“Country Gold” is mostly driven by conversation, but rarely loses its rhythm. Part of that comes from a deceptively concise nature—it’s more interested in hitting you with a great piece of dialogue (“I’m just a pipe for fluids to run through,” says Jones, from an incredible performance by Hall) than a sprawling scene. The movie is also openly, curiously bonkers, like when it suddenly gives Troyal’s two young sons the low-low-pitch voices heard on a Ween song, or sets Troyal into an industrial music-inspired interlude, just because. But you don’t question it (and it’s often funny). The scenes work like that, as while you’re never sure where you’re going next, you’re certain that you won’t get lost. The black-and-white cinematography by Samuel Calvin keeps the script’s many emotional questions in the air, like anytime Troyal’s cowboy hat shadows over his face during this progressively hedonistic journey, and renders him an equally compelling and sensitive question mark.
One of the more subtle jokes throughout “Country Gold” is how it’s riffing on Garth Brooks—a country star in the mid ‘90s, who then embraced his darker side, AKA the way that Brooks became Chris Gaines for a famous spin, darkening his eyes and his image. Reece makes such references with the same way he has depicts Texans talking and hanging out, all with a great and essential deal of sincerity, his unique comic and dramatic tone dancing on the brim of a cowboy hat. “Country Gold” has a wild, fascinating kick, a movie that has the sensitivity of a liquor-drenched ballad, but has the “What if?” of science fiction as its North star. Why not use George Jones and cryogenics to get to genuine points about being happy on Earth? How weird to see all of this is in such a handsomely composed comedy, and how freeing.
Writer/director/editor/composer Andy Mitton’s “The Harbinger” stares right into the abyss of our COVID fears from the 2020, and captures the trembling uncertainty we all felt. It is a monster and nightmare movie, with a stalking bird and sleepwalking characters, told with the fear of also not knowing what is going on while we’re awake. It is more claustrophobic than your regular haunted house thriller, and the story does more than just use COVID as a familiar plot point, as it seeks to get underneath the feeling of trying to avoid it, too.