You know you live in interesting times when the chief of police is the most powerful person in town. What propelled Chief Blair to the top of our Influentials list was Rob Ford’s Crackgate—a story that consumed the city for much of the last year and whose bewildering narrative is still being written. Of course, Ford wasn’t the only politician who behaved badly in 2013. Chronic dysfunction is evident at all levels of government, from the petty infighting at city hall to the crippling gamesmanship at Queen’s Park and the expense scandals on Parliament Hill. And yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some of the city’s most formidable leaders are outside the traditional halls of power: global hip-hop stars, tech titans, gossip bloggers and guitar-strumming astronauts, among others. The people ranked here all did something in 2013 that made an impact on our lives, for better or for worse. Our list demonstrates that sometimes influence is enduring, sometimes it’s fickle and sometimes it rests on a single cellphone video that could forever change the complexion of the city.
The Argument: In Take This Waltz, Sarah Polley transforms Toronto into a brightly coloured urban fantasy
In the middle of directing Take This Waltz, recently released in theatres, Sarah Polley hit a snag. She desperately wanted to get Leslie Feist to record a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Closing Time” for the soundtrack. Given how in demand the singer-songwriter is, it was almost impossible to pin her down—even for Polley, a bona fide Canadian celebrity herself. And then one night, around 2 a.m., while Polley and her crew were shooting on a small street in Little Portugal, she heard someone call her name. It was Feist—she and fellow singer Howie Beck, both on bicycles, were on their way to Trinity Bellwoods Park to play glow-in-the-dark Frisbee. Polley asked about the Cohen cover, Feist agreed, and her version of the song is heard at a pivotal point in the film. “That kind of moment is very specific to Toronto,” Polley says now. “It’s a really special place that way.”
The whole scenario sounds like a parody of the lives of hip, young downtowners—the punch line for a skit from a rejected Torontolandia pilot, maybe. But it’s exactly the kind of bohemian and pleasantly casual community that Polley, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, set out to capture.
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Camera: a mix of Canada’s best filmmakers and top critics at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards
January 10, The Carlu. The annual Toronto Film Critics Association Awards mixes Canada’s best filmmakers and critics—which can be a great opportunity for a little payback. David Cronenberg, whose latest film, A Dangerous Method, is nominated for 11 Genies, took advantage of his turn at the presenter’s mic to characterize critics as a “scruffy lot”; TFCA president and Maclean’s film critic Brian Johnson volleyed back: “Without us, how would filmmakers know why their films stink?” Cronenberg didn’t win Best Canadian Film (that honour went to Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar), but he easily won best anecdote of the night—and proved his chops in the art of self-criticism. He described one of his early directing efforts, 1975’s Shivers, which included a soft-core scene featuring sex on a swing. In his eagerness to impress, he admitted, he may have captured the action from “a few too many angles.”