Widowspeak – Almanac (Captured Tracks; 2013)

Widowspeak follows up their 2011 self-titled album with the richly-textured and bewitchingly seamless Almanac, released Jan. 22.

Almanac is an eclectic combination of songs fit for an adventure movie montage — with strong, clear riffs, infectious and tumultuous beats and hazy vocals. This is most clearly displayed in “Dyed in the Wood,” four minutes of raw inspiration, more invigorating than that early morning double-shot espresso on the way to school (you know what I’m talking about).

The impressive thing is, the Brooklyn-based duo manages to create such powerful tracks without any overkill whatsoever; no repetition, no tortuously catchy songs, no impression of trying too hard.

The album is assertive, not aggressive, and the end result is soft pop with a hazy, folky spirit. In regular indie fashion, the group artfully compiled one of the best albums I’ve seen in almost a year and seems to pass it off as no big deal.

Trial Track: “Thick as Thieves”

Rating: 9.5/10

– Victoria Kendrick



Sean Lennon – Alter Egos [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (Chimera Music; 2013)

Premiered last summer as an “official selection” from Montreal’s International Fantasia film festival, the soundtrack to the indie superhero satire film, Alter Egos, was composed by Sean Lennon (only son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono).

Boasting a definite sense of humour, the score to Alter Egos blends sweeping orchestral arrangements, surf rock and the nostalgia of classic superhero themes.

Tracks like “My Hero” feature a Hawaiian-style ‘50s doo-wop, while “The Killer” and “Hampty Hamps” create a film noir-ish atmosphere of danger.

Despite the grandiose sound of the film’s soundtrack, Lennon recorded all the instrumentation himself, using his computer to create the symphonic flourishes.

With limited film scoring experience, Lennon found the experience liberating: “Your path is made clear. You just focus on the scene and what works and not worrying about your feelings,” he said.

Trial Track: “My Hero (Ft. Karla Moheno)”

Rating: 6/10

– Paul Traunero



Solange – True EP (Terrible Records, 2013)

The biggest compliment that can be paid to Solange’s EP True is that at seven tracks, it is too short.

True, released digitally in November, deviates from Solange’s previous releases, the poppy Solo Star from 2003 and the Motown Sound-inspired Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams from 2008.

True is neo-soul, R&B goodness that, hopefully, is a preview of what’s to come for Solange’s next full-length album, slated for later this year.

True’s standout tracks “Losing You,” “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work,” “Lovers In The Parking Lot” and “Don’t Let Me Down” — but seriously, all seven songs on True are great — highlight everything that’s right with the EP and Solange’s music: upbeat, bold and sometimes-catchy melodies, but with dark and deeply personal lyrics about relationships, life, love and loss of love.

Trial track: “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work”

Rating: 9/10

– Chris Hanna



Nosaj Thing – Home (Innovative Leisure; 2013)

Get ready to fly away into an electro-ambient parallel music universe. Los Angeles-based electronic musician Jason Chung, a.k.a. Nosaj Thing, releases his latest album, Home, on Jan. 22.

Nosaj’s music infuses his musical influences – from hip-hop, to electronic, to glitch — into a treat that’s hard to resist.

Home adds a new element to the ambient blend when he brings in Toro Y Moi to record the song “Try” and Blonde Redhead vocalist Kazu Makino for “Blue/Eclipse.”

Some of the notable tracks include the melodic, trance-y beats of “Tell” and the catchy, digitally flavored, urban-esque feel of “Snap”.

But with all that said, to embrace Home is to listen to it intimately with your headphones on when you close your eyes. Let Nosaj’s music gently take you in for a one-of-a-kind joy ride. Ambient. Refreshing. Lovely. No kidding, really.


Trial track: “Blue/Eclipse”

Rating: 8/10


– Saturn De Los Angeles


Summer movie preview

It seems summer movie season starts earlier every year. But that would depend on when you think summer actually starts. Is it really Summer Solstice (June 20), or is it when school ends? In either case, there are plenty of films coming out between April and September that are sure to keep you occupied if the outdoors isn’t your thing.

Xavier Dolan’s highly anticipated follow-up to Les amours imaginaires is Laurence Anyways, the story of a man who decides to undergo a sex change but maintain his loving relationship with his female companion. The film is written and directed by Dolan and is due out in May.

Quebec television series Omertà is getting the big screen treatment July 11. Luc Dionne, who wrote the successful show that ran in the late ‘90s, will write and direct the film centered around organized crime and Italian mafia in Montreal. Michel Côté, Rachelle Lefevre, Patrick Huard will star, with René Angélil in the role of head mafioso Dominic Fagazi.

The Fantasia Film Festival has become one of the most anticipated film events of the summer in North America. Quentin Tarantino, whose 2009 film Inglourious Basterds made its North American debut at Fantasia, called the festival “the most important and prestigious film festival on this continent.” Fantasia will be celebrating its 16th year in Montreal (with many screenings at or around Concordia’s downtown campus) from July 19 to Aug. 7.

Sarah Polley’s first directorial effort since 2006’s Away From Her, which earned her an Oscar nomination in the adapted screenplay category, will be Take This Waltz, which was shot in Toronto and stars Michelle Williams and Canuck Seth Rogen. The film has played at the Toronto International Film Festival and other film festivals across the country, but it is set to be released in a “theatre near you,” so to speak, in June.

Cosmopolis stars Robert Pattinson, and before you roll your eyes, just know that the film is written and directed by Canadian David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method). A teaser trailer for the film is making its rounds online and it’s totally crazy: 24 hours in the life of a young Manhattan billionaire and all the trouble he can get into during that time. It’s based on the Don DeLillo book of the same name. Cronenberg promises a Rob “as you have not seen him before.” So no sparkly skin, right?

Indie (with star power)
Woody Allen moves his story to Italy this summer with To Rome With Love. Since 1982, Allen has written and directed at least one film every year. With a career that started in the mid ’60s, his 2012 effort reunites him with Penelope Cruz (whose work on Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona earned the actress her first Oscar), and also stars Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Canadians Ellen Page and Alison Pill, and Allen himself. Rome will be in limited release as of April 20, and will likely be released in Montreal by June.

A young girl and boy fall in love and run away together in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, causing their town to search for them. This will be Anderson’s first live-action feature since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited and his first effort since the stop-motion animated Fantastic Mr. Fox. Moonrise stars Anderson veterans Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, as well as Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Frances McDormand, and is due out in May.

In Safety Not Guaranteed, three journalists (New Girl’s Jake M. Johnson, Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza, and Karan Soni) find the subject of their next feature in a classified ad, the buyer of which is looking for someone to time travel with. The film is scheduled to hit theatres in June.

For the kid in you
There will be yet another entry in the Madagascar and Ice Age franchises (June 8 and July 13, respectively), but the animated film to catch this summer will be Disney Pixar’s Brave, which by the looks of the teaser trailers released in the last few months, will be a return to form for the studio that suffered with the seriously terrible Cars 2 last summer. Brave is centered around Princess Merida, whose archery skills and bravery will be put to the test when she has to save her kingdom.

Tim Burton collaborated with Johnny Depp again for a big screen adaptation of Dark Shadows, the television cult classic from the ‘60s. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a vampire who was imprisoned for 200 years and who, upon his release in 1972, seeks out his lava lamp-owning, Chevy-driving ancestors. Dark Shadows will be out May 11.

Date night
Rare is the romantic comedy that can please both male and female moviegoers, but on April 27, The Five-Year Engagement will do just that. Jason Segel and Emily Blunt star in the Nicholas Stoller film about a couple that keeps putting off their wedding date. Stoller and Segel wrote the screenplay; the duo collaborated on Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek.

Musical Rock of Ages features ‘80s rock anthems by Poison and Twisted Sister and a cast that is too long to list in its entirety (though it includes Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Mary J. Blige). The Adam Shankman (Hairspray) film is scheduled to be released June 15.

Fellas, you will be dragged to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, out May 18. It’ll be awful, but then she’ll owe you one, at which point you use your free pass to see The Avengers (May 4), Men in Black III (May 25), The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3), Christopher Nolan’s last hurrah directing a Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (June 8 or The Bourne Legacy Aug. 3, which will feature Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) in the title role.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
…or the guy whose face you’ll see a lot of on the big screen this year. The actor’s come a long way from his day on 3rd Rock From the Sun, with career-making turns in Brick and The Lookout, and more recently, 500 Days of Summer, Inception and 50/50. He will be in five films this year, including The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush (Aug. 24), Looper (Sept. 28) and Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, both due out in December.

Student Life

Do you know what it feels like for a boy?

Graphic by Phil Waheed

If we were to live by the rules of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, one of the most popular reality competition shows on the tube, dropping more than half your weight over the span of a television season is nothing short of an extraordinary success.

And it’s inspiring, really, to see obese people who couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs be able to run a 10K after weeks of grueling exercising and dieting. The contestants’ weights keep dropping and they are rewarded almost immediately by receiving kudos from the show’s personal trainers and admiration and jealousy from their opponents. The contestants’ backgrounds and life stories (and the producers’ sneaky, strategic editing) make viewers feel like there could be a biggest loser in everyone.

Contestants exercise to better their health and their lives; the “biggest loser” also gets a cash prize. At home, viewers are treated to fat people’s families’ ecstatic faces at the contestants’ new svelte physiques.

“Look at how happy they are,” they must think. “If I get skinny, people will like me more, too.”

Victor Avon used to be obese. Today, he is closing in on his tenth year battling an eating disorder. At his heaviest, Avon was a 19-year-old college freshman tipping the scale at almost 300 pounds. After teenage years in high school that seemed like they would never end, he whispered to himself words that would change his life forever.

“It was March 4, 2002,” Avon remembers. “I was in my student dining hall and I remember I was standing in line at the grill and I said, ‘F it, I’m going to go on a diet.’ By making that decision, I pushed that first domino over. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

He continued, “I hated my body growing up because of how people made me feel and how I was treated, and because I couldn’t change myself. I couldn’t take control of my body and get that perfect body that everybody would love me with. I had a lot of self-hate. I created the eating disorder as a way to control what the world could see. I was going to get the body that everyone always made fun of me for not having. I’m going to be the person they always wanted me to be, and I’m going to be happy.”

Psychologist Anna Barrafato runs a support group for students with eating disorders at Concordia University’s Counselling and Development Centre. She says eating disorders can be triggered by many things, including a childhood trauma or a lifelong battle with one’s own body image. They can also happen when dieting turns into an obsessive fear about getting “fat” and an addiction to losing weight. She says eating disorders are sometimes developed as a coping method.

Avon describes his father and uncles as ultra-masculine, and when he wasn’t bullied by his schoolmates, his family constantly made him feel like he wasn’t good enough. He had no one to turn to, and he says his eating disorder turned into his best friend. It was also the only thing in his life he had complete control over.

Barrafato says that eating disorders undoubtedly transcend gender, race, culture and socioeconomic status. She says the belief that an eating disorder is a woman’s affliction dissuades men into seeking appropriate help when they are showing symptoms. Studies also show that people believe men obsessed with their appearance and weight are gay. The fear of being mistaken for a homosexual or thought of as unmanly is strong enough for some men with eating disorders to never admit they have a problem.

Avon’s dieting in 2002 spiraled out of control into anorexia nervosa, which he was not diagnosed with until 2006. When he finally sought help and checked into Princeton University Medical Center’s eating disorder unit, he weighed 130 pounds. “They were surprised I was still alive,” he remembers. “My body was shutting down. My fingers were blue. I weighed less than my mother.”

Avon’s body mass index went from 40.7 to 17.6. A person’s BMI is calculated by dividing the person’s weight in kilograms by the square of the person’s height in metres. By North American standards, a person with a BMI over 30 is obese, while a BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight. According to 2004 figures from Statistics Canada, more than 23 per cent of Canadian adults and 30 per cent of American adults were obese.

According to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in North America, anorexia nervosa is diagnosed overwhelmingly in females, with up to 90 per cent of cases seen in women. The National Eating Disorders Association, for which Avon is the male spokesperson, echoes that statistic: of the more than 10 million people struck by eating disorders in the United States, only 10 per cent—or one million—are men.

“I stuck with the old stigma that men can’t get eating disorders,” Avon recalls. “I didn’t think anything was wrong with me. It was easy to fool myself for a long time because of the gender issue. I had never in my life heard of a guy getting an eating disorder. I also had a lot of positive reinforcement, ‘You look great, you’re taking care of yourself, dropping some weight and getting healthy.’ I just thought that it was the lifestyle that I had chosen.”

Avon has written a book about his experience, My Monster Within: My Story, in which he describes the mental anguish he felt when he missed a workout. “If I decided to run 55 minutes one day, instead of 75, the backlash that came with that in my head―it was not normal. It was never an option not to exercise. It was never an option to change without severe mental anguish. It was a total belief that if I changed one thing I did for one day, that I’d wake up the next day having gained 100 pounds overnight. It was fear that people would start rejecting me again. It was the fear that everything I ever felt growing up would come flooding back and happen again.”

From 2002 to 2008, Avon severely restricted his daily food and calorie intake and exercised like a “madman, to the point that I have major joint problems today. The only things I ate for six years were: chicken breast, turkey breast, beef, broccoli and some cheese. That’s it.

“I got myself to the weight that I thought I would be happy with. My physical body changed, but everything up here,” Avon said, pointing to his head, “always stayed the exact same. I still felt like I was in my old body, so I had all the insecurities that I lived with. It never got easier. I was never happy.”

Avon was hospitalized for four months, where he met with therapists and psychiatrists daily. Patients were also required to attend group therapy sessions where they essentially had to be retaught how to eat again and why food is so important for the human body. Avon, now 29, considers himself on the road to recovery, a road he has been trekking since 2008. “I was so sick for so long; six years with the eating disorder, and for most of my life I had major body image and food issues. I don’t want to say that my wiring’s all messed up. It’s a goal of mine to be fully recovered, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen.”

Avon says he has been on the road to recovery since 2008. As a spokesperson for NEDA, he attended a conference on eating disorders in Los Angeles over the summer hosted by medical professionals in the field. While Avon’s goal is to raise awareness for men afflicted by eating disorders, he found it disenchanting when psychiatrists turned to his accompanying wife to ask her how long she was sick for, requiring Avon to interject.

According to Barrafato, eating disorders are lifelong struggles and “it takes a very strong will to say that you are okay with the way you look.”

“I don’t think I’m happy with the way I look,” admits Avon, “but I accept the body I have. I could stand in the mirror and pick myself apart if I wanted to, but doing that only fuels the illness. I know I will never have the perfect body that I once craved, so the way to live and be okay with myself is to accept the body I am given and do my best to keep it healthy, to not focus on the outside but rather the inside.”


In the land of women

If you subscribe to early ‘90s gender theory, men and women hail from different planets (Mars and Venus, respectively). But when it comes to leaving their mark in the arts, there’s no disputing that the recognition goes two ways. Whether it’s Clara Bow gracing the silver screen in her cupid-lipped glory, or the works left by Sylvia Plath—which, after the oven debacle, made her the first poet to win a Pulitzer posthumously—women have, through history, shaped the arts in ways that are embedded in our subconscious. They are the reason why we can’t look at a subway grate without also picturing a white dress (Marilyn Monroe), have a single name at our lips at the sight of a unibrow (Frida Kahlo), or look at a cone-shaped bra and not complete the image with astoundingly toned arms (Madonna). Immortalized through their works and achievements, the women below took Helen Reddy’s words (“I am woman, hear me roar”) to heart and for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, we are honouring them.



An artist among artists, Orlan considers the operating room her studio. She deconstructs our ideas of beauty by serving herself up as the canvas—having volunteered her body for many unnatural alterations. A self-described neo-feminist, she had nine plastic surgeries
in the early ‘90s, which referenced beauty in traditional western art. Some of her alterations include implants to mimic the Mona Lisa’s protruding forehead, changing her mouth to look like François Boucher’s The Rape of Europa, and modifying her chin to look like The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Born in 1947 in Saint-Étienne, Loire, Orlan first engaged in this form of surgery-art when she was preparing to speak at a symposium in 1978 but had to be rushed to hospital. She almost died because of an ectopic pregnancy (where the fetus is outside the womb and cannot survive), but while the surgeons were removing the fetus to save Orlan’s life, she insisted that she remain conscious and that the film crew she brought with her be able to film it. The images on film inspired her career. Orlan is a well-known multimedia artist in France and her work questions whether what we project is a reflection of our real selves, or a fabrication based on what is seen in the media. Her interest in cosmetic surgery has seen her labeled as anti-feminist by some, but the unique product of her alterations are clearly only cosmetic in name.

– Elysha Del Giusto-Enos


Patsy Montana

Patsy Montana was the first woman in country music to sell a million records with her 1935 single “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” But, with that face and that yodeling, who wouldn’t want to be her sweetheart? The single also became a mainstay on the National Barn Dance on Chicago radio station WLS for many years, station of which she was a cast member in the early ‘30s. She was influenced by the music of “America’s Blue Yodeler” Jimmie Rodgers, and as a child she learned to yodel and play organ, guitar and violin. Montana was also a star of the stage; she appeared in numerous western films, including one with the “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry. Her success in the music and film industry encouraged the traditionally male-oriented country music business to welcome and respect the female performers that followed her. She was known for making extensive tours and played many radio engagements during the ‘40s. Women in those days weren’t supposed to travel alone without their husbands or a male family member, but this was not going to stop this cutie from moving forward. She did it anyway and broke some ground by doing this. Yes, she was that badass. Montana’s intricate yodeling inspired many other female singers throughout the years and she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, the year she passed away and became a yodeling angel.

– Giselle MacDonald


Phoebe Greenberg

Phoebe Greenberg is an innovative force behind the arts in Montreal. Not only has she founded the DHC Gallery, the theatre company Diving Horse Creations and the PHI Centre, but she is also a film producer, most notably working on the 2010 Oscar-nominated Incendies. Greenberg studied theatre at Concordia University before moving to Paris to study under Jacques Lecoq and work with LEM (Laboratoire Étude du Mouvement). On her return to Montreal in 1990, she started Diving Horse Creations, which offers parody-based theatre that is quite unique, integrating visual art, theatre and the great classics into original productions. She founded the DHC Gallery in 2007 and it has since become, according to tourism website The Montreal Buzz, one of the city’s go-to destinations for contemporary art. The gallery aims to provide a platform for young Canadian artists, but also attracts works by world-renowned artists such as Marc Quinn and Jenny Holzer. Greenberg’s current project is the PHI Centre, which will open its doors in the spring of 2012. The PHI Centre’s purpose is dedicated to fostering, producing, promoting and distributing original, artist-driven projects. Greenberg’s passion and dedication to serving all of the different facets of Montreal’s artist community make her a true woman of the arts.

– Amanda L. Shore


Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren’s life makes the scandals and achievements of modern-day stars pale in comparison. After all, how can a coke-induced breakdown compete with being involved in a bigamy scandal, rejecting a marriage proposal from Cary Grant and racking up 50 international awards for your acting in the process? Breaking out in the ‘50s, Loren quickly became the most famous Italian actress in the world, making heads in Hollywood turn with her wit and exotic beauty (in her earlier films, her name appeared as Sofia Lazzaro because people said her looks could raise Lazarus from the dead). Her strong chemistry with actor Marcello Mastroianni gave way to 14 films together, making them one of the most realistic couplings ever captured on camera. Yet she was devoted to her husband, film producer Carlo Ponti, who was 22 years her senior—they met when she was 14 and he was a judge in a beauty pageant she’d entered—and whom she married twice because of the aforementioned bigamy situation. She stayed with him until he died. If the names of her contemporaries are delicately written in the history of cinema, Loren’s is positively gouged in. Whether she’s portraying a prostitute to Mastroianni’s commitment-phobe player in Marriage Italian Style, a protective mother in the harrowing Two Women, or a countess in Charlie Chaplin’s last film, A Countess from Hong Kong, Loren’s screen presence is powerful and unforgettable, with her fierce gaze practically being seared into your mind. After all, what else could you expect from the woman who famously credited her body to spaghetti?

– Sofia Gay


Brie Neilson

The lovely and talented singer-songwriter and painter Brie Neilson does not have to do much to make an impact on the musical community as her creamy alto voice does it for her. One lady with a guitar is not a new musical formula, though Neilson has managed to make it a category of her own. Unlike the angst that can sometimes accompany a woman going solo, Neilson’s music resonates with thoughtful lyrics and beautiful melodies that allow the listener to enjoy her music without feeling obliged. Beyond her solo work, which you can now hear backed by her band, Brie Neilson and Her Other Men, Neilson also lends her voice to the 10-man gypsy-circus-folk band (never ordinary!) The Unsettlers. It was her friend B.W. Brandes, the frontman of The Unsettlers who, long before the band had come to be, encouraged Neilson to nurture her songwriting talent. But why stop at voice? Neilson is also a talented painter. Her interest in art began during childhood after finding she was not as adept at sports as she would have liked. Expressing herself in other activities such as finger painting and choir, the artist inside had begun to bloom. After attending the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, she supported herself by selling oil paintings of flowers for a commission. Never one to be ordinary, Neilson’s floral paintings go beyond what the average eye sees in a flower: “My interest in taking familiar objects and examining them in a new way, allowing the viewer to re-encounter them—close up, out of context and re-framed—is an ongoing objective in my painting.”

– Sara King-Abadi


Gertrude Stein

To the American ex-pats living in Paris in the ‘20s and ‘30s, she was an editor and a mentor; to emerging and innovative painters like Picasso and Matisse, she was a midwife who helped to shape and guide their artistic ventures; to those across the globe who read her works and were intrigued or disgusted by her non-linear, non-grammatical experimentation with the English language, she was a literary curiosity. Pop history might venture to call Gertrude Stein something akin to a “tastemaker” for a generation, but although the modernist works she produced and encouraged are now part of widespread taste and considered classics, Stein is perhaps best described as someone who helped the artists around her realize their capacity to move forward into a new moment in art, take risks and explore the limits of their self-expression. Working from her Paris salon, where she bought Picasso and Matisse pieces long before they were worth millions of dollars, she edited and mentored such greats as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. With her partner, Alice B. Toklas, she amassed an art collection that showcased the best of modern art, and which will be shown in an upcoming exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, entitled The Steins Collect. She was an artist in her own right as well, penning, among others, the poem Tender Buttons, the experimental written style that plays on the musicality and tonality of language, as well The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, written from Alice’s perspective, but providing invaluable insight into the history of one of the most exciting moments in 20th century art and literature history. Although editors of her anthologies often joke about the pervasiveness of “Steinese” in modern artistic expression (think of sayings like “a rose is a rose is a rose”), the truth is that Gertrude Stein shaped the art of a generation, and the tastes, attitudes and culture which arose with and after it.

– Rebecca Ugolini


Mayim Bialik

Actor, writer, neuroscientist, spokesperson, mother, certified lactation educator counsellor, co-founder and chair of the youth branch of the Jewish Free Loan Association are just a few of the labels Mayim Bialik can be headed under. Best known for starring as Blossom in the 1990s sitcom of the same name and currently as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, Bialik is a highly regarded member of the arts community. Her first book comes out March 6, and when she’s not busy writing or acting, she’s taking care of her two boys. The horrible tales of what happens to child actors after their shows end have been assuaged slightly by Bialik’s amazing success story. Not only is she an exceptional actor, but she represents the myriad of possibilities available to women, proving that you don’t have to stay within a label, and that you can do virtually anything you want. Bialik currently holds a PhD in neuroscience and is consistently getting involved in new projects. She represents a woman who not only wears many hats, but excels in everything she’s involved in.

– Amanda L. Shore


Patti Smith

Where does one begin to describe Patti Smith? You could list the many endeavours she’s taken on—artist, poet, singer, playwright, author, actress, music critic—or maybe name drop the famous individuals she’s rubbed elbows with, including Salvador Dali, Jimi Hendrix, Allen Ginsberg, Janis Joplin, Sam Shepard and dozens more. But even that wouldn’t quite cover it. Smith’s story is riveting, from her exodus to New York City in the ‘60s after giving up her child for adoption and promising Joan of Arc’s statue in Philadelphia that she’d make something of herself, to touring the world with her band as The Patti Smith Group, earning the moniker “Godmother of Punk” for her unique hybrid of poetry and rock. She had an intense relationship with controversial photographer Robert  Mapplethorpe—which she recounted in 2010’s Just Kids—and was a presence in legendary ‘70s New York City landmarks, such as the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel and CBGB. An artist through and through, her decades-long career led her to an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the title of Commander from the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the highest honour France bestows to artists. Her debut album Horses—for which Mapplethorpe photographed the iconic cover—has been featured prominently in many “greatest albums of all time” lists, including Time magazine and Rolling Stone. Perhaps what makes Smith such a remarkable artist is her dedication. The ‘80s saw her with a husband and kids, away from the spotlight. But when she came back, she did so by touring with Bob Dylan, putting out more albums and scribing more poetry. Needless to say, Joan of Arc would be proud.

– Sofia Gay


Aretha Franklin

You’d be wise not to mess with Aretha Franklin. She demanded R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the ‘60s, a less-than-idyllic era for African Americans. Poet Nikki Giovanni called Franklin “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of Black America.” “Respect” remains her biggest hit and solidified her spot as the original sassy sister. She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987; she is the winner of 18 Grammy Awards and the recipient of two honorary Grammys, the Legend and the Lifetime Achievement. Forty-five of her singles have reached the Top 40. Her influence on the industry and artists who have followed in her pioneering footsteps cannot be ignored. There would not have been a Whitney, a Mariah, a Mary J., to name a few, if it weren’t for Aretha. In the No. 9 spot, she is the highest-ranked female on Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest artists of all time list (the next woman on the list is Madonna at No. 36).  What makes Aretha a super special woman, though, is that her career started as a girl at age 14 in 1956. She is pushing 70 and released an album in 2011 through her own record company, Aretha Records, which she launched in 2004. In the immortal words of Ms. Franklin herself, sisters are certainly doin’ it for themselves.

– Chris Hanna

Graphics by Maya Pankalla


40 minutes or less

A still from Quebecois director Patrick Doyon's Dimanche/Sunday, which has been nominated for an Oscar.

“Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” is as good a strategy as any for predicting the winners in the live action short and animated short categories on your Academy Award ballot. The 10 nominees are rarely screened outside specialized and indie film festivals. Without “big” names behind them and with limited budgets, it’s hard for them to generate any buzz, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to gauge which films will have caught the attention of the voters.
Academy rules state that a film is considered “short” if it is under 40 minutes in length. A great short film won’t try to pack as much emotional punch in its limited run-time as its feature-length counterpart. Instead, in 40 minutes or less, it will masterfully tell a great tale that won’t leave the audience feeling shortchanged.

Live action short film
In Ireland’s Pentecost, altar boy Damian is relieved from his duties when he accidentally makes the church’s priest fall down a few stairs during mass. The boy gets a chance to redeem himself, undo the punishment his father dealt (no watching or listening to Liverpool’s finals game!) and save face in front of his other Father when he is called upon to replace an altar boy who was ejected from the church after it was discovered that he was never baptised.
Time Freak is the shortest and most inventive entry in the category. Stillman has invented a time machine, but he is stuck going back just a few hours in time to perfect interactions he has with the woman of his dreams and the man who runs his dry cleaner’s. Stillman’s friend Evan concocts a plan to get him out of his rut.
In The Shore, a man returns to Northern Ireland after 25 years in the United States to make amends with a childhood friend. Written, directed and produced by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, In the Name of the Father), The Shore is sweet, and surprisingly touching.
In Raju, Jan and Sarah Fischer are a German couple traveling to Calcutta to adopt an orphan boy. Before the paperwork even goes through, the boy, Raju, goes missing. The most heart-wrenching short in the bunch, Raju features an amazing performance by Wotan Wilke Möhring.
The short that I think will take home the hardware come Oscar night is Norway’s Tuba Atlantic. With just six days to live, a grumpy man with a disdain for seagulls (he shoots them out of the sky and stomps on their eggs) wants to reconnect with the brother he lost touch with decades ago. With the help of a young girl, he rediscovers his youthful energy and zest.

Animated short film
If you needed proof that not all animation is for children, look no further than U.K. nominee A Morning Stroll. At just seven minutes, the gory film starts with a man in 1959 strolling down a New York City block and noticing a chicken doing the same. Later, it’s 2009 and the times have changed. Fifty years after that, the same block is unrecognizable.
Canada is well-represented in the animated short film category with two entries, Dimanche/Sunday and Wild Life. Quebec’s Patrick Doyon directs the former, about a boy who imagines a more fun Sunday for himself than the one in which his family forces him to take part. The latter is directed by the Alberta duo Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby and tells the story of an Englishman who moves to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century and sends letters back home. The life he writes about is much rosier than the one he is experiencing.
As much as I would love to root for the Canadian films come Oscar night, they are up against some stiff competition. Pixar-backed La Luna was not available for screening by press time. It tells the story of a boy’s lunar adventure with his father and grandfather.
My pick for the win in the live action short category is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. After a natural disaster ravages his city, Lessmore finds solace in a library where books and music give him and his townspeople culture and hope. Flying Books is incredibly animated and is a true feast for the eyes, mind and heart.


Cinema du Parc will be showing the nominated shorts as of Friday,

Feb. 10. For details, go to


Summer movie preview

Kunis and Timberlake star in Friends With Benefits, due out in July.

The end of our semester doesn’t exactly coincide with the beginning of summer, but it does mean we all have a lot of extra time to indulge in those guilty pleasures you probably snuck in during midterm studying time: movies.

Summer movies are generally associated with noise, explosions, popcorn, sequels and remakes, but if you look for them (and you don’t even have to look that hard), some quieter, local films are also being released that will be well worth the price of admission.

Montreal director Jacob Tierney’s first effort since last year’s The Trotsky will be released June 3. Good Neighbours stars Jay Baruchel (who is likely to play an awkward extension of himself, again), Scott Speedman, Emily Hampshire and Quebec film phenom Xavier Dolan. The movie is set in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce during the 1995 referendum on the separation of Quebec, but residents of an apartment complex also have to deal with a series of murders that coincidentally start occurring when Baruchel’s character moves into the neighbourhood.

Kevin Tierney, Jacob’s father, will make his directorial debut with French Immersion on July 1. The elder Tierney has been mainly producing films in Canada, including Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which he also wrote and won a Genie award for. His first effort as a director is about four anglo-Canadians and a New Yorker who take part in a two-week French immersion program in a northern Quebec town, where “only” 97 per cent of the population is “pure laine.” The remaining three per cent? Vampires (maybe… although in all seriousness, with no Twilight film coming out this summer, a vampire plot twist could make French Immersion the biggest hit of the season).

Starbuck starring Patrick Huard comes out on July 29. The movie is not about the coffee chain, but rather about Huard’s character, an immature 42-year-old man who decides he wants to reinvent himself into the adult he should have been decades ago. Thing is, right when he wants to turn his life around, he finds out he is the biological father of 533 children.

Pour l’amour de Dieu will be released on May 11. Directed by Micheline Lanctôt, the story of the forbidden romantic relationship between Sister Cécile and Father Malachy in 1950’s Montreal is seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old female student, who also has a crush on Malachy.

But not all Quebec films look promising this summer. So You Think You Can Dance Canada season one winner Nico Archambault stars in what can only be described as Quebec’s version of the ghastly and nausea-inducing Step Up series. Sur le rythme comes out Aug. 12.

The boys are back in town, in Thailand this time, for Hangover 2.

As for the Hollywood fare coming out this summer, director Roland Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow) once said “Nobody makes movies bad on purpose.” He should know; his movies are as disastrous as the events depicted in them.

This summer, Hollywood continues its assault on your senses with follow-ups to the Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers series. On Stranger Tides and Dark of the Moon come out on May 20 and July 1, respectively. More sequels abound as this summer will also mark the end of the beloved Harry Potter franchise films. Part two of The Deathly Hallows comes out July 15. Zach Galifianakis and his wolf pack go to Thailand for The Hangover Part II for Stu’s (Ed Helms) wedding on May 26.

Last January’s Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher film No Strings Attached had such a resonating theme that a similar film is due. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis star in Friends with Benefits, out July 22, a movie about two friends who want all of the physical and none of the emotional attachment. Original.

One comedy worth checking out is likely to be May 13’s Bridesmaids, the Judd Apatow-produced Kristen Wiig vehicle. Women deserve a great comedy that respects them as moviegoers, and men deserve a movie that will not make them cringe when they’re going to be dragged to it.



Summer movie preview

For some people, the summer months ahead are what they look forward to all year: sunbathing, beaches, travelling, swimming, barbecues and the great outdoors. For others, summer’s a real bummer. It means sun burns, sand in unimaginable places, sweating, bugs and difficulty breathing.

No matter how you feel, it wouldn’t be summer without spending a couple of hours in an air-conditioned cineplex watching the latest Hollywood Blockbuster/animated flick/rom-com/indie hit.

The Concordian has come up with this definitive list of the movies you must see this summer &- and the ones you need to avoid.

Must-see this summer

Robert Downey Jr.’s hilarious turn as outspoken billionaire inventor Tony Stark makes Iron Man 2 a must-see on May 7. The film doesn’t seem to veer away from the first one’s lightheartedness, action and energy. Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke and Don Cheadle also star.

Director Christopher Nolan’s star-studded Inception is out July 16 and shrouded in mystery. It might be about a technological breakthrough that makes it possible to enter the human brain. Like Nolan’s Memento, this one will surely need to be seen more than once to fully grasp.

Angelina Jolie stars as a female Jason Bourne in Salt, out July 23. Salt is accused of being a Russian spy. Rather than deny it and talk it out, she makes a run for it, is chased and finally puts those Lara Croft skills to good use.

Michael Caine, 77, stars as the title character in Harry Brown, a man who is hell bent on avenging his best friend’s murder. The films pits Caine against street gangs in London, so it’s Gran Torino with British accents. That’s out April 30.

Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor star in I Love You, Phillip Morris, out April 30 in limited release, based on the true story of Steven Jay Russell, a con artist who has escaped from jail one fewer time than he has been incarcerated. He meets and falls in love with Phillip Morris while in jail and he is determined to help him escape.

Life imitates art in Control director Anton Corbijn’s second film The American, which comes out Sept. 1. George Clooney stars as an American assassin living in Italy awaiting directions for his last hit.


Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia, Dear John) stars in the “sure to be predictable because everything is given away in the trailer” Letters to Juliet, opening May 14. She plays an American vacationing in Verona, Italy, where Romeo and Juliet first met. After her fiancée stops paying attention to her, she tries to reunite two old lovers, only to find herself falling in love with a rich-looking Brit. The film is cliché-ridden: girl meets boy but girl is engaged, girl and boy don’t get along but when girl and boy spend time together they realize they are perfect for each other. Final sprint to reunite after going separate ways, wedding scene, Taylor Swift love song, roll credits.

Sarah Jessica Parker is milking it for all its worth: the second Sex and the City movie opens May 28. At this point, the women are more like the cast of the Golden Girls than the single ladies from the HBO show.

The summer movie season is going to be book-ended by two rom-coms about artificial insemination that star a Jennifer. April 23’s The Back Up Plan stars Jennifer Lopez as a woman so desperate for a baby, she asks her best friend for his goods, only to meet and fall in love with the man of her dreams after finally becoming pregnant. Jennifer Aniston stars in The Switch, out August 20, with Jason Bateman as her best friend. When he drunkenly spills the donor’s sperm down a bathroom sink, he switches the donor’s sperm for his own. When they reconnect years later, he has to live with the secret that he is her child’s father.

The third (and sadly not last) film in the Twilight series, Eclipse, comes out June 30. The worst thing to happen to vampires is not sunlight or being stabbed by a wooden stake. It’s this series, which will probably continue breaking box office records.

Julia Roberts stars in the film adaption of Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love, directed by Glee creator Ryan Murphy (out August 13). No word on whether any cheesy, over-the-top musical scenes were shot for the film.


Indie queen Catherine Keener stars in two must-sees this summer. Please Give, out April 30, is about a woman’s (Keener) constant urge to help homeless people, to the dismay of her husband and materialistic and somewhat selfish daughter. Cyrus, out July 9, stars Keener and the underrated John C. Reilly as a newly-divorced couple. Reilly falls in love with a woman (Marisa Tomei), only to find out she has a grown son (Jonah Hill, playing his first ever tolerable character in Cyrus, also stars in Get Him to the Greek alongside British funnyman Russell Brand, out June 4).

Robert Duvall and Bill Murray star in Get Low, out July 30, based on the real story of Felix Bush, a mysterious, shotgun-toting Tennessee man who threw his own funeral &- while he was still alive &- and told thousands of people the real story of his life.

Hollywood’s unoriginal streak

The remakes that don’t need to be remade category keeps growing and is likely to never stop. With a shortage of original ideas in Hollywood, this year’s set of “reimaginings”, as they’re likely to be called, are especially cringe-worthy. Will Smith’s son, Jaden, and Jackie Chan star in a remake of The Karate Kid, out June 11. It’s Obama’s America, so it’s time for a Black Karate Kid? Totally unnecessary.

Also out June 11 is the movie version of “80s TV series The A-Team, which was cancelled in the middle of its fifth season due to poor ratings. The show that helped launch Mr. T’s career has been turned into a movie starring serious actor turned blockbuster whore Liam Neeson, who also stars in the 3-D remake of The Clash of the Titans, out now.

One remake worth seeing is sure to be A Nightmare on Elm Street, out April 30, starring veteran creep Jackie Earle Haley, who played a pedophile in Little Children, as teen terrorizer Freddy Krueger.

MacGruber, the MacGyver spoof from Saturday Night Live, is painfully unfunny at two minutes on TV. The movie version of the sketch is out May 21.

The French comedy Le Dîner des Cons is getting American-ized with Paul Rudd and Steve Carell starring in Dinner For Schmucks, out July 23. It will surely give the French more reasons to hate Americans.

Animated fare

These flicks aren’t just for kids anymore, and there’s really no shame in admitting that Ratatouille made the Food Network your favourite channel or that you cried watching Up. Pixar is at it again this summer with Toy Story 3. It’s been 11 years since the last film and Woody and Buzz are back and haven’t changed (duh – they’re toys!), but Andy is grown up, off to college and ready to give his toys away.

If you’re going to shell out extra money to see something in 3-D, make it Toy Story 3 (opening June 16). Tim Allen, who voices Buzz Lightyear, is surely thrilled to finally be in something that doesn’t stink.

Another animated film to look out for is Despicable Me (opening July 9), about a super villain (voiced by Steve Carell) who plans to steal the moon. One to avoid would be Shrek Forever After, the fourth and final (or so they say) installment in the series. Shrek films just keep getting worse, although it’s hard to imagine anything that can top the vomit and fart jokes galore that was Shrek The Third. Sadly, the series is turning into exactly the kind of cheesy fairy tale it set out to mock back in 2001, which earned Shrek the first-ever Best Animated Feature Oscar. Shrek Forever After opens May 21.

You’ve been warned: Films to avoid

Killers (June 4) just seems like a cheap and cheesy Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Katherine Heigl meets and quickly marries Ashton Kutcher only to have her life completely altered by the realization that her husband is an assassin for hire. The couple has to flee their ideal suburban life when they become the target of an assassination plot.

Knight and Day, out June 25, stars Cameron Diaz as a woman who witnesses the multiple-murder of an entire flight crew at the hands of Tom Cruise. She is then forced to stick with the killer as he kills everyone on Earth.

Brendan Fraser is an entrepreneur who wants to tear down a forest and build a gigantic mall in Furry Vengeance, but not if the smart and cute forest animals have their way! Raccoons cut his SUV’s brake lines and skunks do their business in his truck. The stinker opens April 30.

Step Up 3-D (out August 6). The third dimension won’t fix the cheesy dance films with the same story starring different actors. Also, this ghastly series gave Channing Tatum one of his first starring roles. It’s time to kill it.

Piranha 3-D: the premise is fishy, but there’s hope for this to turn into campy, ridiculous fun. In theatres Aug. 27.

Prince of Persia comes out May 28. Movies based on video games are never a good bet, and after seeing Jake Gyllenhaal’s wig, it’s safe to say this Prince is more of a pauper.

The Expendables stars six action stars and two wrestlers; Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Couture and Steve Austin are all in the over-the-top film that is sure to be as disastrous as the horrible event they are trying to save the world from. Stallone also directs the film, out Aug. 13.

Marmaduke, based on the comic strip about a family with a mischievous and naughty Great Dane (voiced by dog-movie pro Owen Wilson) comes out June 4. And no good can come from the Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and Rob Schneider-billed Grown Ups either, out June 25.


Cleverly sly, Fox is truly fantastic

The seemingly forgotten style of stop-motion animation never looked as good, nor was as funny as in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Director Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox into a stop-motion animated film, is nothing short of imaginative genius. Though he is not known for making films that are light and mindless, Anderson is able to seamlessly incorporate his trademark quirkiness into the G-rated, kid-friendly film.

The cast alone should be enticing enough to make anyone who has even a tiny appreciation for film run out to catch Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson’s usual roster of Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson lend their voices to supporting characters in the film. The real treat, however, is hearing George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr. and Mrs. Fox.

Mr. Fox is as sly as they come. But he puts his thieving and conniving ways behind him after his wife announces she is pregnant. He makes being a family man his top priority, and decides to make an honest living by writing a column – which he worries no one reads &- for the local newspaper. Mr. Fox gets in touch with Stan Weasel (Anderson himself), a real estate agent, to look into moving out of the hole he lives in because it makes him feel poor. Being a conscious consumer, Fox asks his Badger lawyer (Murray) whether a tree would be a safe piece of property to buy. He and his family soon move into the tree, just a field across the farms of the three most evil men: Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness) and Bean (Michael Gambon). Mr. Fox then talks his good, albeit a little dazed, friend, a possum named Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky), into joining him on his last, three-part heist.

In true Anderson fashion, Mr. Fox’s son Ash &- voiced with perfect teen angst and attitude by Jason Schwartzman – is resentful of his father, yet constantly seeks his approval. This is made even more difficult when his taller and more athletic cousin Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) moves in with the family.

With this summer’s Up and Monsters vs. Aliens, it is easy to forget just how much can be achieved by a stop-motion animated film. The supermarket and scenic route scenes are awe-inspiring. The film’s art department and set decorators did an incredible job at making the intricately detailed world of Mr. Fox real and fun.

Screenwriters Anderson and Noah Baumbach definitely took liberties in adapting Dahl’s book and made quite a few alterations. Typical of an Anderson film, the story provokes poignant questions about the meaning of life (“Who am I? How can a fox ever be happy without a chicken in its teeth?”). While the characters and main plot remain much like Dahl’s; what is added elevates this film from kid flick to one that can be enjoyed by all.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is definitely one of the best animated films of the last decade, and certainly one of the funniest of the year.

Fantastic Mr. Fox opens in theatres Nov. 25

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