September 17, 2012

Nothing like being linked to from a friend’s blog to inspire an update. The lovely Amy Spalding asked me to write about everyone’s favourite weep-fest Les Miserables for today’s Musical Theatre Monday feature.

Other things worth linking to that I’ve written in the past few months include this local travel story about fun places to go on the Go Train (30 years in Toronto and I’d never used Go Transit before, so I thought I’d try and make up for it). Also, this Popcorn Panel about Premium Rush, probably the greatest film of 2012, and maybe ever. Certainly the greatest bike courier chase movie out there. After I saw Premium Rush I got caught (on my bike, OBVIOUSLY) in a massive downpour, the likes of which I’d never seen before in this city. In normal rain, I suck it up, get drenched, and carry on, especially if I’m heading home, but this was no normal rain. The water on Queen Street was at least four inches deep in less than five minutes – as close to a flash flood as Toronto gets. And it had just gotten dark out. I was completely soaked within seconds, and it wasn’t safe to continue riding. Fortunately, a TTC driver took pity on me and let me haul my bike onto the streetcar, even though I only had a toonie and a few pennies on me (cash fare on the TTC is $3). A couple of the pennies fell out of my wallet as I awkwardly balanced my bike and paid my fare, and a woman looked at me pityingly to tell me I had dropped a few pennies. I looked so pathetic, drenched and dirty and maneuvering my bike on the streetcar, that the homeless guy walking up and down the car asking people for change took one look at me and moved on with saying anything. AND I ruined the copy of Lucky Jim that was in my purse.

Karma paid me back handsomely the following week, though, in yet another rainstorm. I left the house during a clear patch on a very rainy day, but after biking for ten minutes, it started to come down hard. The nearest shelter was a Lexus dealership, so I ducked into their covered parking lot for a few minutes, sure that I was either going to be very wet or very late. But I was neither, because the Lexus manager came out after five minutes to ask if I needed a ride – his service guy was going out in the van, there was room for my bike, and he could drive me anywhere I needed to go. I’m not usually one to accept rides from strangers in vans, but it was 10:30 in the morning and it was a Lexus van. I took my chances, was both dry and on time, and very grateful for the kindness of strangers.


The Ides of March was fine, I guess, and you can read my elaboration on that in the National Post on Friday. But the best thing about seeing it this afternoon was this woman across the aisle who decided to check the time. Maybe she was bored, maybe she is just too important for Ryan Gosling scowling all over the place as he loses his naivety about political backstabbing. She was definitely too important for cell phones, though, as she pulled a cigarette lighter out of her purse, flicked open a flame, and used the light to peer at her watch.

September catch-up

September 25, 2011

I wrote a bunch of things this month that I didn’t tell you about because I spent this whole past week at a cottage without any connection to the modern world and absolutely no news sources besides the Parry Sound North Star, which mainly reports on euchre results. (Also, a local boy won the national arm wrestling championship, and the town’s third graders aren’t testing very well.) It is a stellar publication, I urge you to pick it up if you are in the area.

First, on a chilly and dampish day in early September, I single-handedly summoned back summer weather by putting on my swimsuit to go paddleboarding in the Beaches.

Also, I wrote my first book review in seven years, of Wendy and the Lost Boys, an incredibly insightful biography of my favourite playwright.

Then I went comic book shopping with documentarian Morgan Spurlock, who was very excited that I am a member of a graphic novel book club.

AND I saw Contagion, which did not turn me into a germaphobe as anticipated.

Now we’re all caught up.

I didn’t actually get to fly for story for my Standing Engagement column in the National Post, but I did get to sit in a tiny plane and fiddle with pedals and steering wheel and wander around on the tarmac inhaling the sweet scent of jet fuel.

An unironic, 100% mockery free list of things I enjoyed in the otherwise incredibly stupid Cowboys and Aliens (which I had to watch for my job, if you’re new).

– Daniel Craig is a great cowboy.
– Also, he looks his best when is face is all dirty and blood-spattered and sun damaged. Which is all of this movie.
– There is a really adorable dog who doesn’t die or get eaten by an alien or anything.
This guy Clancy Brown is just a delight and during his scenes, he makes you think you are watching a way better movie than you are.
– There are some nice shots of the prairies, and silhouettes of cowboys and stuff.

That’s it.

Last week’s Popcorn Panel was about the pretty atrocious Larry Crowne, and this list is going to be short:

-I loved that Larry’s neighbours have a permanent yard sale going on.

That’s it.

It has come to my attention from several sources that, in my 3+ years of coordinating the National Post’s Popcorn Panel (and therefore seeing a lot more , I have become a cynical curmudgeon who hates everything. My initial response to this, naturally, was that I wouldn’t hate everything if everything churned out by Hollywood wasn’t so crappy. But then I read over a few old Popcorn Panels and realized that yeah, I’m a bit of a crank. (Of course, it’s only because I idealistically try to demand that the level of general discourse and entertainment be raised, but whatever.) So I’m going to make a concerted effort to look for the good in even the emptiest of blockbusters that I have to watch.

Let’s start with this week’s movie, Green Lantern:

– Ryan Reynolds is very handsome. So is Mark Strong, even as a CGI-ed purple alien dude – those eyebrows!
– The look of joy on Reynolds’ face when the fish-head guy first shows him how to fly is delightful. I just love any flying sequence.
– That nasty chartreuse of fear is really very ugly and probably legitimately evil.
– I liked how the Guardians looked like they’d wandered over from the set of Labyrinth.
– The moral is something about Hal Jordan’s humanity being his greatest asset, even though humans are younger and weaker than all the other crazy alien Lanterns, which is nice.


Last week I saw the new Woody Allen movie and blabbed about how I wish I’d come of age in the 1920s so I kind of loved it even though it’s actually pretty terrible and Owen Wilson is basically the worst unless he’s animated but anyway I just really like when famous people get dressed up to look like other famous people and here’s the Popcorn Panel we wrote about it.

Remember in Everyone Says I Love You that party where everyone is the Marx Brothers? I’m always hoping that every party I go to will be that party and I’m always disappointed when it isn’t.

Songs for a new Sucker

April 2, 2011

I had to go see Sucker Punch for the Popcorn Panel last week.

Do not go see Sucker Punch.

But last night I went to see Angelwalk Theatre’s production of Songs for a New World, directed by my pal (and future boss at Roseneath!) Andrew Lamb. It’s a lovely production. Song cycles are challenging to stage, but the cast really makes the most of the details within each of Jason Robert Brown’s songs, treating them as though each one were an individual little play. Do go see this, if you’re in Toronto and love the musical theatre.

Last week I watched the strangest and most elusive (well, until it was released on DVD last fall) Sondheim musical of all: Evening Primrose. Though I was aware of one of its lovely songs (I Remember, which was in one of my many Sondheim song books and which I sang with my voice teacher in high school), I had no idea that you can’t describe the plot to anyone without sounding that you are high on meth and hallucinating fever dreams. Anthony Perkins is a (terrible) poet who decides he is done with the cruel outside world so he moves into a department store and sings a song about how now his asshole neighbours won’t bug him anymore. But then it turns out he’s not so original – there’s a group of weird old people who used to be rich living in the department store already, plus Liesl from The Sound of Music, who fell asleep in the store when she was six and is now their maid (LESSON: Don’t fall asleep in department stores, no matter how cozy the fake beds look). At first he’s delighted, which doesn’t really make sense since he moved into the store to get away from people, but never mind. But soon he falls in love with Liesl and the creepy old people don’t like it and they threaten to call “the Dark Men”, who live in a funeral home and turn people into mannequins for some reason.

It’s good weird fun, and it’s less than an hour long. But the real discovery, for me, is the writer John Collier, who wrote the short story that Evening Primrose was based on. A bunch of his stories were turned into episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which makes sense because Evening Primrose is very much in that vein, only with songs. And one of his stories, Green Thoughts, which is so supremely creepy I’m shivering just thinking about it, is said to be part of the inspiration for Little Shop of Horrors. Anyway, I found a weird little edition of Collier’s collection Fancies and Goodnights at a used bookstore, and I love them – most of them are strange little morality tales, contemporary fairy tales for grown-ups, which an appealing retro flavour since they were written in the 1930s.