Gatsby Garden Party 2017!

20170625_114915

A few weeks ago, I attended the annual Gatsby Garden Party at Spadina House (Museum).

It was my fourth year attending!  Below is my gentleman friend in front of the historic home.

20170625_121031

Spadina Museum is a historic house and grounds in the city of Toronto. In my opinion, it is Toronto’s best historic site.

To read more about the history of the Spadina (Austin family) home and previous Gatsby parties, please visit my previous posts on the event here and here.

On to this year’s event!

While it was a cloudy day,

IMG_5998

that did not keep the garden party-goers away.

Here are a few finely-dressed ladies watching the costume contest:

IMG_5978

Below are some of my favourite 1920s looks from the contest.

My friend Missy’s opium den girl look is sublime!

IMG_5988

My gentleman friend’s whiskey-smuggler look is the bee’s knees!

IMG_5989

Other honourable mentions:

IMG_6000

IMG_6002

IMG_6007

IMG_6005

IMG_6009

IMG_6015

IMG_5980

Here are the costume contest winners!

IMG_6020

Those two adorable dogs in the front row were even dressed up 🙂

This little girl told me that she was “a black and white photograph.”

IMG_6021

I also entered the contest, to no avail (however, I did win two years ago!)

IMG_5925

The kimono is an antique. I think it is actually from the 1920s or earlier.

IMG_5926

Here are my fabulous friends Sapphyre and Missy showing off their outfits:

20170625_125731

20170625_125722

Other than the costume contest, activities included strolling the grounds and exploring the Austin home.

IMG_6017

One could also enjoy the gardens, vineyard, and orchard.

IMG_5948

IMG_5932

Observing or participating in a Charleston dance lesson was a popular choice,

IMG_5964

as was listening to one of the many 1920s style bands.

IMG_5959

Partygoers could also enjoy music being played on antique gramophones.

IMG_5930

I can’t wait to relive the 1920s again for a day next year!

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival 2017: Part One!

Five Toronto Fringe (theatre festival) shows in one day?! I am so tired. But it’s a good tired. They were all comedies too. Not one dud in the bunch. Them’s impossible odds, people.  Here’s a list of what I saw today.
Round One!
Graham Clark's Not Here
Graham Clark’s Not Here (Laugh Gallery) – one-man comedy show.  He was wearing a bucket over his head and the whole thing was on a screen showing his face, which was placed over his face. It worked, oddly. The screen also showed clips from Mad Max: Fury Road and Predator “when things got dull.” Oh, and the dialogue of the show – the part on the face-screen – is available for download, so anyone can put a bucket on their head and do this show in the future. For free.
Round Two! (vaginas)
The Moaning Yoni
The Moaning Yoni (Joylyn Secunda Productions) – one-woman comedy show, very funny. This woman (Joylyn Secunda) has serious physical comedy and singing talent. She acted the parts of herself, her New Age-y teacher, and her own vagina. A show about societal expectations concerning sex. And vaginas.
Round Three! (I got to drink alcohol during this show)
Vasily Djokavich: Russia's #1 State Approved Comedian
Vasily Djokavich: Russia’s #1 State Approved Comedian (Morgan Cranny and Mike Delamont) A one-man show, very funny, deadpan as hell, about Russia and Russian society. A bunch of jokes could not be said lest the performer be “shot in face” by the KGB or whatever the KGB has morphed into these days. Oh, and I got to drink Russian vodka onstage with the actor. Wooooo!
Round Four! (more vaginas)
Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up The Notch
Shirley Gnome: Taking It Up the Notch (Heartichoke Arts) – Ok, so this one-woman show is probably the raunchiest show I have ever seen. Also one of the funniest. Shirley is actually a great singer and guitar player, and the songs (about love, sex, and, well, physical anatomy) were absolutely hilarious. Not for those that are easily offended…she actually sang a charming little song about this, saying that it was OK for people to leave if they wanted. No one did.
 Round Five! (outer space)
Earth Tourist
Earth Tourist ( Chandelier Factory Productions) – This show actually had two actors in it! Whoa! It was about an alien named Sparklemuffin the Space Unicorn and her companion, a radio time-lord, trying to get back into the Astral Plane. A look at our society through the eyes of aliens. Why climb that corporate ladder? Why put a photo of yourself doing yoga on Instagram? Why pay attention to linear time at all? WHY?
It’s interesting to note that ALL of the shows I saw today (with the exception of Earth Tourist, which is from Newfoundland,) were from theatre companies in Vancouver! There must be a ton of talented, funny people there, who happen to like to make shows about vaginas, putting screens over their faces, and the KGB.
Stay tuned!
Photo credits: All photos are from the Toronto Fringe website.

Review: Midsummer (a play with songs) – Tarragon Theatre

A couple of weekends ago, I was lucky to see Tarragon Theatre‘s production of Midsummer (a play with songs) with my friend and fellow blogger The Culture Fancier.

It had been a while since I saw a professional theatre show at one of the big three Toronto playhouses dedicated to presenting new Canadian work (Factory Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille being the other two). I usually go to theatre festivals such as Fringe and Summerworks, attend contemporary dance shows and concerts at Harbourfront Centre and see operas at the COC, but I do not attend as much (non-musical, professional) theatre as I would like to.

Seeing Midsummer made me wonder why I had stayed away so long, and reminded me why I fell in love with theatre in the first place.

The show was marketed as a kind of romantic comedy; so I wasn’t sure what to expect, since that is not my favourite genre.  I was therefore pleased to discover that while the show is romantic, it is by no means syrupy, cavity-inducing sweet.

The main characters are flawed, slightly cynical, world-weary people who have been-there-done-that as far as youthful romance goes. They are now a bit older – I would say mid 30s, and are not necessarily looking for romance when they happen to meet one midsummer’s night.

Bob (Brandon McGibbon) is a petty criminal and failed poet/musician. Helena (Carly Street) is a divorce lawyer in a failing relationship who drinks too much. They meet in a bar in Edinburgh, and are not each other’s type, but something draws them together. What starts as a one-night stand turns into a wild weekend of adventure and rap video-worthy spending sprees courtesy of a large amount of illicit cash that Bob acquires. Will the have a future past this wild midsummer’s night?

The two actors are wonderful.  They play all of the characters in the show – not only Bob and Helena, but Helena’s nephew, Bob’s criminal boss, goth kids they meet in the park, et cetera. The actors also frequently explain the characters’ thoughts and set up situations for the audience. This is all done seamlessly.

The set consists of four metal trunks (the kind roadies use to put sound and lighting equipment in for shows). Two of the trunks are pink, and two are black, with the words “Mary,” “Jesus,” “Spike,” and “Buffy” printed on them. These trunks, with the help of a few simple props, become everything that is needed for the play – a bedroom, a bar, an expensive wine shop, the staircase outside of a church. The actors manage to arrange the trunks and props throughout the play while in character, and without missing a single beat.

The songs, performed mostly by Bob (Brandon McGibbon), are more like blues/pop tunes than musical theatre type songs. They work very well in the production and are often prefaced by Bob’s poetry, which I thought was quite good. In fact, I would like to get my hands on the script of this play for future reading.

Midsummer is like a tonic for the world-weary romantic. Highly recommended.

Details:

Midsummer is playing at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave, Toronto) until May 28th, 2017. Shows begin at 8pm nightly; matinees are on Sundays at 2:30pm.

For more information, visit the Tarragon Theatre website.

Credits:

Photo of exterior of Tarragon:  www.theatromania.ca/sites/default/files/imagecache/400×300/Tarragon.jpg

 

 

High Park Cherry Blossoms 2017!

This past weekend, I went on my annual pilgrimage to see the flowering cherry trees in High Park.

IMG_5487

IMG_5482

According to the High Park Nature Centre website, “the Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo” in 1959.

IMG_5545

IMG_5570

IMG_5576

“The trees were planted in appreciation of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War. Many of these trees were planted on the hillside overlooking Grenadier Pond (southwest of the Grenadier Café) and around the east shore of the pond.

IMG_5565

IMG_5561

In 1984, a grove of Japanese cherry trees were planted along a pathway west of the Children’s Adventure Playground in High Park. The trees were donated by Yoriki and Midori Iwasaki as a special gift to the people of Toronto and “a joyful symbol of life”.

IMG_5515

IMG_5572

IMG_5581

Through the Consulate General of Japan in Toronto’s “Sakura Project”, 34 Yoshino ‘Akebono’ and Kwanzan ‘Fugenzo’ Sakura trees were donated to High Park in 2001 on the east shore of Grenadier Pond near the Maple Leaf garden.

IMG_5639

In 2006, 16 additional Yoshino Sakura trees were planted near the original 1959 planting site.”

IMG_5694

The park was quite crowded as the trees were in 100% bloom.

IMG_5669

Despite the crowded atmosphere, seeing the cherry blossoms remains an important tradition for a lot of Torontonians – myself included.

Many other beautiful signs of spring were also on view at the park.

IMG_5591

IMG_5612

IMG_5614

Here is a young mountain goat at the High Park Zoo.

IMG_5621

IMG_5622

IMG_5624

I have saved the best for last…the baby capybaras.

IMG_5674

Huey, Dewey, and Louie were born to parents Bonnie and Clyde in late winter 2016. As you may remember, Bonnie and Clyde are the two capybaras who escaped their enclosure in the summer of 2016 and spent most of the summer on the lam in the High Park woods. Despite efforts to catch them, they remained elusive and were often seen swimming in the park’s ponds.

IMG_5676

They were a media favourite and became town heroes of a sort. They were finally recaptured in the fall and have since settled into domestic family life.

Have you seen the cherry blossoms in High Park, or at another location? Had you heard about Bonnie and Clyde’s escapades before now? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Stay tuned!

Sources:

https://www.highparknaturecentre.com/high-park-cherry-blossom-watch/history/?doing_wp_cron=1493808152.7276589870452880859375

Toronto Light Festival 2017

I attended the Toronto Light Festival a couple of weeks ago.

This festival had its first year in 2017 and was a free, outdoor event. It was held in the Distillery District from January 27th to March 12th – “during the dark, cold days of winter” in the hope that “city residents will be drawn out of their traditional indoor habitats to experience Toronto in a way they never have before.”

 

20170224_215037

 

IMG_5143

 

This installation was entitled “Our House.” Artist Tom Dekyvere (Belgium) meant to show “another example of how life and its natural environment can be manipulated into a new form. The installation refers to the balance between electronics and nature, people and their network.”

 

IMG_5146

 

IMG_5165

 

This piece, called “Angels of Freedom,” is by the OGE Creative Group from Israel. Visitors were encouraged to “turn themselves into a real angel” by posing in front of the wings and halos. For every photo shared to FB, Twitter, or Instagram, the group donated $1.00 to the Daily Bread Food Bank.  Social media for a good cause!

 

IMG_5076

 

IMG_5167

 

IMG_5118

 

“The Love Locks”, by Toronto Light Festival creator Mathew Rosenblatt, “requires the participation of lovers to come together to express their enduring love for one another.” (Visitors could write their names on a lock and add it to the exhibit).  “This simple action not only reinforces what is already in their hearts, it also acts to create an intensely positive environment and inspiration for others.”

 

IMG_5125

 

IMG_5134

 

 

IMG_5115

 

“The Magic Dance Mirror” by Kyle Ruddick (United States) “creates a graphically styled mirror image of those using it with dynamic animated visuals based on a user’s movement, audio, and social interactions.”

It was really good to see visitors not being afraid to dance and act “silly” in front of strangers in order to interact with the artwork. I could have stayed in there all night – it was such a fun, positive environment. Now – how to get one of those installed in my house?!

 

IMG_5116

 

 

IMG_5088

 

Another interactive piece was “A Dream of Pastures” by Studio F Minus from Canada. It was a “mechanical sculpture and light projection inspired by the history of moving images.” Visitors could pedal a stationery bike, which would power a projector displaying a moving image of themselves riding a horse.

 

IMG_5091

 

IMG_5083

 

IT” by Michael Christian (United States) was the somber piece in the festival. “IT rises over 40 feet tall and is constructed of 12,000 pounds of steel. Inspired by H.G. Wells’ War of the WorldsIT was commissioned by Black Rock City Nevada’s 2006 Burning Man Festival and over 50,000 visitors viewed it when it was first unveiled.”

 

IMG_5085

 

IMG_5104

 

“Run Beyond” by Angelo Bonello (Italy) was my favourite of the festival. It was “a work about the jump we all have to take in our lives: the jump to freedom. Bonello does not tell us what kind of freedom, the spectator has to make up their own mind. Bonello: “To me this work is about the power of imagination, a power so strong that it makes individuals conquer their fears and limitations and causes them to open up to other cultures, new friendships, and unknown worlds.”

 

IMG_5101

 

IMG_5131

 

“Digital Origami Tigers” by LAVA from Australia “started their world travels in 2010 in celebration of the Chinese New Year at Customs House in Sydney, Australia. The Digital Tigers were adopted by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) to bring attention to the international campaign to save tigers. The crouching Digital Tigers combine ancient methods of lantern making with cutting edge digital design and fabrication technology, bringing together east and west.”

 

IMG_5132

 

 

IMG_5158

 

“The Uniting Lightstar” by Venividimultiplex (The Netherlands) “is a dodecahedron which…consists of twelve pentagonal surfaces….you see numerous strings of blue light, which connect all of the points of this artificial star. The Uniting Lightstar demonstrates…the human capacity to boost friendships and let them grow.”

 

IMG_5156

 

IMG_5152

 

I am hoping that Toronto Light Festival returns in 2018!

Stay tuned!

Sources:

All quoted text and information is from Toronto Light Festival 2017’s printed festival brochure.

Top Ten Movies of 2016

I am taking a break from my Vancouver series to bring you a Top Ten end-of-year list! You, my readers, seem to love my Top Ten entries: Top Ten Things I Have Learned About Toronto and Top Ten Memorable Moments of 2014 were among my most popular posts ever. So for my last entry of the year, I present my Top Ten Movies of 2016 !

I am a self-professed film geek. I enjoy all genres of movies and will watch films from any era, from the first silent movies to the visual extravaganzas on offer today. Of course my film knowledge isn’t on par with, say, a person who has a degree in film or someone who writes about film for a living, but I do love the medium and try to watch new and different types of movies regularly.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Movies of 2016.

10.  Sadako vs. Kayako (dir. Koji Shiraishi)

Image result for sadako vs. kayako

Japanese horror-comedy Sadako vs. Kayako pits the ghosts of The Ring and The Grudge against each other in an attempt to rid the world of both of them after they are unwittingly released by a pair of schoolgirls.  It has just the right amount of humour thrown in to prevent the audience from having heart attacks (it was genuinely scary). Give yourself a break from all those lame American horror movies that take themselves way too seriously and watch Sadako vs. Kayako. You won’t be disappointed. A full review can be found here.

9.  Love and Friendship (dir. Whit Stillman)

Kate Beckinsale stars as Lady Susan Vernon Martin in this period piece where we discover that “polite” society often isn’t polite at all. The witty dialogue will keep you entertained, along with an absolutely wonderful performance by Ms. Beckinsale. I bet that you would even like this one if you don’t like period pieces, films based on the work of Jane Austen (I am no big fan of hers myself) or “talky” movies. This one is worth it, trust me. Read more about it here.

8.  Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin)

I must admit that I am a big fan of Star Trek (The Next Generation TV series being my favourite incarnation of the franchise). However, I will admit that I wasn’t crazy about the second-last Star Trek film (Star Trek Into Darkness, 2013) or its predecessor, Star Trek (2009). Therefore, imagine my surprise at how engaging and well-told Beyond was, how its themes of unity and inclusivity really came through at a time when we seem to need them so desperately; how this film, out of the three newest ones starring Chris Pine as James Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, is by far the strongest . More information about the film can be found here.

7.  Without Name (dir. Lorcan Finnegan)

As the poster says, Without Name is a “psychotropic faery story”. A middle-aged land surveyor is hired by a mysterious employer to measure and map a remote and creepy piece of the Irish forest. It soon becomes apparent that something, or someone, is with him in the woods. The ghost of the former owner of the woods? Maybe. But that would be too easy. Mr. Finnegan delivers a spine-chilling twist in the final moments, in addition to the truly unique visual style of many of the film’s scenes (the woods themselves appear to move and breathe). There is also a somewhat sinister environmental message to the whole thing. A complete review of the film can be found here.

6.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  (dir.Gareth Edwards)

Some of you will not look on me too kindly after I say this, but I am going to go ahead and say it anyway: the whole Star Wars series never really captured me. For one thing, I didn’t watch the “originals” – Episodes IV, V, and VI – until I was about 20 years old (that’s another story for another time) and, shortly after watching the original three films, I was barraged by Jar-Jar Binks and his brand of ultimate stupidity in the less-than-worthy Episodes 1, 2, and 3 in the 1990s. Perhaps the originals didn’t have enough time to sink in, or perhaps the films simply have no nostalgic value for me. In any case, I didn’t quite “get” what all the fuss was about.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story became one of my favourite films of the year.  It simply reveals the backstory to Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), but it does so in such an interesting, thoughtful, and elegant way that I was completely drawn in. There is also an incredibly strong female lead character (Felicity Jones’ rebel fighter Jyn Erso) along with a refreshingly diverse cast. The film’s dark tone brought to my mind everything from the Resistance fighters of the World War II era to the present-day intolerance we have witnessed in recent events; it’s a story for the ages. A full review can be found here.

5.  Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee (dir.Nanette Burstein)

Gringo is an incredibly interesting documentary about John McAfee, creator of the McAfee anti-virus software that virtually every computer had in the 1990s. But the movie is not about his career or smarts as a businessman. It’s about what happened after Mr. McAfee moved to Belize in the early 2010s with his fortune. He ended up creating a compound where he was claiming to test and develop medicines made from rainforest plants; in reality, he led a strange and bizarre cult-like world. He hired the most dangerous people in Belize to lead his personal security team. He bribed the entire police force of two cities after he murdered his neighbour. In the end, he went into hiding in the jungles of Guatemala before escaping to the U.S. and (of all things) running for president. I saw this film at TIFF, and during the Q and A afterwards, the filmmaker told us that John McAfee has been threatening many people involved with the film and that she changes her cell phone number on a daily basis. Eeeeeeep ! A review of the film can be found here.

4. The Limehouse Golem (dir. Juan Carlos Medina)

The Limehouse Golem is a murder mystery set in Victorian London. I must admit that I am in love with the Victorian era presented in fiction and film, and no doubt that has influenced this choice.  However, this movie offers up much more than your typical murder mystery. Gender politics and sexual orientation issues come into play in a clever script, along with stellar performances by Bill Nighy as Inspector John Kildare and Olivia Cooke as murder suspect Lizzie Cree. An excellent synopsis of what sets this film apart can be found here.

3.  Kubo and the Two Strings (dir.Travis Knight)

This is one of my favourite animated films ever, not just one of my favourite films of the year. It is set in ancient Japan and tells the story of a young boy who inadvertently unleashes an evil force who wants to destroy him. He must go on the run and, with the help of several creatures and supernatural beings, find a way to unlock a secret legacy that will keep him safe. The thing I like best about this movie is that it does not underestimate its audience. It is a story well-told, with some very heavy themes – it does not shy away from death, evil, and the like – and it is told in such a beautiful way that it will satisfy both adults and kids. As if all that wasn’t enough, the stop-motion animation is gorgeous. This film is simply magical. A full review can be found here.

2.  Barakah Meets Barakah (dir. Mahmoud Sabbagh)

This film made my list because not only is it completely charming, it is completely unique. Barakah Meets Barakah is Saudi Arabia’s first romantic comedy. There is very little cinema coming out of the country, and its existence offers a glimpse into a life and a country that is the object of much suspicion and misinformation in the West. The film talks about the perils of dating in the ultra conservative Saudi society, where men and women aren’t even allowed to socialize in public. In addition, the female character in the story, Barakah, or Bibi for short, is a free-thinking modern woman who has become famous through Instagram. Conversely, the male character Barakah, is a conservative-minded civil servant. It also speaks of the changes in Saudi society from a generation ago, when Saudi culture was much less repressive. Despite all this, the mood remains light and the entire film is utterly charming. More information about this movie can be found here.

1.  Arrival (dir. Dennis Villeneuve)

Arrival is the story of professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who must find a way to communicate with the inhabitants of spaceships who have suddenly touched down in twelve different locations around the world. But this is no ordinary run-of-the-mill science fiction movie featuring aliens, confused scientists, and military types eager to push that little red button. It is an intelligent, thoughtful, meditative approach on the theme of communication. It doesn’t take the easy road at any point and still manages to entertain and engage from beginning to end. It also features an interesting time-travel twist that me and my movie-going companion were still debating the finer points of days later. It is still playing in theatres now; I would recommend seeing it on the big screen if you can. A full review can be found here.

A Happy New Year to all!

Stay tuned!

Vancouver! Part Three: Fan Expo!

In case you aren’t familiar with Fan Expo, it’s a convention for geeks. “Geek” in this case refers to a person who likes one or all of the following: comic books, science fiction, fantasy, gaming, and anime (Japanese animation). I am a little bit of a geek myself, so I enjoy going to Fan Expo (there is a similar one in Toronto that I have been to a few times).

Things to do at Fan Expo include shopping, meeting celebrities, going to panel discussions, meeting artists and seeing their work, and visiting special exhibits.

My personal favourite thing to do at an event such as this is visiting the “Artist Alley.” Most of the artwork revolves around the subjects of fantasy, sci-fi, anime, and comic book art, but the range of styles and the diversity of the artists is incredible. You also get to talk to the artists themselves when at their booths. It is really nice to have that personal interaction with the person who actually created the thing that you are buying.

Another awesome thing about Fan Expo is, of course, THE COSTUMES. Fans go to great lengths to create the perfect costumes of their favourite characters.

Here is an iconic Princess Leia (love the purse!)

img_3953

Duff Man from The Simpsons…

img_3949

Lord Voldemort of the Harry Potter movies:

img_3957

And here is Professor Snape (also of the Harry Potter films). This guy was completely in character and thus slightly terrifying. I ran up to him, being the over-excitable geek that I am, and yelled “CAN I TAKE YOUR PICTURE?” He leaned right into me with a furious expression on his face (I assume because I dared to use such poor grammar (or maybe he doesn’t like over-excitable, geeky women yelling and running towards him)), and said, “Well, I don’t know…CAN YOU?”

img_3979

Here is a Ferengi merchant (Star Trek: The Next Generation) dressed in fabulous attire. Oh, check out the Valentine’s Day card in the lower left corner of the photo with Data on the front of it. It reads “It’s Valentine’s Day. By chance, did I mention…” I bet one of you Star Trek geeks out there (myself included) can guess the punchline to that one!

img_3963

Here is Princess Peach from the original Super Mario Brothers Nintendo game and two friends (I am not sure who the other two are).

img_3955

Here is Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I LOVE the way this costume has been constructed: it is more like a gigantic puppet. The actual person controlling Jack is behind him, dressed in black.

img_3960

Wolverine from X-Men. Pretty good likeness !

img_3973

Storm Troopers (Star Wars) were everywhere. I started to think they were actually Fan Expo security guards who got to wear really cool costumes this year.

img_3966

One of my favourite shows of all time is Sailormoon (the Japanese one, not the lame English dubbed and heavily edited one). So I was pretty happy when I saw quite a few excellent Sailors this year.

Here is Sailor Saturn (my favourite!) and Sailor Pluto…

img_3965

…and here’s Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus.

img_3977

Sailor Venus and Sailor Mars are in this group.

img_3980

Here are the Ghostbusters of B.C., a community group…

img_3968

…with a terrifying full-sized portrait of Vigo, the villain of Ghostbusters II.

img_3969

Here are Iron Man, Spiderman, and Captain America.

img_3970

This Joker (Batman: The Dark Knight) had his makeup spot-on.

img_3971

I am not sure which anime this costume is from, but it was beautiful and very well done.

img_3962

My favourite photo of the day…here is my brother meeting none other than R2-D2 ! !

img_3947

Stay tuned for my next entry, when I visit an awesome contemporary art exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery!

 

Vancouver! Part One: The strange futuristic robot train!

I just got back from Vancouver! I was so excited to discover another big city (besides Toronto). It’s been years since I visited Philadelphia, which was my last not-Toronto big city exploration, so I was due.

My first impression of Vancouver came on the SkyTrain, which I took straight out of the airport to my destination.

I was a bit surprised to see that not only were there no fare collectors (you buy a single ticket from a machine and can pay with debit or credit, or reload a card), but there are NO DRIVERS. Their entire fleet of SkyTrains – three lines with a total of 51 stations – is automated and completely computerized ! ! ! At first I was a little unsure of this strange futuristic robot train, but after a couple rides, I started not to miss those oft-surly station collectors.

It is also worth mentioning that the SkyTrain really does operate in the SKY. The tracks are above the city. It is pretty cool to see that sort of a view on your way around, instead of staring at the floor or trying to avoid eye contact with your fellow passengers on the TTC, who may be grumpy because they have just been treated rudely by an oft-surly station collector.

The third very cool thing about the SkyTrain is that it goes BETWEEN CITIES. You can get from Vancouver to Surrey or Burnaby or Richmond on the train. You pay per zone, so the further you go, the more you pay. The cost is reasonable. The price for one zone is $2.75. To go from Vancouver to Surrey  (roughly equivalent to going from Toronto to Mississauga) would be about $5.00.

Being partial to streetcars, I would have to say that the bad thing about the transit system in Vancouver is that there are NONE. They had streetcars from the 1890s until the late 1950s, when all the streetcar lines were replaced by buses that run on electric lines (like modern-day streetcars do). However, the old section of Vancouver (called Gastown) still runs trolley buses, but they are mostly for tourists.

I did take some photos out of the SkyTrain windows, but Vancouver is so grey and cloudy at this time of year that they didn’t turn out very well.

Next time I will post about my visit to Lynn Canyon (which, incidentally, you can get to by using the city buses in Vancouver!)

Stay tuned!

Photo credits:

SkyTrain entering station: By Wakasui – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50759356

TTC fare collector: http://humbernews.ca/ttc-introduces-customer-service-system-amidst-presto-changeover/

SkyTrain track view: https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/city_hall/2014/02/11/current_transit_mishmash_is_worse_than_any_of_the_options_james/skytrain.jpg

SkyTrain system map: http://tripplanning.translink.ca/hiwire?.a=iScheduleLookupSearch&LineName=999&LineAbbr=999

Trolley bus: http://hummingbird604.com/2011/10/23/haunted-vancouver-trolley-tours/

I’ve been published ! ! !

 

I recently accompanied my friend, the fabulous gothic/glam/industrial/post-apocalyptic fashion designer Miss.E, to a photo shoot in Toronto for a new online magazine called InSpades.

 

imag2562

 

A few days later, the creative director asked me if I would be willing to write Miss.E’s article for the magazine, which is a platform for up-and-coming artists/photographers/designers.

 

imag2560

 

Jaclyn Truss (the editor) explains the magazine’s raison d’etre in the first issue: “Many digital options [i.e. Facebook/Instagram] will generally garner a “like” or a “comment”, but in a saturated market, it is difficult for an artist to rise above the noise and gain a truly engaged following. A digital magazine, however, offers tangible exposure, artistic credibility, and a platform to deeply venture into an artist’s world.”

Of course I said yes – I was very happy to help present my friend’s artistry to a wider audience!  The article can be found on page 50 of the October 2016  “Daydreams and Fairytales” issue (Numero Uno). Click here to read !

InSpades (www.inspadesmag.com) can be also be found on Instagram @InSpadesMag . Miss.E can be found at @madame_absinthe and I can be found at @hotaruchan20 ! (That’s right, I FINALLY joined Instagram!)

Stay tuned!

Toronto International Film Festival 2016!

First of all, thank you for reading! September 2016 was my first month EVER not posting an entry since I started this blog, partially because I was working on a magazine article (I AM SO EXCITED and I will post a link to it once the final edits have been done) and mostly because I was once again a part of the all-consuming Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

 

imag2650

 

I decided to go with a different format this year and relay my Festival experiences to you via short anecdotes and capsule reviews. Thank you to long-time Festival-goer Mark Slutsky for his inspiration in this regard. His hilarious article about his 11 years of TIFF can he found here.

Day 1:

Festival staff weren’t invited to the Opening Night Party this year at TIFF 😦…so me and a friend tried to crash the party, without success…(too much security at all doors and we didn’t feel like trying to punch out a big, burly security guard to get in). Instead, we joined a line to get into a random film across the street at the Princess of Wales Theatre. That theatre is beautiful! I am sure a lot of you have seen shows there.

 

Image result for princess of wales theatre

 

 

The movie (I Am Not Madame Bovary) was really good too. The story concerns a young Chinese woman who finds herself drowning in the depths of bureaucracy. In particular, the main character (Xuelian) and her husband “conspire to get a “fake” divorce. Once the divorce goes through, however, Xuelian is shocked to discover that her husband has moved into the apartment with another woman. Thus begins Xuelian’s mission to have her extant divorce annulled so she can remarry her husband and then divorce him “for real…the film is a cleverly comic commentary on Chinese bureaucracy and male fear of single-minded women.”

 

Image result for i am not madame bovary

 

Not too bad of a way to begin the Festival!

Day 2:

Yesterday a parton came up to the box office and asked me what film was playing.

I said “It’s called ‘All Governments Lie.'” I paused and then added, “It’s a documentary.”

 

Image result for all governments lie tiff

 

Day 3:

Leonardo DiCaprio is visiting my theatre for the red carpet premiere screening of his documentary The Ivory Game! My fellow supervisor was so excited that she said she was going to wear a gown to work.

 

Image result for the ivory game

 

Day 4:

This morning I saw a GREAT movie called The Limehouse Golem. For those of you who like suspense/murder mystery/horror movies set in Victorian-era London, this one’s for you. IT’S GREAT!!  Did I already say that? Haha.

 

Image result for the limehouse golem

 

Actors Bill Nighy and Douglas Booth along with the director and producer introduced the film at the beautiful Winter Garden Theatre! I was pretty excited to see Mr. Nighy!

 

imag2643

 

imag2641

 

Day 6:

I just saw the most insane, perhaps dangerous, documentary called “Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee.” Remember the McAfee Anti-Virus software from the 90s? Well, it turns out that John McAfee, the creator of said software, moved to Belize in the early 2010s where he promptly bribed the entire police force of two cities and then (99% probably) murdered two people and violently assaulted another. Upon feeling the heat, he ran into the jungle of Guatemala and was in hiding until escaping to the States where he RAN FOR PRESIDENT. Also, he has been threatening people involved with this film, including the director. In the Q and A after the film she confirmed some of the details surrounding the threats. She has been changing her phone number and email address almost on a daily basis. HOLY @#$% ! ! !

 

Image result for gringo: the dangerous life of john mcafee

 

On another note, I saw my first “Wavelengths” movie today. Films in this category are more like “film art” – they often have a non-conventional style and almost always do not follow a traditional narrative structure. This one was called “I Had Nowhere To Go” and was a “portrait of Jonas Mekas, the legendary poet, film critic, risk-taking curator, “the godfather of the American avant-garde cinema” — and, at 93 years old, among the remaining few to have escaped and survived Nazi persecution.”

 

Image result for i had nowhere to go tiff

 

It was a different way of approaching a familiar story, and it made me think about the possibilities of film as art.

Day 8:

I just saw movie fans almost mob a star! At the premiere of South Korean crime drama “Asura: The City of Madness,” the fans were so excited that they were rushing the stage, screaming, shouting, trying to touch the actors, etc, etc. Also, during the introduction, the director said that “it might be hard for Canadians and old people to watch this film because it’s so violent and the style is so realistic,” but he assured us that “not all Koreans are that violent.” 🙂

 

imag2665

 

The film itself is about “a shady cop [who] finds himself in over his head when he gets caught between Internal Affairs and the city’s corrupt mayor. [It’s an] epic crime drama about the creeping corruption that threatens a modern metropolis — and jeopardizes one man’s beleaguered soul.”

 

Image result for asura the city of madness

 

I thoroughly enjoyed it – especially Hwang Jung-min’s performance as the deliciously evil mayor.

The second movie I saw today was ARQ, a Canadian sci-fi feature entirely shot in Etobicoke. It concerns a couple “living in a dystopic future who become trapped in a mysterious time loop — one that may have something to do with an ongoing battle between an omnipotent corporation and a ragtag band of rebels.”

 

Image result for ARQ tiff

 

P.S. It actually came out on Netflix the day after I saw it at the Festival, so you can probably watch it right now. I would recommend it!

Day 9:

I just watched the movie that I think is going to be my favourite Festival film this year. Without Name is an Irish film about “a land surveyor [whose] mysterious client sends him on a prolonged…excursion in a dense forest. But deep in the woods, the comforting predictability of Eric’s minimalist steel-and-concrete city life is replaced by Mother Nature’s chaotic embrace — and by something more sinister and not altogether natural.

 

Image result for without name tiff

 

Lorcan Finnegan’s feature debut depicts Ireland’s woods as a verdant nightmare steeped in dread….Finnegan uses creative optical tricks that seem to make the forest ominously breathe and expand as it absorbs the psyche of his protagonist.”

 

Image result for without name tiff

 

Once again, I am afraid to go out into the woods alone. Thanks, Lorcan Finnegan. 🙂 But seriously, Hollywood could learn a thing or two from this film. A solid, well-told story? Actual suspense? Special effects that enhance the themes of the movie without resorting to a lot of silly CGI?  Take note, Hollywood…. and do yourself a favour and watch this movie if you get the chance.

The second film of the day involved a lot of ass-kicking. Birth of the Dragon “chronicles Bruce Lee’s emergence as a martial-arts superstar after his legendary secret showdown with…Shaolin martial arts master Wong Jack Man (Xia Yu), [who] has been sent from China to stop Lee’s heretical education initiative.” Back in the 60s, Kung Fu was considered a cultural “secret” of the Chinese, and was not known to outsiders. Bruce Lee was about to bring martial arts to the world, and this did not make some people very happy. “And so things lead towards an epic showdown between Lee and Wong — with the very legacy of Chinese tradition at stake.”

 

Image result for birth of the dragon tiff

 

If you enjoy martial arts movies, I would highly recommend this one.

Day 10:

We are almost at the end of Festival, and fatigue is setting in. Between a busy work schedule and seeing all the films I can possibly cram in, I am pretty damn tired. So that must be why I decided to see a Midnight Madness film on the second last day of the Festival…right?!

A couple years ago I had the pleasure of seeing New Zealand vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows at Midnight Madness (do yourself a favour and watch it if you haven’t already), and this year creepy horror film Sadako vs. Kayako was my pick. It did not disappoint.

 

Image result for sadako vs kayako tiff

 

Remember the creepy ghosts from The Ring and The Grudge? Well, in Sadako vs. Kayako a pair of schoolgirls are cursed by each ghost… “the real fun begins when the girls figure out that the only way to save themselves is to pit the vengeful spirits against each other. Sadako and Kayako will battle to show the world who the evillest evil entity really is.”

Oh – and almost as fun as the movie was the fact that THE GHOSTS APPEARED ON THE RED CARPET and at the Q and A to answer questions ! ! Don’t believe me? Here is proof! Here they are at the film’s introduction!

 

imag2710

 

We were all given out #TeamSadako and #Team Kayako hats while waiting in line…

 

20160917_233444

 

…and the ghosts apparently thought they were so cool that they wore them for the Q and A after the film! Of course the director is wearing both hats at once (he is standing to the right of the ghosts).

 

imag2712

A creepy, hilarious and memorable way to end this year’s Festival!

Stay tuned!

 

Credits:

Information about TIFF films and still photographs: tiff.net

Princess of Wales interior photo: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/princess-of-wales-theatre-emc/