The Top 20 Artastic People/Places/Things of 2007
Here are some amazing theatre/music/film experiences I had over the last 12 months in Montreal, Toronto, London, Paris, Las Vegas and New York. (In no particular order of amazingness.) I'm afraid I don't have the time or brain cells to describe my reasons for loving all of these at the moment... Happy New Year's Eve!
1. My theatre trip to New York in May. I saw six plays, three of which blew my mind as it were. They were: The Drowsy Chaperone, Sweeney Todd, and The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Add to this that I tossed around an imaginary football with Nellie McKay at the Drowsy Chaperone opening night party and basically it was, like, the best extended working weekend ever.
2. Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard in the West End.
3. Show Your Bones by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
4. Better Parts/Antoine Feval/Minotaur. Shows I really loved at Fringe festivals in Montreal and Toronto this year.
5. Love, the Cirque de Soleil Beatles show in Las Vegas. Soooo beautiful.
6. Rosa Laborde's Léo at Tarragon Theatre. (If you're in Toronto, go see the remount.)
7. k.d. lang singing Hallelujah at Leonard Cohen's induction in the Canadian Songwriter's Hall of Fame. Bye-bye Jeff Buckley's version.
8. Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett starring Harold Pinter. I didn't make it into the actual production, but I saw the premiere of the filmed version. (This is my favourite play, by the by.) While it's disappointing that all the banana stuff is cut, Pinter's performance is great -- and, of course, full of extratextual poignance.
9. Peter Morgan. This British writer is my writing hero of the year. He wrote my favourite movie of the year, The Queen, and one of my favourite plays of the year, Frost/Nixon. He made me feel compassion for people I thought I disliked.
10. Brad Mehldau. I saw this intellojazz pianist life this year for first time, twice: opening solo for Wayne Shorter Quartet at Massey Hall and with his trio at the Montreal Jazz Festival. At the latter he was anything but aloof, giving five encores. Five!
11. Gnarls Barkley. You can't deny that St. Elsewhere is the awesome.
12. Bon Cop, Bad Cop. I think I enjoyed hearing my (anglo) mother and (franco) step-father tell me how much they enjoyed this movie more than I actually enjoyed watching it. Yeah, a lot of it was ridiculous and some of it was hackish, but I'm a sucker for bilingual humour and any attempts to bridge the solitudes. Director Éric Canuel shot television ads for the Bloc Quebecois for the January election, then he released the most popular Canadian movie of all time. What an interesting year he's had.
13. A Beautiful View by Daniel MacIvor at Buddies in Bad Times.
14. Recut Movie Trailers. My favourite meme of the year.
15. Sarah Harmer's album I'm a Mountain. Okay, so it was released last year... I liked it this year. Sue me.
16. George Galloway on Big Brother.
17. Michael Sheen. This Welsh actor is my acting hero of the year. He played Tony Blair in my favourite movie of the year, The Queen, and David Frost in one of my favourite plays of the year, Frost/Nixon. He made me feel compassion for people I thought I disliked.
18. Sizwe Banzi est mort, by Athol Fugard at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord. Peter Brook's theatre in Paris is such a gorgeous space that it almost doesn't matter what I saw there. But this production of Fugard in translation had one of my favourite performances of the year from the intensely charismatic Malian actor Habib Dembélé...
19. Thank You For Smoking. Satire!
20. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
No, I'm not even joking.
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT
I knew the American economy was in trouble, but I hadn't realized the situation had gotten this bad. It seems now they're even outsourcing their car movies to Asia.
Yes, the third episode of The Fast and the Furious is here -- I could hardly wait either!-- and it is subtitled Tokyo Drift. That would have been a fitting subtitle for Lost in Translation too, come to think of it, but here drift refers not to the anomie of global travel, but to a kind of stunt driving that originated in Japan. Drifting involves pulling the hand brake while going into a turn, so that the car spins or glides sideways around a corner. It's an impressive trick, though frankly not much more than driving on icy roads without snow tires. (Here's a free sequel suggestion: Pay It Fast and Furiously 4ward -- Canadian Winter.)
Though it quickly relocates to Japan, Tokyo Drift begins in the familiar Fast and Furious territory of the U.S.A., where we are introduced to troublemaker Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), a 17-year-old Southerner with no attachment to any of the previous movies in the series or, it appears, anybody in this one.
As the teenage antihero is introduced in the opening montage, it becomes apparent that this Fast and Furious director, Justin Lin, has a pretty subversive sense of humour. We watch a football mascot taking off his head to go through the high school's metal detector, a group of fans beating a pinata shaped like a Native American (they're about to play a rival team called the Indians), and a student being tortured with a paint gun in shop class. This almost Michael Mooreian look at American culture goes miles towards explaining why Sean has a penchant for escaping through street racing.
That need for speed quickly gets Sean into trouble and -- since this is his third offensive in a third town -- he is given a choice between jail and moving to Japan to live with his estranged military father; he chooses the latter.
Flash forward to Tokyo, a new school where you have to wear slippers, and a drift-obsessed illegal racing scene, which Sean quickly gets involved in despite threats from major dad.
The ensuing plot, which is more about cars than characters, is fast and spurious: Sean falls for an Australian ex-pat named Neela (an Angelina Jolie Jr. named Nathalie Kelley), whose boyfriend happens to be a small-time crook called the Drift King (Brian Tee), whose uncle is a big-time crook in the Yakuza crime syndicate. With the help of ex-pat car expert Han (Sung Kang) and fellow army brat Twinkie (Bow Wow, who has ditched his 'Lil), Sean learns how to let his back tires slide and deal with being a gaijin -- an outsider, which he was even at home in the States.
There's some trouble with the Yakuza, fun glimpses of underground Tokyo culture and then, before you know it, the climax of Tokyo Drift is at hand: A fast and furious race down a mountain where Sean and the Drift King fight for the girl and their very lives. Warning: Spoiler ahead. No really, watch out! That spoiler has detached itself and is coming straight at your windshield. Aaaahhhh!
Critics didn't really like the first two Fast and Furious movies, but they went on to earn more that US$443-million worldwide. It makes one feel sort of impotent, but I don't really mind because this is the best of the series and hopefully will help make the talented Black as big a star as Vin Ethanol, er Diesel.
Tokyo Drift is a bit more contemplative than its predecessor, which perhaps has to do with the fact that drifting is more of a car ballet than a race. There is one scene where Neela and Sean drift down a mountain with friends that actually looks like they're floating down a river. An unexpected moment of beauty in a sea of loud, obnoxious -- and completely effective -- car porn.
There is disclaimer at the end, by the way, urging kids not to "duplicate any action, driving or car play scenes herein portrayed." You may nonetheless want to look both ways before crossing your suburban shopping mall's parking lot.
Rating three stars