by Sam Juliano
The just-concluded Top 100 Science Fiction Countdown will always be the one project in the site’s history that will leave the most aching afterthought – it was after all staged during the most tragic period in the site’s tenure, and its maturation last Spring was one wrought with controversy and ever-changing parameters. In the end, it turned out to be remarkably successful, though as always legitimate questions could be raised about the numerical placements of a number of films, as well as the actual inclusions and omissions. Where this project really took flight was in the actually essays themselves. The writing was unceasingly first-rate – exhaustive, scholarly, eloquent and displaying an astonishing array of genre knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm. The Australian film writer extraordinaire Roderick Heath copped poll position honors for his countdown-leading ten essays, all spectacularly exhaustive and executed in his inimitable dense, scholarly, high-octane style . Heath is a horror-science fiction specialist, so focusing on this front for nearly four months produced some of the most spectacular essays one could hope to lay eyes on. His capstone pieces on Metropolis and Solaris from this moment forward must be seen as definitive. And yet, Mr. Heath was not remotely the only contributor who brought this blood, sweat and tears project to glorious fruition with top-drawer reviews. Robert Hornak, Stephen Mullen, Duane Porter, John Greco, John Grant, Lee Price, Brandie Ashe, Adam Ferenz, J. D. Lafrance, Sachin Gandhi, Aaron West, Pat Perry, Pierre de Plume, Jamie Uhler, Jaimie Grijalba, Marilyn Ferdinand, Anuk Bavkist, David Schleicher, Ed Howard, Pedro Silva, Christianne Benedict and of course our beloved Allan Fish (with seven re-publishings) brought all kinds of definitive expertise to their subjects, and a number of their individual posts could well be considered among the very best of this entire venture. Bob Clark, Joel Bocko and Jamie Uhler collaborated on a series of sensational podcasts that brought further appreciation to the genre, and provided discussions that could well be referenced many years forward. And then of course…….there is…..Dean Treadway. This amazing film lover and superlative writer wrote several essays, but it was his grand finale – a staggering 12,000 word essay on the film that finished in the Number 1 position – 2001: A Space Odyssey that moved mountains. It was one of the greatest of all film presentations and a fitting capper to this grand four month journey. The 2001 essay also drew the most comments in the countdown with a whopping total of 45, but this was rather fitting.
Many thanks to John Grant, Jamie Uhler, Jon Warner, Duane Porter, Tony d’Ambra, Frank Gallo, Peter M., Adam Ferenz, Robert Hornak, Tim McCoy, Aaron West, John Greco, J. D. Lafrance, Maurizio Roca, Joel Bocko, Bob Clark, Pat Perry, Dean Treadway, Marilyn Ferdinand, Celeste Fenster and Ricky Chinigo especially for their prolific daily contributions to the daily comment sections for the countdown which allowed for some fabulous threads, gloriously contentious or of the pat on the back variety. Page views throughout the project were uniformly solid, if not quite spectacular. I have to say that Jon Warner is an amazing guy. He took a pass on writing essays this time around due to uncertainty with his full grasp of this particular genre, but that did not stop him from placing comments on the vast majority of the post, much as he has for each and every countdown. Thank you my friend!
The countdown is dedicated to Allan Fish, our incomparable friend who taught all of us what it meant to live and breathe something we were passionate about and never to approach anything half hearted. He will continue to inspire us all to the end of our own days.
So where do we go from here? Are there any other countdowns to be staged at Wonders in the Dark? We’ve now completed six (6) film community genre countdowns -musicals, comedies, western, romances, childhood films and now science fiction. Prior to that we had single writers doing horror, film noir and animation and before that Allan staged his landmark decade countdowns. Last year we nearly moved forward with the Greatest War Films Countdown before we settled on science-fiction. It is possible we can now pick up the war films project again. But I will discuss the various possibilities with the Wonders brass – Jamie Uhler, Jim Clark, Bob Clark, Maurizio Roca and Tony d’Ambra over the coming months. The science-fiction countdown was not perfect, this is undeniable, but I am again buoyed by the enthusiasm and high quality it produced. It is hard to close the doors after such an effort, though at age 62 I am wondering how much longer I can administrate such demanding efforts, and whether such efforts should take priority over other aspects of my life at this stage. I did myself write four (4) essays for this past countdown, but that number was far less than what I had produced in the previous genre countdowns where I was always the top producer in terms of total essays. Allan’s terminal health was the reason I backed off – I frankly lost desire during this tragic time, though like many others who are feeling the same way there continued writing has therapeutic value, as I am now finding with my Caldecott Medal Contender series.
The World Series match-up has now been set: Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago Cubs. What a contest that will be! And we are two weeks away from the biggest contest of all, though I think we all know now who will be taking up residence in the White House. And Halloween is only a week away. I trust our horror film fans are in full swing by now. Many of us at the site have been sharing via e mail our newest finds on that front, as well as numerous worthwhile re-viewings.
Lucille and I watch two films in theaters this week, though the many openings insure we’ll be seeing more in the coming days as well. We watched:
Moonlight ***** (Saturday night) Angelika Film Center
Denial **** 1/2 (Sunday night) Edgewater multiplex
MOONLIGHT has received the strongest reviews of any film released in 2016, and in my opinion the film has fully lived up all the hype and expectations. This is the second gay-themed film of the past month that I have awarded five stars to, though in this case it is clear that just about everyone is doing the same. Set in Florida and spanning two decades the film features a shattering coming of age story, bullying, a dysfunctional family and finding oneself amid the drug war years. Superbly shot and written, the film leaves you gutted. Amazing work from first-time director Barry Jenkins.
Based on the acclaimed book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, DENIAL recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s legal battle for historical truth against David Irving, who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, the burden of proof is on the accused, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred. Though the film received positive reviews in large measure, some thought it dull and unemotional. I completely disagree, found it riveting and have nothing but the highest praise for Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall. First-rate courtroom drama.
Next week I will round-up the at-home horror film viewings on Halloween Eve (mischief night) I have seen several this past week and will be adding to that generously over the next seven days.