#EDITORSNOTE: MR. WILL’S BEST-OF 2019 LIST
If there was ever a year that contained highs and lows for me, 2019 was that year. My heart was broken losing my best friend and companion Billy in March. Since then there have been good days and bad days. I try to keep myself occupied always as it keeps my mind off things and I’ve decided this was the way I would cope. The Holidays this year will be extra tough and while I appreciate people quick to comment, “Just get another dog, you have so much love to give”, it really isn’t that easy. I am touched by the donations on Billy‘s behalf, the flowers we received, the thoughtful tokens and sentiments. Those helped.
I am in a different place than I was 16 years ago when I first got Billy. Life is much more hectic for me now and I didn’t have to be there as much for my parents as I do now. So to those who are concerned, the day will come when I will open my heart again to the possibility of pet parenting, but it isn’t just yet.
On that note, I also feel that we really don’t do enough to support people mourning pet loss. At work, employees get Bereavement Leave when they lose an immediate human family member and can get accommodations for mental wellness if deemed supported by the employer. But when it comes to a pet whom we love just as deeply and experience just as much pain when they’re gone, there are no formal regulated measures in place. In fact, with that being said, it is easy to feel embarrassed and ashamed for grieving a pet because it is so institutionalized that losing human lives is so much more important than losing an animal life. Pets are dependents and provide affection, support and routine in one’s life. When a pet ails, the heart aches just as much as it does as when a family member or a friend is ill. And when a pet goes, the disruption in one’s flow is dramatic. Just think about that for a sec.
The year while marred by some sadness, contained several happy moments that I will never forget. In addition to celebrating our tenth anniversary as a Blog, we met more heroes than we could’ve dreamed, saw great Films, enjoyed some great Music. These are things that no amount of unhappiness could erase. Thank you to our Readers and Team Mr. Will – Dave, Jonathan, Justin, George, Amanda and Siobhán for all your continued loyalty and all you give so generously.
I always look forward to sharing with you my favourites of the year, and here are my Best-Of 2019.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Juice – Lizzo
Cruel Summer – Taylor Swift
Old Town Road (Diplo Remix) – Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
Lover – Taylor Swift
Someone You Loved – Lewis Capaldi
Good as Hell – Lizzo
Sweet But Psycho – Ava Max
Hey Look Ma, I Made It – Panic! at the Disco
Dancing with a Stranger – Sam Smith ft. Normani
7 Rings – Ariana Grande
I’ll admit it, I know little about Basketball but for that one moment in time that night in June, every Torontonian was a die-hard fan! 2019 was Toronto’s year and no one can ever take that away from us. The City has never been more united and I’m so happy despite it being gruelingly-hot, I was able to skip away from work thanks to my boss, and take-in the 2019 Toronto Raptors Championship Parade. You never forget a moment like that. Eight hours under the scorching sun on University Avenue. Screaming children who didn’t want to be there. People budding ahead of you. But the moment the Raptors came through, none of that mattered.
One unassuming night waiting on a friend arriving on an L.A. flight, I’d cross paths with basically all them Raptors. All of them came passing through the terminal returning back from their exhibition games in Tokyo. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was like being in one of those rooms with the dollar bills spiraling in the wind around you on a game show. Slam Dunk!🏀
Céline not only is a national treasure, she is an Artist I’ve loved for many, many years. While power ballads haven’t always remained in-vogue, her Music has stood the test of time. My Heart Will Go On helped me cope with losing Billy and I like to think of meeting Céline as Billy‘s gift to me from beyond. Seeing her on her Courage World Tour finally for the first time, my heart wept. Only she can make me laugh hysterically and bring a tear to my eye in the span of four minutes. Such a blessing getting to meet my Heroine (the only one I didn’t have a photo-with yet other than Mariah!), even if I waited till 2 AM for it to happen on a frigid night in Toronto! I felt like death shortly after, but I’m alive! See what I did there?
Bridget Jones’s Diary is the reason I got inspired to Blog. She defined an era in my life as did Renée Zellweger. Seeing her at TIFF ’19 for JUDY was a bright spot in my life and getting to chat with her gorgeousness is something I will never forget. At the risk of being one of those annoying people who see like one movie a year and cry “Oscar!”, I actually mean it and you better be ready for a complete domination this Awards Season. Internet trolls, let’s see who gets the last laugh now!
Who wasn’t obsessed with Jennifer Lopez in the early 2000s? Everyone calls Auld Lang Syne their New Year’s song, but sorry! Waiting for Tonight is all about 12/31 to me and always will be! Lorene Scafaria‘s HUSTLERS is the bomb and anyone who thinks otherwise sucks. It is about women taking back what’s theirs, owning-up to their mistakes and surviving to tell us about the juicy details. If that’s not empowerment, please step aside, I don’t need your negative energy! J-Lo and Constance Wu killed it.
Will never forget meeting J-Lo after hearing her and her Castmates speak at a Panel about the female voice, in support of the Film. Buy and download HUSTLERS now.
It’s okay sister, I got you! I’m not going to go on about how much Constance owned my 2018 with CRAZY RICH ASIANS because that’s so 2018, but meeting her and J-Lo after blessing us with that beautiful performance in HUSTLERS? I was a dummy for not stocking-up on Lotto 6/49 tickets that night!
This time last year I would’ve been, “Who-zzo?!?”. LIZZO slayed my 2019 with her excellence and one-by-one I saw the world become believers. I discovered her Music seeing her performance at Coachella on YouTube and became obsessed. I paid top-dollar for a ticket to her Danforth Music Hall Show which was long sold-out, grabbed that Meet & Greet lanyard and have never booked back. That was money well-spent seeing her twerk all up my face front row 🍑 and collectively with the sold-out crowd, be moved to tears by her inspiring words. I still don’t know how Truth Hurts became a #1 hit before Juice, but okay! CUZ I LUV YOU is essential listening. You. will. not. regret. buying. this. Album.
Never mind that I look like I’m losing control of my bladder in this pic and mysterious age lines that came from nowhere. This man of grace and legendary stature was kind enough to acknowledge me and that is enough. “I’m not going to pose for your Selfie, but I will walk by verrryyyy slowly.”. These are words spoken by Tom to me which I will repeat over and over in my head like a mantra till I die.
Oh how nice, you got a Selfie with Kendall Jenner. Who cares!? This is the Selfie any self-respecting human being wants. LEGEND. ICON. KING MASTERMIND. Yes, I know, blurry as sh*t. Not even Remini could save this, but I got it. That was a night in New York at the Saturday Night Live Afterparty I’ll never forget!
We’ve all criticized some of Scarlett‘s choice of roles. 2019 was the year I’ve decided that Scarlett should be absolved of all casting sins as she more than redeemed herself with a mesmerizing performance in Noah Baumbach‘s MARRIAGE STORY, my personal fave of 2019. I am still traumatized from that fight scene with Adam Driver. I don’t care what Critics say about that part ruining the Movie – it was perfect, it was passion, it was ACTING! And if it weren’t for damn Renée and her brilliance, it would be the Year of Scarlett. She also is a delight in JOJO RABBIT. See both. Scarlett is notoriously-tough on Selfies, but she was amazing to give me a smile and a wave at the New York Film Festival Premiere of MARRIAGE STORY. Close enough!
Okay, this really is pushing it as it doesn’t really count as a Selfie so much as it is her looking the same direction as me, but I’ll take it. but being in Meryl Streep‘s presence at her Premiere for THE LAUNDROMAT was an uplifting experience. We’ve waited so long for her to come to TIFF after having cancelled her last appearance in 2013 for AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and it finally happened. What a goddess!
So humbled we got a bit of face time with screen veteran Danny Devito back in March in support of Disney’s DUMBO. I’ve never had a more giving, gracious interviewee. He was personable, gave us rich and thoughtful responses. So happy our Dave Baldwin and I could share that together!
Totally dating myself, but I spent a lot of my school breaks being entertained on TV by Ron Howard, whether it be The Andy Griffith Show or Happy Days reruns. Okay, sure he’s directed Masterpieces like A BEAUTIFUL MIND, CINDERELLA MAN, SPLASH, APOLLO 13 and FROST/NIXON but in my heart he’ll always be Richie Cunningham and Opie!
Okay, enough time has passed where I can admit that I just didn’t love BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. For one, it irks me how key things in Freddie Mercury‘s life like his sexuality were muted, when that was actually a big part of his life and persona. That being said, none can be detracted from Rami‘s flawless Oscar-winning performance. This Snap was taken at Chateau Marmont just one night before he took the gold. Don’t let others fool you, it gets cold in L.A. at night!
OMG. I almost died when she said “yes” to the Selfie. I have been obsessed with K-Stew forever. Let me make it clear, I never fully got TWILIGHT, but it is her body of work including PERSONAL SHOPPER, CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA, PANIC ROOM, ON THE ROAD, THE RUNAWAYS and even more recently CHARLIE’S ANGELS, that I love. I’m sure many have wanted her to disappear but she’s not going nowhere, babe! She just keeps churning-out some outstanding work.
I could’ve swore it was Glenn‘s year at the Oscars. So lovely meeting this brilliant Thespian receiving her final award of last Awards Season for THE WIFE and the Independent Spirit Awards. Her adorable Havanese baby Pip was with her to receive the honour!
I have loved Paul Rudd for years now and knowing he never comes to Toronto, New York Comic Con was that rare chance finally to see him! Love that he’s looking like himself and he’s every bit as friendly as you’d think! But then again, this was a paid Photo Op…
I am one of those people who freaks out every time there is a Spice Girls reunion rumour circulating on Twitter and then go frowny-faced when I realize it’s only “the four of them”. Victoria was in Toronto doing good for Camp Oochigeas and giving her beauty line a plug. It was beyond cold, but so goddamn worth it. Is that a smile I see? 😊 That’s the magic of Mr. Will!
Umm. So I won’t repeat what Victoria thinks about Eddie Murphy (Google it), but this does not erase how I feel about him as an Entertainer. Thrilled to see Eddie make his resurgence with DOLEMITE IS MY NAME and a triumphant return to the stage on Saturday Night Live this Holiday season. He delivered me many age-inappropriate thrills in my younger days with BEVERLY HILLS COP, COMING TO AMERICA and BOOMERANG. But it was DREAMGIRLS that made me truly appreciate his artistry.
TIFFANY x DEBBIE GIBSON
Seriously, ten-year-old me is still freaking-out. Former Teen Pop Idol rivals Tiffany and Debbie Gibson rocked my world as a kid. To see them join forces in this Photo Op as part of NKOTB‘s Mixtape Tour, was epic! Who’d ever have known just a few months later I’d get invited to introduced Tiffany on-stage at her show at Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts? I’m so busy running through life sometimes that I forget to appreciate things like this.
This Funnyman came out of nowhere to steal the show. Bowen is the best thing to happen to Saturday Night Live in quite some time! Better yet, he has the distinction of being the first American-Asian Cast member in the star-making Program! Cheers to diversity!
Our airwaves continue to be dominated by PANIC! AT THE DISCO and we are so stoked we got this Snap with the Band’s Frontman Brendon Urie in New York this October! It was a complete surprise! It wasn’t easy but he posed and made sure I got it. If you haven’t heard their contribution to the FROZEN 2 Soundtrack, INTO THE UNKNOWN, you must. Mind-blowingly-powerful vocals from Urie!
And while we’re on the topic of FROZEN 2, we were so delighted Toronto got its own Fan Event for the Film in November! We deserved it! On Cloud Nine we got to chat with star Kristen Bell, nabbing a signature Team Mr. Will Selfie with Anna herself!
It’s okay, Ja! We know Fyre Festival wasn’t your fault. You’re forgiven. The things we’ve all done for a bit of cash 🙄… doo-doo-doo… Don’t look at me like you’ve never “taken one for the team”! That’s right, move along now!
So yeah, it’s super-awkward when you’re at the office pouring some water into your bottle and someone’s like “Oh! I saw on BlogTO you met Sting!“. Well, thank you Toronto for thinking my Selfies are culturally-relevant. You’re welcome!
Till next year! Stay tuned next week for Team Mr. Will‘s Best-Of 2019 Lists! Happy Holidays to all of you and your family! May all the stars come your way! Looking forward to killing the game once again in 2020!
2019 was low-key The Boss‘ year. He had his Western Stars album and Documentary arrive and also BLINDED BY THE LIGHT was a love letter to his amazingness. Although I loved him as a kid, this was a year I was reminded once again to appreciate his amazing catalog of Music. Born to Run, Born in the USA, Dancing in the Dark, Lonely Hearts, Glory Days. Timeless. Seeing him at TIFF ’19 was great and he was so amazing going down the line, leaning-in for pictures and waves. So happy I had the video rolling and caught this!
Mr. Will x Billy Forever
(Photo credit: Mr. Will Wong)
#EDITORSNOTE: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JA RULE?
This truly is why it is important of remain humble and stay out of trouble. At the turn of the Millennium our Airwaves were dominated pretty much by Ja Rule (born Jeffrey Atkins) and those Artists signed under MURDER INC. Records (now re-branded The Inc. Records) including their self-professed “Princess off Hip-Hop & R&B”, Ashanti. But where has the once highly-popular Artist who dominated many of our Mix CDs made on your CD Burners, gone? We’re tracing Ja Rule‘s fall from GRAMMYs to the gutter and potentially another rise again?
After appearing on his first Track, Jay-Z‘s 1998 Smash Can I Get A…, the Hits came endlessly for Ja Rule – Livin’ it Up (ft. Case), Put it on Me (ft. Vita and Lil’ Mo), Between Me and You (ft. Christina Milian), Always on Time (ft. Ashanti) and a Couplet with Jennifer Lopez in I’m Real and Ain’t It Funny. Ironically, it would be a Hit thrown at a Toronto Man in 2003 in a Club – which later was settled out of Court and made right with a $1200 fine – which would lead to a downward spiral of legal problems, in and out of prison for a litany of Offences including Tax Evasion, Possession of a Weapon and Drugs and Driving with a Suspended License. He even famously had feuded with fellow Rapper 50 Cent and G-Unit Records, having called Eminem “Feminem“, accusing Dr. Dre of being Bisexual, having sexual relations with Transvetities. As of May 2013, Ja Rule is now a free Man.
Upon perusing the Internet today we came across this Artwork for Ja Rule‘s latest endeavour, a Christian Drama titled I’m in Love with a Church Girl, released in limited theatres in October.
Acting isn’t something new for the fallen Star whom at one point was called by Fans “The King of Hip-Hop” – he had starred in 2001’s The Fast & Furious and recognizable Titles like The Cookout alongside Queen Latifah and Assault on Precinct 13. I’m in Love with a Church Girl would go-on to make $2.3 million at the Box Office, released a prolonged three years after it had wrapped production. The Film has Art mirroring some real-life sh*t, playing a gun-possessing Criminal who finds himself through a Church-going Girl.
Watch the Trailer:
Does this mean Ja Rule‘s star is back on the rise? The odds are stacked against him as the Drakes, Kendrick Lamars, Eminems and Jay-Zs of the World certainly have taken-over the World of Hip-Hop, but we’ll soon how hungry the Public and Fans are for another serving of Ja–liciousness, as he recently had re-signed back to a briefly-defunct The Inc. Records, after a much-publicized Exit in 2009.
The Star is said to be working on a new Disc titled Renaissance Project with Murder Inc./The Inc. Founder Irv Gotti resurrecting his one-influencial Label as an Imprint under his Visionary Entertainment; Ja Rule is the only Artist signed currently to it. the Label’s Comeback has been branded boldly as the F*ck Fame Movement.
As an aside, Ashanti has since started her own independent Label, Written Entertainment, distributed by eOne Music. She and Gotti are said not to be on speaking terms after she was released amicably from The Inc. in 2009.
While we’re at it, let’s walk-down Memory Lane with Ja and Ashanti:
(Photo/video credit: Universal Music Group/High Top Releasing)