The TFCA nominations highlight missing movies

I sat down yesterday night to watch the documentary everyone’s talking about, Framing Britney Spears. As a streaming subscription addict, I was confident I would be able to find it somewhere. I looked at its distributors and did the US-to-Canada mental conversion. While a US Hulu release usually spells months of delays here (see Palm Springs), its FX broadcast would surely mean that my FX Canada subscription through Teksavvy TV (yep, that’s a thing) had me covered. Alas, that uniquely Canadian feeling of missing out set in as I went from service to service in vain. Eventually I finished my popcorn and accepted that I had to wait or bend the law to join the conversation. When I saw the recent TFCA nominations, I realized this feeling would follow most of my awards-season catch-up. 

The Struggles of the Canadian Cinephile

This indulgent intro is just means to say that struggling to find talked-about movies is a common issue in Canada. With a pandemic and the fall of cinemas plaguing this awards season, reading nomination lists has become tedious. You see a bunch of titles you’ve heard a lot about but have no idea how to watch. The TFCA nominations (Toronto Film Critics Association) this past weekend were no different.

The TFCA nominations press release last Sunday announced wins in the internationally eligible categories. These include Best Film and Best Documentary, as well as Best Lead and Supporting Performances. The announcement also included nominations for Louise Archambault’s And the Birds Rained Down (Il pleuvait des oiseaux), Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft, and Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas’ White Lie for the Rogers’ Best Canadian Film Award. The TFCA will announce the winner as part of their virtual gala on March 9th.

Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland led with three awards, winning Best Film and Best Director, as well as Best Lead Actress for Frances McDormand. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t caught it yet. Nomadland isn’t set to release on streaming till Feb. 19th, and even then it’s only coming to Hulu stateside. Half the awards went to movies that haven’t had a Canadian release yet, like Sundance winner Minari and the documentary Collective. On the other hand, for Best Canadian Film the nominees are all films that were part of TIFF’s lineup two years ago, although the buzziest title, Anne at 13,000 ft, still isn’t available anywhere online.

The TFCA nominations were led by Chloe Zhao's awards front runner Nomadland
Frances McDormand in the film NOMADLAND. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

An Awards Season for the In-Crowd

It’s just part of an awards season where you can only see films if you have access to a screener. It is worth noting the many nominations for streaming-only titles. Films like Sound of Metal and The Forty-Year-Old-Version, as well as Sundance premieres like Never Rarely Sometimes Always and First Cow, would typically be forgotten by the time awards season rolls around. The delay of prestige dramas like Spielberg’s West Side Story to late 2021 has helped open up the playing field for films like these to get big nominations. At the same time, it’s hard to get excited about an awards narrative that we’re writing in a vacuum.

As I alluded to earlier, that vacuum is nothing new, especially for Canadians. However, the pandemic has shown what a sticking point it actually is in the relationship between critics, distributors, and audiences.  The SAG, Golden Globes, and LA Film Critics Association have also nominated scarcely available content. The success of streaming services this past year won’t necessarily mean easier access to major awards content, especially Canadian content. We still have a ways to go this awards season, and maybe soon these movies will be more available. However, it will be interesting to see how much these awards will affect the Oscar nominations, announced March 15th.

Social Distanced Entertainment Toronto

Social Distanced Entertainment Toronto

There are still ways to experience fun, social distanced entertainment in Toronto! I have put together a few of the best.

Amusement with Distance

We have seen so many across the globe locked down at home in 2020 and 2021. People will be looking for new ways to be entertained outside of their homes once things open up again. I am interested in mixed reality technologies; they are developing and improving at rapid speed. The pandemic has only helped to amplify the demand. Entertainment companies, event planners, and experiential attractions have had to pivot, bringing health and safety to the forefront of their priorities of the user experience. Technology has provided us with quarantine activities to enjoy from the safety of our homes, cars, and even in-person with special protocols and social distancing for customers.

Social Distanced Entertainment: Fun for Kids and Adults in Toronto

We have all spent too much time at home this year, especially the kids. Parents need a way to let the kids get some energy out and teens and young adults need ways to socialize in a safe manner. So many attractions have been geared towards kids and families, but there are plenty of options for adults too. We all can’t wait to have things back to normal, there is no doubt. We want to head out into the world for some fun with our friends and family. Here are some of the top social distanced entertainment in Toronto, until that time comes.

Courtesy of Daily Hive

Top Entertainment Toronto

Courtesy of BlogTO

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Toronto – this experience allows visitors to immerse themselves into the world of Van Gogh. There are options to drive-thru or walk. The exhibit was a huge success in Paris and is now travelling to various locations in North America, including Toronto and Chicago. Masks are required, of course, and huge circles on the floor give a visual guideline for social distance. You need to book an appointment time on the website. Make sure to double-check to make sure it is open; the exhibit strictly adheres to Ontario provincial rules for when it can safely open.

social distanced entertainment Toronto
The Bogey Ogre Mixed Reality Attraction

Photo Courtesy of VR Scout

Bogey Ogres Mixed Reality Attraction in Toronto’s Stackt Market – this was a family-friendly carnival game with an emphasis on gross humour. Participants were able to book an appointment, with only two people allowed into the shipping container at a time. After every visit, sanitation protocols were strictly followed. The experience was meant to be silly and fun; a break from the seriousness of the pandemic and the stress that kids are feeling. The attraction ran in October in Toronto and then headed off to travel New Zealand.

Social Distanced Ways to Have Fun

social distanced entertainment Toronto
City View Drive-In

Photo Courtesy of City View Drive-in

Concerts at City View Drive-In – You can enjoy a concert (or a movie!) by your favorite artist from the safety of your car while you enjoy a gorgeous view of the Toronto Skyline. You can bring your own food and there is also a food ordering service (just no booze). You can bring kids under 16 as long as they are accompanied by an adult (which should be a relatively easy rule to follow given you must be 16 to drive).  The artists that have played here include Glass Tiger, deadmau5 and A Tribe Called Red. When the province opens up again the listings will be updated. This is one of the best ways to experience social distanced entertainment in Toronto!

Cultural Tours – If you feel safer being entertained from home then there are plenty of museums, art galleries, and architectural exhibits that are available for enjoyment online. Check out The Met 360 Project; it’s a series of YouTube videos that allow a safe, immersive tour of the galleries from your sofa. And if you happen to have an Oculus Quest 2 and are looking for a way to get out into the world then check out Nature Treks VR. It’s a stunning way to get in touch with the natural world and is meant to be a chill experience.

Personal Bubble Entertainment

We will all continue to look for safe experiences that are entertaining and provide ways to stay social distanced, at least the next few months. This summer in Toronto will likely see more ways to have fun during these restrictive Covid-19 times that provide entertainment for all ages and get kids and adults out of the house – or continue to have new experiences right from the couch!

I enjoyed reading this blog about Great Pop Songs for Young Singers; check it out!

Great Pop Songs for Young Singers

What song should I sing? It’s the age-old question.

Young singers are always looking for great pop songs to sing in lessons. We are shown pop stars like Adele, Lady Gaga, or Justin Bieber, and kids are drawn to their “cool” factor. As a voice teacher, I’ve often struggled with the song requests from my students. Many of the songs that are most popular are wildly inappropriate for young singers to work on! It’s so difficult to find pop songs that they love to sing, and that are appropriate for their maturity and vocal development. After 10 years of working with young singers, I’ve developed a list of my go-to favourites that also seem to be frequent hits with my students. Here is a list of 5 great pop songs for young singers, and a karaoke to practice with (in no particular order):


Song 1: Better Place, Rachel Platten

This is a great pop song for young singers, especially beginners. There are lots of approachable patterns, so learning isn’t too difficult. There are also some good rhythm challenges to promote good counting! The words are so lovely, and give students lots of places for good word painting. You’ll see in the official music video that this song is directed to relationships of all types, so this is a great pick for those looking to steer away from romantic themes. 

If you like Better Place, you might also love Rachel Platten’s other girl-power hit, Fight Song. A bit higher and beltier, but great for young singers with strong stage presence!

Here’s Better Place (original):

Here’s Better Place (karaoke with lyrics): 

Song 2: Rainbow, Kacey Musgraves

A really lovely pop ballad with a heartfelt message. Subject matter leans a bit on the sad side, but offers an uplifting final message of “it’ll all be alright”. The chorus is so lovely, and gets young singers using that mid/high mixed voice. I love Kacey Musgrave for young singers – she doesn’t overblow her sound on the top, and allows it to float beautifully and easily. When students inevitably listen to her original recording, I think she sets a great example in this song of how we’d want our young singers to approach things! 

Here’s Rainbow (original):

Here’s Rainbow (karaoke with lyrics): 

Song 3: You’ve Got A Friend, Carole King

Definitely the hardest song on the list musically, You’ve Got a Friend is a great stretch piece for a young student in need of a musical challenge. This song might be most appropriate for a student who is 12-13 years old (but I have had this work for both younger and older students!). Some interesting key changes and rhythmic patterns keep students on their toes, but all within totally appropriate subject matter and vocal style. There are also some great (but relatively short and approachable) riffs throughout, which many students love to challenge themselves with. 

Here’s You’ve Got a Friend (original): 

Here’s You’ve Got A Friend (karaoke with lyrics): 


Song 4: Count On Me, Bruno Mars

Count on Me is a fantastic pop song for young singers –  it makes my list for students under 10 as well. I’ve used this song for young boys and girls alike – it works perfectly for anyone! Totally appropriate words, and really accessible vocal melodies. The middle section with the high “oo’s” is a great challenge section for young voices to access higher notes with healthy technique. This is always at the top of my recommendation list for any young, beginner vocalists. 

Here’s Count On Me (original): 

Here’s Count on Me (karaoke with lyrics): 


Song 5: One Call Away, Charlie Puth

Another great pop song that is equally suitable for young boys or girls, One Call Away is a great song choice for any young singer. The words are approachable and understandable to anyone of any age, and do not have to be interpreted as romantic in any way. There’s some great range to the song, so it’s great for developing more of your voice, with some great scale passages to practice accuracy and tuning. I’ve taught this song more times than I can count, and it’s a studio favourite for sure! 

Here’s One Call Away (original): 

Here’s One Call Away (karaoke with lyrics): 


If you enjoyed these songs, you should definitely check out more from these artists! A big part of choosing repertoire as a young singer is finding artists who speak to you and your style, and raiding their discography for favourites! Other artists that my young students have enjoyed are Shawn Mendes, early Taylor Swift, and some Ed Sheeran. There are many great pop songs for young singers! Just be sure to read the words without music to really get a sense of whether or not it will work for your child. 


great pop song sung by young singer


Here’s another post I like about how to choose the right song for you:


Check out Jose’s blog post below:

Paramount Plus New Streaming Service: Climbing for Subscribers

  Patrick Stewart and Stephen Colbert welcome stars and subscribers to Paramount Plus

Patrick Stewart and Stephen Colbert welcome stars to Paramount Plus new streaming service
Patrick Stewart and Stephen Colbert welcome stars to Paramount Plus new streaming service for Super Bowl promo. Courtesy of Paramount Plus


Formerly known as CBS – All Access, Paramount Plus is a rebranding of the streaming service that will be launching on March 4th in the US and Latin America. According to the company, Canada will also receive a glimpse of the content provided by the streamer stating that an “expanded offering” will be available in an undefined future time.


VIACOM CBS, being one of the world’s largest producers of quality content, will nurture the Paramount Plus project with content from its different brands. MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and of course the flagship CBS will be available for those consumers who demand these well renowned television channels. To make the pot even sweeter, those who are willing to pay the subscription fee will have access to the wide range of movies produced by the Paramount Pictures studio.

A Constellation of Stars climb Paramount Plus New Streaming Service

Leading up to the event, the celebrated advertising agency Droga5, informed and entertained potential customers with a Super Bowl promo titled “Journey to the Peak” that saw some of the biggest names on the VIACOM CBS roster climb their way to their new home.  Re watching the five spots that make up the campaign launch on Instagram one could clearly identify some big names, parading up an icy mountain to get to their metaphorical new home. The commercial was even tongue in cheek with its literal and metaphorical balance, proving that they weren´t shy about being self-aware. Amongst the big names were James Corden, Stephen Colbert, Dj, Khaled, Christine Baranski, Patrick Stewart, Tom Selleck and Ethan Peck, not to mention a cameo by Jersey Shore´s “Snookie” whose character was apparently too hung over for the trek. Speaking of Trek, several intellectual properties also made their way up the mountain including Star Trek, Dora the Explorer, Survivor, Beavis and Butthead and the MTV Astronaut.

A Competitive Price for an Avalanche of Content

The streaming service will have different pricing depending on your comfort level regarding advertisements. A more affordable price of $5.99 will include ads and a heftier $9.99 price tag will get you ad free watching, to your hearts content. Will VIACOMCBS rebrand of CBS All Access prove to be the pivot they need to stay alive in the streaming wars? Only time will tell if Paramount Pictures can fend off Netflix, Disney+, HBO MAX, HULU and Amazon prime to become king of the streaming service mountain.

The Paramount Plus new Streaming Service: A Snowball Effect

The Canadian Media Fund has published a recent trend report titled Pause and Rethink that evaluates how marketing and distribution streaming services will impact the future of the screen industries. The document delves into the importance of virtual production to offset the reduced number of cast and crew available on set due to COVID restrictions, and at the same time evaluates the importance of developing strategies to better position Canadian content in the midst of the streaming services wars.

With Paramount Plus joining the fight for consumer eyeballs, marketing trends are getting more sophisticated, in the sense that, new content has only a 28 day grace period that will define whether the investment was a success or not. The report, written by Kelly Lynn Ashton and others emphasizes the need for better strategies for Canadian productions in the global direct to consumer market, this due to the fact that streamers are keen on acquiring full rights to the intellectual properties and distribution, diminishing opportunities for the producers.

ViacomCBS had announced the rebrand of the CBS All Access services as early as September 2020, and will be using this year´s Super Bowl as the main platform to let consumers know that they have the intention of reaching the streaming services summit.  Will they make it? For now we can only say that they are getting recognition for the production value and creativity of their promo, especially during pandemic times.

If you liked this content, please check out Nicole Krasey’s article on her Top 5 favourite songs for young singers under the age of 13