Tag Archives: Toronto International Film Festival

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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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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Take Two: Au Revoir Jonathan Demme

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Take Two: Au Revoir Jonathan Demme

In cinema, as in music, there is no age limit on genius. That is what makes me re-ask the eternal question: What if? In this case, what if the great American filmmaker Jonathan Demme did not die in April at the age of 73? What if he had been able to battle through complications from esophageal cancer and heart disease to create more stunning and/or influential films? What if he followed in the footsteps of Hollywood legend Martin Scorsese, still vigorous at 74? I asked Scorsese in December if he could stop himself from directing. “No.” he said grinning. “And I don’t want to.”

Jonathan Demme at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007.

There is no age limit on genius – nor on the indomitable spirit of a creator.

You could also wonder if Demme could have followed the lead of another legend, John Huston. He was a Hollywood renegade who launched his career with The Maltese Falcon (1941) and finished with Under the Volcano (1984), Prizzi’s Honor (1985) and his sublime triumph The Dead (1987) in his final years. The Dead, which Scorsese cites as a Huston masterpiece, was released posthumously shortly after Huston died at 81. He had been written off as a hopeless drunk years earlier. Yet there he was at at 80, directing The Dead from a wheelchair on set in James Joyce’s Dublin. Huston famously leapt out of his conveyance with oxygen tubes dangling from his nose as he barked directions. I repeat, there is no age limit on genius – nor on the indomitable spirit of a creator.

Demme, who was born in 1944 in the hamlet of Baldwin on Long Island, New York, was a humanist, political activist, AIDS awareness campaigner and anti-apartheid spokesman when South Africa was still a racist state. He subtly blended these convictions into his best films, both dramatic and documentary. But he also had a keen sense of wry and, occasionally, wicked humour.

Demme’s best-known dramatic films were made when he was in his 40s: Something Wild (1986), The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Philadelphia (1993), although we cinephiles also adore his later effort, Rachel Getting Married (2008). In the documentary vein, Demme’s celebrated films bridged decades, starting with Stop Making Sense (1984) and spiking with Man from Plains (2007), three collaborations with Neil Young (in 2006, 2009 and 2012) and culminating with Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016).

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.

A note on Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. It still is the only horror film (however classy it remains) that won the Oscar for Best Picture. It also boasts of being one of only three films that have swept the top Oscar categories of best film, director (Demme), screenplay (Ted Tally), actor (Anthony Hopkins) and actress (Jodie Foster).

Demme’s final dramatic film release was the wretched Ricki and the Flash (2015). No problem, Huston directed the equally awful Phobia! (1980) in the cold rain in Toronto just to prove he could still function in his 70s. More classics were still to come.

BY BRUCE KIRKLAND

Film critic, Bruce Kirkland’s career spans more than four decades, working at The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and for 35 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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