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The new normal - Changes are coming in the film industry

Changes are coming in the film industry in the new normal

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Changes are coming in the film industry in the new normal

A dramatically altered new normal is coming to the film business – in how and who makes the films and how and why we will watch them. No one can say with certainty today what the future will look like, but it is now apparent it will never be what it was.

You might think this is because of the seismic shift that the global pandemic has forced into our daily lives, including in our cultural pursuits. True enough, but the seeds of change were already sown in film before COVID-19 started its deadly spread, prompting most countries to slam on the brakes and shutter public venues, including movie theatres.

The grip of the legendary Hollywood studios was already loosening. Just look at how streaming services – notably Netflix – had challenged the studios and started beating them at their own game by buying indie films outright or creating originals.

Oscar-nominated Yalitza Aparicio plays a nanny who shows her transformational love for her harsh employer's children in Roma.
Oscar-nominated Yalitza Aparicio plays a nanny who shows her transformational love for her harsh employer’s children in Roma.

The titles include some of the most exciting films of the 21st century. With Netflix, the list is already impressive: Beasts of No Nation (2015), starring Idris Elba; Tallulah (2016), starring Ellen Page; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), an eccentric Coen Brothers creation; Roma (2018), Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron’s family masterpiece; Dolemite is My Name (2019), featuring Eddie Murphy in a renaissance performance; and The Irishman (2019), Martin Scorsese’s riveting gangster epic starring a mafia of his old actor pals.

Netflix’s singular success even obliged the Academy Awards to change its eligibility rules to accommodate films such as Roma and The Irishman, after the racially charged embarrassment of denying Beasts of No Nation.

Meanwhile, commercial theatres were already feeling the pinch. Canada’s largest exhibitor, Cineplex, negotiated a lucrative buyout by Britain’s Cineworld. When the pandemic hit, the deal soured. Both companies are now suing one another. Cineplex is in a crisis. Expect some cinemas to close permanently.

Cineplex, and other world distributors such as Cineworld, will survive only by booking Hollywood’s flow of family animations and youth-friendly blockbusters fueled by comic book heroes. That is a limited niche, despite the billions generated so far. The wave will pass.

The truth is that more and more adult film fans, who are already exploring the joys and convenience of streaming, will stay put at home, finding what they want online.

Film festivals are also damned, on a certain level. The excitement had already been draining from the elite festivals, including Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival. The giddy excitement I remember from TIFF’s 1976 launch as the Festival of Festivals disappeared a decade ago. Ditto for Cannes. The allure of discovery was dulled by corporate commercial branding.

Then COVID-19 derailed Cannes altogether in 2020, along with dozens of other festivals. Toronto will proceed, but only as a shadow memory this September. It is a gut-wrenching spectacle.

The future? The music business underwent a total tear-down transformation in this century, not always for the better. Now it is time for even more significant changes in film. And, if that makes stunning films such as Roma more accessible and celebrated, it could be a good thing.

Bruce Kirkland‘s career spans more than four decades, working for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and finally, as the senior film critic, for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.

bruce.kirkland@hotmail.com


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Take Two: Edward Norton

Edward Norton in Motherless Brooklyn

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Edward Norton in Motherless Brooklyn

It’s no coincidence that actor/director Edward Norton finally made his 1950s-style film noir, Motherless Brooklyn, when a real-life madman occupies the White House, and the United States is torn asunder with political, social and racial unrest. Yet, neither Norton nor his challenging drama, ever mentions Donald Trump or anything happening today. The film (which opens November 1st) is instead set nearly 70 years ago. It just happens to deal with the zeitgeist of current events in America.

Edward Norton plays a 1950s Brooklyn private eye who suffers from Tourette Syndrome.
Edward Norton plays a 1950s Brooklyn private eye who suffers from Tourette Syndrome.

“That is a fairly vital role for movies to play,” explains Norton. “Take Chinatown, which is a look back to the California of the ’30s, made in the ’70s. I don’t think it is coincidental at all that that movie comes at the end of the Vietnam War when the Watergate scandals were breaking open, made by a director (Roman Polanski) whose wife was murdered by a bunch of maniacs. It’s a very challenging film – this idea that the California of the American dream was built on crime, and that the people who committed these crimes raped their daughters, too.”

With other Canadian film journalists, I am sitting with Norton, and his co-star Gugu Mbatha-Raw, in an interview room at the Toronto International Film Festival, chatting about Norton’s first directorial effort in 19 years. This was a passion project for the highly regarded American actor, who is known for films as disparate as Rounders, American History X, Fight Club, Frida, 25th Hour, Moonrise Kingdom, The Bourne Legacy, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman.

For Motherless Brooklyn, Norton worked on his adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel for years, reorganizing the storyline and moving it from the 1990s to the 1950s. He fictionalized all the real-life characters from the ’50s. “The wisdom of doing literary versions of these things is that there is a lot of freedom to distill the essence of certain truths rather than have to explain everything,” says Norton. “There’s a reason that Citizen Kane wasn’t called Citizen Hearst,” he adds, referring to Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece. It was a fictionalized version of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s abuse of power.

Motherless Brooklyn follows a detective named Lionel Essrog, played by Norton. Afflicted with Tourette Syndrome, Lionel works for a tough, taciturn, yet sympathetic, boss played by Bruce Willis. Left alone after a tragedy, Lionel tries to unravel a multiple-murder mystery buried inside a gigantic redevelopment scheme that has racial, social and criminal implications.

Norton consulted with Lethem. “I told him that I felt that there was an issue – that he had written a ’50s hard-boiled bunch of characters, but he set them in the modern world. In film, which is very literal, I didn’t want it to feel like the Blues Brothers. You know, guys in fedoras in the modern world. And he agreed with that 100 per cent.”

Playing a man with Tourette’s, while also directing the film, posed another challenge for Norton. It was an added complication. “There were many arguments against directing and acting in this,” says Norton. “One of the arguments for it was knowing that I could experiment with the condition a lot, but also be the one who sculpted the balance of it later [in the editing room].”

Risky? Yes, but worth it, says Norton. “There aren’t a lot of things that end up being good that aren’t creatively risky on some level.”

Bruce Kirkland‘s career spans more than four decades, working as a film critic for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.

A life-long film buff, Bruce now shares his passion and insight with Active Life readers.

bruce.kirkland@hotmail.com


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Flato Markham Theatre Performing Arts Awards Sept 10, 2019

Flato Markham Theatre honours locals in annual performing arts awards

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Flato Markham Theatre honours locals in annual performing arts awards

Flato Markham Theatre Performing Arts Awards Sept 10, 2019
Markham Performing Arts 2019 winners, staff and artists

The Flato Markham Theatre recently hosted its 5th Annual Performing Arts Awards, with celebrations honouring homegrown artistic achievements. Special performances included a three-time Provincial champion in piano, Richard Yeh, musical excerpts from the best of Broadway from Markham producer Brian Goldenberg and a special guest appearance by award-winning recording artist, Pavlo.

But the spotlight shone on the real stars of the evening: Community Group/Artist of the Year, Markham at the Movies; Professional Artist of the Year, Canada’s Ballet Jorgen; Partner of the Year, Asian Television Network; and a new category this year, Ambassador of the Year, Alicia and Alex Chiu.

Markham at the Movies (MATM), chaired by Paul Sylvester, is a non-profit group, run by volunteers and film enthusiasts who focus on bringing award-winning Canadian and international films to Markham’s resident’s doorstep. Markham at the Movies is a partner of Film Circuit, a division of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) group. It started at a small scale, presenting movies in the Theatre’s rehearsal hall and has grown into a popular community cultural event, now presenting a six-movie series throughout the year at the Flato Markham Theatre.

Flato Markham Theatre
Left to right, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, Shakir Rehmatullah and Eric Lariviere

Ballet Jörgenis not only an internationally respected touring ballet company, but it is also one of the only companies that will take professional ballet productions to smaller communities across Canada and into the US. Executive Director Stephen Word and his team brings outreach opportunities within those communities, giving young dancers opportunities to perform with the ballet onstage.

Asian Television Network (ATN) delivers South Asian and Asian content to residents across Canada. Shan Chandrasekar, president and CEO of ATN, pioneered South Asian programming in Canada in 1971 and ATN has grown into one of the leaders in the media industry today, operating 54 specialty tv channels along with radio channels across the country.

Alicia and Alex Chiu have been long time supporters of the Flato Markham Theatre. Alex left politics this last election and holds the current record for the longest serving councillor in Markham. For the Theatre, Alex has been instrumental for the growth of the Theatre Gala which raises money for its Discovery programs and has championed raising the profile of the event, making it into a prime fundraising event for culture in Markham and York Region. Alicia and Alex have been involved in the Federation of Filipino Canadians, including their “Taste of Broadway” event.

Every year the Flato Markham Theatre chooses a Canadian artist to design the Markham Performing Arts Awards. This year’s talented artist is Cathy Mark. Working from her studio on the north shore of Lake Scugog, her metalwork is inspired by Canadian flora and fauna. The award she created for Community Group/Artist of the Year for Markham at the Movies is a metal sculpture of young fiddleheads and ferns representing the audience (fiddleheads) with the full-grown ferns representing the films themselves. The Performing Artist of the Year award for Canada’s Ballet Jorgen, depicts a moose teaching a bear to dance, symbolizing the ballet company (moose) offering its hand to and guiding the young bear who represents the young dancers the company mentors and their involvement in the community.

Flato Markham Theatre is a jewel in the crown of the Markham community, located only 30 minutes from the downtown core. The intimate, 527-seat, state-of-the-art performance facility provides patrons with unforgettable access to a host of internationally acclaimed artists and productions through its annual Diamond Season presented by Weins Canada. Illuminating the central theme that the live arts in Markham matters, the season features the best of classical, jazz, world music, dance, comedy, pop artists, and family entertainment. Flexible ticket package options and complimentary parking are available.

flatomarkhamtheatre.ca

 

 

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Take Two: David Lynch

David Lynch is the ultimate disruptor of mainstream films

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David Lynch is the ultimate disruptor of mainstream films

No one has fully understood, properly analyzed or thoroughly dissected the life and times of American filmmaker David Lynch. For that, cinephiles are eternally grateful. We secretly yearn for surrealists, such as Lynch, to spin his elaborate tales because they defy gravity and turn logic into madness. Re-watch his television triumph Twin Peaks for all the giddy evidence you need. Plus, you get pie.

David Lynch
David Lynch

We need his cryptic mysteries because they do not always get solved in routine ‘whodunit’ ways. Re-experience Blue Velvet, his early cinematic masterpiece. Plus, you see the late Dennis Hopper, as the ultimate method actor, doing his career-best performance.

Blue Velvet (1986)
Blue Velvet (1986)

Finally, we value an artist who is the ultimate disruptor, because most mainstream filmmakers are now obliged to be mundane conformists by their Hollywood bosses. Reevaluate Mulholland Drive, Lynch’s mature masterwork, in this context. Plus, you get a dizzying trip into the machinations of old Hollywood.

Now 73, Lynch is in another lull in production since his successful return to Twin Peaks in 2017. No matter, something wonderful and/or weird is sure to happen. And, we are allowed more time to contemplate his universe. Not incidentally, in July and August, the Toronto International Film Festival launches David Lynch: The Big Dream at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Setting out to chart ‘the director’s ascension from cult favourite to cultural icon,’ TIFF will screen the features Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Lost Highway (1997), The Straight Story (1999) and Mulholland Drive (2001).

The Elephant Man (1980)
The Elephant Man (1980)

TIFF’s Brad Deane, who curated The Big Dream, has also lined up some of Lynch’s provocative shorts. These include his student-era drama, The Grandmother, the strange story of a neglected boy who, from a seed, grows his own grandmother as a caregiver. The ‘seeds’ of Lynch’s future work are found here.

But why now at TIFF? “For me,” says Deane. “It’s the new Twin Peaks series that triggered this – just seeing how relevant it all is and how innovative he still is as an artist. The lure is the mix of the most traditional forms of filmmaker with the avantgarde. So it is a good time to go back and revisit all the work.”

The Straight Story (1999)
The Straight Story (1999)

Meanwhile, no one who has ever met Lynch – and I interviewed him repeatedly for The Toronto Sun – has seen him without a cigarette. He’s a relentless chain-smoker. After 9/11, when stranded at the Toronto film fest, Lynch refused to join friends who offered him a lift home to New York in a non-smoking van. He waited until a smoking-friendly opportunity arose.

Puffing or not, Lynch is always charming. But every interview that I transcribed led to one conclusion: I still do not really know what goes on inside his mind. The inspiration that drew him into the sadomasochistic weirdness of Blue Velvet; the obsession with the road movie motif that led to such oddly diverse films such as Lost Highway and The Straight Story; his fascination with deformity that plunged him into The Elephant Man saga; these all eluded me.

And, yes, this is a good thing. Not all mysteries should be revealed.

Bruce Kirkland‘s career spans more than four decades, working as a film critic for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.

A life-long film buff, Bruce now shares his passion and insight with Active Life readers.

bruce.kirkland@hotmail.com


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Theatre District Condos

Theatre District Condos

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Theatre District Condos

Phase 2 of Plaza’s blockbuster condo brings a cool urban lifestyle and international hotel to prime downtown location

Tarion’s 2018 High-Rise Builder of the Year, Plaza, is launching the sequel to the first phase of Plaza’s Theatre District Condominiums that promises to be another blockbuster in the heart of the Entertainment District.

Locations simply don’t come any better than this for urbanites who appreciate culture, entertainment, fine dining and a sophisticated lifestyle. The first phase of Theatre District Condos at 8 Widmer Street, consisting of a residential 49-storey tower and six historic townhouses, sold quickly.

The development is in the midst of some of the city’s most desirable shopping, nightlife and dining options. It’s a highly walkable neighbourhood well-served by transit and offers easy access to the PATH system.

Phase 2 at 28 Widmer, at the corner of Adelaide, will incorporate a hotel owned by the international Riu hotel chain on the first 24 floors, with a 23-storey residential condo above. While Widmer is a quiet, residential street, it’s steps from the vibrancy of the Entertainment District and the action of the annual Toronto International Film Festival.

“Riu identified the Toronto marketplace 10 years ago as a location they wanted and the Theatre District location is one of the best, if not the best, urban location in the country,” says Plaza’s Scott McLellan. “The Toronto hotel is Riu’s first venture in Canada.”

The hotel will be a separate entity from the condos, with its own entrance, elevators, and amenities. It’s expected to attract many international guests, as well as North American visitors.

McLellan says Riu urban hotels have a different concept than their all-inclusive Caribbean resorts. While the Theatre District will incorporate a bar and a restaurant that will servebreakfast and lunch, the idea is to encourage people to get out and explore the neighbourhood’s cafes and restaurants.

Buyers of the residential condos will also enjoy a sophisticated lifestyle in the heart of one of the city’s most exciting neighbourhoods. “It’s become an increasingly popular place to live,” says McLellan. “People want to be part of the energy of the area, close to great restaurants, theatres, TIFF and Billy Bishop Airport.”

The architecture of the Theatre District Condominiums, designed by Quadrangle Architects, respects the King West neighbourhood’s heritage flavour while incorporating modern elements. The materials, scale and detailing of the two towers’ 11- storey podiums pay tribute to the 1920s Art Deco-era Commodore Building immediately west of Adelaide. The towers use faceted, shaded metal panels within an elegant pattern.The hotel and condominiums of 28 Widmer are seamlessly interwoven in the tower design, and the upper level residential suites enjoy expansive downtown views. The two towers’ individual lobbies are connected internally and they share amenity spaces at the ground floor and the third floor of the podium at 8 Widmer.

Responding to feedback received from buyers in the first phase, McLellan says Phase 2 will include many larger suites, with 70 per cent of the units offered as two or three-bedroom layouts, with the remaining 30 per cent one-bedroom or one-bedroom with den. “There is a demand for larger suites and a lot of people are understanding if they are going to be living downtown in the future, they are going to want to live in space. In the first phase, the larger units sold quickly.”

Some two-bedroom units are 675 square feet with an internal second bedroom, while others are 720 square feet with all bedrooms having windows. The shape of the building has allowed Plaza to create many very nice corner units. Units will range from the low $600,000s to $1.7 million, still affordable when compared to detached home prices in the city.

Residents also benefit from a Triple A location and first-class amenities including outdoor pool, fully equipped gym and party room. They’ll also be in an amenity-rich neighbourhood that includes some of the city’s best retail stores and restaurants.

To register for Phase 2 of this exciting development visit Plaza.


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