of Famer; had small roles in "Rocky" movies. Nov. 2.

Francisco Ayala, 103. Spanish novelist, sociologist; went into exile during the country's Franco dictatorship. Nov. 3.

Sheldon Dorf, 76. Founded Comic-Con International comic book convention that draws more than 100,000. Nov. 3.

Carl Ballantine, 92. Actor-comedian ("McHale's Navy"). Nov. 3.

Paul Wendkos, 84. TV, film director ("Gidget"). Nov. 12.

Ken Ober, 52. Hosted the 1980s MTV game show "Remote Control." Nov. 15.

Edward Woodward, 79. British actor ("Breaker Morant"). Nov. 16.

Jeanne-Claude, 74. With her husband, Christo, she created large-scale, highly publicized art projects. Nov. 18.

Elisabeth Soderstrom, 82. Swedish soprano who performed on world stages. Nov. 20.

Haydain Neale, 39, Soul Singer and music activist.  Nov. 22

Bess Lomax Hawes, 88. Folksinger, songwriter ("M.T.A")., musicologist. Nov. 27.

Al Alberts, 87. Member of singing Four Aces ("Love is a Many Splendored Thing"). Nov. 27.


Aaron Schroeder, 84. Songwriter (Elvis Presley's "It's Now or Never"). Dec. 1.

Richard Todd, 90. Acclaimed British actor ("The Longest Day"). Dec. 3.

Vyacheslav Tikhonov, 81. Popular Russian actor; starred in Oscar-winning Soviet production of "War and Peace." Dec. 4.

Liam Clancy, 74. Last of Clancy Brothers Irish folksong troupe whose songs struck sentimental chord worldwide. Dec. 4.

Gene Barry, 90. He was TV's well-dressed man of action in "Bat Masterson," "Burke's Law" and "The Name of the Game." Dec. 9.

Thomas Hoving, 78. Former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art who championed the "blockbuster" exhibit. Dec. 10.

Yvonne King Burch, 89. One of the singing King Sisters; led musical clan's successful transition to the King Family. Dec. 13.

C.D.B. Bryan, 73. Author whose "Friendly Fire" told the story of the accidental death of a soldier in Vietnam. Dec. 15.

Roy E. Disney, 79. Nephew of Walt Disney; exerted strong behind-the-scenes influence on The Walt Disney Co. Dec. 16.

Jennifer Jones, 90. Oscar-winning actress ("The Song of Bernadette"). Dec. 17.

Dan O'Bannon, 63. Screenwriter ("Alien," "Total Recall"). Dec. 17.

Brittany Murphy, 32. Actress ("Clueless"), voice of Luanne Platter on "King of the Hill." Dec. 20. Apparently natural causes

David Levine, 83. An artist whose witty caricatures illustrated The New York Review of Books for more than 40 years.

The year in jazz, R&B and hip hop: Bublé, Whizz and Wale

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(December 27, 2009) With the dominance of the single this year, it was slim pickings for albums, but there were plenty of great tunes; here are my favourites, in no particular order.

1 "Whatever It Takes," Michael Bublé Latin guitar, strings and an unexpected pairing with Ron Sexsmith made for a sincere, sexy winner.

2 "Best I Ever Had," Drake His debut album is still MIA, but dude's got two Grammy nominations and this is the song that showcased his behind-the-beat flow and sly lyrics.

3 "Wouldn't Need You" & "Back to Manhattan," Norah Jones Nothing like a breakup to trigger the muse. These are the most seductive songs she's written.

4 "Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys It's tough to pick just one tune from HOV's latest, but this monster quickly became the Big Apple's new anthem.

5 "Life," G Whizz An Oprah-esque bit of believe-in-yourself inspiration from a compelling dancehall reggae singer.

6 "First Slow Dance," Wynton Marsalis A beautiful waltz buried in the poetry of the jazz trumpeter's concept album.

7 "Let's Stop Playin'," Ghostface Killah An R&B album from a member of the Wu-Tang Clan? It works, though; especially with the John Legend hook on this cut.

8 "Lush Life," Kurt Elling A ponderous, stale tune that the top contemporary male jazz singer renders anew.

9 "T.I.A.," K'Naan He hasn't gotten his due for one of the year's top albums. Love the sped-up Bob Marley sample on this one.

10 "World Tour," Wale A Kanye West-style jam from a Kanye West protégé. And the Jazmine Sullivan vocals bring Lauryn Hill to mind every time.

All-Canadian Playlist 2009

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(December 27, 2009)
1. Dog Day, "Rome" Heart-melter of the year, graced by a gorgeous vocal from bassist Nancy Urich.
2. Think About Life, "Sweet Sixteen" A glorious, life-affirming dance party.
3. Handsome Furs, "I'm Confused" Tasty bop-`n'-grind from the sexiest couple in rock.
4. Tegan & Sara, "The Cure" The Robert Smith homage of the year.
5. Joel Plaskett, "Through & Through & Through" Westerberg-ian pop perfection.
6. Lucie Idlout, "Whiskey Breath" This is one rock chick you don't wanna mess with.
7. Die Mannequin, "Start It Up" Care Failure is another rock chick you don't wanna mess with.
8. Great Lake Swimmers, "Stealing Tomorrow" Tony Dekker has never captured the sound of sadness so exquisitely.
9. Cuff the Duke, "Listen To Your Heart" Ladies and gentlemen, the new Blue Rodeo.
10. Japandroids, "Young Hearts Spark Fire" "I don't wanna worry about dying / No, I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls." Anthemic angst about ageing.
11. The Tragically Hip, "Coffee Girl" Up there with the band's best songs, even if almost no one guesses it's the Hip on first listen.
12. Metric, "Satellite Mind" Only Emily Haines can pull off "embittered" and "vulnerable" at the same time this well. Taut and rockin'.
13. K'Naan, "America" Slinky Afro-rap fusion that makes you wonder why all of Troubadour didn't make musical reference to K'Naan's Somali upbringing this explicitly.
14. D-Sisive, "High School Cool" Take that, hip-hop bottom feeders! Ripping.
15. Thunderheist, "The Party After" "Where the after-party at, bitch?"

Bold Year In Classical Music Capped By New Concert Hall

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(December 27, 2009) In a city with as much high-quality classical music and opera as Toronto, it hardly seems fair to narrow the list of 2009's golden moments to 10. The fact is, there was no shortage of fine performances this year – as in every year – on stages large and small in this metropolis.


10. Bernard Labadie's Magic Flute The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with the help of University of Toronto's MacMillan Singers and a fabulous cast of soloists that included soprano Karina Gauvin, closed its annual Mozart festival in January with a concert presentation of Mozart's enchanted fable that made us all forget there were no costumes or scenery.

9. Charles Dutoit's Damnation of Faust The veteran Swiss conductor made Hector Berlioz's "dramatic legend" breathe fire in February, with the help of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Toronto Children's Chorus. Not only was poor Marguerite redeemed at the end, so was the audience.

8. Thomas Dausgaard's Tchaikovsky Visitors to Roy Thomson Hall get to hear Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 every season. But this phenomenal Danish conductor led the Toronto Symphony in an April program that made the piece sound as fresh as if the ink had barely dried on the score.

7. The piano music of Ann Southam and her Toronto muses, Eve Egoyan and Christina Petrowska Quilico Simple note sequences, repeated, repeated, varied and repeated sound like a recipe for ennui. But Canadian composer Ann Southam's Pond Life glowed and swirled with magic at Quilico's fleet, patient hands. Then, Egoyan worked the same enchantment with Simple Lines of Enquiry. Fortunately, both pianists have committed these pieces to disc. The Shakers were right: 'tis a gift to be simple.

6. Tafelmusik's Galileo Project The people at Toronto's period-instrument orchestra are never at a loss for inventive programming. But the orchestra's year-opening multimedia ode to Galileo and his telescope was truly out of this world. From the high-definition pictures of space, to the choreographed orchestra performing from memory, this was live performance with an edge of pure excitement.

5. The Nightingale and Other Fables Robert Lepage's deft touch at recombining old dramatic forms into cutting-edge spectacle made the Canadian Opera Company's compendium of works by Igor Stravinsky the operatic production of the season. Credit, too, some excellent singers and the always-game Canadian Opera Company Orchestra.

4. Johannes Debus As soon as Canadian Opera Company general director Alexander Neef and the orchestra got a taste of this young German conductor in last year's production of Sergei Prokofiev's War & Peace, they knew that this was the man to replace the late Richard Bradshaw as music director. Debus more than repaid this vote of confidence at the company's 60th anniversary gala concert in November with a steel-tipped humility and musical adroitness. The company's musical side is in the hands of a master.

3. Our escape from the economic carnage south of the border The economic crisis of 2008 decimated endowment funds and fundraising campaigns in the United States, forcing even the most powerful arts organizations, such as the Metropolitan Opera, to pare down their seasons and be frugal for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the effects were less severe in Toronto. Among the classical and opera presenters, only the Canadian Opera Company posted a notable deficit for the 2008-09 season – which it was able to cover with money from past surpluses.

2. José Antonio Abreu, Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolivár Youth Orchestra Thanks to the Glenn Gould Prize being awarded to Abreu, the founder of Venezuela's much-lauded, government-funded music education system, Torontonians had a chance to experience the gusher of positive energy that is 28-year-old superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the 250-strong Bolivár Youth Orchestra. A week of concerts, school visits, a symposium and related events made many people in Toronto sit up and notice that classical music can be a powerful tool for positive social change. Imagine!

1. Koerner Hall The opening of Toronto's new concert hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music's Telus Centre was the cake-topping flourish in the city's makeover into an international cultural capital. From Marianne McKenna's elegant, intimate design to the spectacular acoustics, this 1,130-seat auditorium is about as good as it gets – for any kind of music, not just classical. Adding to the building's attraction is well-thought-out programming and administration at the hands of Mervon Mehta. Originally built as a way to inspire students at the Conservatory, Koerner Hall's real mission has blossomed to include the entire GTA.


Instead of thinking "worst," we might want to think in terms of disappointments:

3. Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki, led by music director Peter Oundjian This group performs at such a consistently high standard these days that it's a surprise to see them slip up as much as in this ill-conceived June program pairing the music of Richard Strauss and Bela Bartók. The pieces on the program didn't match up well, and Oundjian didn't seem to know what to do with the music.

2. The Cleveland Orchestra, under music director Franz Welser-Möst This legendary orchestra lacked zest and passion when they came to play Roy Thomson Hall in October.

1. Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock Bring the best of jazz and classical music together, someone must have thought of this August pairing at Massey Hall. Instead, we got the worst of each in a lacklustre show that went through the motions without telling us why anyone need have bothered.

Music Milestones Of The Decade

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

(December 23, 2009) July, 2001: After two years, file-sharing site Napster is shut down by court order.

September, 2001: XM begins satellite radio service in the U.S., followed by Sirius a year later.

October, 2001: Apple launches the iPod.

April, 2003: Apple opens its iTunes store.

February, 2005: Three PayPal employees launch the video-sharing site YouTube, reviving the music video and inventing a new kind of online fame.

December, 2006: Metropolitan Opera begins live HD broadcasts of performances at New York's Lincoln Centre in movie theatres around the world.

October, 2007: Radiohead releases In Rainbows on its website, asking that fans pay what they think the album is worth.

November, 2009: Apple Corps and EMI release a special edition of the entire recorded works of The Beatleshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifon a single USB flash drive. Sales of CDs continue their decade-long decline.

2010 Grant Deadlines

Source:  CIRAA

The following grant list was prepared for
CIRAA by CatBird.ca Freelance Grant Writing for Arts Organizations. CatBird.ca provides grant writing services for Music, Theatre, Dance, Literary, Visual Arts groups, organizations and individuals. Contact Catharine Bird to determine your eligibility and confirm grant requirements at catharine@catbird.ca or 416-886-7665. For a full list of grant programs for all of the various art forms indicated above, visit Catbird.ca and click on "Full Grant List". Happy grant writing!

Note: Given that a number of granting bodies start their fiscal year in April, the deadline dates for many of the programs listed below could potentially change slightly for 2010. Closer to the dates listed below, you should verify the deadline.

MuchFACT - MuchFACT Video / MuchFACT Web / MuchFACT EPK (7-Jan-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Composer Outreach Residencies (15-Jan-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Education Grants (15-Jan-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Event and Project Grants (15-Jan-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Publication Grants (15-Jan-10)
FACTOR - Songwriters Workshop (29-Jan-10)
FACTOR - Collective Initiatives (29-Jan-10)
FACTOR - Emerging Artists Sound Recording Loan (29-Jan-10)
FACTOR - Marketing & Promotion for FACTOR-Supported Recordings (29-Jan-10)
FACTOR - Showcase Support (29-Jan-10)
FACTOR - Tour Support (29-Jan-10)
FACTOR - Video Program (29-Jan-10)
Canada Council - Professional Choir Program: Multi-year and Annual(15-Jan-10)
Canada Council - Commissioning of Canadian Compositions (15-Jan-10)
Canada Council - Professional Choir Program: Project Funding (15-Jan-10)
Country Music Television - Video Assistance Program (30-Jan-10)
Manitoba Film & Music - Recording Grant (30-Jan-10)
Toronto Arts Council - Music Annual Operating (1-Feb-10)
Toronto Arts Council - Music Multi-Year Operating - Choirs (1-Feb-10)
Toronto Arts Council - Music Projects (1-Feb-10)
Canada Council - Professional Orchestra Program (1-Feb-10)
Canada Council - Community Collaboration Projects (1-Feb-10)
Alberta Foundation for the Arts - Music Program (15-Feb-10)
Canada Council - Music Festival Programming (15-Feb-10)
Canada Council - Music Festival Travel Grants (15-Feb-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Canada Music Fund - Creators' Assistance Program (20-Feb-10)
MuchFACT - MuchFACT Video / MuchFACT Web / MuchFACT EPK (25-Feb-10)
Radio Starmaker Fund - Recording/Marketing/Touring (25-Feb-10)
Toronto Arts Council - Music Annual Operating (1-Mar-10)
Toronto Arts Council - Music Multi-Year Operating - Opera (1-Mar-10)
Alberta Foundation for the Arts - Sound Recording Companies (1-Mar-10)
Ontario Arts Council - Opera/Music Theatre (1-Mar-10)
Manitoba Arts Council - Commission and Development Grant for Composers (1-Mar-10)
Manitoba Arts Council - Production Grant - Music (1-Mar-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Festival Grants (1-Mar-10)
Canada Council - Grants to Professional Musicians (Individuals): Classical Music (1-Mar-10)
Canada Council - Grants to Professional Musicians (Individuals): Non-Classical Music (1-Mar-10)
B.C. Arts Council - Professional Performing Arts (Music) (15-Mar-10)
Manitoba Arts Council - Operating Grant - Music (15-Mar-10)
Manitoba Arts Council - Manitoba Arts Partnership - Music (15-Mar-10)
Manitoba Arts Council - Music Two-Year Grant - Concert Series (15-Mar-10)
Ontario Arts Council - Orchestras (15-Mar-10)
Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage - Emerging Music Business Program (15-Mar-10)
Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage - Export Development Program for Music (15-Mar-10)
Canada Council - New Music Program: Multi-Year and Annual Funding (15-Mar-10)
Canada Council - New Music Program: Project Funding (includes Music in Alternative Spaces Grants) (15-Mar-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Composer Outreach Residencies (1-Apr-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Concert Music Promotion Program (1-Apr-10)
Ontario Arts Council - Choirs and Vocal Groups (1-Apr-10)
Ontario Arts Council - Presenter/Producer (1-Apr-10)
Canada Council - The Flying Squad: An Organizational Development Program in Music (1-Apr-10)
SOCAN Foundation - Concert Music Season Grants (15-Apr-10)
FACTOR - Demo Award (17-Apr-10)
FACTOR - Marketing & Promotion for Non-FACTOR-Supported Recordings (17-Apr-10)
MuchFACT - MuchFACT Video / MuchFACT Web / MuchFACT EPK (22-Apr-10)
Manitoba Film & Music - Out of Province Recording Grant (30-Apr-10)
Manitoba Film & Music - Recording Grant (30-Apr-10)
FACTOR - Juried Sound Recording Loan (30-Apr-10)
FACTOR - Marketing & Promotion for FACTOR-Supported Recordings (30-Apr-10)
FACTOR - Tour Support (30-Apr-10)
FACTOR - Business Development (30-Apr-10)
Canada Council - International Touring Assistance in Music (Pilot Project) (1-May-09)
Canada Council - Concert Production and Rehearsal Program for Non-Classical and Chamber Classical Music: Annual Funding (15-May-09)
Canada Council - Concert Production and Rehearsal Program for Non-Classical and Chamber Classical Music (15-May-09)
Canada Council - Grants for Specialized Music Distribution (15-May-09)
Canada Council - New Music Program: Project Funding (includes Music in Alternative Spaces Grants) (15-May-09)
Radio Starmaker Fund - Recording/Marketing/Touring (28-May-10)
FACTOR - Songwriter Workshops (29-May-10)
FACTOR - Emerging Artist Program (29-May-10)
FACTOR - Video Grant (29-May-10)
FACTOR - Showcase Support (29-May-10)
FACTOR - Collective Initiatives (29-May-10)
FACTOR - Direct Board Approval (29-May-10)
Country Music Television - Video Assistance Program (1-Jun-10)
B.C. Arts Council - Professional Performing Arts - Music (1-Jun-10)
Manitoba Arts Council - Student Bursary Program - Music (2-Jun-10)
Canada Council - Music Touring Grants (2-Jun-10)
MuchFACT - MuchFACT Video / MuchFACT Web / MuchFACT EPK (10-Jun-10)
Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage - Export Development Program for Music (15-Jun-10)
Ontario Arts Council - Popular Music (16-Jun-10)
Ontario Media Development Corporation - OMDC Export Fund Music (23-Jun-10)
FACTOR - Tour Support (26-Jun-10)
FACTOR - Label Manager Program (26-Jun-10)
FACTOR - Business Development (26-Jun-10)
SOCAN Foundation - International Showcasing

As stated above, this is a comprehensive, but not exhaustive, list. There may be other programs out there that could fit what you're doing in your career, so we encourage you to dig deeper and find what is the best fit for you. The granting system is there for you...take advantage of it!


Rules Tighten On Air Travel

Source: www.thestar.com -
Jesse McLean

(December 29, 2009) Several U.S. lawmakers are calling for the use of invasive full-body scanners in airports, technology that experts say would have foiled a recent attempted terrorist attack.

The push for scanners is another sign of the changes that will continue to ripple through airports.
Transport Canada has issued a no carry-on policy on all flights from Canada to the U.S., allowing only necessities such as small purses, medication and containers "carrying life-sustaining items."

This week, frustrated travellers faced a host of ad hoc changes as airports and airlines around the world implemented stricter policies, including frisking.

The so-called "naked" scanners have drawn opposition because of cost and privacy concerns. Last year, the $200,000 full-body scanners were tested at Kelowna airport in B.C. for six months. The machines have been installed in 19 U.S. airports, including San Francisco, Miami and Las Vegas.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is the Nigerian national accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day. He wasn't screened by a full-body scanner in Amsterdam before he flew to Detroit because the U.S. prohibits use of the machine, said Judith Sluiter, spokeswoman for the Dutch National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism.

But a U.S. Transportation Security Administration official said the Netherlands doesn't need its permission to scan on flights to the U.S.

The scanners, used for passengers on other flights out of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, could have detected the powerful explosive allegedly sewn into Abdulmutallab's underwear, security experts say.

"We live with a tombstone mentality. We don't do something until there's a tragedy, sometimes several tragedies," said Douglas Laird, director of security for Northwest Airlines from 1989 to 1995.

"The system failed because we do not provide the screeners with the technology to find what they're looking for. That's the bottom line."

The scanner uses radio waves, known as Terahertz rays, which can see through an airline passenger's clothes, revealing everything from concealed packages to piercings and even an outline of genitals.

In June, the U.S. Congress voted to ban the machines as a primary security device. The non-binding bill has yet to pass through the Senate.

"Yes, there is some brief violation of privacy with a full-body scan. But on the other hand, if we can save thousands of lives, to me, we have to make that decision and we have to come down on the side of saving thousands of lives," said New York Rep. Peter King, a Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Jenelle Turpin said travellers through Kelowna responded well to the machine. "It was successful from our point of view," the airport spokeswoman said. Travellers "felt it was less invasive than being patted down."

Abdulmutallab flew from Lagos, Nigeria, to Amsterdam's Schiphol, one of the world's most security-heavy airports, where he boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

He hadn't been flagged on the U.S. watch list despite the fact his father warned American officials in October about his son's increasingly extremist religious views.

An Al Qaeda group based in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement Monday.

In light of the security breach, the White House has ordered a review of its post-9/11 airline security measures to see how the alleged terrorist managed to get on the plane – and why he wasn't flagged.

"It was a compound failure that involved intelligence and physical security," said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor who has studied terrorism.

Beyond the warnings of Abdulmutallab's father, Hoffman said, the passenger should have raised alarms when he bought a ticket with cash and didn't check in any bags. Also, Britain placed him on an official watch list to bar him from re-entering the country.

"The only thing that saved those souls on that aircraft was the fact that the device malfunctioned. Just think of how bad it would have been," Laird said.

At Schiphol, a second piece of technology also could have prevented the explosive from getting on board.

Its security line features two types of screening machines that could detect pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), a commercial explosive investigators say was strapped to Abdulmutallab's body.

It has a detector that analyzes swabs taken from passengers' luggage for traces of explosives like PETN, a powder that was used eight years ago by the would-be shoe bomber, Richard Reid.

While the debate over security and privacy continues, air travellers will continue to be faced with ever-changing policies. One expert suggests the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is deliberately being inconsistent in an attempt to confuse passengers and would-be terrorists.

"It keeps them guessing," said Joseph Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University.

With files from Katie Daubs and Star wire services


Alicia Keys Adds More Tour Dates

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 25, 2009) *
Alicia Keys has tacked on more shows to her forthcoming North American tour behind "The Element of Freedom," her newly-released fourth studio set.

Thirteen concerts have been added to the schedule, which begins Feb. 28 in Montreal and works its way along the East Coast before heading west. The new dates  extend the outing into April.

A European leg is also being planned and will begin in late April. The full North American schedule is shown below.

February 2010
28 - Montreal, Quebec - Bell Centre

March 2010
1 - Kanata, Ontario - Scotiabank Place
3 - Rosemont, IL - Allstate Arena
5, 6 - Detroit, MI - Fox Theater
8 - London, Ontario - John Labatt Centre
10 - Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Centre
11 - Quebec City, Quebec - Colisee Pepsi
13 - Mashantucket, CT - Foxwoods Casino
17 - New York, NY - Madison Square Garden
19 - Newark, NJ - Prudential Center
20 - Atlantic City, NJ - Mark Estess Arena
22 - Boston, MA - Agganis Arena
24 - Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena
25 - Washington, DC - Verizon Center
27 - Miami, FL - American Airlines Arena
28 - Tampa, FL - St. Pete Times Forum
30 - Atlanta, GA - Phillips Arena

April 2010
2 - Grand Prairie, TX - Nokia Theater
3 - Houston, TX - Toyota Centre
6 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center
7 - San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion
9 - Las Vegas, NV - Mandalay Bay

Lady Gaga Contemplates Fame, Fortune And The Other F-Word

Source: www.thestar.com - Ann Powers

(December 24, 2009) BOSTON–Almost immediately after she deposited herself in a corner booth at Boston's L'Espalier restaurant on the December afternoon after the first American date of her Monster Ball tour, Lady Gaga made a confounding statement.

"I don't see myself as ever being like anybody else," said the 23-year-old known to her mom (eating lunch nearby) as Stefani Germanotta. "I don't see myself as an heir."

Yet there she was, in a blond Hollywood bob and black tuxedo-bra combo much like the costumes Madonna wore 20 years ago, discussing a show that conjures the spirits of Michael Jackson, David Bowie and the punk-rock drag queens of downtown New York and promoting music – the newly expanded edition of her 2008 debut album, The Fame, greatly enriched by eight new songs and repackaged as The Fame Monster – that pays blatant homage to ABBA, Queen, Eurodisco and Marilyn Manson.

Gaga doesn't care. She wants you to trace her references. "John Lennon talked about how with every song he wrote, he was thinking of another artist," she said, making a less expected link to a pop deity.

She has yet to attain the status of the Beatles, but in the ever-accelerating pop cycle, Gaga is a top sensation, and many people's vote for the most exciting artist of 2009. The Fame has sold nearly 2 million copies in the U.S. and reportedly double that internationally; her album and the single "Poker Face" both made the top three on the year-end tally of top iTunes downloads.

The Fame Monster continues this sales sweep, but it also considerably advances Gaga's artistic project with some of her strongest songs yet, including "Bad Romance" and the sumptuously emotional ballad "Speechless."

The world is responding. She has made friends with Madonna, been interviewed by Barbara Walters and met the Queen of England. The Monster Ball has sold out multiple nights in major cities.

This is all happening not because Gaga is cute or takes off her clothes but because (to use one of her favourite words) she is a monster – a monster talent with a serious brain.

"I'm getting the sense that you're a little bit of a feminist, like I am, which is good," she tells a reporter. "I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little ... In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, `I'm great.'"

Gaga's casual use of the term "feminist" was interesting; like many female pop stars, she has rejected the term in the past. But she's evolving. She is growing "more compassionate," she says, and focusing more on ideas of community, especially the one formed by her core fan base, a mix of gay men, bohemian kids and young women attracted by Gaga's style and her singable melodies.

As good a game as she talks, Gaga's real language is visual and, of course, musical. Discussing videos like the one for "Bad Romance," which she says is about "how the entertainment industry can, in a metaphorical way, simulate human trafficking – products being sold, the woman perceived as a commodity," or the Ace Bandage-adorned costume she wore at the American Music Awards, which she said was "meant to be feminine, healing, bondage gothic," she sounds more like an art critic than an evolving club kid.

"It's a feeling," she says of the way she builds these little horror musicals. "There is a narrative, but the narrative isn't nearly as important as the images are, sewn together."

As for the songs that serve as the foundation for all of her other forms of expression, Gaga says she never wanted them to be anything but massive hits. "I don't want to make niche-oriented music," said the songwriter, who entered the music business writing hits for other artists, including Britney Spears. "I don't like it! I don't mean that to be in a rude way. But my taste is not there."

At a time when pop genres are colliding and collapsing, Gaga is contributing to their downfall. She notes that "Boys Boys Boys," the first song that she wrote with her main producer RedOne, is a club track that borrows its "gang chorus" from the hard rock of AC/DC. "I told him, I want to make pop music that my heavy metal friends will listen to," she explained.

"Aside from her few piano ballads, which are like early 1970s Elton John, her dance music is pretty much on-the-money current Euro dance," said her recent collaborator Adam Lambert in a separate interview. "But she's a rock star in her mentality. (Her attitude is) like, `I hope this makes you look. I'm going to be subversive and out there because it makes me feel good and liberated to be that way.'"

Mary Mary Earns Recognition

Source: Columbia Records

(December 28, 2009) **New York, NY -- It has been a big year for gospel royalty, Mary Mary, whose critically acclaimed album, The Sound, has just been named Top Gospel Album by Billboard magazine.

The gospel-duo was also named Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artist, Duo/Group and Top Gospel Artist by the industry guide. Earlier this month, Mary Mary, received a 2009 Grammy® Award nomination for the record-breaking single, "God In Me," in the Best Gospel Song category.

The duo took home a 2009 Grammy® Award earlier this year (its second overall) for the hit single, "Get Up," in the Best Gospel Performance category and a 2009 American Music Award last month for Favourite Artist, Contemporary Inspirational.

This has truly been banner year for the duo who in 2009 has already won a Dove Award, an NAACP Image Award and a BET Award for its album, The Sound.

According to Billboard magazine, Mary Mary's "God In Me" has earned the highest rank for a song that has spent 52 weeks on a chart in the Nielson SoundScan era (since 1992).

The former record holder, R. Kelly's "Step In The Name Of Love," was No 11 after a year on the list. Mary Mary is now the only gospel act to have at least two top tens this decade on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, "Shackles (Praise You)" peaked at No 9 in 2000.

The Sound occupied the No 1 slot on the Billboard Gospel Album chart for more than six months since its release in October 2008 and was No 1 for nineteen consecutive weeks. The Sound has also spent four weeks at No 1 on the Billboard Top Christian Albums chart.

Heralded as "Praiseworthy" by People magazine, The Sound peaked at No 1 on a variety of Billboard Christian and Gospel albums charts shortly after its release in October 2008. The Sound entered the Billboard Top 200 at No 7, giving Mary Mary their highest chart position - and second Top 10 - album on that chart (2005's Mary Mary peaked at No 8 on the Top 200). Mary Mary and The Sound achieved one of the highest chart debuts on the Top 200 of any gospel album released in 2008. A bona-fide crossover smash, The Sound made a "Hot Shot" debut on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at No 2.

Arcade Fire: The Funeral That Refused To Die

www.thestar.com - Nick Patch

(December 29, 2009) As far as introductions go, it's tough to top the incandescen initiation received by
Arcade Fire.

It was Sept. 12, 2004, when the influential, stubbornly snobby music webzine Pitchfork published a gushing review of Funeral, the 10-song debut record from the Montreal band.

"It's taken perhaps too long for us to reach this point where an album is at last capable of completely and successfully restoring the tainted phrase `emotional' to its true origin," the review read.

Just like that, word spread like, um, wildfire. The budding blogosphere was quick to hoist the indie-rockers onto its collective shoulders, and soon the band was rising to lofty heights.

But unlike many of the other similarly feted groups of the past 10 years, Arcade Fire wasn't discarded as quickly. In a decade where music was disposable, Funeral did the near impossible: it refused to die.

Over the past few weeks, Funeral has been featured in the top 10 of end-of-decade album lists compiled by Rolling Stone, NME, Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, Pitchfork, The Irish Times, The Independent and The Onion. Strains of the album's influence can be found in everything from past blogger favourites such as the indie rock group Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to the orchestral-influenced arena rock of Coldplay.

"Record of the decade? I'd have to go with that," Hey Rosetta frontman Tim Baker said of Funeral. "They really just changed the face of pop music."

In '04 the band recorded Funeral for less than $10,000 and, thanks in part to producer Howard Bilerman, got it released on influential American indie imprint Merge, the home of Superchunk, Spoon and the Magnetic Fields.

After the glowing notice in Pitchfork, raves poured in for Funeral on blogs and in the mainstream press.

NME said it was "the most cathartic album of the year"; The New York Times called it one of the year's best indie-rock albums and Rolling Stone said the record "aches with elegiac intensity."

What critics couldn't agree on was where the music came from.

The Talking Heads were bandied about as a possible influence due to frontman Win Butler's nervy energy, the band's post-punk backbone and cleverly oblique lyrics. There were comparisons to Modest Mouse, for Butler's unhinged vocals, and Merge labelmates Neutral Milk Hotel for the band's diverse instrumentation and antique aesthetics. The grandiose operatics of U2 and vocal conviction of Bruce Springsteen were also occasional reference points.

But to many ears, Arcade Fire didn't sound much like anything that came before.

Funeral went on to sell 750,000 copies around the world and earn two Grammy nominations. It was all pretty unprecedented for an indie band, particularly one from Canada.

"A Canadian band full of multinationals, making it big on an American indie label, was rather unusual," said Alan Cross, host of ExploreMusic With Alan Cross and The Ongoing History of New Music.

"What made it even more unusual was that they stuck to their indie guns. ... They would not play the major-label game or the overall music industry game."

A rep for the band's label confirmed they have been in the studio working on a new record, which will reportedly be released in 2010.


Anything Goes: Herb Alpert & Lani Hall

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(Herb Alpert Presents)
(out of 4)

(December 29, 2009) With a lengthy list of awards and accolades to his name, there wouldn't seem to be much left for noted trumpeter /bandleader /producer/record company exec Herb Alpert to cover, but here he is on his first full recording with vocalist wife Lani Hall (formerly a lead vocalist for Sergio Mendes) on his first full, straight-ahead jazz disc. Accompanied by a trio, the pair (married 30 years) make nice work of classics such as "It's Only A Paper Moon" and Cole Porter's title track, along with two originals written by keyboardist Bill Cantos, recorded live at eight different U.S. jazz clubs. In both English and Portuguese, Hall's husky, elegant pipes recall Cleo Laine and imbue the familiar tunes with mystery. Alpert, who gives a reasonable vocal performance on "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" remains bright and distinct on horn, though he shows a trombone-like murmur by way of cloth mute on "The Trolley Song." Fittingly, his funky, blistering instrumental of "Besame Mucho" is up for a Grammy. This duo's tour is on my 2010 wishlist.  Top Tracks: Hall's phrasing conjures strength and melancholy on "That Old Black Magic."

Norm Amadio and Friends: Norm Amadio

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(Panda Digital)
(out of 4)

(December 29, 2009) Esteemed pianist
Norm Amadio called in a few worthy pals (vocalists Marc Jordan and Jackie Richardson, saxophonist Phil Dwyer, Guido Basso on flugelhorn) for his latest project. The result – anchored by bassist Rosemary Galloway and drummer Terry Clarke – is one of the year's top albums. Timmins native Amadio, into his sixth decade of performance, has an extensive résumé that includes collaborations with Miles Davis, Judy Garland and Mel Torme. One of Canada's underrated players, he's innovative and resonant on sprightly tunes penned by producer Andrew A. Melzer that have an air of familiarity; and veteran arranger Peter Cardinali delivers a big band's punch. The disc also includes three clanging but intriguing 1966 recordings of Amadio's celebrated trio with bassist Bob Price and drummer Stan Perry.  Top Track: Amadio has a dreamy solo on "My Love Can't Wait."


Aaron Poole: A Role Worth An Eyetooth

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bruce DeMara

(December 29, 2009) To land his "breakthrough role," all Aaron Poole had to do was sacrifice a front tooth and lose 30 pounds.

But the 2007 role as a crack addict named Johnny in
This Beautiful City paid off big time. Poole, 32, won an ACTRA Best Actor award, a Gemini nomination and caught the attention of Canadian artiste and filmmaker Atom Egoyan.

Two years later, Poole is a regular in two Canadian-made television series, has roles in two films expected to premiere in 2010 and will shoot another film next year written by former Canadian Idol contestant Sebastian Pigott called The Two Deaths of Henry Baker.

Three hours a day of cardio and no fat as well as the loss of his maxillary lateral incisor – it was actually a crown – was worth the sacrifice.

The graduate of the Etobicoke School of the Arts and George Brown College's theatre program could hardly be busier.

"In some people's eyes, it (the role of Johnny) helped legitimize me and it's helped in other job opportunities," Poole said.

It also led to an ongoing friendship with Egoyan, a small role in his film Adoration, and two other film shoots: an experimental project in Armenia and a film called Circumstance, shot in Beirut last summer by Maryam Keshavarz, a friend of Egoyan's, that may end up premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.

Egoyan said he was "riveted" by Poole's work in This Beautiful City, adding he is "possessed of a great sensitivity and is truly magnetic onscreen."

But it's also helped immensely that Poole hasn't waited for the work to come to him. He was also co-producer and story editor for This Beautiful City, directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly, who also directed Poole in Small Town Murder Scenes, shot earlier this year in Listowel, Ont., and starring Jill Hennessy (Law & Order, Crossing Jordan) and Peter Stormare (Fargo).

Fresh out of George Brown, Poole did the usual budding actor thing: auditioning for small roles in theatre, TV and commercials.

"(But) I realized I wanted to take the bull by the horns and start helping to create my own work because I wasn't satisfied with what was on offer," Poole said.

Another sideline for Poole is as a freelance script reader for Telefilm Canada, a vital funder of new Canadian works, a job he did throughout the fall.

"You know how it is, you have to hustle. You have to keep a lot of balls in the air, otherwise you're unemployed. It's the kind of problem that you want," Poole said.

Throughout the year, Poole has had recurring roles in two TV series being shot in Hamilton, Crash & Burn and Living in Your Car, which is set to premiere in 2010 on TMN.

The chance to work in Beirut required having his character written out of the final two episodes of Crash & Burn, a decision he admitted ruefully was a tough one.

"I'm not dead (in the series). I may be dead to them. We'll see, we'll see," Poole said, adding he hopes to rejoin in Season 2.

Poole is upbeat about the future of Canadian film, particularly in Toronto, where he said the independent scene is growing every year and where director/actor Sarah Polley is expected to shoot her next major film project this coming summer.

"More and more, Toronto is being shot as Toronto, which is something I'm really thrilled about," Poole said.

Telefilm has also recently launched new initiatives, including a program for native filmmakers, a collaboration with the CBC and a program that will match top Hollywood talent with local Canadian comedy writers.

In his role as script reader for Telefilm, Poole has had a chance to see at least some of the recent projects greenlighted by the federal agency and said they combine artistic quality with the prospect for commercial success.

"I'd say that in terms of our maturation as an industry, we're in our teens so we're kind of awkward, we're insecure, we're deferential to our cooler cousin to the south. We're learning from the cooler cousin, but we're also finding our own legs, our own sense of identity," he said.

Aaron Tveit : No Boundaries For Busy Actor

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(December 24, 2009) NEW YORK–For the answer to the question "How in-demand can one young actor be?" you need look no further than Aaron Tveit.

The magnetic young man with the killer good looks is wrapping up a successful run as the son, Gabe, in the Tony Award-winning musical, Next to Normal.

After he leaves the show on Jan. 3, putting to rest his portrayal of the tightly wired teenager, he'll be resuming shooting on the popular series
Gossip Girl, where he plays the smarmy but irresistible prepster, Trip van der Bilt.

Then he'll be heading off to the Sundance Film Festival, where he's one of the cast of Howl, the Allen Ginsberg biopic that everyone is anticipating.

Tveit appears with James Franco, Mary Louise Parker, Jon Hamm and Jeff Daniels, and he'll be portraying Ginsberg's longtime lover, Peter Orlovsky.

After that, it's back to the Broadway-bound musical, Catch Me If You Can, starring in the role of the kid-faced con-man that Leonardo DiCaprio made so memorable in the movie.

It tried out to great acclaim in Seattle last summer and the buzz is that it will be making its next stop in Toronto, on the way to New York.

Any one of those projects would be enough to turn a young actor's head, but how does Tveit manage to juggle them all with such aplomb?

"I approach all the work from the same place, that's the way I do it!" is his simple response. "I treat everything with the same kind of respect for the material and I don't go into any project judging it. I just try to see what's there and what I can bring to it myself."

It's after a Saturday matinee of Next to Normal and Tveit has three more performances to deliver in the next 24 hours.

If you've seen him hurl himself around the shining metal set, plunge unafraid into the challenging rock riffs of the score and dive deep into the saga of his mother being torn apart by bipolar disorder, you'll know that this is an actor who doesn't do anything half way.

"Make sure you love what you're doing and that you work your ass off," is his motto and he sticks to it.

Tveit seems energized, rather than exhausted, by the performance he's just given and he's anxious to talk about the experience of taking difficult material and making it work as a Broadway musical.

"I think everybody in America finally realized that things weren't so great, so people were ready to deal with a story that said the average American family isn't as average as they thought."

Tveit jokes that, "I get to deal with my mommy issues in (Next to Normal) and my daddy stuff in Catch Me If You Can, but in real life I have amazing parents so I'm not working out anything onstage."

In fact, Tveit led a kind of charmed life in picture-perfect Middletown, "just an hour from New York," as he recalls with a smile.

The multi-tasking Tveit started playing the violin at age four, then added the French horn, began singing in Grade 5, joined school plays and was also a victorious high- school jock in basketball, soccer and golf.

He was headed to Cornell University on a scholarship to study applied economics when he realized he couldn't be happy doing that and pursued a career in theatre, studying at Ithaca College.

He was spotted in theatre class by one of director Michael Greif's assistants, who plucked him out of school to play Roger in the touring company of Rent. He then switched to Broadway stints in Hairspray and Wicked before breaking out in the first off-Broadway production of Next to Normal in 2008.

And nothing has ever stopped him for one minute. Sitting next to him, you can feel the drive and you know why.

"Put me in a room with a bunch of people who are all going for the same thing and then just watch out," says Tveit.

"I have a dream that I can live the rest of my life with no boundaries and the last year has proven to me it can be done.

"I know this sounds so cheesy, but wherever the good work is, that's where I'm going to be."

Brittany Murphy Laid To Rest At Christmas Eve Funeral

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Sandy Cohen, The Associated Press

(December 24, 2009) Los Angeles —Brittany Murphy's family says words can't express the devastation they felt as they laid the 32-year-old actress to rest at a private Christmas Eve funeral.

The service began Thursday afternoon and stretched into the evening as a Christian minister and a rabbi presided and guests sang “Amazing Grace” at the grave site at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.

“A bright light that lit the world is forever dimmed, but will live on in the hearts of those that Brittany touched,” her family said in a statement. “Brittany was an incredibly loving and passionate person and an artist to her core.”

The intimate gathering was “very nice, very respectful,” said long-time family friend Alex Ben Block. He said Murphy loved Christmas and that it was ironic that she was buried on Christmas Eve.

Her husband, Simon Monjack, talked about their relationship and called her his best friend and soul mate. The two married in 2007.

Her closest friends and her cousin also recalled their favourite memories of her.

A small group of reporters and a few news vans waited outside the main gates of the cemetery, where luminaries such as Liberace, Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Gene Autry and Freddie Prinze are buried.

Murphy died Sunday after collapsing at her Hollywood Hills home.

Authorities continue to investigate the death but do not suspect foul play. An autopsy performed Monday was inconclusive, and the coroner's office is awaiting results of toxicology and tissue tests before determining an official cause of death.

Murphy moved with her mother, Sharon, to Los Angeles when she was a teenager to pursue an acting career. She started out in sitcoms and commercials in the early 1990s before winning starring roles in several films.

Her breakthrough role came in 1995, as a dowdy high school student (and best friend of star Alicia Silverstone) in “Clueless.”

Murphy worked steadily after that. She shared the screen with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie in 1999's “Girl, Interrupted.” She played Eminem's love interest in “8 Mile” and Ashton Kutcher's wife in “Just Married.” She starred as a suspicious girlfriend in 2004's “Little Black Book” and a barmaid with an abusive ex-boyfriend in 2005's “Sin City.” She also voiced Gloria the penguin in the 2006 animated film “Happy Feet.”

Murphy was juggling multiple movie projects in the months before her unexpected death, wrapping two indie thrillers over the summer and preparing to shoot a romantic comedy next month.

Michael Feifer, who directed Murphy in her final role, described the actress as professional, kind and healthy on the set of “Abandoned.” Monjack accompanied her on set and served as her hair and makeup artist.

“The two of them really took care of each other,” Feifer recalled. “He was her teddy bear, and she was just his little princess.”

The future of that film and Murphy's other thriller, “Something Wicked,” is uncertain. Neither has secured theatrical distribution.

The Best Movies Of 2009: Peter Howell's Picks

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(December 26, 2009) From Avatar to Zombieland, the movies had something for every taste in 2009.

For once, it wasn't a battle between the popcorn-munchers and the latte-sippers. The multiplex and the art house both had grand offerings and you didn't need to feel guilty or superior about visiting either venue.

Good stories came from unlikely sources, as assumptions failed and conventional wisdom suddenly didn't seem so wise.

Kathryn Bigelow's bomb-squad drama The Hurt Locker tops my list, as it does many other critical tallies – and maybe shiny Oscar's, too. And weren't we all supposed to be sick of Iraq-themed movies?

But like so many of my '09 faves, The Hurt Locker wasn't about external conflict per se. The battle was mostly interior, as characters wrestled with personal demons.

Was 2009 a great year for cinema? Perhaps not. The writers' strike of 2008 took its toll on many a half-baked Hollywood screenplay. Yet the movies that did stand out were unique and bracing in their ability to confound expectations. Here are the 10 I'm most keen to watch again, followed by 10 runners-up:

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow): The movie to beat the Iraq War film curse – if you can handle the raging adrenaline. It brings the conflict down to the bomb-laden pavement, where lives are saved through skill and nerve but lost through bad luck and malevolence.

Up in the Air (Jason Reitman): George Clooney's finest role, playing a corporate downsizer with a heart that still beats. It speaks to the essential hollowness at the core of North American culture, where a person's worth is measured in cold financial terms and where corporate axe men can prosper by sliding in and out of lives just long enough to ruin them.

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke): This year's Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes fest plays like a particularly disturbing episode of The Twilight Zone, depicting a town where conscience slowly dies. Set in a rural village in Germany on the cusp of World War I, it tracks the rise of fascism in the disintegration of social values. (Opening Jan. 15)

The Cove (Louie Psihoyos): The year's finest documentary emphatically sounds the alarm about dolphin slaughter, showing how duplicitous the Japanese government has been about living up to its commitments as a member of the International Whaling Commission. Guerrilla filmmaking at its best.

An Education (Lone Scherfig): Based upon British journalist Lynn Barber's recent memoir, which screenwriter Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) and director Lone Scherfig (Italian for Beginners) have astutely adapted, it's a fresh telling of the old tale about an impressionable girl falling for a predatory older man. Newcomer Carey Mulligan delivers an award-worthy performance.

The Hangover (Todd Phillips): The year's smartest dumb flick. A no-star cast takes a shopworn theme about boys being bad in Las Vegas and turns it into something fresh, funny and profitable – $277 million (U.S.) for the domestic market, enough to make it history's most successful "R" rated comedy. Take that, Hollywood know-it-alls!

Coraline (Henry Selick): A dark spin on the Alice in Wonderland legend, as a young girl enters a cosmic portal to find a topsy-turvy world of evil spiders and rats rather than benevolent rabbits and caterpillars. Among the high praise that can be bestowed upon it is that its 3D version wasn't really needed.

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino): Grammatically challenged, factually unhinged and too long for its own good, this World War II thriller nevertheless soars. Pure wish-fulfilment fantasy, in which Hitler and his stooges stand to get what's coming to them, in a way that makes cinema itself seem like the grand liberator.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson): Marvellous whimsy, voiced by an A-list cast, that uses Roald Dahl's beloved children's tale about a chicken-thieving fox to find underground courage. In an age when everything seems digital, computer-driven and as fake as instant coffee, this stop-motion gem embraces the old ways of vinyl records and hand-drawn cartoons.

A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen): Set in a 1967 of cookie-cutter bungalows and sublimated desires, it's suburban Midwestern hell as viewed through the domestic travails of a hapless physics professor. Resolutely paced and impeccably staged and lensed, it's comedy for people who can laugh at poetic car wrecks, obtuse rabbis, mysterious dental messages and an endlessly drained cyst. These people would be Coen Bros. fans, natch.

Runners-up (in alphabetical order):

Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Avatar, Capitalism: A Love Story, District 9, Pontypool, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire, A Single Man, Star Trek, Summer Hours and Zombieland.

On The Set Of Nine, Facing The Music Was A Whole Lotta Fun

Source: www.thestar.com

(December 26, 2009) Nobody wanted to leave the set. On most movies, the actors scatter to their trailers between takes. But on the London soundstage of the film musical Nine – the shiny Christmas present from director Rob Marshall, whose Chicago won the 2002 best-picture Oscar – the vibe was much more Broadway than Hollywood.

“I love the fact that on a musical you must rehearse,” Marshall said in a phone interview this week. As a veteran theatre director and choreographer, he arranged a luxurious six weeks of rehearsal, plus two weeks of prerecords for the songs. “There were many rooms going at the same time, singing in one, dancing in another, acting, dialect work. But everybody was together, working hard. The by-product is, you become a company.”

So Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays Guido Contini (a Fellini-like film director, circa 1964, who is suffering from too many women and too little inspiration), showed up to watch every one of his costars' musical numbers – including the one where Penelope Cruz (who plays Guido's mistress) belts a torch song in ruffled lingerie while wrapping herself in ropes. (She did so many takes, Day-Lewis called her “a warrior.”).

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Cruz quizzed Sophia Loren (Guido's mama) about working with Marcello Mastroianni. Loren's former nanny helped Nicole Kidman (Guido's muse) with her six-week-old daughter, Sunday Rose. Kidman, Kate Hudson (who plays a journalist), Judi Dench (Guido's confidante) and the singer Fergie (a prostitute from Guido's youth) eschewed their fancy dressing rooms and hung out in a makeshift greenroom – a cluster of couches in a corner of the soundstage, set off by drapery – swapping stories and comparing blisters. “A lot of it was about gaining confidence, for all of us,” Kidman said. “But it led to incredible camaraderie.”

“I always wanted to be in an American musical, since I was a kid,” Marion Cotillard (Guido's long-suffering wife) told me. “I've always loved the way music gives a different rhythm to reality. To mix the emotion you have listening to a song with the emotion you have watching a story on a big screen, it's fantastic. And then living it was even better than the dream. Every day, I would have singing lessons with Penelope and Nicole. Then we'd have lunch with Sophia, Fergie, Kate and Dame Judi. And on top of it, the genius Daniel Day-Lewis. When I tell the story of the adventure that it was, I have to pinch myself. I think, ‘Stop lying, you didn't do all that, did you?'”

The collected weight of the Oscars in the cast could dent the floor: Day-Lewis and Loren have two apiece, while Cotillard, Kidman and Dench each have one. How did Marshall attract such heavy hitters – and how did he know they could sing and dance?

“We didn't,” he said, laughing. “I have to say, the turnout was unbelievable. At least 30 of the greatest actors in Hollywood came in for it. My producing partner John DeLuca and I attribute a lot of it to Renée Zellweger,” who wasn't known as a singer when she starred in Chicago . “She was able to show that with a small amount of training, if you have the ‘want,' you can meet the challenge.”

It helps that Nine hits the collective nerve that is also being struck by the TV series Mad Men and the film A Single Man . All are set in a superstylized early 1960s, and revolve around well-dressed men rebelling against social constraints that are on the verge of crumbling: John Hamm as a buttoned-up ad exec with a secret life in Mad Men ; Colin Firth as a gay professor mourning the lover whose funeral he's not welcome to attend in A Single Man ; and now Day-Lewis as a flailing artist and husband.

 “The early sixties are such a chic time to explore,” Marshall said. “It was still sophisticated, and it's just before the world changed. The end of an era is always an interesting time. And [these projects are] timely now, as we're seeing so many powerful male figures fall from grace. Men with enormous appetites trying to keep the plates spinning, and also continue the lies in their lives. No one can live like that for long, before it all comes crashing down. We see it in headlines every day.”

As well, Marshall attributes part of his film's appeal to the current recession. “Musicals are a wonderful place to escape to in hard times,” he said.

Fergie didn't need singing lessons, of course. Nor did Dench, who starred in Cabaret in London's West End. Kidman had sung in Moulin Rouge! , “but I still get very shy doing it,” she said. “I'll act any time, any place, I go into almost a trance when I act. But when I sing, I feel very exposed. My voice never does what I want it to do. I hear it here” – she pointed to her head – “and I want that sound, but it doesn't come out that way. It's really annoying.”

And Cotillard, who has always used music as part of her prep – she creates a playlist for each of her characters, which she listens to throughout a film – admitted that four weeks in, “I was scared they thought, ‘We should have hired someone else.'”

But no one anticipated how painful – literally – Fergie's number, Be Italian , would be. We meet her character in a black-and-white flashback set on a beach. So for her song, in which singers dressed as whores straddle chairs and bang tambourines, DeLuca and Marshall thought it would be interesting to cover the stage with sand. “When you're creating a musical number, you're always looking for a new element,” Marshall said. “I think something real and tangible is always the most effective. I'll never forget when John went down onto the stage, scooped up the sand with a tambourine, threw it around it his head and said, ‘Look what we can do!'” The resulting scene “looks effortless, but we were acutely aware of how those women were killing themselves. Those tambourines leave big bruises, and the sand in their eyes and hair – believe me, it hurt.”

This being a musical, the show went on; the bruises became badges of pride, and a slew of Golden Globe nominations and other awards have followed. “The musical is an American genre, it's something we created and something I grew up with,” Marshall said. “When I was doing Chicago , I remember everybody telling me it was a dead genre. I'm sure that's what Ridley Scott was hearing when he did Gladiator . But I never believe a genre's dead. It's all about the execution and the idea behind it. Just make sure you do everything you can to get it right.”

Marion Cotillard: A Tiger's Fantasy Nine Lives

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(December 30, 2009) NEW YORK–A piece of advice: if you value your life, don't confuse the real
Marion Cotillard with the characters she plays onscreen.

When I did, the sweetly smiling doe who had been gazing at me in an elegantly faded hotel room turned into the raging tiger she becomes in the climactic musical sequence of
Nine, her latest film.

"When people ask me how I am like Edith Piaf, how I am like Luisa Contini, then I become very mad," she declared, eyes blazing. "I am an actress and they are characters I am playing. Why is that so hard for some people to understand?"

After five minutes in her presence, you not only understand her point perfectly, but you wonder how anyone could make the mistake.

Cotillard took the world by storm as Piaf in La Vie en rose, winning an Oscar for her performance as the decrepit, drug-addled "little sparrow" who scorched the concert stage with her self-destructive songs.

And now, she is exquisite in Nine as the liquid-eyed Luisa, suffering through the infidelities and humiliations that her husband, internationally acclaimed film director Guido Contini, keeps publicly inflicting on her, until she can take no more and strikes back in a fantasy striptease number of unparalleled masochism.

But she's neither of these women. Nor is she the mischievous Fanny from A Good Year, the battered Billie Frechette from Public Enemies or ... well, you get the picture.

"What I love about my job and why I'm doing this is the desire to understand someone else. And you don't have to be someone to understand them."

She tilts her head to one side and smiles. An artist who wanted to paint the true Cotillard would find himself using colours like dusty rose or aubergine. There's an almost palpable warmth emanating from her, but it's not coupled with the usual empty cheerfulness found in many Hollywood stars.

"Look, if you work all the time, if just do movie after movie, you're playing another person more than you're being yourself and the real you can get lost that way.

"If you don't live your real life, then you become empty and the only place you can find authentic inspiration is in reality. That's where the truth is."

To play Luisa, she went for her inspiration to a pair of real directors' wives.

Because Nine is based on Fellini's autobiographical 8 1/2, it's always been understood that the long-suffering wife who gave up her acting career for a while was inspired by Fellini's spouse, Giulietta Masina.

"Yes, part of my inspiration was her," says Cotillard. "If you look at the films she made for Fellini in their early days together, you can see a great artist who was also a very fragile woman.

"But I found even more material in the documentary film called Hearts of Darkness, about (Francis Ford) Coppola shooting Apocalypse Now. His wife Eleanor had to endure the most blatant infidelities on the set, much like Luisa does with Guido, but yet she remained so dedicated to him until he finally pushed her too far. Just like Guido does with Luisa."

Cotillard has slipped into a world where the real Giulietta and Eleanor have taken equal footing with the fictional Luisa and you begin to see how her art is formed.

"When you understand someone, you can love them no matter how terrible they seem to be. She knows that Guido, as an artist, as a director, lives in a world where his desires are all fulfilled. I want this set, I want this costume..." She stops, with a catch in her throat. "I want this actress. So you take them all.

"Luisa can deal with the physical infidelity, even though it is painful to her. What she finds unforgivable is the lie."

She slips into one of her songs from the film, "My Husband Makes Movies," whispering a few lines softly in her endearingly husky tremolo.

"Singing with Guido all night on the phone ... long ago, someone else ago."

Then she looks up suddenly and Luisa has vanished.

"Rob (Marshall) told me he wanted to make people feel Guido ought to be with Luisa again. That was my job. Where do I find it all? In my character. Never in myself."

Her voice rises again. "I will never, never use something from my own life. I feel it is too dangerous.

"If you wake up an old pain, for example, because you have to cry in a scene, then how do you put that pain back to sleep again?"

But where did Cotillard find the depths of degradation she needed to allow a room full of men to paw her as she stripped in front of her husband in the fantasy song "Take It All"?

"I found it in Luisa. She carried me through it. It's such a gift for an actress to find a character who will enable her to free herself that completely.

"You can't find it in every part you play, but when you do, you say `Yes, I am free! Thank you, my friend!'"

Sherlock Holmes: Cool Sleuths Bog Down As Plot Thickens

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

Sherlock Holmes
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong and Eddie Marsan. Directed by Guy Ritchie. 128 minutes. Opens Dec. 25. At major theatres. PG

(December 24, 2009) Any critical carping you may hear about how Guy Ritchie has upended Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective by top-lining Robert Downey Jr. for
Sherlock Holmes is complete poppycock.

When you really think about it, it's elementary that Downey would make a great Holmes.

In life and in art, he's taken the path of the cerebral risk-taker. Given a chance to sample a new substance or portray an unusual character – he's done everyone from Chaplin to Iron Man – he jumps in with both feet.

Those familiar with the Holmes canon know the 19th-century sage was quite a physical man (although maybe not the bare-chested brawler Downey portrays), who also liked to partake of festive pharmaceuticals.

And need it be said how quick-witted both Downey and Holmes are? Downey is arguably more true to Doyle's vision than Basil Rathbone's enduring pipe smoker of earlier films, even if Downey eschews the trademark deerstalker cap.

Also cheering is the choice of Jude Law as Dr. Watson, Holmes' sidekick, who retains the discipline and the loyalty of his literary counterpart.

The homoerotic note that Ritchie adds to the partnership is more his doing than Doyle's, but it's certainly not out of place. Ritchie's most successful films have always been raining men. His predilection for frame-by-frame build-up to a punch or punch line also well serves Holmes' deductive analysis.

So if the main casting is so great, and the director is appropriate, why the merely "good" rating of 2 1/2 stars for Sherlock Holmes?

Regrettably, it's because Ritchie and his screenwriting committee (bad sign, that) have completely lost the plot beyond their golden pairing of Downey and Law. It's as if they simply downed tools, having satisfied themselves with excellent leads.

A great hero needs a great villain, and there isn't one to be found in Mark Strong's Lord Blackwood, a satanic troublemaker in greasy London town who is more bureaucrat than Beelzebub. He's among the most tedious and least-threatening baddie to darken a screen in many a moon. (A much better choice would have been beady-eyed Eddie Marsan, who gets the lesser role of fumbling and fuming Inspector Lestrade, a police official and chief derider of Holmes' uncanny deductions.)

Also firing on zero cylinders is Canada's own Rachel McAdams, as Holmes' putative love interest Irene Adler. It's possible that some earlier version of the script actually gave her something to do, but little of this made the final cut. She is a definite casualty of Ritchie's boyish mindset, as is Kelly Reilly's Mary Morstan, who gets slightly more screen time and attitude as Watson's frustrated fiancée.

Then there's the story, which is entirely titled towards an intended sequel and extended franchise, which under the circumstances seems awfully presumptuous.

Sherlock Holmes is meant to be something of a thriller, but Holmes' careful scrutiny – "The small details are by far the most interesting" – doesn't exactly lend itself to the slam-bam mandate of modern action movies.

The picture is top-heavy with cheap CGI, with things forever vanishing, being shot into the air or simply exploding along with Hans Zimmer's ponderous score, none of it terribly dazzling.

It's laughable the way the plot (and even a newspaper headline) keeps referring to how Holmes and Watson must stop the "panic in the streets" supposedly caused by Blackwood and his minions, when it's plainly obvious that the good burghers of London town are happily going about their business.

And if the small details are as important as Holmes insists, you have to wonder why neither Ritchie nor the continuity person noticed how Downey receives a cut on his lip that magically moves to his cheek and then to his forehead.

Still, it's good enough to just sit back and enjoy Downey and Law plays Holmes and Watson as Victorian versions of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Merry Christmas, and may all your problems be so easily deduced.

Terry Gilliam: Visionary or Bad News Bear?

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(December 26, 2009) "Can you put a price on your dreams?" asks the late Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. It's a riddle to which the film's creator, Terry Gilliam, has never been able to find an answer.

Gilliam is widely regarded as a superbly visionary moviemaker, a man with a unique – if somewhat bizarre – way of viewing the world through his camera. Over a 35-year directing career, great, mad films such as Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas have made his creative stock soar.

But he's also viewed by many studio heads as a Bad News Bear whose name means production delays, cast replacements, budget overruns and disappointing grosses. Indeed, when the first Harry Potter film was in the planning stages, author J.K. Rowling let it be known that Gilliam was her No. 1 choice as director, but the studio heads gave him an unequivocal "thumbs down."

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, which opened in Toronto on Christmas Day, has known both the creative peaks and practical valleys that have marked Gilliam's output. A fantastical saga about a 1,000-year-old magician (Christopher Plummer) who has sold his soul to the devil (Tom Waits), Gilliam admits that it was "a $100 million movie I had to make on a $25 million budget," and he was only able to raise even that amount when superhot star Heath Ledger agreed to co-star with Plummer.

But a third of the way through filming, Ledger tragically died and it looked as if, for the second time, the loss of his leading actor would destroy a movie. (The first time was with The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which came to a halt during its first week in 2000 when Jean Rochefort, playing the title role, suffered a serious injury and the production was cancelled.)

Faced with a litany of the woes that have befallen many of his projects, Gilliam shrugs during our interview in a Toronto hotel room and puts the best possible face on it all.

"My feeling is that all films are difficult to make. Others have equally bad stories behind them, but you just don't get to hear them. Mine somehow, inexplicably, always make it to the front of the line."

The first surprise about Gilliam is that he's a cheerful individual. Not for him the lingering frown of the underappreciated artist, or the disdainful scowl of the misunderstood auteur.

He's had a tumultuous ride since he first stepped behind a camera as the co-director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but "in all that time, I only regret one thing."

He isn't ready, however, to reveal what that is – not just yet.

Part of the reason he seems so content is that, in his heart of hearts, "I always wanted to be a film director, from the time I was a child and first saw a movie. I just wanted to make these magical things that moved and made noise."

Born in 1940, Gilliam spent the first 12 years of his life in the small, remote community of Medicine Lake, Minn. "My father was a travelling salesman when I was young," Gilliam recalls, "and my brother and sister were younger than me. So I lived in a world of images and dreams."

They moved to California in 1952, and Gilliam's father then stayed at home and became a carpenter. "That's the key to understanding my father and me," he says. "He was a craftsman and I wanted to be one as well."

But are all the mad, tyrannical older men who fill Gilliam's movies – King Agamemnon in Time Bandits, Baron Munchhausen, Dr. Parnassus – reflections of his father?

"Well, I'm 69 now," says Gilliam. "They could just as easily be me."

The threads in Gilliam's movies aren't always easy to follow, and it's the same in his life. Note that "Gilliam" is his mother's maiden name, and when asked last year in an interview what he thought of the Oedipus myth, he maintained that "The King must always die and his son must kill him."

Gilliam careered through college, going from physics to fine arts before finally settling on political science.

Then he emerged as an illustrator and animator for Help! magazine, although he now admits that "the whole animation thing was a detour to get me where I really wanted to be, which was film directing."

After Help! folded, he fled to England and wound up working for the BBC, where he encountered some of the mad lads who were about to found Monty Python. They fancied Gilliam's grotesque illustrations and invited him to join the company.

Those early Python shows, with their animations of crushing feet, tangling vines and maniacal maidens tying together a series of disparate sketches, owed much of their visual flair to Gilliam, and when the troupe set out to make their first original feature-length movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Gilliam rose up to become co-director.

"I knew what I wanted things to look like," Gilliam concedes, "but I hadn't made the bigger leap of dealing with people. I always had trouble working with actors," a problem he feels he's solved over the years.

There are still some lingering mysteries about his current project. Although many parts of Parnassus seem designed to pay tribute to Ledger's death, including one scene in which images of Rudolph Valentino, James Dean and Princess Diana drift by as symbols of the beautiful who died too young, Gilliam insists they are not deliberate allusions.

"I swear to you that whole scene was in the screenplay before Heath died," Gilliam says firmly. "All the lines that now seem to resonate around his death were there from the beginning.

"What does that mean? It means that one has to be very careful about what one writes."

Gilliam was moved by the contributions of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell as three fantasy visions of Ledger's character that allowed the movie to be completed, but in the end, he sounds tired when he declares, "It's a film moved by human sacrifice."

One niggling detail remains yet unexplained: what is the single thing he regrets doing in his life?

"The one thing I regret is cutting five minutes out of Munchausen. The studio told me if I complied, they'd give it wider distribution. I kept my side of the bargain, but then they just dumped the film. That's when I stopped compromising.

"You can't do deals with those bastards."


10 Most Important Works Of The Decade: No. 4, American Idol

Source: www.thestar.com -
Debra Yeo

(December 28, 2009) We asked our critics and our readers to vote for the 10 most important works of the decade. We count down to No. 1 as we approach Dec. 31.

I asked Kris Allen, the 2009
American Idol, why people like the show so much.

"I think the beauty about American Idol is that it takes people that they can relate to, that maybe acts like a friend of theirs, or has the same job or something like that, and makes them into rock stars or country stars or pop stars," said the 24-year-old from Conway, Ark.

The man's bang on. The rags-to-riches story, after all, is a persistent cultural cliché. But instead of commoners rising to royalty, we have a farm girl from Oklahoma becoming a country mega-star (Carrie Underwood), or the girl from a small Texas town who used to sing in bars and now sells millions of pop records (Kelly Clarkson), or the Arkansas church music director who got to play on the same New York stage The Beatles once rocked (Allen).

You don't even have to win the reality singing competition to become famous: think Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, rocker Chris Daughtry, Broadway lead Constantine Maroulis or glam pop-rock sensation Adam Lambert.

Idol contestants come in all shapes, sizes, races, sexual orientations, ages (from 16 to 30), abilities (contestant Scott MacIntyre was blind); they're from small towns and big cities; they're a little bit country or a little bit rock 'n' roll, and everything in between.

Of course, the same could be said of plenty of U.S. reality shows that don't pull anywhere near Idol's viewership.

Its ratings are down, as are most network TV shows', but Idol still beats the competition every Tuesday and Wednesday that it airs. Just under 29 million watched Allen win over Lambert on the May finale.

But Idol's not just about numbers. It has become part of the zeitgeist since it debuted in June 2002 as a spinoff of the British show Pop Idol.

Idol's genius, in an era in which we simultaneously adulate and denigrate our celebrities, lies in combining the mythology of the American dream with a healthy dose of schadenfreude.

It starts with the audition shows, when just enough delusional, tone-deaf applicants are mixed in with the true talents to give the viewers something to laugh at.

As some are knocked down, others get built up.

By the time contestants have made it through the pressure cooker of Hollywood Week, when a couple of hundred wannabes are cut to 36 semi-finalists or less, viewers are finding their favourites: the people they'll cheer on and vote for.

And therein lies one of Idol's main attractions: viewers' ability not only to watch stars being born but to take an active part in the transition.

Throw renditions of hit songs into the mix, and the interplay between contestants, judges and host Ryan Seacrest, and you've got a hit.

Challenges lie ahead, however. The show has already lost popular judge Paula Abdul although replacement Ellen DeGeneres should maintain viewers' interest.

But will it survive the reputed departure of the most popular judge, bitingly honest Brit Simon Cowell?

Check back with us next decade.

World Filled With Oprah Winfrey's 'Children'

Source: www.thestar.com -
Greg Beato

(December 28, 2009) In 2002, Oprah announced she would end her TV show in 2005, but apparently her skeletal system had other plans.

She announced her final show will air in September 2011, and this time, she has buy-in from her femurs and scapulas and also the very depths of her ineffable essence.

"After much prayer and months of careful thought, I've decided the next season, Season 25, will be the last season," she exclaimed. "Twenty-five years feels right in my bones, and it feels right in my spirit."

The ceremonial 18-month farewell tour has already begun, but of course Oprah isn't actually leaving us, ever.

Indeed, suppose she keeps her promise and really ends her show this time. Suppose she shuts down O, The Oprah Magazine, and Oprah.com, and decides to abort her upcoming cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network, before lift-off. Suppose some mystical force of the universe erases every minute of the more than 4,000 episodes of her show that have aired since it made its national debut on 138 stations in 1986.

Oprah will still be with us everywhere, the Earth's third most common element, right after oxygen and silicon.

Technically, of course, it was Phil Donahue who initially injected daytime TV with large doses of audience participation, shocking candour, and ad hoc therapy. When he started his show in 1967, Oprah was just 13 years old. But the white-haired former news anchor was the first host to capitalize on the fact that there was an audience whose definition of "current affairs" was much different than Walter Cronkite's.

Oprah, when she kicked off the national version of her show in 1986, actually was that audience: Young, confessional, self-absorbed, and eager for self-actualization.

Right from the start, Oprah shared her own traumas and struggles with her audience, and they in turn revealed details with unprecedented frankness.

In 1988, when Oprah's producers attempted to recruit clinical depressives for an upcoming show, Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene figured there was no way that people who could barely drag themselves out of bed would respond.

As it turned out, however, that call to action prompted the most requests for tickets the show had received to date.

Oprah had discovered the secret to what would ultimately grow into a multi-billion dollar fortune. Everyone in America was screwed up! They wanted to talk about it, on national TV – the couples who were divorcing each other in order to spice up their sex lives, the mothers of sons who'd hung themselves while masturbating, the women who were in love with pedophiles.

Once Oprah invited her audience to share their own personal soap operas with the world, the clock started ticking for Hollywood's soap operas – they couldn't compete with the weirdness, the immediacy, the lurid appeal of real people boldly airing their dirty laundry to millions.

But even as Oprah made the previously exclusive world of television accessible to ordinary freaks and deviants, thus prepping us for the narcissistic, over-sharing world of the web to come, she also kept attention focused on herself.

Chronicling her struggles with weight-loss and overeating, talking candidly about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, sharing her quests for personal enlightenment, recounting the virtues of cashmere socks – Oprah realized, earlier than just about anyone else except maybe Howard Stern, that the path to superstardom in the late 20th century would be blazed by those who understood that no aspect of their lives was too personal or too mundane to broadcast in as public a manner as possible.

At 55, Oprah has no children of her own, but her spiritual children are everywhere. She helped pioneer the entertainment-as-therapy ethos that permeates reality TV and tell-all literary memoirs. The overt emotionalism she brought to her role as TV host is now echoed by everyone from the women on The View to Glenn Beck.

Long after she engineers her last surprise giveaway or shows off her favourite pair of jeans, her influence will continue to resonate.

Style Icon Of The Decade: Sarah Jessica Parker

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Amy Verner

(December 23, 2009) Call it the chick and egg question: Did
Sarah Jessica Parker have the makings of fashion plate pre- Sex and the City or was the show the glass slipper that transformed her from cute actress to style icon?

The difficulty lies in the fact that Parker's sartorial identity is so wrapped up in Carrie Bradshaw, the fictional New York columnist whose look began as Boho 2.0 (tube tops, feather boas, nameplate necklaces) and evolved into designer darling and poster girl for shoe addicts anonymous.

She picked up a tip or two from costume designers Patricia Field and Rebecca Weinberg. The Gap denim ads from 2004 show her accessorizing jeans with a magenta cardigan and Harry Winston brooches. Hello hi-lo dressing.

Although she reserves a special place in her heart for Oscar de la Renta, she tends to be a non-committal designer muse and has been photographed wearing Lanvin, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Balenciaga, Rochas, Marni, Valentino, Dior and Louis Vuitton.

Now 44 and a mother of three, Parker is not nearly as flamboyant. We've come to expect more risks from her coifs than her clothes.

Parker has leveraged her style status to launch hugely successful fragrances: Lovely in 2005 and Covet in 2007. Today, Lovely ranks No. 1 on Amazon's beauty best sellers list.

Speaking of celebrity scents, our three honourable mentions all have fragrances bearing their names. But that's only a small part of their impact on the fashion world. What J.Lo lacks in taste, she makes up for in mega brand building. When Kate Moss isn't sporting silver turbans, she's helping to direct a namesake collection for fast fashion chain Topshop. As for David Beckham, well, he squashed the notion that metrosexual and major athlete were mutually exclusive. Score one for style.

Homegrown And On The Edge

Source: www.thestar.com -
Cassandra Szklarski

(December 29, 2009) A new year, a new batch of TV shows to savour.

From the long-awaited return of the Kids in the Hall to a sexy adaptation of the Giller Prize-winning book
Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures to a potty-mouthed Jason Priestley, there are plenty of homegrown series on tap for those snowed-in nights. A look at what's in store in the coming months (in alphabetical order):

Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures (HBO Canada) This adaptation of the Giller Prize-winning book by Vincent Lam promises to be a mix of ER and Grey's Anatomy, with its sexy cast, love triangle storyline and hospital setting. Lam's collection of short stories, inspired by his own experiences as an ER doctor at a Toronto hospital, outlines a messy tangle of relationships that provide the jumping off point for this romantic drama. X-Men's Shawn Ashmore stars as Fitz, a cocky former air evacuation paramedic battling alcoholism and his emotions for ex-girlfriend Ming. ReGenesis's Mayko Nguyen plays the conflicted Ming, who is married to fellow med-school student Chen, played by Byron Mann. Lam makes a cameo midway through the series as a patient with an interesting backstory of his own. Premieres Sunday, Jan. 10.

Call Me Fitz (The Movie Network, Movie Central) This 13-part comedy brings actor/director Jason Priestley back to Canada as a charismatic used car dealer known as Richard "Fitz" Fitzpatrick. It's a role that allows Priestley to put his squeaky clean image as Brandon Walsh on the old 90210 teen soap well behind him, with his crude, substance-abusing salesman pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour at every turn. Filmed an hour outside Halifax, this edgy series drew more than 1,000 local residents to audition for roles as extras. Expected in the spring.

Death Comes to Town (CBC) The Kids in the Hall are back, and early clips suggest they've lost none of their surreal and subversive touch. This time around, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Dave Foley, Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald forgo their sketch roots for a full-out narrative plot that revolves around a small town killing spree. Still, ladies' undergarments and fat suits abound as the beloved comics take on multiple roles as town residents. Debuts Tuesday, Jan. 12.

The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour (Showcase) The stars of the Trailer Park Boys reunite for an outrageous six-episode comedy that bears this long and suggestive working title. Billed as "a genre-breaking and highly innovative mix of narrative and sketch comedy," the series stars Mike Smith, Robb Wells and JP Tremblay as the cast of a children's show gone awry in the sleepy town of Port Cockerton. Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson plays an actor who assumes the identity of a German scientist to teach children about nutrition. He creates a powerful hallucinogen from local berries and chaos ensues as the cast unknowingly ingests the drug and loses a grip on reality. Throw in a dangerous cult and a dysfunctional crime family and you know this isn't your typical comedy. Expected in the spring.

How to Look Good Naked Canada (W Network) Based on the highly successful British series, this self-help show aims to get Canadian women feeling good about themselves, with and without clothes. Former eTalk personality Zain Meghji hosts this 13-episode, one-hour show. With a team of fashion and lifestyle experts, he tries to help restore body confidence to a new woman each week. Those who conquer their fears prove it by strutting their stuff in a lingerie runway show. Launches on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Pure Pwnage (Showcase) This show is supposedly the first Canadian series to originate on the Internet. Pronounced "Pure Own-age," it's based on a four-year-old web series that boasts 200,000 visitors a month, and draws its name from a gaming term used to signify beating an opponent. This half-hour comedy is billed as a gamer's version of Curb Your Enthusiasm with a touch of Flight of the Conchords. Debuts in March 2010.

Darius Mccrary’s Winter(s) Wonderland Pt. 1

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(December 30, 2009) *Actor
Darius McCrary began his role as Malcom Winters on the soap opera “The Young and the Restless” earlier this week, stepping into the very popular role that – depending on how you look at it – made Shemar Moore famous or that Moore made famous.

McCrary is now starring on the long-running daytime show as the sexy Winters, a bit of a change from his first television role as Eddie Winslow on “Family Matters.”

McCrary starred on the show for all nine seasons [1989-1998] as the lovable teen, Eddie Winslow, the eldest of the sitcom family that was often visited by their lovelorn neighbour Steve Urkel. But that was then. Now the star, who has since launched a music career, starred in “15 Minutes” with Robert DeNiro, and lent his voice as Jazz for “Transformers,” hopes to make the new role his own and perhaps so much that he’ll now be referred to by fans as his new moniker.

“I’ve come to realize that that’s something that people will never let go,” he said of constantly being hailed as his “Family Matters” character. “But the beautiful thing about a character like [Eddie Winslow] is that people have a certain endearment. It’s like family’ it’s love, and love is a beautiful thing.”

Ironically, McCrary himself is guilty of projecting television character names and personas on actors, particularly, he said, with his new cast, quite a common occurrence for soap stars.

“There are certain people on this cast on this show that I keep referring to as their character,” he said. “I can honestly relate.”

McCrary sat down with EUR’s Lee Bailey to discuss the new role and how excited he is to be taking on the famed character on one of the most popular daytime dramas ever.

“I’m ecstatic about it,” he said. “It’s a great group to work with; it’s a quality show; and it’s something new for me.”

The young actor confessed that he’s always up to a challenge, whether it be jumping into theatre for the first time or a challenging role in a feature film, but he considers the soap opera world a true challenge.

“I don’t think you ever really get the hang of it,” he said of starring every day in a new soap saga. “Just like live theatre, it’s something that you do on a constant basis. With theatre – you’re doing the same thing every night when you go out on stage so you can get the hang of that, but this is like theatre and it grows. The story line grows every day.”

     McCrary also confessed that he had always wanted to star in a soap opera. In addition to considering the opportunity challenging, he said that it is steady work that is a perfect fit for his career. This is quite contrary to the advice he’d been given earlier in his career about becoming a soap star.

“I’ve always wanted to do daytime television, but former agents and former representation had steered me away from it because they said that this is generally where people looking to break into the business go. You start with soaps and then you do primetime TV. My representation would ask me, ‘Why would you want to go backwards?’”

However, for McCrary this is hardly a step backwards.

     “I’ve always thought it was a great gig. I always wanted to do it. So when my (new) manager approached me and mentioned ‘Young & the Restless’ I thought, ‘Wow. That’s hot.’”

Being on one of the most-loved and most-watched daytime dramas was already a plus for the star. “The Young and the Restless” is currently the highest rated daytime drama. However, once it was explained that he would star as Malcolm Winters, one of the most loved and most watched characters on the show – that was icing on the cake, and a number of friends and family who were fans of the show and the character, filled him in on the character and the history of the storyline… and of course their love for Moore in the role.

However, McCrary wasn’t and isn’t that concerned with the actor who was Malcolm in the past, he just knew he had a job to do.

 “The responsibility I have is to be the best performer that I can be. Hopefully if I’m delivering solid performances and I’m really good as an actor, none of that will even matter,” he said. “I hope that everybody loves me in this role just as much as they loved [Moore], but I hope they love me just a little more,” McCrary said with a smile.

Look for part two of our visit with Darius McCrary on his new role on “The Young and the Restless” and why he considers daytime TV as big as blockbuster films. Oh yeah, we inquired about him and Karine Steffans, too. In the meantime, catch him as Malcolm Winters on CBS daytime, evenings on SOAPnet Channel, or info at www.theyoungandtherestless.com.

Thank Goodness We Had Cable – And Comedies – In 2009

www.globeandmail.com - John Doyle

(December 30, 2009) In
television, as in other rackets, the last year of this, the first decade of the 21st century, began with gloom.

A worldwide recession had TV networks and production companies terrified. During the early months of the year, U.S. President Barack Obama was on prime-time TV almost as often as were actors, issuing warnings, giving speeches and reminding the United States and the world that the global economy had been taken to the brink of collapse. In Canada, local stations were put up for sale and changed hands for as little as $1. Over-the-air broadcasters went to war against cable and satellite companies, demanding “fee for carriage,” and that became the year's most groan-inducing phrase. Eventually, the economic situation drove big, once-brash broadcaster CanWest into creditor-protection proceedings.

And then came the laughs. Turned out, as often happens in times of gloom, comedy flourished. Summer brought the second season of the increasingly smart and funny True Blood . The new fall TV season begat a bunch of comedies with bite: Modern Family , Community , The Middle , Glee . CBS's The Big Bang Theory got better and funnier. People laugh to forget, and this was the year of laughter and forgetting in television. We forgot how good Corner Gas could be, until it ended in April – and then the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television forgot about it completely when it came time for the Gemini Awards. That wasn't funny at all.

CBC complained about less and less funding. As it usually does. Then, when it came time to rejig The National and relaunch CBC Newsworld as CBC News Network, it seemed to remember that it had money to promote the change relentlessly. For a few days, as Pastor Mansbridge and his team coped with the new format, things got unintentionally comical. In the United States, meanwhile, Jay Leno, the long-standing, successful joke machine hosting The Tonight Show , was replaced by Conan O'Brien, and NBC gave Leno his own variety/talk show five nights a week. Which O'Brien probably didn't find comical at all.

NBC's decision to abandon 10 p.m. dramas was both a cost-cutting move and a reminder that, in essence, the only really talked-about dramas are on cable, not network, TV. This year it was Mad Men , again, that set the standard. Dexter renewed itself, and millions watched the recent season finale. In October, the cable series Sons of Anarchy (a baroque stew of Shakespearean inspiration and biker-gang drama that airs on F/X in the United States and SuperChannel in Canada) beat The JayLeno Show in the Nielsen ratings. This was the first time a basic-cable program had more viewers than Leno, whose show was already being battered by dramas on other networks. The only laughter came from the drama producers.

Reality TV provided the most sobering elements in 2009. The Balloon Boy fiasco underlined how far some people will go toward achieving the flimsiest sort of TV fame. Ryan Jenkins, a Canadian contestant on the VH1 reality dating show Megan Wants a Millionaire , was charged with the murder of his wife, Jasmine Fiore, whose body was found stuffed into a suitcase. He eventually fled to Canada, where he hanged himself. On Survivor , a 42-year-old lawyer, who had applied seven times to be on the show, collapsed during filming; the cause was given as “severe malnutrition and dehydration.”

Even the chat shows turned sombre. Mackenzie Phillips went on The Oprah Winfrey Show and talked about being raped by her father. David Letterman admitted to sexual affairs with junior staff members and to being blackmailed, even as his studio audience tittered. Eventually, he apologized on-air to his wife, who obviously didn't find it funny at all. People got sick and tired of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their fame-fuelled, train-wreck termination of a marriage.

Little wonder we needed comedy. The year also brought the Seinfeld reunion that people really wanted and enjoyed – in the midst of the toxic comedy of Curb Your Enthusiasm . In Canada, The Foundation , on Showcase, proved to be a sharp satire of charity, celebrities and more. The Rick Mercer Report stuck to its formula and drew more viewers than CBC's dramas.

And yet it is for TV drama that the year will be remembered. Locally, Flashpoint 's ratings soared, even without a U.S. simulcast on CBS. Collision , on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre, proved that British TV drama is far from dead. Mad Men , Dexter and Breaking Bad had better storytelling, more substance and a more profound impact than any movie released this year. Comedy may have made a comeback, but it's the dramas that won't be forgotten.


Tyra Announces End Of Her Talk Show

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 29, 2009) *Following in the footsteps of her mentor Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks has announced an end date to her daytime talk show.  “This will be the last season of The Tyra Show,” Banks tells People.com. “I’ve been loving having fun, coming into your living rooms, bedrooms, hair salons for the past 5 years.” Once the current fifth season is a done deal, Banks says she will focus on the launch of Bankable Studios, her N.Y.-based film production company founded to bring positive images of women to the big screen.   “My next huge steps will allow me to reach more women and young girls to help us all feel as fierce as we truly are,” Banks says.   Meanwhile, Tyra's primetime reality series, "America’s Next Top Model," will begin Cycle 15 in February along with her ABC show "True Beauty," a collaboration with Ashton Kutcher.  “There’s a lot cooking right now and a lot of fire burning in my heart,” Banks writes in an open letter on her Web site. “And I salute you my amazing family of viewers; without you there never would have been a Tyra Show. I really love you all.”


Staging Triumphs: The Year In Theatre

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(December 28, 2009) This time of year, reporters love to finds trends in what happened during the 12 previous months. But for 2009, I'm happy just to remember the following 10 people, shows, or events, because they made me smile.

West Side Story (Stratford)

The best show of the year? Absolutely. The best musical in the festival's history? Without a doubt. The finest piece of work since Thespis first stepped into a Greek amphitheatre? Well, maybe not, but this classic musical, directed to perfection by Gary Griffin, was still the one to beat.

Robert Lepage (Luminato and COC)

What can you say to a man who brought us, in a single year, both the nine-hour, mind-bending excursion called Lipsynch and the exquisite puppetry staging of The Nightingale? I guess "Thank you very much" will suffice, with similar praise to the COC, which keeps proving that great opera is also great theatre.

Billy Bishop Goes to War (Soulpepper)

John Gray and Eric Peterson struck a blow for Grey Power by reviving their hit about Canada's most unlikely hero 30 years after its creation, and proved that their writing and performing had only grown better with the passing of time. It's returning from Jan.22 to Feb.27. Don't miss it.

The Importance of Being Earnest (Stratford)

Brian Bedford pulled off a double whammy here with Oscar Wilde's beloved comedy of manners, directing with flair and playing Lady Bracknell with consummate skill. The awe inspired by this feat was not unlike watching someone conduct Beethoven's Ninth while singing "Ode to Joy."

Parfumerie (Soulpepper)

Sometimes a show hits the bull's eye from top to bottom, like this one. A slight but charming Hungarian comedy becomes the stuff of sheer joy thanks to director Morris Panych, designer Ken MacDonald and a gifted cast, led by Oliver Dennis, Patricia Fagan, Joseph Ziegler and Jeff Lillico. Bravo!

Born Yesterday (Shaw)

This production's joys began when the curtain rose on Sue LePage's spectacular hotel suite, continued with some deft slapstick from director Gina Wilkinson and then climaxed when that porcelain kewpie doll, Deborah Hay, entered and proved that Garson Kanin's comedy still had teeth as well as smiles.

Jersey Boys (Dancap)

It's wonderful for Dancap Productions that this hit musical, directed by Des McAnuff and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, is well into the second year of its run. Even more wonderful that the new company is heavily Canadian, especially the award-winning performance of Jeff Madden as Frankie Valli.

Rebecca Northan (Harbourfront World Stage)

The battle of the sexes hasn't seemed funnier or fresher than it did in the hands of Northan, who dared to take a man from the audience each night and improvised an entire Blind Date around him. There's a return Toronto engagement from Feb.23 to Mar.6. Be there.

Caesar and Cleopatra (Stratford/CTV/Bravo/Cineplex)

Theatre came to the movies this year and never looked better. The superb Stratford take on Caesar and Cleopatra starring Christopher Plummer was a wonderful movie treat. Now, can we start working on a similar transfer for next season's production of The Tempest with Plummer?

Canwest Cabaret Festival (Soulpepper)

For the second year in a row, Albert Schultz and his inspired musical entertainers offered us one of the best things to happen in Toronto all year. If you haven't been yet, you must show up next fall for a joyous celebration of the incredible talent in this city.

Off To See The Wizard As Musical Comes To Mississauga

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(December 26, 2009) Who would have thought the yellow brick road wound up in Mississauga?

But from Jan. 1-3, that's exactly what's going to happen as a production of
The Wizard of Oz sets down in the Living Arts Centre.

Based on the Royal Shakespeare Company's famous recreation of the beloved 1939 MGM film, this NETworks production has been touring North America successfully for several years now, and even earned the approval of Prime Minister Stephen Harper when it played Ottawa in March of this year.

Over the years, we've all lost our hearts to Dorothy Gale, that wistful lass who sings "Over the Rainbow," gets transported to Oz by a tornado, makes friends of the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man, snatches the Ruby Slippers, melts the Wicked Witch of the West and finally learns that "there's no place like home."

Cassie Okena is the bright-as-a-button young woman who's playing Dorothy on the tour, and she's been a fan of the movie since her childhood in Toledo, Ohio, where she was born on Feb. 23, 1986.

"If (the movie) was on TV, our family would watch it," she recalls. "There wasn't any question about it. It was just something we did. And the line from the movie about `being a good-deed doer' got repeated in our house all the time."

As a child, Okena's attraction to Garland's portrayal of Dorothy was centred on "her old-time movie star's porcelain skin and her bright, bright eyes."

But as she got older, "I realized all of the tragedy underneath Judy's surface innocence, and her singing of 'Over the Rainbow' touched me for totally different reasons."

Okena has also kept up with more modern interpretations of the Oz story, including the black version, The Wiz, as well as the hit musical, Wicked, which deals with the backstory of the witches. "I think they're all a lot of fun and don't hurt the original. If anything, they bring more people back to it so they can see how it all started."

Ultimately, Okena loves playing the role because "she's a strong woman character who sees the good in people before she judges them. And I love performing her in live theatre when you can see and hear and feel the audience reacting to you."

But if The Wizard of Oz endures (and it does), it must be because of something deeper that people can take home with them.

Okena feels she knows what that is. "It tells you that you need heart, brains and courage. If you're missing one of those elements, you're not truly living your life, and you're missing out on so much!"

The Wizard of Oz is at Hammerson Hall in the Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Dr., Mississauga, from Jan. 1-3. Go to www.livingartscentre.ca or phone 905-306-6000 for tickets and info.

Plum Roles For Plummer As Decade Begins

www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(December 30, 2009) You don't need a crystal ball to predict that
Christopher Plummer, who turned 80 two weeks ago, will have a banner year as he enters the ninth decade of his life.

Just last week, Terry Gilliam's epic fantasy The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus opened in key cities with Plummer in the title role. Holding forth as an eccentric-yet-grand old man, Plummer seems to be doing a run-through for his much-awaited return to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival stage in June, when he'll play Prospero in The Tempest.

Meanwhile, Plummer has been nominated for a Golden Globe (supporting actor) for his turn as Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station.

With The Tempest, he's almost sure to deliver what the festival needs: a Shakespeare production that's both a critical and box-office success.

And if their plans go forward, by the end of 2010 Plummer could be in rehearsal for Garth Drabinsky's February 2011 revival of Barrymore at Toronto's Elgin Theatre, reprising the role that earned him a Tony in 1997.

The capper: there are plans afoot to film both The Tempest and Barrymore. Now for the other nine in my list of 10 predictions of what will unfold in Toronto's arts worlds during the next 12 months.

After Wayne Clarkson steps down in mid-January as CEO of Telefilm Canada, the government will name his successor. It will be a Quebec francophone with a stronger background in business management than in the cinema world.

History will be made when two movies with Canadian-born directors are among the Oscar nominees for Best Picture of 2009: James Cameron's Avatar and Jason Reitman's Up in the Air.

With renovations already well underway to restore the Sony Centre (née the O'Keefe Centre) to its original 1960 glory, CEO Dan Brambilla will announce an impressive line-up of shows to mark the anniversary, with the showplace lit up an astounding 200 nights during its first nine months (from Oct. 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011) following a glittery reopening precisely 50 years after the world premiere of Camelot.

Rufus-mania will sweep Toronto when Luminato brings singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright and his opera Prima Donna to the Elgin Theatre in June.

With Tim Albery replacing the original director, significant changes have been made since its world premiere at the Manchester International Festival last summer, which I predict will result in critical acclaim and sold-out houses.

David Mirvish will sign a deal to snare Billy Elliot, the biggest new musical hit to be seen in London and New York in years. Look for Mirvish to give the show its Canadian premiere, but not before Billy Elliot opens an extended run in Chicago, which vies with us for ranking as North America's No. 2 theatre town.

Aubrey Dan, who has gambled millions trying to compete with Mirvish, will scramble to find a show to present at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in July, though he has already nailed down the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific for August.

The Art Gallery of Ontario, which is currently giving visitors to its King Tut show a memorable glimpse into treasures of the ancient world, will continue to strengthen its program of temporary exhibitions: the key to its success.

As successor to William Thorsell, who leaves the building next summer, the Royal Ontario Museum will choose a different kind of CEO, not a visionary but a seasoned veteran of the museum world.

Barney's Version, produced by Robert Lantos from Mordecai Richler's Giller Prize-winning novel, will have its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival as a gala. But there's a hitch: TIFF's opening night (Sept. 9) falls on Rosh Hashanah. Oy!


Tyler Perry Preps Tour Of New Madea Play


(December 28, 2009) *After producing and starring in several film versions of his plays featuring Madea, Tyler Perry is bringing his signature character back to the stage in a new production set to tour in 2010.  The entertainment mogul posted a message on his Web site Saturday that said he had taken some time off in the past few months "so I could spend my mother's final days at her side." His mother, Willie Maxine Perry, died Dec. 8 at age 64. Perry says he will begin touring with his new play, "Madea's Big Happy Family," on Jan. 4 in El Paso, Texas. The first leg then goes on to Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle and Portland, Ore, reports the Associated Press.  The actor says he is eager to have the gun-toting, curse-you-out-in-a-minute character on stage for the first time in five years.

Ragtime Closes On Broadway

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Washington Post

(December 29, 2009) Despite some admiring reviews and an unusually vigorous effort to keep it running, the Kennedy Center's revival of Ragtime will shutter on Broadway on Sunday, according to the show's producers. The $8.5 million (U.S.) production, a streamlined version of the 1998 production, ultimately failed to garner the kind of box office momentum that would allow it to continue through the winter months. By the time it closes this weekend, it will have run for about 60 performances. That the revival had been struggling was the worst-kept secret on Broadway. Ultimately, the high running costs – more than $500,000 (U.S.) a week – were perceived as insurmountable, even after additional financing had been arranged, and the show's creators and others agreed to reduce their weekly takes. "It never built the audience it needed to sustain it," said Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, which was one of the show's producers by virtue of having created the revival last spring.


Rihanna on an iPhone? I Don't Think So

Source: www.globeandmail.com - John Barber

(December 24, 2009) Attention, early adopters: Now could be your first and last chance to read glossy magazines on your iPhones.

It was inevitable they would appear, and seems inevitable they will soon disappear. As the two recently published electronic editions of Esquire and GQdemonstrate, all is lost when glossy mags become iPhone apps.

GQ's January issue is the second that its parent, Condé Nast, has presented for sale in the Apple store, and it exemplifies the problem at a glance. The print-edition cover is a classic example of men's-mag know-how: a gorgeous woman (singer Rihanna), pretty much naked, printed so vividly you can count the lashes on the big brown eyes that reach deep into your soul and beg you to buy. But on the iPhone, poor Rihanna stares dimly from a tiny screen like a little mouse.

And where did she scurry off to? Trying to find the iPhone equivalent of what used to be called an “inside spread” leads to a frenzy of swiping and tapping that produces nothing but columns of text. Do it enough, and a slide show might appear, but all that does is remind us why we once loved the great expanse of the Playboy-style “foldout.” Back in the day, cheesecake had scale.

On the iPhone, all content is so heavily folded in, like electronic origami, it becomes little more than a mass of creases. Missing is any sense of a package – the satisfying feeling that comes from scanning a new issue quickly and then devouring it methodically.

Reading GQ on a phone is like browsing the Internet, following a succession of disembodied pages who knows where, with pop-up ads ambushing every path. The pages are not much more than snapshots of the print edition rather than proper Web pages.

Condé Nast isn't stupid: If anybody is going to spend $2.99 to buy such a sadly shrunken product, it will be young men for whom the technology itself – and being the first to have it – is the most important thing. Hearst evidently thinks along similar lines, having volunteered Esquire as its first title on the fatal battlefield.

At this early stage of the competition, iPhone Esquire is the far better product of the two. The editors have not only made it easy to find Kate Beckinsale, whom they deem “the sexiest woman alive”; they have also included a video of her writhing around a grimy factory building in her underwear. That's new.

In a welcome message to iPhone Esquire users, editor David Granger promises “the same content (with a few extras) in a very nimble alternative version.” It certainly takes better advantage of the medium than iPhone GQ, but the small-screen straitjacket remains.

So why bother, especially considering that both mags' parent companies have joined a consortium to produce electronic content independently of all-devouring Apple? The answer could be revealed as early as January, when Apple introduces its long-awaited tablet computer with a large-format screen, which is expected to set a new standard in e-reading.

On a big enough screen, these shrunken little glossies could well become the killer apps of 2010.

Lame Is The Name Of This Avatar Game

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

James Cameron's Avatar: The game
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Nintendo DS
Rated E

(December 19, 2009) I'll admit it's a bit perverse, opting to play the lowest-fi portable videogame based on the highest-fi CGI science-fiction film, but what can I say? It was 40 below out here in the foothills of the Rockies, and I wanted something I could take to bed, safe beneath a life-supporting force field of wool and goosedown. Though, I suppose I could have brought my PS3 or 360 into bed with me, snuggled up with all that supercomputer heat ...

James Cameron's Avatar: The Game for the Nintendo DS does not follow the plot – or what I gather to be the plot – of the film. It is what the Japanese would call a gaiden – a side story – a whole new adventure within the universe created by Ubisoft, and I'm sorry to say I can't recommend it.

Off-the-shelf eco-fantasy complete with magical trees and standard-issue "chosen one" gobbledygook, set within a gameplay matrix that's straight-up Zelda rip-off, JCA: TG is a solid but unspectacular action-puzzle adventure that never pushes its genre and inadequately capitalizes on the few interesting ideas it does present.

The story is that of Nok, a not-quite-adult Na'vi hunter who gets wrapped up in a quest involving a strange girl, a driven scientist, and the nature-goddess of his people.

As he ventures through the jungles of planet Pandora and the steel corridors of the humans' installations, he comes across gaps he can't cross, boulders he can't smash and switches he can't reach – obstacles that eventually, of course, fall away as his bag of Zelda/Metroid/Castlevania-style tricks and abilities expand. Classic backtrack-to-proceed adventure.

The manner by which Nok gains his abilities is one of the most interesting things about the game. Rather than simply having players collect gems or crystals or whatever (though there is that, too), JCA: TG puts Nok's progress within a "knowledge" metaphor: as a being of prophesy, the "chosen" eyes and ears of the Na'vi deity, Nok must learn about the flora, fauna and people of his world, and the nature of the human threat, in order to gain new powers and move forward.

It's a cool idea that doesn't reach deep enough into the gameplay: Nok gets most of his new knowledge from reading the Na'vi equivalent of billboards scattered around the map. It doesn't make a lot of sense ... but then, neither does the fact that a stone-age teenager could destroy a high-tech space tank by beating it with a pointy stick.

I don't know ... I was never what you'd call "bored" while playing JCA: TG – some of the puzzles are fairly clever, the genre-standard backtracking is only occasionally a drag, the motivation of the "bad guy" is a shade more complex than the usual villainous moustache-twirling, and the production as a whole is tight and competent.

But a knock-off is a knock-off, and with so many nearly identical options out there – including, you know, an actual new Zelda game – there's not much other than the Avatar brand to justify this resolutely mediocre game.

10 Most Important Works Of The Decade No. 6: Wii Sports

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

(December 26, 2009) We asked our critics and our readers to vote for the 10 Most Important Works of the Decade. We count down to No. 1 as we approach Dec. 31.

Since the dawn of
video games, when a sweet grey-haired biddy shouted "Take that, turkey!" in a 1982 commercial for Atari's Berzerk, they've been selling us the dream: multi-generational gaming, mom and dad and gramps and little Suzy all crowded around the family television enjoying the wonders of interactive digital play. But it took until the 2006 release of Nintendo's Wii – and the Wii Sports package that came with it – for the dream to move to fun-for-the-whole-family reality.

When Nintendo first announced its new Wii console, then still code-named "Revolution," the scepticism – outright derision, really – from gaming's hoi polloi was nearly universal. The system's motion-sensing technology, derided as "waggle controls," was seen as a gimmick, another of the weird missteps that made mighty Nintendo such an endearingly clumsy giant. Underpowered and unserious, Wii was to be the next Power Glove, to follow the wrong- headed Virtual Boy into the "What were they thinking?" file.

Four years and 60 million shipped units later, who's laughing now? Well, a lot of the same jokers, actually; from the point of view of the serious gamer, Wii is underpowered and unserious. But what Wii Sports showed was that games could have a mass audience beyond that core, that a game could forsake supercomputer tech-specs and photorealistic dismemberment and go on to reap a cash harvest from a whole new field of customers. All it had to do was be perfectly fun and accessible.

That's the magic of Wii Sports: accessibility.

The greatest barrier to turning non-gamers into happy players is largely a question of vocabulary; traditional video games have an idiom, a language mediated by increasingly bloated and complicated controllers. These button-crammed puzzle boxes leave grandma flustered and confused. Wii Sports won out by speaking in human vernacular. You don't "play a bowling video game" here; you bowl, or at least engage in a very bowling-like pantomime. The space between a new player's first tentative waggle and the rush of mastery that is the payoff of all video games is measured in minutes. Beyond that, it's socially hilarious; it's just plain funny to watch friends and family flail around.

And so a phenomenon was born. You may have your own Wii anecdote; my own personal favourite was getting blanked by my mother-in-law in Wii Sports Tennis as the game read the natural flow of her deadly serve, developed years ago on the clay courts of her salad days. The TV news still regularly airs features on this or that seniors' facility that's hooked up a Wii, with footage of folks throwing strikes or flail-boxing.

There's a pitfall here, though. A lot of these new video gamers aren't really video gamers. They're Wii players, and for them "playing Wii" means "playing Wii Sports." It remains to be seen to what degree the Wii Sports bubble carries over into a longer-term expansion of the demographics for games as a whole. Still, the model has been proven, and every other company in the video-game market is doing its damnedest to monetize that great mass of humanity that would rather wave their arms than fuss with a controller. Wii Sports has permanently changed the game of games. Take that, turkey!

NFB's iPhone App Showcases Canada

Source: www.thestar.com -
Nelson Wyatt

(December 29, 2009) MONTREAL–The National Film Board of Canada's new iPhone application has proven to be a hit beyond this country's borders, with 40 per cent more people downloading NFB content from abroad than in Canada.

Since its launch on Oct. 21, there have been nearly 80,000 downloads internationally and just over 56,000 in Canada from people seeking out the NFB's documentaries and animation.

Among the top five plays on the iPhone are The Cat Came Back, Canada Vignettes: Log Driver's Waltz and HA-Aki.

The iPhone app is just one of the international successes recorded in the 70th anniversary year of the NFB, the national producer and distributor of films, documentaries, animation and shorts.

Besides looking back at its fabled past, chair Tom Perlmutter said the NFB continued its efforts to position itself solidly in the future by exploring new markets.

"The international response was extraordinary," Perlmutter said in an interview. "We've been tremendously well received."

Besides making the rounds of international festivals, Perlmutter sat down with decision-makers in a number of countries to craft deals.

Among those was the president of China's national educational broadcaster.

"We're just starting discussions," Perlmutter said. "They're interested in looking at a wide range of things." Some of those include science-based productions. The NFB is also working with Cirque du soleil on the film for the Canadian pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

China was just one of a slew of high-profile showcases for the NFB this year. Others included the screening of The Strangest Dream, a documentary on the threat of nuclear weapons, at the United Nations and European parliament.

Perlmutter, NFB commissioner since 2007, says forging new partnerships domestically and internationally is key to doing business in this increasingly wired world.

"The world is changing," he said. "We've got to think about new ways of doing things."

And he adds that when the film board goes knocking on foreign doors, it's giving taxpayers a good bang for the $65 million the government kicks into its coffers.

The board's political bosses agree that the NFB is an effective salesman for Canada abroad.

"The National Film Board, especially with their online offerings, is a really easy and accessible way to tell our stories not only to Canadians but internationally as well," said Stephanie Rea, a spokeswoman for Heritage Minister James Moore.

NFB.ca, the board's retooled website, has had almost three million views since it launched a year ago. About 1,700 of the NFB's 13,000 productions are online and more are constantly being added.


First The Laughs, Then The Drinks

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bruce DeMara

(December 27, 2009) Oh yeah, Nikki Payne has performed at New Year's Eve comedy events in the past.

But the 9th annual
Comedy Extravaganza at Massey Hall – featuring a variety of top-notch Canuck talent – is likely to be a bit more genteel than some of the East Coast comic's past Auld Lang Syne gigs.

For one thing, Payne says, it starts at 7:30 p.m. and should end in plenty of time for the audience to go out and get properly blotto.

"I've done New Year's Eve parties elsewhere and, oh yeah, by the time you get up – especially as a headliner, because that means you go on last – and they're bombed by the time you get up," Payne said.

This year's event, assembled by Yuk Yuk's big cheese Mark Breslin, includes MC Gerry Dee, Glen Foster, Terry Clement, Sam Easton, Jen Grant, Rob Pue and Kenny Robinson, founder of the acclaimed All Black Comedy Revue.

The show's press release comes with a warning that it "may include language that is offensive to some."

But Payne said that shouldn't discourage genuine lovers of stand-up.

"It (show) is not going to be horrible. Nobody's going to get naked, nobody's going to kill puppies. We're talking a few naughty words. A dirty little word... .that could happen," Payne said.

"I don't think it's going to be like `ohmigod, we've seen their bathing suit areas.' It's not going to be anything like that. There may be a poo joke here and there," she added, with her trademark lispy laugh.

Is 2009 a particularly good year to laugh off and consign to history?

"Any year is a good year to make fun of," Payne said, though she noted the death of the King of Pop has deprived comedians of a steady supply of material.

"As a world comic community, we've kind of lost our go-to person, we lost Michael Jackson. Nobody makes fun of him anymore," Payne lamented. "It was almost getting `hack' to go to a Michael Jackson joke. Not almost. What am I saying? It was very `hack' to go to a Michael Jackson but that didn't stop a lot of people. Then the poor man up and died," Payne said.

"At least I can be high and mighty, I never made one Michael Jackson joke. Well, maybe I made one but I didn't make a lot. Now everybody's `he was a musical genius.' You jerks, here you were calling him a dirty old man eight months ago, and now he's a musical genius," she added.


Humane Society Staff Allowed Back Into River St. Facility

Source: www.thestar.com -
Jesse McLean

(December 29, 2009) Toronto Humane Society staff was allowed back into the shelter Tuesday morning for the first time since the facility was raided last month.

Employees and board members who had been barred by an Ontario Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals investigation, but not charged with crimes, were allowed to return under a Superior Court judge's Dec. 22 ruling.

However, the shelter remains closed to the public and there is no word on when adoptions will resume.

"We (the OSPCA and the THS) would have to get together and decide, collaboratively, when that occurs," said OSPCA spokesperson Rosaline Ryan.

The shelter currently has about 50 animals ready for adoption, she said.

Staff and board members have been barred from the River St. shelter in Toronto since the OSPCA staged a surprise raid in November and charged five senior staff with various offences, including cruelty to animals.

"This has been a difficult five weeks for all of us as we have been prevented from doing what we always do, which is treat sick, abandoned animals and find them a good home or return them to their natural environment," THS spokesman Ian McConachie said, reading from a statement on behalf of society president Bob Hambley.

"We are very happy to be returning to the shelter with our staff to resume business operations."

However, animal care and treatment at the shelter may "remain under the control and direction of the OSPCA," Justice Ian Nordheimer said in his ruling.

The decision forces the long-feuding OSPCA and THS to coexist, at least temporarily. Humane society staff will run all financing and administration, while the OSPCA will direct animal-related activities.

Last week, the THS filed a $15-million lawsuit against the OSPCA, accusing the organization and its chief investigator of performing a negligent investigation and defaming the shelter. The allegations have not been proven in court.

Meanwhile, the OSPCA has asked a court to remove the THS board of directors and appoint a body to oversee its operations.

Ryan said the organization has worked "collegially and professionally" with THS employees who have volunteered at the shelter throughout the investigation.

Still barred are former THS president Tim Trow, chief veterinarian Steve Sheridan, general manager Gary McCracken and two other and senior managers, who were all charged with criminal offences after the raid in late November.

The society is in the process of recruiting a new interim executive director, spokesperson McConachie said.

We Remember Percy Sutton


(December 28, 2009) *Percy Sutton, the pioneering civil rights attorney who represented Malcolm X before launching successful careers as a political power broker and media mogul, died Saturday at age 89.

Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson, confirmed Sutton's death. She did not know the cause. His daughter, Cheryl Sutton, declined to comment when reached by phone at her New York City home on Saturday before midnight.

The son of a slave, Percy Sutton became a fixture on 125th Street in Harlem after moving to New York City following his service with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. His Harlem law office, founded in 1953, represented Malcolm X and the slain activist's family for decades.

The consummate politician, Sutton served in the New York State Assembly before taking over as Manhattan borough president in 1966, becoming the highest-ranking black elected official in the state.

Sutton also mounted unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Senate and mayor of New York, and served as political mentor for the Rev. Jesse Jackson's two presidential races.

"The godfather," Jackson once called him.

In 1971, with his brother Oliver, Sutton purchased WLIB-AM, making it the first black-owned radio station in New York City. His Inner City Broadcasting Corp. eventually picked up WBLS-FM, which reigned for years as New York's top-rated radio station, before buying stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit and San Antonio between 1978-85.

The Texas purchase marked a homecoming for the suave and sophisticated Sutton, born in San Antonio on Nov. 24, 1920, the youngest of 15 children.

For MORE of this AP story by Christian Salazar, go HERE.

E-Books Turn Page On Paper

www.thestar.com - Ellen Roseman

(December 30, 2009) I'm not an early adopter of technology. But I jumped at the chance to buy an
electronic book reader more than a year ago.

My Sony Reader goes everywhere with me. I revel in the luxury of carrying 50 books around in a device that weighs less than one hardcover.

Electronic books are starting to muscle in on physical books. It's a narrative that will pick up speed in the next year, creating winners and losers. Amazon.com, the online bookseller that sustained losses for years, now makes money thanks to its Kindle e-book reader, finally available in Canada.

This week, Amazon said its customers bought more e-books than physical books for the first time ever on Christmas Day.

Investors are taking interest, pushing Amazon's stock price from $51 (U.S.) a year ago to $139.41 on Tuesday. The shares pay no dividends and have a lofty price-to-earnings ratio of 82.

Indigo Books & Music, Canada's dominant book retailer, recently announced it will develop its own e-book reader to come out next year.

It already offers e-books through a spinoff company, Kobo, that is backed by Borders Group, a big U.S. bookstore chain. The e-book service is available on Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices.

Indigo's share price was $15.84 (Canadian) yesterday, up from $12 a year ago. It pays a 40-cent annual dividend and trades at a reasonable 13.5 times earnings.

Book retailers without a foot in the online world will suffer – such as McNally Robinson, which said it is closing its Toronto megastore, which it opened last April, because of losses.

However, we're only a couple of chapters into this story. There's too little variety in e-books to satisfy an avid reader.

I can buy current bestsellers at Sony's store for $9.99 (U.S.), such as John Irving's Last Night In Twisted River, which has a regular price in Canada of $34.95, or $21.91 plus shipping at Amazon.ca.

I can also buy classic works from long-dead authors for next to nothing, such as the epic War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, which sells for 99 cents (U.S.) at Sony's store.

But aside from blockbusters and golden oldies, you won't find many e-books written 10 or more years ago by authors who aren't household names.

That could be a result of Amazon's proprietary technology, which doesn't allow a Kindle library to be transferred to another electronic reading device.

Book publishers are reluctant to transfer older titles to an e-format unless there's a common standard.

GalleyCat, a publishing newsletter, checked the 100 e-books on the Kindle bestseller list and found 64 were available for free.

"How can publishers interact with this new readership and still earn money?" it asked.

The pages may not be turning as quickly as Amazon wants us to believe. Apple could change the game with its tablet computer, to be released next year.

It's said to have a 10-inch screen, versus a six-inch display for Kindle and Sony, and a price of around $1,000 (U.S.).

The e-reader, expected to be known as iSlate, will be integrated into a fully functional computer – putting to shame a $300 to $400 price tag for a device that does only one thing.

"Amazon and Sony ought to be terrified," says GalleyCat's eBookNewser about the Apple plan rumours.

Still, there's something to be said for an "old-fashioned" electronic reader that isn't connected at all times to the Internet.

I agree with Jack Illingworth, who wrote about the pleasures of his Sony Reader in CNQ, a Canadian literary magazine:

"The real genius of the machine is its existence as an unconnected platform, with no rabbit-holes of links to disappear down, no emails or instant messages asking for attention, nothing but that familiar experience of encountering words on a page."

David Pecaut, Neil Young Named To Order Of Canada

www.thestar.com - Noor Javed

(December 30, 2009) Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean has announced 57 new appointments to or within the
Order of Canada.

David Pecaut, the Toronto visionary and city-builder who passed away earlier this month, is one of two recipients this year to be honoured posthumously.

The recipients also include hockey legend and mentor Mario Lemieux and rocker Neil Young, who will both be made Officers of the Order of Canada. Alexa McDonough, former leader of the NDP and Ivan Reitman, the director of films like Ghostbusters and Kindergarten Cop were also appointed Officers.

Pecaut was named a Member of the Order of Canada, along with 32-others, for a lifetime of distinguished service to the community.

Pecaut, who passed away on December 14 after a battle with cancer, is recognized for his service as a civic leader and contributions to the arts scene in Toronto.

The Order of Canada was established in 1967 to recognize a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation. Over the last 40 years, more than 5000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order.

New members of the order include aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal and former Montreal Canadians captain Emile "Butch" Bouchard, who led the Habs to four Stanley Cups and recently had his No. 3 jersey retired.


Aleksandra Wozniak Named CP Female Athlete Of The Year

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Washington Post

(December 29, 2009) Aleksandra Wozniak knocked off the reigning French Open champion, beat three other top-15 tennis players and sent a former world No. 1 packing in her swan-song tournament.

Not bad for a 22-year-old who was sidelined early in 2009 with a tear in her right shoulder.

Wozniak's breakthrough season has earned her The Canadian Press female athlete of the year award for 2009.

She collected 102 points, including 20 first-place votes, in voting by Canada's sports editors and broadcasters to become just the third tennis player to win the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award.

Wozniak beat out hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (68 points), speedskater Christine Nesbitt (67 points) and hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser (59 points).

Helen Kelesi (1989, 1990) and Carling Bassett (1983, 1985) are the only other tennis players to win the award named after Rosenfeld, an Olympic champion and all-rounder who was voted Canada's top female athlete for the first half of the 20th century.

Last season, the rising star from Blainville, Que., came closer to winning the cherished hardware of the top tournaments and almost cracked the world's top-20 rankings.

"I was knocking the door at No. 21," Wozniak said of her highest career ranking, which she reached in June.

Still, for Wozniak the achievements weren't good enough – what 2009 gave her, more than anything, was a hunger to accomplish more.

"One day, I really want a Grand Slam – that's going to be a dream come true," she said.

Wozniak's 2009 season got off to a rocky start when a shoulder injury forced her to miss a month of competition. She pulled out of several tournaments in February and feared that her season could be over.

"I was lucky, I did a lot of rehab and it all healed pretty quickly," she said, noting that a similar shoulder injury kept Russian Maria Sharapova off the court for almost a year.

"It took me out of competition for a couple of weeks, but when I came back I was ready mentally and physically."

She wasted little time bouncing back, reaching the final at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in April – defeating a top-10 player in Russia's Nadia Petrova along the way.

After losing to Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki in the Ponte Vedra Beach final, Wozniak's season hit a lull and she failed to reach the third round in any of the next five tournaments.

But she turned things around in a big way the following month on the clay courts of Roland Garros. Wozniak battled her way to the fourth round of the French Open, where she eventually lost 6-1, 6-2 to world No. 2 Serena Williams.

She became the first Canadian in 17 years to reach the fourth round in Paris and the first in a decade to get that far in singles at any Grand Slam.

In June, Wozniak proved her run at Roland Garros was no fluke by overpowering French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-0, 6-3 in Eastbourne, England.

The win helped launch Wozniak to No. 21 in the world, her highest ranking ever. She believes it gave her an added psychological edge over many opponents.

"They take me more seriously and they are more intimidated by me," Wozniak said.

She rode that confidence into the U.S. Open, where she beat Amelie Mauresmo of France, a former top-ranked player, 6-4, 6-0.

It turned out to be the last match for the No. 17-ranked Mauresmo, who later announced her retirement from the sport.

"Playing on Arthur Ashe (Stadium) . . . it was something really special," Wozniak said of the victory.

The win vaulted her into the third round, where she lost to No. 10 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy.

Currently ranked No. 34, Wozniak finished the year in the top 40 for the second season in a row.

She didn't win any titles in 2009, but continued her ascent toward elite status in the tennis world.

In 2008, she captured her only tour title in Stanford, Calif., and reached two semi-finals and one quarter-final.

Wozniak started playing tennis at three years old under the guidance of her father and coach, Antoni, a former professional soccer player in his native Poland.

She was inspired to pick up a racket by watching her older sister Dorota play.

Antoni Wozniak, who works nights repairing trucks and coaches tennis by day, also guided Dorota, a former two-time NCAA champ.

Wozniak said her father, like the rest of her family, has been a great support in her life.

"My whole family, they keep supporting me – even when things are not going well, they're always there," Wozniak said.

As she prepares for a pair of warm-up tournaments ahead of next month's Australian Open, Wozniak aims to move even closer to realizing her two biggest goals: becoming the highest-ranked Canadian ever and the first to win a Grand Slam event.

"I hope I can encourage other young kids to be inspired like I was," she said.

Team Canada Refuses To Let Up In 16-0 Victory

Source: www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran

(December 26, 2009) SASKATOON–The outcome was never in doubt, the only question was what would the margin of victory be when the final whistle blew as Canada met Latvia to open the world junior hockey championships on Saturday.

Gabriel Bourque, who led the Canadian attack with three goals and four assists, scored 36 seconds into the game and Team Canada didn't stop after that, leading 5-0 after one period, 11-0 after two and finishing with a 16-0 victory.

Canada's 16-0 win over Latvia wasn't a record. The most goals scored by one team in the tournament's history was 21, by Czechoslovakia in 1980 (21-4 win over Austria). The largest margin of victory was 19 (Sweden 20-Japan 1 in 1992). The most goals scored by a Canadian team in a game was 18, achieved twice, in 1985 and 1986.

"We're all here to compete," said Leaf draft pick Nazem Kadri, who scored twice and was unapologetic about running up the score. "They were competing pretty hard out there."

He said that Team Canada only has one level and it's to come at teams. "We didn't want to let up at all and set the tone for the rest of the tournament."

Bourque was named Canada's player of the game. He tied a Team Canada record set by Dave Andreychuk and Mike Cammalleri with seven points in a game.

"I can't imagine a better start to the tournament, seven points. I can't believe I did it," said Bourque. "My partners are good players."

Bourque played mostly with captain Patrice Cormier (two goals, two assists) and Brandon Kozun (two goals, three assists). The unit isn't supposed to be the team's top line, but coach Willie Desjardins declined to put out his top power play unit once the score got out of hand.

It didn't matter. Canada scored six times on the power play, with Bourque making the best of his opportunity.

"I really liked him in the summer camp," Desjardins said of Bourque. "I like the way he plays, his style. In the winter camp, he wasn't a lock. We kind of wondered where he'd fit in. He's just gotten more and more ice time. I don't expect him to be that kind of goal scorer the whole tournament. Maybe he will.

"He's a really good player both ways. I use him on the penalty kill, to block shots. He's a really good honest hockey player."

Luke Adam had two goals and an assist. Jordan Eberle scored twice. Travis Hamonic and Adam Henrique added singles.

Defenceman Alex Pietrangelo had four assists.

Goalie Jake Allen got the shutout.

The early round of the tournament is like this — Sweden beat the Czechs 11-1 Sunday — as organizers get the mismatches out of the way early while the elite players chase bragging rights up the scoring leader board.

Canada outshot Latvia 67-10.

"I played many times against the Canadian national team. I like to play against Canada. Sometimes it's difficult to take," said Latvia coach Andrejs Maticins.

The differences between the two countries, hockeywise, are staggering. This is Canada's 37th appearance at the world juniors, Latvia's third and the first time the country has been here two tournaments in a row. Canada came into the game having scored 1,166 goals all-time in the tournament, Latvia 33. Canada had been scored upon 590 times, Latvia 58. The two teams had never faced each other.

Latvia was bolstered by just two players of note — Roberts Bukard and Ronalds Cinks — each having decent seasons with Riga of the Kontinental Hockey League.

A practice might have been a better workout for Team Canada. At least in practice, a 5-on-5 drill would have been a workout of equals, and the power play unit works against a penalty killing unit that keep pace. Canada scored five times on the power play.

This game was more for the fans, perhaps give them something to applaud to work off that turkey dinner, and try out that new "Eh, O, Canada Go" cheer Hockey Canada is trying to promote.

It was hard not to feel sorry for the Latvian goalies, overwhelmed from the opening faceoff. Their starter, Raimonds Ermics, lasted just nine minutes, seven seconds, and left trailing 3-0. The Latvians weren't much better in front of Janis Kalnins the rest of the way. Even after a good save, the Canadians jumped on the first rebound, or the second or the third, and didn't stop until they scored.

Notes: Leafs draft pick Nazem Kadri led all scorers on Team Canada with points in pre-tournament games with four assists. He was also second with six penalty minutes. .... Patrice Cormier is the first native of New Brunswick to be named captain.

United States 7 Slovakia 3

Despite stumbling out of the gate and falling behind 2-0 early, the United States bounced back to top Slovakia 7-3 in their opening game of the world junior hockey tournament Sunday.

Seven different American players found the back of the net to help the U.S. open the tournament on a winning note.

Thanks to a five-minute high sticking penalty assessed to American Tyler Johnson two minutes into the game, Slovakia jumped out to a 2-0 lead after power-play goals by Jakub Gasparovic and Martin Bakos.

Washington draft pick John Carlson snagged the lone American goal midway through the first period on a point shot that found its way through traffic.

That was only the beginning of the U.S. onslaught.

Within the first seven minutes of the second period, the Americans notched three goals to put them up for good at 4-2.

Atlanta pick Jeremy Morin tied the game at 2-2 after cleaning up his own rebound in front of goaltender Marek Cilliak before Derek Stepan (New York Rangers) and Matt Donovan (New York Islanders) made it 4-2 minutes later.

Slovakia's Richard Panik made it 4-3 with seven minutes left in the second, but Danny Kristo scored only 30 seconds later to put the Americans up 5-3 to end the Slovakia comeback bid.

Jordan Schroeder (Vancouver Canucks) and Jerry D'Amigo (Toronto Maple Leafs) scored in the third to cement the American victory.

The United States take on Switzerland Sunday at 4 p.m. ET while Slovakia meets Latvia at 8 p.m.

Sweden 10 Czech Republic 1

Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson had a goal and three assists to help Sweden stomp the Czech Republic 10-1 in the opening Group B game of the world junior hockey championship Saturday.

Sweden, with 18 NHL draftees on its roster, did its damage with four goals in the first period and another four in the third.

Scoring in the first were Ottawa Senators pick Andre Petersson, Anton Rodin (Vancouver Canucks), Mattias Tedenby (New Jersey Devils) and Anton Lander (Edmonton Oilers).

Oliver Ekman Larsson (Phoenix Coyotes), Paajarvi-Svensson (Edmonton Oilers), Tim Erixon and Petersson with his second point of the period, all picked up assists.

The Czechs entered the game with a respectable 1-2 pre-competition record after a shootout win over the United States on Tuesday and a close 3-2 loss against Canada the next night.

The Czechs relied on solid goaltending in both games, with Jakub Sedlacek making 42 stops (plus three in the shootout) against the Americans and Pavel Francouz nearly stealing the game against Canada with 30 saves.

But Sedlacek struggled in this game and was replaced by Francouz at the end of the first.

Francouz pleased the 5,191 fans at the Brandt Centre with several sensational saves throughout the night but allowed another six goals. Striking in the second for Sweden was Paajarvi-Svensson, and Atlanta Thrasher draft pick Carl Klingberg, while Erixon and Petersson picked up their second assists of the night.

The Czech Republic finally managed to get on the board five minutes into the second when five-foot-eight winger Jan Kana beat Florida panther draft pick Jacob Markstrom after a nice feed from Tomas Knotek. Tomas Vincour of the Edmonton Oil Kings, a Dallas Stars draft pick, also assisted on the goal.

Sweden's four third-period goals came from Erixon with a slapshot from the point, Lander with his second of the night, Ottawa Senators pick Jakob Silfverberg and Adam Larsson. Paajarvi-Svensson, Sweden's player of the game, assisted on Larsson's goal for his third of the night.

Russia 6 Austria 2

Yevgeni Kuznetsov scored two goals to help Russia beat Austria 6-2 in Group B preliminary round action at the world junior hockey championship Saturday.

On a day featuring lopsided victories between Sweden and the Czech Republic and Canada and Latvia, Russia's game – expected to be a blowout – was one of the closest.

Russia's Maxim Trunev was credited with the opening goal just two minutes in when Petr Khokhriakov's shot hit him and went in.

Austria responded near the midway mark on the power play when Konstantin Komarek banged in a rebound past Anaheim Ducks draft pick Igor Bobkov.

Russia responded with goals from Maxim Chudinov and 2010 NHL entry draft prospects Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko. NHL draft picks Dmitri Orlov (Washington Capitals) and Kirill Petrov (New York Islanders) picked up two assists each in the first.

The two teams swapped second-period goals, Kuznetsov with his second of the night for Russia and Nikolaus Hartl with a pretty breakaway goal for Austria to make it a 5-2 game heading into the third.

Though the Russians were putting on a clinic with crisp passes, fast skating and wicked shots, they were having a hard time beating Austrian goalie Lorenz Hern, who made numerous sensational stops to give his team a chance on the night.

The 4,990 fans in attendance were clearly cheering for the underdogs, roaring with every Hern save and Austrian scoring chance and booing every penalty in Russia's favour.

But on a power play near the midway mark of the third Petrov added one more for Russia and put things out of reach for Austria.

Bobkov needed just 14 saves for the win while Hirn made a solid 27 saves in the loss and was named Austria's player of the game.

With files from Canadian Press

Charity Helps Mike Komisarek Honour His Mom's Memory

Source: www.thestar.com - Mark Zwolinski

(December 26, 2009) If there was anything Mike Komisarek remembered about being injured earlier this month, it was how much he hated having to sit idle while his Leafs were struggling to turn their season around.

But it wasn't all bad.

On one of those idle nights Komisarek sat in a gondola at the Air Canada Centre with a group of kids from Camp Oochigeas, a camp for kids fighting cancer.

"It was tough sitting, but the best part about being injured was getting to be with those kids," said the veteran Leafs defenceman.

He was a familiar face, having purchased an entire season's worth of Leaf tickets in the box for the camp's children.

For Komisarek, helping bring smiles to the faces of children stricken with cancer was personal. He was inspired to help the camp after losing his own mother, Kathy, to pancreatic cancer.

"I was playing with Montreal at the time but my heart was back home," Komisarek said.

"My sister took a year off to be with my mom. It was heart wrenching. Here I was playing a sport while my mom was fighting for her life.

"I was fortunate to get back home and I told my mom how much I loved her and how much she meant to my getting to where I am today. I was fortunate enough to get to tell her that – how much she meant to me."

But Komisarek isn't the only one doing charitable work. The Leafs have made regular visits to the Hospital for Sick Children, and the Raptors have joined in with purchasing tickets for the gondola.

Phil Kessel has rented a box for underprivileged kids while another group of Leafs – Matt Stajan, Jeff Finger, Alex Ponikarovsky, Ian White, and Niklas Hagman – have combined to rent a pair of boxes.

Leafs GM Brian Burke and Raptors GM Brian Colangelo are also involved in the gondola rental program, as well as donating a pair of tickets to every Leafs home game to various charities.

Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn's program involves giving tickets to the members of the Canadian Military.

"The military doesn't get enough recognition in my opinion," Schenn said.

"People in Toronto look up to us (Leafs) but I think they are the real heroes in this country. I don't want to say we take it for granted but we don't give them enough recognition."

On Tuesday, the Leafs flew into Uniondale, N.Y., for their final game before the Christmas break.

The team had been playing every second day since the end of November, a tough stretch made necessary with the NHL closing down for two weeks for the Vancouver Olympics.

The off days were few, and they were mostly filled with holiday commitments with community groups.

The Leafs, though, were feeling anything but weary during their visits with the kids.

"I've been to the hospital a few times already this season but its not enough," Schenn said.

"Its special for the kids to see hockey players and athletes. It's hard to see them, what they go through, so being there for them is important."

Air Carter Highly Rarefied

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(December 27, 2009) Sometimes it's easy to forget how amazing he was. Everybody, after all, knows what Vince Carter is now. He is, age 33 next month, still a force of sorts – a spotty, moody, do-it-when-he-feels-like-it force. Once a slam-dunking, world-endearing machine known as Vinsanity, he has reinvented himself as Vinefficiency, a jacker of jump shots to the tune of a 40 per cent field-goal rate. Let's see how that works for his long-term relationship with Dwight Howard, Carter's Orlando Magic teammate, who shoots much less and at 62 per cent.

All that said, the greatest feats of athleticism I've seen this decade – and I've been in the vicinity of Usain Bolt sprinting and Tiger Woods swinging – all sprung from Carter's freakish arsenal of airborne grace. His best moments, perhaps fittingly for a guy who hasn't lived up to his competitive potential, didn't come in NBA games. And they certainly didn't come with big games on the line – although I was there when Carter jacked up the 19-footer that could have pushed the Raptors to the 2001 Eastern final, and I thought the thing was going in. It was one of the last moments I believed in the idea of Carter as a team-carrying star.

Carter will probably always be best remembered for his surreal levitation over 7-foot-2 Frederic Weis, this while a member of the U.S. national team. But I've never been as impressed by a display of athletic superiority as I was at the 2000 NBA All-Star Weekend in Oakland. Slam-dunk contests, though there are a few classics, are usually a bore. But Carter's opening jam, a reverse 360-degree all-timer, marked both the height of his career and the greatest dunk ever unfurled to these eyes.

Call me a sucker for prodigious displays of power and grace. I was lucky enough, too, to be crouching behind the 18th green at Glen Abbey when Tiger Woods, mired in a bunker some 218 yards from his target on the final hole of the 2000 Canadian Open, took a mighty lash and waited. I remember seeing that ball in flight, its high arc over looming hazards, its softish landing on the fringe. And most of all I remember watching Woods's challenger of the day, Grant Waite, sulk a little at the recognition that his dream wasn't about to come true. Tiger, for a moment in trouble, was suddenly out of it. If only it were so easy in real life.

The other moment of this passing decade I'll forever remember? Watching Woods and Jean Chrétien play together in the pro-am at the 2001 Canadian Open at Royal Montreal. Chrétien used his Everyman charm (and his Liberal foot wedge) to leave the gallery howling through 18 holes of one-liners and physical comedy. Woods, mostly humourless, was asked afterward what our avid hacker of a then-prime minister could work on. "On everything," he deadpanned.

But forget the little white ball – dunking a basketball is maybe the sporting world's most sacred of arts. The percentage of the general population that can do it is miniscule. And even among the collection of physical freaks that is an NBA roster, the true masters of the form are rare. Carter is, even if he could have been much more, the greatest raw athlete Toronto has ever seen and the greatest dunker in history, and it's not even close. Seeing him honing his craft – this before he vowed never to dunk again, this before he quit on the Raptors – was a fleeting, beautiful thing. Carter would practise jams in the cool-down time after practice. He'd do things with two balls that nobody on the team could do with one. He'd do them with a bodily command unequalled.

There are those who will say he could have been more, maybe the best the game had ever seen, if only he'd put in more work, but you can't change people. What Carter was, in his greatest moments of physical genius, was peerless.