Zoom In Etc: What’s Hot in Arts, Culture, Sports … and More

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From today’s relaunch of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale The Jungle Book to performances paying homage to Shakespeare 400 years after his final bow, here’s what we have our eyes on this season.

The Bare Necessities


The law of the jungle has evolved since 1967, when Baloo the Bear sang the praises of the “Bare Necessities” in the animated film The Jungle Book – the last Disney film Walt himself worked on. This April, the House of Mouse relaunches the classic Rudyard Kipling tale, though this time around man-cub Mowgli and his jungle pals and predators get the CGI 3-D treatment and an all-star cast that includes Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken and Idris Elba as the wicked Shere Khan. It’s a visual feast fuelled by star power that is rivalled only by another live action flick, Jungle Book: Origins, starring Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch and Christian Bale, scheduled for 2017 from Warner Bros. Bare necessities, indeed. – Mike Crisolago

Much Ado About Shakespeare

In March 1616, William Shakespeare finalized his will, describing himself as being “in perfect health.” A few weeks later, he was dead. Alas, 400 years after the Bard took his final bow, the Stratford Festival pays homage to the anniversary with a slate of shows and events, highlighted by the nationwide theatrical premiere of the Festival’s 3-D Hamlet film on April 23 – the day Shakespeare died. Two other films, The Taming of the Shrew and The Adventures of Pericles, hit theatres in March and May respectively, while the stage adaptation of the hit film Shakespeare in Love arrives April 29. Macbeth and As You Like It return to the festival and, as a special anniversary event, the world premiere of Breath of Kings, which immerses audiences in the famed four-play Henriad history cycle, debuts May 31. For more information on all of the shows, events and festivities, go to www.stratfordfestival.ca.



Meanwhile, over in the political wilderness that is Washington, Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey star in Elvis & Nixon, about how Elvis Presley rolled into town in 1970 to procure his own Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge. Then U.S. President Nixon happily handed one over, and the pair even shook hands and posed for one of the most unlikely photo-ops ever in a pledge to help rid the U.S. of the scourge of anti-American sentiment and drugs. Within a few years, however, Nixon would resign from office to avoid impeachment while Presley would pass away – believed by many to be from a drug overdose.

The Zoomer Q: Helen Mirren

We asked Helen Mirren about playing the steadfast Colonel Katherine Powell, the sort of role that traditionally went to male actors, in the thriller Eye in the Sky.

 “It speaks to what I’ve always said about acting roles – don’t put your energies into worrying about better roles for women on the screen or in the theatre. Worry about better roles in life because the more they have better roles in life, the more you’ll
see it reflected on the screen. This movie is exactly that.”

Eye in the Sky is in theatres March 11.


 Body Politic

Earlier this year, toy maker Mattel gave a new meaning to the term BMI (body mass index) by introducing Barbie in three new body sizes – tall, petite and curvy. The new Barbie Mass Index signalled an overdue shift in mentality for a company often derided for presenting an unrealistic image of women – after all, you’d have to be made of plastic to look exactly the same after 57 years. But no matter how content the new curvy fashion doll and beau Ken are with life in their dream house, the reality is she’d be wise to consult with Doctor Barbie and Scientist Barbie about her true BMI.

BMI is used to determine whether your weight is under, over, normal or obese, and the results are in from a multi-decade study where, fit or not, the risk of an early death was highest among the obese. Researchers were looking to see if aerobic (cardiovascular) fitness could compensate for the risks of obesity. They followed 1.3 million Swedish men over an average of 29 years. Perhaps not surprising, those most fit at conscription (18 years old, on average) had the lowest risk of death from any cause. But even those who were unfit but at a normal weight had a lower risk of early death than those who were obese but aerobically fit – determined by the amount of oxygen the heart, lungs and blood cells can supply working muscles.

So it doesn’t matter if curvy Barbie can keep up with Tennis Barbie if her BMI is too high. The same goes for you. Because, down the road, Health Complications Barbie is no fun at all. —Mike Crisolago

True Grit

In 2013, 64-year-old Diana Nyad staggered onto a beach in Florida, almost 53 hours after leaving Cuba, swimming 110 miles through the treacherous waters of the Florida Straits without a protective shark cage. It was the realization of a 35-year-old dream – and her fifth attempt at the crossing – an astonishing tale of suffering, human will and friendship detailed in her memoir Find a Way: One Wild and Precious Life. “Chasing dreams makes us perk up and feel our consciousness come awake,” she says.

But dreams don’t have to be extreme, just engaging. This May, Nyad and best friend Bonnie Stoll are planning to walk 2,700 miles from Los Angeles to Washington, expecting to arrive in October (ever walk2016.com), all to raise awareness of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and inviting others to join them for as long as they wish. “We want to turn the country into a nation of walkers,” Nyad says. —Jayne MacAulay

Deities in the Dugout

As the first warm days of spring herald the start of a new baseball season, casual Toronto Blue Jays fans are hoping for nothing but sunny ways ahead. Coming off a magnificent 2015 season, expectations are running high for 2016, despite the absence of GM Alex Anthopoulos and pitching ace David Price. But longer tenured fans are a more superstitious bunch – knowing with certainty that the fate of this team rests solely in the hands of the baseball gods. Just look at what happened last year and deny the unseen machinations of higher powers. In July, the Jays were in the midst of another forgettable season, plodding along at their usual break even record. Suddenly, the gods intervened: the Jays acquired David Price (one of the top pitchers) and Troy Tulowitzki (the best shortstop). A miraculous transformation took place, and the team – aided greatly by an implausible series of clutch homers, stunning defensive plays and timely opposition bumbling – made it within two wins of the World Series. Moreover, several players enjoyed career years, led by MVP Josh Donaldson, whose 41 homers were 11 more than he’s ever hit in one season. Now cynics will scoff at the supernatural explanation, arguing that all results can be rationalized using statistical methods. When the team performed above expectations, for example, they’ll say it has nothing to do with divine intervention but rather a complex calculation known as the Pythagorean Win-Loss Formula. And when Donaldson inevitably experiences an Icarus-like flameout this season, they’ll deny the gods are punishing him for excessive hubris. Instead, they’ll claim he’s experiencing a “regression to the norm,” a math phenomenon which holds that if a variable (his 41 homers) is extreme one year, it will return to the average next year (he’ll hit a bunch fewer homers this year). But don’t be drawn in by stat-head arguments. Instead, listen to Blue Jays manager (and prophet) John Gibbons. Last year, when explaining to reporters what happens to a pitcher who walks too many batters, he said: “The baseball gods are going to punish you. Always have, always will.” Still not a believer? —Peter Muggeridge