Never Goin’ Back (2018) Written & Directed by Augustine Frizzell
Angela and Jessie dropped out of high school and are killing time in their small southern Texas town until they turn eighteen and can escape. In the meantime, they’re stuck living with Jessie’s brother Dustin and his sleazy roommate Brandon. Their day jobs have them waiting tables at a local family eatery where they constantly dodge unemployment despite coming to work high or drunk. Through a series of interconnected vignettes, the young women experience highs and lows, both of the economic and pharmacological types. Throughout they remain devoted to each other and attempt to find some joy despite the loss. Always looming somewhere far up ahead is an escape to the beach and to see the ocean.
How To Talk to Girls at Parties (2018) Written Phillipa Goslett & John Cameron Mitchell Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Enn is a young adult at the height of punk in the United Kingdom. He published a fanzine with his two friends where he illustrates the anarchic adventures of his original character Vyris Boy. Enn and his friends frequently cruise the local venues for punk shows and stumble upon what they believe to be a group of American performers doing some experimental performance art/musical show. In actuality, these are alien collectives living in parent-teacher and child groups. Enn falls for Zan, a rebellious member of the visitors and she departs with him to learn about “the punk.” The alien beings see this as disruptive to the biological patterns they have engaged in for countless millennia and set out to undermine Zan or convince her to return home with them.
Under the Silver Lake (2018) Written & Directed by David Robert Mitchell
Sam is aimless. He’s far behind on rent; his relationships involve random flings or women he ogles after from his balcony. His apartment is reeking of an awful smell; he claims its the skunks roaming around the area. One evening he meets Sarah, a new neighbor whom he shares a quiet moment with. The next day everything in her apartment is packed up and gone. Suddenly, Sam is thrust into a conspiracy of codes and symbols; the mundane is given greater meaning. There are cultish rooftop parties. The band with hidden messages in their records. Fallout shelters deep beneath Los Angeles. The pirate. The balloon girl. The homeless king. Sam finds the surface of reality rippling in bizarre ways. But is this a revelation or his delusion consuming him?
Backstabbing for Beginners (2018) Written by Per Fly & Daniel Pyne Directed by Per Fly
As I’ve watched my way through A24’s catalog of films, there is one thing that always seems to signify you’re in for a bad time: The DirectTV logo. The co-productions with DirectTV are almost always a guarantee you’re in for a bad to mediocre time. Backstabbing for Beginners is no exception. The film adapts the memoir of Michael Soussan, a journalist who worked for the United Nations’ Food for Oil program. His fictional avatar in the film, Michael Sullivan holds the same job under Cypriot diplomat Costa Passaris. Sullivan quickly discovers that the system to trade Iraqi oil for food and medicine to benefit the struggling people of that nation is deeply corrupted. Sadaam’s people have allowed a black market for medicine to build up while delivering expired meds to ailing children. It’s as obvious as a sledgehammer to the face that Costa is in on the scam and so Sullivan has to gather enough evidence to take his boss down.
Lean on Pete (2018)
Written & Directed by Andrew Haigh
Charley is a boy with a rough, uncertain life. His mother ran out on him and his Dad when Charley was young, and now Dad shuffles them around from place to place, never staying long enough to plant any roots. Charley loved when they lived with Aunt Margy, but there was an argument and another move. Now the duo has settled in Portland where Dad is fooling around with a married woman and failing to keep food in the house. Sixteen-year-old Charley discovers a horse racing track nearby and gets a job helping Del with his racehorses. Charley feels an instant bond towards Lean on Pete, an aging quarterhorse whom Del seems eager to get rid of. As the boy and his horse’s relationship grows, and life at home falls apart, Charley feels an urge to run.
The Last Movie Star (2018)
Written & Directed by Adam Rifkin
Vic Edwards (played by and loosely based on Burt Reynolds) has passed his prime as an A-list actor in Hollywood. His glory days were the 1970s, and now he’s a frail old man living alone in his gated estate in 2018. A letter comes from Nashville inviting him to a film festival where he will be awarded a lifetime achievement honorific. Vic debates going and finally gives but arrives to find the event is not prestigious but operated out of a bar. The organizers are enthusiastic fans of his work, but Vic feels lied to and humiliated. He eventually strikes up a friendship with one of the organizer’s sisters, Lil, a troubled young woman who reminds Vic of his daughter. Together they journey back to Vic’s childhood home so he can account for some of his past mistakes.
The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (2018)
Written by Shawn Christensen & James Dolan
Directed by Shawn Christensen
The film opens with the title character, Sidney Hall clacking away at a short story for his high school English class. We cut to him reading said story, interspersed with images of a faceless cheerleader. The story ends up being a piece of self-indulgent misogyny, all about boiling a depersonalized crush into a figure of adolescent masturbation. This is our…protagonist. Sidney Hall. In a flurry of scenes that follow we find Hall becoming a famous published author and finally into a homeless recluse, announcing that this film will be about the search for who this man is and why he is doing what he does. I can’t emphasize how horrible this movie is.