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Watch movies on Kanopy with your Toronto library card!

The Toronto Public Library announced a partnership with a video platform called Kanopy, which will allow anyone with a library card to stream thousands of films, documentaries, and training videos for free.

The platform already has over 30,000 films available for consumption, and “includes titles from producers including the Great Courses and PBS, as well as award-winning indie, documentary and Canadian films. ”

Kanopy can be accessed on your smartphone, tablet, PC, or Smart TC and is compatible with most software (Rofu, Android, iOS, AppleTV). Unlike platforms like Netflix, viewers are limited to eight films a month. Not bad considering that means two movies a week. You have three days to watch each movie, so similarly to Rogers on Demand, you can re-watch a favourite before the time expires.

Each film is fully accessible with options for captions and transcripts.

All you need to create an account with Kanopy is your library card number and email account.

Some examples of the films featured on Kanopy include Maudie, I Am Not Your Negro, Brooklyn, Patterson, The Man Who Knew Infinity, and the documentary Dior and I. The Toronto Public Library promises hundreds of new films will be added each month.

Kanopy was launched in 2008 in West Australia as a way to encourage learning through film. When it first started, the business model included hand delivering DVDs to university libraries. The founders have since made their service digital and have expanded across North America to over 3,000 campuses. Kanopy is just starting to partner with public libraries.

Do Toronto women need another gender-flipped film?

The trailer for the gender-flipped Ocean’s 8 movie dropped last week.

It does look good. The cast is amazing — Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna to name a few — and the one-liners made me chuckle. I was a fan of the original Ocean movies, so I will probably see this one. It is being described as not a remake, but rather a spin-off or a sequel. It follows the storyline of Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny from the original films, who wants to steal an incredibly expensive diamond necklace worth one or one and a half billion dollars (unclear). She assembles seven other women to help with the job.

This is the second “gender-flipped” film set to be released. The first was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot and there are rumours of more on their way.

While I’m all for seeing films with strong female characters, I have to wonder why they are all remakes or sequels to pre-existing films in which the cast was dominated by men? Can anyone come up with a movie script that has a predominately female cast, with complex characters and a decent storyline. Wonder Woman was a good film, but those characters were also pre-existing in lore and comics.

Other original films revolve around romance or motherhood — and most of them are really terrible. They tend to make fun of women more than they empower them. What the world needs isn’t another remake, but rather an intense drama or action film with a diverse range of female stars. Preferably, this original film would be written, directed, and produced by a woman. 

I know it may be a long time until something like this is produced. But, I think the challenge is worth it. In light of feminism being the word of the year and sexual harassment being the story of the year, maybe it’s time to start considering real, strong women as inspiration in film.

8 movies that will make you book your next flight

What if I told you you could go on vacation right now? Art mediums like books and movies can transport you to far-off lands, but it can also encourage people to take real trips to other countries. The sensory experience of film can transport you to another world entirely, exposing you to culture, food, music, and art in the span of 90 minutes. So take this journey with Women’s Post as we list eight movies that will inspire you to travel.

Thailand-The Beach (2000)

Like the name, this movie was filmed on location from the streets of Bangkok to Maya Bay in Ko Phi Phi Leh, Thailand. Based on a novel by Alex Garland, this adventure packed film follows a young American tourist. Leonardo Dicaprio plays the young American who finds himself travelling to a secluded island in the Gulf of Thailand and joins a secret community with magical blue waters and pristine lagoons. Despite the wonderful visuals of this movie, this films isn’t all paradise.

 

Spain- Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

As the title suggests, this Woody Allen film transports you to the streets and ways of Barcelona, Spain. This romantic comedy follows two American friends on vacation in Barcelona where they put their inhibitions to the side and indulge in a weekend of seduction by a Spanish painter played by Javier Bardem. Woody Allen captured many stunning visuals in this film while promoting the Catalonia region of Spain. Scenes are also filmed in Oviedo, the northwest Spanish countryside. One scene of the movie also captures the Church of La Sagrada Familia, a famous unfinished Roman Catholic Church from 1882. The architecture and seen in this movie will be greatly appreciated.

Scotland/ United Kingdom- One Day (2011)

While I may never forgive the ending of this movie, this film captures scenes from Scotland, France and England. Most of the production took place in Edinburgh,Scotland, where the lead characters of the movie attend University. Scenic views also includes the Brittany region of France and several shots of London. The movie follows two university friends, who always find themselves connecting over the years, eventually invoking feelings of love, disappointment, bad timing and hurt.

India/France-The Hundred- Foot Journey (2014)

I discovered this film by mere chance on a long flight — the irony is not lost on me. After watching, I was ready to fly to India and to the French countryside instead. The Hundred-Foot Journey is a witty comedic film with the backing of two powerful people. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, this film tells the tale of a family’s journey from Mumbai, India, to opening up a restaurant adjacent to a Michelin star restaurant in the French countryside. Filming took place in the south of France in Saint Antonin Noble Val. The movie captures the beauty of Southern France and included scenes from Northern Paris.

Colombia- Love In The Time Of Cholera (2007)

Filmed in the beautiful seaside town of Cartegena,Colombia, this movie visually captures many interesting scenes of Spanish culture. Love in the time of cholera is based off the famous Spanish novel in 1985 by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This classic tale of a love triangle captures the rustic day to day life of a Spanish lifestyle, with vibrant colours. Scenes also include street markets in Bolívar, Colombia and a historic church.

Italy- Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

This classic Romantic comedy tells the tale of a recently single American woman( portrayed by Diana Lane), who impulsively buys a villa in Tuscany and embarks on restarting her life. The beautiful and stunning scenes showcase the beauty of the countryside. The location of her new villa is in the town of Cortona,Tuscany. Shots also include scenes from Florence and Rome.

 

France-Paris Can Wait (2016)

Diane Lane returns again to deliver another witty romantic and comedic role of an American woman travelling abroad with her husband. While deciding to disconnect from her busy husband and taking the scenic route, Lane’s character travels with her husband’s associate. The pair drive from Cannes to Paris. Like the title of the move, very little of Paris is seen. Starting from the French Riviera, the pair drive the countryside of South-Eastern France, there are shots in Aix en Provence, Lauris,and Cadenet, France.

 

Indonesia/ Italy/ India – Eat,Pray,Love (2010)

I don’t think this list would be complete without the ultimate wanderlust movie. Eat, Pray, Love is the wildly popular film based off a bestselling memoir of the same name. The movie recounts an American woman’s journey to finding her true self after her divorce. Her travels include eating, praying, and obviously, loving. The movie highlights, Italy, Indonesia and India. Filming locations included, Bali, Naples, Dehli and New York City , encourages viewers to take a short trip around these amazing countries.

 

Hope this list is able to fulfill some of your wanderlust and you’re off to book your next flight.

Let us know in the comments below some movies that have inspired you to travel and explore. Bon Voyage!

Oscars’ best picture win will reflect what society stands for today

Films often reflect societal views; confronting current issues and using the artistic power of the lens to capture history. Watching someone perform on film brings out various elements of the human condition and can hold incredible sway over the viewer. Thus, to celebrate such artistic feats, the Oscars emerged as one of the most highly viewed awards shows of the year.

In the last few years, the Oscars have been criticized for favouring films with ‘white’ actors, even producing a popular hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. This year, the nominations strayed from the ‘white’s-only’ club to include several strong contenders with leading roles for people of colour. Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, is a film that follows a young gay man through his childhood, teen years, and adulthood, and touches on various issues that affect the African American community in the United States today. This film is a front-runner to win Best Picture, with seven other nominations as well. Another nominated film with leading roles for people of colour is Fences, directed by Denzel Washington, is a film that explores the intergenerational trauma of racism and a father’s inability to help his son succeed because of his own failed success. The third film that touches on African American themes is Hidden Figures, directed by Theodore Melfi, and is based on the true story of a group of African American women that worked for NASA and helped the first space mission launch in the 1960s.

La La Land, a musical directed by Damien Chazelle, is nominated for 14 awards and many expect this film to win best picture. The musical focuses on Hollywood and the struggles that come with stardom. The musical score in this film happens to be phenomenal. Lion, by Garth Davis, arguably has one of the most unique storylines and is based on the true story of a boy adopted from India who used google earth to find his family after he was lost as a child. The tear-jerker of the year is Manchester by the Sea, directed by Kenneth Lonergan, that explores how losing one’s children can destroy you as a person.

Many critics believe that La La Land will win Best Picture because a) it is a fantastic film, b) has won several other awards already and c) was well-received by the academy. A rising sentiment is being whispered among film buffs though that Moonlight will take the crown. Since President Donald Trump has come into power, there has been a growing protest movement in Hollywood that opposes his racist, xenophobic and otherwise extremist right-wing ideologies. A new unified movement in the film community is rising up against the racist and islamophobic reign of terror that has overtaken the United States. Due to the societal convictions of the progressive left, Moonlight should win — also because it is a wonderfully touching film that deserves the recognition.

Though La La Land captures the heart of film and music and has beautiful cinematographic references, Moonlight represents the United States as it currently stands today. Jenkins’ manages to take the struggles of being black in America today and turns it into an art piece. This film offers an opportunity for a person of any ethnicity, age, or religion to step into the role of being a young, gay, African American boy, and it is when the leading character Chiron pauses in silence, that you can feel years of black history and oppression being played out one scene at a time.

No matter what, this year’s Oscar win for best picture will undoubtedly be representative of what Hollywood cares really about — whether that be ignoring reality and embracing the sublime in La La Land or facing the visceral reality of how society has failed people of colour in America in Moonlight. Tune in Sunday, Feb. 26th at 8:30 E.S.T. to find out.

Life-changing documentaries released in 2016

Documentaries are one of the most influential tools of education in our modern world. People are constantly immersed in images, video, multimedia, and social media, creating an information-overload culture that sometimes makes it difficult for messages to get through. That’s what’s so great about documentaries. There is nothing more thought-provoking than showing people through the lens of a camera the realities of the world we live in and the importance of changing it.

Which documentaries are the best so far in 2016? Here is a list worth checking out. Get ready to think, learn and discuss.

Before the Flood (2016). Directed by Fisher Stevens.
Before the Flood (2016). Directed by Fisher Stevens.

Before the Flood

Before the Flood was a documentary that was all the buzz at its release at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last month in Toronto. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the main subject leads an investigative journey around the world about climate change. The documentary was directed by Fisher Stevens, who made The Cove. Martin Scorsese is an executive producer for the film.  DiCaprio is a UN Ambassador of Peace and is dedicated to raising world awareness for climate change. Barack Obama, an avid environmentalist as well, is featured in the film. This is arguably one of the most awaited environmental documentaries of the year. It will be released on October 21 2016 by National Geographic.

Amy (2016). Directed by Asaf Kapadia.
Amy (2016). Directed by Asaf Kapadia.

Amy

Directed by Asif Kapadia, Amy takes the viewer on the life journey of singer Amy Winehouse, including her downhill climb into drugs and alcohol, ending in her death on July 23, 2011. The documentary explains how Winehouse began as an aspiring jazz singer and her soulful voice led to her success relatively quickly. It then describes how her complex relationship with her father and a troubled relationship led her into drug and alcohol addiction. Winehouse deteriorates and becomes severely anorexic, leading her to be the butt of many international jokes by tabloid media. The documentary gives an intimate background into how a life of fame can make a person crack, and how despite her fame and success, she felt quite alone. This documentary is definitely worth watching. Amy won a 2016 academy award for best documentary feature this past year.

 

The power lines. Provided by Koneline.
The power lines. Provided by Koneline.

Koneline

Koneline is a Canadian-made film and focuses on the Tahltan native clan, located in Northern B.C. It features the various elements that affect people of Northern B.C., ranging from the impact of the mining industry to hunting in the region. Director Nettie Wild portrays the northern landscape in such a beautiful manner, it becomes mesmerizing to the viewer and tells the story of the land, highlighting the influence imagery and filmography can have on expressing how land affects people. Wild attempts to demonstrate how the various people who live n Northern B.C have a story and perspective into their struggle to survive in the area and how working together will bring peace and understanding. Koneline won Best Canadian Feature Documentary award at Hot Docs in 2016, and is being screened at several venues across Canada.

Amanda Knox (2016). Directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn.
Amanda Knox (2016). Directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn.

Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox follows the life of American college student, Knox, who was falsely charged with the murder of her roommate, British student, Meredith Kercher. Knox was sentenced to jail in 2017 for 26 years and served four years before being acquitted in 2011. The documentary focuses strongly on the negative power of media sensationalism and how it can ruin people’s lives. The story is told from Knox’s perspective and also includes her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who was also convicted and later acquitted. The film is directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn and was released on Sept. 10, 2016 on Netflix.

Cameraperson (2016). Directed by Kirsten Johnson.
Cameraperson (2016). Directed by Kirsten Johnson.

Cameraperson

Cameraperson is an autobiographical account of the influence of filmmaking on director Kirsten Johnson. She creates a compilation of work and combines it into a fascinating journey of how filmography can impact the person who creates it. The film showcases postwar Bosnia, a housewife in Nigeria, and other glimpses into Johnson’s 25-year career. The documentary runs deep and lends a glimpse into the rarely seen perspective of the filmographer as the main subject. Previously Kirsten Johnson has received a Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography award: U.S Documentary for The Oath (2010) that told the story of Osama Bin Laden’s driver, Abu Jandal. She was the cinematographer for Citizen Four (2014), which was the documentary that told the story of Edward Snowden, a previous employee of the NSA. Cameraperson was released on September 9 2016.

What documentaries have you watched? Let us know in the comments below!

Review: Me Before You

Based on the best selling novel, Me Before You tells the story of Louisa Clarke, a recently unemployed, self proclaimed ‘fashionista’ whose family relies on her having an income. After taking on a job of a companion to the wealthy Will Traynor, who is paralyzed from the waist down, Clarke finds her priorities change.

At first glance, the film is what it is marketed to be; a romantic flick meant to be enjoyed on a girls night out or with a significant other; a box of tissues on one side and a tub of ice cream on the other. Yes, it is a tear jerker. And although Emilia Clarke’s bright smile and over active eyebrows will keep you preoccupied for most of the film, what lies underneath is a problem most audiences will be unaware of. Let me break it down for you:

It’s no doubt that Me Before You is a film about disability and assisted suicide. This is troubling enough but is made worse by the fact that it uses a non-disabled actor (Sam Claflin) in the role of a quadriplegic. Claflin’s studly posture, even if on a wheelchair, and swoon-worthy smile may make him an obvious choice for the part, however, many are criticizing the decision. Thus, similar to the #OscarsSoWhite movement, a non-disabled actor playing the role of a quadriplegic is causing a stir on social media.

Here’s the thing: there is a big difference between actual human people having feelings about their actual lives and experiences of disability and a fictionalized account written by someone who isn’t disabled. The problem is the film heavily romanticizes very problematic stereotypes about disability. It’s important to criticize and be aware of the fact that the non-disabled media heavily over-represents disability discourses that fit into ableist stereotypes, which makes it harder for the viewer to differentiate between the feelings of individuals and the experiences and feelings of all disabled people.

And while some may argue that the purpose of the movie was to give fans a treat by bringing the best selling novel to life, the depth and meaning was evidently lost in the making. The conversation on paralysis was overshadowed by more marketable things such as unconventional relationships, bucket lists, and awkward love triangles. It’s still a pleasure to watch, no doubt, but expect no more than some eye candy and lines you wish your significant other would say to you, but never will.

Rating: 6.5/10

Did you watch Me Before You? Tell us what you thought in the comments below! 

FAT fashion transcends gender and culture definitions

“Please be seated. The show will begin in five minutes.”

I sat down in my front-row seats — which I sneaked into after certain sponsors decided not to show up — excited to experience the world of high-fashion. The blaring bass pounded as the music started up and the models started to walk down the runway in their high heels and strategically placed outfits. The confidence these men and women exuded while on the runway was varied — there may have been some amateur models in the mix, but everyone did well and there were no falls. Each day was different, with various performers gracing the stage and designers showcasing their beautiful pieces of art.

Fashion Art Week (FAT) is a week-long annual event that features live performances, art installations, and, of course, fashion shows and film. I attended three of the five nights and was incredibly impressed. Some of the outfits were not my taste, but it was fascinating to see how each designer interpreted this year’s theme: “Dress Codes.”

The theme was meant to express how fashion plays a role in a person’s identity and culture. The models strutting down the runway were both male and female, wearing an assortment of outfits that may, or may not, have met the stereotypical definition of what a man and a woman should be wearing. The designs transcended these gender definitions, and this proved quite refreshing. Men walked down the runway in heels, women went barefoot, and everyone modelled the lingerie.

Tuesday night’s ode to Bowie was especially memorable. The collection was designed by Evan Biddell, a Saskatoon-born designer and entitled “Rebel”, a fitting label for the show. Now, I call it a show because with the lights and background music (a compilation of Bowie’s greatest hits), full makeup and ziggy-esque outfits, it was quite the remembrance. There was no better way to represent this year’s theme then to acknowledge Bowie’s brave and iconic representation of sexuality.

Some of my favourite designers displayed a more casual collection. Designer Sun Sun, for example, used the slogan “Custom Androgynous Comfortable Clothing for anyone” to describe her collection. The designs were much more urban and the fabrics chosen were patterned black and white. Above everything else, the models had fun walking down the runway. Most smiled, struck poses, and literally bounced to the beat as they strutted. It probably helped that they were all wearing flat shoes. Friday night featured Padina Bondar, a Toronto-based designer whose work centers around the female reproduction system. It sounds a bit disturbing, but it was actually quite beautiful. The dresses were absolutely breathtaking, and I found myself sitting at the edge of my seat to see how they would make pregnancy and menstruation into such a work of art.

Every designer showcased something quite different and unique, which ultimately was what this year’s theme was all about: fashion isn’t gendered, rather it’s expressive of personality, creativity, and individuality.

Despite the long wait between shows, I enjoyed my time at FAT. What I loved most was the creative atmosphere. Guests would walk up to each other and compliment their outfits (most said they made them themselves), asking what colour of lipstick they were sporting, and cheering loudly after each performance. After speaking with some of the designers and guests, most said this was the biggest difference between FAT and Toronto Fashion Week — the atmosphere and the focus on art and photography as an element of fashion.

What about the fashion trends? Here are some of the observations from the night:

  • Pastels are just as popular as bold colours: About half of the designers chose to use light-coloured fabrics or pastel themes. There were a lot of whites, pinks, and light blues. There was an understated elegance in these collections. In contrast, most of the lingerie was darker and bolder.
  • Short in the front, long in the back: Many of the skirts and dresses had a flowing silhouette or a sheer train that followed the “short in the front and longer in the back” mantra. Personally, I loved the movement this type of design created.
  • Texture is our friend: Bold jewellery and chunky designs was a recurring motif throughout the week. Crinoline was used to give the shorter dresses some pouf while bows, flowers, and belts were used to provide texture on seemingly normal black dresses. It’s all about the accessories ladies.

To be honest, my favourite part about covering FAT was dressing up myself. As someone who works in an office most of the day, my typical office-wear includes a nice pair of pants and a light top/cardigan combination. This gave me the opportunity to test some of the lesser-used tops in my closet, including a flowing butterfly shawl with tassel and my dark purple lipstick.

 

What do you think of these designs? Let us know in the comments below!

Power Plant art gallery takes on climate change

I decided to take my daughter down to the waterfront and visit the Power Plant to see their current exhibitions exploring themes of climate change and identity across a changing urban landscape.

The Power Plant Art Gallery (231 Queens Quay West) is located on the Harbourfront and showcases several exhibitions around a variety of themes. Currently, there are four exhibitions in the art gallery ranging from black moths decorating the walls to looping video footage of Hollywood.

DSC_0409

Upon walking into the gallery, Mexico City artist Carlos Amorles’ Black Cloud covers the walls and ceiling. About 30,000 black moths spread across the white landscape created an eerie and fragile image. The moths are symbolic of the transformation of the animal in the post-industrialist world. Prior to industrialism in England, moths were light in colour. When coal factories began creating high levels of pollution, black moths began appearing in the landscape.

The moths are indicative of the transformation of nature and space in a post-industrialist world. From a viewer’s perspective, the moths also look like black mold or an invasive species in the exhibit from afar. This is a subtle, but powerful comment on the effect of industrialization on the world.

The exhibition directly relates to the history of the Power Plant gallery as well. The art space was once an actual power plant for refrigeration and heating equipment for the Toronto Terminal Warehouse and was turned into an art gallery in 1987. It originally housed coal, which makes it a fitting venue for Black Cloud.

DSC_0429

The second exhibit, The Political Nightfall by Aude Moreau, points strongly towards climate change and the development of the urban landscape. This art show focuses on a film reel on a loop, showcasing footage from Los Angeles to the Hollywood studios at night. It was shot from a helicopter and seems to move backwards between large and ominous downtown buildings. The buildings are very dark and it cuts out the light of the rest of the L.A landscape as you get further into the downtown sphere.

The footage reaches the twin buildings of the City National Plaza and spells out in the windows, “THE END.” A score of dark theatrical music plays in the background. The film represented the ever-looming presence of the large buildings that seem to block you from viewing the truth or even life itself. The screen becomes quite dark and instead of showing a scene teeming with life as one expects from a city landscape, it does quite the opposite. The city and its multinational corporations becomes the death of civilization.

Art has the ability to show the truth in subtle and profound ways, as both Amorles and Moreau achieve in their own creative mediums. In both cases, their exploration on climate change is fearful and dark, but it also demonstrates an honest portrayal of the future of humankind if we continue to live in the landscape that ignores the environment.