Best of 2016 at Vancity Theatre
By Adam Cook
As 2016 nears its end, I know that a lot of us have complicated feelings about the year gone by, and for good reason, but one thing we can join together and celebrate are the films that touched us most deeply. This holiday season, come get cozy at Vancity Theatre and catch up on some of the greatest new movies from 2016. Our diverse curated selection of 20 films runs the gamut from the best in homegrown cinema, to Hollywood mastery, the funniest comedies, American indies, Korean thrillers, and more. All of them are worth seeing, but here’s are some of my personal highlights:
If you’re looking for laughter, look no further than these two completely different but equally entertaining comedies: Love & Friendship and The Mermaid. Whit Stillman’s incredible Jane Austen adaptation is wickedly hilarious and may just have the best ensemble cast of the year, led by Kate Beckinsale, who reveals a side of her talent you may have never expected. She plays the delightfully devilish Lady Susan Vernon who slyly manipulates those around her with her beauty and sharp wit in order to earn her and her daughter a better place in society. The Mermaid is the latest gonzo effort from Hong Kong’s Stephen Chow, who outdoes himself here with a marvelously inventive modern fable about a secret community of mermaids whose habitat is threatened by a scheming developer. This is as weird and silly as it gets, but it’s beautifully directed, a joy to watch, and for a big budget blockbuster may catch you off guard with its biting social commentary.
Whether documentary is your passion or not, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes is an essential look at the prison industrial complex in the United States in a very unusual way. Canadian filmmaker Brett Story directs her poetic eye not simply at the prison system itself, but in a dozen vignettes looks at different strands connected to prisons in order to examine the way mass incarceration is intertwined with America’s society and economy. Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson is another unique approach to documentary that transcends the form. Johnson, who has worked as a cinematographer for many years, has assembled various pieces of footage from her career from across the world and created a complex portrait of what it means to be a cameraperson, what it means to create images, to film people and events. It’s personal and yet it speaks to philosophical questions about cinema itself.
Mainstream South Korean cinema has been consistently delivering some of the world’s greatest genre films for well over a decade now, and 2016 was something of a landmark year. As a result we’ve a triptych to share with you that includes The Handmaiden, The Wailing, and South Korea’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, The Age of Shadows. Park Chan-Wook is known best for his Vengeance trilogy which includes the beloved cult favourite, Oldboy, and his latest may be his most expertly crafted thriller yet about a thief posing as a servant in order to swindle an heiress—until he becomes infatuated with her. The Wailing is a remarkably tense supernatural thriller about a series of murders in a village overtaken by hysteria after an outsider mysteriously arrives. Lastly, The Age of Shadows is an epic spy story set in the 1920s during the Japanese occupation of Korea about a secret agent hired to work against the Korean resistance.
If you’re looking for an off the radar pick, The Fits is one of the most exciting American debuts of the year. Directed by newcomer Anna Rose Holmer, it blends elements of dance, sports, and art films into a completely original coming-of-age story about a young girl whose battling femininity and masculinity lead to a journey of self discovery in the boxing ring and on the dance floor. It’s important to embrace the new, but sometimes, at the end of the day, you can’t beat a classic, and with Clint Eastwood’s Sully, starring Tom Hanks, you’re in the hands of an old master effortlessly constructing another work of art. And that only covers eight of the 20 films in the series, so there are many other must-sees to check off your To See lists!
The series runs from now to January 1st at Vancity Theatre