For the Georgia Straight’s 19th annual Best of Vancouver issue, our editorial team has spent months on the lookout for good deeds, weird urban details, and various howlers to highlight. Here’s our contributors’ picks for Best of Vancouver 2014.
Best photo grab at Squamish fest
Arcade Fire were a couple of songs into their Saturday night headlining set at the Squamish Valley Music Festival this past August when Win Butler walked to the front of the stage and reached down into the photo pit. Straight photographer Rebecca Blissett watched nervously as the lead singer grabbed her camera and took a few shots himself, including an image of a sea of lenses pointed up from the pit. Butler and the rest of the Montreal-based band continued to steal the show with one of the best sets of the weekend.
Best literal home run on the big screen
Although the story of the legendary Japanese Canadian baseball team was told in the 2003 National Film Board of Canada documentary Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story, a big-budget Japan-Canada coproduction is retelling the story as a dramatic feature in The Vancouver Asahi (Bankuba no Asahi). The film was shot in Japan in studios that re-created Vancouver scenery from the 1930s. The Oppenheimer Park–based team ruled the Pacific Northwest Championship for five years; the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War brought an end to that. Respectfully, the film’s world premiere will be at the Vancouver International Film Festival on September 29.
Best signs that we still wanna see movies in theatres, dammit!
There are things about the movie-theatre experience that cannot be replaced by home entertainment: laughing with a crowd, being dazzled by the massive screen, getting out of the house with a bunch of friends, throwing popcorn at the irritating person who won’t stop texting. Okay, so maybe that last one doesn’t count since you can do that at home too. But if you’ve ever seen the zoolike crowds at the Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver on a weekend, or the full houses for obscure foreign films at the Cinematheque or Vancity Theatre, or the partypalooza happening at the Rio, it’s clear that in spite of the disappearing acts of many local theatres, Vancouverites still enjoy heading out to watch entertainment on the really, really big screen. If you want those venues to stick around our town, keep getting out there and buying tickets!
Best Robson Square statue that didn’t attract wasps
Vancouverites were in for a surprise the morning of November 29 when they passed by Robson Square. A massive statue of what appeared to be North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had appeared in the Arthur Erickson–designed plaza. Later in the day, men in full military garb were seen strolling around the area, and actor James Franco was spotted lounging on the steps reading a book. It was all for The Interview, the latest film from Vancouver-born writing-and-directing duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The movie, set for release in December, has reportedly already drawn the ire of Kim Jong-un himself. Where’s Dennis Rodman when you need him?
Best city within a city
Unless you happen to be staggering home from Parallel 49 or cruising the neighbourhood sex-trade workers, odds are you wouldn’t know the Franklin Street film set even existed. Tucked away on a block formerly occupied by Terminal City Iron Works, the giant set is mostly obscured by fencing you’re not able to see over unless your name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If you’ve somehow managed to get a peek inside, however, you’ve seen grimy hotel, warehouse, and street façades that have been used in productions ranging from Dark Angel to Stargate Atlantis. The Franklin Street film set has been turned into a bustling Little Saigon for episodes of John Doe, stepped in for San Francisco on Alcatraz, and played the part of Copenhagen for Fringe. Haven’t heard of some of those productions? Well, that might also explain why you haven’t heard of the Franklin Street film set.
Best porn palace conversion
2321 Main Street
Ten years ago, the Fox on Main was one of the last porno-movie palaces in Vancouver, the kind of place where you wore a trench coat partly because you needed something clean to put on your seat. Today, thanks to a massive renovation by the crew formerly behind the Waldorf, it’s been reborn as one of the best new music and arts venues in the city. The seats are gone, the walls and floors scrubbed and repainted. The vibe is Mount-Pleasant cool as opposed to Times-Square-circa-’72 seedy. Now, when “Single Mothers” is on the list of upcoming Fox attractions, it’s a Toronto hardcore band instead of a fuck-flick starring Seka, with Ron Jeremy and Johnny “The Wadd” Holmes. And best of all, unless you’re trying to make some sort of retro-meta fashion statement, trench coats are no longer mandatory.
Best place to holler at performers without feeling like a jackass
Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society
At the WISE Hall (1882 Adanac Street)
At shows put on by local burlesque company the Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, it’s considered more rude if you don’t hoot and holler at performers. A popular choice for alternative bachelor and bachelorette parties, these events (Screaming Chicken bills itself as “Vancouver’s biggest and longest-running burlesque show”) celebrate the weird and wonderful talent of Vancouver’s dancers, comics, and singers. Add in an almost full-service bar, and you can’t help but have fun during an evening that features the Pope and four nuns doing a burlesque routine to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”.