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by Sam Juliano

This coming Friday we will be launching “The Three Chinas” film polling, which will include mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  Each interested voter will be asked to list fifteen (15) films in either numbered, alphabetical or chronological order.  The decision to take off South Korea was made this week, as Bill and I (and other FB commenters) felt Korea would be better placed in the “Rest of Asia” polling that will also include Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand and Tibet.  Like the previous pollings the duration will run a little over two weeks.

Jim Clark published a brilliant essay on the acclaimed Japanese film, Drive My Car this past week at the site.  It warrants full inspection.

This past week I had a bad experience with a single Amazon review, though I suspected six months ago this would come to pass.  I will share my FB post to explain here:  “The person who gave PARADISE ATOP THE HUDSON a 1 star review this week at Amazon is a troll who attacked all those who posted about people dying at the Fairview Forums (specifically “I grew Up at the Top of the Hill”) about six months ago. Everyone ganged up on him after he told a woman who lost her husband to “get over it” and “we all have to die.” When I complained about his behavior he attacked me and said “hehehehehehe, nobody will read your book when it is published.” His plans were obviously to trash it as soon as he got the chance. I have written a complaint to Amazon about this dishonest review, but I don’t know if they will remove it or not. He has never posted a single review at the site, nor did he buy the book there. How would he even know anything about the book without ever securing a copy? There is NO OTHER WAY to get the book unless I were to give him a copy, which of course I did not. His “criticisms” were preposterous of course, but that is what trolling is all about. I do know his name of course (and he didn’t attempt to hide it when he posted) and also that he was a former Fairview resident. I am more than willing to accept constructive criticism and opinions that may not make me happy, but to be trolled by someone who publicly attacked people for mourning their lost loved ones is something I cannot accept.  The person who left the rating and review did not attempt to hide his identity either.”

I did not myself see the new Scream movie, as that kind of thing for me is a waste of time.  But my family did.  The boys were fine with it, but the girls thought it was awful.  Ha! Continue Reading »

© 2022 James Clark

Our film today, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car (2021), is something new. On the other hand, there have been copious films abreast of such concerns as those from the hearts of Ingmar Bergman, Andreis Tarkovsky and Tonino Guerra; and Claire Denis, Kelly Reichardt… But that was quite long ago. However, I can’t fully express the joy of seeing the rebel sensibility in this saga. For instance, the car’s license plate, showing the numerals, “39,” the same being the same name as the address of Thomas, in the Guerra-Antonioni film, Blow Up (1966). The spiffy Rolls Royce coincides with a red Saab. Two different worlds. Two different conflicts. But only one, the Saab, has a hope in this perspective. Thomas is dead to the world. Hamaguchi becomes part of a hard, new way. A conundrum with wit. The driver of the Saab, one Misaki, a young girl with many skills, is both stolid and dazzling. Before we see more of her, let’s open another chapter of war. War, being very salient here. We find another current of opportunity by way of the Bergman film, After the Rehearsal (1984), where a passionate actress is driven to suicide by cheap proceedings, amidst show-people who would rather kill than see. (But there is one remarkable dissimilarity, namely, that hordes of tedious factors, especially Motor-mouth actors dreaming up TV easy-viewing, especially violent actors, killers, clogging the action, forcing the viewer to find gaps of no serious interest. Action having anonymous features as if a tedious mob. As if it were nearly a dead planet. Up to date.)

Continuing the preparations of this very subtle film, we notice that the driving involves very many tunnels (in order to manage mountainous terrain), which might result in tunnel vision. (“Tunnel Vision:” A condition in which one sees properly if they are positioned straight ahead. A tendency to focus on a subject or situation, while losing the peripheral vision, resulting to a constricted, tunnel-like vision. Seeing like that, is easy. What is crucial, what is unique, what is hard, becomes missing in action. Artists are on the hook to transcend tunnel vision, the easy, the crude, the poisonous. The mob here, with few exceptions, should be digging ditches. Continue Reading »

 

by Sam Juliano

The Far East film polling will be launched on Tuesday, January 18th at noon, and will run through Friday, February 3d at 5:00 P.M.  I will be sure to post the voting thread here at Wonders in the Dark on that Tuesday at around the same time it posts on Facebook.  The poll will encompass mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.  Each voter will be allowed twenty choices, to be presented either in numerical order, alphabetically, chronologically or in now specific fashion.  The poll that will follow that one will be Scandinavia and Iceland, and that too will allow for twenty (20) choices.

Our family continues to come along, though typically for some of us, nasal congestion and a loss of taste  is still an issue, much as it is hen a few of us contract a cold or the flu.  But Lucille and I did attend a movie at a theater Saturday night, wearing our masks.  Many thanks to those who were concerned, and for the exceedingly kind words.  Hoping our friends are avoiding the virus.  I have returned to school and have resumed writing Irish Jesus in Fairview.

Three superlative films were navigated this past week, two streaming and one in the Ridgefield Park multiplex. LICORICE PIZZA by Paul Thomas Anderson is a strong contender for film of the year and was seen in the aforementioned theater last night. Alana Haim and young Cooper Hoffman are irresistible in the 1973-set film that my friend Todd Sherman rightly compares in ways to American Graffiti. A coming-of-age drama about a waterbed business, the legalization of pinball, the gas crisis and a naturalist romance, the film is brilliantly scored by Johnny Greenwood and features what may be the greatest scene in any film this year when a truck is driven backward. 5.0/5.0 CODA, an emotionally thrilled drama about a deaf family, aside from the one who can hear, who achieves musical stardom in Boston at a choir recital was strongly recommended by Bruce Kimmel. Directed by Sian Heder, the film features Emilia Jones in one of the most unforgettable performances of 2021 and in a splendid piece of casting, Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, a deaf performer, appears. I thought its depiction of disabled people was noble, despite some expected challenges. 4.5/5.0 An emotionally resonant performance by Joaquin Phoenix, who takes his young nephew (Woody Norman) under his wing in a revelatory road movie is movingly played out in monochrome by Robbie Ryan’s incandescent lensing. Seemingly small and sweet moments add up to a fully embodied whole. 4.5/50. Without a doubt these were three of the very best films of 2021. Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

The next international polling will officially launch on January 18th and it will bring together the Far East countries:  South Korea; China; Taiwan; Hong Kong; Vietnam; Cambodia.

We are still waiting for the new revision of Paradise Atop the Hudson to be sent to buyers.  We are not at all understanding the delay, but we were told it was selling well and Amazon was reluctant to destroy the old inventory.  So far the book has sold 542 paperback copies and 46 kindle copies.  My plans are to renew some focus on Irish Jesus in Fairview this coming week.

Wonders in the Dark has, remarkably, entered its fourteenth year as a site now.  What was intended as a fetish and an experiment has resulted in one of the longest-running film and arts sites online.

COVID (no doubt the lesser omicron variant) ran through our house from Christmas and through the current week. All seven in our family had the symptoms (coughing, sneezing, sniffles, headaches and stuffy noses with no taste) as a result of an unfortunate connection with a longtime friend, who passed it on to our middle son Danny. But before he (Danny) knew anything, it made its way through our 7 Spruce Street, Fairview, N.J. abode.

As it is just about gone now, I figured I’d mention it in the context of a few movies I watched at home, playing catch up. I found SPENCER wholly irresistible and utterly brilliant in concept. One of the most intimate and intense of recent biographical films and featuring a towering Oscar-worthy performance by Kristen Stewart, it also showcases what may be the best score of 2021 in a film, and the cinematography is wholly ravishing. 4.5/5.0 The Argentinian film AZOR is a corrosive work, one with evil lurking throughout. You keep expecting something major to happen, but the film is far more focused on infiltration. Harrowing and splendidly orchestrated. 4.5/5.0 THE LOST DAUGHTER is intermittently fascinating, though it is damaged by tedious flashback sequences that work against the better contemporary sections. Olivia Colman, however, is extraordinary in the lead. 3.5/5.0 Continue Reading »

by Duane Porter

A year and a half without theaters. So much time. What do we know about time beyond sunrise/sunset, the waiting for the release of a new movie or perhaps the next World Series, and those memories of parents or grandparents we have while looking in the mirror. Time is a mystery. I sit looking, doing nothing, listening to the flow of time. Ecological catastrophe, raging wildfires, spreading contagion are all around me. These things happen according to the order of time. One thing happens, then something else happens, and then this happens. This inexorable temporality is the result of the way we look at the world. Seeking the phenomenological reality that lies beneath all cultural constructs I turn to cinema.

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I. Days directed by Tsai Ming-liang

Rain is falling. The sound of rain dripping and splashing as wind blows the tree branches reflected in the glass of a large window where Kang (Lee Kang-sheng) sits quietly watching. After the rain the sky is full of floating mist and clouds. The sound of birds and insects is everywhere. Beyond a nearby tree the ridges of the horizon recede one after another into the mist. As the sky darkens lights appear one by one in the darkness below.

Non (Anong Houngheuangsy) is tending a stove, using tongs to move the pieces of charcoal, helping them to burn evenly. He is preparing lettuce and onions, carefully rinsing each piece in a pan of water. He dumps the water and refills the pan and rinses several cuts of fish. Dumping the water and adding more he rinses the fish a second time. A kettle sits simmering on the stove, with a ladle he tastes its contents and then adds salt.

Days. Our time is made up of days. Each day is made up of the things we experience. A great deal of this experience is lost because we are not paying attention. The banal everyday events slip by as we search for novelty. Slowing down, looking, listening, becoming aware of our perceptions, focusing on duration, a revelation of expectation, to be conscious of being conscious.

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2. Red Post On Escher Street directed by Sion Sono

Kiriko (Riku Kurokouchi) looks directly into the camera, her expression is one of intent and determination. She has decided to be an actor. Her husband who died in a car crash one year ago had wanted to be an actor. She will live out his dream. She cannot be dissuaded. She stands before a cabinet where sits a framed photograph of her late husband, sun on his face he smiles at her. Arrayed around the photograph, a brass vase contains sticks of incence, a white ceramic bowl sits empty, a brass candlestick holds a white unburnt candle before a small wooden monolith, and a beautifully ornamented brass chime stands silent. Kiriko puts the palms of her hands together closes her eyes for a moment and then gently strikes the chime. Tomorrow she will drop her audition application for director Tadashi Kobayashi’s new film in the red post box on Escher Street.

Yasuko (Sen Fujimaru) sits on the floor looking at her hands covered in blood. She leans back against the drapes that cover a sliding glass door. The curtains blow gently in the breeze coming through the partially open door. As notes of a piano melody float on the movement of the air Yasuka stands in the rain, blood from her hands washes over an envelope as she puts it into the red post box. The rain falls harder and the wind blows as she walks away. Her clothes are soaked, rain runs off the strands of her hair, she begins dancing about, her arms in the air. The piano is joined by an orchestra and as the music swells Yasuko swings around a light pole laughing giddily spinning faster in the heavy rain. The rain stops and the sun comes out. She looks at her hands in the sunlight and says, “In the end even the blood under my nails is washed away.”

Katako (Mala Morgan) is helping director Kobayashi (Tatsuhiro Yamaoka) with his script. Exhausted, he has fallen asleep at the table and Katako gets an idea. Standing in an open grassy field under the soft light of a white overcast sky, she looks at the script in her hands, tosses her head back, and throws it into the air. A big smile appears on her face as the pages swirl around her. A group of girls come into the scene laughing and chatting with each other. Now, Yasuko runs up with a pot of green paint and flings it at them and throwing her arms in the air she lets out a big cheer, “yah-ah-ha!” The girls are all laughing. Katako directs them to resume walking and then Kiriko runs up and throws a pot of mauve paint at them and jeers. The girls cower and shriek and Kiriko screams as another group of girls come running up with pots of pink paint throwing it up in the air. All the girls are screaming and laughing ecstatically as Katako turns and throws a big bucket of white paint over them all and then turns back to the camera and laughs maniacally. The girls continue dancing and waving their arms in the air as Katako says, “This entire world is ruled by concrete roads. But they’re not good, or evil. Only man controls other men.” She glares at the camera fiercely and then breaks into a luminous smile that almost makes everything alright.

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3. The Woman Who Ran directed by Hong Sangsoo

Chickens in a pen. A red rooster and several brown hens are gathered at a feed trough. The rooster pecks at the feed in between raising his head to look around. Two of the hens are feeding from the trough while the others peck around at the ground. Birds chatter in a nearby tree and a dog’s distant barking can be heard. Gamhee (Kim Minhee) has come to visit Youngsoon (Seo Younghwa). Youngsoon lives with a roommate, Youngji (Lee Eunmi), in an apartment complex on the edge of the city. Once close, they haven’t seen each for several years. The evening passes with catching up, laughing, eating, and talking for hours. Gamhee rises early and opens the sliding glass door looking out at the sky as it gradually lightens. The cock crows once and in a little while he crows again. Later, the three of them take a walk out behind the building. They carry umbrellas and Hong’s piano theme accompanies them as they pass through a garden of raised beds and small potted trees, and then climb a gentle slope on a path made of stepping stones. Gamhee wants to see the chickens. The chicken pen is under some trees. Beyond is a ridge of mountains and behind them another ridge can be seen in the hazy distance.

These same mountains can be seen from the window of Suyoung’s (Song Seonmi) apartment. Gamhee also hasn’t seen Suyoung for years. As she makes her way to Suyoung’s she passes under a power pole and a crow perched atop it calls at her. At Suyoung’s they have coffee and spend some time catching up in between admiring the mountains through the window. Then for lunch they sit across from each other at an elegant wooden table near the window eating noodles and drinking wine from long stemmed glasses. As they finish they are interrupted by someone at the door. Suyoung goes out to deal with a young man she is not happy to see. It takes some time for her to get him to leave and when she returns she explains to Gamhee that he must be crazy. Suyoung leaves the room and Gamhee goes to the window. She opens the window and looks outside. All is quiet until the crow calls to her, “Caw, caw, caw,” and Hong’s piano theme is heard again as Gamhee says goodbye.

Gamhee walks down the narrow little street, hands in her pockets, huddled under her umbrella. She notices a tiny movie theater and goes inside and finds a seat where she can be alone. On the screen the film being projected is of the sea gently lapping on the shore. The silhouette of someone looking for a seat passes across the screen. The sea continues to lap on the shore. I take a pleasant comfort in the profound banality of this delicate film, as director Hong might say, I just liked it very much.

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4. Siberia directed by Abel Ferrara

Clint (Willem Dafoe) runs a bar located somewhere in the snow at the edge of a forest. As the morning light reflects off the snow through the window of the room where he sleeps, Clint wakes, looks around, and reaches for a coat. Putting the coat on, he looks around the room and sees that the fire in the fireplace has almost gone out. He kneels down to blow on the dying embers and the fire comes back to life. Standing, he moves to the window and looks out uneasily as he hears the barking of his dogs. He goes to look in the kitchen. Soft light from a window falls across a tray of dishes left sitting on the counter. He looks at the dishes, he looks at the stove, he goes from the kitchen into the empty barroom and walks over the old wood plank floor past the silent video slot machine to an open trap door in the far corner of the floor. Standing, looking down into the cellar, he softly calls out a name. He descends the stairs and again calls out the name when suddenly the room disappears and he is standing on the ledge of a shear vertical cliff face. The wind is howling, he loses his balance, slides down the cliff and lands in a heap at the bottom.

Wandering in the dark, Clint hears the opening strains, the tinkling piano, of Del Shannon’s Runaway, “As I walk along, I wonder what went wrong with our love, a love that was so strong.” He finds the source of the music, a 45 rpm record spinning on a portable record player like the one he had when he was a boy. He bends down close to see the record label and swinging his arms, he begins to sing along. Bouncing up and down, waving his arms, he is now singing at the top of his lungs, dancing in circles, pumping his arms in the air, “Why, why, why, why, why . . . my little runaway.” Whirling round and round to the music, he finds himself transported to a sunny field of green, running and skipping among a playful group of children, all of them holding onto long colored ribbons attached to a maypole, “run, run, run, run, runaway.”

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5. Undine directed by Christian Petzold

The sound of traffic, the bustle of Berlin, fills the air. Undine (Paula Beer), sitting at a table in the cobblestone courtyard of a little coffee shop, looks troubled, her gaze cast downward as a delicate breeze plays with the loose strands of her hair. A bell chimes the hour from somewhere above and she looks upward momentarily. She puts her hand over her mouth and a tear runs down her cheek. Wiping away the tear she looks across the table at Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) and says, “If you leave me, I’ll have to kill you. You know that.” She stands and walks away, the sound of her footsteps on the cobblestones blending with the plaintive piano notes of Bach’s “Concerto in D minor” floating along behind her.

Undine walks in darkness, the sound of crickets accompany her footsteps. She lowers herself into the lighted swimming pool and swims quietly toward the other end. Johannes is resting with arms on the rim of the pool, sensing her presence he turns just as her head rises out of the water. Water flows from her hair over her face, her eyes wide open staring as in a trance, she takes hold of his head and forces him under. Leaving the pool, water running from her clothing, she vanishes into the darkness. Making her way through underbrush and parting the branches of trees she comes to the edge of a lake and walks into the water deeper and deeper until her head disappears leaving only ripples. Bach’s concerto, eternally timeless, plays over the surface of the water as the ripples fade into the night.

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6. The Salt of Tears directed by Phillipe Garrel

Betsy (Souheila Yacoub) and Luc (Logann Antuofermo), this is how it happened. Spotlights roving about the darkened room, the gentle rhythm of Fleur de ma ville by Téléphone flows over the crowded dance floor. The dancers are all raising their arms and turning in circles. Betsy, as she turns, waves her arms about her head in an undulating motion, the light catches her expressive hands as they pass across her face. Luc dips down and taking her by the waist lifts her up in the air turning and turning and returning her feet to the floor. They spin apart holding onto each others wrists. She twirls and passes beneath his outstretched arm as he pulls her back taking her in a firm embrace with her back against his chest. She smiles as he buries his face in her hair and they sway together gently. The music punctuates and she pulls free from his grasp, facing each other they begin pumping their arms frantically in the air. Becoming lost in the increasing chaos of the dance floor Betsy rotates through a series of other partners. Taking each other by the hands all the dancers form a circle and joyously bounce and skip about the room. Betsy breaks away and disappears into a dark corner and then rushes back across the floor jumping into Luc’s outstretched arms, he lifts her up over his head and twirling she waves her arms in the air. Holding onto each others hands they whirl recklessly before falling into unison with the other dancers briefly forming a line and then breaking up into couples again. Luc and Betsy, holding hands, wave their arms up and down in a crescendo of ecstatic motion and as the music comes to a close they fall into each others arms, her head on his shoulder, his hand caresses her hair.

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7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things directed by Charlie Kaufman

The camera’s eye floats over an expanse of Victorian floral wallpaper, green leaves and orange flowers, red leaves and yellow flowers, a curtain rustles over a drafty old window, and the narrator (Jessie Buckley) begins in voiceover, “I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays, it sticks, it lingers, it doesn’t go away.” The camera descends a twisty old stairway gliding close to the bannister and looks down upon an entryway made up mostly of glass, a multi-pane door with sidelights and a transom overhead. Outside a rusty old swing set sits in the greyish-green yard. Beyond it a row of bare branched trees stand against the wintry sky.

Jake (Jesse Plemons) is taking his new girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) to meet his parents who live in an old farmhouse far from the city. It is beginning to snow as she looks out the car window at the passing power lines and tree branches. “I’m thinking of ending things,” the thought continues in her head. Jake says, “Huh, you say something?” “I don’t think so,” she answers. The thought comes again, “I’m thinking of ending things.” He looks at her and slightly shakes his head and then looks back at the road. He turns on the radio, flipping through the stations, he stops at something familiar. “Why should a woman who is healthy and strong / Blubber like a baby if her man goes away?” She laughs at the incongruity of this song at this place and time. “It’s from Oklahoma!,” he tries to explain. “Many a new face will please my eye / Many a new love will find me.”

Such is the incessant flow of consciousness through the brain, memories, regrets, daydreams. What is this miracle that allows us to be aware of our surroundings and to experience feelings, emotions, love? Neuroscientists have mapped out the brain and defined many of its activities but they still have very little understanding of the nature of consciousness. We may never know for sure what consciousness is or where it comes from. The only thing we know for sure about consciousness is that it exists. Exists with a vital immediacy in the feeling of being alive.

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8. Never Rarely Sometimes Always directed by Eliza Hittman

Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) must go to New York. Her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) will go with her. Together they leave the house in the early hours of the morning bundled up in coats and hoodies. Pulling their belongings in a rolling case they make their way down a deserted street toward the bus stop. Standing in melting snow they watch as the bus driver puts their baggage in the luggage compartment. Seated by the window, Autumn puts earbuds in her ears and tries to relax. Skylar turns and looks at her with a barely perceptable reassuring smile. The familiar buildings of the town pass by through the windows of the bus, some in shadow, some obscured by sun-glare on the glass. Leaving town, industrial landscapes turn to open fields and wooded hillsides as Autumn gazes out the window. Skylar pulls the hood of her coat over her head and rolling over in her seat she goes to sleep.

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9. She Dies Tomorrow directed by Amy Seimetz

A woman’s eye fills the screen. The eye is closed. There is a barely audible humming rumble and then a soft flash of red light. The eye opens. The light flashes blue and then green and then red again. She speaks in voice-over, “I didn’t know you very well. We only knew each other for a short time, but it was a really nice time. That time we spent together, it was a really nice time.”

Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) puts a record on the turntable, lifts the tone arm and sets the needle in the groove. The “Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem in D minor begins to play. She turns, lifting her arms slightly, and sways gently as the choir sings. Turning back, her hands moving back and forth, she stops, puts her hands over her face and shakes her head slowly. She steps closer to the wall, presses the palms of her hands and the side of her head and then the tip of her nose against it. Her hands and her face move over the wall as the music continues to play. She pulls back, looks upward, her hands slide up and then back down, again she presses the side of her head against the wall. The needle reaches the inner groove and the music stops. All is quiet for a moment until she moves the needle back to the outer edge of the record and the mournful “Lacrimosa” begins again.

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10. Tenet directed by Christopher Nolan

The Protagonist (John David Washington) and Neil (Robert Pattinson) are walking the streets of downtown Oslo. The streets lined with paving stones and buildings made of glass and steel rising high on both sides forming a canyon where people sit at outdoor tables enjoying the weather. Neil is explaining his somewhat dramatic plan to break into the Oslo freeport. He then asks the Protagonist, “What are you hoping to find in there?”

In a hotel room over coffee, the Protagonist leans back on the couch, the city spread out through the windows behind him, he explains, “There’s a cold war. Temporal. Technology that can invert an object’s entropy.” Neil smiles slightly and raising an eyebrow responds, “You mean reverse chronology. Like Feynman and Wheeler’s notion that a positron is an electron moving backward’s in time?” The Protagonist takes a drink of his coffee and looks directly at Neil and says, “Sure, that’s exactly what I meant.”

All the relevant laws of physics are symmetrical, anything that has happened can be reversed, in effect time does not exist. This is true except in the case of entropy, the universe’s tendency toward disorder, where the probability of reversal is so remote that it has never happened. This unidirectional change in the universe is what we experience as the flow of time.

What if it were possible to reverse entropy? What would that do to our perception of time? Would time cease to exist for us? Just something to think about.

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Runners-up – limited to ten and listed in alphabetical order:
Beginning directed by Dea Kulumbegashvili
City Hall directed by Frederick Wiseman
France Against the Robots directed by Jean-Marie Straub
Kajillionaire directed by Miranda July
Lovers Rock directed by Steve McQueen
Malmkrog directed by Cristi Puiu
One Night in Miami directed by Regina King
On the Rocks directed by Sofia Coppola
Promising Young Woman directed by Emerald Fennell
Time directed by Garrett Bradley

1. Marketa Lazarová (František Vláčil, 1967; Czechoslovakia)  261.5
2. Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda, 1958; Poland) – 257
3. Closely Watched Trains (Jirí Menzel, 1966; Czechoslovakia) – 234.5
4. Dekalog (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1989; Poland) – 214
5. Mother Joan of the Angels (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1961; Poland) – 175.5
6. Satantango (Béla Tarr, 1994; Hungary) – 164
7. Daisies (Vera Chytilová, 1966; Czechoslovakia) – 152
8. Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski, 1962; Poland) – 150.5
9. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007; Romania) – 142.5
10. Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015; Hungary) – 134.5
11. The Red and the White (Miklós Jancsó, 1967; Hungary) – 131
12. The Round-Up (Miklós Jancsó, 1966; Hungary) – 130.5
13. The Cremator (Juraj Herz, 1969; Czechoslovakia) – 125
14. Love (Károly Makk, 1971; Hungary) – 125
15. Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965; Czechoslovakia) – 124
16. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2013; Poland) – 116
17. Kanal (Andrzej Wajda, 1957; Poland) – 111
18. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011; Hungary) – 110
19. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Jaromil Jires, 1970; Czechoslovakia) – 109.5
20. The Firemen’s Ball (Miloš Forman, 1967; Czechoslovakia) – 104
21. Underground (Emir Kusturica, 1995; Yugoslavia) – 83
22. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky, 2000; Hungary) – 80
23. The Saragossa Manuscript (Wojciech Has, 1965; Poland) – 79.5
24. Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (Dusan Makavejev, 1967; Yugoslavia) – 75
25. Diary for My Children (Márta Mészáros, 1984; Hungary) – 70.5
26. The Shop on Main Street (Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos, 1965; Czechoslovakia) – 63.5
27. Passenger (Andrzej Munk, 1963; Poland) – 62.5
28. Intimate Lighting (Ivan Passer, 1962; Czechoslovakia) – 62
29. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005; Romania) – 60.5
30. Pharaoh (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1966; Poland) – 55
31. Fateless (Lajos Koltai, 2005; Hungary) – 53
32. Witchhammer (Otakar Vávra, 1970; Czechoslovakia) – 50.5
33. Ikarus XB1 (Jindrich Polák, 1963; Czechoslovakia) – 49
34. Lemonade Joe (Oldrich Lipský, 1964; Czechoslovakia) – 47
35. 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006; Romania) – 46.5
36. I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (Radu Jude, 2018; Romania) – 42
37. The Last Stage (Wanda Jakubowska, 1948; Poland) – 42
38. The Dybbuk (Michal Waszynski, 1937; Poland) – 41.5
39. The Hand (Jirí Trnka, 1965; Czechoslovakia) – 41
40. Scarred Hearts (Radu Jude, 2016; Romania) – 41
41. Night Train (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1959; Poland) – 40
42. Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2018; Poland) – 39.5
43. Diamonds of the Night (Jan Němec, 1964; Czechoslovakia) – 39.5
44. WR: Mysteries of the Organism (Dusan Makavejev, 1971; Yugoslavia) – 39.5
45. Blind Chance (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1987; Poland) – 38.5
46. When Father Was Away on Business (Emir Kusturica, 1985; Yugoslavia) – 38
47. Happy End (Oldrich Lipský, 1967; Czechoslovakia) – 37.5
48. Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009; Romania) – 36
49. Valley of the Bees (František Vláčil, 1968; Czechoslovakia) – 35
50. Merry-Go-Round (Zoltán Fábri, 1956; Hungary) – 34

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by Sam Juliano

We want to extend Happy New Year greetings to everyone, as the terribly difficult 2021 approaches its final days.  We are all in the middle of another virus surge and it seems everyone in my house were finally visited by this most unwelcome guest.  We are all fine, and the symptoms were extremely mild, but our second son Danny ended up the one who brought it into the house after spending some time working for a family friend, who tested positive for COVID.

The Eastern Europe polling end today at 5:00 P.M.  Many thanks to those who posted their ballots.  Voting Tabulator Bill Kamberger will send on the results later this evening, and shortly after I will publish a results post.  We will be taking a three-week break after passing the mid-way point of the project, and will next have Korea/China/Taiwan/Hong Kong to be followed by the films of Scandinavia and Iceland.

The final revision of Paradise Atop the Hudson will be published later tonight, and it is quite an exquisite one that has transformed the look of the novel to an “authentic book.,” one with chapter starts all on the right and the text line-up to resemble a book release.  Thank you so much to Bruce Kimmel for his remarkable efforts to make this a reality.  The novel, as of this morning has now sold 497 paperbacks and 40 kindles, which is an amazing total.  Thanks to everyone for the support. Continue Reading »

Bad Santa

by J.D. Lafrance

Tired of all the sappy Christmas movies that play endlessly on the ABC Family (ahem, now Free Form) and Hallmark channels around the holiday season? Feeling jaded and cynical about the yuletide spirit? If so, then Bad Santa (2003) is probably for you. Like The Ref (1994) before it, Bad Santa is an anti-Christmas movie. They both gleefully thumb their cynical noses at the fake cheer and manufactured mirth of the holiday season. However, where The Ref betrayed its own misanthropic tendencies with a tacked-on feel-good conclusion, Bad Santa does not make the same mistake. As a result, it had a modest run at the box office and garnered decent reviews before going to home video where it gains the bulk of its following.

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by Sam Juliano

The staff of Wonders in the Dark extend holiday greetings to all our friends and readers.  We are hoping 2022 will bring us some good news after the downward spiral of the past weeks.  These are difficult times, and we must hold on to any strand of positive energy sent our way.  Merry Christmas, all!

I want to extend a special thanks to Tony D’Ambra for his fantastic navigation of the site to re-arrange the banner, and set up a  sidebar, adding a link of the book to Amazon.  Once again thank yous are really insufficient!

This past week, Jim Clark published another fabulous review in his ongoing Antonioni series, this time on the English language Blow-Up.  Continuing thanks to my muse, Valerie (Clark), who continues to generate all kinds of positive energy.  This could never be sufficiently acknowledged.

Dennis Polifroni penned a superlative piece on Stephen Spielberg, in honor of the master’s 75th birthday.  So great to have Dennis back contributing!

The Eastern European/Former Soviet Bloc polling continues for the coming weeks, and the numbers so far have been good.  Thanks to those who have registered their ballots here at the site or on my FB page.

Publishing “typo” errors; Book sales; and the “dialogue” in PARADISE ATOP THE HUDSON
Late Sunday night I re-published PARADISE ATOP THE HUDSON after an intensive online session with my friend and editor Bill Kamberger, who scoured the book vigilantly. The novel is now error-free, meaning no more typos, no errant words, no missing commas, and even a correction on a character mix up of Sarah and Carol in one sentence about two-thirds through the book. The word “kneel” now has the missing “n” and the Guinness Book of World Records has replaced the incorrect Guinness World Book of Records. The massive “acknowledgment” section is now ERROR-FREE as well, in every sense. There weren’t many errors overall, but ANY errors to me are troubling. The section on Fairview and Cliffside Park residents who died too young has also been made to read as well as can be with some slight alterations, and in Chapter 1 “Miss America” has been rightly replaced by “Little Miss America.” (thank you Angelo for that alert!) My former teacher and great friend Mrs. Ann Marie Kradenski was referred to in an earlier chapter as “Mrs. Contessa,” but now is properly down as “Miss Contessa.” She was presented in that same chapter as “recently married,” when in fact at that time she was actually “recently engaged.” In another chapter “His” was used instead of the proper “He.” All of that has been corrected now. Even some accidental “bold” lettering in the aforementioned acknowledgment section has been fixed, thanks to Bill’s sharp-eyed investigation.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? It means that as of early this morning on Monday, December 19, all copies of the book sold –either on PAPERBACK or on KINDLE– will NO LONGER have the errors I mentioned. All books sold from here on will be error-free and fully corrected. I have ordered 35 author copies at cost ($5.88 each) that I will use for my future library signings or gifts. I bet I will need even more. I apologize for the earlier errors, but this is the price to pay for RUSHING, a lamentable fact Bill and my wife Lucille have reminded me about. But the errors are few and far between, and the early reports from readers who are engaged and/or have completed the book have been glowing.
You learn from mistakes. My tentative plans are to publish “Irish Jesus in Fairview” in either April or May, but this time I will be sure from the very start to have the book properly tweaked and error-free BEFORE publication. I have NOT finished writing “Irish Jesus in Fairview,” but I am nearly three-quarters there, unless I decide to make it longer than originally planned.

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by Dennis Polifroni
If I had to put a name and a face to the person that most changed my life when I was growing up, in terms of compelling me to study all facets of art and story-telling, then it would take all of about three seconds to name Steven Spielberg.
Sure, since those days of T-shirts and popcorn in air conditioned theatres during the sweltering summer months of my youth I’ve grown to respect and love other artists more and with more passion. Yet, Spielberg holds a special place in my heart. His instinctive flair for capturing the right framing and composition for every shot he’s ever taken, his blisteringly precise timing in the editing room to make every moment in every film feel like the crack of a whip, and his awareness of what moves us, made me understand that anything that can be imagined could be put up on the big screen.
A secret, sneak showing of his 1975 blockbuster, adventure thriller, JAWS, with my father when I was 9 years-old, was THE moment I knew I wanted to study all forms of art. That 2 hour and 5 minute rollercoaster ride across the treacherous ocean surfaces has never left me and, even at that junior year of age, I had been fascinated by who could make something so big, so spectacular. So GREAT.
Since 1975 and JAWS (btw, still my personal favorite movie of all time, I’ve seen it over 100 times-not kidding), I’ve followed Spielberg, sometimes blindly, into those cavernous, dark churches we call theatres to see where he would take us next. Sometimes his landscapes were familiar to me (the kids and neighborhoods of E.T.), sometimes dangerous (Raiders of the Lost Ark) but always wonderous (Close Encounters entrances me every time). He took me to far off lands, had me leaping from horses in pursuit of vast fortunes and showed me people and things from other places outside the solar system I was sure, then, existed.

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