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Mingle with high rollers at Toronto’s burgeoning art festival

Primer: Fair Play

(Images: courtesy of their galleries)

Over the past decade, the art world’s biggest business has shifted from auction houses and galleries to the glamorous fair circuit, with the jet set traipsing from London to Hong Kong to Miami to Madrid for a parade of glittering parties and high-roller deals. Art Toronto, the city’s own buzzy festival, is quickly rising in the ranks. Last year, it attracted big-name gallerists and collectors from New York, Brussels and Tokyo, moved blue-chip pieces by artists like Jack Bush and Tom Thomson, and brought in $17 million worth of sales. As the fair gears up for its 15th year, here’s a look at the hottest artists, savviest collectors and biggest deals.

Fri. Oct. 24. General admission $18 advance, $20 door. Metro Toronto Convention Centre North, 255 Front St. W., 604-730-2065, arttoronto.ca.

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See the COC perform opera whiz Robert Carsen’s fancy Falstaff

(Image: Rudy Amisano)

(Image: Rudy Amisano)

Only in a Robert Carsen opera are the backgrounds as exciting as the music—the Toronto-born director is known for creating majestic Metropolitan Opera sets that rival Valhalla itself. This fall, his ornate production of Verdi’s Falstaff, starring Canadian baritone Gerald Finley in the title role, arrives at the Canadian Opera Company after stints at La Scala, the Met and Covent Garden. Carsen updates the action from the first Elizabethan era to the second: 1960, a time of upward mobility and materialistic splendour. The sets are sumptuously adorned with period-appropriate tchotchkes, textiles and furniture—there’s an upscale restaurant, a woodsy hunt club, a bedroom modelled after a Mae West movie and, our favourite, a bright, busy kitchen (pictured above), for which the props team reproduced authentic 1960s British food labels.

Oct. 3 to Nov. 1. $49—$349. Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W., 416-363-8231, coc.ca

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Is Strange Empire good enough to save the CBC?

The CBC’s new feminist western is as gripping and gritty as any premium cable drama. But can it help reverse the beleaguered broadcaster’s fortunes?

The Argument: The Final Frontier

Melissa Farman as the unlikely doctor, Tattiawna Jones as the enterprising madam, Cara Gee as the Métis sharpshooter and Aaron Poole as the murderous pimp (Image: courtesy of the CBC)

The new series Strange Empire is a richly produced western set in 1869 on the unkempt Alberta terrain. It kicks off with a dark, propulsive premise: when the men in a small frontier camp are mysteriously slaughtered, their once-helpless wives and daughters are forced to buck up and take control. Every shot is a swirl of artfully dusty browns and tans, every costume and set piece a bedraggled beauty. The plots are full of brothels, sex and violence. The show bears every trademark of a premium cable drama, with morally ambiguous characters and an irreverent point of view. The strangest thing about Strange Empire? It’s on the CBC.

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Material Girl: the psychedelic, day-glo designs of art star Julia Dault

Material Girl

(Images: Laing by Jenna Marie Wakani and Anthea Simms; Art Works courtesy Julia Dault/Jessica Bradley Gallery)

The Toronto-born mixed-media marvel Julia Dault is New York’s latest avant-garde phenomenon. Dault had her big break in 2012, when her work was shown as part of the New Museum’s Triennial. The art world was so bewitched by her dizzying designs that gallerists jockeyed to represent her and the Guggenheim held a dinner in her honour. Among the collectors who now own her work are the fashion mogul Joe Mimran, Wall Street bigwig J. ­Tomilson Hill and the British millionaire Charles Saatchi.

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Shticks and Giggles: a laugh-lover’s guide to the city’s explosive comedy scene

Shticks and Giggles

Comedy Bar at Bloor and Ossington is the city’s undisputed hub of hilarity.

Toronto’s JFL42 comedy fest returns this month for its third annual 10-day laugh riot. For the uninitiated, the “JFL” part stands for Just for Laughs, and the “42” refers to the number of acts on the lineup, which this year includes Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, Seth Meyers and a handful of local comedians. If, like most of us, you require comic relief all year round, this is a great moment to live in Toronto: the city’s indigenous comedy scene has flourished of late. We’re currently flush with neurotic kibitzers, daffy sketch troupes and enough nostalgically divey comedy clubs to fill an entire season of Louie. Here, a guide to navigating all the funny.

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Andrea Martin’s current obsessions: five things the Working the Engels actress is loving right now

The SCTV vet and newly minted author shares her cultural inspirations

Current Obsessions: Andrea Martin

(Image: courtesy Global TV)

On the hit Global series Working the Engels, Andrea Martin taps in to the madcap energy that made her a star on SCTV—her character, the recently widowed Ceil Engel, is perky, ditzy and riotously self-involved. But Martin’s range goes well beyond comic character work: in the past two years, she’s starred in two Broadway shows—including Pippin, which earned her a Tony—and written a memoir called Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts, out this month. Though she credits Broadway pal Nathan Lane for the title, the rest of the collection is pure, unadulterated Martin. Here, she reveals what keeps her inspired.

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The Nuit Blanche 2014 program is out 
(Image: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche)

(Image: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche)

For weeks, we’ve been watching supermarkets slowly sneak Halloween candy onto shelves, and now here comes another nail in summer’s coffin: the city has just released the full program for the 2014 edition of Nuit Blanche, which is scheduled to take place on October 4. Among the highlights at this year’s all-night art fest will be Global Rainbow (pictured to the left), a massive, up-to-60-kilometre-long rainbow made of lasers, created by artist Yvette Mattern. Information on that and more than 120 other planned art projects is available on the Nuit Blanche website.

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Love, Actually

The F Word, starring Daniel Radcliffe in his post–Harry Potter prime, is a lo-fi love story for the digital age—and the most authentic romantic comedy in years

Love, Actually

(Image: courtesy of eOne Entertainment)

The new movie The F Word begins with a vintage rom-com meet-cute. At a house party, Wallace, a witty med-school dropout played by Daniel Radcliffe, spells out “Love is stupid monkeys” with word magnets on a fridge. His poetry draws the attention of a pretty animator, Chantry (portrayed by Zoe Kazan), sparking an instant romantic connection—but Chantry has a boyfriend, so she and Wallace embark on a fraught friendship. The F Word—renamed What If in the States—examines whether a man and woman can have a platonic relationship despite their mutual attraction. It’s a sweet, smart millennial spin on When Hary Met Sally.

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Hot Stuff: cultural picks for August from five local luminaries

Hot Stuff

August is peak season for beach reads, Netflix binges and patio playlists. We asked five local luminaries to share their cultural picks for a summer heat wave.

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The Drake Effect

The Drake Effect

Photographs: Drake by Jess Baumung; Others by Getty Images

The rap superstar has amassed a flock of musical disciples who guest on his albums, record on his label and perform at OVO Fest, his annual hip-hop blowout, which takes place this year on August 3 and 4. Here, a taxonomy of Drake’s most prolific protégés.

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One guy found the whole world in Toronto, and has the photos to prove it

(Images: Colin Boyd Shafer)

(Images: Colin Boyd Shafer)

One man’s mission to find a person from every country on earth within the Greater Toronto Area is almost complete. Starting in June last year, Colin Boyd Shafer, a photographer and high-school teacher, started Cosmopolis Toronto, a blog of intimate portraits of people from all but ten of the world’s recognized nations, and several disputed territories, too. “As a geography teacher, I’m comfortable with talking about countries,” Shafer told us. “So I figured tying that to portraiture could work.” The numbers certainly suggested that the project was possible. In 2011, Statistics Canada calculated that almost half of the Toronto-area population—about 2.5 million people—was born overseas, most of them in Asia or the Middle East. The same year, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6.8 million, or just under a quarter of the country.

A little over a year after starting the blog, Shafer has interviewed and photographed people born just about everywhere, save for a handful of Pacific nations and Monaco, San Marino, and East Timor. Surprisingly, even people from countries as mysterious as North Korea and remote as Tonga were to be found living in Toronto or its suburbs. Each subject was photographed once in a GTA location where he or she felt at home, and then a second time holding an object with sentimental value. Many chose photographs of loved ones, while others chose food, clothes or a diary kept since moving to Canada. The photos, especially those of people from places riven by conflict, are powerful. “Many of [the subjects] do not fit within the majority ethnicity or religion of that particular country, which I think is really important—that these people are not chosen based on anything other than where they’re born.” Shafer said. “That was something I felt really strongly about and I kept it consistent throughout…this is not a bunch of individuals representing countries, but instead where they were born.”

We asked Shafer to select ten photos that he felt best represented the series. Click through the photo gallery to see them, with his commentary. A book featuring all of the pictures in the Cosmopolis Toronto series is currently in the works.

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The Toronto International Film Festival announces its opening-night film for 2014

The lucky flick is The Judge, a David Dobkin movie about a big-city lawyer with daddy issues who returns to his hometown to find said daddy, a judge, accused of murder and in need of legal defence. Convenient! If the trailer (embedded above) is anything to go by, lots of heartwarming family drama ensues. In past years, TIFF’s opening-night selections have been hit-or-miss (2013’s selection was The Fifth Estate, a critical flop), but often they have big names attached, and this one is no exception. The cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga and Billy Bob Thornton.

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Sharknado 2 includes a Rob Ford death scene

whos-noticing-us-nowRob Ford’s mayoralty may soon be over, but an American cable channel has just ensured that he’ll always be in our discount DVD bins, selling at two-for-$5 with copies of Dinocroc vs. Supergator. SyFy, a U.S. sci-fi channel, has given Ford (or at any rate, an actor dressed sort of like him) a death scene in the upcoming “film” Sharknado 2, finally linking the mayor with a pop-cultural force that has overstayed its welcome at least as much as he has. The Post reports that the scene will be included only in the Canadian version of the film, airing on Space on July 30. But why watch the whole thing? The Ford clip is embedded above.

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Here are five trailers for films we now know are coming to TIFF

This morning, the Toronto International Film Festival made its first in what will certainly be a long series of programming announcements leading up to the September 4 commencement of this year’s event. Today’s unveiling consisted of 13 “gala” films (meaning, big-deal premieres) and 46 “special presentations” (meaning, almost-as-big-deal premieres).

Despite having lost some major debuts to rival festivals in places like New York and Venice, TIFF’s initial offering comprises some legitimately exciting titles, including David Cronenberg’s latest, as well as a comedy with Jason Bateman and Tina Fey, and the world premiere of a new Jake Gyllenhaal movie. Here are trailers for those, and a few other movies included in today’s reveal.

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People are confused by Drake’s new album name

(Image: musicisentropy/Flickr)

(Image: musicisentropy/Flickr)

On Tuesday, Billboard revealed that the name of Drake’s still-unrecorded next album will be Views From the 6—and then confusion set in. Unlike the rapper’s previous album titles, which have been intelligible if slightly cryptic (Take Care, Nothing Was the Same), this one is so open to interpretation that even Billboard didn’t know quite what to make of it. And that’s despite a preponderance of evidence that it’s just a sly reference to the last digit in Toronto’s area code.

Even so, not everyone is convinced.

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