2016 was a year to say goodbye to my youngest off to university, and to my childhood home where my parents lived for almost six decades. A year of frights that came deep in the night, some that lingered longer than others: my mother and my oldest child suffered accidents, as did my father-in-law. Caring emergency workers and excellent medical supervision mean we have them all yet to cherish this holiday season.
We will toast them tonight, but first, a peek at some of my favourites of 2016:
Best film: You can read my TIFF reviews here, but I cannot choose a best film in a year that was very good for cinema (Arrival, Jackie, Deadpool, American Honey, etc), if very bad for progressive voters. Instead, here are a few of my favourites film scenes of 2016:
- From German film director Maren Ade came the awesome Toni Erdmann, which we saw on TIFF’s opening night, and a nude birthday party that is a master class in execution. But the scene I loved most was actor Sandra Huller nailing a hilarious impromptu version of The Greatest Love of all. Worth every penny of a TIFF ticket. You can see it now on Netflix.
- Then there’s Emma Stone’s stunning ode to dreamers everywhere as she auditions for what might just be her big breakthrough, one of the best musical notes of the magical La La Land. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s chemistry is almost enough to wipe away a world of ugliness from He who Must Not Be Mentioned
- The final boat ride in the joyous British film Sing Street (read my review from earlier this year here) carried me through last spring as did Ralph Fiennes gyrating joyfully in the fantastic A Bigger Splash. I will never hear the Stones Emotional Rescue again without thinking of Fiennes’ complete command of the song. Give that man an Oscar already, at the very least for stealing attention away from the gorgeous brooding presence of Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts and the eternally awesome Tilda Swinton.
- Haunting me yet is the food bank scene in the centre of I, Daniel Blake. This film, and the equally haunting Dheepan, are perhaps the most relevant films of our time. Both available on Netflix and highly recommended.
- Playwright Kenneth Lonergan’s script for Manchester by the Sea was without a single false note as was the cast-the best on film this year. Yes, it’s about grief, and hardly the stuff of date night, but championing this film is easy as it soars far above most dramatic fare about the fragility of life. Stand out scene for me is tough: the film is a gorgeous symphony.
- I am still marvelling the great and still beauty of Moonlight, and the baptism scene of actor Mahershala Ali as Juan teaching Little to swim in the water. Hear director Barry Jenkins deconstruct that scene of “spiritual transference” here.
Best concert: a three-way tie between my youngest’s last high school performance singing with her guitar-strumming musical BFF, my nephew singing Yellow Submarine at his grade 2 We Day school concert, and Rufus Wainright in the wondrous repurposing of an industrial space at the Hearn Generating Station for another spectacular Luminato festival.
Happiest musical moment: hearing my mother play her baby grand again in her new home. Note to siblings: hiring those piano movers? Priceless.
Best performance: No way. I can’t choose. Toronto songbird Elise Legrow at The Painted Lady in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company’s Carmen and Marriage of Figaro, Macbeth at Stratford, Twelve Angry Men at Soulpepper. I suspect Come from Away would be on this list but I’m seeing it next week so will report back.
Best book: Again, impossible but I’m going to give it up to the Boss. Bruce Springteen’s memoir, Born to Run, is stacked with gems. Read it if you’re a fan. Read it if you’re a musician in the first, middle, last…heck all the stages of your career. Read it if you are in the throes of a creative journey of any kind. So many lovely bits and impossible to choose just one, but let’s do it anyway.
When you came to work with me, I had to be assured you’d bring your heart. Heart sealed the deal. That’s why the E street band plays steamroller strong and undiminished, forty years in, night after night. We are more than an idea, an aesthetic. We are a philosophy, a collective, with a professional code of honour. It is based on the principle that we bring our best, everything we have, on this night, to remind you of everything you have, your best. That it’s a privilege to exchange smiles, soul and heart directly with the people in front of you. That it’s an honour and great fun to join in concert with those who you’ve invested so much of yourself in and they in you, your fans, the stars above, this moment, and apply your trade humbly (or not so!) as a piece of a long, spurred chain you’re thankful to be a small link in.
Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run
Honourable mention to Go Home Bay, a new picture book in lyrical free verse by Susan Vande Griek with stunning illustrations by Pascal Milelli.
Best art: My daughter’s red and pink canvas painted for my garden book launch was a rescue painting for both of us. She got to paint while convalescing post a scary bike accident, and I received the most gorgeous garden colour explosion ever. Too bad I had to give it up to her downtown student apartment. Elsewhere in TO, there were too many elbows to nudge at the Mystical Landscapes exhibit at the AGO for me to fully engage as I would like but then there’s this: all these people chose to come here on a dark winter afternoon, to float away with Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe…the exhibit is gorgeous and continues through January 29th.
I’m trying to get up to the summit of my soul and work there—there were the universe sings.
Best dining experience: another three-way tie between The Feast at Michael Smith’s Inn at Bay Fortune in PEI, and the Cuban sandwiches made by my daughters for a Mother’s Day picnic in the tulips.
A special kiss to the staff at Milos in Montreal who continue to prove there is no better restaurant in the country, and my posse who made fondue fun all over again back in chilly January in Toronto. We didn’t need prompting from Loblaws, did we?
2016 also brought heaps of love and sugar: lakeside in Algonquin (easily the most romantic moment of the year); bedside in a family snuggle this holiday, still our best reset of all time. We always talk about getting a king-sized bed. Nah. There is no better place for being us:Mommy, Daddy, Daughters. Four is a magic number.
Best moment to savour: a tie between grooving with The Friendly Greek at the jump up in St. Lucia in March, and reading aloud at the launch for my new food memoir, with love and sugar, then looking up from the stool and seeing everyone listening.
To all the friends who shared the ride this year. You know who you are. Let’s do it all again, shall we?
To my family who put up with me: everything is better with you.
Happy New Year to all my readers. See you back here in 2017.