“What is Music?” Album Announcement by AWordofDreams’ Andrew Buckner

Andrew Buckner, writer and site owner of AWordofDreams, released his debut album, What is Music?,  on his Facebook page yesterday.

Unveiled under the artist name Buckner, the project is a 5-part, 26-track, 33-minute experimental/concept record. It showcases the many forms music can take as well as the spontaneity of the art. Covering spoken word, freestyle rap, acoustic guitar, a capella singing, natural sounds and more, this 100% indie work is completely improvised and original. It was performed and recorded by Buckner himself.

You can stream the album in full at the Facebook link above.

Andrew Buckner’s 40 Favorite Films of 2020 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note that the inclusion of the films in this list is based on an original 2020 U.S. release date.

40. Resistance
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz.

39. Spaceship Earth
Director: Matt Wolf.

38. Elephant
Directors: Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz.

37. Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind: Contact Has Begun
Director: Michael Mazzola.

36. Why Don’t You Just Die!
Director: Kirill Sokolov.

35. An English Haunting
Director: Charlie Steeds.

34. The Gentlemen
Director: Guy Ritchie.

33. VFW
Director: Joe Begos.

32. First Love
Director: Takashi Miike.

31. Extra Ordinary
Directors: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman.

30. Bit
Director: Brad Michael Elmore.

29. Gretel & Hansel
Director: Oz Perkins.

28. The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell.

27. Come to Daddy
Director: Ant Timpson.

26. Snatchers
Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman.

25. We Summon the Darkness
Director: Marc Meyers.

24. 1BR
Director: David Marmor.

23. The Lodge
Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz.

22. Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time Volume 1 Midnight Madness
Director: Danny Wolf.

21. Tigertail
Director: Alan Yang

20. A Secret Love
Director: Chris Bolan.

19. Beanpole
Director: Kantemir Balagov.

18. Far from Perfect: Life Inside a Global Pandemic
Directors: Lenny Schwartz, Nathan Suher.

17. Blow the Man Down
Directors: Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy.

16. The Platform
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.

15. The Hunt
Director: Craig Zobel.

14. The Assistant
Director: Kitty Green

13. Vivarium
Director: Lorcan Finnegan.

12. Emma.
Director: Autumn de Wilde.

11. Slay the Dragon
Directors: Chris Durrance, Barak Goodman.

10. Before the Night is Over
Director: Richard Griffin.

9. The Assassination of Western Civilization
Director: Nathan Suher.

8. The Other Lamb
Director: Mlgorzata Szumowska.

7. Color Out of Space
Director: Richard Stanley.

6. Planet of the Humans
Director: Jeff Gibbs.

5. Swallow
Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

4. Beastie Boys Story
Director: Spike Jonze.

3. Circus of Books
Director: Rachel Mason.

2. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Director: Eliza Hittman.

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Director: Celine Sciamma.

Runner-Up:

Bacurau
Directors: Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles.

“The Assassination of Western Civilization” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Director Nathan Suher’s sophomore feature, The Assassination of Western Civilization (2020), is a brilliant political discussion wrapped-up in an effortlessly enthralling storyline. The 74-minute project is a unique, magnificent take on the idea of being easily “triggered” by the ideas, especially those of a policy-making and conspiratorial nature, of others. It is also a potent warning against the deadly consequences of such actions. These resonant intellectual threads are woven into a masterful tapestry of confident pacing, thoughtful dialogue and organic character development. This is via the efficient and effective script from Lenny Schwartz. It is based upon his successful play Newscastle (2014).

Suher’s minimalistic approach to the material, which consists of the entire picture being erected in one-shot and unfolding in a single room, beautifully compliments the stage roots of the endeavor. It also strengthens the previously stated qualities inherent in the authorship from Schwartz. The obvious inspiration from such ever-relevant governmental thrillers as All the President’s Men (1976), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), The Parallax View (1974) and Three Days of the Condor (1975) heighten the timeless and timely tone of the narrative. Such bold decisions help fashion the foray into a triumph of independent cinema; one of the best movies of the year so far.

The plot of the IM Filmworks production revolves around tabloid reporter Mark Wallace (Phoenyx Williams). After news of a United States senator being slain comes to his attention, Wallace finds himself quickly being drawn further into the case. His professional interest in the incident takes a personal turn when he finds himself being visited by FBI agent Maccabees (Brad Kirton) near the midway mark. From herein, the tale becomes a verbal faceoff between Wallace and his visitor. It is one that is as much a social statement as it is a showcase of steadily mounting intensity. This all leads to a finale that is as evocative as it is thought-provoking.

What also helps the excursion is the all-around gripping performances from a well-chosen cast. Williams is superb as Wallace. Kirton is just as good as Maccabees. Jocelyn Padilla’s enactment of Susan, Christie Devine’s go as Mia and Sarah Reed’s brief work as Kate are all skillful and engaging. Josh Fontaine as Peter, Wendy Hartman as Alex and Sheri Lee as Gwen all offer strong portrayals. The cinematography from Ben Heald is sharp and fitting for the tone of the venture. Both the make-up and sound departments offer a commendable contribution to the overall prowess of the undertaking.

Recorded in Woodsocket, Rhode Island, Suher’s latest more than satisfies as both an intellectual exercise and as a nail-biting suspense yarn. The film has fun smartly laying down its intricate clues as to what is transpiring in the account. Regardless, it all gleams with purpose and intention. Nothing in the chronicle is unnecessary, unearned or artificially rendered to momentarily absorb audiences. Such adds immensely to my overwhelming admiration for the labor. Consequently, Suher has crafted a rare whodunit. It’s sharply-made, notion-filled and pleasantly favors speech over effects. Most importantly, it is completely riveting for the entirety of its lean runtime. I cannot recommend it enough.

Before the Night is Over – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Lean, beautiful and mysterious, Before the Night is Over (2020) is a masterful return to horror for director Richard Griffin. Stylistically reminiscent of such generally single-setting efforts from the 1960’s-70’s such as Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1963) and Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), the 73-minute film is also admirable for its subtlety and restraint. This is immediately evident in the wordless five-minute opening sequence of the picture. In this evocative and brilliantly rendered bit, a wonderfully mood-setting musical composition, facial expressions and hand gestures potently speak all that needs to be said. Griffin also ends the production on an equally quiet and poetic note. Such touches make for incredibly effective bookends to an exercise that is eloquent, classy and classic in both its narrative and in its approach. It also calls to mind the commencing section of Griffin’s equally magnificent Long Night in a Dead City (2017). Such instances are made evermore breathtaking by John Mosetich’s gorgeous, colorful, awe-inspiring cinematography.

Complimented by a superbly penned script from co-authors Griffin and Lenny Schwartz, which perfectly balances character-focus and buildup, Griffin tells the tale of Samantha (in a captivating portrayal from Samantha Acampora). Suffering from the loss of her parents, she becomes a maid at a bordello run by her aunt, Ms. Blanche DeWolfe (in a wonderful enactment by Lee Rush). Immediately intrigued by the erotically charged nature of the place, she finds herself slowly on the trail of a secret. It is one which has led before to death and, Samantha soon finds, will do so again.

With this intriguing premise, Griffin erects a surreal tour-de-force. It is one which is utilized as well in its credibly etched dramatic sequences as it does in its psychological thriller and slasher-on-the-loose instances. Griffin also keeps the project as tightly paced as possible. This is while giving his characters plenty of room to breathe and make themselves closely known to the audience. The third act also delivers quite a few twists that are genuinely surprising. Best of all, they never break the finely woven credibility or old-fashioned elegance Griffin has so delicately sewn into the endeavor. Such is just another sample of the top-notch craftsmanship that has gone into Griffin’s latest undertaking.

What also works is the equally deft turns given by Griffin’s performers. Bruce Church is exceptional as Ambrose. Jay Walker commands the screen as Mr. Wheatstraw. The same can be said of Terry Shea as Clay, Roberto Alexander as LaRue and Ricky Irizarry as Jameson. Victoria Paradis gives a terrific depiction of Ms. Olivia. Furthermore, Griffin’s editing is seamless.

Before the Night is Over (2020) is another winner for Griffin and The Reasonable Moving Picture Company. Reportedly made on a budget of $5,000, the feature is ambitious and hypnotic. This is while being economical and intimate. It is also deeply cinematic, while respecting the traditions of past big-screen excursions into fear. The movie also has Griffin’s unique stamp on every frame. The piece deftly addresses many of the ever-timely themes and notions from his previous creations. All of this is to grand consequence. In turn, Griffin has created a haunting and thoughtful symphony of sight and sound; a perfect storm of indelible imagery and directorial flair. Cinephiles and genre fanatics alike are destined to adore it. I know I did.

Andrew Buckner’s 12 Favorite Books of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

12. The Night Window by Dean Koontz

11. Tales to Chill Your Bones To by Michael Haberfelner

10. Theodore Boone: The Accomplice by John Grisham

9. Full Throttle: Stories by Joe Hill

8. Go to School, Kanunu by Chris Esper

7. Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay

6. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

5. The Gordon Place by Isaac Thorne

4. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

3. The Andromeda Evolution by Michael Chrichton, Daniel H. Wilson

2. The Guardians by John Grisham

1. The Institute by Stephen King

 

The 25 Best Rap Albums of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

25. Put a Crown on It – Rittz
24. Yuck! – Anoyd, Statik Selektah
23. Ga$ Money – Lyric Jones
22. S.P. The Goat: Ghost of all Time – Styles P
21. Trunk Muzik 3 – Yelawolf
20. Igor –Tyler, the Creator
19. The Fifth – Obie Trice
18. W.W.C.D. – Griselda
17. Sincerely, Detroit – Apollo Brown
16. The Bando Theory – Kuniva
15. Demons – Madchild
14. Under Bad Influence – Ubi
13. N9na – Tech N9ne
12. Vernia – Erick Sermon
11. Street Urchin 2 – Sean Strange
10. Out to Sea – Chris Orrick
9. Ghetto Cowboy – Yelawolf
8. Born 2 Rap – The Game
7. Practice Makes Paper – E40
6. Let Love – Common
5. The Lost Tapes 2 – Nas
4. Chamber No. 9 – Inspectah Deck
3. Czarface Meets Ghostface – Czarface, Ghostface Killah
2. Ghostface Killahs – Ghostface Killah
1. I Read That I Was Dead – Chris Orrick, The Lasso

Andrew Buckner’s 75 Favorite Films of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note: All films included in this list are based on a 2019 U.S. release date.

1. Once Upon a Time….in Hollywood
Director: Quentin Tarantino.

2. They Shall Not Grow Old
Director: Peter Jackson.

3. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Director: Joe Talbot.

4. The Irishman
Director: Martin Scorsese.

5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Director: Marielle Heller.

6. Doctor Sleep
Director: Michael Flanagan.

7. Memory: The Origins of Alien
Director: Alexandre O. Phillipe.

8. The Image Book
Director: Jean-Luc Godard.

9. Never Look Away
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

10. Ad Astra
Director: James Gray

11. Us
Director: Jordan Peele.

12. Hail Satan?
Director: Penny Lane

13. Apollo 11
Director: Todd Douglas Miller.

14. Non-Fiction
Director: Olivier Assayas.

15. Birds of Passage
Directors: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra.

16. Climax
Director: Gaspar Noe.

17. Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz
Director: Barry Avrich.

18. High Life
Director: Claire Denis.

19. American Factory
Directors: Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar.

20. One Child Nation
Directors: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang.

21. The Souvenir
Director: Joanna Hogg.

22. The Farewell
Director: Lulu Wang.

23. The Nightingale
Director: Jennifer Kent.

24. Dolemite is My Name
Director: Craig Brewer

25. Cold Case Hammarskjold
Director: Mads Brugger.

26. We Believe in Dinosaurs
Directors: Monica Long Ross, Clayton Brown.

27. Meeting Gorbachev
Directors: Werner Herzog, Andre Singer.

28. Transit
Director: Christian Petzold.

29. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor

30. Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made
Directors: David Amito, Michael Laicini.

31. Luz
Director: Tilman Singer.

32. Bliss
Director: Joe Begos.

33. The Dead Don’t Die
Director: Jim Jarmusch.

34. Midsommar
Director: Ari Aster.

35. Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy.

36. Shadow
Director: Yimou Zhang.

37. Aniara
Directors: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja.

38. Booksmart
Director: Olivia Wilde.

39. Empathy, Inc.
Director: Yedidya Gorsetman.

40. The Nightshifter
Director: Dennison Ramalho.

41. The Head Hunter
Director: Jordan Downey.

42. Knock Down the House
Director: Rachel Lears.

43. Harriet
Director: Kasi Lemmons

44. Her Smell
Director: Alex Ross Perry.

45. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken
Director: Morgan Spurlock.

46. Art of the Dead
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky.

47. Tennessee Gothic
Director: Jeff Wedding.

48. The Mustang
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre.

49. Little Woods
Director: Nia DaCosta.

50. Tolkien
Director: Dome Karukoski.

51. Knife+Heart
Director: Yann Gonzalez.

52. 10/31 Part 2
Directors: Breet DeJager, Zane Hershberger, Jennifer Nangle, Tory van Buskirk, Stephen Wolfe.

53. Vault
Director: Tom DeNucci.

54. In the Tall Grass
Director: Vincenzo Natali.

55. 3 from Hell
Director: Rob Zombie.

56. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Director: Andre Ovredal.

57. It Chapter Two
Director: Andy Muschietti.

58. The Prodigy
Director: Nicholas McCarthy.

59. Charlie Says
Director: Mary Harron.

60. Child’s Play
Director: Lars Klevberg.

61. Depraved
Director: Larry Fessenden.

62. I Trapped the Devil
Director: Josh Lobo.

63. Hagazussa
Director: Lukas Feigelfeld.

64. The Wind
Director: Emma Tammi.

65. Rust Creek
Director: Jen McGowan.

66. The Girl on the Third Floor
Director: Travis Stevens.

67. Satanic Panic
Director: Chelsea Stardust.

68. The Furies
Director: Tony D’Aquino.

69. Crawl
Director: Alexandre Aja.

70. Dragged Across Concrete
Director: S. Craig Zahler.

71. The Peanut Butter Falcon
Directors: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz.

72. Glass
Director: M. Night Shyamalan.

73. The Beach Bum
Director: Harmony Korine.

74. The Lake Vampire
Director: Carl Zitelmann.

75. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Director: Henry Dunham.

 

The Fifty-Five Greatest Films of the 2010s

By Andrew Buckner

The 2010s have been a terrific decade for films of all genres. Blockbusters. Award-winning dramas and critically acclaimed documentaries. Thought-provoking and spine-tingling horror films. They can all be found here in my list of the fifty-five greatest films from 2010-2019.

55. Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019)
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe.

54. Bridge of Spies (2015)
Director: Steven Spielberg.

53. Blue Valentine (2010)
Director: Derek Cianfrance.

52. Pasolini (2014)
Director: Abel Ferrara.

51. Drive (2011)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn.

50. Shame (2011)
Director: Steve McQueen.

49. Cosmopolis (2012)
Director: David Cronenberg.

48. Love (2015)
Director: Gaspar Noe.

47. Long Night in a Dead City (2017)
Director: Richard Griffin.

46. The Neon Demon (2016)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

45. Annihilation (2018)
Director: Alex Garland.

44. The Witch (2015)
Director: Robert Eggers.

43. The Babadook (2014)
Director: Jennifer Kent

42. Bodied (2017)
Director: Joseph Kahn.

41. Super 8 (2011)
Director: J.J. Abrams.

40. Ad Astra (2019)
Director: James Gray.

39. The Handmaiden (2016)
Director: Chan-wook Park.

38. The Post (2017)
Director: Steven Spielberg.

37. Crimson Peak (2015)
Director: Guillermo del Toro.

36. The Hateful Eight (2015)
Director: Quentin Tarantino.

35. Capernaum (2018)
Director: Nadine Labaki.

34. Filmworker (2017)
Director: Tony Zierra.

33. Us (2019)
Director: Jordan Peele.

32. The House That Jack Built (2018)
Director: Lars von Trier.

31. Boyhood (2014)
Director: Richard Linklater.

30. The Black Swan (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

29. The Artist (2011)
Director: Michel Hazanavicius.

28. The King’s Speech (2010)
Director: Tom Hooper.

27. Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry Jenkins.

26. Django Unchained (2012)
Director: Quentin Tarantino.

25. Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Director: Luca Guadagnino.

24. Lincoln (2012)
Director: Steven Spielberg.

23. The Image Book (2019)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard.

22. Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)
Director: Michael Moore.

21. The Master (2012)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson.

20. Selma (2014)
Director: Ava DuVernay.

19. Once Upon a Time….in Hollywood (2019)
Director: Quentin Tarantino.

18. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Director: Tomas Alfredson.

17. Interstellar (2014)
Director: Christopher Nolan.

16.The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Director: Martin Scorsese.

15. mother! (2017)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

14. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

13. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Director: Peter Jackson

12. Amour (2012)
Director: Michael Haneke.

11. Roma (2018)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron.

10. A Ghost Story (2017)
Director: David Lowery.

9. A Separation (2011)
Director: Asghar Farhadi.

8. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen.

7. The Revenant (2015)
Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu.

6. Silence (2016)
Director: Martin Scorsese.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

4. Life Itself (2014)
Director: Steve James.

3. Nightcrawler (2014)
Director: Dan Gilroy.

2. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Director: Steve McQueen.

1. The Tree of Life (2011)
Director: Terrence Malick.

Andrew Buckner’s 10 Favorite Documentary Films/ Limited Series of 2019

By Andrew Buckner

Please note: All films included in this list are based on a 2019 release date.

10. Wrinkles the Clown
Director: Michael Beach Nichols.

9. Supersize Me 2: Holy Chicken!
Director: Morgan Spurlock.

8. Cold Case Hammarskjold
Director: Mads Brugger.

7. Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men
Director: Sacha Jenkins.

6. Knock Down the House
Director: Rachel Lears.

5. American Factory
Directors: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert.

4. Apollo 11
Director: Todd Douglas Miller.

3. Hail Satan?
Director: Penny Lane.

2. Memory: The Origins of Alien
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe.

1. They Shall Not Grow Old
Director: Peter Jackson.

“Tennessee Gothic” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Tennessee Gothic (2019), from writer-director Jeff Wedding and based on the short story “American Gothic” (1987) by Ray Russell, is an incredibly successful blend of comedy and horror. Though Wedding’s latest favors the latter, it uses the former to pepper the personality of the sufficiently developed characters and occasionally off-the-wall situations. Regardless, the jokes are never overdone or unnecessary (as is the case of many such genre hybrids). Additionally, these lighter instances are mostly reseved for the second act.

This is an effective move. It is one that helps make every one of the eighty-eight minutes of the undertaking unpredictable and entertaining. In so doing, Wedding crafts a wild ride of beautifully rendered terror and more hit than miss humor. Yet, what is most impressive is that, despite these naturally conflicting elements, the ominous tone is never broken.

Via his deftly structured screenplay, Wedding tells the tale of Sylvia (in a brilliant, commanding portrayal by Jackie Kelly which stands as one of the highlights of the production). After an act of violence, which is caught in the harrowing and well-done opening four minutes of the endeavor, she finds herself under the care of teenage Caleb (William Ryan Watson) and the widower Paw (Victor Hollingsworth). The joy the pair initially find in this new living situation on their farm, which is amplified by the reoccurring presence of Reverend Simms (Wynn Reichert), slowly turns nightmarish. This is in a manner that none of the aforementioned male leads could’ve possibly foreseen.

One of the smartest and most engaging moves in the picture is how well Wedding keeps a veil of mystery hovering over Sylvia. It is playfully hinted at and clues are teased addictively throughout the endeavor. All of these aforesaid bits are utilized in a fashion that constantly makes Wedding’s exercise evermore gripping. When the answer to such a question is exposed in the fantastic conclusion, it more than satisfies.

What is just is stunning is the gorgeous and colorful cinematography from Eric Stanze. It wonderfully captures the often earthy spirit of the narrative. The same can be said of the mood and atmosphere-appropriate music from Greg Bennett. Moreover, Watson, Hollingsworth and Reichert offer astounding turns. Christine Poythress is just as good in her enactment of Mrs. Simms. Jason Christ is excellent as Ronnie.

Furthermore, Wedding’s editing is strong. The special effects from Katie Groshong is superb. Trevor Williams’ visual effects are equally splendid. The makeup and sound department implement a magnificent contribution to the exercise. Wedding’s guidance of the project is stylish and stunning.

In turn, Wedding delivers an unforgettable modern take on folklore. Its themes branchout from said cultural body in a clever, credible and appealing fashion. Best of all, none of these touches feel as if they are an inorganic aspect of the plot. Such is a testament to both the quality of the storytelling at hand and the account itself. It is also a small part of the reason why Tennessee Gothic is spellbinding from the first frame to the last.