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10 Best Movies We Saw at Toronto Film Festival 2016

A modern musical, a First Lady biopic, a gunfire free-for-all and the glory that is ‘Moonlight’ — our picks for the best of the 2016 fest

Folks went into the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival hearing that the movies were "dead," as several articles declared the summer season to be the medium's swan song and the Internet Rage Complex batted around the straw-man argument of the day. By the time you left the annual Canadian celebration of big-name Oscar hopefuls, brand-name auterist works, docs on everything from the racial state of our nation to the Stooges, IMAX pet projects and even a pulpy revenge thriller about a hitman surgically altered into a hitwoman, however, it was impossible not to think that the art form was still alive, well and living in the Great White North. Summer blockbusters that rely on recycling the same material ad nauseaum and expect to coast by old viewing habits? Yeah, they're not doing so hot right now. The movies? From what we saw at the film festival this year, the epitaphs could not be more premature. Here are the 10 best things we caught at TIFF 2016. Trust us when we say that there are some serious cinematic treasures heading your way soon.

10 Best Movies We Saw at Toronto Film Festival 2016 Gosling Stone


This elliptical ballad of yearning and coming-of-age in poverty-stricken Miami officially announces director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) as a visionary talent. In three acts, the filmmaking shows the boyhood, teen years, and adulthood of Chiron, a sensitive African-American man figuring out how to reconcile his budding homosexuality with his turbulent, less-than-tolerant surroundings. Jenkins renders this portrait of the black experience and unrequited love with boundless empathy, extending generosity to each and every struggling character. In the words of Frank Ocean — an undeniable point of comparison in his tenderhearted queer masculinity — we all try. CB

10 Best Movies We Saw at Toronto Film Festival 2016 Gosling Stone

‘Nocturnal Animals’

For his second go in the director's chair, designer Tom Ford offers audiences two pulpy, borderline-absurd treats for the price of one. In the "real" world, art dealer Amy Adams puzzles over whether or not to reconnect with her novelist ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) after he sends her his disturbing new manuscript. Then we step inside the book itself, where a pair of rural criminals make life a living hell for a family man (also Gyllenhaal) by murdering his wife and child. Add Michael Shannon as a West Texas lawman who doesn't play by the rules, and it's high-art, high-camp bliss for all. CB

10 Best Movies We Saw at Toronto Film Festival 2016 Gosling Stone


A movie about a poet that flows like poetry — bless you, Jim Jarmusch. The second of the independent-cinema godhead's movies at TIFF (after his Stooges doc Gimme Danger), this low-key story of a bus driver (Adam Driver) with a kooky wife (viva Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani!), a regular daily routine and a love of verse is possibly the most genuinely Zen film he's ever made. It's so good in its depiction of finding creativity in mundane small-town living that you don't even mind the clever touches, like a character named Paterson living in Paterson, New Jersey and being enamored of William Carlos Williams' book Paterson. Quietness has rarely seemed so earth-shaking. DF

10 Best Movies We Saw at Toronto Film Festival 2016 Gosling Stone

‘The Salesman’

Two married theater performers (Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti), each acting in a local production of Death of a Salesman, are forced to move to a new apartment during the play's run. While there, the wife is assaulted and finds she's having a hard time getting back to everyday life; the husband, meanwhile, becomes obsessed with finding out who perpetrated the act. Iranian filmmaker Ashgar Farhadi (A Separation) keeps things at a slow, simmering boil until he doesn't — at which point, you can feel your nerves starting to rattle and see how a single-minded pursuit for justice and closure can spiral someone into a downward free fall. Bravo. DF