by Sam Juliano

The final-stage editing on Irish Jesus of Fairview continues, with a potential late-May publishing date within reach.  Meanwhile, I have resumed writing Roses for Saoirse.

This past week, Jim Clark published a superlative essay on Jerzy Skolimowski’s masterful EO.

Lucille and I watched two recent films via streaming this past week.  Neither gets top grades, but both were moderately entertaining.  The techno thriller Missing was the better of the two, though the comedic thriller Cocaine Bear had its moments.  I am rating both 3.5 of 5.0.

On Friday Lucille is scheduled for her lower spine procedure.  Though anticipation is that all will be well, the operation is likely to sideline her from school from four to six weeks. Continue Reading »


by James Clark  2023

Most of us would say that humans are the powers of planet Earth. They have crafted religion, of course; and science. Our film today presents Earthlings in another way.

It begins with blood red flashes in the dark sky. Radiance. As if another being has made a discovery. Planet Earth, but instead of a foreign visitor, there is a donkey. A thinking donkey, in its own way. Thinking by the gut. Within that shimmer, one could see, despite the confusion, two figures: a woman, Kasandra, kissing the neck of a donkey, EO. Both of them work in a circus–she is a dancer; he is out of place.  (Don’t rush to table this matter, “Surrealist.” Even though we see the donkey having a carrot.)

From the circus of the elements, we land in middling Poland, where love is not a joke. The first of the shocks. She had given him a little candy. He had bumped her in fun… But  the circus had gone bankrupt. What had not failed, was millions of shiny metal objects, lying in their poison and uselessness.

Their comments, several months of irregular work. He had a stint in a large barn, where many impressive horses would be shown. In transit, he saw a herd of wild horses. (How did he feel about it?) He was bought by a farmer with many horses, who simply loved these creatures, and would find pleasure for his children. Perhaps he would have remained with the children for the rest of his life. But one late night Kasandra found him, in the easy-going farm. She was not the Kasandra of old. She had been driven by a motorcyclist, who didn’t bother to look at EO. She was drinking beer out of the bottle. Her remarks stink; but love had a part. The sky was pristine. EO eats some bugs on the feces. Kasandra  says, “I have a surprise for you! “Happy Birthday! May your dreams come true! Be happy!” EO is happy. They snuggle. The boyfriend tells her, “Come with me, or stay with the donkey.” /” I have half to go…” That triggers EO to find her. A hopeless enterprise. A dangerous one. EO cries, with that deep heartiness. EO in the hills, looking for the heights. He cries as he walks. A blue tone. The windy dances of forests. (Close-up of EO’s eye and vision.) Bats in the sky. His exhaustion. Three windmills. Up and down. EO cries to be seen. When seen in a town: “Where the hell did you come from?” Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

After a two-year absence, our Oscar party returned with a vengeance at the Tiger Hose Firehouse in Fairview last night.  Congratulations to great friend and filmmaker Jay Giampietro for winning our Oscar pool.  It was wonderful seeing a number of people who were sidelined because of COVID-19.  As to the show itself, I still haven’t found the magic in the big winner, Everything Everywhere All at Once, the cultural phenomenon that won Best Picture, Best Director, three acting awards and seven awards in total.  I just don’t get it, but I am very happy for those who love the film, including a few in my own family!  On the other hand I do love the German winner All Quiet on the Western Front, which copped Best International Feature and a total of four Oscars.  The biggest thrill of the night for me was witnessing Brendan Fraser’s emotional speech after he won for The Whale.  Fraser was the deserving winner, and he brought the house down, much as the victorious supporting actor in Everything Everywhere before him.

All is moving along with the final-stage editing process on Irish Jesus of Fairview, which will officially publish in May.  Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

The full book design for Irish Jesus of Fairview has now been posted on social media and here at Wonders in the Dark.  The white rectangle on the back cover of course is for the still to be designated bar code.  Meanwhile my final stage editor Bill Kamberger is on the job. The book will not be published until late May, as the process will include three or four readings, and a close inspection.  But we are getting there, and the plans include a hardcover edition at Barnes & Noble. I plan to make some progress this week on the third novel, Roses for Saoirse, but it is touch and go, because of the attention I need to devote to Irish Jesus in tandem with Bill.

Our annual Oscar party will be again be held on Sunday, March 12th at the Tiger Hose Firehouse in Fairview, after two years of cancellations because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Director Jay Giampietro will be there to document the proceedings with his movie camera.

The American Cinema polling will end this coming Friday, March 10th at 5:00 p.m.  many thanks to those who have submitted their Top 40s and the fabulous commentary attached to some.

Lucille and I watched Creed and Marlowe this past week in local theaters.  I wasn’t especially fond of either, for various reasons, though I guess the ‘same old, same old” Creed was slightly better.

Film writer extraordinaire Jim Clark will soon be publishing his latest essay, and it will focus on the new Polish film, EO, which is up for best International Feature. Continue Reading »


by Sam Juliano

I am thrilled to post a sneak-peak at the cover art for Irish Jesus of Fairview.  First off, notice the title of the book has changed.  Previously advertised as Irish Jesus in Fairview, it is now Irish Jesus of Fairview.  Seems like a minor change, but it is actually most significant, when the book’s themes are factored in.  My artist Andrew Castrucci has added some mysterious waves over the cover image, which – like the subtle change of the title – bring some interpretive angles.  I have not yet posted this cover art on FB, mainly because I do have the revised one with the titles and the book’s chosen passage (on the front and back, and my own name).  I will unveil that soon.

Many thanks to those who have submitted ballots (Top 40) for the Greatest American Films of All-Time Voting.  The deadline is March 10th.

I was happy to see Brendan Fraser win the Best Actor SAG Award, but I’m still trying to warm up to the Everything, Everyone film that it cleaning up at the others awards.  Now it seems it is heading for big wins at the Oscars. Continue Reading »


by Sam Juliano

After a two-year absence, caused by the COVID-19 crisis, our long-running Academy Awards party will be held again this year on Sunday, March 12th at the Tiger Hose Firehouse in Fairview.  Lucille and I look forward to seeing many of our friends, and plenty of hot food will be offered, courtesy of Gandolfo’s in North Bergen.  Any of our readers planning to be in the area that night are urged and welcome to attend.

Meanwhile, our Greatest American Films polling is in full swing and will continue until Friday, March 10th at 5:00 P.M.  Many thanks to Mark Sadler, Mark Smith and James Horsefall -not to mention over 30 others who have voted on the corresponding FB post – for casting ballots so far, and to those planning to in the upcoming weeks.

The fabulous cover art and graphic design for Irish Jesus in Fairview has been completed!  I will be releasing it very soon!

I thought it would be amusing to post a link to our Oscar party short from a few years ago. Continue Reading »


by Sam Juliano

This past week, Jim Clark published a superlative review on Claire Denis’s Stars at Noon here at Wonders in the Dark!

Otherwise, the last of our international pollings – on American cinema is now officially underway!

American Cinema Polling is officially underway!

Everyone gets 40 choices (I know, I know, not enough!) to be presented in one of four (4) ways: alphabetically, chronologically, ranked or arbitrarily. Voting Tabulator Bill Kamberger, who gets the final word on eligibility issues, would prefer that the “arbitrarily” option not be employed, but in the end, the voter will do what he or she is most comfortable with. This is the final poll in our INTERNATIONAL series, though DECADE POLLS are looming on the horizon. The current poll, surveying the globe’s most prolific and influential cinema (since its debut around 120 years ago) will run until FRIDAY, MARCH 10TH at 5:00 p.m. EST, the first day of the Oscar weekend. HERE are my own choices, though for me to have left off the likes of Amadeus, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Deer Hunter, I Never Sang for My Father, A Separate Peace, Being There, Network, Cabaret, I Walked with a Zombie, Duck Soup, Schindler’s List, Remember the Night, The Great Santini, The Body Snatcher, Isle of the Dead, The Seventh Victim, The Tree of Life, Dead Poets Society, The Manchurian Candidate, Sullivan’s Travels, Rebecca, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Adventures of Robin Hood, North by Northwest, The Maltese Falcon, The Silence of the Lambs, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Music Box, Seventh Heaven, Dr. Strangelove, Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The African Queen, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Public Enemy, I Am a Fugitive from a chain Gang, White Heat, Young Frankenstein, Mutiny on the Bounty, Do the Right Thing, Blue Velvet, Moonrise, High Noon, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Killers, The Magnificent Ambersons, Empire of the Sun, East of Eden, What’s Opera Doc?, Annie Hall, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Sherlock Jr., The Gold Rush, Lost Horizon, The Awful Truth, The Best Years of Our Lives, 1776, The Big Parade, Trouble in Paradise, Frankenstein, Stagecoach, Marty, Duck Amuck, The Ten Commandments, Singin in the Rain, Splendor in the Grass, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Laughton), The Wedding March, The Shining, Mildred Pierce, The Apartment, Double Indemnity, Manhattan, The Lady Eve, King Kong, Ruggles of Red Gap, David and Lisa, The Man from Laramie, The Naked Spur, All About Eve, Meet Me in St. Louis, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Apocalypse Now, and endless others is total blasphemy. But keep in mind that this polling is aimed at getting one’s “favorite” films, though many will combine the perception of “favorite” and “great.” So be it. Here are my own Top 40 “favorites” listed alphabetically. (NOTE: The Godfather and The Godfather II are separate films. And…..Whether American cinema is the greatest of all cinemas is up for debate, but what is NOT up for debate is that when it comes to diversity of genre, it is far and away the most supreme.)

Continue Reading »

by James Clark  2023

        At the conclusion of her brilliant career, filmmaker, Claire Denis, staged a couple of shocking films (far beyond her usual mayhem). The first entry, Both Sides of the Blade (2022), amounts to a protagonist-humanitarian, concluding that blacks in France are ruinous. The second film (with its second humanitarian), Stars at Noon (2022), chooses philosophy; but getting to the nub is a bugger; and a treasure. In fact, we must visit the precinct of Marcel Proust (1871-1922), in order to understand Denis’ venture, her disappointment and her glee. Proust and the landslide of advantage. His hopeless bid to break free from it. Finding in tiny moments what he meant.

It needs to be repeated. Despite great filming, these actions had moved toward philosophy. (Coming to the gut.) As such, Denis had dared to visit the turf of novelist Marcel  Proust. From that vantage point, she would visit the old errors, so molten. Thereby, in the film, Both Sides of the Blade, we glimpse remarkably in intensity, hatred  and lostness. Thereby, we reach out to our film today, Stars at Noon. The end of planet Earth.

Trish, the protagonist, is not what we need; however, she stands as a flowing horror. Could her fear stage a comeback? Otherwise, why would an American woman move to a place like Nicaragua, and its military nonsense. Her mission of humanitarian good is clearly bogus. Her long involvement in foolish danger is more to the point. (Recall, many years ago, Denis produced a TV show called, U. S. GO HOME.) Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

I have been as busy as a beaver this past week attending to the submitted edits on my second novel, Irish Jesus in Fairview.  I believe I can wrap things up on that front in about eight more days, at which point I would send the revised manuscript over to my second-stage editor, Bill Kamberger.  Meanwhile, I await my artist, Andrew Castrucci, to complete his work.  I look forward to resuming my authorship of Roses for Saoirse.  I should be hearing from our film writer extraordinaire, Jim Clark soon with his new essay.

Lucille and I did manage to see two films in the theater.  Living with Bill Nighy, (seen at the Montclair Clairidge) was a wonderful revision of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru and the less said about M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin, (seen in Teaneck on a Friday night when temperatures hovered around 0 degrees) the better! Ha!

I have finally finished my list revision of the 20 Best Films of 2022, after I saw all that was needed to be watched.  It is as follows:

FINAL REVISION ON MY TOP FILMS OF 2022 LIST (20 films in alphabetical order)

Aftersun (Charlotte Wells) UK
All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger) Germany
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras) USA
The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh) Ireland
Un beau matin (Mia Hansen-Love) France
Benediction (Terence Davies) UK
Close (Lukas Bhont) Belgium/Holland
EO (Jerzy Skolimowski) Poland
The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg) USA
Illusions perdues (Xavier Giannoli) France
Living (Oliver Hermanus) UK
No Bears (Jafar Panahi) Iran
The Quiet Girl (Colm Bairead) Ireland
RRR (S.S. Tajamouli) India
Saint Omer (Alice Diop) France
Till (Chinonye Chukwu) USA
Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Ostlund) Sweden
Vortex (Gasper Noe) France
The Whale (Darren Aronofsky) USA
Women Talking (Sarah Polley) Canada
HONORABLE MENTION: (also in alphabetical order) Armegeddon Time (USA); The Black Phone (USA); Blonde (USA); Broker (Japan); Bros (USA); Corsage (Germany); Decision to Leave (South Korea); Devotion (USA); The Falls (Taiwan); God’s Country (USA); The Inspection (USA); The Menu (USA); She Said (USA); Sundown (USA); Tar (USA); To Leslie (USA); 13: The Musical (USA).
NOTE: My great Canadian friend, the film scholar Todd Sherman, has humbly asked me in private discussion to identify the films I thought were the very best, in an effort to have me pare down the list even further. His suggestion does make a lot of sense, and gives me a further challenge. Here are my Top half-dozen (6) in alphabetical order: Aftersun; Benediction; Close; The Quiet Girl; Saint Omer; Women Talking.
ALSO: Only 4 films in my Top 20 are American-made.

Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

I was so thrilled to receive the completed first-stage editing manuscript of Irish Jesus in Fairview from Rob Bignell over two weeks early this past Tuesday.  I wasn’t expecting to see it until the second or third week in February, but as a result of this early return I have now committed much of time incorporating the changes/corrections.  This has also given me the opportunity to make some minor changes on my own as I work my way through the manuscript.  Of course, this means a pause on Roses for Saoirse, until everything with the second novel is sorted out.  But as I say, what a wonderful surprise!

In the meantime, Lucille and I (and a few of our kids) saw several more films this past week, two of them in the theater.  Here are my Facebook reports, along with the ratings of the films watched:

Belgian coming-of-age drama “Close” is an irrefutable masterwork!

Lukas Dhont’s wrenching follow-up to his acclaimed “Girl” nearly won the Palme d’Or this past spring. Though the prize ultimately went to “Triangle of Sadness,” Dhont’s film copped the Grand Prix and received nothing less than spectacular reviews. A tiny minority derided the film, calling it “gay child poverty porn” but these detractors seemed to have missed the whole point of the film. “Close” is about lost innocence, the suppression of grief, (I immediately thought of a largely forgotten 1984 film titled “The Stone Boy” by Christopher Cain which examined this acute aspect of the internalization of mourning, the devastating consequences of homophobia, and how one surrenders their deepest sensibilities). A French made-for-television film called “Hidden Kisses” also comes to mind, though in that case redemption defined the script. Close’s central protagonist, the guilt-ridden, wide-eyed Leo, (Eden Dambrine) fails to externalize his demons until the film’s climax, where Emilie Dequenne of “Rosetta” fame serves as the boy’s confessor. Both Dambrine and the boy who plays the mutual object of his affections -Remi (Gustav Waele) are repeatedly shown in close-up, and with the piercing accompaniment of an unforgettable classical-tingued score by Valentin Hadjadj, Dhont scores maximum emotional impact from his framing, though kudos are deserved for Dutch cinematographer Frank van den Eeden, whose pastoral tapestries enhance the film’s artful visual scheme. Dhont, who co-wrote the script realizes the power of “less is more,” and both young teenagers, Dambrine and De Waele deliver powerful performances that will move one to the core of their being. “Close” contends for fim of the year honors for me. 5/5.
Highest rating for urgent, intimate, incisive and existential “Women Talking”
Fueled by a bevy of extraordinary performances, claustrophobic, blue-grey tinted lensing, an enveloping score and a brilliant screenplay, the Canadian-made “Women Talking” must surely rate as one of the best films of 2022. Though I applaud its Best Picture and Best Screenplay nominations, I thought acting nods by any of the cast – Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Francis McDormand, Sheila McCatrthy and/or Ben Whishaw were warranted, and nods to Islandic composer Hildur Guonadottir (love the integration of the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer!”) and cinematographer Luc Montpellier could hardly be questioned. And then, there’s the film’s director Sarah Polley, whose best film this is. Polley’s script is an avalanche of words, and though the general tone is austere, some pointed humor is present, and the film, set in an Amish-like (note the horse and buggies and sparce interior amenities) Mennonite colony where men have sexually abused women, and said women are left uneducated, and the women come to terms with the horror they experienced. The film, which at times is otherworldy, is unremitting in its trenchant focus, and cast a deeply-emotional spell. (5/5)
Lucille and I watched “To Leslie” last night on Amazon Prime after hearing earlier in the day that its star, Andrea Riseborough had received a surprising Best Actress nomination. Well, I thought she was electrifying and transcended all the “Hey, I am acting” trademarks of those who take on the role of alcoholism on the screen. Everything in her work was spontaneous and natural, and the film too was quite a pleasant surprise. I would even dare to say now that Ms. Riseborough deserves to win the Oscar over her four fellow nominees, and I don’t think I am suffering from next-day overreacting.

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