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Archive for January, 2014

by Sam Juliano

The great irony in the early-age pink lemonade picture book Flora and the Flamingo is that boys seem to like it just as much as the girls.  This is one of the year’s most innovative works, one where the generous construction of interactive flaps enhances the movement in a book that explores grace and agility in a dynamic, decidedly cinematic setting.  This wholly unique wordless book is the creation of Molly Idle, a former Dreamworks animator, and proper negotiation of the flaps is comparable to a run through a series of animation cells.

Flora and the Flamingo records the chance meeting of a pudgy little girl in a bathing suit and a sensual and agile flamingo, that immediately develops into a relationship formed on imitation and dance.  And a good deal of flattery that isn’t immediately acknowledged.   Like all budding picture book relationships (one may recall Chris Raschka’s Yo Yes!) there is initial suspicion, but soon enough their is some chemistry and rapport, and a shared dance that showcases mutual balletic grace, culled largely from studied application. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Picture book lovers who hanker for something unique in their biographies will find a treasure trove of lyrical prose and magnificent splintered beige illustrations that bring just the right touch of humanist underpinning in On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, with pictures by Vladimir Radunsky.  While Radunsky’s noted  flair for irreverence is largely held at bay by Berne’s rightful desire to give young reader’s a beginner’s course on the book’s venerated subject, there is a disarming tone in these marvelous illustrations by this master stylist that will leave art lovers in a sure state of ecstasy.   But in what is surely a splendid wedding of words and images it is Berne who sets the celebratory tone at the start: “Over 100 years ago, as the stars swirled in the sky, as the Earth circled the sun, as the March winds blew through a little town by a river, a baby boy was born.  His parents named him Albert” with a striking emphasis on red oversized typography that stands apart from the equally engaging black lettering. (more…)

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inside-llewyn-davis-1

 © 2014 by James Clark

 Two folksingers, Jean and Llewyn, at a time (1961) and place (Greenwich Village) supposedly welcoming to their calling, are in a coffee house discussing her imminent abortion. She’s married to Jim and theirs is a musical partnership beginning to be noticed for their undemanding lyricism. Llewyn, on the other hand, was partnered with Mike Timlin (not, perhaps, a successful baseball relief pitcher), until the latter committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. That defunct duo’s one and only album, “If We Had Wings,” was not without generous hooks and telling harmonies. Of late Llewyn’s been a soloist, and Jean, who tells him a bit earlier, “Fuck you, you asshole! Everything you touch turns to shit! I miss Mike!” [Perhaps he was the reliever, picking up the starter prone to losing his stuff], asks, “Do you ever think about the future?” Llewyn calmly retorts that her notion of progress being the suburbs and kids (unequivocally from Jim) is not for him. “It’s a little careerist and a little sad.

    It’s, as noticed, 1961, and, across town, Holly Golightly, in the film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, lives with her ginger cat (“no name slob”). She maintains, “We [namely, she and No Name] belong to nobody…” and, “Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of…” She finds that a visit to the jewellery emporium, Tiffany, always picks her up with its “quiet and proudness.” Llewyn sponges off of (among many others) Mike’s parents, Upper West Side academics. On one occasion he comes by (dropping off their ginger cat which he had carried, lost and then hunted for around town after having it locked out of their place) as they are getting started with a dinner party involving a few PhDs—among them an Early Music expert. (more…)

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Video by Melanie Juliano

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by Sam Juliano

We inherited two amazon parrots four years ago.  Through suggestions posed by the kids we named the older one “Roy” and the much younger one, “Blue.”  Though we still haven’t ascertained if they are male or female we can safely figure they are probably both the same sex, since they are housed in the same cage.  What have we learned about this species of bird during this time?  Well, after the novelty of  bringing them in through the door, and situating their cage in the basement they have been largely ignored by our five kids who have for a very long time operated on animal overload, what with two labs, one pug and five cats living in various locations under our roof.  “Roy” says “hello” repeatedly in intervals, while Blue makes screeching sounds, and hasn’t yet developed the ability to ape human syllables.  They are loud, often annoying, and when you get close to the cage the far more vicious Roy flies at you hoping to get a piece of your flesh.  They are high maintenance as far as cleaning around the cage regularly, and they have exasperated many a guest in our basement who like taking in their movies in a quiet environment.  Yet, they could still be fun interacting with, and “Blue” is a particularly beautiful specimen of the species. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Adorned in colorful marquee style on the star-bordered end papers of Yuri Morales’ spectacularly-popular Nino Wrestles the World are placards of some truly fearsome and nightmarish foes, who derive from Mexican folklore:

“La Momia De Guanajuato” was dug up from his tomb at Santa Paula cemetery; he has been chasing people since 1865.  He hides out at the Guanajuato City Museum.  His birth name is Dr. Remigio Leroy.  His Lucha style: He likes to bite.

“La Llorona” is a famous Mexican ghost.  Her terrifying cry echoes through the night sending shivering children under the covers.  Her battle cry is !Ayyyyyy, mis hijos!  Her Lucha style is taking children away to make them her own.

“Cabeza Olmeca” is sculpted from basult rock, hardheaded since the rise of the Olmec civilization in 1400 BCE.  His temperament is one of mystery and his Lucha style is ‘head first.’

El Extraterrestre is a space explorer, first reported hovering over the earth in his flying saucer in 1947.  His secret desire is to see the world and his Lucha style is abduction.

El Chamuco (the Devil) is powerful and rebellious, and he likes to tempt people into doing bad deeds.  He has a ‘fiery’ temperament and his Lucha style is placing obstacles and causing downfalls. (more…)

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Laurie Buchanan wins prestigious award

by Sam Juliano

Out very dear friend, the gifted mountain of effervescent and good will, the irrepressible midwesterner and erstwhile holistic practitioner Laurie Buchanan was a big winner this past week of a huge honor at Sonia Marsh’s “Gutsy Living Site”:

http://soniamarsh.com/2014/01/winner-of-the-december-2013-my-gutsy-story-is-laurie-buchanan.html

Laurie’s ‘Gutsy Story’ which was selected by voters of the five that were nominated is titled “I Thought I was stupid, but now I have a PhD” will be published in the site’s ‘Gutsy Story’ anthology in the Fall of 2014!  Congratulations to Laurie, who has been achieving all kinds of professional milestones as of late!  More on that at a future date.

My Caldecott Medal series will be running until next Monday morning, when I will have a full list of predictions and round-up of the remaining books that I won’t be able to cover over the coming week in advance of the January 27th announcements by the American Library Association.  This past week the site received an incredible honor when acclaimed illustrator Carin Berger left an appreciative comment (two in fact) under my review of her extraordinary book Stardines Swim Across the Sky and other poems.  The wonderful Ms. Berger (author and illustrator of the fabulous The Perfect Day) is the second illustrator after Aaron Becker (Journey) to acknowledge the series, and I can only say “wow” to that!  Certainly it is the ultimate honor to a writer to have his subject respond, and in such glowing terms.  Thank you so much Carin Berger!  And best wishes to you on Monday!  Hours later a third illustrator, the distinguished Bob Staake, creater of Bluebird weighed in with his fabulous reaction to the review here on Facebook.  And late yesterday a fourth illustrator, Yuyi Morales who created Nino Wrestles the World responded favorably on Facebook. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The very first film I ever saw in my very first cinema class remains vivid to me to the present day.  The class was “Introduction to Cinema,”  the teacher was Professor Anthony Esposito and the institution was Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey.  The film, unbeknownst to me at the time is a classic of the cinema, and a film I have revisited countless times since that first viewing some 40 years ago.  Albert Lamorisee’s beloved The Red Balloon has continued to reach new generations through DVD and film festivals, and if anything its reputation has risen.  Mind you the film was venerated back in the year of its release, and it subsequently won an Academy Award for its story and screenplay by the director, but it’s timeless appeal and universality has made it a popular film for film classes and thematic analysis.  Apparently the film has also left a  lasting impression on picture book artists.

The first time I negotiated the extraordinary, wordless images in Bob Staake’s arresting picture book Bluebird I immediately envisioned The Red Balloon transferred to a new medium.  A young boy is befriended by a bluebird, who follows him to and from school, helps him to make friends, all the while forming a deep emotional and spiritual bond.  In Lamorisee’s film, the film’s title specter steadfastly clung to the young French boy at school, on the bus and even at his city apartment and church.  While Staake has taken the central idea of the book, and narratively follows the euphoria and heartbreak, he does transpose the settings to a vibrant and wonderfully congested midtown Manhattan with it’s markets, circus cars, cafes, fish markets, street vendors and the backdrop of the Empire State Building and high rises.  When disaster does strike in a Central Park setting, one recalls the the pursuit of young boys in narrow Paris alleys and the final destruction of the boy’s guardian angel on a hill. (more…)

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jaimetopwhateverby Jaime Grijalba.

2013 was a good year for movies, maybe not the best, and obviously not compared to something like 2012, that had many masterpieces under the names of ‘Amour’ (2012), ‘The Master’ (2012) and many others, while this year only has four masterpieces that I can count and right now I think that one of them might only be a part of a much larger masterpiece that will be finished next year. As always, my rules for elegibility for this list is that any movie that had its original premiere in 2013 is elegible, but something that was released this year but premiered in 2012 or 2011, doesn’t count. Bad luck, I guess, good movies do find their way into my schedule the year that they premiere thanks to many festivals and other showings that swarm Chile every now and then.

Also, a note on the products that might be elegible, I think that I haven’t said it enough times, anything is elegible, that counts for shorts, miniseries, tv movies, half-length features, direct to DVD movies, animations, everything counts and will be rated with the same strength as the other full length films. They are all audiovisual works released entirely in 2013 and they should count alongside the rest. Also, if there’s a review or something written about the movie in the list, there’ll be links to such writing. So, without much further ado, I shall show you my top 20 films of 2013. PS: Thanks to Bob Clark for the header image, great work as always. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Horace Pippin (1888-1946) was an African-American painter, who, faced with discrimination and segregation, taught himself the skills that brought him great renown and critical acclaim.  Pippin served in World War I, sustaining a serious injury that cost him the use of his right arm.  After the war he worked to rehabilitate it and began to draw.  He didn’t actually complete his first oil painting until he was 40 years old, but from that point on he proceeded to make his mark as an artist, stating simply “I paint it…exactly the way I see it.  After he was awarded the French Cross of War and the American Purple Heart he spent three years on his first painting, The End of the War: Starting Home, which provided therapy for his body and soul.

His life is the subject of a resplendent picture book by the duo that collaborated on the Caldecott Honor book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams: Jen Bryant and illustrator Melissa Sweet.  As distinguished as that biography is, they have topped it with A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, a book of vibrant color blocks, with various motifs from Pippin’s actual compositions.   The book is a veritable feast for the eyes – done in watercolor, gouache and mixed media – one that entices you to caress by hand some of Ms. Sweet’s painting accouterments and multi-panel tapestries.  As the book’s title would imply, the color red is crucial in the visual scheme.  It is used for emphasis and rich ornamentation, yet as the story progresses it’s also thematically relevant. (more…)

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