Wonder Woman Lives Up to Hype

In the last few years, DC has tried and failed to match up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with their own series of related films, most of which have been massively hyped but ended up being disappointments. Man of Steel was so-so, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was an epic failure, and Suicide Squad, which had promising trailers, turned out to be such a dumpster fire that countless blogs and videos attempting to unpack exactly what the heck happened (depending on who you ask, there was either too little or too much Joker — I think the movie would have been better if it was just Margot Robbie, but that’s just me.) In any case, Wonder Woman was similarly burdened with high expectations. However, unlike its predecessors, it lived up to the hype.

There was so much to love about Wonder WomanGal Gadot’s earnest performance as the titular role and her romantic/comedic chemistry with Chris Pine as Steve Trevor; Patty Jenkins’ marvelous direction; and the movie’s ability to stick to its comic book origins without losing focus on its themes or feeling too silly.

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman

Part of the issue with previous DC-Universe films was that Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman (and Man of Steel, in a way) were both attempting to live up not only to high expectations, but also to their predecessors. Jared Leto was trying to match up to Heath Ledger’s brilliant turn as the Joker (but failed to do so), Batman v Superman was facing the Dark Knight trilogy, and Man of Steel is one of many, many depictions of Superman on film. It gets old after a while.

Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were meant to have a gritty, more serious feel than most superhero movies, and Suicide Squad was meant to be dark comedy. None of that really worked. In order to drive gritty movies, you need some actual conflict, some moral ambiguity, and better character writing. And dark comedy needs to be, you know, funny.

In Batman v Superman, what is meant to feel like a conflict between two superheroes with opposing values, feels more like a boring rich guy fighting a boring powerful guy, both ultimately wanting to be good people. As characters, Batman and Superman come rife with interesting questions. Superman is all-powerful and all good, but what happens when his god-persona comes into conflict with his own wants? Batman is just a privileged rich guy with fancy gadgets, so why does he get to act as the moral judge of Gotham? Sadly, Batman v Superman doesn’t really know how to deal with any of these questions, and in the end the movie doesn’t have anything to say.

If Batman v Superman had troubles with its expectations, Suicide Squad was destroyed by them. After the release of what was admittedly a great trailer, Warner Brothers actually hired the same people responsible for making the trailer to reshoot and re-edit the movie, to the point where there ended up being two Suicide Squad movies with two different tones, one funny and one more serious. In the end the versions were merged into the bizarre and sub-par version that wound up in theaters. Also, somewhere along the way most of the Joker’s scenes were cut. This was a strange choice, considering how much the trailers focused on him, and how hyped Jared Leto acted about his acting decisions and his disturbing on-set behavior. Of course, if I oversaw the editing, I would have cut him out altogether, but that’s not the point.

So how does Wonder Woman match up to the other DC-Universe movies? It’s a vast, vast improvement, containing the kinds of interesting moral questions that Batman v. Superman tried and failed to ask (in this case, asking if humans are intrinsically bad or good), and the humor and fun that Suicide Squad tried desperately to provide.

Also, unlike almost all superhero movies, Wonder Woman is definitively a feminist one. It’s the first major superhero movie featuring a female lead directed by a woman. Where other movies have women in near-constant states of needing rescuing and reassurance, Wonder Woman gives us Diana Prince kicking ass, saving Steve’s life, and trying to help those around her. Sure, the movie may remind us a little too much of how beautiful Diana is and how her wearing a skimpy costume is a bit distracting for the men around her. But the camera never ogles her, nor does it stop her from being strong and athletic. And yes, her armor may be revealing, but at least it’s armor and not just a metal bra or a glorified corset. And when Diana is confronted with the sexism of the 1910s, her confusion and annoyance is meant to remind the audience that our assumptions of gender roles are invented, not inherent. And seeing an island full of badass warrior women ready to battle is also very cool.

Still from Wonder Woman showing Themyscira, the mystical all-female warrior island

Right now, Warner Brothers has a long list of future movies for the DC Extended Universe, featuring characters like Aquaman, Shazam, The Flash, Cyborg, Nightwing, and Batgirl, along with more sequels and team pieces, like the upcoming Justice League. If Wonder Woman is any indication that DC has finally figured out how to make a quality superhero movie, then I’m quite excited to see what’s next. If not, there’s always Marvel.

Continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

5 Binge-Worthy Shows That Came Out in May

Ah, May. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and I’m cooped up indoors binge-watching some of the best TV out there. Here are 5 binge-worthy TV shows that came out, or is coming out, in May.

  1. Master of None (Season 2): Aziz Ansari’s series had a brilliant first season, and the comedian had room to explore family, race, and relationships with humor and insight. While season one had an overarching storyline mostly connecting everything together, season two has a much more episodic feel. Season Two was released on May 12th and and continues with Dev in Italy before moving back to New York, with more room this season to discuss themes like religion and the modern acting business. All in all, this season was a spectacular, hilarious, and grounded follow up to what is quickly becoming my favorite Netflix series. Master of None season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.

    Aziz Ansari as Dev in Master of None
  2. House of Cards (Season 5): Last season ended on a powerful note with (spoiler alert) Frank (Kevin Spaceyand Claire (Robin Wright) turning toward the camera after having just apparently allowed a terrorist action so they could stir up popular support. I’m excited to see where the show can take us now, especially if Claire does get the chance to join her husband’s fourth-wall asides to the camera. I’m also curious if House of Cards can compete with the actual current President of the United States, and his absurd antics. Season 5 of House of Cards premieres May 30, 2017.
    Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), front, and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), back, on the campaign trail in House of Cards

     

  3. Twin Peaks: The Return: Fans of the original early ’90s series/prequel film may feel slightly betrayed at the change in tone. The reboot isn’t nearly as campy as the original, but it is much darker, and full of more horror. I don’t think this is bad thing at all, however, and the show retains the mystery, the thrills, and the edge-of-your-seat terror that made the original so acclaimed. Kyle MacLachlan and most of the original cast return, along with some new faces rounding out the excellent cast. Twin Peaks: The Return is airing in Canada on CraveTV and The Movie Network at the same time as in the U.S.

    Kyle MacLachlan as FBI Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks: The Return
  4. I Love Dick (Season 1): Based on the semi-fictional book by author/artist Chris Kraus, it tells the story of Chris (played by Kathryn Hahn) and her husband Sylvere (Griffin Dunne), who move to Marfa, Texas, for Sylvere’s research fellowship. Chris soon falls in love with Sylvere’s fellowship sponsor, the eponymous Dick (Kevin Bacon). This series is unique and bizarre, and Hahn gives a stunning performance as a woman with an obsessive lust, fantasizing about a man who outright tells her that he is not interested. The show should also be commended for flipping the script on a tired old trope: instead of a bored husband hoping to seduce an uninterested woman, we have the exact opposite. I Love Dick was released on May 12th and is streaming now on Amazon.

    Kevin Bacon as Dick and Kathryn Hahn as Chris in I Love Dick
  5. American Gods (Season 1): Technically, this series (based on the bestselling book by Neil Gaiman) came out on April 30th, but it was too good to leave out of this list. Developed by Michael Green and Bryan Fuller (who you may remember as the creator of other fantastic series like Pushing Daisies and Hannibal), American Gods tells the story of Shadow Moon (played by Ricky Whittle), who is released from prison after his wife Laura (Emily Browning) is killed and is hired to be the bodyguard of the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. The series brilliantly blends mystery, supernatural elements, noir, and horror. Be warned, the show is chock-full of graphic sexual and violent content. American Gods is being released internationally on Amazon on a weekly basis.

    Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon in American Gods

Continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Toronto Photographers Raise $13K for Children in Haiti

The couple explores the works of Zark Fatah (left) and Misha Masek (right). Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Zark Fatah’s fifth annual photo exhibit CAPTURE[D] raised around $13,000 to fund Artbound, the foundation that supports charities through the arts. More than 300 people who came to the Waterworks building (505 Richmond St West) on April 28th were able to meet Fatah and three other photographers —Misha Masek, Mark Brodkin, and Peter Cordy — and to purchase the 50 featured pieces. Fatah said that 19 photographs were sold and that all proceeds will be donated to building a school in Haiti.

Fatah is better known as a Toronto-based entrepreneur behind hot downtown spots including Blowfish RestaurantEverleigh, and Hammam Spa. But during his exhibit, we talked only about photography and the idea behind CAPTURE[D].

Zark Fatah showcases photographs from his travels during the firth photo exhibit CAPTURE[D] at the Waterworks building. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Sveta: Congratulations with another photo exhibit, Zark. Could you tell me what is new this year?

Zark: Thank you. This is the first time that I invited other photographers.

S: Did you do it all by yourself before?

Z: Yes, I did about 20 photos. I did three [exhibits] in Toronto and one in Vancouver. Then my friends said, Oh, it looks great! We would like to collaborate together sometime. So I invited friends specializing in something different. Mark Brodkin does beautiful landscapes. Misha captures amazing faces and characters. Peter Cordy has never showed his photos before — this is his first exhibit ever. He does wildlife. And I just picked something from the last seven years of my travels that reflect what I like. I like shooting people and catching a moment of someone else’s life.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

S: Could you share a story behind one of your photos?

Z: I like shooting candid moments because it’s a fraction of someone’s life. Like a photo of this man smoking cigarette there [points at the black and white picture of a contemplative old man blowing smoke into the air]. I captured that moment wherein you don’t know what he’s thinking about; you don’t know what’s going on in his life. He just looks like he’s living an interesting life. You look at him and you can imagine that if you sit down next to him, he could probably fill your afternoon with amazing stories. I took the photo in Sydney, Australia, in the area called Kings Cross. It would be like Parkdale here, an area that’s a little bit sketchy. You don’t want to go there at night.

Wildlife photographs by Peter Cordy appear on the exhibit for the first time. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

S: You mentioned that a lot of people also like Green Eyes, the photo of a child you took in an Indian village. It looks like National Geographic-style photo. Have you ever done anything with NG?

Z: Not yet. I’d love to one day… The amazing thing about photography is that I don’t have the greatest memory, but I could tell you where I was and who I’ve been with in every one of the photos I’ve taken. The image is captured in my memory.

S: What does the name of this exhibit mean to you personally?

Z: I play on two things. Captured has to do with the moment. Also, I own restaurants, a night club, and a spa in this area, and my company is called Capture Group.

Photographer Misha Masek. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

S: How did you choose the other photographers for the exhibit?

Z: Well, I’ve known Misha for years. She’s great photographer. She travels quite a bit and goes to some really remote places. And Mark Brodkin…his landscape photography is just… He will travel so far and just sit and wait and wait for that moment. And Peter — I actually inspired Peter to start taking photographs. We were on a trip together and he saw how much I enjoyed it. That’s why now he keeps saying to me, You started this for me. It’s your fault [laughs]. He’s really excited to be showing his photos here for the first time.

S: What was the most difficult thing in organizing the event?

Z: It was challenging. I mean, obviously, we were doing something that was done before. But it’s just a lot of moving parts — we got four photographers, 50 photographs, the framing company, the lighting, and the operations of the bar. I had some help from my team, but for the most part it was a lot of organization.

The bar team adds more art into the photo exhibit with some creative drinks. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

S: You’ve been donating 100% of all the proceeds from CAPTURE[D] to charities. What are some results you’ve already seen?

Z: In November we raised $30,000 and built two classrooms in Nicaragua.

S: That’s amazing! Are there any other goals you are trying to achieve with CAPTURE[D]?

Z: It’s about awareness, so people know what we do and what Artbound is about.

Guests explore landscapes by Mark Brodkin. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

S: Who are your guests today?

Z: It’s a mixture of art lovers and friends who appreciate our work. There are people who come to our businesses and know what we do; and people who are supporting Artbound.

S: What do you enjoy most from organizing events like that?

Z: I’m in the events business, so I manage this building. So I’m always used to seeing how craziness comes together in the last minute. But most importantly, I’m super happy with these looks [looks at people hanging one of Brodkin’s landscapes]. You know, this is just unique.

Continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Greg MacArthur on Turning Life Experience Into Art

For those fortunate enough to have spent some time living in Montreal, there is almost an indescribable quality that artists feel while living there. It’s almost as if a certain inspiration can be breathed in, and likeminded creatives loom on every corner. From cramped jam sessions in a plateau apartment, to an over-crowded gallery opening in the Mile End, there is something imaginative at play. Greg MacArthur creates an ode to Montreal titled in A City and hopes to eternalize his time spent living there through the play. A City, produced as a gallery installation, is an immersive piece of art that hopes to interact with its audience through a shared experience.

We had the opportunity to discuss A City with Greg and better understand the inspiration behind it.

Kimberley Drapack: What inspired you to write A City?

Greg MacArthur: In a word: Montreal. I had been living in that city — after moving there from T.O. — for a dozen or so years. It was a life-changing time for me. I fell in love with Montreal — my life, my friends, the physical space. When I knew my time was coming to an end, I wanted to immortalize the city somehow. The result is this play. 

K: A City is said to be presented as a gallery installation or tableau vivant. Has the play been adapted for this format, or is it specified within the script?

GM: I always intended this work to be presented outside of a traditional theatre space. My works of the last few years have been playing with the conflation of live performance, text, sculpture, and installation. I am interested in using alternative spaces and venues for my work to see how it affects the viewing experience.

K: What does this set-up offer an audience as opposed to a more traditionally staged play?

GM: I think ideally it will make an audience feel more immersed in the work. It will challenge their notions of what live theatre — narrative representational work — can be. By placing this work in a new or different context, hopefully the audience will relate to it in different, or surprising ways.

K: In what ways does verbatim theatre allow the script to come alive?

GM: There is a level of casualness, of authenticity, of failure in a verbatim text. People do not speak in well-constructed paragraphs or complete thoughts. We are a changeable, messy, conflicting species. A verbatim text allows for all the strangeness and absurdities of humanity to shine through, unpolished, unedited. That being said, most of this script has been written, re-written, reworked, invented. It is meant to replicate true speech, verbatim speech. It is not truly a verbatim piece of work.

K: You stated that A City is reflective of your time spent in Montréal. Why is that?

GM: Again, the city had a profound effect on me. The script is a mash-up of my experiences, friends, hang outs, dive bars, street corners, mythologies, walks, dinner parties, strip clubs, etc. It represents a very specific time in my life. It is reminiscent of a diary for me.

K: What does a type of theatre that strips away the fourth wall offer to its audience?

GM: A more authentic, present, inclusive experience. There is no attempt at illusion or representation. There are only live bodies in space. The performers, the audience all share in the experience, together, equally, being in the here and now. No walls, no fences, no barriers.

K: It was noted that this story is meant to “explore that time in your life when you’re young, bold, feeling like the world belongs to you and your future is guaranteed, and then it inevitably comes apart.” What does this mean to you?

GM: I think everyone has a place, a time, where everything felt, if even for a brief time, perfect. Your age, your friends, your space, everything. You couldn’t imagine ever leaving, or wanting to leave. But you do. You have to. Montreal was like that to me. A crazy lover, a mysterious stranger, an intoxicating late night random encounter.

K: When writing A City, you had a large amount of source material to work with. How did you decide on what you were going to use and what you were going to save for a rainy day?

GM: Anything goes…as long as it doesn’t give away where the bodies are buried. Or get anyone arrested.

K: What lessons can we learn from A City?

GM: I don’t think there’s any lessons. I hope, rather, it jars, for members of the audience, memories —  of people, of places, of times of joy and loss and love and youth.

K: A City is a piece within a trilogy of plays you have written. How do the other two stories relate to one another? Are there certain themes that crossover? What can we learn when comparing the three?

GM: All three pieces — A City, A Man Vanishes, and The Golden Suicides — are focused on the intersection of life and art, of truth and fiction, and of performance and installation. They all share a unique creative aesthetic: They are meant to be staged environmentally, as installations rather than traditional theatre pieces. The scripts are a conflation of verbatim/found text, fictional writings, and confessional musings. These works are a departure for me. They allow me to move away from a more traditional theatre aesthetic and to explore a more multi- (or inter-) disciplinary practice.

K: What can an audience member expect from A CITY?

GM: A genuine experience.  A picture. A memory. Dried chickpeas. And Vitamin Water.

Don’t miss out on seeing A City at Artscape Sandbox from March 14th to April 2nd. Bring a friend, bring your high school gym teacher, or bring your grandma, and don’t miss out on the fun. Continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Female Photographers You Should Probably be Following on Instagram

As social media grows, the art of the blemish-free curated life is perfected. Gaining followers and likes has been broken down to a science. Although we now have the power to represent ourselves in ways we want, more and more people opt for a social media feed that will give them a larger online presence. The aesthetics of popularity on Instagram follows the same values of mainstream media and conventional beauty. It’s made Instagram a pretty boring place, so we’ve put together a list of female photographers to follow to keep your feeds interesting.

Parker Day                   

Parker Day is a Los Angeles-based photographer who explores the tension between our real identities and the ones we create for ourselves. Through wild costumes, exaggerated expressions, makeup, and color, she creates a hyper-reality loaded with fantasy. She is particularly interested in how our constructed selves are tied to gender. Her images are the perfect place for the selfie generation to question who they really are.

Maisie Cousins         

Maisie Cousins has no interest in creating typically pretty pictures drowning in vapid conventional beauty. The photographer from London likes to create images that focus on the visceral and the grotesque. She uses pastels, nature, sticky substances, makeup, and other things you’d find lying around your home to highlight all the things society shames us for: female body hair, stretch marks, pimples, and other ‘imperfections.’ Her gross yet beautiful pictures give viewers easement with their own insecurities.

Shelby Sells                   

Shelby Sells is on a mission to end slut shaming and create an open and safe dialogue around sex. Her blog, Perv On The Go, is a platform she created to share her ideas, interviews, videos and photos which focus on love, sex, and relationships. She’s conducted interviews and photographed artists like Sita Abellán, Abra, Yunglita, Roman Future and Father. Due to the open discussion and safe space she has created with her blog, her subjects always come off as empowered although they are highly sexualized. The New York based photographer is making the internet a more tolerant place.

Continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.