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Archive for November 25th, 2018

by Sam Juliano

If Terence Malick signed on to make a movie for Pixar the result would be the cinematic equivalent of the Fan Brothers’ rapturous Ocean Meets Sky, a picture book with pronounced metaphysical heft.  There is of course an infinite implication in the book’s central proposition, which suspends the physical properties that govern the fish in the sea and the animals and castles on the land.  With fantastical end papers and inside cover, the latter with gold embossed figures on dark blue, Ocean Meets Sky’s mise en scene plumbs the furthest reach of the imagination, a place where rules have yielded to celestial anarchy, where the mind has erased all previous conceptions with Lewis Carroll-styled aplomb.  The acclaimed creators of The Night Gardener and The Antlered Ship, two previous Caldecott Medal contenders, Eric and Terry Fan, have populated the pages of their wondrous work with breathtaking images, done in graphite and colored digitally daring readers to discover any place on Earth or within the confines of the mind’s eye to find anything more eye-popping or spectacular.  To that end their latest work, resplendent and exhilarating even by their own standards is one of 2018’s most splendorous achievements and by any barometer of measurement a major player in the Caldecott race.

After a striking title page spread with a compass configuration and the boy and his mom at the seashore, Finn, like the author Alan Say in the deeply-poignant Caldecott Medal winner Grandfather’s Journey treasures the relationship he had with the beloved family patriarch.  One morning as the intrepid youngster looks out his bedroom window in a house along the sea he recalls his granddad’s one-time beckoning, “It’s a good day for sailing.”   A toy boat, a framed photo and a sea cap suggest the foundation of a story that is ripe to be re-told.  In a brown-tinted tapestry Finn remembers his go-teed mentor who remembered a place where the ocean meets the sky and in a present day equivalent a room with colorful decor and some telling it is learned the grandfather would have been ninety this very day, making this remembrance one with a kind of spectral force.  This markedly resourceful boy builds a boat that will stand up to a long journey, one the author says was on the drawing board when the then octogenarian was still alive.  A series of delightful vignettes chronicle the work in progress and then the boy is whisked off is a scenario that affectionately recalls Max’s nocturnal journey in Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are.   With the voyage underway under a sky of live and inanimate objects like a sailor’s pipe and an anchor that for some will envision David Wiesner’s nebulous Caldecott Honor winning Sector 7 the boy is initially disdained by the loneliness until he connects with an enormous golden fish.  Their conversation for fairy tale lovers will recollect “The Fisherman and His Wife” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, a story a bout a King flounder who grants many wishes to a greedy wife in return for a poor fisherman’s mercy in setting him free.  However the Fan’s’ fish has a much different purpose, which is to guide the boy to his distance-defying destination.  It’s high and low, and as deep as the sea,” the fish answered in a voice that made Finn’s boat shake.  It’s up and down and very far.  I can show you the way.” (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

This week we lost two cinematic titans, Bernardo Bertolucci and Nicolas Roeg at 77 and 90 respectively.  Readers are encouraged to talk about their work and incalculable influence.  My own favorite Bertolucci is The Conformist, my own favorite contribution from Roeg is his cinematography on The Masque of the Red Death.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in both cases!  R.I.P.

Thanksgiving Day 2018 is now in the history books in more ways than one.  The day registered one of the coldest ever in the Metropolitan region, but of course we told by our fearless leader that there is no such thing as climate change.  Our family had a grand day at the mansion-like home of the Lampmann family where we convened for the twenty-fifth year in a row to enjoy a generous traditional spread, a lavish desert table and second meal later in the night of all sorts of finger foods.  I wasn’t so thrilled that the Cowboys beat the Redskins, but heck that wasn’t exactly high on a list of priorities.  This past week at Wonders in the Dark J.D. Lafrance published a splendid review on the classic American film The World of Henry Orient by George Roy Hill.  My own latest Caldecott Medal Contender review on the Fan Brothers’ Ocean Meets Sky is publishing today.

Our long time friend, film blogger and author David Schleicher has published his second novel, Then Came Darkness, a noirish work set in upstate New York in the summer of 1936.  The dark tale of revenge features Joshua Bloomfield, who is driven by greed and the believe that an inheritance was rightfully his.  Evelyn Kydd must find a way to survive the malignant advance.  Congratulations David, and best wishes with your new work!  We are all proud of you!

The past week has been one of serious movie madness.  Lucille, Sammy, Jeremy and I saw five acclaimed new releases in the theaters.  Here are my reports and star ratings:

Thanksgiving week movie masterpieces! Lucille, the boys and I saw three of the very best films of 2018 over the past days in Manhattan. ROMA (Alfonso Cuaron) is a monochrome epic filmed and set in Mexico during the late 60s and early 70s. The Felliniesque story of a family who endure the trials and tribulations of life is alternately funny, pensive and sad, in the end a focused and scintillating drama. Yalitza Aparicio as the maid Cleo is magnificent. (5/5). THE FAVOURITE (Yorgos Lanthimos) is a deliciously perverse Irish/English period piece set in the court of Queen Anne and featuring extraordinary performances by Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone is also highlighted by a ravishing. baroque score and set design. Lanthimos, adapting another’s work has never been more accessible. (5/5). The South Korean film BURNING by Lee Chang-Dong (Poetry) is a controlled, eerie and disconcerting mystery/drama, culturally observant and psychologically nuanced. One of the most quietly enveloping of films. (4.5/5) We saw ROMA at the IFC Film Center, THE FAVOURITE at the Regal and BURNING at the Quad. (Tonight we will be seeing the Japanese “The Shoplifters at 7:00 at IFC). (more…)

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