Friday, 20 February 2015

Rap N' Roll February 27th!

Source/text by Dalton Higgins
What: Rap N' Roll: The Afro-Alternative Music Concert Series + Project  
Where: The Rivoli (334 Queen St West – Toronto, Canada)
When: Friday February 27, 2015
Time: 9pm
Damage: $10

Honestly, are you Torontonians tired of some of these predictable, empty, overly commercial musical playlists being thrust upon you, the ones that take pleasure in trafficking nauseating LCD (lowest common denominator) music that passes for "good" black/urban music, with its low musicianship and cheeseball lyrics...another example of some Machine doing its best to shill these hip hop / R&B-soul / African / reggae caricatures to society at large?
Then Rap N' Roll: The Afro-Alternative Music Project, a carefully calculated & curated music showcase might be for you! 
This “urban alternative” concert experience features the genre-bending electronic, punk, reggae, soul and nouveau-rap contributions of Young Paris (NYC), Bonjay, Junia T + Juice Money Collective, Phoenix Pagliacci, Bakers Club and DJ 8AM8II / Bambi with some very Special Guests – musical mavericks who are reshaping the urban music landscape.
Interested in that new D’Angelo? If yes, then we’ll be taking you to the Darker Side of Black with some more duppy Ghostface music. And though we are working on a Higher Ground, we still might have to spank you with some Frank (Ocean), while you puff on the Chronixx. It’s true, there’s no need to watch any TV on the Radio, while observing that low Flying Lotus. Sheeit, we’ve been jonesing + hungry for this, so it just might be that time to snack on some FKA Twigs, garnished with Theo Parrish, anchored by the bones of Grace Jones (while sincerely hoping you’re not allergic to Cody Chestnutt, like your kid or niece). But seriously, if you need a fix of some (rare) Jimi Hendrix, or some Janelle Monae today (or on Feb 27) peep the flyer attached & the info below. Yeah.  

Friday, 31 October 2014

ON Hiatus...

Hi, Everyone,
The More the Merrier blog is on hiatus, but the radio show is going strong, so please tune in Saturdays from 12noon -  1:00 pm for your film/theatre and arts-at-large fix, and fantastic music (mostly Canadian).

CIUT 89.5 FM

Podcasts: updated every Monday at

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

TIFF14: Running Naked in Out of Nature

With Ole Giaever. Photo by Nathalie Pampin, Clutch PR
You must admit that this poster for Out of Nature is eye-catching, so besides the fact that Nordic films are my priority at TIFF, I was curious to know why this character was running without pants. Well, I now know the secret, but you should go see the film yourself to find out the answer. After speaking to director Ole Giaever, he did admit that while filming the
scene, he did feel a sense of liberation, and apparently the rest of the crew were jealous of his freedom from pants.

What I liked about this film is it's simplicity: a man out in nature questioning his path in life. The character, Martin (played by Ole), is a married man with a son, and on the outside looking in, he appears to have a wonderful life, but Marin is bored with his status quo. He is not an alpha male. He is not the guy who gets chosen to go to lunch with the rest of the office gang, and as the film unfolds, we learn about his upbringing and how he was not the best socialized child.

While hiking through the beautiful Norwegian woods we are privy to his thoughts, some of which are quite funny while others are honest and cruel. Be honest, don't you sometimes have thoughts that happen only in your head, that you would never dare (or hope you don't) ever utter aloud? Sometimes such thoughts are fleeting and may even shock us, but when we hear them voiced by Martin we understand them. It was refreshing to hear a man's thoughts, as we never see men voicing their raw feelings in film. Did he marry too young, should he work out more, was his life better back when he use to go to clubs, is he a good father, what lies ahead or is this it?

My full interview with Ole will air on The More the Merrier on CIUT 89.5 FM (date TBC). Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss the broadcast.

Out of Nature
Saturday, September 13, 6:00 pm
Scotiabank Theatre

Monday, 8 September 2014

TIFF14: Estonia's Martii Helde's Fresh Vision (In the Crosswind)

Estonian director, Martti Helde shared with me that he felt his grandfather's presence on the set of his first feature film, In the Crosswind. During my conversation with Martii, I learned that the history of the Baltic "deportations" is studied in school, and his grandfather (who lost a leg in WWII) openly spoke about the time period, although never too much about being in the camps; rather, his impact on Martii was about how to be a good person and to live life to the fullest. 

In the Crosswind, in which Martii labels the "deportations" as a "Soviet Holocaust" to symbolize the universality of these horrible and continuing human actions, we follow the forced journey of Erna (Laura Peterson) and her daughter  (and to a lesser extent, her husband Heldur) to Siberia. Martii was given Erna's letters by an archivist while doing research and, spurred by the stories from his grandfather, he decided to make a film about the consequences of June 14, 1941. What began as an attempt to make a short film about a time when thousands of Baltic citizens were forced from their homes in Stalin's attempt to purge the region of its people, turned into a feature when Martii was told that his style of telling the story was neither documentary nor short enough for a short fiction film. 

His style, that of tableaux vivants, forces the viewer to move their eyes and fill in the gaps as the camera weaves in and around their bodies. Months were spent placing the actors in their positions so that by the time shooting occurred, blocking and camera movements were worked out. Imagine looking at a portrait that suddenly becomes almost three dimensional, and your eye and brain follow the movements that are slowly revealed. Sometimes it is as if you are looking at a triptych framed by walls or trees providing a barrier that interrupts a shot. In these cases, you move your head to see what's beyond the wall or behind a tree. 

Shot in beautiful black and white (a deliberate choice influenced by flipping through the period photographs of his grandfather's album), the film is scored simply and presented in with delicacy that it will overcome any sentiments of holocaust viewer fatigue. Give yourself about ten minutes to get used to the fact that you will be hearing voiceover narration instead of dialogue, that there will be no re-enactments, and you will find yourself experiencing film in a brand new way. You will also find unexpected beauty in this "frozen in time" cinematic historical drama.

My full interview with Martii Helde will be broadcast on The More the Merrier on CIUT 89.5 FM (date TBC). Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss the broadcast.

TIFF 4-14.14

Tue, Sep 9
Thu, Sep 11
Sun, Sep 14

Sunday, 7 September 2014

TIFF14: Questions, Questions...

Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää
I could spend hours interviewing actors/filmmakers about their work. As an interviewer I rarely feel as if I have asked all the questions I want or need. I always have the basic questions in mind going into to the interview, but as I don't use a script, the conversation can flow in any direction. If my subject becomes passionate about an aspect of their work, I don't cut them short; my next question is not as important as what they are presently sharing; as a result, I sometimes end my 15-20 minute chat with questions unanswered.

Today, for example, after interviewing Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää (They Have Escaped) for example, we began talking about the sound in the picture. It was on my list of questions that I had wanted to ask, but other elements of the filmmaking came up that trumped the question. I didn't turn my recorder back on because we were having a natural conversation and pulling out the recorder would have intruded on our conversation, even though what we were talking about wasn't private. 

I always think filmmakers as being confident in their vision but, as JP shared, watching the first cut of his films is always a "humiliating experience" where he feels uncertain about the film he is making. As for the sound elements, it wasn't until the last few weeks of the editing process that he felt he had the right mix for They Have Escaped. I was quite taken by the sound elements in his film and was happy that he was content to answer a question that fascinates me: how directors deal with silence. As JP agreed, "silence has a sound" and he worked very hard to find the right piece from his collection of sounds to use.

I'm satisfied with the recorded content of my interview, which will air post-TIFF on The More the Merrier (date TBC), but even as I said good-bye to JP, I realized that as usual, I had even more questions to ask...

The next screenings of They Have Escaped are:
WED Sept. 10, 4:00 pm, Scotiabank Theatre
SAT Sept 13, 10:00 pm, Scotiabank Theatre
Finnish with English Subtitles
My Warning: not for the faint of heart. It's in the Vanguard section!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

TIFF14: How About a Quick Trip to Finland?

For the past several years, I have been focused on Nordic films at TIFF, a passion I developed thanks to Sprockets (now TIFF Kids) founder, and TIFF programmer, Jane Schoettle), and continues with programming by Steve Gravestock. The calibre of films from this region continues to impress me and I am beginning to establish a relationship with a few directors. Here are a couple of Finnish entries that you might want to check out. Complete details at The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4 - 14.

I first interviewed Finnish director, Dome Karukoski, in 2010 with his TIFF entry, the comedic, Lapland Odyssey, and then last year with Heart of a Lion, a drama with unexpected touches of humour about a skinhead who falls in love with a white Finnish women with a bi-racial child. This year I am looking forward to seeing The Grump, and continuing my conversation with Dome about his filmmaking.

When I first interviewed another Finn, Jalmari Helander in 2010, he had just finished Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, and was looking forward to heading back home to see his brand new baby daughter; he had no idea what his next project would be "who the fuck knows". This year, he has a film screening in the Midnight Madness program and I am so happy for him! With Big Game, he is directing the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Felicity Huffman, James Broadbent, and Victor Garber!

The VANGUARD selections at TIFF are described as "provocative, sexy...possibly dangerous. This is what's next." The still (left) for They Have Escaped definitely fits that description; however, I am curious to see what director JP Valkeapää has in store for us with this drama about two young social outcasts trying to negotiate society norms. One positive note for the film is the attachment of Aleksi Bardy, the producer of Karukoski's highly successful, Heart of a Lion.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Coming Soon: Fan Expo Canada 2014

Are you ready for Fan Expo Canada? I'm slowly getting there, with the excitement building every day. The first time I attended the "3rd largest pop culutre event in North America" I expected to feel like a fish out of water: I wasn't a gamer or an official nerd, but I did love comics and read them in my childhood and as an adult, I borrowed graphic novels every once in a while from the Toronto Public Library; however, it didn't take long for me to feel right at home with the masses of people in attendance at this Con. It's like being in a town where costumes and regular clothing are the norm and no one looks out of place--no matter how outlandish the garment. In fact, the over the top or character accurate the better if you want people stopping you and posing with you for a quick snap.

As a newbie, there is still lots for me to learn about Cosplay, Steampunk, Horror, the various Sci-Fi and Anime genres etc. No wonder people get a pass! There really is something for everyone and if you want to take it all in, it will take you the whole four days to do so. If you are pressed for time, though, there is plenty to fill a day. Check the website and schedules to see which day(s) suits your interest and go to it.

Going by yourself? Not a problem. The attendees are all very friendly, and the guests at the booths are always ready to chat. Bring some cash with you because you will want to buy something. Trust me on this. It's very hard to go home empty-handed. From a tote bag to a postcard to full leather gear, every booth is a temptation. Celebrity autographs and photos are usually in endless supply, but there are also one-of-a-kind items that you might have to shell out big bucks for. One tip, though, don't take pictures of the stars without their permission! Not cool! They love to meet you, but they are there to work. It's a livelihood for many of the retired stars who do these Cons to augment meagre royalty cheques, so please show some respect along with your love.

I'll be tweeting and facebooking from the event, so be sure to follow my journey as I learn more about this wonderful world! Bring on the "full frontal nerdity!"

August 28-31, 2014
Complete Details:

Photo/logo courtesy of Fan Expo

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Monty Python is Not a Pet Snake

I'm really surprised at how much I enjoyed the international satellite broadcast of Monty Python Live (mostly). Why? Because I was never a fan of the legendary British comedy troupe. As a Jamaican kid clicking the converter, I didn't get the humour in Monty Python's Flying Circus. Next! In high school I didn't get the reference to "is your wife a goer, wink, wink" and as for the Lumberjack Song, I wanted a red plaid lumberjack jacket like the white Canadian kids in my school ("NO!" scoffed my Jamaican mother) but I sure wasn't going to watch "that weird show" to find out more. After seeing the farewell performance of the septuagenarian cult comedy geniuses, I will venture to try one of their films. My Python friends recommend, Life of Brian.

Cineplex is presenting the reunion show again on July 23rd and 31st at theatres across Canada. They are also showing the Meaning of Life (July 24), Monty Python's Life of Brian (July 27) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (July 30).

Python fans can expect to see original members (John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin)  re-enact some of the favourite sketches live on stage (here's where the "mostly" comes in) and the inclusion of deceased Graham Chapman in television clips in between the live stage set ups.  So, if you're familiar with the dead parrot, fish slaps, and the Spanish Inquisition you won't be disappointed. The show is also full of songs, including the famous "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", the politically incorrect, "I Like Chinese" as well as a couple of dirty little ditties (Penis song anybody?) in which audience participation makes it more fun (but okay if you remain silent and just laugh along) to follow the bouncing ball. 

My Python screening companion was quick to educate me about the older woman on stage with the boys. Apparently "Python Girl", Carol Cleveland a.k.a "Carol Cleavage" was only supposed to have a been part of a couple of sketches on the original television show, but went on to become a regular and was also cast in many of their films. Carol plays a prominent role in this stage performance, and is a delight in the Spam sketch.

If you're new to Python, the show includes a Chorus Line fit team of nubile young dancers and singers that flesh out the extravaganza. London's O2 Arena where the live event took place, has a large stage to fill and the addition of the dancers manage to keep the mood and the eyes occupied between and during the performances. They are hilariously effective in the aforementioned Penis song lead by Eric Idle (complete with candy-coloured penis cannons), and especially so in the choreographed take on the Silly Walk, which is obviously too physical for the ageing comedians, but which needed to be referenced.

Fan or not, a wide audience can enjoy the men sitting around trying to out do each other in how poor they were as kids sketch (You had a wall? Paradise! We had a corner of a room with no roof.), the bit with the two middle age ladies (Cleese and Idle) watching television and the exploding Penguin, the career development knee-slapper, and television clips of Philosophers on the football pitch, a matronly English women's group re-enacting the Battle of Pearl Habour, and many subversive animated sketches. The two-tiered stage, decked out like a vaudeville show, will remind Pythons of the Flying Circus, but even newbies will be entertained by the kitchy atmosphere. My audience, young AND old (remember the average age of the guys on stage) were all howling with laughter, and so was I!

I don't know if it was the satellite feed or the sound at the Scotiabank Cinema that needed tweaking, but the sound in the first half of the show sounded  a bit muffled, but after the intermission there were no technical glitches marring the even funnier second act. No doubt with it having been recorded, there won't be any such issues to contend with. Happy viewing. Maybe you'll see me at the upcoming screening of Monty Python's Life of Brian.


photos courtesy of Monty Python's facebook page.