Is Toronto home now?

In May, it will be 6 years since Mara and I literally packed nearly all of our things and took a train to Toronto – a place where we were going to set up shop and actually live.  We had no plan, no idea what we were doing – we just went because we knew that had we waited any longer, we wouldn’t have had the guts to do it.

For myself, I truly didn’t know what to expect.  In fact,a good part of me probably thought that we would find ourselves packing up again and going back to Montreal.  But, we didn’t.

Here are some things that I learned:

Toronto is a far different beast of a city than Montreal:

Montreal (no matter where I go, it will always be home – I guess that answers my blog title question!) is a culturally interesting, social, big enough city.  I thought Toronto would be the same.  It’s not.  Toronto is big.  Toronto is a real metropolis.  And the people who make up this city are bountiful, from different corners of the world, and driven.  I didn’t think Toronto would be such a “culture shock” but it truly is.

That we came here with no job plan or reason is ridiculous:

There is no way in hell that myself (or Mara for that matter) would ever do the same thing that we did.  Come here with a plan in place! Do not do as I did – it’s what I tell everyone who is interested in moving to Toronto.  We were lucky and blessed that we found the jobs that we still have about a month into moving here.  That is not the case all the time, and I do think that in this day and age, such luck doesn’t exist as rampant as before.

Toronto is on the pulse:

It’s true, I will admit it.  Everyone will slag Toronto here there, and everywhere but when I am here, I feel like I know what is going on in the world.  I feel like sound bytes and news bytes float through the air here so quickly for people to receive it right away.  Music premieres happen, and we know about it at the same time.  That’s something that I love about this place – I don’t feel like I am the last to know.

Toronto is not simple:

This city is HUGE.  This is not a walking city, which is one of the reasons that I do miss Montreal.  Nothing is done simply here – especially when it comes to commuting from A to B.  You notice it right away when you come here, and you complain and whine about it…but then somewhere along the way you forget about it and when people do mention it, you don’t think about it anymore.  It’s weird.  When we go home to visit Montreal and we see how people can travel so much more quickly there, that’s when you especially notice how Toronto is so wide.

Turns out, yeah, I do like Toronto:

I still can’t bring myself to say that I LOVE Toronto.  Montreal gave me my foundation, but Toronto made me an adult.  Toronto has given a lot of opportunity and development – probably that Montreal could not, or I didn’t have the patience to wait and see if it would. I can’t be one of those people to knock Toronto because that’s like biting the hand that feeds you.  It’s not for everyone, but Toronto is a pretty damn cool city.

Now if only the winters could be milder!


Dearest Oscar

Another Oscar season is upon us – another year of getting excited about who’s going to win.  Ever since I was a little boy, thanks to my sister Melanie, I have always been fascinated and interested by the Oscars.  I remember being far interested in something of this nature probably too early on in my life that it might seem a little abnormal.

Well, what the hell – it’s who I am .  I often joke to Mara – you have Passover, my religion is the Academy Awards.

The 2010 nominations came out yesterday and they were pretty good.  Some nice first timers in the lot which is cool and some tiny surprises.  I am quite disappointed that Ryan Gosling did not get a nomination for Blue Valentine, unlike his amazing costar Michelle Williams.  Alas, he’s one of the casualties this year – I’m sure he’s not losing sleep over it either.

Working at the NFB has given me some truly amazing experiences – one tiny one being the opportunity to have actually held an Oscar!  There was one on loan to our office a couple of years ago and before it was shipped back to its home in Montreal, it lingered in my office for a little while.  Curiosity got the better of me, and I held the thing in my hands (as did my colleagues) and of course we all had a practice saying our fake acceptance speeches.  What I did realize upon seeing one so close was that 1) Yes, they are really that shiny! and 2) That sucker is pretty heavy too! A good arm weight!

So, dearest Oscar we meet again in February.  As per usual in this household, we will be eating pizza in front of the TV that night and watching it all happen.

Pretty blue

I appear to be on a roll regarding watching movies that are currently getting a lot of buzzz during awards season.  Last night, Mara and I watched Blue Valentine – the new film with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.  Directed by Derek Cianfrance, this film is about a married couple with a daughter watching their union crumble into pieces juxtaposed with their first meetings together, their courtship and finally their quickie marriage.  On paper, it sounds like the stuff good TV movies are made of, but I can safely say that this film is a real, honest, disturbing and raw portrayal of the ins and outs of a relationship.  As a viewer, I sat there watching and listening to these characters move in their lives, and I couldn’t help but understand and relate to certain choices that they make, by virtue of just being in a relationship or being a parent for that matter.  With each of these comes sacrifices, and the question is whether you evolve into another version of yourself or whether you hang on to who you are and hope that you don’t lose your essence.  This story of Dean and Cindy is essentially like watching two versions of themselves – one of their youth and question, and another of their bitterness and sad answers.

I love Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.  They each have gone a route with their film choices that should be applauded.  They don’t do every film imaginable, and you know that when you hear that they are in a specific film that it’ll be special.  Watching these two go at it, both physically and emotionally in front of you – it’s acting magic.  Some of the lines that are said in this film are so true and bang on – I had to almost remind myself that this was a fiction film and that it was scripted.  In my opinion, this is Gosling’s movie.

I want to write about the end of this film and how it probably was the one part that ripped me up the most.  It surprised me and really shook me a lot.  Mara hated the ending and when we talked about our likes about the film, she kept saying “I hated the ending.”  The reason it ends the way it does reminded me of some things:

  • Like life, things don’t go according to the movie playing in your head.
  • The ending reminded me of European cinema, rather than North American ones.  Its abruptness made me want more, and also made me want to leave this couple at the same time.  I loved it.

What’s the single most important thing I did in 2010?

So, now that I have been challenged by Word Press to write a post once a week on my blog, their suggestion was to write about the single most important thing I did in 2010.

For me, it’s feeling more into the skin of being a father – something that isn’t just important for 2010 but for the rest of my life.  I think 2010 made me see how my priorities have truly shifted in such a short period of time.  Yes, I do still enjoy writing and being creative and I always will – but it isn’t the fuel of my existence anymore as it might have been when I was 20 years old.  Being the most attentive, ridiculous, caring, sensitive father and husband is my mission in life now.  And it’s hard work, I have to say.  Not unattainable though.

To verbally tell my daughter and wife that I love them every day is also an important one.

Wow! This is a sappy post, isn’t it! Sheesh! Well, there ya have it – I am a big sap in the long run and as much as I’ve tried to push that aside, the reality is I can’t!  ‘Tis who I am.  Alas.

This blogging thing is fun.

I seem to be on a roll with my blogging and I want to keep it up, so I plan on writing on this blog at least once a week (if it’s twice, then it’s a good week!)
I’m taking the challenge from! Here we go!

10 years

2011 marks 10 years since I put on a play at the Montreal Fringe Festival.  The play was called Close, and it was a labour of love.  The play itself stemmed from an idea I had in 2000 after working on my first film set as a production assistant.  That entire experience was glowing and everything that a 24-year-old could ever ask for.  It was also the impetus for me to continue in this creative life I had entered, so I began writing Close not knowing where it would end up.

The play was about two relationship fractured brothers and their sister, all dealing with the loss of their mother.  Added to the mix was the sister’s child hood friend who admits his feelings to his best friend after so long.  Traditional stuff.  Someone had told me back then to write what you know – no truer words have ever been said regarding writing, I think.

Writing Close was cathartic and amazing, but then watching it be put on and searching out for actors that became my friends to play the parts was incredible.  Recruiting friends to work with me on this journey was both fulfilling and also very difficult as personalities clashed and some things (as much as I had wanted everyone to be one big happy family) just couldn’t come together.

But the play happened.  Close was a hit for me – not so much a hit with all Fringe going public.  My friends loved it, my family did too – and I guess that was all that I needed; that validation.  It was a learning experience that still to this day I am able to feed from.  It opened a door in my head that I could write anything that I wanted to, as long as it was my truth.  It was the first tiny layer being peeled back.

When the play was done, I mourned; I mourned for the film production wrap (that I had never really had closure on because I went straight into the play) and also for the experience of putting on that play.  I was sad.  I was depressed.  I was a text-book case.  It also heralded a feeling that I still feel every time I complete a written piece – that I am done, that I am saturated of ideas and thoughts, that it was the very last thing I would ever write.

Well, that’s not the case and pieces have come since as most of my friends and family know.  Even today, as I was walking home from a late night at work, the idea of perhaps writing a new two person play came to me.  I haven’t written a play in nearly 10 years (2002 marked the second play Underneath that I had written – this one about an Elvis impersonator, a filmmaker, and an annoying cookie cutter racist teenager all waiting to give blood at a clinic, three days after 9/11.  How more button pushing and annoying can you get?!) and I have been writing short stories the last little while.  Writing a play….maybe it’s time to go back.  10 years is a long time.  It’s also a marked anniversary of sorts.  At least in my life.

I guess that’s where I am going.  The more I think about it as I write this blog post, the more I think that I am writing a play next.  Returning.  I think it will be about two friends who see each other after 10 years – and reconnect.  Hmmm.  Old friends are sometimes what you need to remember who you were before the big changes happen, I guess.  Maybe playwriting is my old friend.

Close meanwhile remains a real tender spot for me.  It was the beginning and it continues to permeate all that do, not only as a burgeoning hack writer, but as a person as well.  Close was my independence from everything that marked my childhood and had a hold on me.  It represented my emerging as someone with something to say in my own little way.

And so many people who took me on that journey, both the good stuff and the bad stuff, fueled that whole experience in a grateful way.  Now, I type this as a 34.5 year old, with a wife and daughter asleep in the bedroom remembering those moments.  Wow.

It’s always good to look back.

For Close, I thank Brenda, Susan, Jean Elliott, Frances, Anna, Peter, Sabine, Roberto, Chris, Caroline, Shiri, Sarah, Gaelan and Asako.

It’s all in her head

Last night, my mother in law and I saw Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s latest film which is garnering awards and lots of buzz.  It stars Natalie Portman (who will no doubt win the Oscar for Best Actress at the upcoming Academy Awards) as a ballet dancer slowly descending into madness as she prepares for the ballet Swan Lake.  Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and (welcome back) Winona Ryder also star.

Well, this is what the film did to me:

  • I have been thinking about it all day.  Going over it back and forth, wondering what the filmmaker wanted the audience to understand and interpret.
  • I definitely didn’t hate the viewing experience  – but I am pretty sure that I didn’t love it either.  I am really questioning about it, which perversely makes me happy as I think a good film should challenge a viewer.
  • Natalie Portman is good in it.  Her performance is not straight forward (neither is this film) but there’s a weird vulnerability to it.
  • This film makes me wonder if I have some kind of overthinking psychosis.
  • I was thrilled to see Winona Ryder again.  She was my favorite actor of my adolescent life, and not to mention the biggest crush as well.
  • A lot of friends of mine are saying that Black Swan should be looked at as a campy film – and that makes the viewing more enjoyable and easier to digest.  The more I think about this, I think it diminishes what the film is trying to do – which is make every viewer feel like they too have some kind of black swan-esque side that is dormant and waiting to come out.
  • I do think the entire film is everything that plays out in Nina’s head – so far that she believes that she is actually a swan trapped in a human’s body (hence those buried feathers, and was it just me or did some kind of bird legs sprout from her at one point!)
  • Natalie will probably win the Oscar for this role – she has the Sandra Bullock/Jennifer Hudson/Kate Winslet/Helen Mirren momentum behind her.
  • Mila Kunis will not win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress – she is the one role where I am lost as to why people are raving about.  She is definitely not in “That 70’s Show” territory which is commendable – but did she do a lot in this?  Really?

I could write more, but I won’t.  I feel as though this will be riding my brainwave more than just this one night.

Theories welcome!!