A veteran photojournalist on the Toronto arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

EDITION #48 - WEEK OF JUNE 22-28, 2015

Inside Out of Pixar’s comfort zone

Inside Out (Pixar/Walt Disney)

Voice Talents: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black

Directors: Pete Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen

Producer: Jonas Rivera

Screenplay: Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley and Pete Docter; story by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen

Film Review

After a year-long hiatus, Pixar comes back with a more-than-thought provoking project with the fantasy/comedy-drama Inside Out that looks into the mind of a young girl’s struggle with emotions without going down the adolescent angst road one would suspect, but does something that few can actually pull off: addressing mental health minus the tragic ending and make it accessible as a family adventure.

Eleven-year old Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) lives a typical upbringing in rural Minnesota along with her parents (Diane Lane, Kyle McLachlan) until they’re uprooted and relocate to San Francisco where her father’s tech company sets up a branch. And trying to keep up a happy pretence in all this is the five emotions inside her head: Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith), Fear (Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Black), who basically controls all the realms of her conscience and core memory known as the Islands of Personality.

Adjusting to a new home, city and school is not a easy task for any child, especially when you’re bordering on puberty and all these feelings you don’t have control over even before the hormones kick in becomes apparent when Joy tries to keep Riley happy amidst all these life changes, when in freak mishap during a disagreement she and Sadness get taken out of their element and land in the memory core far from headquarters (get it?) and are stuck amongst the Islands, leaving the other emotions left in charge.

As Riley gets more and more depressed, Joy and Sadness try to find a way back to bring back the balance and helping them along the way is Bing-Bong (Richard Kind), an imaginary playmate from her infancy; who guides them through the maze of the mind as both emotions work to find a commonplace in order to get Riley’s mind back in order, if not for each others’ sake.

One of their better films since Finding Nemo, director Pete Docter (Up) hits this one right on the nail in throwing plenty of humour, enough drama and a touch of adventure for a more complex story without weighing it all down from a firm script inspired by Docter’s own daughter during her pubescent period and loaded with proper research from a scientific expert on mood and memory, Dr. Paul Eckman, so you know it’s not all some guesstimate work put into place and keeps it all steady.

The vocal talents are all in their elements in playing their roles with Poehler’s ever-optimistic Joy trying to keep all these life events, her crew and herself into a positive spin and discovering new things along the way; Smith is hilarious as the moody Sadness who becomes a unexpected anchor in helping out in this crisis; Kaling gets all Valley Girlish with her character’s attitude; Black’s the ultimate nature choice for the killjoy Anger and Kind’s Bing-Bong, a cross between a pink toy elephant, cat and a children’s entertainer; comes off as a lovable bungler with a soulful centre just when things are at their darkest, perhaps to awaken all our Bing-Bongs and dreams we've discarded in our childhoods.

Preceding short Lava, that got a world premiere preview last fall at TIFF; hardly ranks as being among Pixar’s best about Uku, a lonely, lovesick volcano somewhere in the middle of the Pacific awaiting millennia for a soulmate kind of borders on corny and saccharine as a filler piece over love, dedication and hope, all to the tune of a Hawaiian folk song by Kuana Torres Kahele and Napua Greig.

Inside Out is a brave leap forward Pixar decided to make outside the comfort zone of basic animated fare and it’s worth its merit these animators are willing to take instead of aiming for the safe, commercialist stuff they’ve been getting into of late with franchising their brands into (semi-)mindless sequels. But do watch out for that gum commercial jingle you won’t get out of your head.

One Festival Under a Groove

2015 Toronto Jazz Festival Reviews

Part 1 of a 2-part series

Morris Day & The Time

Outdoor Stage, Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West

Friday, June 19; 6:55 p.m.

About roughly half-a-hour late from its starting time, veteran R&B ensemble Morris Day & The Time did bring out a sizable crowd for the smaller outdoor satellite stage at Nathan Phillips Square and made the wait worthwhile as the pioneering Minneapolis Sound musicians, that burst onto the scene along with Prince, Vanity 6 and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in the 1980s; presented their playlist of hits and never let up on their own sense of cool as led by their flamboyant headman Morris Day and most of the original line-up.

Mimicking a savoir-faire showmanship of James Brown, Cab Calloway, a stand-up comic routine and something that was just Day, he brought out his trademark faux narcissist act of preening himself in always available and footwork while punching out their classics “C.O.O.L.”, “Fishnet”, “Oak Tree” and “Jerk Out.” Taking a little bit of a breather while the band did instrumental filler during a mid-show costume change of sorts seemed like an awkward break in the flow of things, but at least Day returned back with the energy for a rare slow jam for “Stimulation.”

Bringing on some ladies onstage, especially with one highly enthusiastic Rhonda Joy was ready to party hardy with Day, during “The Walk” and “The Bird” and closing out in the encore with their signature number “Jungle Love,” it was good to see that these guys haven’t lost their fan base or their touch after all these years and definitely from under His Royal Purpleness’ shadow. And the New Orleans-based opener act Dumpstaphunk did a good warm-up job with their R&B/soul/funk sound as a band really on the rise.

George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic

Toronto Star Stage, 100 Queen Street West

Friday, June 19; 9 p.m.

Funk god George Clinton (centre) jams alongside his Parliament/Funkadelic backup ensemble The Brides of Funkensteins for the opening night concert of the 2015 edition of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

You know you’ve crossed the pop culture stream when you become a punchline in The Simpsons like funk legends George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic have done (remember the episode “The Way We Weren’t” when a younger Marge Simpson tells future husband Homer at a summer camp encounter “I like Parliament, but not Funkadelic”?) and they live up to their reputation as the craziest (and loudest) concert I’ve ever attended at the Toronto Jazz Festival as the free opening night act.

Pulling out all the stops from psychedelic and strobe lighting that almost went non-stop for the next two hours, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers amazed all with original members Clinton, guitarist Ricky Rouse and singer Grady Thomas mingled with their younger entourage for all their boundless energy that seemed impossible to tame through the classics “Mothership Connection (Star Child),” “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Monkey See, Monkey Do,” “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” and “Flash Light” throwing in a volatile cocktail of R&B, rock, funk, proto-hip-hop, Afrofuturism, science-fiction and some disco.

The only time it ever really slowed down was when Clinton, almost unrecognizable in a red plaid jacket at first; broke into a spoken word poem for “Maggot Brain” about the free conscience all should embrace and the potential of humanity to be better, as he put it: “Free your mind and your ass will follow,” then kicking back the jams with closers “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” and “Atomic Dog.”

One thing I can say after this, Clinton and his crew sure know how to throw a party!

The Count Basie Orchestra

Toronto Star Stage, 100 Queen Street West

Sunday, June 21; 8:30 p.m.

Whoever said that big band jazz is so yesteryear obviously haven’t heard the Count Basie Orchestra, now celebrating its eightieth year, and a tent venue ranging a mix of demographics proves that the sound still has its followers and learners as led by trumpeter/conductor Scotty Barnhart directing veteran members and newcomers, like bassist Trevor Weir, adding more dimension to the ensemble’s characteristics continued in the thirty-odd years since their founder’s passing.

Helming the spot Basie ruled supreme for the first five decades on piano is Bobby Floyd for opening standbys “Who, Me?”, “Come Fly With Me,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” and such, the band prove their pull when couples starting hitting the readymade dance floor space centred in the tent in no time; including someone doing a little tap dancing, which doesn’t happen too often. Giving a tip of the hat to an old friend Oscar Peterson, alto saxophonist David Glasser held up the easygoing “I Thought About You” with Peterson’s widow Kelly and daughter Celine in the house listening on.

Left-right: Scotty Barnhart conducts the Count Basie Orchestra; band vocalist Carmen Bradford serenades as audience members cut up on the readymade dance floor to big band classics.

Orchestra vocalist Carmen Bradford came mid-way with her selection of tunes by adding some scat along “Honeysuckle Rose,” a hearty rendition of “I Got the Right to Sing the Blues,” “Shining Hour” and “Love Being Here With You” with grace and honour she puts into them; followed by more staples, including Thad Jones’ “From One to Another” and the fast syncopation of “Basie” providing a barrage of brass and wild drums coming from David Gibson.

No Basie concert is complete without their encore signature tunes “One O’clock Jump” and “April in Paris” (including the immortalized “one more time!” endnotes) to wash down a perfectly good opening weekend for the festival from one of the few big bands that can really hit the low withering notes before giving powerful crescendos in giving a lively kick to their repertoire.

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NEXT: Part 2 – Al Jarreau, Snarky Puppy and more. Toronto Jazz Festival continues through to Monday (June 29); Tickets/information: call 1-888-655-9090/ticketpro.ca or torontojazz.com

Poetic darkness shines; Digital blossoms fade

2015 Luminato Festival Reviews

Part 1 of a 2-part series

7 Monologues: The Night Dances

Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queen’s Quay West, 3rd Floor

Saturday, June 20; 8 p.m.

Two powerhouses on the densely-lit Fleck Dance Theatre stage brought to life the poetry of Sylvia Plath for The Night Dances, as performed by British stage/screen actor Charlotte Rampling and French cellist/director Sonia Wieder-Atherton; based on the poet icon’s works and letters to her mother about womanhood, independence and vulnerability to the music of composer Benjamin Britten’s Cello Suites for about a solid 90-minute performance of music and spoken word conveying the mind of a troubled talent full of wit as much as it did with woe.

“Dying is an art, like everything else. I do exceptionally well,” Rampling blurts out a manifesto as written in the first poem “Lady Lazarus” – accompanied by Suite No. 2, Opus 80’s Declamato (largo) – and remains so forth for the remainder of the performance with unabashed and unsentimental feeling for the next ten poems out of eleven, while Wieder-Atherton weaves all her passions and dramas via her instrument but not forgetting to be light and playful in the moments deemed necessary.

The space is kept very simple and uncluttered under the controlled lighting designs of Franck Thevenon, the play ventures into Plath’s cynical take on love (“Letter in November”/Suite No. 2, Opus 80 Andante lento), dark spots of depression (“Medusa”/Suite No. 3, Opus 87 Fuga (andante espressivo)) and father issues (“Daddy”/Suite No. 2, Opus 80 Ciaccona (allegro)) through the motions of Rampling’s positions of standing, sitting, lounging or in a curled foetal position. By the end with all the anger a young lady at the time she wrote these poems and letters in her early thirties, the terse standoffs fold by the time the final poem “Love Letter”/Suite No. 3, Opus 87 Introduzione(lento) puts on a calm and reflective mannerism of wisdom learned, as executed smartly by the duo.

A woman ahead of her time, Wieder-Atherton and Rampling paid a fair and interesting tribute to Plath’s dark, biting wit and sensibilities weighed out in The Night Dances as a collaborative piece of one looking to find her place in the world and craftwork with already-achieved immortality.

Imaginary Rose Garden

Festival Hub, David Pecault Square, 55 John Street

Through June 28; 24/7

In a tony wooden gazebo in the Festival Hub hosts a photographed showcase of roses taken by Toronto’s citizenry as a digital garden of sorts, surrounded by real-life roses of all varieties makes for a nice touch, particular for flower lovers (like me). Yet the Imaginary Rose Garden feels too quaint and substandard a purpose behind the concept and ordinary to give a proper impact.

As engineered by Tyler Sammy, Sarah Nixon, Toronto Flower Market and The Rabbit’s Choice Props and Scenery, this cooperative ties to put into practice the vision as determined by fragrance giant Lancôme for their 80th anniversary in saluting the flower itself, the merit underscores the effort. And since none of these real flowers have so much of a scant of their perfumery – the very essence behind any living rose – all this prettified garden piece can muster up is a “nice try” effort.

Glossary

Festival Hub, David Pecault Square, 55 John Street

Though June 28; 24/7

Renown Brazilian designer Regina Silveria’s commissioned temporary art installation has an airy and pastel colourful approach of eight shelter-like structures showing various fonts and languages for the word “light,” certainly is the center of attention at the Hub made of concrete blocks, wooden planks, steel girders with transparent roofing to offer shelter and rest is eye-catching and engaging.

Only one quibble: it might be hazardous for any jacket’s buckle that can get accidentally caught between the planks and virtually impossible to get free from, so caution is necessary with your clothing. Otherwise, the installation adds a cheery eyesight to the space.

Look in my face: my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-More, Too Late, Farewell

Trinity Bellwood Park, 790 Queen Street West

Through June 28, 24/7

Situated not too far away from the Trinty Bellwood Park entrance is Vancouverite artist Geoffrey Farmer’s carousel montage Look in my face: my name is Might-have-been; I am also called No-More, Too Late, Farewell of 18,000 images done with archival photos from the everyday to the historical forever captured in the moment complete with a avant-garde soundtrack of special effects sounds and human noises.

Titled after a quote written on the back of a photograph by Marcel Proust, Farmer displays about memory and the human condition, as ironically seen in throwaway photo stock and personal pictures long forgotten, makes it more of a meditative project on horror and beauty, eccentricity and simplicity. This would have made a great instalment to this spring’s CONTACT Photography Festival and could have continued onwards to Luminato with a larger audience to appreciate it further.

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NEXT: Part 2 – Contemporary Color and more. Luminato 2015 continues through to Sunday (June 28); Tickets/information: call 416-368-4849 or luminatofestival.com