The 80 Best Feature Films of 2022 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*All feature films included herein are based on the criteria of an official 2022 release date in the U.S.*

80. Father Stu

Director: Rosalind Ross

79. Incantation

Director: Ke Mengrong

78. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Director: Tom Gormican

77. Brian and Charles

Director: Jim Archer

76. The Batman

Director: Matt Reeves

75. Watcher

Director: Chloe Okuno

74. Dashcam

Director: Rob Savage

73. Monstrous

Director: Chris Sivertson

72. Cyst

Director: Tyler Russell

71. Death Count

Director: Michael Su

70. Dead by Midnight (Y2Kill)

Directors: Davi Crimmins, Eric Davis, Hannah Fierman, Greg Garrison, Melissa Haas, Torey Haas, Jay Holloway, Jenna Kanell, Anissa Matlock, Tony Reames

69. Munich – The Edge of War

Director: Christian Schwochow

68. My Best Friend Anne Frank

Director: Ben Sombogaart

67. Fresh

Director: Mimi Cave

66. White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch

Director: Alison Klayman

65. Infinite Storm

Director: Malgorzata Szumowska

64. Hatching

Director: Hanna Bergholm

63. Men

Director: Alex Garland

62. Painted in Blood

Director: Aaron Mirtes

61. On the 3rd Day

Director: Daniel de la Vega

60. A Banquet

Director: Ruth Paxton

59. The Seed

Director: Sam Walker

58. The Wasteland

Director: David Casademunt

57. The Cursed

Director: Sean Ellis

56. Livid

Directors: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury

55. No Exit

Director: Damien Power

54. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Directors: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Schienert

53. They Live in the Grey

Directors: Abel Vang, Burlee Vang

52. Deep Water

Director: Adrian Lyne

51. The Sadness

Director: Rob Jabbaz

50. You Are Not My Mother

Director: Kate Dolan

49. Godforsaken

Directors: Ali Akbar, Akbar Kamal

48. Ultrasound

Director: Rob Schroeder

47. Operation Mincemeat

Director: John Madden

46. The Last Thing Mary Saw

Director: Edoardo Vitaletti

45. Jackass Forever

Director: Jeff Tremaine

44. Straight to VHS

Director: Emilio Silva Torres

43. Studio 666

Director: BJ McDonnell

42. Scream

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillet

41. Hellbender

Directors: John Adams, Zelda Adams, Toby Poser

40. Flux Gourmet

Director: Peter Strickland

39. The Hurt We Share

Director: Vega Montanez

38. Nezura 1964

Director: Hiroto Yokokawa

37. Belle

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

36. RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)

Director: S.S. Rajamouli

35. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Director: Jane Shoenburn

34. You Won’t Be Alone

Director: Goran Stolevski

33. VHS Love: Cult Cinema Obsession

Director: Tony Newton

32. The Found Footage Phenomenon

Directors: Sarah Appleton, Phillip Escott

31. #Shakespeare’s Sh*tstorm

Director: Lloyd Kaufman

30. Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe

Director: Mike Judge

29. The Black Phone

Director: Scott Derrickson

28. Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood

Director: Richard Linklater

27. Elvis

Director: Baz Luhrman

26. Strawberry Mansion

Directors: Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney

25. X

Director: Ti West

24. Cow

Director: Andrea Arnold

23. The Innocents

Director: Eskil Vogt

22. Crimes of the Future

Director: David Cronenberg

21. Lux Aeterna

Director: Gaspar Noe

20. Petite Maman

Director: Celine Sciamma

19. Uncle Sleazo’s Toxic & Terrifying TV Hour

Director: Lucky Cerruti

18. Nitram

Director: Justin Kurzel

17. The Outfit

Director: Graham Moore

16. Nocturna: Side A- The Great Old Man’s Night

Director: Gonzalo Calzada

15. Luci and Desi

Director: Amy Poehler

14. The Northman

Director: Robert Eggers

13. Downfall: The Case Against Boeing

Director: Rory Kennedy

12. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

Director: Pawo Choyning Dorji

11. A Hero

Director: Asghar Farhadi

10. The Worst Person in the World

Director: Joachim Trier

9. Disorienting Dick

Director: Richard Griffin

8. The House

Directors: Paloma Baeza, Emma De Swaef, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Marc James Roels

7. Cyrano

Director: Joe Wright

6. Nocturna: Side B- Where the Elephants Go To Die

Director: Gonzalo Calzada

5. Happening

Director: Audrey Diwana

4. Mad God

Director: Phil Tippett

3. Neptune Frost

Directors: Saul Williams, Anisia Uzeyman

2. Jurassic World: Dominion

Director: Colin Trevorrow

1. Vortex

Director: Gaspar Noe

Disorienting Dick (2022) – Movie Review

By Andrew Buckner

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

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.

The 21 Best Short Films of 2020

By Andrew Buckner

*The inclusion of the short films on this list is based on the criteria of an initial 2020 U.S. release date.

21. “For Milo”
Director: Matthew Gilpin.

20. “Rotten Magnolia”
Director: Tracy Huerta.

19. “Hollow”
Director: Max Buttrill.

18. “Private”
Director: Steve Blackwood.

17. “The Nurturing”
Director: Alex DiVincenzo.

16. “A Rock Feels No Pain”
Directors: Gabrielle Rosson, Kris Salvi.

15. “The Never Was”
Director: Mike Messier.

14. “Exeter at Midnight”
Director: Christopher Di Nunzio.

13. “Waffle”
Director: Carlyn Hudson.

12. “Dear Guest”
Director: Megan Freels Johnston.

11. “Thankless”
Director: Mark Maille.

10. “Wives of the Skies”
Director: Honey Lauren.

9. “Stuck”
Director: Steve Blackwood.

8. “The Dirty Burg”
Director: John Papp.

7. “Being Kris Salvi”
Director: Gabrielle Rosson.

6. “Voices from the Invisible”
Director: Miriam Revesz.

5. “Salvation”
Director: Gabrielle Rosson.

4. “Priest Hunter”
Director: Skip Shea.

3. “Fire (Pozar)”
Director: David Lynch.

2. “Gay as the Sun”
Director: Richard Griffin.

1. “Yesteryear”
Director: Chris Esper.

Andrew Buckner’s 100 Favorite Feature Films of 2020

By Andrew Buckner

*This list is dedicated to the many theaters that were closed or permanently shutdown this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without your ever-comforting presence a pivotal part of the one-of-a-kind artistry, understanding, and universal joy inherent in the cinematic experience will be forever erased.

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

100. Cadaver
Director: Jarand Herdal.

99. Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight
Director: Bartosz M. Kowalski.

98. Vampires vs. the Bronx
Director: Osmany Rodriguez.

97. Unhinged
Director: Derrick Borte.

96. Nocturne
Director: Zu Quirke.

95. Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics
Director: Donick Cary.

94. His House
Director: Remi Weekes.

93. The Phenomenon
Director: James Fox.

92. Notzilla
Director: Mitch Teemley.

91. May the Devil Take You Too
Director: Timo Tjahjanto.

90. Impetigore
Director: Joko Anwar.

89. Relic
Director: Natalie Erika James.

88. The Rental
Director: Dave Franco.

87. Dead Life: Wormwood’s End
Director: William Victor Schotten.

86. Antebellum
Directors: Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz.

85. Host
Director: Rob Savage.

84. The Mortuary Collection
Director: Ryan Spindell.

83. The Honeymoon Phase
Director: Phillip G. Carroll Jr.

82. Skyman
Director: Daniel Myrick.

81. Bill & Ted Face the Music
Director: Dean Parisot.

80. Tesla
Director: Michael Almereyda.

79. Porno
Director: Keola Racela.

78. Save Yourselves!
Directors: Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson.

77. Cut Throat City
Director: RZA.

76. Alone
Director: John Hyams.

75. Elephant
Directors: Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz, Alastair Fothergill.

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

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

72. An English Haunting
Director: Charlie Steeds.

71. The Gentlemen
Director: Guy Ritchie.

70. VFW
Director: Joe Begos.

69. First Love
Director: Takashi Miike.

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

67. Bit
Director: Brad Michael Elmore.

66. Gretel & Hansel
Director: Oz Perkins.

65. #Alive
Director: II Cho.

64. The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell.

63. Come to Daddy
Director: Ant Timpson.

62. Snatchers
Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman.

61. We Summon the Darkness
Director: Marc Meyers.

60. 1BR
Director: David Marmor.

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

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

57. Comic Book Junkies
Directors: Lenny Schwartz, Nathan Suher.

56. Sputnik
Director: Egor Abramenko.

55. Tigertail
Director: Alan Yang

54. A Secret Love
Director: Chris Boln.

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

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

51. Uncle Peckerhead
Director: Matthew John Lawrence.

50. Rent-A-Pal
Director: Jon Stevenson.

49. The Platform
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.

48. Scare Package
Directors: Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn.

47. Bacurau
Directors: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonca Filho.

46. Scare Me
Director: Josh Ruben.

45. The Hunt
Director: Craig Zobel.

44. Da 5 Bloods
Director: Spike Lee.

43. Possessor Uncut
Director: Brandon Cronenberg.

42. Time
Director: Garrett Bradley.

41. The Vast of Night
Director: Andrew Patterson.

40. Frank & Zed
Director: Jesse Blanchard.

39. The Swerve
Director: Dean Kapsalis.

38. The Trial of the Chicago 7
Director: Aaron Sorkin.

37. First Cow
Director: Kelly Reichardt.

36. The Social Dilemma
Director: Jeff Orlowski.

35. The Assistant
Director: Kitty Green

34. Vivarium
Director: Lorcan Finnegan.

33. Emma.
Director: Autumn de Wilde.

32. Strapped for Danger II: Undercover Vice
Director: Richard Griffin.

31. Family Romance, LLC.
Director: Werner Herzog.

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

29. Seeds
Director: Skip Shea.

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

27. Rewind
Director: Sasha Joseph Neulinger.

26. The Other Lamb
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska.

25. Color Out of Space
Director: Richard Stanley.

24. Planet of the Humans
Director: Jeff Gibbs.

23. Totally Under Control
Directors: Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger.

22. Shirley
Director: Josephine Decker.

21. Vote Motherf***er
Director: Lenny Schwartz.

20. Swallow
Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

19. Beastie Boys Story
Director: Spike Jonze.

18. Fulci For Fake
Director: Simone Scafidi.

17. Gremlins: A Puppet Story
Director: Chris Walas.

16. Circus of Books
Director: Rachel Mason.

15. Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story
Directors: Ron Cicero, Kimo Easterwood.

14. Cleaning up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters
Director: Anthony Bueno.

13. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Director: Jason Woliner.

12. Hamilton
Director: Thomas Kail.

11. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Directors: James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham.

10. Spaceship Earth
Director: Matt Wolf.

9. Luz: The Flower of Evil
Director: Juan Diego Escobar Alzate.

8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Director: Charlie Kaufman.

7. Tommaso
Director: Abel Ferrara.

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

5. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Director: Eliza Hittman.

4. Beanpole
Director: Kantemir Balagov.

3. Sister Tempest
Director: Joe Badon.

2. The Painted Bird
Director: Vaclav Marhoul.

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

The Andrew Buckner/ AWordofDreams Summer 2020 Short Film Festival – Films 3 and 4: “The Red Carpet” and “I Feel”

By Andrew Buckner

The Andrew Buckner/ AWordofDreams Summer 2020 Short Film Festival continues with films 3 and 4 (of 14) in the festival: “The Red Carpet” (2018), which was directed by Richard Griffin, and “I Feel” (2017). The latter work was directed by Steve Blackwood. The connection between these witty and hilarious gems are their shared genre: Comedy. In a related note, this will be the first of two of these related categorical pairings in this festival.

As promised, the festival continues with:

Film 3: “The Red Carpet”

Cast information:

Directed and Edited by Richard Griffin

Written and Produced by Lenny Schwartz

Starring: Anthony Gaudette, Sarah Reed, Geoff White, Lee Rush, Dan Martin, Laura Minadeo, Graham Stokes, Bill Pett, Jim Kelly, Erin Archer.

Director of Photography: Dan Mauro

Production Designer: Margaret Wolf

Art Director: Angela Shulman

Assistant Director: Nat Sylva.

Plot:

When a young boxer suffers from a near-fatal hit in the ring, his slow struggle back to glory will fill you with hope and a promise of a new tomorrow. “The Red Carpet” is a movie for anyone who wants to know the true meaning of the nature of the human spirit, and what it means to be a hero.

Color.

Runtime: 4 min. 15 sec.

Contains profanity.

Film 4: “I Feel”

Summary:

A mockumentary about a couples therapy session gone wrong.

Cast:

Director: Steve Blackwood.

Writers: Karen Blackwood, Steve Blackwood.

Starring: Elle Matarazzo, Jeremy Labrie, Marty Smith, Marybeth Paul.

Music: Mathew Solomon.

Editor: Chris Esper.

Cinematography: Chris Esper.

Produced by: Steve Blackwood, Chris Esper.

Sonic Cinema review of “I Feel”:

http://sonic-cinema.com/movie/i-feel-short/?fbclid=IwAR0zV1_BbfNCEgHqaFxZVYyejUT3onA_5j34IqUyVZQ5C0ixRFcg2ZfVeZE

Color.

Runtime: 9 min. 53 sec.

*All films included in this festival are shown with the kind permission of the filmmakers.

 

“Undercover Vice: Strapped for Danger Part 2” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

The world is in desperate need of laughter in our increasingly bleak times. Director Richard Griffin and screenwriter Duncan Pflaster provide just that with their latest collaborative effort: the rapid-fire hilarious Undercover Vice: Strapped for Danger Part 2 (2020). Griffin’s latest feature is on par with the massively entertaining original entry in this series, Strapped for Danger (2017), in every way. I cannot recall a single joke in the brisk 88-minute runtime of Undercover Vice that doesn’t land with either a smirk, a chuckle or a slew of knee-slapping guffaws. Even the quieter sight gags, such as one clever moment that utilizes a water cooler at twenty-six minutes into the work, are effective and well-done.

As has become a trademark with Griffin films, the piece has numerous jokes pointed at the private lives of Republicans. While this attribute is successful enough to add a personal political point-of-view to the piece, the endeavor does not linger too long on these bits. It simply adds its own perspective, as is the right of every artist, and moves forward with the tale. In an age where subtly seems to be a forgotten art, such actions are evermore admirable.

What is just as worthy of respect is that there is never a bitter flash in the entirety of the production. There are a few dramatic instances. But they play out in a manner which heightens the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, joyously campy quality of the affair. A subplot involving a central figure getting his grandfather out of a nursing home is where many of these touches are mechanized. Regardless, the unabashedly quirky tone of the picture is never broken.

The plot involves two police officers, Andy (Sean Brown) and Kevin (Chris Fisher), who pose as porn stars to stop a ring of corruption involving a local politician. Pflaster gives this story life with dialogue that is endlessly smart and witty. Furthermore, there is an enviably quick and efficient pace throughout the entirety of the silver screen opus. This is largely due to Griffin’s masterful editing. There not a single unnecessary or overlong scene in the production. Such measures greatly compliment the jovial atmosphere of the project.

What also helps this matter is that every performance herein is gleefully pitch perfect. Brown and Fisher are brilliant with their endearing lead depictions. Sarah Reed is fantastic as Zooey. The same can be said of the respective turns of Sissy O’ Hara as Sister Dymphna and Samantha Acampora as Rebecca. Johnny Sederquist is always enjoyable as the delightfully named Pinata Debris.

Undercover Vice is bigger and grander than its predecessor. Still, its wonderfully intimate with just the right amount of character focus. Every frame is a visual feast for the eye. This is a courtesy of the marvelous, colorful cinematography from John Mosetich. It is as just as much a sonic smorgasbord with some truly excellent musical selections peppering the undertaking. This is especially noteworthy during the superbly constructed end credits. Yet, Griffin’s exercise is just as brilliant in sections such as the near two-minute opener of the chronicle. This sequence uses only voiceover dialogue to describe what is transpiring and the names of those participating in the article.

These elements come together to craft another inspired and dazzling masterpiece in Griffin’s cinematic canon. Undercover Vice is one of the funniest flicks in years. It is also one of 2020’s top-tier movies. Griffin has crafted another triumph of independent storytelling via the visual medium. Strapped for Danger Part 2 is a must-see.

The 60 Greatest Films of 2017

By Andrew Buckner

It has been another remarkable year for cinema. With this in mind, I gladly enclose my list of the sixty greatest films of 2017. The criteria I utilized when putting this composition together is that every picture had a U.S. release date in the aforementioned year. Please note that I have yet to see The Shape of Water and The Disaster Artist. Hence, the exclusion of these features from this article. Yet, make sure to return to this page. I will be adding to this piece once I have had the chance to view these pictures myself. Enjoy!

60. Icarus
Director: Bryan Fogel

59. Marshall
Director: Reginald Hudlin.

58. Wind River
Director: Taylor Sheridan.

57. A**holes
Director: Peter Vack.

56. Land of Mine
Director: Martin Zandvliet.

55. 20th Century Women
Director: Mike Mills.

54. Night Job
Director: J. Antonio.

53. Columbus
Director: Kogonada.

52. 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene
Director: Alexandre O. Phillipe.

51. Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary
Directors: John Campopiano, Justin White.

50. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Director: Noah Baumbach.

49. Okja
Director: Bong Joon-ho.

48. Get Out
Director: Jordan Peele.

47. The Big Sick
Director: Michael Showalter.

46. Fairfield Follies
Director: Laura Pepper.

45. Second Nature
Director: Michael Cross.

44. Baby Driver
Director: Edgar Wright.

43. Gerald’s Game
Director: Mike Flanagan.

42. 1922
Director: Zak Hilditch.

41. A Dark Song
Director: Liam Gavin.

40. Blade Runner 2049
Director: Dennis Villeneuve.

39. After the Storm
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

38. The Lost City of Z
Director: James Gray.

37. The Beguiled
Director: Sofia Coppola.

36. Personal Shopper
Director: Olivier Assayas.

35. Strapped for Danger
Director: Richard Griffin.

34. War for the Planet of the Apes
Director: Matt Reeves.

33. Alien: Covenant
Director: Ridley Scott.

32. Blade of the Immortal
Director: Takashi Miike.

31. Kuso
Director: Flying Lotus.

30. Anti Matter
Director: Keir Burrows.

29. The Transfiguration
Director: Michael O’ Shea.

28. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Director: Steve James.

27. We Are the Flesh
Director: Emiliano Rocha Minter.

26. Rat Film
Director: Theo Anthony.

25. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk.

24.. The Lure
Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska.

23. Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond- Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton
Director: Chris Smith.

22. Mudbound
Director: Dee Rees.

21. A Cure for Wellness
Director: Gore Verbinski.

20. Colossal
Director: Nacho Vigalondo.

19. Spielberg
Director: Susan Lacy.

18. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Director: Richard Griffin.

17. A Quiet Passion
Director: Terence Davies.

16. David Lynch: The Art Life
Directors: Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm.

15. My Pet Dinosaur
Director: Matt Drummond.

14. Strong Island
Director: Yance Ford.

13. Leftovers
Director: Seth Hancock.

12. The Phantom Thread
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson.

11.Loving Vincent
Directors: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman.

10. Last Men in Aleppo
Directors: Firas Fayyad, Steen Johanessen, Hasan Kattan.

9. All the Money in the World
Director: Ridley Scott.

8. Long Night in a Dead City
Director: Richard Griffin.

7. Raw
Director: Julia Ducournau.

6. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos.

5. Endless Poetry
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky.

4. Detroit
Director: Kathryn Bigelow.

3. A Ghost Story
Director: David Lowery.

2. The Post
Director: Steven Spielberg.

1. mother!
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

A Word of Dreams’ 15 Favorite Films of 2017 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

Since we are nearly halfway through 2017 already, I have decided to put together a list of my favorite films of the year so far. And the awards go to…

15. FAIRFIELD FOLLIES
Director: Laura Pepper
Genre: Comedy

14. GET OUT
Director: Jordan Peele
Genre: Horror

13. A DARK SONG
Director: Liam Gavin
Genre: Horror

12. NIGHT JOB
Director: J. Antonio
Genre: Comedy

11. MOM AND ME
Director: Ken Wardrop
Genre: Documentary

10. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Director: Bill Condon
Genre: Fantasy/ Romance/ Musical/ Family

9. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
Director: Raoul Peck
Genre: Documentary

8. ALIEN: COVENANT
Director: Ridley Scott
Genre: Horror/ Science-Fiction

7. THE LURE
Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Genre: Horror/ Comedy/ Musical

6.A CURE FOR WELLNESS
Director: Gore Verbinski
Genre: Horror/Drama/Fantasy

5. MY PET DINOSAUR
Director: Matt Drummond
Genre: Family/ Adventure

4. GARDEN OF STARS
Director: Pasquale Plastino, Stephane Riethauser
Genre: Documentary

3.  RAW
Director: Julia Ducournau
Genre: Horror

2. DO YOU DREAM IN COLOR?
Director: Abigail Fuller, Sarah Ivy
Genre: Documentary

1. LONG NIGHT IN A DEAD CITY
Director: Richard Griffin
Genre: Mystery

RUNNERS-UP: LEFTOVERS (Director: Seth Hancock), 7 WITCHES, SPLIT, VOODOO, THE VOID, XX.

*Please note: MOM AND ME and THE LURE premiered in 2015. GARDEN OF STARS played in Italy in 2016. Yet, these pictures were not released in the United States of America until 2017. I am utilizing this latter-stated factor in my inclusion of these movies in this list.

“Long Night in a Dead City” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Long Night in a Dead City (2017) is among the most accomplished works from the collaborative team of screenwriter Lenny Schwartz and director Richard Griffin. It stands as a testament to the surreal, hypnotic power derived from a largely imagery-driven narrative. This brilliantly paced and filler-less seventy-five-minute masterpiece also garners an endless mystique from this quality. What also helps matters is that it wisely never overindulges in its rhythmic and often cryptic dialogue.

This is immediately noted in the visually stunning opening arrangements. In this section, our hero, Daniel Belmont (in an ever-gripping portrayal by Aidan Laliberte), wakes up bloody and bruised. Gradually pulling himself from the middle of the road, where he either fell asleep or lost consciousness, we follow him with increasing intrigue. This is as he dazedly treads through the surrounding area. But, there is a confused impression about his movements. Such suggests an attempt at filling in gaps in his memory. What he is trying to recall becomes the impetus of this 1979-set affair. From herein, Griffin and Schwartz answer this question with an almost dream-like succession of events. All of which revolve around a film festival and Daniel’s missing brother, Charlie (Anthony Gaudette). There is also an enigmatic cult-like group. Griffin and Schwartz also incorporate into the proceedings a bar where people, all of whom are as immobile as figures in a wax museum, go before committing suicide on the last day of the year.

Such fascinating factors and clever concepts are augmented by the gorgeously constructed modern noir-like atmosphere. Yet, this Scorpio Film Releasing produced affair, originally titled Satan’s Children, refuses to settle into the tidy constraints of any genre. This is as it effortlessly juggles elements of science-fiction, horror, murder mystery and dark romance. But, there is a masterful use of recurring symbolism that fits neatly into the most prominent themes of this The Twilight Zone-like (1959-1964) undertaking. Such is manifest in the utilization of a black watch that is spied early in the endeavor.

Adding to these awe-inspiringly artistic and subtly issued attributes is a palpable love for 1970’s cinema. This is readily perceived in the terrifically designed posters for the fictional features showing at The Cine Satyrica New Year’s Eve Film Festival. It is also enhanced by the various Kubrickian shots of the inside of the theater where the aforesaid jubilee is held. There are also classically erected moments where our lead slowly treads down long, isolated hallways. They also alluringly reflect this aesthetic. Yet, this trait is most discernible in the way the sights Daniel views on-screen prompts him to piece together his fragmented recollections. Such a plot thread also seems to silently speak to the catharsis and relation to what one is seeing in a photoplay in correlation to the singular experiences of the viewer in general. This component also allows for some truly innovative, near Lynchian spectacles. Moreover, John Mosetich carries on this ardent connection. This is with cinematography that is as mesmerizing and colorful as it is reminiscent of an Italian Giallo film.

Continuing to strengthen the exertion is Griffin and Schwartz’s deliberate decision to leave the characters, even our protagonist, an enigma. In less capable hands, this would be a fatal flaw in this otherwise impressive effort. Instead, it heightens the palpable air of intrigue that pulsates throughout the entirety. It also matches the same said tone to illuminating effect. Such also allows us to get inside Daniel’s psyche with plentiful ease. In turn, the opus is more skillful and captivating because of such a choice.

What is all the more tremendous is that we still feel as if we know and can relate to nearly everyone we encounter in Griffin and Schwartz’s elusive voyage. This is a major courtesy of Griffin’s ever-mature, stylish and astounding guidance of the project. It is also a consequence of Schwartz’s rich and intelligent authorship of the account. Such a triumph in this category is also related to the pitch perfect casting of the piece. For example, Sarah Reed is enthralling as the target of Daniel’s affections, Holly. Anna Rizzo is superb in her brief turn as The Bartender. Aaron Andrade is just as memorable as the shadowy individual known as The Driver. Jaquelyn Fabian as Diana, Jack Shipley as Luke and Lars Rieck as Tom are all terrific in their respective roles.

From a technical standpoint, Griffin orchestrates seamless and sharp editing. Sissy O’ Hara’s makeup and Angela Shulman’s art direction are similarly striking. Mark Cutler, Tony Milano and Daniel Hildreth all provide incredible music. Their collective participation suits the downplayed mood of the movie masterfully.

Griffin and Schwartz’s latest concludes with a sequence that turns a familiar tale-telling circumstance on its head. This is that the announcement, and the detached manner it is stated in, seems to nod to emotions and ideas far more complex than what should be brought forth from such a statement. It is one of the myriad moves of ingenuity that pushes the project. Having seen the feature twice now, I can say that upon the initial watch we are drawn in by the gloomy beauty and the puzzle-like nature of the arrangement. On the next sit-through, we note how well the clues placed before Daniel propel him to his destination. Furthermore, audience patrons are drawn in by the depth and dimension of Daniel’s journey the second time around. Such only seems to hint at a plethora of layers yet to be tapped into with ensuing observances. This, along with all the adept touches declared prior, comes together to create a well-rounded, stirring, nightmarish and unforgettable exercise in anecdotal cinema. Long Night in a Dead City is the best picture of the year.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016)” – Movie Review

By Andrew Buckner

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

Writer-director Richard Griffin’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s circa 1590-1597 penned romantic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016), pulsates with magic, splendor and eloquence. It is a passion project the Providence, Rhode Island born craftsmen has been attempting to bring to fruition since 2000. This is highly visible in the final product, which burns with the ardor of a long spent wish finally realized. The Scorpio Film Releasing distribution is both a beauty of sight and of sound; a searing triumph of frisky, smoothly paced entertainment. This is as much a courtesy of Jill Poisson’s rich, hypnotic cinematography and Griffin’s lively, astonishing handling of the production as it is the unmistakable, Early Modern English language of The Bard himself. Such an element Griffin takes directly from the original work. Even though Griffin has moved the central action from Ancient Greece, in an unspecified year, to Athens, Massachusetts in 1754: the rhythm, and amusing nuance (which is often innuendo based), of Shakespeare’s opus remains intact. All of this combines to create an affectionate, faithful homage to the source material. Yet, it distinctly resonates with the core of a Griffin construction. It is both radiant, sidesplitting, cutting edge, a bit old fashioned and affecting. Regardless, there is an innocence to the labor that showcases the sheer variety Griffin, who has toiled largely in the cinematic horror genre, is more than capable of conducting. Griffin, whose first celluloid tour de force was a modernized version of Shakespeare’s roughly 1588-1593 scribed tragedy Titus Andronicus (2000), is obviously well-versed in the narrative. This knowledge accentuates the sum of the vehicle. It makes its humor even more affective. This evident wisdom makes its message all the clearer. Moreover, its dramatic intervals are increasingly stalwart and wrenching. In turn, we are amended what is a highlight in Griffin’s multi-faceted career. This is undoubtedly one of the best pictures of the year.

Heightened by a few sly modern touches, such as a quick midway gag involving our obviously enthralled characters passing along a bowl of popcorn to one another, the sum of the effort is a wholly fresh and unique experience. It is as much a testament to Shakespeare’s sustained relevance as it is a display of Griffin’s endearing charms. Moreover, the theatrical roots of the exertion are more than perceptible. It is seen in the larger than life, yet still delightfully intimate, representations from everyone involved. This is as notable in Anna Rizzo’s riveting portrayal of the Queen of the Fairies, Titania, as it is with Johnny Sederquist’s punk rock take on the English mythology based elf, Puck (who is also known by the moniker of Robin Goodfellow). The more straight-forward presentations, such as Steven O’ Broin’s terrific and mature depiction of Theseus, balance out pleasantly the plethora of more light-hearted entities which dominate the affair.

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There is a wide range of categorical beats and themes, with the reversal of gender roles, transformation, the supernatural and the pursuit and nature of amour being at the forefront, that must be successfully orchestrated. Yet, the entire cast pulls it all off as if it as natural as breathing. Jamie Dufault as Demetrius, Laura Pepper as Robin Starveling, Aaron Andrade as the comical Snout and Elizabeth Loranth as Helena are especially good. The same can be said for Alexander Platt as Oberon, Josh Fontaine as the man turned donkey, Nick Bottom, Lee Rush as Hippolyta, Lydea Irwin as Mustardseed, Bruce Church as Egeus, Christin Goff as Rita Quince and Ashley Harmon as Hermia. She is the conflicted admirer of both Lysander (in an entrancing turn from Charlie Ferguson) and Demetrius. These stretches mechanize terrifically due, in part, to the fact that the chemistry between Harmon and Ferguson is palpable. This makes the numerous sequences revolving around their relationship even more hypnotic, wrenching and stunning.

What is just as incredible is that the 105-minute feature, despite its $25,000 price tag, remarkably comes off as if its budget is as gargantuan as its upbeat, often seductive, spirit. This manifests immediately in an impressively showcased, 65 second opening credits arrangement. With its cheery palette and blue lettering, it quickly captures the mystical disposition at the center of the narrative. Everything in this section seems bathed in moonlight. This integral ingredient is a mood-setting fixture in the initial literature itself. The plentiful shots of this aforesaid nighttime glimmer hovering above the forest in the presentation are equally intoxicating throughout. This commencing scene also comes across as strikingly retro. Such a visage could easily fit within the confines of a 1980’s style photographic opus. Given Griffin’s penchant for mirroring the look and feel of silver screen marvels from past decades, this similarity could be intentional.

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Advancing the overall appeal is the extraordinary effects from Torey Haas and John Dusek. They backup these prior addressed, bygone qualities spectacularly. Simultaneously, Griffin’s editing is top notch. Chad Kaplan’s Cupid animation is sensational. Margaret Wolf provides stellar, era appropriate costume design. Furthermore, the makeup from Jaquelyn Fabian, Scott C. Miller and Sissy O’ Hara is phenomenal. The Shakespeare writ “Lullaby”, wonderfully composed by Mark Cutler and captivatingly performed by Rizzo, Irwin and Harmon, is elegantly designed and delivered. Likewise, both the gentle and emotive Cutler authored, put together and sung “In My Dreams” as well as Daniel Hildreth’s ambient music augments perpetual lavishness to the project.

Griffin, whose script for this crowd-funded undertaking is both robust and brilliant, handles the various interconnected plotlines of this complex affair splendidly. The first of these are Hermia’s refusal to marry Demetrius. Such transpires due to her strong affinity for Lysander. Additionally, there is the creation of the play Nick Bottom, Snug (in a bravura role from Christian Masters), Tom Snout, Robin Starverling and Francis Flute (in a terrific enactment by Ryan Hanley) plan to act in for the Duke and Queen’s wedding. Many of the early guffaws triumphantly derive from this account. King of the Fairies, Oberon, and his  summoning of Puck to concoct a love potion, which gradually goes out of control, is spectacularly issued. Some of the most visually and sentimentally dazzling bits in the fabrication stem from these segments. Hermia and Lysander’s escape into the same area where Titania resides becomes a focal point. This is for the assembly of all these previously stated anecdotes into one setting. It is all punctuated by a final monologue by Puck that is assuredly smirk-inducing. Such also offers a grand climactic point. This instant reiterates the enchanted atmosphere of the undertaking masterfully.

In a filmography that ranges from fun, 1950’s modeled alien invasion illustrations (2010’s nostalgia fueled Atomic Brain Invasion), John Waters Reminiscent comedies (2014’s ingenious Accidental Incest) and 1970’s grindhouse brand B-movies (2011’s The Disco Exorcist), Griffin’s vision of A Midsummer Night’s Dream fits comfortably in the inarguably varied body of his career. His stamp is on every achingly alluring frame of his latest endeavor. There is also a delicate gentleness to the proceedings, an attention to detail and an admiration and pride for the centuries old text which pulsates proudly through the duration. Such helps bring the composition to life in a way unseen in preceding interpretations of the fiction. This is as much a thanks to his cast of frequent collaborators, all of whom continue to prove their flexibility and variability with the diversity of roles Griffin has handed them throughout the years, as it is solid proof of Griffin’s own multi-faceted talents. With his latest contribution, Griffin soars and astounds. All the while, he also makes us laugh, contemplate and reflect. Though the words and events may be that of Shakespeare, the voice we hear radiating through the entirety is distinctly that of Griffin. What Griffin provides here, besides another example of his absolute command of form, is a masterclass in how to take an oft told tale and make it solely your own.

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