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LE NEWSLETTER

April 15, 2010

Tax Day in America! So many things to celebrate this month -  my birthday!  A BIG birthday ... gulp!  But I digress.  It's also my 10th year doing this newsletter which started out as simple - very simple - event listings.  My sincere thanks and blessings go to all the supporters out there - you drive me to want to do better.  Hopefully you will be seeing some changes in the near future.  10 years?  Who would have thought?  Please read my BIO to see how it got started...

Check out some new photos from the
ReelWorld Film Festival Opening party at Lobby in my PHOTO GALLERY.

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


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

::TOP STORIES::

Cirque Du Soleil Explores Evolution With ‘Totem’

Source:  www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(April 08, 2010) The Cirque du Soleil is exploring the evolution of mankind in Totem, its newest — and most expensive — show.

The spectacle, which has a budget of $30 million, will premiere in Montreal on April 22 before heading to Quebec City on July 22 and then kicking off a worldwide tour in Amsterdam on Oct. 7.

Totem traces humans from primitive amphibians to their desire to fly. The characters move on a track in the shape of a giant tortoise, the symbol of several ancient civilizations.

Director Robert Lepage noted mankind started out as tadpoles and frogs. “We got out of the water, crawled and climbed,” he said at a news conference in Montreal Thursday. “We became a monkey, and then a man. And now the man wants to fly, like birds do, exploring the cosmos.”

Lepage says the show is drawn from the stories of Canadian aboriginal cultures and others in Africa and Asia, including myths and the symbolism attached to the totem.

“It is certainly suggestive, surrounded by some mystery,” said the renowned Quebec director.

“Here, we think of these vertical sculptures on the West Coast. Yes, there are references to it in the show, but the totem, it goes further, it is much broader.

“It is our spirit that reaches the minds of animals, the spirit of the earth, the spirit of the heavens and the spirit of the elements.”

The music and dances in the show are also drawn from ritual ceremonies.
Lepage, who has already masterminded
Ka, another Cirque production that has drawn raves in Las Vegas, uses 52 performers from 19 countries in the new show.

Dixie Carter, 70: Starred In Designing Women

Source: Andrew Dalton

(April 11, 2010) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Designing Women star Dixie Carter, whose Southern charm and natural beauty won her a host of television roles, has died. She was 70.

Carter died Saturday morning, according to publicist Steve Rohr, who represents Carter and her husband, actor Hal Holbrook. He declined to disclose the cause of death or where she died. Carter lived with Holbrook in the Los Angeles area.

"This has been a terrible blow to our family," Holbrook said in a written statement. "We would appreciate everyone understanding that this is a private family tragedy."

A native of Tennessee, Carter was most famous for playing wisecracking Southerner Julia Sugarbaker for seven years on Designing Women, the CBS sitcom that ran from 1986 to 1993. The series was the peak of a career in which she often played wealthy and self-important but independent Southern women.

She was nominated for an Emmy in 2007 for her seven-episode guest stint on the ABC hit Desperate Housewives.

Carter's other credits include roles on the series Family Law and Diff'rent Strokes.

She married Holbrook in 1984. The two had met four years earlier while making the TV movie The Killing of Randy Webster, and although attracted to one another, each had suffered two failed marriages and were wary at first.

They finally wed two years before Carter landed her role on Designing Women. Holbrook appeared on the show regularly in the late 1980s as her boyfriend, Reese Watson.

The two appeared together in her final project, the 2009 independent film That Evening Sun, shot in Tennessee and based on a short story by Southern novelist William Gay.

The middle of three children, Carter was born in 1939 in McLemoresville, Tenn.

Carter was the daughter of a grocery and department store owner who died just three years ago at 96. She said at the time of his death that he taught her to believe in people's essential goodness.

"When I asked him how he handled shoplifting in his new store, which had a lot of goods on display, making it impossible to keep an eye on everything, he said, 'Most people are honest, and if they weren't, you couldn't stay in business because a thief will find a way to steal,'" Carter said. "'You can't really protect yourself, but papa and I built our business believing most people are honest and want to do right by you.'"

Carter grew up in Carroll County and made her stage debut in a 1960 production of Carousel in Memphis. It was the beginning of a decades-long stage career in which she relied on her singing voice as much as her acting.

She appeared in TV soap operas in the 1970s, but did not become a national star until her recurring roles on Different Strokes and another series, Filthy Rich, in the 1980s.

Those two parts led to her role on Designing Women, a comedy about the lives of four women at an interior design firm in Atlanta.

Carter and Delta Burke played the sparring sisters who ran the firm. The series also starred Annie Potts and Jean Smart.

The show, whose reruns have rarely left the airwaves, was not a typical sitcom. It tackled such topics as sexism, ageism, body image and AIDS.

"It was something so unique, because there had never been anything quite like it," Potts told The Associated Press at a 2006 cast reunion. "We had Lucy and Ethel, but we never had that exponentially expanded, smart, attractive women who read newspapers and had passions about things and loved each other and stood by each other."

Carter appeared on the drama Family Law from 1999 to 2002, and in her last major TV appearance she played Gloria Hodge, the surly mother-in-law to Marcia Cross's Bree on Desperate Housewives.

Carter said the role was far from the kindly woman she played on Designing Women.

"It's a vast difference," Carter said while filming the series. "Gloria Hodge doesn't have any redeeming qualities except her intelligence."

In addition to Holbrook, Carter is survived by daughters Mary Dixie and Ginna.

The Genies Got It All Wrong

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey and Gayle MacDonald

(Apr. 09, 2010) With the 30th annual
Genie Awards coming Monday, the Canadian movie industry will try to ignore for one celebratory night the chronic problems plaguing homegrown film. With just $26-million, or 3 per cent, of the billion-dollar-plus Canadian box office in 2009, according to the Motion Picture Theatre Associations of Canada, Canadian films need all the help they can get.

Why, then, do this year’s Genie nominations not reflect some of last year’s most critically acclaimed and popular Canadian films?

It’s an issue that confounds commonsense and has raised questions from some film distributors and producers about a nomination process where a handful of people determine which films will be in contention. The most flagrant omission this year was J’ai tué ma mère, the debut film from 21-year-old Montreal wunderkind Xavier Dolan, whose exclusion from the competitive categories lead the film’s French distributor, Louis Dussault to call the Genies “totally irrelevant.”

“The film just won the Jutra for best Québécois film of the year,” says Dussault, president of K-Films Amérique in Montreal, referring to Quebec’s film awards. “It represented Canada in the Oscar’s best foreign-film category. We spent $4,000 to get J’ai tué ma mère into the Genies’ best film, best director, best actor and best actress categories. And we were shut out in all four. It’s absolutely not normal. It seems the Genie organization is not organized. They cannot set up a jury that really represents the industry. The Genies have no credibility here in Quebec.”

It’s not hard to understand his perspective. J’ai tué ma mère (I killed my mother) was an international sensation when it won three awards in Cannes last spring and has since gone on to earn awards and special mentions in more than a dozen festivals around the world, including the Paris-based Lumière prize for the best French film outside of France. At the Genies, it has been shut out of the competitive categories (though it earned the non-competitive Claude Jutra Award for best first film). At the Quebec-based Jutras, it scored much bigger, winning best film, best screenplay and best actress for Anne Dorval.

The problem is that the case of J’ai tué ma mère’s exclusion was not exceptional.

Atom Egoyan’s Adoration, winner of the Ecumenical Jury Prize in Cannes and a nominee for the Palme d’Or, as well as a Special Jury Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, was held to just two nominations – screenplay and best supporting actor (for Scott Speedman).

Lost Song, Rodrigue Jean’s drama which was picked by a Toronto film fest jury as the top Canadian film at the festival in 2008 and was released last year, was shut out entirely.

Cairo Time, which took the same award at last year’s festival and was listed in Canada’s Top 10 by a national panel, earned only a costume nomination.

From the perspective of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, which oversees the Genies, the current system is the best possible under the circumstances of Canadian cinema. Unlike the Oscars, limited distribution hampers the ability of Canadian Academy members to see enough qualifying films to make useful nominations. The Academy has to find a diverse group of jurors who are able and willing to sit through the qualifying feature films before meeting for a weekend in December to form a unanimous consensus. (This year, 31 made the qualifying round by running in Canadian theatres for three weeks).

The main committee, which this year consisted of eight “industry experts” (writers, filmmakers, an actor and a film critic), was responsible for picking nominees for best film, director and performance categories. They combined with 10 members of the crafts jury for the best picture nominations. Ultimately, the choices come down not to a survey of the membership as with the Oscars, but to the vagaries of a small group of people in a room.

“Clearly when you have a system that’s dependent on human beings,” says the Academy’s CEO Sara Morton, “other human beings will disagree. But I’m fairly confident this provides the optimal chances of obtaining results in terms of nominations that are sound.”

In the Genies’ defence, Mark Slone, senior vice-president, Alliance Films, said the award event’s agenda is “not about promoting commercial success, but rather about peer-to-peer recognition,” adding he was thrilled his company’s movie, Before Tomorrow, winner of the Best Canadian First Feature Film at 2008’s TIFF, got nine nominations. “It is not a super commercial film, but a beautifully made movie. Perhaps the Genie nod will encourage some people to go out and get the DVD.

But Slone adds that having more commercial films nominated alongside the “art” films could increase the values of the Genies “as a whole.”

Hussain Amarshi’s Mongrel Media distributed Nurse.Fighter.Boy and it garnered 10 Genie nominations. Despite that film’s success, he admits he’s surprised One Weekwith Joshua Jackson didn’t make the list for best film, given it was one of the most successful Canadian films last year. (It did garner acting nods for Joshua Jackson and Liane Balaban).

“It’s difficult to figure out which films qualify and which don’t. It’s a complicated cut-off point.”

Amarshi, based in Toronto, thinks that because English-Canadian film struggles far more than Quebec cinema, the industry may be better served if the Genies were handed only to English language titles. The Jutras would then focus on the Québécois films. “While I understand the desire to make this a national awards show, the fact is we have two different industries in Canada. ... I think it’s time to recognize the Genies as two separate award events.”

He also questions whether the Genies should even try to be televised. “Let’s just have a great party for the industry, since the Genies typically attract a very small TV audience.” This year, the Genies will be broadcast on the Independent Film Channel and webcast on the CBC. The Jutras, in contrast, aired on Radio-Canada and drew one-million Quebec television viewers.

Next year, Dussault says he will not submit any film to the Genies. “I don’t want to waste my time.” J’ai tué ma mère earned $1-million in box office in Quebec, and has so far grossed about $40,000 in English Canada. “In Quebec, a lot of people loved this film. And the Genie exclusion was a great insult.”

Given the controversy that has long dogged the 30-year-old Genies, Amarshi suggests it may be the right time to “reflect on the usefulness of the ceremony. We certainly value an industry that recognizes the talent, but we just want to make sure it’s done in the right way.”

“In some way,” he adds, “the Genies reflect the challenges the industry faces in English Canada. We’re trying to find the right way to tell our stories. We get some hits, but a lot of misses. We need to rethink how to move forward, and not keep repeating what we’ve done in the past. Not every country can aspire to an Oscar situation. We’re more akin to America’s Independent Spirit Awards, which recognize the sweat, love, talent and tears that go into nourishing the indie spirit.”


Major Genie Nominations

Best Motion Picture

3 Saisons – Maude Bouchard, Jim Donovan, Sandy Martinez, Bruno Rosato

Before Tomorrow – Stéphane Rituit

Fifty Dead Men Walking – Shawn Williamson, Stephen Hegyes, Peter La Terriere, Kari Skogland

Nurse.Fighter.Boy – Ingrid VeningerPolytechnique – Maxime Rémillard, Don Carmody

Achievement in Direction

Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Madeline Piujuq Ivalu - Before Tomorrow

Kari Skogland – Fifty Dead Men Walking

Charles Officer – Nurse.Fighter.Boy

Denis Villeneuve – Polytechnique

Bruce McDonald – Pontypool

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Jean-Carl Boucher - 1981

Paul Dylan Ivalu – Before Tomorrow

Joshua Jackson – One Week

Clark Johnson – Nurse.Fighter.Boy

Stephen McHattie – Pontypool

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Madeline Piujuq Ivalu – Before Tomorrow

Karen LeBlanc – Nurse.Fighter.Boy

Carinne Leduc – 3 Saisons

Gabrielle Rose – Mothers & Daughters

Karine Vanasse – Polytechnique

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Patrick Drolet – De père en flic / Father and Guns

John Dunsworth – Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day

Maxim Gaudette – Polytechnique

Rémy Girard – De père en flic / Father and Guns

Scott Speedman – Adoration

Performance by actress in a supporting role Liane Balaban – One Week

Marie Brassard – Les grandes chaleurs / Heat Wave

Martha Burns – Love & Savagery

Isabel Richer – Babine

Sonia Vachon – 5150, rue des Ormes / 5150 Elm’s Way

 
Polytechnique Sweeps Genie Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(April 12, 2010) A film Canadians were afraid to see about a tragedy that still sears is the toast of the nation’s movie industry, winning nine prizes at the 30th annual Genie Awards.

Polytechnique is Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s dramatic recreation of the night of Dec. 6, 1989, when gunman Marc Lépine shot and killed 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, also wounding 10 women and four men before taking his own life.

The film swept the Genies Monday night at Toronto’s Guvernment/Kool Haus Entertainment complex, succeeding in nine of its 11 nominated categories, Best Motion Picture amongst them. The other eight wins were for direction, actress (Karine Vanasse), supporting actor (Maxim Gaudette, who played Lépine), original screenplay (Jacques Davidts), cinematography (Pierre Gill) and editing (Richard Comeau), plus overall sound and sound editing.

“Everybody I know is afraid of the movie,” Villeneuve told the Toronto Star in an interview while he was making Polytechnique in the spring of 2008.

The production was kept under tight security to avoid protests or other disruptions. The black-and-white film renders no judgments and uses so little dialogue, it almost plays like a silent movie.

The emotionally charged nature of Polytechnique may have contributed to the film’s poor showing outside Quebec, members of the tightly knit filmmaking team speculated backstage. Polytechnique grossed a respectable $1.8 million at the Quebec box office, but it bombed in the rest of Canada, taking in just $100,000.

“People were afraid of their own reaction to the movie,” said Vanasse, who earlier wept as she accepted her award, and dedicated it to the memory of Lépine’s victims.

But Polytechnique wasn’t made with an eye to profit, winning awards or playing at film festivals, Villeneuve and others said.

“It was not an ego trip … it was straight from the heart and very, very painful,” Villeneuve said. He was persuaded to make the movie by Vanasse and by producer Don Carmody, who both felt the story had to be told.

Villeneuve has directed two other features and has a fourth one, Incendies, that is in post-production and touted to be going to the Cannes Film Festival next month. But he considers Polytechnique an experience akin to “making cinema for the first time.”

Supporting actor winner Maxim Gaudette said it was extremely difficult playing Lépine, whom he described as “the person who is most hated in Quebec.” He approached him as a person consumed by rage.

“I didn’t want to play him as a monster or a mad killer. I approached the character as a human being. I wanted people to have access to his pain inside him.”

The real controversy at the Genies wasn’t over the well-praised Polytechnique, but rather the nearly shunned J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother) the acclaimed feature debut of Xavier Dolan, who wrote, directed and acted in the film at the age of 20.

J’ai tué ma mère won three prizes at Cannes last year, and took Best Film and other awards at Quebec’s recent Jutra Awards (beating Polytechnique for the top prize), yet it was all but ignored at the Genies.

Dolan’s film was blanked in the Genie nomination and received only the Claude Jutra Award for best first feature, which even a member of the Genies organization likened to a pat on the head.

“The fact that he only got this award was sort of like, my reading of it, was like being sent to the kiddie table,” said Kevin Tierney, vice-chairman of cinema for the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, who accepted the award for an absent Dolan. “I call it an aberration.”

So did Martha Burns, winner of the best supporting actress prize for playing a nun in Love & Savagery, a tale of forbidden romance set in Ireland.

J’ai tué ma mère — why isn’t that in every category?” she said, adding that it’s another example of the problems Canadian films face in finding audiences at home and abroad.

“It’s too bad we don’t have a more fun, sexier way of showing the world that our films are getting better and more original and bright. … Let’s stop boring each other.”

No other movie came close to Polytechnique in the Genies prize count and just two others had multiple wins. They also dealt with themes of violence.

Fifty Dead Men Walking, a drama about Ireland’s Troubles, won the adapted screenplay award for writer/director Kari Skogland and the art direction/production design prize for Eve Stewart.

The Quebec horror film Grande ourse: La clé des possibles (The Master Key), also won two trophies: makeup for Djina Caron and André Duval and original musical score for Normand Corbeil.

In one of the few major wins for a film other than Polytechnique, Vancouver-born Joshua Jackson took the lead actor award for One Week, a comedy about a man’s cross-Canada motorcycle ride in search of himself.

“I can’t believe I won something!” he exulted, proudly waving his Genie.

The Genies Got It All Wrong

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey and Gayle MacDonald

(Apr. 09, 2010) With the 30th annual
Genie Awards coming Monday, the Canadian movie industry will try to ignore for one celebratory night the chronic problems plaguing homegrown film. With just $26-million, or 3 per cent, of the billion-dollar-plus Canadian box office in 2009, according to the Motion Picture Theatre Associations of Canada, Canadian films need all the help they can get.

Why, then, do this year’s Genie nominations not reflect some of last year’s most critically acclaimed and popular Canadian films?

It’s an issue that confounds commonsense and has raised questions from some film distributors and producers about a nomination process where a handful of people determine which films will be in contention. The most flagrant omission this year was J’ai tué ma mère, the debut film from 21-year-old Montreal wunderkind Xavier Dolan, whose exclusion from the competitive categories lead the film’s French distributor, Louis Dussault to call the Genies “totally irrelevant.”

“The film just won the Jutra for best Québécois film of the year,” says Dussault, president of K-Films Amérique in Montreal, referring to Quebec’s film awards. “It represented Canada in the Oscar’s best foreign-film category. We spent $4,000 to get J’ai tué ma mère into the Genies’ best film, best director, best actor and best actress categories. And we were shut out in all four. It’s absolutely not normal. It seems the Genie organization is not organized. They cannot set up a jury that really represents the industry. The Genies have no credibility here in Quebec.”

It’s not hard to understand his perspective. J’ai tué ma mère (I killed my mother) was an international sensation when it won three awards in Cannes last spring and has since gone on to earn awards and special mentions in more than a dozen festivals around the world, including the Paris-based Lumière prize for the best French film outside of France. At the Genies, it has been shut out of the competitive categories (though it earned the non-competitive Claude Jutra Award for best first film). At the Quebec-based Jutras, it scored much bigger, winning best film, best screenplay and best actress for Anne Dorval.

The problem is that the case of J’ai tué ma mère’s exclusion was not exceptional.

Atom Egoyan’s Adoration, winner of the Ecumenical Jury Prize in Cannes and a nominee for the Palme d’Or, as well as a Special Jury Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, was held to just two nominations – screenplay and best supporting actor (for Scott Speedman).

Lost Song, Rodrigue Jean’s drama which was picked by a Toronto film fest jury as the top Canadian film at the festival in 2008 and was released last year, was shut out entirely.

Cairo Time, which took the same award at last year’s festival and was listed in Canada’s Top 10 by a national panel, earned only a costume nomination.

From the perspective of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, which oversees the Genies, the current system is the best possible under the circumstances of Canadian cinema. Unlike the Oscars, limited distribution hampers the ability of Canadian Academy members to see enough qualifying films to make useful nominations. The Academy has to find a diverse group of jurors who are able and willing to sit through the qualifying feature films before meeting for a weekend in December to form a unanimous consensus. (This year, 31 made the qualifying round by running in Canadian theatres for three weeks).

The main committee, which this year consisted of eight “industry experts” (writers, filmmakers, an actor and a film critic), was responsible for picking nominees for best film, director and performance categories. They combined with 10 members of the crafts jury for the best picture nominations. Ultimately, the choices come down not to a survey of the membership as with the Oscars, but to the vagaries of a small group of people in a room.

“Clearly when you have a system that’s dependent on human beings,” says the Academy’s CEO Sara Morton, “other human beings will disagree. But I’m fairly confident this provides the optimal chances of obtaining results in terms of nominations that are sound.”

In the Genies’ defence, Mark Slone, senior vice-president, Alliance Films, said the award event’s agenda is “not about promoting commercial success, but rather about peer-to-peer recognition,” adding he was thrilled his company’s movie, Before Tomorrow, winner of the Best Canadian First Feature Film at 2008’s TIFF, got nine nominations. “It is not a super commercial film, but a beautifully made movie. Perhaps the Genie nod will encourage some people to go out and get the DVD.

But Slone adds that having more commercial films nominated alongside the “art” films could increase the values of the Genies “as a whole.”

Hussain Amarshi’s Mongrel Media distributed Nurse.Fighter.Boy and it garnered 10 Genie nominations. Despite that film’s success, he admits he’s surprised One Weekwith Joshua Jackson didn’t make the list for best film, given it was one of the most successful Canadian films last year. (It did garner acting nods for Joshua Jackson and Liane Balaban).

“It’s difficult to figure out which films qualify and which don’t. It’s a complicated cut-off point.”

Amarshi, based in Toronto, thinks that because English-Canadian film struggles far more than Quebec cinema, the industry may be better served if the Genies were handed only to English language titles. The Jutras would then focus on the Québécois films. “While I understand the desire to make this a national awards show, the fact is we have two different industries in Canada. ... I think it’s time to recognize the Genies as two separate award events.”

He also questions whether the Genies should even try to be televised. “Let’s just have a great party for the industry, since the Genies typically attract a very small TV audience.” This year, the Genies will be broadcast on the Independent Film Channel and webcast on the CBC. The Jutras, in contrast, aired on Radio-Canada and drew one-million Quebec television viewers.

Next year, Dussault says he will not submit any film to the Genies. “I don’t want to waste my time.” J’ai tué ma mère earned $1-million in box office in Quebec, and has so far grossed about $40,000 in English Canada. “In Quebec, a lot of people loved this film. And the Genie exclusion was a great insult.”

Given the controversy that has long dogged the 30-year-old Genies, Amarshi suggests it may be the right time to “reflect on the usefulness of the ceremony. We certainly value an industry that recognizes the talent, but we just want to make sure it’s done in the right way.”

“In some way,” he adds, “the Genies reflect the challenges the industry faces in English Canada. We’re trying to find the right way to tell our stories. We get some hits, but a lot of misses. We need to rethink how to move forward, and not keep repeating what we’ve done in the past. Not every country can aspire to an Oscar situation. We’re more akin to America’s Independent Spirit Awards, which recognize the sweat, love, talent and tears that go into nourishing the indie spirit.”


Major Genie Nominations

Best Motion Picture

3 Saisons – Maude Bouchard, Jim Donovan, Sandy Martinez, Bruno Rosato

Before Tomorrow – Stéphane Rituit

Fifty Dead Men Walking – Shawn Williamson, Stephen Hegyes, Peter La Terriere, Kari Skogland

Nurse.Fighter.Boy – Ingrid VeningerPolytechnique – Maxime Rémillard, Don Carmody

Achievement in Direction

Marie-Hélène Cousineau, Madeline Piujuq Ivalu - Before Tomorrow

Kari Skogland – Fifty Dead Men Walking

Charles Officer – Nurse.Fighter.Boy

Denis Villeneuve – Polytechnique

Bruce McDonald – Pontypool

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Jean-Carl Boucher - 1981

Paul Dylan Ivalu – Before Tomorrow

Joshua Jackson – One Week

Clark Johnson – Nurse.Fighter.Boy

Stephen McHattie – Pontypool

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Madeline Piujuq Ivalu – Before Tomorrow

Karen LeBlanc – Nurse.Fighter.Boy

Carinne Leduc – 3 Saisons

Gabrielle Rose – Mothers & Daughters

Karine Vanasse – Polytechnique

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Patrick Drolet – De père en flic / Father and Guns

John Dunsworth – Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day

Maxim Gaudette – Polytechnique

Rémy Girard – De père en flic / Father and Guns

Scott Speedman – Adoration

Performance by actress in a supporting role Liane Balaban – One Week

Marie Brassard – Les grandes chaleurs / Heat Wave

Martha Burns – Love & Savagery

Isabel Richer – Babine

Sonia Vachon – 5150, rue des Ormes / 5150 Elm’s Way

 
Polytechnique Sweeps Genie Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(April 12, 2010) A film Canadians were afraid to see about a tragedy that still sears is the toast of the nation’s movie industry, winning nine prizes at the 30th annual Genie Awards.

Polytechnique is Quebec director Denis Villeneuve’s dramatic recreation of the night of Dec. 6, 1989, when gunman Marc Lépine shot and killed 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, also wounding 10 women and four men before taking his own life.

The film swept the Genies Monday night at Toronto’s Guvernment/Kool Haus Entertainment complex, succeeding in nine of its 11 nominated categories, Best Motion Picture amongst them. The other eight wins were for direction, actress (Karine Vanasse), supporting actor (Maxim Gaudette, who played Lépine), original screenplay (Jacques Davidts), cinematography (Pierre Gill) and editing (Richard Comeau), plus overall sound and sound editing.

“Everybody I know is afraid of the movie,” Villeneuve told the Toronto Star in an interview while he was making Polytechnique in the spring of 2008.

The production was kept under tight security to avoid protests or other disruptions. The black-and-white film renders no judgments and uses so little dialogue, it almost plays like a silent movie.

The emotionally charged nature of Polytechnique may have contributed to the film’s poor showing outside Quebec, members of the tightly knit filmmaking team speculated backstage. Polytechnique grossed a respectable $1.8 million at the Quebec box office, but it bombed in the rest of Canada, taking in just $100,000.

“People were afraid of their own reaction to the movie,” said Vanasse, who earlier wept as she accepted her award, and dedicated it to the memory of Lépine’s victims.

But Polytechnique wasn’t made with an eye to profit, winning awards or playing at film festivals, Villeneuve and others said.

“It was not an ego trip … it was straight from the heart and very, very painful,” Villeneuve said. He was persuaded to make the movie by Vanasse and by producer Don Carmody, who both felt the story had to be told.

Villeneuve has directed two other features and has a fourth one, Incendies, that is in post-production and touted to be going to the Cannes Film Festival next month. But he considers Polytechnique an experience akin to “making cinema for the first time.”

Supporting actor winner Maxim Gaudette said it was extremely difficult playing Lépine, whom he described as “the person who is most hated in Quebec.” He approached him as a person consumed by rage.

“I didn’t want to play him as a monster or a mad killer. I approached the character as a human being. I wanted people to have access to his pain inside him.”

The real controversy at the Genies wasn’t over the well-praised Polytechnique, but rather the nearly shunned J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother) the acclaimed feature debut of Xavier Dolan, who wrote, directed and acted in the film at the age of 20.

J’ai tué ma mère won three prizes at Cannes last year, and took Best Film and other awards at Quebec’s recent Jutra Awards (beating Polytechnique for the top prize), yet it was all but ignored at the Genies.

Dolan’s film was blanked in the Genie nomination and received only the Claude Jutra Award for best first feature, which even a member of the Genies organization likened to a pat on the head.

“The fact that he only got this award was sort of like, my reading of it, was like being sent to the kiddie table,” said Kevin Tierney, vice-chairman of cinema for the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, who accepted the award for an absent Dolan. “I call it an aberration.”

So did Martha Burns, winner of the best supporting actress prize for playing a nun in Love & Savagery, a tale of forbidden romance set in Ireland.

J’ai tué ma mère — why isn’t that in every category?” she said, adding that it’s another example of the problems Canadian films face in finding audiences at home and abroad.

“It’s too bad we don’t have a more fun, sexier way of showing the world that our films are getting better and more original and bright. … Let’s stop boring each other.”

No other movie came close to Polytechnique in the Genies prize count and just two others had multiple wins. They also dealt with themes of violence.

Fifty Dead Men Walking, a drama about Ireland’s Troubles, won the adapted screenplay award for writer/director Kari Skogland and the art direction/production design prize for Eve Stewart.

The Quebec horror film Grande ourse: La clé des possibles (The Master Key), also won two trophies: makeup for Djina Caron and André Duval and original musical score for Normand Corbeil.

In one of the few major wins for a film other than Polytechnique, Vancouver-born Joshua Jackson took the lead actor award for One Week, a comedy about a man’s cross-Canada motorcycle ride in search of himself.

“I can’t believe I won something!” he exulted, proudly waving his Genie.

K'naan Proudest of Songwriting Nod

Source: Karen Bliss, Dose.ca

(April 8, 2010) It’s been seven years since
K’naan attended the Juno Awards and back then, in Ottawa, the aspiring artist just went to perform a poem at a peace concert with K-os, Gord Downie, Sam Roberts and others the day before the televised ceremony. He hadn’t even released his debut full-length, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, which came in 2005.

“I won after that though,” K’naan says of Dusty’s win for rap recording of the year in 2006, “but I wasn’t able to go. I was on tour. I don’t remember where.”

Click HERE for article.


The 2010 Juno Awards airs Sunday, April 18 on CTV.

 ::TRAVEL NEWS::

Hip Brooklyn: Head to the Point

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Sophie Donelson

(March 17, 2010) Fashions come and go in New York, but one look that never loses currency in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is helmet head. Tousled hair isn't a goal, but a symptom of the preferred transportation of the young creatives who inhabit the borough's northernmost neighbourhood alongside a sizable Polish population – a concentration reportedly second in the U.S. only to Chicago.

Hearing “on your right,” the courtesy phrase for getouttatheway, is only slightly less common than catching the Polish greeting czesc. It's a funny pairing in Greenpoint, but it works: Vegetarians love borscht.

In the past few years, the number of new businesses has skyrocketed. Residents are buzzing about a forthcoming French bistro (a first), a “social club” (which means bar in hipster-speak) and their own piece of a planned 28-acre waterfront park and promenade, although that's still a year off. Save for buses, the G train – one of the subway's most irritatingly erratic lines – is the only direct route into the neighbourhood (hence so many enthusiastic cyclists). On a recent Saturday, a band of helmeted twentysomethings from all over the city careered around the neighbourhood on an urban field trip, making stops for authentic Polish food, local beer and old-fashioned doughnuts, which they inhaled alongside likeminded others, balancing old-school calories and exercise.

Greenpoint is bookended by two subway stops, Greenpoint Ave. and Nassau, and the blocks in between are rich with stylish boutiques, thrift shops, home-style and fine dining and the best people-watching. Helmets are optional.

Hidden treasures
The name Junk is misleading, especially since the price tags at this thrift shop aren't rock bottom. But that
won't keep you from enjoying the weird and wonderful collection of curios, such as large dioramas made by children at a defunct suburban museum. In the right setting, these hodgepodge sculptures of parrots or horseshoe crabs and poster paint might just pass for outside art. 214 Franklin St., 718-383-3751

Green eggs and ham (and challah)
Unlike the surrounding boutiques, Brooklyn Label gets an early start, serving weekend brunch from 9 a.m. The menu brags that everything here is made from scratch, and that includes the tasty red and green hot sauce – find something, anything, to douse it on. It's unnecessary, though, atop Green Eggs 'N' Ham, a hearty dish of eggs and challah toast topped with babyspinach, arugula pesto and a slab of ham (or not). 180 Franklin St., 718-389-2806, brooklynlabel.com

Strange brews
Ed Raven, a long-time importer of German beer, recently opened Brouwerij Lane, where you can buy growlers (64-ounce jugs) of any of 20 beers, including American craft brews, local beers and KBBK, a locally made kombucha – the fermented-tea elixir favoured by health nuts. The former auto body shop is heated by a vintage wood stove; neighbours and visitors hang out while sipping $2 half-pint samples straight from the tap. 78 Greenpoint Ave.; 347-529-6133; brouwerijlane.com

Good looks, great prices
Regulars at Dalaga are loath to share the secret of this jewel: cute women's clothes at prices that leave stylish New Yorkers slack-jawed. The husband-and-wife owners met at college, where he studied film and she fashion; hence the adorable vintage-boudoir vibe. Most of the clothing suits a day-to-night look, but one terrific number, a marabou-feather cocktail dress, was worth sole evening wear for $99. No time to browse? Dalaga's website ships to Canada. 150 Franklin St.; 718-389-4049; dalaganyc.com

This old house
Steps from the waterfront is a row of houses dating from the late 1800s. One houses Le Grenier, a shop selling delightful housewares, mostly antique. The merchandise doesn't adhere to just one era, so you might find Victorian and Art Deco items cheek by jowl, such as etched champagne coupes and vintage silver, or apothecary lamps and an old icebox. 19 Greenpoint Ave.; 718-569-0111; www.legrenierny.com

Alter states
Avant-garde clothing is rarely affordable or easy to wear, but it's both at Alter, which is really two stores, one men's, one women's. Both stock stacks of skinny jeans from Swedish label Cheap Monday, while the men's store has California labels such as Shades of Greige and the women's arm carries Toronto-based Preloved and the Montreal vegan handbag line Matt & Nat. 109 and 140 Franklin St.; 718-349-0203; alterbrooklyn.com

On the waterfront
Greenpoint has plenty of waterfront on the East River, but until 2011, when a massive parks development is set to be complete, residents enjoy the terrific Manhattan views at WNYC Transmitter Park, an interim, mulch-covered plot at the former site of a public radio transmission tower. 2 Greenpoint Ave.

Book it
Literary fiction, such as Stoner by John Williams (the staff pick for March), rules the sales list at Word, a cozy bookstore where the staff and patrons spontaneously break out in passionate book-club banter. The shop carries many titles by area writers such as Kate Christensen, Wells Tower and Jami Attenberg, plus a charming kids' books section and sometimes a table of freebies outside. 126 Franklin Ave.; 718-383-0096; wordbrooklyn.com

Pillowy perogies
A bilingual menu, reasonable prices and home-style food are the draws at Lomzynianka, where eight pillowy potato-and-cheese perogies are just $5 and a plate of mixed salads (cole slaw, red cabbage, beets, sauerkraut and more) is $2. There is an enticing assortment of blintzes, but save your sweet tooth for one of two specialty shops within a few blocks. 646 Manhattan Ave.; 718-389-9439

Sweet treats
It's hard to believe that the Poles ever rationed sugar when you visit Slodycze Wedel, a Wonkaland of Slavic candy. Bonbons in shiny, colourful wrappers overflow from baskets. The treats are sold by the pound and labelled in Polish, so while chocolates with fillings such as coconut or coffee are easy enough to decipher from the wrapper, plum and advocaat, which tastes like boozy eggnog, can get lost in translation. Ask one of the kind shop girls for help. 772 Manhattan Ave.; 718-349-3933

A doughnut Neverland
Fillings are also a specialty at Peter Pan Bakery, which is famous for light and crumbly and homemade doughnuts, often still warm from the oven. Neighbourhood retirees, single hipsters and families can be found lingering at the retro counter, but most patrons eat the 90-cent treats standing up outside, ogling the window display. The uniformed girls couldn't name just one local favourite, but suggested white cream coconut and the “old fashion cruller.” And while one clerk said the latter was too plain for her taste, it wasn't for mine. 727 Manhattan Ave.; 718-389-3676

Special to The Globe and Mail
 

::MUSIC NEWS::

K-os Wants To Be Cool Like Keith At This Year's Junos

Source:
By Karen Bliss, Dose.ca

(April 7, 2010)
K-os never realized it’s a big deal just to be nominated for a Juno. His work has been nominated 15 times since 2003 and won single of the year (“Crabbuckit”), rap recording of the year (Joyful Rebellion) and video of the year (“B-Boy Stance”), all in 2005.This year, the Toronto-based singer/rapper is up for rap recording of the year for his latest album, Yes!

The jury process to determine the final nominee list is quite long and involved, so in many ways it’s almost a bigger deal to be nominated than to win.

Click HERE for article.

K-os is nominated for Rap Recording of the Year.

The 2010 Juno Awards airs Sunday, April 18 on CTV.

Juno Awards Could Be Ruled By First-Timers

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch

(April 13, 2010) It took Howie Beck four albums spread over the last 13 years to finally receive his first Juno nomination.

So he’s going to make sure he has a bit of fun with it.

“I’ve just been joking with it with my friends. When I call them, I say: ‘Please hold for Juno-nominated artist Howie Beck’,” the Toronto singer-songwriter said with a laugh during a telephone interview.

“It’s fun. It’s fun to feel ever so briefly part of a club that I’ve never been part of.”

And he’s not alone.

In fact, with 94 first-time nominees up for prizes at this Sunday’s 39th Juno Awards (CTV, 8 p.m.) in St. John’s, a host of newbies will be ushered into that same exclusive club alongside Beck — and some might even manage to steal the show.

Sure, this year’s Junos will still fete some familiar names — if Michael Bublé cashes in any of his leading six nominations, he’ll be adding to a career tally that already includes six Juno trophies — but many of this year’s marquee performers will be making their first appearance at the annual music bash.

There’s Canada’s newly crowned hip-hop heavyweight Drake, that rare Canadian artist to have appeared at the Grammys prior to popping up at his homegrown award show (the twice-nominated rapper didn’t win at January’s Grammys, but did contribute a show-stealing performance of “Forever” with Lil Wayne and Eminem).

The 23-year-old is armed with four nominations at Sunday’s show, months before his long-delayed debut LP, Thank Me Later, is finally set to drop.

The Junos have also been quick to embrace Justin Bieber.

The mop-topped 16-year-old from Stratford, Ont., pocketed nominations in three major categories (album of the year, new artist of the year and pop album of the year). Those nods come from a 26-minute EP, as his first full-length album, My World 2.0, was released too late for consideration.

Along with Drake and Bublé, Bieber will hit the Juno stage for a performance that will surely induce shrieks from his legions of zealous young devotees.

But not all of the nearly 100 Juno first-timers have faces as fresh or as famous as Drake and Bieber.

In fact, many of these Juno newcomers have toiled for years in the Canadian industry without the awards show taking notice.

Take Carolyn Mark, who has been a mainstay of the West Coast music scene since the early ’90s. Her collaboration with NQ Arbuckle, “Let’s Just Stay Here,” earned a nod for roots and traditional album of the year.

It’s the sixth album she’s released under her own name and her first Juno nomination.

So, what was it this time around that finally caught the academy’s eye?

“It took a whole year and . . . I’ve never spent that much time on a record,” Mark said on the line from her Victoria home.

“So maybe the whole ‘hard work pays off’ thing is true, after all — as much as I hate to admit it.”

Toronto-based folk-pop duo Madison Violet similarly credited the creative step forward represented by their third full-length No Fool for Trying.

The pair — Brenley MacEachern of Kincardine, Ont., and Lisa MacIsaac of Creignish, N.S. — had been self-managed for years prior to their latest release, and had never actually submitted their work for Juno consideration before.

“I’m proud of those two albums, definitely, but I think we were still trying to find our sound,” MacEachern said. “I think we’ve found our sound now and found something natural for us.”

But Beck, for his part, doesn’t really know why his latest album in particular — another set of carefully crafted pop tunes — was the one to nab his first Juno nomination.

In fact, he says his previous records might have carried a higher profile.

“To be honest, I really have no idea,” said Beck, whose How to Fall Down in Public is up for adult alternative album of the year.

“This record, out of all my albums, kind of didn’t really have as much of a profile as my previous ones did. I don’t really understand why it’s happened this time around. Maybe someone talked to my doctor or something and I’m in trouble? I have no idea.”

While it’s a bit soon for any of the new nominees to speculate on what the nod could do for their careers — though Mark said the accolade already helped her to persuade a sceptical customs agent to let her across the U.S. border — it might signal the end of an old tradition: bashing the Junos.

“Like anything, if you’re invited, it seems way cooler,” Mark said. “We just played the Olympics, it was kind of the same thing. We were like: ‘Olympics? Whatever!’ Then, ‘Oh, you want us to play? Sure, we’ll be right there!’ It changes, I guess, if you’re included.”

Similarly, Beck had been critical of the show a year ago, when he reprimanded the Junos for “nominating the same (stuff) they’ve been nominating for 15 years.”

Does he feel differently now that he’s been included?

“What’s really inspiring about this is that I know so many other people who are going to be there performing, and who are nominated for awards, and these are people, like myself, they just weren’t part of that before this,” Beck replied. “So I just think it’s important for people to be recognized for their work, not because of their haircuts, or their popularity. . . .

“You have to take these things with a grain of salt, because ultimately it’s kind of an industry recognition, but at the same time, it’s kind of the first time I’ve really had any recognition from the Canadian industry. It feels great.

“I used to watch the Junos a lot growing up, to get a glimpse of my Canadian heroes, like Neil Young and Rush and stuff. It’s nice to be part of that tradition in some small way.”

First Manhattan, Then Rideau Hall For Leonard Cohen?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Jane Taber

(April 14, 2010) Hallelujah, hallelujah. A Facebook group has sprung up touting Leonard Cohen – singer, songwriter, author and poet – as the country’s next governor-general.

So far, the Montreal-born Mr. Cohen, who has been described as a fringe figure in Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd and has lived in a Buddhist retreat during his long career, has 917 supporters.

Compare this to Preston Manning, the former Reform Party leader, who is also being pushed for the job on another Facebook group. He has 481 supporters.

“This group exists to promote the idea that Leonard Cohen would make an ideal choice to be Governor General of Canada,” say the singer’s Facebook proponents. “He is respected and even revered both internationally and domestically.”

It is noted that he is “bilingual and is gladly claimed by both French and English Canada.” He is also a Companion of the Order of Canada.

(Although Mr. Manning may have the political chops he is not bilingual. And popular - and populist - though he may be, Alberta songwriter k.d. Lang never covered one of his songs as she did Mr. Cohen’s Hallelujah.)

At 75, Mr. Cohen attracts fans and followers from all age groups. Indeed, the creator of the online campaign to get him to Rideau Hall is a University of Toronto grad student, Jeff Rybak.

“I'm a fan of Cohen's work, yes, but not a rabid one,” Mr. Rybak told The Globe. “What I appreciate most about him is that he's an artist who's succeeded for the right reasons, without compromising his work, without making efforts to be commercial.

“He's tremendously influential within the music world and in literary circles, but most people are more likely to know a cover version of his work rather than his own recordings.

“And he's fine with that. His attitude towards major success, which came late in his life, seems somehow Canadian to me. I appreciate his modesty.”

He said that he devised this scheme after “one of those random discussions” with a friend.

“A few names were batted around and I said Leonard Cohen, because I like him, yes, and appreciate his role as an unlikely Canadian icon. But then after thinking about it for a bit I realized he really is a good choice. And thinking about it some more, I realized he's an ideal choice.”

The issue of Michaëlle Jean’s replacement has been in the news for the past couple of weeks in the wake of reports Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not planning to extend her term. Ms. Jean will have been Governor-General for five years in September, the usual tenure for the position.

There have been all sorts of speculation for replacements, including hockey commentator Don Cherry, spinal cord research activist Rick Hansen and even hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

And Mr. Harper has an opportunity with her replacement to make his very first viceregal appointment. Ms. Jean was appointed by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin. The last time a Conservative appointed a governor-general was Brian Mulroney in 1990 when he named Ray Hnatyshyn to the post.

The Cohen-for-GG Facebook group argues it’s time for the public to get behind their choice rather than have someone “foisted” on them.

It’s acknowledged that this choice may not be entirely realistic as Mr. Cohen is “probably too wise to accept the job even if it were offered to him.”

“But endorsing Leonard Cohen as a candidate still sends a message about who we want to represent our nation as Governor General,” the group says. “Not a cynical choice. Not a politically expedient choice. But a choice that reflects our true pride as Canadians in who and what we are. A nation not afraid to be led by a poet.”

(File photo: Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail)

The Betty Interview: Janet Jackson

Source: -Cindy Pearlman

The past year has probably been the saddest in Janet Jackson’s life. The sudden death last June of her brother, Michael, plunged her into a deep grief from which she’s still recovering. But several projects, including a movie, a concert and a book, have helped her feel a bit more normal.

She says that “just having to show up and transform into a character” for Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married, Too? “was very therapeutic for me after I lost Michael. In a way, it was an escape. It’s what I needed to help me get through things.” And although the grief remains (“It’s there every single day,” she says) she’s also comforted by feeling Michael’s strong presence: “He was there with me while making this movie. He was there every moment.”

Janet’s kept busy with other projects as well: She recorded a new song, “Nothing,” for the film’s soundtrack. She’s going back to the concert stage for one performance this summer. She’s got a book in the works, True You, about her struggles with weight loss, that’s due out later this year. And her greatest hits CD, Number Ones, reached the top of the charts with the help of the hit “Make Me.”

How in the world did you work after your family faced such a tragic loss?
Love. It was all about the love of family and the support I felt around me. I felt nurturing from everyone in my life and from everyone on this set….The ocean calms and relaxes me. I lived on the water for a long time, and it has always made me feel good. And getting in the character for this new movie helped me. [In the film, the character Janet plays has lost her husband and son.] The grief she feels as a woman was right on point. Her grief was what I needed in my life. It was close to home. I definitely had real life to draw on, but it was tough…But I got up the next day.”

How are you feeling now?
I’m much better. I love being with my family and friends. We go to a club and listen to great music. I love to just breathe.

Tell us about your upcoming book, True You.
I didn’t just want to write about nutrition. My weight has always been about my childhood and my issues. I wasn’t a heavy kid or an oversized kid. But I did feel my self-esteem slipping. On the set of Good Times, they would say to me, ‘You need to lose weight.’ Then they would bind my chest because I had breasts at age 10. That was like telling me that who I was naturally wasn’t acceptable.

And you didn’t express how you felt—except through eating, maybe?
I was the kind of child – and I’m still this way – who holds everything inside. It manifests itself and comes out through eating. That’s my comfort. Then I go back, lose the weight and gain the weight again. You hate yourself for it.

Is your book a diet plan?
It’s a way of life. I think it’s also about knowing that your favourite food is something you don’t have to give up. You can go back to it and have it.

Read Michael Jackson Autopsy Results Confirm He Suffered From Vitiligo

What is your everyday life like now?
I wake up, write a song. I dream songs. I always have some kind of recording device on me. You know how you know that you truly love something? Just ask yourself if you would do this for free. Ask yourself honestly. That’s the way I feel about music. I’d do it for free.

Are you working on a new CD?
All the majors want to sign me. I haven’t decided how I want to play it.

You’re going to play one date in New Orleans on July 2. Do you look forward to getting back on stage?
I haven’t danced in awhile, and I’m so excited. I love performing and putting a band together. It’s a feeling unlike any other.

Any thoughts on becoming a mother?
I guess the media feels I’m getting to be a certain age [44], and now I better buckle down and become a mom. If it’s God’s will, it will happen. There are some women who don’t become moms until they’re 46 or 47. If it’s in the cards for me, then it will happen.

Cindy Pearlman is a nationally syndicated entertainment writer and the co-author of The Beauty Cookbook and The Black Book of Hollywood Beauty Secrets.

Herbie Hancock, Harry Connick Jr. to headline Toronto Jazz Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(April 13, 2010) Herbie Hancock and Harry Connick Jr. are among the tried and true announced Tuesday for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival’s 24th edition, which will also see the return of funkster Maceo Parker, guitarists Mike Stern and John Scofield and gospel maven Mavis Staples.

Organizers of the annual event, which will run from June 25 to July 4 with about 350 concerts spread across more than 40 locations, had earlier announced the return of Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio to the Four Seasons and a series at the new Koerner Hall with Nikki Yanofsky, David Sanborn, and festival standbys Dave Brubeck and Roy Hargrove.

The plethora of popular entertainers making repeat visits seems to lend an air of predictability ahead of the fest’s 2011 silver anniversary.

Pianist-singer Connick, marking only his second festival performance, is a guaranteed seller, commanding top prices ($50-$150) for his June 27 Canon Theatre show in the wake of his recent voice-focused, covers album which is getting prominence at current shows.

Hancock may not have filled the Four Seasons Centre for his 2007 outing (as a late replacement for an ailing Oscar Peterson), but he’ll appear at the smaller Nathan Philips Square mainstage June 26 just days after releasing a new album, with an all-star band comprised of bassist Dave Holland, saxist Chris Potter, guitarist Lionel Loueke and vocalist Sonya Kitchell.

Boundary-pushing jazzers will anticipate the Stanley Clarke Band featuring last year’s fest sensation, Japanese pianist Hiromi (June 28); James Farm, a contemporary collaborative comprised of saxist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Ari Hoenig (June 30); the festival debut of bristling New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott (July 3); and Spark of Being, a innovative project combining the screening of a movie by experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison with a live musical performance trumpeter Dave Douglas’ electric band Keystone (June 29).

When even a first time festival concert by The Roots (June 29) can seem like a safe choice, given the hip-hop group’s growing mainstream profile as TV host Jimmy Fallon’s house band, there are a few other unique acts worth noting: Martha Wainwright singing the songs of Edith Piaf (June 25); acclaimed Serbian director and bassist Emir Kusturica and his No Smoking Orchestra (July 4); and the experimental two guitar, voice and drums quartet Doran, Stucky, Studer & Tacuma interpreting Jimi Hendrix tunes (July 3).

The festival will also showcase the usual complement of Canadian jazz stalwarts such as Jane Bunnett, Hilario Duran and Mike Murley. Among new venues being utilized are Hugh’s Room, Great Hall, Hard Rock Café and Shops at Don Mills.

After having met with the task force, organizers say they don’t anticipate any impact from the G-20 Summit. “The jazz festival is outside the security zone and we will be open for business,” said executive producer Pat Taylor, adding “we’ve sent invitations to all the world heads of state to join us.”

However, no concerts will be held at the Nathan Phillips Square stages on the final weekend due to ongoing city renovations of the plaza.

Instead, a free all-day party will take place at Yonge-Dundas Square July 3, with two headliners who will be announced May 3. It’s an opportunity to try out the space, which the festival may need to utilize more next year, since the Nathan Philips Square construction continues through 2012, Taylor explained.

Visit www.torontojazz.com for full schedule and information.

VIDEO: New Kelis CD Release Coming In July

Source:  www.eurweb.com
 
(April 11, 2010) *Look out for Kelis’ new CD, “Fleshtone,” which set to hit the streets stateside on July 6, but it’ll be available internationally on May 17.

For her new LP the “Milkshake” singer teamed up with Will.I.Am, David Guetta, Benny Benassi, Free School and Boys Noise.

The project, which is dance/club oriented, so far has produced her current single, “Acapella,” that’s number one on the dance/club chart.

In a recent interview, will.i.am, who signed Kelis to his Music Group imprint, says he sees big things in store for the singer.

“I would like Kelis to show she’s an international sensation,” he said. “She can be big. A lot of people think big is being on the radio or that being big is having a show in London, France and sometimes Japan. But that ain’t international … that’s just three countries. The Black Eyed Peas are big; the Black Eyed Peas are international. I think Kelis can be that big. As big as the Peas.”

Watch Kelis’ “Acapella” video:

Blues Master Mose Allison, Back At The Piano

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

The Way of the World
Mose Allison
Anti-

(April 09, 2010)  Call the unhurried pianist
Mose Allison jazz or call him blues, but please do call on him. Producer Joe Henry did, persistently, and the result is a sociable, loose album of wry lyricism, economical songwriting, earthy and uncluttered sounds, and jiving, country-parlour bebop.

Yeah, once a hep cat, always one. The 82-year-old Allison, who wrote Young Man Blues when he and the modern world were still young, and who was coaxed into making his first studio album since 1998’s Gimcracks and Gewgaws, is in spry mood here. The Mississippi-born American original – a cross between Thelonious Monk and Mark Twain, whose songs have been covered by Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, the Who and the Clash – takes it as it comes. And it comes natural, like butter to grits, like bourbon to lips.

The disc of freshly written numbers, well-chosen covers and reworked originals begins with one of the new ones, My Brain, a jaunty appreciation of Willie Dixon’s My Babe, where an elder’s mind is sharp to start – “My brain is always ticking, my brain” – until it isn’t so much any more. By the song’s end, Allison’s brain is losing power, “twelve-hundred neurons every hour.”

But who’s counting? Allison, with synapses to spare, is still a keen observer. Hitting loose piano chords in clumps, the barroom philosopher of Modest Proposal is only slightly less scandalous than Swift, figuring that God, who gave us the power to reason, might be in need of a vacation– “let’s do Allah a favour, let him sleep late for a while.”

On Allison’s earthy revisit of Let It Come Down, a lightly rumbling beat-jazz rumination on judgment days, the white-bearded baritone is unafraid and unregretful – “If there’s gonna be rain tonight, let it come down.”

Producer Henry, who has made a career of resurrecting the careers of mavericks Solomon Burke, Bettye LaVette and Rambin’ Jack Elliott, believes in intimacy: It was his call to leave in Allison’s soft, hospital-ward moaning during his piano solos. Some listeners might liken it to a great uncle’s drool, while others will cotton to the closeness.

On the soft tenor sax and bohemian swing of Ask Me Nice, Allison re-addresses his adulation and downplays his stature – “I’m not the first, I’m not the most/ of this town I am not the toast.” He asks that he not be made into something that he is not – a request producer Henry indulges. He asked Allison nicely to make this record; the answer was returned in kind.
 

Rihanna Joins Lilith Fair Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 14, 2010) *The estrogen-heavy concert tour Lilith Fair, co-founded in 1997 by Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan, returns for the first time in ten years with such R&B acts as Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae – and the latest addition, Rihanna

The traveling festival on Tuesday revealed its complete list of dates for this summer’s 36-show trek. [View below.] The festival will kick off on June 27th in Calgary, Alberta, and hit up every major market before wrapping in Dallas, Texas on August 16th.

Lilith Fair on Tuesday revealed its complete list of dates for this summer’s 36-show trek. [View below.] The festival will kick off on June 27th in Calgary, Alberta, and hit up every major market before wrapping in Dallas, Texas on August 16th.

Rihanna — who announced her own headlining tour last week — has signed on for one gig: July 12th in Salt Lake City. Tickets for most dates are on sale now at LilithFair.com with the remaining dates beginning sales on April 17th.

A complete lineup is also listed below, with more acts to be revealed soon. The lineup changes night to night, so be sure to check the Lilith site to see who’s booked for your town.

June 27 – Calgary, AB @ McMahon Stadium
June 28 – Edmonton, AB @ Northlands Spectrum
July 1 – Vancouver, BC @ Pitt Meadows Airport
July 2 – Portland, OR @ Sleep Country Amphitheater
July 3 – Seattle, WA @ The Gorge Amphitheatre
July 5 – San Francisco, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View
July 7 – San Diego, CA @ Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre
July 8 – Phoenix, AZ @ Cricket Wireless Pavilion
July 9 – Las Vegas, NV @ Mandalay Bay Events Center
July 10 – Los Angeles, CA @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
July 12 – Salt Lake City, UT @ USANA Amphitheatre
July 13 – Denver, CO @ Comfort Dental Amphitheatre
July15 – Kansas City, MO @ Capitol Federal Park @ Sandstone
July 16 – St. Louis, MO @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheater St Louis
July 17 – Chicago, IL @ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
July 18 – Minneapolis, MN @ Canterbury Park
July 20 – Indianapolis, IN @ Verizon Wireless Music Center
July 21 – Detroit, MI @ @ DTE Energy Music Theatre
July 23 – Montreal, QC @ Parc Jean-Drapeau
July 24 – Toronto, ON @ Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
July 27 – Cleveland, OH @ Blossom Music Center
July 28 – Philadelphia, PA @ Susquehanna Bank Center
July 30 – Boston, MA @ Comcast Center
July 31 – Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center
Aug 1 – Hartford, CT @ Comcast Theatre
Aug 3 – Washington, DC @ Venue TBA
Aug 4 – Raleigh, NC @ Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
Aug 6 – Charlotte, NC @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Charlotte
Aug 7 – Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
Aug 8 – Atlanta, GA @ Aaron’s Amphitheatre
Aug 10 – W. Palm Beach, FL @ Cruzan Amphitheatre
Aug 11 – Tampa, FL @ Ford Amphitheatre
Aug 12 – Birmingham, AL @ Verizon Wireless Music Center Birmingham
Aug 14 – Austin, TX @ @ Venue TBA
Aug 15 – Houston, TX @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Aug 16 – Dallas, TX @ Superpages.com Center

The Lineup:
A Fine Frenzy, Ali Milner, Anjulie, Ann Atomic, Anya Marina, Ash Koley, The Bangles, Beth Orton, Brandi Carlile, Butterfly Boucher, Caitlin Crosby, Cara Salimando, Cat Power, Ceci Bastida, Chairlift, Chantal Kreviazuk, Colbie Caillat, Corinne Bailey Rae, Court Yard Hounds, Debi Nova, Donna Delory, Elizaveta, Elisapie Isaac, Emmylou Harris, Erin McCarley, Erykah Badu, Frazey Ford, The Go-Go’s, Gossip, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Hannah Georgas, Heart, Ima, Indigo Girls, Ingrid Michaelson, Janelle Monae, Jenni Rivera, Jennifer Knapp, Jesca Hoop, Jill Hennessy, Jill Scott, Julia Othmer, Kate Miller-Heidke, Kate Morgan, Kate Nash Katzenjammer, Kelly Clarkson, Ke$ha, Kina, La Roux, Lights, Lissie, Loretta Lynn, Lucy Schwartz, Marina & The Diamonds, Martina McBride, Mary J. Blige, Meaghan Smith, Melissa McClelland, Metric, Miranda Lambert, Miranda Lee Richards, Missy Higgins, Nikki Jean, Nneka, Norah Jones, Priscilla Renea, The Rescues, Rihanna, Rosie Thomas, Sara Bareilles, Sarah McLachlan, Selena Gomez, Serena Ryder, Shel, Sheryl Crow, Sia, Sugarland, Susan Justice, Suzanne Vega, Tara MacLean, Tegan and Sara, Toby Lightman, Vedera, Vita Chambers, The Submarines, The Weepies, Ximena Sarinana, Zee Avi

Kim Antoine : It's All About Connections

Source:  Cornwall Standard-Freeholder - By David Nesseth

(April 13, 2010) Kim Antoine is the entertainment industry's messenger and middleman -the headhunter and go-between.

Over the last six years she's built up Phantom 4 Music (P4M) out of her Cornwall home, successfully connecting artists, writers and producers from all over the world to industry heavyweights looking for fresh sounds for film, television and beyond.

P4M's multi-genre catalogue has become a virtual lifeline for MTV reality shows such as "Pimp My Ride" or "America's Best Dance Crew". It's also appeared on major network shows like "The Shield" or "The Mentalist".

Antoine, P4M's president, calls herself a personal publishing house and one-stop shop for any label.

"I just had a knack for making those cold calls and getting a foot in the door," Antoine said of her start in the biz. "It just snowballed from there."

Now, Phantom's developed a network of more than 400 writers and producers whose material can be shopped or tailored to industry clients.

"They'll say we have this project and we're looking for this type of song, then give us a brief as to the type of scene, what they're looking for -tempo, genre, female or male, dirty language, no language, or whatever," Antoine said. "We'll go through our catalogue, see if we have anything and send it off to them."

Companies can also scan the P4M catalogue from Antoine's site at www.phantom4music.com

If the company thinks the song fits, Antoine said they will send it to the next level for approval. When the deal is done, P4M gets an upfront fee, or synchronization fee, then a minimum 25% share of the publishing dollars.

But with companies such as MTV, one of Antoine's more consistent clients, royalties are the heart of the deal.

"The back-end royalties can be real good because MTV replays their shows a lot, and all around the world," Antoine said.

Companies are often surprised to find Antoine works out of a small town in Eastern Ontario, she said, especially since the lion's share of her writing and publishing clients are located in Europe and the U.S.

One of the major differences between Antoine and huge publishing houses, she believes, is that she's constantly working for artists. She simply can't afford not to.

"I have to move it in order to collect money," Antoine said. "It can't sit and collect dust."

P4M has had music in the American Pie franchise, and is currently working on supplying commercial music for two major car companies -Chrysler and Fiat.

The majority of the music supplied by P4M is instrumentals.

Whereas rap and hip-hop have been in high demand in recent years, Antoine said she's seen a shift to more singer-songwriter rock music.

"John Mayer type songs," Antoine said. "Also, things that sound like Black-eyed Peas are big now for the movies.

Now they're looking for clean rap, which at times can be near impossible to find."

One of the most exciting projects in the works at Phantom stems from Antoine's business relationship with Stephen Stone of Ruffhouse Entertainment, one of the most successful joint-ventures in the history of Sony Music. He's a name associated with acts like Cypress Hill, Kris Kross, Lauryn Hill and The Fugees.

Stone has brought Antoine on board for a new reality show called "30 Days 'Til I'm Famous". So far, the show has selected 18 songs from P4M's catalogue.

"I've never told this to Kim, but her best quality is the fact that she can accept a 'no' response from me gracefully time-and-time again, and keep on plugging until the answer is 'yes'," Stone said in a statement. " That, in my book, is a winner."

The new show documents the journey of three musical groups and asks questions about what it really means to become a superstar.

Antoine has a staffer who does the company's contract work, and another partner who helps with business in the U.S.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Bieber, Drake Single Would Crash Internet

Source: By Leah Collins, Canwest News Service

(April 11, 2010) Apart from the fact
Drake's more or less the Where's Waldo of music videos, it was a little odd to see the Toronto rapper turn up in fellow Juno-nominated Justin Bieber's clip for "Baby." But as The Bieb explained in a recent interview, he and Drake have more in common than Canadian passports, their ability to dominate Twitter and an interest on hitting on teenagers at bowling alleys. Turns out they're discussing a collaboration -- one that will surely lead to the instantaneous combustion of the Internet, and the minds of countless tweens. In a Q&A with Combust, Bieber said that he's into working with Drake, revealing "he's a great artist and we've already talked about it; we haven't done it yet, but it's definitely in the works." Oh, if only they could get their act together in time for the Junos . . . Marginally related to that upcoming gong-fest, Drake is currently on tour in the U.S. with another Juno nominee, K-os. The vet of the Canadian hip-hop scene is currently opening for the upstart rapper. MTV recently asked Drake why none of his Young Money label-mates were joining him on the trek. As for Drake's response, he says he didn't want to put any of those artists in the position of opening for him.

Tony Allen

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

Secret Agent

Tony Allen
Nonesuch

(
If the off-Broadway success of Fela! doesn’t spark an Afrobeat revival, count on Tony Allen’s Secret Agent to light the fuse. Best known in rock circles as the drummer in Damon Albarn’s band the Good, the Bad and the Queen, Allen spent 15 years in Fela Kuti’s legendary band, and he brings that authority and groovesmanship to his North American debut. But where Fela routinely spun those elements into rollicking half-hour jams, Allen keeps his tunes short and sweet, allowing his album to deliver a wider range of musical (and lyrical) ideas, from the classic, roiling shuffle of Alutere, to the jaunty, mid-tempo swagger of Switch, to the stomping, jazzy pulse of Elewon Po.

New Usher, Badu Albums Storm Billboard

Source:  www.eurweb.com
 
(April 8, 2010) *Usher’s new album “Raymond v Raymond” sold 329,000 copies in its first week to give the singer his third consecutive No. 1 album on the pop chart. It marks the third-best sales week of the year, following the debuts of Sade’s “Soldier of Love” (502,000) and Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” (481,000), according to Nielsen SoundScan. “Raymond” ends the No. 1 run of Usher’s mentor Justin Bieber, whose album “My World 2.0″ spent one week at the top before slipping to No. 2 this week. Usher promoted the album release last week with stops on “American Idol” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and on both he performed his new single “OMG.” Hot on the heels of her controversial music video for “Window Seat,” in which she strolls naked through Dallas’ Dealey Plaza, Erykah Badu’s “New Amerykah, Part Two: Return of the Ankh” entered the chart at No. 4 with 110,000. It’s the follow up to 2008’s “New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War),” which bowed at No. 2 with 124,000. Elsewhere on the album chart, Monica’s “Still Standing” fell four to No. 6 with 81,000 in its second week. Bieber’s first “My World” dropped three to No. 8 with 63,000. Rounding out the top 10 were Lady Gaga’s “The Fame,” down one at No. 9 with 49,000; and the Black Eyed Peas’ “The E.N.D.” holding steady at No. 10 with 43,000. Other new entries included rappers Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon’s “Wu Massacre” at No. 12.

Keri Hilson to Front Avon’s ‘Imari’, ‘Color’ Brands

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 14, 2010) *Avon Products has tapped singer/songwriter Keri Hilson as the face of Imari, Imari Seduction and Avon’s flagship Color brand, the company announced today. The R&B artist will appear in the pages of Avon’s brochure for Imari beginning in August 2010 and for Color throughout the remainder of the year. Her first official appearance on behalf of the brand will be performing at Avon’s annual sales conference this month. “I’m so excited and honoured to be Avon’s newest face,” says Hilson, the talent behind the chart-topping Gold certified album “In A Perfect World…” “Avon has always been dedicated to empowering women through beauty. I’ve always strived to do the same with my music. To be a part of that experience means a tremendous amount to me.” “Keri embodies everything the Avon woman aspires to be — beauty, grace, confidence and success,” says Bob Briddon, Group Vice President, Marketing, Avon North America. “We are thrilled to have her on board as the face of Imari and our Color collection.” Hilson is the most recent star to join Avon’s roster of celebrity partners, including Fergie, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Zoe Saldana, Reese Witherspoon and Derek Jeter.

:FILM NEWS::

Tonya Lee Williams Discusses Her Return To The Young And The Restless And Celebrates The 10th Annual Reelworld Film Festival

Source: www.dose.ca

Tonya Lee Williams launched the 10th Annual ReelWorld Film Festival this week in Toronto where the actress and I caught up with her upcoming projects, which include a return to The Young and the Restless. While Williams has been on a recurring capacity with the show since 2008 (after starring from 1990-2005), her character, Olivia, has been severely underused and missed by fans. Viewers can expect to see the return of Williams on Y&R in the coming weeks.

During her hiatus from the show, Williams recurred on CBC’s The Border last season and will be appearing in the new Lifetime movie, Double Wedding with Tia and Tamera Mowry this coming June. The actress has also snagged a lead role in VisionTV’s She’s the Mayor which will also star Colin Mochrie (Who’s Line is it Anyway?) and Janet-Laine Green (M.V.P.). Williams is slated to play the mayor’s glamorous and self-involved communications director. The series will premiere in early 2011.

What can you tell us about She’s the Mayor?
I’m having a blast. It’s a great cast and I get to play someone completely out there and crazy! Think of [someone like] Karen from Will & Grace and Vanessa Williams put together. It’s just fun. I can be as broad, big and out there as possible.

Are you filming the series in Toronto?
Yes – we’re definitely filming here. We just finished our third week and it’s a twelve week shoot.

You’ll finally be back on Y&R soon!
I go back next week to block-shoot four shows in two days. I just started going back [to Y&R] and then booked She’s the Mayor so it all just came at the same time.

That’s great because fans have been worried. Your film festival celebrates diversity whereas Y&R isn’t so diverse anymore.
No. And you know, [head writer Marie Bell], addressed it with me. She said “I want to get that black storyline up and pumping again.”

That’s great! Victoria Rowell (ex-Dru) did an interview with Buzzworthy Radio last week and she pretty much said that the Barber women should be sticking together during a time of crisis. Lily’s got cancer and her aunt Olivia is nowhere to be found.
You know, we’re just the actors. But I have already shot some scenes and they should be airing in a couple of weeks and I’m definitely going to be more present. It hasn’t been their fault completely. I had a lot on my plate so they’ve been really great.

Have you worked with Darius McCrary (the new Malcolm) yet?
I did. I had a couple of scenes with him and I thought he was wonderful. I like the fact that they’ve gone completely opposite. I think it would have been impossible to get someone that was like Shemar [Moore; ex-Malcolm] because there’s no one else like Shemar. What Maria likes to remind me is that she went back to the original bible and Bill [Bell; the show’s creator and former head writer] had always wanted the character to be “this” kind of character. But then Shemar came on the scene and he just went with “that.” But this is originally how the character was meant to be written. To be almost like the Nathan character. A really rough and tough character so when Shemar started the role, it was clear that he was not going to be that kind of character, so they just wrote for him. I think it’ll be interesting. I definitely saw a great scene between [Malcolm] and Neil (Kristoff St. John).

So fans should give him more of a chance.
I think so. I think he’s a strong actor and it’s hard to step into shoes like that.

There’s no doubt that he’s a strong actor, viewers are just wondering why the show couldn’t just create a new black character?
I know. I thought so too, but I think Maria really wanted history in the dynamic. There were things that they wanted to bring up in terms of storyline. So if they brought a brand-new character, the history would not have been there. So I understand [now]. But I did say the same thing to her.

Is there any hope for the future of the black family? With Neil and Devon [Bryton James], they’re just props for Lily [Christel Khalil]. Fans want an actual black family back.
Yeah, there’s gonna be more. But fans need to get a little more vocal. I said it would be nice to get Aunt Mamie back!

Where is she?
[Laughs] I actually don’t know. But [they can] find her!

What about Olivia’s parents? Are the parents still alive?
I can’t remember if the mother died or not but the father is still alive. Supposedly, but we never see him. But there’s so many characters that they could bring back. I think if the fans got vocal about it, they’d do a lot more about it. I said to her [Maria Bell] that I hope I don’t play in-between the two brothers again [a triangle with Neil and Malcolm]. I’ve done that to death, so let’s not go there.

Date Night: Steve Carell And Tina Fey Make Date Rate

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

Date Night

Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Kristen Wiig and Taraji P. Henson. Directed by Shawn Levy. 88 minutes. At major theatres. 14A

(April 08, 2010) Silly, sillier, silliest.

There is only one remotely believable thing in
Date Night, an action comedy that defies all laws of logic and physics. But it’s the most important thing.

It’s the chemistry between Steve Carell and Tina Fey, playing a “boring couple from New Jersey” who manage to turn Manhattan upside down while supposedly enjoying a romantic night off from their kids and cares. They’re mistaken for the prey of a New York mobster (Ray Liotta) and nobody’s listening to any explanations.

Watching Carell and Fey in action, trading quips and dodging gunfire as they attempt to make their way home to white-picket-fence suburbia, makes you wonder why it’s taken so long to bring these two gifted comics together. They click like a flamenco dancer’s heels.

Date Night is the kind of movie that used to be called “madcap,” back in the good ol’ days when all you needed for a hit movie were great leads, strong cameos and non-stop frantic fun.

It’s a combination that’s easy to describe but hard to find, and you might have to go back 40 years for a good comparison. I’m thinking of another madcap romp, 1970’s The Out of Towners, which starred Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis as a squeaky clean Ohio couple lost on the greasy streets of Gotham.

That film satirized the madness of modern life, as does this one. But Date Night kicks it up an extra notch, adding in the paranoia of the 21st century where nobody really wants to trust anybody because it’s all too easy to fake identities and concoct alibis.

That’s the trouble awaiting the Fosters, tax account Phil (Carell) and real estate agent Claire (Fey), when they uncharacteristically do something bold and impersonate another couple to gain access to a snooty restaurant. Hey, the other couple failed to show, so nobody’s the wiser, right?

Wrong. Two toughs (Jimmi Simpson and rapper Common) interrupt the Fosters’ dinner, asking them politely but firmly to step into the alleyway to discuss things. The Fosters learn that they’re wanted for more than two plates of falsely acquired seafood risotto.

You can safely switch your brain off from this point in the movie, as director Shawn Levy demonstrates why he’s made so much money directing two instalments of the Night at the Museum franchise, with more surely to come.

He’s a dab hand with comic action scenes, a skill that reaches absurd heights here, but he’s been less successful with romantic comedy. His 2003 romcom Just Married, featured Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy as American newlyweds on a European rampage, didn’t have half the sparks that Date Night effortlessly strikes.

But it’s all mainly due to Carell and Fey, who take the episodic script by Josh Klausner (co-writer of Shrek the Third and the upcoming Shrek Ever After) and use it as a springboard for improvised laughs.

Tops amongst a strong supporting crew is Mark Wahlberg, who satirizes his beefcake image by playing a shirtless playboy who also happens to be an military-trained identity sleuth. He’s more bemused than bothered as the Fosters drag him into the search for the real couple they need to unmask before they can get that mobster off their tails.

There are also strong comic turns by Kristen Wiig as Claire’s nutty friend, Taraji P. Henson as a querulous NYPD cop, William Fichtner as a dubious Manhattan D.A. and James Franco and Mila Kunis as junkies whose love makes no sense at all.

But then neither does Date Night, which more than gets by on the strength of its manic match-ups. 

::TV NEWS::

Kevin Eubanks Leaving ‘Tonight Show’ – For Real

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 13, 2010) *This time, the word comes from his own mouth.

“The Tonight Show” bandleader
Kevin Eubanks announced during Monday’s taping of the broadcast that he will end nearly two decades as Jay Leno’s sideman on May 28.

“After 18 years of playing America into commercials, I’m gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song,” Eubanks said when Leno asked what he planned to do first.

Leno, who invited Eubanks to sit with him to make the announcement, called their time together “a pleasure.”

“You’ve been a great friend and really supportive. When those jokes die, I got to look to you, man,” Leno told him.

Eubanks, 52, called the NBC late-night show his “home” and said it had been “a wonderful experience” working there.

The musician joined “Tonight” strictly as a guitarist when Leno replaced Johnny Carson in 1992. Three years later, he took over as bandleader and musical director when Branford Marsalis left.

In February, NBC said Eubanks had expressed interest in personal touring and recording. The announcement sparked reports that Eubanks would announce his retirement from the program in the immediate future.

In an interview with the Associated Press after Monday’s show, Eubanks said the highlights of his “Tonight” years were “just meeting B.B. King, Willie Nelson, all these wonderful musicians that I’ve grown to be friends with.”

When he told King he planned to leave the show, the legendary musician expressed surprise but, Eubanks said, “you could see the pride in his face. … He felt pride, like he had something to do with it. It felt good that I was part of the lineage.”

Asked if he would like to see another African-American musician take his place, Eubanks said, “I want to see a really great band leader replace me. But I wouldn’t be mad,” he said, with a laugh.

NBC did not immediately announce his replacement.

New Orleans Gets All Wired Up With Treme

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(April 11, 2010) Out of great tragedy often comes great art. Occasionally, it works the other way around. But rarely, if ever, do you get both at once.

David Simon, the former crime reporter behind the critically adored The Wire, has left the mean streets of Baltimore for the hurricane-ravaged, post-Katrina New Orleans in his new HBO series, Treme, debuting with an extended 90-minute episode (it regularly runs an hour) Sunday night at 10.

Treme (pronounced “treh-may”) is named for Faubourg Tremé, the historic New Orleans neighbourhood in which it is set, a crime-plagued urban enclave which, though only marginally structurally damaged by the flooding, is still reeling from the collateral effects on its mostly working class, predominantly African-American residents.

It is not, like The Wire, a crime drama — the few cops that are evident in the opening episodes are essentially one-dimensional racist thugs, just a brown shirt away from Nazi storm troopers. Treme is the story of the survivors of (as they call it) “The Storm,” scrabbling to put their shattered lives back together.

This would be the art from tragedy part. The tragedy that later emerged from the art was the sudden death on March 30 of the show’s 48-year-old co-writer/producer, David Mills, struck down by a brain aneurysm in the middle of a location shoot in the city’s fabled French Quarter.

“He was talking to someone who turned away for a minute,” Simon told the New York Times. “And when he turned back, David was just, well, gone.”

But the show must go on, as must life itself, which also happen to be twinned themes in Treme, as musicians, bar owners, tradesmen, professionals and academics band together to pull themselves out of their muddy malaise.

There is — or at least was — a road sign on the outskirts of town that reads: “Welcome to New Orleans, the Most Interesting City on Earth.”

Not even Katrina’s raging floodwaters could dampen that. Quite the contrary. Their disaster-driven duress has only served to bring out the best — and the worst — in these complex and uniquely compelling characters.

“We started with the idea of following the actual history of New Orleans post-Katrina, and then constructing our stories based on what we wanted to say about that,” Simon explained to critics at the mid-season previews in L.A. “You know, it really needs to be a story of something first. And then after that, you start thinking about what characters ought to be in the piece that help you tell that story.”

That story, like the city and the people who live there, is often wildly contradictory.

“(It’s about) how the city comes back, or doesn’t, and on what terms. New Orleans is . . . it’s not just the party. There’s a lot of dystopia in that city. In some ways, the party and the dystopia may be intrinsically connected. So we thought about all the content, and then we started constructing our world.”

They had some expert help, particularly among the cast. Sure, there are imports to the Crescent City in the cast, notably Steve Zahn as an unemployable aspiring musician, Khandi Alexander as a rich returning ex-Orleanian; Kim Dickens as a struggling chef and Clarke Peters as an aging Mardi Gras chief. But it also has actual New Orleans residents like John Goodman, of Roseanne and Big Lebowski fame, as a laid-off college teacher and Wendell Pierce, veteran of The Wire and a contributor to Spike Lee’s definitive 2006 post-Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke, playing an unemployed horn-dog musician.

“I was concerned, like all New Orleanians, about the authenticity of it,” Pierce says of Treme. “A lot of times you see, you know, bad TV movies about New Orleans, and it’s Mardi Gras every day, and everybody is dressed up, and outside the window you see a parade going by . . .

“I knew that David had a unique ability to find the specificity in a culture and depict it in a way that was authentic.

“New Orleanians are very protective about their culture. And I think they would be happy about the specificity in the show.”

Much as that “specificity” may please the natives, does it not also run the risk of alienating everyone else?

“It is a very specific story,” Pierce concedes. “New Orleans is one of the most unique American cities, one of the most unique cities in the world. And we were uniquely a part of one of the greatest disasters in the country.

“But I personally believe that the more specific you are, the more universal it becomes, and that people will see in the stories of Treme the struggles that they may identify with, and have a better understanding of the humanity that happened within this disaster, and also an appreciation of culture and how culture serves a role in everyday life.”

“New Orleans,” Simon says, “represents to me a triumph of American urban culture. It’s the best that an American city can be, and also the worst in a lot of ways . . . but it has created a culture that has gone around the world.

“If you look at what our greatest export would be, culturally or politically or socially . . . you’d have to put African-American music probably at the top of the list. You go anywhere from Kathmandu to Johannesburg and you walk into a bar and if they are playing a tape machine, they’ve got a Michael Jackson or Coltrane or Otis Redding or something.

“I mean, that whole notion of African rhythm and the pentatonic scale meeting European instrumentation and arrangement comes from about 12 square blocks in New Orleans.

“So this is a city that is essential in the American psyche, and we all witnessed the near destruction of it . . . and yet it’s coming back on its own terms as best as it can, with a lot of concern from some quarters, but a lot of indifference from much of the country. And that’s a fascinating story to me.

“In a way, The Wire implied what was at stake with the American city. But Treme is actually an examination of what that is, what living as disparate and different people compacted into an urban area can offer and not offer.

“Whether we live together in cities, and on what terms . . . that’s the next century for us, that question. So it’s about New Orleans, yeah . . . but I’m hoping that will translate, whether or not you have parades every 15 minutes in your town.”

Oprah Biographer Has No Trouble Pitching Book In Canada

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(April 14, 2010) Larry King, David Letterman and Barbara Walters may be running scared, but Canadian media outlets are keen to speak with Kitty Kelly about her controversial new unauthorized biography of Oprah Winfrey.

“I’ve had no problems at all” arranging print, broadcast and online interviews for Kelly’s April 21 Toronto visit, said Random House Canada publicist Frances Bedford.

Bedford wouldn’t reveal the hosts and outlets that have signed up for the only Canadian stop on Kelly’s promotional tour — The Star is among them — but said a wide range of mainstream media are “happy to sit down and talk to her about the book.”

Since its release Tuesday, Oprah: A Biography has set tongues wagging with allegations about Winfrey’s sexual identity, intimate relationships, family conflicts, drug use, lavish lifestyle and treatment of staff.

Over the years, the talk show host has disclosed many personal details to her audiences, while maintaining binding confidentiality agreements from past and present employees.

Kelly, who previously penned tell-alls on Frank Sinatra, the Bush family and Nancy Reagan, said on Today that she is having difficultly publicizing her new 525-page tome because popular TV presenters, such as Rachael Ray and Charlie Rose, won’t have her on in fear of an Oprah backlash.

“Even David Letterman, who’s had a 16-year feud with her, said, ‘I don’t really want to disrupt the relationship I now have with her,’ ” Kelley told Matt Lauer. “Now, I don’t think for a minute Oprah got on the phone and said ‘Barbara (Walters), don’t have Kitty on.’ She doesn’t have to, she is that powerful.”

Kelley, who dubbed Lauer “very brave,” for interviewing her on Today, said her own publisher was concerned about offending Winfrey. “Even within Random House, I think they were a little nervous because they rely on Oprah — she makes books big.”

The Big Bang Theory Gets Bigger In Canada

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(April 11, 2010) Shh. TV's nerdy little secret is out.
The Big Bang Theory has quietly become Canada's most-watched comedy.

The CBS sitcom averaged over 2 million viewers a week last month, ranking in the Top 10 in Canada and is about to unseat troubled Two and a Half Men as comedy ratings champ south of the border.

And they do so as the show takes a big risk. At the start of this, the third season, executive producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady gambled by putting awkward Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and more down-to-earth Penny (Katey Cuoco) in bed together, perhaps to explore the full meaning of the show's title. Can two bodies in motion destroy the balance of a sitcom at rest?

“I think it's great that they did it like that,” says Cuoco, interviewed three weeks ago along with the rest of the cast on the set of the series in Burbank, Calif.

“We have seen shows where it takes a million years for them to, like, kiss. It's like this was more real.”

Galecki, who, like writer/producer Lorre, survived plenty of drama on the '90s comedy Roseanne, was down with the geek-gets-girl storyline.

“It just seemed so impossible, their flirtation,” he says.

“I think I just had to take the plunge at one point to show it was in the realm of possibility, even though it hasn't worked out incredibly much of the time.” Galecki's just happy to break out of his nerd niche. “I don't generally get those roles,” he says.

The two characters have chemistry but are flunking physics. Couco expects their relationship will continue to have its ups and downs. “I think they're doing it on purpose so if there's a breakup, it's not going to be so tragic,” she says. “I'm sure something's going to happen, like real life, real relationships.”

On the surface, the relationship's most plausible quality is its convenience. Leonard and his even goonier friend Sheldon (Jim Parsons), both physicists, do share an apartment right across the hall from Cuoco's cute Penny, who aspires to be an actress but toils as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory.

While all the characters have grown beyond their nerd/babe beginnings, Cuoco's Penny has rolled the farthest. She now gives as good as she gets, often mothering these naive, childlike geniuses. Cuoco has found viewers love episodes where Penny not only gets Sheldon's snide remarks, she gets Sheldon, helping him by “driving him places, doing these things for him as a parent.”

Cuoco, a recent Maxim cover girl, has no problem with the hottie hanging with the braniacs storyline. “She's really learned how to deal with each one of these guys separately, and she loves them to death.” Cuoco says she doesn't have any “seriously close friends at this level of smarts,” but she knows the type. Where has she met them before? “At Comic-Con.”

Coincidentally, the lads from the show end up dressed as superheroes (superheroines, actually) on Monday's episode (9:30 p.m. on CTV and CBS), which also sees a second appearance from Sheldon's nemesis, Wil Wheaton.

The characters and their obsessions are proving to be rich veins for comedy and even just a bit of drama. Cuoco's favourite moment of the whole series was the first Christmas episode where Sheldon breaks his strict personal-space barrier and — overwhelmed by her gift of a signed napkin from Cheesecake Factory visitor Leonard Nimoy — gives Penny a hug.

“That was a big turning point,” says the 24-year-old. Both she and Parsons were incredibly moved by that script. “Anyone who watches the show knows how special that scene was. It was so sweet.”

All of the cast members are quite thoughtful about their characters and the success of the series. Parsons is no exception. The Texas native knows Sheldon can be haughty and abrasive — viewers have suggested the character has Asperger syndrome — but he can see why fans still root for the character.

“I think it's mostly due to the writers' protection of his core innocence, lack of malice, you know,” he says after a pause.

“We have gone through tapings where more than once they've had to rewrite dialogue on the spot because whatever it is they've written, either I can't do it without sounding extra bitchy, or it's just too mean.

“Sheldon rarely says anything to hurt,” he explains another way. “That's what's funny about it. It's very honest.”

It's a trait Sheldon shares with Penny and its why she's able to find the chink in his armour, he says. “She's obviously more savvy, but they're both honest. All the characters on the show” — we mustn't forget Sheldon and Leonard's perhaps even geekier friends Howard (Simon Helberg) and Rajesh (Kunal Nayyar) — “seem to be mostly without malice.”

Parsons says he has always loved television and grew up a big fan of Cuoco's former 8 Simple Rules co-star, John Ritter. “It was because of Ritter that I was such a junkie of Three's Company,” says Parsons. “It's more looking back that I realized how much I looked at him.” The ‘80s sitcom Family Ties — and especially stars Michael J. Fox and Meredith Baxter-Birney — were other big influences.

Cuoco says Ritter — who died of a heart attack in 2003 — was an even bigger influence on her as a person than as an actor. “He was so cool,” she says. “You just already loved him.”

Parson's biggest influence, however, is Big Bang boss Lorre. “I have never met anybody, and I don't know that I ever will, who so readily knows what to do with 22 minutes of television the way he does,” says Parsons. He finds a tune in each script, Parsons says, that makes each episode stand up to repeat viewing.

“It reminds me of good pop music,” he says. “Of course you know the song. You still love to listen to it.”

Sex Has Big Role On The Small Screen

Source:  www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo

(April 12, 2010) Don’t let the title fool you.

Yes there’s sex in Californication, but the show doesn’t take it seriously, according to star
David Duchovny.

The series about a troubled writer with a self-destructive streak has already run three seasons on Showtime in the U.S. and The Movie Network in Canada.

But the premiere of its first season on Showcase Tuesday at 10 p.m. makes it available for the first time to viewers without pay TV.

When the series first aired in 2007, much was made in the media of the sexual content, including an opening dream sequence in which Duchovny’s character, Hank Moody, gets oral sex from a nun.

“We’re a comedy and when we show any kind of nudity it’s generally not for titillation...it’s usually for comic effect at some point,” Duchovny told reporters at the time.

“Sex is funny. And that’s the way we like to play it. But also, as the characters on the show become established ... the sexuality becomes less and less important ... and the concern that viewers will have for the particular people that are having this particular journey in the show takes over from whatever kind of advertising gimmick might have been labelled on it in the beginning. ...It turns into a funny soap opera.”

Duchovny’s Hank is a writer who moves from New York to L.A. after his acclaimed novel, God Hates Us All, was turned into a mindless romantic comedy. He’s suffering from massive writer’s block, pining for ex-girlfriend Karen (Natascha McElhone), who’s engaged to upstanding and financially stable Bill, and trying to be a good father to their daughter, Becca. And he keeps getting sidetracked by his encounters with drugs, alcohol and other women.

Duchovny said the show isn’t “a drama about a guy spiralling down into self-destruction. It’s not a manual about how to kick any kind of addiction. It’s a comedy ... for me, the essence of comedy is always pain ... to see his actual pain and his love for his family, this kind of hatred of himself ... I thought his pain would make him funnier.”

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the show and Hank’s sexual peccadillos without mentioning that Duchovny checked into rehab in 2008 for treatment of sex addiction.

He has since reconciled with actress wife Téa Leoni and Californication is a going concern, having been renewed for a fourth season in the U.S.

If Californication is meant to make light of sex, the lead character in Showcase’s other premiere this week takes it more seriously. Sex is business for Belle, the high-class prostitute at the centre of Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

Season 1 introduced viewers to Belle as she juggled to keep a job she professes to love secret from friends and family.

Season 2, premiering on Showcase Wednesday at 10, finds Belle (Billie Piper of Doctor Who fame) dealing with a younger call girl she’s mentoring, her complicated feelings for ex-boyfriend Ben and trying to have a relationship with a handsome doctor.

“When I’m playing Belle, it’s all about business,” Piper says in a promotional video for the British series. “She can be more relaxed as Hannah (her character’s real name), but the minute she has a client it’s like she has to switch, she has to disconnect.”

The show has been criticized for glamorizing prostitution, but Piper says she met call girls as part of her preparation for the series — including the real-life Belle de Jour, whose books and blog the show is based on — and “they seem to have it in control.”

“It’s Belle’s choice. No one is being forced into the situation.”

The Strangest Question Carol Burnett Has Ever Been Asked

Source:  www.thestar.com - Neal Justin

(April 12, 2010) Carol Burnett never tires of answering questions. For 40 years she has let fans grill her about a potpourri of topics, first on her groundbreaking variety show and, most recently, during a one-woman tour.

In addition, the 23-time Emmy nominee has jotted down some of her favourite anecdotes from those interactions for her breezy new book, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection. Burnett, who turns 77 this month, recently agreed to put up with a few questions of our own.

It’s fitting that you open your new book with a story about Jimmy Stewart, because everybody loved him — and everyone loves you. You’re like pizza.

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I think it’s because of the Q&As. When we started the show, back in the covered-wagon days, Bob Banner, one of the executive producers, suggested that instead of having a comedian warm up the audience, that I should do it myself. Garry Moore used to do the same thing, and was just brilliant at it, but it wasn’t taped.

I didn’t think I could do it, so he suggested that they’d put some plants in the audience. But I thought if we were going to do it, we had to be really truthful, and if I got egg on my face, I’d have egg on my face. I think that became about 50 per cent of my image.

What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked?

One woman asked me: If I could be a member of the opposite sex for 24 hours and then pop back, who would I want to be and what would I do? I said a little prayer and thought, “Okay, God, I’m going to open my mouth and talk and whatever comes out is your fault.” My answer: “Osama Bin Laden, and I’d kill myself.” The audience went wild.

I have this fantasy that when no one is around, you slip into your closet, pull out one of those old Bob Mackie outfits and play dress-up. Please tell me that’s true.

No, honey. Those dresses have gone the way of the dodo. I do have a couple of the beaded jackets, and every once in a while, when I’m going to a function, I’ll throw one on over a dress. They still look great.

Which up-and-coming comedians make you laugh?

Up and coming? Hmmm. I’m not one to watch a lot of standup, although I did watch one of Ellen’s (DeGeneres) one-woman shows for HBO, and she had me belly-laughing. You don’t belly-laugh that much anymore while watching television. Of course, she’s already established. I also like Martin Short. Somebody asked me once who could do a variety show now, and I said him. Of course, it’ll never happen, not like we did it.

Why not?

Money. We had 12 dancers, two guest stars, lots of costumes, 28 musicians and nine writers. Then you had to pay for the rights for the music. Even we couldn’t do it today.

You also have your own theme song. What’s it like to hear it when you walk into a room? Do you ever get sick of it?

It’s lovely. I’ve gone into some restaurants and, if they have a piano bar, the guy might play the song.

I’d kill for a theme song.

Well, you could sit down and write one for yourself.

Yeah, but that doesn’t mean anyone would play it.

You could just hum it to yourself. Better still, record it and walk around with a boom box.

TV TIDBITS

Conan O’Brien Signs Surprise TV deal with TBS

Source:  www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(April 12, 2010) Conan O’Brien confirmed Monday that he will be launching a new show on Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. this fall. Well, sort of. Hollywood insider Nikki Finke first broke the news shortly before 1 p.m. O’Brien will reportedly start work on his follow-up to The Tonight Show in November. TBS’s current late-night talk star, George Lopez, will move to midnight so that O’Brien can assume the 11 p.m. slot. O’Brien’s show will run Monday to Thursday. According to Finke, Lopez asked O’Brien to bump him. “I can’t think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in,” Lopez told Finke. “It’s the beginning of a new era in late-night comedy.” O’Brien kind of confirmed the story on his Twitter feed almost simultaneously: “The good news: I will be doing a show on TBS starting in November! The bad news: I'll be playing Rudy on the all new Cosby Show.”

Delroy Lindo Joins Fox’s ‘Ride-Along’

Source:  www.eurweb.com
 
(April 12, 2010) *
Delroy Lindo will ride shotgun on the Fox drama pilot “Ride-Along,” joining Jason Clarke and Jennifer Beals, reports Reuters. The show revolves around Jarek (Clarke), a rogue cowboy cop, and Teresa (Beals), Chicago’s first female police chief, who vow to clean up the streets. Lindo will play a building magnate-turned-politician who is beloved by his constituents amid whispers about ties to organized crime. Jarek and Teresa are convinced he’s dirty. Lindo’s resume includes “The Cider House Rules” and HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues.”

J-Hud, Leona Lewis Record ‘SATC 2′ Duet

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 13, 2010) *British newspaper The Sun is reporting that Jennifer Hudson and Leona Lewis have recorded a duet that is being considered as the theme song for “Sex and the City 2.” [Scroll down to watch the film's latest trailer.] “The pair has recorded the song and it’s being discussed as either the main theme or to feature on the soundtrack,” the paper quoted a source as saying. Both singers are veterans of Simon Cowell-judged singing competitions – Lewis a winner of Britain’s “The X Factor,” Hudson a finalist on “American Idol.” “They each have incredible voices and will appeal to both the UK and the US. It’s perfect for the next ‘SATC’ film,” the source added. Hudson had a supporting role in the original 2008 movie and contributed the song “All Dressed in Love” to the soundtrack. Lewis’s “I See You” was recently used as the main theme for James Cameron’s record-breaking sci-fi film Avatar. “SATC” is due in US theatres on May 28.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Sony Centre’s New Season All About Diversity

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(April 14, 2010) An acrobatic, high-spirited hip-hop circus show called iD will launch the born-again Sony Centre for the Performing Arts into the 21st century.

Sony CEO Dan Brambilla will announce his season Wednesday.

The curtain will rise on iD on Oct. 1 — 50 years to the day that architect Peter Dickinson’s fan-shaped show palace, then called the O’Keefe Centre, first opened its doors with the pre-Broadway premiere of Camelot.

The centre has been closed for more than two years. Now after a $28 million-facelift project restoring its original glamour and adding up-to-date technology, the grande dame of Front and Yonge Sts. is poised for what could be the biggest comeback in Toronto showbiz history.

Coming later in the season: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical; a Bollywood spectacle from Mumbai; a new production by and with the great Robert Lepage; and the renowned Kirov Ballet from St. Petersburg performing its signature Swan Lake.

“Our 2010-11 season reflects the face of Toronto in the 21st century, which is wonderfully different from when the theatre first opened,” Brambilla boasts. “Today’s Toronto is the only city of its kind in the world — home to hundreds of different cultures and spoken languages. Our unique brand, therefore, is to be Toronto’s theatre for the people — all people — and our programming is chosen with a view to entertain every segment of the city’s diverse population.”

The packed lineup of shows booked for the centre’s 50th anniversary season makes it clear that Brambilla is playing the multicultural, diversity card for all it’s worth.

Defying the naysayers who said the centre would flounder after the departure in 2006 of its longtime anchor tenants, the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet, Brambilla and program director Mark Hammond have lined up a hyperactive and eclectic season with a decidedly populist slant.

The wide-ranging season begins in a celebratory mood with iD (Oct. 1 to 9), which adds hip hop, breakdance and BMX bikes to the usual circus elements — tumblers, contortionists, jugglers and so on — along with music, dance and video. The show is co-created by Jeannot Painchaud, founder of Montreal’s Cirque Éloize, and hip-hop choreographer Mourad Merzouki.

The Merchants of Bollywood, with 40 performers and thousands of costumes runs for two weeks in November.

Lepage, as previously announced, will be here in mid-November with Eonnagata, his collaboration with dancer Sylvia Guillem and choreographer Russell Maliphant.

The Grinch musical will run during the Christmas season, Dec 17 to Jan. 2, in the slot that was occupied for years by the National Ballet’s Nutcracker, which now plays at the Four Seasons Centre.

Dancap producer Aubrey Dan, who originally booked Grinch as part of Dancap’s 2009/10 subscription series and then cancelled it for lack of a suitable venue, opted to let the Sony present the show rather than rent the theatre and make it a Dancap event.

The Kirov’s dancers, making a rare Toronto appearance, will show us their swans in March 2011.

Other visiting dance troupes coming to the Sony: Mazowsze, bringing the music and dance of Poland on Nov. 20 and the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company on Nov. 1.

The Sony’s dance card also includes Stars of the 21st Century (Oct. 14); Dream of the Red Chamber (a dance drama based on a Chinese novel) in mid-October; and Breakin’ Convention, the International Festival of Hip Hop Dance on May 7, 2011.

For children, the Sony will offer Barbie at the Symphony in late November; Caillou’s Greatest Skate of All on Dec. 4; Franklin and the Adventure of the Noble Knights (Oct. 23) and Bugs Bunny at the Symphony (April 9, 2011).

One-night stands include: Distant Worlds, from the Final Fantasy video game, performed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (Nov. 27); the Canadian Tenors & Friends (Dec. 2); Liza Minnelli (Oct. 21); A Leahy Family Christmas (Nov. 24); and 1964, a Beatles tribute concert, on March 24, ssssss2011

Beneath The Veil, Hope And Despair

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(
Suffice it to say there’s not much song and dance at Evin Prison. The notorious jail in Tehran was the site of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi’s last days. She died, her body mangled from horrific beatings by her interrogators, after she was arrested for photographing relatives of detainees outside the prison in 2003.

But that hasn’t stopped Iranian-American actor and director
Mary Apick from incorporating song, dance and even humour into her show, Beneath the Veil, which was inspired by Kazemi’s tragic end, and tells 10 interlocking stories about women’s struggles under the niqab.  Apick’s show is making a one-night stop at the MacMillan Theatre in Toronto Saturday night en route to Lincoln Center in New York. It won the Critics’ Choice Award at the Los Angeles Theatre Festival in 2005, and enjoyed success at the Kennedy Centre in 2006, where Laura Bush, then U.S. first lady, was the production’s honorary chair. Farah Diba, the Empress of Iran and third wife of the late exiled shah, has seen it twice and become an acquaintance of Apick.

Suddenly, everything from the roots down is changing. Half the nation is going under a black veil – they don’t have a voice any more; they can’t speak for themselves.

The play is told through the imagination of an American journalist doing research. When she falls asleep, characters she has been reading about come to life, their tales eventually weaving together through Kazemi. “I had so many other stories that I heard, which were happening in Iran or Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, that I wanted to make a collage,” said Apick during an interview in Toronto this week.

Kazemi features prominently in Beneath the Veil, in which she is played by Apick, who also takes on one of the play’s many other roles: that of a flamboyant Arab woman living in wealth and comfort as the third wife of a rich Saudi.

The plot lines are many and varied. One is based on the true story of a friend’s 16-year-old daughter who committed suicide while at school in Tehran. In one comedic scene, a woman refuses to remove her veil while trying to get a driver’s licence in the American South. A Virginia woman is killed for wearing a veil; a woman is stoned to death in Iran; and an American-born woman chooses to don the veil at university, having not grown up with it.

Apick herself was no shrouded prisoner during her years in Iran. She was a child star in Tehran in the 1960s and seventies, an Iranian of Armenian heritage whose mother was also a well-known actor and whose father worked as a translator for the U.S. military. She became a trendsetter for Western dress in Tehran, an ambassador of the miniskirt, and appeared from a young age on Octopus, a Saturday Night Live-style Iranian satirical show.

Apick was on a trip to the United States in early 1979 when, she recalls, she saw TV footage of “[Ayatollah] Khomeini coming down the stairs of the Air France airplane,” confirming that the Shah had fallen. “That was that,” she continues. “Suddenly, everything from the roots down is changing. Half the nation is going under a black veil – they don’t have a voice any more; they can’t speak for themselves.” She hasn’t been back to Iran since, instead making Los Angeles her home for the past 30 years.

Growing up, Apick studied piano (she graduated from the University of Tehran’s conservatory of music) and ballet, passions she has incorporated into Beneath the Veil. Along with eight actors, the show features two musicians and a singer, as well as dance choreography. “It’s like a ballet with voices,” she says.

There is even a rape scene, involving a prostitute, that is choreographed through dance. For Apick, music and dance are integral to drawing the audience into the characters’ tales of hardship and repression. “It beautifies everything, naturally,” she says. “Actually, the reality is much harsher and much more difficult to absorb, so you put artistry around it to make it acceptable, and then communicate these stories which are essential for a Western audience to understand.”

Beneath the Veil has confirmed dates in Chicago and Dallas, and Apick hopes to add Vancouver to the list before long. She beams with excitement at the prospect of playing Kazemi before a Toronto audience: “After 17 productions of this play, I've stood onstage [so many times] and said, ‘I'm a Canadian journalist.’ It means something different to me to be here.”

Beneath the Veil shows Saturday at 8 p.m. at the University of Toronto’s MacMillan Theatre.

Dollar Rise Less Shocking This Time

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(April 10, 2010) While it’s not exactly good news for Canadian arts companies that parity may be the new normal for the
Canadian dollar, it’s not causing the same panic as the last time the loonie matched the greenback.

When the Canadian dollar crept above its U.S. counterpart in 2008, it shocked some
Canadian festivals and theatres that depend on spending from patrons south of the border. It also hurt the film and television industry, which relies heavily on revenues from U.S. productions shot and finished in Canada. Just six years earlier, the Canadian dollar had been worth 61 cents (U.S.).

Since then, with the loonie fluttering within a dime of parity, arts organizations understood they had to replace their casual, bargain-hunting American visitors with more dedicated, focused tourists who are less concerned about exchange ratesand more with quality.

We’ve had some time to get used to this, and so has our audience. — Colleen Blake, Shaw Festival

“If the dollar's gone up, it isn't good, that's for sure,” said Brian Baker, director of directors’ affairs at the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC), which represents workers in film and television across the country. “Now, how not good is it? Parity’s a psychological number that scares us all the time, but when you get down to pen and paper, we're only a couple of cents [higher] than we were a couple of months ago.”

For the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, a combination of a stronger loonie, longer border wait times and stricter passport restrictions has hurt U.S. ticket sales. In 2002, about 38 to 40 per cent of its box-office sales were foreign, and mostly American. That figure fell to 32 per cent last year and again to 31 per cent this year. (Fortunately for the festival, Canadian ticket sales have risen.)

According to the festival’s general director, Antoni Cimolino, the Americans who came up by the busload from near the border, looking for a cheap day out, have been in sharp decline. So, instead, he has been promoting the festival in farther-flung cities such as Chicago and Cleveland, hoping to lure more committed classical-theatre patrons.

“They will be there for years to come. The price won’t matter as much to them, and they’ll bring their children,” he said, adding: “I think [the dollar is] already less of an issue [for Americans] than it was two years ago, when it was on American news all the time.”

Colleen Blake, executive director of the competing Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake (considerably closer to the U.S. border than Stratford), said, “We’ve had some time to get used to this, and so has our audience.” The Shaw has not seen its U.S. audiences dwindle – its average of roughly 40 per cent foreign sales has held – and Blake said the festival has always tried to steer clear of marketing itself as a “bargain” destination.

But where a rising dollar hurts both the large theatre festivals, and many other arts

organizations, is in fundraising. More than 30 per cent of Stratford’s donations come from the United States, and when the loonie was at 61 cents (U.S.), a $1,000 donation from America was nearly $1,600 after conversion.

Still, Luminato Festival CEO Janice Price points out, there is one bright spot to parity: A Canadian festival paying some artists in U.S. dollars is getting a much better deal than it used to.

Not long ago, the cultural industries taking the hardest hit from a high dollar might have been film and television –more than 80 per cent of film production in British Columbia, for example, still comes from the U.S. But now, production incentives offered by provinces and states, such as loans and tax credits, have become the overwhelming factor determining where a U.S. project will land for filming, post-production work or both.

“The dollar's the least of our worries,” said Crawford Hawkins, the executive director of the DGC’s British Columbia District Council. “They've [U.S. producers] become accustomed to the fact that it's not going back to 72 cents. A U.S. dollar is a U.S. dollar here and in Michigan. The issue will be what the bigger production incentive will be.”  

THEATRE TIDBITS

Video: Denzel Washington’s Fences Begins Previews Tonight

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 14, 2010) *Broadway’s first revival of Fences, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play by August Wilson, begins previews tonight at the Cort Theatre with stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.  Davis, an Oscar nominee and Tony winner, plays mother and wife Rose opposite Oscar winner Washington as Troy Maxson. Kenny Leon (Broadway’s Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean, A Raisin in the Sun) directs the production, which will officially open April 26. Click here for tickets. The cast also features Chris Chalk as Cory, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Jim Bono, Russell Hornsby as Lyons, Mykelti Williamson as Gabriel, with Eden Duncan-Smith and SaCha Stewart-Coleman alternating in the role of Raynell. Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis makes his Broadway debut as the composer of original music for “Fences.”

::COMEDY NEWS::

Tommy Davidson: Every Comedian Wrapped Into One

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(April 14, 2010) Though his name is not well known, Tommy Davidson is hardly obscure. The U.S. impressionist and comedic actor first gained notice on the ground-breaking variety show In Living Color, and has gone on to a build a successful following for his live shows while popping up regularly in feature films – Ace Ventura II, Booty Call, Black Dynamite, Juwanna Mann and Bamboozled. Davidson, who appears at the George Weston Recital Hall on Sunday, talks about stereotypes and his own versatility.

Does Toronto have a reputation, among comedians?

I don’t know. I kind of live in a vacuum. I don’t have time to talk to other comedians – I do my own thing.

What is your thing?

I’d say I’m every comedian wrapped in one, probably. I do a little bit of what everybody does. I can do improv, satire, political stuff, impressions.

I thought you were excellent in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. Why didn’t that lead to more serious roles for you?

Nobody got to see it. That was the problem with that movie – it wasn’t seen. But the opportunities will come. I’ve proven I can do a role like that when I need to.

When you look at the recent movie Cop Out, with Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan, it seems like a casting cliché, with the black comedic sidekick.

Like 48 Hours? Yeah, the film industry still sees the white male machismo thing as superior to the black male machismo. Every movie like that sees the black actor as the funny guy, and less tough and less smart.

Bamboozled addressed some of those Hollywood stereotypes.

I think that’s still floating around. That was the importance of Bamboozled. It was so on the money when it came to that.

Tommy Davidson plays the George Weston Recital Hall, at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Sunday April 18, 8 p.m., 7 p.m. $30, 416-870-8000.

COMEDY TIDBITS

Chris Rock Gets ‘High’ Off Of David Mamet

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 13, 2010) *Chris Rock has reportedly signed on to write a screenplay that was intended for legendary playwright David Mamet. The film, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed 1963 detective thriller “High and Low,” follows a wealthy executive whose son has been kidnapped. He’s prepared to pay the ransom using funds he needs for a critical corporate buyout. But, before he can send the payment, he realizes the kidnappers have mistakenly abducted the child of his chauffeur and thus the decision becomes much more complicated. [Watch Kurasawa's 1963 trailer below.] Mamet was commissioned to pen the first draft of the screenplay more than ten years ago by then producer Martin Scorsese. Now, Black Voices is reporting that Rock has been tapped to write a new draft for Mike Nichols, who was brought on to direct.  The project would mark the fourth remake Rock has written, including 2007’s “I Think I Love My Wife” and this week’s “Death at a Funeral.”

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Major Milestone For The Sims Franchise

Source:  www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

(April 09, 2010) Happy birthday to Electronic Arts’ The Sims, the best-selling PC game franchise of all time.

It’s been 10 years since the first The Sims disc appeared on store shelves, allowing you to micromanage the lives of computer-generated people known as Sims. You can nurture their relationships, advance their careers and decorate their homes with purchased in-game items.

There were highly publicized sequels, namely, 2004’s The Sims 2 (take control over Sims for their entire lifetime) and 2009’s The Sims 3 (allowing your Sims to go anywhere in the neighbourhood), with more than two dozen expansion packs available for these games.

If you still can’t get enough, new digital toys are now available to expand your Sims experience even further. Here’s a quick look at some options for those who own The Sims 3 ($49.99) for Windows/Mac, each rated “Teen” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

The Sims 3: High-End Loft Stuff
($19.99; 2.5 stars out of 4)

Treat your Sims to items you might not be able to afford in real life with this collection of “stuff” for their home, such as a new stereo, modern sofas or fancy artwork. When they’re done entertaining, they can pour themselves into the new Jacuzzi.

And you can’t expect to dress your Sims in shabby clothing once their home has been made over. Find the latest fashionable apparel on this disc, including tailored suits for him and trendy blouses, skirts and shoes for her. New hairstyles are also available.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of The Sims series, Electronic Arts has also added some fan favourites from The Sims and The Sims 2, including a heart-shaped vibrating bed, large aquarium and an electric guitar.

But with only 35 or so items, $20 feels a bit steep for what you get. That, and there are no new game-play elements to sink your mouse into. Perhaps a sub-$10 digital download would have been a better idea.

The Sims 3: World Adventures ($44.99; 3.5 stars out of 4)

It’s time to get outta Dodge in The Sims 3: World Adventures, the first expansion pack that lets you take your Sims to exotic locations including Egypt, China and France.

See how your custom-made characters from The Sims 3 fare while exploring ancient tombs underneath pyramids, mastering martial arts in the Far East or visiting the “Champs de la Sims” countryside outside of Paris to ride a Vespa, make wine and solve a mystery or two.

Along with completing daring challenges — which is where the real fun comes in — you’ll also take photographs of their world adventures, meet Sims from around the globe and take home artefacts from their travels to decorate their homes.

The cost of admission is steep, though, at just $5 less than a full standalone computer game.
 

::OTHER NEWS::

Kick-Ass Comic Writer Becoming Movie Force

Source:  www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(April 11, 2010) Reading the first issue of
Kick-Ass, there looks to be that perfectly calculated, artist's life imitating his art moment, that makes one wonder if Mark Millar was telegraphing something years in advance.

With credits like Marvel's Civil War, Old Man Logan and Wanted amongst many, many other series, the Scottish writer is already one of the most successful comic book writers in the world and his star in only going to rise with the heavily hyped film adaptation coming out next Friday.

Of course, he's facing the inevitable question about how the celluloid version stacks up to his source material and all you need do is read the original comic. In the first issue of the series, the main character, Dave Lizewski, is walking out of the comic book store and arguing with his friends about comics-to-film adaptations. Like the author, Lizewski argues that there are some things that work in comics that just don't translate to film.

“No, I wasn't telegraphing. I was actually just using fan conversations that I had with my friends. It's terrible that me as a 40-year-old man has these kind of conversations with my friends, and it works as dialogue for 15- and 16-year-olds,” He says in his Scottish brogue on the line from London.

“I wrote that right when Fantastic Four 2 came out, and all my buddies, were saying, ‘oh man, they should have had Galactus in a purple suit in it,' and I was saying ‘are you insane?' I still quite passionately believe that. I remember saying at the time, if something works in the comic book it doesn't mean it's always going to work in the movie.”

Which is why Millar isn't sweating some of the changes that director Matthew Vaughn made in moving Kick-Ass from page to the screen. He has a great deal to gain, as along with artist John Romita Jr., Millar owns rights to his characters and is in line for a bigger payday if the flick (filmed here in Toronto) is a hit.

In some ways, it's remarkable that the film is actually coming to theatres at all. The comic was phenomenally successful out of the gate, full of over-the-top violence, colourful language and questionable moments, despite its fairly realistic take on what would happen if some kid actually decided to put on a costume like his fictional heroes — which is based on a real idea that Millar and a friend thought about pursuing in his teens. Millar met director Vaughn through mutual friends, who was so excited about an adaptation that he just started working on the screenplay before they even had a deal in place. Then Vaughn looked for financing.

“We've described this as the Pulp Fiction of superhero screenplays, it's so unlike anything, it hadn't been done before, and so we hoped it would redefine the medium. And every studio hated it. They didn't just dislike it; they said ‘this is rubbish. All the things that are great about superhero movies, this doesn't have.' There really was no interest.

“Matthew took it as such an insult, they were do dismissive in something that he really believed in that he raised $35 million himself personally, just from friends — and it must be nice to have those kind of friends. (He) raised 35 million dollars and literally within weeks, Nicolas Cage is standing on the set in costume, and it was “holy sh—, this is insane.”

With the movie shot and in the can over a year ago, there still was no studio interest until they showed 15 minutes at the San Diego Comic-Con that set the fanboy community aflame. As well, at a subsequent L.A. screening (at Brad Pitt's house, who is one of the producers), Millar says studio heads changed their tunes and a bidding war began.

The fans had even more of a personal stake in an adapted comic than usual; the story's protagonist is a fan like them. We'll see if they embrace Aaron Johnson in the starring role, but one of the initially touchy aspects of the film is now guaranteed to make a giant pop-culture splash: Hit-Girl.

Similar to Natalie Portman in The Professional, it's a superhero action flick where the best action sequences are reserved for an 11-year-old girl, who spouts the C-word and is destined to have countless fans dress up like her for fan conventions and Halloween. Fox News recently ran a story suggesting that having a young girl act so violently and with such vulgar language might constitute child abuse.

“It's funny; I created Hit-Girl a year and a half before I wrote Kick-Ass. I had her and Big Daddy in mind for another project, and they were going to be the stars of it. But even then, I knew I was onto something. You know when you stumble onto something, like a songwriter coming up with a hit tune, sometimes you just get lucky and Big Daddy and Hit-Girl were like that.”

Millar says the character in the comic steals every scene she's in, and it's the same on screen. Who knows when he'll get back to her; he has plans for the Kick-Ass comic sequel, but he's now writing Nemesis, with Canadian artist Steve McNiven, he's also planning another movie with Vaughn and he wants to try directing a project, but he's not ready to reveal details yet. All the same, he insists he does not intend to leave the world of four-colour panels for the big screen.

“It's funny, because even my family has asked that. My brothers are like, ‘so you finished with comics now? Are you off to do movies full time?' And I said are you kidding me? The thing I always say is that I didn't get into comics to get out of it. This was never a stepping stone to Hollywood for me, or else, I would have aimed there first.”

The Gospel According To Philip Pullman

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(April 14, 2010) Philip Pullman, grandson of a clergyman, admirer of the Gospels as masterpieces of literature, does not have a problem with Jesus, despite what his critics might think. He does have a problem with the churches that have flourished in Christ’s name, particularly the one that has its seat in Rome and is currently in a bit of trouble.

“The Catholic church is in crisis, and the old fool who’s Pope has no idea how to deal with it,” Pullman snorts. “It’s ridiculous the way he’s tried to push it away as if it’s of no importance, just tittle-tattle or gossip. The Vatican is completely out of touch.” He is quite gleeful about fellow atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens’s headline-grabbing stunt to try to arrest the pope on the grounds of “crimes against humanity” when he visits Britain in September. “I wish them luck,” Pullman, 63, says. “I’d love to see it.”

The Catholic church is in crisis, and the old fool who’s Pope has no idea how to deal with it.

The author of more than 20 novels has never shied away from a good smiting. Pullman’s bestseller The Golden Compass was pulled off the shelves in some Ontario Catholic schools in 2007, he’s been condemned for writing “atheism for kids” and now he’s back in a sulphurous cloud with his retelling of the central story of Christianity in a book called The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

Did I mention that in it, the lamb of God is not actually the messiah but very earthbound twins, one of whom loses his faith before the end of the book? It’s not likely to be found on the curriculum of Baptist colleges – not that he’d expect to find it there. Literalist interpreters of scripture, he says, “don’t listen, don’t think, don’t examine their own Bible.”

All it says on the back of Pullman’s book, in giant letters, is “this is a story,” and those are four fighting words as far as many Christians are concerned. Only a story? That theme – historical reality being skewed over time to suit the needs of a powerful institution – is central to The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

Let’s assume, Pullman writes, that Joseph and Mary were blessed with twins. One, Jesus, is a magnetic teacher and a bit of a cold-hearted idealist. His twin brother, Christ, is well-meaning but shifty, easily manipulated into first sacrificing Jesus to the Romans and then aggrandizing his life so that it will echo through history. The loaves and fishes are just a judicious bit of commodity management on Jesus’s part, but Christ turns them into a miracle that will resonate through the ages.

In this version, Jesus’s agony in the garden of Gethsemane becomes a bitter railing against a silent God: “You’re not there,” he says angrily. “You’ve never heard me.” This, Pullman cheerfully admits, is actually a representation of his own teenaged journey to atheism, when he’d concluded that his clergyman grandfather’s wonderful stories during Sunday sermons were just that – stories.

But if Jesus’s life and teaching had not been developed by the Christian church into a world-conquering myth, what would that have meant for art? What would Raphael have painted? What would Milton’s subject matter have been? Or for that matter Pullman’s, since his bestselling trilogy of young adult novels, His Dark Materials, is a fantastical retelling of Paradise Lost, with the church as the villain and God a decrepit, powerless creature?

“They would have found other subject matter,” Pullman says. Then he looks out the window – he is in London, on a day trip from the home in Oxford he shares with his wife – “but that pretty little spire I can see through the trees, that wouldn’t be there.”

You can think of the inspiration for his new book as a trinity, if that’s not too blasphemous. First, he was interested in the idea of St. Paul as the world’s first spin doctor, taking the story of fallible Jesus, a generation after the crucifixion, and turning him into the doctrinaire Christ (Greek for “messiah”).

Second, Jamie Byng, publisher of Canongate Books, approached him about writing an instalment of his Myths series, in which writers such as Margaret Atwood retell ancient legends. Finally, Pullman found himself on stage at London’s National Theatre, where His Dark Materials was being produced as a play, giving a talk with Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury. Williams turned to him, and said, mildly: All very well to go after the church in your books, but why do you never mention Jesus?

So Pullman went and reread the Bible (the New Revised Standard Version, much as he loved the grandeur of the King James scriptures of his youth) and historical records of that turbulent time, and concluded that “Jesus just happened to walk into the wrong place at the wrong time, and he was executed by the Romans for political reasons.”

Pullman has received angry letters from believers who don’t like to see their saviour reduced to a mere victim of history, and he expects more criticism when the book is published later this month in the United States. As for book bannings, like the one in Ontario, he says, “They never learn. The only effect that has is to make kids think, ‘Wow, I must read that,’ and they go out and buy it or borrow it from their friends.”

When the author leaves to catch a train back to Oxford, where he went to university and taught school for years, he’ll walk down the street past a beautiful church that’s being turned into an arts centre. “That’s what’s happening to churches these days,” Pullman says, and he doesn’t appear to be shedding any tears.

OTHER TIDBITS

Video: Daughter of Supermodel Iman’s Battle With Obesity

Source:  www.eurweb.com
 
(April 10, 2010) *Zulekha Haywood, the daughter of supermodel Iman and former NBA/Olympic basketball player Spencer Haywood, used to weigh 300 pounds and struggled with her weight until recently. Haywood wrote candidly about her weight problem in an article called “Imagine You Are the Daughter of a Supermodel” the most recent issue of Glamour magazine. Haywood sat down with The Today Show’s Hoda Kotb and Kathy Lee Gifford to talk about her experience being the daughter of two famous parents, her weight loss struggles and her decision to undergo gastric bypass. To date, she has lost 170 pounds.

::DANCE NEWS::

Spohr Helped Make Royal Winnipeg Ballet World Class

Source:  www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb

(April 12, 2010) Arnold Spohr, Royal Winnipeg Ballet artistic director emeritus and one of the best-loved figures in Canadian dance, died of chronic kidney disease in a Winnipeg long-term care centre early Monday morning. He was 86.

Saskatchewan-born Spohr earned his place in Canada’s cultural pantheon by transforming the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) from a struggling provincial troupe into a company that won medals, ovations and critical plaudits in major capitals around the world.

The RWB was adrift in 1958 when Spohr, having salvaged a run of almost-cancelled performances, was offered the artistic directorship. He initially refused, assuring then-board chair Kathleen Richardson that he was merely “a local boy without experience or training.” Finally persuaded, Spohr remained at the helm for an exceptional 30 years.

As a dancer and choreographer Spohr was more experienced than he acknowledged but nevertheless set about learning every aspect of the business through what he called “the long dark tunnel” of his early years.

Spohr built on the RWB’s established populist approach of programming easy-to-tour mixed bills that catered to a range of tastes. “For Arnold, audience was everything,” says current RWB chief, André Lewis. To give the RWB a distinctive repertoire, Spohr enterprisingly sought out choreographers such as Canadian Brian Macdonald, Argentinean Oscar Araiz and American John Neumeier before they had become internationally renowned.

“Arnold was an icon on so many levels,” says Lewis. “Without him there wouldn’t be much of a company today.”

Although sometimes dubbed a tyrant — Spohr had a big heart but a short fuse — he honed the RWB into a troupe that combined crackerjack dancing with theatrical savvy. “Stick together, no matter what,” Spohr would instruct his dancers.

They did, channelling Spohr’s own passion into bolts of high-voltage energy that leapt the footlights and lit the hearts of audiences. Writing in 1965, respected American critic Walter Terry proclaimed Spohr to be “one of the greatest ballet directors I have ever watched at work.”

Spohr also developed the company’s school, adding a professional training division in 1970, which, under former dancer David Moroni’s leadership, produced one of Canada’s finest ballerinas, Evelyn Hart, and, during Spohr’s later years, made it possible to stage full-length classics.

Spohr’s genius was felt beyond the RWB. He headed the Banff Centre’s respected summer dance program between 1967 and 1981, a decade later helped Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers avert collapse and had a notably beneficial influence on Toronto’s Ballet Jörgen, first as artistic advisor then, from 1993, as associate director. Says company co-founder Bengt Jörgen: “Arnold helped us believe in ourselves when times were tough. He had a huge impact. He basically taught me how to be a director.”

When failing health — Spohr had a history of heart trouble — made further trips to Toronto imprudent, he continued to coach dancers privately in Winnipeg until just a few years ago.

Spohr, who excelled in sports as a child and became an accomplished pianist, first saw a ballet when his little sister, Erica, persuaded him to escort her to a performance by the touring Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1942. Two years later. Spohr secretly began taking classes with English immigrants Gweneth Lloyd and Betty Farrally, founders of the fledgling Winnipeg Ballet.

Spohr — tall, handsome and a strong partner — was soon a leading company dancer and in the early 1950s won praise as an emerging choreographer, although he did not pursue that avenue. After a 1954 fire devastated the RWB’s headquarters, Spohr went to London to study. There he partnered the great ballerina Alicia Markova in a Christmas pantomime before returning to Winnipeg and unexpectedly renewing his career with the RWB.

Spohr, elevated to top-rank Companion of the Order of Canada in 2003 (the ceremony was held the following year), was showered with honours and awards throughout his long career but was particularly proud to be among the inaugural recipients of the Order of Manitoba in 2000.

A public memorial will be held following a private funeral. Says Stephanie Ballard, a veteran of Winnipeg’s contemporary dance scene and Spohr’s greatest support in his declining years: “Everyone wants it to be something very special.”

Michael Crabb’s biography, An Instinct For Success: Arnold Spohr and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, was published by Toronto’s Dance Collection Danse in 2002.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Switzerland Upsets Canada At Under-18 Men’s Hockey Championship

Source: www.thestar.com

(April 13, 2010) BOBRUISK, BELARUS—Guy Carbonneau is hoping to turn a disappointing loss to Switzerland into a motivational tool for his Canadian team at IIHF World U18 Championship.

The Canadians were upset 3-1 by the Swiss on Tuesday in their first preliminary round game of the annual hockey tournament.

“It’s a bump in the road and hopefully we can find a way to get back,” said Carbonneau, the Canadian head coach. “Sometimes that’s what you need — a good ass-kicking to get you going.”

In the other early game Tuesday, Finland hammered Latvia 7-2. In the late games, the Czech Republic faced Russia and the U.S. played Sweden.

Gregor Hoffman and Samuel Guerra scored in the first period to give the Swiss a 2-0 lead.

“We knew they were going to work for 60 minutes,” said Carbonneau. “That’s the kind of team that they have.”

Quinton Howden of Oakbank, Man., cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the second but Joel Vermin secured the victory with an empty-net goal with five seconds to go in the third.

“It took us a period to really find our legs,” Carbonneau said. “We played a little bit better at the end but I don’t think it was the effort that we wanted to have in the first game.”

Canada played just one exhibition game prior to the start of the tournament, a 5-4 loss to Finland. With several players on the roster coming off long layoffs following the end of the major junior regular season, Carbonneau said he did the best he could to prepare.

“We have to remember that most of these guys haven’t played a game in over a month, maybe a month and a half,” he said. “To get into a tournament like this with the best players in the world, it’s not easy.”

“But I think we prepared ourselves the right way,” he added. “We had a bunch of good practices.”

Winnipeg’s Calvin Pickard made 31 saves for Canada while Lukas Meili stopped 33 shots in the Swiss net.

“Today we tried to play on our skills instead of just a lot of hard work and we got caught,” Carbonneau said.

He’ll be hoping to see a better effort Thursday when Canada faces host Belarus.

Canada is trying to improve on a fourth-place finish last year. The Canadians won the tournament in 2003 and 2008 and took the silver medal in 2005.

NFL Legend Jerry Rice Takes A Swing At Pro Golf

Source: www.thestar.com - Janie McCauley

(April 13, 2010) HAYWARD, CALIF.—Jerry Rice used to wake up at 4 a.m. so he could get to the driving range and hit golf balls before he was due at work with the San Francisco 49ers for 8:30 a.m. meetings.

He’d return to the range after football practice.

“I got addicted to the game. I have so much passion for it,” Rice said.

Now, the Hall of Fame wide receiver is taking a swing at professional golf, and insists he’s serious.

Rice will make his pro debut Thursday in a Nationwide Tour event after receiving a sponsor’s exemption into the field. He also will serve as host of the 156-player tournament, with his foundation receiving proceeds.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime here,” Rice said. “You know I’m a competitor. I don’t want to go out there and have those players who are playing on the Nationwide Tour think this is a publicity stunt for attention. It’s not. ... I have the opportunity to go out and prove to everybody I can play golf.”

The 47-year-old Rice will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. He has been golfing for more than 20 years and has been a regular in pro-ams. His best round is 68.

After Phil Mickelson’s stirring win at the Masters on Sunday, Rice said he was so inspired he headed right to the range.

Rice would be eligible for prize money if he makes the 36-hole cut at the Fresh Express Classic at 7,188-yard, par-71 TPC Stonebrae. The Nationwide Tour works under the umbrella of the PGA Tour.

“These guys are really good golfers,” Rice said. “They are one step below the PGA and a lot of these guys are going to go on and be part of the PGA. To line up against these guys, I’m honoured. ... I’d love to make this cut in my debut.”

He has a few thoughts on what he’ll need to do to make that happen — hit the fairways, avoid three-putts. His touch around the greens is “something I really have to work on hard.”

“I can hold my own,” he said, referring to his drives. “I have been up at night visualizing my strategy what I’m going to do on every hole. The biggest thing for me is going to be being able to calm my nerves on the golf course when I hit a bad shot.”

Rice has been showing off his athletic talents in other arenas of late. Last week, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the San Francisco Giants’ home opener, with his former quarterback and fellow Hall of Famer Steve Young making the catch. Rice then turned and ran a route to catch the baseball from Young.

Rice, the NFL’s career receiving and touchdowns leader, played 20 NFL seasons for San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle. He made 1,549 catches for 22,895 yards, had 14 1,000-yard seasons and scored 208 touchdowns.

Rice is not sure where this golf venture is leading. Does the senior Champions Tour figure in his future?

“I can’t look down the road that far,” Rice said. “I love the game of golf and that would be a dream come true. I’m just getting my feet wet right now. Hopefully it can build into that. I love the game. I’ve never had something that challenges me so much.”

SPORTS TIDBITS

Serena Williams Enters Italian Open as Wild Card

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 13, 2010) *On the mend from a lingering knee injury, top-ranked tennis star Serena Williams has asked for and received a wild-card entry for next month’s Italian Open. Having been sidelined since her Australian Open title in January, Williams initially decided not to enter the tournament in Rome, which begins May 3 and is a key clay-court prelude to the French Open. But Tournament organizers announced the wild card for Williams on Tuesday, adding that nine of the top 10 women have entered, with No. 10 Kim Clijsters the only exception. Williams won the Italian Open in 2002 en route to her only French Open title at Roland Garros.