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LE NEWSLETTER

March 29, 2012

Spring?
Winter? Fall? Think we've experienced all seasons here in Toronto just in the last two weeks alone! For me? I'll take any sort of warmer weather that Mother Nature can dish out!

In this weeks news: the passing of Canadian radio icon,
Delroy Sterling (seen here with Sonia Collymore); Juno Awards this weekend; Trayvon Martinand the 'hoodie' campaign; Robin Thicke and the Junos; UFC update; Whitney Houston's cause of death revealed; and so much more! Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

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!

::TOP STORIES::

Delroy Sterling Remembered As Caring, Selfless

Source: www.sharenews.com - By Ron Fanfair

(Mar. 22, 2012) The first day Michelle Hylton arrived at York University, she was invited to make a guest
appearance on the campus radio station CHRY 105.5 FM.

She wandered into the station’s office looking for information on her new surroundings when disc jockey,
Rupert Sterling, known as Delroy and Speedy to friends and colleagues, was attracted to her voice.

He encouraged Hylton to co-host his weekly two-hour show, Mix Supreme, and she became a permanent fixture for the next four years until graduation.

Sterling, who paved the way for several young people to work in community radio, died last Sunday.

Delroy took me under his wings and taught me how to use the studio equipment and become comfortable in front of a microphone,” recalled Hylton, who is in the health care sector. “He was a strong proponent of young people getting an opportunity in the business…He knew and loved his music and he was one disc jockey that was proud to play Canadian-made reggae music.”

CHRY station manager Danae Peart said Sterling was selfless as a radio host.

“The industry is male-centered, but he gave women a chance to spin music,” she said. “He was always jovial and a great person to be around in the workplace where he would announce his presence with a little dance and jig.”

Educator Luther Brown said Sterling willingly offered to host his Caribbean Crucible show whenever Brown as unavailable.

“I found Delroy to be deeply caring,” Brown added. “He cared deeply about reggae and he had a good sense about music.”

The fourth of 10 children born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Sterling was a member of a musical outfit – Sun Jet – before becoming a disc jockey at the Sea Wind resort where he met keyboard player Dwight “Duke” Dawes who became the musical director for award-winning local singer, Sonia Collymore.

“I got to know Delroy through Dwight and he managed me for about two years and promoted my debut single, Breathe,” said Collymore who is now married to Dawes. “Delroy provided me with the break I needed by playing my music and I will be eternally grateful to him for that. Once he believed in your project, he worked tirelessly to boost it. He was fun to be around even though he was always in a hurry.”

After touring Europe in 1980, Sterling returned to Jamaica and worked as a tour guide for a German company before migrating to Canada. He was a part-owner of Soul Celebrity sound system and a CHRY volunteer before joining the station full-time in 1995.

The former Top Ten Records owner and 2003 Canadian Reggae Music Awards (CRMA) Disc Jockey of the Year winner started the Reggae Music Achievement Awards five years ago after the CRMA folded.

Sterling is survived by his wife and two children.

How Did The Hoodie Become A Menace To Society?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Sarah Nicole Prickett

(Mar 26, 2012) Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie and he was black. How did the first thing become a metonym for the second? I don’t see Martin’s case in grey-scale: He was innocent. He is dead. If we’re talking about the hoodie – and we are, because few of us are strong enough to withstand Geraldo Rivera's hate bait – it is because Martin’s hoodie, and all that it apparently connotes in the simple minds of certain people, is easier to talk about than Martin's blackness.

It is not important that Martin wore a hoodie. “In my world, a hoodie is a useful piece of clothing,” wrote Roxane Gay in a March 23 essay on the online magazine The Rumpus. “Discussing the hoodie is the same as discussing what a woman was wearing if she was raped.”

It’s important to understand how a society’s understanding of symbols is so ahistorical, its perceptions so trigger-haired, that an innocent article of clothing is construed across the Western world as a symptom – and of what? Of class and of race, of the intersection between the two, of things portended by both.

Hoodies are a recent development, reportedly invented around 1930 by the American sweatshirt company Champion as a way to keep warehouse labourers warm in low temps. Hoods, of course, are rather more ancient. Anglo-Saxon women wore them – they were called wimples then – as early as the ninth century; men adopted them later. By the 16th century, the rounded “French hood,” introduced to England in 1515 by Mary Tudor, was a common signifier of the gentlewoman. In the Middle East, hooded robes, or djellabas, served both to cover and to protect from harsh desert elements. Monks of all stripes, too, have been hooded since medieval times; like JRR Tolkien’s wizards, they seemed to be shrouding themselves in mystery.

That mystery first became menace in the hands of the ultra-white, which in hindsight is terribly ironic. The Ku Klux Klan, formed in the 1860s, donned sheet-white, wizard-style cloaks with pointed hoods to signal white-supremacist intimidation; there remains no more terrifying costume.

Not till 1930 did the hood become the hoodie, shifting near-instantly its connotations from upper class to lower. Adult wage labourers and teenage boys were the first to wear them, always in a utilitarian or athletic way. In 1976, Rocky came out, and the image of Sylvester Stallone in a boxer’s hoodie became indelible and widely copied. The 1970s designer Norma Kamali made the hoodie elegant; in the 1980s, skaters and surfers made it street. And when black rappers from Run DMC to LL Cool J to Wu-Tang started wearing the hoodie in black or camo, often pulled up in a part-anonymous, part don’t-mess way, the pearl-clutching alarmists of polite society made it “dangerous.”

Still, a hooded sweatshirt was also an athletic staple and a college staple. And for those of us who matured sartorially in the age of American Apparel, the idea of a hoodie as anything other than benign and slacker-aspirational is frankly weird.

Hoodies might make it easier to commit a crime, but not nearly as easy as a gun will. “Hoodie culture” is just a euphemism for the demographic, usually one of poor and presumed-indolent teenage boys, that seems likeliest to cause trouble for the ruling classes. In Britain, Australia and New Zealand, “hoodies” – as they call the boys themselves – are so feared they’re sometimes banned from stores; this has more to do with ideas of caste than of ethnicity, although there’s obvious overlap between the two.

But in America, where everything seems more binary, more racialized, it doesn't matter how many white college kids and jogging grandpas wear hoodies. On certain streets, at certain times of the chill night, the easy, utilitarian, all-American hoodie connotes “thug.” It connotes “threat.” It connotes sick paradigms of blackness, but only to people who hold such paradigms already.

And now this garment that almost all of us wear or have worn, a garment too common and too varied in history to properly signify anything, means more than almost anybody wants to say.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Robin Thicke Surprised By Nomination

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Patch

(Mar 28, 2012) Given that he was born and raised in the balmy climes of Los Angeles, Robin Thicke didn’t exactly grow up dreaming of the day he would be nominated for a Juno Award.

Still, the 35-year-old — who holds dual citizenship by virtue of his father, celebrated Canuck actor Alan Thicke — was tickled to find himself among the nominees for R&B/soul recording of the year at Sunday’s show. Even if he’s never really considered himself Canadian.

“I was very honoured — it’s nice to be nominated in dad’s home (country),” the personable singer said when reached via telephone this week.

“The nomination is just, it’s very sweet. Very kind. When you make your music, you want as many people to hear it and love it as possible. It’s nice when your peers — or a meeting of the minds — thinks you’ve made something of quality.”

Oh, and just in case you were wondering ...

“I definitely knew what the Junos are.”

For the record, the rule of eligibility is simple: Thicke could be nominated for a Juno because he holds Canadian citizenship and he put out music during the right time frame.

“We’re Canadian — we like to be more inclusive,” joked Melanie Berry, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which puts on the Junos.

Still, the inclusion of a well-known American crooner did raise some eyebrows.

Toronto’s Melanie Fiona — nominated alongside Thicke for R&B/soul recording — admitted she was surprised to see his name among the nominees, even though the two singers are friends.

“I was like, ‘I didn’t realize Americans are getting nominated at the Junos,’” the two-time Grammy-winning Fiona said during a recent interview.

“But afterward, I was like, ‘Oh right, he is, he’s Canadian.’ We actually crack about that all the time, whenever I see him. He’s like, ‘Well, I’m a half-Canadian.’ So we definitely have that bond.

“I’m glad that at least when he’s around me, he reps it proudly, because I rep it proudly all the time.”

Thicke, meanwhile, has only positive memories of spending time in Canada as a child.

He remembers coming to Brampton, Ont., to visit his grandfather at Christmas and during the summer, when the family would go boating together (his mother is singer and former Days of Our Lives star Gloria Loring).

Thicke says he has equally fond memories of visiting relatives in Edmonton and Vancouver.

“I spent a lot of time in Canada,” said Thicke, who’s married to Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol star Paula Patton.

And unlike some prominent homegrown nominees, Thicke actually plans to attend the show in Ottawa this Sunday.

“Just for fun, (I’ll) come hang out,” said Thicke, who’s nominated for his Lil Wayne collaboration “Pretty Lil’ Heart.”

“I never turn down a good party.”

Still — even with his Canuck credentials — the surprising nomination mainly made Thicke think of his father.

“My dad has total Canadian pride. My dad is ... a lover of all things Canadian.”

The elder Thicke even co-hosted the Junos with Burton Cummings way back in 1983.

Like many Juno-related matters, Robin Thicke was gleefully unaware of that piece of trivia.

“No he didn’t!” he said with palpable surprise, laughing.

“I love it. I didn’t even know that. See? That’s my point. You can’t do anything in Canada without my dad having been a part of it.”

UFC Looks To Break Record Toronto Attendance In Brazil

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Mar 26, 2012) TORONTO—The UFC looks to break its Toronto attendance record of 55,000-plus when it hosts UFC 147 at Joao Havelange Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on June 23.

The UFC 147 main event is a rematch between middleweight champion Anderson Silva and trash-talking American Chael Sonnen. It was also feature a middleweight bout between “Ultimate Fighter Brazil” coaches Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort and Wanderlei (The Axe Murderer) Silva.

In announcing a trio of Canadian shows, UFC president Dana White told a news conference in Calgary last week that he expected the Brazilian show, the UFC's first at an outdoor sports stadium, will attract a crowd of 80,000-plus.

UFC 129 drew 55,724 on April 30, 2011, at Toronto's Rogers Centre. Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre of Montreal defeated American Jake Shields in the main event.

But the Brazil stadium is larger and features Silva, seen as MMA's best pound-for-pound fighter. The UFC 147 main event is also seen as a grudge match with Sonnen playing the villain going into hostile territory.

“This will be the biggest sporting event of the year,” White said in a release Monday. “Bigger than the NFL, the NBA, you name it — UFC 147 will be the biggest. The whole world wants to see this fight between Silva and Sonnen.

“We are broadcast in over 150 countries in 22 languages in half a billion homes. Wherever those fans are, they are going to be watching this fight.”

The UFC had been looking at both Rio and Sao Paulo for UFC 147.

The Joao Havelange stadium is home to the Botafogo soccer club and is slated for use during the 2016 Olympics.

Silva (29-4-0) and Sonnen (28-11-1) first met in August 2010 at UFC 117 in Oakland. Sonnen dominated the bout for more than four rounds before falling victim to a triangle choke.

Belfort (21-9-0) and Wanderlei Silva (34-11-1) first met in 1998 in Sao Paulo when Belfort knocked Silva out after just 44 seconds.

Cocaine, Heart Disease Were Factors In Whitney Houston's Drowning Death: Coroner

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Anthony McCartney, The Associated Press

(Mar 22, 2012) Whitney Houston was a chronic cocaine user who had the drug in her system when she drowned in a hotel bathtub, coroner's officials said Thursday after releasing autopsy findings that also noted heart disease contributed to her death.

The disclosure ended weeks of speculation about what killed the Grammy-winning singer on Feb. 11 on the eve of the Grammy Awards.

Houston was found submerged in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and her death was ruled accidental. Several bottles of prescription medications were found in her hotel room, but coroner's officials said there weren't excessive quantities.

"We are saddened to learn of the toxicology results, although we are glad to now have closure," Patricia Houston, the singer's sister-in-law and manager, wrote in a statement to The Associated Press.

Beverly Hills police said in a statement there was no evidence of wrongdoing in connection with Houston's death.

Coroner's Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said cocaine and its by-products were found in Houston's system, and the drug was listed as a contributing factor in her death. He said the results indicated Houston was a chronic cocaine user.

Toxicology results also showed Houston had marijuana, Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril, and the allergy medication Benadryl in her system. Houston died just hours before she was scheduled to appear at producer Clive Davis' pre-Grammy Awards bash.

The singer also had buildup of plaque in her arteries that can restrict blood flow. Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said the condition is common in drug users, although he said it wasn't clear whether Houston had a heart attack on the day she died.

"It just beats up their heart and they will go to use and they will have a heart attack," he said.

The exact amount of cocaine in Houston's system was not disclosed Thursday but will be contained in a full autopsy report to be released in about two weeks, officials said.

Cocaine use has been known to cause damage to the heart and could have cause Houston's death, said Dr. Michael Fishbein, professor of pathology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He had no role in the investigation.

He said a likely scenario was that Houston's cocaine use interfered with the normal function of her heart.

"There's no reason to drown in a bathtub unless you're incapacitated," Dr. Fishbein said.

Family and friends said after Houston's death that they didn't believe she was still abusing drugs.

"I don't think drugs was an issue for her before her death. I don't know what happened that day," Patricia Houston said in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Houston, 48, was buried in a New Jersey cemetery next to her father after an emotional four-hour funeral service that was attended by friends, family and superstars such as Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Roberta Flack

Houston, a sensation from her first, eponymous album in 1985, was one of the world's best-selling artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, turning out such hits as I Wanna Dance With Somebody, How Will I Know, The Greatest Love of All and I Will Always Love You.

Interest in her music skyrocketed after her death, pushing her songs back on to charts and into heavy rotation on the radio.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, but Houston's drug use derailed her career and took a heavy toll on her once pristine voice.

By the end of her career, she was a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming. Her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanour and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills and was eventually unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.

"The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy," Houston told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 television interview with then-husband Bobby Brown by her side.

She had been attempting a comeback when she died. She had finished filming a remake of the movie Sparkle in which Houston sang the gospel hymn His Eye is on the Sparrow. Producers of the film have said the singer was a complete professional on the set.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Deep Blues, Echoes Of Hendrix And Heartland Rock

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Mar 23, 2012) Canadian Music Week began on Wednesday and was in full force by Thursday. The sampling of shows below offer a taste of what's happening at the Toronto clubs, churches, music rooms and wherever else the some 900 acts are showcasing their wares.

Cold Specks at the Music Gallery on Thursday

A long buildup was relieved at a church on John Street, where the young Canadian singer Al Spx transfixed a watchful audience. Dooming, spiritually questioning folk-soul and solemn deep blues were offered. Spx, a 24-year-old native of Etobicoke who spends as much time in London as work visas allow, works with firm, dusky vocals and dramatic melody. Appearing with a saxophonist, electric bassist/cello player, pianist, drummer and an ambient guitarist, she was small and meek between songs, but gracefully imposing with music that often began with droning, deliberate arpeggios and ended a cappella. Cold Specks's first album isn't out until May, but Spx debuted one song not on the forthcoming disc: All Flesh Is Grass, in the swelling style of Mumford & Sons. On the piano-driven Send Your Youth, Spx intoned, "February's child was made for the spring," doing so emphatically on an unusually warm March night.

The Slakadeliqs at The Garrison on Thursday

The singer-guitarist Slakah The Beatchild was beaten back by a chatty crowd and poor sound very late on Thursday at the alt-music club The Garrison. Nattily attired in a newsboy cap and an Eisenhower-era letterman's sweater-blazer, this Slakah character and his band (with guest vocalist Justin Nozuka) failed to impose their silky acoustic soul and occasional breezy touches of hip hop and reggae. The soft-voiced Slakah, who would seem to admire the retro-R&B moves of Raphael Saadiq, only exuded inhibition. On the final song, Love Controls the Sun, the microphone stand was turned around toward the audience, ostensibly for the crowd to chant the sing-along chorus of "brighten up your day." If the people had only listened a little to the previous 40 minutes, perhaps that cheery refrain would have come true.

Michael Kiwanuka at the Spoke Club on Wednesday

It wasn't in the festival guide, but an invite-only shindig hosted by Universal Music Canada offered drinks, snacks and so much more. Making his Canadian debut was Michael Kiwanuka, an acoustic soulster from the London folk scene whose graceful rhythms and melodic lines were the breezes of oceans. Accompanied by a light-handed electric bass player, Kiwanuka initially invited comparisons to Bill Withers, but his fluidity suggests his influences are not singers but soulful, mellifluous guitarists - perhaps the long-lost Shuggie Otis, and assuredly Jimi Hendrix, whose May This Be Love he covered. Kiwanuka strummed his own acoustic guitar lithely and pleasantly, with a honeyed voice conveying bluesy and wistful emotions. He's coming back here for proper gigs, and to open arms.

Johnny Reid at the Mod Club Theatre on Wednesday

I counted but one cowboy hat in the packed concert hall in Little Italy - and it wasn't worn by the Scottish-Canadian star, who is favoured by the Stetson crowd even though he doesn't actually play country music. Reid presented a full helping of material from his new album Fire It Up, a collection of heartland rock that works fabulously well live. Let's Have a Party was the first song, as well as a strong suggestion in the crowd-baiting style of Rod Stewart or Shania Twain. More anthemic heartland rock and one shamelessly earnest ballad followed over the next 45 minutes, with Glass Tiger's Alan Frew appearing for Fire It Up's five-alarm title track. A good-hearted salesman, Reid aims to please and does, his jukebox-derived rock playable to multiple generations and genders. Anyone purchasing the new album at the merchandise table received a pre-signed photograph, with Reid's best wishes a given.

Slacker Canadian Music Week continues in Toronto to Sunday. For full schedule see cmw.net.

Singer Melanie Fiona's 'Secret Superhero Life'

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Dave Morris

(Mar 22, 2012) Stare too long at a New York street scene in a movie, or a Portland, Ore., skyline, and you mightsee the lights of Vancouver or an intersection in Toronto. Canadians may have felt a similar twinge of bittersweet recognition last month when Melanie Fiona won two Grammy Awards for her duet with Cee Lo, Fool for You.

It was Fiona's third year in a row being Grammy-nominated, but despite being born in Toronto to Guyanese parents, Canada has been slow to recognize her.

Now, with her second album, The MF Life, released on March 20, Melanie Fiona is standing squarely in the spotlight, and on close inspection, this reggae-loving, soul-belting, world-travelling pop star is no rootless cosmopolitan.

Filmmakers know that Canadian streets are easy to camouflage, and their music cognoscenti must have been thinking in a similar vein when they spirited Fiona away to Los Angeles before she had even graduated from Seneca College. (She did earn her diploma, studying accounting, business and finance.) On the phone from her adopted home in New York, Fiona says she was "living almost like a secret superhero life that nobody really knew.

"I would come in and do my classes and really focus on school. But if we had a two-week break, or reading week, a holiday, whatever, then I'd be out in L.A. working with major people in the music industry. It was quite an interesting time in my life."

Up to that point, her secret identity as Melanie Fiona Hallim, a normal Torontonian, was secure. As a teen, she would join the migration of kids fleeing their parents' houses - hers was in Vaughan, a suburb where she and her folks moved when she was 13 - to hit the mall. "We were typical girls, so we liked to shop," she says. "We'd go to Yorkdale, the Eaton Centre, ride the subway. That was always fun." By age 16, she was writing her own songs and soon began performing in a number of groups, one of which included future superstar (and future co-writer of a tune on The MF Life, I Been That Girl) Aubrey Graham, a.k.a. Drake.

After numerous trips to L.A., and evenings spent frequenting reggae parties like Redemption back in Toronto, Fiona started to get some traction. In 2006 she co-wrote an album track for Rihanna, and scored an opening spot for Kanye West's 2008 European tour. But her first taste of solo-recording success came that year in the form of Somebody Come Get Me, a roots-reggae track that landed on that year's edition of the hit compilation series Reggae Gold. With those three moves, Fiona had unwittingly set the template for her career: Whether it was pure pop, R&B or reggae, she proved that she could do whatever the industry required.

Even more than her 2010 debut, the largely retro-themed The Bridge, The MF Life embodies Fiona's versatility. At times the sole thread holding The MF Life together is Fiona's voice, which shifts easily from sassy to heartbroken to strident. And the songs do make radically different demands on her, from the more organic ballads cooked up by Amy Winehouse producer Salaam Remi to club jams like the T-Pain-assisted song 6 A.M. "If you want to have any sort of immediate or, hopefully, long-term success, you coin a sound as an artist or a producer, and that's your brand. My brand is not being one thing, not having any one particular sound."

But being a multifaceted artist can be a hard message to communicate. "[U.S. radio stations are] into classification, they're into demographics, they're into what the music is supposed to sound like," Fiona explains, "which kind of irks me, because I feel like music is just music. I've had producers and labels tell me, 'You have to add Auto-Tune to your voice. No radio station out here is going to play your voice, because it's just too soulful,'" Fiona says with a sigh. "Well, Adele just ruled that theory out! I've been fighting that fight for three years."

Focusing on how Fiona adapts to suit the demands of the market is deceptive. It draws attention away from her strengths as a singer, such as her ability to turn on a dime and let loose a cry or a shout without interrupting the mood of the song, or her way of letting a melody shine rather than adorning it with fluttering vocalese. ("The foundation for a lot of American R&B singers is church," she observes. "I didn't come from church.")

She's apparently willing to smooth out some aspects of her musical taste that might prove less marketable down south - she doesn't shout out the "T-Dot" or drop serious Caribbean patois - but like a Canadian street with a New York taxicab parked on it, somehow the telltale signs are still there.

Michael Kiwanuka’s Soul Is On A Roll

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chandler Levack, Special to the Star

(Mar 25, 2012) British soul singer Michael Kiwanuka makes modern music that seems dappled with ’70s sunshine. On his debut LP Home Again (recently released in Canada on Polydor Records), tracks like “Tell Me a Tale” are the aural equivalent of an Instagram filter, missives from the modern world that simultaneously echo the halcyon days of Stax Records and the Greenwich Village folk scene.

The youngest child of Ugandan immigrants, Kiwanuka, 24, grew up in the now posh North London suburb Muswell Hill and resides in Camden. But the politics of being a young black male who listened to Joni Mitchell led him to an artistic crisis while slogging through gigs as the backing guitarist for U.K. rapper Chipmunk.

While Britain seems to coronate a new queen of soul every week, there’s always been a serious dearth of male singer/songwriters who hearken back to Otis Redding and Bill Withers. Now celebrated for his soulful sound — the notoriously feverish U.K. press has already crowned him as this year’s breakthrough artist —Kiwanuka struggled to admit to his early influences.

“You want to fit in so much when you’re a kid,” says Kiwanuka, sitting in a Royal York hotel room during a hectic visit to CMW.

“Nobody knew what this music was, and nobody was interested. At the places where I would go to play guitar, people weren’t interested in soul and jazz music; they were into Chris Brown. It wasn’t uncool, but it was weird. But I just always liked it.

“I think it worked out in the end,” he says, and that’s an understatement.

While Kiwanuka waits for his record to be released in America, he’s making waves at home. He won a BBC Sound of 2012 Poll, besting Frank Ocean and Azealia Banks, and has toured with Adele. He recently collaborated with Black Keys’ guitar player Dan Auerbach on his tender soul ballad “Lasan.” Graciously beaming through a short acoustic set for industry execs, Kiwanuka’s first Toronto performance was stunning. This was especially impressive considering he’d just returned from the mad haze of SXSW in Austin, Tex.

Even Marvin Gaye would have a difficult time navigating a career in today’s record industry. The gestation period for new bands is so quick, it’s rare to consider the development of an artist over time. Kiwanuka strives to find commercial success while continuing to experiment with his sound.

“There’s a hard balance between paying your record company back, in terms of an investment of selling albums, but also musically developing and growing,” says the musician.

“All my favourite artists seem to go through a stage where they change their sound, like when Dylan went electric or when Joni Mitchell did all that jazz stuff. I want to be able to stay myself and have a proper career. Maybe some people don’t necessarily think they’re able to do that, but I think there’s space to do that again.”

Kiwanuka has witnessed what it’s like for an album to capture the world’s imagination from the side of Adele’s stage. The songs on Home Again have a rare intimacy and purity behind them that showcase acoustic guitar playing in ways more Van Morrison than Jack Johnson.

At the heart of it is Kiwanuka’s gorgeous voice, which richly expresses the clouded confusion of a dude in his early 20s through an Al Green filter. On the swooning, indecisive love song “I Need Your Company” (off 2011’s Isle of Wight Sessions EP), Kiwanuka repeats, “Lord knows I’m trying/ Really, really trying.” Modern love songs like these rarely sound this romantic.

Kiwanuka’s 2012 is packed with music festivals, European jaunts and talk show performances. Lately he’s been listening to old Hendrix albums to consider what it means to go electric. Most of all he’s excited for what’s to come.

“If I felt like if I had ‘made it’ in one album, there would be something massively wrong,” says Kiwanuka.

“The good thing about being an artist is that I’m right at the beginning.”

Ontario’s Alyssa Reid Goes From Fetching Java To Awards Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Victoria Ahearn

(Mar 27, 2012) Between getting bruised on the rugby field, pouring java at Tim Hortons, finishing high school and touring Canada, Ontario-based singer-songwriter Alyssa Reid realized something had to give.

"I was kind of trying to have the teenage girl life and the teenage pop star life and they kind of don't mix very well, especially when you're joining sports teams and then going on tour two weeks later covered in bruises," the fetching 19-year-old said in an interview while dress shopping for this weekend's Juno Awards.

"I went on a tour called the SodaPOP tour and I could not wear a dress the entire tour because I was covered head to toe in bruises. It was not a good scene and I do not play rugby anymore."

Nor does she work at Tim Hortons anymore, a job she held down for a year and a half while she toured with the likes of pop/dance artist Danny Fernandes and R&B/hip-hopper JRDN.

"I did everything there," said Reid, who lives in Brampton, Ont., and will tour the U.K. next month. "I worked the cash register, I was a trainer, I baked.

"I was the foundation of Tim Hortons. Seriously."

With her coffee and rugby days behind her, the high-school graduate can now focus on her soaring music career, which has seen her get a 2012 Juno nomination for new artist of the year. Other nominees include JRDN, Dan Mangan, Diamond Rings, and Lindi Ortega.

Reid will also perform her hit pop/hip-hop single, "Alone Again," at the Ottawa bash on Sunday in what she calls a "live mashup" between five pop acts. The tune, a new interpretation of the 1987 Heart hit "Alone," features P. Reign and is on Reid's upcoming album The Game, due out on June 21.

"I did not think when we released 'Alone Again' that it was going to have the reaction it did," said Reid, who got a 2011 MuchMusic Video Award nomination for best pop video for the tune.

"So to get to be travelling the world and going to the Junos and performing at the Junos is a pretty overwhelming thing."

Born in Edmonton, Reid has been singing and writing tunes since she was young, when she joined the performing arts group Sunshine Generation.

"The first song that I ever performed was 'Purple People Eater,' and I still know the dance — it's really embarrassing — and that's kind of how I started in music," said Reid.

When her family moved to New Lowell, Ont., Reid joined another group called Pop Stars and tried to get the attention of record labels in Los Angeles.

"But everyone kind of (said) the same thing," she recalled. "It was, 'You're too young, you're not developed enough,' and nobody actually wanted to take the time to develop an artist."

With that, Reid started focusing mostly on her studies. In 2008, she was a finalist on YTV's reality competition The Next Star, but she didn't think she'd have a career in the recording industry.

"I still sang, I still loved singing, but I gave up on chasing it and I didn't think that it was going to happen," she said.

That changed the next year, however, when a video Reid had uploaded to YouTube was noticed by Wax Records and, eventually, by hundreds of thousands of viewers.

In the clip, Reid plays acoustic guitar and sings "One More Lonely Boy," her own interpretation of the Justin Bieber hit "One Less Lonely Girl."

"It took me 10 minutes and I recorded it in my kitchen and put it on YouTube and then I just kind of forgot about it and went on with my life," said the self-taught musician, who also plays piano.

"I think the YouTube video, which is what got me noticed, was probably the one thing I did without that intention."

Reid said she hasn't met Bieber but has heard from his musical director and lead guitarist "that his whole camp watched the video and they all liked it."

"It's kind of embarrassing because I didn't think that he was actually going to see it when I dedicated the song to him, but it's really cool to know that he did and that he enjoyed it."

The songs on Reid's forthcoming album are described as running "the gambit from club raves to R&B inflected joints and soulful ballads."

Reid said she's still trying to figure out what her musical style is, and though she plans to glam it up at the Junos this weekend, she's really a tomboy at heart.

"I grew up playing in mud and there was a little creek by my house when I first moved to Ontario and my sister and I used to ride our bikes down to the creek and find old (animal) skulls and stuff," said Reid.

"I'm just, I'm not a girl. I don't think I was ever one."

Madonna Invites Justin Bieber To Join Her On Tour

Source: www.thestar.com - By Victoria Ahearn

(Mar 27, 2012) Madonna has invited Justin Bieber to perform with her on tour.

The ‘Girls Gone Wild’ singer is a “huge fan” of the teen pop sensation and wants them to hook up at one of her summer concerts.

When asked what she thought of Bieber in a live twitter chat with fans, Madonna replied: “He’s awesome. I’m a huge fan. I love it when he raps (sic).”

Bieber — who has just released his new single ‘Boyfriend’ — replied: “Seeing that is a huge honor. Yours is a career artists dream of. Congrats on the new album!(sic)”

This prompted Madonna’s invite, with her writing: “Come and join me on stage when I’m on tour when we are in the same city, and congrats on your new single (sic).”

Elsewhere in the chat, Madonna revealed the full extent of her musical abilities. When asked if she can play any instruments besides guitar, she replied: “well I can play the drums. and I tried playing violin (sic).”

The singer also said she has been listening to a lot of dubstep musician Skrillex, wants Quentin Tarantino to direct a video to her track ‘Gang Bang’, and she has broken her index finger on her left hand during rehearsals for her tour.

She wrote: “Yes. I have a broken finger. I broke it the other day. My pinky just at the top (sic).”

Madonna, 53, is also looking forward to enjoying an alcoholic drink when her tour starts on May 29 in Israel.

Asked if she’d had a cold beer recently, she replied: “Not recently. I drank more beer when I lived in London. I won’t be having a drink until tour.”

Alice Tan Ridley, Mother Of Gabourey Sidibe: Interview

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(Mar 26, 2012) For 25 years, Alice Tan Ridley was one of dozens of performers entertaining weary commuters in New York City’s subway system.

Her favourite stops were 42nd St., Times Square, Grand Central Station, 14th and Union Square. She earned as much in her three-hour-a-day gig as she did in two weeks as an early childhood educator in school daycares.

Her daughter Gabourey Sidibe’s sudden fame in the Oscar-nominated movie Precious and an unsuccessful turn on America’s Got Talent has transformed her in the past two years from busker to headliner.

“When I was in the subway, I was level with the audience. I got up close and personal. They would come up and sings songs or break out dancing,” says Ridley, whose concert show and seven-piece band comes to Markham Theatre on April 13.

“When I’m onstage, I’m way up. What I liked was getting down and involved. But what I love about stage work is that my band is there. I do covers, but you can always add something new.”

Videos on YouTube captured by tourists and native New Yorkers show Ridley being hugged by subway passengers who stopped in their tracks, listened and then threw money in her case. She’s belting out Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It” in heat so intense she’s dripping wet, or in winter temperatures which have commuters in parkas.

There are hugs, applause and even some sing-alongs when she sings and dances to “Billie Dee,” her version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

For Ridley, it was a bit of a shock that people starting referring to her as “the mother of Precious”: the character Sidibe played in her breakout role in the 2009 movie.

“I lost Alice Tan Ridley for a while,” says the single mother of two who first joined the subway’s MUNY (music under New York) program in 1987 after her marriage ended. The program expanded to include outdoor venues such as ferries and malls, but Ridley stayed underground to avoid bad weather.

As Sidibe’s fame grew, and Ridley attended movie openings and Hollywood activities, the subway singer started yearning to come above ground. She participated in the 2010 America’s Got Talent and, although she didn’t win, it exposed her to larger audiences.

Since then, Ridley got an agent and has travelled to many countries including Holland, Germany and Canada giving concerts in the not-quite rags-to-riches story.

She was able to support her family just fine working in schools and the subway, says Ridley, adding people sometimes mistook why she was there.

“I had people say, ‘You don’t look homeless,’” laughs Ridley, who auditioned to be allowed to play on the subway platforms. The nickname “Subway Idol” was coined by her many fans and she uses it today in promotional material.

Growing up in Georgia in a musical family of 10 children, Ridley was raised on singing and has family members who play many musical instruments. Church was where she sang most and the radio was the source of her inspiration: everything from Motown to country.

While it is exciting to be at the start of a third career, Ridley will never forget the memorable years spent underground.

“Travellers would be worried about their mortgages, getting fired and their jobs. They would pass by me and see me singing. They would stand by me for two or three hours, hang with me in the heat all sweating or as cold as the dickens because they were entertained.

“I brought a little joy to people who were travelling.”

And what is she bringing to Markham?

“I’ll bring my soul.”

For Suddenly Famous Gotye, It's Mainly About The Lyrics

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Dave Mcginn

(Mar 25, 2012) Australian singer-songwriter Gotye has achieved a phenomenal level of success with his hit song Somebody That I Used to Know. The video for the song has been viewed more than 123 million times since it was uploaded to YouTube in July.

But the 31-year-old is hardly a musical newcomer. He's put out two previous records, Boardface and Like Drawing Blood. Still, with Somebody That I Used to Know, off his new album, Making Mirrors, the man born Wouter (Wally) De Backer has vaulted to international fame.

Currently on a tour that will bring him to Montreal and Toronto later this week, Gotye spoke to The Globe and Mail by telephone about the song and his new success.

How does it feel to be an overnight success after 10 years?

I love it. It feels great. It's new, it's fresh. I'm going to all these places in the U.S. and Canada for the first time, which is really exciting.

You are going to be performing on SNL in April. Were you excited to book the gig?

Saturday Night Live isn't broadcast in Australia, so I think potentially something like Late Night With David Letterman might appear to Australians to have more cultural resonance, in like, if you've played Letterman, that's it, you've made it. I must admit that I maybe didn't have as much of a sense of how big the show is. But a lot of people have been communicating that to me since the possibility came up to play it. It's pretty exciting.

There is much more sampling on your previous records than there is on Making Mirrors. What brought about that change?

There's still a lot of sampling on this record, but I did set out wanting to have a different process. I still find sampling a really exciting method for finding sounds and composing sounds. It was an element of how a lot of these songs came together. I kind of did things like apply a sampling approach to, say, taking an acoustic instrument and multi-sampling it and turning it in to a virtual thing. And I wanted to make things more my own.

What do you think this record says about where you are as an artist compared to your previous work?

There are songs on the new record I think I'm more proud of just the lyrics, how they came together, the way the intention managed to come through.

Obviously Somebody That I Used to Know has been the breakout hit from the album, but what are you proudest of about Making Mirrors?

I am proud of that song because it's really about the lyrics and about a peculiar collection of sounds. I had somebody put it in a nice way to me the other day. They said, "I just really hope you can find a way to write those songs that only you can write." You could write things that sound like other people, and you can play with that. But if you can strike upon that way to find those things that maybe only you happen to be able to peculiarly express then maybe you're finding yourself as an artist.

How did you come to work with Kimbra, the female vocalist featured on Somebody That I Used to Know?

I met her about five years ago. She was doing some small gigs in Melbourne. She sent me a YouTube link to a cover of one of my songs that she was doing. The next week I went and checked out her gig and she was amazing.

Part of the brilliance of the song is that it's both sides of a breakup. Was that there from the beginning of the songwriting process, or was it part of its evolution?

That song was written very linearly. The first break of guitar you hear is the first sound I found, which prompted the first lyric line and the first verse was written. Then I found the instrumental little guitar things that split the verses up and so on. Then I got to the end of the first chorus and I hit a bit of a brick wall. I tried lots of different things. I even considered just finishing the song there because I thought there was nothing left for my character to say other than maybe just becoming more embittered or more directly angsty. And then I thought, no, the best change up is to give another perspective.

Your character in the song certainly doesn't come off as entirely sympathetic.

It had set itself up once I put the other perspective in there for both narrators to be quite unreliable and to bring in to question anything either had said. I wanted the female perspective to do that specifically and also allow me to return to a repeat of the chorus of my part that would mean it would have a different sense, where you would question who you relate to. I wouldn't say I've written myself in as an anti-hero, but I'm not a particularly likeable character. All those things appealed to me about the song as I was writing it.

Did you have other break-up songs in mind when you were writing it?

I've been asked recently what are my favourite break-up songs. I didn't have a big list.

Where did the concept for the video, which features you and Kimbra partially naked and covered in paint against a work of art inspired by one of your father's paintings, come from?

Natasha Pincus, who directed and edited and produced it, it was her concept, really. She's done a number of really great, very arresting direct-to-camera performance film clips, also with kind of quite arty elements included for some other Australian artists. So I approached her directly and she came back with a fully realized treatment. My only real creative contribution was decided what the art work would be.

What was it like filming the video, considering the nudity?

It took a long time. The second day stretched out to 26 hours straight. It took some endurance. But I think because of the endurance aspect the part about being partly naked didn't bother us after a while. We were just trying to make something really interesting.

Gotye plays Montreal's Corona Theatre on March 30, Toronto's Kool Haus on March 31 and Vancouver's Vogue Theatre on April 8.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Madonna Should With Orbit After Uneven MDNA

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Mar 26, 2012) Scarred by divorce, sullied by a snippy press corps and besieged by dozens of younger, hipper pretenders to the pop throne that was hers and hers alone for a couple of decades, Madonna's got her back up on MDNA.

It can make her look a little desperate — the ecstasy-referencing album title is a bit much, for one thing, coming from a 53-year-old mother — but Ms. Ciccone's 12th studio album comes off as a much less egregious bid for eternal youth than 2008's too-forced Hard Candy. Once she gets done with lame Top-40 bait like the stillborn first single “Give Me All Your Luvin' ” — which employs Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. for nothing but cosmetic reasons — and the serviceable club-pop anthems “Girl Gone Wild” and “I'm Addicted,” she seems almost comfortable assuming a species of maturity.

Behind the shiny bubblegum veneer of “Turn Up the Radio” or the boastful claims to her own greatness made on the endlessly self-referential “Some Girls” or “I Don't Give A” — a robo-rapped shopping list of all the things Madonna must accomplish in a day crowned by Minaj's assertion that “There's only one queen and that's Madonna, bitch” — this is a rather sad, angry, messed-up, embittered, “I'm gonna get through this” record.

There's a considerable amount of vitriol aimed ex-hubby Guy Ritchie's way. “I tried to be your wife/ I diminished myself,” spits Madonna on the aforementioned “I Don't Give A.” “Gang Bang” is a smouldering retro-rave banger that has Madge fantasizing about watching her lover die “over and over and over” and — after the obligatory dubstep bass drop for the kids — declaring “If you're gonna act like a bitch, then you're gonna die like a bitch” with believable teeth.

“As if I was your treasury, you'd have found the time to treasure me,” she sighs regretfully on the bittersweet “Love Spent,” adding “I want you to take me like you took your money.” Still more open-veined are the closing numbers, “Masterpiece” and “Falling Free,” a pair of rather lovely ballads in which Madonna ruminates on the theme “nothing's indestructible” in a voice largely freed from electronic embellishments . . . and belatedly, unexpectedly knocks it out of the park.

Oh, what might have been. Madonna collaborates with Ray of Light producer William Orbit on these tracks, as she does on most of MDNA's finest moments — including what should be the next single, the delectable “I'm a Sinner” — suggesting that perhaps she might have been better served doing the whole album with him instead of piecemealing the thing together with input from such hitmakers-for-hire as Benny Benassi and Martin Solveig. Orbit clearly knows how Madonna should sound in 2012 and best how to musically enunciate the state she's currently in.

They might want to revisit that chemistry for album No. 13. Madonna could yet get lucky again.

Top track: “I'm a Sinner.” An insidiously catchy breath of future-funk fresh air in the “Beautiful Stranger” vein.

MADONNA
MDNA (Interscope)

MUSIC TIDBITS

Everyone From Norah Jones To Aerosmith Coming To Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 26, 2012) Concerts announced Monday by Live Nation for Toronto include: Norah Jones on July 6 at Massey Hall; Keane June 19 at Sound Academy; Sinead O'Connor on May 26 at Danforth Music Hall; Project: London Elektricity on June 29 at the Guvernment and Aerosmith (with Cheap Trick opening) on June 27 at the Air Canada Centre. Project: London Elektricity tickets are on sale now via Livenation.com; Aerosmith’s on sale Saturday and all others on Friday. Also John Mellencamp will play Oshawa's GM Centre on July 15; no word on tickets yet. And Collective Concerts reveals that the reunited Toronto instrumentalists Shadowy Men on the Shadowy Planet play Lee’s Palace on July 14; tickets will be $15 from Rotate This, Soundscapes or the Horseshoe Tavern.

Hawksley Workman To Debut Theatre Show In Calgary Next Year

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 27, 2012) CALGARY—Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman is working on a stage show that Alberta Theatre Projects plans to present next year. ATP says The God That Comes is a contemporary take on the ancient Greek tragedy The Bacchae. Workman will star and perform music in the production, which is slated to begin March 19, 2013 as part of ATP’s Enbridge playRites Festival of New Canadian Plays in Calgary. He also co-created the project with Christian Barry, a founding member and artistic co-director of 2b theatre in Halifax. The God That Comes is part of ATP’s 2012/2013 season, which kicks off Oct. 9 with Intimate Apparel by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. Other shows in the season include This Is What Happens Next by Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks, What To Expect by Joan MacLeod, and Darrah Teitel’s The Apology.

Deborah Cox to Join Broadway-Bound Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Geoffrey York

(Mar 27, 2012) *Producers of the Broadway-bound revival of “Jekyll & Hyde” announced today that Deborah Cox will join Constantine Maroulis in the musical Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, set to bow in spring 2013 after a 25-week national tour that starts in San Diego on Oct. 2. Cox, who sang the lead role in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Broadway musical “Aida,” has had six top 20 Billboard R&B singles, including the smash “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here.Maroulis, who was a finalist on the fourth season of “American Idol,” has been in “Rock of Ages” and received a best actor Tony nomination for his performance.

BET’s ‘106 & Park’ Devotes Episode to Racial Profiling

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 28, 2012) *BET’s “106 & Park” on Thursday (March 29) will explore the issue of racial profiling in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Hosts Terrence J and Rocsi, along with former CNN journalist T.J. Holmes, will discuss the issue of racial bias, informing and teaching youth how to cope with racial profiling. On hand will be a panel of special guests from music, law enforcement, politics, and community organizations who can share their knowledge and experiences. “This special ‘106 & Park’ brings the kitchen table conversations African American families have had with their young sons for decades to a larger audience,” notes BET in a statement. The episode airs at 6 p.m.

::FILM NEWS::    

Cinefranco 2012: Hard Times Spell Good Times For French Cinema

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Goddard

(Mar 22, 2012) The 2012 edition of Cinéfranco closes with All Our Desires (Toutes nos envies), a movie about average folks ground under by the sort of predatory greed depicted in La Sacrée, the movie from Ontario opening the city’s annual Francophone film romp this Friday.

Much of what’s shown in between — in the 26 other features, two documentaries and 11 shorts — reflects this economic freefall leaving fragile lives and faltering hopes.

Yet hard times in France — and elsewhere in the Francophonie — have meant good times for French cinema. France last year recorded the highest movie attendance figures in 45 years, with 215.6 million tickets sold. (Ticket sales were down more than four per cent in Canada and the United States.) More significantly, it was French-made films, not Hollywood’s, that led the way.

Marcelle Lean has an answer for that. “There may seem to be a little bit of a contradiction here,” says Cinéfranco’s founder and executive director. “People generally invest in films for diversion and wanting to escape from reality. But the French also love provocation, discussing politics and all the challenges. The French love to argue. It’s good nourishment for the spirit.”

And politics is in the air. The fall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and several years’ worth of combative politicking leading to the vote for president in late April and early May have also contributed to the rise of a more challenging cinema. France’s film marketers have also been heralding domestic releases to Hollywood-style fanfare.

Another factor can’t be ignored. Commercial French films — Cinéfranco’s main menu to distinguish it from film festivals — have been pretty good in recent years. Well, not exactly pretty. Not since the ’50 has French movie-making — even the broadest of comedy — been quite so obsessed with society’s hardships and the harsh milieu of the characters. “In every great film there is an element of the documentary,” as 1950s French screenwriter Charles Spaak once explained.

In its 15th year, Cinéfranco’s genius has been has to avoid those art-house films that, as Lean’s husband once told her, made him feel as if he “was in a French class.” Ironically, the majority of Cinéfranco’s $200,000 to $250,000 annual budget comes from Canada, not from the French film industry. Ticket sales defray only a small fraction of the total costs. “It’s been a little difficult at times,” says Lean. “But I think these films are relevant. They speak to an audience.”

Let us count the ways.

C’est l’économie, imbécile

In director Philippe Lioret’s All Our Desires (Toutes nos envies), sympathy and cynicism bring Claire (Marie Gillian), a young judge in Lyon, to Stéphane (Vincent Lindon), a cynical ex-judge who’s given up fighting the system that’s designed to ensure the poor dig themselves further into debt. In this well-performed drama the line between the haves and have-nots is practically invisible. Claire is very much like the young woman she must sentence to a life of poverty.

My Piece of the Pie (Ma part du gâteau), directed by Cédric Klapisch, shows France (Karin Viard), an unemployed but proud factory worker — with “no debits,” she informs her adult kids — who goes to work as a maid for Steve Delarue (Gilles Lellouche), a rising young stockbroker.

The Disintegration (La Désintégration), by Philippe Faucon, depicts young French Muslim guys, few job hopes in sight and feeling rejected by society, being drawn to show their anger by way of joining a terrorist cell.

Farce

Farce has not lost its force but a lightness of touch is a thing of the past. Remember Isabelle Huppert’s signature show of hauteur, the tiny muscle flickering along her upper lip broadcasting her absolute disdain? Well, in Anne Fontaine’s role-reversing comedy, My Worst Nightmare (Mon pire cauchemar) Huppert will be remembered for playing horsey with her lover, scrambling around on her hands on the living room floor.

In Beur Sur La Ville, Djamel Bensalah’s socially astute comedy, Booder (the Moroccan-born standup comic, Mohamed Benyamna) plays Khalid, the least competent trainee cop in Paris — he even failed his vaccination, says his proud mother — picked to run a racially charged investigation.

Back to Square One (Case Départ), directed by two standup comics, follows a pair of Antillean-born half-brothers sent through a time warp back to the times of slavery. The brothers aren’t pleased.

Holidays by the Sea (Ni à vendre ni à louer). If Pascal Rabaté hadn’t been so intent on aping Jacques Tati’s incomparable Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, a good many of the director’s own sight gags — a face-like kite “looking” through a window at a dominatrix at work — could be taken for their very own level of nuttiness.

Olivier Baroux’s wacked comedy, Les Tuche proves that poverty can come and go but chip trucks are forever.

In You Don’t Choose Your Family, director Christian Clavier finds plenty of droll things to say about a lesbian couple wanting to adopt a child.

Best of the Rest

For history, there’s A Mad Adventure: In the Footsteps of Jeanne Mance. What a wrong headed title! There’s nothing “mad” about Quebec documentary maker Annabel Loyola “inventing her life” as she investigates the history of Mance, one of Montreal’s founders.

Thrillers seekers should catch ex-cop Frank Mancuso’s Report for Missing Persons (R.I.F Researches Dans L’Intérêt Des Familles) for its tightly controlled plot and Yvan Attal’s wirey performance as a Paris cop with Rambo-like tendencies searching for his missing wife.

The 15th Annual Cinéfranco 2012 is at TIFF Bell Lightbox from March 23 to April 1. For more information go to www.cinefranco.com.

Lover Of Homegrown Film Revives Canadian Film Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Mar 22, 2012) A werewolf transformed Bern Euler into a Canadian film enthusiast.

He was in a video shop in his North York neighbourhood when he happened upon Ginger Snaps, the Toronto-made 2000 horror movie by Alberta’s John Fawcett.

“I watched Ginger Snaps and thought, ‘This was filmed in my backyard,’” Euler says in an interview.

“I hadn’t even heard of it. It was such an amazing movie where it blends the whole girl-coming-of-age with a werewolf. It was just such a beautiful story and a lot of fun. So I thought, ‘I want to see more of these.’”

Prior to this biting epiphany, which led to him creating what’s now called the Canadian Film Fest, Euler, now 39, hadn’t spent a whole lot time seeing or even thinking about Canadian films.

He was like his fellow Canucks, for whom 98 percent of what’s on offer at the multiplex comes from somewhere other than Canada, mainly from Hollywood. Unlike many of his fellow Canucks, however, Euler didn’t get defeatist about that 98 percent shutout for homegrown cinema.

This indefatigable optimist instead opted to build on the 2 percent, which is why from March 28 to 31 at The Royal on College St. he’s reviving the Canadian Film Fest, several years after it succumbed to a werewolf of a different kind: the 2008 economic crisis.

“It’s easy to see an American movie or even an Asian movie in Toronto, but it’s just really difficult to watch our own movies. This just didn’t make any sense to me.”

For this sixth edition of the CFF, which originally had a successful run from 2004 to 2008, Euler has programmed nine features and 10 shorts over four days, with panel discussions and parties on the side, all aimed at promoting our national cinema.

The fest is bookended by comedies. The opener is Cloudburst, a late-life Thelma & Louise riff by Halifax’s Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden), which stars Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as a long-time lesbian couple on the lam. The closer is A Little Bit Zombie, a “rom-zom-com” by Thunder Bay native Casey Walker, about a timid groom-to-be who turns brain-eater just before walking up the aisle with his Bridezilla-to-be.

In between are an eclectic selection of fictional and factual offerings, including three world premieres: Hit N’ Strum, by Kirk Caouette, a Vancouver writer/director/musician/stuntman, in the story of a career girl and a street busker; Material Success, by Toronto’s Jesse Mann, a doc about eccentric designer Bruno Ierullo; and Waiting for Summer, by Toronto’s Senthil Vinu, about two people struggling for connections amidst dysfunctional lives and families.

The rest of the CFF slate includes two horror films (Below Zero, The Unleashed), a drama of online infidelity (Webdultery) and a doc about Trooper Marc Diab, a 22-year-old Canadian soldier who gave his life in the Afghanistan War (If I Should Fall). The only common link is that they’re all Canadian films; the full program is at Canfilmfest.ca.

None of the films are from Quebec, which is unusual since la belle province is so much a part of Canada’s culture, especially film. There was nothing deliberate about this, Euler insists, just the luck of the draw amongst the hundreds of features and shorts he screened. Many Quebec films are snapped up by TIFF and by other fests across Canada.

“I’m not just looking for Canadian movies,” he explains. “I’m looking for really good movies that happen to be Canadian. They have to have both of those qualities.”

He’s also taking things slowly for this relaunch year. When the fest last unspooled in 2008, across town at the Varsity and Carlton cinemas, it had nearly twice as many screenings.

“At first, I thought of this as my sixth year, so I was going to continue on the way things were. But I learned very quickly to be a bit more humble! This is my first year, after being away for four years.”

Euler and his two business partners have invested $60,000 in this non-profit enterprise, most of it their own money, since cash sponsors aren’t as plentiful as they once were. But they’ve received hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services from such industry supporters as Mediacom, William F. White International, ACTRA Toronto and TIFF Film Circuit. Euler even managed to wrangle the talent, production and broadcast support to run TV ads promoting the fest.

This is no small achievement for a guy whose day job, which he’s currently on hiatus from, is working as a bartender in Toronto’s Distillery District. He hasn’t had much experience in the film industry, apart from running the CFF and trying to get a screenplay or two produced.

“I have the world’s most understanding girlfriend. She’s awesome, thank god, because (the festival) was a part-time job up until about a month ago . . . My sponsorship guys promised me a lot of money, like, ‘Oh, this is no problem!’ and they didn’t come through. All the sponsors that we have are me and my business partners.”

This raises a question: Why is Euler so passionate about Canadian film, when so many of his fellow Canucks don’t appear to be? He’s a strapping gent with so much drive, he could do well in a lot of occupations, and being a pro bartender means you’re always going to be popular.

“Why wouldn’t I be passionate about it?” Euler answers, although he admits he’s heard this question many times before. His dad and brother, both successful plumbers, don’t understand why he doesn’t follow in their footsteps. His dad calls him a dreamer.

“I just love, love movies. That’s what it really boils down to,” Euler says.

“And now all my friends are in the movie industry. I’m surrounded by it all the time. And also, I really love Canada. I was born here, but I’m half-Ecuadorian: my mom’s from Ecuador; my dad’s from Germany. I lived in Ecuador for about six months and when I came back, I realized how awesome everything was here. We live in a fantasyland here, with all the opportunities we have, and our quality of living.”

There are times, though, when he wonders what he’s got himself into.

“You know, I really do. There are moments when I think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Doing this is like making a Canadian movie, where everybody thinks it’s a good idea but nobody’s giving you any money. I do get a lot of support from people but, monetarily speaking, not much.”

Yet when the lights go down on Wednesday at The Royal, and Euler is sitting watching Cloudburst on the screen, it will all be worth it.

The enthusiasm is infectious, says director Fitzgerald via email: “I love that it’s an all-Canadian event and that it has its combustible, independent spirit. And I love that it’s new to me. I’ve been around the (festival) block a few times now.”

Euler’s ambition is to develop the CFF so it can be both a popular and commercial springboard for Canadian film at the six-month point from TIFF, which is the 800-lb. festival gorilla in this town.

“The goal is to have this festival be, in a few years, the premier event for Canadian filmmakers outside of TIFF. To have a bit of a marketplace going on. There’s a rumour — and I’m not allowed to say anything — that a big distribution company is going to pick up one of the films during the film festival. They’re going to make an announcement, which is really cool.”

Euler may be a dreamer, but he’s a patriotic one — and he has a knack for making his dreams come true.

South Africa 'Better Than Canada' For Filming

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Geoffrey York

(Mar 27, 2012) When Canadian director Ruba Nadda found it was too dangerous to shoot her latest film in the Middle East, she needed a location that could double for Syria. So she moved the production to a surprising place: South Africa.

"I was wary at first," she recalls in an interview on the Johannesburg set of her new film, Inescapable. "And then my mind was blown. The equipment and the crews are the best we've ever had in our entire lives." Her voice drops to a conspiratorial whisper: "Better than Canada."

Nadda has made the same discovery as a growing number of producers. A string of Hollywood shoots here in recent months - including Safe House and Chronicle - is making South Africa the new hot spot for film. And stealing business away from Canada.

The country's cinematic assets are similar to Canada's: a vast diversity of scenery, a multicultural population, relatively low costs, experienced film crews and generous government support (15 to 25 per cent of costs).

Like Canada, South Africa also has the advantage of urban and rural landscapes that can pass for almost anywhere. Chronicle uses the streets of Cape Town to mimic Seattle. In Machine Gun Preacher, the bushland near Johannesburg portrays South Sudan.

Nadda's film - about a Syrian expatriate who returns to Damascus to search for his missing daughter - is being shot in widescreen on a modest budget of about $5-million. That means every background detail must be authentic, but she has been thrilled by Johannesburg's gritty diversity, which took her back to her teenage years in Damascus, and she has had no difficulty finding the mosques, palm trees and desert highways that she needed.

"There are so many Islamic neighbourhoods here," she says. "We'd see a veiled woman walking down the street, and we're like, 'Where are we?' Look at the cobblestones, the palm trees, the colour of the sky - it could be the Middle East."

Already, South Africa's appeal is having an impact on Canada's film industry. For example, the producers of Chronicle considered shooting in Vancouver, but decided on Cape Town Film Studios instead, ranked as one of the 10 best studios in the world.

Nadda's producer, Daniel Iron, loved shooting in South Africa too: "You can find anything here. ... And it's cheaper than shooting in Canada, because labour costs are lower, location costs are lower and equipment costs are lower."

Not everything is perfect. Cape Town Film Studios has admitted that it needs to upgrade its facilities with sets in the style of American suburbs (which do not exist in South Africa) and with more stock of U.S. school buses, ambulances and left-hand-drive cars (South Africans drive on the right).

Crime is another potential issue for filmmakers here. Gerard Butler, star of Machine Gun Preacher, complained of carjackings and accidents in South Africa during his shoot. He told the New York Post that two crew members were killed during the filming, although he did not give any details.

But Nadda says she found South Africa safer than the Middle East. And she didn't face the censorship of her script that she would have been forced to accept in Jordan.

South African filmmaker Ronnie Apteker, who has made local movies as well as worked in the United States, goes further. He says it's easier to shoot films in South Africa exactly because the rules on the streets are more ... relaxed, shall we say.

He is candid that it's sometimes possible to slip some money to a policeman to persuade him to turn his back.

"There's no law here, and that's what we love," he says.

Usher Set to Play Sugar Ray Leonard in New Film

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 26, 2012) *Usher’s stepping back into the acting arena but this time as a champion boxer.

The singer is set to star in an upcoming film “Hands of Stone,” playing the role of Sugar Ray Leonard (below). The movie is actually about Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran Leonard, but Usher has a significant part.

He’s been training to become the world champion who achieved five different weight divisions and later retired from boxing in 1997 after making several comebacks.

“I’m in preparation for a very incredible role,” Usher said. “If you guys see me running around London that’s what it is. If you see me in the corners boxing. I’m doing that while working on this album.”

Filming for the movie will begin later this month.


Meanwhile, musically, Usher’s also working on his next album that will fit the musical tastes of more than just R&B fans.

“I love the feeling that we have here and the different styles of music, let’s find a way to make an album that works everywhere, that works here, works for my fans, works for the classic audience, works for my pop audience, and that’s why you feel you’re hearing this eclectic mixture of music,” he told NME.

FILM TIDBITS

Spike Lee Grooming Young Filmmaker

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 25, 2012) *Spike Lee is helping a young, hopeful movie producer, reach his film goals by helping him produce a film about manic depression. The son of Ray Dialo, who runs a $80 billion Bridgewater Hedge Fund, Paul Dialo, is aspiring to become a filmmaker. And for his debut, he will share with the world something he suffers from through a film called, “Mania Days.” The story centers on a “manic depressive rapper who gets involved with a manic depressive poet in a passionate affair that results in pregnancy,” reports Shadow and Act’s Tambay Spike Lee will be pretty involved with the project as the overseer and plans to be hands-on. Dalio (junior) is a graduate of NYU’s MFA program, just like his idol Spike. The production is still in the early stages, as casting hasn’t even been thought about.

Director Kasi Lemmons to Adapt Zadie Smith’s ‘On Beauty’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 28, 2012) *”Eve’s Bayou” helmer Kasi Lemmons will adapt and direct “On Beauty,” based on the Booker Prize-nominated novel by Zadie Smith. The book has been described as an academic comedy of manners, focusing on the story of two families with different but increasingly intertwined lives, race and sexual politics. It’s also been called a modern day “Howard’s End,” which was an inspiration for the author, reports Deadline.com. Lemmons, who has also directed “Talk To Me” with Don Cheadle and “The Caveman’s Valentine” with Samuel L. Jackson, is developing at Fox Searchlight an adaptation of Langston Hughes’s gospel play Black Nativity. The film will be developed as a coproduction between Carol Polakoff Productions, Ruby Films and Film4.

::TV NEWS::    

Arctic Air’ Soars To 15-Year Ratings High For CBC-TV

Source: www.thestar.com - By Cassandra Szklarski

(Mar 28, 2012) CBC says its airline adventure Arctic Air has soared to higher ratings than any of its previous rookie dramas in 15 years.

The public broadcaster says the hour-long series averaged almost one million viewers over 10 episodes.

Arctic Air centres on a Yellowknife-based airline and the mavericks who run it.

It stars
Adam Beach as a cocky pilot, Pascale Hutton as a fellow flyer and Kevin McNulty as the airline’s crusty co-founder.

CBC says the show debuted Jan. 10 with 1.2 million viewers and wrapped its run March 13 with a season average of 965,000 viewers.

Network boss Kirstine Stewart says the last time a CBC drama debuted to numbers like that was 15 years ago, when Wind At My Back hit the air.

“We’re back to these heights of when the CBC was kind of more in its heyday when it came to dramas,” said Stewart, executive vice president, CBC English services.

Which is fantastic considering how the market’s changed in the last 20 years.

Sisters & Brothers’ Gabrielle Miller: Family Life After Corner Gas

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Mar 22, 2012) When Gabrielle Miller put down her coffee pot for the last time on the set of TV’s Corner Gas, where she played comely café owner Lacey Burrows, she was ready to pick up a new role in her life: mom.

“It wasn’t that difficult a decision,” 38-year-old Miller said on a sunny morning in an east-end French bakery near her home. “My mind and heart just weren’t there. For me, it was time to be with my family and be with my son. I was a brand new mom. My son was 2 when we became a family and I just wanted to be with him.”

Miller and her husband adopted Swaziland-born Mthobisi around the time the CTV hit show went off the air after six successful seasons, in January 2009. He’s just turned 5.

After two years at home, Miller returned to work in 2011, landing a part in the final installment of director Carl Bessai’s Family X trilogy, Sisters & Brothers, opening Friday. She plays Louise, a good-natured woman who is trying to help her brother Jerry (Benjamin Ratner) deal with schizophrenia but who finds her patience severely tried, often with comic results.

As with Bessai’s previous films in the trilogy, Mothers & Daughters and Fathers & Sons, there’s only a bare-bones script for actors, who work with the director to craft their dialogue themselves, improvising as they go.

“It was very exciting because it was something I hadn’t done before,” said Miller. “It was challenging and scary. We had scene beats and knew what we wanted to hit, and a story arc, and the rest of it is just improvisation and exploring what comes up.”

Effervescent, blue-eyed Miller comes across as the kind of actor would jump into any situation with a smile and a wave. Maybe it’s her upbringing, raised by parents who were “true Vancouver hippie folk.” Need proof? Her middle name is Sunshine.

“My mom sold Georgia Straight on Granville St. and my father supported us by working at Banyan Books,” she said with a grin.

Although she’s moved around a lot for work and now lives in Toronto, British Columbia still feels like home to Miller. She and her husband A.J., whom she met in Regina while shooting Corner Gas, own a small B&B in Nelson, a picturesque town in the B.C. southern interior. Her parents and two brothers and their families also live there. “It’s like crazy kid world, it’s wonderful,” she said. “We have 10, 15 people over for dinner.”

Miller has always been a sought-after actress and has a slew of Gemini and Leo (B.C. film and TV prizes) awards to her name. She has done guest spots on American shows Cold Case and NCIS and was part of the cast on Canadian TV series including Robson Arms, Alienated and the Jason Priestly comedy Call Me Fitz.

But she can credit Corner Gas, one of Canada’s most successful TV series, for making her a familiar face to viewers — and introducing her to her husband.

“He worked at an excellent Irish pub, O’Hanlon’s, and the cast would go in on the weekend and hang out. We were really good friends for a couple of years before we started dating. When he finally let me know how he felt, I burst into tears and I realized, ‘I love this man.’ I knew I was going to marry him.”

Miller hasn’t stopped since she returned to work. She’s wrapped Trailer Park Boys’ Mike Clattenburg’s latest comedy, The Guys Who Move Furniture, co-starring Will Sasso (The Three Stooges) and Canadian stalwart Victor Garber.

Tuesday, she embarked on a new adventure, heading to New York to start rehearsing couples’ therapy comedy Psycho Therapy at the Cherry Lane Theatre. It opens April 8.

Like the experience of working on the improv-heavy Sisters & Brothers, Miller relishes the idea of a new challenge with her first onstage role. But she’ll always return to film and TV, she said. “That’s where I feel at home and that’s the love of my life, outside friends and family.”

Lindsay Lohan To Reportedly Guest Star On ‘Glee’

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 28, 2012) Lindsay Lohan is set to guest star on Glee.

The troubled actress — who has previously complained about the musical TV series for mocking her stints in rehab — is reportedly in final negotiations to appear on the program to play herself as one of the celebrity judges in the annual nationals competition, website TVLine reports.

Meanwhile, Whoopi Goldberg has signed on for a stint in the show that is expected to last for three episodes.

The Sister Act star will play Carmen Tibideaux, a professor at New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts (NYADA), the school which graduating students Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) and Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) have applied to.

Goldberg’s character — who will first appear on U.S. screens on May 1 — is expected to oversee the pair through their auditions.

Although Whoopi is only slated to appear this season, it is possible she may return in the future as Michele and Colfer’s characters will remain with the show next year, despite graduating from William McKinley High.

Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said recently: “People are going to graduate, and their story lines will carry on through graduation into Season 4, also keeping the William McKinley High School paradigm intact and building in elements of characters who have graduated.

“It’s a very cool way they’ve figured out how to do that.”

Kathy Bates Will Play Ghost Of Charlie Sheen’s ‘Two And A Half Men’ Character

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bang Showbiz

(Mar 23, 2012) Charlie Sheen is “honoured” that Kathy Bates will play his ghost on Two and a Half Men.

The troubled actor was fired from the sitcom last year partway through its eighth series after a fall out with its co-creator Chuck Lorre over his hedonistic lifestyle. Bosses plan to bring back the spirit of his character Charlie Harper, which will be portrayed by the Misery star.

According to TMZ.com, Sheen has told friends he thinks Bates is an incredibly funny, talented actress and he can’t wait to tune in to watch the episode on April 30 in which Charlie’s brother Alan Harper (Jon Cryer) sees the ghost after landing in hospital with a minor heart-attack.

Perhaps Sheen is fine with his show moving on without him because he is focused on his new TV program Anger Management which will debut on June 28.

Loosely based on the 2003 film featuring Jack Nicholsonm it will be Sheen’s first TV series since he was axed from Two and a Half Men and FX President John Landgraf recently admitted he was “skeptical” about the project when he first heard about it and knew the reformed hellraiser was involved.

He said: “I walked into the pitch as skeptical as you might imagine I would be. It was just a really excellent pitch. I saw a really good pitch for a comedy series. I believe in redemption. I’m all for giving him the opportunity for turning things around.”

TV TIDBITS

Hot In Cleveland Visits Ontario

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Mar 26, 2012) Never mind stereotypes about moose and Mounties; the TV comedy Hot in Cleveland will play on our rep as a gay marriage haven when the series visits Canada in its season finale. The second season wraps with Elka (Betty White), Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli), Victoria (Wendie Malick) and Joy (Jane Leeves) visiting Ontario to celebrate Elka’s wedding. According to a CTV news release, the episode plays on the hit movie The Hangover, with the women losing Elka during her stagette after they sneak onto an Ontario-bound cargo plane with the touring cast of Hairspray. “The girls wake up to find Victoria and Joy with outrageous hairdos, Melanie duct-taped to the wall, and the house trashed and crowded with sleeping frat boys,” the release says. “Meanwhile, Joy and Victoria find out that they both got married to each other the night before in a lesbian wedding ceremony performed on Canadian soil.” The episode airs Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on CTV.

Jimmy Kimmel To Host Emmy Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bang Showbiz

(Mar 26, 2012) Jimmy Kimmel is to host the Emmy Awards for the first time. The talk show host has been unveiled as presenter of the prestigious ceremony, which honours the best in television and takes place on Sept. 23. Referring to actor Eddie Murphy — who pulled out of hosting this year’s Academy Awards — Kimmel said: “I hope to be able to do for the Emmys this year what Eddie Murphy did for the Oscars.” The telecast of the prestigious ceremony will be executive produced by Don Mischer for the 12th time. The director and producer is “thrilled” to be working on the awards show again. He said in a statement: “We love television and look forward to working with the television academy and ABC in creating a show that is fast-paced, humorous, unpredictable, and at times irreverent, but clearly celebratory of our incredible industry.” Kimmel has previously hosted the American Music Awards and the ESPY Awards and is set to host the White House Correspondents’ dinner next month. The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre.

Smash Gets A Second Season

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 22, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — NBC has smashing news for fans of Smash. The network said Thursday its musical drama series has been picked up for a second season. Smash is a much-heralded blend of backstage procedural and song-and-dance numbers. It debuted last month. It is not a ratings smash but has won critical praise and a healthy audience averaging 7.7 million viewers. Series stars include Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston and Katharine McPhee as players in the unrelenting world of Broadway theatre.

The L.A. Complex Gets 13 More Episodes

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 28, 2012) Fans of The L.A. Complex will be getting an additional 13 episodes of the shot in Toronto, set in Los Angeles series. The order from Bell Media expands the first season from six episodes to 19. The series, produced by Degrassi’s Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn, follows a group of Hollywood hopefuls sharing an L.A. apartment as they try to get their big break in show business. “The team here is very excited about jumping back into this lush and provocative world to push the envelope even further and see where these characters can go,” said Canadian writer-producer Martin Gero, of HBO’s Bored to Death, in a release. The cast includes Toronto’s Cassie Steele, known for her role as Manny Santos on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Vancouver’s Chelan Simmons, from Final Destination 3 and Carrie, and Stratford, Ont.’s Joe Dinicol, of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Virgin Suicides. The new episodes, which will begin production in April, should air in July. The L.A. Complex airs on MuchMusic and premieres on the CW on April 24.

Laz Alonso Joins Meagan Good in NBC Pilot ‘Notorious’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 28, 2012) *Actor Laz Alonso has been cast as the male lead opposite Meagan Good in NBC’s drama pilot “Notorious.” As previously reported, Good stars as detective Joanna Locasto, who returns undercover to the wealthy and troubled Lawson family she grew up in — as the housekeeper’s daughter — to solve the murder of celebutante Vivian Lawson, who was once her closest friend. Alonzo will play NYPD detective Will Sacovitch, who recruits former flame Joanna to infiltrate the Lawson home, in the hope of finding evidence that Vivian was murdered. He segues to “Notorious” from A&E’s “Breakout Kings.”

Whoopi Goldberg Headed to ‘Glee’ for Several Episodes

Source: www.eurweb.com


(Mar 28, 2012) *Whoopi Goldberg is joining Fox dramedyGlee” for a multi-episode arc, according to TV Line. The actress and current co-host on “The View” will play Carmen Tibideaux, a professor at New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts (NYADA) who does Kurt and Rachel’s auditions. Also coming to “Glee” is Lindsay Lohan, who will play herself, serving as a celebrity judge at Nationals. “Glee” returns to the Fox schedule on Tuesday, April 10.

::ARTS NEWS::

For Elena Juatco, Art Imitates Love

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Mar 28, 2012) Like any 26-year-old woman, Elena Juatco has experienced “loves and losses and everything in between.”

It’s useful fodder for her latest project, starring in a musical about love at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Juatco performs opposite Gabi Epstein, Jeff Madden and Jay Davis in I Love You Because, opening March 30 at the North York theatre.

The show is a kind of modern riff on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, with Juatco playing a girl who tries to recover from a busted relationship by deliberately searching for Mr. Wrong (Madden). She finds him but loves him and that’s when the fun begins.

Besides her own romantic experience, Juatco brings her singing voice and radiant beauty to the project.

The country got to know her singing during the second season of Canadian Idol and she’s been sharing her riches ever since, whether in shows like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in Vancouver, or playing the title role in Snow White and the Group of Seven for Ross Petty here in Hogtown.

Juatco shared some thoughts on romance ahead of the musical’s opening.

“I’m a romantic and I have been ever since I was a kid in Vancouver,” she says. “I went to a private girl’s school called Crofton House, with big ivy-covered walls around it to keep the boys out. But that didn’t stop me. I would do plays so I could go to the boys’ schools and meet them. I guess that’s how it all began.”

In those early days, she learned that “it helps to be a Canucks fan to get a guy in Vancouver and luckily, I was,” but life got more complicated as she got older.

“First there was Canadian Idol and my life just got crazy after that: people who you never met thinking they could come up and try to have a relationship with you. That’s why I hurried back to my studies at Queen’s University and lived the college life. It brings you back from the fame and the craziness. You become a student again and you date like one as well.”

Juatco was not anxious to share actual details of her romantic existence, except to say, “I’m 26 years old, I’ve had my share of loves and losses and everything in between. And I bring everything I’ve been through into the rehearsal hall to use it.”

She said she finds the dating scene a bit weird nowadays.

“I find it hilarious. All these rules that people have about dating! You can’t call until three days after a date. You can’t have sex until you’ve been dating for four weeks. Who decided those things?

“Sure I’ve blind dated, dated online and what have I learned? Women now are not willing to settle for less than they deserve and that’s just as it should be.”

Juatco seems so amiable that I have to ask if there’s anything men do on a date that annoys her automatically.

“I don’t like it when guys talk themselves up all the time,” she says. “What job they have, how much money they make. Nobody cares. I want a guy who’s real and a real gentleman.”

Juatco sees children in her future, “once I’m grown up,” she laughs. “But seriously, children are magic and I love them.”

As for the “L” word itself, Juatco says, “Love is what makes us human. That’s why we want to write songs about it, tell stories about it, put it onstage and film. It’s pervasive in all of humanity and it comes in so many different forms. That’s what’s so beautiful about it.”

She adds, “and this show will make you think it’s all worth it!”

Steven McCarthy Directs Bliss At Buddies In Bad Times

Source: www.thestar.com - By Alison Broverman

(Mar 27, 2012) Steven McCarthy was anything but blissful when he first encountered Bliss.

“The play is ultimately about lonely people,” said the actor turned director about the work by Franco-Ontarian Olivier Choinière.

And 2009 “was probably the loneliest year of my life.”

The play, which runs at Buddies in Bad Times until April 8, is about the extreme parallels between celebrity and victimhood, as demonstrated by a group of Céline Dion-loving Walmart employees.

McCarthy chatted about it wandering through the Walmart at Dufferin Mall, ostensibly looking for a toy for his dog, Ben, but mostly enjoying the strange juxtaposition of discussing theatre under fluorescent lights surrounded by discount housewares and clothing.

In late 2009, McCarthy had broken up with his girlfriend of nine years and was back at the National Theatre School, the only student in the directing stream that year. McCarthy graduated from the school as an actor in 1997 but wasn’t content to rest on his acting laurels (he’s appeared in many Canadian TV series and movies like The Skulls and Eye of the Beholder).

He was also recovering from a life-altering accident the previous year, a slide down a mountain that required two surgeries on his leg and years of physiotherapy.

Artistically, the starkness of Bliss appealed to him. “I could feel that this was a play that was all about the performance of it. It was stripped bare to the bones of what a play ought to be,” he said.

Bliss takes the cast and audience from the highs of a Dion concert to the lows of child abuse in a sort of disturbing surrealist pop concert (Dion’s music is featured throughout the show). It’s a challenge for a young director (this production will mark McCarthy’s debut as a mainstage director).

There was a cross-cultural aspect that appealed to McCarthy as well. “I had this itch of wanting to explore something Quebecois,” he says. “I think it was somewhat mercenary; I knew that the acting community was much larger in French and I wanted to work with the best actors possible.”

McCarthy grew up in an anglophone home in Ontario but was sent to French school and grew up speaking French with francophone friends. But the French/English divide hit him sharply when he arrived in Montreal to attend the National Theatre School in the mid-’90s, when the province was embroiled in separation anxiety.

“The two solitudes were embodied in that building,” he says. “You could walk down the halls for years and literally not acknowledge that you were going to school with (the francophone students).” In fact, playwright Choinière was a French student there at the same time as McCarthy.

But that divide could be inspiring, too. “There was a mutual admiration for the other culture, realizing how different the acting tradition could be.”

McCarthy brought in French Canadian performers for the English translation (done by British playwright Caryl Churchill), which he first directed at theatre school and in a highly acclaimed 2010 Summerworks production. For two of them, it was their first time performing in English.

“I can’t believe I found these people, and that they believed in me and have stayed with me this long,” McCarthy says.

The cast, Delphine Bienvenu, Jean-Robert Bourdage, Trent Pardy and France Rolland, has remained intact since the first theatre school incarnation.

In choosing Bliss as his theatre school project, McCarthy says he “was picking the most difficult play I could possibly imagine. I thought, ‘This is way beyond my grasp.’ But I also thought, if I’m going to fail, I might as well fail at school, and fail spectacularly.”

McCarthy doesn’t take for granted the opportunity to merge the theatrical worlds of French and English Canada. “I’ve been calling my mom often to thank her for sending me to French school.”

Bliss plays at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St., until April 8. Call 416 975-8555 or visit buddiesinbadtimes.com for ticket information.

Quiet Canadian 'Superstar' Shines On Broadway

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By J. Kelly Nestruck

(Mar 22, 2012) Lyricist Fred Ebb didn't get it exactly right in the song, New York, New York. A less rousing, but more accurate line would have been, "If you can make it there... you'll make it there."

That's something for Canadians with fragile artistic egos to remember as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's understated production of
Jesus Christ Superstar opens on Broadway.

Because as much as director Des McAnuff is known as a Tony winner who, to borrow another lyric from Ebb, gives them the old razzle-dazzle, his revelatory production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's great rock musical is very Stratford, Ontario.

It is subtle rather than bombastic, and very human-sized. The voices are giant, but the acting is intimate and internal - and, if anything, has become more so since the summer.

With his hypnotic performance as Jesus, Paul Nolan remains the show's superstar - "an amazing thing - this silent king," as Pontius Pilate describes him. Of course, Nolan's hardly quiet all the time and, in fact, brings down the house when he unleashes his tortured solo, Gethsemane.

Chilina Kennedy's Mary Magdalene rarely telegraphs her emotions, either; she keeps her pain largely hidden away, maintaining a strong front for Jesus in his final days - even holding his hands as he's whipped. ("Everything's all right, yes, everything's fine," she sings, after all.) Only when he dies on the cross does she weep.

The main difference between McAnuff's production as it appeared in Stratford and now on Broadway is this: the audience.

At the performance I caught this week, you could hear the ears listening differently - perhaps expecting theatrics right from the get-go and coming up against lead performances that don't sell themselves to you, but ask you to lean in close to discover them.

The crowd only really came alive in the first act when the talented Lee Siegel hit it out of the park with his gospel-style belting of Simon Zealotes - a song where doubts are drowned out by "power and glory." (Siegel thanks "God!!!' in his program bio and that pretty much sums up his winning approach to this number.)

Another change, for the better: The Stratford Shakespeare Festival ensemble is tighter and fitter than ever. If the camera adds 10 pounds to an actor, Broadway apparently takes 10 off with its gruelling, eight-shows-a-week schedule. All of which makes Lisa Shriver's restrained choreography, with its cool nods towards hip hop, come across as even more divine than before.

At the performance I saw, there was one other crucial difference, albeit a temporary one. Josh Young, who played the role of Judas in Stratford and La Jolla, has been sidelined by illness for most of the opening week. Understudy Jeremy Kushnier, a Broadway veteran originally from Winnipeg, was in for most of the media nights.

There's no doubt that Kushnier's a pro, but the pseudo-love triangle around which McAnuff builds the production is no longer equilateral with an older, more direct Judas.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a young show - Andrew Lloyd Webber was in his early 20s when he wrote the score - and it was well served by three leads channelling the intense earnestness of youth.

Josh Young's heartthrob Judas was a wide-eyed zealot who saw himself as the one true believer and who was only semi-conscious of his more base motivations for betrayal; Kushnier's Judas is more wretched, more clearly motivated by a curdled, unrequited love for Christ.

Strangely enough, it's Kennedy's Mary who is most overshadowed by the shifting dynamics - she ends up coming across as too enigmatic. When she sings "I don't know how to love him" with Kushnier's Judas creeping from one of Robert Brill's beautiful catwalks, it almost becomes his number.

If I got to doubting in the first act, however, I became a true believer in McAnuff's production once more after intermission.

Those who didn't see Brent Carver as Pontius Pilate won't miss him. Tom Hewitt is a worthy replacement; conflicted, if slightly less on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Bruce Dow's short routine as King Herod has improved vastly, having moved from mere comic relief to a darker, more dramatic place that's equally entertaining.

And the final scenes leading to Christ's Crucifixion are stunning, as McAnuff keeps ratcheting up the tension. The final sequence had me holding my breath so long I nearly turned as purple as the suit Paul Tazewell has designed for Pilate.

And so, Jesus Christ Superstar has made it to Broadway; now we'll find out if it makes it here.

Jesus Christ Superstar

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Des McAnuff
Starring Paul Nolan and Chilina Kennedy
At the Neil Simon Theater in New York
4 stars

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

TECHNOLOGY TIDBITS

iPhone Ousts Blackberry From Top Spot In Canadian Smartphone Market

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Mar 22, 2012) MONTREAL—A technology expert says it’s no surprise that BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has been ousted from the top spot in the Canadian smartphone market by Apple’s iPhone. Queen’s University marketing professor and tech expert John Pliniussen says RIM now needs a powerful “one-two punch” of marketing and exciting products. A report says the Waterloo, Ont., company shipped just more than two million BlackBerrys last year in Canada, compared with 2.85 million units for Apple. Prof. Pliniussen says how new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins handles the Canadian decline will provide a glimpse into his leadership potential. The next-generation of BlackBerry smartphones isn’t expected out until later this year, leaving RIM with few new products to sell to consumers and corporate users.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Can I Enjoy The London Olympics Without Breaking The Bank?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Karan Smith

(Mar 23, 2012) It is possible to soak up the London Olympics on a budget – especially if you like sleeping in a tent.

The country's Camping and Caravanning Club has organized numerous sites, some for as low as $12 (£7.50) a night. Its Waterworks site (called Lee Valley at campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk) is located 10 minutes from the Olympic Park, with site fees of about $70 (£45) a night. And Camp in London (campinlondon.com) is transforming a field in East London into a tent city, with options ranging from pitch-your-own sites for $23 to luxury tents with rugs, tea-light chandeliers and continental breakfast for $150 a night.

Other budget options include B&Bs and glam hostels such as Clink78 (clinkhostels.com), a former courthouse with designer dorms, and Palmers Lodge (palmerslodges.com), with its salvaged furniture and curtained-off beds. (For more sleeping options, search Visit London under “London 2012” and “Essential Information.”)

As for ambience, there are plenty of ways to catch the mood on the cheap.

Free Olympic sporting events include road cycling, marathons and sailing, says Ted Flett, a spokesman for VisitBritain. “Olympic live sites across the U.K. will also entertain spectators who couldn't get quite so close to the action.” (These “live sites” will include big screens in the city's famed Hyde Park, Victoria Park and Trafalgar Square; search london2012.com for details.)

And the London 2012 Festival, the finale of the Cultural Olympiad, will see more than 1,000 events held across the country. Free spectacles include floating operas, gladiators wrestling with electrical current and pop-up athletic acts, as well as annual parties such as Radio 1's music fest, Hackney Weekend.

If you do want to cough up some coin to witness the world-class athletes sweat, there are tickets still available to competitions such as diving, canoe sprinting and rowing. Through CoSport (cosport.com), Canadians can buy individual tickets, as well as packages that include a hospitality pass and rooms at the Hilton London Metropole, says Mark Lewis, president of Jet Set Sports, CoSport's sister company.

Whatever you decide, the Mayor of London's (molpresents.com) tagline seems to ring true: It will be a summer like no other.

Send your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Maple Leafs sign NCAA free agent Spencer Abbott

Source: www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran

(Mar 28, 2012) The Maple Leafs have dipped into the U.S. college hockey free agent pool again, landing Hamilton native Spencer Abbott.

The 23-year-old left winger from the Maine Black Bears signed Wednesday with the Toronto Maple Leafs — the team he grew up idolizing.

He signed a one-year, $925,000 deal that kicks in starting in September. He’ll report to the AHL Marlies on Thursday on an amateur tryout contract. He turns 24 on April 30.

Abbott is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in NCAA hockey. He led the Black Bears with points (21 goals, 41 assists) in 39 games.

“It’s something I never thought would happen,” Abbott told the Hamilton Spectator about signing an NHL contract. “Especially growing up as a small guy who never got drafted anywhere.”

Abbott, who grew up a fan of Doug Gilmour and the Leafs, said he was also offered a contract by the Calgary Flames and elected to follow his heart: “Lying in bed last night, I finally made the decision.”

Too small to play major junior, Abbott played Junior A with the Hamilton Red Wings. He had a late growth spurt to reach 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, and was an alternate captain on the Black Bears.

The Leafs have had mixed success in signing undrafted free agents from the U.S. college ranks. No. 1 centre Tyler Bozak may be the team’s most successful. Goalie Ben Scrivens is another who’s under contract and appears to have a bright future. Others, including Christian Hanson and Brayden Irwin, haven’t lived up to the hype that accompanied their arrival.

Toronto Blue Jays Stockpile Talent

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Jeff Blair

(Mar 26, 2012) It is a book with an ending, but not a conclusion. It has taken two years of compiling what assistant general manager Tony LaCava describes as being "bits and pieces" of wisdom and analysis to finally put together the Toronto Blue Jays' player development manual.

It is all words and intentions to go along with an extra short-season team in Bluefield, W.Va., for all the young talent and a pile of breathless spring training dispatches and laudatory articles from Baseball America. Everybody loves the Blue Jays' minor-league system once again, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos hopes they're right.

"The truth is, we haven't won anything and we don't even know if what we're doing is going to work," Anthopoulos said, stopping just short of being the same kill joy he was at the winter meetings when he made his attendance and payroll link. "Don't get me wrong: We believe it will and we hope it will, but it would be a little arrogant and presumptuous of me to start talking about how great we are."

Rating prospects is still a mug's game. Noah Syndergaard is regarded by Baseball America as the Blue Jays' eighth-best prospect, yet when the Oakland Athletics spoke to the Blue Jays about a trade for Gio Gonzalez they had Syndergaard at the top of their list. Still, given the Blue Jays' focus on accumulating compensatory draft picks and their financial commitment to the amateur draft, it stands to reason that depth would be impressive.

The Blue Jays forked out $11-million (all figures U.S.) in the 2011 draft, despite not signing first-round pick Tyler Beede. That was just shy of the club-record $11.6-million spent in 2010, when the Blue Jays had nine picks in the first three rounds and landed pitchers Deck McGuire, Justin Nicolino, Aaron Sanchez, Asher Wojciechowski and Syndergaard.

The Blue Jays were no less aggressive in the 2009 draft, giving third-round pick Jake Marisnick $1-million despite an off-year in his senior season in high school and major concerns about his swing, and going over slot to sign right-hander Drew Hutchison, a 15th-round pick, for $400,000 - essentially, a major-league-minimum salary. Since 2010, the Blue Jays have also handed out seven-figure bonuses to four international free agents, including a $10-million deal to Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. He'll be in Toronto on an everyday basis in some capacity in the 2013 season.

Sal Fasano gets to do more than read about all these players. He saw them all spring at the Bobby Mattick Training Center and he managed some of them to the Double-A Eastern League title with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, including top-ranked prospect catcher Travis d'Arnaud and the organization's lead-off hitter of the future, Anthony Gose.

D'Arnaud and pitcher Kyle Drabek were acquired as part of the booty for Roy Halladay. Gose came along in a trade with the Houston Astros for Brett Wallace, who was acquired from the Athletics in a trade for another minor leaguer acquired in the Halladay deal, Michael Taylor. No wonder LaCava says that the Blue Jays "jump-started our minor-league system with the Halladay deal." "What we have now is a group of interchangeable parts at the minor-league level," Fasano said. "One guy goes, somebody else is promoted."

It is the levels of talent that are impressive. D'Arnaud, McGuire and Drew Hutchinson (numbers eight and nine) and pitcher Chad Jenkins are lined up behind Drabek and knocking on the door for 2012 if needed. They will at worst be September call-ups. Gose, rated No. 2 by Baseball America, will push the envelope by cutting down on his strikeouts.

Behind them are two other groups, including two Canadian-born outfielders who have blossomed: Mississauga native Dalton Pompey (a 19-year-old and 16th-round pick in 2010 who was name-dropped by manager John Farrell in a spring training conversation around the batting cage) and Michael Crouse, a 6-4 beast from Port Moody, B.C., who was drafted in the 16th round in 2008 as a crude, power prospect and who took a big step up at Single-A Lansing in 2011.

Anthopoulos and LaCava do not deny there is now a prototypical player and pitcher that will catch the Blue Jays' eyes at draft time. But they won't go any further.

"What I'd say is that more and more in the past couple of years, I realized how much I like athletes," Anthopoulos said. LaCava isn't all that forthcoming, either, beyond saying the player must be athletic, "a good size," and be projectable: meaning a scout can make a case the player has a high ceiling that will not be maximized early in his development.

"Basically," LaCava explained, "our goal is to give Alex as many internal options as possible to fill needs at the major-league level. That includes trades."

Gose is one to watch in 2012. He increased his walk rate in 2011 as well as his power numbers, but his contact rate dipped as he struck out 154 times in 587 plate appearances. But there's a story behind those numbers: Drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008, he was taught to chop down and use his speed. The Blue Jays overhauled his swing and want him to go gap to gap, channelling his natural power. Then, as Fasano said, they "took the handcuffs off" in Double-A.

As Anthopoulos said, it made no sense to overhaul Gose's swing and then take the bat out of his hands. The results were predictable, and the Blue Jays hope a season at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he'll see more crafty off-speed pitches, will be a necessary next step in his development.

"I know I need to improve my two-strike approach," said Gose, whose personality arrived in the majors two years ago. "I need to battle more. It was never about that last year; it was about swing mechanics.

"The rest of the stuff? Leading off ... being closer to the majors ... that's all hearsay."

Music to Anthopoulos' ears, no doubt.

10 TO WATCH
Jays prospects, according to Baseball America, with their estimated time of arrival in the majors
1. Travis d'Arnaud, C, 23 (ETA: 2012)
2. Anthony Gose, CF, 21 (ETA: 2013)
3. Jake Marisnick, CF-RF, 21 (ETA: 2014)
4. Daniel Norris, LHP, 18 (ETA: 2015)
5. Justin Nicolino, LHP, 20 (ETA: 2014)
6. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, 19 (ETA: Sept., 2015)
7. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, 19 (ETA: 2015)
8. Deck McGuire, RHP, 23 (ETA: 2012)
9. Drew Hutchison, RHP, 21 (ETA: 2012)
10. Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, 23 (ETA: 2014)

Canada’s Past Champions Marvel At Patrick Chan

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

(Mar 26, 2012) NICE, France—Toller Cranston calls himself estranged from the figure skating world, and on his sprawling property high in the lush mountains of central Mexico, surrounded by his sculptures and colourful paintings, he is indeed a world away from the ice rink.

Yet Cranston can’t help but watch
Patrick Chan.

“I’m on another planet watching Patrick Chan with binoculars and applauding along with the rest of the world,” Cranston said from his home in San Miguel de Allende.

Chan is the defending champion at the world figure skating championships this week in Nice and he’s looking to add to his legacy.

No skater has won back-to-back men’s titles since Stéphane Lambiel (2005 and 2006) of Switzerland, and no Canadian has won two in a row in any discipline since Elvis Stojko in 1994 and 1995.

But Cranston said the 21-year-old from Toronto has already made his mark on the sport. And several generations of Canadian skating stars agree.

Cranston, Kurt Browning, Stojko, Brian Orser and Donald Jackson – all world champions – say Chan can do it all.

The 5-foot-8 skater is the full package – impeccable skating skills, footwork and spins, big jumps, exquisite artistry and an ability to draw in the crowd.

How good is Chan?

“I almost don’t want to watch him because it’s too depressing. It’s too good,” Cranston said.

“Patrick Chan has literally – with Kurt, Elvis, Brian, me – he’s literally left us buried in the dust. There has never really been anything like him. What he is is the absolute quintessential mixture of artist and sportsman.

“I don’t think I could watch him skate live, I’d commit suicide out of depression at how good he is,” Cranston added, erupting in loud laughter.

The 62-year-old Cranston, an Olympic and world bronze medalist, was known for his groundbreaking artistry. He’s washed his hands of the sport, in part because of the new judging system that was implemented following the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City that he feels has killed the skating’s popularity and stifled its creativity.

Chan, he believes, transcends the marking system.

“It’s way beyond [scoring],” Cranston said. “Patrick Chan is and will become very important to the history of figure skating. He’s just one of those extraordinary people with a bright future and is also an impeccable role model for the world.”

Chan went undefeated through 2011, claiming the world title last April in Moscow and setting three world scoring records in the process. He began 2012 in much the same manner, winning his fifth Canadian title and then the Four Continents title.

Cranston believes the person Chan is off the ice is just as crucial to his success.

“He’s as nice as apple pie,” Cranston said.

He’s respectful of his coaches. And he’s smart. Chan is fluent in three languages, plays piano, is proficient at several sports, and is a strong student. He recently spent a night at his home in Colorado Springs, Colo., building a computer from parts.

“In order to push the envelope in the sport, you have to have a brain,” said Cranston, who was a self-supporting artist at 16, is fluent in four languages, and has published nine books.

Orser, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, met Chan at the Toronto Cricket Club when the young skater “was a little pipsqueak,” and had a good feeling Chan would develop into a world-class skater.

“Just by his work ethic,” Orser said. “He just loves skating, so that was kind of shining through, and he had lots of energy.”

Browning, a four-time world champion, said it’s difficult to describe what he admires most in Chan’s skating – they’re the subtle things more easily appreciated by his peers than the average fan.

“We did a little 30-second [segment] together in [South] Korea last summer, and I was like, ‘Slow down dude, you’re leaving me!’ He was like, ‘I am slowing down,’” Browning said, with a laugh. “It was really interesting to be on the ice with him and just appreciate how he transfers energy into flow.

“For me, the quad, I can find on YouTube a couple of sweet quads [Browning did]. And I know I did quad-triple combos and I did triple Axel-quad toe combo. ... I did lots of cool stuff. What I love the most about Patrick is the crazy transfer of energy that he can do. I just don’t get it. It’s amazing.”

Canada Advances To Semifinals At CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tourney

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 26, 2012) NASHVILLE, TENN.—Canada moved on to the semifinals but missed out on a chance to clinch first place in its group at the CONCACAF men’s soccer Olympic qualifying tournament.

Evan James scored for Canada, which gave up a late goal to Cuba in a 1-1 draw on Monday.

Lucas Cavallini charged the Cuban goal then passed back to James, who fired a low shot to the far corner that gave Canada the lead in the 24th minute.

But Maykel Reyes tied the game in injury time after heading in a ball on a free kick past Canadian keeper Michal Misiewicz.

Russell Teibert nearly made it 2-0 on a free kick in the 70th minute, but Cuban goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper stretched to tip the ball over the net.

Canada entered the game in prime position to win Group A after a stunning 2-0 upset of the United States on Saturday.

Now Canada will move on to the semifinals in Kansas City, Kan. The two tournament finalists qualify for the London Games.

The final group positions were still to be decided with the U.S. and El Salvador also in action. A U.S. win will give the Americans top spot in Group A, meaning a less favourable semifinal matchup for Canada.

Canadian Swimming’s Sister Act Halfway To London

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman

(Mar 27, 2012) MONTREAL—Etobicoke’s Brittany MacLean never had to look far to find her swimming idol — she’s always been right across the breakfast table.

The MacLean sisters, Brittany, 18, and Heather, 19, have long been each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

On Tuesday night, it was Heather’s turn to wave those pompoms as her little sister had the swim of her life to break one of the oldest Canadian records and book her ticket to the 2012 London Games.

Britanny powered her way to a time of four minutes, 06.08 seconds in the 400-metre freestyle, smashing the seven-year-old mark of 4:07.32 set by Brittany Reimer. Toronto’s Savannah King also qualified for London on the opening day of the Olympic swim trials in finishing runner-up in 4:07.02.

Now, MacLean just needs one thing to make it complete — sister Heather to earn her ticket in the women’s 200-metre freestyle on Thursday.

“It’s been our dream since we were the littlest girls,” said Brittany. “She’s been my No. 1 fan and I’ve been her No. 1 fan. I’m just so excited for her. I know she’s got it in her. I couldn’t be happier and I can’t wait to see her.”

It turns out Brittany has Heather to thank for venturing into the freestyle scene. She started out in butterfly at the Etobicoke Swim Club, but shoulder problems forced her to consider other events.

“I looked up to her my whole life,” said Brittany. “She was the Canadian record holder in the 200 free. At the time, I wasn’t even swimming freestyle. Now, I took it up and it’s my best event. I just wanted to be exactly like her from day one. I’ve always looked up to her. She is my idol.”

MacLean’s previous best was 4:10.32 in winning a gold medal last summer at the world junior championships in Peru, but she felt she had a performance in her like the one she unleashed.

“Honestly, I did,” she said. “I knew I could do it. I knew it was going to be a good race. I trained so hard for this day. I knew it was going to be good. I didn’t know it was going to be that good. I’m just so excited to make Canada proud this summer.”

For Scott Dickens of Ancaster, Ont., winning the men’s 100-metre breaststroke to qualify for London was redemption after he failed four years ago to earn a trip to Beijing when he entered the trials as the top-ranked 100-metre breaststroker.

What really hurt was when some teammates suggested to him that his career was over. But he found the motivation to continue.

“I went to see a school in my hometown and the title of my speech was ‘Never give up,’” said Dickens. “I walked into the gymnasium and there was a banner the whole size of the gymnasium saying ‘Never give up.’ And those kids were my inspiration because even though I didn’t make the team, they supported me through everything.

“And seeing the look on their faces, standing, cheering, saying my name, I knew then I had a job to do and that was to come back four years later and prove to everyone — and most importantly myself — that I’m still the best breaststroker and I can still do it.”

Also qualifying for the Canadian Olympic team on opening night of the six-day event were 18-year-old Alec Page of Victoria (men’s 400-metre individual medley), 18-year-old Katerine Savard of Cap-Rouge, Que., (women’s 100-metre butterfly) and Blake Worsley of Vancouver (men’s 200-metre freestyle).

“What you’re looking at is a bunch of young up-and-coming kids that are setting the tone for the team, but I think guys like Dickens bring maturity to the team,” said Swimming Canada boss Pierre Lafontaine. “I think we got the best of both worlds tonight.”

Tiger Woods Gets First PGA Tour Win since Sept 2009

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 26, 2012) *Tiger Woods pulled away from his competition at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday to earn his first PGA Tour win since September 2009.

Months after capturing the 2009 BMW Championship, Woods became tabloid fodder for his multiple extra-marital affairs and subsequent end of his marriage. His golf game also suffered significantly in the 3 1/2 years since, due in large part to various injuries.

He walked up toward the 18th green Sunday to fervent applause, tipping his hat to fans. He ended up tapping in on that hole for par, to finish five strokes ahead of second-place finisher Graeme McDowell. The victory marked his seventh win at the annual Orlando, Florida tournament.

“It feels really good,” Woods told NBC, which covered the event. “(It was) a lot of hard work, I’m so thankful for a lot of people helping me out along the way. It’s been tough.”

The tournament’s namesake, Arnold Palmer, did not congratulate the winner as expected because of a health problem that led to his going to Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando.

After the tournament, Woods took to Twitter to express his joy and also send out well wishes to Palmer.

“Heading home now and I can’t stop smiling. Thanks to Otown fans and everyone watching for all the love. Get well soon, Arnie,” he wrote.

Next for Tiger will be the Masters in April. Despite earlier concerns that he may be hindered once again by injuries, Woods expressed optimism and enthusiasm Sunday that he’d do well.

“I am excited. It’s always fun to get there, and it’s always fun to play,” he said. “(It is) all coming together at the right time.”

SPORTS TIDBITS

Magic Johnson Led Group Buys LA Dodgers for $2 Billion!

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 28, 2012) *From Jackie Robinson to Magic Johnson! The Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that that broke the color line in major league baseball by recruiting the legendary Jackie Robinson, has now been sold to an organization headed by basketball legend Magic Johnson, reports the Wall Street Journal. Johnson and his group won an auction for the Dodgers Tuesday night, marking the final chapter of a soap-opera style saga for the legendary franchise. With a bid of $2 billion, Johnson and partners Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly beat out a group of some of the wealthiest businessmen in the country to land a team that is one of Major League Baseball’s flagship franchises. The sales figure shatters the previous record sales price for a U.S. sports franchise, Steve Ross’s purchase of the Miami Dolphins for $1.1 billion three years ago. Read/learn more at LA Times.