It's one critic's opinion. Let's save the fighting for the future of our democracy. And let's hope for streaming video for the titles at the bottom.
Kim Snyder's emotionally devastating one year followup on the survivors of the horrific shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut avoids explicit violence and manipulative sequences. Instead, she shows how irreparably damaged parents and siblings of those lost are, and condemns this nation rightfully for its refusal to enact any gun control. A transcendent doc that earns it tears fairly.
2. Miss Sloane
Screenwriter Jonathan Perera was living in Asia, unrepresented, before this literate, constantly surprising project got in the hands of director John Madden and Jessica Chastain, playing a brilliant, ruthless Washington lobbyist who sacrifices her career while trying to enact, yes, once again, gun control legislation. Reminiscent of Michael Clayton with its finely etched characters.
Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg had no idea that Congressman Anthony Weiner was going to witness a major scandal that would melt down his career while on camera. His brilliance, passion and humor are put in sharp relief by his compulsive, self-destructive behavior. A squirm-inducing, miraculous film.
4. Zero Days
Prolific, multi-award winner Alex Gibney has created a documentary about our greatest and most overlooked threat to the planet, the hacking of our critical infrastructure. It plays out like an international thriller, involving the US and Israel secretly cyber-attacking Iranian nuclear power centrifuges, but when Israel launched a second attack, the code was discovered and has now spread worldwide. Chilling and of the utmost importance.
Keith Maitland expands the nature of documentary with a primarily rotoscoped visit back to the sniper who took 16 lives from a clock tower on the University of Texas, Austin campus in 1966. There are fascinating shifts in perspective and storytelling by Maitland, as well as recalling inspiring acts of personal bravery.
Atom Egoyan returns to top directorial form, as the impeccable Christopher Plummer plays a senior citizen with dementia, on a personal mission to murder the Nazi guard who killed his family, recently found in America. Martin Landau supports with excellent work in this taut, finely constructed and moving feature.
7. Hell or High Water
Scotsman David Mackenzie and his screenwriter, David Sheridan, nail the quirks and mannerisms of West Texas, as two bank-robbing brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) try to save their ranch. They're up against Jeff Bridges, as a charmingly laid back but brilliant lawman unwilling to give up on apprehending them. Foster is yet again a revelation as actor.
Director Pablo Larrain has a beautifully shot and poetic tale in this, the persecution of Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, hunted down by an inspector (Gael Garcia Bernal) who admires his work. A luxurious, metaphysical chase thriller, nominated for the Golden Globe for Foreign Film.
9. The Infiltrator
By now, we all know Bryan Cranston can do anything and here he rejuvenates the undercover thriller. Director Brad Furman has plenty of nail-biting tension and respect for his Columbian cartel characters as well, especially with Benjamin Bratt as an associate of kingpin Pablo Escobar. Based on the nonfiction book by US Customs agent Robert Mazur.
10. The Girl on the Train
It's a delight to see how far Emily Blunt has come, from comedic second banana to this wrenching portrayal of an alcoholic who might be a murderer. Tate Taylor's adaptation of the best seller by Paula Hawkins not only keeps you guessing but is lensed with great precision and color.
Great Films, No Theatrical Distribution:
Asperger's Are Us, Blue Jay, Borderline, My King (Mon Roi), Sensitivity Training.