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A wedding off the rails

By January 30, 2017 Performance

When you’ve been married a long time, you tend to forget the theatrics of that day once upon a time, when an unblemished future stretched out before you down the aisle.  Thanks to a couple of colleagues from my days in a television newsroom, I have hours of footage to prompt a rusty memory or two. Earlier this month, said footage was dug out, edited, and shown with those brave wedding party people who shared our celebration on that weirdly warm day in January of ’92. Too lengthy for this space but Little Bo Peep Bride will give you some corny life advice.

As a movie buff, you can’t find better material than corralling a massive group of friends and family for a ceremony that has every potential of falling off the rails. Ours was a magical circus with few mishaps (my hairstyle, the missing bottles of Scotch swiped from the bar) —we made it out the door to a car that honked all the way through the downtown corridor en route to our hotel room. Of course, weddings and storytellers have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship. The best of the lot avoid the sentiment and go for the funny bone like the new play, The Wedding Party, by Toronto-born writer/actor Kristen Thomson.

Well, a marriage is a contract you enter into, and some of the essential elements of the wedding are that words are spoken and witnesses hear them and believe them. That’s very much what happens in the theatre. You walk on stage and you say such and such, and everybody believes in it.

Kristen Thomson, playwright, on her new comedic play The Wedding Party

Thomson stars in her own play as the mother of the bride, and also a few other characters—all of the actors play multiple roles.  We never meet the bride and groom but instead, “backstage” at the reception, various family members come and go and emote about their own disgruntled relationship with a wedding spectacle put on entirely by the father of the bride. Played for maximum laughs by Tom Rooney, he’s a wealthy tycoon, estranged from his twin brother, who shows up (of course) and cues the meltdown, fuelled by booze and bruised egos. Popped in for potent laughs throughout are the father’s beloved dog, played deftly again by Thomson-remember all the characters she played in her hit I, Claudia? Easily nailing the nutty mom, a former circus performer shut out of the wedding planning and speech podium, Thomson’s drunk act is the high of this show. There’s a note here and there of real drama, but mostly we’re in high camp terrain and the timing keeps the pace going with swift turns of costume and character.

Winter requires outings like these and the headlines require it more-never has the sky looked so bleak. I am afraid to check my newsfeed.  Instead, I’m on the hunt for stories that swell the heart. Give me beauty in an ugly world and I’m yours. My heart is with all those families in Quebec City today.


The Wedding Party is playing at the Streetcar Crowsnest, the beautiful new home of the Crows Theatre in Toronto’s Leslieville. It runs until February 11th. Dine beforehand nearby at The Maple Leaf Tavern, the perfect set-up for a night of kicks. Or just order a fancy cocktail at the spanking new bar of the theatre itself and go ahead and take it inside to your seat. Permitted here. Permitted everywhere this winter in our sorry mess of a world.

Check back tomorrow for another winter outing:the terrific new film from Mike Mills, 20th Century Women.

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January Jollies

By January 24, 2017 Film, Life, Performance

Forgive me, readers, for neglecting you

January is the month to clear out my brain the house, staring back at me in spartan disbelief. It’s breathing room time.


I like soaking in the bath in January. The rest of the year it’s shortcut showers.  Indulging comes easily as the new year dawns, for January is the month of the always anticipated getaway with my book club, an event we dub the Favourite Things weekend. Who doesn’t love receiving gifts just because?





Also in January, my birthday, and too, an anniversary of the day we chose to get married twenty five years ago.


Silver anniversaries deserve some sip and sizzle.  Gather the bridal party and toast an imperfect union that endures yet, mostly because of a sustained diet of laughter. Rooting out the good and setting it to the applause setting appears to be our recipe. Then again, it could just be called fuck the flaws, you’ve still got mojo. That we still impress one another more than hurt one another is evident—the capacity for the latter lingers unless we pay close attention.

We get excited together easily about things we love. Thankfully, not all of them are caloric.

I am still unsure if I should be flattered or concerned that, after watching our wedding video, our girls (home for the occasion) remarked: you know, you guys haven’t changed at all. Note: they were NOT referring to our outward appearance. Let’s do all pics from waist up, shall we?


I am still a kid, despite attempts to pretend otherwise. All the adult posturing falters when splendour is about. Finding it yet is the secret to living.


Here is the list that has me excited this month:


  • A glorious global parade of pink hats and shared vision for a better world. My girls were plenty inspired. That’s a good thing. Forget the rest. It’s too big a pile of bullshit. Just massive. Read the signs instead. They will fuel me as I work this month on some fantastic new initiatives.


  • Billy Campbell is back and the six-part series he stars in is touted to be chillingly perfect.  Cardinal, debuting tomorrow night on CTV. A long time ago,  a dear friend and I dished over Billy Campbell in a show we both loved called Once and Again. So glad he’s back. We will be dishing again in commercial breaks. Billy Campbell is a great antidote to winter blues. Just saying. He also loves Canada so much he moved here.
  • The Oscar nominations are out and some very solid cinema has been recognized.  Getting out to see these films will help ensure other great works get made. Stay tuned for my Standouts Series coming up in the next few weeks. In the meantime, see Moonlight. See Manchester by the sea. See Lion. See La La Land. Fall in love, in lust, in something. Some of the nominated films are on iTunes and Netflix. Here’s one I loved, but fair warning: I love everything this guy does, including rocking a red suit in this film.

  • I saw Hidden Figures with my eighty-four year old parents. That’s a celebration right there. Hot dogs delivered right to their seat. No, it wasn’t Christmas. Just garden variety kindness from popcorn stand employees.
  • My sister Jane splurged on my birthday gift with theatre tickets to Come from Away, a sold-out show now headed for Broadway. I predict a huge tourism boost for Newfoundland. The show was moving and well-crafted,  a complete joy from start to finish. I’m guessing lots more ink is about to be spilled on this successs story.
  • In the next week, I will see two more promising shows including one starring Sandra Shamas, in Toronto with her What Now show.
  • This video. This father and this daughter. Yes, it’s adorable and she’s irresistible with her very own Youtube channel. A Shirley Temple for our time. Her family seems incredibly supportive yet,  I fear for her future. Just saying.
  • My tailbone, injured right before Xmas after a spectacular slide down icy front stairs, is on the mend. Pilates and yoga classes are back on my calendar. Creaky knees be damned.
  • Am thinking I need a new cover for my book. This adorable kitchen elf from Halifax, Canada is guarding his oven door so no one takes the cupcakes out too early. Recipe for said cupcakes is from my food memoir, with love and sugar.  Have you got your copy yet?


  • This punch we served to our wedding party at our intimate anniversary event. Sign up for my buzz sheet and I’ll send you the recipe.



What’s popping in your January ? Please share. Inspiration comes from all corners.


I am going for buoyancy this year. What about you?



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Best of 2016

By December 31, 2016 Art, Books, Film, Life, Performance

2016 was a year to say goodbye to my youngest off to university, and to my childhood home where my parents lived for almost six decades. A year of frights that came deep in the night, some that lingered longer than others: my mother and my oldest child suffered accidents, as did my father-in-law. Caring emergency workers and excellent medical supervision mean we have them all yet to cherish this holiday season.

We will toast them tonight, but first, a peek at some of my favourites of 2016:image-3 Read More

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Last Guest Blogger review and a final TOP TEN

By September 21, 2016 Film, Performance

Fun’s over and everyone’s back at work including my guest blogger, the other guy in this household of film freaks. Here’s his final tally on the last days of TIFF and his Top Ten. If you missed my list, check it out here.

Read More

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By September 17, 2016 Film, Performance


More TIFF bits from my guest blogger, the nutty film fan that shares my bed and his reviews on movies, some of which this fan skipped. I’ll let you guess which ones I loved too. Tune in Monday to hear my list.




MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Lee (Casey Affleck in a performance of a lifetime) is a loner handyman in Boston, who avoids people and small talk. When not working he is alone in his basement apartment or picking a drunken fight at a bar with anyone who looks his way. It doesn’t take long to figure out be has a deep sadness from another life.
His brother dies and Lee returns to his hometown to deal with his teenage nephew, the estate, and his past. Through a series of dramatic flashbacks, we learn of Lee’s personal tragedy. It is a devastating moment in the film.
This film has Oscars all over it. It is a simple story, about ordinary life, extraordinary pain. At times, very difficult to watch. It is the film everyone is talking about in the line-ups. Run, don’t walk, to see it.

HARMONIUM – An uneventful family life is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious man. He is the husband’s old friend, just released from prison. He joins the family as an employee and live-in guest. His gentle manners cannot conceal his disquieting presence and unresolved past.
A powerful tale of crime and punishment within the tight confines of a family drama. Slow-paced but riveting.

PARK – Set on the grounds of the decaying Olympic Village built for the 2004 games. A group of teenagers pass their time playing in this parched concrete wasteland. Victims of Greece’s economic catastrophe with no hope, no future but resilient. The director uses non-professional actors in this verity style realism film. A style and a film that is…not for everyone.



GRADUATION – A young woman is attacked on her way to school just before her final exams are set to begin. Her father, a prominent and well-connected doctor, is obsessed with his daughter’s potential. A scholarship to Cambridge depends on the results of those exams.
Cristian Mungiu won Best Director at Cannes for this morality play in which good intentions cannot ward off corruption. I trace my continued interest in Romanian cinema back to Mungiu’s brilliant 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Once again, he doesn’t disappoint with his masterful ability to explore human nature.

UNKNOWN GIRL – The door bell to a clinic rings only once. An overworked doctor, whose clinic closed an hour late to accommodate patients, does not answer. The next morning, the unidentified girl who ran the door bell turns up dead. Our young doctor, consumed by guilt, sets out to find the identity of the girl. In the process, she closes in on the killer.
This film drove me crazy with its convenient plot twists. As luck should have it, all the potential witnesses are her patients. Her Nancy Drew routine of “trust me, I’m a doctor, tell me what you know” was comical. As it turns out the routine was effective because in the end it gets her the confession. All she needed was persistence and her film-long look of permanent constipation. Nonsense.

NEVER EVER – Never ever see this film.


RAGE – The film opens with the aftermath of a grizzly murder. It then follows three different stories. Each one includes a mysterious character that could be the killer. As disturbing questions arise about each suspect and we are challenged to decide who is the killer.

Great idea that worked for most of the film. I really wanted this to work. Unfortunately, it falls apart in the last half hour. The conclusion of each of the three stories ranged from melodramatic to silly. Very disappointed.

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More movies, more mayhem

By September 16, 2016 Film, Performance

Peter’s reviews continue. Let me know what you think in the space below. Should I keep him around?

If you missed the first hits, here’s part one and part two.


nocturnalanimals_02NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – Susan (Amy Adams) is a successful but unhappy art dealer in LA. Her second marriage is in trouble. A manuscript arrives from her long-estranged first husband Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal). Alone in her house, with her husband away, she starts reading the manuscript and is propelled into the fictional life of a teacher (also Gyllenhaal) whose drive to his summer house is about to turn into a nightmare. As Susan gets deeper and deeper into the book, ahe is forced to examine her own past.
Stylish and absolutely gorgeous to look at but much more than an exercise in esthetics. Ford, who was quite the charmer at the Q+A, moves the story effortlessly between Susan’s reality and the Tony’s manuscript, drama and suspense.
Thoroughly enjoyed this film. A must see.


jackie_01JACKIE – Chilean director Pablo Larrain masterfully films this fresh take on the Kennedy assassination. Told through the eyes of Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman), Larrain uses a series of finely-crafted flashbacks that cover that fateful day in Dallas and the events leading to the funeral. You have never seen the assassination filmed from the perspective of the former first lady sitting in the convertible.
Stellar script, unique perspective, and a lock on the Oscar for Portman.


screen_20shot_202016-08-16_20at_204-07-15_20pm-0ARRIVAL – Alien space ships arrive on earth. Language professor Amy Adams and physicist Jeremy Renner are in a race against time to learn how to communicate with the aliens and their intentions. Throw in a time-shifting angle and there’s your film.

If the lesson here is “a new language gives you a new perspective”, I got it. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the suspense, the urgency of the mission.
I wasn’t expecting Independence Day 3 from Denis Villeneuve (please, no ID3) but just a little more excitement.

Note from Anne. You’re all wet on this one. More after the smorgasbord.


americanhoney_02AMERICAN HONEY – A Dickensian gang of misfits and runaways criss-crossing the Midwest selling fraudulent magazine subscriptions. Drugs, booze, fights and trashed motel rooms. No hope, no future, attitude and bravado to hide pain and insecurity. Shot in verité style realism with mostly non-professional actors with a dead or dying America as a backdrop.
I understand that it is an “important film” but I didn’t need 158 minutes of it. Powerful but way too long.



BLEED FOR THIS – There is only so much you can do with a boxing film. You overcome adversity and win or lose (in a split decision) the title fight. The real draw for me was Miles Teller, the up-and-coming young actor I last saw in Whiplash. A great performance in a film with a decent script. See this before Rocky 42 or Creed 17.


BIRTH OF THE DRAGON – One day, someone will make a film about Bruce Lee that does not have a paint by numbers, two–dimensional character script.

salesman_02-useforannouncementTHE SALESMAN – Their Tehran apartment block on the verge of collapse, a couple (Emad and Rana) are forced to move into a shabby nearby flat. Soon after, Rana is attacked by an intruder while taking a shower. In the aftermath, things turn strange and tense for the couple. Feeling vengeful and confused, Emad plays detective while Rana is in a state of shock. Meanwhile, the two are performing as Wily and Linda Loman in an amateur production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
Director Farhadi’s A Separation won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. At Cannes this year, Salesman received prizes for Best Actor and Best Screenplay. Masterfully crafted, great pace and performances.

ASURA: CITY OF MADNESS – Korean crime dramas generally don’t disappoint. This had all the makings of a solid cop film. Formerly good, now bad cop, dying wife, doing dirty work for corrupt mayor, painted into a corner by Internal Affairs to cooperate or go to jail. Big production budget.
Unique angles in the car chase scenes and fights. Solid acting. Unfortunately it gets stupid. A prolonged, over-the-top, lazy bloodbath ending.


We’re in the home stretch now.  Peter will wrap up his reviews here on Sunday. For my take on some of these films (we saw many together) and some others he missed, check back here Monday.

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Guest Blog Part 2: TIFF-bits

By September 12, 2016 Film, Performance

Sunlight is my friend in the TIFF line-ups.  So is this guy. Here’s more of Peter’s TIFF-bits. Read More

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Guest Blog: TIFF reviews opening days

By September 11, 2016 Film, Performance

His car is always immaculate. This remains a curiosity to those who know him as the guy who will ask you to join him for a bowl of Chinese soup at midnight or lead you to some other delicious discovery on a street you’ve never heard of in your own town.

A man who loves to eat never has crumbs in his car. Go figure.

I didn’t marry him for his curiosity but it’s kept us intact these years even thought I refuse to play trivia games with him— it’s no fun having him win every time. That he loves rap tickled the fancy of my children’s peers when Dad was on late night driving duty. None of those kids likely guess that he cries at the opera and has gorgeous cover art of all his favourite operas on his office walls. Once he made me sit in the dark on our sofa to listen to Clifford Brown. We held hands as the music filled the room and our children slept above us. Forget the guy in the tux; paid to serenade table-side at some over-priced noshery.  Being married a long time teaches you when to pay attention.

Sitting in the rain to watch soccer isn’t my thing (fair-weather fan, go ahead. Shoot me), nor strategic board games that stretch over cottage tables pass their expiration date. Some passions are solo projects.

I do like going to movies with my man. His entry points into the art form were not mine so we often find traces the other missed.

Here follow’s Peter’s snapshots of films seen over the opening two days.   Read More

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Nothing is promised, not one day

By June 14, 2016 Performance

Did you watch the Tony awards?

I haven’t seen any of the nominated plays for the first time in a long time, nor am I one of the lucky ones to have a ticket for Hamilton. On our last two trips to NYC, that ticket was the hottest one in town…at $400 a ticket. Gulp.

Read More

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Sugar twin

By May 12, 2016 Film, Performance

The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.

–Cheryl Strayed–

1995 was a year of transformation for bestselling author Cheryl Strayed, as it was for me. In March of that year, I became a mother. A few months later, in the summer, Strayed went on a solo trek for 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. Her journey, detailed in her memoir Wild, resulted in what she calls her “genesis story”.

My transformation from solo driver to infant-seat-in-the-back-mama was certainly more showy (I had a baby:she had blisters) yet the real growth—so much more “discreet” in real life transformations, says Strayed — was equally terrifying. Was I ready?


After watching the gorgeous 2014 film adaption of her book at the Books on Film event earlier this week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Strayed broke it down to a rapt audience.

How do we bear the unbearable?

This very question forms the spine of the forty-seven year old’s memoir, as much a treatise on grief as it is a feminist fable. By now, Wild— her experiences using sex and drugs to escape the pain of losing her mother at age twenty-two, her failed marriage, and eventual epiphanies on the trail— has become an inspiration for many around the world. Wild has been translated into forty languages. Within a week of publication, the book caught the eye of Nick Hornby. The celebrated UK screenwriter and novelist told Strayed he liked the book’s authenticity: she didn’t go on the trail in order to write a book, but waited seventeen years to pen her memoir. By then, she was an award-winning essayist, as well as a mother of two children (Among her writings is an essay about her deep respect for Alice Munro.  As she told the audience this week, this Canadian icon was her literary mother for many years.)

Okay, stop right there, I blinked: enough with all this. Are you my sister from another mother? (fangirl on Munro here)

So I skipped some of her life chapters and am still waiting for a brilliant screenwriter to make a film about my life (an experience Strayed highly recommends. She had Reese Witherspoon*. I’m holding out for Amy Schumer).  What connected me were a series of profound insights only available through age, motherhood, a few wounds and wrinkles later.

Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.

–Cheryl Strayed–

These sentiments; many expressed in Strayed’s popular advice column, and her books Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough; are like warm towels for her thousands of fans, including this writer.  Mostly, I champion her sense of “gathering oneself”. This is what mothering has been for me for two decades. It is as apt a description as I’ve heard yet. If I could, I’d wear it as a t-shirt uniform (loose and baggy, thanks. Those snug little numbers belonged on my twenty-year old self).

The day I gave birth I was a shivering mess. I called my mom on the phone, minutes before they wheeled me into the OR to have a C-section. A newbie to surgery of any sort, I had not responded well to the news of this unexpected procedure, a full twenty-four hours after labour: my very wild state was on full display. My mother (an old pro:I’m one of five) assured me it doesn’t matter how you are to become a mother, embrace the fact that it’s about to happen any minute now!

Still I wailed,

They’re going to cut me open!

Twenty-one years and two daughters later, and I now know.

That was a prophecy.

Scan 68


No, I wasn’t ready. Ready is overrated.




*If you haven’t seen the film, Wild was one of my favourites from 2014. See my whole list here.

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