The Art of Flying Solo

For the longest time, I was almost afraid to do things by myself. Stuff like going to the movies or concerts, even eating out – it just seemed weird to do it alone. It’s like we were raised in a society to think that we have to do things with other people, like it is somehow not normal. You feel as if you’re being judged for wanting to be alone and taking on a social experience by yourself. For me, self-consciousness would set in. I’ve never been a sociable person to begin with, so to be honest, I really shouldn’t care what other people think (especially complete strangers),  but that’s what happens. (I see the irony of being somewhat anti-social, when I was in fact, a sociology major in university.)

Pair that with the fact that I don’t have very many friends and the ones I do have sometimes have different tastes in music/movies than I do, or their entertainment budgets are less than mine, I didn’t have much of a choice but to start going to things by myself. It was the rare occasion at first: a movie every once in a while and then I slowly moved up to concerts.

The first concert I ever went to solo was Kelly Clarkson in 2012. For the life of me, I had yet to see my favourite female artist in concert. My friends do not share the same affection for Kelly Clarkson as I do, but I didn’t want to miss her coming through town again. I went back and forth about it for a long time, when about a week before the concert, I just said “F**k it” and got myself a ticket to go see Kelly. What happened at a result of that? I got Floor ticket, 2nd row from the stage. I WAS SO CLOSE TO KELLY! It felt weird in the before and after of the concert, but when I was in the venue, and just being there seeing my favourite singer perform, nothing else mattered.

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See? I was SO CLOSE!

In 2013, Sara Bareilles embarked on a solo tour she called the “Brave Enough” tour, where it was just her performing with no band behind her. If you’ve read her interviews around this tour or read her book, this was a big deal. My sign of solidarity for her was being brave enough to go to the show myself.

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Sara Bareilles, Brave Enough Tour (April 2013)

And after that? Well, I still went to the majority of concerts with friends. But when it became apparent that it was getting more difficult to plan outings like this (considering the costs especially), I started to say “the hell with it” and went to even more shows and concerts by myself. Kris Allen, Shaping Sound, Jessie J, The Script, So You Think You Can Dance, David Cook – all shows that I went to solo in the past year and a half.

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What I found was that, though I love having the company of my friends, it’s sometimes just so much easier to go do things solo. I don’t have to coordinate plans with anyone, consider anyone else’s wants/needs. I can go on my own accord, schedule my day however I want to, and then lose myself in the music/dance/movie/environment for 2 hours. On top of that, lately I’ve been more sure of myself (which really, at 28, seems like a long time coming). When I went to the SYTYCD tour in January of this year, my purpose was to meet Jessica ‘JJ’ Rabone, whom I love and adore because she’s also a Paris By Night dancer. The show was at Hamilton Place, a venue I didn’t go to often so I had to do my research ahead of time to figure out where the stage door was. After the show, I asked around to see how I could meet the dancers and the answer was pretty much “You have to be an invited guest.” I was determined and not taking that for an answer, so I walked around the building, making my way to stage door and just as I got there, one of the crew members was walking by and I asked her “Is this where I can meet the dancers?” She’s like “Yeah, come on in!” directing me and a small group of people who had also waited, back inside. Next thing I knew, I was inside the theatre with all those ‘invited guests’ and brought to meet the dancers! Made my way straight to JJ, who I had tweeted earlier that I was going to find a way to meet her, and had a nice little conversation with her! I probably wouldn’t have been able to do all that had I gone with a friend, because I know they wouldn’t want to and I’d feel bad if I made them do it (I’m selfless like that). Plus, ya know as years go by, it gets weirder going to the tour and the majority of the dancers are younger than me.

Same thing when I went to Toronto Comic Con in March. I only went on Saturday because that’s when everybody I wanted to see had their panels. It just worked out beautifully that I had time between each panel to roam the floor a bit. My schedule was: Killjoys panel, roam the floor, Will Friedle panel, floor for 20 minutes then head back in line to ensure I get a ticket for Dark Matter signing, Dark Matter panel, Dark Matter signing, Robbie Amell panel, floor, home. I could only do that here in Toronto and by myself; no way would I be able to do that at SDCC! So yeah, before the Dark Matter panel, I noticed Kristian Bruun from Orphan Black so I went to say hi to him, talk to him for a bit, and get a picture. At Robbie’s panel, Italia Ricci (Chasing Life, Supergirl) was also there, because they’re just an adorable couple. Anyways, after the panel I was about to leave when I thought “Let’s go see Italia!” Lots of other people had that thought as well, so there was a small group around her asking for a picture. When I got to her, I talked to her about Chasing Life and how excited I am about her new show Designated Survivor with Kiefer Sutherland, Kal Penn, and one of my other favourite human beings, Maggie Q. At the end of the day, I gotta say, I was super proud of myself for keeping my awkwardness in check in front of Kristian, Italia, and the Dark Matter cast (even when Melissa O’Neil and Anthony Lemke said they remembered me from SDCC)!

And going to the movies solo? Yeah, it’s a normal thing for me now. Like, for some of the big blockbuster movies, I used to wait and go see it with my sister and brother-in-law. I still do that for some movies, but for others, I just couldn’t wait for them so I would just go on my own. It’s to the point where, when I went to see Captain America: Civil War on the Thursday preview (because I REALLY COULD NOT WAIT), my sister was like “Yeah, I kinda figured you’d go without us.” For the record, they still haven’t found time to go see it, so yeah, I made the right choice.

Like I said before, I get so awkward and self-conscious in social situations that it kind of stopped me from doing things that I wanted to do sometimes. But nowadays, realizing that it’s perfectly fine to do things by yourself, and in fact, at times even better to do so? Well, the world is at your disposal, might as well go enjoy it! Honestly though, I’m still learning to be more self-assured, to basically be who I am and enjoy the things around me. I’m seeing now, more than ever, that it’s okay to be alone. I’m independent, I don’t need anybody else to do anything.

Favourites of 2015

Getting this in on the last day of the year! I like to take part with my version of the usual best-of lists/year-end recaps, which is basically just a list of my favourites from the past year. It is in no particular order at all. It is what it is.

ALBUMS

  1. PENTATONIX, Pentatonix
  2. KELLY CLARKSON, Piece by Piece
  3. ADELE, 25
  4. MATT NATHANSON, Show Me Your Fangs
  5. TORI KELLY, Unbreakable Smile
  6. JAMES BAY, Chaos and the Calm
  7. JOY WILLIAMS, Venus
  8. HAMILTON Soundtrack
  9. DAVID COOK, Digital Vein
  10. SARA BAREILLES, What’s Inside – Songs from Waitress

Some of my favourites released some truly good albums this year that I haven’t stopped listening to. 2015 also brought on new favourites in Tori Kelly and James Bay, plus Joy Williams’ first solo effort since The Civil Wars ended. And of course, there was Hamilton; how I wish I could witness it in all its glory, but I’ll have to settle for hearing the soundtrack on repeat.

SONGS

  1. JANET JACKSON, BURNITUP! ft. Missy Elliott
  2. MISSY ELLIOTT, WTF (Where They From) ft. Pharrell
  3. JOJO, Save My Soul
  4. ROZZI CRANE, Crazy Ass Bitch
  5. BRITTANY CAIRNS, Everybody’s Got That Something
  6. JUSSIE SMOLLETT & YAZZ, No Apologies
  7. DEMI LOVATO, Confident
  8. SELENA GOMEZ, Same Old Love
  9. NICK JONAS, Levels

Outside of all the songs I loved on my favourite albums this year, there were these songs. First of all, the return of Missy Elliott! I would’ve been fine with just the feature on Janet’s song, but then she released “WTF, which is just so classic Missy. Also, the return of JoJo who was in record label limbo for so long; she came back with an EP that was a nice re-introduction to her and I can’t wait for what’s next. I loved a lot of the songs that came out of Empire, but my favourite of the bunch is definitely “No Apologies” which fuses the rap, hip-hop and R&B so well. I have to say that I’m actually quite impressed with what Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez did this year on their respective albums; they’ve really come into their own as music artists.

NEW TV SHOWS

  1. iZombie
  2. Fresh Off the Boat
  3. Agent Carter
  4. 12 Monkeys
  5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  6. Daredevil
  7. Dark Matter
  8. Killjoys
  9. UnREAL
  10. Empire
  11. Master of None

SO MANY TV SHOWS!!! These were by far my absolute new favourites of the year. There were also shows I enjoyed like Limitless and Quantico, as well as shows I haven’t had time to watch yet like Jessica Jones.

RETURNING TV SHOWS

  1. The Flash
  2. You’re the Worst
  3. Jane the Virgin
  4. Agents of SHIELD
  5. Orphan Black
  6. The Americans
  7. Outlander
  8. Arrow
  9. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  10. Survivor

These are the shows that are still tops for me, though there are a whole other bunch that are just below these ones that I still really like to watch.

SHOWS THAT ENDED/GOT CANCELLED

  1. Parks and Recreation
  2. Hart of Dixie
  3. Parenthood
  4. Chasing Life
  5. Graceland
  6. Hindsight

The first three shows came to their natural end, the other three were abruptly cancelled (or in the case of Hindsight, renewed then cancelled – thanks a lot, VH1). Either way, it sucks.

MOVIES

  1. Dope
  2. The Martian
  3. The DUFF
  4. The Last Five Years
  5. Brooklyn
  6. Spotlight
  7. Ex-Machina
  8. Cinderella
  9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  10. Inside Out

Mind you, there are A LOT of other movies I still haven’t seen yet, so this is a very small sampling.

So that’s that, my favourites of the past year! I hope you all had a wonderful pop culture filled year, and here’s to more fun in 2016!

TIFF 2015 Wrap-Up

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Another year of the Toronto International Film Festival has come and gone. Per usual, there were a lot of movies that I wanted to see but not enough time to see them. Also, with not actually living in Toronto, there’s really only so much time I can commit to the fest. However, I did manage to get in seven movies (beating my previous record of six) during the three days I did make it out.

My first day (Saturday) consisted of the premieres for About Ray and Maggie’s Plan. About Ray stars Elle Fanning as Ray, a transgender teen preparing to transition from a girl to a boy. The focus is rightly on Ray, but the film is also very much about Maggie, Ray’s mother (played by Naomi Watts), as she comes to terms with her past in order to give Ray the future he wants. As timely as the film is, I enjoyed the fact the movie wasn’t preachy as can sometimes happen given the subject matter. After a quick dinner break, it was time to line-up for my second movie of the night, Maggie’s Plan. In the six years that I’ve gone to the festival, the weather has always been decent. On this day, I got stuck in the pouring rain and it got increasingly cold and windy as we were waiting in line to get in (didn’t help either that the movie/post-Q&A was running long). Anyways, Maggie’s Plan (heh I just realized the coincidence between my two movies of the day) stars Greta Gerwig as the title character, who has decided to have a child via sperm donor Around the same time she meets John (Ethan Hawke) and ends up in an odd love triangle with him and his wife Georgette (Julianne Moore). It’s a rom-com, sort of in the vein of Woody Allen with all its quirks. Overall, just an okay movie for me, nothing spectacular. I do have to mention though that I’m incredibly proud of the fact that both movies are written and directed by females.

ABOUT RAY premiere (L-R): Susan Sarandon, Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, director Gaby Dellal

ABOUT RAY premiere
(L-R): Susan Sarandon, Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, director Gaby Dellal

MAGGIE'S PLAN premiere (L-R): Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke, Greta Gerwig, writer-director Rebecca Miller

MAGGIE’S PLAN premiere
(L-R): Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke, Greta Gerwig, writer-director Rebecca Miller

Sunday was another two premieres. The first was Desierto, the latest film directed and written by Jonas Cuaron. The film follows a group of Mexicans (led by Gael Garcia Bernal) as they attempt to cross the border into the United States, but are met by a vigilante (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) determined to take down all these “intruders.” What follows is an intense game of cat and mouse, where survival really is everything. The movie was very much an intense thriller, so basic in concept, but wrought with emotions, thrills, and more blood than I expected. Followed one intense movie with another, this time being Florian Gallenberger’s Colonia. The film follows Lena and Daniel (played by Emma Watson and Daniel Bruhl), a young couple caught in the midst of a military coup in Chile in the 1970s. When Daniel gets arrested and is sent to a secret cult camp, Lena infiltrates the camp in order to do the impossible – find Daniel and get out. It is such an incredible story, based on true events during the Cold War, that is part love story, part political drama, and part thriller – which amazingly enough, works.

DESIERTO premiere with Gael Garcia Bernal and writer-director Jonas Cuaron. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was there, but could not stay for the Q&A.

DESIERTO premiere with Gael Garcia Bernal and writer-director Jonas Cuaron. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was there, but could not stay for the Q&A.

COLONIA premiere with cast and crew, including Daniel Bruhl. Emma Watson was unable to attend as she was filming a new movie in LA with Tom Hanks (so I guess that's alright lol)

COLONIA premiere with cast and crew, including Daniel Bruhl. Emma Watson was unable to attend as she was filming a new movie in LA with Tom Hanks (so I guess that’s alright lol)

I didn’t get back to the festival until the following Saturday and I did something I swore I wasn’t going to do again: see three movies in one day. The last time I saw three movies in a day at TIFF, I was so drained by the end, and that was with breaks in between the movies to eat and whatnot. This year, I decided to do a crazy thing and not only go see the 3-in-1, but they were back-to-back-to-back. The time in between the movies (an hour) were mostly spent waiting in line for the next one or walking around the vicinity of the TIFF Lightbox and Princess of Wales theatre (where I saw all three) to stretch before getting in line. Anyways, I realized the error of my ways the last time was that all the movies I saw were pretty (and increasingly) dramatic. So key to doing multiple movie days – variety.

The first of my three movies of the day was Our Brand is Crisis, starring Sandra Bullock as Jane Bodine, a political consultant who is hired by a Bolivian presidential candidate. The movie is a fictionalized, Hollywood version of similar events that actually occurred in Bolivia in 2002. It was very much a political dramedy, in that even with all the serious political stuff going on in the film, there was a lot of humour in it. The second movie of my day was The Danish Girl, which had been getting a lot of buzz about it for Eddie Redmayne’s amazing performance as Lili Elbe, the first person known to have gender reassignment surgery. As deserving as Redmayne is for the recognition of his performance, Alicia Vikander is absolutely incredible as Gerda, the wife of Einar Wegener, who struggles but ultimately supports her husband’s desire to be Lili. I’m saying this now: It will be an absolute travesty is Vikander does not get proper awards recognition (meaning Best Actress, not Supporting like some believe she will be categorized) for her performance here. My final movie was the Fest’s Closing Night film: Mr. Right. The movie is sort of a dark action-comedy starring Anna Kendrick as Martha, an unlucky in love girl who meets and falls for Sam Rockwell’s hitman Francis. I thought it was kind of a weird movie for Closing Night, but regardless, I loved it. It was a lot of fun and kind of weird in a good way. Plus, the introduction to the movie by director Paco Cabezas, writer Max Landis, and the cast was one of my favourite moments from the Festival, as Landis led the entire theatre to a sing-a-long of Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” for no reason at all – and it was wonderful.

MR. RIGHT premiere (L-R): Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Michael Eklund, director Paco Cabezas, writer Max Landis

MR. RIGHT premiere
(L-R): Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Michael Eklund, director Paco Cabezas, writer Max Landis

 

Dance Movie Reviews – Step Up: All In & Make Your Move

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for dance movies. To be fair, I’m actually a sucker for good dance in general. I don’t know what got me interested in dance in the first place when I was a little kid, but it led me to joining my high school dance team (which has now been ages ago). These days I’m just a huge dance fan, with my occasional moments of dancing in my car and dreaming up choreography to songs when I listen to them.

Dance movies are by no means the best movies in the world, but I love watching them. They’re a nice distraction and the dancing’s always amazing. So anyways, I finally got around to watching two dance movies that were released last year, Make Your Move and Step Up: All In.

Make Your Move stars Derek Hough (of Dancing With the Stars) and Korean pop star BoA as Donny and Aya, two dancers caught between their feuding brothers. It’s a Romeo and Juliet set-up that ultimately makes everything feel very forced in its attempt to be more than a generic film. I was initially excited about the movie for a few reasons: 1) Derek Hough, who is such an amazingly talented dancer and choreographer; 2) NappyTabs were one of the main choreographers; and 3) They filmed it in Toronto. Unfortunately, I was excited for nothing. While most times the dancing is enough to make you forget about the plot and even the acting, this was one of the rare times where I found everything else to be more distracting than the dancing. There was promise in the dancing (or at least you’d hope so, since it is a DANCE movie), with a tap and hip-hop fusion, mixed in with taiko drumming – that was what made it unique. To me, it seemed like there wasn’t enough dancing, especially of the fusion dances. The main feature is that Donny and Aya’s brothers, played by Wesley Jonathan and Will Yun Lee, each have their own clubs, which allows for there to be a stage for our aspiring dancers to perform. Giving them a platform to dance obviously works, even if it is a convenient story device. It’s when they start doing the intricate choreography off the stage as part of their everyday life that it starts to fall apart. There’s the obligatory “love connection” dance scene (you know that one where the two leads realize there’s a deeper connection beyond dance), wherein Donny and Aya start doing some contemporary hip-hop around his place. The scene feels forced, scripted and choreographed, not the least bit natural at all. It also doesn’t help either that, try as they may, there’s no chemistry between Derek and BoA. Honestly, the script itself was an uninspired mess, filled with typical dance movie dialogue that there was nothing anybody could do to elevate it out of generic territory.

Step Up: All In is the fifth movie in the series, and at this point is more or less of the same. Watching this movie, it’s crazy to think that it all started with the original Step Up starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan; it just seems so different. Here, The Mob (the crew from Step Up Revolution) are struggling in their attempt to make a career in Los Angeles, especially when another crew, The Grim Knights are booking all the gigs. Feeling that they’re just not cut out for L.A., everybody except Sean packs up their bags and heads back to Miami. When Sean finds out about a dance competition called The Vortex, he sees it as one last chance at his dance dream and with the help of Moose, assembles another crew (LMNTRIX) comprised of dancers from previous Step Up installments to compete. There’s a tiny twist with The Mob entering the competition, but you essentially know what it’s all leading up to – LMNTRIX vs. The Grim Knights. When you get five movies into a series, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that not all the installments are on the same level. While Revolution actually felt like it was trying something different in terms of storytelling, in addition to all the dance sequences, All In lived up to its title by mixing in everything/anything it could from the first four movies and see if it worked. It ended up being a little derivative and no standout dance sequence from what seemed like not very many. At the very least, the movie serves as a good feature for all the SYTYCD alums: tWitch, Marko, Comfort, Cyrus, Tony Bellissimo, Phillip Chbeeb, Emilio Dosal, Jayme Rae & Jenny Dailey, Vincent Poirier, Janick Arseneau.

Basically at the end of the day, I didn’t really like either of the movies. Both felt very bland and predictable, with nothing really spectacular about it to make you want to watch it again. I’m just a little disappointed that they weren’t better than the ended up being. So I’m just gonna go back and watch Center Stage/Step Up/Take the Lead for the millionth time.

5 Fandom Friday: Things I’ve Bought But Haven’t Read/Watched

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This week’s 5 Fandom Friday was actually quite easy for me because I have a terrible habit of buying books and movies with every intention of reading/watching them, but it takes FOREVER for me to actually get around to doing it. I would go massively over the five if I listed everything I haven’t read or watched so instead it’s going to be a simple two: the books and the movies.

1.) Books

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Some of the books I’ve bought and have not read…

I love reading, always have. Heck, I used to work at the library! What I have found lately though is that TV continuously wins over my time, so the only instances when I actually have a chance to read is when I’m traveling. Still doesn’t explain how I managed to read numerous books while I was in school, but I digress. Anyways, I’ve made a commitment to myself that I will get to reading these books that I’ve bought over the years. Not to mention the number of E-books I have too.

2.) Movies

The movies I've bought but haven't watched...

The movies I’ve bought but haven’t watched…

There’s a small chain of stores around where I live called The Beat Goes On, and they buy/sell used CDs and DVDs. Needless to say, it’s kind of my heaven – it feeds my need for new music and movies, but cheaper than going to an HMV or Wal-Mart (most of the time anyways). So that being said, I often find myself going there and picking up movies I find interesting or older movies I haven’t seen, it’s cheap, and then it ends up just sitting on my shelf. When I went through my collection to see what movies I hadn’t actually seen, I actually thought it was gonna be a lot more. Now, if I were to take a picture of the movies I had seen previously (in theatres, on TV, etc) and then bought the DVD but hadn’t watched the DVD copy, it would’ve been a much bigger pile. I don’t necessarily have time to watch everything, but I like having my collection for when I suddenly feel the urge to watch something.

For comparison's sake, my DVD collection

For comparison’s sake, my DVD collection

So that’s me, big collector of things that I have not made time for. I am terrible.