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LE NEWSLETTER

March 18, 2010

Happy past St. Patrick's Day!  This week I'm bringing you my write-up and recap on the
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta's 30th Anniversary featuring Maxi Priest (as well as many other artists, including Ziggi pictured).  Sounds like something you would pass over?  You should probably have a quick read and at least have a look at the photos - you may find yourself compelled to check it out next year.  I'm telling you - it's a week full of fun, sun, concerts, Heineken (!) and exciting boat races!  As a fan of the island itself with its multiculturalism and diverse offerings, having live music every night on different beaches throughout the island ... well, it's just a huge bonus. 

I have to give it up to 
Taddy P, Maxi Priest's bass guitar player (see SCOOP below).  He is one of the few surprises I got on this trip ... great talent, new album and new video ... all with a new appeal that I think you're really going to like - check it out! 

Are you out on Canada's west coast?  If so, you have to check out the hottest gospel music concert featuring
Mark Schultz and Point of Grace on Saturday night.

Another week of your entertainment news so have a scroll and a read.  

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

::HOT EVENTS::

Platinum-Selling Artists Mark Schultz And Point Of Grace Announce 25-City Spring Leg Of ‘Come Alive’ Tour

Source: Full Capacity Concerts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Following their successful pairing on the 30-city “Come Alive” Tour last fall, platinum-selling and Dove award-winning artists Mark Schultz and Point of Grace will hit the road together again this spring for an additional 25 cities. Pulling from their expansive repertoires, both artists will perform a collection of fan favourites, while Schultz will also play songs from his celebrated fifth studio release Come Alive, and Point of Grace will play selections from both their current, critically-acclaimed How You Live as well as their upcoming brand new release No Changin’ Us (March 2). 
 
Kicking off on February 26, in Appleton, Wis., the “Come Alive” Tour will journey across the country and into Canada, with concerts in Texas, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Michigan, Illinois, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vancouver (BC) and more. A current list of tour dates can be found at www.MarkSchultzMusic.com or www.PointOfGrace.net.
 
“Being out on the road traveling, connecting and worshipping with so many people is something I always look forward to,” says Schultz.  “I hope to see a lot of old friends out on the road and make a lot of new friends as we head out west in a few short weeks for the continuation of the ‘Come Alive’ Tour.”
 
“We are so excited to continue the ‘Come Alive’ tour with Mark Schultz,” adds Shelley Breen of Point of Grace. “This spring we will be able to share new songs from our brand new record, No Changin’ Us. The evening is such a ministry-oriented, yet fun-filled, bring-the-whole-family event. We loved Mark’s music long before the fall leg of this tour; now we have come to love his heart for people even more! The girls and I can’t wait to see everyone this spring out on the road.”
 
About Mark Schultz

One of Christian music’s most acclaimed singer/songwriters, Schultz’s first new studio album in nearly three years, Come Alive, is also his most personal recording to date, inviting listeners to “come alive” through these songs birthed by stories of hope, loss, joy and redemption. Pulling from real life experiences, the songs on Come Alive were inspired by families dealing with cancer, special needs and through Schultz‘s coast-to-coast bicycle ride that raised over $250,000 to benefit the James Fund, which provides assistance for widows and orphans. Produced by Brown Bannister (Amy Grant, Third Day, CeCe Winans), Shaun Shankel (Beyoncé, Hilary Duff), Bernie Herms (Natalie Grant, Avalon) and Paul Mills (Third Day, Bluetree), the album also features collaborations with such hit making songwriters as Bart Millard and Barry Graul of Mercy Me, Matthew West, Joy Williams and Herms.
 
Lauded at No. 1 on Billboard’s “Hot Christian Adult Contemporary Songwriters” list and with nine No. 1 radio hits, Schultz’s celebrated career highlights include being the centerpiece of the U.S. Army campaign “Letters From War,” named Christian Music Today’s Male Vocalist in 2003, and featured on the national TV programs, 48 Hours, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, CNN and more. His 2005 release, Mark Schultz Live…A Night of Stories & Songs, sold RIAA certified Platinum and garnered Schultz his first GMA Dove Award. For more information on Mark Schultz, visit www.markschultzmusic.com.
 
About Point of Grace

Point Of Grace’s groundbreaking success that began in the gospel market has recently seen their audience expand to the country music arena with the hit song, “How You Live (Turn Up the Music).” With airplay on country stations across the nation, the ballad is the centerpiece of Point Of Grace’s How You Live Deluxe Edition, an expanded version of its Dove Award-winning How You Live project. The Deluxe Edition includes the song “I Wish”, produced by Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift), and “King of the World,” written by prolific songwriter/artist, Cindy Morgan, who also penned “How You Live”.  Point of Grace recently finished their upcoming Word/WB release, No Changin’ Us, which will be available for purchase on March 2.  The girls once again worked with the famed producer Nathan Chapman to create a positive record that fits easily in both the Christian and County markets.
 
The readily identifiable sound of Point Of Grace has fuelled one of the most successful careers in gospel music. Point Of Grace has sold more than eight million albums, won 11 Dove Awards and received two GRAMMY nods. They’ve earned two platinum and five gold albums and have scored more than two dozen No. 1 hits at Christian radio, among them “Steady On,” “The Great Divide” and “Circle of Friends.” Point Of Grace has also garnered major national media exposure, including The View with Barbara Walters, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Time Magazine, CNN, Prime/Time Live, Ladies’ Home Journal, Billboard, VH-1, CBS This Morning and, ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, among others. For more information on Point Of Grace, visit www.pointofgrace.net.
 
The “Come Alive” Tour is sponsored by Christian humanitarian organization World Vision. World Vision provides assistance to approximately 100 million people in nearly 100 countries by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.

SATURDAY, MARCH 20
MARK SCHULTZ AND POINT OF GRACE
Broadway Church
2700 East Broadway
Vancouver, BC  V5M 1Y8
8:00pm
$10 - $25
www.ticketwindow.ca, (877) 700-3130
Ticket Outlets: House of James, Blessings, or City in Focus
www.fullcc.com

::SCOOP::

St. Maarten's 30th Anniversary of the Heineken Regatta - 2010

Feeling the sun hit your face for the first time when you are descending the stairs on to the tarmac at Princess Juliana International Airport in
St. Maarten (St. Martin) is truly almost a healing experience.  You close your eyes, point your face towards the sun and it warms every part of your body and soul.  Cliché?  Perhaps, but I LOVE that!  Especially for the sun-deprived Canadians deplaning.

Flying to St. Maarten as your final destination is definitely not a hardship - anymore.  Especially since Westjet has added direct flights from Toronto at a discounted rate.  I saved $400 this year on the flight alone so if St. Maarten was a favoured destination in your travel plans but you thought it too expensive, then check it out again with Westjet. (See press release HERE.)  The experience on this island of two cultures, French and Dutch, attracts people from all over the world because of it's multicultural charm and multilingual people, not to mention it's stunning beauty and tax-free, duty-free shopping!

This is a special regatta in St. Maarten – it is the
30th anniversary of the Heineken Regatta!  A testament to the success and ever-growing popularity of the regatta.  But for me, the regatta is much more than watching boats race and that culture.  It is always a joy to experience the regatta strictly from the music perspective.  The 30th edition of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta proved once again that St. Maarten is the Caribbean headquarters for World-Class Sailing mixed with the best in local and international entertainment.

The local bands performing rally the crowd to a feverish pitch, not to mention the headliners on the final night of celebrations.  This year featured
Maikal X, Rupee, DJ Outkast and the one and only Maxi Priest.  Conducting the series of concerts throughout the week-long events is former New Yorker, now St. Maarten and radio host, G Money (pictured). 

I stayed at the
Holland House in Philipsburg, right on the boardwalk and a very central spot for those attending the regatta.  It's a gorgeous hotel, excellent bar with knowledgeable and friendly staff, open air restaurant within walking distance of gourmet restaurants, casinos and shops - not to mention free Internet.  One of the BIG pluses for me was the bar and restaurant service on the beach, meaning you can order all the drinks, food and snacks from your comfy chaise lounge while keeping your feet in the sand.  My thanks to Mala from Holland for her exceptional and friendly service! (pictured)

But first I want to cover my first few days there.  My first day, Wednesday, March 3rd, was the talk of the local businesses because six cruise ships were docked on the same day.  Not a huge abnormality but one of the cruise ships was the
Oasis, the largest cruise ship in the world, serving 5,000 people onboard!  So, with that ship at harbour, along with the other cruise ships, approximately 15,000 people descended on to the boardwalk, Front St. and Back St. in Philipsburg!  You can see from the picture that the Oasis practically dwarfs the other ships, which we all know are pretty huge all on their own. 

Still on Wednesday, I hooked up with a film crew from Miami who were tons of fun and were hired to capture footage and still shots of the beauty of St. Maarten.  I tagged along on a couple of shoots and they truly captured many gorgeous shots, as evidenced by one of the set shots at Bliss Nightclub, next to Maho Beach (www.bliss-sxm.com), which was the official after party spot for all those involved with the regatta.

On Thursday March 4th, it was an interesting new element added to the music roster for the regatta - a night for rockers entitled
Voices Rock the Dock - an all star ensemble comprised of the original lead singers from among the most iconic classic rock acts of the 1980’s, will star at the opening party of the 30th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in Port de Plaisance. Starring Loverboy’s Mike Reno, Toto’s Bobby Kimball, John Cafferty of John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, and Tommy Tutone, the “Voices” collectively boast 6 Grammy Awards, 9 Juno awards, 18 Top Forty Hits, and 4 Billboard Number Ones. With more than 100,000,000 combined worldwide record sales, their hits are the soundtrack of a generation!  The event was well attended but I got the sense that, especially the locals wanted their own brand of music featured at all the parties.  Still a successful event though.

Official press release re Voices Rock the Dock party HERE.

Friday night (March 5th) brought the infamous party on the long boardwalk of Philipsburg.  Four stages, various genres of music and almost everyone on the island came out to party.  Big screens everywhere where you could see what was going on at the various stages. Philipsburg is considered 'downtown' on the island so having one of the parties there, and right outside the front of my hotel, was incredible!  Some pictures of the live action are below.

Official press release re boardwalk party HERE.

Of course I had to stop by my fav beachfront spot, the Great Wet Bar, pictured below is  Shaun and Matt, the Canadians!  I went by there at the busiest time of the boardwalk party to get a seat and some good food.  And what did they have playing on their big outdoor wall?  A Bob Marley live music concert - right in the midst of all the other music going on around.  It was awesome!  Talk about a great and fun place with the best burgers and fries (not to mention poutine!) on the strip.  They are proudly Canadian with all sorts of remnants of Canadian memorabilia posted everywhere.  Service is excellent and friendly (they remember your name!) and prices are good too. So good that a couple from Detroit that were in St. Maarten as one of their ports on their cruise ship, were recommended to eat there by their skipper who told them that this was the place to eat for burgers.  Look for the sign that says "COLD BEER, EH?

Links:  www.getwetbeachbar.com


Saturday night brought around a very special opportunity to have dinner with Maxi Priest and his band!  The Wharf in Simpson Bay (partners Elvis and Bernard and best bartender ever, Matthew), hooked up a gorgeous dinner that included lobster, fresh fish, dessert and liquors, excellent service with fast and furious drinks for the whole gang (all 10 of us!).  The entire crew were very generous with their time and attention and Maxi was hilarious to hang with. Here's some pictures from the evening:

As an aside, please check out Taddy P's newest video HERE

Same night over at the Marigot Waterfront (French side) were the artists Rupee, Cutcreator DJ Outkast and Youth Waves
performing before the regatta crowds.

Sunday brought the rain, rain and more rain.  First ever that I've experienced at a regatta in St. Maarten.  But the vibe of both the regatta and party-goers on Sunday night was enthusiastic.  Clearly it was a drag that when the prize-giving ceremonies started at Kim Sha Beach, that it was still raining.  But as the music started rolling in, the rain just faded away.  The night was delayed in the start time, partly to ensure that the rain was not a threat to the crowds.   But once the artists hit the stage, the crowd was jamming, drinking Heineken in ample quantities with local food vendors working overtime to keep up with the demand. 

I arrived (holy traffic am!) when Netherlands artist Maikal X was performing (pictured above).  Even though Maikal X lived all his life in The Netherlands, having a Curacaolenian mother and Guyanese father made it almost impossible for him to loose the Caribbean feel for music. Freshly signed to Rock N Vibes Maikal X ceased the opportunity to go on tour in 2008 as opening act during the “In Transit Tour” of his label mate Ziggi.  Enter Ziggi.  I first met Ziggi when he was performing 5 years ago in St. Maarten as part of their Carnival celebrations.  Growing up on the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius the young Ricardo Blijden was given the nickname Ziggi by his grandparents who raised him. In 2001 Ziggi came to the Netherlands to study. It was in that time when he was introduced to Mr. Rude the owner of an independent studio and label called Rock’N Vibes Entertainment.

Links:
  Http://www.myspace.com/maxipriest
Http://www.facebook.com/maxipriest
http://www.youtube.com/maxipriestmusic

www.maikalx.com  or www.rocknvibes.com; www.ziggimusic.com  or www.rocknvibes.com  or www.myspace.com/ziggib 

Then came the hype and the anticipation of watching headliner Maxi Priest hit the stage.  The crowd had driven through hours of traffic, waited through hours of prize-giving and other musical acts, not to mention rain, and were more than anxious to see the legendary artist take the stage. 

And Maxi Priest did not disappoint.  His band of top musicians were completely in sync with every change up and every move that Maxi made (see photos below).  A fine-tuned musical collaboration evolved and they had the crowd singing along with every tune, every nuance and and were jamming along with them.  And I think a new age group of fans were determined that night.  Maxi has a way of connecting with his audience and gives the love from the root of his soul during a performance.  There's no other way in words to convey that. 

Music is universal ... and Maxi Priest's music continues to grow. 2008 saw Maxi on tour with UB40, Toots and the Maytals, Third World and Rik Rok on the great Reggae Sunsplash Tour. Also Maxi's new video, "Makes Me Wanna Hallah" (from the album to be released soon) is capturing a new and excited group of Maxi Priest fan.

Links: http://maxipriest.com/

The concert left the crowd feeling like they just had a big meal - completely satisfied.  Maxi left us wanting more - the sign of a true professional!  (smile)

Bass Guitarist "Taddy P " Releases Debut Album

Known as
Taddy P across musical genres, I first met one of Jamaica's hottest bass guitarists when he joined us in St. Maarten to perform with Maxi Priest, the headliner for the 30th Anniversary of the Heineken Regatta.  Only the top musicians are invited to this prestigious and celebrated beach closing party.

With musical accolades from jazz to reggae, Othniel "Taddy P" Campbell is no stranger to the music and entertainment industry.  Taddy P's extensive musical knowledge, experience and passion has enabled him to tour world-wide.  Not only is Taddy P a musician and an entertainer but he is also an ace music producer.  You can find Taddy P currently performing with
Maxi Priest

Check out Taddy P's biography, picture and new track entitled, "
Leave the Crumbs Alone" featuring artist Mackie Conscious, go HERE  The track is about those in our lives who are greedy and the hoarding of wealth for their own sake.  The message is 'Sharing is Caring'.  There's enough for all of us.

Here's the video for
Leave the Crumbs Alone - I just know that you're going to feel this new and fresh vibe just as much as I did when I first heard it ... can't get the track out of my head now!

For more information check out: Taddy P's myspace page HERE and Facebook HERE

Support excellence in music my friends.

::TOP STORIES::

K’naan’s ‘Wavin’ Flag’ Gets ‘We Are The World’ Treatment For Haiti

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(March 12, 2010) He’s won a Juno, been nominated for a Polaris Prize and already released two critically acclaimed albums. But for those how haven’t been paying attention, get ready for
K’naan to burst forth on your musical radar.

Born Keinan Warsame, the soft-spoken Somalian-Canadian rapper’s song, “Wavin’ Flag” is about to be everywhere, thanks to a two new versions of the song – one a charity single featuring some of biggest up and coming Canadian artists around and the other a remix which was selected as the official song of the upcoming World Cup in South Africa.

Upon appearing on the music scene a little over three years ago, this Dusty Foot Philosopher (which happens to be title of Juno-award winning first album from 2006) peaked interest with his back story – born in Mogadishu, his family fled the Somali Civil War and settled in Rexdale. Members of his family were performers in his home country – his aunt Magool was a well known singer there, and he’s the grandson of famed Somali poet Haji Mohamed – and he’s continuing the family tradition, but putting his own spin on it. The 31-year-old father of two creates a mix of rap, hip hop, spoken word and rock that transcend that world music category.

Remarkably humble, perhaps his Canadian-ness shows when I tell him his song is going to be everywhere – even though for knowing music fans might feel like it already has been – and he apologizes for its oncoming ubiquity.

“Sorry about that,” he says on the line from London during a break in his European tour.

“Wavin’ Flag” was one of the standouts on Troubadour, which was released last February, and even before these latest developments, it served as a soundtrack to a commercial for a local radio station, he performed it at the Canada for Haiti telethon, as well as at this year’s Polaris Music Prize, where his album made the shortlist.

Perhaps it’s best to think of it as the little song that could – and will continue to do more.

Now the track is helping relief efforts in Haiti. Last month during the Olympics, more than 50 Canadian artists gathered in Vancouver and re-recorded the anthem as a charity single, with proceeds being split among Free the Children, War Child Canada and World Vision. The track was released Friday.

Dubbing themselves Young Artists for Haiti, those involved in the single include Drake, Metric’s Emily Haines, Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber, Nelly Furtado, Broken Social Scene and many more. (For full list of artists and other info, go here). The song was recorded by legendary rock producer Bob Ezrin.

He says he had a feeling from the start this song was special from the start.

“There are certain songs you just know, you try and keep them closer but you can’t,” he says. “You just can’t really contain it and keep it for yourself.”

He took a long time writing it, holding on to it until he was ready.

“I wrote the first melody and hook and recorded it maybe two or three years ago. Then I didn’t play it for anyone or release it or anything of that nature,” he says. “Then I performed it for two years, and finally I recorded it the way I wanted to record it.

“It’s a fragile thing to record a song that you feel great about, because you know what it is in your head, and you don’t want to ruin it.”

Just like when it was selected as the World Cup anthem, it wasn’t his idea to re-record the track as a charity single. But when asked, he was all for using it as a way to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

“I guess we’re all trying to somehow make sense of this world and the way it is, and why things happen to places and not other places. I think in those times when we are questioning those things, we want to rid ourselves of the sadness, we want to do something. I wanted to do my part.”

He says it was amazing to work with so many talented artists, and to hear the chorus of voices added to his original.

“It really is something when you hear everybody give the best of themselves to something. There’s this one line that the Broken Social Scene sing, it’s so beautiful. I think Drake really gave something to the song as well.”

His song is know the next Canadian track to enter the pantheon of sports songs, of which the most recent was the Olympics’ “I Believe” by Nikki Yanofsky, who also appears on the charity version, and while we try to goad him into some sort of rivalry, he has nothing but nice things to say about the pint-sized powerhouse vocalist.

“She’s crazy. This little girl, she sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard. She’s so little and even in the choir, when we’re all singing, all of these people, and you could hear her. No matter how many people were singing, you could hear her. She’s amazing.”

While K’naan is extremely pleased about the choice of his song for both this cause and the event, it does beg the question if her fears becoming a one-hit wonder?

“I guess I would be, if I felt like all of my other songs were kind of sh--. If I really didn’t feel like I made good songs to listen too. If I didn’t have “Take a minute,” or “Fatima,” or other songs that span years and years of my life. If I felt like I had nothing else except “Wavin’ Flag,” then I’d feel like I kind of cheated everybody, and I would be afraid of all the attention, but I think when people hear “Wavin Flag,” people are intelligent enough to know, if someone writes a song like that, there might be something more.”

With his tour and the upcoming World Cup, his schedule is jam packed although he is slated to return in April for the Junos, where he is nominated for three awards. He says he has started recording some on his current tour, the beginning steps of his next album.

“I’m recording a lot, but I’m recording on the road, which is a different feeling than recording in the studio. I’m making some music now that I’m really excited about. I feel like that I’m in a good moment musically. More than ever,” he says. “You know what it is? I haven’t said this to anybody, but I think it’s because I visited back home in Somalia, and came back. I now write free from all of that. I don’t know if I could have written another album if I hadn’t gone back.”

National Film Board Of Canada Expands Relationship With Online Giant Youtube Via New Distribution Deal

Source: National Film Board of Canada

(March 12, 2010) The National Film Board of Canada has partnered with
YouTube to premiere the feature-length documentary film, The “Socalled” Movie in the US, starting March 16 during the South By Southwest festival. Canadian musician, Socalled, whose debut music video garnered over 2M views on YouTube, is the subject of the film and will also be performing at the festival.  The “Socalled” Movie is a co-production between reFrame Films and the NFB and will be available for rent at <youtube.com/socalledmovie>.  The film will be in Canadian theatres this spring.
 
“This latest development in our partnership with YouTube represents an exciting new distribution opportunity for the National Film Board of Canada,” said Tom Perlmutter, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson. “At the NFB, we’re leading the way in using online and mobile technology to bring Canadian talent and creativity to the world and opening the door for Canadian innovation in the audio-visual industry.   YouTube is the perfect platform for Socalled and The “Socalled” Movie, and the ideal channel to serve our growing U.S. online audience.”   
 
Entertainment Marketing and Strategy Manager at YouTube, Sara Pollack states, “"Socalled has been a celebrated figure on YouTube ever since his music video 'You Are Never Alone' debuted on the site almost two years ago. We're thrilled to be able to give our users a chance to learn more about this talented artist by premiering The “Socalled” Movie on our platform."
 
The NFB already programs its own YouTube channel <youtube.com/NFB> and features some of its award-winning animation on YouTube’s online screening room. Canada’s public film producer and distributor, the NFB also collaborates with YouTube on online short film competition at the Cannes Film Festival. 
 
Directed by Garry Beitel The “Socalled” Movie is a unique kaleidoscopic portrait of unstoppable artist Socalled, a dynamic young pianist, singer, arranger, rapper, producer and composer – and also a magician, filmmaker and visual artist – who’s blasting through the boundaries that separate music from different cultures, eras and generations. Taking its cues from Socalled’s modus operandi, the cinematic style of the documentary samples his work and offers up 18 entertaining, exquisitely edited short films about his constant creative process.
 
The “Socalled” Movie shows him introducing funk trombone legend Fred Wesley (of James Brown fame) to klezmer music, while wowing Wesley with his knowledge of funk. When Dolgin comes across LPs from the 1950s by lounge pianist Irving Fields, he looks up 94-year-old Fields and inspires him to pen a new hit song.
Shot in Socalled’s Montreal neighbourhood where Hasidic Jews and hipsters crowd the sidewalks, and in New York, France and the Ukraine, The “Socalled” Movie also explores Socalled’s creative partnerships with singer Katie Moore; renowned klezmer clarinettist David Krakauer; filmmaker Benjamin Steiger Levine, who directed Socalled’s video You are Never Alone); and cello virtuoso Matt Haimovitz.

About the NFB
 
Canada’s public film producer and distributor, the National Film Board of Canada creates social-issue documentaries, auteur animation, alternative drama and digital content that provide the world with a unique Canadian perspective. The NFB is expanding the vocabulary of 21st-century cinema and breaking new ground in form and content through community filmmaking projects, cross-platform media, programs for emerging filmmakers, stereoscopic animation – and more. It works in collaboration with creative filmmakers and co-producers in every region of Canada, with Aboriginal and culturally diverse communities, as well as partners around the world. Since the NFB’s founding in 1939, it has created over 13,000 productions and won over 5,000 awards, including 12 Oscars and more than 90 Genies. In 2009, Neighbours/Voisins by NFB animation founder Norman McLaren was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. The NFB’s new website features over 1,400 productions online, and its iPhone app has become one of the most popular and talked about downloads. Visit <NFB.ca> today and start watching.

‘Mission: Impossible’ Star Peter Graves Dies At 83

Source: www.thestar.com - Andrew Dalton

(March 15, 2010) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Peter Graves, whose calm and intelligent demeanour was a good fit to the intrigue of “Mission Impossible” as well as the satire of the “Airplane” films, has died.

Graves passed away Sunday just a few days before his 84th birthday outside his home in Los Angeles, publicist Sandy Brokaw said. Graves was returning from brunch with his wife of nearly 60 years and his family when he had what Graves’ doctor believed was a heart attack, Brokaw said.

Graves first gained attention of many baby boomers with the 1950s TV series “Fury,” but remained best known for the role of Jim Phelps, leader of a gang of special agents who battled evil conspirators in TV’s “Mission: Impossible.”

Normally cast as a hero, he turned in an unforgettable performance early in his career as the treacherous Nazi spy in Billy Wilder’s 1953 prisoner-of-war drama “Stalag 17.”

He also masterfully lampooned his straight-arrow image when he portrayed bumbling airline pilot Clarence Oveur in the 1980 disaster movie spoof “Airplane!”

Graves appeared in dozens of films and a handful of television shows in a career of nearly 60 years.

The authority and trust he projected made him a favourite for commercials late in his life, and he was often encouraged to go into politics.

“He had this statesmanlike quality,” Brokaw said. “People were always encouraging him to run for office.”

Graves was preceded in stardom by his older brother James Arness, who played Marshal Matt Dillon on TV’s “Gunsmoke.”

Born Peter Aurness, Graves adopted his grandfather’s last name to avoid confusion with his older brother, who had dropped the “U” from the family name.

Graves’ career began with cheaply made exploitation films like “It Conquered the World,” in which he battled a carrot-shaped monster from Venus, and “Beginning of the World,” in which he fought a giant grasshopper.

He later took on equally formidable human villains each week on “Mission: Impossible.”

Every show began with Graves, as agent Phelps, listening to a tape of instructions outlining his team’s latest mission and explaining that if he or any of his agents were killed or captured “the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”

The tape always self-destructed within seconds of being played.

The show ran on CBS from 1967 to 1973 and was revived on ABC from 1988 to 1990 with Graves back as the only original cast member.

The actor credited clever writing for the show’s success.

“It made you think a little bit and kept you on the edge of your seat because you never knew what was going to happen next,” he once said.

He also played roles in such films as John Ford’s “The Long Gray Line” and Charles Laughton’s “The Night of the Hunter,” as well as “The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell,” “Texas Across the River” and “The Ballad of Josie.”

Graves’ first television series was the children’s Saturday morning show, “Fury,” about an orphan and his untamed black stallion. Filmed in Australia, it lasted six years on NBC.

In his later years, Graves brought his white-haired eminence to PBS as host of “Discover: The World of Science” and A&E’s “Biography” series.

He noted during an interview in 2000 that he made his foray into comedy somewhat reluctantly.

Filmmakers Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker had written a satire on the airplane-in-trouble movies, and they wanted Graves and fellow handsome actors Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen and Robert Stack to spoof their serious images.

All agreed, but Graves admitted to nervousness. On the one hand, he said, he considered the role a challenge, “but it also scared me.”

“I thought I could lose a whole long acting career,” he recalled.

“Airplane!” became a box-office smash, and Graves returned for “Airplane II, The Sequel.”

Graves was a champion hurdler in high school in Minnesota, as well as a clarinet player in dance bands and a radio announcer.

After two years in the Air Force, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota as a drama major and worked in summer stock before following his brother west to Hollywood.

He found enough success there to send for his college sweetheart, Joan Endress. They were married in 1950 and had three daughters — Kelly Jean, Claudia King and Amanda Lee — and six grandchildren.

Harlem: Fried Chicken And Other Revelations

Source: www.thestar.com - Amy Pataki

Harlem Underground
Address: 745 Queen St. W. (at Tecumseth St.), 416-366-4743
Chef: Anthony Mair
Hours: Monday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. (until 11 p.m. Sunday)
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Washrooms downstairs
Price: Dinner for two with beer, tax and tip: $75

(March 4, 2010) At a tiny roadside shack in rural Mississippi,
Anthony Mair had a fried-chicken epiphany.

The menu was just chicken and chips. The frying was done outside on a small burner. Mair, a George Brown graduate then cooking his way through the South, guessed this prevented kitchen fires.

"It was truly life changing," he remembers. "They raised their own chickens, the spices were simple and they used peanut oil, which creates an immense flavour difference over canola."

Mair, 42, has been striving to replicate the taste ever since. At
Harlem Underground, the three-month-old restaurant he co-owns, he marinates quartered chickens in buttermilk for at least 24 hours, slitting open the legs so the tenderizing liquid penetrates.

The buttermilk, along with the flour coating the bird, is seasoned only with thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. For the frying, he substitutes canola oil, heated to 350F, for allergenic peanut oil.

Mair's version ($14.95) is quite good: crisp coating, limited grease, and juicy meat (dark and white).

Save for the incongruous honey-chipotle-lime dipping sauce, it conjures up a world of buttered biscuits, collard greens and sweet tea.

But Mair ranks it only third in the fried chicken pantheon. (Second was a long-ago homecoming meal at his mother's Jamaican farm. Note that the bird was freshly killed and that his mother was opening sous chef of the CN Tower.)

Harlem Underground is likely Toronto's only soul food-Caribbean restaurant.

Until November, it was Irie Food Joint. That's when Mair and partner Carl Cassell, who owns the three-year-old Harlem Restaurant on Richmond St. E., rebranded it.

The long dark room, hung with graffiti-influenced art, still throbs with reggae. The crossover is also apparent in greasy jerk pork spring rolls ($4.95).

The mix makes sense. African slaves brought ingredients like okra, rice and black-eyed peas to both the West Indies and the American South. Mair calls his cooking soul food rather than southern or Cajun, because "it's more popular."

No matter. Anyone who appreciates clean flavours, sweet potato pie ($6) and long marinades will enjoy a meal at Harlem Underground.

Buffalo chicken thighs ($8.95) are a triumph of hot oil, Cajun spicing and malt vinegar. Catfish and collard green soup ($5.95) is where fresh ginger meets puréed roasted pumpkin stock; ignore the "not for the tame" menu warning since the scotch bonnet peppers are muted. But it's hard to ignore the excess salt ruining jambalaya ($18.95).

Fried chicken aside, the best dinner at Harlem Underground can be assembled from the 13 side dishes. There's dirty rice ($5.95) embellished with tender chicken liver pieces. Bright green collards ($5.95) are cooked to order with coconut cream, like a Trinidadian callaloo.

Macaroni and cheese ($4.95) is loose and rich, the béchamel enriched with three cheeses. Have it with bacon ($5.95) if you dare. Okra and tomato fricassee ($4.50) straddles the worlds of curry and Cajun. Cornbread ($3.95) needs tweaking to get rid of the underbaked taste. As for the Texan-style deep-fried pickles ($2.50), all I can say is they taste like Vlasic pickles in crisp batter, because that's what they are.

This week, Harlem Underground has changed the menu, replacing the poor-selling smoked ham hock and waffles with blackened flatiron steak. (The items reviewed above remain.) Also coming up is a third Harlem location, possibly on Bayview Ave. south of Eglinton Ave. W.

Mair recalls another revelation. He was 6, eating at long-departed soul food restaurant The Underground Railroad on King St. E., when he decided to become a chef. Who knew epiphanies could be so tasty?

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Sassy, Sexy Sydney

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Gough Henly

(March 13, 2010) SYDNEY–The easygoing 2000 Olympics showed off the breezy, sexy harbour city at its best.

The harbour, bridge and opera house still seduce, but don't limit yourself to the Rocks and Darling Harbour tourist ghettos.

Get out and enjoy the city like a local, whether that be sailing or surfing, hanging out in hip, inner-city neighbourhoods, and dining and drinking al fresco just about anywhere.

SHOPPING

The Saturday Paddington Bazaar Market, sprawling around an old sandstone church, offers great people-watching and high-quality crafts including designer hats made from water hyacinths, inspired jewellery, and quirky fashions.

Oxford St. is lined with upmarket shops, but the side streets are more intriguing with bijou boutiques in Victorian-era terrace houses decorated with wrought-iron lacework.

"William St. is a gem," says local Rebecca Jones. "Check out Andrew McDonald for handmade shoes, Just William Chocolates and fabulous Aussie designers like Collette Dinnegan and Leona Edmiston.

"Paddington is where designers go when they've hit the big time. If you are a trailblazer, head to the more authentic and edgy Surry Hills. Right next to the CBD (central business district), it has an amazing mix of galleries, furniture stores, cafes, bars and restaurants catering for the upwardly mobile.

At the same time, there are still a lot of boarding houses, and students and artists living here," says resident Philip Engelberts.

Nike and Chris Balken's new Collector Store on Crown St. is a microcosm of what's on offer.

"We've put together a mix of local Sydney designers, plus handmade products from around the country. We are working with stylists, pattern makers and artists who are developing experimental collections," says Nike.

You can pick up cushions hand-printed with laced silver foil on sand linen ($90), plus a roll of wallpaper and even a dress to match. There are laser-cut silver tree pendants for $49, leather bags made just around the corner ($220), silk and linen jackets ($385), angular salad bowls, and mirrors with recycled magazine-cover frames.

A small one will set you back $195. Nearby, check out Object, a gallery and boutique offering some of Sydney's best ceramics, glassware, and jewellery. Down the road is Formaggi Ocello, a rustic barnlike space that sells the finest Italian, French and Australian farmhouse cheeses. Stay for some Gorgonzola Dolce with truffle honey and a glass of Chianti Classico.

Not too far away is Longrain, a must-visit for its heady bar scene and updated Thai classics served at long communal tables.

If this is too chi-chi, head to Abdul's Lebanese restaurant, which has been serving university students smoky baba ghanouj, falafel and tabbouleh for 47 years.

Better yet, order some tapas and hang out with an artsy crowd on the upstairs balcony of the corner Clock Hotel, which overlooks the first Saturday of the month vintage clothes market.

DINING

Sydney bucks the cliché that you can't have your restaurant view and great food, too. Quay, Aria, Guillaume at Bennelong, and Icebergs all deliver some of the best food in the city.

An earthier gem is Sean's Panorama which has more of a peak than a panorama; yet this tiny casual bistro right across from the beach at Bondi serves up honest fare. Dishes are written on blackboards above the open kitchen – perfect after a day in the surf.

There may be heirloom tomato salad with goat curd and the best roast chook (that's Aussie for chicken) in the country, not to mention desserts like passion fruit granita, mango salad and ice cream.

For great dumplings you can't go past the modern Din Tai Fung on the edge of Chinatown. Not far from the zoo, right on Balmoral Beach is the Moorish-inspired Bather's Pavilion, built in 1928. Today, it is a colourful café and restaurant, with a beach house atmosphere. Locals drop by the café from morning till dusk to gaze across Sydney Harbour and enjoy Caesar salad or anchovy and potato pizza. Join a well-heeled crowd for inspired Mod Oz fare in the restaurant like chilled asparagus soup with yabbies (freshwater crayfish), and roast spring lamb with aubergine and goat cheese.

DRINKING

Kings Cross may be Sydney's nightlife hub but today's bar of the moment is the four-story Ivy Bar right in the heart of the CBD. You have to dress for success but once inside there is an entire design precinct, from British pub to garden party, to explore.

Only the most savvy make it to the rooftop Pool Club. If you are one of them, ask your tennis pro-dressed waiter for a Pink Flamingo made with Plymouth gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, pink grapefruit juice, egg white and basil leaf ... refreshing on a steamy Sydney summer night.

If multi-tiered venues are your thing, check out the classy and slightly camp Will and Toby's in Darlinghurst.

The first floor Supper Club doubles as jazz, soul and cabaret venue, whilst the top level Polo Lounge oozes sophistication with its leather sofas, fireplace and balcony.

For a great buzz in the bosom of Sydney Harbour, the west-facing Opera Bar, tucked below the main promenade, is a great spot for sunset drinks overlooking the Bridge.

SLEEPING

The Park Hyatt has long been Sydney's mainstay for dress circle views of the Opera House.

If you want to stay in a piece of history, book a heritage room (with what must be the highest hotel-room ceilings in the world) at the Westin Hotel, once the offices of the General Post Office.

In the basement is a beehive of dining options including a steak house, oyster bar, deli and sushi train. A charming budget option is the designer-hip Dive Hotel (where you can practically dive into the ocean) overlooking Coogee Beach. Former television producer Terry Bunton has created an updated Down Under-style Italian pensione. He offers loads of insiders' advice over the help-yourself continental breakfast in the sunny breakfast room or on the bamboo-fringed terrace.

DOING

Tick off Bridge Climb and touring the Opera House, then get out on the water.

Head down to Circular Quay and hop on any green and yellow ferry. Better yet, take a sailing class with Sydney by Sail for great views while you learn how to hoist the jib sail. Try a surfing lesson at Manly or Bondi or swim in one of Sydney's many ocean pools.

If looking at the water rather than swimming in it is more your thing, try one of the fabulous walking trails that meander through the 400 hectares of natural harbour waterfront or along the rugged ocean coastline. For ocean views, take the coastal path from the southern end of Bondi Beach, past the beautiful set hanging out at Bondi Icebergs, and wander along the weathered sandstone cliffs past gorgeous Tamarama, a few kilometres to Bronte Beach, where you can enjoy lunch at an al fresco café.

Susan Gough Henly is a Melbourne, Australia-based freelance writer.

::MUSIC NEWS::

PE, Chuck D Still Bringing the Noise

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 15, 2010*Rap group Public Enemy and its leader Chuck D appear to be even busier now than during their heyday in the 1990s, according to Billboard.com.

The collective is gearing up for what will be its 69th, 70th and 71st tours this year. Through its SLAMjamz digital label (SLAMjamz.com), PE recently released the benefit album “Kombit pou Haiti,” with proceeds donated to the Lambi Fund in Haiti.

Coming in the spring: a “Welcome to the Terrordome” three-CD/three-DVD boxed set encompassing live tracks, videos and documentaries from the past 12 years of PE’s work; a Chuck D solo album, “Mistachuck: Don’t Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin’”; and “It’s Back to a Million of Us to Hold a Nation,” by PE backing band the baNNed.

The forthcoming instrumental set reinterprets PE’s 1988 classic, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.”

And don’t forget Chuck D’s radio show launched in November on WBAI.org — “AndYouDontStop!” — with plans to expand across the Pacifica Radio network and as a podcast on iTunes.

Also in the works are three key ventures: SellaBand, a Web site where the general public can invest in artists (PE has raised more than $57,000 for its next album from investments in $25 increments); the Chuck D and Gary “G-Wiz” Rinaldo-created Web site HipHopGods.com, an archive site focusing on the history of classic rap; and FightThePower.org, a non-profit company established by Chuck D to continue to fight for artists’ rights in terms of publishing, copyright and masters ownership.

In an interview with Billboard, Chuck D reflected on the creative climate that spawned “Fear,” PE’s early involvement in the Internet revolution and the evolution of rap and hip-hop. View the entire interview here.

Dessa: Woman Of Many Talents

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(March 13, 2010)
A self-described "china doll in a bullpen," teacher by day, hip-hopper by night, Minneapolis's Dessa makes her Toronto debut at Sneaky Dees on Sunday.

She is opening for rapper P.O.S, a fellow member of Doomtree, the underground collective of like-minded artists and producers that also operates as a record label.

Armed with a degree in philosophy and voice reminiscent of the late Left Eye of TLC, the 28-year-old Dessa has been winning acclaim for the intelligent prose and deft delivery on her newly released debut, A Badly Broken Code.

One of two children of a pilot dad and publicist mom, Dessa started off writing poetry before turning to performance eight years ago. She took this semester off from Minneapolis's McNally Smith College of Music, where she teaches courses in the basics of lyricism and the language of rap and spoken word.

She spoke with the Star by phone as the group's tour bus made its way to Tallahassee from New Orleans.

Do you come from an artistically inclined family?

My family is pretty cerebral, but father was a classical guitarist and I can remember hearing him in the early mornings, playing a nylon string guitar in my mother's sewing room. My mother had an amazing voice, she could match Whitney note for note. My dad says he came home when I was a little girl and found my mother sitting behind me and forcibly clapping my hands along with the radio to make sure that I wouldn't grow up in Minnesota without a sense of rhythm.

When did you realize you had a voice people wanted to hear?

I liked singing, but it didn't seem like a viable career choice. I initially focused on page writing, but it's easy to amass a lot of rejection slips when submitting to magazines as a young unknown. On the urging of a roommate I went to a slam poetry competition. That first performance was really well received and I thought this might be an outlet for some of the same ideas that prompted my essays.

Tell me about "Dixon's Girl." Was there a Dixon? Was there a girl?

There was a girl, there was a Dixon, although that was not his name. I was performing in the South and there was this snowstorm, so only a few hardcore fans came out. It was a pretty quiet night, so I had a lot of time to talk to the opener, a beautiful, talented woman who knew she was in a less than desirable romantic relationship. She and I got drunk on cheap wine and talked it out in the same way that you would to a stewardess or hairdresser. ... She was just badass and so I wrote that song about her.

What are the pros and cons of being the only skirt in Doomtree?

I benefit from the fact that it's novel, because a lot of a musical career is vying for attention. On the other hand, it's forever a challenge to decipher the interest of people who would purport to want to collaborate or promote your work.

Any major labels sniffing around?

I've been with Doomtree maybe six years and every so often we will get a bite. At this point we've spent a lot of time building Doomtree into something where nobody says, ``I don't want to put this one out,'' or `We need a sexier record cover,'' or ``I want you to move in another direction." Although it's modest earnings, what we make is ours to keep.

Andantephone Brings Church Organ Into 21st Century

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(March 11, 2010) Playing the pipe organ — it’s now as easy as walking.

On Saturday night, some of Toronto’s most adventurous creators converge at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, at Jarvis and Carlton Sts., to apply a cutting-edge sheen on an instrument that’s anything but modern.

Dubbed “
Organic Evolution 3” by St. Andrew’s resident organist, David Smits, the concert is a veritable Mission: Impossible team effort that includes the city’s resident “cyborg” and music-instrument inventor, Steve Mann, keyboard improvisers and a clutch of avant-pop geeks brandishing the latest laptops and MIDI technology.

The mission they have chosen to accept is to push the organ from musical museum piece to a viable tool in 21st century musicmaking.

Amidst a nosy, busy group reconnoitering session last Sunday night, Smits shrugs good-naturedly as he scans the hubbub in St. Andrew’s worship space.

In front of the altar, the cyborg and composer-accomplice Ryan Jantzen set up Mann’s latest instrument — the Andantephone, a series of 12 colourful, square plastic pads that operate sound sequences on the pipe organ. (See a video of the instrument here.)

Jantzen and Mann take turns hopping around on the squares in their sock feet, as if playing hopscotch, while the organ booms out “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from
Mary Poppins.

Jantzen explains how audience members will be encouraged to walk on the Andantephone, likely interacting with a pipe organ for the first time.

Concert co-organizer Stéphane Vera talks up the evening’s more serious side, anchored in the mystical, scientific and musical virtues of the ancient vibrations behind the six solfeggio sound frequencies.

These six tones are the darlings of many new age experimenters, who believe they have special, healing resonant powers.

A more concrete form of creative resonance has been placed nearby — the EmotiChair, created at Ryerson University’s SMART lab. A series of frequency generators placed inside the chair provide its deaf occupant with a physical stimulus that approximates the experience of listening to a piece of music.

In a nearby pew, budding electronica duo Fearful Symmetry are sketching out a new tablature for some MIDI sequencing that will combine electronic sounds with those of the acoustic pipe organ.

The common thread behind all of these seemingly disparate activities is a desire to find a wider musical relevance for the pipe organ in the 21st century. Here is a group of artists immersed in digital technology revelling in the cabinet of wonders that is the old-school acoustic world.

Staring at the organ pipes that dominate the sanctuary, composer-performer-teacher Paul Swoger-Ruston says how he was preparing a new guitar piece for the concert. But after seeing the possibilities of controlling the organ via a laptop’s MIDI capabilities, he is thinking he might add some organ as a background.

“These are not the sounds that I’ve been paying much attention to in recent years,” Swoger-Ruston explains. “But this is really giving me a challenge.”

Now it’s up to the city’s audiences to respond in kind.

WHAT: Organic Evolution 3

WHERE: St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, 383 Jarvis St.

WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $8 adv. at organicevolution.net; $10 at the door

Over the top Alicia Keys at Air Canada Centre

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(March 12, 2010) Alicia Keys is definitely treading in Beyoncé territory on her current North America tour that stopped at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday night.

Centred around the New Yorker's fifth album The Element of Freedom, it's her most elaborate and choreographed production yet.

This seven-week jaunt, which kicked off in Montreal last month, opened with the songstress in a jail scenario singing "Caged Bird" from her 2001 debut Songs In A Minor. Then she popped two bars and broke out of the structure to embark on a tricky dance routine, nary a grand piano in sight.

Clad in sparkling silver tights and stilettos, it seemed silly and over the top for the 12-time Grammy winner who has been jockeying with John Legend to be the Stevie Wonder – emotive, socially conscious, piano playing, singer/songwriter – of their generation.

But it was in keeping with the empowerment theme she kept driving home throughout the show and the capacity crowd lapped it up. Through video imagery of a world in turmoil and Keys' exhortations to the audience to be renegades and freedom fighters, she's bent on encouraging people to live and love passionately and free themselves from expectation.

Funny, that she delivered this message while prancing around the stage much of the set, toying with electric keyboards and serving up unnatural-looking bump and grind routines. Boring for her, or perhaps the younger ticket buyers she needs to attract, but Keys, 29, was at her best when seated at an acoustic piano meting out pretty chords and letting her voice do the work.

Over the top seemed to be the trend. Robin Thicke, with his name, initials and current album title visibly stamped on several pieces of equipment or staging, and his nine-piece band and red piano, was hard to miss. The soul balladeer's segment incorporated more hip-hop and raunchiness, as with his third disc Sex Therapy, rendering him more R. Kelly than Marvin Gaye. Still, he's got that lovely falsetto, Canadian roots (dad Alan Thicke) and it was his 33rd birthday.

Singer
Melanie Fiona had no choice but to keep it simple. The newcomer fared well, despite the opening act baggage – just a slip of stage to perform on in front of mounds of covered equipment, spotty sound, audience trickling in. Shimmering in a gold mini, her powerful, luscious pipes soared on her hit "It Kills Me," which spent nine weeks atop Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart. The Toronto native, who brought out a Canadian flag and local rapper Kardinal Offishall, sings with the strength of Keyshia Cole and huskiness of Jazmine Sullivan; let's hope she doesn't wind up stalling like those on-the-cusp R&B lasses.

An All Too Brief Encounter With A One-Of-A-Kind Pop Heroine

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

Joanna Newsom
Phoenix Concert Hall
In Toronto on Saturday

(Mar. 15, 2010) Pop music fans have many ways of proving their devotion.
Joanna Newsom’s audience showed her the best tribute of all on Saturday, as a noisy crowded rock club became as quiet as a church within seconds of her arrival on the stage of the Phoenix Concert Theatre.

The hush prevailed even when she promptly disappeared behind a grand piano, its nose end pointing out, blocking the view for those nearest the stage who wanted most badly to see. Already it felt like we were maybe not in the right venue for this much-anticipated show.

Newsom doesn’t do things the way other pop musicians do. She writes songs that ramble and wind and seldom repeat much, and that may go on for 10 minutes or more. She uses poetic language that sometimes seems not to notice that Poe and Longfellow are long dead. And she accompanies herself (when not at the piano) on harp - not some little Gaelic thing, but a full-size concert instrument.

And then there is the voice: maybe not completely inimitable but definitely one of a kind. In concert as on record, it was by turns sweet, reedy, opaque, nasal, guttural, soft as a breeze and hard as glass, with a kind of yodel sound when she darted upwards on a single syllable. It could have been the voice of a child or of an old woman. Its frequent changes in tone felt apt for the music but also partly uncontrolled, not that that’s necessarily a fault. Going with what you’re dealt can be a measure of authenticity, and that impression held even when Newsom’s lyrics were at their most artfully self-conscious.

Her brief set ran from rustic simplicity to baroque effusion, sometimes within a single song. The antique rhyming couplets of Inflammatory Writ (from her first album, The Milk-Eyed Mender) sashayed out as a heavy country waltz. Baby Birch felt like a ballad too old to have any clear date of creation, its contours hard and plain like something worn down to its essentials. And yet this song was made by the same woman who came up with the palindromic internal rhyme of “the meteoroid’s a bone thrown from the void” (in Emily, from her second album Ys).

It must be quite a job to learn all those lyrics, and to sing them to meandering melodies that occasionally stick to some pattern that in others’ songs might be a refrain, but that in Newsom’s more often sounds like a momentary obsession. She lost her way in the lyrics just once, in The Book of Right-On. She paused long enough to ask, “Does anyone know the way this thing goes?”, then found the thread just before the line, “pray that what you lack does not distract.”

Her selection of songs from all three of her albums proved she’s a career-long slave to habanera rhythms. That delayed second beat crept into the music again and again, like a dash of Cuban hot sauce, often coming up from her left hand on the harp whose honey-blond sounding board was pretty much the same shade as her waist-length hair.

Oh yes, she’s a magnet for the eye, and you could feel the ripple of pleasure through the crowd, women and men, when she emerged from behind the piano and displayed her milk-skinned elfin self, in a black lacy top cut off the shoulders. The natural stately flamboyance of her just playing that harp was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced at the Phoenix. Her efficient five-piece band (two violinists, drummer, trombonist and arranger Ryan Francesconi on guitar, banjo and other things) sat on either side of the stage, as if to avoid getting dangerously close to that radiance.

The only unpleasant part of the evening came when Newsom mentioned at around 9 o’clock, less than an hour after her set began, that the next song would be the last, because there was “some kind of curfew” at the venue. It took quite a commotion from the crowd to bring her back for a single encore(Baby Birch).

By then it was obvious that this show should have happened in a proper theatre, with no time limit placed on a singer whose latest album (Have One On Me) runs over two hours. For her to land at the Phoenix was a comprehensive failure by her management, her booking agent, and the promoter.

Joanna Newsom plays the Ukrainian Federation in Montreal tonight.  

A Most Enjoyable Recurring Nightmare

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(March 15, 2010) Okay, we've got exactly two days to process the blur that was Canadian Music Week before the South by Southwest festival lures the entire music industry south to Austin, Texas, on Wednesday.

A few black holes in the Canadian MusicFest portion of the CMW schedule this year, but in general there was enough decent music to be found around town from Wednesday through Sunday to keep the diligent festival-goer occupied about 90 per cent of the time. In any case, I was just thrilled that Los Angeles noise-rock trio Nightmare Air lived up to my expectations. Went to see the band three times in three days and would probably go see it again tonight if the opportunity arose.

Here's a rundown of the good stuff I took in this week. The less said about the bad, the better.

STYROFOAM ONES, Roosevelt Room, Wednesday. Wickedly taut, minimalist post-punk groovism to kick the Canadian MusicFest off on a high note. Bit of weirdness involved in staging Eye Weekly's CMW opening bash in the heart of the club district, but this Toronto synth/bass/drums trio had us forgetting our surroundings off the bat with some locked-down menace. The set wobbled in the middle but then suddenly got five times better when two fetching female backing vocalists showed up onstage and the music fully embraced its latent dub leanings during an epic, multi-staged disco-punk sprawl-out.

DVAS, Roosevelt Room, Wednesday. Like having a rave break out at a Hall and Oates show. Somehow, too, the geeky threesome managed to pull off a note-perfect cover of Foreigner's "Urgent" – straining Lou Gramm vocals and all – that fit the context perfectly.

PARALLELS, Roosevelt Room, Wednesday. Cam Findlay. The drummer's name is Cam Findlay. Apologies for misidentifying him as an Exclaim! writer in print last week. And, holy wow, what a walloping dance party are Parallels when you pipe 'em through a proper nightclub surround-sound system and turn singer Holly Dodson's rock 'n' roll dad Rich (of Stampeders notoriety) loose in the room to make sure every level is just so. Blew out my eardrums on the first night but was very glad to have "Magnetics" do it.

VIVIAN GIRLS, Wrongbar, Wednesday. The Brooklyn trio's reverb-soused girl-punk racket sounds more confident and disciplined with each visit to town, although everything still threatens to collapse when it slows down and attempts a more deliberate breed of twanging psychedelia.

THE DARCYS, El Mocambo, Thursday. Toronto's Darcys have weathered some spirit-testing turmoil recently, culminating in a major membership meltdown a couple of weeks ago that saw them lose a singer. They bounced back at the El Mo harder, heavier and more assured than ever, though. The present-day Darcys are a dramatic, tumultuous guitar-rock outfit, gunning doggedly for the epic and, by the sounds of it, working out their frustrations in roiling arrangements that now rarely pause for breath.

NIGHTMARE AIR, Silver Dollar, Thursday. Kinda knew going in from its ace debut EP that this overdriven L.A. power trio – spirited in for four CMW shows by canny promoter Dan Burke – might become my new A Place to Bury Strangers. Well, it has. Louder than hell, shoegazer deep and fully aggressive on the attack, Nightmare Air hit all the right marks with such ferocity on Thursday that I followed them to the Velvet Underground on Friday and Saturday.

CADENCE WEAPON, The Garrison, Thursday. The embrace of singing and a backing band apparently doesn't mean that rapper Cadence Weapon is making strictly rock songs for his upcoming album. His backing band often just set a groove and rode it. The result spanned genres, though not always brilliantly. (His rapping remained nimble.) Weapon's old number "Real Estate" benefited from the extra hands, who showed off a pleasant jazzy touch. Old influences were prominent, with Pemberton twitching like David Byrne in his heyday on "Jukebox" and the band elsewhere showing a sophistication that evoked Steely Dan.

GEMMA RAY, Silver Dollar, Friday. The enigmatic, Essex-bred songstress braced us for disappointment by announcing that she'd lost her voice but handily compensated by shooting her enchanting pop-noir ballads through with shrieking blasts of looped guitar feedback, using a large kitchen knife as a slide and closing the set with a swampy, surreal version of Mudhoney's "Touch Me, I'm Sick" that P.J. Harvey is probably kicking herself for not thinking of first. Definitely the best-dressed artist at CMW, too.

DIAMOND RINGS, Silver Dollar, Friday. D'Urbervilles frontman John O'Regan had the president of at least one major Canadian record label squeezing into the Dollar to watch his androgynous, one-man-band alter ego Diamond Rings serve up offbeat electro-pop ditties in hot-pink leggings and face paint. This thing is gonna explode.

WOODHANDS, Wrongbar, Friday. Well, Saturday morning, really. It was around 2 a.m. and most of the crowd was utterly annihilated by the time Dan Werb and Paul Banwatt arrived onstage for Woodhands' "secret" CMW show, so you can imagine the roars of delight that went up when everyone realized the boys had brought a laser show to the party. The tireless twosome had the dancefloor whipped into an uncommon frenzy right off the top.

ZEROES, Sneaky Dee's, Saturday. This inscrutable Montreal ensemble spent the opening minutes of its set befuddling the sweaty room with ghostly wails and mid-tempo noodling. Then the sub-bass kicked in, the interlocking rhythms started winding themselves tighter and tighter, and the noise level got intense enough to gnaw away at your face. Everybody shut up after that.

ORPHANED LAND, Annex Wreck Room, Saturday. "How do you like your first Middle Eastern metal experience?" singer Kobi Farhi asked of the 200-strong crowd. He needn't have bothered. The metal-head audience seemed highly familiar with the veteran Israeli power-metal quintet (seen in Sam Dunn's documentary Global Metal), though it was their first Toronto show. Telltale chord patterns, Hebrew and Arabic lyrics, and the odd pre-recorded traditional instrument drove home the band's cultural background, and while the show never quite exploded, there was a reliably churning, elegant intensity. The band is big on transcending social and political barriers and, indeed, the black-clad throng left the club as a satisfied nation united.

With files from Garnet Fraser

The Maestro’s Musical Adventure

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

(Near the end of a new 90-minute PBS documentary, conductor Valery Gergiev is performing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with the London Symphony Orchestra. The piece is almost done, in fact there’s just one more dissonant chord, and in the heavy silence before that last sound, we see Gergiev head-on in medium close-up. His eyes bulge, his fingers are frozen; and then a spasm passes over his face, almost as if that chord has to rip through him bodily before we can hear it, and although the piece is nearly 100 years old, the intensity and emotion that explode through its final sound make it seem brand new.

That’s the way it is with Gergiev. He doesn’t just conduct the piece at hand, he seems to be living it, with no guarantees of safety for himself or anyone else.

“Anything can happen during a concert,” he said, in a phone conversation after a recent rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. “The musicians should not be able to predict what is going on, what the composer is thinking. A great composer offers so much, you can discover phrases, colorations, right during the concert. It should be an adventure.”

Gergiev’s career is turning out to be one of the great musical adventures of the century. He is probably the most sought-after conductor in the world, and one of the most powerful. In Russia, he has enormously enhanced the quality and prestige of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg (which has roughly 2,000 employees), and is a major cultural force outside its walls as well. He seems to launch a new festival every few years, has developed an international network of sponsors and supporters, and almost single-handedly brought a new Mariinsky concert hall into being in 2006. A brand new opera house, designed by the Toronto firm Diamond Schmitt Architects, is to be finished next year.

He and the Mariinsky Orchestra are in North America for a month-long tour that includes performances of four major operas, including Berlioz’s Les Troyens and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, as well as three different instrumental programs (they’re currently playing four dates in Canada, starting last night in Montreal). Gergiev performed Shostakovich’s The Nose at the Met on Thursday and Saturday, and he conducted another Mariinsky concert in New Jersey on Friday. For him, that’s seven performances of two different programs and an opera in seven consecutive days. But Gergiev denies his manager’s claim (in the PBS documentary You Cannot Start Without Me) that he performs every night of the year.

A musician in the film remarks with pride that when Gergiev is in St. Petersburg, he’s at the theatre all day, every day. But he’s human too: In one hilarious scene, he’s in his office listening to the complaints of a prima ballerina while very obviously keeping tabs on the soccer game playing on his TV.

Several million Canadians saw him during the closing ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics when he conducted an orchestra in Red Square remotely from Vancouver. He was there, he said, as a cultural ambassador for the Sochi games in 2014, for which he is developing another festival.

His more private efforts to support his theatre (including its prolific in-house recording label) have brought him in close contact with wealthy Westerners. The PBS documentary includes one scene on the Forbes yacht as it cruises past the Statue of Liberty. Gergiev became so close to American financier Alberto Vilar (who has given millions to the Mariinsky and helped bankroll Gergiev’s Academy for Singers) that he put up Vilar’s $500,000 bail when he was charged five years ago with defrauding his clients of $22-million. (Vilar, also a major Met patron, was sentenced last month to nine years in prison).

Gergiev’s career began when he became assistant conductor at the Mariinsky (then called the Kirov) in 1977. He made his debut in the theatre with Prokofiev’s War and Peace, a massive work he has done at least 10 times since, including a recent run at Washington’s Kennedy Center.

“I like to conduct operas that are written in a large and brave and generous fashionhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gif,” he said. He’s a tireless champion of Russian operas, many of which he has recorded, including The Nose, now out on the Mariinsky label.

“It’s a good early interesting piece for Shostakovich,” he said. “He was just 22. There are so many forward-looking, experimental things, in the voices, the choruses, everything. It’s provocative, sometimes close to absurd. You can hear his future compositions already exploding out of it.” The Mariinsky Orchestra’s Canadian concerts include Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15, as well as music by Rachmaninoff (the Piano Concerto No. 3, played with Denis Matsuev), Tchaikovsky and Berlioz.

Fourteen years after becoming general director at the Mariinsky, Gergiev seems to be thinking of shedding some of his managerial responsibilities. When the new opera house is finished, and the first season programmed, he may be ready to give up running the entire theatre.

“I will prepare the 2012 - 2013 season, and then we’ll see. The economic situation should be clearer, opera house number two will be functioning, we can carefully restore opera house number one, and now we have a beautiful concert hall, which I can almost say I built myself.”

Less time managing will mean more time making music. That is what Gergiev is most passionate about and he carries his passion into the smallest details.

“If there are two notes in a row, for him it’s a melody,” says an LSO player in the documentary. “I love it.”

Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra play Ottawa’s National Arts Centre tonight and Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall tomorrow and Wednesday. 

Rock Royalty Comes To Town

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(Jack White thrives on perfecting the small details. His instruments are placed just far enough apart onstage to generate more tension. The restrictive red, white and black colour scheme of his group the White Stripes only accentuates his and band mate Meg White's eclecticism. He even had his roadies dress in well-tailored suits when the band toured every Canadian province and territory in the summer of 2007.

So, given this meticulousness, it's surprising to hear that the band's big moments often happen by chance.

Take the release of the new DVD of the band's highly publicized, 2007 cross-Canada jog, which included numerous surprise public gigs. The tour was never even meant to be filmed. The DVD The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights, a live CD of the tour and a box set featuring the DVD and more, all being released Tuesday, may represent the most work White says he has ever dedicated to a release. But he adds that it all simply happened.

“We really didn't set out to make a film at all when we started that tour,” he explains. “My manager just said, ‘You know, you're going to strange places that we may not get to go back to. Why don't you take some cameras with you?' And we said, okay.”

That summer, the White Stripes were on a high. Their last album, Icky Thump, had just come out.

On the tour, the band played small Canadian cities in each province and was greeted with the kind of excitement reserved for rock 'n' roll royals visiting the hinterland, complete with plenty of adoring press coverage.

But while White and drummer Meg White weren't into the idea of behind-the-scenes filming, director Emmett Malloy and his tiny documentary crew, who were along to film the shows, began doing just that, capturing candid scenes of the sibling-like rapport between the talkative Jack and introverted Meg. (Once again, the two aren't actual siblings. They say they are. But they were found out to have been once married. But that's beside the point. Their bond is a life-long one, they've said.)

“By the third show, they were backstage filming. We started to tolerate it and thought, maybe 30 years from now, we'll put this out. But it's one of those things that just snowballed,” he says. Malloy also filmed the mayor of Yellowknife personally picking up the band on the tarmac of the local airport to show them around and a meeting of the band with a group of native elders in Nunavut.

“A lot of people came to us, man! It was wild. And I think that's the different mentality, that small-town mentality. We appreciate the effort [by everyone involved], and we want to share this with [them]. We knew that experiences in smaller towns were going to be more interesting,” he says. “To get a tour from the mayor, that's a beautiful thing. I'm so glad we had a camera with us when we did that.”

White carefully plans for spontaneity with the band's indie style – its beat-up guitars and tube amps, and for that summer in Canada, no set lists for shows and no clue even where the band would make its surprise appearances until it was decided at breakfast. But he's very aware that while the details can be controlled, you can only invite the bigger experience to happen.

“It's an exercise in setting yourself up for failure if you say, ‘Okay everybody, we're going to film this thing, and it's going to be this incredible moment. Okay, go!' “ he says. “It doesn't really work that way. You have to try many, many things and have the cameras or the tape rolling for all of them. You're hoping to catch something by accident.

“And that's why it was good to film an entire tour, because it takes a minute for you to forget about being filmed, forget about the camera taking a picture. Then something good starts happening.”

The closest White has come to repeating those surprise appearances has been to set up spontaneous stalls selling his albums at events in various cities. His Third Man Records has one at this week's SXSW festival in Austin.

His band the Dead Weather (the other members are Alison Mosshart, Dean Fertita and Jack Lawrence) is occupying most of his time these days. “We're so inspired, and we push each other so far into music that we have never made in other bands. That's really, really interesting, and I want to explore that for years to come.”

But the White Stripes band is alive, as is White's other band, the Raconteurs. He still talks regularly with Meg about new songs, although he says they haven't recorded since Icky Thump. Right now, with the Dead Weather – plus the White Stripes DVD/live CD/box-set releases, plus an album he has made with legendary rocker Wanda Jackson, plus an album with his wife and model Karen Elson – White hasn't had enough of a window to devote to new White Stripes material.

“The only time I had for the White Stripes was all [given] over to this DVD and the live album and the production of it. All of that White Stripes energy had to go to this.”

Rock Hall Inductees An Eclectic Mix

Source: www.globeandmail.com - David Bauder, The Associated Press

(New York - — An English band steeped in harmony, a reggae pioneer, progressive rockers who thrived despite a defection, four Swedes who combined their nation's traditions with their rock heroes and a man who prowled a ballroom floor singing I Wanna Be Your Dog wouldn't seem to have much in common.

For a night they did, as The Hollies, Jimmy Cliff, Genesis, ABBA and Iggy Pop's Stooges accepted induction into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday — a ceremony almost as notable for who wasn't there as who was.

ABBA sold some 100 million records with hits such as Waterloo, Dancing Queen and Knowing Me, Knowing You before disbanding in 1982. Songwriter Benny Andersson described how the melancholy of the ”vodka belt“ so far north, the pre-rock era music they heard on Swedish radio and the songs of their rock ‘n' roll heroes all found their way into ABBA's material.

Andersson and ex-wife Anni-Frid Lyngstad attended the ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Agnetha Faltskog, who has a fear of flying, and Bjorn Ulvaeus, who had a family commitment, did not.

“I'm old enough to admit to the fact that I think we did a great job,” Lyngstad said.

Keep that in the past tense: Lyngstad told the audience that ABBA would never perform again. She brought along her grandson, a heavy metal musician who nonetheless appreciates grandma's music. Actress Meryl Streep, who was in the Mamma Mia movie that introduced ABBA's music to a new generation and older ones that didn't pay attention at the time, was also there.

The audience at the Waldorf and watching on the Fuse TV network got one-fourth of ABBA on stage. Andersson played piano as country star Faith Hill sang The Winner Takes It All.

Backstage, Lyngstad feigned anger that it had taken so long for ABBA to be voted in.

“I'm very angry that Madonna got in before us,” she joked.

Genesis had two distinct incarnations. They were a fixture of Britain's progressive rock scene in the 1970s, known as much for lead singer Peter Gabriel's theatricality as the music. When Gabriel quit, the band put drummer Phil Collins in front of the microphone and they became regulars on the pop charts.

Phish singer and childhood Genesis fan Trey Anastasio said Collins showed hints of his unexpected later role in his musicianship.

“Phil's drums were the only thing that could hold those disparate elements together,” Anastasio said. “He always seemed to be aware that the song came first.”

Phish paid tribute to both Genesis generations, performing the meandering Watcher of the Skies and the pop hit No Reply At All.

Gabriel was missing from the ceremony. Former bandmate Mike Rutherford said Gabriel sent his apologies, but he was preparing for a tour.

Collins, who seemed to be frowning every time cameras caught him, didn't seem to miss Gabriel.

“We've played without him for 30 years,” he said backstage. “We're used to not having him around.”

The Hollies also had two lives. Music historian and Bruce Springsteen guitarist Steve Van Zandt said singers Allan Clarke and Graham Nash's “exquisite English harmonies were second, or shared only by the Beatles. Clarke and Nash harmonized again on two of their best-known early hits, Bus Stop and Carrie-Anne.

“The Hollies, after I left in 1968, had the audacity, the gall, to have three No. 1 records after I left,” Nash joked. “Thanks a lot, guys.”

Those 1970s standards were The Air That I Breathe, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother and Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress).

“We started out in the ‘60s,” band member Terry Sylvester said. “Now we're in our 60s.”

Jamaica's Cliff was among the first to export reggae. His best-known songs include You Can Get It If You Really Want, The Harder They Come and Many Rivers to Cross, and he energetically performed each of them on Monday.

Haiti's Wyclef Jean recalled loving Cliff's songs so much he translated some of them into hymns so his father would allow them to be sung in church. One of his biggest thrills came when, after a recording session, Cliff accepted his invitation to stay over in his New Jersey apartment.

“When we saw Jimmy Cliff, we saw ourselves,” Jean said. “Meaning, coming from Haiti and the Caribbean, you have to see someone do it for you to be inspired to think you could do it. When I saw Jimmy Cliff, I could see my face.”

The Michigan-based Stooges never sold many records. But the brutal force of their 1973 album Raw Power influenced the punk movement to come, and the rubber-limbed Pop was an electric frontman.

Pop delivered middle-finger salutes to his audience and, at the black-tie affair, had his shirt off even before performing Search and Destroy. He prowled through the audience for I Wanna Be Your Dog, and the Stooges were joined onstage by inductor Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

“Roll over Woodstock,” Pop said. “We won!”

For all their toughness, the Stooges seemed genuinely touched by the honour. Scott Asheton paid tribute to his brother and bandmate Ron Asheton, who died last year. Pop choked back tears in thanking his colleagues for getting back together and working.

Besides Ron Asheton, some of Monday's inductees died before their special night. They included songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Otis Blackwell, represented by family members.

“You made it, dad,” Otis Blackwell Jr. said, looking skyward.

Songwriter Jeff Barry had the most tragicomic reason for missing his big night: He couldn't catch a flight to New York.

“They delayed his plane, delayed it, delayed it and then cancelled it. It's an unbelievable drag,” said Van Zandt, who read Barry's speech from his smart phone.

Songwriter Carole King inducted old colleagues from an era (the 1950s and early 1960s) when performers largely left songwriting to others. They included Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', On Broadway), Greenwich & Barry (Leader of the Pack, Be My Baby), Blackwell (All Shook Up, Don't Be Cruel), Mort Shuman (Save the Last Dance for Me, This Magic Moment with Doc Pomus) and Jesse Stone (Sh-Boom, Shake, Rattle and Roll).

Another non-performing inductee was David Geffen. Before he spread his influence to other parts of the entertainment business, Geffen started the Asylum and Geffen record labels.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is in Cleveland.

Associated Press writers John Carucci and Ryan McLendon contributed to this report.

Experiencing SXSW Online: Free Downloads, Live Streams

Source: www.thestar.com - Matt Carter

(Mar 16 2010) The days of reading reviews from afar and pining for Austin are over. These days, you don’t have to go to the South By Southwest festival in Texas to enjoy it. Here is a collection of sites that can help you imagine you’re there.

Follow Star music Ben Rayner’s daily coverage from Austin, including news and reviews, here at thestar.com.

Concerts streamed live from NPR

NPR Music’s feature site is probably the best out there. They’re holding their showcase Wednesday night, the opening night of the music portion of the festival, and it will all be streamed live. Performers include Spoon, Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings and The Walkmen.

NPR Music throws a daytime party Thursday, the performances from which will also be streamed live. Smith Westerns and Surfer Blood are among the bands playing.

The folks who run NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast seem to live all year for SXSW. Their latest podcast previews the festival. If you like to debate music, sign on to the All Songs Considered blog.

Spin offers free SXSW sampler

You’ll find many offers of free downloads in advance of the fest. Some are not available from Canadian IP addresses. Spin’s offering, Austin Power, is and has tracks from some of the most interesting acts, including Titus Andronicus and Toronto’s own F---ed Up.

If you’re not familiar with the preponderance of indie performers at SXSW, you’ll also want to check out Spin’s slideshow selection of 50 “must-hear” bands.

(Legal) Bit Torrent downloads

Legal” and “Bit Torrent” don’t often go together. They do here. You can download dozens upon dozens of tracks from bands performing at SXSW 2010. Most are from acts you’ve probably never heard of. But that’s part of the fun — there are bound to be some gems in there somewhere.

Rolling Stone goes twitter insane

Rolling Stone reviewer Chris Weingarten will be tweeting from 100 shows. Weingarten has had a fair amount of practice with 140-character reviews. He wrote 1,000 of them in a year for a project he called 1000TimesYes.

SXSW radio stream

The festival’s official site isn’t much use unless you’re attending. The one exception is its music player, which plays a steady stream of SXSW bands.

Playing With Convention, And Having Lots Of Fun Along The Way

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Elissa Poole

Thomas Adès, piano
Chan Centre for the Performing Arts In Vancouver on Sunday

(March 15, 2010) Composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès, erstwhile enfant terrible of the British new-
music scene, achieved almost instant success with his Chamber Symphony, composed at the age of 19. He's close to 40 now, but the adjectives used to describe him then – audacious, virtuosic, and provocative – still hold. Adès gives the impression that all of music is his playroom; one of his best-known pieces is even called Living Toys.

Certainly his 1995 hit opera Powder Her Face, an irreverent tale about the real-life Duchess of Argyll, whose Polaroid-documented infidelities made her divorce trial a front-page sensation in the 1960s, supports Adès's comment that one ought to treat composers from the past as friends (or playmates, as in, “Hey, Alban, mind if I borrow that phrase from Lulu!”). Traces of other people's music dot his scores. In his newest work for piano, Concert Paraphrase on Powder Her Face, commissioned by Vancouver Recital Series, and premiered on Sunday in his solo piano recital, he also borrows from himself.

This was hardly a recital of conventional repertoire; rather, Adès seems to have designed the program to throw light on his compositional process and his new composition in particular, which is a free transcription for piano of four scenes from his opera. Thus the programming was a statement of artistic intent, for it gave the Concert Paraphrase a context, albeit one where irony smiled from the wings. But the way he interpreted other people's music was also a part of creating that context.

Adès's unpretentious opening, Book 2 of Leos Janacek's On an Overgrown Path, sounded like someone
thinking out loud. In fact, Janacek may have only entirely finished two of the movements. Allowed the flimsiest nourishment, the melodies were barely present; and sometimes it seemed that Adès was simply trying to make something out of nothing – as good a place to start a concert as any.

One of the themes at work in the concert was the idea of size and how it is perceived. Ades's next selection was one of the most famous of Franz Liszt's opera transcriptions for piano, the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Since such transcriptions are often tremendously difficult, they don't always feel smaller than their originals, but that wasn't the case here. Adés made little attempt to reconstruct the richness of the orchestral score; his playing felt almost impressionistic, with lots of pedal and none of the tensile strength a Wagnerian soprano would put into a melody.

This operated in reverse in Beethoven's Op. 126 Bagatelles. The composer himself referred to his Bagatelles as “little things,” but Adès took big risks with them. Accents in strange places, exaggerated rhetoric, and an emphasis on the mercurial over the logical (which Beethoven encouraged here) gave these a substantial but odder footprint.

Adès got more mileage than most out of Prokofiev's early Sarcasmes, also fairly short pieces, where brilliant right-hand tinsel, aggressive rhythms, and an acknowledgment of the piano as the ultimate percussion instrument anticipate some of the textures in Adès's Concert Paraphrase.

In a sense, then, everything on the program was part of Ades's conceptual toy box. And just as the opera Powder Her Face is a volatile, multifarious, sputtering tour de force of avant-garde dazzle, high comedy, tacky rhapsody, lounge-lizard sleaze and even a little pathos, so was the Concert Paraphrase for piano. This was as virtuosic as one of Liszt's Transcendental Etudes and as manically splendid as anything Adès has written. One recognized bits from the opera – a talking left hand, perhaps, or a jazzy flourish – but this was very much its own unpredictable beast.

60 Unreleased Michael Jackson Songs Available For New Albums

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Deutsch and Ryan Nakashima

(March 17, 2010) LOS ANGELES—The man who spearheaded the record-breaking deal in which Michael Jackson's estate will get up to $250 million in the next seven years said Sony Music Entertainment bought a treasure trove of new Jackson music, some of it recorded "quite recently," some in collaboration with other artists.

John Branca, who negotiated the deal along with co-executor John McClain and team of attorneys, was clearly elated about the deal. He said in an interview with The Associated Press that this is only the first of more deals that will bring Jackson's music to his fans and introduce it to a world of potential new fans.

"The remarkable thing is to make the biggest deal in history in a market with declining record sales. It's a pretty big thing," Branca said. "It's a testament to Michael's incredible talent and his music. It's really an honour to be part of this."

He added that "there's more to come" but declined to elaborate. He also would not discuss the finances or specific details of the deal.

Branca is the lawyer who met the superstar singer when both were young men and is seen as the architect of Jackson's financial empire. They worked together for 30 years.

He and John McClain, a lifelong Jackson friend and music producer, are co-administrators of the Jackson estate. The estate has benefited from their deal to release the movie This is It compiled from footage of rehearsals for a series of concerts that was in preparation when Jackson died last June at age 50.

Branca said he is convinced that Jackson would be delighted with the results of their negotiations.

"John McClain said it best," Branca said. "He said that Michael probably wouldn't have wanted This is It released because he was such a perfectionist and it was rehearsal footage. But if he had seen that we could get $60 million for his mother and children and it became the biggest concert movie of all time, he would have said, 'Thank you very much.' "

He said he has not heard all of the 60 plus songs discovered by McClain but he said what he has heard is "classic Michael Jackson." Among the songs are two recordings that were never released that he made for charity with other stars. There are also songs he recorded for his famous albums that were never included in the final product.

"Michael had a tendency to over-record," Branca said. "He would record 20, 30, 40 songs for one album. These are the vintage songs."

The recent material was recorded within the last three years. The old and the new are likely to be combined on some of the albums to come, he said.

Among the songs in Jackson's vault is a collaboration with Paul Anka on a song called, "Love Never Felt So Good," which Branca described as "quite good."

Beyond the recorded material, he said Jackson left more songs that he composed but that don't have his voice on them. They would not have the same value, he said.

When he died, Jackson left recorded music including studio sessions from some of his most-popular albums and recently recorded songs made with the likes of Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am.

Branca noted that Jackson did not release a huge number of albums in his lifetime and his last one was nine years ago. He said the legacy of unreleased material is far more than what was left by Elvis Presley. He said Jackson's fan base is also larger, stretching around the globe.

"He is one of the most recognized figures in the world, along with Muhammad Ali," said Branca. He noted that two-thirds of record and movie ticket sales for This is It were outside the United States.

Under the deal officially announced Tuesday, Sony has guaranteed Jackson's estate $200 million for 10 projects over the next seven years. (The total includes last year’s soundtrack to This Is It.) If certain conditions are met, the payment could rise to $250 million.

Since Jackson's death, McClain has combed through boxes of tapes and recordings Jackson left behind. McClain and Branca each stand to make 5 cents on every new dollar of revenue brought into the estate.

Even if only half of the 60 songs discovered by McClain are commercially viable, that would be enough for two or three albums. And some songs could also be packaged with already-heard material. That likely wouldn't detract from a new album's value. It might even add to it, because fans have been flocking to known commodities in music.

For example, 14 remastered albums from The Beatles catalogue sold 13 million copies worldwide in the four months after they were released last September. Bob Seger's Greatest Hits, an album that came out in 1994, was the best-selling catalogue album of the last decade, with 9 million albums sold to date.

Jackson's own two-disc set that accompanied the concert rehearsal footage in This Is It has sold 5 million copies, and it had only one new song. That was the title song, which Jackson wrote with Anka around the time the Thriller album was becoming a blockbuster.

With the album selling for $10 to $14, the revenue generated from sales is already well beyond the tens of millions of dollars needed to cover the per-project guarantees Sony is promising.

"He always said his children would never have anything to worry about because he had volumes of songs to release," said Raymone Bain, who began representing Jackson during his child molestation trial in 2005, in an interview Tuesday.

Bain, who is also suing the estate for fees, said Jackson told her he had "thousands of recordings" that he wanted to aim at a youthful audience, and spent nights during the trial writing new tunes as therapy.

"He wanted to prove to a new demographic group that he was still a major player in the industry," she said. "That's why he added Akon and Fergie and will.i.am to the 25th anniversary recording of Thriller."

Releases from well-established artists have other advantages. An older fan base is more accustomed to buying whole albums than are younger fans familiar with free song-swapping online. A long sales history also makes it easier to evaluate what catalogues are worth.

"It's unusual for a deal like that not to make money for a distributor," said Lawrence Kenswil, an entertainment attorney at Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles and former executive with Universal Music Group. "It's a safer bet than betting on the future of unknown artists."

Speculation on exactly what unreleased songs exist (and how good they are) has been rampant since the King of Pop's death. Many who collaborated with Jackson in his later years have discussed their work with him, including will.i.am and Akon, who is a Senegalese R&B singer.

Whatever the unreleased material comprises, the Sony deal suggested that repurposing Jackson material across several formats — from DVDs to video games — will be of particular importance.

Rock Never Forgets, But It Can Forgive

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(March 17, 2010) Rock 'n' roll may never die, but it sure can hold grudges.

It felt that way sometimes for rocker
Joan Jett over the past 31 years, as she struggled to come to grips with the legacy of the Runaways, the all-girl Los Angeles rock band she helped create in 1975. The teen group lasted just four years, long enough for a legacy that has influenced everyone from the Bangles to Bikini Kill. But the hard feelings over its explosive and untimely demise took decades to soften.

"The Runaways meant a lot to me and (the break-up) was devastating," says raven-haired Jett, 51, her smoky voice on the line from New York sounding tinged with regret.

"Cherie and I didn't really talk for years. It was really about not knowing how to connect and I was probably still hurt and upset. But really, when I think back on it, the universe takes care of you. It ends the way it should. We couldn't all be 20 years old and be Runaways. The universe just took care of it."

A big reason for Jett's mellower attitude is The Runaways, a film opening Friday. It tells the story of the band's creation and the circumstances behind lead singer Cherie Currie's tumultuous 1977 departure, some 18 months before guitarist Jett and drummer Sandy West, the other co-founder, reluctantly drove a stake through the group's heart.

Jett went on to much greater acclaim with her new band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, which is still very much a going concern.

Toronto multimedia artist Floria Sigismondi directed The Runaways, making her feature film debut, and the project had the happy result of bringing together Jett and Currie, as they schooled actors Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning in how to play them in the movie. All four women were sharing smiles and hugs onstage with Sigismondi at the world premiere January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

It's literally a good thing that Jett and Currie buried the hatchet, because Currie has since become quite proficient with dangerous tools. She's now an ace chainsaw sculptor, using her whirring blade to make astonishingly detailed wooden objets d'art.

"I don't know how all the girls feel (in the Runaways), but I think Cherie has been fine at getting back into the groove," Jett said.

"We had some distance there for a few years, but I would much rather be on a good note than a bad note. It was such a great experience, the Runaways. I think we experienced something together that was so unique and so important. I wish them nothing but the best and I love them all dearly. I wish Sandy West was still here to see all this. She passed away a couple of years ago of lung cancer. It's really sad."

The movie is not by a long shot the Joan Jett story, arguably the more interesting tale. Jett dusted herself off after the Runaways imploded and made a huge impact with the Blackhearts and "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," their 1982 hit single. Jett still tours – she may come to Toronto this summer – and she's one of the few female guitarists to be ranked alongside the male gods of rock.

As the film's executive producer, Jett could have demanded that more of her story be told. But she's quite content to have Currie more in the frame. "Really, I think the movie was kind of mislabelled initially as a biopic, which to me is more like a documentary or following the band ... and then the dissolution, or whatever.

"That to me is not what this story is. It's much more of a coming-of-age story. I think the part about the Runaways is the atmosphere, the environment that we were in. But it certainly shows the band and shows what we went through. It gives you a sense of it, for sure."

Jett was astonished by how quickly and diligently Stewart and Fanning took to their rock alter egos of Jett and Currie. "You can't force these kinds of things. It helped that Dakota and Kristen genuinely like each other. They're both pros; they both did their research on their own. Dakota studied Cherie and videos of her, and I spent as much time as I could with Kristen. We did everything from playing guitar to talking about old stories and mannerisms, how I would do something. You've really got to hand it to them, because they took it really seriously on getting it right."

How weird is it, though, watching other people play you on film? "It's surreal," Jett said. "It's been a very pleasurable experience."

There's been no serious talk of a Runaways reunion to help promote the film, although Currie has gone onstage a few times with Jett to sing "Cherry Bomb," the group's signature tune. What if they stole an idea from Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, who teamed in the '90s for a well-received tour as a duo? A Jett-Currie show could have Jett on guitar while Currie did her chainsaw art thing onstage.

"I don't know, man," Jett said, laughing at the idea. "I'd have to wear goggles!"

MUSIC TIDBITS

The Love & War MasterPeace: Raheem DeVaughn

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Jive/Sony)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of four)

(March 16, 2010) If the title of his new disc doesn’t indicate the breadth of this American singer’s ambition, he’s got scholar Cornel West branding him “the greatest soul singer of his generation” on the intro. The Marvin Gaye wannabe is bent on fulfilling that promise with an album that’s equal parts protest and seduction. He intersperses songs like “Bulletproof,” “Black & Blue” and “Nobody Wins A War,” about socio-political ills, with explicit baby-making tracks “B.O.B.” (an acronym for “battery-operated boyfriend”) and “Microphone,” and female worshipping tracks “The Greatness,” “Mr. Right” and “My Wife.” With guests, including Wale, Damian Marley and Jill Scott, and a blush-inducing falsetto that’s more D’Angelo than Maxwell, DeVaughn delivers a grooving, unconventional and utterly compelling album. Top Track: The self-described “R&B hippie neo-soul rock star” gets to the point with “Bedroom.”

Mary J. Blige to play Lilith Fair at Molson Amphitheatre

Source: www.thestar.com - Star staff

(March 17, 2010) The 2010 Lilith Tour has announced a date and list of artists for Toronto. Lilith fair will play Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre on July 24 with headliners Sarah McLachlan, Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige and Chantal Kreviazuk. Tickets for initial shows will go on-sale to the general public beginning Saturday, March 27 via LilithFair.com.  Like the original Lilith Fair, there will be 11 artists on each date, with only two consistencies per show: the Lilith Local Talent Search Ourstage.com winner who starts the day and headliner Sarah McLachlan. The remaining acts on the line-up are constantly rotating from among more than 80 acts.

Khia Comeback on Course

Source: www.eurweb.com


(March 17, 2010) *This Sunday in New York, “My neck, my back” sexual healing sensation
Khia is shooting her come back video with director, Clifton Bell of Ghettonerd Co. for her upcoming single, “Been a Bad Girl.”  Just like her sexy uncensored self, Khia’s latest creation captures her lust dripping imagination, drawing in the ears of listeners with her mistress like spell.   “Behind Khia’s tough exterior, behind the naughty lyrics and the sexy persona is a woman who more than anything else, just wants to be an artist and express herself freely and honestly,” reads khia’s press release.

Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas to Headline World Cup Concert

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 17, 2010) *
Alicia Keys, the Black Eyed Peas and Shakira will perform at a concert on the eve of the soccer World Cup in South Africa, organizers announced Wednesday. The event in South Africa’s biggest black township Soweto will be on June 10, one day before the month-long World Cup kicks off in Africa for the first time. The concert in the 30,000-capacity stadium will be broadcast live to millions of people across the world. “We are thrilled to have a concert of such magnitude and performing talent raise the curtain on the first FIFA World Cup in Africa. It is testament to the universal and unifying power of football and music, and will start the competition off on the right note — of celebration,” FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said in a statement. Among other performers at the concert will be African musicians including Benin-born diva Angelique Kidjo, Amadou and Mariam from Mali, South African group the Parlotones and Tuareg desert blues band Tinariwen. Net proceeds from the concert will go to 20 Centres for 2010, FIFA’s official social campaign for the World Cup — aimed at achieving positive change in Africa through football.

:FILM NEWS::

Toronto Filmmaker Takes A Shot At Capturing Shinny Mania

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(March 12, 2010) A movie musical about hockey? How Canadian, eh?

So Canadian in fact that a host of homegrown hosers are lining up to be part of
Score: A Hockey Musical, written and directed by filmmaker Michael McGowan.

McGowan said when he first proposed combining the disparate elements of hockey and music, "I got a laugh from people. I was sort of surprised it hadn't been done in film before. If you get lucky enough and get one of those `why hadn't I thought of that earlier?,' you sort of run with it," McGowan said.

The latest to join the cast is high-brow author Margaret Atwood, who – get this – plays herself and sings.

Nelly Furtado, playing a rabid hockey fan, is also on board, along with ex-NHLers Eddie Shack, Theo Fleury, hockey dad Walter Gretzky, CBC'ers George Stroumbouloupolous and Evan Solomon and musicians Hawksley Workman andDave Bidini.

Marc Jordan and Aussie songbird Olivia Newton-John play the granola-munching parents of the film's protagonist, Farley Jordan, a home-schooled shinny player who has never played a league game but may be hockey's next great "phenom."

It also features some familiar Toronto locations, including the rink at City Hall, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the venerable Weston Arena, with its wooden rafters and catacomb-like hallways and dressing rooms.

Actor Stephen McHattie gets a chance to renew his comedy chops – remember him as Elaine's Svengali-like shrink on Seinfeld? – as the owner of the battling Blades who sees Farley as the team's best hope for victory.

"What attracted me to the role is when they first told me the title. It kind of sounded perfect," McHattie said.

McHattie, who gets the chance to perform in a couple of duets, said moviegoers can expect to see players singing and dancing on ice and pumping their sticks like majorettes' batons.

"It was great fun. With one team against another, it was kind of like two gangs, like West Side Story. And I thought the songs were terrific," McHattie said.

McGowan wrote the lyrics – which he promises actually advance the plot – calling upon Workman, Jordan and the Barenaked Ladies to help out with the music.

Noah Reid, who plays the lead role of Farley, has been acting since he was 8, including a role in the 1983 Terry Fox Story. After graduating from Montreal's National Theatre School, the role is his first in a feature film.

"It's all the things I can do in life: singing, acting and hockey. I thought, `if I can't get this one, well ...'" Reid said.

"I did manage to get my accordion into the movie. We'll see if it makes the final cut," he added, with a laugh.

Because of the way he was raised by flower-children parents, Farley can play the game but can't bring himself to drop the gloves and brawl on ice, Reid said.

"That doesn't go over so well in the world of hockey," he noted wryly.

Despite the overall silliness, Reid said the film does have substance at its core.

"There is a lot of darkness and a peek into the ugly side of hockey and the fact that it has the potential to reel you in to a place where you don't necessarily want to be. I think there's real depth in this story in addition to the fun, fluffy stuff."

McGowan said one of the highlights of filming earlier this month was working with Newton-John, who was given the script by "friends of friends" of one of the film's executive producers.

"She (Newton-John) is one of the nicest people I've ever worked with. She was so generous on set and so much fun. She was singing on set between takes. She just made it so much of a pleasure to work with her."

"I'd never really worked with a huge star like her before and it's so nice when somebody comes in and just wants to be a part of things and brings her own kind of joie de vivre. She was just fabulous," Reid added.

McGowan said the success of previous works, including One Week and St. Ralph, gave him the credibility to get the film financed – always a challenge in this country – with support from Telefilm Canada, the Ontario Media Development Corp. and others.

"I certainly feel lucky that I'm able to make films in this country and they're finding audiences. And for sure, this is unabashedly a Canadian film."

The film is slated for release on Oct. 22 and will be submitted for consideration to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Film Market Access Receives Grant from Quebecor Fund

Source:  Film Market Access

(March 15, 2010) Toronto –
Film Market Access (FMA) is the recipient of a Quebecor Fund grant to create the Quebecor Cannes Market Fellowship. This financial support will allow FMA to continue assisting Canadian producers, particular those from under-represented cultural communities with strategic consulting and coaching to fully participate in business meetings and networking events at the Festival de Cannes.  

The Quebecor Cannes Market Fellowship is dedicated to advancing experienced media professionals who are Aboriginal or from culturally diverse communities in the GTA.  

Each year in preparation for the Festival de Cannes FMA provides within its program a festival information session to participants who have been accredited by the Festival de Cannes.   This year, with the support of Quebecor Cannes Market Fellowship - FMA will host a seminar entitled Festival, Market and Distribution on March 20th from, 1 to 4 pm, at Cloud Café, (968 Queen St West). The focus of the seminar is to prepare producers and directors for one of the most highly recognized film festival and market. Guest speakers include Patricia Scarlett who represented “Ataranjuat: The Fast Runner”, in Canada, Michael Paszt acquisition executive of Cinemavault Releasing, and representatives from Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC). The cost of the seminar is $50.00. Members of ImagineNative, WIFT, FILMI, ReelAsian, ReelWorld and LIFT will receive an additional discount of 50%.

“We are delighted to receive this support from the Quebecor Fund and we’re looking forward to engaging information seminar that delivers real value to the participants. FMA’s unique programs continue to deliver amazing experiences with invaluable insight into the highly competitive business of marketing and selling films” said Kirk Cooper founder of Film Market Access.  

Since 2006, Film Market Access has coached and facilitated a meaningful professional and business development experience for a diverse group of Canadian producers, directors and other media professionals to the Festival de Cannes and the world’s largest film market, The Marché du Film.    

Festival de Cannes and the Marché du Film together work in harmony to set the stage for the largest film event in Europe (May 12 to 24). The Festival provides a great industry environment, efficient and well-located structures for the Marché du Film’s participants. Each year the Marché du Film gathers buyers, distributors and producers for ten days dedicated to meetings and negotiations allowing for establishing partnerships and co-productions. 

The Quebecor Fund for Professional Development supports the career advancement of culturally diverse and Aboriginal media professionals to create greater opportunity, access and equity in the screen-based media sector. 

Hollywood Picks Grit Over Glitter At Its Peril

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(March 12, 2010) Of the many conspiracy theories advanced for why The Hurt Locker beat Avatar at the Academy Awards, the only one that holds water is based on terrified actors.

The actors' branch is the largest single bloc amongst the academy's nearly 6,000 voters.

The thinking goes that flesh-and-blood thespians balked at giving Best Picture to a movie that triumphantly featured computers over humans.

A vote for Avatar, rightly or wrongly, was viewed as a vote to put yourself out of a job.

James Cameron had tried to sell the line that his "performance capture" method of making the sci-fi blockbuster is actually a form of acting, since real people – chiefly Sam Worthington and Zoë Saldana – made the movements that the computers rendered into giant blue Na'vi humanoids.

At the same time, however, Cameron and his crew were accepting awards for their brilliant animation in Avatar, which made his "actors first" message ring hollow.

Actors have good reason for fear.

Even as Hollywood studios ring up record profits – with Avatar leading the charge with its $2.6 billion global take – they're axing jobs left, right and centre.

People now fear for their livelihood in the domain of palm trees and plastic surgery, including many actors who in other years were enjoying fat paycheques.

Members of the academy acted like the trade union they often resemble, and voted for films and actors who they felt best represented their newfound bootstrap values. Thus a gritty film about bomb-squad soldiers, directed by undervalued helmer Kathryn Bigelow and a box office weakling, suddenly became the underdog you had to root for.

And journeymen actors such as Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock were given Best Actor and Best Actress prizes that amounted to lifetime achievement awards, since neither of the films they won for, Crazy Heart and The Blind Side, were all that great. The day before her Oscar win, Bullock gamely accepted the Worst Actress prize from the Razzies for her work in All About Steve, one of the most awful movies of the past decade. She's the only person to win both a Razzie and an Oscar in the same weekend.

In seeking to prove their flannel-shirted proletarianism, the academy fearfuls may have inadvertently contributed to their own irrelevancy. They forgot one thing: people are drawn to Hollywood not by the sweat, but by the glitter.

They want to see true bona fide stars, which neither Bullock nor Bridges really are.

Sitting in the Kodak Theatre were people who did represent the majesty that Hollywood once effortlessly presented: Meryl Streep, George Clooney and Lauren Bacall. They were all treated shabbily by a show that has strayed so far from its classy roots, it should be sued for false advertising.

Streep and Clooney were made the butt of terrible jokes by plodding co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, who were as funny together as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Streep and Clooney were good sports, but I felt embarrassed for them.

Streep was nominated Best Actress for Julie & Julia and Clooney Best Actor for Up in the Air. Both delivered exemplary performances; in Clooney's case, I judge it to be the best of his career. But both were passed over for honours, and the biggest knock against them, which I heard repeatedly, was that they already had numerous career honours. Clooney had the additional burden of playing a suave playboy character who seemed too true to his own life. He was penalized for being too realistic.

Bacall, a classic Hollywood figure, was among this year's recipients of honorary Oscars. She was required to remain in her seat during the awards telecast, because the show producers decided that a tribute to horror movies was more important than watching her receive her honours.

I'm not arguing that Streep and Clooney should have been given Oscars just because they're glamorous. And maybe there were valid reasons for not giving Bacall and the other honorary winners podium time, although I can't think of any.

I am observing, though, how little value Hollywood now seems to put in the notion of stardom, that indefinable essence that movie dreams were supposed to be made of.

When Hollywood loses its stars, it loses its reason for being.

Green Zone: Bourne-Type Action Belies Thoughtful Look At War

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

Green Zone
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of four)
Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson and Amy Ryan.

(March 12, 2010) If the vertigo doesn't get you in
Green Zone, the paranoia just might.

Paul Greengrass moves the camera like a dog gnawing on a bone in this Iraq War thriller, creating disorientation that some viewers might find intolerable. But what the director and his favourite accomplice Matt Damon really hope to do is shake up anybody who still holds Pollyanna views about America's unhappy meddling in Middle East affairs.

"Don't be naïve," major characters take turns telling each other, and that's also the film's defining sentiment. Green Zone has an attitude – it persuades in almost documentary style that the war was sold on false pretences but no one's motives in this tangled affair can be completely trusted. Neither hawks nor doves can take comfort in the story. In this way, the movie suggests that Iraq War films have come of age, much like their Vietnam predecessors.

In the decade spanning John Wayne's brute jingoism in The Green Berets (1968) to the deep regrets of Coming Home (1978), Americans shifted and sharpened their attitudes toward the Southeast Asian conflict. Films like Green Zone and Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker take a much deeper look at all aspects of the Iraq battle than we've seen in earlier treatments.

Greengrass is part journalist and part action filmmaker, switching between docudramas such as United 93 to commercial blockbusters like the two Jason Bourne movies he's made with Damon. Both sides of Greengrass's personality are on display in Green Zone, which many people will understandably think of as "Bourne goes to Baghdad," especially in the film's more explosive second half.

First and foremost, though, the intention is to thoroughly illustrate and excoriate the American decision to pursue a war based on the flimsy evidence.

The film opens with an effectively staged recreation of the "shock and awe" aerial bombings of Baghdad that began the Iraq conflict in March 2003, a time when most people professed to believe the Bush Administration's contention that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was concealing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that he intended to use.

One of the believers is Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon), a U.S. Army stalwart tasked with rooting out and destroying WMD sites. This seems an almost comical job, viewed through the 20/20 lens of history, but Miller is convinced that the "intel" on the WMDs is reliable and he intends to follow orders, no matter what the risk. He and his men stage commando-style raids on supposed WMD hideouts.

When bust after bust comes up snake eyes – they break into a toilet factory at one point – Miller starts becoming disillusioned about his work and suspicious of the reasons for it. His eyebrow rises further after a cynical colleague tells him it doesn't matter whether the WMDS are real or not, because the brass back in Washington doesn't require truth: "All they're interested in is finding something they can hold up on CNN."

Miller isn't alone in his doubts. Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan) has similar suspicions, and so does CIA operative Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), who has been in the Middle East long enough to know that not all of Saddam's men supported the deposed leader. Brown believes key members of Saddam's Republican Guard must be conscripted to assist in the rebuilding efforts, or else Iraq will quickly dissolve into anarchy. At the very least, the Americans will quickly lose the faith of the Iraqi people, if they blunder into the country without some knowledge of how it works – and there's certainly been no shortage of blunders.

To underline these points, and to advance the plot, we see a secret meeting with Iraqi renegades – including a top Saddam general – discussing whether to cut a deal with the Americans or to launch an insurgency movement against them.

Much of this is informed by knowledge of how things actually turned out, which makes Miller and his fellow travellers seem a little too prescient to be believed. But Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who has freely adapted Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, aren't seeking to make the angels and demons too obvious.

Greg Kinnear's Pentagon apparatchik Clark Poundstone is the most obvious villain of the piece, since he's pursuing the official line and attempting to thwart Miller's quest for the truth. Yet he seems to sincerely believe that the WMDs are out there, and it's only a matter of time before they are unearthed and that President Bush's ill-advised declaration of "mission accomplished" will be vindicated. Poundstone's answer for all the screw-ups? "Democracy is messy."

We also meet an Iraqi collaborator (Khalid Abdalla) who is perhaps too eager to help Miller in his quest for the truth. Or maybe we should believe him when he insists, "I want to help my country."

Damon acquits himself beautifully as Miller, convincingly playing a righteous Army renegade – he seems to have lowered his voice an octave to punch home his words.

It's only when Green Zone devolves into straight Bourne kinetics in the latter going that the film starts to seem less thoughtful and more commercial. Yet it still manages to drive home Miller's essential truth: "The reasons we go to war always matter." 

Running Wild With Kristen And Dakota

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(Before Floria Sigismondi began shooting the bad-girl rock-band film The Runaways, she redecorated a room. The director pulled all the furniture out of a large space in a Los Angeles studio, and papered the walls, floor to ceiling, with hundreds of photos taken of the seminal all-girl band that combusted after a few short years in the late seventies.

Her motivation was simple: Sigismondi wanted to give her young stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning – who headline as Runaways Joan Jett and Cherie Currie – a sense of what the seventies were all about. The room was meant to show the grit, rawness and unrelenting crap their punk teenage characters had had to take from an industry that was dominated by men who felt women had no place in rock ’n’ roll.

In an interview in Toronto last week, Sigismondi, who grew up in Hamilton and now lives in Los Angeles, said that both the cast and crew visited the space regularly during the film’s 30-day shoot. “Because Kristen and Dakota are so young [19 and 16], they don’t remember the times,” said Sigismondi, a tall, slim woman with long, curly dark hair, and dressed during our meeting in a slightly-off-goth getup of tight black pants, a ripped designer T-shirt and black blazer.

“I wanted everything very raw, very real, and I wanted them to be able to see it around them constantly. So we put pimples on them. We gave them bed head. I wanted them to look like they’d really been on the road for a couple of months and were beat up.”

Set to open in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver this Friday (with an expanded run starting April 9), The Runaways, which Sigismondi also wrote, is the story of a band that paved the way for future generations of female hard rockers, before bursting into flames in 1979 after a wild ride fuelled by sex, drugs and booze.

Sigismondi’s first full-length feature starts amid the colourful crowds of Rodney Bingenheimer’s famed Los Angeles club English Disco, where Jett and Currie met their uber-eccentric rock-impresario manager Kim Fowley (played brilliantly by Michael Shannon, Oscar nominee for Revolutionary Road). From there, it follows the volatile, often abusive recording process that led to hits like Cherry Bomb, and five albums.

Sigismondi, 44, an accomplished artist who works in film, video, photography and installations, first got involved in The Runaways almost four years ago, after her manager was approached by producers Art and John Linson. (Art has produced such films as Fast Times at Ridgemont High; John, his son, made Lords of Dogtown, about seventies skateboarders.)

The Americans wanted a female to helm the film. Sigismondi seemed tailored to both write and direct The Runaways, which is partly based on Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway, co-authored by Currie. Sigismondi, who was born in Italy to a pair of opera singers (she moved to Canada at age 2), is married to lead singer and guitarist Lillian Berlin of the alternative-rock band the Living Things, and has herself directed videos for the likes of David Bowie, the White Stripes, and Bjork.

“I think they wanted a female director for the details,” she says. “They wanted to show what it was like to be a young girl going through these wild things. Hopefully, I’ve brought some things that are unique to Joan’s and the others’ experiences from a female perspective.”

Stewart and Fanning insisted on doing their own singing and guitar playing. Sigismondi, a devotee of authenticity, signed the young women up for rock-band boot camp, which lasted about a month. They started by coming to Sigismondi’s L.A. house, where she and her husband have a first-floor studio. “I had them play with my husband’s band because I wanted them to feel what it was like to compete with these really noisy things. It’s much more physical than one might imagine. You feel it in your body. As an actress, you’re often trained to be more subtle. These roles are very different.

“Once we cast the whole band, we did three- or four-hour sessions on a daily basis, which was really good because they ended up bonding. By the time we got to filming Cherry Bomb for the film, they were rock stars,” says Sigismondi, who married her husband in Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto in 2004, close to a bench where she used to sit in the middle of the night trying to strategize about the best way to articulate her latest artistic direction. The couple have a five-year-old daughter.

Once she’d nailed the screenplay, Sigismondi turned her sights to finding actors to play Currie and Jett, who is executive-producer of the film. Stewart, she says, was a no-brainer. “Kristen is so perfect. I’d seen her in Into The Wild, and there was something captivating about her looks. Her eyes – she emoted so much with her eyes. I also saw Joan in her: this kind of tough girl who is also vulnerable and shy at the same time.”

Fanning, who was only 12 when Sigismondi signed up to take on The Runaways, wasn’t on anyone’s radar. But she had matured by the time shooting started last year. “When I found out Dakota was interested, I was over the moon,” she says. “She’s so talented, and she’s grown from a child to a young woman before all of our eyes.”

Real life after the Runaways has been pretty sweet for Jett, who landed on her feet in 1982 with a monster No. 1 hit, I Love Rock ’n’ Roll and still regularly performs. Currie, in Sigismondi’s opinion, is lucky to be alive after countless stints at rehab over the years. She’s clean now, and works as a chainsaw artist, carving sculptures out of wood.

“But I see both women, equally, as survivors,” she says. “Cherie had the guts to quit because she knew if she stayed, she’d be dead.”

Her film, Sigismondi adds, is itself a lesson in empowerment. “It’s a coming-of-age story of young women kind of getting too far deep into, and kind of surviving, their time together. They just get too far, lost in their circumstance.” But lived, in the end, to see their tale told.

Seema Biswas Gets Cookin’ In Mehta’s Satire

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(March 17, 2010) In the last 15 years or so, Seema Biswas has appeared in more than 30 feature films. Virtually all of them have been shot in her native India, where she was born in 1965. Virtually all of them have occupied the serious end of the dramatic spectrum. The one exception goes into Canadian theatres this month.

True,
Cooking with Stella, made about a year ago, is set in New Delhi, primarily in and around the compound of the Canadian High Commission, the first time that venue has been used as a location. But the reason it’s a ground breaker for Biswas is that it represents her first filmic foray into comedy. A graduate of India’s National School of Drama, she’s done “lots of comedy roles in theatre, but not in movies,” she acknowledged in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, where Cooking with Stella had its premiere. Indeed, among Western audiences, she’s best known for her roles as the avenging, gun-toting Phoolan Devi in 1994’s searing Bandit Queen and, a decade later, as the mysterious widow Shakuntula in Deepa Mehta’s Water – a part that earned her a best-acting Genie in 2007.

“So, for me, it was a big responsibility to do it,” Biswas said in her lilting way. “I didn’t want it to be a shock for them. You know: ‘Oh my God, it’s the wrong casting.’”

The thought never seems to have crossed Dilip Mehta’s mind. “Seema was my first and my last choice” to play the title character, the Cooking with Stella director/co-screenwriter said the other day. “There was no audition. She is so versatile, I just have this implicit faith in her. I mean, I didn’t know if she had the timing you need for comedy –- but once we got going, she was way beyond what I ever hoped for.”

Mehta, in fact, first broached the idea of casting Biswas well before he’d written the script. This was in September 2005 when Biswas was in Toronto to attend the gala premiere of Water at the film festival. Mehta, who’s Deepa Mehta’s brother, had been Water’s production designer and associate producer and, after a successful career as a photojournalist, was keen to try his hand at his own feature film.

“Dilip told me, ‘Seema, you’ll have to put on weight,’” said Biswas, recalling the conversation with a laugh. “And I just said, ‘The part sounds very good. I’d love to do it. I’ll put on the weight.’”

Indeed, the part is very good, with Biswas expertly incarnating the soul and presence of Stella Elizabeth Matthews, who’s been the chief cook and major domo at one of the diplomatic residences in the Canadian High Commission for 30 years. A devout Christian, Stella initially seems the essence of deference and rectitude when a new Canadian couple (Lisa Ray, Don McKellar) and their babyhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifmove into the home.

But the viewer quickly realizes she has a cunning side: To pad her modest salary, she discreetly pilfers items and occasionally overcharges while simultaneously running a phone-order “duty-free” business selling detergent, booze, food and the like from the commission pantry.

This profitable arrangement threatens to unravel when the couple – Ray is, in fact, the diplomat, McKellar the stay-at-home husband and chef eager to discover “the real India” by enlisting Stella as his “cooking guru” – decides to hire a seemingly straight-arrow nanny (Shriya Saran) who eventually gets wise to Stella’s subterfuge.

Mehta, who splits his time between Toronto and New Delhi, wove his narrative from several real-life strands, albeit creatively, which is why he likes to say the movie is “based on a story that is true – almost.”

For instance, he and his wife once had “an amazing cook” named Stella who was plump and a Christian but, contra Biswas’s Stella, “not a kleptomaniac.” In fact, her deceit was “hitting the bottle” – quietly taking slugs from a scotch bottle, then keeping the level up by adding water. (“I wasn’t really a scotch drinker but I did notice the contents of the bottle seemed to get cloudier by the day.”)

The Ray and McKellar characters, in turn, are loosely based on Deepa Mehta’s goddaughter, who is a Canadian diplomat, and her husband, who had been a chef tournant at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

Both Biswas and Mehta hope audiences, especially those in India and Indian expatriates, will embrace Cooking with Stella as a clever, affectionate social satire and not as an exposé of Indian duplicity and Canadian gullibility. Or as a retaliation of sorts for the rude reception Water encountered a decade ago when Hindu extremists forced the Mehtas and crew to move the shoot to Sri Lankahttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.giffrom India.

So far the response has been mostly positive. “Which is such a relief.”

“If anybody really believes the film is about theft,” observed Mehta, “they’ve missed the film entirely, in my opinion.” Moreover, “does anyone really believe a nation is so weak that one film is going to rock its foundations? In England, everybody talks about the weather. In India, everybody talks about servants. Honestly, it’s like a national preoccupation.”

For me,” said Biswas, “I see the film as a simple, funny story about a woman who has this simple dream to be a little bit rich . . . It’s universal.”

As it turns out, Biswas did not have to gain a lot of weight for the part. In fact, said Mehta, she showed up “painfully thin,” having lost weight completing a movie just weeks before beginning principal photography on Stella. “We did put some pretty large padding around her bum,” Mehta allowed.

At last year’s TIFF, Biswas indicated her willingness to work again with either Dilip or Deepa Mehta “pretty much under any conditions. I once told Deepa that whenever you work with other actors, I feel very jealous.”

Well, no need to worry about that. As Cooking with Stella enters theatres, Biswas is working with Deepa Mehta on her much-anticipated film adaptation of the Salman Rushdie novel, Midnight’s Children.

Not to be outdone, Dilip Mehta is preparing the script for his second feature,” and I want Seema in it.” Called Second Best, it’s a drama about the human cost of India’s pharmaceutical industry – specifically about how “20 per cent of the life-saving drugs manufactured in India are spurious, counterfeit – a huge, huge amount.”

Did we say it’s not a comedy?

Cooking with Stella opens in theatres in Vancouver and Toronto March 19 and in Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax on March 26.  

This Movie Isn’t Broken. It Rocks

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Jennie Punter, Austin, Texas

(March 17, 2010) Veteran Toronto director Bruce McDonald is showing his new film at the hottest convergence in North America, the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) festival. This Movie Is Broken is a creative collaboration that reflects the spirit of this unique event, which presents film premieres, an interactive conference and music showcases to tens of thousands of mostly young attendees.

This Movie Is Broken film blends a fictional story, written by McDonald’s old pal Don McKellar, with a memorable outdoor concert by venerable Toronto rock ensemble Broken Social Scene, which was held in front of a hometown crowd during last summer’s garbage strike. McDonald, whose films include the beloved rock ’n’ roll-fuelled Hard Core Logo and last year’s Pontypool, says the band did much more than deliver a stellar onstage performance.

“The core members were involved in the casting process, through shooting the drama and offered feedback during various cuts,” says McDonald in Austin, after finishing a Mexican lunch. “In particular [BSS band member] Kevin Drew, who has also made some short films, really liked the notion of doing a movie that wasn’t just a straight concert film and contributed some great script ideas.”

With Broken Social Scene playing two evening sets at SXSW, the festival is undoubtedly the ideal setting for the film’s first public screenings. But it was a race to the finish line to get it here. Just last week, sound and picture were still being tweaked. And with McDonald on location in Louisiana shooting a documentary, McKellar had to take over directing for the final post-production rush. The project, McKellar says, has been fast and fun from beginning to end.

“Years ago I thought about incorporating a dramatic arc into a concert film and so when Bruce called to see if I had any ideas, he was enthusiastic,” says McKellar, who wrote the script just two weeks before the concert. The team was able to secure a bit of financing, including support from Rhombus Media (Alliance Films will eventually release the film in Canada).

“Part of the fun was that it all had to be filmed that day,” McKellar continues. “The intersection of drama and a real concert was the chief selling point, but of course on the practical side it presented a huge logistical challenge.”

In the film’s story, Bruno wakes up beside his long-time crush Caroline, who is leaving for school in France the next day and wants to see her favourite band play that night. Bruno spends the day trying to get backstage passes with the faint hope of securing her affection before she disappears. “When I was writing I thought it would be great to use the garbage strike to locate the story in time and place,” McKellar says. “The strike worked like [Toronto’s 2003 citywide] blackout in that it galvanized the city, so when we were shooting during the day there was a nice community feel in the parks and on the streets.”

At dusk, when the action moves to the concert at Harbourfront, McDonald mobilized the troops. “Bruce’s great strength is his ability to galvanize a team,” McKellar says. “He brought in [documentary filmmaker] Peter Mettler to shoot concert stuff from the front of the stage — a lot of people were called to duty that day.” While McDonald worked with multiple camera crews on stage, McKellar was in the crowd with the actors. “It was all about mapping out a route and having people save spots,” he laughs. “The music was loud so I did a lot of yelling and hand signals.”

The end result not only captures a great performance but also reflects the “other side” of a concert experience — the little scenes playing out in the crowd. “I think the drama gives the whole film a nice energy as it jumps from the stage into the crowd,” McDonald says. “So the characters become our lens.”

This Movie is Broken screens tonight at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. The festival runs to March 21.

Special to The Globe and Mail.

FILM TIDBITS

Jaden Smith is ShoWest’s ‘Breakthrough Male Star’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 15, 2010) *
Jaden Smith, star of the upcoming Columbia Pictures remake of “The Karate Kid,” will be crowned Breakthrough Male Star of the Year at the upcoming ShoWest convention, organized by the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). The son of actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith will be presented with the award Wednesday during the group’s annual exhibitor’s convention at the Las Vegas’ Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas hotels. ShoWest also will screen “Kid” that same day, three months ahead of its June 11 theatrical release. “Jaden Smith is an exceptional young actor who has delivered a true breakout performance with his portrayal of Dre Parker in ‘The Karate Kid,’ ” Robert Sunshine, managing director of the event said. His film credits include “The Pursuit of Happyness” and a remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

David Oyelowo, Hugh Jackman in Lee Daniels’ ‘Selma’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 17, 2010) *”Precious” director Lee Daniels is moving forward with the casting of his civil rights filmSelma” despite a significant lack of funding. David Oyelowo, the British actor who appeared in “A Raisin in the Sun” and stars in George Lucas’ “Red Tails,” has been cast as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the film surrounding his historic marches in 1965 in Selma, Ala. Hugh Jackman joins the cast as a racist sheriff.  The part of Alabama Gov. George Wallace is still up for grabs. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Pathe International had been attached to finance the project, but might be scaling back its involvement, the extent of which was not immediately clear. It is known that the film is currently being shopped around in the hope of raising funds. Financial straits aren’t new for Daniels, who faced similar hurdles when making “Precious,” which relied on then-obscure financier Smokewood Entertainment and went on to win two Oscars.

::TV NEWS::

Online Phenom Comes Up From The Basement

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Dave Mcginn

(Jarett Cale and Geoff Lapaire want to pwn television, and to do so they’re banking on winning over plenty of n00bs.

Not familiar with video gaming lingo? You may soon be as
Pure Pwnage, the incredibly popular Canadian Web series created by the two 32-year-old comedians is about to make the transition to television, premiering on Showcase this Friday.

But in making that leap - only the second Canadian Web series to ever do so - will the show hold on to the devoted fans who have watched the series online?

“I know that a lot of these people will be concerned we’re making the jump to TV. It’s more mainstream and more legitimacy and they’ve been a part of something that’s very tight knit and underground. So naturally there’s a little bit of hesitation for some of the fan base,” Cale says.

The series, which launched in 2004, follows the exploits of Jeremy, played by Cale, a 26-year-old gamer who is so good at video games, he pwns (pronounced “owns”) everyone he comes up against, meaning there is no player he can’t conquer. To him, everyone is a n00b, someone without much skill or who doesn’t play at all. But his skills online don’t compute in the real world.

“Anyone that’s played [video games] online has had an experience with a guy like Jeremy,” Cale says.

Perhaps that is why the Web series has enjoyed such immense success. It has been translated into 15 languages and the site,www.purepwnage.com, receives over 200, 000 unique visitors a month.

The series’ success caught both Cale and Lapaire by surprise, as fans started to demand more episodes of what had started off as a gentle parody of gamers, shot for between $20 and $6000 an episode, and designed to test out some video editing software.

“We didn’t have a master plan coming into it. We just started making videos for this little community we were a part of,” Cale says.

While there are a growing number of Web series to be found online, only one other such Canadian series, Sanctuary, has ever moved to television. That show was recently renewed for a third season on the Syfy channel.

Both avid gamers, Cale and Lapaire, who have known each other since they were children in Calgary, say those who duke it out on World of Warcraft or EverQuest are rarely asked to come up from their mom’s basement and into the mainstream.

“There’s been such a lack of representation of this culture in popular media,” Cale says.

In making the leap to television, however, the pair are faced with producing a much more polished product compared to Web episodes, which were often largely improvised and ran at whatever length felt natural.

“Sometimes it was literally just me and Jarett with the camera walking down the street shooting a scene. Now there’s 20 to 40 people standing around doing various tasks,” says Lapaire, who play’s Jeremy’s brother, Kyle. “Things are very, very different on the TV show.”

While the TV show’s higher production values will translate into more legitimacy, their U.S. fans won’t be able to see it broadcast on Showcase. Episodes will be available on the channel’s website, but only to Canadian viewers. Still, the pair says they were ready for a higher profile.

“You can only write so many stories about a guy in his apartment or a guy walking down the street before you start to go crazy. You want the ability to do more,” Cale says.

As well as the television series, Showcase will be rolling out 15 Web episodes of Jeremy replying to viewers’ e-mails. Maintaining a strong presence online is an essential part of drawing those who have always watched the series on the Internet, says Tara Ellis, vice-president, Showcase and drama content, CanWest Broadcasting.

“With a known property like this that has loyal, almost rabid fans, we definitely did not want to alienate the existing fan base,” she says.

And considering just how many people play video games these days, she is confident the show will have a broad appeal.

“The sheer number of [gamers] shows this is not a niche, it’s not a cult. This is a phenomenon that goes across all ages and all genders,” Ellis says.

Of course, non-gamers are welcome, too.

“I’m also hoping that the n00bs watch, the people who may not be the ones who watch the Web series,” Lapaire says.

It’s likely that many of those n00bs don’t watch any Web series. But in making the jump to television, Cale and Lapaire say they aren’t worried about finding an audience.

“I’m pretty sure that people still watch TV,” Lapaire says.

Does Twitter Push Up TV Ratings?

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(March 12, 2010) Do social media give TV ratings a boost?


Alon Marcovici, VP of digital media for the Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, thinks so – although he admits he can't prove it.

He points to the Olympic men's hockey final. CTV reported the game had a viewership of 16.6 million, soaring to 22 million when it went into overtime and Sidney Crosby scored the game winner.

Facebook says 3.5 million status updates were sent during the game and spiked when the U.S. tied the game and then again when Crosby scored.

Did Twitter and Facebook users tip off their friends to a great game in action and convince them to turn on their TVs?

It's highly probable, Marcovici said.

"It's a powerful word-of-mouth tool and I'm of the belief that good content is its own promotion."

But the CBC's head of television, Kirstine Stewart, instead points to changes in ratings measurement that have boosted the recorded audiences of shows in recent months. Ingo Muschenetz of whatthetrend.com, a site that follows trending topics on Twitter, says bad buzz about a TV show or film can have a bigger drag on a project than the impact of online praise. But he also buys into the theory that ratings can get a nudge from social media.

The theory might get another test when 88-year-old Betty White hosts Saturday Night Live on May 8 – a couple of months after 490,000 Facebook members launched a campaign.

Will ratings be higher than average? NBC and SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels hope the theory is proven true.

Countdown To The End Is On For TV's 24

Source: www.thestar.com - William Keck,
 Special To The Star

(Mar 16 2010) The news that Fox's
24 will most likely conclude at the end of this eighth season comes as no shock to the show's creative team or star Kiefer Sutherland.

Two months ago, at Fox's Television Critics Association presentation, the show's longtime creator, Howard Gordon, said, "We always thought this could be the end. In years past, barring disaster, we knew there would be future seasons. This is the first time there's really been no substantive negotiations about a ninth year. Kiefer's contract is up. Mine is up. Some writers are already leaving to do other shows. So to me, it's more possible than ever that this is the end."

One of the series' most popular alums, actor Gregory Itzin, who reprises his role as disgraced president Charles Logan, had heard Season 8 would likely be the last, which is why producers scrambled to bring him back.

"This has been a rumour that's been circulating," confirmed Gregory, praising the series' longevity. "Any show that lasts eight seasons is amazing. It's quite a salute to the writers and Kiefer for their unflagging energy and devotion."

Gregory suspects the loss of a perennial ratings winner could hurt Fox. "I suppose it will be a bit of a blow," said Gregory. "It's been a revenue stream and a source of employment for a great number of really good actors."

But Fox the network's loss will likely be Twentieth Century Fox the movie studio's gain, as Gordon said he would aim to bring Jack Bauer to the big screen within 18 months of the series' conclusion. "I think the fans could wait a year or a year and a half for the movie, but not much longer than that," said the exec, confirming that "Kiefer has had the conversation with (Twentieth Century Fox)" about headlining the film.

So how will Jack's final season conclude? Not with a cliffhanger, assured Gordon. "You can't do that," he said, hinting that Jack may even get a peaceful respite with his daughter in Los Angeles before being summoned back to action on the big screen.

"In my mind, I always thought Jack was too scarred and broken and had been through too much to live happily ever after, but last season Jack forgave himself," reminded Gordon. "That being said, there is fragility and vulnerability to the character, and this season Jack goes to dark places he's never gone to. So even if the (series presents) a happily-ever-after, I'm not sure Jack could ever live happily ever after."

TV Guide Magazine

Brett Wilson: The Dragon With A Heart

Source: www.thestar.com - Jennifer Wells

(March 17, 2010) CALGARY–"Not all those who wander are lost," says Brett Wilson, quoting J.R.R. Tolkien and setting the pace for an examination of Dragon No. 5 that's one part business, three parts psychoanalysis.

It's the kind of quote that telegraphs to the interviewer that this is not the moment to talk about oil and gas futures or investment banking deals or ROI. The citation is a daring, ask-me-anything come-on, quite in keeping with Wilson's on-air persona as the dragon with a heart on Dragons' Den, the guy who can fall for the tear-streaked emotional collapse of hopeful entrepreneurs seeking a farthing or two for their fragile business start-ups. The rich dragon – possibly the richest – who likes to say yes. The dragon who in a recent Facebook posting wrote: "Always kiss her like it's the first time, and the last time."

Why would he post that? "Someone may have been reading it," he says, tossing yet another emotional breadcrumb in the interviewer's path.

Of course, you will want to know who that "someone" is. But that comes later.

He's dressed in jeans, Wilson is. His hair is the longest it's been since he was in high school. His dog Maya is padding behind him, looking for love, just like his master. The handsome Mount Royal house is packed with Saskatchewan art, testament to Wilson's Prairie roots. There's a Joe Fafard sculpture of Ernst Lindner in the living room. There are Ernst Lindner paintings everywhere, including an uncharacteristic Lindner of daisies being clutched between a pair of startlingly full breasts.

Is this not painting a picture of a mover and shaker in your mind?

The bulk of Wilson's wealth comes from oil and gas, a story that wends its way from investment banker McLeod Young Weir to the self-named start-up Wilson Mackie to the building of FirstEnergy Corp. Anyone wanting to understand how profitable this trajectory was for Wilson, hear him say this: "Calgary was always considered a place where you could airplane bank." Translation: the money was run by visiting investment bankers from Toronto, or, just as bad, New York.

"There is nothing that oilmen hate more than dialling 416 or 212 and asking for help," Wilson continues. "It's such an arrogant perspective." One memory: he's working for MYW out of Calgary. His assistant pops her head in the door. "Toronto is on the phone," she says. "Tell them Calgary's in the washroom," he replies.

So FirstEnergy was established in 1993 as an investment dealer catering exclusively to the energy sector. "We could have been called Only Energy," says Wilson of the company's focus. He became fabulously wealthy.

We could talk about the money. Or we could talk about the price he paid in making it. "I got absorbed into that work-money, work-money cycle, deal, deal, deal at McLeod," he says. "Then when I started my own business, each hour I wasn't working was an expensive hour."

His marriage started to teeter. "The worse my marriage was the more time I spent at the office. The more time I spent at the office, the worse my marriage was."

In a special Dragons' Den episode airing Wednesday, the back stories of the dragons themselves are lightly told. Wilson speaks of his divorce.

He doesn't talk about checking himself into an addiction research program. "I thought it was workaholism," he says "but as it turns out we went back and peeled back all of the layers of the onion and got back to Brett the boy at 4, 6, 8, 10, 12. There were a few issues ... some speed bumps ... It was a powerful experience."

He says that any talk of an alcohol dependency is not accurate. "There was no dependency on alcohol whatsoever," he responds. "What there was, was an inappropriate style of drinking." He defines "inappropriate" as binge drinking. "It wasn't like I just sat down and hammered drinks. But if the party went on until three in the morning I was probably drunk. If it went on to 11 I was probably tipsy ... I would just drink until the party was over."

Depression? "Absolutely. I joke about seeing a list of the 12 signs of clinical depression and going through the list and nine of them were clearly me and the other three, well, I was still in denial."

One day in 2001 his lawyer called. The paperwork on the divorce had been finalized. "I closed the file and said to my secretary you can put the divorce file away. An hour later I get a call." Here he mimics his own self calling out to his secretary: "Wendy, can you open another file?" Wendy replies, "What is it?" Wilson's response: "Call it cancer."

Brett Wilson's friend Warren Spitz talks about how Wilson pushed the reset button on life. Cancer – prostate cancer in Wilson's case – will do that to you. Divorce will do that to you. A determination to fix the frailty of a relationship with three children will do that to you. "The cost of success was my health, my family, my marriage," says Wilson. "It wasn't worth it."

Wilson stepped down as chair of FirstEnergy in January, his business interests focused wholly now on Prairie Merchant Corp., his private investment company. His interest in the Diamond Jaxx is in there (Tennessee: baseball); as is his stake in Derby County, the U.K. football club he calls the "Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Midlands." He's still hoping for a piece of the Nashville Predators. There's an advertising agency. A fitness franchise. A divorce solutions company. Real estate. We could go on.

But the baseline in Brett Wilson's reset life is No. 1, his kids, and No. 2, philanthropy. "He's not just walking around trying to give people money," says Spitz of Wilson's philanthropic endeavours. "He's trying to help people get on their feet and stay on their feet."

Wilson is inexhaustible when it comes to causes. Keith Harradence, a friend from Wilson's undergrad days at the University of Saskatchewan, recounts a climb up Kilimanjaro to raise money for Alzheimer's research. Climbers were compelled to raise $10,000. "A week before the climb he hadn't had a chance to do any money raising," says Harradence. "We started the climb – it was a six-day climb. We get news two-thirds up the mountain that the 800 or so letters that he had personally signed before departing had raised over $300,000. That's just the way he is, right? Brett in a week could raise in excess of $300,000."

Dragons' Den plays in to that. On the surface it exposes Brett Wilson's heart, which Warren Spitz says is three times too big sometimes. He means that in the nicest way.

Sometimes other dragons have mocked Wilson, as they did when he invested in the Aerial Angels, a travelling acrobatic troupe. "They made fun of it, on national TV," says Wilson. "My girlfriend was upset ... She said you don't look like you care ... I said if I valued their opinions I would be deeply concerned."

Yes, there's a sting there. Wilson is well aware of how soft he can sometimes appear on television, especially against the caustic pronouncements of Kevin O'Leary. He says the diligent editing of the show makes him appear kinder than he is on occasion. He says he asks a bazillion questions, possibly deemed tedious by the editing team.

"I've never seen them use the core business question I ask, which is how much money and how much time have you got invested in the business? I've asked that of everyone I've ever invested in. I don't think it has ever made it to TV."

When he auditioned he was told he wasn't mean enough. "I said, look, if `mean' means being a prick, don't ask me back. I'm not interested. I'm not going to `mean up' for the show."

That's what he said then.

Today he appears interested in sharpening his elbows. "Each year I get tougher and ruder but not to the people coming on the show. Just to the other dragons." When he calls Kevin O'Leary a "moronic outlier of capitalism," he says he intends it in a friendly, spirited way.

The other dragons need him. Wilson is by far the largest deal doer. "He doesn't think enough deals are done. He told me that," says Keith Harradence, who had dinner with Wilson shortly after he accepted the dragon role. Wilson has done more than 15 deals since he signed on, committing between $3.5 million and $4 million in capital.

Then there's the issue of equity. "If you look at some of the advertising you'd think it was the Kevin O'Leary and friends show," Wilson says. He took up the point with the CBC. "I just said, that stops. No more. It's Brett and Kevin and Robert and Jim and Arlene. Equal billing."

There's ego at play, no surprise.

And, with Wilson at least, no guile.

The day is drawing to a close.

Is he happy? "For what it's worth," Wilson replies, "happiness jumped a notch when I came out of the Hoffman Institute last December."

Whoa.

With Brett Wilson, there are no uncomplicated answers. This is the third time in our encounter that he has returned to the therapeutic peeling of the onion, the getting back to unnamed issues unresolved, in this case checking into an eight-day intensive residential program that explores the first 12 years of childhood. "What they do is they explore the negative patterns in your life," he offers. "The whole premise is built around the concept of negative love ... The negative patterns in your life that came as a result of the ones who loved you."

He says the program has helped enormously. You get the sense all the emotional tremors in Brett Wilson's life run close to the surface. What were the issues in childhood?

"Let's just assume I've always had speed bumps," he says. The Hoffman, a place that will cause eye rolling and near cult accusations from sceptics, helped, and it's unconventional to hear such admissions in business quarters. "A lot of this shit, I realized, is their shit. It's not my shit," says Wilson, sounding very unlike his dragon persona.

Is he happy in love? On a side table in the living room there's a framed pen and ink etching of a fire-breathing dragon. "That's a McLachlan," he says, meaning the singer Sarah, who signed the artwork with love to Brett on his 50th birthday.

"We spend time together," he says when asked if they are still dating. "Anyone who saw us at the Olympics would know that we spend time together."

Read into that what you will. There is more interesting territory to explore, deeper crevices. Wilson is in the process of writing, with a ghostwriter, the first of what he sees as a number of books. He's grappling with how candid he will be. He knows he can be an inspiration to others. He asks that we go off the record. Brett Wilson is still thinking about how much he wants the world to know.

TV TIDBITS

Gay Rights Group Honours TV Stars

Source: www.thestar.com - Andrew Dalton

(March 15, 2010) NEW YORK – Joy Behar, Cynthia Nixon and the ABC drama series Brothers & Sisters are among this year's recipients of media awards from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Presented Saturday in New York, winners of the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards also include the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, the Lifetime network film Prayers for Bobby and a report on CNN's American Morning program called "Why Will Won't Pledge Allegiance." The ABC daytime drama One Life to Live and an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show were also recognized, as were the Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo. Among winners in nonelectronic media, The New York Times was awarded for overall outstanding newspaper coverage, and Detective Comics was named outstanding comic book. Sex and the City star Nixon was honoured with the Vito Russo Award, which is named after a founding member of GLAAD and is presented to a gay media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for the gay community. Behar, a co-host of ABC's The View, received the Excellence in Media Award. The GLAAD Media Awards salute fair, accurate and inclusive representation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives in the media. The remainder of this year's awards – chosen from a total of 152 nominees in 32 categories – will be presented at ceremonies held in Los Angeles and San Francisco in April and June, respectively. ––– On the Net: www.glaad.org

Three Canadian Stops Planned On Conan O'Brien's Tour

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Mar. 11, 2010) “ New York — Without a TV show to do every night, Conan O'Brien is taking his act on the road. And he's stopping in Canada. The former Tonight Show host announced a 30-city theatre tour on Thursday. Sidekick Andy Richter and the former Tonight Show band will join O'Brien for what he calls “a night of music, comedy, hugging and the occasional awkward silence.” The tour begins April 12 in Eugene, Ore., and he's in Vancouver the next night. He's in Enoch, Alta., on April 17 and Toronto on May 22. O'Brien quipped: “It was either a massive 30-city tour or start helping out around the house.” O'Brien quit “The Tonight Show” in January instead of taking NBC's offer to move his start time back by a half-hour. Jay Leno is back in his old slot. O'Brien hasn't announced any future television plans. The cheapest ticket in Toronto and Vancouver is $58.13 after fees and go as high as $103.13. A special “hot seat” ticket $262.63. Prices are more expensive at the Enoch show, at the River Cree Resort& Casino, with regular tickets ranging from $97.50 to $137.50 after fees. A special meet and greet with O'Brien goes for $695 per person.

Betty White Signs Sitcom Deal At 88

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Frazier Moore, The Associated Press

(New York — Betty White's dance card continues to fill. The legendary comedian-actress has signed to co-star in the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland. White, previously cast only for the pilot, plays the snarky but spry caretaker of the Cleveland home shared by three former L.A. residents played by Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick. Hot is set to start its 10-episode season in June. The 88-year-old White last week was named to host NBC's Saturday Night Live on May 8, and she'll guest star on the season finale of the ABC comedy The Middle, also airing in May. White, an Emmy winner for The Golden Girls, received a lifetime achievement award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January.

::THEATRE NEWS::

The Sound Of War Music

Source: www.thestar.com

(March 11, 2010) War may be hell but it sure can produce some toe-tappingly great tunes, especially when you're talking about the War to End All Wars.

Soulpepper Theatre is mounting a production of
Oh What a Lovely War, a satiric anti-war musical first produced in the U.K. in 1963 by Joan Littlewood's influential Theatre Workshop and featuring such enduring tunes as "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag" and "Keep the Home Fires Burning."

"It's something that I wanted to do for a long time. I saw a production of it when I was at theatre school in England in 1983 ... and ever since, I've had a fascination with the First World War," said Soulpepper artistic director Albert Schultz.

"The piece is actually much funnier and much more moving than I remembered. And there's something so powerful about it still and so relevant, particularly now that we're a nation with young men and women losing their lives on foreign soil."

Done in the English "music hall" tradition, featuring both comedy and music, the play features songs that Schultz said are universally known today.

"There's so many songs that are so much a part of our culture still, whether we've heard our grandparents sing them or we've heard them in movies. The music is fantastic, the frame of the music hall allows it to be very entertaining," Schultz said.

The opportunity to mount a production came with the arrival of a new crop of members to the Soulpepper Academy, a troupe of young artists in training who happened to be "ridiculously gifted musically as well as being wonderful actors," Schultz said.

Among them are Gregory Prest from Pictou, N.S., who plays both the player and the clarinet and learned to play the trombone and tin whistle for the show.

The cast is supplemented with Soulpepper veterans like Oliver Dennis and Michael Hanrahan.

Bruce DeMara

Just the facts
WHAT: Oh What a Lovely War

WHEN: Previews begin Thursday. Runs to April 10

WHERE: Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Distillery District

TICKETS: $29-$64 at 416.866.8666 or youngcentre.ca

Vanessa Williams Trades ‘Betty’ for ‘Sondheim’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 15, 2010) *Now that “Ugly Betty” is winding toward its series finale, star
Vanessa Williams has more time to devote toward her other pastime – the stage.

As she wraps production on the ABC comedy, Williams, 46, begins performances this Friday in “Sondheim on Sondheim,” a look at Stephen Sondheim through his music, films and taped interviews. The show at Studio 54 runs through June 13.

In 2002, the actress earned a Tony nom playing the witch in “Into the Woods,” so she’s very familiar with the melodies and lyrics of the composer, who turns 80 on March 22.

Below Williams spoke about her return to Broadway in a Q&A with the New York Daily News:

How do you juggle “UB” and “SoS”?

I’m very organized. I have everything in my BlackBerry, so as soon as I have a break I go and find out: Do I have a fitting here? or Where do I need to be? The bottom line is that everyone’s been completely understanding and accommodating, and it’s been seamless going back and forth between the two shows.

I’m told “Good Thing Going” and “Losing My Mind” are two of your big numbers. What else are you singing?

Another solo is “Smile, Girls,” which was cut from “Gypsy,” and I’m doing “The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” as a duet with Tom Wopat. I’m singing “Every Day a Little Death” with the ladies in the cast. We all do a lot of singing. There’s a lot of company numbers.

Are you a happy camper being onstage?

It’s great to be back home. I love it. The first day, we were sitting around at our music stands learning new music, and I felt like I was back in high school and college. You know, when you get new material for a new show, there’s a sense of excitement that’s like nothing else. It’s similar to reading a new script and not knowing what to expect.

Michael Urie, who plays your assistant on the show, is in “The Temperamentals,” an Off-Broadway play about early gay-rights activists. Have you seen him?

I saw him twice last year, before this transfer of the show. He’s such a well-rounded and brilliant actor – Juilliard-trained. He plays the part of Marc so well, I think a lot of people who watch him have no idea that he’s nothing like that character. I hope it doesn’t put him in a box. He can do drama, accents, anything. He’s one of my favourites.

You have four kids. Any of them following in your footsteps?

Well, my 20-year-old’s a dancer. She’s at the New School and doing beautifully. And Sasha, my 9-year-old, kind of has the acting bug. But she’s focusing on being a student now.

 Below, Vanessa Williams as Wilhelmina Slater in clip from “Ugly Betty”

New CanStage season features Robert Lepage, Michel Tremblay

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(Mar 16 2010) Matthew Jocelyn, Artistic and General Director of the Canadian Stage Company, revealed his 2010-2011 season on Tuesday and – on paper, at least – it seems to fulfill the “brave new world” that Jocelyn had been promising for Toronto’s largest not-for-profit theatre.

Major Canadian artists like Robert Lepage and Michel Tremblay will be represented as well as cutting-edge talents from our country such as Jennifer Tarver and Kim Collier, while international masters such as Edouard Lock and Tankred Dorst will be seen on the Bluma Appel stage as well.

Berkeley Street will serve as the home for provocative works from Nightwood Theatre, Studio 180 and Theatre Passe Muraille as well as an International Spotlight fortnight devoted to multi-disciplinary works from Italy and a continuation of the Festival of Ideas and Creation series.

“Toronto is a vibrant, international, contemporary and cultural city,” said Jocelyn. Canadian Stage has a responsibility to produce the kind of art that belongs in a great metropolis, to provide Canadian artists with the means to present their large-scale work on stage and to create a home for the great theatrical inventors of today – both national and international.”

This summer’s annual Dream in High Park with feature Romeo and Juliet, running June 25 to Sept. 6.

Here the run-down of the new season.

The Bluma Appel Theatre:

Fernando Krapp Wrote Me This Letter: An Attempt at the Truth, written by Tankred Dorst, Sept. 18 to Oct. 16, 2010;

The Andersen Project, written and directed by Robert Lepage, Oct. 21 to 30, 2010;

Studies in Motion: The Hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge, written by Kevin Kerr, choreography by Crystal Pite, Nov. 22 to Dec. 18, 2010;

Saint Carmen of The Main, in co-production with the National Arts Centre, Ottawa, written by Michel Tremblay, Feb. 7 to Mar. 5, 2011;

The cosmonaut’s last message to the woman he once loved in the former Soviet Union, written by David Greig, directed by Jennifer Tarver, April 16 to May 14, 2011

Untitled, a La La La Human Steps production presented by Canadian Stage by Édouard Lock, May 26 to June 1, 2011

At the Berkeley Street Theatre:

The List, produced by Nightwood Theatre, written by Jennifer Tremblay, Oct. 11 to Nov. 6, 2010

Theatre Passe Muraille and Canadian Stage collaborate to produce Project: Humanity’s

The Middle Place, by Andrew Kushnir, directed by Alan Dilworth, Feb. 14 to Mar. 12, 2011;

Our Class, written by Tadeusz Slobodzianek, Apr. 4 to 30, 2011;

Spotlight on Italy, presented with assistance from Istituto Italiano di Cultura, March 15 to 26, 2011;

Festival of Ideas & Creation, May 9 to 21, 2011

::COMEDY NEWS::

The Monday Q&A: Mel Brooks

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(Mar. 15, 2010) “You can’t keep Jews in jail – they eat lox.” Rim shot. “I once met a girl who was so skinny that when I took her to a restaurant the head waiter said ‘Check your umbrella.’ ” Mel Brooks is killing me, running through some of his old stand-up comedy shtick. “Believe it or not,” he insists, “I used to get big laughs with those jokes.”

I believe him. He’s a funny guy, as anyone who has seen his classic films can attest. Brooks, 83, can be serious too, though. With the new Mel Brooks Musical, Young Frankenstein, making its Canadian premiere in Toronto this week, the legendary writer-director speaks about awards, music and the importance of comedies.

The Academy Awards expanded its best-film nominations to 10 movies this year, and still there were no comedies included. As an Oscar winner yourself, for the screenplay to The Producers, what do you make of that lack of respect for funny films?

Very few comedies have ever won anything at the Academy Awards. The Hangover, this year, should have been a part of it – no matter what, it should have been a part of it. It was dazzlingly funny, viciously crude comedy. I don’t know why the hell it was left out.

You must have some idea.

They don’t feel comedies are important. You know, comedies can often say more important things. Everybody thinks Blazing Saddles is all about crude western jokes and farting, but what drives Blazing Saddles is happening in America today – can a black man win the love of his town? Will there always be prejudice? Most comedies have something important at work driving them.

What drives Young Frankenstein?

Young Frankenstein is cleverly disguised womb-envy. Man can not make life, but women do it every 10 minutes. And I think Mary Shelley must have had that in mind when she wrote the novel. It’s about going against God, creating life and making trouble. I think Young Frankenstein has many sub colours and many emotions.

Mostly it’s funny though, right?

I play most of it for flat-out comedy. But for example, Inga, the laboratory assistant with the great legs, et cetera, just wants to get on the laboratory table with Dr. Frankenstein and have some fun. But he just wants to talk about the brain, and all its complex functions. So, there’s a whole song in the musical called Listen to Your Heart, which is very sweet, written in a minor key. I’m very proud of it.

It’s written in the style of Cole Porter. Is he an influence?

My gods have always been Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, and you can throw in the Gershwins if you want, and right after that, Jerome Kern. So, when I write a musical show, I write old-fashioned, 32 bar, very melodic tunes.

How do you wish to be remembered?

That’s a hard question. I suppose for my contributions to happiness, whether its Transylvania Mania, a crazy song or whether it’s a comedy scene from one of my movies like Spaceballs or Blazing Saddles.

How about Young Frankenstein?

Of all my movies, I’m most proud of that one. I think it’s among my funniest, and my greatest work of art as a writer and director.

And yet, no Oscar.

I achieved a very high standard in my craft, and I should have been nominated. I should have won the Academy Award for directing. It was absolutely gilt-edged brilliantly directed. But what do they know?

Young Frankenstein plays between March 17 and April 18 at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, 416-872-1212.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Sony Sets The Bar High With Jaw-Dropping God Of War 3

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(March 13, 2010) The magnificent opening of God of War 3 has the perpetually angry Kratos making his way up Mount Olympus as he continues his quest to finally slay Zeus and get revenge for all that the gods have put him through. Actually, there's a gigantic twist – that we won't give away here – as the visually stunning opening sequence and subsequent battle will likely cause most gamers' jaws to literally hit the floor.

Out on Tuesday, this is a console-defining franchise for Sony's PlayStation, and this latest – and purportedly final – chapter in Kratos's story pulls out all the stops in an incredibly violent and cinematic manner. Moving from one giant set piece to another, solving puzzles and basically hacking and slashing your way with countless weapons through the remaining pantheon of the gods of Olympus, while it potentially signals the end of the Ghost of Sparta's journey, this game also signals the way forward for this generation of Sony's console.

The PS3 enjoyed a very good holiday season last year, and is looking to continue that momentum, and big-name releases such as GoW3 – there are more than 225,000 preorders in Canada, the largest numbers ever for a PS3-exclusive game – will likely push sales.

GoW3's release date also signals one of the ongoing changes in the video game industry. Traditionally, the beginning of the new year is usually a fallow period for game releases. Not so in 2010. This year has already seen a number of high-profile releases – Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain, Bioshock 2 – and now GoW3. Many release dates for the rest of the year have also been set – Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are set for May – so it seems publishers are moving toward a spread-out release schedule rather than a jam-packed holiday season.

That is probably good for the industry, and definitely good for gamers, if the results are as polished as GoW3. It took three years of work in Sony's Santa Monica, Calif., studio to get it just right, said John Palamarchuk, the game's lead cinematic artist who originally hails from Edmonton. The game's engine was completely redesigned and rebuilt to take advantage of the PS3's power and capabilities.

"The development was three years, that's how we planned it from the very beginning and we hit that. The other two games in the series took two years, but we decided we needed that extra year so we could get used to working on the PS3 – this is our first game for the console – and get that under our belt. This is also the final chapter of the trilogy, so we wanted to go out with a bang and not cut any corners," he says.

The game looks so amazing that it causes one to lament the fact the GoW games don't allow camera control. Many shooter games feature control of the character with the left analog stick and camera control with the right, but the developers chose not to give that option.

"As far as the camera, that's a conscious decision we made. There's limited buttons on the controller, and as developers, we want the game to be accessible for everybody," he says. "When you're controlling the camera, and the hero, and you're fighting guys, you're trying to learn so much, and with no camera control I think it makes our game flow a little bit better. It also makes it more cinematic. And, actually, in GoW3, there are certain parts where we give you camera control for the first time. And it's a little bit limited, but it does let you look around."

What's also interesting about GoW3 is that it is a linear, single-player game. Several games pride themselves on length, too, but as Palamarchuk says, the approach to this game is a little different.

"We prefer to make a shorter game," Palamarchuk says. "Some games tend to pad their gameplay, but we want the story to be really tight, and it's all really condensed down to as long as it needs to be to tell the story.

"The first two games were around eight hours to 10 hours, and this game is a little bit longer, but having people play our game from start to finish, we want the whole experience to be something they can enjoy."

::DANCE NEWS::

An Eye-Candy Swan Lake That Appeals To The Mind

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

Swan Lake
The National Ballet of Canada
Choreography by James Kudelka
Four Seasons Centre In Toronto on Friday

(March 15, 2010) James Kudelka’s
Swan Lake continues to be one of the most fascinating versions of the Russian classic despite some second night blues that included several obvious missteps.

I attended the second performance to catch the National’s newest principal dancer Jiri Jelinek (previously of Stuttgart Ballet). Jelinek has a reputation for being an excellent dramatic dancer, but although his Prince Siegfried made all the right moves, his performance lacked fire.

In his defence, the guy just stepped off a plane barely two months ago and into the challenging choreography of James Kudelka. One can’t blame him for being cautious.

Kudelka’s Siegfried is a self-absorbed loner. Jelinek concentrated too much on the prince’s vulnerability at the expense of expressing personality. He was a dreamer without definition, which allowed him to be outdanced by Odette/Odile and Rothbart. On the other hand, he radiated the prince’s bruised and broken spirit, but just never found his spine.

On a positive note, Jelinek looks like a principal dancer. He is tall and ruggedly handsome, and he can do the Russian virtuoso tricks. In his Act 3 variations, for example, he exhibited exciting jump turns. In fact, he nailed three in a row.

Although he does not have the softest balloon (his landings were a bit thumpy), Jelinek’s port de bras is exquisite. He is blessed with those all important extra-long arms that float through space with consummate lyricism.

He also would appear to be a very good partner. His Odette-Odile, Xiao Nan Yu, is one of the National’s tallest prima ballerinas who has been waiting for just such a tall man to come into her ballet life. They look gorgeous together. Now they have to find the chemistry.

Yu gave one of the best Odette/Odile performances I have ever seen. A great classicist, every move she takes is precise in placement and execution, whether for the graceful poetic Odette or the sizzling fireball Odile. In her magnificent interpretation of this notoriously difficult dual role, her different performances of Odette and Odile are outstanding.

Unfortunately, her de rigueur third act 32 fouettés were a weak spot as she travelled the stage in her struggle to complete them. (For the uninitiated, a fouetté is a turn done on one pointe shoe while the other leg whips around to propel the turn.)

Patrick Lavoie debuting as Rothbart was a sensation. As a dancer, he tends to be a bit withdrawn and formal, but he found the evil sorcerer’s strength of command without ever losing a stately bearing. His chemistry with both victimized Odette and accomplice Odile was palpable.

Keep your eye on McGee Maddox who played the prince’s friend Benno. There is always something new I pick up in subsequent viewings of a Kudelka ballet, and in this case, it was Benno’s hint at homosexual feelings for the prince. They share a reflective duet in the first act, and it was brilliant – Jelinek absorbed in himself, and McGee absorbed in the prince. McGee has charisma and he can dance.

The rest of the secondary players were all wonderful. Naoya Ebe played the Fool on the dark side, both evil and satiric. Stephanie Hutchison as the Wench was suitably seductive and held her own against all those men until the end. Nobody plays icy and distant better then Victoria Bertram as the queen. The various foreign princesses (Lise-Marie Jourdain, Rebekah Rimsay, Lisa Robinson and Jordana Daumec) all sailed through their demanding solos while showing off their very different personalities.

And finally, let’s hear it for the swans. The female corps de ballet was simply splendid. Their white swans were delicate while their black swans were rods of steel.

The National Ballet’s Swan Lake continues at the Four Seasons Centre until Mar. 21.

The goods

The debut: Close but no cigar. New principal dancer Jiri Jelinek showed he was a prince and a fine partner, but needed more dash and vigour. He was a tad too cautious to own Siegfried outright, but his physicality did convey all of the prince’s emotional journey. Let’s wait for his Onegin.

The wench: Innocent flirtation as a come on. Siren serving girl Stephanie Hutchison was coy and friendly but never vulgar, as befits a low-born woman among a group of high-born knights. Her gang rape was particularly cruel.

The high: Xiao Nan Yu made Odette so vulnerable, and her Odile so conniving, that she seemed like two different dancers.

The low: An unusual number of slip-ups (the fool, a court lady, a little swan, the orchestra brass section), and Yu’s sloppy 32 fouettés.

Bottom Line: Definitely worth a visit. A Swan Lake for both thinkers, and those looking for eye candy.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Tiger Woods to Return at The Masters

Source: www.eurweb.com

( *Golf’s biggest star, Tiger Woods, announced Tuesday he will end his four-month golf hiatus at the Masters beginning April 8 in Georgia.

“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect,” Woods said in a statement. “After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta.”

Woods’ last golf tournament was Nov. 15 when he won the Australian Masters for his 82nd victory worldwide. Twelve days later, he crashed his car into a tree outside his Florida home, setting off a flurry of revelations that he had been cheating on his wife.

Tiger’s announcement followed rumours last week that he would play the Tavistock Cup exhibition next week in Orlando, followed by the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he is the defending champion and a six-time winner. On Thursday, the Associated Press and other outlets reported rumours that the golfer would make his return at the Masters.

“The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it’s been a while since I last played,” Woods said.

“I have undergone almost two months of inpatient therapy and I am continuing my treatment,” he said. “Although I’m returning to competition, I still have a lot of work to do in my personal life.”

“When I finally got into a position to think about competitive golf again, it became apparent to me that the Masters would be the earliest I could play,” Woods said.

Argos Sign Canadian Quarterback Brannagan

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich

(March 15, 2010) The Toronto Argonauts now have one of the rarest species in the Canadian Football League: a Canadian quarterback.

The Argos signed Queen’s University quarterback
Danny Brannagan on Monday, a day after he impressed coaches and scouts at the CFL’s annual evaluation camp for university players.

“I’m fortunate to have had a successful university career and realize that not a lot of people get to compete at the next level,” said the Burlington resident.

That’s certainly true. No Canadian quarterback has started a CFL game since Larry Jusdanis did it with Hamilton in 1995 and few have even managed to make rosters since then.

Argo head coach Jim Barker said he was impressed with Brannagan’s athleticism, accuracy and his presence during the weekend camp.

``He can make all the throws and he understands the Canadian game and how to read defences,” Barker said. ``We are excited to watch Danny compete with the other quarterbacks we have signed.

``We would not have signed him if we didn’t think he could make our team.”

Brannagan is coming off a Vanier Cup victory and a season that saw him pass for 2,580 yard in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) play. He was named Vanier Cup MVP in throwing for 286 yards and three touchdowns.

He finished his CIS career as the second all-time leading passer with 10,714 yards.

He will compete against Dalton Bell, acquired in a trade with the Saskatchewan Roughriders last month, and former Buffalo Bills back-up Gibran Hamdan.

None of the three has thrown a pass during a CFL regular season game.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Blind Skier McKeever Wins Gold At Paralympics

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard, Sports Reporter

(March 15, 2010) WHISTLER, B.C. – Brian McKeever has made history again. The visually impaired cross-country skier from Canmore, Alta., captured the gold medal Monday in a 20-kilometre race to become the first Canadian to win Paralympic gold on home soil. McKeever, who was the first winter Paralympian to ever be selected for the Olympics although he did not race, won with his older brother, Robin, as his guide. As they approached the finish line at Whistler Paralympic Park, fans in the crowded grandstand waved wildly but remained silent – as instructed by games officials – so the competitors could still listen to their guides. McKeever finished 40.9 seconds ahead of silver medalist Nikolay Polukhin of Russia with a winning time of well under an hour at 50:14.79.