It was only a year ago that I was asked to join the team here at Hollywood North Magazine. Up until that point, my film criticism largely consisted of capsule film reviews that I would post to Facebook. Over the course of 2018, I have been truly blessed to learn and grow as a writer for this online publication and been privileged to see many amazing films and to take part in many wonderful adventures along the way.
While my first reviews largely consisted of older and overlooked titles in the annals of Canadian Cinema, I soon turned my focus to more current releases, especially from west coast filmmakers whenever possible. So to round out the year, here are my Top 5 titles (plus one honourable mention) from this past year.
5) Kayak to Klemtu
I tend to bristle a bit at “message” pictures as they often come across a little to heavy-handed and didactic for my taste. This works fine for PSAs but requires more care when translating to a narrative feature. Fortunately, director Zoe Hopkins was more than up to the challenge as evidenced in her resulting feature debut. Centred on a kayak voyage north to oppose a pipeline through Coast Salish territory, the film makes fine use of BC’s stunning sunshine coast as well as its endearing cast including lead Ta’kaiya Blaney and scene-stealing Corner Gas alumnus Lorne Cardinal. The film’s theme of a people’s connection to their land is never overtly preachy and is expertly woven into an uplifting and inspiring narrative.
4) The New Romantic
With it’s timely themes of hook-up culture via dating apps and trading sexual favours for financial stability, New Romantic feels like just the sort of romance flick that millennials and Gen Z need right now. With a stellar cast and a killer soundtrack (Float by Jude Shuma is now permanently on my summer playlist), this winning effort by Carly Stone merits many repeat viewings.
3) Elijah and the Rock Creature
This stunning family picture is a breath of fresh air in a time when the market for children’s fare is crowded with endless sequels (Incredibles 2), remakes (The Grinch) , and lacklustre adaptions (Wrinkle in Time). The film is a rock-solid (pun-intended) tale of friendship, loss, and finding your place in the world. Filmed in and around Yellowknife, Elijah proves that you need not be based in BC or Ontario to produce quality Canadian Cinema.
I was initially reluctant to see this film as I didn’t find the premise of a false golden boy’s homecoming very appealing. But with all the Leo attention it received this year, I decided to check it out at Vancity Theatre. The absolute perfection of performances, storytelling and technical craftsmanship ultimately blew away my admittedly low expectations. This is exactly the type of human drama the Oscars would eat up if there was any justice in film distribution. Audiences will have to be content to seek Prodigals out on DVD and iTunes for now.
Honourable Mention: First Love
I include this film on the list mostly due to it’s splendid showcase of Vancouver. With its colourful and well-composed widescreen images, First Love makes Vancouver look as romantic as Paris, New York, or Venice have ever looked onscreen. We Vancouverites tend to be pessimistic about our city so anytime a filmmaker makes us look this good is worth celebrating. Three cheers for a spirited performance by leading lady Bea Alonzo as well!
1) Deadpool 2
My editor may accuse me of cheating here, but with Vancouver’s favourite son Ryan Reynolds as the clear creative lead and a Vancouver setting in-all-but-name, Deadpool 2 is a Canuck contender in my book. Building on hype for the character and his antics generated by the first film and clever meta-advertising, Deadpool 2 wisely moves the story forward while maintaining the same smart-ass tone and R-rated shenanigans we’ve come to expect from our beloved merc with a mouth. The laughs and action come fast and furious with in-jokes and cameos galore for the attentive viewer. Add in a flawless supporting cast (anyone else fall in love with Zazie Beetz as Domino?) and you’ve easily got a sequel that exceeds it’s predecessor.
And with a reissue entitled Once Upon a Deadpool now in theatres, you can check it out for yourself (albeit in a family-friendly PG-13 this time).
It’s been an amazing year and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds. Until next time!