Andrew Neel’s Goat opens with a series of shots that are beautiful, terrifying and as eerily familiar as they are alien. In super slow motion, with no sound but the non-diegetic music as accompaniment, a group of shirtless young men jump and holler, jeering and gamboling, their faces contorted into expressions of anger and joy. We never see what exactly they’re reacting to but it has clearly inspired a kind of violent ecstasy. It’s intensely homoerotic, of course. Goat is a movie about a fraternity. Its homoeroticism is so obvious and constant as to become unremarkable. Neel is clearly not out to make a movie about such an obvious element of fraternity life. Instead, he aims to define and challenge our ideas of masculinity itself.
Elizabeth Wood’s White Girl may concern the reckless adventures of the young woman described by the title, often involving the cocaine also described by the title, but it often feels like it’s aimed less at the demographic it ostensibly depicts and more at their parents. Like Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen before it and Larry Clark’s Kids before that, White Girl is little more than an afterschool special with a hard R rating, pearl-clutching alarmism with one clear message: Be afraid to send your white daughters to college in the big city.
There’s a strain of comedy that we’ll call so-dumb-it’s-smart (think Paul Rudd protesting cleaning up his mess in Wet Hot American Summer) that came out of the 90s and early 2000s alt-comedy scene. Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler is a hollow echo of that brand. It’s so dumb that it wants you to think it’s smart. But this is not highbrow comedy masquerading as lowbrow. It’s just empty and gross and pointless.
Babak Anvari’s politically and socially minded Iran-set horror film, Under the Shadow, begins atypically for its genre, with lengthy text detailing the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the repeated missile strikes the two countries delivered upon one another’s citizens. Set sometime during that struggle, Under the Shadow explores the life of a leftist, secularized woman in post-revolution Iran. The specter of hardline Islamism soon becomes embodied by, well, actual specters as our heroine struggles to keep her daughter safe both from bombs and from the malevolent supernatural forces that have invaded her home.
Chad Hartigan’s Morris from America, being the story of a young African-American teen (Markees Christmas as Morris) living in Heidelberg, Germany with his widower father (Craig Robinson), is certainly novel in its premise. But after that novelty wears off, what remains is a by-the-numbers coming of age movie.
When we see the word “love” in the context of a movie title, we’re conditioned to assume it means the romantic type. With her yearning and perfectly pitched Lovesong, director So-yong Kim challenges that reflex by blurring the line between friends and lovers.