Archive for October, 2012 gets Honourable Mention from CTV’s Question Period

Sunday, October 28th, 2012—News

Thanks to Kickass Canadian Kevin Newman for calling out on his weekly CTV show, Question Period. The website was highlighted in the ‘Honourable Mention’ segment on today’s episode. Much appreciated, Kevin!!

Looper, Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball (live) & If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet (live)

Monday, October 22nd, 2012—Film

Looper (USA 2012, Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller), Writer/Director: Rian Johnson

This is a sort-of film post, about a few recent experiences that have really hit home or opened new doors in my mind.

The most recent is last Friday’s Bruce Springsteen concert, the first show on the autumn leg of his Wrecking Ball tour. It’s not really film-related, unless you count his beautifully mournful title track to Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, or the haunting Streets of Philadelphia—neither of which were played at the concert, but both of which made waves for bringing added power and depth to their respective films. (The recording’s a bit rough, but I love this live version of Streets of Philadelphia from the 1994 Academy Awards.) Still, I can’t seem to stop thinking about it, so I guess for me that translates into being unable not to write about it.

I don’t know if I have words to fully capture the magic of seeing Springsteen perform live with the E Street Band, but I’ll try a few and see where that gets us.

I hadn’t been to a major concert since seeing Tim Robbins and the Rogues Gallery Band at last summer’s Bluesfest, and before that, not since my teens. So that in and of itself made Springsteen’s show a rarity for me. I don’t think it needed the boost, though. Feeling the energy of the crowd, and knowing they’d been brought together by one man’s incredible talent and spirit, was profoundly moving. (As my sister said: “Can you imagine being in a room with this many people and knowing they’re all in love with you?”)

That electricity was alive throughout the entire three-plus hours Springsteen was onstage. No opening act, just the band and Bruce charging the stage, and Springsteen getting into it with his harmonica. And then his guitar. And his magnificent voice. He made me love songs I’d only liked before, and blew me away with some of my favourites from his collection.

There’s something transformative about watching a live performance by someone like that—someone who’s so very good at what they do. Even his cheers to the crowd were perfectly on pitch. He’s so comfortable with his instruments that he can play kneeling back onto the stage, arms outstretched. And he’s so at ease with his adoring fans that he’ll let them strum his guitar, or grab hold of his body, or even crowd surf him from one stage to another.

Maybe he’s comfortable letting them touch him because he has already touched many of us so deeply. It must be staggering to hear thousands of people singing along to the words you wrote, humming the notes you assembled. Springsteen seems to have held onto a deep appreciation for his fans; he often closed his eyes and beamed as the audience eagerly chanted out his lyrics, or after a particularly energetic song, relishing the opportunity to perform.

It was amazing to hear such a wonderful mix of instruments, from bass to accordion to keyboards to saxophone to violin, and to get to watch the parts they play in each composition. The songs took on a life that can’t be captured in an audio recording. And Springsteen’s interaction with the crowd is something I’ll never forget. At one point, he hoisted two kids onstage and handed over the mic so they could sing and egg on the E Street Band. One woman requested that he play Queen of the Supermarket, which he did solo, beautifully; another held up a sign that read “Dance with me, it’s my 25th birthday!” and wound up in his arms.

The concert was easily one of the most special experiences of my life; I still shake my head in wonder at how one person can hold such talent and creativity.

Which brings me to the second recent experience I want to cover here, one that happened a couple weeks before the Wrecking Ball show. I saw the movie Looper. I’m not going to get into the film too much, other than to say that it’s the most clearheaded film I’ve seen about time travel and that I recommend it highly. The reason I’m including it here is that it cemented my growing interest in its star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I never saw his sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, so I began discovering him gradually once his movie career took off. Every time I saw him perform, regardless of whether or not I liked the film (and I almost always did), I was amazed by his depth and range.

Looper, which features a fabulous performance from Gordon-Levitt as a young man Joe named (to Bruce Willis’ older version of the same Joe) who assassinates people from the future, sealed the deal on my interest in the actor and got me curious enough to do a little digging. In no time, I came across HITRECORD, an “open-collaborative production company” Gordon-Levitt founded to bring artists of all kinds together to share and create. (I also quickly discovered that the actor has many other talents to his name, including writing and singing.)

I’m so impressed and inspired by his efforts to stimulate art and create connections. Having discovered his website shortly before seeing Springsteen’s show definitely fed into my appreciation for the concert, and the power art holds to unite people.

A couple weeks further back, I was fortunate enough to see Jake Gyllenhaal in the Broadway play If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet. Here’s another outstanding American actor with incredible depth, who not only knows how to work the camera but also possesses a magnetic stage presence.

I’ll freely admit that Gyllenhaal is the reason I got a ticket to the show. But he certainly isn’t the only reason the production is worth seeing.

It would be easy to go on about If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet. The play is written by British playwright Nick Payne, and, within the inner turmoil of a family, manages to exemplify and explore the damaging effects we have on our environments—within and outside the home.

George (the excellent Brian F. O’Byrne) is obsessed with protecting the planet from global warming, at the expense of the happiness of his wife, Fiona (Michelle Gomez), and daughter, Anna (Annie Funke), who is badly bullied at school and dangerously unhappy in life. Terry (Gyllenhall) is George’s clueless and confused younger brother, who blows through their home like some gale force, a much-needed disruption that makes it very clear that something is wrong in the family’s world (and beyond).

The production features minimalist set design, including a pile of props that actors pull from as needed, and a really cool water effect that starts the play out with a curtain of “rain,” and provides a convenient moat into which the actors toss furniture and other bits throughout the show—the residue of their messy lives polluting the world around them.

If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet explores some interesting issues, and, as I said, easily warrants a longer write-up. I’m including it here because it was part of a string of recent events or discoveries (there are others, but these are three at the top) that deepened my awareness and appreciation of some pretty impressive artists. It’s always exciting and somewhat surreal to see very well known actors perform live, and watching Gyllenhaal’s play hammered home the fact that he’s a force to be reckoned with. (If you get the chance, the play runs through December 23, 2012 at the Roundabout Theatre Company, one of New York’s few—and leading—not-for-profit theatres.)

Discovering HITRECORD was an eye-opener, not only to how awesome Gordon-Levitt is, but to what wonderful, collaborative things are going on out there, particularly in the digital world. It reminds me of some of the ideas explored in Kickass Canadian Clarke Mackey’s book, Random Acts of Culture: art is important; art is communal; art is not just for the talented few—it’s for everyone.

And then there’s Bruce. I’ve loved so much of his music for a good two decades or more, been lost in his poetic lyrics and hypnotized by his sound. I can’t wait to explore his older tunes, which remain undiscovered to me. And to see where all this creation, all over the world, will lead.

“Well, there’s another dance; all you gotta do is say yes.”

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For PBo—stay healthy, always.

Northwords (feat. director Geoff Morrison)

Sunday, October 7th, 2012—Film

Northwords (Canada 2012, Documentary), Writer: Joel McConvey; Director: Geoff Morrison

The gifted filmmaking team behind The National Parks Project has done it again. After digging deep into the natural world of 13 national parks in each of Canada’s provinces and territories, they’ve now struck gold in one particular spot—northern Labrador’s Torngat Mountains National Park.

Northwords is an exceptional documentary that follows esteemed CBC Radio host (and Kickass Canadian) Shelagh Rogers and five of her favourite authors on a literary expedition to one of Canada’s most beautiful and remote spaces. Her writerly companions are Joseph Boyden, Sarah Leavitt, Rabindranath Maharaj, Noah Richler and Alissa York. Each has been tasked with finding the words to capture their experience in the north. Shelagh herself is gathering stories for her radio show, The Next Chapter.

While the artists absorb the area’s rich culture, staggering landscape and moving history, the crew—led by Kickass Canadians Joel McConvey, Geoff Morrison and Ryan J. Noth—documents the experience. The result is a remarkable and very rare take on the north, presented by people with extraordinary depth and insights who truly connect with the place.

I had the pleasure of interviewing director/producer Geoff Morrison for my podcast, Keeping Up with the Kickass Canadians. You can also read his thoughts on making Northwords and on what he most hopes viewers get from the project.

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Northwords won Best Documentary at the 2012 Banff World Media International Pilot Competition. It has its Toronto premiere this October 11 at Planet in Focus, and its broadcast premiere October 25 on CBC’s documentary channel. Following its television debut, Northwords will be available at, where you’ll find links to the five writers’ e-books and Shelagh’s radio documentary.