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Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2016

It’s that time of year – when friends, family, and strangers in the elevator ask, “Hey, Did you see [fill in the blank]? Is it any good? What’s your favorite movie of 2016?” Well, here I attempt to answer those questions as succinctly as possible — with a countdown of my top ten movies of the year (12 if you count the ties), as well as a bunch of honorable mentions. They are films that resonated for one (positive) reason or another and represent a broad range of genres. Check ’em out!

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Office Christmas Party; Miss Sloane; Jackie; Lion

Comedy. Drama. Suspense. History. Politics. Lots to choose from at the box office this weekend. And it’s all pretty good, even awards-worthy. Except for Office Christmas Party. That one’s just for fun!

Office Christmas Party is not destined to become a holiday classic. But it’s still plenty of fun in the moment, thanks to a Santastic bundle of comedic talent. Too many sub-plots clutter up the nativity scene a bit, but here’s the gist: The uptight CEO (Jennifer Aniston) of a tech company cancels all holiday parties and threatens to close the Chicago branch run by her dufus brother Clay (T.J. Miller) unless he can seal a lucrative deal with a potential client (Courtney B. Vance) by year’s end. With the help of his Chief Technical Officer (Jason Bateman) and a talented techie (Olivia Munn), Clay throws caution (and his sister’s orders) to the wind and throws an epic office party designed to impress the client, boost morale, and save everyone’s jobs. Let’s just say the party – which the head of HR (Kate McKinnon) insists on calling a “non-denominational holiday mixer” — goes off the rails big-time, devolving into a drug and alcohol-fueled physical comedy extravaganza.

Reflections from the Middleburg Film Festival

I’m told this was the best slate of movies ever presented at the Middleburg Film Festival. So I picked a good year to make my debut trip into Virginia horse country to partake in four days of film, schmoozing, and lively discussion. Granted, I did not get the full-on glitz and glamor experience, choosing to stay in a lovely $79/night Hampton Inn about 30-minutes from the main venues, rather than the stunning but pricey $700/night Salamander Resort & Spa owned by the festival’s founder. But it was still a solid introduction to a festival that, in four short years, has sown the seeds to compete with the likes of Sundance, AFI, Toronto Film Festival, etc. (I think Cannes is safe). Here’s the blow-by-blow: