Monday, November 29, 2010

War in Rio part 2

While Rio still burns after one week of televised civil war, the echoes of the struggles between the favelas and the rest of city reaches North America in two documentaries that go beyond just showing life in the favelas as a spectacle.

Remix-To-Rio is a documentary about a crew from Toronto's Remix Project -- a cultural and learning institute for at-risk youth in Toronto -- who go to Rio to help build a creative centre for the youth in a favela. What they see and live there changes them and the people around them, and creates a bond beyond language in a surprising way -- surprising, if you're not Brazilian. The video was produced with the financial support of the Government of Canada and is available for free viewing on the movie website.

Meanwhile, documentarist Lucy Walker just released Waste Land, her project with Brazilian superstar art photographer Vik Muniz. He decided to do an art project in the biggest landfill in the world, located in the outskirts of the city of Rio and what he found there, despite his expectations, was a colourful and strong cast of characters, real Brazilian folk who impart beauty to the trash. Issues of classism, art value, dignity and environmentalism come up and help make this one of the best documentaries of 2010.

Both movies are moving, thought-provoking and put in perspective how we, the privileged few, see and think about poverty and happiness.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My new favorite image

Scott Thompson is playing Beauty's guardian in the local production of Beauty and the Beast, The Savagely Silly Family Musical.

Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday

Yes, yes, Nicki Minaj. Again. The girl rapper seems to be everywhere at the same time these days, appearing on everybody's tracks including Mariah, Aguilera, P. Diddy and Rihanna. She's a little crazed and but she's also smart and she means business. This debut album keeps a firm foot on hip-hop but plays around with all kinds of genres, mash-ups and samples, with nods to Prince, Grace Jones, Simple Minds, Annie Lennox and even The Buggles. Minaj goes from singing like a Barbie doll to cussing like a sailor in the skip of a track. Despite ill-advised guest spots from Eminem and and some schmaltzy pseudo-ballads, the album is tight and Minaj's rhymes are off the hook. She's hot and hilarious. Check out her video for Check It Out:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

War in Rio

For the past 4 days Rio has been in the grip of fear and panic. Widespread criminal attacks all over the city have kept the population indoors and left a lot of burned cars and buses everywhere.
The police and the army are invading favelas ruled by drug lords and reclaiming them to the State. Tanks and heavily armed elite soldiers became a common sight and shootouts start without warning.
Rio promised a safe city for the World Cup and the Olympic Games. Looks like they have some messy, heavy-duty cleaning to do.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ultimate Pet Shop Boys DVD

The new Pet Shop Boys hits compilation may be a little redundant, but the real treat is in the DVD that accompanies the deluxe edition of Ultimate. The DVD features the Boys' various appearances on Top of the Pops, a music chart television show popular in Britain, and other BBC programmes. The little pocket shows that they created for television contain another visual layer of their career. Some of the shows recreate the imagery of the music videos; in others, we get rare glimpses of a Pet Shop Boys side that we outside of England have never seen (Neil wearing glasses onstage!) The videos go from vintage 80's glory, with Neil lipsynching to West End Girls and Chris looking youngish to the controversial political satire of I'm With Stupid. There is also some very odd stage sets and audience participation, an amazing appearance of Dusty Springfield in a mumu on stage in 1988, Chris' mysterious blond hair phase in Flamboyant, and Neil's hair going from curly locks to chrome dome. Through the ages, the Pet Shop Boys made looking bored on television an art form.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


After Zélia Duncan graced us with her presence in October, her former band Os Mutantes played in Toronto last night. Well, kind of. It wasn't really her band -- she was just lending her voice to the group -- and the band last night wasn't exactly "Os Mutantes;" from the original 3 mutants, only Sérgio Dias remains to carry the psychedelic flame.
Decked out in an Indian tunic, Dias seemed at ease and glad to be here. He spoke to the young crowd in flawless English and risked some French. The rest of the band is entirely new and the female voice which was once Rita Lee's, now belongs to Esmeria Bulgari (the other Mutante vocalist, Bia Mendes -- who used to sing backing vocals for Rita herself -- did not take part on this tour as she's expecting a baby.) Esmeria is good, but it must be hard to follow in the footsteps of Lee, Duncan and Mendes.
Despite the static staging, the band jams well together and the concert was well-balanced in terms of new and old material. Here's a rocky version of Beatle-esque Tecnicolor.
Fan favorites Bat Macumba, El Justiceiro and I Feel a Little Spaced Out (but no Baby) stood out against the new material which is highly uneven, despite being mostly co-written by the pope of all things weird, the brilliant Tom Zé. The album came out in 2009.
But all is forgotten at the sight of original mutant Sérgio Dias delivering one of his legendary guitar solos. The kids were all digging it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Luísa Maita - Lero-Lero

Luísa Maita is a singer-songwriter from São Paulo who's been getting lots of attention in the international press with the release of her album Lero-Lero outside of Brazil (she was in Toronto last week as part of her first North American tour.) Luísa became famous when she was featured singing in the promotional video for the Rio Olympics. She writes most of her music and her sound is a smooth samba/bossa-nova concoction ready-made for the international market. She is technically competent, but her music and voice sound a lot like what I've heard before from this new crop of female Brazilian singers, like Céu, Gisele de Santi and Clara Moreno. Hopefully her upcoming remix album for Lero-Lero will spice things up a bit.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The war of the Wonder Women

After Megan Fox dissed Wonder Woman, probably in a fit of sour grapes since she's not attached to the project anymore, no one less than original WW Lynda Carter came out in the amazon's defense.
"She just didn't really get it.
Like, who trashes Wonder Woman, right?
What is there to trash?"

Obviously, only Megan Fox's reputation and IQ.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Green Lantern teaser

Ryan Reynolds is looking pretty good as the emerald cop.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

127 Hours

Like Buried, 127 Hours puts a male protagonist stuck in one location where he needs to keep our attention for the full length of the feature. And James Franco does it as well as, if not better than Ryan Reynolds. The story here is pretty thin, albeit dramatic, but the real beauty of 127 Hours is how Danny Boyle put it all together.
The desert shots are beautiful and Boyle's energetic shooting style works like a video game, with every level bringing more excruciating agony -- the sequences are full of adrenaline and foreboding. Franco is even able to take some comedic turns in the face of tragedy thanks to some liberties taken with the state of mind of the real guy who went through it, Aron Ralston (seen here with Boyle and Franco.)
With an exciting visual style borrowing heavily from music videos and commercials vocabulary -- quick cuts, split screens, extreme close-ups -- Boyle redeems himself a little from the Slumdog sellout and remains in the company of directors who share with him a certain filmic aesthetic such as Aronofsky, Burton, Spike Jonze and Christopher Nolan, to a certain extent.

Friday, November 12, 2010

DC Comics online store

Something quite revolutionary happened yesterday when DC Comics started selling comics online for Ipads and Iphones.
The DC Comics Store's selection is still pretty limited, but the point is that it makes comics accessible to a whole new audience and catapults the medium into the new world of digital distribution. Exciting times in the Hall of Justice!

Only in Brazil

An 18-year-old was arrested for kissing a 13-year-old boy in a movie theatre in São Paulo. They were on an internet date but the manager of the theatre decided to call the police for what he saw as a minor in peril. Even though the 13-year-old said he wasn't being forced to make out, the 18-year-old was still charged with "raping a vulnerable person."
On the other hand, students from a rural university in the state of Rio did a demonstration against homophobia after gay residents of a dorm were harassed by straight students who later claimed "gay panic defence."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Together video

The video, shot in Estonia by unknown director Peeter Rebane, features the Pet Shop Boys just for a couple seconds. The rest of it is weird in a very Pet Shop Boys kind of way. The strong eastern-bloc flavour matches Together's polka-like staggered beats, the same way Domino Dancing matches summer.

The Pet Shop Boys posing with the cast of their latest video for new single Together.

I wonder if from now on Neil and Chris will appear less and less on their videos. Of course, they have always liked to work with a younger generation.

My new favorite image

Chris Evans looking pretty super as Captain America.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My new favorite image

The Rio Comicon starts today. Poster illustrated by Milo Manara.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Remembrance Day

Rehearsing for the ceremony at Queen's Park.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Only When I Dance

The International Diaspora Film Festival, featuring movies from filmmakers living and working outside their countries of origin, brought us the Canadian premiere of this documentary about two young ballet dancers living in the Brazilian favelas on the verge of becoming international stars.
Documentarist Beadie Finzi, director of the excellent Unknown White Male, handles race and class issues within the dance world context with an expert verve and weaves a powerful narrative out of the lives of these innately talented but impoverished kids and their selflessly helpful families. A touching movie for anyone who's ever had to leave home and a rare glimpse into the lives of honest people who live in the favelas.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My new favorite image

The beauty of global warming.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scary pumpkins

Hundreds of jack-o'-lanterns invaded Sorauren Park on All Souls' Night.
And the scariest of them all...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Museum of Modern Art

Even though it has been declared opened by some sources, the pictures of the new Museum of Modern Art in Santos, São Paulo state, are only an (extremely realistic) study. Completion date for the project was not released. The design is by architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha and Metro Arquitetos.

Ultimate Pet Shop Boys

The Pet Shop Boys are releasing yet another compilation spanning their 25 years in pop music. Ordered chronologically from West End Girls to new single Together, Ultimate also brings a DVD with various of their TV appearances. Hard to believe that 20 years ago, they were releasing their first singles collection, Discography, still the definitive document of their royal years.