“Designing 007″ not fun for the whole family

Designing 007, the travelling exhibit currently showing in Toronto, is a solid way to spend an hour for Bond fans. Just be careful if you’re bringing your baby along.

Showing at TIFF’s posh Bell Lightbox facility, you can expect to be immersed in the costumes, gadgets, sounds, and artifacts Bond. It’s a great tribute to 007 – who turned 50 this year - and his highs (and lows) through the ages. While a few of the most impressive displays are recreations, which is disappointing, there’s plenty of authentic Bond pieces to keep you busy.

Babies aren’t exactly welcome at “Designing 007.”

That said, I wish the organizers were a bit more sensitive to the needs of young families. We made the “mistake” of bringing a stroller with us. This is what couples with an infant do. At the gate, we were informed that strollers are not permitted in the exhibit. It’s not a TIFF rule, but a directive of the creators of the exhibition, we were told. (The creators must be a sensitive bunch because an even stranger rule is that you cannot carry your coat inside – you must wear it or check it!)

My wife and I were not pleased. There were no issues bringing a stroller into the recent Grace Kelly show (which was also at TIFF). So I had to check the stroller (at no charge I should add) at the coat check and walk the baby around while she slept in the bucket seat. At one point I was even asked if I had gained permission to bring the seat inside! Needless to say, I felt singled out and needlessly harrassed, but tried to laugh it off until I found the time to write this blog entry.

There would have been plenty of room to navigate a stroller through the show. It’s a ridiculous rule and, with the Christmas holidays approaching and more young families bound to come, I hope it’s revisted to save other parents the disappointment and muscle strain. While the ushers at TIFF were regretful and sympathetic, I wish someone higher up questioned the organizers beforehand and convinced them to soften their extreme entry regulations.

At one point, a woman who saw me handling (or fumbling) with the bucket seat said to me, “This must be the youngest Bond fan in here!” “Yes,” I chuckled, “my little Bond girl.” I couldn’t help but think if the baby was a paying customer, perhaps she would have been shown more respect.

“Skyfall” a must-see in IMAX

Skyfall is the first James Bond film to be released in IMAX – the most spectacular movie format ever invented - and it’s about time.

Simply put, this is great Bond, start to finish.

Daniel Craig gives his best performance yet as 007. He shows all the traditional sides of the character - action hero, lover, master of sarcasm. But he also shows an emotional side. We learn more about who Bond is and where he comes from. Unlike previous Bonds, the audience can understand him on a personal level. It’s a refreshing change.

What I love most about Skyfall is that it takes the franchise in a new direction while paying tribute to its past. This Bond feels fresh and new despite several references to the past. The film doesn’t attempt to hide Bond’s 50 years of history. It draws strength from them. For anyone that’s seen even a few of the Bond films, it’s a nostalgic ride. But it doesn’t depend on nostalgia to keep the audience interested. It’s more like the cherry on top of an already fine film adventure. I can’t wait for the next one.

I mentioned IMAX off the top and there’s a reason for that. This film does what few IMAX Hollywood film releases have done in the past (unless they have footage filmed with IMAX cameras. It takes advantage of the full IMAX aspect ratio. Traditional IMAX screens have a square shape while conventional screens are rectangular. What happens when you put a Hollywood film on an IMAX screen? Most directors tend to “letterbox” IMAX films, which means there are large gaps of black space on the top and bottom of the screen. It still looks great, but much of the glorious IMAX screen seems wasted.

Sam Mendes, Skyfall‘s director, did a smart thing. He made the IMAX version fit the IMAX screen, and it was a wise choice. This is the way an IMAX film is meant to be presented. Other directors should watch it and see for themselves how good an IMAX film can and should look.Every scene looks awesome and immersive. You couldn’t ask for a finer debut of the Bond franchise in the IMAX format.

Let’s hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship.


All-star Mexico at AGO

An all-star artistic Mexican couple is being featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

No, not Dora and Diego. It’s the legendary Frida and Diego.

While my three-year-old son was jumping up and down with excitment at the thought of coming face-to-face with Dora and Diego, and kept muttering something about Diego’s “rescue pack,” he wasn’t too disappointed that the famous cartoon cousins weren’t there. He particularly enjoyed the paintings with monkeys and fruit.

The exhibit is that good.

It’s more than an exhibit actually. It’s a love story, complete with the highs and lows of their volatile relationship (which I won’t give away here). Seeing their works, side-by-side, is a real treat. Through their art we can see how different they were, yet why they were “drawn” to each other – through passion, politics and love for each other and their country.

One of Frida’s self-portraits on display t the AGO.

A quote from Frida at the exhibition particularly struck me: “I paint flowers so they won’t die.” This statement says a lot about the artistic impulse in all of us. What drives us to create? To take a photo, put pen to paper or brush to canvas. Sometimes it’s to express a feeling, but other times it’s to maintain a feeling, preserve an amazing moment in time, or make something beautiful live forever. Not only will Frida’s flowers live on, but so will her image – and torment – as displayed in her many self-portraits.

The exhibit covers a lot of ground and a wide cross-section of artistic styles. You will see beautiful landscapes and stilllifes, horrific images in hospital beds, and other paintings you’d swear could be Picasso. If I wasn’t with my three-year-old, I would have stuck around a bit longer.

Frida and Diego lived an extraorindary life. I’m not sure it’s possible to fully comprehend it’s complexity in an hour visit at an art gallery, but it’s a worthy effort by the AGO.


An image you won’t see at the AGO, and probably never will.