“Gay as the Sun” (2020) – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

“Gay as the Sun” (2020), a thirty-one-minute short film from director Richard Griffin, is a thoughtful and endlessly hilarious meditation on body shaming and acceptance. Cleverly utilizing the basis of a circa 1960’s-70’s educational documentary, the masterfully done exercise also humorously addresses themes such as women’s wage inequality, hidden knowledge, religion (wonderfully exhibited throughout the work under the guise of a randomly appearing U.F.O.) and the mania of current Republican politics. What the piece also does just as successfully through this aforesaid structure is operate as a deeply personal story. It is one regarding two different men at separate periods in history, the beginning of and modern times, who grow to feel uncertain of their forms. In turn, this makes them feel unsure of themselves. This is a topic that many audience members will immediately relate to and find cathartic as it is showcased on-screen. Such a factor heightens the immense and varied appeal of the narrative. The eye-popping visual aesthetic of the effort, immediately showcased in the opening shot of a group of large sunflowers in a field, only improves the easy joy of the endeavor. This is courtesy of the magnificent and undeniably beautiful cinematography from Griffin.

The exercise is divided into two chapters. The first of which, “In the Beginning”, is a gentle and wonderfully diverting twist on the Adam (Ricky Irizarry) and Eve (Sarah Reed) tale. It is a brisk six minutes in length. What follows this is “The Story of Billy”. Implementing the remaining runtime of the venture, the chronicle concerns the title individual (delightfully played by Graham Stokes) who, following the actions of his parents, feels as if he cannot wear enough clothes. This is out of a personal disgrace for his undressed state. Upon being sent to an all-male nudist camp, he gradually learns to embrace and find himself through the loss of this once overwhelming concern.

The constantly charming and uproarious commentary by the wittily named “Psychologist/ Notary Public” Fritz Lang, M.D. (in a standout performance by Bruce Church) is a continuous source of amusement during this concluding account. What is also just as engaging is Griffin’s deft editing and guidance of the cinematic affair. Furthermore, the smartly paced (there is not a filler scene in the entirety of the picture) and arranged screenplay by Robyn Guilford is brilliant. It is filled with sharp, occasionally tongue-in-cheek dialogue, sly and subtle references to past and present issues and people, and wall-to-wall entertaining situations. Likewise, the enactments are all incredible. For example, Alexander Willis is dazzling as Gardner. The depiction by Samantha Acampora of Beatrice, Nolan Burke as Steve and Sissy O’ Hara as Ivy are all terrific. Terry Shea is just as good as The Narrator. Irizarry and Reed are illuminating in their previously stated turns. Ninny Nothin as Snake, Jay Walker as Poet, Robert Kersey as “Gay Dracula”, and Ronald Martin as The Shirt Bandit are all memorable in their brief roles.

Ultimately, “Gay as the Sun” stands alongside “Yesteryear” (2020) by Chris Esper as the single best non-feature film I have seen this year. It is emotionally rousing in a credible and quiet way. The design is also goofy, upbeat fun for the entirety of the arrangement. Well-fashioned and likable central figures are also frequently incorporated into the latest from Griffin. There is also just the right touch of romance peppered into the proceedings. Such an element greatly augments the variety of the development. With the assistance of these highly effective ingredients, Griffin has crafted a bold, unique, and ardent comedy as only he can conceive. It is a quirky, kind, blissful and illuminating masterpiece.

A Word of Dreams’ 40 Favorite Films of 2019 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

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

40. THE CHILD REMAINS
Director: Michael Melski.

39.THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2
Directors: Chris Renaud, Jonathan del Val.

38. I AM MOTHER
Director: Grant Sputore

37. THE FIELD GUIDE TO EVIL
Directors: Ashim Ahluwalia, Can Evrenol, Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz, Katrin Gebbe, Calvin Reeder, Agnieszka Smoczynska, Peter Strickland, Yannis Veslemes.

36. THE PERFECTION
Director: Richard Shepard.

35. VHS LIVES 2: UNDEAD FORMAT
Director: Tony Newton.

34. THE MUSTANG
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonerre.

33. WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE
Director: Stacie Passon.

32. STARFISH
Director: A.T. White.

31. ESCAPE ROOM
Director: Adam Robitel.

30. GLASS
Director: M. Night Shyamalan.

29. GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
Director: Michael Dougherty.

28. BLOOD CRAFT
Director: James Cullen Bressack.

27. PIERCING
Director: Nicolas Pesce.

26. PENGUINS
Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Jeff Wyatt Wilson.

25. THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT
Director: Robert D. Krzykowski.

24. SCARY STORIES
Director: Cody Meirick.

23. THE PRODIGY
Director: Nicholas McCarthy.

22. CHARLIE SAYS
Director: Mary Harron.

21. THE WIND
Director: Emma Tammi.

20. THE HEAD HUNTER
Director: Jordan Downey.

19. ARCTIC
Director: Joe Penna.

18. LORDS OF CHAOS
Director: Jonas Akerlund.

17. DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE
Director: S. Craig Zahler.

16. ON THE BASIS OF SEX
Director: Mimi Leder.

15. EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE
Director: Joe Berlinger.

14. KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE
Director: Rachel Lears.

13. THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK
Director: Henry Dunham.

12. THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUOXITE
Director: Terry Gilliam.

11. VELVET BUZZSAW
Director: Dan Gilroy.

10. ANIARA
Directors: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja.

9. THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND
Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor.

8. BIRDS OF PASSAGE
Directors: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra.

7. APOLLO 11
Director: Todd Douglas Miller.

6. PROSECUTING EVIL: THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD OF BEN FERENCZ
Director: Barry Avrich

5. CLIMAX
Director: Gaspar Noe.

4. US
Director: Jordan Peele.

3. NEVER LOOK AWAY
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

2. THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD
Director: Peter Jackson.

1. THE IMAGE BOOK
Director: Jean-Luc Godard.

A Word of Dreams’ 11 Favorite Rap Albums of 2018

By Andrew Buckner

11. Planet – Tech N9ne

10. The Notorious Goriest – Necro

9. Czarface Meets Metal Face – Czarface & MF Doom

8. The Book of Ryan – Royce Da 5’9

7. Mona Lisa – Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz

6. Weather or Not – Evidence

5. The Lost Tapes – Ghostface Killah

4. Mi Vida Local – Atmosphere

3. Portraits – Chris Orrick

2. Everythang’s Corrupt – Ice Cube

1. Kamikaze – Eminem

 

A Word of Dreams’ 25 Favorite Horror Films of 2018

By Andrew Buckner

Note: The criteria for all films included is a 2018 U.S. release date.

25. Halloween
Director: David Gordon Green.

24. Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
Director: Ari Sandel.

23. Hell Fest
Director: Gregory Plotkin.

22. Incident in a Ghostland
Director: Pascal Laugier.

21. Cargo
Directors: Ben Howling, Yolanda Remke.

20. The Heretics
Director: Chad Archibald.

19. Mom and Dad
Director: Brian Taylor.

18. They Remain
Director: Philip Gelatt.

17. Terrified
Director: Demian Rugna.

16. Unfriended: Dark Web
Director: Stephen Susco.

15. Upgrade
Director: Leigh Whannell.

14. Blood Fest
Director: Owen Egerton.

13. Veronica
Director: Placo Plaza.

12. Unsane
Director: Steven Soderbergh.

11. Mandy
Director: Panos Cosmatos.

10. The Endless
Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead.

9. Satan’s Slaves
Director: Joko Anwar.

8. Terrifier
Director: Damien Leone.

7. Ghost Stories
Directors: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman.

6. Revenge
Director: Coralie Fargeat.

5. The Strangers: Prey at Night
Director: Johannes Roberts.

4. The Devil’s Doorway
Director: Aislinn Clarke.

3. Annihilation
Director: Alex Garland.

2. A Quiet Place
Director: John Krasinski.

1. Hereditary
Director: Ari Aster.

“One Last Coin” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

“One Last Coin” (2016), from writer-director Skip Shea, is achingly beautiful. The seven-minute and fourteen-second short film, a case of neorealism that would fit perfectly alongside the associated developments of such masters of Italian cinema as Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini, is especially gorgeous in its profundity. More precisely, that which it derives from everyday simplicity. For example, the endeavor is content to merely showcase the breathtaking natural elegance and allure of the streets of Rome (where Shea recorded the article entirely on his iPhone 6). Such occurs as we follow an individual who decides what to do with his title object. This is right before Christmastime.

As the wordless tale unfolds, the piece speaks emotive volumes. This is largely a courtesy of Shea’s indelible imagery. Such a facet becomes collectively brilliant when glimpsed through the marvelous black and white cinematography he incorporates into the labor. These triumphant qualities are made increasingly potent by Shea’s decision to score the exertion with a single lovely and evocative piece of music. It plays to grand consequence throughout the undertaking. The gentle sound of water heard in the final moments enhance the Zen-like sense of calm and first-person perspective which ultimately courses throughout the production. These touches also spectacularly augment the previously addressed notion of authenticity and finding poetry in the commonplace.

What also strengthens the piece, and further helps it to become such an unforgettable opus, is that Shea offers no background information about his unnamed lead character. Is he homeless? Is he merely a curious visitor in Italy’s capital city? Maybe he could be a bit of both. Either way, the audience is forced to relate. In so doing, we see the lovely vistas Shea stunningly brings to the screen through the visage of our own thoughts and experience. This also makes the haunting sights spied along the way, such as a few instances around the mid-section where we spy crowds of people walking past those who appear lifeless on the ground, evermore effective. These quick bits, as well as the unique storytelling elements Shea integrates into the affair, make for an illustration of moving art that is as credible as it is unforgettable.

Another item that is equally astonishing, aside from the high-quality of the chronicle itself, is that Shea is a one-man moviemaking crew on this venture. In turn, the narrative has the sharp focus and radiate intimacy of a passion project. Shea’s editing is stalwart. Additionally, his sound work is crisp and incredible. It compliments the components of realism and quiet splendor that are in perfect symmetry through every frame of the effort.

“One Last Coin” is a masterpiece. It is impossible to not be moved.

A Word of Dreams’ 5 Favorite Books of 2018 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note that every volume included in this list is based on the criteria of a 2018 publication date.

5. Wade in the Water: Poems by Tracy K. Smith

4. The Cabin at the End of the World: A Novel by Paul
Tremblay

3. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte

2. Ghostbuster’s Daughter: Life with My Dad, Harold Ramis by Violet Ramis Stiel

1. The Outsider: A Novel by Stephen King

Runner-Up:

Warlight: A Novel by Michael Ondaatje

“Imposter” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

“Imposter” (2018) is among the most relatable, beautifully made, deeply symbolic and personal compositions yet from the incredibly talented writer-director Chris Esper. The nine-minute and fifty-four second short film is a series of three interconnected vignettes. They focus on the inward struggles of anxiety and the idea of the Imposter Syndrome. The latter concept, which was formulated by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978, concerns the idea that someone who is known for their accomplishments are afraid of being exposed as a con.

This theme is expounded upon early on in the form of an overworked man, Mike (in a powerhouse performance from Tom Mariano). During a meeting, he is plagued by visions of a young jester (in a quietly heartfelt enactment from Brendan Meehan). This figure can be seen as the adolescent side of Mike who simply wants to enjoy life. After his meeting he gets on a bus. From herein, we follow an artist (Sheetal Kelkar) and her counterpart (Jamie Braddy) to an art gallery. Here Esper wordlessly shows that both parties feel like they are embarrassed and on display. Returning to the aforementioned vehicle, Esper goes among the populace of the transport. In so doing, he often utilizes direct imagery to quickly tell many private stories of worry and woe. This ends on a highly effective note of tragedy that involves two military veterans (William DeCoff and Adam Masnyk).

Esper’s latest mechanizes tremendously well as social commentary and as an almost entirely dialogue free character study. His scripting and guidance of the project is masterful and mature at every avenue. The Stories in Motion and On Edge Productions fabrication, potently edited by Esper, is also a triumphant demonstration of Ben Alexander and Bryce Brashears’ sound. The same can be said of the lush cinematography from Rick King. This is also true of the make-up and special effects from Julianne Ross. The gently used music from Steven Lanning-Cafaro is haunting and evocative. It fits the tone of the project exceptionally.

All of these moviemaking ingredients help make “Imposter” a timely and timeless meditation on the insecurities which secretly bind so many individuals. I especially related to the first two segments. They immediately spoke to both the full-time laborer and the part-time writer within me. Yet, what is just as remarkable is how, when viewed as a whole, Esper creates a portrait of our civilization that is as intimate as it is grand. This is cinematic poetry. It is as open to interpretation as it is credible and layered. Esper wants to prove that beneath each person is an entire world of wounded self-doubt that others may never understand. He has done so with intelligence and grace. “Imposter” is a masterpiece. It is also one of the best ventures of its type I’ve seen all year.

(Unrated).

The Best Horror and Horror/Comedy Films of 2018 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

 

The 10 Best Horror Films:

10. Winchester
Directors: Michael and Peter Spierig.

9. Tonight She Comes
Director: Matt Stuertz.

8. Unsane
Director: Steven Soderbergh.

7. Terrifier
Director: Damien Leone.

6. The Strangers: Prey at Night
Director: Johannes Roberts.

5. They Remain
Director: Philip Gelatt.

4. Revenge
Director: Coralie Fargeat.

3. Annihilation
Director: Alex Garland.

2. A Quiet Place
Director: John Krasinski.

1. Hereditary
Director: Ari Aster.

 

Runners-Up:

Cargo
Directors: Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke.

Insidious: The Last Key
Director: Adam Robitel.

Island Zero
Director: Josh Gerritsen.

The Manor
Director: Jonathan Schermerhorn.

 

The 5 Best Horror/Comedies

5. 4/20 Massacre
Director: Dylan Reynolds.

4. Mom and Dad
Director: Brian Taylor.

3. Soft Matter
Director: Jim Hickcox.

2. Bus Party to Hell
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky.

1. Hell’s Kitty
Director: Nicholas Tana.

“King Cohen” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

King Cohen (2017), from writer-director Steve Mitchell, is a lively, charming and effortlessly entertaining tribute to the life and work of cinematic giant Larry Cohen. Yet, one of the most successful attributes of the 107-minute feature is that is filled with the ambition, charm and optimistic spirit of its focal point. This characteristic is made evermore intimate and invigorating by Cohen’s own nostalgic recollections. Early in the production they arrive as Cohen recalls his being a young cinephile and literary prodigy. More specifically, one who sold his first story to the dramatic anthology series Kraft Television Theater (1947-1958) in 1958. This was at the age of 17. As the endeavor goes on, these vividly narrated memories extend to the behind-the-scenes events and the often-impromptu creative sparks which helped fashion his early television and later movie work.

Cohen’s various relationships with his cast and crew members further flesh out the project. The sequences where Cohen and actor Fred Williamson, who appeared in a variety of Cohen’s efforts, disagree on the details of certain related situations they were both involved in are when the jovial charm of the documentary is most evident. But there is another layer of appeal to the arrangement. It is just as infectious. This is when modern moving picture masterminds such as J.J. Abrams, Joe Dante, John Landis and Martin Scorsese discuss their thoughts and personal connections to Cohen’s material. Such a sensation of motivation is further expounded upon in arrangements such as a delightful one found in the second half of the exercise. This is where fans of Cohen’s brilliant dark comedy, The Stuff (1985), speak of why the science-fiction/horror tour de force remains memorable and relevant to the culture of today. These bits add to the underlying perspective of awe, inspiration, love and endearing respect for Cohen and his contributions to the photographic art form which help make King Cohen such a resonant and deeply personal masterpiece. This is true from the engrossing commencement to its uniquely uplifting conclusion.

The segments which discuss the making of and audience reaction to the action film Black Caeser (1973) are also particularly intriguing. This interest continued during the discussion of how Cohen’s approach to the medium changed during the fabrication of Hell Up in Harlem (1973). When the eventual, though slow-going, success of Cohen’s classic monstrous baby on the loose opus, It’s Alive (1974), and terrifying tackle of theological issues, God Told Me To (1976), filled the screen I was equally riveted. The musings on the invention of Cohen’s timeless take on the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) and involvement with Bette Davis during the recording of Wicked Stepmother (1989) were equally captivating.

Mitchell’s composition earns even more acclaim for meticulously covering nearly every one of his ventures. Moreover, the affair contains terrific music from composer Joe Kraemer. It also conveys same said cinematography by David C.P. Chan. Such elements heighten the striking quality of the piece. Correspondingly, Mitchell’s pacing and style is perfectly fitting for the tone and theme of the undertaking. The sound and editing are sharp. Also, the incorporation of stills and clips from Cohen’s constructions make Mitchell’s latest more well-rounded and complete.

In turn, Mitchell offers audiences one of the best big screen entries of its type you will see all year. King Cohen is pure celluloid joy. Those of us who grew up both admiring and obsessed with Cohen’s tales owe it to themselves to see this as soon as possible. You can do so when Mitchell’s marvelous labor is released in select theaters on July 27th, 2018 through Dark Star Pictures.

(Unrated).