Higher Principal

ninth circle

by Sam Juliano

Seven completed ballots have been received for the mid June launching of the Science Fiction Countdown.  With a deadline of June 15th, it is certain many more will be forwarded in what is fast becoming another exciting venture at Wonders in the Dark after a slow build up.  After the ballots are compiled by Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. a Top 50 countdown will commence for ten weeks up until the beginning of September.

Over the past week I have watched a bunch of older films, several Czechoslovakian masterpieces.  Lucille and I did see one new release in the theaters and on Thursday night the Lincoln Center production of Rogers and Hammersteins’ The King and I at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.   A sylish production with some spectacular sets and spirited singing, the production was a fine follow-up to the same company’s staging of South Pacific a few years back.

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by Sam Juliano

The May 14th concert by the Choral Art Society of New Jersey featured work by some of classical music’s most iconic figures, but it was the reunion of a student playing one of his one-time mentor’s most celebrated compositions that brought a special emotional heft to the proceedings.  Performed at the acoustic-friendly Presbyterian Church in Westfield -the group’s home base for decades, the night brought CAS Music Director Martin Sedak and his previous instructor – the composer Matthew Harris – together in a glorious presentation of the latter’s Oceanic Eyes, a four part cantata commissioned in 2006 based on texts by celebrated Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and distinguished by the employment of classical guitar that allowed the work’s distinct Spanish romanticism to shine through.  The composition’s lilting metaphors and colorful imagery seems inspired by the British poet Alfred Noyes who wove undying nocturnal passions into the narrative of his arresting “The Highwayman.”  Yet it was the highly emotive, stirring and soulful reading by the committed singers of the CAS who injected Harris’ work with a sense of immediacy, aided by the prism of water, which flows through universal appreciation.Sedak’s decision to open the show with a rarely performed song by the great British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams proved to be a masterstroke of mood and staging.  To be sure “The Lover’s Ghost” (from Five English Folk Songs)  is one of the most sublime and haunting choral pieces from anyone, replete as the piece is with color, form, harmony and expression but especially prominent for its contrapuntal construction.  Sedak directed the singers to create two lines in the space between the central orchestra and the sides, making all the more of a powerful impression.  Though the second work is another infrequently negotiated composition, the fact that it was written by Beethoven elevates it immeasurably for classical music fans who can never get enough of one of the form’s supreme immortals.  A Calm Sea & A Prosperous Voyage is noted for the composer’s setting the text by Johann von Goethe and as an earlier example of his evocative nature writing that is strikingly evident in his later symphonic masterworks, so expertly visited by the CAS. Continue Reading »



by Sam Juliano

The deadline for science fiction countdown ballots is June 15th.  I will be sending out my own list this week, and have been assured by others that they will be following suit.  I will be sending out reminders to the e mail chain tomorrow, and also encourage any readers at the site who are interested to forward a Top 50 to me at your convenience.

Another incredible week for the record books included a three-day trip to the nation’s capital.  This is the fifth year in a row I made the annual Lincoln school pilgrimage to a bunch of memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, Ford’s Theater, several Smithsonian museums and other sites, and my 8th grade son Jeremy and teaching colleague and friend Broadway Bob were aboard for the trek.  For the most part the weather was overcast and temperatures hovered around 70, making this an especially comfortable venture.

Lucille and I attended two fabulous musical events over the weekend.  The Choral Arts Society of New Jersey presented “Songs of the Sea,” which included works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Beethoven, and Benjamin Britten, and at the Players Guild of Leonia, a program titled “The Memory Lingers On” featured the songbook of American songwriting icon Irving Berlin.  Both shows were sublime and spirited and will be separately reviewed. Continue Reading »


© 2016 by James Clark



    Ridley Scott readily lets us know that he is an avid searcher amongst the films of newcomers, for the sake of keeping up with the latest thoughts and skills. He never gives us a break, however, about his encyclopedic coverage of films from the past. Unlike Michael Mann, who warmly treasures the impetus derived from the work of Jean-Pierre Melville, our eclectic helmsman here chooses not to explicitly identify that range of inspiration contributing to those heights he so often soars to. As with his breathtaking TV commercials, for Scott it seems to all come down to the season’s hit and its filmic brilliance. A large problem about that strict immediacy is that his formidable perceptiveness ardently digs into the problematics of world historical discernment. His sagas flame high and wide with being on the hunt for this planet’s catastrophic and institutional malignancy. This is long-term work in spades. And though that might constitute a reason for hiding it at the summit of Mount Everest, the forward motion of that contrarian manifold takes place with far more transparency than Scott, a hugely divided agent of popular entertainments— “I don’t make films for other people. I make films for me” –is prepared to tolerate.

Keeping in mind that caveat, with The Counselor (2013) we not only have wave after wave of presentations based upon films of Melville; but, moreover, without this component The Counselor cannot come into its own as a richly tempered hopeful communication. Sure, it’s got a flashy cast and devastating horror hooks. But, to all intents and purposes, it looks the part of a relentless dismissal of every vestige of adult integrity. Seemingly doing his utmost to leave intact the rattlesnake smarts of the Cormac  McCarthy screenplay, he declares, “I was very happy with The Counselor. I think it was cynical and too nihilistic for some people, but I like nihilistic.” He likes a lot more than that. And thanks to Melville’s Le Doulos he knows how to royally tip a scale, overloaded with sentient figures amounting to sewage trucks, with an abundance of rhapsody. “Music is dialogue,” is another of Scott’s sayings, one, in fact, which particularly reaps benefits from Le Doulos. Continue Reading »


Jilllian in high school production of “Shrek: the Musical.

by Sam Juliano

The deadline for the science-fiction ballots has been extended two weeks, making the final day for submission June 15th.  Aside from an early ballot from Allan Fish, no others have been yet forwarded, though I expect my own will be very soon.  The ballots will again by tabulated by Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., and a Top 50 five-day-a-week countdown will commence in late June.  Those planning to submit ballots can send them either to me directly or to the e mail chain presently circulating.

I predicted Donald Trump would win the GOP nomination all the way back in January, but just about everyone thought I’d be way off the mark.  Of course my vote in the primary on June 7th will go to Bernie Sanders, but it is clear that Hillary will be the party nominee.  We are certain to have quite the nasty November election.

Lucille and I were proud to attend out daughter Jillian’s high school play “Shrek: the Musical” on Saturday afternoon.  A freshman, she played one of the Three Little Pigs on crutches after she sprained her ankle a few weeks back.  We attended the latest Curious Reader Bookstore (Glen Rock, N.J.) presentation and signing in the morning of that same day (Sergio Ruzzier- “This is Not A Picture Book”), and saw the Palme d’Or winner DHEEPAN on Saturday evening at the IFC Film Center. Continue Reading »


by Sam Juliano

Hard to believe we have moved into May, but the passage of time rarely leaves us prepared.  Here at Wonders in the Dark we are approaching the planned time frame for the long-advertised “Science Fiction film countdown” and are anticipating the start of the first phase: the forwarding of ballots.  This particular countdown has admittedly received less enthusiasm in a general sense, but I am hopeful it will still be successful.  Otherwise, political junkies are no doubt getting their fix with the spate of crucial presidential primaries that have all but anointed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as their party’s nominees.

Lucille and I had a pretty unforgettable week, one that offered diversity and quality.  Coming on the heels of the Tribeca Film Festival – where we managed 35 feature films over eleven days – it allowed us to maintain a high level of activity while straining the limits of our stamina.  I hope to post some reviews of the experiences, even while I continue by scene-specific Tribeca coverage. Continue Reading »


by Sam Juliano

One of the most beloved characters ever created for a television series is one that is now become as a cultural icon, if not a worldwide phenomenon.  The Vulcan Spock was brought on to serve as science officer on the starship Enterprise for the pilot of a new futuristic series in 1966 by the show’s architect and Executive Producer, Gene Roddenberry, who insisted above network objection that his alien character be maintained beyond the debut appearance.  Spock was the only character on the show, titled Star Trek that was specifically written for an actor.  That fairly young but well-traveled thespian, Leonard Nimoy brought physical confirmation to what Roddenberry had envisioned, and with some crucial tinkering like the employment of pointed ears, Spock’s popularity even eclipsed that of the show’s central protagonist, Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner.  The fascination with Spock was and continues to be his logical demeanor and lack of emotions.  Playing yang to Shatner’s ying Nimoy helped to forge one of television’s most indelible pairings, one that defined casting chemistry, and continued to captivate viewers from all walks of life in virtually all age groupings in the decades that followed the show’s three year run from 1966 to 1999. Continue Reading »


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