by Sam Juliano
The past week’s spotlight event was staged on the fifth floor penthouse of the management building at Simmons College in Boston on The Fenway, just a stone’s throw away from the famed baseball stadium. Or maybe just a bit further than that. The 90 minute panel discussion “Why did that book win?” was moderated by longtime Horn Book editor-in-chief Roger Sutton. His co-panelists included executive editor Martha Parravano, Lesley University children’s literature professor Julie Roach and Kirkus Reviews book critic Vicky Smith, all of whom vigorously promoted a spirited discussion centering around the recent awards given out by the American Library Association. Ms. Roach expressed gleeful surprise that children’s author extraordinaire Kate Di Camillo’s profusely illustrated Flora & Ulysses won the Newbery Medal despite the general aversion to books that veer away from the generally all-prose format. A subsequent question from the audience later on addressed the confusion that sometimes emanates from the indecision of whether to honor words or pictures in a book that is seemingly divided equally, as was the case with the Caldecott Honor book Bill Peet: An Autobiography in 1990. Mr. Sutton pointed to a similar perception in 2008 when Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott Medal despite the marked division of prose and pictures.
While Ms. Smith was delighted with Brian Floca’s Caldecott Medal triumph for Locomotive (“the author is no longer a bridesmaid”) there was some disappointment with some of the omissions, a sentiment that prompted Sutton to quip that the title of the discussion should have more in tune with “why certain book’s didn’t win?” Sutton bemoaned the failure of Kirkpatrick Hill’s Bo at Ballard Creek to achieve recognition in the awards process, while Ms. Perravano was amazed and disappointed that Cynthia Kadohata and Julia Kuo’s National Book Award winner The Thing About Luck didn’t figure in the final Newbery line-up. The panel addressed the matter of certain books that win the subsidiary awards (Pura Belpre, Coretta Scott King) but fail to win Caldecott or Newbery mention because the perception is that they have their own category. This has always been the mind-set of the Oscars, where a nomination or win in the animated film and/or foreign language category always always results in being passed over in the major categories. One spirited questioner talked about the specific perceptions and expectations of certain books aimed at a minority audience, and how those perceptions might be different among a more general reading audience. Another commenter, an artist and designer, appeared to intimate that some of the committee members should have a more artistic background, and that such a reform would result in different books winning the awards. This was not a position that others in the group (myself included) shared, and the panel and another commenter with an artistic background argued against such a narrow qualification.
With every panel member serving on past committees that have chosen Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, and Pura Belpre winners, there was a long and intricate discussion of the painstaking ways books are studied and chosen, and how all members are sworn to secrecy as far as divulging specifics. Coffee and refreshments were offered to the nearly 100 people who showed up on a relatively mild evening in Beantown. Lucille, Danny and I had spend the afternoon in and around the Faneuil Hall marketplace, with Danny an enthusiastic visitor at Newbery Comics, an impressive book, DVD, blu ray and comic store off the outdoor strip. We ate in the Bell in Hand Tavern, which is touted as the “oldest tavern in the United States (1795)” and where we enjoyed burgers and eggplant fries. (Heck once in while we can manage that kind of food. Ha!). The nearly four hour ride home the same night (mostly rain-drenched) brought us to our door a little after midnight. All in all a memorable time was hat on this quick trip.
My meeting with Roger and a corresponding photo appeared here in The Horn Book:
Lucille and I (Sammy for all the Hitchcocks) took in the Oscar-nominated OMAR on Saturday night in Montclair, and managed four films in The Complete Hitchcock Festival at the Film Forum. Three of the four films were seen in succession on Sunday.
Omar **** 1/2 (Saturday night) Bow Tie Cinemas
Blackmail *** 1/2 (Friday night) Hitchcock at Film Forum
The Lodger (1927) **** 1/2 (Sunday) Hitchcock at Film Forum
North by Northwest (1959) ***** (Sunday) Hitchcock at Film Forum
To Catch a Thief (1955) *** 1/2 (Sunday) Hitchcock at Film Forum
Young Sammy and I took on Hitchcock with veracity over the weekend, watching NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE LODGER and TO CATCH A THIEF in succession on Sunday at the Film Forum. As always, the wildly implausible but wholly exhilarating NORTH BY NORTHWEST provided one of the most entertaining cinematic experiences ever, even being watched for the umteenth time. But this was Sammy’s first viewing of the 1959 classic, and to my extreme delight he talked about it all the way home–the Mount Rushmore climax, the crop duster sequence and the entire wrong man scenario. The color cinematography by Robert Burks is as ever astounding, and Bernard Herrmann’s music is magnificent. Oh yes, there’s the suave Cary Grant, one of the greatest of actors, and that sexy ambiguous blonde Eva Marie Saint and a superb James Mason in support. THE LODGER could well be Hitch’s greatest silent, and a viewing of the pristine BFI print on the big screen made me fall in love with this atmospheric work yet again. A moody film where sex rules over the identity of the murder, the film is tinged with German Expressionism and some eerie nightime scenes, and contains a great matinee turn by Ivor Novello.
The very best review I have ever read on THE LODGER was posted at ONLY THE CINEMA by the incomparable Ed Howard:
TO CATCH A THIEF is not one of Hitch’s strongest films, but in ways it is irresistible. The French Riviera is a great place to make a film, and cinematographer extraordinaire Robert is on top of his game again with some gorgeous lensing. Grant is on board again, as is a ravishing Grace Kelly.
The silent BLACKMAIL, about a rape and murder and some left behind evidence, was filmed at the same time as the talkie version, but the rich BFI restored print makes quite a case for its stand alone worth.
The Palestinian OMAR (directed by Hany Abu-Assad) is a tension-packed thriller about trust and betrayal, with a romantic sub-plot. Actually, one of the film’s creators said this week it is more a love story than a political one. It is wholly riveting, and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
I have re-posted last week’s links with a few revisions:
At Tuesdays with Laurie, the indomitable Ms. Buchanan offers up another provocative post: http://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2014/02/18/under-over-through/
Head over to FilmsNoir.net pronto to check out Tony d’Ambra’s fantastic Top 25 film noirs in a tremendous post: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/filmsnoir-nets-top-25-films-noir.html
At Noirish the exceedingly gifted and prolific author John Grant has posted a splendid takedown of 1962’s little-seen “Stark Fear”: http://noirencyclopedia.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/stark-fear-1962/
Stephen Mullen (Weeping Sam) has declared “Inside Llewyn Davis” as the best film of 2013 and one of the Coens’ most formidable works at The Listening Ear: http://listeningear.blogspot.com/2014/02/inside-llewyn-davis.html
Dean Treadway continues his fabulous annual cinematic coverage with an in-depth look at 1927 at Filmacability: http://filmicability.blogspot.com/2014/02/1927-year-in-review.html
Judy Geater has launched her new series on Douglas Sirk at Movie Classics with a terrific essays on “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?”: http://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/has-anybody-seen-my-gal-douglas-sirk-1952/
John Greco has written a superb review of Luchino Visconti’s extraordinary “Bellissima” at Twenty Four Frames: http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/belissima-1952-visconti-luchino/
At Scribbles and Ramblings Sachin Gandhi has the South American Movie World Cup pairings up for your perusal: http://likhna.blogspot.com/2014/01/south-american-films.html
At Overlook’s Corridor Jaimie Grijalba is up to “screenplays” in the continuing examination of his annual ‘Frank Awards’ given to the best films and components: http://overlookhotelfilm.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/frank-awards-2013-screenplays/
Pat Perry’s latest post at Doodad Kind of Town superbly addresses “Philomena” and “Inside Llewyn Davis”: http://doodadkindoftown.blogspot.com/2014/01/surprise-surprise.html
At Dee Dee’s ‘Ning’ network site she has posted some spectacular and rare Hitchcock posters in honor of the Film Forum’s great Festival on the prolific icon: http://filmnoire.ning.com/forum/topics/darkness-before-dawn-takes-a-peek-at-foreign-posters-and
Jon Warner has posted a fantastic essay on the documentary masterwork “The Act of Killing” at Films Worth Watching: http://filmsworthwatching.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-act-of-killing-2012-directed-by.html
At FilmsNoir.net Allan Fassions has written a superb essay on 1955’s “Dementia” for the site’s erstwhile proprietor Tony d’Ambra: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/alan-fassioms-on-dementia-1955-beatnik-noir.html
And speaking of Fassions, his site is now the latest inclusion on the WitD sidebar. It is called “Stranger on the 3rd Floor” and it looks like a fabulous place to visit: http://strangeronthe3rdfloor.wordpress.com/
At The Last Lullaby filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman is leading up with his 12 Best Films of 2013: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2014/01/my-top-twelve-films-of-2013.html
The great Canadian artist Terrill Welch is leading up at her sublime Creativepotager’s blog with a post titled “One Brush Stroke After Another”: http://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/one-brushstroke-after-another/
As ever, Samuel Wilson is posting superb reviews that may have esaped the radar. His latest great piece to that end at Mondo 70 is an essay on “Greed in the Sun”: http://mondo70.blogspot.com/2014/02/greed-inthe-sun-cent-mille-dollars-au.html
Patricia Hamilton has written a tremendous book review on Anish Majumdar’s “The Isolation Door” at Patricia’s Wisdom, and the author chimed in: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2014/02/the-isolation-door-a-novel-anish-majumdar/
Shubhajit Lahiri has penned a provocative capsule on the Argentinian film “Wake Up Love” at Cinemascope: http://cliched-monologues.blogspot.com/2014/02/wake-up-love-despabilate-amor-1996.html
David Schleicher has penned a fabulous review of the Iranian “The Past” at The Schleicher Spin: http://theschleicherspin.com/2014/02/09/secrets-and-lies-in-the-past/
Brandie Ashe has posted a wonderful post on Shirley Temple at True Classics: http://trueclassics.net/2014/02/11/remembering-shirley-temple/
Mike Norton has penned some superlative pieces on Hip Hop at Enter the Screen: http://enterthescreen.wordpress.com/
Joel Bocko posts about the screen-capping he’s managed over the past year at The Dancing Image: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-final-watchlistscreencap-some-notes.html
Roderick Heath brings unprecedented scholarship to Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” at Ferdy-on-Films: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2014/ghostbusters-1984/21071/
J.D. LaFrance leads up with a terrific review on “Neuromancer” at Radiator Heaven: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2014/02/neuromancer.html
Drew McIntosh has again offered up a fascinating post at The Blue Vial, showcasing works by Walerian Borowczyk and David Lynch: http://thebluevial.blogspot.com/2014/01/end-of-road.html