Thursday, March 25, 2010

From the mayor

David Miller is crazy about Toronto. And he's crazy about Brazil too! Here's a message the mayor sent Brazilian blog OiToronto! on the occasion of the site's 1-year anniversary. He manages to make Toronto sound so exciting, but I guess that's his job.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The 7th Toronto Japanese Short Film Festival brought in a diverse animation program showcasing contemporary Japanese animation that strays from anime and explores different techniques and story structures. The main treat was to watch "La Maison en Petits Cubes" on the big screen. It won the Oscar for best animated short film last year, is beautifully illustrated by Kunio Kato and is totally heart-breaking.

The stop motion work done by Tsuneo Goda (the creator of Domo) is super slick and as detailed as "Wallace and Gromit"'s. The films featuring his fashion-designer cat Komaneko are some of the cutest things I have ever seen. Here's an episode.

And one of the coolest videos in the program was Koichiro Tsujikawa' "Fit Song," a music video dripping with commercial advertising ticks, lyricism and kipple. The rest of the program was equally rich and creative. Can't wait for next year.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wonderland vs. China

As much I wanted to love it, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland leaves much to be desired. Despite Burton's unmistakable style, the special effects are underwhelming, the pacing sluggish (even though it picks up a bit on the second half) and Johnny Depps’ histrionic performance is one of his least entertaining in years. And I couldn't get over the fact that he looks just like Madonna as the Mad Hatter. There's nothing "amazing" about the 3D -- it was actually unremarkable and unnecessary (Avatar and Coraline notwithstanding, 3D has become a money-grabbing gimmick not in the service of the storytelling). This Alice could have some more wonder in it, but she did look good in shinning armour at the end.

On the other hand, Last Train Home takes you on a journey you’re not bound to forget anytime soon. Director Lixin Fan follows a couple of migrant workers in China who moved from their rural village to work in sweatshops in the big city, and their attempt to return to their village for the Chinese new year. This chaotic train ride is the largest human migration on Earth and the images that Fan captured over the course of two years are incredibly moving, shocking and beautiful. The movie puts a human price on that pair of Made-in-China jeans. Heartbreaking, thought-provoking and expertly shot.

From Paris with love

Dimitri from Paris was back in to Toronto for the Canadian Music fest this weekend and he rocked the disco at the Roosevelt Room. Decked in a tuxedo and oozing frenchness, Dimitri rolled out the good times with a Studio 54 vibe, extended versions of classics (from Ain't No Mountain to I Can't Go For That) and samples from his previous compilations.

And the man is charming in a goofy way and interacted with the crowd all night long. His set was accompanied by a live bongo player and French cabaret girls posing by the DJ booth. Were they part of the performance? Not sure, but it all worked. The crowd started out a little too “beautiful people”, but as the night went on only the ones who came to get down remained. Parfait!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Killer whales and surfing dolphins

This story about the killer whale in the Star irritated me. SeaWorld came forth to say that the whale who killed his trainer last week thought the trainer's ponytail was a "new toy" and dragged the woman to the bottom of the pool in an attempt to "play" with her. This whale has seen this woman everyday in and out of the water. He knew her, her hair and probably her scent too. I'm not saying that Tilikum committed premeditated murder, but I think he surely snapped under the stress of being a 6-ton horny bull used to having the oceans as his playground being kept in a little pool and forced to perform tricks on schedule for sardines.

Representing the whale as a child-like creature no more intelligent than a domestic dog, SeaWorld gives themselves license to say, "if it wasn't for that pesky ponytail..." sidestepping the big white whale in the room: the fact that sea mammals are highly intelligent creatures, with unique personalities, deep family ties, used to roam the oceans as they wish and should not be kept in captivity. Did we learn nothing from Free Willy The Cove? Keeping whales in captivity is cruel and wrong. If we want to learn more about them, we don't need to go to SeaWorld -- look no further than in nature.

Photographer Greg Huglin caught these guys riding waves off the coast of South Africa. The fact that dolphins and whales have the mental capacity to "have fun" should make their imprisonment akin to that of a man.