Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Impressive Art of Banksy retrospective opens in Toronto

Story & photos by Allan Tong

The Art of Banksy opens tonight in what will likely be the art event of Toronto's summer, perhaps the year.

The anonymous British street artist known only as "Banksy" enjoys a lavish retrospective of 80 artworks, almost all of them gallery pieces, with a handful of  works lifted from the streets of east London over the past two decades. The show runs June 13-July 11 at 213 Sterling Road after tonight's private opening party.

The Art of Banksy is a greatest hits package of one of the most successful artists in the world, including the iconic Balloon Girl, Flag Wall (top) and Laugh Now. It showcases riot police with happy faces, sardonic monkees, rioters hurling flowers, and spray-painting rats, which all reflect Banksy's leftist politics.

Fans of the artist will enjoy a smorgasbord of Banksy paintings, reaching back to the turn of the century, with works obscure and famous, as small as greeting cards and as ginormous as Flag Wall, which lives up to its title.

Banksy newbies will be tossed into the deep end. The Art of Banksy is comprehensive, beautiful and fun. It cuts no corners.

Curator and Banksy's former agent and personal photographer, Steve Lazarides, has done an impressive job assembling these works from various collectors. Altogether, the art is valued at $35 million. It's worth hearing his anecdotes on the many video clips that accompany the art, such as the plan to unleash a suitcase of Di-Faced Tenners (above), bogus 10-pound notes, in Liverpool Street Station, east London, or how nobody wanted to pay 100 quid to buy signed Banksy lithographs nearly 20 years ago, which would pay off a mortgage today.

Toronto is the first North American stop for this show, after hitting Melbourne, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv and Auckland. Over 40,000 advance tickets have been sold and 10,000 remain available here. The cost isn't cheap but, given its size, comparable to major shows at the AGO and ROM: $35 for adults, and $32.50 for seniors and students. The audio guide is extra, adding more anecdotes from Lazarides and background to the art. It's good, but not essential if you watch the video clips.

Practical tips:
The Art of Banksy takes place at 213 Sterling Road, an industrial building that perfectly suits the street vibe of Banksy's art. But Sterling is in the Junction, which is undergoing a radical transformation from an industrial no man's land into an arts area. Good luck find nearby parking for both cars and bicycles. Expect to park and walk. Landsdowne is the nearest subway station, and the Dundas the closest streetcar. 213 Sterling is roughly equal distance between Dundas/College and Bloor. In other words: expect to walk.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Toronto lands the North American premiere of The Art of Banksy

Story by Allan Tong

The world's most famous--and reclusive--street artist hits Toronto.

From June 13-July 11 The Art of Banksy will showcase more than 80 pieces of his artwork worth more than $35 million at 213 Sterling Road in Toronto's west end.

Curator and Banksy's ex-agent Steve Lazarides said at today's announcement that over 30 pieces will differ from last year's show in Amsterdam. "It's a constantly evolving show." A film, shown in Amsterdam, may be included in Toronto.

In addition to Amsterdam, the Art of Banksy has already graced Melbourne, Tel Aviv and Auckland, explained Michel Boersma, a senior vice-president at Live Nation. Corey Ross, president and CEO of Starvox Exhibits, added that Toronto not only beat out Athens and Stockholm as the next host, but is also the first North American city to present this show. Starvox Exhibits and Live Nation are co-presenting the Art of Banksy.

Included in the Art of Banksy will be Balloon Girl (top), Flag Wall (above) and Laugh Now (below).

Will Banksy be installing anything on the streets of Toronto? "I very much doubt it," curator and Banksy's former agent Steve Lazarides told ChinoKino. Nor will the exhibit include any street pieces, which Lazarides vehemently opposes. "These pieces were made for the cities they were put in."

Left to right: Corey Ross, Michel Boersma and Steve Lazarides (photo: Allan Tong)
And no, Banksy will not appear in Toronto.

For more than a decade, the street artist known only as Banksy, has been posting his politically charged artwork mostly on underpasses, bridges and walls across the streets of London, notably in Shoreditch and Hoxton. This guerilla art has raised accusations of vandalism as enterprising vendors literally peel his work off public walls and frame it for sale. Meanwhile, Banksy's art has been shown in many galleries and has commanded hundreds-of-thousands of dollars at auctions. His identity is secret, though he is English and male.

The venue of the Toronto exhibition is key. Sterling Road is rapidly transforming from a remote industrial area by the railroad tracks (known as the Junction) into a vibrant, artistic hub. For example, MOCCA, the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art, will open there this summer.

Demand should be heavy. Only 50,000 tickets will go on sale starting May 12 at banksyexhibit.com. It won't be cheap: $35 each, and there will be timed tickets and general admission ones without a set time. Any remaining tickets will be sold on standby.

And there will be a gift shop at the exit.

Friday, January 19, 2018

IDS kicks off 20th anniversary with wine, food and design

A day after Canadian interest rates rose and as housing prices continue to flirt with all-time highs, 5,500 Torontonians celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Interior Design Show last night. At the IDS opening party, well-dressed partygoers sipped fine wines from Niagara to California, tasted delicious canopes prepared by local restaurants and, of course, sampled the latest in interior design and furnishings from more than 300 exhibitors. Forget your worries (and winter) and enjoy.

Perrin & Rowe are aglow

Canadian designers Sarah Richardson, Tommy Smythe, Colin & Justin, Arren Williams and international stars Jay Osgerby, Snarkitecture and Kathryn Ireland mingled with the crowd as Bellosound DJ's blasted grooves across the Metro Convention Centre (though no one was dancing). Altogether, the IDS kick-off amounted to a giant TIFF party but with cool furniture. The IDS opener remains one of the prime cultural events of the city.

For the industry and public alike, the IDS continues through Sunday. Designers can attend professional classes, in-person meets with folks like Richardson, and tours (all sold out) of local landmarks, such as the Broadview Hotel and Bisha Hotel. Homeowners can check out the massive floor show (alas, without the food and wine samples) on Saturday and Sunday (not today, Friday). Tickets.

Whipping up Wit cocktails in front of the DJ at the Caesarstone Stage, the central hub of the IDS

Pai Restaurant creates its wing bean salad: blanched wing bean, chilli shrimp paste, toasted coconut and crispy shallots. A food highlight.

Arepa Cafe's mini reina pepiadas - curvy queens: roasted chicken, avocado, red onion and cilantro. Another food highlight.

Hot Bunzz's Spadina BBQ Duck bun: 5-spice BBQ duck, cucumber, orange fennel slaw and hoisin glaze. The most delicious food of the IDS party.

Meyer's Clean Day blends aromotherapy with household cleaning products, like lemon verbena laundry detergeant.

Jan Kath



Design Workshop Architects


Oscar Peterson pianos

Maple Six: 5-year aged cheddar, benedictine bleu and chevre noir
Inbound by Retrobound

Benjamin Moore
Story and photos by Allan Tong

Friday, December 15, 2017

film review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The next generation of Rebels (left to right): Finn, Rey and Tico

Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Featuring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Kelly Ann Tran, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver

The Last Jedi thrills Star Wars longtime fans, ties up several story threads, and passes the light sabre to a new generation of characters. Though imperfect, it is one of the best films in the franchise.

[spoiler alert: Read no further if you haven't seen the film. If you have, read on.]

The Last Jedi picks up from 2015's The Force Awakens which introduced the next generation of Star Wars heroes and villains: Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Depending on whether you liked it or not, The Force Awakens either honoured or plagiarized the very first Star Wars. Young junk scavenger Rey was the young Luke Skywalker; Han Solo and Chewbacca reunited in their Falcon; BB-8 was the droid carrying a secret message, and so on.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

IIDEX 2017's sights and designs

story & photos by Allan Tong

IIDEX, Canada's largest architecture and interior design expo, returned yesterday (ending today) to occupy the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Among the two days of panels, awards, talks and receptions, these exhibits caught our eye:

Feelux Canada's seamless LED lights are lightweight, waterproof and malleable, such as the FLX Stix NDPro (pictured below), ideal for retail displays or homes in various colours, and ballparking at $45 per linear foot. These plug 'n' play LEDs snap together like Lego and don't require soldering.

Friday, October 6, 2017

film review: Blade Runner 2049

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Hampton Fancher (also story), Michael Green, based on a Philip K. Dick novel
Featuring: Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks

ChinoKino score: A

Review by Allan Tong

When I heard there would be Blade Runner sequel, I groaned, fearing another Hollywood cash-grab of a classic film. Leave it alone. But when I heard that Quebec's Denis Villeneuve would direct, I contained my skepticism until I saw it. Well, I just saw the new Blade Runner.

Verdict: Mesmerizing.

2049 extends and completes the story of the 1982 original, resuming the storyline where the original film ends: Harrison Ford's Deckard escaping with experimental replicant Rachael (Sean Young). They're lovers in a dangerous time where blade runners like Deckard hunt down man-made replicants.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

TIFF 2017 wrap: Netflix

by Allan Tong

2017 will be remembered as the downsized TIFF: fewer films, slower sales and smaller red carpets (literally). The Canadian economy is growing, but Hollywood is in a slump, coming off its worst summer box office in over a decade. Inevitably this effects TIFF which the Hollywood studios use (Sept.7-17 this year) as the unofficial launch of the Oscar race. Before the festival, TIFF had already announced the end of the Vanguard and City to City programs and, sadly, the cessation of multimedia exhibitions in its gallery space, such as the dazzling ones to Kubrick and Cronenberg. Of course, the biggest news was TIFF CEO Piers Handling announcing his retirement after the 2018 edition.

The Italian party hosted by Mongrel Media

Where is TIFF headed? Where is the movie industry headed? One answer: the internet.

The studios used to premiere star-studded films at TIFF before releasing them in the following weeks and months to qualify for the Oscars and determine their marketing plans. This year, streaming giant Netflix has unveiled two acclaimed features, First They Killed My Father and Mudbound at TIFF.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Toronto International Film Festival announces Gala and Special Presentations programmes for TIFF 2017

Featuring premieres from filmmakers including Hany Abu-Assad, Haifaa Al Mansour, Darren Aronofsky, George Clooney, Guillermo del Toro, Richard Eyre, Stephen Frears, Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Greta Gerwig, Craig Gillespie, David Gordon Green, MahamatSaleh Haroun, Angelina Jolie, Anurag Kashyap, Mélanie Laurent, Sebastián Lelio, Ben Lewin, Martin McDonagh, Hansal Mehta, Olivier Nakache, Alexander Payne, Angela Robinson, Andy Serkis, Eric Toledano, Wim Wenders, Joe Wright and more.

Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF, today unveiled the first round of titles premiering in the Gala and Special Presentations programmes of the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival®. Of the 14 Galas and 33 Special Presentations, this first announcement includes 25 World Premieres, eight International Premieres, six North American Premieres and eight Canadian Premieres.

“Festival-goers from around the world can anticipate a remarkable lineup of extraordinary stories, voices and cinematic visions from emerging talent and some of our favourite masters,” said Handling. “Today’s announcement offers audiences a glimpse at this year’s rich and robust selection of films, including works from Canada, USA, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, India, Chile, Egypt and Cambodia.”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Stars Cortellesi and Gullotta shine at the opening weekend of ICFF

Story by Allan Tong
Photos by Sally Warburton

The Italian Contemporary Film Festival opened at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox Thursday night with star Paola Cortellesi (above) presenting the crowd-pleasing comedy, Qualcosa di nuovo (Something New) (see here for review). Ms. Cortellesi also stars in Mamma o Papa? (Mom or Dad?) playing at the ICFF.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Indivisibili tops this year's Italian film festvial, ICFF

by Allan Tong

After a decades-long slumber, Italian cinema may finally be waking. It's too soon to call this a golden age or even a revival, but recent films such as They Called Me Jeeg, which dazzled last year's Italian Contemporary Film Festival, and ones this year--starting tonight through June 16 in cities like Toronto, Vaughan and Montreal--offer hope.

Sure, the ICFF boasts a healthy share of mainstream comedies, such as tonight's opening gala, the crowd-pleasing Qualcosa di nuovo (Something New), but the festival has included some films that offer unique voices and imaginative stories.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Something New at this year's ICFF

by Allan Tong

You gotta love the Italians for opening their film festival, the ICFF on June 8 in Toronto, with a romantic comedy about two older women and a younger man.

In Qualcosa di nuovo (Something New), best friends Lucia (Paola Cortellesi, above right) and Maria (Micaela Ramazzotti, above left) fall for the same younger man, Luca (Eduardo Valdarnini, above center) without knowing it. Luca's finishing high school, and Paolo and Micaela have finished past marriages. They feel exhilarated being with 19-year-old Eduardo, but also uneasy. Sure, the sex is fantastico, but when they try to relate to him outside the bed the differences between them emerge: divorces, children, career. Things don't help when the two good friends discover they're seeing the same younger guy.

Directed by Cristina Comencini, Qualcosa di nuovo is a breezy comedy, a crowd-pleaser and a decent choice to open this year's ICFF. Lucia and Maria offer some dimension, though Luca remains a callow, young man interested only in getting laid. The comedy is more cute than cutting, squarely in the tradition of mainstream Italian cinema. Cortellesi shines, offering some vulnerability to her Lucia. She will grace the red carpet at the ICFF opening gala in Toronto on Thursday, June 8 at 7:00 pm with further screenings in Montreal and Vaughan.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Italian Contemporary Film Festival returns to Toronto with De Sica honours

by Allan Tong

The line-up of the sixth ICFF (The Italian Contemporary Film Festival) was unveiled at Toronto's Ritz-Carlton earlier today, highlighted by Christian De Sica (above), son of iconic director and actor Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thief), who will receive the ICFF’s Lifetime Achievement Award. De Sica will also present his latest films, Poveri ma ricchi (Poor but Rich) and Fraulein/Una fiaba d’inverno. Past recipients include Al Pacino, Roberto Benigni and Claudia Cardinale. The ICFF will also his present is father's classic comedy, Matrimonio all’italiana (Marriage Italian Style) and host a live talk, In conversation with Christian De Sica, where he will discuss his and his father's work.

As in recent years, the ICFF will take place in several cities at once. A total of 180 screenings will grace screens from June 8-16 at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lilghtbox as well as in Vaughan, Hamilton, Montreal, Québec City and Vancouver. To honour Canada's 150th birthday, the ICFF will host From Bello to Beautiful: The Art and Impact of Italian-Canadian Cinema, seven days of free screenings starting with Noelle’s Journey, a documentary by Peter Gentile about two immigrants who left southern Italy for a new life in Canada.

“This year’s Festival lineup," explained Cristiano de Florentiis, ICFF's Artistic Director, "focuses on three aspects of Italian cinema: creating a bridge between the classics [De Sica]; welcoming [actress] Paola Cortellesi, who will show the importance of women in film as they headline both the opening and closing screenings, as well as celebrating Canada’s 150th.”

ICFF’s opening film will be Qualcosa di nuovo/Something New, a comedy directed by Cristina Comencini. Other special guests include actors Giancarlo Giannini (above), best known here for Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and a veteran star in Italy with accolades from Cannes, Locarno and the Italian Golden Globes.

Another acting legend, Franco Nero (Die Hard 2, Django Unchained, above), will grace the ICFF red carpet as will Paola Cortellesi (below) who stars in the opening night film.

For further details about films, the ICFF's school screening program and the opening and closing gala parties, please visit here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

20 things I learned at the Toronto Screenwriting Conference

by Allan Tong

TV scribes and some film writers, descended on the Toronto Screenwriting Conference last weekend (April 22-23) to listen to two full days of advice about the craft and business of writing for screen. Gracing the stage at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre were the creators and showrunners of Archer, Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce, Shoot The Messenger, Kim's Convenience and Mohawk Girls as well as big-league American and Canadian producers and network AMC. 

The $500 pass all the panels, but passholders paid $25 or each industry roundtable that overlapped panels to ask showrunners, producers and network buyers anything...as long as they didn't pitch any shows. I didn't attend these, but delegates I spoke to were pleased to meet these folks, and some hoped it would lead to pitch meetings one day.

Overall, the level of advice inspired writers. Speakers raised fresh ideas and reinforced existing notions, which is the aim of the TSC. However, pitching was off-limits and the guest speakers were hard to access once they were onstage, though many were in the audience to watch other panels. The TSC is not a marketplace, but a school. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sundance Now enters the streaming game

by Allan Tong

Sundance is entering the streaming game with a new service called Sundance Now. For US$6.99 a month, subscribers access a catalogue of indie features, award-winning docs and some series.

Sundance Now's curator George Schmalz (pictured above, left, formerly of Kino Lorber and Kickstarer) and general manager, Jan Diedrichsen (right) flew up from New York last night to launch the service with a Q&A and brief video presentation at the AGO in Toronto.

Features include Heathers, Rhythm Thief, Dementia 13, Kubrick's obscure early film, Fear and Desire, and Takeshi Kitano's Violent Cop. The documentary selection is particularly notable with titles such as Knuckleball, War Don Don, Burma VJ, Detropia, Wordplay, Bronx Obama and Page One. So far, there are only seven series including two Sundance originals, The Bureau and Take 5: Justice in America which center on espionage and the prison system. Viewers can select titles pre-curated by filmmakers such as Jonathan Demme and Bruce McDonald under the Curators Collection select their own playlists (The Central Park Five and Anvil, respectively).

The cost is US$6.99 a month or US$59.99 a year. Note that Canadians pay based on the US price, so account for the currency exchange.