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Reviews of fine art, classical and opera music, and all things cultured

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Movie review: The Happy Prince is a sad eulogy

Rupert Everett's film about the final days of Oscar Wilde evokes the downfall of a genius, and has resonances of the actor's own career

Men and women at TIFF 2018

At some of the movies, it's not the same old story any more. As long as the ladies don't try to be in charge By Jay Stone   TORONTO — Today’s topic is the question of men and women, which, despite many scientific advances — dermatologists have done an especially heroic job — remains a thorny one. As I understand the way things stand now, you can decide for yourself what sex you want to be, but if you pick female, you may not get your movie made.   Or maybe that’s not it at all. In any event, we start our day with Widows, a heist thriller from a surprising source: the British visual artist Steve McQueen who became an accomplished filmmaker of intense art-house fare (Shame, Hunger, 12 Years A Slave) and has now moved closer to the mainstream.   Widows is the story of a group of wives whose husbands died in a robbery gone wrong. Now the women have discovered plans for the gang’s next heist, and decide to do it themselves. The impetus for the ...

At TIFF 2018, it’s all about the music

Movies: #TIFF18, Toronto International Film Festival The soundtrack of movies can leave you with the exhilaration of the dance floor, or bring you down into the existential angst of neo-noir By Jay Stone (September 8, 2018) TORONTO — There was a great moment at the movies this morning, near the end of Gloria Bell, Sebastian Lelio’s English-language remake of his own 2013 drama Gloria. Julianne Moore, replacing Chilean actress Paulina Garcia in the original, stars as a 50ish divorcee — are they still called that? — who has a productive but somewhat lonely life that she spices up by going to dance clubs and letting herself get lost in the candy sounds of disco. A romance with a divorced man (John Turturro), who seems not quite totally divorced, disrupts her balance, but in the final scene, we see Moore back on the dance floor, raising her arms and swaying from side to side as Laura Branigan sings the old hit Gloria. You can sometimes forget the importance of music in ...

TIFF 2018 without the lineups

Movies: #TIFF18, Toronto International Film Festival Our correspondent finds ways to see all the Donald Trump-themed films he wants, and with no waiting required By Jay Stone TORONTO — Today we invoked another Toronto film festival rule for the retired critic, which is that we don’t stand in line for anything. This is partly because life is too short, and partly because you might not get in anyway and so you’ve used up some of your precious remaining minutes idly shifting from one leg to the other, indulging in the futile hope of getting a seat that will probably be in the front row, and standing behind people who talk in bored nasal voices about their film festival experiences. One tries not to listen, but one is human, after all, and one is in danger of grinding away all the remaining enamel on one’s teeth. The downside of this guideline is that one doesn’t get to see a lot of movies that everyone else is dying to see, which is perhaps not serving one’s readersh...

TIFF 2018: Wandering in and out of this and that

In which our retired film critic decides at the last minute what he wants to see and discovers he's chosen an eight-hour epic   By Jay Stone   TORONTO — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past, or, in the case of the Toronto film festival, ceaselessly into the next lineup.   People who come to film festivals to scout movies for other festivals, or who own theatres and are looking for something to show in them, move through Toronto’s cinemas like sharks, dipping their fins, as it were, into this auditorium and that. In a few minutes they can decide whether what they’re watching is worth the acquisition. Then it’s off to feed in the next hunting ground.   Film critics, on the other hand, are expected to do some research, make a schedule, and head off to the likely movies. You stick it out because you might be interviewing the stars, or the director, and they might ask you what you thought of the ...

TIFF 2018: The top 10 movies to watch for this fall

Movies: #TIFF18, Toronto International Film Festival On his 25th anniversary of covering the Toronto film festival, a critic decides he is ready for the quieter side of cinema. By Jay Stone (September 5, 2018) - I’ve been going to the Toronto film festival for 25 years, which means I’ve seen maybe 1,000 movies there, interviewed almost as many celebrities, and enjoyed so many all-you-eat shrimp buffets that I believe my liver is now breaded. I’ve sat in hundreds of darkened cinemas and endured millions of feet of film — back when film had feet; hell, back when there was film at all — filtered through modern sound systems that seem to assault your eardrums directly through your eyeholes. When people ask me what I’m looking forward to this year, I tell them I would be grateful to return with the shreds of my hearing intact. I think it’s a pretty good answer too, given that most of the time I didn’t hear the question. But you want to know about the films. ...

Folking things up made for summer’s bright spot

Music: The Vancouver Folk Festival 2018 We celebrate the summer that was with a fond look back at what proved to be the highlight of Vancouver's smokiest season ever: A fully reinvented Folk Music Festival featuring acts that rocked, rattled and rolled young and old alike. By Rod Mickleburgh The line-up was skimpier than past years. Sunday clashed with the final of a riveting, month-long World Cup and the sun was hot enough to boil a monkey’s bum, but once again, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival cast its magic over me and thousands of other attendees with its annual mix of good vibes, a setting to die for and outstanding music. Even at my increasingly creaky and cranky advanced age, I found myself dancing, most notably at a wonderful, spirited workshop jam session involving Little Miss Higgins, Les Poules à Collin and Petunia & the Vipers. Thankfully, there were no cameras in sight, and the young people politely refrained from giggling. There were other highlights: ...
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BlacKkKlansman exposes a history of ugly realities

Movie Review: BlacKkKlansman Spike Lee's movie, based on the true story of a black policeman who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, is more concerned with the cultural history of racism

Disobedience is an uncertain love story

Movie Review: Disobedience An art photographer and an Orthodox Jewish wife re-ignite a forbidden passion in a romance that never quite finds its footing
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Movie review: The Rider is a slice of the authentic West

A rodeo rider has to leave the life he loves in this film — part documentary, part fiction — about modern-day horsemen