Sunday, December 31, 2006

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.

Post-script

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

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Anyone know any good New Year's Eve parties in London?

My plan to crash Abi Titmuss's party did not pan out.

I don't really like to throw stones at other journalist's mistakes, because I live in a glass house. But, really, The Real Thing is by Tom Stoppard and Humble Boy is by Charlotte Jones.

As for My Top Artastic Experiences of the Year, well, if you're interested you can pop by this ol' blog tomorrow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas in Afghanistan.

With Rick Mercer
. Just a little blog reading that touched me...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas and all that!

I'm writing from Paris, a lovely little town that is full of lights and love, but not Internet cafes. Thanks for popping by the ol' blog over the past year... I'm going to go on hiatus until 2007, because the Cybercafes are ridiculously expensive and I am only tenuously employed.

Let me tell you one thing, though, before I go back to revelling: Peter Brook is a bit of a jerk. I mean, sure, he's directed countless wonderful productions around the world, but if you go up to him after a show in Paris and say hello, he will reply, "Je ne parle pas anglais." This will confuse you and you will wonder if he is perhaps the janitor, but then you will see his picture on the cover of a book and be all, "What the -- That was Peter Brook!" Then, you will see him a few minutes later on the street outside his Théàtre des Bouffes du Nord and be all, "Bon soir!" And he'll totally ignore you and your friend who has read The Empty Space half a dozen times.

Bof!

But back to the Christmas spirit: Here's my Toronto Star interview with Stephen Merchant, co-creator of The Office and co-host of the funny Ricky Gervais Show podcasts. Have a happy Christmas or Chinese dinner or whatever it is you do and see you in the new year!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Laughing all the way to the Banksy...

My article on Santa's Ghetto, Banksy and friends' awesome "squat art concept store" on Oxford Street.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time's 2006 Person of the Year is...

You?

Pffft... What a-cop out.

(Still gonna put it on my resumé, though.)
Meat, Smoked.

Leonard Cohen writes about when he knew Jack. Well, kind of.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Neon Bible.

This, apparently, is the title of the upcoming Arcade Fire album. We are excited and may need an Intervention. (Who's got tickets to the second night of the band's comeback concerts in London in January? I do, I do!)

What does the title mean? That the Arcade Fire is embracing its status as a cult and this will be their seminal text outlining their commandments and who begat who?

A possibility. I do wonder if it is a reference to The Neon Bible, one of the two books by John Kennedy Toole, the one that isn't A Confederacy of Dunces. Though Toole was a famous New Orleansian (?), there is a Montreal connection to Neon Bible; Terrence Davies' movie adaptation of the book starred Montrealer Jacob Tierney in the main role... Not the best movie or, I hear, the best book, but hopefully the album will be better.
Just overheard in a Crouch End café.

Angry Woman Exiting: "...and if you're uncomfortable with racism in Britain, go back to your own fuckin' country!"
Rest of Café: *stunned silence*
Just one more reason to love Michel Gondry.

He can solve a Rubik's Cube with his feet.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that knighting Ringo could bring an end to Western civilization as we know it."

Okay, maybe I was exaggerating a bit.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Drow$y Chaperone.

It's recouped its investment. Anyone want to bet on how long it'll run on Broadway? It's doing as well now as it ever has...
Robert Rabinovitch: Testify!

This video made me weep from laughter, but I'm kind of an idiot. (How sad that Ouimet is shutting down Tea Makers... Where else will I get my Ceeb gossip?)
The Resolution Will Not Be Blogged.

Whereas Declan over at Crawl Across the Ocean has dug up a fun U-turn from Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro.

Whereas on Nov. 9, Del Mastro blogged:
In a move that can only be described as astounding, the Federal Liberal party officially aligned themselves with the Bloc Quebecois.

Now what is the noble cause that has united them? Well while they apparently agree that Quebec is a Nation, contrary to proud Canadians everywhere that's not it.
Whereas two weeks later, Del Mastro voted for Harper's motion recognizing the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada.

Be it resolved that Dean Del Mastro does not consider himself to be a proud Canadian.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Quick, Johnny Knoxville: Buy the movie rights to this story ASAP!

Man fakes mental retardation for 20 years.
The honeymoon is over.

Dion should give up his French citizenship. Not to channel Mike Harris or anything, but it's just common sense.

So saith a dual citizen who is totally down on all those dual citizen haters out there.
Bare walls no longer...

Potestad Poster
It's a long story as to how it ended up overseas and in my hands, but now I have this awesome poster hanging in my London flat. Designed by the wonderful Theo Dimson, it was for a 1989 Toronto production of Eduardo Pavlovsky's Potestad at the Tarragon Extraspace starring Diego Matamoros, one of my favourite Canadian actors. (The poster is signed by Dimson.)

Imagine, there was a time when you only had to dial seven numbers to buy theatre tickets in Toronto...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mémoires affectives.

Okay, I promise this blog hasn't gone all-Dion-all-the-time. But let me point you to two good posts of Andrew Potter's about how Stéphane Dion’s views on federalism and Quebec are constantly misrepresented.

Here's a prime example from the CBC today:
In Dion's Montreal riding of St-Laurent-Cartierville, which he has won five elections in a row, his constituents weren't sure what to make of his new role as Liberal leader.

"To win the heart of Quebecers, what will he do?" wondered Llesse Chuckiken, who said it's hard to forget that Dion voted against Harper's motion acknowledging the Québécois as a nation within Canada.
That must be hard to forget, because not only did Dion vote for Harper's motion, but Harper consulted Dion when he was drafting it! There is clearly a serious disinformation campaign about Dion in Québec...

Anyway, here are two encouraging signs that those of us who think Dion is going to end up doing just fine in Quebec aren't totally up merde creek.

1) A poll that blasts the conventional wisdom on Dion in Quebec: "62 per cent of respondents in the province said that Mr. Dion was a good choice for the Liberals, with only 29 per cent saying he was a bad choice. The approval of the Liberals' pick was higher in Quebec than in the rest of the country, where 55 per cent liked the choice."

2) The fact that La Presse cartoonist Serge Chapleau has stopped drawing Dion as a rat... now he's a beaver, a much bigger and more admired rodent.

Dion Makeover
Kicking a man when he's down...

From the Guardian's editorial praising Stéphane Dion today:
Eight candidates went to Montreal hoping to step into the shoes of Brian Martin, who stood down this year.
Ouch!

Also of note in this editorial:
The bright and bookish Mr Dion does not come over as the kind of machine politician who thrives in the sweaty convention atmosphere. But, after triumphing in a test of nerves like this, winning Canada's next general election should be child's play.
Guess we can't call him perenially underestimated anymore, eh?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Kingmaker Martha Hall-Findlay...

And other Aesop fables from the Liberal leadership convention over in my final Tyee election-blog post.
Planet Stelmach.

Am I the only one who finds it impossible not to think of ALF whenever Ed Stelmach's name is mentioned? Why does Canadian politics suddenly become all fun the moment I leave the country?
Some corrections from last night.

- CPAC does have a bilingual option. My bad.

- By "I might have to change my whole world view. Seriously." I meant, "You know, whatever. I'm cool."

- Why are pirates pirates? They just arrrrrrr.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I can't believe Dion won.

This isn't how politics is supposed to work.

I might have to change my whole world view. Seriously.
Kinsella calls it for Dion.

For what's that worth
.
Why is there no bilingual option for CPAC?

I hate simultaneous translation.
Go Dion, go!

Thank you, Gerard Kennedy! Eeg... it's going to be close.

You've probably figured out by now that I'm rooting for Stéphane Dion. In truth, I have never felt so positive about a politician in my life. I had a brief crush on Howard Dean back in the day. And I have a little enduring one on Judy Wasylycia-Leis. And for a period of a week, after he went to the hospital with an asthma attack, I secretly swooned about Stephen Harper.

But Dion... He might seriously be the guy who could make this cynical youngster get off the fence and believe in politics for once. I was so glad when Martha Hall-Findlay endorsed him, because those two both have the same spirit.

I dig Dion's three pillars: economic prosperity, social justice and environmental sustainability. I also know that he will stand up for Canadian unity -- not nationalism -- in a way that is based on rationalism, rather than emotionalism.

(By the way, did you know Dion's youth team is handing out condoms -- "For your third pillar" -- at the conference?)

I'm holding my breath.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Vote Dryden: Is he part of the cure or part of the disease? Could it be worse?

Dear Ken Dryden,

We all like Coldplay, but how exactly are these lyrics going to inspire anyone to vote for you:
Lights go out and I can't be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
You've put me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead (singing)
Come out of things unsaid, shoot an apple of my head (and a)
Trouble that can't be named, tigers waiting to be tamed (singing)
You are, you are

Confusion never stops, closing walls and ticking clocks (gonna)
Come back and take you home, I could not stop, that you now know (singing)
Come out upon my seas, curse missed opportunities (am I)
A part of the cure, or am I part of the disease (singing)
What's funny is that Dryden followed Clocks with a Coldplay song called Fix Me. The lyrics are even worse:
When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
I kind of wish Dryden would win, really, just because he'd be the weirdest Liberal leader since William Lyon Enjoys-Talking-to-His-Deceased-Dog King. Oh yeah, oh yeah, what a great goalie and that child-care thing woulda been nice, but really...

On the subject of campaign songs, my buddy Marci notes:
And Iggy... well, here's a funny one. Iggy chose Goo Goo Dolls "Better Days", but seems to have re-written some of the lyrics and translated some of it into French.

The funny part?

The same song was the theme to this fall's ABC drama 6 Degrees. Remember it? That's because it crashed and burned after about 6 episodes. If that many.
Yeah, it's totally going to be Rae. I'm mean, I'm crossing my fingers for Dion, but I'm not overly optimistic.
Volpe goes to Rae!

Damn you, CPAC! Why is your online video so choppy?

Loved this quote from Ignatieff on the floor: "I wish them a rich and happy life together."

UPDATE: Every single candidate who has dropped out has gone to Rae, no? I think we'll see him as the next leader.
Bye Bill!

Bill Haugland anchored his last broadcast of CFCF-12's Pulse News last night... I can't believe he's been commuting from Vermont all this time.