by Sam Juliano

As expected the Director’s Guild handed out their prize for this past year’s films to the talented Chinese-American woman Chloe Zhao for the masterful Nomadland.  The BAFTA’s will be announced late Sunday night so I will revise this post Monday morning.  Our wonderful friends and co-editor Jim and Valerie Clark have informed us that things are going well now for them in the wake of the recent lockdown in the Toronto area where they reside.  We are so relieved to hear that.  Jim’s superlative essay on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris published at the site this past week.

Lucille, young Sammy and I watched the remaining three Best Animated Feature nominees over the past two days on Netflix and Disney.. (We had already seen Soul and Wolfwalkers) All of us still feel WOLFWALKERS is handily the best of the five and for me it finishes in the Top 5 of year-end “best” list overall! Nonetheless, we enjoyed Onward, Over the Moon and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmegeddon and thought them creatively memorable, though none of the trio can be described as masterful. Still, somewhat better than we expected.   We also watched the downer (but very well made) teen drama Fourteen.  Star ratings for all are below: Continue Reading »

© 2021 by James Clark

Ingmar Bergman, not widely known to praise other filmmakers, was, however, on one occasion, drawn to remark: “My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film [Ivan’s Childhood, 1962] was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease. I felt as if I was entering and encountering a range of stimulation. Someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how. Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, as a dream.”

With Bergman, however, being a tricky hand-to-hand brawler, you have to look carefully about such a homage. Yes, Tarkovsky comes on the field as remarkably brilliant. His instinct for dynamics and mis en scene is truly inventive and revolutionary. But where do you think that new genius learned his chops as an exhaustive challenger of world history as it has enjoyed total and disastrous power since societies on earth began? Tarkovsky’s film today, namely, Solaris (1972), is about space discovery, the wonder of the “new,” in the bright solar awakening. But the solar, if you look at it, is a fury, a visitation of intensity (emotion) having been censored from the entirety of life, of nature; while religion and science have carved up everything in sight, despite being possibly, however, having much to do with the new. The protagonist, Kris Kelvin (a surname redolent of “hard” science and control of heat), does not, at first blush, present any hope of becoming a paragon of emotive innovation. His father, on the eve of Kris’s departure—to a Soviet space craft having encountered disarray, and which he seemed to be the right man to straighten it out—far from a radical but aware that there is more in life than science, remarks, “He reminds me of a bookkeeper, preparing his accounts… It’s dangerous to send people like you into space. Everything is fragile. Yes, fragile. The Earth has somehow become disgusting to people like you, although at what sacrifice!  The Earth has somehow become adjusted to people like you. What, are you jealous that [someone else] will be the one to bury me, and not you?” Continue Reading »

A “stone cold” masterpiece in both senses! Charlie Kaufman’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a five star film and places in my Top 3 of this past year!

by Sam Juliano

It was an earlier-than-usual Easter Sunday but here we are enjoying the one week break that comes after with a return to work set for almost half way through the month.  We remain in a kind of functional limbo, what with the COVID-19 numbers still rising in some areas including my home state.  Our dear friends and site co-editor Jim and Valerie Clark are in the Toronto, Canada area that went into lock down a few days ago.  We are concerned deeply for their security and continued well-being.

Tribeca programmers are thrilled to announce that the 20th-anniversary edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, will take place in New York City from June 9 through June 20, 2021 — new dates to ensure the Festival moves forward in the safest environment.  Lucille and I are figuring we will again be attending but as to the volume we can’t say with any certainty just yet.  It is far off enough to be able to sort things out in tune with the health situation.  The Major League Baseball season is underway as well.

This past week has been a torrid one for us on the film scene as we have managed to watch seven (7) films, which is the most “new” releases we’ve seen in one week since maybe 16 months ago, though it could be even longer than that. Continue Reading »

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By J.D. Lafrance

By the time he made The Getaway (1972), Steven McQueen was in desperate need of a commercially successful film. His last three were box office flops, especially his last one, Junior Bonner (1972). Incidentally, Sam Peckinpah, who directed both films, was also in a need of a hit and saw this project as a way to show Hollywood that he could make a box-office hit. In doing so, the director once again was forced to compromise his vision for someone else’s – in this case, McQueen who did everything in his power to make The Getaway his ticket back into the elite, A-list club of major Hollywood players.

Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

It’s official.  Spring 2021 has arrived and with it a real sense of hope and better days ahead.  There remains of course people out there who would rather defy sensible regulations and play politics, but with vaccination numbers rising and in some areas cases falling there is no reason for most of us to live in consternation.  I suspect the coming summer will be far, far different than the horror show we experienced in the corresponding months of 2020, and am hoping the vast majority of our friends who are able to get the vaccination are doing so.  I’ve been told by our dear Canadian friends that it isn’t as readily available up there, but I am hoping that situation will improve greatly in the coming weeks.  This hopeful expectation is also aimed at our friends in Europe, South America and Asia.

On Wednesday our resident film essay master Jim Clark, published the latest in his extraordinary Ingmar Bergman series, the 1964 comedy (in color), All These Women. 

Lucille and I watched plenty of classic movies and television episodes over the past week but we did manage to take in two of the recent award-nominated films via streaming.  (We almost attended a showing at a local theater, but we are delaying it until tomorrow (Tuesday).  I’d like to add some commentary but for now I offer up the 1 to 5 star ratings: Continue Reading »

© 2021 by James Clark

The endeavors of the films of Ingmar Bergman involve a remarkably wide range. Being a magician of dramatic forces, he puts into our hands myriad dilemmas, seldom, or never before, seen. Where the norms of drama set about, you can be sure that he’s not looking. For him, the norm of reflection has already done its damage, a damage which cannot be significantly altered.

Of course these actions take place on the basis of long-standing matrices. But the casts of his showdowns never fail to be nightmarish and crushing. Our film today, All These Women (1964), constitutes one of the more unusual directions, almost like one in a blue moon. But a blue moon deriving its power from its positivity, its twin. There is, in the world of Bergman, a pairing with this very bizarre entry, namely,  The Devil’s Eye (1960), where a couple, in an apparently happy marriage, find themselves millions of light-years apart. Their quiet, nightmarish efforts to reach cogent affection elicit the creative element of pathos, where all around there is crude bathos, quick and careless amity, in fact hell. Moreover, her once-in-a-lifetime unfaithfulness also attains to pathos, where the suitor/lover—even so briefly, even so finite—comes and then goes in a day. With all the elements having touched in that way, they form a singularity, being not only reaching an apex, but at the portal of becoming an associate in nature itself. Real magic! Real feeling!

Thereby, in the second form of this filmic couplet (being our film today), the gentle, small and amazing gifts pretty much quit the stage in favor of pedantry and advantage. What’s up? In fact plenty; but it will take  a while to clear it up. Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

And the beat goes on mostly in a positive vein.   Vaccinations continue at a record pace and more and more who were originally adverse are now playing the game as it should be played.  President Biden is targeting May 1st as the expectation date for widespread vaccine administration and the summer in a general sense as the time when everything as we know it will be very close to the way it was before the pandemic disrupted daily living in March of 2020.  Some of us have been able to re-visit restaurants, albeit carefully and are mulling theater appearances after a year of forfeiting that option due to mass closures and personal choice.

I am well aware that a good number of our readers and even some on our writing staff have a very low opinion of the Academy Awards and our dearly beloved Allan Fish aimed some of his most scathing (and humorous) barbs on the annual tradition.  I still find them fun to follow (and laugh at as well) providing of course they are not taken seriously and have long used the event as a manner to get many friends together for a party, friends who I may not have seen in the preceding year.  After forty-three consecutive years however, we will lamentably not be hosting a party this year because the pandemic has still not quite run its course and even with many vaccinated it poses a medium risk to hold a gathering in a limited space.  God willing we expect to have the party return in 2022, so we can start a new streak.  In any event, because of the limitations imposed on us this year in every sense it is pretty much clear enough to figure out what the best films of the year are (films we watched via the streaming services) and predicting Monday morning’s nominees is not too challenging remotely.  I plan to revisit this MMD mid-day tomorrow to add a few sentences on the actual nominations, due to be announced around 8:20 A.M. EST. Continue Reading »


by Sam Juliano

The typical March weather is now regaling us with mercurial tenacity as temperatures rise and fall at a time of year when strong winds and clothing uncertainty are most prevalent.  Of course our friends sound of the equator are inching closer to their own fall season so the numbers there are surely in the heat range.  Meanwhile the world at large continues to make progress on the pandemic front and stateside eateries, stores and of course schools are opening with some initial restrictions.  Some of the most optimistic among us are predicting that by summer we will practically have the virus under full control after what would have surely been the most terrifying fourteen or so months in our lives.

At our own school, students are back but marginally until the end of the month when another parental survey will surely increase the number by quite a distance.  Movie theaters in Manhattan are opening as well though again with attendance restrictions.  Here in New Jersey most theaters are fully operational though will a few less screens in the multiplexes.  Like most Lucille and I continue to watch new releases at home through the various streaming services.  This year will sadly mark the very first time since way back in 1978 that our annual Oscar party will have to be cancelled.  The normal place we stage the event is understandably unavailable this year as we still have a few more months before we could even consider such a “crowded” event.  Frankly, I would not myself be comfortable hosting it and feel it is best for all concerned we dispense with it for this year.

Lucille and I watched many old films and television shows at home, but we did manage two new releases: Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

We really do have reason to be optimistic in view of the lowering of cases and hospitalizations which most attribute to the rising number of vaccinations.  Students are returning today (Monday) to our own school district and after so many months of consternation and uncertainty (documented on this MMD week after week after week) a sense of normalcy is no longer a long shot.

This past week was a busy one at Wonders in the Dark.  Jim Clark added a stupendous essay in his long-running, authoritative and prolific Ingmar Bergman series with a trenchant piece on 1960’s The Devil’s Eye; J.D. Lafrance published a fabulous essay on George Steven’s 1956 American classic Giant; and Lee Price concluded his magnificent Phil Moore exploration with Part 3:  Phil Moore is Top of the Charts!

The Golden Globes are set to air on Sunday evening and I will revise on Monday Morning as a result of my posting the MMD a day early as I sometimes do.  Lucille and I watched two more 2020/2021 films via streaming this past week and I reviewed The Devil’s Eye on blu ray to better prepare for my reading of Jim’s superlative essay. Continue Reading »