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May 17, 2012

Long weekend in Canada -
Happy Victoria Day weekend! Can't wait to feel the sun the sun on my face and have days to enjoy it. Remember to celebrate safely!

There's a special event coming up next weekend - it's all about supporting theatre arts in Toronto! It's about a group of small time crooks in Montreal who attempt to hoodwink the townsfolk out of their money. Check out the fundraiser for
Miracle Man below under HOT EVENTS!

I know alot of you already know of Canadian rapper
D.O. (Defy the Odds) and will be thrilled to know that he has released is debut solo album entitled Heavy in the Game. You will probably remember him from the rap duo, Art of Fresh. There are a few music videos here to support the release of the album (so talented!) so check it out under SCOOP.

Don't forget to check out the tags that have
VIDEO on them so you can watch music videos and/or film trailers!

In this weeks news: Leonard Cohen wins and gives away; Thousand Foot Krutch earns new kudos; CBC has tons of changes in TV programming; Larry Bird wins yet again - now on and off the court; 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!


MAY 27:: The Miracle Man Fundraiser Featuring Celebrity Karaoke

Source: Andrew Moodie

Come eat, drink and karaoke the night away! Supporters of the arts in Toronto, now is your opportunity - they need your help to bring this play to life. Join us for an exciting fundraising event in support of Renaissance Theatre’s workshop of The Miracle Man at the Gladstone Hotel.

Directed by Shaw Festival’s Associate Artistic Director Eda Holmes and written by Michael O'Brien and Allen Cole,
The Miracle Man is set in the 20's about a group of small time crooks in Montreal who head to a small town in Quebec in an attempt to hoodwink the townsfolk out of their money, but they soon discover that the tables have been turned. Based on the Frank Packard novel, The Miracle Man is a classic, Tin Pan Alley style musical.

Renaissance Theatre is a company created by
Andrew Moodie to revive plays that have amazing potential and need a second chance at life. Together with Brenda Kamino, they are presenting a reading of The Miracle Man in early September.

This fun night of Celebrity Karaoke, hosted by Catherine Johnson, features many special guests including:



Terminal City

Lost Girl


Miraculous Cures



Way Downtown

Billable Hours

Being Erica



The Border

Degrassi: TNG

How to be Indie


Rookie Blue







The L.A. Complex



The Incredible Hulk





We Will Rock You


Lost Girls








Global News

The Gladstone Hotel

1214 Queen Street West

6:30 PM – 10:00 PM
Cash Bar, Hors d'oeuvres and Silent Auction

Tickets: $40 ($60 for 2); reserve your ticket at: tickets.renaissance@gmail.com
Facebook: Miracle Man Fundraiser

If you can't make it, you can always send a donation through Paypal. All payments are made to our email address at renaissancecanada@gmail.com.

Special thanks to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts.


VIDEOS: Canadian Hip Hop Artist D.O. Releases Free Online Album (Heavy in the Game)

Source: Strut Entertainment

(May 15, 2012) Toronto, ON –Canadian rapper and Guinness World Record holder (Longest Freestyle Rap), D.O.
(Defy the Odds), released his new independent album, Heavy in the Game. The inspiration for Heavy in the Game comes from D.O.’s extensive domestic and international touring, his experience with launching independent label Northstarr Entertainment, and his success as one half of hip hop duo Art of Fresh. The album features 19 songs recorded at home in Toronto, in Taiwan with producer Brooke "Diz Dallas" Daye and in Nova Scotia with Canadian rapper/producer Classified. A full track listing is included below.

"It's On" featuring Chad Hatcher produced by Classified

"’Heavy in the Game’ is a line that comes from my favourite 2Pac song," says D.O. "It's about being immersed in your craft that even though you may want to leave, you can't - you've worked too hard to get where you are and there's no looking back. As a Canadian musician, especially a rapper, I'm grateful that I've been able to be doing this professionally for 10 years. This album represents my best work. I'm proud that a lot of people will be able to relate to this album. Heavy in the Game is about trying to do the right thing even when you are faced with the temptation to slip."

Born in Watrous, Saskatchewan, D.O. moved to Ontario with his family at the age of two. Growing up, he spent summers visiting his father's family in Cape Breton and his mother's in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. D.O. graduated from Toronto's York University in 2001. In 2003, he was featured in XXL Magazine for his Guinness World Record and he hit the road for the first of many tours, selling mix tapes from his trunk in the north-eastern U.S. Around the same time, D.O. created his school tour program, Stay Driven, developed to educate students on anti-bullying, anti-violence, peer pressure and leadership. In 2007, he released his debut album, The Northstarr, which earned a nomination for Best Hip Hop Artist at the Ontario Independent Music Awards. By late 2008, Art of Fresh released their debut album, Back to the Earth, with the breakout single "Out This World" soaring to #1 on the U.S. College Hip Hop Radio charts. Between Back to the Earth and Art of Fresh’s sophomore release (2010’s When the Night Comes In), D.O. released his sophomore solo album in 2009, Stay Driven. The album featured several prominent producers, including Classified, Slakah the Beatchild, Marco Polo and Metty the Dert Merchant (Sweatshop Union).

With numerous videos in rotation on MuchMusic, thousands of YouTube views and MySpace plays, D.O. is an artist and entrepreneur with a creative vision and a hunger for success that is matched only by his ability to deliver relevant music with a message.

The album can be downloaded at: http://iamdo.bandcamp.com/

Twitter: @iamdo


"She Likes You" produced by Classified already has close to 150,000 views on Youtube

"Can't Tell Me" produced by Jahronomo Inc.

1. Bill Russell
2. Interlude
Heavy In The Game (feat. J-Bru)
4. Interlude
Can't Tell Me (feat. Famous, Sonreal, Chris Jackson)
6. Take It In (feat. Slakah the Beatchild)
7. Interlude
Back To Blazin (feat. Chris Jackson)
9. For Heaven Sake (feat. Slakah the Beatchild)
10. Interlude
It's On (feat. Chad Hatcher)
12. By The Way
Take Care of Me (feat. Miss David)
15. Be Alright (feat. Preetam Sengupta)
16. What You Want
17. She Likes You
18. Ah Yeah (additional vocals by Maestro Fresh Wes)
19. Shut It Down (feat. Rochester)
20. The Legacy 2.0
Can’t Tell Me (Original)


Leonard Cohen Accepts Glenn Gould Prize, Gives Away The $50,000

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Nick Patch, The Canadian Press

(May 15, 2012) Toronto—Leonard Cohen humbly accepted the Glenn Gould Prize on Monday, but not the $50,000 prize that accompanied it, instead donating the cash to the Canada Council for the Arts.

The 77-year-old Cohen struck a modest tone as he claimed the award, first by hushing a standing ovation and then by offering his reassurance to the roster of musicians set to perform in his honour.

“Thank you so much ... how very kind of you to greet me with such hospitality,” said Cohen, briefly doffing his trademark black fedora.

“I’m going to make these remarks mercifully short because I want to hear the music ... if there is any anxiety about performing in front of me, please let it dissolve completely. I go into bouts of childlike ecstasy ... when I hear anyone cover my songs.”

It was a joyful affair for the Montreal troubadour, then, as an eclectic mix of artists offered faithful renditions of Cohen’s best-loved tunes (well, most of them – his oft-covered Hallelujah was given the evening off).

Illinois country-folk songwriter John Prine, Toronto roots outfit Cowboy Junkies and Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor were among the musicians to fete Cohen while he looked on happily from the balcony above, applauding each performance and offering enthusiastic, two-handed waves to any musician who happened to glance up at him.

And former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson was just one speaker to compare Cohen to Gould, the eccentric piano virtuoso who inspired the biennial award, given for unique lifetime contribution to the arts.

“I think it is wonderfully fitting that the prize in his name goes to Leonard Cohen,” Clarkson said.

Cohen also opened up about his relationship with Gould during his brief time onstage.

He recalled meeting the Toronto native for the first time around 1960. A twenty-something Cohen was interviewing Gould for a magazine and nervously ventured to the pianist’s apartment to meet.

“This was before the days of tape recorders,” said Cohen, who recalled that the interview – intended to last a few minutes – stretched for hours.

“I was so engrossed by what he was saying, I stopped taking notes. Those words were burned into my soul.”

Until Cohen returned to his Montreal home to write, that is.

“I couldn’t remember a word that he said,” added Cohen, who became the ninth recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize and followed in the footsteps of Montreal jazz great Oscar Peterson and Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu Gould and Cohen would meet again years later, at Columbia Records’ New York headquarters.

“He was recording something sublime, I was recording something otherwise,” quipped Cohen, noting that he was, at the time, endeavouring to master the hip new slang.

“I said (to Gould), ‘Hey man, what’s shaking?’ He said: ‘I didn’t know you were from Memphis, Tennessee.’”

While Cohen avoided overt sentimentality in his words, an array of speakers from different disciplines happily offered testimony to Cohen’s brilliance.

Actor Alan Rickman compared Cohen to the 16th century English poet Thomas Wyatt. Celebrated author Michael Ondaatje discussed the ways in which Cohen’s 1963 book, The Favourite Game, helped him transition to life in Montreal as an immigrant to Canada. And Clarkson, whose friendship with the singer dates back nearly 45 years, said his two novels “made (her) life worthwhile.”

But perhaps most touching was the brief tribute offered by Cohen’s son, Adam, who performed Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye before closing the show with a rousing sing-along take on his father’s 1967 hit, So Long, Marianne.

“I welled up when my father was speaking. I’m so honoured to be part of this honour,” Adam Cohen said.

“Thank you for the music. Thank you dad.”

Thousand Foot Krutch Gets Extra Support Online

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen

(May 16, 2012) Is crowd funding the new music industry paradigm?

When Christian hard rock trio
Thousand Foot Krutch split from its label after 10 years and selling nearly one million albums, the Toronto-area band was at a crossroads.

“At the end of the day, we just felt that we’d hit a ceiling,” said singer and songwriter Trevor McNevan, 33, of the band’s association with EMI’s Tooth And Nail Records. “We’d been praying and sorting through our options, and we had some incredible record deals on the table.”

Instead of revisiting the typical scenario — record company pays large advance, owns the final master, shares marketing costs with band, with band receiving royalties of 10-13 per cent only after they’ve recouped costs to the label, and still forfeits ownership of master to the label — Thousand Foot Krutch took a real leap of faith: They decided to go the social media route and raise money to record their new album through Kickstarter, the self-described “world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.”

The band listed their request to fund their sixth album during a 30-day campaign in December, promising such incentives as signature guitars, handwritten lyrics and Skype phone calls with certain pledge levels.

Their goal: $40,000.

“We reached that in less than 12 hours,” revealed an astonished McNevan.

Their eventual tally: $105,294 from 2,681 backers, a 263 per cent return.

“We’re the third most successful Kickstarter music campaign ever,” McNevan declares.

The first is actually still going on as we speak: with 18 days left in her Kickstarter crusade, Boston-based singer and songwriter Amanda Palmer — co-founder of The Dresden Dolls and Evelyn Evelyn — has raised a record $663,227 to help promote, manufacture and distribute an album she recorded with her new outfit The Grand Theft Orchestra that will be out in September. The bets are on as to whether Palmer will reach $1 million in pledges by the time she hits her May 31 deadline.

In the case of Thousand Foot Krutch, the resulting album, The End Is Where We Begin, debuted three weeks ago at the top of Billboard’s Hard Rock Album and Christian Album charts; No. 3 on the Alternative Album and Independent Album charts, and No. 14 on the Billboard Top 200 for the band’s best crossover sales results ever.

“It was definitely a kind of a firecracker start that we’re excited about,” says McNevan, a Peterborough native now based in Brentwood, Tenn., a stone’s throw from Nashville. Bass player Joel Bruyere still calls Windsor home, while drummer Steve Augustine lives in Grimsby.

“We’ve always serviced radio from active rock to alternative, as well as the Christian market. We’ve always toured both markets, and it’s in our hearts to make music for everyone. It’s something we haven’t achieved on previous records, and it’s exciting to see the growth there.”

The New York-based Kickstarter doesn’t fund only music projects: artists, filmmaker, fashion designer or even inventors can go the crowd-funding route. For its trouble, Kickstarter takes five per cent of the tally raised, and another three to five per cent goes to Amazon for processing the pledges.

For bands like Thousand Foot Krutch, however, that’s a modest price to pay considering the money raised is free from such encumbrances as record company debt and allows them to retain full ownership of their intellectual property.

And even though McNevan, whose band performs at the Overflow Youth Conference in Waterloo on May 19 and whose “War Of Change” has been licensed for this Sunday’s WWE Over The Limit pay-per-view, admits that the $105,000 won’t cover the full “$600,000 cost of this record” by the time promotion, publicity and marketing expenses are all factored in.

But he says the real dividend is a closer relationship with the band’s fans.

“We wanted to connect with them on a more intimate level and we wanted to be able to do this together.”

CBC Fall 2012-13 Lineup: A Few New Faces, Less Original Programming

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(May 11, 2012) The CBC has made one final cut to its fall 2012 season, trimming George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight to 30 minutes from an hour and moving it to an early prime-time slot.

That pits the eight-season veteran interviewer against shows like etalk, whose host, Ben Mulroney, was quick to throw down the gauntlet in a tweet: “Hey @strombo. Welcome to 7PM. On you mark. . . Get set. . . ”

Details of the show’s format are still being worked out between now and September, said a CBC spokesperson. It will be followed by popular U.K. soap Coronation Street.

Stroumboulopoulos, who hosted the launch event, did not attend a media session that followed, which included stars like Republic of Doyle’s Allan Hawco and Mr. Dee’s Gerry Dee.

Stroumboulopoulos’s show, which will be shot live at the CBC’s Front St. headquarters, will be repeated at 11:30 p.m., following an expanded half-hour late news program.

Against a backdrop of sharply reduced federal funding that will result in 175 fewer hours of original programming, the launch was a glitzy variety show-style event featuring lots of spectacle, including Kevin O’Leary of Dragons’ Den in drag, a live performance by country music star Dean Brody, a video montage and an appearance of the Stanley Cup.

“As it’s always been, news of CBC’s demise is greatly exaggerated. We won’t be retreating. We are moving forward,” said Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president of English services.

Much of the lineup has previously been announced by the broadcaster, including the elimination of U.S. game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, and the return of strong performers like Dragons’ Den and Arctic Air, a show that averaged one million viewers in its inaugural season.

Other new shows include: Over the Rainbow, a reality series to find a Dorothy for a Toronto production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of The Wizard of Oz; Cracked, a crime drama that pairs a police officer played by David Sutcliffe (Gilmore Girls, Private Practice) and a psychiatrist in a newly formed “psych crimes unit”; an eight-part miniseries starring Neve Campbell and Chris Noth called Titanic: Blood and Steel, about the building of the doomed ocean liner; and the arrival of Murdoch Mysteries, a detective series set in 19th{+-}century Toronto and starring Yannick Bisson, which CBC picked up for a sixth season after Citytv dropped the series.

Murdoch’s fifth season will air on Citytv between June and August, before repeating throughout the fall on CBC. Season 6 of Murdoch will air on CBC in January 2013.

Similar launch events will be held next week in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver, even as the broadcaster faces a funding crunch resulting from federal cutbacks that will reach $115 million annually in three years.

Stewart defended the launch events, saying advertisers, who provide up to $500 million to CBC television, demand them.

“In a world where the government money is diminishing, preserving your advertising is a pretty important thing,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the network is also determined to bring back Battle of the Blades, a popular reality show pairing retired hockey players and figure skaters, which was placed on hiatus because of high production costs.

“It would be unfortunate if we couldn’t make it work. Everyone’s intention is to make it work,” Stewart added.

Larry Bird Adds To Legend, Is Named NBA Executive Of The Year

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 16, 2012) NEW YORK—Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird was voted the NBA’s Executive of the Year on Wednesday, becoming the first person to win that award, plus the MVP and Coach of the Year honours.

The Pacers went 42-24 and are tied 1-1 with Miami in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Bird’s moves to strengthen the team during the off-season included promoting Frank Vogel from interim to head coach and signing starting forward David West.

He acquired point guard George Hill in a draft-night deal with San Antonio, and traded for Lou Amundson and Leandro Barbosa to fortify the bench for the Pacers, who earned the No. 3 seed in the East and had the fifth-best record in the league.

“This is an honour for the Indiana Pacers, not an award for Larry Bird,” Bird said in a statement. “Everyone in this franchise put in a lot of work and showed a lot of patience as we have tried to get this team to a level on and off the court the fans in Indiana can be proud of. You always believe, and hope, the players you get will fit into a plan and I’m very proud of what our guys and our coaches have accomplished so far this year.”

Bird was a three-time MVP as a Boston Celtics player, then guided his home-state Pacers to a 147-67 record in three seasons and their only finals appearance in 2000. He was the Coach of the Year in 1998 following his first season.

He returned to the Pacers’ front office in 2003 and became the full-time president in 2008 after Donnie Walsh left to join the New York Knicks.

Bird received 88 points and 12 first-place votes from a panel of his fellow team executives Wednesday. San Antonio’s R.C. Buford was second with 56 points and eight first-place votes, while the Los Angeles Clippers’ Neil Olshey finished third with 55 points (six first-place votes).


A Slurry, Rum-Buzzed, Focused And Firm Andre Williams

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

Night & Day
Andre Williams & the Sadies (Yep Roc/Outside)

(May 13, 2012) "I know I'm a rummy, but I ain't no dummy." Uh-huh, amen. Andre Williams has a way with rhymes. Dude's a right Don King, or something out of a Steve Miller song: A smoker, a joker, a midnight toker who really does love your peaches and who will absolutely shake your tree. Yeah, it's like that.

Williams, a pimpy 70-year-old Detroit hustler who was audacious back in 1957 with his saucy Jail Bait hit single, is alive (if sometimes unwell) with Toronto's Sadies, his sidemen/collaborators and sawed-off-shotgun holders. They combine for oily punk blues, hellacious garage rock and countrified R&B - something for everybody and those in cellblock C.

Just listen to Your Old Lady - a funky thing of go-go cosmic twang and jangly giddy-up. In it, Williams is portrayed as a noble fellow who looked after a friend's woman while that friend was in jail. Williams expects gratitude for his gracious caretaking - "I gave you a break, sucker"- but is afforded none.

There's a story to the album's title. Half of it was recorded in 2008, when Williams was boozed up and embroiled in court proceedings.

More recently, the psychedelic cowboys of the Sadies reunited with Williams (who released Hoods and Shades on Bloodshot Records earlier this year) at the analogue-equipped Key Club recording studio, on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. At this point, our man was in sharper, and sober, form - "agile, mobile and hostile," to borrow the title of a 2007 documentary on Williams. The transformation of the talk-singing soul man was radical, like night and day.

And so, on the laconic smokestack-lightning blues of Mississippi & Joliet, we assume Williams is rum-buzzed. He's in full harangue, earning enemies at the Mississippi board of tourism with his slurry advisement to stay clear of that state (or any place like it) because of racial bigotry. ("Racial bigotry" is not how Williams puts it; his choice of words is more, shall we say, earthy.)

The album's first seven tracks are rough, tumble and often short, with Jon Spencer conducting the blurry "before" sessions. One imagines the blue-eyed Spencer, an outsized gutter-soul character himself, looking on in envy as the real deal spells it out scattershot on the muscular, fuzzed-out sleaze of Bored. Williams here is brilliantly woolly - warning America to worry about undistracted blacks at one point. Elsewhere he states that "I don't do drugs any more, but I will." That honest declaration is probably the best that a parole officer could hope for, all things considered.

The "after" cuts of the album's second half are firmer and more focused. Fiddles happen. One-Eyed Jack chugs greasily. That's My Desire is a duet for the slow-dance set at the Shady Grove Retirement Village. And for Me & My Dog, Williams checks into the blues-strut suite at the Doors' Morrison Hotel, where pooches are allowed.

The turnabout track is the seventh, I Thank God - a waltzing sermon at dusk. "You better get money, if you're going to do something funny, cuz you got to have somethin' to get outta jail." And then the voice of experience asks us if we understand. I think I do. There are no guarantees, with Williams or anything else. Best prepare for the extremes.

Chaka Khan Stuns Crowd with 60-Pound Weight Loss

Source: www.eurweb.com - J.C. Brooks

(May 14, 2012) If you’re a fan of Chaka Khan, you remember when she first hit the stage as a teenager and would wear just a loin cloth top and pants that resembled leather chaps along with her trademark feathers. The latest sighting of the singer was reminiscent of that time in her career.

Chaka took to the stage at the Howard theater in Washington D.C., Saturday May 5, and the crowd was overwhelmingly pleased with her voice, but amazed at her beautiful new, but old, look. The soulful legend also performed at a fundraiser for arts education on Sunday May 6, during the David Foster and Friends at the Kennedy Center Spring Gala.

In her svelte new frame coming to the stage 60 pounds lighter, Chaka performed “Through the Fire,” “I’m Every Woman,” and the newly penned “The Promise That We Make,” which she performed for the finale with all performers and 40 wives of military servicemen, according to the Grio.

She had been suffering with diabetes and high blood pressure which are both complications that arise from obesity, but now is free from both. The sultry singer is now enjoying a new spiritual outlook, according to her close friends, and she is looking and sounding better than ever. She gets candid about her rise from the ashes of drugs and alcohol in a report from Elev8, where they report her eight years of sobriety.

Read more here.

It’s a Wonda-ful World for Super Producer Jerry Wonda

Source: www.eurweb.com - Ricardo A. Hazell

(May 13, 2012) *A persistent thorn in the side of the modern music fan is music quality and production. Folks have gotten tired of buying albums only to have one or two songs that are even worth listening to.

Verily I say unto you, most assuredly doth crap rule thine airwaves. It’s almost like the modern formula for creating good music is not to cook up a beautifully-crafted song, but a twisted amalgamation of over used techniques, and lyrics that are free of imagination. However, the modern music lover can rest easily. People have noticed your plight and are trying to do something about it. People like Jerry Duplessis aka
Jerry Wonda.

Some might call Wonda the unofficial fourth member of the Jersey-born Fugees, which also features Pras, Lauryn Hill and Wonda’s cousin Wyclef Jean. Since producing various hits from “The Score,” Wonda has gone on to produce countless hits for a who’s who list of pop music royalty. Sure I could run down the total track list, and mention all the hit-making performers one by one … but I’m not going to do that. This story is not meant to be a testament to what he has done in the past, but a rundown of what this multiple Grammy Award winning producer has planned for the future. Recently, I was invited down to Wonda’s Platinum Studios in Times Square, NYC to discuss his new venture titled, appropriately enough, Wonda Music.

Wonda has been in the industry since 1997, so my first question was what took him so long to start his own music production company. Lesser talented individuals have started production companies in far less time. What took him so long and also what does he hope to achieve with this new venture? Here he explains.

“As to why it took me so long? I wouldn’t say it took me so long,” said Wonda. “I would say it was a journey. Shout out to Wyclef, shout out to Pras, shout out to Lauryn, shout out to my Dad and my brother. Me and Clef had done so much after ‘The Score.’ From working on “The Carnival” to working with so many artists. But it was just time. To me, Platinum Sound Studios is like the new Motown where everyone comes in that enjoys making good music and create content. I’ve created a great team which is Wonda Music. I’ve signed a couple of producers and writers are coming in. I’ve done Justin Bieber, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Akon, Estelle, Movado, Keisha Cole, Jazmine Sullivan and … yo, it’s just out there. But, to me, I’ve done all that as far as making songs for people, for labels. And now I feel like it’s time to go ahead and help a few new artists, but globally though.”

As is the case with any ground-breaking group or music production team, a fertile creative soil is imperative. For Jerry Wonda and the Fugees that soil was down in the Booga Basement.

“I always give a shout out to the Booga Basement, which is where it all started,” said Wonda. “Without them maybe I wouldn’t be where I am today. I added a lot to “The Score” by the Fugees.”

From the Booga Basement in East Orange, New Jersey to his Platinum Sound Studios in Times Square, New York, Jerry Wonda has imbued every track that he has ever laid with his own signature sound. But, unlike other producers, Wonda’s sound is very hard to pinpoint and categorize. The only thing that’s for certain is he is a bonafide hitmaker.

“The first time that you work with an artist they might say ‘Oh, well I’ve done that vibe before’,” said Wonda when asked how he goes about ‘selling’ his sound. “But I tell them, you may have taken this highway before but it’s going to be in a different lane. We’re going to take different exits, go local, and arrive to the same place. I always get questioned in the beginning, but at the end of the song the artists just (praise) me. I have such a great team. At the end of the day, I would say 99 percent of the time, I always get what I want. What I want is to always give the artist what they’re looking for. That’s the key.”
So, what can we expect to hear from Wonda Music?

“I’m so glad to be working on the new Akon,” said Wonda. “It’s a new single and that’s not on radio, and the video was just shot (a few weeks ago). I’m very excited about that. I’m very exciting about Estelle. I’m also very exciting about Keri Hilson. I’m really excited about the new act that I’ve signed. I can’t wait! This is the very beginning. I’ve signed a couple acts and I can’t wait for people to hear them. I have an artist called YFame. Oh my God! This kid is really good. I’ve been working with everyone, and helping everyone else out. Right now I have a few friends that I’m helping out. Ashanti, I did the Ashanti record. She’s a good friend of mine. I’m about to help Olivia as well, in a manner that is very important too.”

Recently it was announced that Olivia of “Love and Hip-Hop” fame had been signed to Wonda Music. I interviewed
Olivia at an event sponsored by Juicy Magazine earlier this year and she alluded to super-dooper top secret signing that she couldn’t talk about until the ink-dried and the deal was sealed. This was that deal. Unbeknownst to some, Olivia has been in the entertainment industry since 2000. She has crossed business paths with the likes of Clive Davis, 50 Cent and others, yet her career has suffered several false starts. I asked Wonda what was it about Olivia that made him believe he could revive her career.

“I love her energy. I wouldn’t even call her a pop star,” said Wonda. “I believe that when you have the talent, the talent stays with you. When it doesn’t work it’s really the people that you have around you. Who can you actually listen to that you know won’t hurt you? To me, she never got a fair chance to show and I feel that I can bring that out of her. That’s my belief and when I believe in something I’m going to go for it. I believe that if I put 100 percent, then she will put 100 percent, and my team will collaborate and we’re going to do what we gotta do. I believe that I can bring her back. The girl is really talented. I love her. I’ve worked with a lot of talented people, and she’s one of them. ”

Jerry Wonda and Wyclef Jean were almost inseparable at one time. It appeared as if whatever Wyclef was working
on, he, Wonda, was working on. What’s the likelihood of Wonda working with his cousin Wyclef Jean in the near future? Wonda tells me he hopes it’s sooner than later, but adds that Clef has more pressing matters at hand.

“Right now I’m focusing on this Wonda Music, and Clef has the entire country of Haiti on his shoulders right now. I help out too, but right now I have the business, the team of Wonda Music. I’m really focused on that. But, me and Clef, as soon as he’s ready we’re going to go back in. We talk about that all the time. Me and Clef? We create a lot of music! We’ve done a lot! That’s my partner in crime right there. I can’t wait to go back in with him when he starts working on his new album.”

As has been previously alluded to, you can’t Wonda without mentioning Clef, and one cannot mention Clef without thinking about Lauryn and Pras. I asked Wonda whether he felt there was a possibility the group would ever perform together again, despite all signs pointing to the contrary.

“I’ll be honest with you. On this one everybody has their own feelings about the Fugees ever coming back. I don’t
believe in saying ‘No, it’s not going to happen.’ I believe that only God can say that. I believe that if it’s supposed to happen then no one can stop it. Not me, not them, not nobody. I believe when the time is right to get something done, it will be done.”

A lot of artists, when they first come out, people say ‘Ohmigod! New artist!’ GTFOH! Like Akon, you know Akon is on ‘The Score’ remix,” he continued. “How many years ago was that? Akon had been trying for years. Alicia Keys was dropped from label to label to label before (she) made it. Lauryn Hill as booed at the Apollo. To this very day I have people come to me and say ‘I want my record to sound like Lauryn Hill.’ I’ve even gone back and pulled drum sounds I’ve used on ‘The Score’ and brought them back and used them today, because people are classic (lovers). Artists go through a lot. The Fugees were something very special that happened. I believe that one day it will happen. It might take a minute because everybody is doing their own thing. Wyclef’s doing his own thing, Lauryn is doing her own thing, Pras is doing his own thing, and I’m doing my own thing with the music. But I believe there will be a time when it’s gonna be ‘Man, f*ck it! Let’s go.’ I miss those days.”

Yele Haiti is a non-profit organization founded by Wonda and Wyclef Jean to provide educational, environmental,
financial and community assistance to the people of Haiti. This organization was stretched to its very limits during the earthquake of 2010, which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands and made millions homeless in the nation of Haiti. In addition to sponsoring a cleanup crew, Yele Haiti has recently entered into an agreement with Timberland and Trees for the Future. The goal is to grow over 1 million trees a year in Haiti.

“Before that happened, me and Wyclef were already on the ground trying to bring notice to Haiti and the things that were happening to kids in Haiti,” said Wonda. ” When that happened, within 8 hours we were already in the DR (Dominican Republic) trying to find our way to Haiti. The airport was shutdown, we went through a lot there. When you go to my website, you actually see a (video) special that I did where we picked up men, women and children to help pick up bodies and take them to the cemetery. That’s when I really appreciated life. After I saw that … my God! This (life) is all you’ve got. I had been doing a lot on the ground just to help. Out there carrying bodies. I want to make sure that, if that happens again, this time the houses are safer and people are ready for certain things. There was one kid we were trying to help named Jimmy Yo. We were helping bring Hip-Hop to Haiti. We brought him to Platinum Studios and we were doing his music. He died and we didn’t even have the construction equipment to remove his body from the car (in which he died).”

Can you imagine the horrifying, almost other-wordly landscape that was Haiti immediately after the earthquake? The people of Haiti’s survival instincts were on full display. But people have come to “help” Haiti in the past and the Caribbean nation was no better because of that “help.” Despite the past, things in Haiti appear to heading in a positive direction. Wonda says he does what he can, when he can, because of his involvement with his production company.

“A lot of people are seen in Haiti these days,” said Wonda. “You have Bill Clinton, Angelina Jolie, you have Wyclef and many other people that are on the ground in Haiti trying to help out. I’m not spending a lot of time dealing with Yele-Haiti right now. I’ve done so much. I would do a bunch of stuff, then I would step back a little. Then I would do a bunch more stuff, then I would step back again. Right now I’m stepping back because once they elected a president I thought ‘OK president! It’s your job now! Do your thing!’ I still get the phone calls and I still help out as best I can on the ground.”

There have been many critics that have had something to say regarding Yele Haiti’s response to the disaster. I asked him what he thought about the naysayers and those that frowned upon he and Clef’s philanthropic efforts.

“A lot of people don’t care about anything but results. But, let me tell you, I’ve done a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time away from my family, I’ve spent a lot of time away from my job. I brought Angelina Jolie to Haiti, she had never been there before. Suddenly, everyone is talking about Haiti. They’re talking about building cellular phone companies, garbage programs to clean up Haiti, which if you remember, was so dirty and so bad in the beginning. We put the entire Hip-Hop movement in Haiti on our shoulders, helping them through music. When I see bad press, I just smile. When you do something, and do it with your heart, I don’t care what anybody says. I’m getting my blessings right now.”

The nation of Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic and is comprised wholly of the descendants of African slaves. The former colony of France gained its independence in 1791 and became the world’s first black ruled republic. Despite being a very short distance from the United States, the island of Haiti has received very little assistance from the U.S. over the years relative to other nations, and considering Haiti’s potential from an agriculture, manufacturing and strategic importance perspective. I asked Wonda whether he felt enough was being done to help Haiti.

“I believe that the United States needs to become good friends with a lot of other countries, not just Haiti,” Wonda told EURweb.com. “I’m not a politician and I don’t like talking about politics, but I think the U.S. really needs to put a lot more of the right energy into that relationship. Haiti’s so close. If the United States really wanted to help Haiti, the country would be on another level right now. Politics sometimes destroys things and I think politics destroyed Haiti. It’s not just the U.S. but the Haitian politician too. C’mon, help your people! I’m not going to just say America or China, but the politicians in Haiti need to put in a little more energy. You’re in charge! Find the right investors, find the right entrepreneurs, and help the people. Open the avenues for job creation. Let a company come in, give the company a pass on something so the company can come in and create 10,000 jobs. That’s how you create jobs. There’s no reason that Haiti doesn’t have anything and Haiti has to buy everything outside of the country. I know investors that said ‘I want to go to Haiti and invest $500 million dollars on a concept’, but the government is not helping. They’re always thinking about the breaks that company is going to get. Do you know how many jobs you can create with &500 million dollars? You better tell that company ‘For 2 years you’re not paying taxes’. If you let 20 companies do that then everyone would have jobs. Schools, roads and sanitation would be taken care of. But I don’t know nothing about politics man. I’m just a musician. The roads are very bad. From the time you land at the airport where do you go? I hear that someone just won a construction contract. I think things are going to improve. The world is watching now. They don’t have a Prime Minister now. They did have a Prime Minister but, to my understanding, he didn’t like the way things were going to he quit. You have to have the right team, and people willing to work together. If that doesn’t happen then that’s too bad. More people people are going to grow up poor and uneducated, which would be sad.”

But there is hope on the western part of the island of Hispaniola. More hope than many can remember. Haitian pride is on the rise and a nation is on the move once again.

“I remember when you couldn’t say you were Haitian,” he continued. “You would get robbed, real talk. They would say Haitians had AIDS and what have you. Big shout out to my cousin Wyclef Jean. When the Fugees won the Grammy he said he wasn’t going to go on stage to accept it unless he was wrapped in the Haitian flag. My man Hassan had to go find a Haitian flag in L.A. It was crazy! Wyclef has been fighting for Haiti a lot. He is a great man with a great heart. After the Grammys, the Fugees came out with the flag? That was it yo! Like, every Haitian came out like ‘I’m Haitian! I’m Haitian! I’m Haitian!’ It’s like the New York Knicks. No fans in New York were rooting for the Knicks. Then, as soon as the Knicks started winning, there’s a lot of Supermans and Batmans in New York. All of a sudden they’re Knicks fans now. What?”

You can expect to hear music produced by Wonda, and performed by Estelle, Akon and many others, on your radio airwaves sometime soon.

To find out more about Wonda Music log on to www.wondamusic.com. For more information on Yele log on to www.yele-haiti.com.

Santigold Focuses On The Music, Not On Dissing Pop Stars

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(May 13, 2012) Four years after the release of her debut album, the genre-bending pop singer Santi White is back with her follow-up, the audaciously styled Master of My Make-Believe.

For legal reasons, her stage moniker has changed - from Santogold to
Santigold. But for the 35-year-old rising star from Brooklyn, making a name for herself is nothing new.

Reviews of your album have mostly been positive. Do you read them?

You can read eight good ones and one bad one, and you focus on the bad one. I like that people are talking about it, but I try not to engage in all that stuff.

There's a combative theme to some of the lyrics. On Go!, you sing about people wanting your power and storming your winter palace. Do you feel under attack?

Some of the songs are meant to be light-hearted, or tongue in cheek. I call those my mantra songs. Muhammad Ali, before he would fight, would look at the mirror and say, "I am the greatest," and repeat it over and over again. That's what those songs are for me.

That kind of thing is not uncommon in hip hop.

There's a tradition of brag-and-boast rhyme. There's a little bit there, sure. But at the same time, I was one of the first artists to be making this kind of music - this electronic genre. And I see it sprinkled through mainstream music now. So, part of it is staking my claim for that.

What are you getting at with Go!, specifically?

That people want status. They want fame. They want it without putting in the work. But you can't just jump in and expect to be in the front. You've got to earn it. That's what that song is about. It's a very real message for right now.

Are we talking about anyone in particular? It's believed that your song Big Mouth is about Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

That wasn't right. That's the press generating their own story. It was because of my video, where a tiger eats a mermaid. When I look at a mermaid, I don't think of Lady Gaga. But all of a sudden I'm the tiger and she's the mermaid, and it's like "oh, she's dissing Lady Gaga." Or that I'm dissing Katy Perry, because there's a girl with blue hair in the video. I don't know where they come up with these things.

Is there pressure for you to shock people a bit, or to deliver something bold?

My goal as an artist is to make music that feels natural to me - music that's in my aesthetic, and in my tastes. The originality happens, but naturally. As far as the need to be doing anything first, I'm not going to take on that pressure.

Your music is highly contemporary. But who are some of your heroes from the past?

One of my biggest influences musically is Nina Simone. What a voice she had. She was in such command, and her melodies were so interesting. You never knew where she was going.

Any rock influences?

H.R. and Bad Brains. This was a hardcore band that was black, doing something different than any other black artists. H.R. used his voice in a way that I've never heard before. And his stage show was unbelievable with Bad Brains. There was such a raw, unbridled energy.

Not surprisingly, you're drawn to pioneers - singular artists.

Definitely. If you're going to make art, you have to do it in a way that's never been done. There's no point in making art if you can't bring something special to the table.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Santigold plays Toronto's Kool Haus on May 15 and Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom on May 26.

Hop On Popera With Il Divo

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(May 16, 2012) Sébastien Izambard may belong to one of the most famous singing quartets in the world — Il DivoT — but that doesn't get him out of bedtime duty with his three kids.

He serenades them with “London Bridge,” “Three Little Monkeys” and “Frère Jacques.”

The baby of the family, 1-year-old Jude, is hooked on “If You're Happy and You Know It” and makes the French member of the international singing troupe sing it over and over.

That's how “The Wheels on the Bus” ended up in the classical quartet's repertoire. “It makes the show more personal and more for everyone,” says Izambard in an interview before the group arrives at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday. “People come to be entertained, they don't come to see a classical concert.”

The group of singers assembled by Simon Cowell in 2004 keeps expanding its repertoire, Izambard says, adding, “People come to see something between pop and opera.”

Which covers a whole lot of territory, he admits, but Izambard might be a particularly valuable member of the group because of it. Unlike the other three singers — Spanish baritone Carols Marin, American tenor David Miller and Swiss tenor Urs Buhler — he was not classically trained; his background is in pop music.

Maybe that's why, of the songs they'll be performing Saturday from their new album Wicked Game — including “Time to Say Goodbye,” “Don't Cry for Me Argentina” and “Crying (Llorando)” — Izambard is particularly proud of “Crying.”

“It's completely different from Roy Orbison and k.d. lang. We put it somewhere else.”

Resisting the temptation to torture a tonsil on the finale, the song ends quietly, he says.

“With a big ending, it's so easy to overdo it. We have to keep it little, that's what the song is about.” When you have four strong singers, he says, they have to be careful not to “overwhelm” a song.

All the same, bringing something of themselves to others' signature songs, like “My Way” and “Unchained Melody,” is important to Il Divo; Izambard says the foursome works diligently to create new interpretations.

They'll be arriving in Canada following tea with Queen Elizabeth II, the prospect of which had Izambard in a dither.

“How often in your life are you invited to have tea with the Queen?” he says, adding that the group has already performed for her at a Jubilee celebration.

This is a wonderful time for Izambard, who takes his wife and three children with him on the road.

The family will be stationed in Montreal for two weeks while the group tours Canada and then they'll spend some time in New York City before going to Los Angeles for five weeks.

Home is in England, but the family has been on the road for months as the group travelled to Australia and Japan.

“For me, I can't live without my kids and my wife. It is impossible.”

Seems “The Wheels on the Bus” is really for all of them.

Just the Facts

Who: Il Divo, with Nikki Yanofsky

Where: Air Canada Centre

When: May 19, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $65-$145 at theaircanadacentre.com

The Rap Pack And Their Genius Website

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Amy Verner

(May 13, 2012) Back in the days when I was a teenager ... I had Cliffs Notes for Jane Austen and VH1's Pop-Up Video for Janet Jackson.

Fast-forward to July 2009, when
Rap Genius arrived online like a smarty-pants in Air Jordans. If I wanted to know what Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest meant when he rhymed, "Scheming on the cookies with the crazy booming back buns," I finally had an omniscient hip-hop Oz. Whereas I go to Wikipedia to find out about Edmond Rostand, I go to Rap Genius to be enlightened on Nas the Don.

For its growing list of loyal fans, Rap Genius [http://rapgenius.com] is more than that. As sites like Pitchfork, The Fader and Complex transform into slick, multichannel destinations for music news, fresh singles, branded events and other peripheral content, Rap Genius represents the unlikeliest of scholarly forums where someone might explain a verse using Wittgenstein while another supplies a photo of an old Versace cologne as an irreverent visual reference.

Now, the site's founders, Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman and Ilan Zechory, are expanding into indie-music territory. They started quietly spreading the word about Stereo IQ (a Rap Genius for rock) last year, and even without an official launch, it has amassed 2,000-plus fans on Facebook. There's a Rap Genius France Facebook page (for fans of Booba and Ali, among others) and, more randomly, a layman's interpretation of Milton's Paradise Lost.

"If you're close-reading a text, no matter what the text is, you're automatically doing a more intellectual exercise than if writing generalizations about the King James Bible," Moghadam says via Skype from his home in Malibu. "Rap Genius is just a way to introduce people to close reading. And once you get on it, you get hooked."

The numbers from Quantcast, which measures online traffic, back this up. A haven for a growing community of close-reading rap nerds, the site reaches over 3.7 million people globally (a figure higher than The Onion), yet Moghadam calls this number "highly inaccurate." "We have almost triple the traffic," he insists.

If that's the case, it's because people are digging a platform where they can both consume and create content, interacting with each other in a way that reinforces rap's brainy side. It's an artist-driven evolution with Childish Gambino and XV proving that nerds are cooler than thugs and Jay-Z taking his canon to Carnegie Hall. Rap Genius, in turn, is seizing on the momentum by enlisting rappers as "verified users" to attract an even larger audience, engaging with the site and commenting on their own work. Nas has actively come on board, while others - Action Bronson, Toronto's rising talents the Airplane Boys and RZA - have agreed to be a part of the RG posse.

This would bring a new meta layer to a concept that is already steeped in subtext, context and pseudo analysis.

Moghadam, 29, serves as the site's chief personality and scholar and speaks in character, calling Lehman and Zechory, both 28 and New York-based, his "homies" and peppering e-mails with acronyms like YOLO (as in "You only live once," and the hook of catchy song by Drake and Lil Wayne, which is especially amusing given their Ivy League backstory. (The guys met while undergraduates at Yale and even currently grace the cover of the university's alumni magazine in an Annie Leibovitz-inspired ensemble shot.)

Moghadam also pursued a law degree at Stanford; and before the team decided to devote all of its energy to the site, Lehman worked as a computer programmer for a hedge fund and Zechory was a project manager at Google. Moghadam does his best to dodge questions about the financials; it's unclear whether they are self-financed or have had outside investment. He imagines monetizing the site by year five but says, for the moment, that encouragement he has received from the likes of uber-tech investor Ben Horowitz and music mogul Lyor Cohen is just as valuable.

Moghadam still transcribes lyrics himself (when I pointed out that Um Um by Slum Village was noticeably absent, he said he'd get on it ASAP). Alongside every contributor's name is the number of times they've offered input and Moghadam's tally was upward of 250,000 when I last checked. The more frequently someone chimes in - or suggests an improvement to an existing entry - the more Rap IQ points they earn.

The site's original name was Rap Exegesis. The problem? No one could properly spell exegesis, Moghadam says.

"Six months ago, we realized it was going to be the biggest site on the Internet," he says with no pretense of modesty. "It's an intellectual Facebook with every social-networking element. What we do connects people through music."

Choice cuts

Co-founder Mahbod Moghadam picks his Top 3 lines on Rap Genius.

1) The one that made Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg - a frequent RG user - send the site fan mail:

"I guess we'll never know where Harvard gets us/ but seeing my family have it all took the place of that desire for diplomas on the wall." (From Crew Love by Drake)

2) The one that Nas himself verified:

"I never sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death." (From NY State of Mind by Nas)

3) The one that inspired the name of the site:

"Biggie Smalls the rap genius/ I keep the Glock by the penis." (From What You Want by The Notorious B.I.G.)


Donald Dunn: Booker T Bassist Dies At Age 70

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 13, 2012) TOKYO — Bass player and songwriter Donald “Duck” Dunn, a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame band Booker T. and the MGs and the Blues Brothers band, has died in Tokyo. He was 70. Dunn was in Tokyo for a series of shows. News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep. Miho Harasawa, a spokeswoman for Tokyo Blue Note, the last venue Dunn played, confirmed he died alone early Sunday. She had no further details. Dunn, who was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1941, performed on recordings with Eric Clapton, Neil Young and many others, and specialized in blues, gospel and soul. He played himself in the 1980 hit movie The Blues Brothers. He received a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2007 for his work with Booker T. and the MGs.

Jay-Z Announces Labor Day Weekend Music Festival In Philadelphia

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 14, 2012) PHILADELPHIA—Jay-Z is in a Philadelphia State of Mind. The rapper has announced a two-day music festival in Philadelphia. It’ll feature nearly 30 acts “that embody the American spirit” across three stages at Fairmount Park on Sept 1. and 2, which is Labor Day weekend. Jay-Z was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter on Monday atop the city’s art museum steps, made famous by Rocky. The “Budweiser Made in America” festival will benefit United Way Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Tickets go on sale May 23 and will include rap, rock, R&B, Latin and dance performers. The New York-born rapper says 70 per cent of the acts are confirmed. A feverish crowd of fans was on hand, chanting his name. When one yelled out that Jay-Z’s was the best, the rapper paused and said: “I agree.”

Bobbi Kris will Accept Whitney’s Billboard Award; Sparks, Legend to Sing

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 16, 2012) *More details have been released regarding Bobbi Kristina’s special appearance at this
Sunday’s 2012 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. As previously reported, her mother Whitney Houston will be honored with the Billboard Millennium Award in a musical tribute. Jordin Sparks and John Legend are set to perform in the tribute, while Bobbi Kristina, and Houston’s sister-in-law, Pat Houston, will appear to accept the award in Whitney’s honor. Sparks, an “American Idol” champ, plays Houston’s daughter in the upcoming remake of the film “Sparkle,” which hits theaters in August. This year’s Billboard Music Awards airs live May 20 on ABC at 8 p.m. ET from the MGM Grand Arena. Hosting will be “Modern Family” co-stars Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell. Previously announced performers include Katy Perry, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Carrie Underwood, LMFAO, CeeLo Green, Kelly Clarkson, Usher, The Wanted, Linkin Park and Nelly Furtado.

::FILM NEWS::    

China Heavyweight: A Rocky Road To Redemption

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Liam Lacey

(May 13, 2012) There are no heavyweight boxers in China Heavyweight, the new film from Yung Chang, the Canadian documentary filmmaker behind the much-awarded 2007 debut film Up the Yangtze. Both film titles are a kind of word play, an invitation to thinking twice about a powerful nation caught in a double-think.

Up the Yangtze was about people who were up the creek, the peasant population displaced by China's relentless race to progress with the creation of the world's largest hydropower facility, the Three Gorges Dam. The weight in China Heavyweight is the burden of conflicting expectations, the push toward modernization against the traditional pull of traditional Confucian modesty and filial piety.

As with his previous film, director Chang nurses a compelling drama from a multilayered cultural reality, at once intimate and unfathomably large in implications. In his sophomore film, Chang, once again, shows himself to be one of our great young cinéma-vérité directors, with "our" meaning, not just belonging to Canada, but to the world.

The immediate subject is boxing, perhaps the most individual of competitive sports. In the late 1950s, Chairman Mao banned boxing as too Western and brutal. After the Cultural Revolution, his successors began to believe that competition might be as useful in developing sport as it was for the economy. Finally, in the late eighties, boxing was made legal again and taught in schools, such as the one in Huili County in the southwestern Sichuan province, where China Heavyweight takes place.

Opening scenes take us to this outpost, through the eyes of two boxing talent scouts, the bearded, philosophical program director, Zhao Zhong, and former professional boxer, Coach Qi Moxiang. The men line up the boys and girls, asking each to announce their year of birth and try a few practice punches, while they do their recruitment talk. If they are chosen for the program, declares Zhao, the boys and girls may rise to the provincial and national levels, even to Olympic glory where they will belong to all the people. If not, they'll never be more than "your mother's child."

The odds here look worse than in Steve James's basketball movie, Hoop Dreams: Failure here means not just anonymity but a lifetime of drudgery working on a tobacco plot as their parents do, rising before sun-up and finishing after dark.

Coach Qi, who has decided to dedicate his life to coaching, is a charismatic figure, but he doesn't coddle his young fighters. In an early scene, a small boy gets his nose bloodied in a sparring round. Instead of offering sympathy, the coach reprimands him sharply for failing to keep his head down and sends him to wash his face.

Out of the ranks of the many, two 19-year-old boys show talent. Yunfei Miao, the coaches agree, has an advantage: He's cocky, in love with the attention of the ring and anxious to become a boxing "king" like Mike Tyson and Mohammed Ali. His friend is the quiet, sensitive He Zhongli, who is plagued by doubts. The training is relentless, the payoff questionable.

In some extraordinarily intimate family scenes, we experience the heart of his dilemma. His mother, back from a day in the fields, cries at the dinner table, suffering at the sight of her son bruised and cut from fighting. The father consoles him: Women cry because they can't express themselves, he says. Do what you must, he says, but the important thing is to be modest at all times.

With variations, we see the family scene repeated at the other men's homes. In Miao's home, his mother bitterly questions the years he has spent training instead of getting a useful education that might save him from the life she must lead. Even Coach Qi, single at 38, living with his mother, can't escape his matriarch's skepticism.

Before they head off to the provincial tournament, Coach Qi and Zhao visit a monastery for some good luck prayers. The monk is gently dubious. Boxing, he says, has always seemed cruel to him. On the contrary, says Zhao, boxing teaches the values of restraint. Yet the cultural contradictions between the Western sport and the Chinese philosophy are striking: In China Heavyweight, a boxing coach advises the sensitive He that a background in boxing prepares you for a career in the world - not in how to win, but how to deal with loss.

After introducing the useful narrative contrast of these two near-brothers on their diverging paths, the film brings forth a new narrative worthy of a Rocky movie. Coach Qi, determined to provide a role model for his students, decides to fight professionally again. Five years away from boxing, of smoking, occasionally getting drunk with friends, he has decided to subject himself to the rigours of the ring once again in the hopes of a redemptive comeback in a major international tournament. The culminating match is fraught with nationalistic fervour: His younger, fitter rival is a Japanese champion.

In addition to the intimate drama, we have scenes providing the broader context - monotonous speeches of government officials sounding remarkably like capitalistic corporate cheerleaders. Later, a Western boxing promoter, pandering to the hometown crowd, declares a bright future for the fight game in Asia, bizarrely pointing out that Huili County was also the place where Mao began his famous long march.

When the ring wars are ended, school girls, cheeks pink in the cold, stand in the school yard giggling as their principal drones on about the glories of socialism and sport. Later, the girls and boys line up in the school yard and punch the hands of the boxing recruiters, hoping to be chosen to fight, instead of enduring a life of drudgery and being nothing more than their mothers' children.

China Heavyweight
Directed by Yung Chang
With He Zongli, Miao Yunfei and Qi Moxiang
Classification: G
4 stars

The Flat And Roth On Roth At Toronto Jewish Film Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - By Martin Knelman

(May 11, 2012) The 20th edition of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival wraps this weekend, but there is still time to choose between two enlightening and memorable documentaries, both being screened on Sunday afternoon.

First comes Roth on Roth, which will be essential viewing for avid readers of contemporary fiction. Here the great and famously reclusive writer Philip Roth opens up with surprising and delightful candour in a one-hour profile made by William Karel and Livia Manera for French television. It is being shown as part of a double bill at the Bloor Hot Docs cinema at 1:30 p.m.

For those who keep digging into the horrors and mysteries of the Holocaust, The Flat — screening at the Al Green Theatre at 2:45 — is sure to loom as one of the most haunting and troubling documentaries ever made.

It began as a personal exploration of family history by Israeli filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger. Almost unbelievably, what seemed like an innocuous home movie soon turned into a disturbing trip to a past fogged in by guilt, denial and delusion.

When his grandmother died at age 96, Goldfinger decided to create a film record of what she left behind by bringing his camera along while his mother took charge of cleaning out the old woman’s cluttered flat in Tel Aviv.

Gerda Tuchler had moved to Israel from Berlin more than 70 years earlier along with her husband, Kurt. But as her daughter and grandchildren were aware, she carried on as if they had never left pre-war Germany. Having never learned Hebrew, she conversed with her grandson in German.

They had left Germany to escape the Nazi threat but continued to idealize the life they had left behind, living in a Bauhaus-style apartment. Their new home was full of fond allusions to life in Berlin between the two world wars, when civilization and intellectual life seemed to have reached a peak.

This flat always had special meaning for Goldfinger because of its links to another time and another place, and his purpose as a documentarian was to create a record before all traces were swept away of the past world his grandmother had preserved there.

It did not take long before Goldfinger began to uncover — among all the clothes, letters and tchotchkes his grandmother kept — clues about the family past that he found deeply disquieting and baffling.

He began to realize why it was that in his family the painful details of the past were never discussed. That’s why his mother did not know, and preferred not to know, that her grandmother was killed in a Nazi concentration camp.

The most upsetting clue Goldfinger discovered were newspaper clippings about the exploits of German nobleman Leopold von Mildenstein, who was clearly a prominent Nazi as well as pro-Zionist.

Improbably, he and his wife were friends of the Tuchlers. Even more improbably, the two couples renewed their friendship after the war, picking up where they left off, sharing memories and even travelling together.

How could that be, considering that von Mildenstein was closely connected to one of the most notorious of all Nazi war criminals, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister?

Clearly this was a friendship that could be sustained only by total denial of the horrifying events in Germany that shook the entire world.

The most unsettling part of the story emerges when Goldfinger and his mother visit Germany, and are warmly welcomed by Mildenstein’s daughter and son-in-law, who have found ways to avoid coming to terms with the awful truth.

It’s almost as shattering for the audience as it is for a probing filmmaker who discovered much more about his family’s history than he bargained for.

A very different sort of family saga emerges in Roth on Roth. When asked how his writing affects his family, the prolific and provocative author of American Pastoral, The Human Stain and The Ghost Writer half-jokingly replies: “When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.”

But those who interpreted his work as an attack on his family will be happily surprised to learn that Roth thinks of his parents with great affection, dreams of being buried near them, and touchingly recalls how he tried to prepare them for the scandal that would strike them when Portnoy’s Complaint was published, since he knew many readers would wrongly assume the neurotic parents in the book were based on them.

Unlike The Flat, Roth on Roth will leave you smiling.

Inside Out: My Best Day Finds Humour In Gay Life In Small-Town America

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jason Anderson

(May 16, 2012) Over the 22 years that Inside Out has been presenting its annual showcase of LGBT-friendly fare to Toronto moviegoers, there’s no disputing the fact that gay and lesbian characters have claimed more and more space on screens big and small.

Yet even as these characters have made their way from the culture’s margins to mainstream movies and TV shows like Glee and Grey’s Anatomy, their experiences have been more often presented as urban rather than rural ones. And when these stories do take place in smaller or more remote communities, they tend to portray circumstances that need to be endured or escaped instead of embraced.

That’s why the small-town setting and easy charm in a highlight of this year’s Inside Out program feel so novel. An endearing American indie movie that makes its Canadian premiere on May 23 at 9:45 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox (where the festival runs until May 27), My Best Day depicts the travails of an array of gay and straight characters during the course of an eventful Fourth of July.

Shot in Bangor, a town of 5,200 in eastern Pennsylvania, writer-director Erin Greenwell’s ensemble comedy is remarkable for both its low-key humour and its matter-of-fact presentation of lives that may not be free of complications or prejudice but most certainly have a place within this all-American community.

An out filmmaker who lives and teaches in New York, Greenwell based the script on some of her own experiences growing up in the Midwest. She initially thought she’d make My Best Day in not-so-rural Staten Island until her producer convinced her that the best place to shoot her small-town story was a real small town.

As Greenwell explains in a phone interview last week, she had concerns over whether the community in Bangor would welcome a production with gay characters. She also told her producer that she didn’t want to be covert about her movie’s content.

“People were going to see us immediately and start talking about us so there’s no way we could sneak around,” she says. “We had to be 100 per cent transparent to the community and my producer agreed. Still, we were pre-emptively worrying we’d be shut down as ‘the crazy queer film’ in the area. Ironically enough, no one frigging cared.”

Indeed, casting calls for small parts attracted a wide variety of townsfolk, including one woman who loudly informed the visiting movie types that her girlfriend was waiting for her in the car. Such is the abundance of local colour in My Best Day that even the mayor has a cameo.

Greenwell was understandably pleased to have such a warm reception, especially since low-budget filmmaking is hard enough without having to deal with an unfriendly environment. The town’s response also fits with the spirit of generosity the movie extends to its characters, all of whom are given to feeling like they don’t fit in. That’s true whether the character is a bullied adolescent, a young woman trying to reconnect with her long-absent father or a dude who tells people he’s crashing on his buddy’s couch when he’s really sharing his bed.

Though matters of story and character took precedence over any political aims, it was important to Greenwell that My Best Day convey contrasting ideas of what it feels like to be an American. As she says, “Sometimes it feels incredible and sometimes you think, ‘Er, I feel different and I can’t believe I feel afraid in my own country.’ And that can happen to you depending on how much money you have or what you look like or who you love.”

Greenwell’s experience in Bangor was also a potent reminder that the divisions that supposedly polarize Americans — liberal vs. conservative, urban vs. rural, blue state vs. red state — compel people from every side to make assumptions they shouldn’t.

“As a lesbian, I don’t like people making assumptions about my life,” says the filmmaker. “So when we go to small towns, it’s only fair not to make assumptions about them. And the result here was really fun — I felt like I made a movie with a small town instead of a movie in a small town.”


Keep the Lights On: Inside Out’s centrepiece gala and a recent fave at Sundance and Berlin, this autobiographical drama by writer-director Ira Sachs tracks the stormy relationship between a filmmaker and a closeted lawyer over the course of a decade. A score of songs by the late Arthur Russell adds further poignancy. (May 22, 9:15 p.m.)

Bullhead: The only thing more bizarre than this tale of illegal bovine-hormone traders and machismo run amok in a mucky corner of Belgium was the fact that it was a foreign-film Oscar nominee alongside Monsieur Lazhar and A Separation. Inside Out hosts its Toronto premiere. (May 20, 9:30 p.m.)

Vito: This HBO doc is a stirring and affectionate portrait of Vito Russo, a man whose dedication to the gay rights movement was matched only by his ardour for the movies. Though Russo — who died of AIDS complications in 1990 — found his greatest fame as the author of The Celluloid Closet, his pioneering study of homosexuality’s oft-hidden history in American cinema, Jeffrey Schwarz’s film provides a wealth of reasons to celebrate his achievements. (May 26, 7 p.m.)

All screenings take place at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Cannes 2012: Bill Murray Doles Out Advice To Young Stars

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(May 16, 2012) CANNES, FRANCE—Bill Murray has some unusual life advice, which he taught to his young co-stars in Moonrise Kingdom, the new Wes Anderson movie, world-premiering Wednesday at the opening of the Cannes Film Festival.

“Bill taught me it’s a good idea to hum every morning,” said Jared Gilman, who is not much older than the 12-year-old errant boy scout he plays in the movie.

“He also taught that to Kara (Hayward).”

Jared and Kara play Sam and Suzy, pre-teen lovers on a remote American island who bond while escaping from the bounds of a scout troop, bossy parents and a busy life.

Murray beamed as Jared spoke, and his good humour was something of a surprise — as indeed was his presence in Cannes. The famously irascible actor was considered a likely no-show.

He had good reason to smile. The film, also starring Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand, had a warm reception at its morning press screening.

Jared said Murray also taught him how to tie a tie. But considering the wild outfit Murray sported at the post-screening press conference, a riot of plaids and checks, maybe Jared should have looked elsewhere for haberdashery advice.

Murray has been in almost every Wes Anderson movie and joked that it’s his main source of employment.

“I really don’t get any other work but through Wes. I just sit by the phone.”

Worldwide Short Film Festival Features Movies With Judi Dench, Michael Fassbender, Rainn Wilson

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(May 15, 2012) Californication’s David Duchovny voices an animated polar bear named Beaufort who has something to say about addiction and Hollywood corruption, Judi Dench tries online dating for the first time and Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) are safecrackers trying to disable a tricky alarm at the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival June 5 to 10.

Even the stars like it short and sweet at this fest — North America’s largest short film event — which includes animation, live-action, experimental film and music videos. Organizers announced the lineup Tuesday for the 18th edition of the festival, with a slate of 244 films from 35 countries.

The festival, which offers more than $65,000 in cash and prizes to winning shorts, is a launch pad for new film careers and gives established filmmakers and performers a chance to try a new format.

The opening-night gala on June 5 features award-winning audience favourites from around the world, including the 2012 Jutra Award-winning Canadian short Trotteur.

As usual, the programmers have found whimsical ways to group shorts by themes for movie lovers with 32 slates all, including Christmas in June, Homeland Security, Iron Ladies, Date Night, Sci-Fi, two comedy programs, Night Shift (a midnight movie marathon “for those who dare”) and programs for kids.

Among the Hollywood names appearing in shorts on the program this year are John Malkovich, Scott Thompson (The Kids in the Hall), Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Rainn Wilson (The Office), Emmanuelle Béart (Mission: Impossible), comic Margaret Cho, Tom Hollander (The Hobbit), Stellan Skarsgård (The Avengers), Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), John Hurt (Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Dave Foley (The Kids In The Hall), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad), Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), Anna Paquin (True Blood) and Christopher Plummer (Beginners).

Festival venues include the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema and the Isabel Bader Theatre, with the return of the several Towering Shorts program, which couples theme-linked short films with activities at the CN Tower.

Tickets are on sale at the box office, 756 Bathurst St., from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., by calling 416-532-2232, or online at www.shorterisbetter.com. The website has details on all the films and scheduling.


TIFF To Open With New Home, New Program

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(May 14, 2012) The Toronto International Film Festival will have another theatre added to its roster and a new program for classic movie lovers when the 37th edition of the fest bows on Sept. 6. The newly renovated Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is being added to the theatres screening movies at TIFF, which runs Sept. 6 to 16, 2012, festival artistic director Cameron Bailey announced Monday. Once a venue for festival screenings in the 1980s and 1990s, Bailey said the refurbished 710-seat theatre will bring some “old festival flavour back — but with better seats.” The Bloor St. W. theatre, which recently welcomed thousands of filmgoers for Hot Docs, will be the home for most Vanguard program screenings, as well as movies in the newly renamed TIFF Docs program, formerly called Reel to Reel. TIFF is also bringing a new program to this edition of the festival that will help film fans look back at great screen moments. TIFF Cinémathèque will feature “curated gems from the history of Canadian and international cinema.” As it has for the past 18 years, TIFF will screen its opening and closing night galas, as well as all gala presentations, at Roy Thomson Hall. The Elgin Theatre, TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Princess of Wales (from Sept. 7 to 11), AMC 24 Yonge & Dundas, the Winter Garden Theatre, Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Isabel Bader Theatre and the Ryerson Theatre will also screen movies during TIFF. Also on Monday, TIFF issued its annual call for volunteers to help run the festival. More than 2,100 people volunteered last year. Apply online, and you must be at least 18.

Brandon Cronenberg Didn’t Plan To Follow His Dad

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(May 16, 2012) First-time filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg says he and his famous father find it “hilarious” to both have features debuting at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. The 32-year-old director crosses the pond tonight to introduce audiences to Antiviral, a dark take on celebrity obsession. It will screen as part of the Un Certain Regard sidebar, which showcases the work of emerging talents. Meanwhile, his father David Cronenberg will compete for the Palme d’Or with his thriller, Cosmopolis, starring Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson. The younger Cronenberg says he never intended to follow in his father’s footsteps, noting that as a youngster he hoped to be a writer, musician or an illustrator. The Cannes Film Festival begins today and runs until May 27.

VIDEO: Rihanna on Her Role in ‘Battleship’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 15, 2012) *
Rihanna’s first movie role is in the humongous tent pole “Battleship” opening May 18. Here, she discusses her role in the film and whether she will continue to pursue film roles in her 1-on-1 interview on the USS Missouri in sunny Hawaii with Shawn Edwards. Riri also talks about her future in acting and the other icon/singer turned actress that’s inspiring this chapter of her career. Check out the interview to find out who the iconic songstress is!

::TV NEWS::    

CSI Creator Shoots Online Film In Hamilton

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Oliveira

(May 10, 2012) You can’t blame Anthony Zuiker for wanting to branch away from forensic science just a little bit.

It was about 12 years ago that the creator of the massively popular
CSI franchise brought the megahit to TV, and although there are rumours that one or both of its spinoffs are endangered, the core show keeps chugging along.

He’s currently spending some time away from his regular TV gig to work in Hamilton on a project that combines two of his latest personal interests: the emerging worlds of cybercrime and online digital distribution of TV and film.

He’s executive producing an online film called Cybergeddon, which is due to premiere on Yahoo! in September. Montreal native Missy Peregrym (Rookie Blue) stars as an agent investigating efforts to launch a worldwide cyber-attack of epic proportions.

“The climate of today, so to speak is, cybercrime, so I went to Washington, D.C., and did a lot of research, worked alongside (security software maker) Symantec in terms of authenticity and wanted to do a big cybercrime movie,” said Zuiker.

“I wanted to do something as big as (Jerry Bruckheimer’s) Armageddon.”

Of course, Cybergeddon won’t be quite up to the Bruckheimer-level of production values, but Zuiker said it won’t look low budget either.

“It has the same budget in terms of an independent movie but the scale of it will feel much grander,” he said.

“There’s big money behind it but there’s still cognizant budgets, very thoughtful budgets we have to pay attention to. We’re still stretching every dollar we can to make the best content possible — but that’s all part of the fun.”

The film will be split into 10 chunks of about nine minutes each, which will become available to stream weekly. Other bonus content will be posted to keep viewers engaged in the online film between new instalments.

It took a different creative approach to structure the film into 10 parts, Zuiker said.

“We have to be able to commit to a beginning, middle and end with a hard out every nine minutes for the weekly segments, in traditional film it’d be a different format, it’d be a basic three-act structure,” he said.

“But because we are launching nine mini-movies inside one big movie there has to be a real rhythm to how we do that ... Once the segment nature of this is over with, you can put the movie together organically to have your 90 minute movie, which probably will be distributed to other platforms like Netflix and DVD to keep having a shelf life beyond the initial launch.”

Zuiker admits Cybergeddon is very much an experiment in how audiences will respond to the coming wave of designed-for-online films.

“We are in a nascent stage. As we learn more and more about what is the audience behaviour, the proper formats, and how do you tell the story properly for the device ... it will develop into what it needs to be.”

Google has aggressively been pushing for content creators to use its online video platform, YouTube, as a delivery vehicle for new shows and films. YouTube recently underwent a major redesign emphasizing channels that encourage users to watch strings of short videos together. And just last week, Google said it would spend $200 million to market YouTube channels, including a forthcoming selection of scripted dramas for women. Called Wigs, it’s being helmed by Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Fried Green Tomatoes), director Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, In Treatment) and actresses Virginia Madsen, Julia Stiles and Jennifer Beals.

What A Screenwriting Couple Add To Mad Men

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Kate Taylor

(May 11, 2012) Maria and André Jacquemetton are screenwriters and executive producers on Mad Men, the cult series created by Matthew Weiner and set in a Madison Avenue ad agency during the 1960s.

Long-time friends and collaborators of Weiner's, the couple were dividing their time between Los Angeles and Vancouver, where Maria taught at the Vancouver Film School, when Mad Men was green-lit and Weiner called them to work on his new show.

Five seasons later, the show has become a cultural phenomenon with social media abuzz about the new season and Don Draper's hurried marriage to a much younger woman, receptionist Megan Calvet.

What's going to happen next? Is Don's marriage to Megan going to survive?

Maria Jacquemetton: We can't tell you that. We know the end of season five, but we don't know the end of the series.

André Jacquemetton: Matt has an idea of what he wants to happen to Don Draper, but getting there, I am not so sure he knows. And he's curious to hear what we have to say, and that's why he has 10 people in the [writing] room. Ten different voices.

What is Weiner looking for from those writers?

AJ: He's looking for a certain surprise. Hopefully the writer can bring something he can't bring, a certain truth.

MJ: A piece of their life experience

How could there be a surprise if the plot is all agreed upon in the story room beforehand?

MJ: You get an outline, but you don't get every beat of the scene. The first boy Betty ever kissed was a Jewish boy. He particularly liked that. That was something we brought ...well, from my life.

AJ: He likes it when we write the family scenes. It's something we spark to.

MJ: The Betty/Don dynamic. The married couple dynamic. I guess we do good fights.

Why is this show such a success?

AJ: It's counter-programming. People have been conditioned to watch television in a certain way and we go out of our way to tell stories in a unique manner. It's unique, not just because it’s the sixties, but the way it's structured, the way we talk about the period.

This season, for example, you don't actually show the Rolling Stones, just backstage with the groupies waiting for them.

MJ: Or, when was Betty Draper going to cheat on Don? Instead of creating some torrid affair, the Mad Men story is on the day they think the world is ending because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She goes into a bar and lets some man pick her up so she can allow herself psychologically to take her philandering husband back and be on a level playing field. That's the Mad Men version of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There's also nostalgia. We all sort of yearn for better times. I think there also is a measure of decorum that has been lost in society and on some level we are craving that to return.

Which is why everyone is so obsessed with fashion on the show. Somehow if I went to work in a girdle, I would do everything more graciously.

AJ: Try it! I hear all those actors complaining about the girdles.

You're still landed immigrants in Canada. Do you think you'll ever come back?

MJ: We had a very nice life here, but the work is in L.A.

AJ: We still have a show we are trying to work on here.

MJ: It's called Versailles - our partners are Canal + in France and Incendo, a Montreal-based company. We have got a pilot written.

AJ: It's about Louis XIV.

An international co-production about Versailles, Megan in Mad Men ... André, is this a bit of a francophone conspiracy?

AJ: We hired Jessica Paré. She's from Montreal, she's Canadian. We loved that about her. We said why don't we use her nationality. When you talk about the sixties and you think about what was going on, French literature, French film was such an influence during that time. It just feels very organic to the show to go there.

Megan isn't a French name though.

MJ: We did not know [the character would be French]. We built the character after the role became more important. Season 4, Matt had this idea that he wanted Don Draper to get into a relationship with Dr. Faye Miller, who was going to be good for him emotionally. But at the last minute - when it became clear that being with her was going to be a lifetime of the work that he needed to do to heal himself - this beautiful young thing was going to catch his eye. We wrote to that. We cast Jessica and really her character did not come into form until the last episode of Season 4.

AJ: And Calvet is a good French name, a good Canadian name.

You were just in Toronto doing a master class at the Canadian Film Centre. What do you tell students?

AJ: We play good cop, bad cop.

MJ: You're bad. I am more nurturing.

AJ: I try to be good. I warn them it's a difficult business, and I warn them about the soul-killing aspect of the business, but I cap it off by saying it's a business that I love.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Laurieann Gibson Returns To Toronto For Canada Sings

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(May 11, 2012) Laurieann Gibson has been a Fly Girl, an Emmy nominee, a choreographer to the A list, a reality TV star, even a dancing tampon.

All of that happened far from her hometown of Toronto.

When she left here on a Greyhound bus, she was 17, armed with her Canada’s Wonderland earnings and a dream of a dance career.

These days, if you’ve heard her name, it’s likely linked to an A-lister like Lady Gaga (Gibson was her creative director up until last November); Katy Perry (Gibson choreographed her “California Gurls” video), Jennifer Lopez (the two appeared on In Living Color together and are still friends) or Diddy (Gibson was his choreographer on Making the Band).

She has also starred in two reality shows of her own, The Dance Scene and Born to Dance.

Now Gibson is relishing a rare chance to work in her hometown, but it’s not a video shoot or a concert tour that’s brought her home: it’s the Global TV show Canada Sings. Its second season debuts May 15 at 10 p.m.

Gibson has joined singer Jann Arden, and rapper and reality TV star Rob “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle on the judging panel, replacing Pierre Bouvier, who left to tour with his band Simple Plan.

The show is about ordinary people getting their moment in the spotlight, but it’s also a validation of sorts for Gibson.

In a recent interview, Gibson recalled her surprise when she learned about the series, in which workplace glee clubs from across Canada stage song and dance routines, competing for charitable donations.

“I’m, like, excuse me? Regular people get to experience the joy of performing . . . and then they get to compete for somebody else? And show the world that there’s still a sense of humanness and oneness and kindness? I was, like, c’mon, there’s got to be a catch, you guys are joking.

“And then, it’s in my hometown Toronto, on Global? Oh thank you Jesus, I must have done something right.

“For me, personally, it was a confirmation that . . . you did good, kid. You know, if it ends tomorrow, you did OK. You got to a show where you saw there’s another way, so it’s just an incredible, incredible show.”

If that sounds like an especially fervent reaction to snagging a judging job, well, Gibson is nothing if not intense.

That’s one of the things that John Brunton, executive producer of Canada Sings and president of Insight Productions, loves about her.

“She’s so emotional, she’s so positive, she’s so skilled, she wears her heart on her sleeve,” Brunton said.

Brunton admits he didn’t know anything about Gibson before his team started searching for a Canadian choreographer to add some dance cred to the judging panel. But he was “blown away by her credentials . . . I mean Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and on and on and on.”

Yes, also Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj, Keri Hilson, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé: those are just some of the artists she’s worked with.

“It’s been Laurieann that has nurtured my talent and my gift this whole time,” says Gaga in a compilation of video clips about Gibson put together by Insight.

“She’s so visual and so creative and so dead on,” says Hilson, whose video “The Way You Love Me” Gibson directed.

Gibson readily recalls a time before the acclaim, when she’d saved up enough money as a stage performer at Canada’s Wonderland to study in New York with the Ailey School, an offshoot of the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Gibson started dance lessons when she was 6 and attended the Claude Watson School for the Arts in North York.

“My first (New York) apartment, I was on the floor with some rats and roaches. Yeah, it was really tough, but I loved dancing more than the condition and so I persevered,” she said.

She took corporate jobs to survive, including one gig as a dancing tampon (“I was the best dancing tampon there ever was,” she laughs).

Gibson was too black for some jobs, like playing a Barbie in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but lacked the street savvy of the hip-hop world she was trying to break into.

Nonetheless, Gibson scored a spot in Mary J. Blige’s 1990 video “Real Love” and eventually began to choreograph for Blige on tour and, later, in music videos for other stars.

“I was the girl from Toronto that they were like, ‘We didn’t know black people were in Toronto’ . . . I didn’t really know what they meant by their ’hood. I was just not hip, but when I danced they could not deny me . . . so they had to let me in, so (I was) working with Mary and Sean ‘Puffy’ Coombs and Uptown Records. . . .

“And I started choreographing and teaching everybody about stage left and stage right, and entrances and exits, and I bridged the gap between my trained world and, then at the time, what was hip hop and what was a natural raw energy that connected with me.”

Gibson’s energy and her emotional connection to Canada Sings have been the best surprise for Brunton.

“She was so moved by the reason that these teams are on the show. She’s so moved by the stories that drove them to put these glee clubs together and the charities involved. And she’s really funny,” he said.

“You pray for chemistry in a panel, and immediately she and Rob started bumping heads in a really good way. And, of course, Laurieann and Jann just hit it off from Day 1.”

Gibson has found it refreshing dealing with regular people on Canada Sings instead of the big egos she’s used to.

“To just see them perform and get that moment, and just live and feel the excitement of dance and that spotlight, but to know that the competitiveness is for something bigger is really cool. It’s an amazing show, it really is.”

‘Single Ladies’ Welcomes Denise Vasi as ‘Raquel’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 12, 2012) *The newest season of “Single Ladies” is underway and Denise Vasi is stepping on the scene with a brand new character.

“I play Raquel Lancaster, a smart, savvy businesswoman. Raquel, when you first meet her, she’s going to go through something that propels her into this life-changing journey. She goes through something that drops in her life like a bomb, and she spends the rest of the season figuring out what she wants,” Denise told Sister 2 Sister.

While all the details weren’t disclosed, Vasi shared that her character will have quite a bit of support in her rough moments throughout the show.

She added that Raquel, who is a longtime friend of Keisha’s, will find love, but didn’t say with whom.

“Because she’s going through this rediscovery and asking all these questions, that’s where the audience is going to relate to her the most,” she said. “She’s wealthy, troubled, smart and she’s learning to deal with her emotions and speak up about them and I think that’s a place that every woman has been in at some point in her life. That’s why she’ll be super-relatable.”

Vanilla Ice Raps About Life, Real Estate And Canada Sings

Source: www.thestar.com - By Vinay Menon

(May 14, 2012) Vanilla Ice is sipping an espresso and sitting in a white leather recliner.

The small porcelain cup looks comically out of place, cradled in two large hands and forearms covered in tattoos.
Then again, after all these years, maybe it’s impossible for Ice — as a handler calls him inside a chaotic suite at the Trump Hotel on Monday — to strike a pose that does not violate our fleeting memories and enduring misperceptions.

Teen star, pioneering white rapper, human mannequin for a regrettable hairstyle or three, driver of fast cars, dancer of the running man, romancer of coastal hotties, notorious party boy, punch line to a thousand jokes — Vanilla Ice was all these things you vaguely remember.

But then, when everyone forgot, Robert Van Winkle took a long, hard look in the mirror and winced at what his alter ego had become.

“None of the stuff that I thought would bring me happiness, brought me happiness,” says Van Winkle, in town to promote the second season of
Canada Sings, the show in which people from workplaces across Canada battle it out in a singing competition for charity. He’s a judge on the show, which returns to Global Television on Tuesday, along with Jann Arden and Laurieann Gibson. “I wouldn’t have wished my life on my worst enemy.”

To the Extreme, his 1990 debut album that included the monster hit “Ice Ice Baby,” turned Vanilla Ice into a very rich man. Unfortunately, this material explosion — he eventually moved into a 15,000 square foot, 12-bedroom mansion on Star Island near Miami’s South Beach district — wreaked havoc on his mood and identity.

“My staircase had fish swimming in them,” he says, shaking his head. “It really sounds awesome and it was awesome at the time. But when you live there, it feels like you’re living in a nightclub. It became awful.

“I had a room that was completely red. And when I say ‘red,’ I mean carpets, ceiling walls, couch — every piece in that room was red… I would go spend the night with friends over in their apartments just to get out of there.”

By the age of 22, the lifestyle he once coveted seemed like a dangerous nightmare. He was boozing, doing drugs, getting into senseless scrapes. He had become two people: Vanilla Ice was the ringleader of a global circus and Rob Van Winkle was desperate to escape and find a quiet corner.

“I’d already been churned up in the blender,” he says. “They just spill you out on the floor and you have to figure it out from there.”

One night, during a wild party, a friend tipped over a $5,000 vase and then said, “Sorry, bro. Where’s the beer?” Instead of answering, Van Winkle thought: “Where am I? What life is this? Whose life is this?”

Call it a catharsis or epiphany. But after that, Van Winkle started to take an active interest in creating peaceful spaces. The guy who once rapped lyrics such as “Bum rush the speaker that booms / I’m killin’ your brain like a poisonous mushroom” was now reading decorating magazines. The motocross enthusiast was waxing rhapsodically about throw pillows and earthy palettes and cathedral ceilings.

He started making new millions. Not with a microphone, but as a real estate tycoon. He flipped hundreds of properties. He even decided to personally renovate his own mansion, which became the basis for The Vanilla Ice Project on the DIY Network.

The precursor to Eminem had veered into Bob Vila territory.

“I’m more lost than you are,” he says, of this improbable transformation. “I never in a million years thought I would do this. I didn’t plan it. It just happened.”

Van Winkle lives by several phrases, including “Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are,” “Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet so don’t worry about it,” “Always expect the unexpected,” “We all have a little bit of star in us,” and “Good karma is contagious.”

String them together and you get a decent understanding of Vanilla Ice, good and bad, past and present. Now 44, married for 15 years and with two daughters, he survived fame and brings these lessons to the judge’s chair on Canada Sings.

“I think my career is fascinating to people,” he says. “I think the journey, the adventure, the wows, the ups, the downs — everything involved in those weekends that lasted a few years and how you come out on top and shining.

“When I first started off, I was the opening act for the opening act for the opening act. I don’t think they even turned the lights out when I was on stage… So I don’t really give any thought to ‘let me do this or that’ for any particular reason.”

He puts down the espresso and smiles, his eyes lighting up under a blue trucker hat emblazoned with his own clothing-line logo: a Cupid firing an automatic weapon.

“It spreads the love faster,” he jokes. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.”

Whitney Houston’s Family To Star In Reality Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

(May 11, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — A reality show featuring Whitney Houston’s relatives, including daughter Bobbi Kristina and mother Cissy, is in the works.

Houston representative Kristen Foster confirmed the Lifetime show, The Houston Family Chronicles, on Friday.

It will focus on Pat Houston, sister-in-law and manager of the late singer. Pat Houston is also helping care for Whitney Houston’s only child, 19-year-old Bobby Kristina. The show promises to feature Bobbi Kristina and Cissy, as well as Houston’s cousin Dionne Warwick, gospel singer CeCe Winans and other members of the Houston family.

Whitney Houston drowned in a bathtub in February at age 48 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Authorities said her death was complicated by cocaine use and heart disease.

Pat Houston, Whitney Houston’s brother Gary and Bobbi Kristina spoke about Houston’s death in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Winfrey’s OWN network in March.

Cissy Houston, also a singer, put out her first new music in over a decade on iTunes this week. Cissy, Gary and Bobbi Kristina are expected to appear Saturday in Newark, N.J., at a gospel tribute to the late superstar as part of the annual McDonald’s Gospelfest concert.

'House' Creator Reflects As Show Signs Off

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Andrew Ryan

(May 16, 2012) The sharpest mind on House has always been its Canadian creator, David Shore.

Born and raised in London, Ont., Shore was the driving force behind the Fox drama starring Hugh Laurie as a misanthropic medical diagnostician with a nasty bedside manner and, quite often, an intense dislike for his own staff. Shore has said that the inspiration for the title character stemmed in part from his lifelong fascination with Sherlock Holmes - hence the pun.

House signs off Monday night following an eight-season run and, true to form, Shore co-wrote and directed the final episode, thereby bringing the story full circle from the original pilot he wrote in 2004.

Shore reflected upon the show in a phone interview last week.

Had you envisioned an eight-season run for House?

No, in my mind that would have been incredibly pompous. The idea that this would last more than 12 episodes and I could plan an ending for it was way too arrogant. It's American network TV.

Was the show's success entirely contingent on Hugh Laurie morphing into this curmudgeonly character?

Hugh and I shared the same vision of this character from day one. We met with a lot of actors and nobody seemed to get it, and then he came in and he was House. If you watch his audition tape, he was doing the same thing then that he's doing now, without any direction, without any coaching. It's been a wonderful collaboration.

It seems the ongoing challenge of House was keeping the lead character likeable despite his caustic nature.

My words of wisdom in the writer’s room was that the punishment doesn't have to fit the crime, but there has to be a crime. As long as there was a House-like motivation, not just self-aggrandizement, and he was always solving that puzzle, which in turn meant getting somebody better, pretty much anything went.

Was that rule stretched slightly last season when House plowed his car into his ex-lover's living room?

There was a real hue and cry when he drove his car through Cuddy's wall, which was never intended to cause her harm; it was meant to cause her home harm. That was an irrational act from a rational man. It got more of a viewer reaction than any of the other reprehensible things he did.

Any regrets about pairing up House and Cuddy?

I'm not big on regrets. A lot of people thought it could have been done better, a lot of people thought we should have kept them together. It was a bit of a lightning rod. But the sexual tension was there from the beginning, and at a certain point we had to put them together.

Over eight seasons you made several wholesale cast changes.

I was aware some people would be disappointed, but you have to make changes before people are clamouring for changes. If people are asking for changes, it's too late. The death of a show is to be driven by those considerations. You have to be driven by the stories you want to tell, or there won't be any real heart to those stories any more.

What is the TV legacy left behind by House?

That the main character stood for the pursuit of truth. He wasn't just blindly following rules, but worked toward the reality of each situation and the right thing to do. That search for an objective truth was throughout the life of the show.

House has consistently focused on deconstructing the human condition. Has overseeing the show taught you anything about yourself?

I should have been learning a lot of stuff, right? Nobody learns anything. You reach your emotional peak at 18.

The first episode of House was titled Everybody Lies. The final show is titled Everybody Dies. Should viewers expect the worst?

It's definitely an ending. I don't want to say more than that. We never do happy endings, but we also try not to do miserable endings. Bittersweet is the most you can hope for.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

The House finale airs Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox and Global.

VIDEO: First Look: Jill Scott’s ‘VH1 Storytellers’ Special

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 16, 2012) *On May 8,
Jill Scott took the stage at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom to share stories and perform some of her hits for a broadcast of “VH1 Storytellers.”

It was clear that Ms. Scott wasn’t going to just run down her extensive catalog of soulful music. Instead, she was creating something new with each song. Before her smooth rendition of “Come See Me,” the songstress, now wearing a collared shirt and big glasses with wavy black hair, informed everyone that she was a world traveling PhD recipient. The scholar was obviously uptight, until a man came along and changed all that. Her glasses soon came off and Scott began to sing “Crown Royal,” with so much energy that she almost started scatting in the tradition of jazz greats at the end.

By the time she got to “Cross My Mind,” Jill Scott had everyone in the room wrapped around her finger. Backed by a 15-piece band, the singer’s show flowed effortlessly. This time donning a short bob, the R&B star sang two unique versions of “Quick” before taking her time with “The Fact Is (I Need You).”

But it was an anxious bride to be who delivered “The Way You Love Me” and “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat).” Singing the last lines in Spanish, she hit operatic notes as only someone deeply in love could. In a long flowing black dress, Scott re-emerged one final time to take the audience to the highest heights with “Love Rain,” “Golden,” and “I’m So Blessed.” “I woke up in the morning feeling fresh to death, I’m so blessed,” she sang, as the crowd rose to their feet.

In the short span of one night, Jill Scott managed to embody many different women. Her seamless transitions were complemented by vibrant renditions of songs that her fans love. By the end of her ‘VH1 Storytellers’ performance, premiering on May 21 on 11 pm EST, the singer felt like an old friend.

Tyra Banks Writes Open Letter over Healthy Body Images

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 16, 2012) *
Tyra Banks is saluting Vogue’s 19 international editions for pledging to promote healthy body image, but she says real evolution will take some time.

“Real progress is finally on the horizon,” Banks writes in an open letter on The Daily Beast. “Vogue is stepping up, doing the right thing, and protecting that girl. Perhaps that girl is you!”

Earlier this month, Conde Nast, which owns Vogue, announced a six-point plan for what they’ll require beginning with their June editions. “Vogue editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers,” international chairman Jonathan Newhouse said, according to the New York Times.

The bullet points are outlined as follows:

1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.

2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.

3. We will help to structure mentoring programs where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.

4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.

5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.

6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.

Banks suggests the establishment of a guild to protect models. She writes: “When I went to Paris after graduating high school, I saw a model who was 12 years old without any supervision. That wouldn’t happen in the acting world. There needs to be more industry-wide protections for models, and we need to be more consistent with what the acting world does: protect our minors, as well as the health and well-being of models.”

She discussed her open letter to the Daily Beast this morning during an appearance on “Good Morning America.” Watch below.

[Read Tyra's open letter in its entirety here.]


30 Rock To Return Next Season For Final 13 Episodes

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

(May 11, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — NBC says 30 Rock’s next season will be its last. The network said Thursday the much-acclaimed sitcom will have an abbreviated run of 13 episodes in its seventh season before calling it quits. The show has been a critical favourite since premiering in 2006. It has won numerous awards, as have its creator-star Tina Fey and co-star Alec Baldwin. Many high-profile guest stars, including Matt Damon, Elizabeth Banks and Al Gore, have appeared on the show. But the series was never a ratings smash, and this year its audience has dwindled to an average 3.5 million viewers. NBC will join other broadcast networks in unveiling full new prime-time schedules for advertisers next week. NBC will make its upcoming lineup official on Sunday.

Britney Spears Joins The X Factor

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(May 10, 2012) Whether Simon Cowell is trading up or down remains to be seen, but it looks to be official: Britney Spears is joining The X Factor. Up until recently, the singer was better known for the drama in her personal life than her career, but she’ll grace the reality show’s judging panel for a reported $15 million per season. MTV says that’s about $3 million more than Spears’ former Mousketeer mate Christina Aguilera makes on The Voice. The news was broken by E!, quoting an anonymous source. Spears will join Cowell and record executive L.A. Reid on the panel. Paula Abdul, who did nine seasons of American Idol with Cowell, was fired in January along with Nicole Scherzinger and X Factor host Steve Jones after ratings didn’t meet Cowell’s predictions of 20 million viewers plus per episode. There were rumours earlier this week that Miley Cyrus was in talks to host the show.

Moesha Star Yvette Wilson Battling Cancer for the Second Time

Source: www.eurweb.com - J.C. Brooks

(May 14, 2012) *Truly sad story. Former Moesha star, Yvette Wilson, known for her role as Andell Wilkerson, is battling a nasty battle against cancer, says blogger Carlton Jordan. Fans and supporters of the star are helping her fight the illness through the “CANCER SUCKS” fund. Money from donations will go toward medical expenses not covered by Wilson’s insurance. This isn’t her first battle against a serious health related issue. The comedian, who also appeared in films like “House Party 2,” “House Party 3″ and “Friday,” also experienced kidney failure, kidney transplants, and cervical cancer. She beat it the first time, but it’s made an aggressive return even after a long retreat. Supporters may find out more or to contribute to the cause, visit www.giveforward.com/supportyvettewilson.

New Sherlock Series ‘Elementary’ On Tap For CBS

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(May 16, 2012) It’s CBS’s bat at the upfront plate on Wednesday, and after a strong season — the network had the strongest year in ratings by the largest margin in 23 years — announced some new series coming this fall. Series that will not be returning include CSI: Miami, Unforgettable and Rob. Two and a Half Men, The Mentalist and CSI: NY will be moving. Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer will move to Thursdays, while The Mentalist moves from Thursday to Sunday, making that evening even more of a battleground. Many networks are planting their marquee series on that night, such as ABC’s Revenge. CSI: NY will be moving to Fridays at 8 p.m. In terms of new series, Elementary, the American reboot of modern day Sherlock Holmes based in Manhattan starring Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu has been greenlit, even though there have been threats of a lawsuit from the critically acclaimed British series, Sherlock. Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis will also star in the new drama called Vegas, which is set in the 1960s and is based on the true story of Ralph Lamb, a rodeo cowboy turned longtime Sheriff of Las Vegas. The other new drama is Made in Jersey airing Fridays at 9 p.m. about a woman (Toni Trucks, Twilight) using her streets smarts to compete at a Manhattan law firm. Kyle McLachlan also stars. The lone new comedy is Partners, starring David Krumholtz (Numb3rs), and Michael Urie (Ugly Betty), as longtime architects and friends who get goofily neurotic when one of them gets engaged.

Glee To Feature Kate Hudson And Sarah Jessica Parker Next Season

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bang Showbiz

(May 15, 2012) Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker are set to appear in Glee. The actresses will both appear in the fourth season of the TV musical drama series, though details of their roles are being kept under wraps. However, broadcaster Fox has confirmed the former Sex and the City star will appear in at least one episode, while Hudson’s storyline arc will last six episodes. The network also vowed the show — which experienced a drop in ratings during the current season, ending in the U.S. on May 22 — is “poised for a creative renaissance” when it returns in a new Thursday night slot later in the year. Fox’s entertainment president Kevin Reilly explained the program will become a “show within a show” following some of the McKinley High graduates as they attend a New York performing arts school, as well as introducing “some new faces” at the main Ohio educational establishment. Last week, Amber Riley tweeted to apparently reveal she is leaving her role as Mercedes Jones when the character graduates at the end of this series. However, she later retracted her comments, tweeting: “I was not confirming I was leaving the show. Just stating that I would miss being in the classroom everyday with the cast and that would be changing.” Existing stars, including Lea Michele, whose characters are also set to graduate are expected to remain with the show in season four.

Tia Mowry and Pooch Hall Out of ‘The Game’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 16, 2012) *Those of us who like
The Game may be in for an upset when the new season starts. The new season will focus on more losses from the cast. The first loss from the team was Kelly Pitts (played by Brittney ), with her divorce from Jason Pitts (played by Coby Bell) which left many wondering why… the same will apply with the new cuts from the team. Online reports say that BET didn’t come up with the checks for two of the shows central characters, Tia Mowry and Pooch Hall who play Melanie Barnett-Davis and Derwin Davis. Media outlet, Diggin in the Crates, placed a tweet from Tia that says she’s out in their report: (click here)


West Side Story: Alarmingly Charming, Stumbles Aside

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

(May 13, 2012) Back in 2009, West Side Story returned to Broadway for the first time in almost two decades. Just a few months later, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival also revived the beloved 1957 musical inspired by Romeo and Juliet. Now, the tour of the New York production is passing through Toronto, while the stars of the Stratford one - Paul Nolan and Chilina Kennedy - are down in Gotham doing Jesus Christ Superstar. Who says cross-border trade is on the skids?

Having seen both sides of the Story at the time, Stratford's struck me as the strongest. But the New York production - a bilingual one directed by book-writer Arthur Laurents, who died a year ago this month - was no small shakes either.

Revisiting it on tour - the direction is now credited to David Saint - I feel it has slightly diminished. But it scratches the itch one gets every couple of years for this classic American musical.

The story of star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria is as moving as ever, while Leonard Bernstein's score is still sumptuous, and played beautifully here by a large and local orchestra. (Musical contractor Levon Ichkhanian is doing a fine job living up to the high standard set by his late mentor, Sam Lutfiyya.)

As Tony, Ross Lekites - who looks like a young Matt Damon - may be a little soft around the edges, but he has a lovely voice and good chemistry with Evy Ortiz's sweet and diminutive Maria.

Jerome Robbins's iconic choreography is reproduced with varying quality by Joey McKneely. The dance at the gym is electric, but the opening scene between duelling "American" and "Puerto Rican" gangs the Jets and the Sharks - snapping their fingers at each other, instead of biting their thumbs as in Shakespeare - feels laboured. In Sergio Trujillo's hyperkinetic recreation on Stratford's thrust stage, you believed there was masculine hostility behind the movements; that's only intermittently the case here.

Laurents hired In the Heights's Puerto Rican-American composer Lin-Manuel Miranda to translate the Sharks' dialogue and songs into Spanish for this revival - and that was its unique selling point. The bilingualism has been dialled back a bit, but there are still passages in Spanish. Mercifully, these include much of I Feel Pretty, which Stephen Sondheim has accurately derided as containing some of his most annoying lyrics ever.

The tradaptation ultimately ends up more a gimmick than a new window into the work, however. And if its intent is to make the Sharks less caricatured, it backfires.

To keep the attention of the gringos in the audience, the actors playing the Puerto Ricans pull an awful lot of over-the-top face gestures to communicate their meaning - and they seem to mime sexual congress all the time. One step forward, two steps back. (I can't check the video replay, but I believe much of this cartoonishness has crept in under Saint's watch.)

Of course, the tour's Bernardo (German Santiago) and Anita (Michelle Aravena) aren't the stand-outs in the cast either, with Anita in particular eating her songs, and both looking as if they've been out of the teenage-gang game for a long time.

Stumbles aside, this tour of West Side Story does satisfy, and I couldn't help but tear up in the usual places. A beautiful touch is having the notoriously scabby-kneed tomboy Anybodys (Alexandra Frohlinger), who wants to be a Jet more than anything, sing Somewhere during the dream ballet. In this simple tune, the characters yearn for a time and place of tolerance to love who you want. That struggle is, of course, still ongoing down in the United States - with one step back, two steps forward this week.

West Side Story runs until June 3.

West Side Story

Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by David Saint
At the Toronto Centre for the Arts
3 stars

Zooey Deschanel Tapped To Play Loretta Lynn In Coal Miner’s Daughter

Source: www.thestar.com - By Caitlin R. King

(May 11, 2012) NASHVILLE, TENN. — Country Music Hall of Fame member Loretta Lynn is taking her life story to Broadway, and she has tapped film and TV actress Zooey Deschanel to play her on stage.

Lynn, 80, unveiled plans for a musical adaptation of Coal Miner’s Daughter during a Grand Ole Opry show at the Ryman Auditorium on Thursday night. Wearing one of her signature long sleeve, floor length dresses, the singer blew through four songs before bringing Deschanel onstage to sing the title tune.

The announcement mirrored the way Lynn invited actress Spacek on the Opry stage in 1979 to reveal that Spacek would play her in the upcoming film. Spacek later won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Lynn.

“I have a friend here tonight. I don’t know if ya’ll remember when Sissy Spacek was with me. I brought her out here with me. She about fainted. We both fainted,” Lynn said with a laugh. “She went on to do the Coal Miner’s Daughter, and you know from there. Well, there’s a little girl back stage that’s going to do the play of Coal Miner’s Daughter on Broadway,” Lynn continued. Zooey, where you at honey?”

Deschanel, 32, the star and a producer of the Fox comedy New Girl, then emerged in a short, vintage-inspired white dress. She grabbed Lynn’s hand and flashed a dazzling smile.

“Are you going to help me sing Coal Miner’s Daughter?” asked Lynn.

“I’m going to help you sing,” said Deschanel, who has been nominated for a Grammy Award. “This is a great honour for me. This is my hero.”

The two traded verses and they ended the song holding hands.

“Coal Miner’s Daughter” was a No. 1 hit for Lynn in 1970 that she wrote about growing up as one of eight children in rural Kentucky. It became the title of her 1976 autobiography and the basis for the 1980 movie, starring Sissy Spacek, which traces Lynn’s rise from humble beginnings into one of country music’s most beloved singers. In 1972, Lynn became the first woman to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association.

Among the songs performed in the film are “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man,” “You’re Looking at Country,” “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” and the title song.

Plans for a stage adaptation are still in the beginning stages, with no creative team attached or workshop dates announced. The producers — Fox Theatricals and Scott Sanders Productions — have been behind such Broadway hits as Legally Blonde, The Color Purple, Red and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Deschanel has starred in such films as Elf, (500) Days of Summer and Your Highness. Producers of the musical said their schedule would not conflict with the actress’ New Girl commitments.

Deschanel also has a musical side. She has appeared on some of her movie soundtracks and in a jazz cabaret act called If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies. She has also released three albums with M. Ward as the folk-rock duo She & Him, and she performed three songs for the recent animated film Winnie the Pooh. One of those songs, “So Long,” was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Song Written For Visual Media.

During the surprise duet Thursday as part of the Grand Ole Opry Country Classics, Deschanel sang her parts strong, with a convincing lilt in her voice. As the music faded out, Lynn said to the crowd, “Don’t forget her name. Her name is Zooey.”

And with that, another coal miner’s daughter was born.

Freddie Mercury To Appear — As Optical Illusion — At We Will Rock You Anniversary

Source: www.thestar.com - By Tony Wong

(May 11, 2012) Freddie Mercury will rise from the dead in the tenth anniversary of Queen’s musical We Will Rock You.

Queen guitarist Brian May told the BBC that the flamboyant front man will return as “an optical illusion of sorts” in the London production.

However, it apparently won’t be with the same kind of technology used to animate rapper Tupac Shakur whose “appearance” stunned crowds at the Coachella Festival in California last month.

May said similar technology was not practical for a Broadway-style performance that runs eight shows a week.

While Mercury, who died in 1991, will perform in the London stage show, there seems little chance that he will go on tour.

Queen drummer Roger Taylor has told Billboard Magazine that the “idea did not sit well” with him to perform beside Mercury.

“I don’t want to appear with a hologram of my dear friend. It’s the real one or no hologram for me.”

Taylor said he didn’t have an objection to using holograms, but that he personally didn’t want to go on tour with one.

Ever since Shakur’s appearance with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at Coachella, there has been speculation as to which performer would be next.

Mercury was the second choice in a recent Toronto Star poll asking which artist readers would like to see come back as a hologram. Michael Jackson claimed the top spot.

Shakur’s technology was courtesy of a crude, first generation holographic type image created by technology from several companies, including Canadian Jim Cameron’s Digital Domain.

The technology has also created ethical questions as to whether the performer would want their image to exist in that fashion and whether the computer generated image would live up to the artist’s standards.

In Mercury’s case, rising from the dead in the most over-the-top fashion would have likely pleased the highly theatrical front man.


A Spiritual Deep Clean In A Cancun Sweat Lodge? I’m Game

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Susan Ferrier Mackay

(May 11, 2012) CANCUN, MEXICOIf I hadn't said yes to a free foot rub beside the pool, I might never have found myself sitting in steamy darkness invoking the spirit of my dead mother.

But these things happen. On the second day at the Westin Resort and Spa in Cancun, a talented masseur named Heraldo had hooked me within 60 seconds of the tootsie freebie. I immediately signed up for an outdoor massage that included admission to the hotel spa. Afterward, in the tranquil spa, feeling as relaxed as a puddle, I noticed a poster for an ancient ritual called Temazcal. A spa attendant explained it as a “spiritual cleansing.” In 50-plus years, my spirit has never been cleansed; it was probably filthy, a cleansing long overdue.

The procedure, basically replicating a Mayan sweat lodge experience, required 24 hours’ notice as the shaman had to be booked in advance. At $230 a person, it seemed beyond the budget, but a two-for-one special was on offer. My friend and I, both sweat-lodge virgins, signed up. At the appointed hour, we arrived in our swimsuits.

The setting for our adventure was an igloo-shaped rock hut, too low to stand up in. Beside the hut, a muscular young man was stoking a blazing kiln. He stopped and blew a haunting note on a conch shell. The shaman's entrance was imminent. I thought he would be a large Mayan, semi-naked and possibly wearing a mask. My friend and I were both nervous, particularly at the prospect of claustrophobia, but it was too late to back out.

The shaman arrived. She was in her late 50s, petite with long dark hair and the figure of a girl. Her name was Margarita, like the intoxicating tequila drink of which we were overly fond.

Margarita was an energetic Venezuelan who had studied shamanism with different tribes all across North America.

After she had given us bottles of water, and blessed us with eagle feathers, she led us into the hut. Margarita summoned the young man who appeared, chanting words we couldn't understand. He dumped a pitchfork of red-hot lava rocks into a small pit in the middle of the hut and left. The door closed. We were in total darkness except for the glowing rocks that sent off a brief sizzle of sparkles. Margarita said this was a sign from the ancestors, and asked us to divine pictures in the coals that she then interpreted. A bird represented the need for freedom. A dragon meant wisdom. A brain was a sign that the heart needed to be listened to.

She dumped water on the rocks from a small bucket, along with a fragrant herb called rue. She told us to wave our hands in front of our faces, even though it was much too dark and steamy to see them.

Despite the inky blackness, I clearly saw a lovely shade of blue that Margarita said was my aura. We listened carefully to silence that turned into the sound of a roaring river, then distant drumming punctuated by the tweet of birds. A light settled on my left side. Margarita said an ancestor had joined me. Mom? Is that you?

We followed Margarita in a chant. The heated rocks were brought in twice more. After the third time, I figured my spirit was clean enough and it was time to get out. Margarita provided coconut shells of water to douse our bodies. It was a heavenly sensation, as was the cool night air. We'd been in the sweat lodge for more than an hour but time felt compressed. At first, we felt energized but later fatigue set in so heavily that my friend actually nodded off as she brought a forkful of food to her mouth.

That night, I had the deepest sleep of my adult life. My dreams were extremely vivid. My mother was in them. My spirit, I assume, is still reasonably pristine – as I've been feeling wonderful ever since.

Special to The Globe and Mail


Canada’s Zach Bell Ready For Decathlon Of Cycling At London Olympics

Source: www.thestar.com - Joseph Hall

(May 14, 2012) Zach Bell, a kid from the Klondike, hopes to strike gold at the London Olympics this summer.

And as a former world champion in cycling’s omnium event — new to the Games this year — the Yukon-born Bell is going in as a solid favourite.

Of course Bell, soft spoken, modest and judicious with his words, will only promise to give his all.

“I’m in a position where if I can get it right I can win the gold medal, but … there’s 10 guys right now that can totally justify saying the same thing,” he says.

“I just want people in the country to know that I’m going to do my absolute best to step on the top step and they can count on that.”

Described as the decathlon of cycling — the demanding omnium presents athletes with six very different velodrome races over two days.

“There’s one event at 250 metres long — 13 seconds long — to the longest one which is a 30 kilometres points race over 40 minutes,” Bell says.

Indeed, these races represent the omnium’s first two events. They’re followed by an elimination race — where trailing riders are pulled out every two laps — a four-kilometre time trial or pursuit, a 60 lap “scratch” race and a one-kilometre time trial.

Points are awarded according to finish, with first place drawing one point and so on down. The rider with the lowest point tally in the end is the winner.

Bell, 29, was world champion in 2011, but took silver this year, beaten by Australian Glenn O’Shea in the final time trial race in April.

But he says reports of his disappointment at the loss were somewhat exaggerated.

“To have a second (world championship) slip through my fingers in the last event was frustrating,” he allows. “But in a positive way it kind of inspired me to try and do more.”

You don’t naturally associate cycling with the arctic. Even with the midnight sun allowing plenty of time to bike in summer, cycling-friendly infrastructure is woefully limited.

But Bell only took up cycling seriously as a student at the University of Calgary, which he attended on a wrestling scholarship.

Bell’s father was a high school gym teacher and wrestling coach in the town of Watson Lake — sitting just above 63 degrees latitude — and Bell excelled in the sport as a teenager.

But as he progressed into elite university levels, limitations in his mat abilities began to show, he says.

“I came to the realization that, for one reason or another, I just didn’t have it at that highest level,” he says candidly.

“Once I got to the cream of the crop at the top, I wasn’t making the grade.”

He initially took to biking in a cross-training attempt to improve his wrestling performance.

But the more he biked, the more he liked it and the more apparent it became that this was his true, hidden calling.

Pedalling a used road bike, he won a couple of races in the Yukon in the summer of 2004 and quit the wrestling team soon after returning to Calgary in the fall to devote all his athletic efforts to cycling.

In his first year he won several races at a provincial level and soon moved up to national and professional competitions.

“Once I did that I thought, ‘Well there’s some decent power here, I can do some things on the bike,’” Bell says.

“So I thought maybe I’ll try to make the national team.”

Initially, his wrestling training that stressed intense efforts over short durations helped Bell excel in sprint races on the bike, he says.

“I was really good at events that were two to four minutes long, which is really similar to the length of a wrestling match.”

But as required by his current, eclectic discipline, Bell has broadened his racing repertoire to the point where he’s often known as “Mr. Consistency” over all the omnium’s distances.

“No one can peg me down now and say, ‘He’s more of a sprinter,’ or ‘He’s more of an endurance guy,’” he says.

Bell recalls his youth at the tree line’s edge as a magical time, and says the Yukon’s seasonal switch between midnight days and endless nights provides a natural environment for an athletic life.

“Going out for cross-country skis with headlamps on at 4:30 in the afternoon was an amazing experience,” he says.

“Conversely, in the summer time we’d play ultimate Frisbee until 2:30 in the morning. You took advantage of either scenario.”

The Yukon’s wild call also bred a love of the land in Bell, and nurtured a deep environmental sensibility in the cyclist.

And he promises to be a strong promoter of environmental causes across Canada once his career is over.

“I don’t think I can ethically justify calling myself an environmentalist because I’m participating in a sport that involves flying all over the world,” says the Vancouver resident.

“But I kind of see it as a necessary evil right now, to do what I’m doing and hopefully that will lead to me being able to do better work down the road by being a role model with kids post-cycling.”

Like many Olympians, Bell often gives motivational talks to school children. And he uses his almost accidental cycling career as the basis of his message.

“My message is always don’t sell yourself short in the efforts that you’re doing in sport,” he says.

“Just because you don’t make it in one sport doesn’t mean it won’t pay dividends later.”

Bell’s unsure what his post-cycling career will hold, but he’ll have at least one new job soon after his return from London — father.

He and his wife Rebecca are expecting their first child in October.

Fencing A Family Affair For Sabre Specialist Philippe Beaudry

Source: www.thestar.com - Joseph Hall

(May 14, 2012) It’s not likely to happen, given that he’s clothed in two layers of Kevlar and the swords are dull.

But if a well-timed riposte did chance to cut him, there’d be fencing in
Philippe Beaudry’s blood.

Beaudry comes by his exotic sport naturally.

“My parents met fencing,” the 25-year-old native of Sherbrooke, Que., says. “My dad was giving fencing classes at university and my mom took a class and they fell in love. What can I say?”

Beaudry’s father, Paul, was a world-class fencer in the 1970s and qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which Canada boycotted.

“And that’s always been a big regret for him, not going there,” Beaudry says. “So when I qualified (for the 2008 Beijing Olympics) he was super happy, he could live the Olympic dream through his son.”

Though his mother and father were steeped in the sport, they never forced their son to join or badgered him to practise.

“They were never pushing on me or anything” says Beaudry, who picked up the sport because it was offered at his high school. “The good thing about having parents that did that sport was that they knew what I was facing, they knew when to give me space, knew when to encourage me. They knew how to guide me.”

Like his father, Beaudry took up the sabre as his choice of fencing weapon.

The most physically demanding of the sport’s three swords — the others being foil and epee — the sabre is a hacking tool.

“The foil and epee, you only have to touch the point; for me, we slash,” he says. “It’s like having a piece of metal and beating people up.”

This style of fighting means Beaudry must don an extra layer of Kevlar on his upper body.

But he’s never been harmed by a sword.

“There’s no risk of getting killed, there’s no risk there.”

The hardest thing about fencing for Beaudry is the combination of balanced athleticism and strategy it requires.

“A good comparison would be playing chess while running the 100 metres at the same time,” says the 10-time Canadian champion — at the junior and senior levels — and two-time Pan Am gold medallist.

“It’s very, very physical and technical like the 100 metres, but at the same time it’s super tactical.”

Though tactical, the sport is asymmetrical, with athletes developing oversized muscles in the one arm and one leg they favour.

And while Beaudry is often challenged at gatherings by people wielding long, thin objects, his favourite party trick is to show off his oversized right forearm.

“My right forearm is gigantic,” he says. “It’s twice as big as my left one. It’s hard to buy shirts sometimes.”

On the rare days he’s not fencing — he trains 25 hours a week in between bouts, travel and tournaments — Beaudry often takes his sword into schools for motivational sessions.

“For five years, I’ve been doing a lot of conferences in schools, ranging from 6-year-olds to 17-year-olds,” he says. “I try to motivate them to adopt a very healthy lifestyle and to achieve their goals. I had a very big dream that came true. I try to motivate them to pursue their dreams and never give up.”

He’s now working toward a business degree at Concordia University, fitting in study when and where he can.

“Last time I went to a class was the 25th of January,” he says. “But I have my books . . . and I study every day in between the morning and afternoon practices.”

Tavares’ Make Supporting Canada At The World Championship A Family Affair

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Chris Johnston, The Canadian Press

(May 13, 2012) HELSINKI, Finland—There might be only one person who is a more passionate supporter of Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship than John Tavares.

His mom, Barb.

The tournament has turned into an annual event for the family, with John currently starring on the ice for a third straight year and his parents back among the entourage of Canadian friends and family offering support. It’s an event none of them would miss — at least as long as John’s New York Islanders aren’t part of the NHL playoffs.

“Any time there’s anything for Hockey Canada you’re certain to see my face,” Barb Tavares said Sunday before the group gathered for a Mother’s Day brunch.

She is the epitome of a committed hockey mom.

In fact, John Tavares isn’t sure he ever would have scaled the heights he has in hockey without her support. When he was a young phenom just beginning to chase his NHL dream, it was almost always Barb who shuffled him from rink to rink while his father, Joe, was busy running the family business.

“My dad didn’t take me to hockey growing up very much,” said Tavares. “He was always working and working late. My mom’s the one that dealt with a lot of things — getting me to the rink and getting me on the ice and dealing with parents sometimes and giving me the best opportunity to do something I love to do.

“I think what my mom was really good at, she really understood how badly I loved to play and wanted to play and realized when to push me.”

That drive has carried him a long way.

The No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL draft, Tavares has quickly become a go-to player for the Islanders — leading them in scoring each of his three NHL seasons — and a major force for Canada in international competitions. He’s piled up an impressive 16 goals in 20 career world championship games and is centring the team’s top scoring unit here with Jordan Eberle and Jeff Skinner.

Amazingly, at just 21 years old, Tavares is already tied for fifth in goals all-time at this event by a Canadian. Next up on the career list with 18 goals is Steve Yzerman, who will almost certainly be keeping a close eye on Tavares leading up to his selection of Team Canada for the 2014 Olympics.

Kevin Lowe — a member of Yzerman’s management team for the Sochi Games and Canada’s general manager here — has been awfully impressed with what he’s seen so far.

“It’s amazing how much different he looks now than he did two years ago,” said Lowe. “He looks like a man now.”

Time has passed quickly for the Tavares family.

Barb vividly remembers John being selected first overall in the Ontario Hockey League draft by Oshawa at the tender age of 14 and thinking that a four-year junior career would drag on a long time. In September, her son will be starting his fourth NHL season.

Back in the OHL days, she was a constant at games — often making trips around the province each weekend with daughters Laura and Barbara in tow.

“It just kind of worked with the family,” said Barb. “It was basically throw the girls in the car, I had a cooler packed and off we went. We all enjoyed it.”

With both daughters now attending university, she and Joe spend a fair amount of time on the road watching the Islanders play. John thinks his mother has learned to internalize her “intensity” while watching games, but he knows there’s always a fire burning inside.

“She wants to see us succeed and see me succeed because she knows how much I love the game and how hard I work at it,” he said.

His Islanders teammates have taken note of Barb and Joe’s commitment to watching them play. It’s something they even needle Tavares about in the dressing room.

“She’s watching every game,” he said. “It’s funny, her and my dad come so often on the road now that I don’t even go out to eat with them every time. The guys back home on the Island always give me a bit of a hard time about how they should be running the booster club.

“They’ve put in a lot of time and effort with me. I think they’re really proud and just trying to enjoy it all.”

The pride is evident — just as it as among the other seven mothers who made the trip to Helsinki to watch their sons play at the world championship.

Barb broke into a wide smile when asked how it feels to see John wear the Maple Leaf.

“It’s like a dream come true,” she said. “I mean that’s the ultimate — to represent your country, there’s nothing above that.”

IndyCar Hopes To Increase Canadian Footprint

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Christie

(May 14, 2012) Three Canadian cities - Vancouver, Calgary and Quebec City - are on the radar screen for high-speed auto racing as the Izod IndyCar circuit looks to expand its pedal-to-the-metal footprint from 16 races to 19 next year.

Randy Bernard, IndyCar's CEO, made the statement Monday, as Toronto's Honda Indy signed on to be a Lake Ontario waterfront fixture through 2014. This year's Toronto race is July 8.

Some towns on the existing schedule will disappear and some will be added - depending on the projected viability and potential size of the event - but the overall strategy will be growth, Bernard said.

"We want to secure the great ones and cut a couple," he said, though he added it was "premature" to identify them as potential racing sites. Vancouver played host to IndyCar racing from 1990-2004.

A Toronto Indycar race goes back to 1986 and has been a test for a succession of royal families of driving - Andretti, Unser, Rahal, Mears and Sullivan. IndyCar also boasted Danica Patrick from 2005 to 2011, the only woman to win on the IndyCar circuit. A key IndyCar ambassador, she left to drive the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Bernard said IndyCar officials worried about her departure, but have seen a double-digit rise in IndyCar popularity in four races this year and concluded no damage was suffered by the IndyCar brand.

Toronto - anchored by hometown star James Hinchcliffe, 25, who sits third in the IndyCar standings behind leader Will Power and Helio Castroneves - and Edmonton are the two Canadian stops on the tour.

"Toronto's a staple in our series. It brings out passion, it's one of our highest rate races, it’s going back [on broadcaster] ABC. It's important," Bernard said. "It would be great to have another race in Canada, but we want to concentrate on making Edmonton and Toronto the two best races we could have."

To come into a large market and have a downtown race is important to the series. Racing on roads, street courses and ovals gives IndyCar a large demographic, Bernard said. Drivers get more passionate about the variety of bumpy concrete-to-asphalt road surfaces on the Exhibition Place and Lakeshore Boulevard site. They start their "cussing games" early, Bernard said. Last year it ended with Power calling eventual winner Dario Franchitti "a princess".

"It adds to the excitement and shows how much winning here means to them," Bernard said.

The 150,000 fans around the Exhibition Place course, from 30 different countries, yielding a $45-million economic impact in Toronto, caught him off guard. "I'd forgotten how many race fans there are in Canada."

This year, spectators will be looking at a new car buzzing around the course - a smaller engine reduced from 3.5 litres to 2.3, and more fuel efficient as a six-cylinder than it was as an eight.

"We run wind tunnels. ... It's designed to be faster. That's what fans want to see - speed. They want to watch the drivers showcase their skills."

Fans will see the race commence from a standing start - another element of the versatility of car and drivers who can handle courses on the roads, the streets and the ovals. The CEO said the drivers need time to practise it, but Toronto would be a good place to try it.

Bernard pointed to the promise of local driver James Hinchcliffe, who takes up the mantle worn by Canadians Scott Goodyear, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani, the latter coming off a pole-winning season at Indianapolis.

"I think this year is going to be that much better because of the future Canada has with James Hinchcliffe. I can't stress enough how important this young man is to the Izod IndyCar Series as well as IndyCar," Bernard said.

"I'm putting a lot of eggs in his basket. ... This guy is the real deal."

Serena Williams Continues Clay Court Perfection

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 13, 2012) *Game over. Serena Williams, 30, has lived up to expectations on the controversial blue clay in Madrid, Spain.

In just 1 hour and 4 minutes, Serena both won her 41st career WTA singles title, surpassing Kim Clijsters’ record and edging closer to her older sister Venus’, and demolished the surging current world no. 1, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. She’s now 13-0 on clay this season and will move up from her current position as no. 9 in the world to no. 6 when next week’s rankings are released.

On her way to the Mutua Madrid Open victory, Serena came out firing on all cylinders, taking the first set 6-1 in 33 minutes. Azarenka appeared undone at the outset, double faulting six times and spraying balls long and wide on her attempted returns of Serena’s powerful serves. The intimidation factor often frazzles Williams’ opponents, considering her well-publicized arsenal of weapons.

The second set, however, offered short-lived a glimmer of hope for the Belarusian who’s been accustomed to Whodini-like comebacks during her recent winning streak. She seemed to settle down a bit after losing her opening service game and was able to close out three consecutive easy games without her serves being blazed past her by Williams’ deadly returns. Williams, however, was too rock solid on her own serve, riding the confidence of having won the first set and having opened the second with the insurance break.

Williams only faced one break point during the championship match, and that was quickly erased by one of the 14 aces she slammed down on her way to claiming the title and the $750k prize money. The final scoreline was 6-1, 6-3, with Williams winning the final point off an ace from a whiff and an air swing of Azarenka’s racket due to a bad clay-court ball bounce on the Belarusian’s attempted return of serve. It seemed the perfect way to sum up the lopsided affair.

Azarenka usually offers more resistance against Williams than she was capable of on Sunday, but it’s pretty much the rule that a title hungry Serena Williams is a freight train not easily deterred. The 13-time Slam champion has her sights set on winning her second French Open title – 14 total – in two weeks and bringing home the Olympic Gold this summer … and based on her results of late, it’s hard not to see the story playing out just that way.

Manchester City’s Ecstasy Crosstown Rival United’s Agony

Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(May 13, 2012) There was no need for England’s Premiership to prove that it is the best sports league in the world. No sensible person thinks otherwise.

But the mark of greatness is a constant aspiration to grander storylines and wilder finishes, for more of “more.”

Sunday’s season finale was not simply astounding — it verged on hallucinatory.

The day saw two celebrations in Manchester, one sadly premature, as City did the whole rolling the stone away from the tomb routine in capturing its first league title since the Beatles were still recording albums.

The key goals in a mesmerizing encounter with QPR came in the 92nd and 94th minutes, when Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero proved that every once in a while a $100 million investment pans out. That pair of injury-time tallies from two of the world’s most expensive athletes gave City a 3-2 victory.

Over on the Red side of the city line, victorious Manchester United had begun cautious hoorays — a City loss or draw meant United had won an unlikely championship. Then some clever front-office sort called Alex Ferguson on the sidelines to give him the bad news. This was not the sort of thing to transmit in person, within punching distance.

Ferguson could be seen expectantly plucking the phone from his pocket. His face sagged like a deflating balloon.

A split screen of the Sky broadcast showed the contrasting scenes, as the pitch at the Etihad Stadium began to fill with celebrating fans. Many of those who didn’t rush out to mob the team were shown weeping in the stands.

Rarely has the agony and the ecstasy of the game been captured together with such poignance.

All the final games went off in unison with a great deal in the balance.

There was the question of whether Arsenal could secure third place and Champions League football (yes); whether Spurs could grab fourth and the last spot in Europe’s grand tournament (yes, and we’ll have to wait to see how Chelsea does in next weekend’s final); if all three promoted teams would stay up (yes); and whether Bolton could do likewise (no).

City-QPR felt oddly like an afterthought at kickoff.

City had decided amongst themselves that last week’s encounter with Newcastle was the pivotal one to their championship hopes. It was silly to think so, and much sillier to say so out loud.

As a punishment for hubris, the fourth-worst team in the league dominated the would-be champions for long stretches.

With the score tied 1-1 and two-thirds of the game gone, QPR’s in-house saboteur Joey Barton got up to it again.

First, he elbowed Carlos Tevez. (Red card.) Then he wigged out and kneed Aguero. (Do we have any more cards we can give him?) Then he tried to head-butt Vincent Kompany. (Stop fumbling with the damn cards and find a straightjacket.)

Down a man, but freed of Barton’s destabilizing presence, QPR got better. They took the lead with just over 20 minutes to go.

Long before they were the richest kid in world football, City suffered beneath the hangdog reputation of a team always capable of finding a piece of good luck and then sticking themselves in the eye with it. Owner Sheikh Mansour has spent almost a billion dollars revamping this club, but at that moment, it felt as if he had forgotten to hire sufficient services of curse-cancelling juju men.

Down 2-1, some of the City fans were already crying (those poor slobs must have required intravenous liquids by the time this thing ended).

They saved their burst for the very end. Dzeko headed in off a corner. Tie game. Still no help.

Then Mario Balotelli — who you would’ve bet good money would soon be joining Barton in the dunce’s corner — weaved in toward goal, fell over, but still managed to pass off a slow, diagonal ball. Aguero took it 10 yards from the goal, resisted the urge to shoot straight off, took one more crucial touch and roofed it. No one will ever think of him as “Diego Maradona’s son-in-law” again.

Afterward, Ferguson would suggest City had bought the title — which is true, and is also unfair. United has been buying them for decades. That’s how you win in global soccer — with money. The economics of the sprawling enterprise is based on the idea of top-feeders keeping bottom-feeders alive with transfer fees.

Next year, a new UEFA-sponsored financial regime comes into force, designed specifically to stop the City’s of the world from buying titles.

Based on Sunday’s incredible finish, it’s arriving just late enough.

The World Waking Up To Canada's Track And Field League

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Christie

(May 14, 2012) Canada's national track and field league is becoming more than a domestic training ground.

The world's top ranked decathlete - American
Ashton Eaton - will compete in the Harry Jerome International Track Classic set for June 10 at Swangard Stadium. Eaton will run in two or three events at the Jerome Classic as a final tune up before the U.S .Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., two weeks later.

It doesn't hurt that Eaton has a close Canadian connection. His fiancée is
Brianne Theisen of Humboldt, Saskatchewan - who also happens to be the top female multi-event athlete in the world.

Theisen, a senior at Eaton's alma mater of the University of Oregon, is currently ranked number one in the world with her score of 6,353 points established when she won her third Pac-12 championship May 6. The score surpassed the Olympic "A" qualifying standard of 6,150 points and Theisen hopes to compete for Canada at the London Games.

Eaton, the world record holder in the heptathlon indoors and currently ranked the number one decathlete in the world will use the National Track League kick-off event as part of his preparation for the 2012 London Olympics.

The University of Oregon graduate from Bend, Oregon is a five time NCAA Champion in both heptathlon and decathlon. The 6-foot 1-inch, 185 pound athlete won the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul this winter in a world record of 6,645 points.

In London he's expected to battle fellow American Trey Hardee, the decathlon world champion in both 2009 at Berlin and 2011 at Daegu, South Korea.

Their decathlon scores are very close with Hardee at 8,790 and Eaton at 8,729 points. The two U.S. decathletes plus Cuban Leon Suarez are podium favourites for the London Games.

Eaton will travel with coach Harry Marra to Vancouver on May 9 from Des Moines, Iowa where they will be at the NCAA championships to support Theisen.

The attraction for track stars goes beyond the Jerome meet. At the Donovan Bailey Invitational on June 16 in Edmonton, the 200-metre race will be headlined by two-time Olympic bronze and two-time world silver medalist Walter Dix of the United States. The strong field is expected to eclipse the 20-second barrier, a feat that has never been accomplished on Canadian soil.

"This will be my first trip to Edmonton, and I am looking forward to seeing a part of Canada I've never been to," Dix said in a blog by former Olympic and Commonwealth coach and team physician Dr. Doug Clement.

"It will be great to line up against some of the world's top athletes and compete to the best of my ability."

Dix's remarkable 2011 season included being crowned 200-metre champion at the Memorial Van Damme Diamond League meet in Brussels. There he finished with one of the fastest performances in history: 19.53 seconds over 200 metres.

Dix will join many other Olympic hopefuls at Foote Field on June 16 for the third of six stops in the 2012 National Track League series. The Donovan Bailey Invitational (formerly called the Edmonton International Track Classic), gives athletes an opportunity to meet Olympic standard times prior to their Olympic trials.

The World Waking Up To Canada's Track And Field League

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Christie

(May 14, 2012) Canada's national track and field league is becoming more than a domestic training ground.

The world's top ranked decathlete - American
Ashton Eaton - will compete in the Harry Jerome International Track Classic set for June 10 at Swangard Stadium. Eaton will run in two or three events at the Jerome Classic as a final tune up before the U.S .Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., two weeks later.

It doesn't hurt that Eaton has a close Canadian connection. His fiancée is
Brianne Theisen of Humboldt, Saskatchewan - who also happens to be the top female multi-event athlete in the world.

Theisen, a senior at Eaton's alma mater of the University of Oregon, is currently ranked number one in the world with her score of 6,353 points established when she won her third Pac-12 championship May 6. The score surpassed the Olympic "A" qualifying standard of 6,150 points and Theisen hopes to compete for Canada at the London Games.

Eaton, the world record holder in the heptathlon indoors and currently ranked the number one decathlete in the world will use the National Track League kick-off event as part of his preparation for the 2012 London Olympics.

The University of Oregon graduate from Bend, Oregon is a five time NCAA Champion in both heptathlon and decathlon. The 6-foot 1-inch, 185 pound athlete won the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul this winter in a world record of 6,645 points.

In London he's expected to battle fellow American Trey Hardee, the decathlon world champion in both 2009 at Berlin and 2011 at Daegu, South Korea.

Their decathlon scores are very close with Hardee at 8,790 and Eaton at 8,729 points. The two U.S. decathletes plus Cuban Leon Suarez are podium favourites for the London Games.

Eaton will travel with coach Harry Marra to Vancouver on May 9 from Des Moines, Iowa where they will be at the NCAA championships to support Theisen.

The attraction for track stars goes beyond the Jerome meet. At the Donovan Bailey Invitational on June 16 in Edmonton, the 200-metre race will be headlined by two-time Olympic bronze and two-time world silver medalist Walter Dix of the United States. The strong field is expected to eclipse the 20-second barrier, a feat that has never been accomplished on Canadian soil.

"This will be my first trip to Edmonton, and I am looking forward to seeing a part of Canada I've never been to," Dix said in a blog by former Olympic and Commonwealth coach and team physician Dr. Doug Clement.

"It will be great to line up against some of the world's top athletes and compete to the best of my ability."

Dix's remarkable 2011 season included being crowned 200-metre champion at the Memorial Van Damme Diamond League meet in Brussels. There he finished with one of the fastest performances in history: 19.53 seconds over 200 metres.

Dix will join many other Olympic hopefuls at Foote Field on June 16 for the third of six stops in the 2012 National Track League series. The Donovan Bailey Invitational (formerly called the Edmonton International Track Classic), gives athletes an opportunity to meet Olympic standard times prior to their Olympic trials.