Category Archives: Reviews
Anita is a look back at what the exact moment where sexual harassment became a valid work problem that is taken seriously. Prior to Anita Hill infamously speaking out against the sexual harassment she endured working for Clarence Thomas, this kind of treatment was tolerated by women (and men) because they didn’t know they had any other option. She gave us all a voice and right to speak up without the risk of losing our jobs.
I was so young when she did this for feminism that I didn’t even realize I have her to thank for the times where I’ve felt uncomfortable at work and been able to do something about it. The beauty of this film is that it is educating my generation and those women younger than me on what she did for us, and how different the world was just 20 years ago. How acceptable that kind of workplace abuse was. I feel so incredibly lucky to have been born in the time of history that I was.
It was startling to watch her give her testimony facing a large panel of old white men, as they interrogated her and accused her of man hating, revenge, bitterness and lying. They tried to tear her apart because she was honest, and yet she remained calm and poised throughout the entire process. I have no idea how she did it. She deserves a medal from every woman. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she suffered through his harassment the first time, they put her up there and did everything they could to humiliate her in front of the entire world, making her relive every minute detail.
And of course, in the end, they didn’t even care about her testimony. Thomas made it into a racial issue (which is such crap considering she shares his race) and nothing ever happened to him. He took his seat on the Supreme Court and she had to move to another state to avoid all the death threats and harassment she endured after it was over. That in itself is depressing, but the film makes it very clear that what she did is an act of heroism that will be remembered for generations to come.
Thank you Anita.
Kathleen Hanna is another fascinating, inspiring woman to my generation. As much as I could never really get into the whole riot grrrl scene because of my aversion to vocals that involve screaming, I have incredible respect for its place in the third wave of feminism that sparked because of the injustices faced by women like Anita Hill at the time.
While I never really enjoyed Bikini Kill’s sound, I did like Le Tigre to some degree, but I was never quite interested enough to dig into their story. This film definitely made me realize what I was missing out on, and how incredible Kathleen was (and still is).
She is exactly the kind of person I aspire to be – and I have been living by her manifesto, despite not being particularly aware, of it all along. Her “ALL GIRLS TO THE FRONT” mentality at shows is literally the best concept in music history, ever. EVERY BAND SHOULD DO THIS. The way they explained it in the film made me so happy, because men don’t seem to realize that they make such a hostile environment for women at shows – or they do realize and they just don’t care. The last thing I want to deal with is getting head butted by moshers (this has happened to me) because I’m at the front trying to actually see the band. If the male population were kind enough to do that shit in the back, and stand back so that women who are generally at least 5 inches shorter, could actually see the stage – the concert going experience would be oh so wonderful for everyone.
I wish I could have went to a Bikini Kill show just to be a part of a concert where there was a priority put on women actually being comfortable/having a stage sight-line.
The look into her health issues and the decision to end Le Tigre was also insightful. Lyme disease is something most people (myself included) certainly don’t understand, and it went a long way to explaining how dreadful the disease can be – especially when it makes a singer lose control of her most precious asset – her voice. I also loved when she talked about meeting Adam Horovitz and feeling conflicted about dating someone who sang such sexist songs in those early Beastie Boys days, and how you don’t choose who you fall in love with.
If you are at all interested in 90s music culture, feminism, riot grrrls or just want to see a doc about a groundbreaking artist, make it a point to see The Punk Singer.
I’ll admit I was fairly uninterested in the whole Pussy Riot thing. I heard about it non stop to the point where I just decided to tune it out. Again, not being all that into the riot grrrl scene, I just didn’t pay much attention. When I hear Peaches is involved in something I kind of lose interest, as it always tends to feel like a spectacle.
Of course, seeing Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer made me feel foolish for not paying attention. It is scary to me that this kind of church meets state environment still exists in what looks like a modern part of the world. They were doing nothing more than what Kathleen Hanna and the riot bands did 20 years ago, but they are in jail for it!
The best part of Hot Docs is that it shocks me into remembering just how lucky I am to be living where I do, in the age that I do. After watching the injustice these girls are going through, I am thanking my lucky stars that I do not live in Russia. It literally boggles my mind that things could still be so backwards in a developed country – but religion makes people act in very strange (ungodly) ways.
Can you imagine being sent to jail for 2 YEARS for just barely starting to sing a ‘punk rock’ song in a church? It’s absurd. I agree that it was crossing a line since so many people were offended by it, and they could have maybe banned them from the church for life or something – but putting them in jail away from their babies for years because they created art in public? Insane.
The film gives these women faces, families, and history – which is something you don’t get through our exploitative news. Watching their parents talk about how they were as kids, and how they grew into feminist artists trying to move their part of the world forward in the same way that Kathleen Hanna did, makes it a must see. It’s also inspiring to hear them talk during sentencing – the fearlessness these women have for the message they are trying to spread of equality for all women is so powerful. I know that when they get out they will continue to create positive change and hopefully help move Russia into the current decade.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the media performance of Patti Smith and Sam Sheppard’s Cowboy Mouth - which happens to be my favourite play.
It is my favourite for two very obvious reasons 1) Patti Smith (co-)wrote it 2) It’s focused around the creation of a rock and roll star, doomed love, and all the madness that surrounds that.
It was also my real introduction to Patti Smith. I had heard her poetry before I picked up the monologue from it that explains so perfectly that a true star is a “rock n roll jesus with a cowboy mouth” in my drama class and completely fell in love with it, but I hadn’t really gave her music much of a chance yet.
I instantly connected with the monologue in a big way. It was the first time I had read on a page – the indescribable way I felt about music and those rare musicians that were born to be on stage. Everything about it inspired me. I knew it would be the easiest monologue I’d ever perform because I believed in every word I was saying and I understood completely what she was trying to say with it. It was like she had went into my brain and articulated how music made me feel, how music was supposed to make people feel, in a way that I never could.
Drama classes in university tend to go at a snails pace. You spend half the semester on the floor rolling around, doing yoga, making animal noises and all that bullshit. You spend the other half painstakingly rehearsing one scene, or one monologue. So I had a lot of time to dedicate towards getting to know Cavale – and since it was essentially a slice of Patti Smith’s life, that meant I finally dove into her music in a big way, as a means of “getting into character.”
As I listened to her incredible versions of “Hey Joe” and “Gloria” on repeat I became obsessed with her, like I had found a bolder, wiser, more confident version of myself that existed decades before I was born. Fresh out of Catholic school, I took immense pleasure in singing along to “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.”
The way she lived her life and her diverse work inspired me more than any other woman. At that time in my life I was very negative towards my own gender (maybe because in my sheltered little smalltown upbringing I had very rarely met any girls like her that I could actually relate to/didn’t find vapid). I was self hating in my own way – but she showed me that a woman could carve a path in a mans (punk rock) world, and dominate it. That a woman didn’t have to be a perfect pretty little fucking doll, a groupie cheering on the sidelines. That there was room in the world for girls like me. It was freeing.
Anyhow, when I heard Cowboy Mouth was being put on in Toronto, and would feature another musician I love – Jason Collett – in the Sam Sheppard role, I couldn’t wait to check it out.
The Cameron House is an odd venue for a play. The stage is tiny, the seating is sparse and more fit for a small comedy show than theatre, but overall the vibe worked. It made sense that a play about crazy musicians in lust would be performed in a long-running beloved music venue in the city. I assume that had something to do with their choice of location. People that go to Cameron House, and people that listen to Jason Collett, aren’t exactly the same people who attend theatre in Toronto. Even I, who used to love performing and wanted to be an actor, hadn’t been to a play outside of Mirvish musicals in a very long time. It’s fair to assume they hoped these two things would draw the indie music crowd into checking out this other world.
The play itself was well done. They managed to make good use of the tiny little stage – I absolutely loved the set design (though the wardrobe choice for Cavale, baggy 90s ripped acid wash blue jeans rather than the tight black jeans and black tee Patti would have wore in the 70s, was distracting), and having the characters take stage through the walkway between the audience even seemed to work in their favor. It was the definition of an intimate performance.
The story of the doomed romance between Cavale and Slim (Collett’s character) is the focus of the short piece, and was written by Smith and Sheppard during their affair when he briefly left his wife and kid to be with her. Both actors did a great job at capturing that feeling of lust, anger and confusion that is so present throughout. I was surprised at how believable and, well, excellent Collett was onstage, as someone who had never acted before. Of course, performing is performing – but playing a version of yourself onstage is much different than playing someone else.
There are not a whole lot of musicians who make great actors, but he proved he could easily make the transition if he wants to.
He also brought something new to the play by writing original songs for it. There are parts where the script just notes that Slim plays a song, so he composed some originals just for it – which in my opinion easily made it worth checking out even if the acting wasn’t as great as it was.
Cowboy Mouth is the kind of play that probably doesn’t appeal to a conventional audience. At times it seems like something written by people on an LSD trip. With strange characters like a dead crow and a lobster man, and no such happy ending in store for this pair, it can be challenging and almost amateur of not played right, but for those who enjoy something a little different, it’s a must see.
You can still see it at Cameron House until Thursday, February 14th, and if you’ve never heard the monologue from it that basically changed my life as a teenager, you really need to check it out.
The dawn of art as an experience is upon us. With events like Nuit Blanche becoming a regular thing around the world, it should be no surprise that our museums are starting to take a hint, in an attempt to draw a younger, hipper crowd.
The Royal Ontario Museum seems to be one of the first to pick up on this idea, having started Friday Night Live last summer. I attended one of the first Fridays last June, and I will freely admit that was my first time ever actually stepping inside the ROM in my entire time living here. This highlights the fact that young people, who – like me – love art and culture, aren’t even visiting the museum semi-regularly. This is a problem that Friday Night Live seems intent on fixing.
Of course, it’s a bigger problem for a museum like the ROM, which, rather than art, exhibits artifacts – a much harder sell.
The initial appeal of the event is that it opens the museum later than its regular hours, until 11pm (but the actual exhibits close at 9:30pm – only an hour more than their regular Friday hours), and you can also drink, dance, eat delicious food and enjoy music in the main foyer.
My first attempt to review FNLrom was for their BIG Fashion night, but unfortunately the museum had reached capacity by the time I arrived and they refused to let anyone else in, even as people were leaving. This fact seemingly soured me on the night – there is a big problem when staff are told to refuse people entrance despite the venue being under capacity once patrons leave. I was surprised that even with a media pass, and even as I watched many people leave with no intent of returning, no way was I getting in. Why would you keep people out of an event when there is room? The laziness of this shocked me. People were waiting in line for a LONG time expecting to get in without being told otherwise, cash in hand, but that didn’t matter to the people controlling the doors.
I returned the following week for God Save The Queen night, where I finally got to check out the Big Fashion exhibit I was so excited to see. Sadly, there was really only four main dresses – though they were incredible works of art from Christian Dior, Vivian Tam, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen – and the exhibit itself was so poorly lit that you’d probably miss out on some of the exquisite detail if you don’t have 20/20 vision.
While the European exhibit was where the British theme came from, the night itself suffered from a lack of any real British focus. There were DJs playing a mix of tunes (yes, some from British artists but I guess I was expecting a purely BritPop/Invasion night), the food wasn’t on theme, and nothing about it really screamed “God Save The Queen.” With a name like that, I was expecting something, well, slightly more punk rock.
I appreciate that the night is more for the ‘club’ crowd, so being particularly thematic maybe isn’t their focus as much as having people drink and dance in a cool space, but I do see a lot of room for growth that could make the event more desirable to the non-club kids. For example, a night with such a glorious name could have had a Beatles or Rolling Stones cover band, food local to Britain, maybe a speciality drink on theme as well? Display or project their flag somewhere! Have a British Invasion dress code. It’s this kind of going all out that would make it the kind of night people remember for ages.
I realize it wouldn’t be easy to bring in a unique menu item for the night, but I’m sure there are some talented chefs in the city that could do it. The food is already excellent as is (this is their one advantage over AGO’s First Thursdays), and it appears they have some partners that they work with on a continual basis – but bringing in someone new for each theme would be memorable and impressive.
The final night of the season was themed Light, and unfortunately this was less impressive than the previous week. The only thing that seemed to tie into the theme was the projection of scribbles onto the wall, and the rotating coloured lights flashing onto the dinosaur skeleton in the main foyer.
What definitely saved it for me though, was the live music from Cai.ro, a local band that should be on your radar if they’re not already. Seeing a band play at the ROM with a drink in hand is definitely an experience I highly recommend, and their support of local live music thus far has been impressive. Cai.ro played a beautiful set, and even included a Radiohead cover that served to make my night (as did the tacos from Gourmet Gringos – gluten free – but be ready for a LONG wait).
The worst part about FNLrom is the pointless buying of ROM Bucks in order to purchase food or drinks. I see the advantage of this – the servers don’t have to deal with cash and change – but it adds another line up to a night filled with line ups. Line up to buy your bucks so you can line up to buy your drinks and line up again to buy your food. Half your night will be spent in a line up. Also, if you do not spend all of your ROM Bucks by the end of the season, they expire and you’ve just wasted your money. AGO First Thursdays avoids this and allows you to buy food and drinks with cash, and it makes for a lot less hassle and more time to explore the museum.
With all that said – big props to the people behind FNLrom – you have started a museum revolution that is bringing art (and artifacts) into the lives of people who would likely never step foot into a museum. With some tweaks, it could become one of the best nights this city has to offer.
A few weeks back I attended the Gourmet Food and Wine show for the second time, in an attempt to continually expand my limited foodie experience.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I grew up in a town where the only ethnic food we had was a Chinese restaurant, with parents who only ever consumed meat and potatoes, so after getting over the culture shock of unlimited options when I moved to Toronto, I eventually faced my fear of foods like sushi and realized all I was missing out on. Now, I am obsessed with trying as much as I can, so long as it doesn’t appear slimy or have eyes.
This year I went to the Food and Wine show on the VIP/media night, thinking it would be less crowded than it was when I went on the Saturday night the previous year. Although they moved to a larger spot in the Convention Centre this time, it was still incredibly packed, but the new location definitely helped with some of the traffic.
I started with Chicken Paella from El Paella which was satisfying but not unique or unforgettable by any means. Word of advice, never start with a plate of rice at a food event where you want to try many things. I didn’t let the fact that I was no longer very hungry after that stop me, though.
My friend picked up a couple Prosciutto and Cheese Sliders that she loved so much she went back for a few more by the end of the night. I had tried them last year, and having a hatred for bread with hard crusts, I decided to pass this time.
Next she went for the Brie, Cranberry and Tarragon Grilled Cheese with the Meatballs Pomodoro from Magic Oven, and apparently the sandwich was great, but I tried the meatballs, and compared to the incredible ones I had a few weeks earlier at Eat to the Beat, they didn’t impress. They tasted like fairly basic meatballs you could easily make at home.
We both have an incredible sweet tooth, so we tried some Gelato next. The vendor had some interesting fruity combos and even a champagne option! But we went more traditional to avoid any disappointment She had a Dark Chocolate option, which I didn’t like at all because of the slightly bitter after-taste, so I went back for the French Vanilla which was smooth, sweet perfection.
I also tried the most delicious one bite Chocolate Cake with Raspberries that I have ever tasted, and that has to be the one item I ate that I loved the most and wanted to go back for more of. The same shop was serving a meat appetizer that my friend tried, but she was underwhelmed by the hard and flavourless bread.
I ended my food journey with my current food obsession, Butter Chicken. Yes, more chicken and rice, just what I needed! Sadly it was lukewarm and I was so full already that I really didn’t enjoy it (or finish it). Honestly, you could probably find tastier butter chicken at the Eaton Centre Food Court, but the problem may be that I tried it at the end of the night when it was obviously a big pot that was cooked at the beginning of the evening.
Onto the drinks. It is well documented that I am not much of a beer or wine fan (hard liquor ftw) – if you remember my Beer Festival post, the closest I get to enjoying beer is Fruli’s Strawberry beer option. But, as I get along in my 20s I feel like it is important to appreciate wine (especially if I want to truly understand the foodie world) so I’ve been pushing myself to try it more often. While most of what I sampled wasn’t doing anything for me, we came across Muskoka Lakes Winery which had a bunch of Cranberry Wines on display. Cranberry always makes for a good vodka drink, so I figured this was my best shot, and it has since become my new favourite thing.
I know you are thinking – fruit wine? That’s not real wine. Believe me, I proudly drank my 6$ Wild Vines Strawberry Wine when I was younger until someone informed me it is akin to drinking “bum wine.” But Muskoka Lakes makes their Cranberry Wines using all the same methods as grape wine, and the alcohol volume and price tell me it’s not a wine I should be embarrassed about loving. We tried the off-dry Blueberry Cranberry option, as well as the semi-sweet White Cranberry option. I loved them both, but the White was definitely my favourite. I think my real issue with wine has been that I’ve been trying it at bars, rather than at dinner. This is obvious but I’m starting to realize just how important it is to drink it with food.
I also had a strange ginger syrup drink that I would never try again, a delicious Strawberry Daiquiri, and a Motts Ceaser that was ridiculously cheap for $1, but too spicy for my delicate palette. I always forget to ask for very little spice when I get ceasars.
Overall it was a great event as expected, and I enjoyed it much more this time around even though it was still quite crowded. The food of course can be hit and miss depending on what you end up trying, but it was mostly delicious, and the drinks were great. I look forward to attending another round next year, and hopefully my wine knowledge will be a lot stronger by then.
Yes, Thursday night’s premiere of the new Medieval Times show was the first time in my life I’ve ever experienced the greatness of eating off of steel plates, being served by a wench and watching knights joust on horses.
I grew up only a couple hours south of Toronto, so trips to Medieval Times were always a regular thing in grade school – but my parents never thought it was a justifiable way to spend their limited budget back then. Suffices to say, I always felt I had missed out on the standard childhood right of passage.
That said, ever since moving here it has always been on my list as one of those things I have to do, so when I got the invite to come to this show I was pretty excited. I immediately called my parents and told them to rearrange their visit to celebrate my Dad’s birthday so we could celebrate it as any 58 year old man should – with grown men in costumes, wearing a paper crown.
Upon arrival, we received swag bags and coloured cards that let us know what section we would be seated in, and, as I would come to find out – which knight we would be cheering for. Ours was the red knight.
Once we got our “Maiden’s Kiss” strawberry slushie, peach schnapps and vodka drinks and they called our colour we were seated, our server introduced herself to us (insisting we refer to her as a wench while she referred to us as ladies and lords), and the emcee welcomed us to the show. He was probably my favourite part of the show, making jokes on the audience whenever he mentioned someone celebrating something.
The food was a definite highlight for my small town parents, who appreciated the basic meat and potatoes aspect of it. Take them to a fancy/foreign restaurant and they won’t eat anything, it’s tragic. But even though it was simple – garlic bread, tomato soup, chicken leg, potato, rib, apple pie – everything tasted great and there was definitely more food than one person could possibly eat. They also referred to everything on the menu with hilarious names – the tomato bisque was called “dragon’s blood soup” and the potato was “medieval French fries.”
In the end, our red knight didn’t win (which was kind of obvious as he didn’t come out last, and the last one out would always be the winner in this format) but it was still fun to cheer like idiots for him and boo like crazy at all the other guys. I guess they must change up who wins each night, or do they assume it’ll be a different audience every time and keep it the same? Not a good idea as there are definitely some hardcore cosplay types who probably show up here regularly (we were seated near some grown men literally dressed up in knight costumes…).
Since I’d never been before I can’t really tell you how it compares or differs to past versions of the show, but I can tell you there is a moment of true brilliance when a “falconer” comes out and has a falcon fly around the room very close to the audience. My sister and I literally almost peed our pants as it reminded us of one of the best recurring SNL skits of all time – ‘The Falconer” – where Will Forte played a business man who rejected the corporate world to be homeless and live with his pet falcon, and they would go on adventures together.
After it was over they invited everyone to the lobby to eat that really awesome looking cake, drink champagne and take photos with the knights. The show was fun, the food was great, the service was excellent, and the way they kept everything old English and as authentic to those days as they could was cute. My parents absolutely loved it, and I think I might actually have enjoyed it more now than I would have had I seen it as a kid, because drinks always make things like this extra entertaining.