Tag Archives: film

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema – the Grand Opening

Bloor Cinema interiors

All images via Bloor Hot Docs, photo credit Joseph Michael

Toronto is a good city for film.  We’ve got the Toronto Film Festival, with its newly established home at the Lightbox, a cinema and gallery space that curates unique film, art, and memorabilia programming year-round in addition to workshops and lectures.  We’ve even got a handful of nabes still in operation: many of these single screen gems will be celebrating their centennial in the not-too-distant future.  These cinemas, preserved in part, and frequented by, the foot traffic of their communities, offer a nostalgic throw-back to a bygone era before the multiplex, when cinema was considered art and a reason to go out, dolled up even.

The newly renovated Bloor Cinema

Another incredible film festival operating out of Toronto is Hot Docs, a documentary film festival.  Each spring, Hot Docs brings more than 150 documentaries from Canada and around the world to the screen during their annual juried festival showcasing some of the word’s best in the genre.  And the best news?  Hot Docs recently acquired the historic Bloor Cinema, a century old Toronto landmark and have spent the last 9 months painstakingly renovating it, returning the grand dame to her former glory, while also bringing in state of the art presentation technology (frequent patrons of the old Bloor Cinema, an institution in itself, will be pleased to know this includes a new sound system, woot, woot).  The Bloor Cinema is now Hot Docs’  permanent home for its annual festival as well as a screening venue for year-round documentary programming, and will function as hub for, and host to, both special documentary events and smaller film festivals.  They’ll even bring back some of the Bloor’s special programming.  Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is one of the world’s only documentary cinemas.

Rows of seats at Bloor cinema

At the entrance hall of Bloor

The theatre hosts an open house today and tomorrow with a free screening of Waste Land about renowned Brazilian artist Vik Muniz who uses garbage and food waste to create his socially conscious pieces. I’m going later this week to see Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.

And then later in the month I hope to be back for a pretty awesome  looking doc on the life of Charles and Ray Eames, AKA Mr. and Mrs. Mid Century modern, who together transformed American design.  The doc is entitled Eames: The Architect and the Painter, which I’ll happily report on here.  Here’s the trailer:

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema’s full monthly schedule can be found here. If you’re a lover of cinema and fan of documentaries, consider supporting them with a membership or discount card.   At any rate, I wish them the absolute best of luck!

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Movie Review: Pina directed by Wim Wenders

A dancer on stage, from the film PinaPhoto by Donata Wenders/Sundance Selects

Movie award season came to a close last week with the Oscars. I admit that for the last few years not many of the movies that were nominated or critically acclaimed really piqued my interest. I didn’t get to see too many of the nominees for this year, but I did see a couple that I felt were indeed a wonderful representation of movies as an artistic genre. A couple of weeks before the Oscars I went to see Pina, a dance film shot in 3D, which was a nominee in the best documentary category. One of the designers at work saw it and recommened it to us at the office, saying that it was a stunning use of 3D movie technology. I didn’t really know what to think about seeing a dance movie, but the fact that it was in definitely 3D intrigued me. I was completely and most pleasurably surprised. Unlike traditional documentaries about theater or dance, which are shot from the audience’s point of view, the camera in Pina infiltrates the stage and moves like one of the dancers it is filming. The result is a painterly, three-dimensional diorama of the Tanztheater style of dance that was propagated by Pina Bausch.

Pina Bausch in motionPhoto by Anne-Christine Poujoulat, from www.theasc.com

A portrait of Pina Bausch

Pina Bausch was a revolutionary force in the modern dance world. She was a dancer, choreographer, and also a teacher that valued expressionism in her works. There is a high sense of rawness in all of the dances in the film that only adds to the texture of the film itself. The film itself is a homage to Bausch, who died in 2009. In between scenes of performances on stage and in outside environments, the members of her dance company are filmed sitting quietly with contemplative looks on their faces while their voices then become the narration. Each one of them gives a testimonial on their experience as a dancer with Bausch, in their own native toungue.

DancersImage from www.shift.jp.org

All in all the film was a beautiful montage of dance, experience, and cutting edge movie-making technology. I enjoyed it tremendously for the dimensionality it brought to what could easily be an overlooked documentary on contemporary dance.

Dancing in the streetImage from shift.jp.org

The marriage of the elegant dances themselves against the industrial backdrops of present-day Germany and scenes in nature only add to the film’s painterly quality. The 3D technology definitely added another layer of texture to the already visually rich scenery.

A scene from PinaImage from www.cinemaviewfinder.com

What the film lacked in actual narrative plotline, it made up for in meaning – as Bausch’s untimely death happened as the movie was being produced. The project almost never reached completion, but when it did it became a living testament to the creativity of one woman.

It was very clear that the film was a showcase of artistry, not just of the dances but also of the use of 3D technology. So many time when we here the word 3D couple with ‘movie,’ you almost expect to see flying swords or explosions. In the case of Pina, however, we get a first person experience of the suspended railway in Wuppertal and a 360-degree view of a glass house in the middle of the forest.

A pair of dancers against an urban sceneImage from collider.com

Dancers in a glass house with a view of the woodsImage from http://images.allmoviephoto.com, Photo by Donata Wenders

Pina was a visual feast, and it definitely deserved its nomination for best documentary this year. Hopefully in the future filmmakers will take some cues from it to capture the beauty and essence of an intimate, immersive experience, just as Pina did.

Learn more about the film at: http://www.pina-film.de/en/about-the-movie.html

Here’s the trailer:

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Oscar Party to Go

Charming Oscar Statuette Cookies by BakerellaOscar statuette cookies tutorial from Bakerella

The 84th Academy Awards are this Sunday. Will you be watching the show? I look forward to Oscars night more than I probably should. It’s not about the actual show, which is often uneven, and it’s not even about the movies, although I do have a few favourites from this years’ pics.  I just can’t resist a dose of Hollywood glamour, especially during the bleak last few days of February. That’s why I’ve always dreamed of throwing a giant Oscar party where every one dresses up and drinks champagne, surrounded by glitz and gold.  Usually we just end up getting together with a small group of friends around the television which can also be special and fun.

Whether you have a big party planned, or a small group gathering, here are a few tips that will get everyone in the spirit.


Sparkling ginger drinkGinger Sparkler via Martha Stewart

Arranging a golden selection of drinks, like these ginger sparklers, or flutes of champagne on a table is a simple way to welcome your guests to the party. Don’t forget the ginger-ale or sparkling white grape juice for those who don’t drink alcohol.

Pretty Popcorn

Pretty Popcorn Cones by Style Me Prettypopcorn via Style Me Pretty

Paper popcorn cones

These pretty paper popcorn cones add sophistication to your Oscar Party

popcorn cones via the larks

Popcorn is a movie theatre staple that can be made elegant by serving it in a silver or glass punchbowl. Make paper cones out of paper by cutting five by seven inch strips and rolling them to form a cone, tape the end in place.

And the Oscar Goes to…

And the Oscar Goes to... Envelope Napkins via the Food NetworkEnvelope Napkins via Food Network

If you’re planning on throwing a pre-Oscars dinner party these napkin envelopes are so easy to make and will dress up the table instantly. Gold rimmed glasses and gold dishes will give the meal glam appeal.

Get Your Picks Ready

Printable Oscar Bingo and Ballots via How About Orange

After all the party prep and culinary indulgences it’s time to sit back and enjoy the show. Yes, it’s long and the speeches can be an exercise in patience but I find adding a friendly competition into the mix can liven things up. The Oscar bingo cards and ballots made by How About Orange are what I will be using this year.

Hope everyone has a glamorous weekend, whether you will be watching the Oscars or not.

Happy Friday Everyone!

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I Heart Movies

A scene from "The Notebook"

Whether you’re playing the field or not, attached or not, in love or not, staying in with a flick is an option that you should consider for Valentine’s. You’d be saving yourself from a whole lot of stress from traffic jams and dark, overcrowded restaurants. Plus it’s intimate and comfortable, and — with the right movie — as fun or romantic as you want it to be.

So if you’re considering staying in for Valentine’s, have I got some movie picks for you!

Will You be My Valentine?
The Date Movies

Couple watching a movie
So you’ve got a date for Valentine’s! Atta girl!

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
    (Easily my favorite)
  • When Harry Met Sally – Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan
  • Pillow Talk – Doris Day, Rock Hudson
  • An Affair to Remember – Carey Grant, Deborah Kerr
  • Casablanca – Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman
  • Definitely, Maybe – Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher
  • Pretty in Pink – Andrew McCarthy, Molly Ringwald
  • Elizabethtown – Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst
  • 50 First Dates – Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore
  • A Lot Like Love – Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet

It goes without saying that happy endings are an absolute requirement. Some tears may be nice. The key is finding one that produces the right amount of tears. Nothing super heavy, please. That means no Nicholas Sparks — sorry. You don’t want your nose runny and your eye makeup ruined. Or worse yet, you don’t want to get so depressed afterwards that you’d need therapy. Even if you’ve been together for 5 years now, and are so comfortable and open with each other, this is Valentine’s day after all. Your S.O. (significant other) doesn’t need to see you dissolve in a puddle of tears, snot, and half-chewed oysters — that’s gross.

Wine and Whine:
The Girlfriend Party

Wine and whine with a movie and the girls

So you don’t have a date. No biggie. Being dateless on Valentine’s day holds immense potential for fun, especially if you’re spending it with people you love — your girlfriends! After all, these are relationships that you’ve probably had for most of your life! You can just wine and skip the the whine.
For your girls’ night in, bond over these fabulous girl power movies and revel in the warmth of friendship.

  • Whip It – Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore
  • Aliens – Sigourney Weaver
  • Mulan – Ming-Na Wen
  • Chicago – Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellwegger

Or if you must indulge a bit in a little bittersweet pain, dip your toes in these films with themes of lost, unrequited or unconsummated loves. Again, you don’t want fall apart totally. Remember, this is supposed to be still fun.

  • Spanglish
  • Lost in Translation – Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson
  • In the Mood for Love – Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung
  • Yentl – Barbra Streisand, Mandy Patinkin
  • (500) Days of Summer – Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Flirt – Martin Donovan
  • Roman Holiday – Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday"

If you just want to forget it’s Valentine’s — that’s an option too — here’s are some ideas:

  • Any Die Hard movie
  • The Hangover
  • La Femme Nikita
  • The Exorcist

Don’t forget the wine! And throw in some apple pie — and layer on lots of the ala mode.

The Wallow:
The Solo Party

Some Valentine’s days are just meant for marinating in pain and tears and licking your wounds. Letting it all out can be cathartic. If you feel like a good cry is what the doctor ordered, here are some movies that will really scrape the pain raw.

  • The End of the Affair – Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore
  • Shadowlands – Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger
  • The Notebook – Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
  • Far from Heaven – Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert
  • Marley and Me – Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston
  • City of Angels – Nicholas Cage, Meg Ryan

Note: Be prepared. Stock up on ice cream, chocolate eclairs, and whatever comfort food you can get your hands on.

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Tokyo Rising

Photo credit: Palladium Boots

When I got to work on Monday morning almost all of my subscriptions featured something on the 9/11 anniversary. While each of the stories had their own significance, the ones that spoke of how the event affected the role of the arts thereafter resonated with me the most. While at first the primary rationale for most of the art produced after 9/11 was primarily a reactionary one and in a sense a way of coping with the extremity of the event, we have seen over the years how the arts have also become a way of building resilience and hope for better times.

This tone was also evident in the recently produced short promotional documentary Tokyo Rising, produced by the footwear company Palladium Boots. The film chronicles the creative forces in Japan at work in the aftermath of the earthquakes that hit the northern region of the country earlier this year. Focused on several groups of people in Tokyo, Tokyo Rising paints a picture of the state of country’s capital through the eyes of the creative pioneers at work in the metropolis today.

Photo credit: Palladium Boots

Presented in five short parts, the film runs for about thirty minutes and is available to watch for free on the Palladium Boots website. It is hosted by Grammy Award-winning music personality and producer Pharrell Williams. Throughout the five parts, Pharrell takes us through Tokyo and introduces us to a few of his fellow Japanese creatives, giving them the opportunity to speak freely about their experience of the earthquakes and how they responded to the event in their particular form of media. He travels through Tokyo, guided by his friends to seedlings of culture scattered about the urban landscape.

Photo Credit: Palladium Boots

The film does not focus so much on the aftermath of the earthquakes and instead focuses on the emerging culture that resulted from the events. More so, it is a commentary on how the nature of contemporary Japanese culture is changing and how the current generation of creatives is responding to questions about cultural identity, social change, and the responsibility to cultivate a spirit of unity in the face of devastation.

Interestingly enough however, the film is essentially sponsored content, put out as a marketing tool by Palladium Boots. Although the commercial undertone is certainly evident and highlighted by the rather blatant Palladium insignia watermarked on the video, it promotes the type of marketing that not just effectively communicates the brand’s beliefs but also incites an emotional response from the viewer.

Photo Credit: Palladium Boots

I was personally interested in the story of 3331 Arts Chiyoda because the repurposed school building in which it is located was the site of an Art Fair called 101Tokyo, which I had interned for in my senior year of college. Exhibitions and spaces that open dialogue and provide a wide angle on issues and are crucial to understanding the reality of this event.

Photo Credit: Tokyo Art Beat

The site of 3331 Tokyo in 2008, during 101Tokyo Contemporary Art Fair Photo Credit: Xinjiro Tahara

My only qualm with the documentary is that it provides a perhaps narrow view of post-earthquake contemporary arts and design in Japan, as it focuses only on Tokyo, which sustained far less damage than other areas hit by the earthquakes. It would have been interesting to see the role of art and culture in areas outside of the urbanized centers. While Tokyo certainly possesses its own unique brand of Japanese culture it is not necessarily representative of the rest of the country, particularly the areas directly affected by the quakes.

There are indeed multiple layers to this film visually and thematically. It is a well made piece of storytelling, and was I think a smart move for Palladium Boots on the business end of things. It also encourages viewers to investigate the role of contemporary art and culture in urban Japan in light of the recent earthquakes. It is a unique portrait of a city that is pushing the boundaries of art and design as catalysts for social change and as evidence of resilience in the face of devastation.

Here’s a trailer for Tokyo Rising.

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