Blink: Parkade Party Recap

Things really came together for our Blink: Parkade Party in August. For years now, I’ve been eyeing the parkade on 104 Street just south of Jasper Avenue, wondering how we could program the space. Thankfully, Vinci Park 103 was open to our use of the rooftop, and by working with a great team, we were able to make something happen!

The decision to screen the 50s classic Grease helped to establish the carnival theme that pervaded the rest of the event. Fat Franks and Cookie Love were on hand to dole out summer treats, while DJ Thomas Scott helped us set the tone with a spirited soundtrack from the era.

Blink: Parkade Party

DJ Thomas Scott

To continue the party atmosphere, Alex of E-Town Salsa led a zumba session to great success. It was really cool to see the number of people who joined in!


We also worked with Cookie Love to host their inaugural cookie eating contest, featuring a number of Edmonton’s social media superstars. Brittney, Su and Mack were great sports, participating in a public challenge to see how many cookies they could eat in two minutes. Mack was the winner, however lightweight, winning the competition by consuming a total of three cookies.

Competitors in the Cookie Love 1st Anniversary cookie eating contest, from left: Susanne Dennis, Mack Male, and Britney Le Blanc.

Our brave competitors (photo by Alistair Henning)

Before the movie started, and during intermission, the fabulous Sugar Swing Dance Club taught the crowd Grease-inspired dance moves (I will admit now that this was somewhat inspired by a cheesy scene in The Wedding Planner, where the two romantic leads dance during a movie screening in Golden Gate Park). While our dance sequences were a little less spontaneous, they were equally inspirational!

Julie and Ben were fantastic instructors, upbeat and encouraging. Their first set involved pairs of dancers grooving to tunes of the era.

Let’s dance

At intermission, Julie and Ben led “Team Sandy” and “Team Danny” in a fun dance off. Based on the crowd’s cheers, I think it was “Team Danny” that was declared the winner.

Dancing showdown!

The main event was a screening of Grease onto the side of a parkade directly adjacent to the rooftop. With the help of Owen Brierley of Guru Digital Arts College, we were able to secure a projector that worked well in spite of the glaring parkade lights.

Blink: Parkade Party


With the help of Media Architecture Design Edmonton (MADE), we were also able to provide some park-like seating options in the form of grass tiles! They were still a bit damp from the previous night’s rain storm, but brought a pop of unexpected green to the decidedly urban surroundings.

Blink: Parkade Party

Grass tiles

We were happy with the turnout for the movie, realizing that the novelty of the screening location had something to do with it!

A big crowd stayed to watch the movie 'Grease' projected on the side of the building.

Grease is the word (photo by Alistair Henning)

As a result, we’re not certain this event can be replicated as such, but you can be sure we will always be on the lookout for underutilized spaces that have the potential to be so much more!

The event was free of charge to attend, and was only possible because of Edmonton Awesome Foundation’s seed money. The funding provided us with the opportunity to not only focus on putting on a good event open to all, but also retain our commitment to donate part of the proceeds to the Boyle Street Community ServicesDowntown Proud, a program that provides employment opportunities for formerly homeless individuals. With further sponsorship from Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and the Downtown Business Association of Edmonton, we were able to collect donations that would go straight to the cause. All told, with the generous help of those who attended, we raised over $2,100 for Downtown Proud.

We also want to thank the Downtown Edmonton Community League, Oliver Community League and Cask & Barrel for their support of Blink. We also had a number of fabulous volunteers who gave their time to help us out – thank you!

And lastly, having been involved in a variety of events and projects over the past few years, I can honestly say that it was a dream to work with Hannah McDonald and Stephanie Chai. And it wasn’t just the coincidence that our meetings always took place over wine! Thanks to you both for your creativity and endless energy – I hope our collaborative paths cross again in the future!

Blink: Parkade Party

We’re with awesome!

Date Night: El Rancho and Retro Drive-In

Mack and I love taking in a dinner and a movie as much as the next couple, but there are so many other interesting things to do in Edmonton. “Date Night” will be a semi-regular series highlighting some of these ideas.

Funny enough, the first of this series features the aforementioned dinner and a movie format, but with a bit of a twist. Last Friday, we headed toward the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood for dinner. Though our original intention was to dine at Cafe Amore, the restaurant was closed for a private function, so we ended up at El Rancho (11810 87 Street).

It has been some time since I’ve been to the El Salvadorian establishment, and this was Mack’s first visit. Clearly, it hasn’t lost its popularity, as all the tables had been claimed by the time we finished our supper.

We shared the Antojitos Platter for two amigos ($16.95), and ordered two mixed pupusas ($2.75) on top of that. It was a great way to reacquaint myself with their dishes. Though the flautas (fried, rolled tortillas) and tacos were good, Mack and I both agreed that our favourite was the crispy enchiladas, topped with shredded chicken, a pickled slaw and a touch of tart salsa was a lovely combination of flavours.

El Rancho

Antojitos Platter

The pupusas were also a nice treat, if not only because it meant we could help ourselves to a bit more of the pickled cabbage to accent the savoury combination of mozzarella, fried beans and pork.

El Rancho


We had just enough room for dessert, and split a slice of tres leches cake ($5.95). Mack doesn’t usually like desserts, but loved this cake, bursting with milky goodness and not all that sweet. The whipped cream was an indulgent finish.

El Rancho

Tres Leches

Service was friendly, and fast (the kitchen had been slow in my previous experiences). Even better, our entire meal came in at around $30 – a fantastic value for the variety and exceptional food quality.

After dinner, we headed over to the Alberta Avenue Community Hall, who was hosting a retro drive-in that night. Though Mack and I are far from being car people, there’s something about  a drive-in that appeals to me. I think it might have to do with the fact that my family lived pretty close to the Stardust Twin Drive-In (50th Street and Whitemud Drive), but I didn’t get to go before it was shut and torn down in the late 1990s.

Alberta Avenue Drive-In

Drive in on the Ave!

This article from Lawrence Herzog states that Edmonton’s first drive-in theatre opened in 1949. The Starlight Drive-in had room for 600 cars, and was so successful on its opening night it had to turn folks away! These outdoor theatres peaked in 1977, when Edmonton had ten drive-ins. But just two decades later, suburban growth and at-home entertainment led to the demise of drive-in theatres, the last screens at the Millwoods and Twin Drive-In shuttering in 1996.

So we jumped at the chance to relive a bit of nostalgia – for free! This community league-sponsored event was promoting safe, family fun, and was also a way for the neighbourhood to bring people out to Alberta Avenue after dark. They had set up a basic screen on the side of a neighbouring building, and had volunteers on hand to direct cars to make sure space in the lot was used efficiently. We bought some hot drinks from The Carrot and some candy from the concession stand and settled in for the movie.

Alberta Avenue Drive-In

The volunteers were too cute in their costumes

I was a little too giddy about the streaming of the film’s soundtrack on a radio station (I had no idea it was so cheap and easy to do this), while Mack enjoyed the retro pre-show advertisements screened before the feature presentation. Not only was there a rocket that flew over candy-dotted planets, but also a PSA warning audience members not to get frisky.

Alberta Avenue Drive-In

Warning all you young lovers out there

It almost didn’t matter at this point what the movie was, but Grease was an inspired choice, upbeat and easy to watch. To say the least, there was a lot of appreciative honking at the end of the night.

Alberta Avenue Drive-In

You’re the one that I want

Thanks again to the Community League for a successful screening! They indicated that this was their first annual drive-in, so you can look forward to checking it out next year!

El Rancho
11810 87 Street
(780) 471-4930

Alberta Avenue Community Hall (keep your eyes peeled on their website for next year’s flick!)
9210 118 Avenue

24/One at the Edmonton International Film Festival

At the City Market last weekend, dozens of people gathered around the Edmonton International Film Festival tent, readying themselves for the 24/One Challenge: make a family-friendly short film in just twenty-four hours!

For the chance to win a $500 cash prize, 45 teams of three entered the competition, with 38 managing to hand in their submission by the deadline. In addition to a selecting one of three genres (comedy, film noir or mockumentary), teams had to include a prop in their film (they were given $5 to purchase something from the farmers’ market), and also incorporate the line “They’re reel…and fabulous” into their script. A jury panel then chose the top ten to be screened on the last day of the festival. The winner of the grand prize, however, was to be chosen by the audience.

I was was planning on making it to at least one screening at EIFF, and after the excitement at the market, figured it would be best to satisfy my curiosity and find out how the teams did. Mack had been lucky enough to get free tickets from EIFF this year, so though he couldn’t come with me, I was able to take advantage of a complimentary pass.

Due to a fire alarm and subsequent evacuation, the screening had been pushed back a half hour. It wasn’t a long wait, and besides, it meant the excitement for the filmmakers in the audience (who wouldn’t know if their film made it into the top ten until show time) had even more time to grow.


The line at Empire Theatre

I really didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did. Several of the films were hilariously absurd (including personified vegetables, an alien encounter, and the sport of “freestyle walking”), and I couldn’t help but appreciate the creativity on display. Though some were cleaner than others, in terms of camera work or sound recording, for example, it was amazing to me that all of the films had been written, shot, and edited all in twenty-four hours.

My two favourite films (and the two that I ended up voting for with my audience ballot) were by Team Show & Tell and Team SSC. The former produced Mittens, about a man entranced with a girl who left a mitten behind at his bus stop, to the point of developing stalker tendencies, while the latter, Reunion, prominently featured its prop (a jar of grape jam from Strathcona County Kitchens) in its telling of a band shattered by a member’s “preserve addiction”.


My ballot

Though I didn’t connect with Walk the Line, a mockumentary about the sport of freestyle walking, it was clearly very well done. More than anything, I was actually able to identify the Edmonton locations they used (something I was hoping for more of) – Beaver Hills Park and the Legislature grounds.

Before they announced the winner of the $500 people’s choice prize, host Rick Lee handed out prizes in jury-determined categories. Walk the Line took home a majority of the awards, including best director, editing and cinematography, so it wasn’t a surprise when they were also called up for the people’s choice award.

I was really glad to have caught 24/One fever – it’s something I will definitely look for at next year’s festival!

Film: “The Dark Knight”

Mack has been talking about The Dark Knight for months now, so it wasn’t a surprise that he bought ticket to see it at 12:01am on the day of its release. Though I originally balked at the idea of a midnight showing followed by the struggle of getting through an eight-hour work day, I figured the experience of seeing the fanatical moviegoers on top of the movie itself was worth sacrificing one night’s sleep.

We joined the line outside of the second floor IMAX theatre at West Edmonton Mall at around 9:30pm. We had checked in on the line at 8pm, and though there were already twenty people outside the theatre, we opted for a mall stroll before commencing a lengthy stationary period. Looking around us, I wish we had been as prepared as our lineup counterparts – not with camping chairs as much as portable game systems, packs of cards, books, or magazines. Still, without entertainment, the time passed by fairly quickly, with the flaming dragon going off every twenty minutes, and my anticipation of costumed patrons. The final count at the end of the evening? Two Jokers, and an honourable mention for the guy downstairs who brought an inflatable Batman with him.

A motley crew

The dragon!

We were allowed into the theatre an hour before showtime, where the excitement continued to build. By the time the laser demonstration started, I was more than ready to see The Dark Knight.

Two and a half hours later, I felt like my nerves were shot and worn through. Between Heath Ledger’s terrifying portrayal of The Joker, Harvey Dent’s tragic disintegration into the villain Two Face, Christopher Nolan’s apparent need to fill a gunfight quota, and quick cuts resulting in brilliant-but-breathless moments of suspense, even a good night’s sleep wouldn’t have released the movie’s haunting grasp of my dreams.

As always, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine elevated scenes with their presence alone, while Maggie Gyllenhaal provided a seamless transition for a character that could have been played by any competent actress. Aaron Eckhart was perfectly cast as Dent, who was believably upstanding, and really, his chin and jaw should also be lauded simply for the number of times they have been mentioned in other reviews. Heath Ledger will undoubtedly build a cult following for his performance – like Viggo Mortensen, who I’ve read lives and breathes his character roles, Ledger nailed the eerily melodic voice, oddball gait, and facial ticks (his continuous tongue-flicking was genius) of this Joker.

Dually exhausting and exhilarating, I highly recommend The Dark Knight, a film with a rare payoff that actually matched its hype. Watch for Mack‘s review, where he will compare screenings of the film in IMAX and on the regular screen.

Film: “Knocked Up”

I went to watch Knocked Up with Mack late Thursday afternoon. In the weeks since it premiered, the movie has received surprisingly positive coverage, and not just because of its directorial connection to the also-critical darling The 40 Year Old Virgin.

A story about two strangers deciding to try to make a relationship work after the titular consequences of a one-night stand, Knocked Up was well-done on many levels. The situations, dialogue and acting all seemed so natural, quite an accomplishment on the part of the filmmakers. Nothing (except possibly the ending, but more about this later) seemed staged, and the conversations and crises faced by the characters would be ones expected in the real world. Katherine Heigl put in a strong performance, but I thought (echoing many critics) that supporting cast members Paul Rudd and the hysterically energetic Leslie Mann stole the show. As for the ending, while I can appreciate the desire to cap a supposed “romantic comedy” with a happy conclusion, I am of the opinion that the real struggle for Ben and Alison would begin when they realize that their relationship must exist outside of the bubble created by a child (an assessment that the hopeless romantic Mack disagrees with).

Knocked Up is a good, funny alternative to the bloated summer blockbusters in theatres now.