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: http://fanexpocanada.com/
Tickets: http://fanexpocanada.com/tickets/

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.

Friday, 4 July 2014

James Quandt on Satyajit Ray and Zabrina Chevannes on A Nurse's Worst Nightmare!

James Quandt, TIFF Cinematheque's Senior Programmer and I chat about the Satyajit Retrospective (on now until August 17) and nurse and standup comedian Zabrina Chevannes and I talk about laughter mental health, and the other talents that are part of her upcoming show, A Nurse's Worst Nightmare. Have a look/listen at the segment below.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

9 Fringe Shows Ask for Your Bum in Their Seats

tickets $12 no latecomers EVER!
(416) 966-1062
It's baaaack! The More the Merrier's Annual 5 Minute Fringe Showcase returns with 9 productions from the Toronto Fringe Festival telling you why you should spend your $12 to see their shows. Each show is given just 5 minutes to convince you that theirs is the show to see.

Click the video below to listen to the show. Show listing is by alpha order, not as you hear them on the video. Happy Fringing!

DESCRIPTION: Honour the start of the WWI Centennial with this musical inspired by a true story. In 1917, a Jewish American soldier in Germany enters a synagogue seeking solace from the terrors of war.

Kiever Synagogue, 25 Bellevue Ave.

July 02 at 07:00 PM   July 03 at 07:00 PM  July 04 at 01:00 PM
July 06 at 12:00 PM   July 07 at 07:00 PM  July 08 at 07:00 PM
July 09 at 02:00 PM   July 09 at 07:00 PM  July 10 at 01:00 PM
July 10 at 07:00 PM  July 11 at 01:00 PM   July 13 at 12:00 PM

Show length: 75min. Genre(s): Family, Musical   
Warnings: Audience Participation  harmonyoverwar.com

DESCRIPTION: Four people struggle along the string that holds life together. Sexuality follows every relationship, every lifelong decision, but what gets left behind?

Robert Gill Theatre, 214 College Street
July 02 at 10:30 PM  July 05 at 12:30 PM  July 06 at 11:00 PM
July 07 at 05:15 PM  July 09 at 07:45 PM
July 10 at 09:15 PM  July 11 at 04:30 PM
Show length: 60min. Genre(s): Drama

DESCRIPTION: An evening in a communal apartment in Moscow with seven Russians in real life conflicts around every day issues. Gays and homophobes, working class macho guys and intellectuals, women and men, they fight, drink, and talk about the Sochi Olympics, Putin, the Ukraine, and gays.

Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, 79 St. George Street
July 03 at 07:00 PM  July 06 at 10:45 PM  July 07 at 03:15 PM
July 09 at 07:30 PM  July 11 at 03:30 PM 
July 12 at 12:00 PM  July 13 at 05:45 PM
Show length: 60min.  Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language  ruzhyev.wix.com/komunka

DESCRIPTION: The King and his three gentlemen have sworn off women for three years of study, until the Princess and her three ladies come to the court… Will their vow be forsworn or will love overcome?

Victory Cafe, 581 Markham St.
July 03 at 07:00 PM  July 04 at 07:00 PM  July 05 at 09:00 PM
July 06 at 05:00 PM  July 08 at 07:00 PM  July 10 at 07:00 PM
July 11 at 07:00 PM  July 12 at 07:00 PM  July 13 at 05:00 PM
Show length: 90min. Genre(s): Comedy
Age range: 19+ shakespearebashd.com

DESCRIPTION: Highbräu presents a comedic exploration of the depths, heights, and square footage of humanity...Free cake not guaranteed.

Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave.
July 03 at 06:00 PM  July 05 at 01:30 PM  July 06 at 06:15 PM
July 08 at 06:45 PM  July 09 at 08:15 PM  July 10 at 09:45 PM
July 11 at 03:30 PM  July 12 at 01:00 PM   
Show length: 60min. Genre(s): Comedy, Sketch
Warnings: Mature Language  highbraucomedy.com

DESCRIPTION: Smart, sassy, sexy, sketch comedy performed by 4 of Vancouver’s best sketch comedians.

George Ignatieff Theatre, 15 Devonshire Place
July 02 at 10:30 PM  July 05 at 07:00 PM  July 07 at 01:00 PM
July 08 at 06:30 PM  July 10 at 12:00 PM
July 11 at 09:15 PM  July 12 at 05:45 PM
Show length: 75min. Genre(s): Comedy, Sketch
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language straplesscomedy.com

DESCRIPTION: What and where is home?
“If the values, people, and traditions of the place I call home have changed, where is my home now?”

St. Vlad's Theatre, 620 Spadina Ave.
July 02 at 08:45 PM  July 05 at 02:15 PM  July 07 at 03:00 PM
July 09 at 07:45 PM  July 11 at 02:15 PM
July 12 at 12:00 PM  July 13 at 09:00 PM
Show length: 60min. Genre(s): Drama
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language artoftraditional.com

“Forget it”
“But it happened”
“Unhappen it”
“What does that even mean – “
“You’re at the fountain but this time you get directions”
“But that’s not true”
“What’s true?”

Citizenry, 982 Queen Street W
July 02 at 08:30 PM  July 03 at 08:30 PM  July 04 at 08:30 PM
July 05 at 08:30 PM  July 06 at 08:30 PM  July 08 at 08:30 PM
July 09 at 08:30 PM  July 10 at 08:30 PM  July 11 at 08:30 PM
July 12 at 08:30 PM
Show length: 75min.  Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Warnings: Mature Language criminaltheatre.com

DESCRIPTION: Inside a Victorian house rented online for the night, the three young recessionistas of Viragon Capital Group and their thoroughly male, thoroughly unpaid intern search through their host’s effects looking for new, perverse business opportunities.

106 Albany Ave, 106 Albany Ave
July 02 at 07:00 PM  July 03 at 07:00 PM  July 04 at 07:00 PM
July 05 at 07:00 PM  July 07 at 07:00 PM  July 08 at 07:00 PM
July 09 at 07:00 PM  July 10 at 07:00 PM  July 11 at 07:00 PM
July 12 at 07:00 PM  July 13 at 07:00 PM
Show length: 85min.  Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language  surplusvaluetheatre.com

Have a listen: 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

TMTM Book Club Selection: "Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter" by Alison Wearing

Photo Credit: http://www.alisonwearing.com/
With Toronto hosting World Pride 2014, I thought it would be fitting to choose an LGBTT book for our next read. The book that immediately came to mind was Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter by Alison Wearing. I had first heard about the book on The Agenda. I managed to catch the last part of Steve Pakin's interview with the author and mentally placed the book on my To Read List.  Unlike other books that I have selected for the TMTM Book Club, I haven't read it in advance, so I will be reading along with you. Please email me should you wish to take part in the on air discussion.

Our on-air discussion of the book will take place in July (date TBC soon). As with other selections, this book is available through the Toronto Public Library (e-book and traditional p-book), but if you can, please support this Canadian author by purchasing the book. Happy Reading! -dg

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Inside Out 2014 Reveiw: My Thoughts on "Open Up To Me"

Open Up To Me leads Peter Franzen & Leea Klemola
Having last seen Peter Franzen, one of Finland's biggest stars playing a skinhead in Dome Karukoski's Heart of  Lion (TIFF14), it was a happy surprise to see his name attached to Open Up to Me (Kerron sinulle kaiken) in the Inside Out Toronto LFBT Film Festival guide. This actor has an "it" factor that would make millions if it was could be distilled. The man just has a sexuality about him that leaps off the screen! Maybe years ago audiences felt this way when they saw Clark Gable take his shirt off in It Happened One Night and revealed to the world that he wasn't wearing an undershirt, the style staple of era, or when they saw Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire; whatever it is, Franzen is heart-thumpingly captivating. 

Open Up to Me begins with Maarit (Leea Klemola), a cleaning lady, caught in her employer's clothes by Sami (Franzen) who mistakes as a therapist. Not sure how to correct the mistake, Maarit lets Sami pour his heart out to her. It seems that Sami, a married man, is a bit of a romantic, who, sexually, "doesn't feel safe if the woman doesn't love him." During this initial encounter, Maarit, becomes attracted to Sami and soon reveals to him her employment status (a school counsellor who can't find a job in her field), and sexual status (a divorced transgendered woman estranged from her son). 

As we follow the affair that develops between Maarit and Simo, we gain entrance into the world they inhabit together and the world they negotiate when they are apart. We meet briefly, Maarit's wife, and his daughter, Pinja (Emmi Nivala). We also meet Sami's wife Julia (Ria Kataja) and Teo (Alex Anton) a student that he both teaches and coaches. It doesn't take long to realize that everyone in this film is confused about something. Who can't relate to being unsure about the next step(s) to take in life? This is the crux of this drama, and the fact that it plays out with non-traditional characters is what makes this such a fascinating journey.

Rather than give us the expected story of a transgendered woman focused on her sexual identity, director Simo Halinen instead chooses to focus Maarit's story on how she attempts to negotiate her relationship with her teenage daughter, Pinja. Leea Klemola is extraordinary as the newly confident  Maarit, a woman who has moved mentally and physically from being in a "body that wanted to be touched [but which] didn't exist." She is tired of identity lies and readily admits her "crush" on Sami. What she is insecure about, however, is her role in her daughter's life. She waffles about how she should go about building a relationship with her child, despite the fact that her ex-wife constantly tries to keep them apart. She can admit boldly in a job interview that she used to be a man, but how does she dress/act with the child she loves and whom she desperately wants to love her back? 

From the outside looking in, we see Sami as a handsome, soccer playing gym teacher with a good looking wife (who teaches at the same school) and cute children; yet, even he who seems to have what many would long for, doubts his masculinity and his ability to love and to sexually satisfy a woman. He can teach Sex Ed class and openly challenge his students about their so-called knowledge of sex, but he doesn't know whether or not he should be with the his liberating lover/pal Maarit, or his wife. It's Franzen's ability to play a credible tough guy with a core of vulnerability that makes his character of Sami so endearing in this film.

Ria Kataja's portrayal of Julia is solidly delivered, with the right emotional shadings that reveals her character's confusion about whether or not she wants to remain married to Sami.  On the one hand, we see that Julia doesn't feel that Sami is man enough for her, and on the other hand, we have the sense that she is not quite ready to move on. Complicating matters for her, is the fact that as Sami becomes sexually open with Maarit, his newfound vigor with Julia results in mixed feelings that she doesn't know how to interpret.

Teo, Sami's student and soccer protege, is as confused as the adults in the film. A teenage hunk, he is intrigued by Maarit's confident femininity, but confused about his own sexuality. Only Pinja, Maarit's daughter, has the strength to live in her world. Many miles away from her father (Maarit), Pinja  forges ahead, even though she is teased about her transgendered parent, and lives with a mother bitter and ashamed about her ex-husband. Actress, Emmi Nivala manages to meld  teenage sensitivity and coming-of-age self-determination in such a way that we want to reach out and hug as well as applaud Pinja.

We may guess where Open Up to Me is leading, but as we watch the film we can't help but assess our own relationship boundaries and barriers in this character driven piece that is refreshingly devoid of stereotypes. 

Photo credit: www.insideout.ca

Monday, 26 May 2014

Inside Out 2014 Review: My Thoughts on "Someting Must Break"

Something Must Break's Saga Becker "Sebastian/Ellie"
My first thought upon screening Something Must Break (Nånting måste gå sönder) is "I'm loving this film." My second was, "Please keep on being good."  Happily, I can share with you that I kept on loving the film, so much so that rather than leave the experience to viewing the protected online screener, I went to see it on the big screen during Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. To my added pleasure, actress Saga Becker was in attendance. Yaay! 

In my humble opinion, Ester Martin Bergsmark is a director to watch. She has already won awards for her documentaries in her native Sweden, but Something Must Break is her first fiction film, and I can't wait to see what she handles next.

Bergsmark's cast is young, not only in age, but in screen credits. Lead actress, Saga Becker, is making her film debut and does a stunning job as the trans character Sebastian, a young man working at a dead end factory job. Sebastian has such low self-esteem and is so starved for romantic love that he admits that he will allow anyone to do anything to him just to be loved. Sebastian has a confidant in Lea (Shima Niavarani), but she has her own girlfriend problems and while she tries to help Sebastian with some advice, he is not ready, nor is he able to take it.

When Sebastian is rescued by Andreas (Iggy Malmborg), he falls in love so deeply with his hero that he becomes obsessed with him. He collects objects that Andreas has used, he follows him around town, and fantasizes about being with him. Bergsmark's dreamscape vision of of Sebastian's emotions are reflected in the slow motion portrait shots and echoed in the soundtrack of the film. "I've never loved this hard before," is a lyric that perfectly captures Sebastian's worship of Andreas while the desaturated image that accompanies a Peggy Lee ballad is both beautiful and disturbing, not because of what is taking place in the scene but because of how it encapsulates Sebastian's feelings of heartbreak and confusion.

While there is no question that Becker is the lead in the film, and that she manages to rise to the demands of her challenging role, much also rests on the shoulders of Iggy Malmborg. He had to be believable as the object of Sebastian's obsession in order for us to truly identify with how deeply that character had fallen in love with him. While the character of Andreas shows weakness in his inability to admit that he is gay, Malmborg had to find the right acting balance between playing a confused character, and being a strong secondary lead. Malmborg is successful in walking this tightrope because we adore him when Andreas and Sebastian lock themselves away from the world and are content, yet we hate him for the way he treats Sebastian when they move out into the real world. 

"It's like I'm destroying myself to become her." Like the duality of his hair colour, Sebastian is stuck between being Sebastian, the outward boy and Ellie, the young woman who sometimes makes an appearance in lipstick and heels. Early in the film, Lea admonishes, "You can never say yes or no."  As his yearning for a complete relationship with Andreas evolves, Sebastian must also evolve from his world of  "maybe" and emerge as his true self in order to stop himself from disappearing. The life lessons experienced in Something Must Break is beautifully captured by Bergesmark, and superbly realized through Saga Becker's acting. I'm not sure where Becker will go as a trans actress in Sweden, but she has a breakout role in this film, and I truly hope that she is able to grace the screen in many films to come.

Photo Credit: www.insideout.ca

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Nordic Charmers: May I Recommend Olga and Love & Engineering

You know I love Nordic films, and I'm happy to direct you to Olga--To My Friends, and Love & Engineering screening at Hot Docs 2014.

Olga--To My Friends
Want me to watch a film? Show me a picture of reindeer. So, why have I chosen to show you this picture of Olga instead? Because, Olga--To My Friends is an intimate portrait of a fascinating young woman who deserves your attention. Yes, there are reindeer in the film because she works at a station guarding provisions used by the reindeer herdsmen in the summer; but what I found absolutely fascinating about this documentary is Olga and her quiet will to keep surviving whatever life dispenses. Director, Paul Aders-Simma and cinematographer, Elen Lotman have framed and lit Olga in a style that references Old Masters, while at the same time managing to capture the vastness and icy-stillness of the tundra.

At the opening of the film, Olga tells us that she has spent 177 days alone at the outpost with only her cat as her companion. Upon learning this I felt an automatic sorrow for her until she began summarizing her life: being abruptly separated from her childhood friend at at orphanage, reunited and briefly raised with a family whose Sami roots she knew nothing about, and as an adult, dealing with her sisters' alcoholism and dysfunctional lifestyle. After hearing Olga talk about her life, I understand why this job is so suited to her, and why she is able to function with a sense of freedom and contentment in what you and I would consider destitute conditions. Later, my heart skipped a beat when, it's revealed that Olga's job at the outpost is in jeopardy because the cooperative wants to sell it. How will Olga meet this next challenge in her life?  

Scotiabank Theatre 7 
Wed, Apr 30 7:30 PM

TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 
Fri, May 2 7:30 PM

Olga--To My Friends
 Is there a perfect formula for finding the perfect mate? Well, in Love & Engineering, Atantas, a Bulgarian scientist living in Finland, seems to think he can help his mates find a wife using the data he used to find his bride. He can't promise them a Claudia Schiffer, but they will be able to find someone they can put up with for life.  To put it in contemporary terms, it's like watching the character, Leonard from The Big Bang Theory leading seminars and conducting scientific tests on how he "hacked" his way into being Penny's boyfriend. Yes, "hacked".  According to Atanas, women have a relationship system that his fellow scientists should be able to hack so that they can find true love.  Atanas's heart is in the right place, but I wanted to yell at one scientist to stop talking about gaming when his date has already told him she is not into games and doesn't know the one he is so excited about has been released! Dude, you already know from the smell testing that she found your scent appealing, and then you go and shoot yourself in the foot? Arggh! 

Love & Engineering is a straight up funny documentary in which you can't help but root for the brilliant, inept, charming subject matters to find their perfect partners.

Scotiabank Theatre 3 
Thu, May 1 9:00 PM

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 
Fri, May 2 8:30 PM

Revue Cinema 
Sun, May 4 1:30 PM

Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 24 - May 4, 2014