Monday, December 29, 2014


So I'm having this weird kind of affair with Rob Marshall. It's been short yet intense and it has led me to others but neither one of us are upset by that

Yeh, let's clear this up

Rob Marshall is a movie director. I have seen four of his movies. Three of them have been musicals. Two of those musicals were my first exposure to stage musicals, one of which I later saw on stage. The third musical is, I believe, an original movie and it led me nowhere

Rob Marshall's film version of Chicago is one of the best contemporary movie musicals. Yes, even better than the film adaptation of Les Miz. I saw the movie a couple of times, enjoyed both viewings tremendously and last year, finally saw the stage version here in Toronto. I enjoyed the play very much and I still love the movie.

See, I saw Les Miz on stage maybe five times before I saw the movie. I had not seen the stage version for a long time and I enjoyed the movie. We saw the new Toronto staging of Les Miz about a year after seeing the movie. I sort of remember the movie. It's like that

Rob Marshall's movie Nine is a musical version of the Fellini film. I never much cared for Fellini and, with the exception of one or two musical numbers in Nine, didn't much care for that either. If it became a stage production maybe I'd see it but motivation would not be strong

Last night Collette and I went to see Rob Marshall's movie Into The Woods. It's based upon a rather famous Stephen Soundheim musical which I've never seen. I've seen a stage version of A Little Night Music which I enjoyed and stage and movie version of A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum both of which I adored

Oh yeh, he also did something called Westside Story. Only ever saw the movie. It works.

But I have never seen the stage version of Into the Woods and knew very little about it. When I saw the trailers for the movie I didn't even realize that it was a musical. Isn't it interesting how they seem to hide that

Collette and I are quite fond of reworking fairy tales and have seen many movies and TV shows (Once Upon A Time, Maleficent, Snow White and the Huntsman to name a few) and enjoy the idiom So off we went, into the woods

I can only speak about the movie version here. I understand that changes were made from the stage play (often there are) but I can't comment to that

What we saw I loved. This movie does more than twist your favorite fairy tales. It's funny, it's dark, it's hilarious, it's harsh, it's at times even moving. It's a rather complicated plot to unravel but all your faves are here: Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunsel. How they come together and fall apart is usually surprising and very entertaining

The score is very strong, the lyrics are clever and insightful and compelling; there are no songs here likely to be made into pop versions but the melodies still work, tying themselves together in some surprising ways

This is more operetta style, with the bulk of the dialogue expressed as song. There are a couple of show stoppers; Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen as a pair of prince brothers pretty much steal the show and there is a lovely and moving foursome with two adults and the two children in the cast

There are some big names in the cast: Johnny Depp as the Wolf does his Johnny Depp thing, being appropriately creepy and displaying a quite serviceable voice. Meryl Streep has a solid voice and has some strong moments but her Wicked Witch character is, a times, a bit muddled. And Tracy Allman is Tracy Allman and that is always good.

Emily Blunt and James Corben, as married bakers whose story is at the heart of the stories are very very good, Corben in particular displays a broad range from comedy to empathy, always remaining steadily in character

For me, the revelation in the cast is Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. She has a voice as good as many stage performers I've seen and her performance is rock solid. Her Cinderella is a transformative character of course but Kendrick uses her skill as an actor, more than her wardrobe, to express these changes

This will not be a film for everyone. It's point is to challenge you and it does so. Soundheim piles his lyrics into his meters and you better pay attention. But it's funny as hell, it's unpredictable and it gives you much to think about

It's dangerous in the woods. And it's also pretty damn entertaining

Monday, December 8, 2014


I have wishes for fishes under the sea,
in clear blue water
into which nobody pees

I have wishes for fishes, any kinds that swim,
the wrigglers and squirmers
and the selfish ones who proclaim "Don't eat me, eat him!"

All of the critters under the sea
the kelp and the jellies and the
cute anemones

I have wishes for fishes
and all of their kin,
wishes for the ocean
into which I'll now jump in

Ripley's Aquarium, Dec 2014 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Tom Stoppard is a clever playwrite. His play, Arcadia, now showing at the Royal Alexandria Theatre in Toronto, is a very cleaver play

It is a story set in one location, a luxurious country estate in Britain, but told simultaneously in two different time periods, with several characters and the story covers a wide breadth of topics: Math, art, romanticism, humanism, Byron, Newton, love, madness, calculus, Latin, history and the quest for the perfect English garden

The story follows two groups of characters who occupy Sidley Park, one group in the early 1800's and the other group in our time. All of the characters, or at least the majority of them, could be considered intellectuals and as such they love to talk. And talk. And talk

Well, that is what intellectuals do, talk. And write. And the writing is one of the ways that the two time periods become interconnected. A bad book of poetry, a series of letters illustrating inappropriate dalliances (much like those photo's on Facebook some people come to regret) and a Game Book, whose prosaic recording of who shot what on which day leads one contemporary character to ponder if Lord Byron did something very very bad at Sidley Park

Art is a prominent theme in the play, as is science particularly math. Newton is not an active character in the play but his presence is well felt, especially in the Victorian storyline, where a precocious young woman and her tutor debate the aspect of god in Newtonian science, the perfection of a leaf and how that may or may not be expressed.

Some of the characters disdain science and see it as the anathema of art where others (one of the contemporary characters is a physicist) so the art in science. Love and sex is tangled up in all of it and it tangles the progress of both, while it equally inspires it

Yes, there's a lot going on in this play. It is a play of ideals. And sometimes that can be ... one of the greatest insults when appraising art ... interesting. Being clever can be a very temporal thing, you appreciate it at the moment, even admire it, but it can quickly slip away. For me, it does not always make the best art, particularly in the form of theatre

Arcadia is indeed clever but it is much more than that. One of the things that saves the play from being too  precious are the characters. Thomasina, the teenage savant in the 1800's is particularly striking; precocious, brilliant, stubborn, frustrating, there is a wistfulness about her charcter: A young woman, even one of the upper class who can be exposed to intellectual pursuits but who may never find the opportunity to express them. In the contemporary timeline there is Bernard, the pursuer of Byron and a maddeningly smug intellectual with no patience for science or rational thought and who can find all that he needs in the most subtle turn of phrase.

What really saves Arcadia, and lifts it from an enjoyable intellectual exercise to a completely fulfilling experience is the humour. The play is  just flat out funny. From dry and informed references to science and art, to slapstick physical comedy to not all subtle sexual innuendo, I found myself laughing out loud more times than I can recall

Arcadia is an ensemble piece and all of the actors aquit themselves well. Of particular note are Kate Besworth as Thomasina, Patrick McManus as Bernard and Dianna Donneelly as Hanna, often Bernard's foil and a hunter of her own mysteries

The staging is simple, a single room in the manor house through which all the characters pass, often at the same time, regardless of their own individual time periods. At one point, in the contemporary setting, the characters are holding a costume party and it becomes intentionally muddy about which time we are actually watching unfold

Stoppard wants to talk about a lot of big issues here and he has some penchant things to say about them but he is smart enough to understand that this is a story, not a lecture, and a story needs to be compelling. By showing that his intellectuals are equally capable of fucking up their love lives as they are discussing Newtonian ideals, he keeps us compelled.

Arcadia, not too clever by half, but fully watchable

Friday, November 28, 2014


Which is worse ...

The fact that thousands of people are ditching work, shirking responsibility, expecting others at their work places to pick up their slack and potentially causing their employers money, just to shop on Black Friday?

Or people lining up for hours, jostling, insulting, sometimes physically assaulting each other, just to shop on Black Friday?

Or that media outlets are making front page, lead story, chopper in the air visuals of people ditching work, assaulting each other, just to shop on Black Friday?

Or perhaps this is worse ...

In Uganda, Africa, every day is Black Friday

Yeh, I went there

Deal with it

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Once we fought wars.

They were not our wars but willingly we went. For another country, for an ideal, for the adventure. We went.

They were great wars. They were fought for reasons we often did not understand. For reasons rarely, if ever, fully explained to us. At the time did we care. Would it have made a difference. There was a war to be fought, there was manhood to prove there was a chance to go away to get away to be Over There

We went.

We went and the reality hit us. So different from the stories and the songs and psalms. Reality was the singular earthy metallic fecund smell of the trenches; the particular shade of black that blood becomes when spattered across a moonlit beach; that last flicker of light, so real yet so ephemeral, that is the life flickering away in the eyes of your best friend

We went.

We cut ourselves on the barbed wire, we crawled across the bodies of our brothers on the beach, we huddled, snot freezing to the point of pain on our faces on the winter reservoir.

We listened to our commanders, often speaking to us in the clipped accent of another country, as they ordered us to charge the guns, the cannons the machine guns, over and over. Over and over. Until we could barely leap over the bodies of the dead and we knew where the guns were because of the redness of the glowing hot barrels.

We stood on the docks of the harbour in Hong Kong as the commanders sailed away with the soldiers of the their own countries, hearing the enemy breaking over the hills, knowing we could do naught but drop our guns and wait for the shackles to fit our wrists

We went.

We fought and we died and we were captured and we marched and we questioned the orders and we pondered the reasons but we moved forward. Always forward. Street to street, house house, trench to trench, ocean to ocean.

We went.

We were taught our place. We were permitted to glimpse a glimmer of the plan to be allowed to feel a part of it. A small part of it. But never asked to really understand. Never expected to do anything but to go forward, to advance, to pour ourselves into the breach, over the berm, across the harbour.

To fight.

And we fought. We always fought. And others knew that we fought, they saw that we did. They gave us names. They shook their heads. They knew that we would fight. They knew we break down the doors, leap up on to the tanks, stand on the decks of the ships and fire. They knew that we would fight.

We went.

Now we do not fight wars. We are involved in actions, in missions, in conflicts. We are asked to do things that police officers should do. We are asked to eradicate the enemy but not be seen to kill them. We are asked not to fight but to complete the mission.

Once we fought wars.

Wars have ended, wars have changed, wars are more clearly the mechanism of politicians.

But still.

We go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


It's the zombie apocalypse! With a marching band! And Mickey Mouse!

No wait .. it's Toronto's annual Zombie Crawl. Thousands of zombies gathered at City Hall but the ravenous undead realized they would starve at that location .. ain't many brains at city hall

So they gathered themselves and began to shamble through the city, seeking  brains (and this being Toronto) lattes.

Organic and fan based, this event has grown over the years. I don't really know why people dress up as zombies and lurch through the streets. Yes, it's close to Halloween. And zombies are as popular, if not more so, than ever before.

The degree of effort and work put into these costumes always astonishes me. Anyone, apparently, is ripe to be zombified. Mickey Mouse, Batman, Elvis ... and creatures I can't even describe. People are into this, to put it mildly.

And not just costumes, but performances as well. People were more than willing to put on their best zombie crawl and try to attack me and camera. Poor things. They would starve. Everyone knows that cameramen don't have brains

Speaking of cameras: Like the Fan Expo, this is an event that brings Toronto's cameramen, professional and amateur and aspiring, out of the woodwork. There were a lot of cameras there, both still and video. Hundreds of camera phones, and dozens of more professional outfits, including some with huge reflectors and even gigantic lights. DSLR rigs with steadicams, GoPros on booms and even "traditional" camcorders like mine. We may be a dying breed but we're out there.

And a dying breed just makes sense at the Zombie Crawl

So, on that note:
Toronto Zombie Crawl 2014 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Monday, October 20, 2014


This past weekend we celebrated our annual Thanksgiving up at the lodge at Nares Inlet with Collette's extended family. Always a fun event, packing up the clan on the boats and going out in the bay for some food and for some family friendly games.

This year though, our couple days up at Springhaven taught me a few lessons. So, here are THINGS I LEARNED THIS YEAR AT THANKSGIVING


Terra hates rocks. She does. She always has. I don't know why. But she hates em.

Collette took Terra for a walk in the bush. They found, as one does back there, a rough little inukshuk made from loosely laid stones. Well. A pile of rocks. Artfully done. In Terra's eyes, that means war

See, I was not exaggerating. My dog hates rocks


You think you know when Hallowe'en is. You know that it does happen on Thanksgiving. Think again! And be on high alert! Always have candy at hand because you never know when a Princess will show up at your door, demanding candy. And when a princess asks .. well , you know .. fork it over


Well, who can argue with that. Normally Dennis and Dave et al take us to the Painted Rocks for Thanksgiving but the bay was feeling a tad .. frisky. So for safety sake we went out to the Archipeligo paddle tennis court for the snacks and games. And hey, who can argue with these images

For more lessons, refer to the video.
Thanksgiving Nares Inlet 2014 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


To make any kind of art, be it a painting or a piece of music or a video, you have to have a vision. In your mind you have an idea of the art which you want to create. It can be something fully realized, every brush stroke on the painting, the range of colours, the direction of the light across the canvas. Or the vision can be "soft", incorporeal, loosely defined. An idea, an emotion, a soft shape existing at the corner of your eye.

This part is actually easy. The difficult part is realizing these visions. That's where technique comes in.

nuit blanche is an yearly event in Toronto, an all night (mostly) outdoor art festival. There are nuit blanche events in other cities but this is the one that I attend. Duh. I live here.

I have made many nuit blanche videos. The event lends itself to the visual. Duh. It's art. Sort of.

This year I wanted to try something different. Instead of just a document of the festival I wanted to do something a bit more impressionistic. Even before I saw what the night had to offer, I had a vision in my mind. But each nuit blanche is different, which makes it worth attending but also makes it difficult to plan for.

For me, people wandering through the city all night long has become as compelling at the art itself. The intangible of nuit blanche is that the entire city becomes an art piece, and with the addition of us the people, a performance piece. And that's what I wanted to capture.

I'm not sure if the video is entirely successful. It is not my fully realized vision but it satisfies the idea very well. Technically, I'm not entirely happy with it. I decided to shoot at 24 fps (frames per second). It is not a setting which I normally use but I used it to film the exterior of the CNE video below on that setting and I was very pleased with the result, I thought the frame rate added an attractive depth and contrast range to the video

C.N.E. 2014 Day One from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

But the midway at the CNE has a tremendous amount of ambient light, the streets of Toronto not so much. Also, slow down 24 fps is not as clear and clean as slowing down 60 fps on which I normally shoot.

I did not spend near as much time at the event as I should have. The layout was very different this year and there was a lot of space between the "zones" where the art was distributed. So, I probably did not give myself the best opportunity to duplicate the vision in my mind.

Still, I was able to do something different. And at my age, something different is always a triumph.

The Dreaming City: nuit blanche Toronto 2014 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Those who follow this blog (and seriously, what's wrong with you?) may know that I am a fan of Mixed Martial Arts, better known as MMA

I have written a few blogs on this subject but I rarely write about specific fighters or matches, mostly because there are thousands of people more qualified than I who are doing just that

But recently I had a ringside seat to a fight so unusual and special, well, I just had to show it here.

This match, between two MMA superstars, was fought at catchweight, which means that one  or both fighter did not meet the standard for a particular weight class. And one of them did not meet the standard for a sentient creature

Yeh, it's like Friday night in Tweed

The fight featured a skill veteran of the inhuman fighting circuit, Terra "The Terror" has many fights under her collar although she is infamous for her unorthodox fighting style.

Yeh, she bites

Her opponent is a newcomer, no fight experience but a sort of stoic strength that radiated it from it's taurine frame

Yeh, it's a log

Ok, let's get on with it

Sunday, September 7, 2014


As stated in my previous post, the end of summer in Toronto means it's C.N.E. time; jet planes, Superdogs and carnival games

But it also means Fan Expo time: X wing fighter planes, superheroes and video games.

Fan Expo is an increasingly massive event that fills both halls of the enormous Metro Covention Centre and runs for four days (well three and a half) Normally I go for only one of those days. It gives me an opportunity to buy some graphic novels, some video games, maybe some anime and lately, sit in on some workshops as I continue to try to delve into the world of graphic novel creation.

This year I went for every day of the Expo. Every freaking day. All together, about 30 hours. Thirty freaking hours. Yeh. You know. I ain't as young as these people

I did attend a couple of writing/publishing/promotions workshops but those were not my main emphasis this year. This year I went to make a video. I always smack together a little music video from the show, and I have done that, as you can see below. But I also wanted to make a different kind of video. Fan Expo attracts something in the area of half a million people over its three days. Many of them, like myself, come for the entire run of the show. I've seen these people, I've bumped into these people, I've taken their pictures

Fan Expo is a cross platform fan experience. Comics, anime, sci fi, horror .. as it is billed. People come to meet their idols in all these genres, to cosplay, to express themselves and whatever world it is that they love.

So I conducted a bunch of interviews of people, you will see a bit of that in the video below, and I followed a girl on her first Fan Expo experience. She is a different kind of girl, she was after a different kind of experience, but she did it in costume, with Spiderman, so who am I to complain

For any of those interested, I'm documenting the process of making this video on my other blog, Idiot With A Camera And no, for those wondering, it will not have any Power Rangers in it

The experience was exhausting for me but a lot of fun. I enjoyed the workshops and I enjoyed the filming; I did not shop as much but that is better for my wallet I suppose. I was more in work mode for the weekend and I sort of missed my "fan experience" But I got to watch many others enjoy their own

I don't know if I'd do the four days again, not if I was not making a film. I think two days would be perfect, if I could cram a bunch of workshops and networking into a day and another day to wander around, buy some shit, meet some people shoot some video for fun. Still, it was an interesting experience and I got to see some things that I never have before. It was exhausting but it's always nice to know that if I got into trouble, I had lots of people who could help me out .. or make it worse ... at Fan Expo, you never know

So, here's the video, mostly the usual music video but a little preview (sort of) of what is yet to come

Fan Expo Toronto 2014 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


This post will combine our second and third days at the Canadian National Exhibtion

These were both what you could "event" days in that we went down to see certain events, or shows. Day Two was for the Superdogs Dog Show and an acrobatic show. Superdogs are a staple at the Ex, yes quite corny but it's dogs playing .. it's like me working, only I'm not

Mostly it's dogs doing an obstacle course and doing high jumping but there was a very special presentation, a remarkable dog trainer from Brazil and his eleven year old border collie

They do a dancing routine that, for me, is like the epitome of interaction and cooperation between an dog and its owner. They are quite flawless. The trainer sometimes uses hand gestures, other times just subtle movements of his body and the dog responds perfectly every time.

Border collies are all about their eyes. Anyone who has met Terra will know that. This dog never took his eyes off his owner, but it was more than just watching for cues. One of the traits of the BC is loyalty, it's why they work so hard for their shephard. This dog loved his owner, and loved being able to work and play with him. There was no denying.

After the dog show we were off to see the acrobatic show. This is becoming another tradition at the Ex, these little Cirque style shows but it tends to be a different one every year. This one was quite good and had some acts that I really hadn't seen before. It did begin with some familiar elements, like a man doing the floating crystal ball routine which we saw a couple of times at Buskerfest

Another thing we've seen before is tumblers on giant bungee chords but these guys did it on the masts of a boat

What I have never before seen was how the ball floater used lasers. He started out with some interesting yet obvious manipulations. Seeming to spawn the lasers out of his hands and pushing them around on the stage

But then he did something unexpected. He took a couple of the laser beams, seemed to tear them off and began swinging them around like asian fighting staffs. It was quite extraordinary. They were lasers, no doubt about that, but he made them seem entirely corporeal and solid. I'm not sure exactly how he did but like all good illusions, I probably don't want to know

The other highlight of the show was a young woman who played a peculiar kind of creature. Actually this woman is indeed a peculiar kind of creature. She was a contortionist, one who could do extraordinary things with her body and use that body and her facial expressions to create moments of pure whimsy

Her body control was amazing. She could do all the obvious stuff like putting her legs over her head but she could rotate her ankles 360 degrees, along with her hands at the same time, while all her limbs seem pulled through all her other limbs. It was more than just her incredible body control, it was her playfulness and just plain goofiness that helped to transform her into a fey, mischievous creature

Not so fey but equally impressive are the airplanes and pilots of the Toronto International Airshow. That was our focus on our third and final day at the Ex. Normally we would sit in the grandstands on the channel across from Ontario Place but that was a little difficult on Monday .. that area has been shut down. Seems my local politicians, while they were dealing with the cocaine addiction and trying to change the lyrics of  the national anthem, allowed the quay to fall into disrepair to the point where now it has to be completely removed. So, over to Ontario Place we went

The Air Show is one of the those CNE changes that remains true to its heart with only minor changes. One new thing was the above biplane, a Russian craft listed as the largest single engine biplane on Earth. If you live on the taiga in Russian, this is your mode of transport. It's nickname is the Siberian Schoolbus

Most of the regular players were there. That includes the Harvards, prop planes used as fighter trainers during World War II. I love these big planes, bright yellow and surprisingly graceful and instantly recognizable through the throaty drone of their engines

Of course it would not be the Air Show if you did not see the Snowbirds. Very traditional, no big surprises but always lovely to see, just the precision and, can I say this, delicacy of these pilots flying these little jet planes.

Another great day, or couple of days, at the Ex. It all goes away, fall rolls end, winter slams us around, we wait and wait till summer, summer stumbles around, we try to live as much as possible for two months, we look forward once more to the Ex but that means fall is rolling in ...

Anyway, here's the video

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