Disorienting Dick (2022), from director Richard Griffin, functions brilliantly as a witty sex comedy, a political satire, and as a quietly charming and intimate cinematic journey. More specifically, one which concerns the time-tested theme of embracing your true self. It achieves a consummate symmetry of these previously stated elements. This is while being incredibly entertaining throughout its brisk 87-minute runtime. Just as importantly, it never wavers in its ability to make us laugh at the absurd rules and regulations society puts upon its citizens. This is also true of some policies certain parties flat-out ignore. A spectacular gag near the ten-minute mark which involves Covid-19 vaccinations, Republicans, and mask wearing hilariously displays the latter. With all that has been going-on in the world the past few years alone this is something that most will agree is welcome, cathartic, and desperately needed.
What is just as admirable is the pitch-perfect pacing of the project. There is not a single scene in the entire picture which doesn’t directly affect the plot and/or the motivations of the individuals unveiled in the undertaking. With the recent trend of bloated runtimes in Hollywood photoplays that are overstuffed with unnecessary sequences and thin characterizations, Griffin’s always trustworthy aptitude to keep the narrative going without any filler whatsoever while satisfactorily fleshing-out his leads is as refreshing as ever. This is as much a courtesy of the sharp editing and direction from Griffin as it is the smart, sensitive, and superbly structured script from Griffin, Robyn Guilford, and Daniel Martens (who also briefly and confidently plays Dream Pizza Boy/Plumber). Boosted by a remarkable flare for developing the on-screen personas in a way that is graceful and wholly natural, there are just the right amount of honest and tongue-in-cheek instances woven into the consistently clever dialogue. The capacity of this speech to pepper the proceedings with puns and sly meta moments only enhance this already stalwart quality.
Opening with an appealing section that is reminiscent of a 1950’s style educational reel that immediately introduces the delightfully campy and ultimately upbeat tone of the exercise, the plot revolves around Richard “Dick” Whiteman (Graham Stokes). When the identity he is trying to conceal from his Republican Rhode Island mayoral candidate mother, Maureen (Leslie Racine Vazquez), and girlfriend, Pat (Sarah Reed), comes into question he is abducted by the wicked Hyde Hippocampus Clinic. Through their use of extreme forms of mental therapy, they intend to transform “Dick” into a model of conservative ideals. The situation appears bleak for “Dick”. That is, until another group begins to repeatedly kidnap him. This collective is focused on bringing out the side of him which is often spied in the vivid fantasies that fuel his reveries throughout the production.
Such is a simultaneously timely and timeless storyline that will prove relatable to many spectators. From the above summary alone, it is easy to ascertain how the two establishments that are fighting to take “Dick” down their path of orientation are his own personal struggles with finding himself. This subtle yet accessible symbolism, which is fluently threaded into the fiction, makes Griffin’s venture evermore fantastic. Moreover, the well-shot and elegant erotic segments, though occupied by nudity, are more suggestive than outright explicit. In turn, audiences are offered verified proof of the tasteful and vulnerable approach Griffin injects into what could’ve quickly become raunchy material.
Though many of the central figures, particularly those in antagonistic roles, are given intentionally stock traits in an endeavor to make the humor more palpable, everyone is marvelous. They are all finely cast in what are often purposefully over the top enactments. The sheer likability of the performers and those they depict, especially the protagonists, make this attribute even more perceptible. Stokes and Reed are commanding on this front. Terry Shea is wonderful as Dr. Hyde/Jekyll Hippocampus. Such is a dual representation which showcases opposing personalities.
Boosted by a pleasantly retro commencing and closing credits bit that is eye-popping in its use of black and blue colors, the effort is constantly beautiful and immersive. This is a courtesy of the clean, colorful, inventive, and incessantly striking cinematography from Griffin. It compliments every proficient frame of the affair. The sound design from Griffin is equally crisp and all-around excellent. In related terms, the music from Kissing Contest and Kraig Jordan is catchy and tonally appropriate for the article. The work is further strengthened by the great set construction from Ted Marr. The visual effects from Torey Haas are a standout. There are also some instantly iconic sock puppets created by Margaret Wolf that, like her costume creation in the attempt, elevates the merriment at hand.
Benefitting from guffaws that elucidate from even the smallest of details, such as names and places and even the entendre-laden title of the outing itself, Disorienting Dick is the funniest movie I have seen all year. Ambitious and layered without being overdone, it is also one of the best features of 2022. It is loving, kind, and joyous. This is despite subject matter that could’ve pointed the arrangement in other directions. The composition is also a testament to the power of film as a source of discovery, expression, and freedom. Filled with Griffin’s distinct perspective and voice, it is endlessly rewatchable and enjoyable. It is a masterpiece of independent art and another unabashedly fun yet bold and thoughtful gem in Griffin’s impressive catalogue.
ANDREW BUCKNER:I have the distinct pleasure today of speaking with writer-director Lenny Schwartz and actress SheriLee. Welcome! Can you tell us a little about yourselves?
LENNY SCHWARTZ: I was born on the streets of Cranston, RI. For me, writing came at a time when I was considering joining a gang. I was a reckless, angry youth. One day after a family drive by, I started writing plays. That led into screenplays, and here we are! In all seriousness, I am just a lucky guy who has written a lot of plays. I am fortunate enough to be able to still do them. I am lucky to have written numerous screenplays and lucky to have them produced. Now I want to take all of that, and direct my first major feature film, which is something that I have never tried before.
SHERI LEE: I’m a NH based actress (and a mom of 4!) that loves all genres, but I excel in horror. I grew up on some of the greatest horror films. I’ve been dubbed New England’s scream Queen by a few directors now, haha! I’m ecstatic to be a part of Lenny’s film and always wake up feeling honored that he reached out to me that day.
LENNY: My god, it was four years ago I reached out to Sheri. I knew she was a “Scream Queen” and I wanted to deconstruct that.
Lenny, you are currently working on a script for a film you are set to direct, The Haunted and the Hunted (2022).What inspired this work?
LENNY: I always wanted to direct a feature that was unlike anything I had seen. I gave myself some parameters and huge obstacles to put myself into a really hard corner. I kept boiling the film down to essentials, and even took some of those away.
I also wanted to direct a film that was really unexpected for people who know me. I wrote plays which have a lot of dialogue. I didn’t want that. I wanted to take this to a place that is a purely cinematic experience. Something truly horrifying and beautiful.
So, what inspired me? The ambitious idea I had and the thought that this is going to be great.
Sheri, you have a role in The Haunted and the Hunted. What can you tell us about the role?
SHERI: The role in this film is seriously like no other I have taken on before. It is going to be the most challenging, the most emotional, and the most rewarding role to date. I can’t say much about her without giving some of the story away, but I can say that this character will have your attention throughout every second…. I hope I can pull that off.
Sheri, what are you doing to prepare yourself for the role?
Preparation for the role comes with really putting myself in her world. She has a lot of layers and so does the world that you’ll see in the film. Reading the script as much as I can really helps for me to dive right into the whirlwind of her beautiful chaos.
Lenny, you have a Kickstarter campaign for your upcoming film. Can you tell us about it? Also, can you please provide a link for the campaignfor those of us who would like to be a part of the project?
LENNY: Yeah, we have a Kickstarter! It is at the link below. I ask that people donate or share it. If we don’t hit our goal, we will keep trying until we do. So, if you are friends with me on social media, pledge share or block me. You’re in it with us.
Lenny and Sheri, how does The Haunted and the Hunted differ from other productions with whichyou’ve been involved?
LENNY: I have worked consistently with some of the best people in the business. I am very lucky and fortunate and always have been. I wouldn’t even attempt this without the lessons they imparted upon me and the friendships forged. This will be a very small production with the highest quality possible. I have no other plans to direct anything after this. This is the one.
While it does have horror elements of it, it isn’t just straight up horror. If anything, it’s a deconstruction of genres in a sense and it’s about the dissolution of the American family.
SHERI: This production differs from others mainly for the reason that I’ve been involved as a producer from the start. I love seeing the other side of productions and being a part of the growth.
The atmosphere that this film upholds is amazing and everyone will be in awe. I absolutely cannot wait to bring this to life and to entertain everyone with this extremely unique story.
Lenny, what are your plans for making the film?
LENNY: The plans for making the film will be to raise the most money possible to make the best possible film. I have also been assembling the best possible team for each aspect of this film. Only then, we will make it. But this year for sure.
Lenny, you have an interesting and unique approach to the dialogue and characters in the movie which should really help the work standout from related titles. Can you tell us about these aspects?
LENNY: I don’t want to give away too much except to say that I hear those things a lot. They are my crutches. For writers and directors and even performers, good or bad, we all have our crutches. I was interested in taking those crutches away. That’s all I can say.
Lenny, you’ve directed the brilliant and endlessly relatable political drama Vote M*********** (2020)and co-directed such terrific pictures as Comic Book Junkies (2020), which I have a speaking role in, and Far from Perfect: Life Inside a Global Pandemic (2020). How will the directorial style of The Haunted and the Hunted differ from these other ventures you’ve directed? What unique challenges will the director’s chair bring forth this time around?
LENNY: Thank you for the kind words about the other projects. I think the biggest thing for me on this one is that I will be able to be on an actual, physical set for these as all of those were filmed remotely on cell phones by the performers due to pandemic. It’s going to be nice to work physically with people! But it will be a safe set, both for creating and for the pandemic we are in.
The unique challenge is that I have a clear vision for what I want to see and then realizing it the closest I can to that vision.
Lenny, what has the process of writing the script for the movie been like so far? Do you have a routine for writing you utilize when working on the screenplay?
LENNY: It’s been weird. I finished the first draft in 2015…and now coming back to it again and again over many years has been great. I never get sick of the script and it is always on my mind.
I also reached out to my female friends a ton writing this script as there are feminist themes inherent in this script. I leaned a lot onto Sheri for that as well.
This also has the most action and tension I have ever put in a script. It’s like an anxiety attack that never lets up.
That sounds terrific. I can’t wait to see it.
Lenny and Sheri, is there anything else you would like to discuss that I haven’t asked about yet?
SHERI: I want to thank everyone that has donated so far and encourage others to do so if they can.
Don’t miss out on being part of bringing a truly unique werewolf film like this to life.
LENNY: Thank you to everyone who supported us thus far. The best is yet to come.
Thank you for your time. I appreciate it. I also wish you all the best of luck on your project.
*The poster art featured above is the work of Mark Michaelson.
The Archivist (2021), the debut feature from director Eric Hand, is a glorious tribute to the distinct storytelling mechanics, characterizations, and vibrant, eye-popping style of the grindhouse motion pictures of the 1960’s–1970’s. The 109-minute creation beautifully mirrors this most cinematic of eras through its emotionally compelling, moody, and evocative music from White Noise Generator. The aforementioned time frame is also brilliantly reflected in the stunning cinematography from Hand. It is also seen in the remarkable performances, namely Emmett Corbin as Colonel Boaz and Jennifer Giles as Mother/Agent Pope, from everyone involved in the production.
This quality is immediately evident in the superb depiction from Hand as the lead of the narrative, Agent Caulder Benson. Hand’s enactment of Benson masterfully models that of Clint Eastwood as The Man With no Name in Sergio Leone’s brilliant Dollar Trilogy. This trio of western classics included A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966). What also heightens this parallel is that The Archivist was shot on restored 35mm Techniscope Arriflex cameras and lenses. These were also used in the recording of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. When Hand’s effort gradually aligns itself to a series of events one would associate with the previously stated Leone/Eastwood collaborations, it naturally fits the loving homage the movie mesmerizingly crafts.
Utilizing the book burning and governmental control elements of Ray Bradbury’s tour de force, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), alongside other timeless bits of science-fiction, human horror, and fantasy, Hand, who also successfully portrays Lazarus, tells the tale of Benson: a violent man whose been given the title position by an oppressive administration. Taking place in 2070, the exercise concerns Benson destroying historical remnants which are considered forbidden. In so doing, he finds out that these items seem to have a strange power over him. Filled with sudden questions and concerns about the world around him, he steals a muscle car from the 1970’s. He then heads out into the chaos of the post-apocalyptic landscape around him. Pursued by an ominous sheriff and in constant danger of the bizarre individuals he encounters, Benson searches for answers. This is while trying to escape his own past.
The Archivist is an ambitious, layered marvel of independent filmmaking. The screenplay, co-authored by Bo Gardner and Hand, is filled with tough, organic, occasionally quippy, yet often thoughtful and poetic dialogue. Such speech, along with the on-screen personalities who speak them, fit perfectly with the ambiance of a Leone/Eastwood work from nearly six decades ago. Such a design signifies that the primary personalities that dominate the piece remain enigmatic throughout the duration of the project. Regardless, this general lack of development doesn’t hinder the proceedings.
What also further strengthens the endeavor is the exceptional visual effects from Michael Crigler and Zach Hunter. They also illuminate the 1970’s veneer of the attempt. Moreover, the editing from D. Prescott Noel and Tom Marotta, makeup from Paul Moody, and set decoration by Kendall Moody are first-rate. The art direction from Ed Amantia and stunts are just as finely honed.
Opening with an exciting, no-nonsense first act and concluding with an engrossing and quietly moving finale, The Archivist is smart, accomplished, tonally flawless, and consistently captivating entertainment. It is guaranteed to thrill both cinephiles and casual viewers alike. The action scenes are retro excellence. They are intimate and never overdone. Continually, they are also enthralling and deftly constructed. The excursion moves at a confident pace. It is never too rushed or too slow. This is ideal for the material. Hand’s undertaking incorporates social commentary into the plot just as smoothly as it does its high-level of audience involvement. In turn, The Archivist is one of the most impressive photoplays I have seen all year. It is a true fabrication of celluloid art. Particularly, one that will prove to be as enduring as the legendary ventures from which it takes such fervent notes.
A Distance from Avalon (2021), the debut novella from fellow filmmaker and critic Mike Messier, is a refreshingly subtle and philosophical take on the vampire saga. In a compact and complex ninety-seven pages, Messier weaves the tale of two educators, Joe Humble and a young music instructor by the name of Shadow. Pairing up to enjoy a late October Friday Night, the duo arrives at an ominous mansion entitled Avalon. From herein, the hosts seduce and separate the guests. Immediately afterward, the visitors willingly follow the mysterious figures to separate rooms. At a point near the central mark, the narrative crafts a superb balance of introspection and intrigue. It is one which lasts the remainder of the volume. This is as the leads and their partners for the night gradually unveil secret and sentimental elements of themselves.
What is immediately striking about the tome is that Messier’s screenwriting roots are much intact. For example, the whole book is composed of brief chapters. These sections range mainly from one to two pages. They are so vividly written, yet efficient, that they could easily be scenes in a film. Additionally, every scrap of dialogue reads like a line of poetry: Beautiful, thoughtful, and as economical as the segments in which they are unified.
Messier’s characters, all of whom are terrifically formed and whose monikers greatly enhance the figurative essence of the effort, are equally captivating. They are all distinct, yet intelligent and credible. The individuals who dominate A Distance from Avalon are also enigmatic and insightful. They are well-established components that constantly elucidate the classic, sophisticated atmosphere of the project in spellbinding fashion. Messier uses them to discourse on religion, love, time, mankind, art, and a myriad of related subjects. This is in a way that is intellectually stimulating without appearing unnatural. It is also executed via a method that does not take away from the propulsion of the smoothly paced narrative.
I admired the manner with which Messier frequently avoids the tropes often attributed to such tales of bloodthirsty creatures. What is utilized of these bits is enough to establish a knowledge of the lore of these nocturnal entities. Instead of relying on this heavily, as an easy act of recognition hinging on events the audience has perused in other such exercises, Messier uses this foundation to forge his own path. In turn, this helps build a far more surprising and satisfying story.
In the work, Messier showcases a deft command of tying together all the fine details he has dispersed throughout the enterprise. This is most notable in the finale. In this climactic bit, Messier brings all the cumulative mystery, symbolism, and restraint that he exhibited throughout the endeavor to a compelling and appropriate punctuation point. It is one of the various signs ceaselessly at play of his knack for spinning an exemplary account.
There are also many sly references to the cinema of Messier expertly woven into the volume. The most obvious of these is his phenomenal forty-minute short documentary on the creative process, “Disregard the Vampire” (2017). His brief, and equally good, Fantasy tale, “The Nature of the Flame” (2014), are just as cleverly addressed. These winks at the reader are incredible. This is especially when considering how they organically derive from the attempt. They also operate just as significantly as world-building in the collective universe of Messier’s artistic ventures.
Graced by eye-popping and gorgeous cover art from Nazar Germanov, A Distance from Avalon is an all-around brilliant publication; a literary four-course meal. It is driven by a fantastic plot. Such is one that is given depth and dimension by Messier’s cerebral and refined writing abilities. The piece is intimate, open, ambitious, smartly structured, and perfectly told. Messier has constructed a sensational world of nuance and underlying fear. Masterful in all arenas, the power of this dignified beast is impossible to ignore.
A Distance from Avalon can be purchased in Kindle eBook or paperback format here.
In the opening scene of Making and Unmaking, a fantastic and fascinating 62-minute documentary from directors Shaun Rose and Andrea Stangle, Rose speaks of the aspects of his equally captivating debut feature, the “meant to be semi-autobiographical” Upstate Story (2018). He also conveys how the endeavor would become “more truth than fiction”. Herein, he also speaks of his worries of the 60-minute Drama failing. Furthermore, he communicates how this would reflect his own alleged shortcomings.
The honesty with which Rose addresses these feelings and ideas immediately spoke to me as a fellow filmmaker who, admittedly, has my own share of self-doubt in relation to my own work. It is this nature of personal reflection and frankness that is perceivable within every frame of this brilliant and heartfelt project. This is also a glimpse into the myriad reasons why this is essential viewing for any creative-minded individual. It is because a great number of the shortcomings in the artistic process Rose addresses throughout the undertaking, especially early-on, are universal. They will undoubtedly hit home, perhaps uncomfortably at times, for many. Such occurrences help make Rose a relatable and engaging figure throughout the entirety of the endeavor.
Making and Unmaking concerns the triumphs and downfalls, both personally and artistically, Rose experienced while preparing Upstate Story. It also recalls the ups and downs in offering the picture to the film festival circuit. The exercise also goes into intriguing detail on an unfinished film called “Dog Day” (2012-2013), which was stated to be about the technological swing in society. We also get several equally intriguing glimpses into other shorts Rose crafted before Upstate Story. These behind-the-scenes bits, which come largely in the first half of Making and Unmaking, are wonderful. They are quietly touching in their intimacy.
Making and Unmaking benefits from its uniquely independent movie look and tone. This is reflected via the excellent and appropriate-for-the-endeavor cinematography from Rose and Stangle. Moreover, the interviews and archive footage heighten the emotional intensity and compulsively watchable essence of the production. The script for the endeavor, credited to Bruce Rose Sr. as well as Shaun Rose and Stangle, is well-structured and penned. Continually, the direction from Rose and Stangle is equally deft.
Recorded in New York and made on a reported budget of a mere $500, Making and Unmaking is constantly admirable in the way it handles its complex entanglement of themes and sentiment. Additionally, it is efficient and nicely paced. The attempt evenly balances all that it offers audiences. In turn, the virtuoso effort is also a refreshing affirmation of encouragement. While portraying the numerous avenues of excitement and irritation a single fabrication of imagination can make an individual go through, it, ultimately, showcases the light of joy that radiates when the construction is given to the world and praised. In this respect, as well as all the other regards previously mentioned, Making and Unmaking is a masterpiece; a cinematic four-course meal. It is a must-see which every viewer can somehow grow from and utilize in their own lives.