“Go to School, Kanunu” by Chris Esper (Book Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Hilarious, heartfelt and deeply personal, Go to School, Kanunu (2019) by Chris Esper is a perfect children’s book. Inventive and lively in its storytelling, with a multitude of terrific illustrations by Cardigan Broadmoor which bring these inherent qualities in the text to eye-popping life, the thirty-two-page tome has a look and demeanor that is easily aligned to the collective works of Dr. Seuss. This aspect can be easily assessed in the colorful and tone-setting cover Broadmoor conceived. It deftly summarizes Esper’s brief saga in a single image.

What further broadens this comparison to the ever-iconic catalogue of Dr. Seuss is how the project moves efficiently, effectively and enjoyably from one smirk-inducing situation to the next. Commencing with an ordinary moment, a mother telling her son to finish breakfast and do as the title of the effort suggests, the narrative becomes increasingly off-the-wall. This is as the mother seeks out inanimate objects as well as household animals to help get Kanunu to listen to her demands. They range from a timeout chair to a mouse.

Yet, what is most admirable about the self-published endeavor, which was released on July 30th of this year, is that it has a wide-ranging accessibility. This is most apparent in its theme of having a sluggish start to the day. Such is a topic guaranteed to ring true for every youth. It’s moral emphasis, the importance of punctuality, is fashioned in an easy-to-understand and amusing manner. It is one which its target audience will retain without difficulty.

As mentioned above, there is a private component to the undertaking which makes Go to School, Kanunu much more than an engrossing chronicle. In the touching Introduction, Esper states that this is a fiction his father would tell him and his sister. It was passed down to his father from his parents. Both of whom receive a loving dedication in the opening of the literature. This intimate connection tightens when we learn that Esper sees the yarn as a link to his Syrian heritage. It is an account his grandparents most likely heard themselves for the first time in the Middle East country. Esper’s hopes that the folk tale “may also shed a different light” on Syria is just as moving as the information garnered in this early passage.

Punctuated by an appropriately pleasant concluding note, Esper’s sophomore trek into the world of the printed word (after his brilliant 2016 debut, The Filmmaker’s Journey: Or What Nobody Tells You About the Industry) further showcases his depth and range as an artist. Whether tackling the subject of anxiety in the fantastic silent short “Imposter” (2018) or penning an engaging item for kids (as he does in his most recent opus), there is a consistently introspective nature to Esper’s material that is as relatable as it is endearing. This element illuminates every page of Esper’s latest venture. With great assistance from this quality, Esper has crafted an undertaking that feels immediately timeless. Go to School, Kanunu is an instant classic.

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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.

25 Underrated Films of the Past 25 Years

By Andrew Buckner

Whether the film received generally negative reactions from critics and audiences upon its initial release or simply didn’t get the proper attention the feature deserved, the past twenty-five years have been filled with underrated gems. With this in mind, I have prepared a list of twenty-five movies from the aforementioned time frame that deserve a second look. They are included below in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

The BFG (2016)
Director: Steven Spielberg.

Bubble (2006)
Director: Steven Soderbergh.

Cosmopolis (2012)
Director: David Cronenberg.

Film Socialisme (2011)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard.

Fire in the Sky (1993)
Director: Robert Lieberman.

The Fountain (2006)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

The Fourth Kind (2009)
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi.

Gummo (1997)
Director: Harmony Korine

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)
Director: Rob Zombie.

Julien Donkey-Boy (1999)
Director: Harmony Korine.

Kuso (2017)
Director: Flying Lotus.

Love (2015)
Director: Gaspar Noe.

Machete Kills (2013)
Director: Robert Rodriguez.

Matinee (1993)
Director: Joe Dante.

Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
Director: Spike Lee.

mother! (2017)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

Natural Born Killers (1994)
Director: Oliver Stone.

Prometheus (2012)
Director: Ridley Scott.

Red State (2011)
Director: Kevin Smith.

Silence (2016)
Director: Martin Scorsese.

Storytelling (2002)
Director: Todd Solondz.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2014)
Directors: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani.

Tideland (2005)
Director: Terry Gilliam.

What Dreams May Come (1998)
Director: Vincent Ward.

The Words (2012)
Directors: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal.

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.