Fantastic Fest Day 2: ‘AMERICAN HONEY’, ‘AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE’ and more


Preston Barta & James Cole Clay // Film Critics

Day 2 was a relatively chill day. The juggernauts are reserved for Sunday’s slot, so yesterday’s docket was a game of dice. Luckily for us, not everything was snake eyes.

Other than THE BAD BATCH – Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow-up to the immensely satisfying vampiric drama A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT – the big title of the day was Andrea Arnold’s AMERICAN HONEY.

Sasha Lane stars as Star in AMERICAN HONEY. Courtesy of A24.

Sasha Lane stars as Star in AMERICAN HONEY. Courtesy of A24.

Perhaps the title rings a bell, if you follow movie news closely. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival back in May and has A24 (EX MACHINA, ROOM) behind its distribution. So what is there to lose?

Your time is one possibility. AMERICAN HONEY clocks in a whopping near-three hours, and this fact undoubtedly wounded the attendance at Fantastic Fest’s screening. Not even the on-screen presence of international weirdo Shia LaBeouf was enough to put more butts in seats. It seemed as though everyone betted on the BAD BATCH, which had a shorter running time and more star power (Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey to name a few).

Between the two films, AMERICAN HONEY was the lesser of two evils. Ignoring the running time of the film, there’s more keeping it from being the movie it could have been. The trailer hinted at the ultimate movie about youth culture today, being out on the road, finding oneself, partying and jamming tunes. While AMERICAN HONEY does cover the ground, it does so excessively to the point where you become numb to the experience.

If you’re into movies without much of a point, AMERICAN HONEY does its job. It follows an 18-year-old girl named Star (newcomer Sasha Lane) who leaves her sad Oklahoma life to jump in a van full of adolescents doing what they can to turn a dime, which includes selling magazine subscriptions to the wealthy.

After intrigue kicks out after the first hour or so, what remains is the same pretty images we’ve seen countless times before in the film. Repeated imagery and scenes can be effective (just look at SPRING BREAKERS or Richard Linklater films), but AMERICAN HONEY doesn’t offer anything to walk away and think about. It’s more focused on immersing you in its world, and it’s just not enough.

Read James Cole Clay’s positive full review here.

Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond and Brian Cox star in THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. Courtesy of IFC Films.

Emile Hirsch, Ophelia Lovibond and Brian Cox star in THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. Courtesy of IFC Films.

Another somewhat big film was THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, one of the better films Fantastic Fest has put out thus far. It stars Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as a father and son who run a morgue. One day, they receive a mysterious homicide victim with no apparent cause of death.

This is one of those movies where the less you know is better. What I can say is it’s a lean and frightening homage to occult films that offers some new slices of its own. You should definitely keep it on your radar, and we will keep you posted on an release information.

Courtesy of Fantastic Fest.

Courtesy of Fantastic Fest.

Where to begin with the acid dripped beauty of the animated comedy MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL SINKING INTO THE SEA. Directed by artist Dash Shaw and voiced by indie steamroller Jason Schwartzman with support by Reggie Watts, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph and even Susan Sarandon as one tough-as-nails lunch lady.

When Dash’s (Schwartzman) high school literally starts to sink due to an earthquake, he takes it upon himself to save his best friend Assaff (Watts) and their school paper editor Verti (Rudolph) before they meet their demise.

Shaw employs a dry and poignant wit to pair with the animation that never ceases to evolve, keeping your eyes from ever settling on one frame for more than a few seconds. MY ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL finds meaning in forging your own path with a hip aesthetic that is hands down the most inventive animated journey seen in a feature length films in years– it’s really that impressive.

If you love movies, chances are you are in love with the artwork that accompanies the the film. 24X36: A MOVIE ABOUT MOVIE POSTERS homes in on the infinite fandom for movie posters.

The film has an affinity for the hand-drawn posters of yesterday like JAWS, THE GOONIES and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. While this is a fun romp and it’s great to hear from the brains behind Austin’s own Mondo, the film becomes unfocused when commenting on posters of the present. Movie buffs and poster collectors will find lots to love and swoon over, others need not apply.

Check back for Day 3’s recap tomorrow.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.