Best of Canadian Netflix, Pt. 2

With cable tv season rounding up, our (ahem) beloved Toronto Maple Leafs putting an end to hockey season in Toronto, and the Blue Jays simply not living up to the hype, I’m sure we can all use some more Netflix in our lives. I’ve sought out the assistance of my good friend Alanna because, well.. she has fabulous taste and an incredibly discernible eye for arts & culture in many mediums, but particularly in film (and yes Alanna, in fashion, food, music, and art too!).

I’ll follow Kelly’s lead and break these up similarly to her picks in our original Best of Canadian Netflix post. Enjoy Alanna’s commentary here :)

TV Series

With the much anticipated Season 4 of Arrested Development to be released on Netflix on May 26 (all 15 episodes at once), get pumped by watching the first three seasons to remind you how much you love this show. In case you’ve been living in a hole (sorry!), this show features Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett & Michael Cera , a dysfunctional and formerly wealthy family. It’s a hilarious character series that has garnered a cult following.

The award-winning, IFC produced Portlandia should not be missed. The sketch comedy featuring stereotypical hipsters living in Portland, OR, played by Fred Armisen (SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (Wild Flag, Sleater-Kinney). It’s quirky and funny and if you’re anything like Kelly and I, you’ll be not-so-secretly be laughing at the hilarious similarities to your own lives. The epsiodes featuring guest stars and cameos with the likes of The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, Tim Robbins, and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder are among my favorites.

Alanna and I agree that House of Cards is BEYOND truly outrageous.  Kevin Spacey as the Majority Whip of the House, Robin Wright as a non-profit CEO and the other half of this bizarre modern high-achieving-at-any-and-all-costs power couple, Kate Mara as the most annoying journalist/blogger/lame girl all star in this DC-political-psycho-drama that frequently breaks the fourth wall and features BBQ.  Sold. This is also Netflix’s first original series, with all 13 episodes of the première season released at once, effectively changing television distribution and consumption forever.

TV

The Inbetweeners is a fantastic, hilarious, cringe-filled British comedy about four regular to below average dudes in high school.  It is uncomfortable to watch, but I can never tear myself away.  This is NOT to be confused with the not worth the price of Simon’s new car U.S. remake, which obviously blows. A similar story with Skins which is the best show for making you yearn for a reckless British coming of age experience and has one of the best soundtracks ever (I would only vouch for Seasons 1-3).

Luther is an AMAZING detective drama starring the hottest of hot Stringer Bell (okay, Idris Elba, but whatever…I don’t care what you call him, he is delicious when he isn’t making terribly cheesy music videos).  It is also an amazing modern London detective show, so obviously great for Anglophiles.  Similarly, Sherlock is a dark, gory, gritty suspense filled detective show with less attractive leads, but whatever.  Still, it is an incredible movie-quality mini-series with each episode running 90 minutes.  It is fantastic.

Honourable Mention: The Riches is a short-lived highly underrated dramedy about Irish con artist/travellers starring Eddie Izzard, Minnie Driver, Shannon Woodward and Noel Fisher. I really enjoyed this and it was a casualty of the perfect storm of low ratings and the 2007/8 Writer’s Strike.

Obvious and slightly less obvious choices that are worth your time: Freaks and Geeks (followed by the lesser known Undeclared), Community (until Dan Harmon’s departure), Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter (early seasons), Damages (early seasons), Misfits Season 1- 3 (another BBC outfit).

Documentaries

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Rhye & Coachella

Monday.

This time last year we had just spent the weekend watching the likes of Radiohead, Bon Iver, Calvin Harris, Black Keys, and of course, how could I forget: Tupac. Last year the sun was hardly bearable and the crowds were often obnoxious. This year I particularly loved the sets by Blur, Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Infected Mushroom, the Lumineers, the DJ set by Moby, and Nick Cave. Sure, maybe I missed the heat and the crowd’s energy, but this year I could see the stage, hear the music, have a drink in my hand and catch sets by artists on different stages at the same time – all from the comfort of my couch.

For the entire weekend, Coachella streamed sets live on YouTube, and if you didn’t know, now you do and you can catch it all for the festival’s second weekend starting this Friday. Just remember the time difference between California and Toronto – I had some pretty late nights this weekend waiting for my favorite acts to hit the stage!

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Hot Docs 2013

When Kelly e-mailed me about Bloor Cinema’s Hot Docs 20 series, I (along with about a dozen of our friends) jumped on the opportunity to get a pass. The series spans through April and May and is a curated selection of the best and most well-received documentaries screened over the past 20 years of Hot Docs International Film Festivals.  I spent a better part of this Easter long weekend in the Bloor Cinema learning about the dangers of brain surgery and the state of medical care in the Ukraine, the political war on drugs in the United States, and funk music in the 1970’s U.S.

All these documentaries are perfectly timed to wet my whistle and get me ready for Hot Docs 2013.  Did you know that Hot Docs is North America’s largest documentary film festival?  This year’s festival is running from April 25 – May 5, 2013 and is screening over 200 selections.  The diversity of documentary topics and spotlight programs is astounding, as always, and guarantees that there are films to fit anyone’s interests. Browse the schedule by topic, by date, or by Program (like this year’s spotlight on Poland or “Rule Breakers & Innovators”).

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Synopsis and trailers are all available on the Hot Docs website. Here is a sample of some of the screenings that have caught my eye this year: Continue reading

Take a Listen: Shows to Carry you into Spring

We are officially into the middle of February and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hibernating in a big way. My couch and television have been winning the pleasure of my company night after night, but it’s about time I re-evaluate this.  Anybody else feeling the itch to get back out on the town? Once we start to get back out there, spring (and the sun) won’t be terribly behind, right?

Let me cut to the chase. Bands are back on the road and much to my surprise, concerts are selling out in Toronto left, right, and centre. Hopefully I can introduce you to some artists who are making their way to Toronto to get you up off your couch and grooving to some live music. As of today, tickets are still available for the shows below, and as always, we recommend going to the local record shop (Rotate This or Soundscapes) to avoid those pesky Ticketmaster and TicketFly charges.

Trust – Feb. 22nd, $17.50, Lee’s Palace

Signed to Arts & Crafts and from Toronto, I’ve been listening to Trust’s first album “TRST” constantly. Trust crosses so many genres of music that on my first listen I had to keep checking to see if it was the same album playing. Elements of rock, pop, goth, electronic, all with an 80’s aesthetic, their sound is refreshing and quite frankly, brilliant.

Beach Fossils – February 27th, $14.50, Garrison Brewery

I loved the surf pop/rock sound of Beach Fossils first self-titled album, but the sunken “stage” in the basement of Parts & Labour was a terrible venue to see this band. Now at a better venue and with a great sounding single from his new album, this should be a great show.

Ra Ra RiotMarch 6th, $18.50, Lee’s Palace

When I saw Ra Ra Riot play at the Mod Club the last time they were in town, I was really impressed. I didn’t know their music at all and was thoroughly entertained and really enjoyed their live show. Their newer music seems to be adding some fun synth and is sounding super upbeat and fun!

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Patti Smith: Camera Solo

After a couple of years filled with frequent trips to New York City, I developed much love for the Big Apple. A good (and very thoughtful) friend bought me a special present to help deepen my appreciation for the (rock & roll) history of NYC: Patti Smith’s memoir titled Just Kids. Admittedly at the time I didn’t know much about Patti Smith. I knew she was a legendary rock star and that other musicians, old and new, spoke highly of her talent and success. Just Kids was an eye opener.

I learned so much from reading Patti Smith’s self-penned memoir. I learned that Smith’s first artistic expressions came in the form of painting, sculture and poetry. I learned about her intense love affair and friendship with famed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and got a glimpse of the struggles of trying to make it in NYC in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. There were also Smith’s interactions with Andy Warhol and the artists associated with his Factory that were fun to hear about. Just Kids ends just as Smith’s music career is being propelled and the rest I had to learn on my own (wikipedia?).

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Beyond my interest in Smith’s rise to fame and learning about NYC’s Lower East Side, I took away a sincere appreciation and respect for Smith as a writer and artist. Her ability to recall the details of her early years evocatively and with beautiful emotion paints a clear picture of a semi-charmed life through rose-coloured glasses.  More than a memoir, Just Kids is poetry highlighting Smith’s intelligence and artsy disposition.

Why blog about Patti Smith now? On February 9th, 2013, the Art Gallery of Ontario will present an exhibition of Patti Smith’s work for the first time ever in Canada. The show, titled Patti Smith: Camera Solo, will feature over 75 pieces of work, including photography, objects and film and will highlight her interest in poetry and literature. There will be free a audio guide to accompany the exhibit, and if that weren’t enough, Smith will perform two live musical performances at March’s AGO 1st Thursday on the 7th. Ticket prices remain $8 for members and $10 for non-members and go on sale on February 8th.

Patti Smith, live in concert for $10. Did you get that?? This is not a small deal, folks!!! Put it in your calendars and tweet it to the world – all those Bonnaroo/Coachella/Lollapalooza/Glastonbury concert-goers everywhere are losing their shit.