Archive for February, 2015

nwf 1

by Allan Fish

(UK 2014 75m) DVD2

I peered into hell

p  Sally Angel, Brett Ratner, Stephen Frears  d  Andre Singer  w  Lynette Singer  ph  Arik Leibovich, Stephen Miller  m  Nicholas Singer  narrated by  Helena Bonham Carter

On showing Andre Singer’ potent documentary on Channel 4 the broadcaster made the decision to show the film without interruption from commercials.  It was a deference to the subject and there had been a precedent; the Holocaust episode of The World at War was also shown without breaks.  Breaks in 1974 would have just been one break of four minutes with less offensive adverts.  In 2015, we we’d cut from the emotional heartbreak of a survivor’s interview to cut to an old Scottish man with bad sight shearing his sheepdog to demonstrate he should have gone to Specsavers.  In the seventy years since the events depicted the survivors still cannot forget.  In the forty years since The World at War, the world millions fought and died for has sold its soul to crass commercialism. (more…)


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john grant

With our terrific friend, the talented author John Grant (Paul Barnett) and his wife Pam at Joey’s in Hewitt



HOPE AND GLORY director John Boorman at Film Forum on Wednesday night for a Q & A of his fabulous new film QUUEN AND COUNTRY


by Sam Juliano

Allan Fish is back, and this is cause for celebration for all of us here at Wonders in The Dark!  Physically he is rebounding wonderfully, and he is back on the movie trail.  The very best news in a very long time, and a time to give thanks!!

The Oscar show was a mixed bag.  Birdman is a very good film for sure, but definitely not more deserving than Boyhood nor Selma, and the results of the entire marathon presentation were so predictable.  I managed to win my own Oscar pool at our annual party attended by over 30, with 21 of 24 correct predictions, but the year wasn’t very challenging.  The best aspects of the show were the speeches by Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore and the screenwriter of The Imitation Game, and Lady Gaga’s buffo rendition of the songs from The Sound of Music.

It was great to connect with my great friend, site regular and author John Grant (Paul Barnett) and his lovely wife Pam at Joey’s in Hewitt, New Jersey on Friday night for a chat at the musical show performed by singer and guitarist Gene Focarelli.  Just a wonderful time with dear friends, with all but Melanie in attendance.  the food was fine, and the music -song standards from the 60’s and 70’s- excellent.

We all got to see renowned film director John Boorman at the screening of his new film Queen and Country on Wednesday night.  The 82 year-old director, offered up some fabulous deadpan humor during his introduction and Q & A after the showing.  We had seen his masterpiece Hope and Glory two nights earlier on Monday.  On Saturday night we saw a double feature in the Charles Laughton Film Festival, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables:   (more…)

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iaros 1

by Allan Fish

(UK 1947 92m) DVD2

A score of roller-skates 

p  Henry Cornelius  d  Robert Hamer  w  Angus MacPhail, Henry Cornelius, Robert Hamer  novel  Arthur la Bern  ph  Douglas Slocombe  ed  Michael Truman  m  Georges Auric  art  Hal Mason, Duncan Sutherland

Googie Withers (Rose Sandigate), John McAllum (Tommy Swann), Jack Warner (Det. Sgt.Fothergill), Edward Chapman (John Sandigate), Jimmy Hanley (Whitey), Sidney Tafler (Morry Hyams), Susan Shaw (Vi Sandigate), Patricia Plunkett (Doris Sandigate), Betty Ann Davies (Sadie Hyams), John Slater (Lou Hyams), Alfie Bass (Dicey Perkins), Vida Hope (Mrs Wallis), Hermione Baddeley (Doss house keeper), Edie Martin (Mrs Watson), Michael Howard (Slopey Collins), Meier Tzelniker (Sollie Hyams),

Welcome to the battered, bombed-out remnants of London (Bethnal Green to be precise) in the aftermath of the war; a time when the party of VE Day was giving way to the decade long hangover of further rationing, organised crime and poverty not worthy of so-called victors.  It’s also a time when Britain was going the way of Hollywood and entering the world of noir; 1947 also brought They Made me a Fugitive, an underrated little film in its own right, and the immortal Brighton Rock.  For years, Sunday was dismissed as dated, like an extended EastEnders for the 1940s; indeed, one can imagine old stalwarts like Lou Beale, Ethel Skinner and Dot Cotton growing up in environs just like these here.  It should not have been so easily dismissed. (more…)

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© 2015 by James Clark

There is a scene, in Kubrick’s film, Barry Lyndon (1975), which offers, within the work’s encompassing an avalanche of distemper, a moment of palpable equilibrium. A British soldier in Germany during the Seven Years War (1756-1763), namely, Raymond Barry, disguised as an officer in the course of deserting (hopefully to the neutral haven of Holland), encounters a young woman living in a farm cottage nearby and left alone with her child due to her husband’s having been swept up in the chaotic warfare. Barry, still redolent of his sweet Irish ways, is accorded a meal and then a few days of love with the keeper of the home fires, a transaction in bloom with gentle recognition of the fragility of existence. “It must be hard for you to be alone.”/ “It is… It must be very danger [the discourse sharing what English and German each can provide] for you to be in the War…” Before the encounter our protagonist is shown enlivened by his escape on horseback—a voice-over, by a narrator having heard of his misadventure after the fact, declaring (with Barry’s optics to confirm the point), “The open road… he vowed never again to fall from the rank of a gentleman…” The noble tone of the couple’s first dinner together (at a table bathed in golden candlelight enshrouded by pitch darkness) is sustained by her pristine question, “Would you like to stay with me for a few days?” and the simple touching of each other’s hand. Then he asks a question—innocent enough, but loaded with the volatility being glossed over by the flourish about constantly inhabiting a lofty rank—“Is the baby a boy or a girl?” In the eighteenth century that would mean to say (flying in the face of the ready confluence between them, just revealed), “Is this person active or passive?” The young mother tells him, “He’s a boy…” And despite the presumably blissful union onstream, as they share a poignant farewell and a kiss informed by strong and true affection, the keynote of action, with all its deathtraps, comes down like a cold, thick fog on that sparkling day. (more…)

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john boorman


by Sam Juliano

Frigid temperatures that have dropped to below zero with the wind chill factored in have given those of us in the northern New Jersey/metropolitan area the coldest numbers in over two decades.  Snow mounds still on the ground since the past snowfalls seemed destined to hang around for quite a bit more the way things stand.  Of course, our issues are relatively minor when you compare then to what our good friends in the midwest have had to endure over the last three months.

I have been spending some time watching episodes of old classic television series as a result of some pollings we’ve conducted on Facebook over the last months.  I’ve watched some shows from The Time Tunnel, Hogan’s Heroes, F Troop, Family Affair, Leave it to Beaver and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.  They have brought back so many precious memories.  I plan next to watch some Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, while continuing with the aforementioned shows.

We’ve attended the John Boorman Festival at the Film Forum this week, taking in four films (with two more planned fro the coming week) over three days.  Boorman will be making a personal appearance on Wednesday before his new film QUEEN AND COUNTRY screens.  We have already bought our tickets.  We also watched the new release of THE KINGSMAN, though the showing is late Sunday night, and I will have to come back to this thread in the morning to revise with a rating: (more…)

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hard to be a god


by Sam Juliano

The Caldecott Medal and Honor books were announced on Monday morning, February 2nd.   Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle took the gold, while a record-breaking six (6) honor books were named:  Lauren Castillo’s Nana in the City, Jennifer Bryant and Melissa Sweet’s The Right Word, Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpre’s The Noisy Paint Box, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam and Dave Dig A Hole, Yuyi Morales’ Viva Frida and Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer.  The seemingly heavily-favored The Farmer and the Clown wound up will no acknowledgement.  I was very pleased with the results, even if like everyone else some personal favorites didn’t make it.

Lucille and entire brood accompanied me to Manhattan’s Books of Wonder on Sunday afternoon for a panel discussion involving four author/illustrators.  Elizabeth Rose Stanton, the author and illustrator of Henny, Toni Yuly (Night Owl), Matt De La Pena (Last Stop on  Market Street) and Migy (And Away We Go).

We saw two films in theaters, one an Academy Award nominated feature-length documentary, and the other a nearly three hour black and white Russian film.  We saw: (more…)

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 © 2015 by James Clark

       A likely response to Paul Thomas Anderson’s film, Inherent Vice (2014), a rendition of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, from 2009, under the same title, would be to maintain that the principals have gorged a bit on the peculiar impertinence of California—specifically, LA—style. The year is 1970 and although the whole population has not been concussed with billiard cues this is a shipment of players that gives outsiders the distinct idea that the locals have enlisted in a gigantic wave of franchising their presumably amazing stories.

But though Pynchon is a resolved and deft student of entropy, his Inherent Vice is far more than that. And Anderson’s film copiously demonstrates that he and his vehicle have bought into that more comprehensive and vastly more difficult to comprehend motive. There are features of Pynchon’s text broaching subtleties and sophistications exponentially transcending the addled dialogue of those acting out. (For example: “‘You need to find true love, Doc.’ Actually, he thought, I’ll settle for finding my way through this. His fingers, with a mind of their own, began to creep toward the plastic hedge. Maybe if he searched through it long enough, late enough into the night, he’d find something that might help—some tiny forgotten scrap of his life he didn’t even know was missing, something that would make all the difference now.”)  Anderson resorts to a voice-over in the person of Sortilege, a woman friend of the protagonist, Larry Sportello (whom everyone addresses as Doc, due to his famously finagling the partners of a medical clinic to rent out an office for his private investigation business [but perhaps also due to his willingness to provide solace]); but her discursive energies, heavily laced with astrological rubrics, do not coincide with those of Pynchon. So it is that our starter’s (namely Pynchon’s) arsenal of other pitches must carry much of the thematic load here. That includes inventively exuberant proper and surnames and a perfect wave momentousness as to veins of true gold in the repository of art predating the (by some) supposed renaissance of those self-beatified diggers of the 1960s.   (more…)

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Screen capture from TIMBUKTU, an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign language film

by Sam Juliano

First off I want to apologize for my tardiness in getting to all the previous week’s comments under the Monday Morning Diary of January 26.  Today I will get to them all, including the news ones under this thread.  The past week was hectic, as I attempted to address as many of the remaining books that I thought deserved discussion in the Caldecott Medal Contender series.  This arduous task took up most of my time.  I still want to review several of the remaining books, but I will do this at a leisurely pace, since the Caldecott race officially ends this morning at around 9:00 EST, with the winning Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert and Belpre medals and honor books set to be announced at the ALA winter meeting in Chicago.  I probably will do one review a week, though this will depend on what time I can commit to it.  (there were about a dozen books that I simply ran out of time to cover, but doing them after the awards is just as fine the way I see it).  I want to thank all those who supported this series from the outset, and gave of their own time to click on ‘likes’ and to comment on many or most of the 51 entries that posted since early November.  John Grant, Laurie Buchanan, Frank Gallo, Peter, Jim Clark and Sharon Lovejoy have been absolutely extraordinary, though many others including Tim McCoy, Judy Geater, Pat Perry, Celeste Fenster, Sachin Gandhi, Kimrap (from China), Joel Bocko and David Noack have been invaluable as well.  Thanks to you all for your enthusiasm, and for finding the supreme artistry in field of remarkable riches.  I have never written so much in such a limited time window, and the experience allowed me to exhaustively consider the field, while giving me an outlet at a time of intense and unconscionable personal grief.  Yes, Wonders in the Dark remains primarily a film site, and this focus will reassert itself over the coming months, but books, music and theater will continue to have a voice in what was always planned as an arts site from the time the place opened up back in 2008. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.  

-Edgar Allan Poe

A model of word economy and one of literature’s most celebrated works of psychosis and depravity, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart is probably America’s greatest short story writer’s most famous story of all.  It is usually the first one taken up in Junior High classes, and the one that regularly makes its way into literature textbooks.  Though it is as macabre as some of the author’s equally venerated stories (most especially The Cask of Amontillado, The Black Cat and The Fall of the House of Usher) it is distinguished  by the fact that every word contributes to the purpose of moving the story forward.

6-7 (1)

Much like several entries in the Roger Corman film series based on Poe’s works, a continuing children’s picture book series by Jennifer Adams and Ron Stucki attributes its creation to the inspiration from the respective work, in this case The Tell-Tale Heart.  The new book in the ‘Baby Step’ Lit series, Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart is actually a sequel to Edgar Gets Ready For Bed, and it owes just as much to Poe’s iconic poem “The Raven” as it does to the short story.  Adams makes no bones that her book is aimed at the pre-K set and is intended to teach a valuable life’s lesson while affording its juvenile readers their very first introduction to a writer they will be examining later in the more advanced grades.  Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart doesn’t overdo the Poe references, rather it throws out a few characters that makes the connection with the literary counterparts, with the goal of developing in the readers and interest in literature at the earliest age. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The people of Christchurch, New Zealand considered their former commonwealth’s Queen Elizabeth as someone who was strong, powerful and of course regal.  They thought the same things about a resident silvery brown elephant seal who against all odds swam in the “sweet, shallow” waters of Avon River that ran through the center of the city.  When she wore herself out she’s use her flippers to access the shore,  and nap in the sunshine, cooling herself by flipping big clumps of wet mud onto her back.  She is soon befriended by a boy named Michael who looks for this wondrous mammal enroute and on the way home from school every day, often calling out “Elizabeth!  Hello, Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas!  Are you there?”  When he was lucky he’d be recipient to a snort and a look from her dark brown eyes.  But then things in Christchurch got hairy, when Elizabeth ventured beyond the riverbank to dangerously stretch out across a two-lane road, much appreciating the warmth from above and below.  After one car swerves into a rock and another barely misses her back flippers, she slides down the riverbank, belly-flopping into the water.  But the near-miss sets in motion a story of watery transience that finally ends on a happy note.  The renowned long-distance swimmer and adult author Lynne Cox teamed up with the Caldecott Medal winning illustrator Brian Floca to bring the emotional and inspiring story loosely based on a real-life situation to exquisite fruition in Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas. (more…)

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