Enough About Me... How About You? What Do You Think Of Me?

Friday, September 30, 2005

I'll Say It Again...

I love Jason Collett!
Last night’s show at the Phoenix was amazing. Fantastic! Jason Collett opened for Metric last night, sandwiched in between the headliner and a band called Lovely Feathers (okay… kinda meh). We arrived (after yet another fantastic meal at the Living Well on Yonge Street – best catfish ever!) just in time for me to pick up a JC cd and have him sign it.

He took the stage with a bassist, two other guitarists, a drummer, keyboard guy and two guys on pipes (Sax and trombone – think the sax player was from the Stills? The keyboard guy might have been from the Stars?). Oh, and he was also joined on vocals by the girl from the Stars and Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene. There are no words.

He worked his way through an amazing set – mostly songs from his new album, Idols of Exile (which, if you don’t have it – why don’t you have it? What’s wrong with you? Order it now!) and joined at one point on stage by a very un-glammed Emily Haines of Metric for my favorite song on the album, Hangover Days. I’ve listened to the cd many, many times and never really caught the Dylan quality of his voice or the early Van Morrison sound of his music until I’d heard it live. This was hands-down one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while – he is spectacular live. Which is great news, because apparently he’s opening for Leslie Feist in October. How excited am I??

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's an honor just to be nominated...

Generally I’m pretty crabby when I’m sick, but this has been quite a week. I mentioned to a former co-worker a few weeks back that I was starting to consider making a move to a new company. Nothing I was ready to do in the next month or so, but I had made the decision to start looking and basically planned on taking the next year to explore my options, with the objective of being somewhere by summer of next year.

I’m kind of averaging a call per week from headhunters. Nothing so far looks like the perfect fit and at my age, when you make a move, it’s got to count. I plan to spend at least three and hopefully five years working my ass off for the next company and it’s got to be perfect. But still, it’s an honor just to be nominated!

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

In other news…

Metric is coming out with a new album, as are Broken Social Scene. Greektown keeps bragging about the fact that she already has the BSS cd on her iPod. Boo hiss. On a weirder note, Buck 65 is touring with the Barenaked Ladies (Massy Hall). Love Buck 65 but I would NEVER have put the two together. Gotta say that I’m thrilled that he’s going to get so much mainstream exposure and thanks to BNL for picking up on such a great East Coast talent!!

I am super-pumped about the Leafs home opener – against Ottawa – next week. Sporty got tix and for some crazy reason decided to take me. FYI Sporty, Wednesday night is also the 30th birthday of Alexander Keiths and we are SO going out for many more beers post-game. UNB Alumni have a thing at Fionn McCools and I think we should meet up with Greektown there – then you’ll really know what partying with maritimers is really all about (as if playing “Bar/Home” really tells you…).

Finally, Halloween. Are you pumped? Are you ready? A friend of mine invited me to his Villains and Heroes party and though I don’t plan to attend, I am totally stealing the idea. I love that this city is big enough to get away with that!! So gang, start thinking about costumes and FYI, in case you didn’t hear my declaration last night at dinner… I AM WONDER WOMAN. (Can anyone tell me what she wears, other than red and blue and the all important tiara??)

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Finally! The Horseshoe... and in other news...

As an avid concertgoer, I’ve been to nearly every significant indie venue in the city… with the exception of both the Horseshoe and the Rivoli. Well, now it’s just the Rivoli left to conquer as I saw Montreal band Boy on Saturday night at the Horseshoe. The venue was great – teeming with musical history – and the band was fantastic. We saw Boy as the opener for Ambulance Ltd. a few months back at the Mod Club and shortly after that show, I ordered their latest disc from Amazon.

Here is something that intrigues me… at every single show that I’ve been to and stood close to the front, there has been some kind of really crazy-dancing guy. They range from full-on flailing to humping the speakers to my favorite guy who pounded on the amps while head-banging (Mod Club of course, they have the best crazy dancers and the best venue from which to observe them). Who are these people? They all look normal, and yet there they are, head-banging to really, really, un-head-banger type-music. I don’t get it. But please don’t stop because Greektown and I really enjoy the entertainment.

My new favorite game of spot the strippers during Saturday’s shift change has been slightly changed to spot the hooker on the subway train. Greektown and I have a bit of a guilty pleasure playing spot-the-stripper… we’re rarely wrong and it’s really quite a fun game. Well, Friday night I was on the subway heading West and this woman got on the train at Ozzington station. She wasn’t dressed provocatively at all, but something about her face/makeup just gave her away. The gig was up when she got off the train at Lansdowne Station. I am sad that this is one of my newly acquired Toronto skills.

In other news, Sunday afternoon was spent with Greektown and the Bride at Word On The Street at Queen’s Park. It was a bit disappointing – I thought that there would be better deals. I did however pick up a subscription to Toronto Life Magazine and Richard Wright’s book Adultery. That goes on the pile... We followed up our tour through the park with dinner at my new favorite restaurant, the Volo Café. Yummy, yummy beer, I must say. I’m really looking forward to their Cask Days in October.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

3 Reasons To Love Hockey

So last night I went to my very first NHL gamethe Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Montreal Canadiens. I somehow sweet-talked my boss into coughing up the corporate seats for this pre-season game (I’ll never get the seats during the season – customers have a bit more sway) and took a few of my favorite people. After quite a wildly busy week (3-day trade show out of town, my laptop hard drive crashed and died and an all-round busy work week), a night out with the boys at a hockey game was just the fix. Now, I don’t think that hockey is going to take the place of baseball, but the sport does have a few things going for it:

  • Hot men wearing business suits (girl kryptonite)
  • Bigger beer than the Skydome (ahem, Rogers Center – that’s another thing – the damn place doesn’t change names…)
  • It is completely acceptable to scream at the players.

Baseball is still my number one, but hockey is definitely more fun than basketball. Go Leafs!!

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Programme: Masters
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Country : Belgium/France
Year : 2005
Language : French
Time: 100 minutes
Production Company: Les Films du Fleuve/Archipel 35/RTBF/Scope Invest/ARTE France Cinéma
Executive Producer: Olivier Bronckart
Producer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd
Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cinematography: Alain Marcoen
Editor: Marie-Hélène Dozo
Production Designer: Igor Gabriel
Sound: Jean-Pierre Duret, Benoit de Clerck, Thomas Gauder
Principal Cast: Jérémie Renier, Déborah François, Jérémie Segard, Fabrizio Rongione, Olivier Gourmet

The inspiration for L'Enfant - which received the Palme d'Or at this year's Festival de Cannes - was a young mother frantically pushing a pram. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne saw the woman and her baby day after day during the shooting of Le Fils, their previous film. Her recurring appearance and aimless manner made them wonder, Where was the child's father?

L'Enfant proceeds from this question. It begins as wispy, eighteen-year-old Sonia (Déborah François) looks for Bruno (Jérémie Renier), the father of her newborn son. When she finds him, he scarcely acknowledges their child, though he is coyly happy to see Sonia. Rakish and cynical, the twenty-year-old Bruno works hard to avoid a conventional job; theft and petty crime are more his style. Perpetually cash-strapped - Bruno has even sublet their apartment during Sonia's hospital stay - the couple is forced onto an unpromising road to parenthood by way of a homeless shelter.

L'Enfant's setting is the Belgian town of Seraing, the bleak industrial wasteland that is a hallmark of the Dardennes' films. Still, the film luxuriates in intimately observed gestures and fiercely honest performances that shine against this backdrop of undernourished hopes. Festival audiences will remember Renier from 1996's La Promesse, which L'Enfant somewhat wistfully evokes. In La Promesse, he played Igor, a teen who makes the difficult decision to disobey his criminal father, thereby embracing both morality and maturity. L'Enfant's Bruno is Igor's inverse: he may think his choices are the best or only ones, but they are born from delusions of maturity and are unconscionably self-serving. When he eventually takes an interest in his son, it is to decide to sell him into adoption as a bitter quick fix to financial straits.

Bruno, we realize, is the eponymous child of this tale, and it is the consequences that his decisions wreak on his tiny, fragile family and on his future that make the unfolding of L'Enfant so achingly beautiful.

What a great way to end the festival… this was also a fantastic film. I felt somewhat skeptical going into the film; oddly enough I have lower expectations of films that win great awards – don’t want to be disappointed, I guess. Anyhow, never have I seen a character transform quite like this in a film. You don’t get any more burned out than Bruno, who dispassionately sells his newborn child to a shifty “adoption” person and commits petty crimes for a living (even turning down a lucrative job offer because only losers hold real jobs). The film definitely lived up to the hype of a major award and was heartfelt without being weepy or sermonizing.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

The End Is Near

Only Saturday’s film left to review after this – despite my waning interest in sitting in a movie theatre come Friday afternoon, I saw three incredible films over the weekend. All three were character films (but of course), however L’Enfant, which I saw on Saturday was somewhat more plot intensive. Following are my reviews of Transamerica with Felicity Huffman and La vie avec mon pere with Raymond Bouchard of the film La grande seduction (Seducing Dr. Lewis).

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Programm: Contemporary World Cinema
Director: Duncan Tucker
Country: USA
Year: 2005
Language: English
Time: 100 minutes
Production Company: Belladonna Productions
Executive Producer: William H. Macy
Producer: Linda Moran, Rene Bastian, Sebastian Dungan
Screenplay: Duncan Tucker
Cinematography: Stephen Kazmierski
Editor: Pam Wise
Production Designer: Mark White
Sound: Griffin Richardson, Lou Bertini
Music: David Mansfield
Principal Cast: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Fionnula Flanagan, Elizabeth Peña, Graham Greene

Living in Los Angeles, our transsexual heroine Bree (Felicity Huffman) is a week away from the procedure that will make her a woman at last. Then she gets a phone call from New York. A young man jailed for turning tricks has named Bree as his father: does she want to come and bail him out? Bree realizes that Toby (Kevin Zegers) must be the result of a barely recalled episode of early sexual experimentation. When her therapist (Elizabeth Peña) threatens to withhold the signature approving surgery unless she makes peace with the past, Bree takes the first flight to Manhattan.

Bree doesn’t count on feeling the tug of parental responsibility, but when Toby mistakes her for a kind-hearted church worker, she can’t bring herself to tell him the truth. He wants to go to California to start over; she plans to ditch him with his stepfather in Kentucky. At cross purposes, this unlikely pair sets out on what will prove to be a rollicking road trip across America.

What ensues is a compressed course in parenthood for Bree, a lesson in trust for Toby and a trunk-load of fun for the viewer. The charming, offbeat, often wry humour in the film stems from the heroic efforts of each to keep their secrets from the other, and their facades become increasingly more difficult to maintain as they encounter a hippie hitchhiker, an affable rancher (Graham Greene) and, in a moment of desperation, Bree’s frenetic parents in Arizona. Nothing, absolutely nothing, goes as planned on this trip.

Huffman has created an extraordinary character in Bree, about as far from her lipstick-lined suburbanite of “Desperate Housewives” as one could possible imagine. She is well-matched by lanky Zegers as Toby, whose belligerent insouciance masks a scared, damaged boy. Finding the right balance between the obvious farce and melodrama inherent in this situation is a challenge; director Duncan Tucker perfectly modulates the film’s tone, proving himself to be a subtle and respectful chronicler of these unusual, lovable and all-too-human characters.

Felicity Huffman is sooooo pretty! I only said that about a dozen times during the screening… Kevin Zegers wasn’t so bad either (dead to me – Greektown’s type, not mine). All non-sexual crushes aside, this was a fantastic film. The film was very well written AND acted with both Huffman and Zegers absolutely convincing in their roles. More importantly, the combo of great writing and acting made for a really touching story that I felt invested in throughout.

The film itself deals with transexuality, prostitution, drug abuse, sexual abuse and just about anything else you can think of, and all of these things are extremely remote from my life experience, and yet I felt close to the story because the film did such a wonderful job of inviting you in and showing you the intimate details and struggles of their lives. This is a must-see and well worth risking my neck on the drive from Menno-town on Friday afternoon in blinding rain.

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La Vie avec mon pere (Life With My Father)

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema
Director: Sebastien Rose
Country: Canada
Year: 2005
Language: French
Time: 110 minutes
Production Company: Max Films
Executive Producer: Eric Brach
Producer: Roger Frappier, Luc Vandal
Screenplay: Sébastien Rose, Stéfanie Lasnier
Cinematography: Nicolas Bolduc
Editor: Dominique Fortin
Production Designer: Serge Bureau
Sound: François Senneville, Marcel Pothier, Michel Descombes, Réjean Juteau
Music: Pierre Desrochers, Nathalie Boileau
Principal Cast: Raymond Bouchard, Paul Ahmarani, David La Haye, Hélène Florent

This drama about two brothers and their errant father is a bittersweet tale of reconciliation that shows it is never too late to make peace with the past. Sébastien Rose’s sophomore film after the award-winning Comment ma mère accoucha de moi durant sa ménopause adeptly straddles the divide between comedy and tragedy. It also builds on strong performances from his entire cast, notably an exemplary Raymond Bouchard as the bohemian, larger-than-life patriarch who suddenly reappears in the lives of his two grown sons.

The pair are polar opposites: Paul (Paul Ahmarani) is a thirty-something writer who cannot seem to succeed and is suffering from a bad case of writer’s block, while Patrick (David La Haye) is a hard-charging business executive who runs a pharmaceutical company. Slick Patrick luxuriates in a sleek, modern home with his wife and children, while Paul lives with his girlfriend in the decrepit family home, where rooms are stacked with junk, things don’t work and dust covers every surface. When their father, François, a renowned writer, suddenly shows up, Paul is forced to take him in. François has seen better days: he is a physically and financially broken man, but he takes no prisoners and it is not long before he casts his spell over all who come his way. When Patrick is ousted by his long-suffering wife and finds himself on his brother’s doorstep, the three men are reunited and forced to come to terms with each other.

Rose keeps his film moving along briskly with a number of finely constructed comic set-pieces, all played with relish and verve. When François moves in, Christmas acquires a certain glow, dull parties take unexpected turns and even his bout of impotence produces comical results. But despite the amusing hijinks of La Vie avec mon père, there is a darker thread running throughout: the old lion is wrestling with his mortality, a transition Rose depicts with fine sensitivity. Absent fathers were commonplace in the Quebec cinema of the sixties and seventies; nowadays they once again seem to be everywhere, as a younger generation struggles with their legacies.

Another exceptional film. Very similar to Denis Arcand’s Les Invasions Barbares (The Barbarian Invasion) in terms of the relationship between father and son. During the Q & A, someone made mention of the similarity and Rose’s comments were simply that within Québec at the moment, there is a crisis in the family identity and he and Arcand each address the issue within the framework of their films. Hmmm…

Anyhow, all similarities aside, La Vie Avec Mon Père is less overtly political than Arcand’s film was – there are no allusions to the domination / invasion of English-speaking North America and Rose’s film does not touch on the decaying health care system in any detail. Rather, the film is exclusively about the relationship between the two men and their father and the journey that all three take during the father’s illness. This was an extremely touching film and showed the light and dark side of terminal illness (although not nearly as light as One Last Thing, earlier in the week). Lighting and symbolism are particularly important in the film, with light and white and water representative of the impeding death. I actually chose this film for the simple reason that Raymond Bouchard of La grande seduction (Seducing Dr. Lewis) was in it and I was absolutely rewarded for my choice. And yes dammit, I cried AGAIN. This really is a must see.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

50 Ways Of Saying Fabulous

Programme: Visions
Director: Stewart Main
Country: New Zealand
Year: 2005
Language: English
Time: 90 minutes
Production Company: MF Films
Producer: Michele Fantl
Screenplay: Stewart Main, based on the novel by Graeme Aitken
Cinematography: Simon Raby
Editor: Peter Roberts
Production Designer: Ken Turner
Sound: Dick Reade
Music: Peter Scholes
Principal Cast: Andrew Paterson, Harriet Beattie, Jay Collins, Michael Dorman, Georgia McNeil, Rima Te Wiata

Billy (Andrew Paterson) is a chubby, girlish boy who would rather daydream about being Lana, the heroine of his favourite TV show, "Adventures in Space," than play rugby. His best friend - and complete opposite - is his cousin Lou (Harriet Beattie), who would rather be Brad, the show's rugged hero. Lou can't wait until the day when she can cut off her long hair - and Billy can't wait either: Lou's promised to give it to him, so he'll have a real ponytail, instead of having to pin a cow's tail inside his jaunty hat.

Such innocent ignorance is bliss, of course, but it doesn't last long. Billy and Lou become acutely aware that society at large frowns sternly upon messing around with gender roles, and it isn't long before Billy is labelled a "poofter." Naturally, none of the kids knows what a poofter is, though the meanest bully notes they are easy to identify: "They have fifty ways of saying 'fabulous.'" Billy's Aunt Evey (Rima Te Wiata) explains that the term describes "life's sensitive, artistic types - people who prefer culture to cows."

Euphemistic definitions aside, Billy is indeed engaging in furtive masturbatory encounters with Roy (Jay Collins), the very odd new boy in town, and when Billy falls head over heels for a hunky farmhand (Michael Dorman) - and so does Lou - things get rather complicated and even dark. For while much of the film is whimsical, it doesn't forget that childhood friendships can be rocked by raging torrents of adolescent hormones that arouse meanness, betrayal and the rawest jealousy.

The film's fluid camera movements - particularly its sudden snap zooms - make its mid-seventies setting all the more palpable, while its almost happy-go-lucky score - strangely reminiscent of Lassie - emphasizes in counterpoint the lackadaisical way we wander into adulthood, only to discover it is no place to be without our wits.

Director Stewart Main exhibits a gift for directing young actors and each of their performances is pitch-perfect, capturing all the gangliness of early adolescence. Against a remote, backwoods landscape, these charming, offbeat characters suffer remarkably familiar growing pains.

This was not a fabulous movie and I blame myself for having my expectations too high. I guess I was expecting more comedy and less angst. I’m not sold on the ending either… poor Roy, the outcast kid. He’s just screwed through the whole movie. While I was relatively sold on the Lou/Billy relationship, I guess I just have “what could have been” thoughts on the film. I could write a bunch about what elements were great and worked, but ultimately since I’m not recommending it – why bother. Okay, how about this? The scenery was great – shot in New Zealand. When the highlight of the movie is when the guy next to Greektown says “Oh SNAP” during a critical scene and sends us into paroxysm of laughter… yeah. And… I’m done.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Oh thank God, a night to myself...

Last night was a double-header – April Snow and Gronholm Method – both at the Paramount and both to sell-out crowds. That was a lot of movie for one night! Each film was intense in its own way, but completely different and neither had any “red carpet” fanfare. It was nice, actually – after the weeks of visitors and having people around day and night – to actually be by myself all night at the movies. I brought a book and my iPod and just hung out at the Paramount. The reviews follow for both films.

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April Snow (Wae Chul)

Programme: Special Presentations
Directore: Hur Jin-ho
Country: South Korea
Year: 2005
Language: Korean
Time: 105 minutes
Production Company: Blue Storm Co., Ltd.
Executive Producer: Kim Dong-joo, Bae Yong-kook
Producer: Kang Bong-rae
Screenplay: Shin Joon-ho, Lee Won-sik, Seo You-min, Lee il, Hur Jin-ho
Cinematography: Lee Mo-gae
Editor: Lee Eun-soo
Production Designer: Park Sang-hun
Sound: Lee Byung-ha
Music: Cho Sung-woo
Principal Cast: Bae Yong-joon, Son Ye-jin, Lim Sang-hyo, Chun Kook-huan

South Korean cinema is on fire. One of its many anticipated films this year is April Snow, a lyrical love story entwining two tormented hearts broken by a terrible shock.

As unexpected as a snowstorm in summer, the news of a car accident tears In-su (Bae Yong-joon) away from his lighting gig at a Seoul rap concert and throws him into the unfamiliar environs of a nightmare: a hospital hallway in a quiet, unknown seaside town. While the doctors in the operating room try to save his wife’s life, the knife of doubt and jealousy slices through his soul with equal surgical precision. Sitting next to In-su in the waiting room is the quiet Seoyoung (Son Ye-jin), the wife of the man who almost died in the same car in which In-su’s wife was riding.

Seo-young and In-su’s worst fears are soon confirmed through explicit mobile phone messages and the scant articles they are asked to identify at the scene of the accident: a digital camera, lipstick, a condom. Their spouses were lovers. Hate, resentment and searing jealousy mingle with the fear of confronting death and grief, and with an even more terrifying, creeping desire: the wish that the accident had been a fatal one. And then, the two betrayed spouses begin to feel something new and romantic towards one another.

Cold, antiseptic atmospheres are bathed in a wintry light that seems to shine from inside the battered protagonists’ emotional cores. Hur Jin-ho’s airy and elegant directorial touch slides over the gestures of everyday life and empties them of their accepted meaning, creating a haunting limbo where the performances of Son Ye-jin and top Korean star Bae Yong-joon glow with deep psychological impact. An intimate narrative accompanies this subtle dance of passions. Like mirrored reflections on the two protagonists’ new intimacy we see rendered - with unusual simplicity - the complexity of heartbreak.

I LOVE South Korean cinema. Last year’s 3 Iron was my festival favorite and though not quite in the same league as that film, April Snow was great. Directore Hur Jin-ho, on stage to introduce his film, asked us to "bear with him as he hoped the character-centric story wasn’t too boring." No worries… I’ve always been a fan of character-driven stories over plot-heavy, special effects action-type movies. Frankly, I find stories about people very interesting. Unlike a lot of north American (okay, American) “character films” that use dialogue as the main driver of a film, April Snow (typical, I’ve found of South Korean film) uses silence and gestures to convey the same message. What I mean is that the actors actually act. How novel. The film is deliberate, every word is significant and every gesture laden with emotion. For a film in which not very much happened and very little was said – I came away with a lot. I felt invested in the story and in each of the characters and found myself rooting for them in the end. A really beautiful film and if you enjoy this type of thing, it’s a MUST SEE.

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The Grönholm Method (El Método Grönholm)

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema
Director: Marcelo Piñeyro
Country: Spain/Argentina/Italy
Year: 2005
Language: Spanish
Time: 115 minutes
Production Company: Alquimia Cinema/Tornasol Films/Arena Films/Cattleya
Executive Producer: Ricardo García Arrojo
Producer: Francisco Ramos, Gerardo Herrero
Screenplay: Mateo Gil, Marcelo Piñeyro, based on the play by Jordi Galcerán Ferrer
Cinematography: Alfredo Mayo
Editor: Ivan Aledo
Production Designer: Verónica Toledo
Sound: Eduardo Esquide, Polo Aledo
Music: Frédéric Bégin, Phil Electric
Principal Cast: Eduardo Noriega, Najwa Nimri, Eduard Fernández, Pablo Echarri, Adriana Ozores, Ernesto Alterio

Marcelo Piñeyro’s The Grönholm Method is an unexpected departure from the themes of his previous work. Piñeyro’s last two films dealt with society’s underdogs - homosexual bank robbers in Burnt Money and a family on the run from Argentina’s most recent military dictatorship in Kamchatka. In his new film, which is loosely based on a very successful play by Jordi Galcerán Ferrer, Piñeyro explores the dark inner workings of the corporate world.

While the streets of Madrid are filled with anti-globalization demonstrators, candidates are assembled to be put through the final selection process for a single high-level position at a multinational corporation. From the outset, there is a palpably tense, competitive atmosphere among the group. Feelings of distrust increase when they realize they are aspiring for the same position, and that the Grönholm Method (a human resources strategy supposedly imported from the United States) is being used to assess their respective merits. They find themselves pitted against one another in a contest that elicits fear, suspicion, paranoia and betrayal. The humiliation these people are willing to endure or inflict on others for the sake of the job is chilling to witness.

Piñeyro works with an incredible ensemble cast of actors to evoke this claustrophobic rivalry. Young, attractive executives Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Nieves (Najwa Nimri) are cold, calculating and unscrupulous. Fernando (Eduard Fernández) and Ana (Adriana Ozores) represent the older generation, insecure about their age and lack of cutting-edge skills. Enrique (Ernesto Alterio), meanwhile, is the typical kiss-ass, continually praising the human resources department’s cryptic techniques.

The Grönholm Method verges on thriller territory by keeping the audience in suspense. How far are the applicants willing to go, and what indignities are they willing to suffer? What new psychological tricks will their would-be employers come up with to push them to their limits? Piñeyro’s timely film shows how this type of “natural” selection truly dehumanizes us in the ceaseless race to get ahead.

Yowzah, I hope no one in my company gets their hands on this movie – I predict a whole new recruiting method if they do… Another character film (sensing a theme??), I wouldn’t characterize this as a thriller by any means, but it was enthralling to watch as these people enact a “Survivor-type” scenario where it isn’t backstabbing for the most part – it’s stabbing your competition right in the gut while you stare them down. It was a tremendous script with great acting that ensured that the most painful scenes felt honest and, well, painful but not overacted or contrived. It was manipulation and scheming at it’s very best and I’m fascinated that I was able to predict with such accuracy what Nieves, one of the main characters (a bit older than me, but otherwise a blown-out-of-proportion version of me – minus the bathroom scene) would do in each situation.

The reason I chose this film was because I was interested in seeing a movie about the corporate world - the world that I inhabit each workday. I was surprised at how easily I could identify with the characters (although I suspect I’d get voted off pretty quickly). Interesting, but a little frightening too… I’m very glad that I chose this film.

Posted by Brown Eyed Girl :: 12:56 PM :: 1 Comments:

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

TIFF - Bam Bam and Celeste

Program: Discovery
Director: Lorene Machado
Country: USA
Year: 2005
Language: English
Time: 85 minutes
Production Company: SALTY Features/Cho Taussig Productions/Nuit Blanche Productions
Executive Producer: Michael Hakan, Julie Huntsinger
Producer: Eva Kolodner, Yael Melamede, Karen Taussig, Margaret Cho
Screenplay: Margaret Cho
Cinematography: Matthew Clark
Editor: Philip Harrison
Production Designer: John Chichester
Sound: Jerry Ross, George Berndt
Music: Pat Irwin
Principal Cast: Margaret Cho, Bruce Daniels, Alan Cumming, John Cho, Elaine Hendrix, Jane Lynch

Uproarious comic genius Margaret Cho is a revolutionary figure in American entertainment. Her self-proclaimed fag-hag status and her gently confrontational, self-mocking racial humour have changed the language of stand-up - not least regarding those comedy club put-down staples, gays and Asians - forever. And she has hand-delivered this seismic shift wrapped in an overall message of personal liberation and unironic self-respect that makes her a major force for good in this world.

In Bam Bam and Celeste, Cho gets to invest everything that makes her great in a madcap road movie that features all of her favourite targets and loves: freaky sex, growing up a loser, TV in every form and, of course, her glorious mother, full of kooky wisdom and breathtaking malapropisms that leave you laughing for days.

Cho is Celeste, an overweight, Korean, former goth punk, while her longtime friend and collaborator Bruce Daniels plays Bam Bam, a hyper-queeny, African-American stylist. They are both thirty-three years old and stuck in a dreary Midwestern city where they have been teased and beaten up since high school. It seems like the only person who loves them is Mommy (Cho, of course), Celeste’s mother, known for her big sweaters and bizarre advice.

Salvation for the pair comes in the form of a reality TV make-over show looking for a challenge. Their trip to New York to volunteer themselves is fraught with peril - they are saved from thugs by, ahem, a rugged outdoorswoman ( Jane Lynch from Christopher Guest’s Best in Show) and insulted by a racist gas station attendant. Finally, with much encouragement from the show’s precious booking assistant (Alan Cumming), they arrive in New York. Fate - in the form of a showdown at the beauty salon owned by their high school nemeses - tries to rip them apart just before their big triumph, but Mommy saves the day in the nick of time.

Having this much fun almost makes you feel guilty, except that Cho and company set such a gloriously eccentric example, you can’t help but want to join them on this uplifting and sidesplitting journey.

Ah, not sidesplitting. It was funny and as a fag hag myself, I definitely got the inside jokes, but it was a little over the top and not always delivering the expected laughs. I appreciate the fact that she’s taking small situations and blowing them widely out of proportion in order to make her points and that this is largely because the points she’s trying to get across are typically lost or non-existent in the current cultural landscape – things like gay relationships, racism in everyday life, the face of the Asian person in America. Perhaps because I don’t belong to any of those demographics, I didn’t fall in love with the story as much as someone who felt invested in those storylines.

Overall, not a bad film and likely as Greektown suggested, destined to be a cult classic.

Posted by Brown Eyed Girl :: 12:55 PM :: 1 Comments:

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

That crusty white stuff looks like... No, it couldn't be...

So I guess I’ll write about Elizabethtown tomorrow because last night was too good not to write about today. Greektown and I caught One Last Thing last night at the Varsity and it is the storybook festival story… if you take into account that Greektown and (especially) I are a bit mental AND shifty-crafty.

So we’re in the queue, waiting to get into the theatre and we’re pretty well situated given that I showed up quite early, thinking that the film started at 9 instead of 930. For once, a good “oops.” Anyhow, Greektown has perfected the art of sitting next to the “reserved” section and therefore elbow-to-elbow with the stars and this evening was no exception. Let me cut to the chase… we were sitting two rows ahead of the star – 16 (?) year old Michael Angarano and when he walked in, I gave him the shoulder. GAVE him the shoulder as in, when I shouldered him, I actually said “shoulder.” Greektown nearly killed herself laughing. Things pretty much went downhill from there… Michael’s pals (co-stars) winked at me the rest of the night, Cynthia Nixon sat behind us and a few seats over as did Gina Gershon. Ethan Hawk sat at the end of the aisle two back (quite far off), BUT (wait for it… wait for it…) Wyclef Jean sat three seats over from Greektown in our aisle. Yes. Wyclef Jean. Sat. Next. To. Us. Oh and after the film, when the lights came up and they were getting ready for the Q&A, Greektown and I were in a heated discussion (probably about whether the woman sitting near Cynthia is her lovah) and something, something, I said to her “Don’t get all up in my grill” – yes, that’s right with Wyclef Jean three seats over. Oh, and also - I might have giggled kind of hysterically when Wyclef was first in the film... ah, he's sitting right next to us. Wyclef Jean. Is. Sitting. Next. To. Us.

So really fantastic celeb stalking night. But wait, there’s more… after the film we walked out and who was standing outside but Ethan Hawk. So naturally, I went over to meet him. Yeah, I might have scared him a bit. I put my hand on his arm and when he turned around I launched into one of my normal “sidebar” type comments “I feel like I’m manhandling you, or woman handling, as the case may be… so, mind if I get a picture with you?” Perhaps I scared him a little or maybe Ethan is just not one of the nice guys – he mumbled something about not wanting to take pictures because if he did, he’d be there all night. Personally, I think he didn’t want to do pictures because he had a suspicious crusty white spot on the front of his suit. Ick. I think that I looked as unimpressed as I felt because he did however say, “But I do want to meet you. Hi, I’m Ethan” and shook my hand. Oh no j'ou di'int!! Meh, Ethan Hawke, Meh!

I did however snap a pick with Michael, whom as you’ll recall, I shouldered earlier in the evening. He was most obliging. But perhaps just a bit too young for me

Following is the review.

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TIFF - One Last Thing...

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema
Director: Alex Styermark
Country: USA
Year: 2005
Language: English
Time: 93 minutes
Production Company: HDNet Films LLC/Head Quarters
Executive Producer: Mark Cuban, Todd Wagner
Producer: Susan A. Stover, Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente
Screenplay: Barry Stringfellow
Cinematography: Christopher Norr
Editor: Michael Berenbaum
Production Designer: Stephen Beatrice
Sound: Ira Spiegal, Marlena Grzaslewicz
Music: Anton Sanko
Principal Cast: Cynthia Nixon, Michael Angarano, Sunny Mabrey, Nelust Wyclef Jean, Matt Bush, Gideon Glick, Johnny Messner, Gina Gershon

Dylan (Michael Angarano) is a sixteen-year-old boy in the late stages of terminal cancer. He still looks well enough, has a caustic wit and delights in sharing his medical marijuana with Slap (Gideon Glick) and Ricky (Matt Bush), his hilarious best friends. His widowed, shell-shocked mother (Cynthia Nixon of “Sex in the City” fame) wants his last months to be wonderful, but also wants to be a responsible mother. The shadow of Dylan’s dead father (Ethan Hawke) occupies his dreams and thoughts of what lies ahead.

Successful black comedies walk a peculiar tightrope. Their humour springs from dark and disturbing premises, yet a lightness of step is necessary to keep things spry and funny. A textbook example of how to sustain this fine balance is One Last Thing…, the second feature by impressive American director Alex Steyermark, following his 2003 hit Prey for Rock & Roll.

When Dylan gets a chance to enjoy the generosity of an organization much like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he lies and declares he wants to go fishing with NFL quarterback Jason O’Malley ( Johnny Messner). Once onstage, however, he reveals his true last wish: a weekend alone with supermodel of the moment Nikki Slater (Sunny Mabrey). Meanwhile Nikki, a messed-up, drunken self-destruction machine, desperately needs a boost of publicity after pushing another model offstage at the latest fashion show. Her agent (a delicious Gina Gershon) gives her an ultimatum and books her appearance, setting the stage for one of this year’s most unlikely courtships.

Alternately laugh-out-loud funny and tearfully poignant, Barry Stringfellow’s script is pitch-perfect and Steyermark shows how a talented director of actors elicits subtle, expertly modulated performances. Angarano, a familiar face from his strong supporting roles in Almost Famous and Seabiscuit, underplays to great effect; his comedic timing is impeccable, his dramatic moments credible and affecting. Nixon, faced with a thankless, challenging role, is extraordinary, conveying great strength in a woman battered by circumstance.

One Last Thing… is another sure sign that, after some difficult years, American independent cinema is finding a confident, engaging voice once again.

After the film I kept thinking “how did they know that people would laugh at this scene?" The kid is DYING! I actually loved this film. I laughed and I cried – and the girl next to me sobbed (not Greektown). Of course the theme of facing death, letting go of someone that you love and spirituality in the face of death all resonated with me – quelle surprise.

One of the lines in the movie really resonated with me… the kid was asking his doctor why he believed in an afterlife when he (the kid) felt it was pointless and didn’t exist. The doctor responded: “it can’t hurt” – what a great line! (Sidebar: I really liked the fact that they were not particularly ascribing to one kind of religion, rather taking elements and making references to various religions – that really appeals to me more so than a straight-up full press of any one kind. The exploration of “what comes after” was a fascinating side-story) Cynthia Nixon did a fantastic job as the mother trying to balance her reaction to the impeding death of her son and his wish to have certain life experiences before he dies. Sunny Mabry, the model Niki, was also great as the train-wreck girl facing her own demons. Ultimately however, it was the relationship between the three boys and Micheal’s own performance that carried this film. The jump from tears to laughter (and back and back) was as surprising as it was enjoyable. It reminded me a lot of Saint Ralph from last year in terms of great performances from a young actor.

Oh yeah, and I want to marry the football player. Just sayin’.

Posted by Brown Eyed Girl :: 1:11 PM :: 0 Comments:

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Perpetual Motion

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema
Director: NIng Ying
Country: China
Year: 2005
Language: Mandarin
Time: 90 minutes
Production Company: Beijing Happy Village Ltd.
Executive Producer: Francesco Cosentino
Producer: Ning Ying
Screenplay: Ning Ying, Liu Sola, Hung Huang
Cinematography: Andrea Carazzuti, Ning Ying
Editor: Ning Ying
Production Designer: Yang Xiaoping
Sound: Han Bing
Music: Liu Sola
Principal Cast: Hung Huang, Liu Sola, Li Qinqin, Ping Yanni, Zhang Hanzhi

Film Description: Bold and articulate, Ning Ying’s latest film, Perpetual Motion, is destined to shake audiences out of their preconceived ideas of women’s roles in China. It is a fascinating, volatile mixture of repressed desires, past traumas and close proximity to political power that roils within the contemporary Mainland’s high society. Suffused with cutting-edge black humour and creeping eeriness, this story of four friends unfolds within the borders of a splendid Beijing courtyard house in the space of one long, seminal night on the eve of the Chinese New Year.

Earlier the same day, Niuniu (Hung Huang) has discovered both her husband’s absence and a love email addressed to him, clearly written by somebody she knows very well. Determined to spend the festivities in good company as well as to unveil this double betrayal, Niuniu gathers her three best friends, Lala (Liu Sola), Qinqin (Li Qinqin) and Madame Ye (Ping Yanni).

As the evening progresses through customary Spring Festival activities such as playing mah-jong, eating a banquet of delicacies and watching television, Niuniu’s vindictive plan unfolds as she follows the lines of a conversation that leads the protagonists to disclose the secrets of their hearts.

Apart from Li, who is a well-known actress, the women interpreting the film’s characters make their acting debuts here, but they are also some of the most prominent and influential female figures in China. Hung, the daughter of former senior diplomat and Mao’s English interpreter Ms. Zhang Hanzi (who herself appears in the film as the old house maid), is a celebrity in the Chinese media and publishing world, while Liu is an acclaimed novelist as well as a famous musician and the composer of Perpetual Motion’s mesmerizing score.

Blending fiction and reality in a bravely authentic narrative, Ning gives voice to the audacious maturity of the “other half of the sky.” Assertive and worldly, her untamed heroines loudly speak the language of their sexuality and ride their wealth of revolutionary memories. Destined to excite and perturb, Perpetual Motion is a milestone for women in the new Chinese cinema.

This was one of the films I most looked forward to, because of my interest in women’s issues. I was somewhat disappointed with the film itself – there were two scenes that I didn’t quite get while watching – the chicken kill scene and the scene where the women are eating the chicken claws (yuck). The film seemed too simplistic – or had too many subtleties ingrained in Chinese culture that I just wasn’t getting. I wasn’t sure of which until the Q & A with Ning herself after the screening.

It turns out that a lot of her funding came from the government – so not only was she producing this film in China, under the most restrictive conditions, but having to conform to government funding guidelines as well. The reasoning behind the casting of three non-actresses is fascinating. The “Hollywood” pressures of having younger, attractive women star in films also exists in China; to circumvent this issue, Ms. Ning, justified her funding and simultaneously maintained the integrity of characters in pre-menopause by casting women who were non-actresses, but each a “celebrity” of sorts in China, some for political reasons, mostly for their involvement in the arts… There is a significant blending of art and reality in this film. Like their characters in the film, several of the women’s fathers have been incarcerated for 7 and 8 years, and most (all) women spent time abroad in real life as well as in their characters.

Ms. Ning’s determination to present a film with unique and strong women personalities is further seen not only in the plot and character development, but also in several of the scenes. The most telling is the chicken claw scene, where the women feast at length on chicken claws. The scene was shot with many close-ups and had very clear audio, made more clear by the absence of music and sound during the entire scene. What to me appeared during the screening to be a rather over-lengthy and overdone scene, turned out to be in the Ning’s words, her version of a sex scene. Hmm…

Overall, the movie itself was challenging to watch. At no point did I ever feel particularly invested in any of the characters, which is not really what I’m looking for in a character film… the Q&A however, really added to my understanding of the film and ultimately made this an enjoyable festival experience.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Just when you want to be crabby...

So I was a little off this morning – it’s been a crazy week – lots of good and some quite bad news… but anyway, I think the bad news was getting me down this morning. So I’m in the car, headed to work and passing one film crew after another and wishing that I could be out there doing the celebrity-stalking thing. But no, I’m on my way to work instead. Anyhow, I’m a bit bummed and start stabbing away at my radio presets, trying to find a song to lift my spirits. This is what I got in a row: (although obviously not on the same station…)

YMCA – the Village People
Ya Gotta Be – Des’ree
Hotstepper (don’t have a clue who sings this but it’s fun to sing when Vermont and I are wandering around Bloor West)
Never Going To Fall In Love – Tom Jones

Now that’s a decent road mix. How can I not be smiling?

So dinner last night with my bother was super fun – we headed to the Irish Embassy and then did some Red Carpet stalking at the Ryerson Theatre, where we saw Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. Very fun. Yes kids, the festival has officially started. I think I’m officially on the upswing…

And this bit of news about the

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Starts TODAY!

So last week, Greektown and I sat down with the TIFF book and a bottle of wine (and Swiss Chalet AND chocolate cake) and pored over the schedule and movie descriptions. My selection process is very complicated. First, I like to pick films that I think I’ll actually get – if I chose all galas, I’d not likely get many picks and have to wait in the LONG lineups to exchange coupons for whatever films were left. Second, I wanted a few Canadian films, but not too many, because I can catch the best of them next spring at the TIFF Top Ten Canadian Films mini-festival. Third – avoid in most cases, any film that is likely to come out in theatre in the next few months. Fourth – see a few films that I might never have the chance to see again, including foreign films that might not get distributed/shown in Canada again.

So with all that in mind, and taking into account that I have houseguests from today through Tuesday of next week – I made my picks. I narrowed my picks down to about 30 films, based on interest. Then, I attempted to schedule them all in. Then I chose 10 as my first choice picks and 10 as my second choices. Most of the galas and more mainstream films were my second choices.

On Sunday, I received an email detailing my picks and times. I got an incredible 9/10 first choices!! That NEVER happens. The way the picks are handled is that everyone who buys a pass, 50 coupons, 30 coupons or 10 coupons makes their picks, drops them off and they’re placed in boxes. The boxes are numbered from 1-40. Then they randomly draw a number from 1-40 and whatever number is drawn, those people get their first choices. Then the next number in order and so on. So if the first box drawn is #7, then it completely sucks to be in box 6, ‘cause you’re last. Anyhow, this was the best EVER!

And now, for curiosity’s sake and so you know what I’ll be writing about over the next week and a bit – my picks…

Perpetual Motion
Elizabethtown (the only big-name movie I chose)
One Last Thing…
Bam Bam and Celeste
April Snow
Gronholm Method
50 Ways of Saying Fabulous
La Vie Avec Mon Père

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

You love WHO??

So I flew my mother in from the East Coast on Saturday and we hung out over the long weekend until today, when she flew home. The reason for her visit? Well, other than seeing me in my natural habitat and some mother-daughter bonding, the main reason for her visit was the Elton John (link includes set list!!) show last night at the ACC (Air Canada Center). So tickets were $125 a pop for our corporate seats (love the corporate seats – how do people do anything without them??!) and though I was looking forward to the show, it was more about my mother seeing him than me. But if you read my site, you already knew that…

So there we were, 8 PM at the ACC, waiting for the big guy to take the stage… a few minutes past 8 – gotta say, very UN-diva behavior – he came out and for the next two hours and forty-five minutes, it was non-stop music. That’s right – 2 hours and 45 minutes. By the end of it, I was getting tired FOR him… I could only think of one song that he didn’t play – the Lion King song – Can You Feel The Love… Otherwise, I spent the entire night (post-the Peachtree set of 8 rather unknown songs ) saying “Oh I LOVE this song!” I kept forgetting how many great songs he has…

But it wasn’t just the trip through memory lane that I enjoyed – his voice was amazing. He sat at that piano all night and pounded away – the sound was great, the set list amazing and on the whole, probably one of the best concerts I’ve seen – EVER. Here is a guy who hasn’t had a huge song in a really long time, has been around since before I was born – and still comes out and plays with more heart than most bands today that are trying to break into the business. It really, really puts to shame bands like the Killers who show up, play a 1/3 hour set at the Kool Haus (last November – still bitter) with no more passion than I have for washing the dishes. If only all musicians touring today could be more like Elton John… (or the Arcade Fire, or K-OS…)

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It's all a big joke?

Ha, ha, ha… I’m afraid of commitment. How many times have I said that? So why was I devastated when last week I found an article that profiles the characteristics of the Commitment-phobe?

It was a little too “in your face” when I read that the commitment-phobe chooses unavailable people to date. Ouch. I’m a (bit of a) mixed-messager. It’s how I keep things at a certain level… getting too close for comfort? How about I become a wall for a while? And the worst realization of all… I’m an active-phobic. Yes, I gasp for air at the thought of marriage. Yes, I’d say there are definitely some fears involved – mainly failure and perfection… The upside is that I don’t think I’m looking for a perfect person or have any fantasies about the perfect marriage. I’m more in the market for someone as flawed as myself. Ooops, I guess that takes me back to unavailable again. Damn this tricky little phobia.

So the problematic thing about this article is that there doesn’t seem to be any advice for us commitment-phobes other than avoid them. That seems complicated. Am I too far gone? Seriously, I’m 29, is this still funny?

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Top Concert Experiences...

So recently, I was discussing concerts with a friend. Now, I’ve been to a ton of shows in my lifetime (a lot of them over the last year) and seen some amazing artists. But some shows stand out way beyond the others… it’s not always because the artist was my favorite, or because they happened to live up to my expectations – it’s more like a convergence of things – let me give you my Top 5 Concert Experiences (I recently watched High Fidelity (again!)…):

Bryan Adams in Lausanne, Switzerland
Arcade Fire at Coachella
K-OS in Kingston
Prince at the ACC
Our Lady Peace (opening for 54-40) in Shediac

Top Five Songs Played Live:
Rebellion – Arcade Fire, Coachella
Dear Prudence – Our Lady Peace, Shediac
Raspberry Beret – Prince, ACC
Man I Used To Be – K-OS, Kingston
Thunderstruck – AC/DC, Sars Concert

I can still place myself in the crowd of every one of these songs. The memory is as vivid today as it was the moment I was there… some things are just so incredible that you can not only remember them, but feel being there all over again.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

In Other News...

So I’m driving to work today and drive by a large, black, rather dusty truck parked on the side of the road. In the dusty back window, someone wrote: I wish my girlfriend was this dirty.

That is the best ever! It kind of made my day…

I am officially the most excited about the next few weeks – my film picks have been submitted for the TIFF, my mother arrives on Saturday for the Elton John concert (keep forgetting that I’m seeing him next week!) and I’m super-pumped for the Beachfest show on Labour day!!! Is it strange that I’m more excited about a free-outdoor concert than I am for Elton John? Don’t tell my mother!

Here is the lineup for Mix 99.9’s 14 Annual Beachfest 2005:

10:30am - 10:45am - Kyle Riabko
11:00am - 11:20am - Matthew Barber
11:35am - 11:50am - Jeremy Fisher
12:10pm - 12:25pm - Sarah Slean
12:45pm - 1:15pm - Ron Sexsmith
1:40pm - 2:10pm - K-OS
2:30pm - 2:45pm - Steven Page
3:10pm - 3:40pm - David Usher
4:00pm - 4:30pm - Kathleen Edwards
4:45pm - 5:00pm - Tom Cochrane
5:15pm - 6:15pm - Blue Rodeo & Friends

Posted by Brown Eyed Girl :: 11:55 AM :: 1 Comments:

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