The 15 Best Albums and EPs of 2020 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

15. Molocular Meditation by Jan St. Werner

14. Versus (EP) by Jonezen

13. After Hours by The Weeknd

12. Mystic by Mackenzie Nicole

11. My Brother’s Keeper by Swifty McVay, Kuniva

10. The Allegory by Royce Da 5’9

9. EnterFear by Tech N9ne

8. Guided Meditations (EP) by RZA

7. Pray for Paris by Westside Gunn

6. RTJ4 by Run the Jewels

5. Gorilla Twins by Ill Bill, Nems

4. No Hermono by Sean Strange

3. Loud Is Not Enough by Public Enemy

2. All My Heroes Are Dead by R.A. the Rugged Man

1. Music to Be Murdered By by Eminem

“Stuck”(2020) – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Director Steve Blackwood’s fourteen-minute short film, “Stuck” (2020)”, is an all-around clever and well-done comedy. It finds a plethora of successful laughs and a subtle undermining of heart amid its engrossing premise.

Such concerns the goings-on of George (Blackwood) and Helen Simon (Sandy Bainum). They are a couple from New York, employed in advertising, who are thrust into a situation of dire emergency. The duo bought a machine of an erotic nature. It is one meant to enhance their relationship. This is as well as their routine lives. Yet, when the inebriated young delivery guy, Finn (Max Schochet), passes out and becomes unmovably entangled in said device during its installation, the scenario becomes more than a little nerve-racking for the pair. Not only is this because they are unaware of how to get Finn out of the gadget, but also because their overly judgmental friends are on their way for dinner.

The script, from Blackwood and David Susman, does a fine job of telling this tale in an engaging, hysterical, and always credible fashion. It develops the all-too-relatable characters of George and Helen in an equally organic and satisfying manner. This is often through the knee-slapping banter between the team. Blackwood and Susman keep the pace brisk throughout the endeavor. There is not a wasted frame in the storytelling department. Moreover, the humor is successful and witty. The project gets funnier as it goes along. This is with it becoming even more effective in the second half of the production. Blackwood and Susman’s narrative also weave a nice bit of dramatic symbolism with the title word involving George and Helen themselves near the finale.

What also works in the undertaking is the cheery, sophisticated, and stylish opening and closing credit sequences. They beautifully echo the overall tone of the effort. The animation used in these moments is outstanding. Furthermore, the performances are pitch perfect. Blackwood, Bainum and Schochet are excellent in their respective turns. The cinematography is vibrant, and the musical bits are just as good. Blackwood’s behind the camera control of the venture is sharp.

In turn, “Stuck” is masterful on all accounts. It is one of the best and most uproarious brief pieces I have seen all year. I highly recommend it.

Press Release: Andrew Buckner Releases “12 Original Beats” and More

 

Filmmaker, author and musician Andrew Buckner, under the name Buckner, unleashed a sonic smorgasbord over the weekend. On Friday, he unveiled his second full-length album, 12 Original Beats (2020). On the same day he released his third album and the sequel to the aforementioned project, 12 More Original Beats (2020). As the title suggests, these brisk, but ambitious and musically varied, efforts are all grooves of Buckner’s own invention.

On Saturday, he unveiled The Poetry Rap EP (2020). This six-track project features Buckner rapping a half-a-dozen different sonnets from his book of poetry A Call to Life, A Cry of Pain (2013). The rhymes are married to more unique sounds created by Buckner.

On Sunday, he published another similar collection to his 12 Original Beats series. It is called 22 New Buckner Beats (2020). The 14-minute album showcases Buckner’s continued growth via sound. 

Last week, Buckner also showed the world his extra short film, “Quarter: A 0.3 Second Short Film (2020)”. The endeavor is a black and white shot of a twenty-five cent piece. Containing a quick flash of a title and end credits sequence, the exercise is meant to show how quickly money leaves the hands of hard and long-working individuals. It is meant to be one of, if not the, shortest short films ever conceived. 

The YouTube links to all of the above-stated productions can be found above. 

Press Release: Andrew Buckner Releases Second Feature “The Buckner Experience” and Two New Shorts

Filmmaker, musician and author Andrew Buckner has released his second full-length feature, The Buckner Experience (2020), via YouTube. The 80-minute work is a collection of short films and audio. Namely, they contain his What is Music? LP (2020) and his EP 5 1-Minute Freestyles (2020). Also, included in this first volume of visual and sonic productions by Buckner is the acclaimed fourteen-minute short “Andrew Buckner’s Big Screen Memories”. The film was called “intimate” and “quite fascinating” by Michael Haberfelner of (Re)Search My Trash.

Buckner has also recently released two new short films via YouTube. They are “Power Saving Mode: Attack of the Angry Phone” (2020), a sixty-second horror/comedy that concerns a phone that attacks its vain owner as he starts a new blog, and the experimental short “Surroundings: 6 10-Second Silent Stories” (2020). The latter-stated endeavor is about a half-dozen inanimate and natural objects found in Buckner’s backyard. Buckner tells the tale of each item through ten silent shots. The links to these short films can be found below.

 

Press Release: Andrew Buckner Releases 5 1-MINUTE FREESTYLES EP

 

 

Musician, author and filmmaker Andrew Buckner, under the name Buckner, released his fifth EP yesterday afternoon via YouTube. It is entitled 5 1-Minute Freestyles. The project is a collection of five a capella rap freestyles. All of which run just a little over a minute. They were all recorded and performed by Buckner himself on the morning of June 10th, 2020. The 6-minute and 11-second work can be heard in its entirety at the YouTube link above. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

By Andrew Buckner

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

40. Resistance
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz.

39. Spaceship Earth
Director: Matt Wolf.

38. Elephant
Directors: Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz.

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

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

35. An English Haunting
Director: Charlie Steeds.

34. The Gentlemen
Director: Guy Ritchie.

33. VFW
Director: Joe Begos.

32. First Love
Director: Takashi Miike.

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

30. Bit
Director: Brad Michael Elmore.

29. Gretel & Hansel
Director: Oz Perkins.

28. The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell.

27. Come to Daddy
Director: Ant Timpson.

26. Snatchers
Directors: Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman.

25. We Summon the Darkness
Director: Marc Meyers.

24. 1BR
Director: David Marmor.

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

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

21. Tigertail
Director: Alan Yang

20. A Secret Love
Director: Chris Bolan.

19. Beanpole
Director: Kantemir Balagov.

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

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

16. The Platform
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.

15. The Hunt
Director: Craig Zobel.

14. The Assistant
Director: Kitty Green

13. Vivarium
Director: Lorcan Finnegan.

12. Emma.
Director: Autumn de Wilde.

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

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

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

8. The Other Lamb
Director: Mlgorzata Szumowska.

7. Color Out of Space
Director: Richard Stanley.

6. Planet of the Humans
Director: Jeff Gibbs.

5. Swallow
Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

4. Beastie Boys Story
Director: Spike Jonze.

3. Circus of Books
Director: Rachel Mason.

2. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Director: Eliza Hittman.

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

Runner-Up:

Bacurau
Directors: Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles.

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

By Andrew Buckner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before the Night is Over – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

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

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

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

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

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