Best of Vancouver 2017: Entertainment

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      Best new gallery

      You’ve seen the striking, jaggedy-glass structure of the Polygon Gallery rising on the waterfront by North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay (see photo above); soon, come November 18, you’ll finally be able to go inside the $15-million, 24,000-square-foot cultural facility.

      Vancouver is renowned as a centre for photographic and media art, and those forms finally find the home they deserve—the replacement for the old Presentation House Gallery. Designed by Patkau Architects, the structure (at 101 Carrie Cates Court) won’t just be a design marvel, windowed from floor to ceiling on three sides, with a main-floor lobby looking out on Burrard Inlet and an upper-floor gallery whose retractable glass wall gives way to a spectacular balcony.

      Its inaugural exhibit, N. Vancouver, features local bright lights like Jeff Wall, Greg Girard, Fred Herzog, and Althea Thauberger. The most welcome news of all? In this city where culture-consuming can be expensive, admission will be by donation. 


      Best story behind a band’s name

      The Vancouver bluegrass-country-rock trio of Jesse Burch, Philip Puxley, and Phil Bell like to say they didn’t get their name—Rollin’ Trainwreck—for nothin’!

      Burch recently told the Straight that he has a female friend who likes to party, especially after she’s had a few drinks. So one night he called her a “train wreck”. But then he corrected himself: “You’re not a train wreck,” Burch told her. “You keep moving and you keep rolling and you just keep on partying. You’re a rollin’ train wreck.”

      Then Burch had an epiphany, realizing this would be a great name for a band. And, yes, it could also be applied to the three musicians, whose frenetic stage presence suggests that they’re not likely to be felled by two or three Paralyzers. “If you met us, you would understand we are kind of a little bit of a rollin’ train wreck,” Burch acknowledged with a laugh.

      Rollin’ Trainwreck’s new album will be released this fall by MyTone Records, and on Sunday (September 24), the band will host a party at the Roxy to celebrate the release of its first single, “Already Gone”. Party on.


      Nikohl Boosheri.

      Vancouver’s best new TV acting sensation

      Former SFU theatre student Nikohl Boosheri has attracted hordes of devoted new admirers playing a proud, hijab-wearing lesbian artist named Adena El Amin in Freeform’s The Bold Type. Her love interest, Kat Edison (Aisha Dee), is a formerly hetero photographer working for the very glamorous Scarlet magazine, and their relationship is marred by anti-Muslim discrimination in the U.S. and Donald Trump’s travel ban on travellers from Muslim-majority countries.

      Kat and Adena’s deep connection has given birth to the hashtag #Kadena, reflecting the intense affection of their fans. On the Freeform website, the now L.A.–based Boosheri says she can identify with Adena’s feeling of being an outsider. “I hope viewers watching my portrayal of Adena take away that it’s okay to be complicated and to not fit someone else’s idea of what’s normal—and to really fight for yourself.”

      It’s not the first time that Boosheri—who was born in Pakistan to Iranian parents—has played a lesbian. In 2011, the long-time Vancouver resident earned rave reviews and a few awards for her starring role as Atafeh Hakimi in the indie film Circumstance, which depicted freedom-loving young Iranians partying and listening to western music in spite of laws banning these activities.


      Best place to murder zombies

      Turning around to discover a bloodied, stumbling corpse breathing down your neck is the stuff that nightmares are made of. With the rise of virtual reality, it’s a real possibility. VR is hyped as the next big thing for gaming, films, and everything from training surgeons to oil-rig workers, and the fully immersive technology is already available to purchase from your local Best Buy.

      While eager gamers are already donning the headsets in their living rooms, though, the average Joe would have to shell out a few thousand dollars to get the hardware and computer necessary for it to work—which is where UNIVRS comes in. As Metro Vancouver’s first VR lounge, UNIVRS (100–8160 Park Road, Richmond) allows customers to book time on one of its consoles, and staff members guide users through understanding how to operate the controls. Games include archery, riding a loop-the-loop roller coaster, and, of course, bludgeoning zombies.


      The cast of Netflix's Sense8.

      Best last-minute guests at Vancouver Pride

      Sense8 cocreator Lana Wachowski (who is trans) and cast members Toby Onwumere, Max Riemelt, Tina Desai, Brian J. Smith, and Alfonso Herrera made a surprise visit, announcing at the last minute that they would be appearing at the Davie Street Pride Party and marching in the Vancouver Pride parade. The sci-fi drama series had been cancelled, but due to a powerful campaign launched by fans, Netflix arranged for a two-hour finale to be aired next year.


      Best superheroic response to homophobes from a straight ally

      When Arrow star Stephen Amell was inundated with homophobic comments for posting photos of him and his wife attending the Vancouver Pride parade, he responded perfectly. The Canadian actor from Toronto, who plays Oliver Queen/Green Arrow on the locally shot superhero TV series, responded by saying that if he’s in Vancouver next year, he won’t just attend the parade—he’ll march in it.

      “So for everyone in their negative pants: Go be on the wrong side of history on somebody else’s Facebook page,” he stated on his social media. Heck, with all the superhero series shot in Vancouver, such as Supergirl, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Amell could round up a whole contingent of superpowered celebrities to show that in the real world, the way to show true power is to stand up to bullies, bigots, and discriminatory bad guys.


      Riverview Hospital.
      Justus Hayes

      Best place to spot a movie star

      Coquitlam’s Riverview Hospital was built in 1913 with the purpose of housing patients afflicted by mental illnesses. Almost 100 years later, the building—initially dubbed the Hospital for the Mind—closed its doors as a place of convalescence but opened them to the film industry.

      The complex’s 140 hectares have been used for Saw, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Killing, Watchmen, Supernatural, The X-Files, and Falling Skies, and according to Creative B.C.’s Julie Bernard, it’s the most filmed site in all of Canada, barring purpose-built studios. With its lush lawns and grand architecture, the exterior doubles as various high-class buildings, while the crumbling interior makes for perfect horror-flick sets.

      The fate of the site remains under debate—so you can expect to catch a number of high-profile actors at the former asylum in the foreseeable future.


      Best teenage celebrity

      Justin Bieber is all grown up. But there’s a new kid on the block: Hamish Marissen-Clark.


      Best celebrity in New West

      Badass actor Liam Neeson was invited to eat for free at Big Star Sandwich Co. And no, he didn’t pull out a gun and start shooting up the place.


      Good Night Out Vancouver coordinators Stacey Forrester (left) and Ashtyn Bevan.

      Best kick-ass tackling of toxic, misogynistic after-dark bro culture

      Anyone who’s had the misfortune of partying on—or even strolling through—the Granville strip on a weekend night can attest that the environment is a lot like that of politics and Silicon Valley startups: not always kind to self-identifying women and LGBT folks.

      One grassroots campaign, however, is hoping to make the space a little safer for vulnerable clubgoers with its recently launched Nightlife Street Team pilot program. Stuck in an uncomfortable sitch, worried about a friend, or need someone to escort you to the closest bus stop? Look for Good Night Out Vancouver’s volunteers in their bright coral T-shirts, who are there to promote patron safety and defuse harassment.

      Even if you don’t need help, show some love to these brave souls by saying thanks. Word on the street is that they love high-fives.


      Best underground music venue

      Despite high rents threatening the survival of a number of grassroots venues, Open Studios (200–252 East 1st Avenue) lives on. A privately owned warehouse venue and gallery space—and premier rave cave—the spot is heavy on house and techno music events but also opens its doors to a number of small-capacity concerts with dedicated audiences.

      Offering a very different atmosphere than the Granville strip on a Saturday night, the 200-person location often fills up fast, packing the two-level concrete building with an attentive crowd. As well as music, the venue hosts hundreds of art installations and video events every year. At a time when Main Street settings are rapidly going out of business, the nearby Open Studios still manages to sell out its evenings—and gallantly refuses to hand over the building to property developers.


      Jim Wong-Chu.
      Nikki Celis

      Best local contributor to advancing Asian-Canadian literature

      By day, Vancouver’s Jim Wong-Chu was a postal worker. On his off-hours, he was a poet so fiercely driven to champion the careers and visibility of Asian-Canadian writers that he launched the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop in 1999, which published a newsletter that evolved into the literary journal Ricepaper magazine.

      Through these endeavours, Wong-Chu fostered, promoted, or was connected to a who’s who of Asian Canadian authors and poets, including local talent such as Made-leine Thien, Wayson Choy, Denise Chong, Sky Lee, Kevin Chong, Evelyn Lau, Rita Wong, David Wong, Alan Woo, and countless more. Though Wong-Chu died on July 11 and a celebration of life was held on September 11, his legacy more than lives on—it thrives.


      Best activity to let it all hang loose

      If the crowds at Wreck Beach and enthusiasm for Mayor Gregor Robertson’s bike lanes are anything to go by, we can safely say that two of Vancouver’s favourite pastimes are stripping off, and going for a pedal. For one day each June, those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

      Asking city dwellers to get as bare as they dare, the Vancouver version of the World Naked Bike Ride sees hundreds of body-painted, nipple-tasselled, and well-endowed individuals cycle leisurely around the West End.

      Although there are doubtless a few schmucks who are in the saddle after losing a bet, many take to the road to promote the message that “human-powered happiness” is much more fulfilling than Vancouver’s damaging car culture. More ass, less gas, we say.


      A rainbow-hued Aquabus travels across False Creek.
      Janet McDonald

      Best sight off Granville Bridge

      Most would say it’s the North Shore mountains—and it’s hard to disagree with that. But it’s also always a delight to see the permanent rainbow poking up over the horizon of the West End on top of the Sandman Suites on Davie Street.

      Painted in 2014, it serves as a glorious message to tourists coming into downtown from the airport via Granville Street that our city is not just tolerant but positively LGBT–friendly. The 17-by-7-metre mural is just a short walk away from the rainbow sidewalk at the corner of Davie and Bute streets. According to the hotel, the concept was: “A heart of gold where the rainbow begins”.

      But there’s also another delightful LGBT–friendly view from the bridge if you’re on the sidewalk peering over the railing at the right time. And that’s the rainbow-coloured roofs of the Aquabuses plying the waters of False Creek.


      Best sorry excuse for a performance at a local music event

      When former One Direction member Liam Payne was announced as a headliner at the first-ever iHeartRadio Beach Ball at the PNE, tickets sold like hotcakes—a fact that was confirmed when, during the concert, the predominantly preteen crowd let out Earth-shattering screeches at any mention of his name. But then Payne arrived on-stage, performing a grand total of six minutes and 50 seconds before bidding Vancouverites farewell.

      To be fair, the man has only two songs in his catalogue—neither of which is particularly appropriate for an all-ages event, by the way—but could he not have thrown in an *NSYNC cover or something? Let’s just hope the short-lived show isn’t indicative of his solo career.


      Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

      Best signs Hollywood North remains strong

      Earlier this year, the California Film Commission boasted about how a revised film-tax program has managed to attract screen productions back to the state. As a result, Vancouver-made TV series Timeless, Mistresses, Legion, and Lucifer were lost to L.A.

      However, our city has continued to attract numerous productions, even with shows moving in the opposite direction: the sci-fi series Colony, which is set in L.A., relocated here from L.A. for its third season; Supergirl did the same in 2016; and The X-Files, which moved to L.A. during its original run, is back in Raincouver for its revival season. Six and The Exorcist also came here from U.S. locations.

      Series that shot their pilot or first season in the city this past year include Ghost Wars, Hit the Road, Life Sentence, Singularity, Siren, The Crossing, The Good Doctor, The Trustee, The Green Beret’s Guide to the Apocalypse, Riverdale, and Snowpiercer.

      That’s not to mention the parade of international film stars we’ve witnessed thus far, including Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Neve Campbell (Skyscraper), Chow Yun-Fat and Aaron Kwok (Project Gutenberg), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool 2), Johnny Depp (Richard Says Goodbye), Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson (Dragged Across Concrete), Olivia Munn (The Predator), Liam Neeson (Hard Powder), Casey Affleck (Light of My Life), Sandra Oh (Meditation Park), and Steve Carrell and Diane Kruger (The Women of Marwen)—plus visits from Jackie Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Kelly Ripa, and more. And the year is not over yet.


      Best place to host one of Canada’s largest destination music festivals

      Clearly, it’s anywhere but B.C., which, with the abrupt cancellation of the Pemberton Music Festival this July and the axing of the Squamish Music Festival only a year earlier, seems to have become a place where music fetes go to die.

      Luckily, the province has no shortage of smaller-scale concerts—and a couple of newcomers—offering everything from electronic to country to indie that residents can enjoy during the summer season. However, we’re eager to see if either Squam or Pemby will miraculously rise from the dead in 2018. You know, like Jesus.


      U2 fans were kept outside BC Place earlier this year due to a faulty new security system.

      Best concert fiasco

      B.C. Place Stadium introduced a new security system for ticket holders to the U2 show in May. But the delays kept thousands of fans outside of the building as the backup band, Mumford & Sons, entertained those inside. Good thing for security officials that this didn’t occur at the Guns N’ Roses or Metallica concerts. That could have created serious mayhem, not just lots of whining on social media.


      Best hope for the Canucks’ future

      As the old adage goes, you have to give something to get something. The Vancouver Canucks gave up, arguably, their best player when they dealt Cory Schneider for the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Now the player they picked in that spot has become the Canucks’ best player.

      After a long period of negotiations that scared the shit out of fans, Bo Horvat has a brand-new contract that will pay him $5.5 million a year over the next six seasons. That’s the money of an elite young centre. He’s not quite there yet, but odds are high that Horvat—who has improved in each of his three years in the league—will just keep getting better. As Luke Skywalker was to the Rebel Alliance and John Horgan is to B.C., Horvat is the Canucks’ new hope.


      This baseball diamond is truly a Vancouver gem.

      Best sports venue

      The name Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium itself couldn’t be more Vancouver, as it succumbs to the commercial overlords while still trying to cling to a nostalgia that so many hold dear. But even the presence of blatant corporatization isn’t enough to sap “the Nat” of an authentic feel. It’s the only Vancouver stadium that could be defined as a neighbourhood park, one that doesn’t feel crunched into the outskirts of downtown.

      Although there’s no Green Monster at Nat Bailey, there are foot-long hot dogs, fireworks, sushi races, (not so) impromptu dance sessions from members of the grounds crew, and an atmosphere unlike any other offered in Vancouver, at half the price. And, hey, if you want to pay attention to the baseball, it helps that the team is once again one of the best in the league, with a championship win this year marking its fourth in the past seven years.