Monday, September 30, 2013

Kate: Culturally & Historically Eclectic

"My style is culturally and historically eclectic. I definitely look to the history books for inspiration. As a stylist, you need to learn the rules in order to break the rules and for me the rules come from art or fashion history so that I can look to the future and evolve with the coming trends."

Click here to check out Kate's stylist portfolio.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Asia: "Tribal Futurism"

"My style can be described as Tribal Futurism. Singer Erykah Badu inspires me. She's a powerful black woman doing whatever she wants and I respect that."

Asia Clarke is also a jewelry designer and you can check out her cool designs on her website Wild Moon Jewelry.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jupiter Rising

"Today my style is casual comfort and a little Native Indian. Sometimes I'm rocker or funky edgy. Whatever my style may be -- it always stands out."

Jupiter J. Makins is a writer/director and is currently in pre-production on her first feature film Bigfoot, which will be released sometime next year. She is also the author of The King of Egypt -- now available on Amazon.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bronwen: Channelling Bettie Page

"I like to think that I'm a mix of retro and a little bit modern. Pin-up model Bettie Page inspires me. I just cut my bangs like hers. She was very comfortable with herself and very open with everything and I want to live life like that."

Monday, September 23, 2013


"I made this vintage-inspired dress. I was a film student so pretty much anybody from 50s era film inspires me -- like Audrey Hepburn from Roman Holiday.  She wears a lot of big beautiful dresses in that film and I love full skirts."

Hannah moved here from Montreal and her goal is to get into costume design for film. Currently, she's working on a production for a theatre company.

Her Twitter account is @DoeEyedDame.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


"My style is hippyish -- low budget. Aside from my pants, most of my clothes are self-made."

Check out Josh's YouTube channel The Josh Schaefer Project to hear his original music.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the Red Carpet with OMG! Insider's Mary Kitchen

When it comes to fashion and entertainment, Canada's own Mary Kitchen has always had her finger on the pulse. She was a correspondent on shows such as Red Carpet Diary, FTV's In Fashion and City's Breakfast Television before packing her bags and moving to LA to join the OMG! Insider (formally The Insider) team. 

While in the city covering the Toronto International Film Festival, Mary sat down with us to talk about family, fashion and her much-deserved success.

TorontoVerve: Tell us about your childhood. Who was Mary Kitchen before all the success? 

Mary Kitchen: That is a good question. I think I was just like any other kid growing up in New Brunswick. I spent a lot of time with my little sister and I was the eldest so I took care of everybody. My aunt tells a story about when I was 2 years old and I supposedly brought her into my bedroom and then proceeded to explain every outfit that worked together in my entire wardrobe. So maybe I always had [that flare for style]. When I was in high school, there wasn’t a lot of coverage of fashion or the entertainment business so my joy came from magazines. I was obsessed with supermodels and cutting out pictures of clothes, hair, make-up and jewelry. But I was also a sporty kid. I was really into horses, cross-country running, soccer and playing lots of sports.

TV: Where did your love for show business come from in New Brunswick? 

MK: I think it all came naturally together with my love for fashion and doing theatre. When I was 6 years old, I remember telling my dad that I really want to be one of those kids in a toothpaste commercial and he kinda looked at me like I was crazy because that just wasn’t a thing. I also learned a lot of jingles. There was this Shell jingle and it went like this [sings lyrics]. I remember all of that.

TV: So you had aspirations of being in commercials as a kid? 

MK: Not really. I just was interested in what people said on television and learning their lines. I was really as interested in pop culture as I was theatre.

TV: Can you share a little about your family? 

MK: I’m extremely close with my brother and sister. I grew up with my cousins, aunts and uncles up at my family’s cottage. Those are probably my best memories: being in the water all day, lots of waterskiing, windsurfing, canoeing and going to family regattas. There was a tub race and winning the trophy basically defined your entire year. Those are probably some of my fondest childhood memories. My mom and dad are just so not show business-type people and it’s interesting because people always tell me: “your parents must love watching you on the show...” And I respond, “they think it’s fine.” [laughs] But it’s not something that anybody in my family has ever done.

TV: What advice from your mother do you still hold dear? 

MK: Well, she always says that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, and I kinda try to do that. My mom is the sweetest lady that you can possibly imagine. She is honestly an angel from another planet so I’d be proud to have any of her qualities. And my mom is definitely not into beauty and fashion. She could care less about how she looks and I never understood that. The first thing I say whenever I see my mother is “mom, what’s with your hair? Do you want a little eye-liner? How about some lip-gloss? What’s going on with this look?” [laughs] And she just giggles and laughs. Sometimes the critic in her comes out and she comments on my hair on the show. And it’s funny because she never applies her feedback to herself.

TV: I’m a dog lover so I have to ask: do you still have Celery, your black lab? 

MK: Noooo, I don’t have Celery. She passed away 2 years ago and she is one of the most special things to ever happen to me. This year was the first time that I actually took her up to my cottage and sprinkled her ashes up there. That’s kind of weird and morbid, but I honestly have to say that it was so painful for so long because she really was my best friend. My friends and I always joke that she had a British accent because she was kinda a bit uptight and highly intelligent.

TV: Did she really save your life in a fire? 

MK: Yes, my house burnt down when I was in university and she woke me up. I can still remember her licking me and barking. At the time, I thought I was dreaming, but when I finally opened my eyes I was literally surrounded by flames and smoke. Had I waited another minute, I probably wouldn’t have gotten out.

TV: Is there anyone special in your life right now? 

MK: There is. There is a new relationship in my life. He’s amazing. We’ll see. I mean it’s very new so we’ll see.

TV: He’s from LA? 

MK: He’s from the East Coast, which I like. There are a lot of girls who [are new] to LA and the guys there can sense it. So you learn very quickly to seek out guys from the East Coast. I mean I’m from New Brunswick. If a guy does his hair more than me, that’s just not going to fly back home.

TV: You once dressed the stars for the Oscars and Grammy’s.  Can you tell us about that experience?

MK: When my girlfriend Diana was 21, she opened a store called San Remo and it became a really famous little boutique on St. Thomas Street right off of Bloor Street West. The celebrities would walk in and say, “Oh I’d love to wear something like this to the People’s Choice Awards or the Oscars.” And we’d say, “let us style you.” And for some reason they trusted us.

TV: Who were some of the celebrities you helped style? 

MK: We styled Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Heather Locklear was a great customer. She came in all the time and we’d send her things and put outfits together for her. That was when I was at grad school. To have the background in fashion, journalism and acting really prepared me for what I’m doing right now. My girlfriend Diana in particular who started the store -- she’s a huge inspiration. She really taught me everything I know about fashion.

TV: What is your greatest heartbreak that you would attribute to motivating you to reach your success today? 

MK: That is a good question. I guess all the things that I haven’t gotten ended up helping me do what I’m doing now. I was on a CBC reality show called Fashion File Host Hunt (10 contestants competing to be the show's new host) and it came down to me and the other guy and he got it. I remember thinking that maybe I wasn’t meant to do this, but then I was offered a job on the Fashion Television channel. I’ve gone to a million auditions and many times I didn’t get the part that I had my heart set on. Last year, there was a role I wanted, but I couldn’t do it due to scheduling conflicts and that broke my heart, but then another movie opportunity came up this year. It’s just the way it goes. What amazes me about the heartbreaks is when you do get your heart broken, you really know that you want to be in this business when you go at it again. That almost assures you that you’re doing the right thing because you’re like, 'Wow! That really sucks, but I still want to do this! How crazy am I about this business?' That’s great!

TV: You’re currently a correspondent for OMG! Insider. How did that great opportunity come about? 

MK: A friend of mine had my tape and somebody there ended up seeing it and they asked me to come in. I worked in LA off and on and I kept getting calls. I always thought it was a fun thing to do, but I felt that it was never going to actually be a permanent thing. And when it happened, I was ecstatic. I got to meet the people who I was working with and I learned the concept behind this new show. They really wanted it to be conversational not presentational and to me that was very exciting.

TV: You covered Rihanna’s 7-7-7 tour. It’s been widely reported that Rihanna virtually ignored the journalists on the plane and instead of Rihanna being the story, the journalists’ frustration for her ended up being the story. What was that experience like for you personally? 

MK: That was one of the craziest things I’ve ever done. You’re right -- the journalists did become the story. They really had a collective meltdown. You have to understand there were over a 150 entertainment journalists who were missing from their newsrooms back home and they didn’t have a story. Tensions definitely ran high. I’ll tell you a story about when I was really annoyed. We were sitting on the airplane for 4 hours in Paris [waiting for Rihanna] and it ended up that she was photographed that day shopping. I thought to myself: 'I wish that I was shopping. Why didn’t Rihanna just tell us that she was going shopping so we all could have a shopping day?' But having said that, on that last night in New York, I watched every second of her show because she is magnetic. I love her fashion. I think she’s really unique and she really has that IT factor. That to me is infinitely watchable. When she got up on that stage, I was dancing and loving every minute of it. It showed me that I had some serious endurance because I still wanted the story. At the end, I was there with my microphone thinking, 'I know she’s going to talk to me.' She didn’t, but I still believed that I could get the story. I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

TV: It’s interesting that you went through all of that and your personal feelings about Rihanna hadn't changed. 

MK: No because she kinda does whatever she wants and to see it firsthand like that for a superstar that big was interesting. In Germany, she was 2 hours late for her show and the audience was booing her, but as soon as she got up on stage, everyone forgave her instantly. I think it takes huge star charisma to pull that off and she does.

TV: You’re currently covering TIFF.  Which celebrity interview stands out the most for you? 

MK: Julia Louis-Dreyfus was really cool. She has the most Emmy nominations--more than any other female in television history. She’s a real star. And I love James Galdolfini so much. [When he was alive], he was one of the stars that I didn’t want to meet because I didn’t want to be disappointed with him. So to sit there and talk to her about this really sweet film that they made together [called Enough Said] was really special. You know, it’s very strange because I never wanted to interview him before and now I’ll never get the chance. I also met Julia Roberts for the first time. She’s another one who has that crazy star charisma. This is my favourite time of year. I love the Toronto International Film Festival and it’s my 7th year covering it in a row and I hope I get to cover it for as long as possible. It’s so nice to see so many friends. You go to the red carpet and it’s great catching up with all the reporters, stars, directors, agents, producers, publicists and the camera guys. It’s a lot of fun.

TV: How would you rate the fashion you’ve seen at this year’s TIFF? 

MK: Alicia Vikander who stars in The Fifth Estate was wearing a strapless Erdem the other day and it was absolutely beautiful. I love that she was wearing a Canadian designer, but just a different shape -- something modern and fresh on the red carpet. Oh my God, Olivia Wilde had some crazy make-up going on and it was really fresh. Gone was that typical smoky eye and the bronze skin. Instead, she had this really defined black line with cobalt-like electric blue on top. It was simple and cool. I love seeing things like that. Something that’s different. When people take chances, it’s always fun.

TV: How would you describe Toronto street style? 

MK: Very urban obviously. You can tell that the girls here follow fashion blogs. I think that’s exciting. I do too, and not because of work, but because I want to. Fashion in Toronto is very eclectic. Different parts in Toronto have different styles. It’s like New York. You can define New York style from its different boroughs. Toronto is the same. You can pick out the Queen West girl versus the Yorkville girl....

TV: And the Kensington Market girl. 

MK: Yes, the Kensington Market girl. You’ve got many different vibes going on here and we need to see more of it. For a while, we’ve seen that same long blown out hair, same make-up and the same black dress with studs. I love it when someone wears a weird plaid coat with fluorescent nails, no make-up and maybe just lip-gloss or a ponytail. That just shakes the whole fashion world up a bit and I think that’s when you see the best street style.

TV: You had a part in the Kick-Ass 2 as a news reporter. Are we going to see more acting credits for Mary Kitchen on IMDB in the near future? 

MK: I think so. I have just signed with the Amanda Rosenthal Talent Agency here. I hadn’t really done a lot of acting in the last few years because I just haven’t had time. Agents get so frustrated with me because I can never go [to auditions]. I’m always at an interview or voicing something. So I hope I can do a little bit more acting in the future.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

TIFF Street Style: Jade

I caught the premiere of director Ti West's The Sacrament at TIFF and while the cast and crew spoke on stage during Q&A, I couldn't help but notice Jade's charming dress.

Jade Healy is the Production Designer for the film and has collaborated on many of West's film projects.

"My style changes all the time. It's versatile. I bought this dress at a Salvation Army in Savannah where we shot this movie. It only cost me a dollar and I think it's a maternity dress.  I'm often inspired by the films I'm working on. Sometimes I buy wardrobe for the film to put it in the set dressing and then I end up taking it home with me."

Monday, September 16, 2013

TIFF Street Style - Dorota Lech: "Vintage Professional"

Dorota Lech is one of the Documentary Associate Programmers for TIFF and I met her after a screening of Errol Morris' latest, The Unknown Knowns -- a conversation with former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld about his controversial career post-9/11.

"My style can be described as 'vintage professional.' I borrowed this vintage dress from a friend, my shoes are Swedish Hasbeens and my glasses are vintage frames from Berlin -- they're from the 30s."

And what are Dorota's thoughts about the movie?

"It's incredible -- it's a masterpiece. Errol was one of the kindest people I've met at TIFF. He's very warm, very receptive and so intelligent. It was a big honour to interview him."

This year, TIFF showed their support to Canadians: Tarek Loubani, an emergency physician and John Greyson, a film maker who were imprisoned for no reason by Egyptian authorities on August 16th. For more information or to join the Free Tarek and John Coalition, click here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

TIFF 2013: Hitoshi Matsumoto's R100 - Midnight Madness World Premiere

From the wonderfully strange imagination of director Hitoshi Matsumoto, Japan's comic genius, comes the outrageously funny and demented R100.

[Director & Actor Hitoshi Matsumoto at the Midnight Madness World Premiere of R100]

When a bored single father (Ichi the Killer's Nao Ohmori) joins a mysterious S&M club to spice up his life, he gets more than he bargains for. Suddenly, a league of dominatrixes, each with their own special skills, begin to terrorize him without warning throughout his normal day. Despite his bruises and cuts, he oddly gets an overwhelming euphoria from their painful interactions. But when the dominatrixes begin to threaten the lives of his family, all bets are off.

It’s hard to describe a Hitoshi Matsumoto film because they’re absolutely bizarre. But that's to be expected from Matsumoto -- there's not supposed to be any coherent direction. It's the visual sensory overload that makes the trip exciting.

R100 contains a lot of physical comedy, much at the expense of the lead actor. The film opens with a martial arts dominatrix (pictured below) completely pummelling him to submission in the streets. Additionally, there’s a hilarious scene of another femme fatale crushing each of the hero's sushi with her fist just before he consumes them.

If you think that Matsumoto is unaware of the film's craziness to general audiences, guess again. Interestingly, the gifted director breaks the action periodically so that a film panel can discuss the insanity and subsequently recommend edits palatable for a more conservative audience.

Matsumoto made a rare appearance to introduce the film to the Midnight Madness crowd and they were in a complete frenzy over him.

The film's title R100 parodies Japan's rating system. Their ratings include R15 and R18 representing the acceptable ages for viewing. R100 is Matsumoto's hint of who may be ready to see his latest opus.

Regrettably, R100 currently has no announced North American release date.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: Dragon-Mom


Closing Night Gala
USA 2013
World Premiere
101 minutes - Colour
Cast: Jennifer Harris

Olympic Gold Medallist Janet Gibson has nothing but pride seeing her daughter Jessica train with her teammates for the Major League Dragon Boat Series. Before winning her gold medal in kayaking 15 years ago, Janet led her dragon boat team to many victories, and was hopeful that Jessica would follow the same path. But Janet's world turns upside down after a fatal car accident claims her daughter's life.

Inspired by true events, Dragon-Mom tells the story of a mother who joins her late daughter's team to compete against the best of the best in the Dragon Boat Majors -- all in the name of her daughter. Can the heart of an Olympian lead them to victory?

An inspirational film worthy of closing the festival.

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

Friday, September 13, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: The Library

The Library*
Midnight Madness
New Zealand 2013
North American Premiere
91 minutes - Colour
Cast: Mehdi Agahi

In the spirit of horror classics Creepshow and Twilight Zone: The Movie, comes The Library -- a frightening new anthology film, featuring a collection of short stories that take place in (you guessed it) a library.

An over-zealous librarian takes it way too personally when students fail to return their borrowed books on time in Overdue. During the course of an evening, he stalks and terrorizes his victims before finally reclaiming their textbooks. This darkly funny short takes the slasher genre in a fresh direction.

Patrick is an Elizabethan Poetry major and a hopeless romantic. In Sonnet, every night at 11pm, he meets up with Helena in a secluded part of the library to read poetry. But on this faithful night, things will take a turn for the macabre when Helena has a very strange request. Not for the faint of heart.

When Samantha wakes up in the library, she not only discovers that she's locked alone inside, but that she's being hunted by the same historical serial killers examined in her thesis. Thesis is a creepy nail-biter that is guaranteed to shock audiences.

If blood and mayhem is your thing, then The Library will certainly tickle you.

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

TIFF 2013: Director Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin"

In Jonathan Glazer's long-anticipated Under the Skin, Scarlett Johansson plays an alien temptress, who drives around the streets of Scotland in search of male prey. With the over-saturation of fast-paced and CGI-laden spectacles today, Glazer's (Sexy Beast) latest offering is a welcome return to the smart and atmospheric SCI-FI thrillers of the past.

There's no real explanation given for the alien's motivation -- in fact, there's very little dialogue in the film at all, which may turn off some passive viewers, who prefer having a movie's plot-line spoon fed to them. In Under the Skin, audiences must stay engaged to absorb what's going on. And what's going on is best not said in this review so as not to spoil the experience.

Johansson plays the alien seductress with such great subtlety that her male victims appear to be first confused by her sexual overtures. There's almost an innocent nature in her character that gives men the wrongful impression that they're in control, and it's that naivity that draws them easily into her web. 

Glazer uses hidden cameras in several scenes to capture pedestrians' genuine reactions to Johansson's alien. Specifically, there's a moment when her character falls on a very busy sidewalk and has difficulty getting up. The good samaritans who help her up are real and never suspect that they're in a movie. The same goes for the men who give her directions around the city. Little do they know that every interaction with Johansson is being captured. Needless to say, this style of filmmaking takes improv to a new and exciting level.

I couldn't write this review without also drawing attention to Mica Levi's creepy and hypnotic score, which significantly contributes to shaping the film's dark mood -- much like Bernard Herrmann's score did for Hichcock's Psycho.

Under the Skin is precisely the film that sophisticated SCI-FI enthusiasts have been waiting for.

[Director Jonathan Glaser in the Elgin Theatre]

Thursday, September 12, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: Double Jeopardy

Double Jeopardy*

Russia 2013
North American Premiere
110 minutes - Colour
Cast: Gulay & Bulent Turkvan

Victor has always suspected his wife Ana of cheating on him with his twin brother Yuri, but he just never had the proof. It was just a gut feeling.

Obsessed with finding the truth, Victor hires a private detective to follow her, and sure enough, his suspicions were right. Ana and Yuri were having an affair for several months.

Desperate to not lose his wife, Victor conjures up a devious plan to kill his brother and then assume his identity. It would be a win/win situation. Victor would still have Ana and his traitorous twin would be out of the picture. The only minor setback is that he would have to live out the rest of his life as Yuri -- a price he was willing to pay.

After he carries out his plan to perfection, things go horribly wrong for Victor when Ana rejects Yuri. Suddenly, Victor must try to win Ana's affections all over again, but this time as Yuri.

Indeed, Double Jeopardy is a black comedy with a very big and twisted heart.

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: In Your Dreams

In Your Dreams*
USA, 2013
World Premiere
109 minutes - Colour
Cast: Michael and Barb Pimento

Just days after his retirement, Sheldon Monroe surprised his wife Doreen with the announcement that he'd like the couple to relocate from their quaint Vermont home and move to beautiful Florence to pursue his dream of becoming a great pastry chef.

The news was a devastating blow to their 3 grown kids, who couldn't remember their dad even attempting to make a Pillsbury Crescent roll in their lifetime. After 35 years of marriage, Doreen was especially looking forward to spending their twilight years comfortably in Florida. Still, Sheldon was convinced that his lifelong passion wouldn't materialize in the "Sunshine State." It had to be Florence.

Against her better judgement, Doreen agrees to sell their house and use their retirement funds to help fulfill Sheldon's dream. However, the risky venture wouldn't be without huge consequences that could possibly rip their marriage apart.

In Your Dreams is an enchanting comedy that reminds us that you are never too old to follow your dreams.

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

TIFF 2013: Co-Directors John Maloof & Charlie Siskel: "Finding Vivian Maier"

As a street style photographer, I've been hugely anticipating John Maloof and Charlie Siskel's ambitious documentary Finding Vivian Maier -- a film that retraces the life of a mysterious nanny, who is now posthumously receiving international acclaim for her beautiful street photography from the 40's and 50's. And I'm ecstatic to say that the film didn't disappoint.

[Filmmakers John Maloof (left) & Charlie Siskel (right) at the film's TIFF premiere]

It all began when Maloof recently purchased boxes filled with Maier's old photo negatives at a Chicago auction for $380. Recognizing the photos' artistic merits, he uploaded a few of them on his blog to see what kind of response he'd get. Much to his surprise, the response was enormous.

Certainly, what made her photos special was how she captured the beauty in things that wasn't obvious to everyone else. She took photos of children, the elderly and often her reflection in mirrors and windows. Indeed, the time capsule aspect of her work is also intriguing.

In the film, Maloof interviews Maier's employers and their children (now in their 40s). Interestingly, aside from her name and love of photography, no one knew anything significant about her. Maier preferred to remain a mystery to everyone. Some of the children remembered her as being dark. She collected newspaper clippings with headlines about unspeakable violence. She was also a eccentric pack rat of various things.

One French linguist even questions her French accent, saying it was fake. How could she have a French accent if she were born in New York? 

Other questions raised throughout the film: Was she possibly abused as a child? And was she suffering from mental illness?

No one knew the answers.

And for one brief moment, Maier's presumed innocent image is shattered when one of the children recounts her abuse at the hand of the artist. To their credit, the filmmakers avoid following the abuse angle, which wisely prevents the film from degenerating into a tabloid piece.

Finally, when the Maloof and Siskel take us to the French Alps, where Maier's relatives live, you feel like you're getting closer to reaching her inner most sanctum. As private as she was, Maier may not have wanted this kind of attention, but it's safe to say that liberating her photos for the world to see has made many people happy. Currently, Maier's work can be seen in galleries in New York, Los Angeles and London. And for that, Maloof is to be commended.

Finding Vivian Maier is a masterful film that should not be missed.

* Black and white photos by Vivian Maier

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: Je Veux Passer Ma Vie Avec Vous Ce Soir

Je Veux Passer Ma Vie Avec Vous Ce Soir*
I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life With You Tonight

France, 2013
French/English subtitles
World Premiere
92 minutes - Colour
Cast: Sammie Miles & Keon Cameron

Stéphanie and Jean are madly in love. They're also the lead singers for 2 of Paris' hottest independent acts. Hers is called The Bardots, an all-girl punk group and his is called The Delinquents, a heavy metal band. When a local club promises a record contract to the winner of a 'battle of the bands' contest, their eternal love for each other will be put to the ultimate test.

I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life With You Tonight (also the name of the Bardots' signature song) is an engaging drama peppered with incredible live rock performances. An inspiring film that comes highly recommended for anyone who's ever fought tooth and nail to realize their dream.

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

TIFF 2013: Shep Gordon & Mike Myers: "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon"

If you don't know who Shep Gordon is, then don't let that stop you from seeing Mike Myers' directorial debut, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon -- an extraordinary documentary about one of the entertainment industry's most successful managers.

Gordon's incredible journey first began after a chance meeting with Jimi Hendrix at a cheap LA hotel. The would-be legendary rocker casually suggested to the unemployed Gordon to consider managing musical artists simply because of his strongest qualification: he was Jewish. Gordon agreed and soon after guided a then unknown Alice Cooper to international fame. Gordon proved that his mentorship wasn't a fluke after he also spear-headed newcomer Anne Murray to the top of the Billboard charts. Some of his other celebrity clientele included: Blondie, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Raquel Welsh and for 9 days, Pink Floyd.

He earned the respect of the who's who in Tilseltown not only for his savvy business ideas but his enormously big heart. Decades later, Myers first met Gordon when negotiating the music rights to Alice Cooper's No More Mister Nice Guy for his rock-comedy Wayne's World. It would be the start of a beautiful and long-lasting friendship.

Mensch is a Jewish term that refers to a person with integrity and honour. To all of Gordon's closest friends, he whole-heartledly fits that bill and then some. In Supermensch, Myers assembled an array of Hollywood actors (Michael Douglas, Sly Stallone -- even Tom Arnold) and musicians (Alice Cooper, Blondie and Anne Murray) to recount their fondest memories of their friend Gordon. Myers perfectly weaves their stories using film clips and stock footage with recollections shared by Gordon himself. The result is an engaging love-letter to the manager, who never seemed to manage his own life with the same dedication as his clients.

Despite his failed marriage and lost loves, Gordon was never blessed with having children of his own. He says, "I don't know who to leave this all to," referring to his great wealth.

Why Myers chose to make this documentary his directorial premiere is evident on screen. He has tremendous love and respect for Gordon, who was there for Myers during his most troubling times.

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon has no official release date yet, but I urge you to see it when inevitably plays at a theatre near you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

TIFF 2013: Director Steve McQueen & His Artists: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o & Michael Fassbender - "12 Years a Slave"

There are few films that can affect me the way that Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave did. Once in a while, I may shed a tear when a film adequately depicts sorrow, but in 12 Years a Slave, I literally cried. And more than once. It's that powerful.

[Top Left to Right: Director Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o & Michael Fassbender]

12 Years a Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup (played by the Chiwetel Ejiofor), who was born a free black man in Saratoga, New York in 1808. In 1841, as a gifted violin musician, he was approached by two white concert promoters, who offered him a lucrative opportunity to perform in Washington, DC. Leaving his wife and two children for what was supposed to be a 3-week engagement, Northup was abducted and sold into the slave trade in Louisiana. The film recounts Northup's gruelling fight for survival and relentless struggle to return to his family.

It's McQueen's gift for filmmaking that builds the drama of Northup's incredible autobiography. The film is shot out-of-sequence, slowly revealing the mystery of his abduction and his eventual plan of escape. Moreover, McQueen doesn't spare us from the atrocities perpetrated by slavers. His camera keeps you fixed on their violence. When a plantation owner (Michael Fassbender) brutally beats his slave girl ( Lupita Nyong'o) for a petty offence, we see blood spray and flesh torn with each crack of his whip. Indeed, McQueen has no intention of having audiences leave the theatre without comprehending the real horror of slavery. 

The performances are equally astounding. Ejiofor plays Northup with grace and strength. The film heavily relies on his performance to penetrate the hearts of audiences and he effortlessly succeeds at the task. Fassbender delivers an equally piercing performance as Epps, Northup's menacing plantation owner. Epps is exceptionally vicious to his slaves. In lesser hands than Fassbender's, the character could have turned out to be a ridiculous parody. In a film filled with extraordinary veteran actors, it's great to see a breakout performance by virtual newcomer Lupita Nyong'o. She easily holds her own against 12 Years' talented cast. It shouldn't come as any surprise if we see all three of these actors at next year's Academy Awards.

Much to the delight of the Ryerson audience, McQueen and the principal actors (sans Brad Pitt) appeared after the screening for Q&A. During this time, McQueen proudly looked at his cast and said, "I don't work with actors, I work with artists." It was obvious that they all had great respect for one another. TIFF's Artistic-Director Cameron Bailey encouraged the audience to give Ejiofor an enthusiastic applause for his incredible performance and McQueen asked the same for Fassbender, which they gladly accommodated. Fassbender added in order to portray such a despicable human being, he had to try to identify with him: "...sadly, he was a product of his time," he said.

12 Years a Slave opens October 18th.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: The Alien Who Moved Next Door

The Alien Who Moved Next Door*
Canada, 2013
World Premiere
89 minutes - Colour
Cast: Tristen (left) & Torin (right)

Ever since Mr. Arbogast moved in next door, Trent and Dorian have noticed the strangest things: stray-cats go haywire when they pass-by his house; weird humming noises emanate from his basement, and the old man watches the weather channel incessantly. Naturally these findings can only mean one thing: Mr. Arbogast is an alien and he's planning world domination.

The Alien Who Moved Next Door will delight kids and parents alike and is destined to become a children's classic.

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: Sospetto


Italy, 2013
Italian/English subtitles
World Premiere
143 minutes - Colour
Cast: Spiro Mandylor

Doctor Salvatore Tucci is Rome's most respected and successful cardiovascular surgeon. He has saved the lives of many dignitaries, including an Italian President, a top military official and the country's wealthiest citizens. But things take a turn for the worse for the doctor when a patient inexplicably dies on his table during a routine procedure.

How could it have happened? A blood test proves no substance abuse, and eventually an intensive investigation concludes that the doctor was likely suffering from fatigue after having worked 27 hours straight (something the doctor had no trouble doing before). When the family of the victim refuses to file a malpractice suit against the hospital, it looks like Doctor Tucci's life would return back to normal -- that is until an anonymous police tip uncovers that the doctor once knew the patient intimately.

Suddenly, the Doctor's past is put under the microscope and the police and media race against each other to find the truth. What they'll find will rock an entire nation.

Suspicion is a smart and powerful suspense-thriller that will undoubtedly garner much attention come award season.

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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: Foul Play

Foul Play*
USA, 2013
World Premiere
123 minutes - Colour
Cast: Mike Ward

Ten years ago, Harry Jordan was on top of the world as one of LA's leading sports agents, but with a struggling economy, 2 divorces and a kid in college, things have been tough on him lately -- and they're going to get tougher.

Harry's most lucrative client, Oakland Raider's star quarterback, Joe Reynolds, has been found dead in his Hollywood apartment and police suspect foul play. To make matters worse, all fingers are pointing to Harry. As it turns out, Reynolds had accused the sly agent of embezzling money and harsh words were exchanged. But the most incriminating evidence is the security camera footage of Harry suspiciously leaving the scene of the crime.

Determined to find out who framed him, Harry makes a death-defying escape from police custody on the I-405 (resulting in the incredible mass destruction of multiple cars and semi-trucks). With nowhere to run, he turns to the last people he can trust: his ex-wives, Susan and Rebecca. Together, they make an unlikely team to solve the murder mystery and clear Harry's slightly-tarnished name.

Part Jerry Maguire and Bird on a Wire, Foul Play is sure to become one of this year's most memorable dramedies.

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

TIFF Inspirations: 'Til Death Do Us Part

'Til Death Do Us Part*

United Kingdom, 2013
World Premiere
112 minutes - Colour
Cast: Ola Rahatka, Kevin Maxted & Bridget as herself

Married life hasn't been quite the same for John ever since Claire inherited Bridget -- her late Aunt Betty's stubborn pooch. Not only does he feel like a third wheel in their relationship, he's convinced that Bridget is plotting to break them up. This was especially evident after Bridget left a special package floating in the their jacuzzi on the evening of their 10-month wedding anniversary; quickly putting the brakes on their romantic liaison.

Pushed to the brink of insanity, John finally hires a hit man to take care of the heartless pup, but much to his chagrin, she miraculously survives every attempt at her life. But the real fun begins when Bridget gets wise to John's shady plans and the two battle it out in an epic climax ala Home Alone.

Indeed, 'Til Death Do Us Part is one of best black comedies to come out of the UK in a long time, and it will forever redefine the phrase: "man's best friend."

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