Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Evolution of Tanya Grossi's Salvador Darling

During the last 9 years, Tanya Grossi (39) has transformed Salvador Darling into several profitable business ventures: a vintage boutique, a trendy café and a hip bar. What’s more interesting is that she did it all at the same Parkdale address. Indeed, no one can accuse Grossi of lacking vision.

She’s a woman who fearlessly follows her desires rather than the rules of conformity, and last month, she celebrated her sixth-year anniversary as a bar owner. I recently dropped by 1237 Queen Street West to talk to Grossi about Salvador Darling’s impressive evolution.


TorontoVerve: How did Salvador Darling start? 

Tanya: My background is in fashion. I first worked in wardrobe styling and then I was a buyer at Le Château. When I left Le Château, I knew that I would inevitably open a vintage boutique of my own. I bought this location when there were no other boutiques in the neighbourhood. It eventually became a café, but when more coffee shops appeared, I decided that it was time to do the bar thing. I live around the corner and I was tired of leaving the neighbourhood to go anywhere. I wanted to open a place where I can shop, drink coffee, and hang out. And hopefully, people would come.

TV: So why did you close the boutique to open a coffee shop? Was business not working out? 

Tanya: It totally was, but being a creative person, I get bored easily. I’m always looking for the next project. It’s all about timing. I always move on when I’m on top.

TV: Did you completely stop selling clothing when you opened the café? 

Tanya: No, I continued to sell clothes in the back, but then a couple of other vintage stores opened up so I decided to go full-café. I love to entertain and cook. I sold Panini and salads, and it was a lot of fun until it was time to do the next thing. People still tell me that I sold the best sandwiches. Some clients ask me: “why don’t you do the café in the day and the bar at night?” I tried that and it was just too much. I wanted to really focus on the night business and it was hard doing both and having a life.


TV: How hard was it to establish yourself as a bar in your first year? 

Tanya: It was very hard and, still to this day, people walk by thinking that it’s a furniture store. I don’t have the money to advertise. Word of mouth has kept my business going. Basically, I make sure that the people who walk through my door come back. I want people to have a good time.

TV: How would you describe the vibe at Salvador Darling?

Tanya: It’s like being in a really cool person’s living room. I collect a lot of art, antiques and weird objects. Everything here has a warmth or a story behind it. The concept was if Salvador Dali owned a bar, what would it look like? His whole surrealism movement was about having fun with art and not being so serious. When I go out, I want to be visually stimulated. I love watching my customers look around. I provide them with an experience.

TV: So you were inspired by Salvador Dali’s vision. How exactly did you come up with the name, Salvador Darling?

Tanya: It just came to me on a sleepless night. Dali saw things as dreamlike -- an adult playground. He also said that some of the most sophisticated people he knew were children inside. That’s my favourite thing. I always say: “never grow up, never be boring and never let the man get to you.” Why can’t I have fun when I reach a certain age? That’s why I have hula-hoops and a rocking horse here (laughs).


TV: I read that one of your loyal customers is none other than actor Geoffrey Rush. How did that happen?

Tanya: That’s a funny story (laughs). About 7 or 8 years ago, my sister and I were in the Bahamas, and we saw him come out of a convenience store. Apparently, he was there shooting one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I had always been a fan of his independent films like Shine and Frida so I told him that I love his work -- especially his art film, Lantana. He was surprised that I even knew about Lantana. After we chatted for a bit, he said: “I love you two. I’m sending you a limo and you’re going to visit us on the set.” And the next day, we were on the Pirates set and we met Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom. Plus, we got to hang out with Geoffrey. Whenever he was in town for the Toronto International Film Festival, he would drop by and give us tickets for his film. We still keep in touch. It’s kinda cool.

TV: On your fifth-year anniversary invite it says, ‘you’ll never forget that a woman owns a bar.’ What did you mean by that? Is there a difference between male and female bar owners? 

Tanya: My ex-boyfriend at the time wasn’t proud that his girlfriend owned a bar so he was telling everyone that the bar was his. I also had a guy working for me and everyone assumed that he was the owner. And that always bothered me because there’s this assumption that a woman can’t own a bar. People who knew my ex would come in and ask: “where’s the guy who owns the bar?” And I would respond, “the guy who owns the bar? I own the bar and I worked my f@$king ass off for it!” So that’s why I said that on the invite. Owning a bar is not all fun and games and being in this business as a woman is rare too. Sometimes, I have to be a bitch. People come in and order booze and don’t pay. As a woman, I get taken advantage of. So I have to be a tough ass. It’s a fun business, but it’s hard finding a partner who’s secure enough having a girlfriend whose business is entertaining people. I’m kinda seeing someone now who gets it.

TV: Why did your ex have a problem with you owning a bar? 

Tanya: Jealousy. I tried to make him a part of all this. The reasons why he liked me -- I’m independent and have my own business -- were the same reasons he resented me. That’s not a partnership.


TV: What is the biggest misconception that people have about you? 

Tanya: There’s this assumption that I live this crazy life. I don’t go out to clubs. I love staying home. I have a dog. I read. I live a healthy lifestyle. I’ll be going to the Bahamas soon for a month and I’ll be doing a lot of deep-sea fishing -- it’s one of my favourite things to do in the world. I also love training hardcore.

TV: How do you train? 

Tanya: I love shadow boxing. Sometimes I do yoga. I can do almost every yoga move. I’m not a gym person. I don’t lift weights, but I do lift a lot of beer cases (laughs). I’m a hand-ons person.

TV: What other talents do you have? 

Tanya: I love music. I also DJ here and every second Tuesday at The Beaconsfield down the street. I love hip-hop. I consider myself a f@$king classy girl who loves hard hip-hop. I’ll often DJ in a dress and high heels. It’s hard to label me.


TV: How would you describe your style? 

Tanya: I love being a woman with a bit of an edge. I love dresses. I think I only own two pairs of pants. My edginess usually comes from my accessories or shoes. I’m confident and comfortable in my skin so I know the kind of stuff that’s going to look good on me.

TV: Where do you like to shop? 

Tanya: Mostly in vintage stores. My inspiration comes from my parents and they always dressed cool. My dad comes from a very big Italian family and he married a non-Italian. My mom is Eastern-European. She’s tall and looks like Marilyn Monroe. She always walks with an air of confidence. There’s a passion with the way that I dress and I think it comes from my background. If you have to think too hard about your style then it’s not you. To me, style is instinctual. It comes from wherever your inspirations are.

TV: Salvador Darling has been a bar for six years now. Are you getting bored? Will there be another evolution? 

Tanya: I’m definitely on for another couple of years, and then I want to do something else. Maybe a bed and breakfast someplace where it’s warm all-year round, but before that happens, I think there’ll be one more evolution (laughs). Then I’ll go when I’m on top.


Follow Tanya & Salvador Darling on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


* * *

Monday, October 6, 2014

Jason & Alex



Jason: "My style is modern rock n' roll."

TorontoVerve: "What's your biggest regret in life?"

Jason: "Not listening to my parents. I should have listened to my parents."

TorontoVerve: "What was one thing that you should have listened to them about?"

Jason: "Choose your friends wisely."


Alex: "My style is laid back -- whatever's comfortable. I'm not picky. I'm not a freak who lays out her clothes in the morning. I just pick it up and go. I'm usually in a rush."


Follow Jason on Instagram.

& Alex on Instagram & Twitter.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sebastian


Sebastian: "Today it's all about the accessories, make-up, hair and vintage. I have the classic Marilyn Monroe curl and dark red lips. I'm inspired by Marilyn's face. She always had the most striking lips, eyes and iconic white hair."


TorontoVerve: "Do you have a special talent or hobby that people are unaware of?"

Sebastian: "I play piano. No one knows about that. People who know me think I'm all about the fashion industry, but I also enjoy painting, sculpture and photography. Piano is one of my first loves."

TorontoVerve: "Is there something about the fashion industry that you don't particularly like?"

Sebastian: "I think the thing that I dislike the most about the fashion industry is how exclusive they try to make it out to be. When you go to high-profile fashion events, unless you're somebody or you can prove that you're somebody, they kinda look down upon you or have this snobbish sort of attitude. So, I feel like the high fashion industry needs to be more accepting to outsiders trying to make their way in."

Sebastian's cool street style has previously appeared on TorontoVerve.

Follow Sebastian on Instagram.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gurratan Singh

Gurratan Singh: I would describe my style as a blend of modernity and tradition. I honour my roots by celebrating my distinct identity, but also keep it modern with my tailored suits and clothing.

TorontoVerve: Is there anyone in particular who inspires your style?

GS: Aside from my brother, it would have to be model/actor Waris Ahluwalia, most famous for his recent Gap ads. For all Sikh men, he's an amazing style icon.

TV: How does fashion play in your law profession?

GS: Fashion plays into law in a very direct way. I’m a Lawyer, so my style reflects the confidence, strength and professionalism I present in the courtroom.

TV: Where do you have your clothes tailored?

GS: I get my clothes tailored from everywhere, but the bulk of it is from Delhi and Punjab tailors.

TV: What is your proudest moment in life?

GS: It wouldn’t be one exact moment. The proudest feeling I have is when I can connect with a community and push forward an agenda that creates positive change. I've done a lot of work that involves youth in the community and some of my proudest moments are when I see them become self-empowered to become agents of change.

TV: You're planning on running for Regional Councillor for Ward 9 and 10 in Brampton. What has inspired you to run? 

GS: Brampton is an amazing community, full of people from all over the world. But Brampton isn’t getting the representation it deserves. Our current council doesn’t represent the community, has serious issues of accountability and transparency, and is not working to create a livable city. Brampton needs a fresh start, I want to work towards building a better community where people come to live, work and play.

TV: Has your brother (NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh) given you any advice on your campaign? 

GS: My brother is one of my main sources of guidance and encouragement. He's often said when you're in a role of service that's when you can see what you're really capable of. There's a quote from Booker T. Washington, "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else." I very much believe that. By working to help create a better community, and creating a campaign where we work to empower young people, I've experienced a lot of personal growth, its a beautify thing.

Gurratan Singh has previously appeared on TorontoVerve with his brother Jagmeet and in our recent TIFF tribute.

Follow Gurratan on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Heather Babcock: Ode to Summer

It's been an unusually chilly summer. Seems like everyone has been previewing their Fall fashions in the past few weeks. But alas, today is officially the last day of summer and to commemorate it Heather Babcock shares some of her enchanting poetry.

"I started writing poetry when I was in my late teens and it was just horrible," she recalls. "It was all just melancholic navel-gazing. I eventually realized that if I really wanted to become a better writer, I needed simply to become a better reader. So I read books by Toni Morrison and Hubert Selby Jr., Helen Potrebenko, Charles Bukowski and George Orwell. Toni Morrison taught me empathy and Hubert Selby Jr. taught me compassion. Empathy and compassion are what makes a writer. I’ve been told that my prose reads like poetry and that my poetry reads like prose. I take that as a compliment."


Summer

The laughter between the old friends is slow and easy.
Their hands
-brittle from years of labor-
Swat at greedy wasps hovering
In ecstasy
Over beer bottles
Sweaty under the mid-September sun.
Hot winds carry the summer’s #1 hit song from the bar’s speakers to the pretty girls
In juicy pinks and splashy blues
Strutting past the clothing shop windows
Shaking their hips and rolling their eyes at the mannequins
Dressed in grey tweeds and heavy wool coats
The omen of these elegant soothsayers purposely lost on the old friends and the pretty girls
Who know better than to distinguish between fantasy and
Memory. 


Heather describes her inspiration for her Summer poem: "I took a long walk along Royal York and Bloor early in the summer. There were these two lovely older men sharing a drink and a laugh outside of a pizza parlor and that is what inspired the opening line of my poem. On a gorgeous summer day, I can’t even remember what being cold feels like – there’s the memory of snow and ice but they are so removed from the present that they are really closer to fantasy than memory. Speaking of memory, I have a lot of wonderful memories of this summer, but probably my favorite is of releasing butterflies in the park with my nephew and my mother."


Requiem for Honest Ed's 


Fifteen years from today

A young man stands at the window of his condo unit 

On Bloor and Markham Streets

Sipping his twelve dollar latte,

He looks out at the Stepford skyscrapers

Stretching above him

And he doesn’t know what

We know

He’s lost.


"Honest Ed’s is one of the most inclusive places in the city." Heather shares. "It’s not just a bargain basement – it’s also a free museum of Toronto’s theatrical history. I think that Toronto tends to take itself a little too seriously sometimes and Honest Ed’s is a reminder that it’s okay to be a little silly and to have some fun. I will miss it."


Where Did My Face Go?

Where did my face go?
It was just here two days ago
In the looking glass over my sink
An artificial pink landscape
Populated with a pair of eyes, one nose and one mouth
All arranged in precise order and easily accessible.
But today everything is astray:
Cracks and holes,
Nothing left but two grey half moons
Circling a starless sky.
Where did my face go?
Perhaps I’ll find bits and pieces of it around my house:
My nose in the clothes dryer, rolled up in a forgotten sock;
Eyelashes hidden between my sofa cushions;
A mouth under my bed, stuffed with dust bunnies.
The face itself is gone,
Skipped town,
It was too big to lose.
So where did my face go?
And why didn’t I notice it leaving?


"Where Did My Face Go? is about the danger of not loving yourself," Heather explains. "When you deny your own true beauty, when you try to change yourself to suit someone else’s ideal, you risk losing what makes you unique and special."


Check out Heather's website, Writing to Exhale, for more poetry and photos.

Heather will be reading her poetry at The Central on Wednesday, September 24th and The Urban Gallery on Saturday, September 27th.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Toronto Tweed Ride

Yesterday the downtown core was in a frenzy as the streets were filled with vintage wear, classic bikes and handlebar moustaches. That's right, it was the 2014 Toronto Tweed Ride and participants braved the heat in their woollen fashion all in the name of charity.

Bikes Without Borders is a charitable organization that provides bikes to people around the world for positive change and Toronto was one of many cities to raise money for the worthy cause (similar rides were organized in Paris, Moscow, London, New York, Sydney, Tokyo and Vancouver to name a few).

TorontoVerve peddled with the fashionable group to capture their extraordinary street style and learn what the ride meant to them.


Charlotte

"It's my first Tweed Ride and I wanted to wear something elegant. These are the clothes I typically wear day-to-day -- usually not altogether like this, but it's a special occasion. My favourite piece is this vintage hat. I just love the flower in it. I found it on eBay for $20."



David

"Today I would describe my style as cobbled together but fun. It's my first Tweed Ride."



Glen (left), Cole (Centre)

Glen: "I would describe what I'm wearing as Highland daywear. The Duke of Windsor inspired my look. This is my third Tweed Ride."

Cole: "I'm wearing a classic English country suit with 4 buttons. I had it cut for myself years ago because I always liked the look of it. When I heard about the Ride, I just had to wear it."



Amanda

"Today my style is eclectic. This is my mom's dress, scarf that I bought, hat that was given to me and a bracelet from Florence. I pick up things along my way and put them together to tell a story. I've participated in all the Tweed Rides because I love the Bikes Without Borders cause. The Tweed Ride is also a nice way to come together with Cycle Toronto and celebrate bikes and fashion."

Check out Amanda's blog Girl About Toronto. "It's all about covering arts and culture in the city."



Camille

"This is my first Tweed Ride and I had a good time. It's fun to dress up in Toronto and ride through the city."



Tanya

"My style today is a mixture of different periods because I was having trouble sticking to one. I like them all. So apparently my dress is from the 50's and my hat is from earlier. I helped organize the Tweed Ride so this is my third outing. Seeing everyone participate was so heart-warming for me because it just means that we're fundraising more and more for the work that we do. From a fashion perspective, the Tweed Run is a fascinating entity because it gives adults a platform to dress in vintage and celebrate vintage, and I don't think there's much else event-wise that's out there for people to do that -- at least I haven't heard of one. It's like Halloween for adults except tasteful and fashionable."


Friday, September 19, 2014

Monica


"I really like the 50's aesthetic. I never wear pants -- always dresses, but more modern because obviously this isn't a 50's dress. Audrey Hepburn inspires me. I know it's really cliché, but I love Breakfast at Tiffany's. My mom was going into labour with me while watching it. She always says that's where I get my style from."

Follow Monica on Instagram at @QueenSunflower.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

TIFF 2014: A Conversation with The Editor's Sheila E. Campbell

The Toronto International Film Festival has many thought-provoking programs like the Gala Presentation, Masters and Documentary that appeal to the ultra-sophisticated cinephiles, but it also has Midnight Madness -- an edgy, mostly gratuitously bloody gore-fest that would reduce any film snob to tears.

As a huge fan of genre film, I frequently experience TIFF’s darker side and, this year, I have to say that one of my favourite films is The Editor, a movie that lovingly pays homage to 70‘s giallo film (an Italian sub-genre of blood and mayhem). Made by Winnipeg’s own Astron-6, the story centres on a washed-up film editor who may or may not be set up for murder. Filled with tons of dark humour and excessive gore, the film is sure to please horror enthusiasts and strengthen Astron-6’s reputation in the genre film arena.

Calgary-native Sheila E. Campbell stars in the film as Margarit Porfiry, who spontaneously goes blind after she discovers the blood-drenched bodies of a movie couple. Her comedic scenes elicited many laughs from the Midnight Madness crowd and she drew much applause on stage after the film’s screening. I fortunately had an opportunity to meet with Campbell in between TIFF screenings of The Editor to discuss the film and her new success.


TorontoVerve: What was your first Midnight Madness experience like for you?

Sheila Campbell: It was surreal. I am beyond fortunate that my first film, [The Editor], was selected to be at TIFF. It’s fantastic. It’ll hit me when I’m back home -- when I’m back in real life.

TV: What has been most exciting for you at TIFF so far?

SC: Having my friends and family see the film and be like “look, I’m really an actress.” Seeing the finished product is amazing too. Just the fact that we’re attached to TIFF is extraordinary. I’m also really excited for the Astron-6 guys because they worked real hard on the film and they really deserve it. I just hope that this is a launching pad to worldwide success for them.

TV: So there’s a lot of blood and craziness in the film, how did you prepare your folks for that?

SC: I haven’t explained anything to them yet (laughs). My family is pretty darn religious. At least my mom and dad are so I don’t think that they’ll be seeing it, but my wonderful In-Laws drove in to see it. I told them that this is an R-Rated movie and it’s in the style of Italian horror, which is known for nudity, sex and gore and I particularly warned them that some of that nudity is mine, but I find my scene is tasteful. Still, when [my nude] scene was onscreen, I was asking, “is it getting hot in here?” But it’s all acting. I feel really good about what I did and it’s an excellent film. It was an honour to be a part of it.


TV: The boys at Astron-6 said in the Q&A that they first messaged you on Facebook to audition for the role?

SC: Yes, I almost didn’t reply, but when I did, I immediately heard back from them. I didn’t really have time to prepare for the audition. I just went in and flirted with [my co-star] Matt Kennedy and I inevitably got the part. They told me that I really understood the comedy of the script. Plus, it helped that I looked like actress Catriona MacColl. The guys based my character on her role in [Lucio Fulci’s] The Beyond.

TV: Your IMDB lists 4 film credits all from this year. How did your film career suddenly explode?

SC: I have to thank Astron-6 for that. In Winnipeg, they are idolized by other filmmakers so when I meet with them, I just market myself. I say, “my name is Sheila. You don’t know me, but I know of you so let’s talk.” You just have to keep forcing yourself on people. I also take the time to prepare. I walk into auditions with confidence. Sometimes it works -- sometimes it doesn’t. But lately, it’s mostly worked. I keep getting cast so it’s been great.


TV: I understand that you weren’t familiar with giallo films and Astron-6 before getting the part. What Astron and giallo films did you see as research?

SC: When I got the role I watched Astron-6‘s Father’s Day and then I watched their shorts and I quickly became an obsessed fangirl. I thought they were brilliant and couldn’t believe I was going to be working with them. They also suggested a few giallo movies like The Beyond and Dario Argento’s Suspiria. I then began doing my hair and make-up in 70‘s-style. The one thing I didn’t do was train to be blind because I figured my character is a newly blind person so she wouldn’t know how to navigate. When I put on those white contact lenses, I literally couldn’t see anything and was stumbling around.

TV: What was the production like for you?

SC: It was thrilling and I got really into it. I’m not going to give much away, but I get shoved pretty hard against a door in the film. Initially they didn’t really want to hurt me and then I got real amped up and said, “just smack me up against the door, guys. Just go full force.” I also made a point of trying to be onset on my days off. For instance, I did most of the hair and make-up for my co-star Samantha Hill, I did craft services -- just anything I could do to help out. I love making movies so much that it was a privilege just to be there.


TV: What was the most challenging part of the film for you?

SC: The love scene wasn’t too hard, but it took 18 hours to shoot one day and then another 8 hours the next.

TV: So now that you’re starring in The Editor, are you fan of giallo or gore films?

SC: Yeah, totally. I always liked film with a lot of gore and blood. I also love Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. I hope more film homages come out for giallo films. Of course, they won’t be as good as The Editor (laughs). So, yes, I’m a fan of the genre. I’ve seen the film 3 times now and I’m going to see it again Saturday night. I love it. I wanted my husband to see it too, but due to his military service, he couldn’t get away.

TV: What does your husband think about you doing the film?

SC: You know, his friends are very excited to see the movie, but he’s already told them that they all need to keep their head down during my [nude] scenes (laughs). He’s beyond supportive. I couldn’t ask for a better partner. He’s super thrilled that I’m here. I couldn’t do any of this without his support.


TV: Your Twitter description says you're a “rude joke connoisseur,” would you share one of your jokes? 

SC: They’re mostly dead baby jokes so I can’t tell one of those (laughs). Ok, here’s a smart one: the jurisprudence fetishist got off on a technicality. That’s my favourite one because he gets off on a technicality, get it?

TV: Yeah, I get it (laughs). 

Tonight, you can catch the last TIFF screening of The Editor at 6:15pm at the Scotiabank Theatre. Starting next month, the film will be hitting the festival circuit worldwide.

Follow Sheila E. Campbell on Twitter & Instagram.

See The Editor teaser below (NSFW):

TIFF Inspirations: Secrets Beneath the Skin

Secrets Beneath the Skin*

Closing Night Gala Presentation
USA, 2014
English
World Premiere
129 minutes - Colour
Cast: Gurratan Singh, Michelle Jobin

When a disgraced Senator's daughter, Dorothy Sorenson, is accused of murdering her adulterous husband, it becomes the perfect opportunity for Manhattan defence attorney Arman Birk to increase his profile internationally.

Birk has been named "Most Eligible Bachelor" by the New York Times and has appeared on several best-dressed lists, but it's his penchant for winning impossible cases that has made him a national superstar -- not to mention, a very wealthy man.

In his latest case, Birk is pushed to the limits when all the evidence points to his client's guilt and dark secrets reveal ties to the former Senator's scandalous crimes of abuse. What first appeared to be his golden opportunity, suddenly turns into his worst nightmare.

At his family's beckoning, Birk is forced to drop the case when it threatens his engagement to his illustrious fiancé and his untarnished reputation in the Sikh community. But things are not so simple after his client discloses one more hidden truth that could spell disaster for the promising lawyer.

Secrets Beneath the Skin is a sophisticated political-thriler with so many twists and turns, it will have audiences riveted well after the final verdict is read.


* This is my tribute to the Toronto International Film Festival. It is not a real film.

Click here to see last year's TIFF Inspirations.

Friday, September 12, 2014

TIFF Inspirations: Red is a Painful Colour

La Vie d'André*
Red is a Painful Colour

Gala Presentation
Canada, 2014
French/English Subtitles
World Premiere
181 minutes - Colour
When André first sees Émile in an amusement park, it's love at first sight. Had Émile not been wearing his bright red leather jacket, André would have missed him entirely in the crowd, but fate would fortunately intervene. That is how their torrid love affair begins and it would be the awakening that forever changes André.

Consumed by Émile's charm and sexuality, André inevitably becomes obsessed with his new found love and does everything in his power to keep it -- including hurting the very object of his affections.

Red is a Painful Colour is a cautionary tale of the fine line between love and obsession and will undoubtedly resonate with anyone who has given into the desires of their heart.


* This is my tribute to the Toronto International Film Festival. It is not a real film.

Click here to see last year's TIFF Inspirations.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

TIFF Inspirations: Toxic

Giftig*
Toxic

Contemporary World Cinema
Germany, 2014
German/English Subtitles
North American Premiere
87 minutes - Colour

Franka Jäger is one of Berlin's most promising DJs in the techno underground scene, but things take a turn for the worse when her junkie-husband steals her electronic gear to sell for his next fix. Tonight, she'll have only one hour to stop him if she's got any chance of performing at the biggest gig of her life.

Told in real-time, Toxic will have audiences at the edge of their seats while they stomp to the beat of an electrifying soundtrack.

 
* This is my tribute to the Toronto International Film Festival. It is not a real film.

Click here to see last year's TIFF Inspirations.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TIFF Inspirations: Bloggers

Bloggers*

Discovery
Canada, 2014
English
World Premiere
89 minutes - Colour

For the last 3 years, Samantha Phuong has been named the country's top beauty and fashion blogger -- namely for her in-depth make-up tips and style reports, but when she sees her weekly analytics dramatically decline, her life begins to fall in a tailspin. Much to Samantha's dismay, her newest and biggest adversary is Julie Summerset, a self-proclaimed beauty expert, whose flashy YouTube videos are taking the internet by storm. 

When the two meet on a live news program to talk about the latest fashion trends, it ends in a nasty fist fight that goes viral and sparks a ruthless rivalry that gains national media attention. How far will the two bloggers go to achieve beauty and style dominance? The country is tuned in to find out.

In the age of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and The Bachelorette, Bloggers is a hilarious and entertaining take on the contemporary media's fascination with celebrity and beauty.

* This is my tribute to the Toronto International Film Festival. It is not a real film.

Click here to see last year's TIFF Inspirations.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

TIFF 2014 Mavericks: Conversation with Richard Gere

Moments before his highly-anticipated Mavericks interview last Saturday evening, Richard Gere surprised his adoring fans by not showing up in a big black Escalade, but by casually walking in from the street with a few companions. There was no grand, red carpet entrance. It was all very modest. Much like the man himself, who humbly expressed to the audience that he wasn't worthy of all the attention.

In the early 80's, I was very aware of Gere as an actor, which is interesting, considering that I hadn't seen any of his movies because I was much too young. In 1980, I remember staring at a poster of American Gigolo outside a theatre in Kitchener and being mesmerized by his cool, projected suaveness. In 1982, I was intrigued to see him in TV ads going toe to toe against Lou Gossett Jr.'s tough sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman. Finally, in 1983, Gere's undeniable machismo in the Breathless trailer made me a loyal fan. Again, at that time, I hadn't seen a single Richard Gere film yet, but when his movies finally made their way to network television and home video, I quickly rectified that little technicality and was not disappointed. Richard Gere will forever be one of my favourite childhood movie stars -- so when TIFF announced that his career would be spotlighted in their Mavericks program, it was a no-brainer to see the multi-talented actor in-person.
Before appearing on stage, the audience was treated to a short film retrospective of Gere's celebrated work, which included Days of Heaven, American Gigolo, An Officer and a Gentlemen, Pretty Woman and Time Out of Mind. When asked how he felt seeing 40 years of his film work in such a montage, Gere compared it to a 'life flashing before your eyes' moment. The 65-year-old actor pleasantly joked that these retrospectives were happening now because people didn’t think that he would be around much longer.

As impressive as Gere's filmography is, it's surprising that he's never been nominated for an Oscar -- a fact that the interviewer made a point of mentioning, which elicited Gere to sarcastically respond, "it's not like I haven't been keeping a career for the last 40 years." Further inquiries about how he felt about his co-stars Debra Winger, Julia Roberts and Edward Norton earning Oscar nods in lieu of him finally prompted Gere to ask, "why are you obsessing about this?" Gere made it clear that he never bought into the whole Hollywood machine -- especially when it came to his appearance.
Earlier in his career, Gere was unaware of his leading man good looks. “No one ever thinks that they are particularly good looking,” he said. But seeing his younger self now in films like Gigolo, he admits that he was a pretty boy. Gere always approached his sex symbol roles as an actor first and that’s probably why he’s still around making movies today. Gere offered another theory as to why he’s getting meatier roles lately: “I’m older now and not as pretty as I used to be.”
Gere is at the Festival for his latest film, Time Out of Mind, a very personal project where he plays a homeless New Yorker forced to live in a shelter. Gere has been involved with the Coalition for the Homeless in New York and has visited many shelters over the years, so he was very familiar with the plight of the homeless prior to filming. “A homeless person is worse than invisible. He [or she] is a black hole,” Gere said. “When we see a panhandler, we don’t want to go near them.”

As research for the film, the actor dressed down and wandered the streets of New York, panhandling. It was a profound experience for Gere, who was unrecognizable to everyone. Everyone, except a Black couple in Grand Central Station. “I was getting really bold and getting into people’s faces and they said ‘Hello, Richard,’” he recounted. “I realized that us white people are really in our capsules. We don’t see the world around us at all. When we are going from here to there, we don’t want to know anything else in between. We don’t know the world. African-Americans are just more open. They’re more into their environment. They notice things.”

Gere is close friends with the Dalai Lama and has been politically active on behalf of Tibet for many years. The actor shared why he became a devout Buddhist. “I distrusted what everyone told me about the world and consciousness and why we are here,” he said. Buddhism helped the actor articulate all that on a deeper level and brought him more happiness in his personal life.

Interestingly, Gere wasn’t the first choice to play the lead in Days of Heaven, American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentlemen -- his most acclaimed films. John Travolta was initially offered the parts, but turned them down. The interviewer teased Gere by asking if he sends Travolta a Christmas card in gratitude every year. “No, but it’s something that he never fails to remind me of,” Gere answered. 

When the interview came to an end, Gere graciously autographed memorabilia from the audience -- including a DVD copy of Breathless from yours truly. As he was signing the cover, I asked if he had any good memories of making the movie. “I LOVED this film,” he said. “And she was just so wonderful,” referring to his co-star Valerie Kaprisky.

Later that evening, I purchased a ticket online for next Saturday’s screening of Time Out of Mind. It’s great to see that after 34 years, I’m still very excited to see a Richard Gere film.


Time Out of Mind is playing at the Elgin/Wintergarden Theatre on Saturday, September 13th at 6pm.

* * *

TIFF Inspirations: Le Pari

Le Pari*
The Bet

Special Presentation
France, 2014
French/English Subtitles
North American Premiere
99 minutes - Colour

Ever since they were kids, Michel and Daniel have been competitive brothers. For fun, they would bet their allowance on who was the smartest, the fastest and the strongest, but the stakes would be much higher with their latest wager.

The bet: the first one to marry wins the other's portion of inheritance. There's just one catch: the respective woman must be chosen by the other brother.

For Daniel, Michel selects Marie-Claire, an attractive and successful lawyer, who has always eluded him, and for Michel, Daniel selects Geneviève, his beautiful but hot-tempered Vespa mechanic.

The Bet is a funny and clever romantic-comedy that proves love conquers all -- even under wildly deceptive circumstances.

* This is my tribute to the Toronto International Film Festival. It is not a real film.

Click here to see last year's TIFF Inspirations.

Monday, September 8, 2014

TIFF Inspirations: Les Bardots

Les Bardots*
The Bardots

Special Presentation
France, 2014
French/English subtitles
North American Premiere
101 minutes - Colour
Cast: Asia Clarke, Keesha Chung , Christina Mirabelli

In this sequel to last year's hit, I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life With You Tonight, the female Parisian punk band, The Bardots, find themselves without a lead singer and embark on the arduous task of reinventing themselves as they endure the hardship of their personal lives.

When her reckless sister spontaneously runs off with her latest boyfriend to Brussels, Isabelle is suddenly left to fend for her nephew, Bruno. Barely able to feed herself - let alone a 6-year old boy, she takes on more hours as a waitress, which dramatically cuts down on the band's practise sessions.

After months of suffering from extreme fatigue, Sandrine is devastated when she is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Unwilling to give up her dreams as a drummer, she keeps her ailment a secret despite the fact that her bandmates are frustrated with her declining performance.

Confronted with an ultimatum by her political-activist husband Karl, Valérie is forced to choose between her happy marriage and her loyal band -- two of her greatest loves.

Backed by another terrific soundtrack, The Bardots is an extraordinary exploration of the resiliency of the human spirit -- even after it's been beaten by the harsh realities of life.


* This is my tribute to the Toronto International Film Festival. It is not a real film.

Click here to see last year's TIFF Inspirations.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

TIFF Inspirations: The Graphic Novel

The Graphic Novel*

Midnight Madness
USA, 2014
English
World Premiere
92 minutes - Colour
Cast: Adam Crosby, Katie Sawatsky

Comic store clerk Otis Millar has risen from obscurity to phenom practically overnight. His continuing adventures of The Grave Digger for Epic Comix have not only revitalized a declining comic industry but spawned a multi-million dollar movie deal. With all this sudden success, it's a wonder to those around him why he's constantly hostile and paranoid.

Maybe it would shed some light if everyone knew that he had something to do with Grave Digger creator Donny Dyson's disappearance several months prior. Needless to say, Otis' gravy train would end if the world discovered that a battered Dyson was really churning out new Grave Digger tales while chained in his basement. On top of that, it's a good thing that Otis doesn't know that his goth-girlfriend Maggie is secretly having an affair with his profitable captive. It's enough to send any sociopath off the deep end.

The Graphic Novel is a dark-comedy that's more dark than comedy and is sure to please the not-so squismish.


* This is my tribute to the Toronto International Film Festival. It is not a real film.

Click here to see last year's TIFF Inspirations.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

TIFF 2014: Nadia Hilker, Star of the Supernatural/Romance "Spring"

If you like a little romance in your creepy horror, then Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's Spring is going to make you giddy.

[German Actress Nadia Hilker]

Evan (Evil Dead remake's Lou Taylor Pucci), an American backpacker, doesn't count on finding true love in southern Italy, but that's precisely what he finds when he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), a beautiful and sultry local with a dark secret. Unbeknownst to Evan, Louise is a centuries-old monster with a taste for blood -- hardly the recipe to base a loving relationship on.

Described as a supernatural version of Before Sunrise, Benson and Moorhead's Spring is a smart and original creature of the night film that avoids the vampire, werewolf, zombie and alien clichés. As a result, audiences are forced to discard any pre-conceived notions about Louise's monster origins and instead be wonderfully transported to the directors' twisted destination.

Much of Spring's strength is drawn from the terrific chemistry between Pucci and Hilker. Screenwriter Justin Benson wisely takes his time in developing their budding romance, which effectively raises the stakes, and the film's unexpected climax is better for it.

Last night, the directors and Hilker attended the Bloor Cinema's screening and they were enthusiastically applauded by a satisfied audience. When I asked Hilker how she felt playing a hideous monster, she replied "f@%king amazing. it was so much fun." Much of the film's creepiness stemmed from Hilker freakishly contorting her body and shedding her reptilian-like skin. "I wasn't a total beauty queen," Hilker said of her onscreen appearance. "but I got used to it."

Spring's next screenings at TIFF are:

Sunday, September 7th at 7pm -- Scotiabank Theatre 4

Saturday, September 13th at 3:15pm -- Scotiabank Theatre 3


Watch the Spring trailer below.