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Archive for December 10th, 2019

By J.D. Lafrance

In a prolific and diverse career, some of Sidney Lumet’s best films dealt with police corruption. It was a theme that the filmmaker was drawn to as far back as the 1970s with Serpico (1973) and would revisit regularly in the 1980s with Prince of the City (1981) and the 1990s with Q & A (1990). It was towards the end of the latter decade that he made Night Falls on Manhattan (1997), an adaptation of Robert Daley’s novel Tainted Evidence about a newly elected district attorney’s attempt to battle corruption within the New York Police Department. The film wasn’t given a particularly wide release and performed modestly at the box office with mixed reviews. Perhaps it was felt that Lumet’s film was nothing more than an expensive, feature-length episode of Law and Order, which is unfortunately because it delves into the personal and professional dilemmas of its characters in a much deeper way than that television show.

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by Sam Juliano

He’s off and flyin’ as he guns the car around the track
He’s jammin’ down the pedal like he’s never comin’ back
Adventure’s waitin’ just ahead.
Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer, Go!        -Nobuyoshi Koshibe, Peter Fernandez, Speed Racer, 1967

Barbara McClintock has been in the Caldecott hunt a number of times over the years.  Her sublime collaboration with Jim Aylesworth, My Grandfather’s Coat, was one of the prime contenders for the 2015 medal, and both the resplendent Emma and Julia Love Ballet and her 2018 Nothing Stopped Sophie written by Cheryl Bardoe were spoken of regularly in the Caldecott forums.  Her distinguished career has brought her fame worldwide, with marked veneration in Japan, where her books have been regularly translated, and her Adele & Simon series and Mary and the Mouse books have held the stage in elementary classrooms for years.  A persuasive argument could well be tendered that her newest children’s lit treasure Vroom! is her sturdiest bid for the shiny gold sticker yet, what with McClintock fans more excited than they have ever been for the Connecticut-based author-illustrator.  The inspiration for her new work is two-fold.  The artist confides she spent much time in her childhood playing with a silver toy car like the one that Annie drives in the book, and in recent adulthood she seemingly firmed up resolve after acquisition of her spiffy new Audi.

Though Vroom’s showcase front cover is gangbusters in conveying the theme, McClintock immediately signals the book’s mise en scene with florescent green end papers which inform young readers that not only will there be no stopping or delaying but not even a cautionary color segue in a narrative committed to unmitigated acceleration.  After a title page envisions a car racing full speed ahead, the book’s protagonist Annie happily sets a helmet over her long red-brown hair.  The author makes it clear that the power of the imagination is at work and much like one of kid lit’s most iconic characters, Max in Maurice Sendak’s Caldecott Medal winning Where the Wild Things Are, this young girl is wearing pajamas, a obvious clue for young readers anyway that we are about to enter fantasy land for whatever natural continuance one would expect from a racing car obsessive.  After two other minimalist vignettes the automotive-attuned child puts on her gloves and hops into her racing car and takes off plane-style through the window of a second-story bedroom in her suburban home.  Though a family pet witnesses the air-borne take-off the inhabitants in the home are none too wiser of course the singular hobby-prone youngster has acted on her wishes. (more…)

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