Happy 15th Anniversary to Alicia Keys’ Songs in A Minor

 

I was in elementary school when Alicia Keys released her debut album Songs in A Minor on June 5th, 2001. She was one of the first R&B singers of the 2000s-era that I paid attention to at the time, partially because she constantly exuded confidence in her press and music and partially because her piano-driven take stood out during a serious pop-saturated moment. While many followed suit of the 90s Girl Power trend and tried to speak to it, it never felt nearly as authentic as it did through Alicia Keys’ Songs in A Minor and much of her subsequent work. Maybe that’s because she had a young voice (a point of criticism by some press members), but as I revisit the album and songs like “Fallin'”, “Girlfriend” and “How Come You Don’t Call Me”, the retro simplicity that underscored the record speaks to me as much now as it did then. Her sound has evolved plenty since then (her latest single, “In Common”, has a slinky jungle vibe that may very well emerge as a Summer 2016 contender), but I’ll always cherish what Songs in A Minor meant to me as a young girl.

Earworm: All Saints Return with One Strike

Happy April, everyone! I’ve been an absent blogger for the last few weeks because I’ve been busy carting my poor dog in and out of the vet (he’s all better now!), interviewing cool artists and people in the industry, job hunting my life away, eating cookies, etc. During that time, I also built a fresh portfolio to pass around to friends, family and prospective employers. Think of it as a one-stop shop for all my work in the digisphere, with new additions on the way. Check it out here.

I have a few things that I want to share over the next few weeks, but for now, I really, really need to talk about this new All Saints track. In case you missed the entirety of the 90s/early 2000s pop era, All Saints is a UK-based girl group that came out around the same time as the Spice Girls. Though they didn’t break into the North American market nearly as well as the Spice Girls, they had tremendous success in the UK and beyond, often being poised as an alternative to the Spices, cargo pants and crop tops included.

Admittedly, I heard a lot of All Saints music, but as an 8 year-old, I was convinced that the Spice Girls were just better than those girls. It’s interesting though – as the years have passed, I found myself revisiting some of All Saints old music again and again, finding a lot more to enjoy about their deeply emotional and raw pop sound. Don’t get me wrong – I still love the Spice Girls to the point that I would sing ‘Mama’ in a school talent show again (true story, circa Grade 2), but All Saints definitely rose in the ranks over the years.

And now, THEY’RE BACK! The girls have reunited for a fourth album called Red Flag, out in the UK in one week. As of right now, they’ve got a few songs from their new album floating around, including their lead single “One Strike”. Inspired by All Saint’s member Nicole Appleton’s divorce from Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, this song sounds perfectly aligned with previous All Saints material while bringing in a solid dose of mature pop to 2016.

wish more people were talking about this song, because it’s brilliant. It seems like the ladies behind All Saints were really focused on a passion project, and it shines through this synth-driven reminisce. I’m encouraging you all to give this a listen so much that I’ve included both the recorded and live version of the songs.

Please, friends. Don’t let All Saints be the Carly Rae Jepsen tragedy of 2016. Plus I’m sort of starting a campaign to get the group to perform here in Toronto (where Nicole and sister/member Natalie are originally from, by the way). If you’re not quite convinced, give Pure Shores a listen as well. It was featured in a Leonardo DiCaprio movie, so you know there is legitimacy to that endorsement.

Priyanka Chopra, Mindy Kaling, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and More: The Importance of South Asians at the 2016 Academy Awards

South Asian culture is rich in dance, theatre, music and film. For South Asian communities across the subcontinent and the ones formed around the world, the arts is the basis for entertainment as much as it is ingrained in age-old traditions, holidays and religion. Film is a cornerstone industry in some countries; teledramas are all the rage. Everything from weddings, to prayers and cultural festivals involves a rhythm and song. But despite its vibrancy and place in the culture, many families do not consider the viability of a career in the arts; in fact, it is often discouraged.

Mindy Kaling at the 2016 Academy Awards for Best Animated Picture winner, Inside Out. Photo via The Academy

I count myself as a very lucky person to have grown up in a home that not only thrived on the arts and entertainment, but also valued it deeply. My parents, former vinyl chasers and regular concert-goers, shared their deep love of film and music in our home by constantly playing cassettes and CDs or forcing family get togethers to occur in front of a television screen. Whether it be Kenyan music, Michael Jackson’s video anthology, a Bollywood film or Jurassic Park, there was always something being played in my house. That constant presence shaped my passion in a profound way, and is still encouraged in my home today.

But I also went through my childhood and adolescent years not seeing many South Asian faces in North American productions and live events; somehow, it only felt like those faces were familiar in Bollywood, but never present in Hollywood. I was never consciously looking out for people who shared my ethnic background, but as I grew older, the lack of South Asians on red carpets and in magazines during award seasons found their way into my lens of popular culture (you can read a bit more about that in my reaction post to The Mindy Project‘s cancellation last year.)

Priyanka Chopra at the 2016 Academy Awards. Image via PopSugar

At this year’s Academy Awards, there were a few familiar and new faces who made their way onto the red carpet and stage, including Mindy Kaling (a voice actor in the Best Animated Film winner, Inside Out), Priyanka Chopra (presenter and lead of ABC’s hit show Quantico) and Dev Patel (presenter and star of 2008 Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire). While many will argue that the relevancy of the Academy Awards is minimal, I say otherwise; as one of the of the biggest award shows in the world, the people and works presented and celebrated impact the perception of those watching. It brought me tremendous joy to think of all the people tuning in to see these individuals interviewed, honoured and awarded, people who may not have previously seen many who share their heritage on this kind of platform.

Although it was not the first time that a South Asian centric-film/production made its way to the Academy Awards (see: Lagaan, CaravanGandhiMother IndiaSalaam Bombay, and Water amongst others), two such productions were amongst the nominations. The first was Sanjay’s Super Team, a Pixar production directed by Pixar animator Sanjay Patel nominated for Best Animated Short. Inspired by Patel’s own Hindu upbringing and his relationship with his fatherSanjay’s Super Team brought together Hindu deities in a colourful production celebrating heritage and familial love. Though it did not win (the award went to Bear Story, the first Academy Award for Chile), critics and audiences alike were touched by the intimacy and cultural notes of the story.

The second came from Canadian-Pakistani Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who previously won an Academy Award in 2012 for her documentary Saving Face, which focused on acid attacks in Pakistan. This year, she received the Academy Award for Best Short Subject Documentary in recognition of her documentary tackling honour killings,  A Girl in the River. The poignancy of her work is as important as her speech at this year’s ceremony, an easy highlight that pointed out the importance of gender equality, mutual gender support, women in film and diversity in film; words that mattered to those in the audience and the teenagers watching with their parents at home.

Let’s not forget Asif Kapadia, director of this year’s Best Documentary, Amy. A British born-and-raised filmmaker of Pakistani heritage, Kapadia drove the story of famed singer Amy Winehouse in his emotional and controversial piece. He led the campaign from last year’s Cannes Film Festival all the way to the Oscars, receiving near-universal critical acclaim while simultaneously carving a place in music storytelling. The reach of his, Obaid-Chinoy and Patel’s work differ greatly from one another, but their works also indicate a critical place for diverse approaches and voices in global filmmaking.

The increasing visibility of South Asians in the North American film industry is important because it will help normalize the concept of being a part of it for today’s generation; it will inspire them to dream those same big screen dreams and believe that careers in film, the arts and entertainment can be successful and respectable; it will show that creative works need different voices in order to continue to transform the world through the power of cinema. As both the popular and unsung heroes work extremely hard to overcome the cultural and industry obstacles to pursue their passion, they are also opening the door for more kids who will identify the value and place of their voice in an industry struggling with inclusiveness, diversity and representation; that the possibility exists, that the presence matters, and that the stories they can tell, and the ways that they tell them, are as dynamic, critical and engaging as anyone else’s.

The Free Way To Enjoy #NBAAllStarWeekend in Toronto

In case you missed it: Toronto is overrun with sneaker heads, celebrities and basketball fans who are here to attend and celebrate the NBA All Star Weekend. It’s the first time that the prestigious and insanely loved event has crossed the border and Toronto, in its coldest time of the year, is going zero to one hundred pretty fast.

There are tons of concerts, celebrity-hosted VIP events and afterparties taking place over the course of this weekend (and then, of course, the actual NBA competitions) that cost many pretty pennies which makes it hard for a lot of people to take in this really exciting event. But hey, if you enjoy walking, social media and pop-ups, there’s actually a couple of ways that you can enjoy the sights, sounds and culture of the All-Star Weekend, for free!

While fans were gathering at Ricoh Coliseum for the All-Star Celebrity Game I took some time to explore the downtown core and came across some very cool activations, marketing and events over a couple of hours.

We The North at Champs presents Mitchell & Ness pop-up

We The North at Champs presents Mitchell & Ness pop-up

First stop: the Champs Mitchell & Ness pop-up launched to celebrate the new Mitchell & Ness collection. You’ll find tons of Toronto and Raptors swag there and a constant hip-hop beat adding bass to Queen Street West.

I unfortunately was unable to make it to the Jordan pop-up store near Yonge-Dundas Square, but I did take a peek at Nike Canada’s Air Force 1 pop-up which features a 3D display of the Toronto landscape, a visual Air Force 1 timeline and of course, plenty of Air Force 1s for sale.

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Along the way I caught the Nike SNKRS XPRESS, a Toronto streetcar transformed into a retail-interactive experience where riders can hop on, learn about Nike products and check out some digital content while traveling on Queen Street West. Tickets are currently sold out but keep an eye on the Nike Toronto twitter where they will announce if any spots open up.

I also randomly ran into New Era’s #CapMachine, a moving pop-up that offers customizable hats FOR FREE. You have the option of three snapbacks – the class Toronto Raptors hat, a commemorative NBA All Stars Weekend 2016 hat, and a dark grey one, along with the choice of either a maple leaf or The 6ix iron on. I chose the Raptors hat because I wanted something that I can wear year-round and to the next Raptors game I check out. Keep your eyes peeled on New Era’s social media to see where the Cap Machine parks next!

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New Era also hosted Bun B for a free in-store performance at their Toronto flagship store on Queen West last night.

#DotheDew display at Union Station

#DotheDew display at Union Station

If you’re a marketing nerd like me, you should definitely take a stroll through Union Station en route to Mountain Dew’s interactive virtual reality experience, Court Vision. The entire transit point is covered in green #DoTheDew posters and it’s a big visual experience in itself. It also matches the Go Station and Presto colour scheme so well that it doesn’t feel overbearing.

There are so many pop-ups I didn’t get a chance to look at yesterday but I’m very excited to see the intense amount of branding and interactivity come into play over the weekend. I know that Adidas and Reebok both have pop-ups and may be selling exclusive merchandise. You should also pay attention to social media where random events are constantly being tweeted out and announced last-minute. For example, Beats by Dre is poised to host an event at a local barbershop this afternoon and NBA players are doing meet-and-greets at the Eatons Centre. Make sure you share your finds and experiences on Twitter!

Why Sicario Deserves Its Oscar Nominations at the 2016 Academy Awards

The 2016 Academy Award nominations are now out in their entirety, sparking plenty of outrage, debate and “I told you so” across film Twitter this morning. For the most part (and once more, based on a combination of what I’ve seen and what I’ve read), I am not too surprised by the  majority of the nominations and snubs that came out of this year’s batch of nominees. I am unclear as to who the winners will be in some categories, but I will tackle that closer to the award show.

For now, I am celebrating the pivotal win of Sicario‘s nominations for Cinematography, Sound Editing and Best Original Score at the 2016 Academy Awards. It’s been a slightly unfortunate ride for this film over the course of award season because though it did garner a lot of critical attention and consideration amongst some of the guilds, it didn’t grab the attention of the HFPA at the Golden Globes nor any nominations at the SAG Awards this year, which are the more public-facing award shows.

I’m thrilled that Sicario received three nominations in these categories because the cinematography and the sound were two elements that really drove the heartbeat of the film: its tension. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is an eleven-time Academy Award nominee and did some brilliant work, but the sound and score of the film really is a sticking point when you’re done watching. Prior to Sicario,  I can’t remember the last time that I left a theatre being on edge; don’t get me wrong, Sicario is deeply unnerving, but its the densely hollowed out sounds carved by composer Jóhann Jóhannsson that make me recall those feelings. To see the work in those elements recognized by the Academy doesn’t give this film validation because it already had that, but it does provide a reminder that the details in films change and define our experiences with them. Read my full review of the film here.

I hope to add more commentary on the nominations list in the next few days. Have you had a chance to see many of the Academy Award nominees? If not, be sure to read my reviews for SpotlightThe Danish Girl, Room and Trumbo before you head out to the theatre to catch up on all the films before the Academy Awards on February 28th.

Five Thoughts on the Shadowhunters Premiere

After Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, along with its prequels The Infernal DevicesI, is my favourite fantasy series. I’ve been a huge fan of the books since I was 19 (eek, its been a while!) and I am completely invested in the rich storytelling, diverse characters and ever-growing world (Clare has another a couple of trilogies in the works). When the first novel in the series, City of Bones, was filming in Toronto a few years back, I hit up the set and met a few cast members, and later had the opportunity to photograph the Toronto premiere of the film for the fan site The Mortal Institute.

I always felt that the density of Clare’s world was better suited for television a la The Vampire Diaries and that only became more confirmed when City of Bones released in 2013. The screenplay was so overstuffed with mythologies and teasers for future plotlines that viewers who hadn’t read the books couldn’t really appreciate because it was messily thrown together. I loved majority of the cast, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers fanatical take on Valentine deviated from the cool, slick persona I pictured from the books.

When the City of Ashes sequel got cancelled and the announcement that the series would instead be adapted for Freeform (previously ABC Family), I became a little bit hopeful that Clare’s series would finally get the treatment it deserved. Freeform and Constantin Film once again chose to film in Toronto and after several months of production, leaked screenplay pages, adaptation rumours and teasers, Shadowhunters premiered last night (and is now available to view on Netflix fellow Canadians!).

So, here are my five thoughts on the premiere:

I’m Sold On Everyone in the Cast EXCEPT Dominic Sherwood

via Freeform

I really thought I would need more convincing with Kat McNamara and none for Dominic Sherwood, who play lead characters Jace and Clary respectively. Instead, I really felt like  Kat nailed Clary’s independent but good nature and Dominic didn’t quite hit Jace’s sarcasm as well as I hoped. There are still another twelve episodes for me to determine if I like him in this role; there are also another twelve episode to enjoy the supporting cast, the highlights of which are Alberto Rosende (Simon), Matthew Dadario (Alec) and Isaiah Mustafa (Luke). I think those three understand and project their respective characters in a way that feels true to the books. I love them!

Shadowhunters Captures the Essence of the Book

I know fans were in a huge uproar when a few script pages leaked online and there were some notable differences between the source material and the television show (ex. Simon and Maureen).  I want to see how Cassandra Clare’s expansive world is weaved into the show and what directions they take with the story. Based on the pilot alone, they’ve nailed the gritty/hipster/dark elements of New York as a setting and most of the characters are in the right place.  Remember, this show isn’t being built for fans alone, and television is a completely different platform; changes are necessary in order to appeal to a wider audience, especially one that has had more experiences with YA adaptations in a short period of time than it probably wanted.

But I’m going to forget about that because…

Why Is The Institute Such a Busy, High Tech Place?

Okay, I know (and just stated) why, but I need to ask: WHY?! I think the scene where Isabelle, Jace and Alec are scheming for their night at Pandemonium just made my heart break a little because the Institute is too modern, slick and hectic compared to the relatively empty, ancient building I pictured it to be in the books (and what you see in the film adaptation.) The advanced set doesn’t capture the feeling of a race with a long standing history and legacy and comes off as less charming.

Toronto is Still A Great Stand-In For NYC

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the show uses a lot of different sets compared to the film; yet, most of the external sets used in the show worked really well. I did not foresee Toronto’s Distillery District being used as a neighbourhood for Pandemonium, or expect that I would see what I think is Snakes and Lattes in the show, and yeah, I liked seeing the Gardiner Expressway in the background while Luke investigated a body drained of blood. I know they did a lot of external shoots for the show and I’m really looking forward to seeing how else they incorporate Toronto locations in the story.

There Are More Questions Than Answers

It’s a challenge for me to distinguish the show from the book, but I tried to consider the first episode from the perspective of a regular viewer and I think there’s just enough in the episode to keep newcomers to the story interested. Some may complain that the pacing is too slow, but that was one of the biggest problems with the film. Instead, we get these individual threads dangle in every episode and see them gradually tie together, while explaining the fine details of the story, which I think is necessary for people to completely buy into the mythology. Even as a book reader with little to no indication of how close they’ll stick to the story, there is enough in the episode that will ensure I return next week to watch because I want to see how they dish out these answers, how they assemble these initial building blocks, and how true this adaptation will be, particularly for the first season. I hear Americans have access to the second episode on the Freeform already, so please, no spoilers!

Shadowhunters airs Tuesdays on Freeform at 9pm EST in the United States and is available for viewing on Netflix Canada the next day.

If you watched Shadowhunters, how happy are you with the show’s take on the beloved series? Comment below and let me know!

2016 Award Season Predictions: And The Golden Globe Goes To…

First off, Happy New Year friends! I hope your 2016 is going terrifically well and that your commitment to your resolutions is at an all-year high this week. However, if you’re posting photos at the gym and secretly eating chicken wings, that’s perfectly fine – I personally will be eating them loud and proud in my high school prom dress on my couch as I watch the Golden Globes this coming Sunday.

Ricky Gervais is returning to his hosting gig at the Globes this weekend but other than that piece of knowledge, I really have no clue as to what the show will bring. I think many will agree that there is no singular overarching standout of a film in every which way across multiple categories this year, and there are so many categories at the Globes that they’re not always the clearest indicators of what will happen going forward in award season. Add an interesting batch of nominees across the television categories and there will surely be many surprises at this year’s ceremony.

As always, I have to share a disclaimer that I am not completely caught up on all television and film nominees, especially because I’m studying for an exam this week. Some of my guesses are partial to buzz, reviews and analysis (my favourite is Vanity Fair’s podcast Little Gold Men), some are based on what I’ve seen, and some are random bets. With that, the Golden Globe(s) goes to…

Best Motion Picture (Drama): Spotlight or The Revenant
Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy): The Martian 
Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama): Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn or Cate Blanchett, Carol
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama): Bryan Cranston, Trumbo or Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy): Lily Tomlin, Grandma or Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy): Christian Bale, The Big Short or Matt Damon, The Martian SIDE NOTE: Mark Ruffalo is nominated for Infinitely Polar Bear and it’s one of his best performances ever. I saw it at TIFF two years ago and didn’t hear much about it after, which is a shame. Please find a way to watch it, you won’t regret it!
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight or Jane Fonda, Youth
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Michael Shannon, 99 Homes or Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Best Director (Motion Picture): Tom McCarthy, Spotlight or Ridley Scott, The Martian
Best Screenplay (Motion Picture): Spotlight or The Big Short
Best Motion Picture (Animated): Inside Out
Best Motion Picture (Foreign Language): Mustang
Best Original Score (Motion Picture): Alexandre Desplat, The Danish Girl
Best Original Song (Motion Picture): See You Again, Furious 7 SIDE NOTE: I’ve said it before and I will say it again – Wiz Khalifa is going to win a Golden Globe, a Grammy and an OSCAR this year
Best Television Series (Drama): Narcos or Mr.Robot
Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy): Silicon Valley
Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Fargo
Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television: Lady Gaga, American Horror Story or Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television: David Oyelowo, Nightingale or Patrick Wilson, Fargo
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Drama): Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series (Drama): Rami Malek, Mr. Robot or Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy): Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy): Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent or Aziz Ansari, Master of None SIDE NOTE: This feels like a really heavy category. TV pundits, what say you?!
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Regina King, American Crime
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline or Christian Slater, Mr. Robot

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Come back here on Monday for some thoughts on the winners, lols and criticisms of the Globes OR feel free to follow and tweet with me during the red carpet and awards ceremony on Sunday as I eat my saucy wings and (hopefully) praise the press for remembering that #AskHerMore is not a limited series.

Film Review: The Danish Girl

One of the most darling moments at last year’s Academy Awards occurred when Eddie Redmayne very publicly dorked out in his acceptance speech for the Best Actor award; it was genuine, fanboy, surreal and loving all at once, but also a triumphant moment for what felt like an overnight anointed star (in actuality, Redmayne has been acting for over a decade.)

A strikingly physical and evocative performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything and the accompanying accolades Redmayne received quickly begged the question, “What next?” Well, eventually, the lead role in the Harry Potter spin-off series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but as of right now, The Danish Girl, which has already garnered Redmayne a SAG and Golden Globe nomination.

Redmayne’s role in The Danish Girl similarly demands a humanistic approach; in this film, he plays Lilli Elbe, one of the first transgender women to undergo sexual reassignment surgery in the early 1900s. Born as famed painter Einer Wegener and married to illustrator Gerda Gottlieb, Lilli began to pose for her wife’s paintings dressed in women’s clothing and occasionally appeared in public as “Lilli”, before realizing the extent to which she wanted to make her transition. The Danish Girl follows Lilli’s journey alongside Gerda (Alicia Vikander, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Ex-Machina) to find and live as her authentic self.

Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander and Amber Heard at the Q&A for Toronto International Film Festival premiere of The Danish Girl

Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander and Amber Heard at the Q&A for Toronto International Film Festival premiere of The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl is indeed a very beautifully-made film. Director Tom Hooper and cinematographer Danny Cohen, who both previously collaborated on The King’s Speech and Les Misérables, created a vivid visual story that imitates its subjects with a painting-like quality, fine in its details and gorgeous in landscapes. The delicacy extends to Redmayne’s performance as well, who breathes life into Lilli’s story with a sense of femininity and sensitivity in such a way that his work is once more a standout amongst this year’s award-vying films. As to whether it will triumphantly outshine others, that’s a toss-up in a very crowded year of performances; but it is noteworthy.

Although this film works as an entry point into the conversation surrounding the LGBTQ community, as Lilli and Gerda’s story unfolds, you realize very quickly that Redmayne salvages whatever he can from a fairly surface-level exploration of the trans experience.  It is surprising that The Danish Girl does not offer more given how loosely the film adapted the story from a novel of the same name and from the actual historical details of Lilli and Gerda’s relationship; if liberties were to be taken with the original story, it feels like The Danish Girl could have found more poignancy in its depth of storytelling.

The Danish Girl often sways towards Gerda and Lilli’s relationship, their ability to navigate Lilli’s transition and Gerda’s own journey into acceptance and support, which is highlighted beautifully by Alicia Vikander. Like Redmayne’s performance in Theory, Vikander will soon become the household name she deserves to be as a result of her work in The Danish Girl; in fact, she’s one of the primary reasons that makes this movie work, and why you should go see it. She delivers that aspect of the story with such a balanced sense of strength and vulnerability that convincingly represents the deep love and respect that Lilli and Gerda had for one another, which eventually becomes the persisting message of the film. Even though I’m not satisfied with the reach of its storytelling, I am definitely on board with that conclusion.

I screened The Danish Girl at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. It is now out in theatres across Canada. 

 

The Overload (Trailer Edition): Civil War! Batman vs. Superman! Girls!

Welcome to The Overload, where I present a collection of quasi-stale pop culture bits and news and noms and talk about them like they’re as fresh as theatre popcorn. This week’s edition focuses on trailers because apparently nothing feeds a post-American Thanksgiving soul more than superheroes fighting each other and HBO shows…or at least the prospect of those things. 

Captain America and Iron Man Are Divorcing (CIVIL WAR TRAILER!)

I love me some Marvel Cinematic Universe as much as the next guy (which would be my dad, who enjoys anything with explosions) but there aren’t too many in the collection that are as strong of an offering as Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Russo Brothers directed a compelling political drama the featured superheroes and S.H.I.E.L.D.; by the looks of the melodramatic breakup between Captain America and Iron Man in this trailer, Captain America: Civil War doesn’t quite look like it’ll follow suit (save for that Iron Man vs. Captain America/Winter Soldier Sega Genesis battle at the end.) With that said, Civil War is going to have a huge impact on the MCU and could propel a lot of great storytelling in the Phase 3 films to come, including the upcoming Sony-Marvel partnered Spiderman reboot (with the titular character set to appear in Civil War) and the big cinematic battle that we’re all really waiting for, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Part 2. The real winning point in this trailer: Black Panther makes his debut in the MCU.

The Trial of the Century Returns To Television on American Crime Story

I was a little kid when the O.J. Simpson murder trial took place but its significance, both historically and in popular culture, is not lost on me. I don’t think there will be one generation that will ever go without coming across a reference, parody or journalism piece on the trial, and American Crime Story may be the way for many to connect with the story today. I’m excited for this  Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror StoryScream Queens)-produced series because it appears to play off of the publicity and public perception that gave way to this highly controversial case worldwide. I’ll need someone to confirm how accurate David Schwimmer’s portrayal of Robert Kardashian is when the show airs, but I’ll be tuning in regardless.

Batman vs. Superman: A Comedy?

I know a lot of people hated Man of Steel and its poor characterization, senseless destruction, etc, but I actually didn’t think it was so disastrous.  It feels like director Zack Snyder is conscious of that commentary based on some of the plot hints in the Batman vs. Superman trailers as he continues to attempt to drive the DC film into the gritty, dark realm that made Nolan’s iconic Batman trilogy. I think there could be potential for a film that may satisfy moviegoers more than the predecessor if Snyder consciously strives for more authentic characterization. It is, however, challenging to hope for that outcome when you’ve got Jesse Eisenberg as a cartoon-y Lex Luthor, which may have worked for say, Jim Carrey as The Riddler, but not Lex Luthor. I think this is yet another divisive moment in the DC cinematic universe which I’ll have to completely reserve my judgment for when I see the movie in 2016.

“Girls” Grows Up in Season 5

Thematically, HBO’s Girls is one show that reflects the tumultuous weirdness of millennial adults pretty well, and it seems that in the fifth season, Shosh, Jessa, Marlie and Hannah are finally on the precipice of the adulthood that their parents always wished they would embrace. Will every episode start with a different song from Adele’s ’25’? Likely.

Film Review: Trumbo

via Business Insider

Trumbo proved to be one of the more intriguing things I watched at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival because it explored the one industry I never thought to be affected by the Cold War: Hollywood. It’s not that I thought the industry was immune to the era’s politics, but I never considered how it may have been impacted. When you throw in Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), director Jay Roach (Austin Power, Meet the parents), an eclectic score and some era-appropriate cinematography to tell that story, its an inviting experience that sometimes to its fault, avoids weighing down too heavily in the period dramatics.

Dalton Trumbo was a famed Hollywood screenwriter and a communist who, along with nine other screenwriters were investigated and subpoenaed by a government committee investigating communist influence in Hollywood. Despite little to no admission from the group ( referred to as The Hollywood Ten), they were imprisoned and blacklisted by studio executives in Hollywood; upon release, no one would work with them.

Bryan Cranston  is entertaining, smart and subtly cheeky in his portrayal of Dalton Trumbo who, with a swirl of egotistical tendencies and righteousness, figured out how to play the game even when he became one of the most unemployable talents in Hollywood. As the story goes, Trumbo in post-penitentiary life started fix mediocre film scripts, whispers ran amuck of his work making its way to the big screen under pen names and as a ghostwriter; eventually, he wrote some of the biggest films, including Romans HolidaySpartacus and The Brave One, even winning Academy Awards for some of such works (but was unacknowledged until years later.).

The film zeroes in on Trumbo’s strained personal relationships and how his somewhat covert operation enraged many key players in Hollywood. Cranston tackles the eventual self-centredness of these endeavours with such a fantastic unapologetic tone, especially when sparring with his equally passionate and stubborn daughter Nikola (brilliantly portrayed by Elle Fanning, Maleficent). Together, they are the heart centre of this story.

In fact, the performances are fairly engaging across the board. Between the welcomed addition of Helen Mirren’s coy but sly reflection of Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, Louis C.K.’s groundedness as Arlen Hird and Diane Lane’s assertive showing as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, there is enough character to drive this film. Yet for all of its political background, well-paced story building and spotlighting on a unique chapter of Hollywood’s history, there is a missing layer of depth that would make this snappy and witty adaptation of a surprisingly poignant period and individual far more compelling. Though that missed opportunity glares at you, it doesn’t take much away from the actual enjoyableness of the story and Cranston’s strong character adoption of this curious figure.

Trumbo will be released across Canada on November 27th.