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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Horror show

Tara Thorne has all the dope this show can handle.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 22, 2007 at 8:30 AM

Sure, Hollywood churns out a new horror film every week. And by “new” we of course mean “remake of a Japanese or classic 1970s film starring hot young stars from The CW.”

So skip the multiplex this week and on Wednesday, February 28 head out to Ginger’s Tavern (1662 Barrington) for Night of the Killer Reel, a screening of eight local shorts organized by Scott Thorne (no relation), whose project with Matt Likely, 9 Spring Avenue, was the impetus for the evening.

“We wanted more of a night than a 10-minute short screening,” says Thorne, a student in the Screen Arts program at NSCC. He and director Likely—“we co-wrote and co-produced it, co-edited it. We basically co-did it”—shot 9 Spring Avenue, about four friends in the woods and a joint procured from a “sketchy” street salesperson, last Thanksgiving in New Brunswick on a borrowed Canon DV camera. “It looked good,” says Thorne. “With the XL2 we can shoot it in 24p mode, and with a certain filter it made it look more filmic, took the video edge off it.”

The Killer Reel lineup boasts a handful of established and up-and-comers in its lineup. Scott Simpson’s Terminal Lunch is here, as is Valley of the Gun by Mike Rizkalla (you might remember him as one of guitarists for Bucket Truck). Also included are Daddy Why? by Michael Aronson and Dawn Boyd, Marc D’Entremont’s Better Off and The Visitor from Megan Wennberg and Rosemary Hanson. A special treat is a pair of trailers created exclusively for the Grindhouse contest—the upcoming Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collab will open at South by Southwest in March, and the fest has challenged filmmakers everywhere to create trailers in the exploitation violence style of the feature. Thorne will screen Tetas de Muerte, from Daniel Gaynor, and Hobo with a Shotgun, from Rob Cotterill and much sought-after local DP Jason Eisener.

“Putting this little screening together, I’ve realized how popular it is in the community,” Thorne says of the horror genre. “There aren’t any horror festivals that I know of—I never see very much on the horror side in the Atlantic Film Festival, which is fine, that’s what they do. In a way this has turned into a small little horror festival.”

Night of the Killer Reel kicks off at 8pm on February 28 at Ginger’s. Five bucks gets you the films and a performance from Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees.

Calling you out

Speaking of the AFF, our favourite annual arts event has put out a call for entry for film submissions, and it’s months away so we don’t want to hear your bitching about how you didn’t know. The early bird date for your film of any length or genre is June 8, with the final deadline being June 29. You’ll save five bucks on the entry fee if you get your shit together just three weeks earlier! Visit for the particulars.

The Olympiad

The Halifax Jewish Cultural Festival kicks off its inaugural installment on March 25, and they’ve just announced that it will close with a bang. Olympia Dukakis will perform the Broadway show Rose at the Rebecca Cohn on March 31. The one-woman show is an “amazing journey from war-torn Warsaw to the West Bank, to the borscht belts of post-war Atlantic City and modern Miami Beach. This remarkable play by Jewish author Martin Sherman is not only a sharply drawn portrait of a feisty survivor, but also a moving and timely remembrance of the extraordinary events that shaped the last century.” Tickets go on sale Saturday, February 24 and are $60. Call the Cohn box office at 494-3820.

Facts about new fiction

The authors to be included in the inaugural Vagrant Revue of New Fiction, published by Vagrant, the fiction arm of Nimbus Publishing, have been announced. The book, edited by Sandra McIntyre and Mary Jo Anderson, will include new works by Russell Barton, Judy Bowman, Erna Buffie, Michelle Butler Hallett, Rhian Colcott, our own Joey Comeau, Joanne Jefferson, Amy Jones, Nina Lassam, Sarah Mian, Elizabeth Peirce, Darcy Rhyno, Lee Thompson, Janet Parker Vaughn and Brent White. The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction is scheduled to be releasedthis May.

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East coast adds up

Chris McCluskey holds his own awards show.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 22, 2007 at 8:08 AM

Consistent with enduring east coast character, the wealth was spread around at the East Coast Music Awards on February 18. A pair of artists, and an additional couple of bands, attended various post-ceremony festivities having garnered three trophies apiece. Country favourite George Canyon was the highest earning representative of the Scotia diaspora, being honored with Entertainer, Video and Country Recording of the Year awards. Halifax ambassadors of rock the Joel Plaskett Emergency walked off stage (three times, all it was nominated for) as Single, Songwriter and DVD of the Year winners. Likewise, In-Flight Safety was 2007’s winner of Group, Rising Star and Alternative Recording of the Year honours. Rounding out the lucky four was the (evidently genre-transcending) JP Cormier who took Folk, Instrumental and Bluegrass Recording of the Year awards back to Cape Breton. Jill Barber was the only other multiple-earning ECMA winner as Female Solo and Recording of the Year recipient for For All Time. In awards based on my own observations, Ontario’s Gordie Johnson trounced Ron Hynes and George Canyon for Looking Best in a Cowboy Hat, Mary Walsh upset Peter MacKay for Most Outrageous Sound Byte and The Stance won for Most Sought-after Band who Didn’t Apply for a Showcase.

BA showered (with praise)

Not even the ECZEMA Gala Awards show can stop In-Flight Safety. Coinciding with the ECMA award show, hosted by The MaynardsHeath Matheson at Gus’ Pub, the event honoured its version of the best of last year. In-Flight took a Rita MacNeil Rising Star Award to match their ECMA of a similar name—but Plaskett, Cormier and Canyon were all shut out. Among the other awards doled out were Risky Business for the Chucky Danger Award for best dressed band, BA Johnston for the Sloan/AV/Matt Mays/Trews Award for the band who moved away to make it big and Dale Fahey (of Vampire Bats) for Best Appearance by a Local Musician in a Film.

Amped up

Those who caught Pink Floyd and Kiss producer Bob Ezrin’s speech at the Delta Halifax on February 17 reaffirmed their need to strengthen the region’s sense of community. Entrepreneurs Steve Brazil and Richard Hoque were way ahead of us, launching which aims to promote a connection between local music and those who support it.

“When I was home in Dublin last May I got talking with a few guys over a few drinks about what I was doing in Canada with my business Bruised Promotions, and some projects I was working on. We also talked about websites for bands and how big the social networking sites have become,” says Brazil about how they hatched the idea. “ is a one-stop shop where artists can keep their fans informed of new releases and upcoming shows.”

Brazil says offers something unique in comparison to MySpace and Sonic Bids, which are seen as vital promotional avenues for bands, and believe the website will work great alongside other organizations aimed at promoting the arts.

“I see site as an addition to an already very vibrant Atlantic music scene,” says Brazil. “If bookers, agents, managers and music directors are looking for Atlantic Canadian music they can find it straightaway.”

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Near, far...well, near, actually

Tara Thorne balances out all that music news, right here.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2007 at 4:39 PM

Though we’re more against Titanic-related things than the rightful soul under the J.Dawson grave marker over at Fairview Lawn, a few years ago we saw a production of Scotland Road close out the most ambitious, awesome season Shakespeare by the Sea has ever had.

That’s why we’re in full support of Theatre Arts Guild’s version of the play, a crackling drama opening this week out at the Pond Playhouse. A woman is found drifting on an ice floe in the North Atlantic, dressed in 19th century clothing, and when she finally talks all she says is “Titanic.” (She does not, unfortunately, follow up with “One of the most overrated movies ever made, right? I mean, you know a guy for like a day and then he sinks to the bottom of the ocean and you’re expected to pine for him, like, for life? Just because he has floppy hair and controls you in a less obvious way than your much manlier fiance? Honestly! My heart will go on, my ass.”) A pair of doctors try to uncork her bottle of lies in a battle of truth versus reality versus exploitation (versus a touch of frostbite, we imagine).

Directed by TAG vet Nick Jupp, Scotland Road opens February 15 and runs Thursdays to Saturdays with one Sunday matinee on February 25. Tickets are $12/$15 and can be reserved (we recommend it) online at or by calling 477-2663.

Bottled up

The Genie Awards were handed out in Toronto on February 13, though you probably didn’t see them if you don’t have cable—or even if you do, let’s be honest—because hey, why would a major Canadian network carry a national awards show for Canadian movies? Hello, there were two new Law and Orders and the “most important” American Idol ever to air! We can’t let a single Canuck watch an American show on its own network in its own timeslot in order to support the national film industry in any way!

(What is the problem getting us out to our own movies, again?)

Anyway, the Trailer Park Boys film was up for some hardware but was predictably trounced by the Franglais Bon Cop, Bad Cop (Bon sigh, bad sigh) and Maurice Richard/The Rocket, because if we know anything in this country, it’s Hockey is Always Yes.

We bring this up at all because JenniferThe CorporationBaichwal won Best Documentary for her riveting, wholly depressing Manufactured Landscapes, about photographer Edward Burtynsky and how China is the world’s biggest e-landfill (the two things relate, trust us). It played at the Toronto, Atlantic and Sundance film festivals, and opens in Halifax on February 23.

Do blog entry printouts count?

Eyelevel Gallery has an opening for you to bare your soul, but not through art, exactly. The gallery is looking for readers for its Dear Diary event, happening March 9 in a location TBD.

We’ll let their press release tell you the deets, because it’s one of the better ones we’ve gotten lately: “Have you ever professed your lust by letter? Write it in blood? Eyelevel Gallery is looking for your most heart-retching diary entries, pathetic notes of passion, confessions of revenge and ridiculous resolutions. Words that now make you cringe or wonder, ‘What the heck was I thinking?’ Words that you don’t mind sharing with a room of strangers.”

Send a scan to director@> or a photocopy to 2128 Gottingen, B3K 3B3 and start working on your performance. The night is open to journallers across Canada—if you don’t live here, your entry will be read by a local who will “interpret your words with kindness and spirit.” A-hem.

Live from Halifax, it’s Location TBD

March is looking to be a busy audition month for those who believe it’s your birthright to be famous. (Everyone in this generation appears to, if American Idol is any indication, and let’s face it, it is.) Canadian Idol takes over the Halifax Shopping Centre on March 24 and 25, while a few days later on March 28 a show we can actually get behind will be here trying to cast. The Second City’s The Next Comedy Legend is a new reality program aiming to find the country’s hottest new sketch comic, who will get a slot at the famed Second City in Toronto. Second City is still, after all these years, a breeding ground for Saturday Night Live, and launched the careers of Catherine O’Hara, Mike Myers, Tina Fey and the late Gilda Radner and John Candy. The audition spot hasn’t been nailed down yet, but we’ll let you know when it is.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Strike through

Tara Thorne is back from Sundance and better than ever.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2007 at 7:35 AM

As the strike of Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists members over salary and internet rights issues drifts into its second month, the Atlantic branch of the actors’ union moves into legal position on February 13. Members in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have been on strike since January 8, though little production work has been affected thanks to “continuation letters” signed by producers in accordance with the union that allow series and films already shooting to continue, for a fee.

ACTRA’s Maritime branch represents more than 500 actors across Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick. This is the first strike in the union’s 64-year history. Stay tuned to this space for updates, and to for breaking news.

Play ball

A supercool event for those who make theatre—but especially those who love it—drops into a remarkably busy February on Saturday. The Playwrights’ Cabaret, featuring scribes belonging to the Playwrights’ Atlantic Resource Centre, boasts readings from a stupid awesome line-up of locals. They include Carol Sinclair, Bill Forbes, Michael Melski, Jackie Torrens, Catherine Banks and Josh MacDonald, to name about half the roster. All of the authors will read from new works.

The Playwrights’ Cabaret is a free event being held at Theatre Nova Scotia, 2353 Agricola, at 8pm on Saturday, February 10.

Game on

The Halifax-shot feature Poor Boy’s Game, starring Danny Glover, Tonya Lee Williams and “Maestro Fresh” Wes Williams premieres as a special presentation in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival, aka Berlinale, this weekend.

“My passion for Poor Boy’s Game was sparked by the idea of exploring tribalism through two characters that choose to step outside of their respective tribes in order to heal a community,” says director Clement Virgo, who co-wrote the locally set boxing film with Halifax writer Chaz Thorne (no relation). “The script reminded me of the movies of some of my cinematic heroes of the mid-50s, the ‘classic’ American period, like On the Waterfront, Rebel Without a Cause and Marty.”

Virgo attended Berlinale with his previous film, the explicit 2005 drama Lie with Me. Poor Boy’s Game will be released in Canada sometime this year.

The “Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence” Dept.

Congrats to the folks at NSCAD University, which recently picked up an Atlantic Canada Craft Award for Excellence in the Industry Leader/Supporter category.

New president David B. Smith accepted the honour. “This award confirms for me that the strength of our region is built upon incredible talent and a community spirit that fosters great collaboration,” he said. “As the academic leader in Canada’s creative economy, NSCAD takes great pride in its accomplishments and maintains a strong vision of how it will contribute to a future of cultural excellence in the Atlantic Region.”

In other awards news, Halifax dancer Jacinte Armstrong, a founding member of Verve Mwendo, won the inaugural Diane Moore Scholarship, created in honour of the late founder of Live Art Productions to facilitate the completion of a new dance piece.


Guru, the Bollywood sensation that took Toronto by storm, hits Halifax this weekend. The first Bollywood film to premiere outside of India, Guru sparked the attendence of more than1,000 people at the red-carpet bow a month ago at the Elgin Theatre. India’s biggest film icons, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai (Bride and Prejudice), star in the film and are also together, earning them the—ahem—distinction of being the “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of India.”

Guru is a rags-to-riches story about a small-town man who rises up “to become the biggest tycoon in Indian history,” the titular Guru.

The film opens February 9 not at the Oxford. Check your bus schedules and head on out to the cultural hotbed of Bayers Lake.

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Plum instrumentalist

Chris McCluskey plays it like it is.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2007 at 7:28 AM

While Catriona Sturton is most familiar as the bassist from beloved ’90s act Plumtree, her skills with another instrument pre-date the band. Sturton’s first experience performing was with a harmonica and she’ll return to teach a beginner’s workshop on the topic at the Halifax Public Library on February 10.

“I studied it when I was a high school student, and when I was in Halifax I got to play with Dutch Mason and Rick Jeffries,” says Sturton from Kingston, Ontario, where she’s completing a degree in education. “When I moved to Halifax I was like a blues nut, I didn’t know indie rock at all. I heard about Sloan, I think I read about it in Macleans magazine? Yeah, cutting edge.”

The afternoon engagement will be followed by a performance accompanied by Andrew Glencross at Gus’ Pub. She says her set—and that of a rare support performance by Bryan Lee O’Malley—will include some old favourites, as well as a recently completed piece inspired by memories of people close to her.

“I wrote this song about my brother who passed away suddenly, and I when I was mixing it in January I kinda caught the news about Helen Hill,” she says. “It’s kind of like a New Orleans-based song. I think being in Halifax with that song it might be a whole lot more emotional. People might cry. People usually cry when I play, but not in a bad way.”

The Stolen Minks join Sturton and O’Malley.

Royal wave

Barely a week after launching his album A Good Enough Day at home in Toronto, Royal Wood is in Halifax to serenade the east coast with his latest. The troubadour, who sold out Toronto’s Music Gallery, will play a pair of solo shows on February 9 and 10 at North Street Church as part of the In the Dead of Winter festival.

“What’s mostly different,” says Wood about the new record, “is the amount of thought I put behind it. The arrangements, producing, picking a studio and picking some extra session musicians”—including Hawksley Workman and Harmony Trowbridge—“nothing was haphazard about it.”

While the folk-pop moniker would be fitting for 2004’s Tall Tales, the newest addition to your Royal Wood library has dropped the pop edge but maintains its earnest appeal.

“I really wanted to make a different record from Tall Tales,” he says. “It was fun and up-tempo and a blast to record, but this time around I really just wanted to make the mature record that I always wanted to make.”

This and that

If a 3,200-person pub crawl isn’t your thing—you’re not the only one—you’ll want to check out February 8 at Gus’ Pub with a strong bill featuring Great Plains, Murder She Wrote and Glory Glory Man United. The following night Tomcat Combat releases its debut EP at The Attic with Mardeen and Down with the Butterfly.

In local Juno nomination news, In-Flight Safety got a Video nod for “Coast is Clear,” directed by Drew Lightfoot, Matt Mays snagged a nod in the Adult Alternative category (um...what?) for When the Angels Make Contact, Classified’s phenomenal Hitch-Hikin’ Music is up for Rap Recording, Lennie Gallant represents over in the Roots and Traditional aisle, while George Canyon’s Somebody Wrote Love grabbed a Country nod.

The Juno Awards air on April 1.

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Contact cement

Chris McCluskey has his ear to the sound.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2007 at 3:24 PM

After subtracting two members and adding one, The Contact are back in the studio recording bed tracks for a sophomore release as a four piece with a revised approach.

“It’s going to be extremely different from the last record, which was more in the Brit-pop vein,” says Nathan Doucet, who was recruited last August to be the new drummer. The band—rounded out by vocalist/guitarist Geoffrey William, keyboardist Jordan Allan and moog player Tim Fifield—is said to be shaping a new dynamic with a heavier sound and encompassing broader themes. “This one is more experimental with a lot of different arrangements, and no specific sound I can really nail into. It’s definitely going to be a rock album, but it’s drawing on various influences.”

While Doucet’s involvement with The Contact began at roughly the same time he parted ways with Mardeen, he says the opportunity had no bearing on his decision to split from the band.

“It’s completely separate, but I know that it probably appeared . I left that band, and literally two days later The Contact’s manager called and asked me to play,” he says, conceding there was a communication lapse with Mardeen at the time of the change.

“It just looked like a good situation. The thing that really intrigued me was I was going to get to write a record instead of just playing drums—which is cool, I like doing that. But what really intrigued me was they were looking for a fourth member to be 25 percent of the songwriting.”

Following 10 days at Sonic Temple, the band is off to Columbus, Ohio and Nashville, Tennessee to complete their work with Grammy-winning producer Michael Scott Quinlan. The anticipated May release date will be accompanied by a national tour ending in Halifax in June. What the city can expect are darker textures than The Contact’s debut, reflective of its line-up change.

“My drumming style is a lot heavier, a lot louder I think. It’s definitely caused us to write differently. It was a bit of a weird transition for me because I haven’t played in a rock band like this in a while,” says Doucet. “It was definitely a huge thing for me to come into this band to see the way they work. Tonight we’re going to practise…I’ve been here since 2:30 in the afternoon and I’ll be here until midnight. So we’ll practise for 10 hours. It’s a lot different from what I am used to.”

“Morning” has broken

A panel of established east coast songwriters has chosen Tanya Davis’s song “The Gorgeous Morning” as winner of this region’s stage of the National Songwriting Competition.

“I am flattered because that song means a lot to me,” says Davis. “The song is about quitting a job that wasn’t making me happy, and now”—as a singer/songwriter— “I am doing a job that makes me happy. I am excited that it was recognized.”

As the contest’s regional winner, Davis will perform as part of Canadian Music Week held in Toronto from March 7 to 10. Joining her through the four-day festival will be Nova Scotian pals Brent Randall and his Pinecones, Jenn Grant, Mardeen, Mark Bragg, Ruth Minnikin, Slowcoaster, The Just Barelys and TroBiz.

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Seeds in the sky

Sue Carter Flinn mourns Halifax’s famous hamster.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2007 at 2:52 PM

Sometimes the show ain’t so dope. Coast cover hamster Copain (see the September 14, 2006 issue) passed away on January 25. Jacob Owens, Copain’s owner and creator of the delightful short films Copain de Paris and Copain de Paix knew the little guy wasn’t well when he started production on the final film in the trilogy, Copain de Mémoires. “Two weeks ago we shot all of Copain’s parts, which isn’t many in the film. It’s like he held on until the very end,” Owens says.

Although Owens won’t divulge details, judging from the teaser it’s a safe bet you should carry Kleenex to this year’s Atlantic Film Festival, where the first two movies premiered. He’s also signing a distribution contract for the trilogy’s DVD, to be released in early 2008. Owens knows Copain will never be forgotten. “I never had a hamster that had that kind of effect on my life, and other people’s as well.”

Watch the heartbreaking teaser-trailer at:

Drive-in theatre

Catch DMV Theatre Co-op while you can. As an equity co-op, DMV is a group of unionized actors who received permission to work on Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer-winning story about pedophilia, How I Learned to Drive. Kate Lavender plays a young woman who unexpectedly enters into a relationship with her uncle (Brian Heighton), who is teaching her to drive.

Directed by Pamela Halstead and assembled in a month, Lavender says that the group was drawn to the play’s humour. “It makes it incredibly human,” she says. “You really like the uncle figure. It’s really great to shake audiences into evaluating why they like something, why they don’t, and looking within themselves. But it’s not an issue play. You fall in love with these characters and that’s difficult.”

Running nightly until February 4, 8pm, at Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen), tickets are $15 ($12 for students). Reserve by calling 448-7740.

Office spaces

Deal with the mid-afternoon slump with a walk over to the Killam Library (6225 University, fifth floor) on February 1 at 3pm to hear Jackie Torrens read monologues from Fables and excerpts from her new play-in-progress, Cubicle: A Play About Falling, to be developed by 2b Theatre.

Originally conceived as a musical, Cubicle has evolved into a play with music, thanks to its yodelling narrator. “I’m calling it an absurd western fairytale about dying and being resurrected. The play takes place in a small town called Brawley, in the fictional west, and the town is ordinary in every way except it’s surrounded by an inordinate number of canyons,” says Torrens. “The story centres on four people who work together in an office, and they all work in cubicles. And they’re all tight, closed and repressed in their own ways. It’s a play about coming out of that in the wild, wild west. And the big open spaces.”

Peace out

While celebs smiled pretty at Sundance, at the World Peace Film and Music Awards in Lucknow, India, a Halifax film took home top honours. Triad Film Production’s Teaching Peace in a Time of War, directed by Teresa McInnis and produced by Peter d’Entremont, is the third film in a series. Teaching Peace documents the lives of students and teachers at a school in Belgrade, Serbia, and how a decade of violent civil war has impacted their lives.

“It is about not only craftsmanship, it’s also merit, and the festival itself is celebrating peace, and I think this film celebrates peace,” says d’Entremont, who focuses on socially conscious subjects. He’s currently working on another project that deals with ethical dilemma of scientists working on nuclear weapons.

Reading week

Look for Don Hannah reading from his mystical new novel Ragged Islands at Frog Hollow Books (Park Lane) on February 1 at 7pm. Acclaimed historical fiction writer Lawrence Hill reads from his latest, The Book of Negroes at the Halifax North Library (2285 Gottingen) on February 6 at 7pm, and at the Cole Harbour branch on February 7.

Tara Thorne will return next week. Art smarts? Email:

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