A comprehensive guide to everything worth doing in Toronto this fall

A comprehensive guide to everything worth doing in Toronto this fall

From Kim's Convenience to Kiefer Sutherland, 25 reason to love culture's most exciting season

. Photograph by Vanessa Heins
This band literally has a punk anthem about speeding on the DVP

1 The Toronto-based punk rockers Pup found near-instantaneous success with their 2013 debut album, which combined howling, thrashing energy, catchy beats and self-effacing humour. Their sophomore effort, The Dream Is Over, achieves the same manic intensity, but it’s in a live setting where fans can best appreciate the band’s frenetic, electrifying chemistry. December 15. Danforth Music Hall, ticketmaster.ca.


. Photograph courtesy CBC
The Kims are coming

2 Based on the award-winning play by Ins Choi, the new CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience traces the family feud brewing among the Kims, the proprietors of the show’s titular corner store in Regent Park. Jung and Janet, played by Simu Liu and Andrea Bang, struggle with the cultural and generational differences between them and their immigrant parents, Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and Umma (Jean Yoon). It’s heart-warming hilarity for the whole family. October 4, CBC.


. Photograph courtesy Penguin Canada
She’s mastered the London novel

3 Zadie Smith revisits the question of how our childhood friends shape our lives in her latest novel, Swing Time. Following two biracial women who meet as girls in a community dance class in the 1980s and go on to work in show business, on- and off-stage, the novel offers a cosmpopolitan take on the pitfalls of celebrity. Known for her warmth on the page, Smith is fresh and fierce with this nuanced story of female friendship. Named after the 1936 Rogers and Astaire musical, Swing Time is an energetic and enigmatic examination of race, class and pop culture. November 15, Penguin Random House.


. Photograph courtesy The Textile Museum
She’s never once lost the thread

4 In her nearly 60-year career, Sheila Hicks has pushed against the boundaries of textile art. Her majestic large-scale fibre sculptures and tapestries in particular are uncannily architectural. Material Voice, a career-spanning exhibition—Hicks’s first in Canada—covers everything from her most delicate woven miniatures to her gargantuan installations. October 6 to February 5. Textile Museum of Canada, textilemuseum.ca.


‘Tis the optimal season for Netflix and chill

The Crown
In the age of royal mania, it was only a matter of time before the Windsors got televised. The Crown, an ornate, outrageously expensive Netflix original, is set to run for six seasons, each covering a decade of Queen Elizabeth II’s extensive reign. First up: her marriage to Prince Philip, her lavish coronation and the evolution of the Commonwealth. November 4, Netflix.

The Good Place
The effervescent Kristen Bell plays a cruel and vindictive woman who is struck by a tractor-trailer and ends up in the afterlife, where she is mentored by Ted Danson (because that’s everyone’s idea of heaven). The Good Place was created by Michael Schur, the weirdo genius behind Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine—expect a high quotient of silliness and surrealism. September 19, Global.

Sarah Jessica Parker’s new HBO series is a spiritual sequel to Sex and the City, following a middle-aged woman in Louboutins who finally realizes that her husband will never be emotionally available. Parker is the marquee name, but we’re more excited about the supporting players: Thomas Haden Church is her moustachioed husband, Molly Shannon is her outlandish best friend, and—best of all—Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan is the writer and showrunner. October 9, HBO Canada.

Designated Survivor
It’s the year of the Kiefer comeback. The erstwhile Jack Bauer released a country album last spring and stars on ABC’s latest political soap, Designated Survivor. When a terrorist attack kills the American president and everyone else in the line of succession, a minor cabinet member (played by Sutherland) is appointed commander in chief. September 21, CTV.

Netflix is cashing in on our insatiable appetite for gritty true crime with this new series from Doug Liman, the director behind The Bourne Identity. Unlike Serial or Making a Murderer, Captive is episodic: each instalment describes a different hostage case, diving deep into the world of negotiation, reconnaissance and recovery. December 9, Netflix.


. Photograph courtesy Nuit Blanche
It’s not such a small world after all

6 Bigger is always better at Nuit Blanche, and at Nathan Phillips Square, “Hotline Bling” auteur Director X will unveil a doozy: a 13-metre, 3-D globe with projections of celestial images and spacey sounds, evoking the death of the sun. It’s part of the Oblivion exhibition at city hall, where immersive installations by Floria Sigismondi and Philip Beesley will inspire audiences to consider Earth’s place in the cosmos. October 1. City Hall, nbto.com.


. Photograph Getty Images
They don’t want to be your secret anymore

7 After dominating the airwaves with “Closer” and performing at the Oscars with comedy superstars the Lonely Island, Tegan and Sara are now firmly in the mainstream. The surprising part: it was the mainstream that adjusted to them. Their latest album, Love You to Death, retains the emotional complexity of their earlier work while evolving the pop-banger style they developed on 2013’s Heartthrob. It also offers some of their most nakedly autobiographical tracks (“100x” and “White Knuckles” are both about the occasional strains being sisters puts on their act) and their most direct statement yet regarding their sexualities in the queer dance hit “Boyfriend.” October 28. Massey Hall, masseyhall.com.


. Photograph Karolina Kuras
There’s a new kid on the ballet block

8 Harrison James, the National Ballet’s shiniest new principal dancer, became a star almost overnight, after artistic director Karen Kain plucked him from the back row in 2014. She gave him the starring role in Manon, and he killed it, advancing from the corps (the dance equivalent of a movie extra) to leading man in less than two years. James is a quintessential ballet heartthrob, with meticulous technique, movie star looks (squint and you’ll see Peeta from The Hunger Games) and the kind of regal pomposity that makes him perfect for aristocratic roles—including the rakish title character in John Cranko’s Onegin, which we’re hoping he’ll dance later this fall. National.ballet.ca.


. Photograph courtesy Harper Collins
You won’t be able to put it down

9 Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon’s latest novel, Moonglow is atypically personal, based on the confessions and remembrances Chabon’s grandfather uttered from his deathbed in Oakland in 1989. The fictionalized version of the week-long conversation offers a wryly comic, propulsive and ultimately heartbreaking speculative history of the 20th century, through the eyes of one man whose life was filled terror and triumph. November 22, Harper Collins.


. Photograph courtesy The COC
This opera is as romantic as Antony and Cleopatra, with a bloody dash of Westeros

10 The COC’s interpretation of Bellini opera’s Norma has a distinct Game of Thrones vibe, set in a mythical Celtic world that calls to mind the warring factions of Westeros and the White Walkers. Direwolves aside, any staging of Norma requires a fierce soprano up to the demands of playing the histrionic title character—a Druid priestess in love with an enemy soldier of the invading Roman army. The singer must have tremendous vocal power to carry through extremes of love, jealousy, rage, betrayal and revenge. It’s becoming a signature role for Sondra Radvanovsky, who comes trailing accolades from performances in Europe and the U.S. (and who will replace superstar diva Anna Netrebko in the Met’s production next year). October 6 to November 5. Four Seasons Centre, coc.ca.


. Photograph courtesy The Power Plant
Even fossils can fake it till they make it

11 Tangier-based artist Yto Barrada playfully dissects Morocco’s booming fossil and mineral trade with her colourful collection of both real and artificial artifacts. Faux Guide explores fossilized traces of the country’s long-extinct species and how that preserved history is adapted (sometimes fraudulently!) for the marketplace. The exhibition includes a screening of Faux Départ, a kind of guide to the making and distribution of fake fossils. October 15 to January 2. The Power Plant, thepowerplant.org.


You’ve waited long enough for new albums from these faves

Photograph by Shalan and Paul

July Talk  Touch
12 The Canadian alternative blues five-piece show a quieter side with their sophomore album. The spare, haunting single “Strange Habit” has the band in a brooding mood, with minimalist piano backgrounding Leah Fey and Peter Dreimanis’s breathy vocals. September 9.

Beck  TBA
If you prefer Party Beck, à la Odelay, to Sad Beck, à la Morning Phase, then the new, as yet untitled album is, well, where it’s at. Thumping, funky singles “Dreams” and “Wow” are setting the stage for a record that’s sure to get feet shuffling and butts grooving. October 21.

MIA has remarked that her fifth studio album may also be her last. If so, she’s going out swinging: tracks like “Go Off” and “Borders” bluntly tackle the Syrian refugee crisis and other hot-button issues through a unique fusion of hip hop, electronica and global sounds. September 9.

A Tribe Called Red  We Are the Halluci Nation
The electronic trio further refine their “powwow-step” style, combining traditional First Nations chants with rap-inflected club beats. Look out for featured guests Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Saul Williams and Tanya Tagaq. September 16.

Three years after Days Are Gone, Taylor Swift’s favourite band is finally going to drop a second album. Este Haim has been promising the new songs will “tap into our inner Kanye” since 2014, and the trio cancelled part of this year’s summer tour to make a fall release date. Date TBA.


The plot boils before it thickens

13 Oscar-nominated Room author Emma Donoghue returns with The Wonder, another psychological thriller about a child in danger. The setting is 1850s Ireland, where an 11-year-old girl seems perfectly healthy despite going without a single bite of food for months. As the news spreads, a nurse attempts to determine whether what seems like a miracle is actually a hoax. She begins to suspect that the girl is falling victim to murder in slow motion. It’s a complex story, recapturing the intensity of Room with a simmering plot at its core. September 20, Harper Collins.


There’s a new sheriff in town

14 Before the toothy raptors of Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton directed a film about an Old West–styled theme park full of murderous robots. HBO has adapted that idea into a lavish steampunk fantasia called Westerworld, its most ambitious show since Game of Thrones. The $54-million (U.S.) series has serious star power: Anthony Hopkins as the park’s devious creator, Evan Rachel Wood as an android ingenue, Ed Harris as the Johnny Cash–inspired Man in Black. It sounds totally bonkers—but then again, so did a show about Khaleesis and dragons. October 2, HBO Canada.


. Photograph by Getty Images
After all these years, you’d like to meet

15 Adele is that rare thing: an accessible diva. Her fans have always felt part of her career trajectory, and her 2016 tour finds her at a turning point, a year after her “makeup record,” 25, heralded the end of her age-titled trilogy. Though her tours have grown with her superstardom, she has retained her easygoing warmth, transforming sold-out arenas into intimate venues through sheer force of charisma. October 3 to October 7. Air Canada Centre, ticketmaster.ca.


. Photograph courtesy Canadian Stage
It smells like teen theatre

16 Canadian Stage’s production of Jordan Tannahill’s documentary-style play blends the award-winning playwright’s memories with a reimagining of Boccaccio’s allegorical Decameron in which young people seek refuge from a plague in an abandoned GTA greenhouse. Featuring a cast of 10 teenagers—many of whom are still in high school—Concord Floral combines suurban Gothic trappings with bracing realism. September 27 to October 16. Bluma Appel Theatre, canadianstage.com.


. Photograph “You never look at me from the place i see you" copyright Sara Cwynar
Because the shifting direction of her work surprises and delights

17 Sara Cwynar, a former graphic designer at New York Times Magazine, creates images that are about the way we look at images. Her latest work—including portraits with photography props obscuring the expression of their subject (above)—continues her playful project of subverting viewers’ expectations of how a picture should look. Like her recent bouquet series, where junky objects like Tupperware were used in place of fresh blooms for voluptuous “floral” arrangements, Cwynar’s new photographs depict a surprisingly manicured chaos. October 29 to December 10. Cooper Cole Gallery, coopercolegallery.com.


Everyone will be asking if you’ve read these non-fiction must-reads

Based on a True Story  Norm Macdonald
18 Macdonald’s rambling, unreliable account of growing up as a Canadian farm boy destined for the stand-up stage is as odd as it is delightful. Structured as an epic, the book follows our comedic hero as he careens through his tumultuous career, inviting the reader backstage as he jokes about the legendary moments from his life—like getting fired from SNL, perhaps for razzing O. J. Simpson just a bit too hard. September 20, Harper Collins.


The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter  David Sax
Opening with a visit to June Records—the friendly College Street hot spot for new and used vinyl—David Sax’s story of analog’s surprising comeback in an increasingly digitized world serves up delightful and informative riffs on our cravings for real things even as our lives keep marching toward the cloud. November 8, Public Affairs.


Future Sex  Emily Witt
A simultaneously playful and rigorously reported essay on sex and singledom, Emily Witt’s Future Sex investigates the various ways contemporary sexuality is shaped in the golden age of hookup apps. In an era of near infinite possibility and permissiveness, how does what we desire define who we are? October 11, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Hidden Figures  Margot Lee Shetterly
Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Christine Darden—four black women who were incredibly gifted mathematicians—spent decades as the computational force behind NASA. Margot Lee Shetterly’s investigation into this untold aspect of the space race makes for inspiring reading, and when the film version of Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, comes out next year, it’s all anyone will be talking about. September 6, Harper Collins.


Is This Live? Inside the Wild Early Years of MuchMusic: The Nation’s Music Station  Christopher Ward
Former VJ Christopher Ward dishes up plenty of dirt on the heyday of MuchMusic in this comprehensive and personal history of the channel’s first decade, a period that defined a generation of Canadian music. It’s weird, and yes, it’ll make you want to cue up some Glass Tiger on Spotify. October 25, Random House Canada.


. Photograph by Getty Images
Everybody needs a laugh (and a lower back tattoo)

19 Amy Schumer conquered Hollywood by skewering it, using raunchy satire with an overtly feminist twist that’s funny and fresh. The world can’t get enough: this year, the comedian released her fierce memoir, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo; she’s starring in the upcoming army drama Thank You for Your Service; and she got her sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer—on which she’s played a football coach’s ditzy, drunk wife and the POTUS on her period—renewed for a fifth season. On the stand-up stage she riffs on awkward sex and entertainment-industry misogyny. She’s shameless, confident, confrontational and happy to be loathed, as long as it gets a laugh. November 9. Air Canada Centre, ticketmaster.ca.


. Photograph by Getty Images
A change is really gonna come

20 Colson Whitehead, the author of Sag Harbour, Zone One and, most recently, the No. 1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, is engaging and wryly provocative. His latest novel is a steampunk-tinged imagining of mid-19th-century America, following Cora, a teenage girl who escapes slavery in Georgia by hitching a ride on a literal underground railroad. Cora’s trip across the country allows Whitehead to question how the fact of American slavery has become a slippery narrative, and his vivid recasting of history brings the past’s parallels with the present civil rights movement into stark relief. November 7. Toronto Reference Library, torontopubliclibrary.ca.


Photographs courtesy The AGO
It’s just like visiting the City of Lights

21 Organized in partnership with the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the ambitious Mystical Landscapes exhibition tracks the birth of modern art from 1880 to 1930. Close to 90 paintings and 20 drawings show how Claude Monet (with his sublimely beautiful Water Lilies), Vincent van Gogh (with his iconic Starry Night series) and their contemporaries sought a more direct, spiritual form of artistic expression during a time of immense social change. Edvard Munch, Piet Mondrian, Emily Carr, Paul Gaugin, Wassily Kandinsky and Georgia O’Keeffe are also among the 39 artists on display. October 22 to January 29. Art Gallery of Ontario, ago.net.


. Photograph courtesy Mirvish
There’s more than one way to rock the vote

22 If the wackiest American election cycle ever has proven anything, it’s just how thin the line is between politics and theatre. Taking the form of an election, Fight Night prompts audiences to vote for one of its five candidates—each from a different background, each with a distinctive vision. The play confronts us with questions about the nature of a “free vote” in a modern democracy, when factors like race, gender and physical appearance can have a determining influence on the way we perceive our politicians. November 4 to 20. Panasonic Theatre, mirvish.com.


You’ll want a head start on your Oscar ballot

The Handmaiden
23 Oldboy director Park Chan-wook adapts Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith, swapping out Victorian London for 1930s Korea under Japanese rule. It’s dark, sumptuous and just a little bit kinky, following a scrappy Korean servant girl who plots to seduce a beguiling Japanese heiress and swindle her fortune. October 21.

In 1958, Virginia couple Richard and Mildred Loving were convicted of miscegenation. They were forced to leave the state in order to avoid serving prison sentences of one year each. Four years later, they brought a case to the Supreme Court that overturned the laws against interracial marriage. In the romantic biopic version, Joel Edgerton is burly yet sensitive as Richard, but the real breakout performance is the Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga, who’s already generating best actress buzz for her silent, simmering resolve. November 4.

Every Oscar season has its own space opera: Gravity in 2013, Interstellar the next year, The Martian the year after that. This year’s entry comes from Montreal director Denis Villeneuve (of Sicario fame) and stars Amy Adams as a linguist tapped to decipher an alien language emanating from a newly arrived spacecraft. It’s equal parts paranoid thriller and dazzling sci-fi epic. November 11.

La La Land
Damien Chazelle, the prodigal director who made everyone squirm in their seats during Whiplash, swaps out BDSM-tinged drums for a glitzy retro musical: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play an adorable pair of starving artists in L.A. who fall in love while performing charming vintage dance routines. December 2.

Martin Scorsese’s passion project has nothing to do with gangsters or Wall Street. For 25 years, he’s been working on an adaptation of Shusaku End¯o’s weighty historical novel about Portuguese Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan. Two apostates (played by Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) are tasked with investigating the mounting persecution facing the Christian community and locating a mentor priest (Liam Neeson) whose disappearance may signal a crisis both of and for the faith. A sinister story of frayed masculinity, corruption and guilt, it’s classic Scorsese. December 23.


. Photograph courtesy The Gardiner Museum
It’s time to upgrade the Poäng chair

24 The Scandinavian aesthetic has influenced Canadian designers since the 1930s, when it first landed in our museum exhibitions, boutiques and style magazines. This retrospective, True Nordic, explores over 70 years of Norse influence on Canadian furniture, ceramics, textiles, and glass and metal art, interrogating how émigrés from Denmark introduced Danish modern principles into the North American marketplace. The show features work by Carl Poul Petersen, Janis Kravis, John Stene, Karen Bulow, and more. October 13 to January 8. Gardiner Museum, gardinermuseum.on.ca.


. Photograph courtesy Marvel
There’s nothing like a caped crusader

25 It’s an unspoken Hollywood rule that every highbrow Oscar nominee chases their big prestige drama with a frothy superhero spectacle. Rachel McAdams—whose righteous, dishwasher-slamming rage in Spotlight earned her a nod last year—enters the Marvel Comics universe this fall, starring alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange, a trippy blockbuster about a neurosurgeon turned sorcerer who can bend time and space. McAdams stars as Christine Palmer, a brilliant surgeon and long-time colleague of Dr. Strange who initially keeps him grounded to the real world but eventually morphs into her own superhero: the Night Nurse, a newly resuscitated comics character from the ’70s. If she wields her cape as ferociously as she slams a dishwasher door, she’s going to be just fine. November 4.

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October 3, 2016

An earlier version of this post contained the incorrect dates for the AGO's Mystical Landscapes exhibition.