Monday, June 29, 2015

RIDM announces lineup for 2015 en plein air summer screenings

Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM) or Montreal International Documentary Festival is pleased to announce its line-up of free outdoor screenings for the summer of 2015. Working with several organizations, the RIDM will present a series of excellent documentaries in Montreal parks and other uncommon venues. It’s a great way to enjoy the summer while discovering the best that documentary has to offer.

Quebec’s only film festival dedicated to documentaries, the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal presents the best reality-based films, including the works of established directors and new talents.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences welcomes 322 new members

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is extending invitations to join the organization to 322 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures. Those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy’s membership in 2015.

“It’s gratifying to acknowledge the extraordinary range of talent in our industry,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “This year, our branches have recognized a more diverse and inclusive list of filmmakers and artists than ever before, and we look forward to adding their creativity, ideas and experience to our organization.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

26th Anniversary SOCAN Awards – winners

A who's who of the Canadian music industry gathered last night in Toronto to honour Canada's most talented "Born to Be" songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers at the 26th SOCAN Awards.

Sponsored by Gowlings, KPMG, RBC and HMV, and hosted by CMT Canada's Paul McGuire, the SOCAN Awards recognize the lifetime and more recent achievements of Canada's music creators, honoured in a host of categories, including Pop/Rock, Dance, Urban, Country, Jazz, Folk/Roots, Classical, and Film & Television.

Recipients of SOCAN's major achievement awards this year were the legendary Randy Bachman (Lifetime Achievement), Dallas Green (National Achievement), MAGIC! (International Achievement), music industry pioneer Bernie Finkelstein (Special Achievement), and "Born to be Wild" songwriter Mars Bonfire, who accepted SOCAN's first-ever Cultural Impact Award. All accepted their honours in person, as did R&B chart-toppers The Weeknd and Belly, rising country stars Brett Kissel and Tim Hicks, and film and TV composers Keith Power and Andrew Lockington, among many others.

36th Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards – winners

Canadian Opera Company Leads the Field with 8 Wins: 5 for Falstaff including Outstanding Production and 3 for Die Walküre including Outstanding Direction to Atom Egoyan

The 36th Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards for the 2014/2015 season were handed out in a star-studded ceremony in Toronto on the evening of Monday, June 22 at Harbourfront Centre’s WestJet Stage, hosted by the hilarious Gavin Crawford, whose eight seasons on CBC-TV's This Hour Has 22 Minutes earned him numerous accolades and who recently won an ACTRA Award for his leading role in the film Two 4 One.

The Dora Mavor Moore Awards are produced and presented by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) and celebrate excellence in Toronto theatre, dance and opera. For the 2014-2015 season, 117 producing companies registered 212 eligible productions. A total of 48 Dora Awards plus the Silver Ticket Award and the Audience Choice Award were given out.

Monday, June 22, 2015

NIFF round-up: Chardonnay, movies & awards in Niagara

The Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery before the screening of How To Change The World
Story and photos by Allan Tong

Away from the hurly-burly of Toronto last weekend was the second Niagara Integrated Film Festival which paired movies, Niagara vintages and gourmet food at wineries across the peninsula. From June 18-21, NIFF held wine tastings, five-course dinners and outdoor screenings as well as an Industry Day of film workshops headquartered at the posh White Oaks Resort and Spa in nearby St. Catharines.

The weather has been fickle this spring. On Saturday night, you needed to wear a blanket to watch a movie, but on Sunday you needed a fan. At least the wine and food, made by the wineries Peller Estates, Southbrook and Redstone, were superb across the board.

ICFF wrap-up: Edoardo Leo, awards and mocap

Story & photos by Allan Tong

The fourth Italian Contemporary Film Festival wrapped on Friday evening with a lavish red-carpet gala party at the Ritz-Carlton. Italian comedy star Edoardo Leo picked up The People’s Choice Award for his film, Noi e la Giulia, that he both directed and starred in. Leo also appeared at ICFF in the comedy, I Can Quit Whenever I Want.

Mischa Barton (Hope Lost) received an Award of Honour from the festival. Sergio Navaretta, an Italian-Canadian director, captured the Castlepoint Numa Award for his romantic-comedy, The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship, at the gala. (Full review here.)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

2015 Much Music Video Awards – winners

The 2015 Much Music Video Awards were handed out tonight in Toronto at the Much headquarters on Queen Street West. The host of the event was nominee and winner Ed Sheeran in his fourth appearance at the show. On receiving the prize foe Best International Artist, his first of two awards, he said "This is my fourth year and I've never won one — I feel like it's just because I'm presenting. So thank you very much for this."

The biggest winner of the night, however, was the hometown boy The Weeknd (a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye) who picked up four awards on the night, including video of the year. He tied the record for most MMVA wins in one night set by Swollen Members, k-os, and Hedley. He had led all nominees with six mentions. His acceptances were pithy, "I want to thank the fans of course — XO, wouldn't be here without you guys." His performance was medley of "Mood Music" and "Earned It"

Montreal's P Reign picked up the award for Best Hip Hop Video and he received a surprise visit from an unannounced guest. Toronto rapper and co-director of the winning video "DnF," Drake (a.k.a. Aubrey Graham) joined him onstage and received a roaring welcome from the audience. "My brother Drizzy Drake is in the building. That's my brother for life," said P Reign.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Films at NXNE: from Toronto to Texas

by Allan Tong

This year's NXNE has scaled back its film program to a handful of intriguing choices. Last year, the film program expanded (or lost) its focus to include films that strayed from music, which I think was mistake, because Toronto already hosts 80+ film festivals covering any niche you can think of.

Amy, an excellent biodoc that I reviewed earlier this week, is the centerpiece, but a local indie film that Brendan Canning co-produced deserves a look, too. Diamond Tongues is about Edith (Leah Goldstein), an aspiring Toronto actress struggling to crack a very tough business as she wrestles with a messy personal life.

The first 15 minutes feel like a documentary of the lives of my own friends: actors, writers, film directors along Queen West raising Kickstarter funds for their next audition, praying for a callback or landing a writing gig on a (lame) TV series. No doubt that writer/directors Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson drew material from their own lives and their circle of friends.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Blonde Redhead kicks off NXNE in mesmerizing style

Story & photos by Allan Tong

NXNE, Toronto's annual showcase of rock, opened last night with acts performing at club large and small across downtown, including New York trio, Blonde Redhead, who charmed the audience at the Opera House. The band's set skewed towards more recent material in a strong set that lasted over an hour.

Pictured are Kazu Makino on vocals, keyboards and guitar, Simone Pace on drums and Amedeo Pace on vocals and guitar. NXNE continues through Sunday.

Directors Guild of Canada announces nominees for 2015 DGC Awards

The DGC is delighted to announce the 2015 DGC Awards nominees. Selected from over 250 submissions, the nominees in 19 categories represent a cross section of the industry's outstanding talent working in the screen-based industry.

The Awards will be presented at the annual Gala on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at The Carlu in Toronto. Hosted by Arisa Cox and Seán Cullen with special guests soon to be announced, the 14th edition of the DGC Awards promises to be a big one. The evening will feature a special Nominees’ reception prior to the Gala.

“I am proud of the nominees and how their collective body of work speaks to Canadians and the world about Canada, about our outstanding Canadian screen creators and professionals," stated Tim Southam, National President, DGC. “It is a privilege for the Guild to have an opportunity to celebrate such outstanding talent every year through the DGC Awards, and this year looks more exciting than ever.”

Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship at ICFF and NIFF

by Allan Tong

In all my years of reviewing films, I've never come across one movie that played back-to-back festivals in the same region. The Colossal Failure of the Modern Relationship is previewing tonight at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival then screening tomorrow night at the Nigara Integrated Film Festival.

CFMR features an Italian-Canadian cast, and takes place in Niagara wine country, which justifies its appearance at these two very different fests.  [Disclosure: I know Sergio and he once recommended actress Lina Giornofelice for own of my films. Ms. Giornofelice appears in CFMR.]

CFMR is technically a romantic-comedy, but it's more like an Eric Rohmer film, an exploration of relationships and modern manners driven by dialogue with a touch of comedy. The story revolves around dull middle-aged wine writer, Freddy (Remedy's Enrico Colantoni), who takes his long-time lover Cat (Krista Bridges) on a weekend trip to a Niagara winery to revive their tired romance. Because he's on assignment, Freddy's self-absorbed boss, Richard (David Cubitt), and his young girlfriend, Amy (Brooke Palsson) join them. Problem is, Freddy and Amy have no idea that Cat has been sleeping with Richard.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

11 Tips to Survive NXNE 2015

by Allan Tong

It's June in Toronto which means that NXNE is here. The five-day music festival (Northby for you hipsters) showcases rock acts from across the world to fill clubs, large and small, across downtown Toronto. There are also record and comic book fairs, live comedy and film screenings including the Canadian premiere of the outstanding biodoc Amy (review here).

The $49 pass gets you into all the small clubs while the $60 pass gets you into virtually everything. (Read the fine print here). Meanwhile, The New Pornographers (above), Shad and legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins (top) are throwing free shows at Yonge-Dundas Square, but go early because it will be packed (see below for more Northby tips).

Also free is a wonderful display of gig concerts at the NXNE festival hub at 120 Spadina Avenue just north of Queen Street West and within spitting distance of the Horseshoe Tavern and Cameron House.

Italian Contemporary Film Festival roundup - the sequel

by Allan Tong

The second half of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival offers some gems, with screenings in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Vaughan through Friday.

Directed by Sydney Sibilia, I Can Quit Whenever I Want is a lively comedy bout a university science researcher (Italian star Edoardo Leo, center above) who loses his job and turns to making a potent synthetic drug to get by. He hires his academic buddies, all of them underemployed now washing dishes or pumping gas but were once chemists and economists, to form his gang to sell his "non-illegal" drug to clubbers.

The comedy obviously tips its cap to Breaking Bad and Weeds, but fortunately steers clear of corniness and cuteness that plagues so many Italian comedies. Instead, the movie is a deadpan and surprisingly tongue-and-cheek critique of modern Italian society where even the most educated can't land a job. I Can Quit Whenever I Want, however, ends abruptly and the story could've used one last turn, but it's still a fun, entertaining romp.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Polaris Music Prize announces 2015 long list

The 2015 Polaris Music Prize Long List has been announced.

The 40 Long List albums were unveiled earlier today at The Carleton in Halifax, NS in association with Halifax Pop Explosion, with the assistance of the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, the City of Halifax, and the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.

In total 197 titles made the first ballots of the 196 member jury.

This year’s Long List features 18 returning and 22 new nominees, although four of those new Polaris people have been nominated for previous projects: Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld for his solo albums and her work with Arcade Fire respectively, Young Guv’s Ben Cook was previously nominated with Fucked Up, members of Viet Cong were previously nominated as Women, and Siskiyou used to play with Great Lake Swimmers.

NXNE presents Canadian premiere of Amy biodoc

by Allan Tong

From live bands to comedy, NXNE offers a wide array of things of hear and see from June 17-21, but one highlight is the Canadian premiere of Amy.

Directed by Asif Kapadia, Amy, is a powerful documentary covering the life and demise of Amy Winehouse, the London soul and jazz singer who died of alcoholism after a brief, but stunning career. There have been several TV documentaries that have sensationalized Winehouse's well-known battles with booze and heroin, but Kapadia's actually cuts deep and presents the whole story.

The film is largely told by Winehouse on screen using candid home movies and audio interviews, and through childhood friends and associates such as her bodyguard, drug counsellor and ex-lovers. Mitch Winehouse, her father, comes off as exploitive, as does her last manager, but the true villain is Amy herself who self-destructed in a slow suicide.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wine and movies: a Niagara Integrated Film Festival preview

Watching Kajutijuq: The Spirit That Comes in the cellar
by Allan Tong
TIFF co-founder Bill Marshall hosts the second edition of the Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF) from June 18-21 by pairing films, gourmet food and the peninsula's finer wines under summer skies.

It's a grand idea that has worked in other wine regions around the world by allowing audiences to enjoy choice vintages and quality world cinema at the same time. Events fall into a few categories:

The $159 Ultimate Gala Experience is the most luxurious, offering a film screening at a winery such as Jackson-Triggs, which will serve a five-course meal, specially chosen wines and a glass of wine during the film. The ticket also gets you into the after-party.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Italian Contemporary Film Festival roundup

by Allan Tong

The Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF)
is enjoying one of its stronger years. From drama to documentary, the films in 2015 are consistently rewarding. Though I haven't seen a terrible movie yet,  I also haven't found a superb one either. To speak in baseball terms, the ICFF films are hitting singles and doubles, but no homers yet. Here are a few to consider this weekend at screenings in Toronto, Vaughan, Montreal and Quebec City. (Check here for screening times in your city.)

Midnight Sun is an entertaining family film about a boy who befriends a lost cub in frigid northern Canada. Think boy-and-his-dog adventure, except the dog is a polar bear and the terrain is covered in snow and ice flows. It stars Toronto's own Dakota Goyo.

Sin, redemption, family. These are well-worn themes that drive the thriller Perez. It's about an incorruptible lawyer from Naples who defends underdogs until his daughter hooks up with a mobster. Not a smart move. Without spoiling the film, let's say that daddy lawyer Perez has to compromise his ethics by striking a deal with the mobster's boss to help him recover some precious diamonds. Perez is slick and stylish, and lead Luca Zingaretti is a strong, stoic presence as Perez. However, as mentioned above the movie doesn't tread new ground.

Friday, June 12, 2015

ICFF opens in grand style in Toronto

by Allan Tong

You gotta hand it to the Italians: They know how to party.

The Italian Contemporary Film Festival opened in Toronto last night with a screening of the biopic, L'Oriana, about legendary journalist Oriana Fallaci (review here) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, then a gala party at Roy Thompson Hall.

Savoury samples, including pork sandwiches, pizza and lobster rolls, were served indoors while the outdoor patio hosted a live band and a dizzying array of Italian sweets from the likes of The Big Cannoli, Exquisitely Yours and Dolcini that would kill any diabetic.

Screenings continue all weekend in Toronto, Vaughan, Montreal and Quebec City. Check back here for reviews.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Italian fest opens with biopic of Oriana Fallaci

by Allan Tong

This year's Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF) opens Thursday night in Toronto and Vaughan with L'Oriana, a biopic about Oriana Fallaci, one of the most fearless and celebrated journalists of the 20th century.

The Florence-born Fallaci was known as a formidable interviewer, getting heavyweights such as Henry Kissinger to admit Vietnam was a "useless war" and having the gall to calls Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini a "tyrant" to his face.

Fallaci was a passionate personality who survived war zones and covered world politics with an intensity that this film, directed by Marco Turco, succeeds in capturing. Fallaci is a natural subject for the silver screen. Her words spring to life on screen and its through her words that her fiery intellect shines like a laser beam. Vittoria Puccini nicely balances Fallaci's ferocious drive and compassion.