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Programmer Top Films of 2016: Guy Lavallee

Guy Lavallee, New American Cinema & Music on Screen Programmer highlights his Best of 2016 

I have to be totally upfront, I spend SO much of my time programming festival films and watching submissions that any time “left over” to see anything else is in precious short supply! Having said that, I saw a ton of films from many different sources in 2016, so this 10 Best List is a decidedly mixed bag of films I saw/programmed at a festival or at the multiplex, and all are currently available in theatres, Blu-Ray, and/or various streaming services.

TOP 10 of 2016 (In Alphabetical Order) 

13TH – Directed by Ava DuVernay | Available on Netflix
This exhaustive look at the systemic racism of the US prison system is like a kick to the head. Urgent, eye-opening, and timely as hell, this is an absolutely vital exposé of the corruption and racial-profiling that the for-profit prison system has spread, unchecked.

HELL OR HIGH WATER – directed by Derek Mackenzie | Available on Blu-Ray and On Demand
The best thriller of the year, this FARGO-like nail-biter features terrific performances by Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. It hits a pitch-perfect, at times darkly comedic tone throughout a very taut 112 minutes. 

LA LA LAND – directed by Damien Chazelle | In theatres now
The effortless charm of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and truly bravura filmmaking from hotshot young wunderkind Chazelle (who also co-wrote another one of my 2016 faves, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE), combined to make me a believer. I’m NO fan of musicals, but this won me over. Big-time.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – directed by Kenneth Lonergan | In theatres now
Absolutely drenched in melancholy and regret, from the first frame to the very last, this may be one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen, but it’s also one that’s stuck with me since the day I saw it. This is just a flat-out great film.

THE NICE GUYS – directed by Shane Black | Available on Blu-Ray and On Demand
The godfather of the buddy comedy, Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, KISS KISS BANG BANG), knocks it out of the park once again, with this hilarious homage to ‘70s private eye flicks. Gosling and Crowe have the best chemistry of any on-screen couple since…Gosling and Stone?

OPERATOR – directed by Logan Kibens | Available on iTunes & On Demand
A revelatory performance by Mae Witman, and a nuanced dramatic turn by Martin Starr form the basis for this thoroughly modern romance in the age of technology. While comparisons to HER starring Joaquin Phoenix may be inevitable, I think OPERATOR is even better – it’s raw, messy, funny and painfully honest.

SING STREET – directed by John Carney | Available on Netflix
The director of ONCE and BEGIN AGAIN strikes gold again, with this rapturous, ‘80s-set, romantic comedy musical. Featuring a great young cast performing some awesome, authentically-‘80s-sounding pop songs, this movie is pure joy from beginning to end. How none of the songs from this film is nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar is beyond me.

TICKLED – directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve | Available on HBO Canada
Thrilling, tense, funny, bizarre, insane, and filled with more twists than three seasons worth of BLACK MIRROR, this doc about an investigation into the World Tickling Championships is an absolute must-see. I’ve seen it three times and I still can’t believe it’s true!

TONY ROBBINS: I AM NOT YOUR GURU – directed by Joe Berlinger | Available on Netlfix
Going deep behind the scenes of the five-day intensive (VERY intensive) Tony Robbins “Date with Destiny” seminar, this adrenaline-charged chronicle of perhaps the most famous motivational speaker on the planet is the one film last year that left me exhilarated and emotionally spent.

WEINER – directed by Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg | Available On Demand
Kudos to disgraced New York politician Anthony Weiner, for the unfettered access he gave to the filmmakers. With an almost unbelievable level of access to his life, his inner circle, and his ill-fated campaign to become Mayor of New York, we’re given great insight into how high his star could have climbed…if only he could have put the camera away. Rarely has a "fly on the wall" seen quite so much.

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Honourable Mentions:
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
DEADPOOL
DON’T BREATHE
EDDIE THE EAGLE
GREEN ROOM
THE JUNGLE BOOK

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