“Fight or Play Basketball” (2022) by Mike Messier (Book Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Clocking in at a lean 158 pages, Fight or Play Basketball: every shot counts (2022) by filmmaker Mike Messier is a knockout novel. The 44-chapter project is a lot like the lead of the narrative, Jack Scratch. It’s authentic, scrappy, wide-eyed, ambitious, and filled with heart. Moreover, the exercise is elevated by the lively, clear, vivid, and to-the-point prose from Messier. Just as importantly, his paragraphs are never overwhelmed with unnecessary details or figures of speech. In short, his writing is perfect for a young adult audience. The pacing of the work is similarly brisk, efficient, and effective. There isn’t a single excessive or overlong sequence in the effort.

What also enhances the quality of both Messier’s auteurship and the piece overall are the sharply rendered central figures. For example, Scratch is a flawed yet likable and occasionally comedic high school senior that spectators of all ages should find relatable. Scratch’s energetic and defensive mother, Janet Trap, is a constant source of amusement in the fiction. The same can be said of the boxers which assist Scratch on his journey, Karl “Sweet Sugar” Brown and Paveli “Punch” Pangora. They offer elements of humor, inspiration, personality, and leadership to the material. There are even sparks of romance as the duo attempt to win over Trap. Scratch’s basketball coach, “Quick” Rick Steele, is comparatively more garden variety. Nonetheless, he is still a credible and wonderfully developed entity with a pivotal role in Scratch’s life. Such is the case with everyone in the undertaking. In so doing, Messier’s tapestry of realistic dialogue, situations, and characters, as well as their influence on one another, accentuates the richness of the design.

The plot revolves around Scratch: a player of immense skill on the North Providence Cougars basketball team. He has the potential to receive a scholarship from Providence College. There are even whispers that he may be chosen to become involved with the National Basketball Association. His daily muscle-building routines, such as riding his bike in the mornings through North Providence and shooting hoops in the nearby outdoors basketball court, have become a sturdy foundation for him. One morning, his single mother, Trap, is the victim of a failed robbery. The individuals who came to Trap’s rescue during this botched crime, Pangora and Brown, begin to assist Scratch with his boxing abilities at Sweet’s Sweat Box Gym, where they are prominent trainers. As Scratch fosters his abilities on the basketball court and in the boxing ring, he ponders if he should “fight or play basketball”.

Even if the article follows the familiar beats of related items, Messier does a brilliant job of reiterating Scratch’s title-referenced deliberation. Messier specifically addresses where this idea came from in the fascinating “About the Author” section at the end of the tome. Still, there is an intimacy to this inquiry, like all rulings that alter the course of our lives, that is universally relevant. What augments this thoughtful touch, which is so delicately composed throughout the entirety of the volume, is the organic manner with which Messier also taps into the inherent symbolism of this weighty choice.

Boosted by superb cover art design from Nadine G. Messier, which nicely evokes the classically gritty atmosphere of the arrangement, Fight or Play Basketball proudly wears its Rocky (1976) inspiration on its sleeve. This is spied in many of the explicit and indirect references to director John G. Avildsen’s academy-award-winning masterpiece, as well as connected fare, that pleasantly permeate Messier’s opus. Lovingly peppered into the proceedings, these welcome bits align beautifully with the events of Scratch’s story. They also deeply pleased the rampant cinephile in me.

Opening, continuing, and closing in equally strong ways, the latest literary achievement from Messier is excellent on all fronts. True to the spirit of the greatest sports chronicles, it is incessantly entertaining and genuinely motivational. It has a tough edge. However, it is a kind, joyous, and immersive read. Likewise, it doesn’t fully give into the tropes which are anticipated in its finale. The flirtatious relationship between Mindy Kim and Scratch, who bond over their shared interest in athletics, punctuates the emotional accessibility of the venture. It also makes the thematically time-tested yet sturdy construction even more layered. In turn, Messier has crafted a magnificent and passionate coming-of-age drama. It’s one of the best books of the year.

The 15 Best Short Films of 2022 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*The inclusion of the short films in this list is based on an official release date of 2022.

15. “Bros for Life”

Director: Leo Powell

14. “New Years”

Director: Kris Salvi

13. “Heart Shot”

Director: Marielle Woods

12. “Life’s Good”

Director: Jackson Tisi

11. “Erax”

Director: Hebru Brantley

10. “When the Daemon Takes Hold”

Director: Jackson Batchelor

9. “The Time Travelers”

Director: Killarney Traynor

8. “Not Waving but Drowning”

Director: Thara Popoola

7. “Briefcase Paranoia 2”

Director: Nicholas Hatch

6. “Wanna Play a Game”

Director: Brad Case

5. “Nightcap”

Director: Sam Mason-Bell

4. “A Christmas Card from a Hit Woman in Leominster”

Director: Kris Salvi

3. “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”

Director: Ashley Eakin

2. “Scribbles After Midnight”

Director: Jeremy Arruda

1.“The Blood of the Dinosaurs”

Director: Joe Badon

Runners-Up:

“Two Wrongs”

Director: Damien Nembhard

“Yo!”

Directors: Hamed & Mal

The 135 Best Feature Films of 2021

By Andrew Buckner

*The criteria utilized for the inclusion of the feature films in this list is an original 2021 release date in the U.S.*

Please note: This article is a work in progress. Please check back often, as I will be adding more films to the list from the year once I have a chance to view them.

135. Parallel Mothers

Director: Pedro Almodovar

134. Acting

Director: Sam Mason-Bell

133. Red Rocket

Director: Sean Baker

132. Flee

Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen

131. The Year of the Everlasting Storm

Directors: Anthony Chen, David Lowery, Jafar Panahi, Laura Poitras, Malik Vitthal, Apitchatong Weerasethakul, Dominga Sotomayor Castillo.

130. Slumber Party Massacre

Director: Danishka Esterhazy

129. Come True

Director: Anthony Scott Burns

128. Fear Street Part One: 1994

Director: Leigh Janiak

127. A Journal for Jordan

Director: Denzel Washington

126. The Lost Daughter

Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

125. Bergman Island

Director: Mia Hansen-Love

124. Werewolves Within

Director: Josh Ruben

123. Don’t Look Up

Director: Adam McKay

122. The Spine of Night

Director: Philip Gelatt

121. Being the Ricardos

Director: Aaron Sorkin

120. The Last Matinee

Director: Maximiliano Contenti

119. Last Night in Soho

Director: Edgar Wright

118. King Richard

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green

117. Earwig and the Witch

Director: Goro Miyazaki

116. Lamb

Director: Valdimir Johannsson

115. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Director: Jonathan Cuartas

114. Agnes

Director: Mickey Reece

113. Extraordinary: The Revelations

Director: Jon Sumple

112. Zeros and Ones

Director: Abel Ferrara

111. Benny Loves You

Director: Karl Holt

110. Red 11

Director: Robert Rodriguez

109. The Night

Director: Kourosh Ahari

108. Siberia

Director: Abel Ferrara

107. Saint Maud

Director: Rose Glass

106. Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity

Director: Joe Bandelli

105. Attica

Directors: Traci Curry, Stanley Nelson

104. The Hand of God

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

103. The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord

Directors: Jared Jay Mason, Clark Runciman

102. The Courier

Director: Dominic Cooke

101. Jakob’s Wife

Director: Travis Stevens

100. The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Directors: Mike Rianda, Jeff Rowe

99. Raya and the Last Dragon

Directors: Carlos Lopez Estrada, Don Hall, Paul Briggs, John Ripa

98. Psycho Goreman

Director: Steven Kostanski

97. Honeydew

Director: Devereux Milburn

96. The Night House

Director: David Bruckner

95. Godzilla vs. Kong

Director: Adam Wingard

94. Nightbooks

Director: David Yarovesky

93. Copshop

Director: Joe Carnahan

92. Nobody

Director: Ilya Naishuller

91. The Voyeurs

Director: Michael Mohan

90. Stillwater

Director: Tom McCarthy

89. Oxygen

Director: Alexandre Aja

88. The Feast

Director: Lee Haven Jones

87. Respect

Director: Liesl Tommy

86. V/H/S/94

Directors: Simon Barrett, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, Timo Tjahjanto

85. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

84. Wrath of Man

Director: Guy Ritchie

83. We Need to Do Something

Director: Sean King O’Grady

82. Candyman

Director: Nia DaCosta

81. The Girl Who Got Away

Director: Michael Morrissey

80. Hail to the Deadites

Director: Steve Villeneuve

79. Clerk.

Director: Malcolm Ingram

78. Dune

Director: Denis Villeneuve

77. The Novice

Director: Lauren Hadaway

76. Malignant

Director: James Wan

75. The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Director: Michael Showalter

74. Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed

Director: Joshua Rofe

73. Lapsis

Director: Noah Hutton

72. The Card Counter

Director: Paul Schrader

71. No Time to Die

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

70. Enemies of the State

Director: Sonia Kennebeck

69. In the Earth

Director: Ben Wheatley

68. Violation

Directors: Dusty Mancinelli, Madeline Sims-Fewer

67. In the Heights

Director: Jon M. Chu

66. The Medium

Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun

65. Antlers

Director: Scott Cooper

64. Identifying Features

Director: Fernanda Valadez

63. Tina

Directors: Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

62. Seaspiracy

Director: Ali Tabrizi

61. No Sudden Move

Director: Steven Soderbergh

60. House of Gucci

Director: Ridley Scott

59. Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

Director: Questlove

58. Malcolm and Marie

Director: Sam Levinson

57. I Blame Society

Director: Gillian Wallace Horvat

56. Passing

Director: Rebecca Hall

55. 17 Blocks

Director: Davy Rothbart

54. Falling

Director: Viggo Mortensen

53. The Dig

Director: Simon Stone

52. One Night in Miami

Director: Regina King

51. Test Pattern

Director: Shatara Michelle Ford

50. Slalom

Director: Charlene Favier

49. Spoor

Directors: Agnieszka Holland, Kasia Adamik

48. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Director: Morgan Neville

47. Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster

Director: Thomas Hamilton

46. M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity

Director: Robin Lutz

45. About Endlessness

Director: Roy Andersson

44. The Man Who Sold His Skin

Director: Kaouther Ben Hania

43. Sator

Director: Jordan Graham

42. Climate of the Hunter

Director: Mickey Reece

41. Dementer

Director: Chad Crawford Kinkle

40. A Quiet Place II

Director: John Krasinski

39. The Boy Behind the Door

Directors: David Charbonier, Justin Powell

38. C’mon C’mon

Director: MIke Mills

37. Censor

Director: Prano Bailey-Bond

36. The Archivist

Director: Eric Hand

35. Jumbo

Director: Zoe Wittock

34. The Mauritanian

Director: Kevin Macdonald

33. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street

Director: Marilyn Agrelo

32. In Search of Darkness: Part 2

Director: David A. Weiner

31. The Power of the Dog

Director: Jane Campion

30. The Last Duel

Director: Ridley Scott

29. Belfast

Director: Kenneth Branagh

28. The Green Knight

Director: David Lowery

27. Licorice Pizza

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

26. The Mad Women’s Ball

Director: Melanie Laurent

25. Benedetta

Director: Paul Verhoeven

24. Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror

Director: Kier-La Janisse

23. Titane

Director: Julia Ducournau

22. The Meaning of Hitler

Directors: Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker

21. Judas and the Black Messiah

Director: Shaka King

20. MLK/ FBI

Director: Sam Pollard

19. Nomadland

Director: Chloe Zhao

18. In the Same Breath

Director: Nanfu Wang

17. Gunda

Director: Viktor Kossakovsky

16. A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks

Director: John Maggio

15. Wojnarowicz

Director: Chris McKim

14. A Glitch in the Matrix

Director: Rodney Ascher

13. West Side Story

Director: Steven Spielberg

12. Spencer

Director: Pablo Larrain

11. Nightmare Alley

Director: Guillermo del Toro

10. Bring it Home

Director: Carl Kriss

9. The Father

Director: Florian Zeller

8. Quo Vadis, Aida?

Director: Jasmila Zbanic

7. Acasa, My Home

Director: Radu Ciorniciuc

6. Minari

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

5. 4 Hours at the Capitol

Director: Jamie Roberts

4. The French Dispatch

Director: Wes Anderson

3. This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection

Director: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese

2. The Amusement Park

Director: George A. Romero

1. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Director: Jason Reitman

The 20 Best Short Films of 2021

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note that the short films included in this list are based on an official 2021 U.S. release date.

20. “Bloom”

Director: Richard M. Anthony.

19. “Us Again”

Director: Zach Parrish.

18. “Culpa”

Director: Miguel Angel Ferrer.

17. “La Deuda”

Director: Jeff Prahl.

16. “Twice as Good”

Director: Kristian King.

15. 10:59 P.M.

Director: Kris Salvi.

14. “The Nurturing”

Director: Alex DiVincenzo.

13. “Live Health”

Directors: Jamie Cox, Timothy Cox.

12. “The Flamboyant Rites of Gay Dracula”

Director: Richard Griffin.

11. “Stay Inside, Michael”

Director: Jeremy Arruda.

10. “Heart Wreck”

Director: Gabrielle Rosson.

9. “The Death of David Cronenberg”

Directors: Caitlain Cronenberg, David Cronenberg.

8. “The Present”

Director: Farah Nabulsi.

7. “Trigger Warning: The Life and Art of Chrystal”

Director: Chrystal Shofroth.

6. “The Dreamer”

Director: Jeremy Arruda.

5. “Come Rain or Come Shine”

Director: Mark Maille.

4. “Paul Laurence Dunbar: An American Poet”

Director: Kane Stratton.

3. “The Serpent Writhes in a Glass Coffin”

Director: Richard Griffin.

2. “Undertaker”

Director: Chris Esper.

1. “The Last Cruise”

Director: Hannah Olson.

The 22 Best Books of 2021

By Andrew Buckner

*The books included in this list are based on the criteria of an original publication date in 2021.*

22. My Heart is a Chainsaw

By Stephen Graham Jones

21. The Final Girl Support Group

By Grady Hendrix

20. The Scorpion’s Tail

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

19. The Plot

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

18. Getaway

By Zoje Stage

17. Rovers

By Richard Lange

16. Survive the Night

By Riley Sager

15. Sooley: A Novel

By John Grisham

14. The Other Emily

By Dean Koontz

13. Bloodless

By Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child

12. Jesus: A New Vision

By Whitley Strieber

11. Distance from Avalon: When the Dying and the Young Unite

By Mike Messier

10. Because He’s Jeff Goldblum: The Movies, Memes and Meaning of Hollywood’s Most Enigmatic Actor

By Travis M. Andrews

9. Later

By Stephen King

8. The Judge’s List

By John Grisham

7. These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World

By Chris Poggiali, Grady Hendrix.

6. Starstruck: My Unlikely Road to Hollywood

By Leonard Maltin

5. Chasing the Boogeyman

By Richard Chizmar

4. Billy Summers

By Stephen King

3. A Bright Ray of Darkness

By Ethan Hawke

2. Project Hail Mary

By Andy Weir

1. Vibrate Higher: A Rap Story

By Talib Kweli

“Undertaker” (2021) – Short Film Review

By Andrew Buckner

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

“Undertaker” (2021), from director Chris Esper, is a masterful meditation on the inherent need for mankind to understand life. It also concerns the confusion that arises as we attempt to comprehend our wants, desires, and surroundings. The ten-minute short film also focuses in on how fleeting our time is on Earth. This is cleverly illustrated in the piece through several efficient and effective sequences that range from the commonplace (the search for a perfect cup of coffee) to the transformative (uncovering a key romantic relationship). Furthermore, the account can also be viewed as a singular glimpse of the world that may arise after death.

As is the core component of a great number of works by Esper, the universal relatability in these themes, as well as the compassionate and upfront manner with which they are addressed, is emotionally compelling from the first frame to the last. The same can be said of the brilliantly handled symbolism inherent in the project. Because of this connection, onlookers effortlessly comprehend the mentality of the lead of the exercise, referred to as only The Undertaker (rendered in a terrific, quietly layered, and mature portrayal by Dustin Teuber).  The gorgeous black and white cinematography from Colin Munson adds an air of nostalgia to the narrative. It beautifully compliments these qualities as well as its noirish demeanor.

The deceptively simple story, which involves a man realizing that everything around him is not what it he believes it to be, is given superb depth via the wonderfully penned, intimate yet ambitious screenplay by Kris Salvi. The script is especially striking in demonstrating sharp dialogue. Such speech capably teases the fundamental mystery The Undertaker is attempting to unlock about himself and his environment. This is without ever being wholly direct. Such measures add a heightened sense of elegant poetry to the proceedings that is simultaneously theatrical and organic. In an equally successful decision in this arena, the characters are also cryptic.

The excursion also triumphs in terms of its secondary roles. Justin Thibault is memorable in his brief turn, which occurs in the engaging opening segments, as Passenger. Salvi is equally good in the understated, yet gloriously poignant, final scene as The Driver. Teddy Pryor as The Identical, Michael Lepore as Waiter, and Jen Drummond as Customer also make a considerably indelible impression.

From a technical angle, the undertaking is also outstanding. The stylish, yet nuanced and thoughtful, direction from Esper is a highlight. His editing is also proficient. The music from Steven Lanning-Cafaro is appropriately gentle and spellbinding. It captures the spirit of the development with tremendous grace. Moreover, the score is used both delicately and sparingly. Such a method punctuates the underlying sentiment of certain instances. This is without taking away from the immersive value of the construction. Continually, the production design from Gabrielle Rosson and sound from Ryan Collins and Jay Sheehan is just as remarkable.

Playing like a condensed, yet still wildly inventive and timelessly relevant, episode of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), “Undertaker” is a confidently paced, smartly structured, and unforgettable example of cinematic art. The dreamlike drama once again showcases Esper as an incredible talent who consistently crafts top-tier material. His latest venture is another unique, intelligent, breathtaking, powerful, and refined achievement that will assuredly resonate with spectators of all degrees. Extraordinary on all fronts and endlessly absorbing, it is at the top of the list of my favorite short films of the year.

31 Underappreciated Horror Gems in 31 Days (2021 Edition)

By Andrew Buckner

The following is a list of thirty-one terrific lesser-known and/or underappreciated horror films. All of which deserve to be more often celebrated. There is one title reserved for each day in October. This is with at least one entry per decade from 1920-2020. The varied genre features included herein are arranged in order of the earliest year of release to the most recent. When two or more movies share the same year, they are placed in alphabetical order.

This article will be the first of a yearly set of such itemizations. Thirty-one different terror pictures, all of which are similarly underpraised, will be included every October in each accruing piece. These works will also follow the rules specifically laid-out in the first paragraph concerning the decades of 1920-2020. Each respective exercise in this series will be published at AWordofDreams.com by the middle of the previously mentioned month.

Without further hesitation, here are the selections for 2021.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Director: Rupert Julian.

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

Freaks (1932)

Director: Tod Browning.

I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Director: Jacques Tourneur.

Isle of the Dead (1945)

Director: Mark Robson.

Them! (1954)

Director: Gordon Douglas.

Horror of Dracula (1958)

Director: Terence Fisher.

The Tingler (1959)

Director: William Castle.

Black Sunday (1960)

Director: Mario Bava.

Kwaidan (1964)

Director: Masaki Kobayashi.

Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971)

Director: Paolo Cavara.

The Devils (1971)

Director: Ken Russell.

It’s Alive (1974)

Director: Larry Cohen.

Martin (1976)

Director: George A. Romero.

House (1977)

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi.

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

Directors: Barbara Peeters, Jimmy T. Murakami.

Inferno (1980)

Director: Dario Argento.

Motel Hell (1980)

Director: Kevin Connor.

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)

Director: Andrea Bianchi.

The Entity (1982)

Director: Sidney J. Furie.

Santa Sangre (1989)

Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Tetsou: The Iron Man (1989)

Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto.

Dead Alive (1992)

Director: Peter Jackson.

Ghostwatch (1992)

Director: Lesley Manning.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Director: Guillermo del Toro.

Teeth (2007)

Director: Mitchell Lichtenstein.

Pontypool (2008)

Director: Bruce McDonald.

mother! (2016)

Director: Darren Aronofsky.

The Wolf House (2018)

Directors: Joaquin Cocina, Cristobal Leon.

Tennessee Gothic (2019)

Director: Jeff Wedding.

Sister Tempest (2020)

Director: Joe Badon.

“A Distance from Avalon” (2021) By Mike Messier – Book Review

By Andrew Buckner

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

A Distance from Avalon (2021), the debut novella from fellow filmmaker and critic Mike Messier, is a refreshingly subtle and philosophical take on the vampire saga. In a compact and complex ninety-seven pages, Messier weaves the tale of two educators, Joe Humble and a young music instructor by the name of Shadow. Pairing up to enjoy a late October Friday Night, the duo arrives at an ominous mansion entitled Avalon. From herein, the hosts seduce and separate the guests. Immediately afterward, the visitors willingly follow the mysterious figures to separate rooms. At a point near the central mark, the narrative crafts a superb balance of introspection and intrigue. It is one which lasts the remainder of the volume. This is as the leads and their partners for the night gradually unveil secret and sentimental elements of themselves.

What is immediately striking about the tome is that Messier’s screenwriting roots are much intact. For example, the whole book is composed of brief chapters. These sections range mainly from one to two pages. They are so vividly written, yet efficient, that they could easily be scenes in a film. Additionally, every scrap of dialogue reads like a line of poetry: Beautiful, thoughtful, and as economical as the segments in which they are unified.

Messier’s characters, all of whom are terrifically formed and whose monikers greatly enhance the figurative essence of the effort, are equally captivating. They are all distinct, yet intelligent and credible. The individuals who dominate A Distance from Avalon are also enigmatic and insightful. They are well-established components that constantly elucidate the classic, sophisticated atmosphere of the project in spellbinding fashion. Messier uses them to discourse on religion, love, time, mankind, art, and a myriad of related subjects. This is in a way that is intellectually stimulating without appearing unnatural. It is also executed via a method that does not take away from the propulsion of the smoothly paced narrative.

I admired the manner with which Messier frequently avoids the tropes often attributed to such tales of bloodthirsty creatures. What is utilized of these bits is enough to establish a knowledge of the lore of these nocturnal entities. Instead of relying on this heavily, as an easy act of recognition hinging on events the audience has perused in other such exercises, Messier uses this foundation to forge his own path. In turn, this helps build a far more surprising and satisfying story.

In the work, Messier showcases a deft command of tying together all the fine details he has dispersed throughout the enterprise. This is most notable in the finale. In this climactic bit, Messier brings all the cumulative mystery, symbolism, and restraint that he exhibited throughout the endeavor to a compelling and appropriate punctuation point. It is one of the various signs ceaselessly at play of his knack for spinning an exemplary account.

There are also many sly references to the cinema of Messier expertly woven into the volume. The most obvious of these is his phenomenal forty-minute short documentary on the creative process, “Disregard the Vampire” (2017). His brief, and equally good, Fantasy tale, “The Nature of the Flame” (2014), are just as cleverly addressed. These winks at the reader are incredible. This is especially when considering how they organically derive from the attempt. They also operate just as significantly as world-building in the collective universe of Messier’s artistic ventures.

Graced by eye-popping and gorgeous cover art from Nazar Germanov, A Distance from Avalon is an all-around brilliant publication; a literary four-course meal. It is driven by a fantastic plot. Such is one that is given depth and dimension by Messier’s cerebral and refined writing abilities. The piece is intimate, open, ambitious, smartly structured, and perfectly told. Messier has constructed a sensational world of nuance and underlying fear. Masterful in all arenas, the power of this dignified beast is impossible to ignore.

A Distance from Avalon can be purchased in Kindle eBook or paperback format here.

Andrew Buckner’s 105 Favorite Films

By Andrew Buckner

105. Center Stage (1991)

Director: Stanley Kwan.

104. Red Desert (1964)

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni.

103. Loving Vincent (2017)

Directors: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman.

102. The Intruder (1962)

Director: Roger Corman.

101. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto.

100. Network (1976)

Director: Sidney Lumet.

99. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Director: Frank Capra.

98. M (1931)

Director: Fritz Lang.

97. Deep Red (1975)

Director: Dario Argento.   

96. Porcile (1969)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini.

95. The Changeling (1980)

Director: Peter Medak.

94.  Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg.

93. The Deer Hunter (1978)

Director: Michael Cimino.

92. The Great Dictator (1940)

Director: Charlie Chaplin.

91. Kwaidan (1964)

Director: Masaki Kobayashi.

90. Taxi Driver (1976)

Director: Martin Scorsese.

89. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Director: Isao Takahata.

88. Nostalghia (1984)

Directors: Andrei Tarkovsky.

87. Suspiria (1977)

Director: Dario Argento.

86. Q: Winged Serpent (1982)

Director: Larry Cohen.

85. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Director: Sergio Leone.

84. Persepolis (2007)

Directors: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi.

83. Blow-Up (1966)

Director: Michelangolo Antonioni.

82. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1964)

Director: Jose Mojica Marins.

81. Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Director: Georges Franju.

80. Kids (1995)

Director: Larry Clark.

79. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Director: Guillermo del Toro.

78. The Lost World (1925)

Director: Harry O. Hoyt.

77. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Director: Tobe Hooper.

76. Lady Snowblood (1973)

Director: Fujita Toshiya.

75. My Dinner With Andre (1981)

Director: Louise Malle.

74. Halloween (1978)

Director: John Carpenter.

73. Ikiru (1952)

Director: Akira Kurosawa.

72. Contact (1997)

Director: Robert Zemeckis.

71. The House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Director: William Castle.

70. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Director: Jack Arnold.

69. The Thing from Another World (1951)

Directors: Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks.

68. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Director: Robert Wise.

67. Creepshow (1982)

Director: George A. Romero.

66. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Director: Oliver Stone.

65. The Fly (1986)

Director: David Cronenberg.

64. Begotten (1989)

Director: E. Elias Merhige.

63. Gummo (1997)

Director: Harmony Korine.

62. Teorema (1968)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini.

61. mother! (2017)

Director: Darren Aronofsky.

60. Freaks (1932)

Director: Tod Browning.

59. The Birds (1963)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

58. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Director: Roman Polanski.

57. Phantasm (1979)

Director: Don Coscarelli.

56. Holy Mountain (1973)

Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky.

55. Onibaba (1964)

Director: Kaneto Shindo.

54. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini.

53.  The Best of Youth (2003)

Director: Marco Tullio Giordana.

52. Pi (1998)

Director: Darren Aronofsky.

51. The Dark Crystal (1982)

Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz.

50. Enter the Void (2009)

Director: Gaspar Noe.

49. Dead Alive (1992)

Director: Peter Jackson.

48. The Evil Dead (1981)

Director: Sam Raimi.

47. Poltergeist (1982)

Director: Tobe Hooper.

46. Gremlins (1984)

Director: Joe Dante.

45. Ghostbusters (1984)

Director: Ivan Reitman.

44. The Omen (1976)

Director: Richard Donner.

43. Scenes from a Marriage (1974)

Director: Ingmar Bergman.

42. Amarcord (1973)

Director: Federico Fellini.

41. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Director: Robert Wiene.

40. Nosferatu (1922)

Director: F.W. Murnau.

39. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Director: George A. Romero.

38. Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood (2019)

Director: Quentin Tarantino.

37. The Dreamers (2003)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci.

36. Antichrist (2009)

Director: Lars von Trier.  

35. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Director: Steve McQueen.

34. Double Indemnity (1944)

Director: Billy Wilder.

33. Notorious (1946)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

32. La Dolce Vita (1960)

Director: Federico Fellini.

31. Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Director: Ingmar Bergman.

30. The Conformist (1970)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci.

29. Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche.

28. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini.

27. Stalker (1979)

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky.

26. Weekend (1967)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard.

25. Persona (1966)

Director: Ingmar Bergman.

24. Haxan (1922)

Director: Benjamin Christensen.  

23. Amour (2012)

Director: Michael Haneke.

22. Away from Her (2006)

Director: Sarah Polley.

21. Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Director: Werner Herzog.

20. 8 ½ (1963)

Director: Federico Fellini.

19. Life Itself (2014)

Director: Steve James.

18. Life is Beautiful (1997)

Director: Roberto Benigni.

17. The Shining (1980)

Director: Stanley Kubrick.

16. Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore.

15. Cries & Whispers (1972)

Director: Ingmar Bergman.

14. Seven Samurai (1954)

Director: Akira Kurosawa.

13. Eraserhead (1977)

Director: David Lynch.

12. Dekalog (1989)

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski.

11. Shoah (1985)

Director: Claude Lanzmann.

10. The Tree of Life (2011)

Director: Terrence Malick.

9. The Seventh Seal (1957)

Director: Ingmar Bergman.

8. Metropolis (1927)

Director: Fritz Lang.

7. Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott.

6. King Kong (1933)

Directors: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack.

5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Director: Steven Spielberg.

4. Psycho (1960)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

3. The Exorcist (1973)

Director: William Friedkin.

2. Schindler’s List (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg.

1. Jurassic Park (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg.

The 40 Best Albums of 2020

By Andrew Buckner

40. ADHD by Joyner Lucas

39. Detroit 2 by Big Sean

38. Evolution by Joyner Lucas

37. The Devil Hates Sundays by J’L

36. Molocular Meditation by Jan St. Werner

35. Versus (EP) by Jonezen

34. After Hours by The Weeknd

33. Mystic by Mackenzie Nicole

32. Ceremony by Phantogram

31. Closer Than They Appear by Lyric Jones

30. Cut Throat City Soundtrack (EP) by Various Artists

29. My Brother’s Keeper by Kuniva & Swifty McVay

28. The Allegory by Royce Da 5’9

27. EnterFear by Tech N9ne

26. Fear Exodus (EP) by Tech N9ne

25. Guided Meditations (EP) by RZA

24. Pray For Paris by Westside Gunn

23. Who Made the Sunshine by Westside Gunn

22. The Food Villain by The Alchemist

21. Picture Perfect by Rittz

20. Your Birthday’s Cancelled by Iron Wigs

19. RTJ4 Run The Jewels

18. Gorilla Twins by Ill Bill & Nems

17. Alfredo by Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist

16. No Hermano by Sean Strange

15. Loud Is Not Enough by Public Enemy

14. Felt 4 U by Felt

13. Detroit Life by Swifty McVay

12. Alpha Underdog by Kuniva

11. Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God by Busta Rhymes

10. Seven Times Down, Eight Times Up by Elzhi

9. What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? by Public Enemy

8. From King to a God by Conway the Machine

7. Summer of Sam by Serial Killers (Xzibit, B-Real, Demrick)

6. Flag by Kxng Crooked

5. Streams of Thought, Volume 3: Cane and Abel by Black Thought

4. King’s Disease by Nas

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

2. A Beautiful Revolution (Pt.1) by Common

  1. Music to Be Murdered By and Music to be Murdered By: Side B by Eminem