I know I’m not the only person who’s promoted this for VPL, but in case you’re not already aware, if you have a library card with us then that gives you free access to the video streaming service Kanopy! (Note: if you’re trying to log in to any of our online resources and can’t remember your PIN – it’s a common problem! – get in touch with us through Email Librarian, and we will get you set up ASAP)
I know, there’s a ton of streaming services out there there days, but listen, this extra one is FREE to you, so it’s definitely worth it. And Kanopy’s got some really great stuff. Here are some of my favourites:
This one is straight-up in my top five movies of all time (though don’t ask me to tell you the other four; I am really bad at top fives if I’m being honest!) A story about a little girl living in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, caught between the twin horrors of her dying mother and her abusive step-father, who starts meeting fairies (and a faun!), and inevitably winds up on a mission to combat Evil.
This film is a work of pure passion for Guillermo del Toro (who I love even when he’s doing the superhero-y Hellboy stuff!), and the contrast between the darkly gorgeous fairy tale settings, and the utter brutality of Ofelia’s ‘mundane’ reality is just… awe-inspiring? And endlessly satisfying.
Pan’s Labyrinth can be hard to watch – genuinely scary at points, and unflinchingly violent – but so worth it!
Ok, I promise this whole list isn’t just going to be horror films, but I couldn’t pass by Pontypool without talking it up to you! This is a wonderfully weird but extremely effective piece of Canadian indie cinema that every horror lover should put on their must-watch list! It’s really, really worth it.
The movie’s premise is that a… I’ll call it a ‘mysterious zombie-adjacent illness’ is sweeping across the country. The whole thing takes place inside the studio of a small-town local radio station (Pontypool, Ontario!), where former shock jock Grant Mazzy is still settling into his new job doing early morning talk and news. As increasingly strange reports of unexplained violence start coming in, Grant and his producer and support staff must try to sort out what the heck is going on and try to keep the town informed, and themselves safe, as it slowly sinks it that this is definitely all real, and definitely not isolated to Pontypool.
56 Up is a recent chapter in the utterly fascinating documentary study begun in 1964, following 14 British people from various walks of life. The documentarians returned to their subject every 7 years, from 7 to 56 (though some of the people chose not to participate every time), and though they are all just people living ordinary lives, it’s really an enthralling saga nonetheless.
I actually sat down one week and watched all the chapters of the Up Series, but I think you can get a good enough sense of the whole just from watching 56 Up, which provides all the background you need to get a picture of these people’s various lives. 63 Up also came out this year, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for it!
And now, for something completely different! We all respond differently to times of stress like this, so while you may be indulging in horror like me, it’s also possible you’re in the market for fluffy, feel-good stuff (also like me, to be honest! It depends on the day.) Be Kind Rewind is exactly that – wholesome, silly, and charming. I think I grinned the whole way through the last time I watched it!
Jack Black and Mos Def play classic lovable losers – Black is Mike, who works at an obsolete but nevertheless locally loved small-town video-rental store, and Mos Def is his friend Jerry who manages to accidentally de-magnetize all the tapes, erasing the films! To avoid getting fired, Mike enlists Jerry to help him try to recreate all the movies with a handheld video recorder, and whatever props and costumes they have on hand.
If you’ve ever wondered what people see in Jack Black, this is the quintessential example of his lovable, bumbling charm.
I’m going to go ahead and call this one a cinematic masterpiece, worth watching entirely for the visual aesthetic experience (the Academy agrees – Hugo won Best Achievement in Cinematography and Best Visual Effects in 2011, among other awards). If you’re any kind of film nerd, you will especially love it, but this is also a kid’s film, and you don’t need any pre-existing knowledge to get immersed in its wonder.
Hugo is the son of a clockmaker in 1930s Paris who, through a series of misfortunes, winds up living alone inside a railway station clocktower. While also maintaining the clockwork, so as to remain undetected, Hugo continues to try to repair the mysterious automaton (a clockwork man) that his father found many years ago.
Of course, this project causes Hugo to go on many adventures, looking for parts, and seeking information about the automaton’s creator, and along the way he meets girl, and many hijinks ensue.
This is another movie that had me smiling that whole way through. Maybe it’ll bring you some joy as well!