The Best and Worst of Everything

December 29, 2009

Ok, not everything. Just a couple of things. But first, here’s a story I wrote about the Science Centre for Saturday’s National Post. It was such a fun one to research, partly because I love any excuse to go to the Science Centre, but also because I interviewed this trio of unbelievably adorable high school students who were eager, bright, and completely devoid of attitude. Parents: send your kids to high school at the Science Centre and they will become studious, enthusiastic angels.

Now, list time. Everyone else on the planet is compiling their list of Best and Worsts of the Year, why not me? Generally, this year was kind of a lame one movie-wise, but there were a few good surprises. Fantastic Mr. Fox was a true original with jaw-dropping productions values and a genuinely surprising ending. Inglourious Basterds was a kick-ass World War 2 fantasy that looked amazing and gave pop culture its baddest-ass Jewish heroine since Esther. Despite John Krasinki’s annoying facial hair, Away We Go was a sweet and moving portrait of a couple, thanks to Vendela Vida’s gentle screenwriting touch and Maya Rudolph’s subtle performance. I hated what Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze did with the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are – so bleak and joyless – but I loved the Wild Things themselves. Such a treat to see Jim Henson Studio creations back on screen! Visually, A Single Man blew me away. If anyone can get me a still from the scene outside the liquor store, I would be so very grateful.

There were also a few bad surprises. The benign-seeming Pirate Radio turned out to be a misogynistic mess, and a waste of Bill Nighy and a slew of other talented Brits. Most movies I saw this year had a casual streak of misogyny running through them, which is nothing new, but is getting tired. Up, for example, was a shamelessly manipulative tear-jerker that relegated its only female character to dead muse-dom (oh, I cried and loved it, but I got mad thinking about it afterwards). Watchmen turned a supposedly kick-ass lady hero (its only real female character) into a boring bimbo. Watching movies through feminist glasses is a pretty damn demoralizing exercise.

I didn’t travel very much this year, so the only theatre I saw was in Toronto (except for one disappointing show in Halifax that had such potential). I was lucky enough to be a part of two cool experimental shows at the Harbourfront World Stage this year: bluemouth’s Dance Marathon, which invented what should be a new genre – Dance Party Theatre – and Stan’s Cafe’s Of All The People in All the World, which was an art installation involving a group of awesome Brits and more rice than I’ve ever seen before in my life. I literally got paid to count grains of rice. It was a one-of-a-kind gig.
I also appeared in/helped make puppets for a Toronto Fringe kids’ venue show, the adorable glam rock puppet musical Rock Time 2009. It was a blast, even if our set almost killed us (ADVICE: don’t hire a random dude you met in a bar to build your set for you).

Of shows that I did not work on, the most memorable I saw was Soulpepper’s revival of Billy Bishop Goes to War. It’s always exciting to see shows you studied in school, especially when you can see them performed by the original cast. Especially when the original cast is Eric Peterson. I took a British friend along, and it was great to be able to take her to a true Canadian classic. So moving, and it didn’t romanticize war in the way I feared it might. Soulpepper also delivered excellent productions of Glengarry Glen Ross and Travesties. (I’m so glad there’s at least one company in town who can do justice to Tom Stoppard – Travesties‘ three hours flew by compared with CanStage’s clunky production of Rock and Roll.)

I’ve already written about My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, but the original Fringe production was a peak Fringe experience – so moving and intimate, with 80+ people packed into the little backroom theatre at Bread and Circus. My other favourite Fringe show of 2009 was Uncalled For‘s tight and thought-provoking sketch comedy show Today is All Your Birthdays.

Of nifty one-off theatre events, I loved Studio 160’s participation in The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, and it was really moving to feel part of such a unique international theatrical event. I also appreciated CanStage’s reading of Tom Stoppard’s epic The Coast of Utopia as part of their Festival of New Ideas and Creation. Rare to see that many actors on one stage outside of a musical!

Finally, for sheer bizarre awesomeness, nothing could beat The Salon Automaton, which had life-size robots onstage.

What were your theatrical highlights and lowlights of 2009?

2 Responses to “The Best and Worst of Everything”

  1. Burntdude Says:

    No (500) Days of Summer? As good as Away We Go. I agree with everything else (as if it mattered lol)…

  2. seenonflickr Says:

    I felt the same about Up. Enjoyed it while I was watching it and then afterwards was all “Wait a minute, that annoyed me!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s