Wednesday, 29 June 2011

5-Minutes of Fame & They're Ready for Their Close Ups!

Up close and just for YOU! Saturday, July 2nd, 1:00-2:00 pm, 9 reps from 9 plays will get 5 minutes to woo you into their theatres during the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival. That's right, just 5 minutes each. Can they do it? Can each rep woo you in 5 minutes? Tune in and hear them pitch their little hearts out. My stop watch is ready to go! 5 minutes and they get the ole heave ho from the microphone. Next!

So, get your pens, pencils, and electronic devices ready to take down names and book your tickets to wildly adventurous, darkly mysterious, or as sedate as you like it theatre. The Fringe has it all! July 6-17th!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Too Tired to be Out and Proud? Check Out These DVDs

Kirk Cooper (Founder, Film Market Access) and I had a quick chat last Saturday about some of our favourite LGBT films. Some of the films on our lists are classics, a blast from the past and a couple of more recents DVD selections. Our list is just to get you thinking and/or started at your local DVD store. We couldn't list everything we liked or this would be a pretty looooong post. Trans advocate and CIUT 89.5 FM Host, Syrus Ware (Resistance on the Sound Dial) also added a couple of his faves to our list. (I passed him in the hallway at the station.) Feel free to add your faves by way of leaving a comment. What's on your list for Pride Week (or the rest of the year, for that matter)?

Kirk's Top 10 Countdown
10. “My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985)
9. “The History Boys” (2006)
8. “Torch Song Trilogy” (1988)
7. “Nico & Dani” (2000)
6. “Adventure of Priscilla Queen of the Desert” (1994)
5. “A Single Man” dir by Tom Ford (Colin Firth, Julianne Moore)
4. “Crazy” – (Canada )dir by Jean-Marc Vallée
3. “My own Private Idaho”- 1991 OR “Milk” – dir by Gus Van Saint
2. “Brokeback Mountain – 2005 OR “Wedding Banquet” 1993 dir by Ang Lee
1. “Maurice” 1987 dir by James Ivory

More recently played in a festival…
1. “Undertow” a.k.a “Contracorriente” from Colombia – Audience Choice at Sundance 2010
2. “Skoonheid” a.k.a “Beauty” from South Africa …played in Cannes 2011 won the Queer Palm

Syrus Ware's Faves (Resistance on the Sound Dial)
1. "xxy" (Argentina) 2007 dir. Lucia Puenzo
2. "Change" (USA) 2011 (short film) dirs. Jeff McCutcheon and Melissa Osborne
watch trailer at:

donna g's list (alpha order)
1. "Beautiful Thing" (UK) 1996 dir. Hettie Macdonald
2. "Chutney Popcorn" (USA) 1999 dir. Nisha Ganatra
3. "Eleven Men Out" (Iceland) 2005 dir. Robert I. Douglas
4. "Love!Valour!Compassion" (USA) 1997 dir. Joe Mantello
5. "Mambo Italiano" (Canada) 2003 dir. Emile Gaudreault (set in Montreal)
6. "Queens/Reinas" (Spain) 2005 dir. Manuel Gomez Pereira, featuring a roster of Almodovar's female leads such as Marissa Paredes, Carmen Maura etc)
7. "Rope" (USA) dir. Alfred Hitchcock + "The Celluloid Closet" (must see doc) dir. Rob Epstein, Jeffery Friedman
8. "Saving Face" (USA) 2004 dir. Alice Wu (features Joan Chen)
9. "The Broken Hearts Club, A Romantic Comedy" (USA) dir. Greg Berlanti …meanwhile…
10. "Touch of Pink" (Canada) dir. 2004 dir. Ian Iqbal Rasid set in Toronto and London
11. "Transamerica" (USA) dir. Duncan Tucker

Guilty Pleasures:
"Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds" (USA) 2006 dir. Phillip J. Bartell (sex comedy, adult content), stars Jim Verraros from American Idol

"Fruit Fly" (USA) 2009 dir. H.P. Mendoza

In Theatres (check your local listings)
"Beginners" (Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGreggor) see my review
"Loose Cannons" (Italy) see my review

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Worldwide Short Film Festival: Oh, No, They Didn't!

Laughter Without Borders
Royal Ontario Museum
Saturday, June 4, 9:30 pm
89 Minutes

Yes! If you missed it at Hot Docs, you will have a chance to see one of my all time favourite short films: Two’s A Crowd. Shorter really is better for me when it comes to short films (8 minutes, and I’m good), but at 20 minutes Two’s A Crowd leaves me wanting more. More time spent with New Yokers, Allen and Collette, a middle-aged who have been successfully married for four years while maintaining separate domiciles about a mile apart: he lives in Chelsea, she lives in the West Village. After four years of separate but together, the economic situation has forced Allen to move into Collette’s rent controlled apartment. Neither is really happy about changing a situation that has kept them happily married and are each very worried about what impact living together will have on their relationship. The film explores these fears as we meet Allen and Collette in their apartments, showing us what they each enjoy about their own places, and what they feel they will be sacrificing by moving in together. Even friends and family, who have come to accept their relationship, have qualms about the pair living together Yes, their marital situation is unique, but what makes the film work is Allen and Collette: they are hilarious! Collette doesn’t want to see Allen brush or floss his teeth; Allen doesn’t want to argue about watching what he wants to watch on HBO. Allen and Collette are in love and committed solely to each other, but will two become a crowd in this rom-com documentary?

Canada has three entries in this International programme: 4 Pounds and 52 directed by Josh Levy and written by Kids in the Hall-er, Scott Thompson (who also stars), and Family First directed by Chris Hanratty and written by Mike McPhaden. What. The. Fuck! Offended by my language? Then you better skip this programme, or ask someone to tell you when Two’s a Crowd is showing so you can sneak in and out once you’ve seen it. Not offended? Great. Buy some popcorn and get ready to have your head spin and your eyes bug out at the Canadian contingent. Scott Thompson tackles gay men’s fears of weight gain and aging in two fictionalized bio shorts that satirize the narcissism and self-doubt that plague all actors, but which are compounded by being gay. Mike McPhaden, you dirty dog! What were you on when you wrote Family First, and how on earth did you convince his ensemble (which includes such notable stage actors/playwrights such as Michael Healey and Dianne Flacks) to partake in a comedy so squeamishly icky and so twistedly tawdry that I wanted to pluck out my eyes and take a scalding hot shower after watching it? May you rot in hell for what you put me through for 7 minutes. Okay, 14 minutes (so, what if I watched it twice, you sick bastard!) Um…call me when you write something else;-)

It’s Christmas in June with Irish comedian Chris O’Dowd’s Capturing Santa. Ever wished year after year for a gift that Santa never, ever brought you? You will be able to relate to this humourous short about O’Dowd’s childhood bad luck with Christmas presents and his downward spiral into Santa hatred. Will little Christopher be scarred for life by Santa’s slights, or will Santa redeem himself in time to save Christopher from a lifetime of therapy? Since Chris O’Dowd is Irish, the ending could go either way!

Rounding out this section is the The Dark Side, a spoof of Sandra Bullock’s The Blind Side as interpreted by Saturday Night Live writer, Seth Meyers and starring NFL quarterback, Peyton Manning; When the Wind Changes, and Australian short that is way too long at 17 minutes, but which offers up an original take of the bromance by pushing the envelope on the concept of being of the same mind-set; and the German short, Arts + Crafts Spectacular #1, a 1 minute animation about “idyllic” country life.

For more info please visit: or call 416-929-2232

Friday, 3 June 2011

Shorts for Shorties at the CN Tower!

For the first time, Worldwide Short Film Festival is screening films way above Toronto! Shorts for Shorties 1 & 2 will be way above the city on Saturday!

Whether you choose Tell Us a Story or All Creatures and Small (or both) for your shorties or for yourself, you will have the opportunity to see the Oscar-nominated animation, The Gruffalo. Based on the children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, this short is incredibly beautiful to watch and extremely fascinating to experience. Telling the story of a mouse’s adventure in the woods, is Helena Bonham Carter, a mother squirrel has reasons of her own for spinning this epic fantasy for her children. The film also features the voice talents of Robbie Coltrane and Tom Wilkinson.

Shorts for Shorties: Tell Us a Story
CN Tower
Saturday, June 4, 10:30 am
60 Minutes
Besides Academy Award nominated, The Gruffalo, highlights of this programme include the wonderful tale of Marvin. Although he was born with a hole in the middle of his forehead, Marvin, was never made fun of and was accepted by his peers. One fateful day, sick and dragging his snotty-nosed self home from school, Marvin’s common sense pops out of the hole in his head. Confounded, Marvin goes in search of his missing common sense, a journey that takes him to places he has never been, and encounters with people he has never met. Narrated in delightfully funny couplets by Steve Coogan, Marvin the film is as delightful as Marvin the character.

“Love who you are” is the lesson of Jillian Dillon, a girl who, unlike Marvin, gets teased because she is different: part hippo, part platypus. The storyline as well as the animated paper puppets in this charming, pop-up-like storybook world captivated me. Simple though they appear, the production team must have put in hundreds of hours to create the images in this 4-minute piece of magic. Magic and machinations are also in play in Lokomoschine, the German animation in which two inventors (one as thin as the other is round) construct a machine that will bring storybook characters to life. When a glitch in the machine causes some unexpected happenings, rather than bring everything to a screeching halt, the two inventors find their love of books is elevated to an equally satisfying plane. Speaking of plane…the dream fairy in Dreamgiver finds himself in a bit of a pickle during his nightly delivery of pleasant dreams when a stray bit of magic sends a dreamer into a realm inhabited by a scary dragon. Director, writer, editor, and cinematographer, Tyler Carter, uses all his talents to bring to life this whimsical, luminous tale.

Also included in this section, is the 2-minute Jon Izen’s (he of Yam Roll fame) fantastical tale 9 Things I Saw Last Wednesday, and Qingyuan Wang’s Orange City, which celebrates the sweetness of the fruit as well as our differences and similarities.

Shorts for Shorties: All Creatures Great and Small
CN Tower
Saturday, June 4, 1:00 pm
60 Minutes
It’s a jungle out there, and it’s exquisitely brought to animated brilliance with Sam Chen’s Amazonia about a hungry little tree frog who navigates the hazards of his habitat in search of food. Backing the simple tale is the unexpected and surprisingly well-matched music of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8. Ha! No more will your children think classical music is boring, especially when teamed with such colour, humour and adventure! Taking us from the rainforest to South Africa is the ubiquitous Jungle Beat, a mainstay of WWSFF’s Short for Shorties progammes (and long may they remain so!). In This Little Light of Mine, a tiny firefly battles his fear of the dark and his own irritating light as he tries to fall asleep, while in Blowin’ in the Wind, an ant wages his own struggle to get a leaf back to his anthill. Brent Dawes’ work always feature challenges that have to be overcome, but he always manages to infuse his characters' journeys with barriers that are chuckle-inducing.

Music is the key to humour in On the Branch (Czech Republic) and Mobile (Germany), two uproarious shorts that will make even adults giggle. In the first, two birds spar over ownership of a branch. Their choice of weapon? Tweets. See who wins the battle of the birds on the branch in this 1-minute donnybrook. In the second, a lonely cow tries to engage the animals on the other side of the mobile. Trapeze swings, near meetings, and circus music elicits sidesplitting guffaws in this topsy-turvy silent short. Andale, vacita!

In Reulf, a happy army of origami-esque figures tries to bring colour to Paris. Equipped with maps and paint brushes the merry band add colour to everything from the Eiffel Tower to the Metro, to footwear and clothing, while taking time out to hang from street signs and laze in coffe cups on sidewalk café tables. Providing the soundtrack to their lively expedition is music by Robert Le Magnifique.

Switzerland’s Pink Nanuq is about a Polar Bear and a Penguin who try to save an iceberg, but for me the animation is more captivating than the story. Layered and colourful, the animation is interesting to examine, but I can’t say the same for the lackluster delivery of the story. Which goes to show that even short filmmakers need to know how to pace even a 6-minute film. Luckily, Jakob Schuh and Max Lang, the directors of The Gruffalo (see above) give you 25 minutes of fun and exciting activity in a well-paced story worth watching more than once.tmtm

The Worldwide Short Film Festival
TOWERING SHORTS – a morning of family activities at the CN Tower.

(info courtesy of

•Every adult ticket gets you (and up to two kids, twelve and under, for FREE)
•Screening ticket to our family friendly programming, Shorts for Shorties (one of two programs);
•Access to a hands-on animation workshop, presented by the National Film Board;
•An elevator ride to the observation deck at the top of the CN Tower!
•All activities are good for the young and young-at-heart.
•Workshops to choose from:
9:00 AM
11:30 AM
2:00 PM
Tickets are $22.99 plus HST ...


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Worldwide Short Film Festival: Celebrity Quickies;-)

Worldwide Short Film Festival: Celebrity Shorts 1 & 2. I've always wondered why celebrities dabble in shorts. It can't always be because they can't find work; yet in this year's collection of Celebrity Shorts you'll find such Oscar winners such as Colin Firth, Sandra Bullock, Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz (directing)and Oscar a parade of Oscar nominees: Gérard Depardieu, Imelda Staunton, James Cromwell, Debra Winger, and Kiera Knightley. And football notable Peyton Manning doesn't need the money. They can't all be doing it as a glamour project, either. Maybe they just like to act and want a break from being in projects that have to rack up millions of box office dollars. Whatever the reason, they do all do a bang up job in the shorts screening at WWSFF this year.

Celebrity Shorts 1
Thursday, June 2, 7:00 pm, Royal Ontario Museum
Sunday, June 5, 7:15 pm, Cineplex Odeon Varsity Cinema
94 Minutes

I thoroughly enjoyed each of the seven shorts in this section. From the documentary, PS Your Mystery Sender, about British designer Paul Smith and his odd collection of fan mail/paraphernalia (surf boards, mismatched skis, stuffed animals etc) sent by unknown appreciators of his work, to the sombre and touching French drama Winter Frog, featuring Gérard Depardieu as a grieving vintner, whose life is infused with the spirit of magic by an unexpected visitor (Eriko Tanaka). Harry Potter actors, Imelda Staunton and Tom Felton (Malfoy) play scenes far away from Hogwarts in, White Order, an hospital drama rife with dark undertones that is suitably lit by cinematographer, David Mackie. Nudity, tension and angst cloak the British short, Sergeant Slaughter, My Big Brother, which explores the relationship between a bruiser of an older (Tom Hardy) who want to join the French Foreign Legion, and his younger brother (Ben MacLeod) who is being bullied by a neighbourhood boy. The masculine interplay between the brothers and the coldness of their parents makes you want to back away from this house, while being fascinated enough to want to watch the goings on through a crack in the window.

Love is the theme in the remaining three films: Animal Love, sees Selma Blair and Jeremy Davis as loners in the future who hook up via a dating service. Shy and introverted, the two make tentative steps towards getting to know one another beyond hooking up thanks to an allergic response and an adventurous rodent named Frank. Also exploring the issue of love on many levels are Gina McKee and Stephen Mangan as a couple who goes to visit the wife's sister. What ensues in An Act of Love is best left for you to observe when you get to the theatre. Adding a sweet touch to the programme is, Bunce, written by author, actor, comedian, Stephen Fry who stars in his own childhood biographical short. As a precocious boarding school lad, it seems that Fry the Second (his brother also went to the same school), young Fry had a love of sweets that transcends every punishment he could ever endure. The scheming, sweetie lover's machinations and at school and his friendship with young Bunce is a delightful tale of childhood larceny.

Celebrity Shorts 2
Bloor Cinema
Friday, June 3, 7:00pm
88 Minutes

Who knew that James Cromwell (Babe, W, The Queen) was once linked to the Black Panther Party. Turns out, young, naive, idealistic James once loaned his parents' apartment to a few Party members back in the 60's. Narrated by Cromwell with re-enactments by his son, John, this eye-opening documentary (A .45 at 50th) will have you rethinking what you know about Cromwell while exposing some of the underhanded tactics the American government used to pursue and persecute Party members. This documentary is way at the opposite end of the scale when compared to yahoos Jason Biggs and Joel Moore who finally get their bums off the couch to learn at the feet of motivational guru, Anthony Hopkins in The Third Rule. Given the first two rules by their new life coach, these bumbling pals, think they have it made, but just what is the third rule? All I can say is "Beware the Mongoose!"

Sitting in the director's chair for The Thief, is actress Rachel Weisz, who does a wonderful job of keeping this simple story (based on a true story from Glamour Magazine) on track. This two-hander is an interesting modern morality tale that is well-acted by Rosemary DeWitt and Joel Edgerton. Also holding her own is actress, Julia Stiles in Sexting, written and directed by Neil Labute. Stiles has 97 percent of the dialogue in this short, where the camera takes the place of the woman she is taking to. The one-sided conversation about sex and communication streams naturally to its hilarious thanks to a crackling script and emotionally nuanced performance by Stiles. Like Labute, director, Rupert Friend also writes his own script for Steve, starring Colin Firth and Kiera Knightley, who has none of the usual facial tics that irriate some of her non-fans. Steve, played by Firth is an annoying neighbour, who lives downstairs from Knightly and her husband. Steve takes neighbourly-ness and the British cuppa to a different level in this dark, biting satire about how modern social interaction. a bright movie musical with a pleasant surprise. The dancers in this one belong on the hot tamale train for transforming themselves from concession stand employees to hoofers who raise the roof with popcorn and fountain drinks. The dynamic team of Sable and Battlion remain true to their brand of comedy, music and irony in this brilliant short that rivals, The Dark Side, for its humourous surprises. A spoof of Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side (and no, you don't have to go rent it before seeing this), this short takes kindness and to the extreme, where good Samaritan, Sandra, insists on mothering NFL quarterback, Peyton Manning. Did the studio not know what Saturday Night Live contributor, Seth Meyers would do with their film! Way to go, Seth!

I'm not saving the best for last with How It Ended. Unfortunately, you have to sit through 18 minutes of Debra Winger dying if you want to see the rest of these wonderful short films. Time is really relative here: Steve is 16 minutes of acerbic wit; How It Ended is only 2 minutes longer, but feels like it's an hour longer. Had it been shorter, the ending to the film would have been a fantastic pay-off, instead it elicits a lackluster response. Note to director/writer, Gabriel Nussbaum: shorter is better!
May 31 - June 5
Cumberland Terrace
2 Bloor Street West, entrance on Cumberland between Bay and Yonge
416-929-2232 (tickets and passes)
Monday May 30 to Friday June 3: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday June 4: 11:00 am to 6:00 pm
Sunday June 5: closed (tickets will be available at theatre box offices all day)
Please note that all sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.

A Sweet Liar: Theatre Francais de Toronto's Le Menteur/The Liar

The tag line is  "Don't believe a word he says" , but you can believe me, Le Menteur/The Liar is a fun way to spend a night at...