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Five piping-hot docs to catch at Hot Docs 2014

Ooooh my. It's George Takei! (Image: Hot Docs)

Ooooh my. It’s George Takei! (Image: Hot Docs)

Hot Docs, Toronto’s hottest, doc-iest film festival, is upon us. Starting Thursday, the 2014 edition of the annual fest will begin unspooling an expansive slate of non-fiction films on all kinds of subjects. It’s like school, except less educational. And you have to pay for it.

If you’re totally baffled by the offerings, here are a few buzz-y picks that may be worth your time. For screening times and more information, click the titles. Or check out the full festival schedule here.

1. To Be Takei (Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber, USA, Special Presentations)

To generations of Trekkies and Trekkers (which is like a Trekkie, except in denial about how geeky and annoying they are), George Takei is best known as Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series and first run of six films. But, thanks to the advent of social media, Takei has enjoyed a second career as a meme-generator and viral brand, with a Facebook page boasting nearly 7 million fans. Maybe To Be Takei will unearth Takei’s secret underground content mill, where dozens of communications graduates relentlessly crank out memes daily. Or maybe it will be a fond portrait of an aging actor whose gay-rights activism makes him more than just a kitschy sci-fi footnote. You never know.

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The Argument: How Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany turned a sci-fi thriller into can’t-miss TV

On the sci-fi thriller Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany juggles seven distinct characters—a feat of dramatic dexterity that’s made her TV’s biggest breakout star

The Argument: Orphan Black

Tatiana Maslany, about to spot her double in the opening scene of the Space series Orphan Black. Spoiler alert: one of them dies via GO train (Image: courtesy Bell Media)

Tatiana Maslany has the toughest job in television. On the Toronto-shot sci-fi thriller Orphan Black, she plays Sarah, an east London street thief; Alison, a supremely high-strung Scarborough soccer mom; and Helena, a psychotic Ukrainian assassin. Then there’s Cosima, a Berkeley-hippie grad student; Beth, a suicidal cop; and Rachel, an icy CEO. They’re clones, engineered by an evil biotech company for a twisted science experiment. All totalled, Maslany plays seven wildly different characters—a feat of dramatic dexterity that has earned her raves since the show premiered on Space in March 2013.

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Famed Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs monologuist Mike Daisey’s next project? Rob Ford

(Image: Daisey: mikedaisey.blogspot.ca; Ford: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Daisey: mikedaisey.blogspot.ca; Ford: Christopher Drost)

Anyone who knows Mike Daisey at all probably knows him from The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a fantastically entertaining monologue about Apple’s labour practices in China that managed to inspire some justified public uproar over low-wage electronics assembly after it aired on NPR’s This American Life. Daisey became even better known, although not in a good way, when it turned out that many of Agony and Ecstasy’s supposedly true details were entirely made up.

The scorn Daisey faced following This American Life’s hour-long retraction of his story puts him in a unique position when it comes to Rob Ford. Both men became famous by breaking sacred rules, and now Daisey plans to capitalize on that connection. He’ll be debuting Dreaming of Rob Ford, his newest monologue, at Crow’s Theatre’s East-End Performance Crawl in May.

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Breaking: CBC cuts over 600 jobs

cbc logo

CBC News announced today that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will be cutting 657 jobs over the next two years, the result of $130 million in cuts from its budget this year. The cuts also mean that Canada’s national broadcaster will no longer have the resources to compete against private networks for pro sports broadcast rights.

At a town hall meeting with staff today, CBC president and CEO Hubert T. Lacroix attributed the cuts to a $115 million loss in federal funding that came with the 2012 federal budget and a drop in projected revenue resulting from CBC losing Hockey Night in Canada to Rogers. Declining ad revenue and the network’s failure in delivering the coveted 25-54 demographic to advertisers are also responsible.

The network has also announced that they will not be replacing George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. But really, who could ever replace George Stroumboulopoulos? A pre-faded Hot Topic London Calling shirt stuffed with old leaves and jammed inside a used leather jacket? Not in the budget, friends.

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See, Hear, Read: April’s six can’t-miss cultural releases

See, Hear, Read: April's six can't-miss cultural releases

Rufus Wainwright chronicles a decade’s worth of drama and debauchery on his new greatest hits album, Vibrate (Images: Foley by Getty Images; Remedy courtesy of Global)

1. Vibrate by Rufus Wainwright

In June 2006, Rufus Wainwright donned silk stockings, a black tuxedo jacket and four-inch heels to recreate Judy Garland’s iconic 1961 Carnegie Hall concert. Liza Minnelli met the gimmick with scathing contempt (“What is he doing?” she scoffed), prompting a deliciously passive-aggressive celebrity feud—Wainwright told the press that Minnelli wasn’t talking to him and made catty barbs at her onstage. Wainwright’s latest track is a sly dig called “Me and Liza,” in which he begs for her ­forgiveness. “Come on, Liza, give me a try,” he croons. It’s the lead single on his new best-of album, Vibrate, which maps the songwriter’s development from waifish tweaker to campy bon vivant and, finally, to domesticated family man—he married Jorn Weisbrodt, Luminato’s handsome German artistic director, and fathered a child with Leonard Cohen’s daughter, Lorca. A deluxe edition features a second disc of bonus material, including a handful of rare live covers—songs by Noël Coward, George Gershwin and Wainwright’s father, Loudon Wainwright III.

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Slideshow: a preview of “Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty,” the AGO’s new fleshy, figurative exhibition

Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty at the AGO

With its latest exhibition, “Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty,” the Art Gallery of Ontario is offering visitors two shows in one. The first Canadian exhibition of Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon’s work will be merged with the AGO’s own collection of works by English sculptor Henry Moore.

Born in Dublin in 1909, Bacon’s work was defined by its bleak, figurative approach to the human body. A kind of proto-David Cronenberg, Bacon seemed to regard human flesh as infinitely malleable—fit to be twisted and warped into all manner of abnormal configurations. His work prods the corporeality of human nature, like a lonely bachelor poking at freezer-burned hot dogs thawing in the sink. Bacon treats humanity as though it consists of little more than sacks of misshapen meat. (It’s fitting that some of his paintings share screen space with Michael Keaton’s rapacious, cyborg-building CEO in the new Robocop remake.)

Though the two never worked together, Henry Moore’s figurative sculptures provide a nice counterpoint to Bacon’s work, exploring similar themes in marble and bronze. The AGO’s exhibit calls attention to the aesthetic continuities tying the two artists together. Finally, a chance for anyone sick of beauty to take in a little horror and repugnance!

Here are some photos of the exhibition. It opens on April 5 and runs until July 20.

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Sondra Radvanovsky’s current obsessions: five things the superstar soprano is loving right now

Sondra Radvanovsky's current obsessions: five things the superstar soprano is loving right now

Technically, the virtuosic Verdi soprano lives in Caledon, but she spends 10 months of the year travelling to the Met, La Scala and the Paris Opera. In April, she’ll sing in Toronto for the first time in four years, making her debut in the role of the aging, angry Queen Elizabeth I in the COC’s production of Roberto Devereux, an opera by the Italian composer—and Verdi progenitor—Gaetano Donizetti. We asked Radvanovsky what’s inspiring her, culturally speaking, outside the opera house.

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Miss Piggy—Muppet, diva and gay icon—does a press conference in Toronto

(Image: Andrea Houston)

(Image: Andrea Houston)

Miss Piggy loves being an icon.

Gay icon, diva icon, style icon, feminism icon, journalism icon. You name it. The divine swine is an icon to all. “I am everyone’s icon,” she told a roomful of reporters. “I am an icon to all who will have moi.”

Her fabulousness, star of the new movie Muppets Most Wanted, which opens in theatres on March 21, held court in Toronto on Tuesday, at the front of a third-floor suite in the posh Shangri-La Hotel on University Avenue. At a table (with her puppeteer Eric Jacobson hidden demurely behind a curtain), Piggy bantered with film critic Richard Crouse, who hosted the press conference.

As much as she loves the spotlight, and being adored by fans of all sexualities, don’t expect to see her marching in any Pride parades. “Oh, I don’t march,” she said when questioned by Toronto Life. “I’m always wearing high heels, you know. I get a car wherever I go.” Naturally.

(Perhaps if she were carried through the parade route in a sedan chair held up by two hunky humans, though…)

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Fucked Up debuts a new track

Toronto experimental hardcore outfit Fucked Up has always seemed to be one-upping itself. After winning the Polaris Prize in 2009 for The Chemistry of Common Life (AKA “That Punk Album With Flutes On It”), the group followed up with 2011’s David Comes to Life, a critically lauded, metafictional concept album. Now, instead of attempting to re-up on David’s arty bombast, Fucked Up appears to be returning to its simpler, sweatier hardcore roots.

On “Paper The House,” the new single from the band’s forthcoming Glass Boys (due June 6 via Arts & Crafts), Fucked Up serves up a stirringly old-school punk banger, albeit one that seems to underline the band’s cresting into veteran status. “The way I make a living is driving me insane,” hollers frontman Damian Abraham over the song’s triple-guitar assault, frankly addressing the anxiety of becoming an old punk.

You can listen to the song above, accompanied by a video that includes footage captured from the band’s recent surprise appearance at the this year’s last Long Winter event at The Great Hall.

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Hot Docs 2014 will feature Aaron Swartz, Big Bird and George Takei

Hot Docs announced its full 2014 festival lineup this morning, and the news is good—at least, for people who love giant muppets and tragic internet figures.

The opening-night premiere of this year’s edition of the annual documentary-film festival will deal with the latter. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is about the 26-year-old computer programmer and online activist, who became well known after his suicide in early 2013. Swartz’s supporters have made the case that he was literally hounded to death by federal prosecutors intent on convicting him of illegally mass-downloading academic journal articles. Viewers can expect the documentary to engage with that theory sympathetically.

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The Surreal World: how Denis Villeneuve transformed Toronto into a spooky nightmare

In his new film, Enemy, the director shows us our city as we’ve never seen it before

The Surreal World: how Denis Villeneuve transformed Toronto into a spooky nightmare

(Image: Photo-Illustration: Anna Sparrow; Photographs: Buildings by iStock; Gyllenhaal courtesy of Eone Entertainment)

In Denis Villeneuve’s mind-bending new thriller, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam Bell, a weary professor at the so-called ­University of Greater Toronto. One day, while watching a movie at home, the sad-sack academic spots a face onscreen that looks exactly like his own. After some quick googling, he tracks down his ­doppelgänger, an actor named Anthony Saint Claire who lives in a glassy Mississauga condo tower. The two men slowly become obsessed with each other, assailed by the feeling they’re living the wrong lives. It’s Villeneuve’s weirdest, most exciting movie to date.

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PHOTO: Rob Ford joins Arcade Fire on stage at the ACC, sort of

(Image: dlaforest/Instagram)

(Image: dlaforest/Instagram)

Arcade Fire asked audience members to dress up in “formal attire or costume” during shows on the band’s Reflektor tour, and, at last night’s concert at the ACC, fans seem to have taken that request seriously. Especially this guy, who was reportedly brought up on stage near the end of the performance so Arcade Fire’s members could dance around him while they played. Wait, does a Rob Ford suit count as formal attire?

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William Shatner quits Twitter

(Image: Twitter/Screenshot)

(Image: Twitter/Screenshot)

Why is it that the aging celebrities who should quit the internet never do, while the ones whose online presences we actually somewhat enjoy abandon us before we’re ready to see them go?

Canadian guy, former TV starship captain, e-commerce pitchman, Stratford Festival honouree and one-time Esperanto enthusiast William Shatner announced this morning that he would be leaving Twitter, saying, “It’s not an easy decision but it’s the right one for me.”

The right decision maybe, but evidently a tough one to adhere to. Five hours after writing the heartfelt signoff in the screenshot at the top of this post, Shatner tweeted again. And so here, presumably, is the last Twitter will be hearing from Captain Kirk:

A non-sequitur about America’s Funniest Home Videos. You, sir, will be missed.

UPDATE: And he’s back:

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15 signs you grew up in Toronto in the 1980s

80s-Intro

Nostalgia is more than just the latest internet meme. It taps into a primal and powerful part of our collective identity. The web’s latest deluge of look-back content got us sharing memories here at Toronto Life. It wasn’t long before we had pages and pages of notes about how our city once was, and the experiences that determined our sense of civic pride and shame. (In ten years, there will a post like this heavily featuring Rob Ford). We’ve compiled our favourites from the decade of huge hair, 1050 CHUM and Art Eggleton. Here, 15 signs you grew up in Toronto in the 1980s.

 

1. You crammed onto the Spadina Bus while singing “Spadina Bus”

The old Spadina 77 buses seemed to come every five seconds, yet they were always sweaty, crammed and infuriating (unlike today’s modern TTC). You could get through it by singing the Shuffle Demons’ delightful “Spadina Bus”—a surprise top-40 hit from 1986. The 77 route was eliminated in the ’90s when Spadina Avenue was revamped to reinstate the 510 streetcar. And the fate of the Shuffle Demons? One of them is running for mayor.

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David Cronenberg name-checks Dilbert at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards

David Cronenberg. (Image: Courtesy of the Canadian Screen Awards)

David Cronenberg. (Image: Courtesy of the Canadian Screen Awards)

The Canadian Screen Awards are a mystifying thing. Formed in 2012 out of a merger of the Gemini Awards and the Genie Awards, the new ceremony is still relatively unknown, even among Canadians. Last night’s glitzy CBC broadcast from the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts seemed designed to help change that, and perhaps it did.

Among the winners were some well-known Cancon treasures like Sook-Yin Lee, for her portrayal of Olivia Chow in Jack, and Tatiana Maslany, who took home a well-deserved statuette for playing half a dozen identical clones on BBC America’s Orphan Black. There was an award for Jason Priestley, for his work on Call Me Fitz, and there was even a little recognition for Toronto-shot The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, a fantasy movie appreciated by its tweenaged target audience but not nominated for any major awards in the U.S. Also, Michael Bublé won an award for hosting an awards show (the 2013 Junos), presumably because no Canadian award ceremony would be complete without him.

Host Martin Short kept the ceremony moving, and his self-deprecating humour was a nice antidote to the typical award-show self-importance. The highlight of the night, though, was when David Cronenberg took the stage to accept his Lifetime Achievement Award and, as a way of illustrating his ambivalence over accepting a prize for a career that isn’t finished, spent a chunk of his speech summarizing this Dilbert comic from 2001. (Even “The Dark Knight” likes to kick back with some cartoons from time to time, we guess.)

Read on for a list of the night’s winners, plus a gallery of photos of them holding their freshly minted statuettes.

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