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.
Widows (2018) Written by Gillian Flynn & Steve McQueen Directed by Steve McQueen
Veronica Rawlings is alone in the world. Her husband Harry, a famous thief in the Chicago area, was killed in a heist gone wrong. Harry always knew which authorities to butter up and how to stay ahead of the law, so Veronica has become accustomed to a very luxurious lifestyle. The men Harry stole from turn up a couple of weeks after the funeral with demands for the money. They give her two weeks to come up with it, or they will return to make her life the repayment. Veronica reaches out to the widows of the men that were killed alongside Harry and shares his notebook with them, a leather-bound journal detailing a series of future robberies he was planning. Veronica plans to pull off one of these crimes to pay back the men looming over her and escape to start a new life.
Written by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner
Directed by Steven Spielberg
The American Civil War has been slogging on for four years. Hundreds of thousands are dead, and many in the North want it to end. President Abraham Lincoln has been elected to a second term by a landslide and has one thing he wants to spend his political capital on The 13th Amendment. Members of his cabinet and the Republican party are highly skeptical of betting all their chips on this risky Constitutional move. Lincoln is steadfast and works every angle possible to garner the votes. Meanwhile, a peace commission has been sent by Confederate leader Jefferson Davis to end things, but Lincoln knows if peace without the freedom of slaves is on the table the legislators will likely go with peace and nothing else. Time is running out, more than even the President realizes.
The Sisters Brothers (2018)
Written by Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Eli and Charlie Sisters are hitmen that work for the wealthy Commodore. Their most recent assignment is to catch up with Hermann Warm, a prospector headed west in search of gold. Eli isn’t sure why they are going after this seemingly innocuous man, but Charlie assures him that this is in their best interest. Detective John Morris has been hired as an advance man to tail Warm and leave word of his progress at stops along the way for the Brothers to pick up. As the Sisters brothers make their way across the rugged landscape, they encounter natural obstacles and growing interpersonal strife. Eli believes they can leave this life one day while Charlie seems resigned to be a killer forever.
The Exception (2017)
Written by Simon Burke
Directed by David Leveaux
Captain Stefan Brandt, a member of Hitler’s Third Reich, is assigned to protect the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II at his country home in the Netherlands. Once there he finds a former monarch who is hesitant to throw his support behind the Fuhrer. The Gestapo shows up to check out a rumored English spy among the villagers, and Brandt seems rather uninterested in this side hunt. Instead, he becomes enamored with Mieke, a young maid in the Kaiser’s staff. Things suddenly become even more complicated when word comes that SS Commander Heinrich Himmler is coming to secure the Kaiser’s loyalty. Brandt finds himself torn between his duty to Germany, his admiration of the Kaiser, and his love for Mieke.
Heaven Knows What (2014)
Written by Arielle Holmes, Josh Safdie & Ronald Bronstein
Directed by Benny & Josh Safdie
Harley has sunk deep into the heroin junkie community of New York City. Almost worse than her drug addiction is her obsession with the sadistic Ilya, a fellow homeless user that continually antagonizes and abuses Harley. In the opening scene of the film, her emotional overload leads Harley to slit her wrists in the middle of a park. After a few days in a psychiatric hospital, she wanders through life clinging to different destructive men who fail to help her escape this addiction. The rest of the film is a descent into the nightmare world of heroin addiction, a hazy exodus of repetition and remaining in stasis.
They Remain (2017)
Written & Directed by Philip Gelatt
Keith and Jessica are sent for an extended research assignment to study nature. This isn’t your typical assignment because the plot of land they are visiting is the site of ritualized murders committed by a Manson-style cult decades before. The private interest backing the expedition wants to know if such acts of depravity and evil have left a mark on the environment. Keith goes out each day, placing cameras and gathering samples. Jessica stays in their geodesic dome headquarters processing samples, looking for some elusive unknown. Keith encounters a wild dog that seems to be leading him through the woods, and both researchers begin to experience hallucinations and dreams about the dark acts performed on this land. Something evil lurks in the darkness and is slowly luring two more victims to it.