We asked our team of critics and reporters to weigh in on the hottest happenings of the coming year. From David Cronenberg and Jack Bush to a lusty dance troupe, a bold new museum and a reluctant blond werewolf, this is their definitive list of the most sure-fire entertainment bets of the coming year
City of Angels double bill
I’d recommend a pair of L.A.-set movies by a pair of audacious directors working with a pair of brilliant writers: David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.
Maps is Cronenberg’s first film set in Los Angeles, and he couldn’t have a better guide in screenwriter-novelist Bruce Wagner, the most acerbic chronicler of Hollywood since Nathanael West: He’s the screenwriter behind Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills and the miniseries Wild Palms, and novelist of Force Majeure and the trilogy of “cellphone” novels, I’m Losing You, I’ll Let You Go and Still Holding. The cast includes John Cusack as a famous pop psychiatrist, Julianne Moore as his celebrity client, and Olivia Williams as his wife and the manager of their drug-addicted child star (Evan Bird). Mia Wasikowska is their mentally disturbed daughter; Robert Pattinson is the limo driver she befriends.
If there’s an echo of Magnolia about this tale of a dysfunctional dynastic family, I’ll take that segue straight to Gordita Beach, the fictional locale of Inherent Vice, Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel. The detective story is set against the background of the Manson Family arrests, and features a pot-smoking sleuth played by Joaquin Phoenix.
Both films have finished shooting, though release dates have not been announced.
– Liam Lacey
And the winner is …
The cultural moment Vancouverites are most anticipating in 2014 will not be an exhibition, theatre production, or even the Valentine’s Day launch of Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz tour. It’s the selection of an architect for a new Vancouver Art Gallery. The bids request for the game-changing project called for a roughly 310,000-square-foot “architecturally significant” facility at the forefront of international museum design that strives to be one of the most environmentally sustainable museums in Canada.
A short list is to be revealed in early January; interviews are to be held Feb. 28 and March 1; a decision is to be made later in March. The VAG still needs to raise $150-million by the end of April, 2015, in order to satisfy city requirements to be granted the land; should funding be secured, the building is slated for an April, 2020, opening. Proposals have been submitted by 75 firms in 16 countries. “I think it speaks volumes about this community, the creativity here, the artists that are from Vancouver that have international reputations,” says VAG director Kathleen Bartels. – Marsha Lederman
One big high-tech gamble
The most highly anticipated new show in Canadian theatre is film-noir stage-and-screen hybrid, Helen Lawrence – and it’s also 2014’s biggest gamble. It’s being created by two of the country’s best-known artists, but neither is known for his work in theatre. Stan Douglas is an installation artist and photographer with several Venice Biennales on his CV; Chris Haddock is the TV writer who created CBC’s Da Vinci’s Inquest, and lately served as hired hand on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Together with a team of 3-D artists and programmers, they have put together what promises to be a high-tech show about power struggles in postwar Vancouver. It will premiere at the Arts Club theatre in that city in March – and then tour to Montreal’s Festival TransAmériques and Toronto’s Canadian Stage. (The Banff Centre is among the co-producers.) Douglas and Haddock’s names helped nab the show a pair of prestigious international bookings, too – at the Munich Kammerspiele in June, and in Edinburgh in August.
The departure from the project of co-director Kim Collier, from Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, has raised eyebrows; but Sarah Stanley at the National Arts Centre has signed on, and the just-released onstage roster is encouraging: Haley McGee (Oh My Irma); Ava Markus and Adam Wilson (both of Toronto company Outside the March’s hit, Terminus); and Dora Mavor Moore-winning actor Sterling Jarvis.
Helen Lawrence runs at Vancouver’s Arts Club from March 13 to April 13; during the Montreal Festival TransAmériques (which runs May 22 to June 7); and at Canadian Stage in Toronto from Oct. 12 to Nov 1.
– J. Kelly Nestruck
An emotional goodbye
Toronto is ground zero for lots of classical goodies in 2014: the return of director Peter Sellars to the Canadian Opera Company with his production of Handel’s Hercules; the visit of American composer John Adams as star of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s New Creations Festival.
But the highlight of 2014 will be Tafelmusik’s farewell concerts to Music Director Jeanne Lamon, in the beautifully renovated Jeanne Lamon Hall. (Not that Lamon is disappearing from view or from Tafelmusik; after three decades leading an orchestra she turned into a global powerhouse, she’ll still be a presence with Tafelmusik as it searches for a new music director.) Set for the most part amid the rich acoustics of the recently renovated Trinity-St. Paul’s sanctuary, these celebrations will feature musical farewells written by members of her orchestra, favourite pieces selected by her, as well as repertoire chosen by the Tafelmusik faithful.
The TSO performs John Adams’s Doctor Atomic symphony on March 1. Hercules runs at the COC from April 5 to 30. A Celebration of Jeanne Lamon begins a week-long run on May 8.
– Robert Harris
A TV show with bite
Based on the bestselling Women of the Otherworld novels by Canadian Kelley Armstrong, Space’s Bitten comes with heft behind it and oodles of anticipation. It’s about Elena (Laura Vandervoort), “the lone female werewolf in existence.” In her day job, she’s a photographer, and is reluctant to follow her destiny in the werewolf underworld; it’s an understatement to say she’s a woman in a male-dominated racket.
The promotional tag line is “Who’s afraid of the big blond wolf?” and there seems to be plenty of room for both fun and fierceness. “It’s adult and gritty,” says Vandervoort. We’ll see about that. A first look suggests an overemphasis on guys taking off their shirts. But the creative team of writer/producer Deagan Fryklind (Being Erica) and Grant Rosenberg (Lost Girl) might be able to pull off something that veers closer to HBO’s True Blood than to cheesy network teen-vampire dramas. The series is emphatically set in Toronto; 13 episodes have been made, and it will also air on the Syfy channel in the U.S.
Bitten premieres Jan. 11 on Space.
– John Doyle
An electric retrospective
Jack Bush was both the strongest artist of the Toronto-based Painters Eleven, whose bold abstractions electrified the Canadian culture scene in the mid-1950s, and the country’s greatest colour-field painter. Dead almost 37 years, he gets the full retrospective treatment – the first in more than 35 years – at the National Gallery with a show that includes works spanning almost five decades. The exhibition is a co-curatorial effort from NGC director Marc Mayer and Bush scholar Sarah Stanners, who’s currently preparing the painter’s catalogue raisonné.
Jack Bush: A Retrospective opens Nov. 14 and runs to Feb. 22, 2015, at the National Gallery in Ottawa.
– James Adams
Brilliance times three
The most highly anticipated dance event of 2014 can be summed up in two words – Pina Bausch. Although the brilliant German choreographer died in 2009, she left so many stunning works that her company lives on.
In 1973, Bausch’s singular brand of dance theatre was deemed shocking. All these years later, her grandiose combination of movement, text, music, sets and costumes is seen as lavish spectacle, behind which lie Bausch’s penetrating revelations about the human condition, and the complicated relationship between men and women.
The company is making three Canadian stops in 2014. During Toronto’s Luminato festival, Tanztheater Wuppertal is performing Kontakthof (1978). The literal translation is “courtyard of contact.” The set is a drab dance hall where the battle of the sexes plays out amid joy and laughter, anger and tears. And both Ottawa and Montreal will see a more recent work, Vollmond (2006). The title means “full moon” and the lavish set contains a giant, lunar-like slab of rock and a pool of water. Considered one of Bausch’s most celebratory and witty works, Vollmond dissects love, lust, courtship and conflict with a keen eye.
Kontakthof runs June 11 to 14 at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto. Vollmond runs Nov. 7 and 8 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and Nov. 12 to 15 at Place des Arts in Montreal.
– Paula Citron
Winnipeg’s shining beacon
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be a strong presence, representing the ideal of human rights, and also serving as a key part of the renascence of Winnipeg itself. This complex building, designed by New Mexico architect Antoine Predock, is intended to speak to the public with a clear symbolism (a “journey,” ending in a “tower of hope”). Located at the Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet, it will eventually be joined by a competition-winning expansion of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, courtesy of the fine Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan, which breaks ground this year.
But beyond these showpieces, Winnipeg’s downtown is coming alive again, and its design culture is growing quite sophisticated: There are new mixed-use high rises, commercial buildings and homes, all rising to a new standard of design. The CMHR ought to shine a light on what’s happening there.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is slated to open on Sept. 20.
– Alex Bozikovic
Spotlight on a modern master
“I’m just one of those people who don’t feel they’re from anywhere,” painter Peter Doig told the London Telegraph last summer, as this comprehensive show was about to open at the National Galleries of Scotland. Doig was born in Scotland, grew up in Canada, studied art in London, and lives in Trinidad, where he watches the ascension of his works in the international art market – $13.4-million for a canvas earlier this year – with professed amazement.
Perhaps it is because he feels no rootedness anywhere that a sense of place and the mysteries of locale are paramount in his work, which also riffs continuously on art history. A Canadian eye immediately sees a resemblance to the Group of Seven in his Canadian landscapes, though the palette and brushwork are different, and the figures in his canoes may look starved or desperate. Memories of Gauguin creep into his Trinidad scenes, though unlike Gauguin or Tom Thomson, Doig prefers to paint from photos. His art’s continual tussle between the real and the referenced has stirred strong opinions. Jackie Wullschlager’s Financial Times review of this show after its Edinburgh opening called Doig’s work “deliberately, irrepressibly fake,” but also urged her readers to see the exhibition. So should you, at the exhibition’s only North American stop.
Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands runs at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from Jan. 25 to May 4.
– Robert Everett-Green
Alejandra Ribera redux
After the late-year pop-diva wave of Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga (along with the lesser-light distractions of Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne and Britney Spears), a sector of music listeners might now be in the mood for something more upmarket. In 2014, I have high hopes for the continued emergences of Lianne La Havas, Solange, Laura Mvula, Angel Haze and Jessie Ware, and perhaps the return of Adele (in a jazzier form, if the rumours are true).
Off the radar, though, the second coming of Alejandra Ribera is something I forecast. The theatrical, trilingual siren smoked cigars and our senses a few years ago, and now is back with the sublime album La Boca, due for an early February release. Ribera is currently based in Montreal, where she worked with Jean Massicotte, the producer known for his work with the late Lhasa de Sela, the coolly exotic singer who could have been channelled by Ribera in either English, French or Spanish.
On La Boca, Ribera has toned down her dramatics and sunk herself into wistful melodies, cosmopolitan arrangements and universal lyrical themes. A gallop here, a waltz there – her soulful LP is high-proof but gentle, about rabbit holes, abandoned satellites and the need to want again. Ribera is a lot to take in; it’s possible she’ll break overseas first, what with Europe’s broader reception zones. But this in an artist who seems to have solved her puzzles and found a clearer way of expression. Her dreamy, chanteusey cover of the Proclaimers’ 500 Miles is an understatement and a celebration, for that distance may feel like a walk in the park for Ribera now.
La Boca goes on sale Feb. 4.
– Brad Wheeler