Over a 40-year obsession with mutants, fetishists and freaks, David Cronenberg has transformed from avant-garde boy wonder into one of Canada’s most famous director (you can read our feature profile of him here). Below, a film-by-film guide that reveals how Cronenberg influenced filmmaking the world over—by turning actors into megastars, challenging ratings boards and earning Oscar nominations.
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Cronenberg Filmography: how one Toronto director changed filmmaking and turned actors into megastars
Breaking Bad fans are intense. So intense that they’ll brave hours in the cold for the chance to dork-out in a Hazmat suit just like Walter White’s. The meth-focused Breaking Bad RV Tour (not to be confused with the crack-focused Rofo Bus Tour) drew surprisingly long lineups when it hit Yonge-Dundas Square on November 26. Patient fans were rewarded with the opportunity to play dress-up and dabble around with trays of fake meth in a convincing replica of Walter and Jesse’s mobile drug den. The RV, which is part of a promotional campaign for the show’s DVD release, will be touring the city until December 9. Anyone yearning to throw on a gas mask can follow the the RV’s movements on Twitter and Facebook. [Toronto Star]
The new smartphone app Lulu is sort of like Yelp, except instead of taco joints, it lets users review actual human beings. Male human beings, to be precise. The concept may sound silly, but the stats are eye-catching: just six months after launch, up to a quarter of all female college students in the U.S. are logged on to Lulu, according to founder Alexandra Chong. A search for Toronto-based reviews pulls up hundreds of profiles, most of them guys from U of T and Western. Women use the app by answering multiple-choice questions about their male friends (as in capital-F Facebook Friends) in a bunch of different categories, including appearance, sense of humour and sexual prowess. They can also add hashtags to the review, some of them positive (e.g. #SmellsAmazeballs, #SexualPanther) and others not so positive (e.g. #TotalF**kingDickhead, #PornEducated, #CheaperThanABigMac). A mysterious algorithm is then used to award the guy a score out of ten. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Bruce McCall, the Ontario-born painter best known for his wry New Yorker covers, has teamed up with his long-time friend David Letterman on This Land Is Made for You and Me (But Mostly Me), a prickly lampoon of one per cent hubris. The idea came after Letterman complained to McCall that ultra-wealthy tycoons were pillaging the wilderness to expand their own plutocratic playgrounds. So they conjured the most obscene indulgences they could imagine: the fire insurance baron who builds the world’s longest fireplace out of rocks from Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, the Bangalorean mogul who commandeers the tip of Mount Everest for the roof of his Park Avenue apartment (shown above), the pubescent Silicon Valley megabillionaire who relocates the Taj Mahal to California for a spacious new crib. Letterman’s fake magazine-style essays are sharper than anything you’ll hear on his show, and McCall’s Creamsicle-coloured illustrations look like vintage postcards from Bizarro World. As with all good satire, the book strikes just the right balance between screwball fantasy and eerie plausibility—Barbra Streisand’s real-life basement shopping mall would fit right in.
Ron MacLean is known for many things: his vast knowledge of hockey, his life-saving dip in the Delaware River and his patience with Don Cherry. Now, we can add “dancing” to that list. Zip ahead to 2:00 of this live performance of “Watch Your Backbone Slide” to see McLean slide on stage with Maestro Fresh Wes and do a one-legged groove reminiscent of everyone’s favourite uncle at a wedding with an open bar (there’s some great faux-punch interaction between the two Canadian media titans at about 3:20, too). The event, which also featured the stars of Battle of the Blades, was part of the CBC Connects lunchtime events that happen in the atrium of their building every Wednesday at noon.
Must-See: Canadian Stage’s revamped version of the Robert Lepage hallucinatory classic, Needles and Opium
Needles and Opium, an early Robert Lepage triumph, has been making heads spin for decades. Here, a look at the play’s over-the-top iterations
The imaginary worlds Robert Lepage builds onstage are always as rich, complex and baffling as a dream. Theatre, he has said, “is a sensuous experience.” And so his shows aim for sensory overload. His Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, Kà—on now in Las Vegas and housed in a purpose-built pavilion at the MGM Grand hotel—features a massive flaming wheel of death and a floating stage that rises and falls over a 50-foot abyss. In Playing Cards: Spades, which was mounted at last year’s Luminato Festival, actors and props emerged from a glowing pit in the centre of the stage like spells from a cauldron. His notorious production of the Ring Cycle at the Met took place on a 41-tonne set, with 24 moving planks that morphed into forests and snowy mountains. This month, Canadian Stage mounts a revamped version of Needles and Opium, the show that helped make Lepage a theatre star in the early ’90s. Based on the drug-addled lives of Miles Davis and Jean Cocteau, and inspired in part by a week-long bad trip Lepage experienced in high school, the play is appropriately hallucinatory—at one point, an out-of-his-head Cocteau flies above the New York skyline like a junkie Mary Poppins. Lepage has gone bigger since Needles and Opium, but he’s never gone wilder.
Needles and Opium
By Robert Lepage
Bluma Appel Theatre
Nov. 22 to Dec. 1
SLIDESHOW: 13 heart-stopping photos from a man who dangles off Toronto skyscrapers in the name of art
Tom Ryaboi has been dangling off rooftops since 2007. That’s when he started sneaking into downtown buildings (sometimes illegally) to photograph the city from unexpected, dizzying angles. In the last half-decade, Ryoboi’s unusual hobby has become a full-scale movement. Rooftoppers are normal twenty-somethings by day, intrepid urban explorers by night. “I think what’s important to look at here,” says Ryaboi, “is how people […] are challenging the perception of usable space. […] They’re treating their urban environment as they should, a place full of wonder and adventure.” Adventure is right: the photos on Ryaboi’s blog show the photographer and his friends clinging to scaffolding, striding along narrow railings and balanced on ledges—all hundreds of metres above Toronto streets. Here, 13 heart-stopping photos from the rooftopping pioneer.
Aria Tesolin saw her first opera when she was seven years old. A year later, she was onstage belting out “Habanera” from Carmen with all the offhand cockiness of a kid, and nailing it. The YouTube video of that moment has been viewed more than 3 million times (you can see it below) and led to her first album, Baby Soprano. Now, at 20, and with years of performing under her belt, Tesolin is a mix of bright-eyed newcomer and showbiz vet. She wrote or co-wrote all the songs on her new album, Ascension, which sets her dramatic, Andrew Lloyd Webber–esque melodies against strings, harps and subtle electronic chittering. In concert, she goes beyond the standard repertoire to sing poperatic arrangements of tunes by Corinne Bailey Rae and Nirvana. To hear her give Kurt Cobain’s words the Callas treatment is to witness a performer finally finding her true voice.
The Spoke Club
The scoop on the month’s red-hot releases
A Canadian Prime Minister writing a book about hockey is a little like an Australian PM writing about kangaroos: the stuff of hack comedy. And yet—A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey, a nostalgic look at the sport’s pre-history, is the literary debut of Stephen Harper (a more writerly “Stephen J. Harper” on the cover). Harper, who laced up for the Leaside Lions as a kid and is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research, has been dropping hints about the book for years and claims to have spent a whopping 15 minutes a day on the tome. (He reportedly also employed a researcher and got advice from sports writer Roy McGregor, though his publisher claims every word in it is his own.) You could fill a small-town arena with the number of hockey books that come out every year, but Harper’s is the only one with a prorogued Parliament as part of its pre-publication build-up.
Twenty-one costumes from the popular post-Edwardian period drama could be heading to Toronto’s historic Spadina Museum next spring. The only potential glitch: while the cost of borrowing the garb is less than $10,000, its combined insured value is $140,000, which means the deal needs city approval before it can be finalized. Assuming the exhibit gets the go-ahead, Lady Sybil’s nurse costume, Lord Grantham’s tails and other Downton finery will be displayed from March 10 to April 13 at the Spadina Road museum, where it will be integrated into a series of the Downton Abbey–themed tours that were launched there last April. The museum, which touts itself as “Toronto’s Downton Abbey,” is housed in a late nineteenth-century manor house constructed by financier James Austin, whose family lived there through the 1920s. Unlike the fictional Downton clan, however, the Austins were upper-middle-class at best; even at its prime, the modest 55-room home employed only two maids, one cook, a chauffeur, a gardener and not a single footman. Needless to say, the Dowager Countess would be aghast. [National Post]
For over three decades, Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg has disturbed and delighted audiences with his uncanny knack for exploring (and exploiting) our most unsettling fears. Starting November 1, Torontonians can take a terrifying peek inside the mind that gave us The Fly, Dead Ringers and Videodrome. Cronenberg: Evolution, the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s first large-scale touring exhibit, tracks Cronenberg’s development from his initial big-budget flick, 1981 science-fiction film Scanners, to last year’s Don DeLillo adaptation, Cosmopolis. Divided chronologically into three sections, the exhibition includes over 60 props, costumes and artifacts (many of them salvaged from Cronenberg’s house and garage), including the hive-like telepod from The Fly and the six-foot-tall humanoid Mugwump from Naked Lunch. The exhibit is one of TIFF’s biggest, most ambitious and certainly most grotesque. Here, 15 photos from the delightfully chilling retrospective. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Rock fans were saddened yesterday to learn of the death of rock master and Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed at the age of 71. Amid the flood of obituaries and memorials were thoughts from a few Canadian musicians: Metric’s Emily Haines tweeted that she is “beyond sadness,” while Mike Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, who found fame in part thanks to a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” wrote a full-on personal essay about what “Uncle Lou” meant to him. Here, we present Reed himself hosting a radio broadcast on WPIX, in which he plays and discusses his powerhouse Toronto show at the El Mo in 1979.
Here’s the secret about Art Toronto, this weekend’s massive downtown art fair: most of the serious transactions happen well before the show goes live. Last night’s exclusive pre-sale in benefit of the Art Gallery of Ontario looked like a regular artsy soirée, but beneath the sea of curious coifs, silk scarves and quirky eyewear, big-game art collectors were stalking their prey. Before the night was through, millions of dollars worth of art had discretely changed hands, with one gallery—the Winnipeg-based Loch Gallery—netting over $3 million in sales. Here, a rundown on the night’s best bargains, biggest flops and most exorbitant deals, plus 16 jaw-dropping photos from the festival opener. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Art Toronto, Canada’s largest contemporary art fair, is really several things at once: a stadium-sized art expo; a multimillion-dollar fine art sale; and the year’s most important networking event for collectors, curators, artists and enthusiasts. Spread out over four days, the 200,000-square foot fair transforms the Metro Toronto Convention Centre into a warren of temporary galleries displaying works by hundreds of painters, photographers, sketchers, silkscreeners and mixed-media savants from across Canada (e.g. Winnipeg-based photographer Sarah Anne Johnson) and around the world (e.g. controversial Brit artist Damien Hirst). For art lovers, it’s an opportunity to nerd-out to lectures, panels and tours; for neophytes, a chance to soak up some culture and perhaps snag a piece to hang above the couch (with artwork going for as low as $300 and as high as $500,000, the event caters to all buyers). Here, a preview of some of the artwork you can expect to see on display at this year’s fair.
This is really good, giving awards to living legends. But there’s a problem. There’s a problem. See, I’m a legend in the making.
—Star Trek star, McGill University alum and one-time Stratford thesp William Shatner, on receiving the festival’s prestigious Legacy Award for 2013 (previous recipients: Sound of Music star Christopher Plummer and Downton Abbey resident Dame Maggie Smith). At Monday night’s fundraising gala at the Four Seasons, the 82-year-old Montreal native reminisced about acting in Stratford in the 1950s, including the time he had to sub in for a sick Christopher Plummer in the festival’s 1956 staging of Henry V, even though he’d never rehearsed the play out loud before. Shatner’s unlikely triumph that night, according to Plummer, is what clinched his destiny as a world-famous star—and, all humility aside, a Canadian legend.