Archive for September, 2021

 © 2021 James Clark

      Having finally, in the preceding essay, L’Avventura, ventured upon the cues of poet-film writer, Tonino Guerra, one might proceed with gusto upon the second campaign, namely, La Notte (The Night), 1961.

However, before thrilling to a rare lucidity from Guerra, I must describe how wrong my first impressions of this film were. (Not that it matters what I did; but there is a lapse which everyone involved has missed, a crucial mistake.) In those days, Antonioni could do no wrong in my eyes. But an anonymous note which I stumbled upon back in 2013 for a blog , in Wonders in the Dark, concerning La Notte, and promptly forgot, might have wakened me up a bit. The preamble of the “behind the scenes,” involved another fan, shoring up the Antonioni line. “I’ve become fascinated in gradually realizing that almost the full complement of this indie—yes—but also guerrilla art, had been met with censure. It was something of a jolt to learn that the film on tap here, La Notte, hinged upon two great performers (and specialists to boots) concerning problematic incitement, namely, Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau, who hated this assignment and did not take seriously the roles they were to sustain. Mastroianni, in particular, spent quite a bit of time on the set quarrelling with one of the writers, Tonino Guerra. And that rancor, with its behind the scenes clutter, cues our special concern here, regarding the precise nature of Antonioni’s pristine closures within complex and even Byzantine involvement by associates, though contrarian with regard to conventional filmmaking, unlikely to have absorbed the unique physicality of his inspiration.”

One more time: “… unlikely to have absorbed the unique physicality? ” The unique physicality was entirely the initiative of that trouble-maker!

Let’s see if I can make amends.

Guerra, the necessary “nuisance,” would have constructed for the Antonioni appellation, a seeming hot intellectual subject, namely, “alienation,” wherein to place a far more comprehensive and far more profound demand. Right from the opening credits, with a steep, steady drop of an empty glass elevator, there is an oblique indication that human authority has stepped back a move. We’re in Milano, with its heady schemes, but that steady fall steals the show. Very soon a moving car with a man and a woman on board, nearly becomes crushed by a wreckless heavy- construction worker. The escapees use an elevator to reach a friend in a hospital. As they approach their destination, we notice that each of them conveys a remarkably vivid shadow. We imagine that the anxiety here (terminal cancer) has been given a graphic form. That form, with its mundane, shadow aspect, can stand as a promise that another  force has to be reckoned with, despite being lost to the “realists.” During this event, we notice varying intensity (including that of the victim and the victim’s  mother); and, sometimes, also no shadow at all. This forum of potential mystery and potential power consists by way of an agency unseen per se. But when one has an inkling to be fully alive, that constituent will see what one’s made of. The elevator was an entrée. The rest of the saga is out of this world. (more…)


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by Sam Juliano

The titular creature from E.B. White’s iconic Charlotte’s Web was noble, erudite and compassionate.  In the modern picture book classic, the Caldecott Honor-winning  The Spider and the Fly by the nineteenth century poet Mary Howitt and artist Tony Di Terlizzi an iniquitous conman, plots a carnivorous conquest.  In Eric and Terry Fan’s It Fell from the Sky the crafty anthropoid wearing a stovepipe hat lies squarely in the middle of those two literary incarnations on the moral compass.  From the start this schemer was driven by avarice, and his the story of his rise and fall is a cautionary tale with pointed political parallel, though the Fans bring a lesson-learned coda to their delightful tale.  The brothers,  presently working out of Toronto, hold dual citizenship, so they are eligible for Caldecott awards, much as they have been previously in a distinguished and prolific career of picture book masterpieces such as The Night Gardener, The Antlered Ship, The Darkest Dark, The Scarecrow and The Barnabus Project.  Each new work by the tireless duo invariably brings on proclamations from their admirers that they have outdone themselves this time, and the same can be said for It Fell from the Sky, a bonanza of graphic resplendence that stunningly combines beautiful monochrome with incandescent color.

The Fans open their latest fantasy with an announcement that an object fell from the sky on a Thursday, a mid-week day bearing no special significance. The green and yellow marble nestles between flower plants, from where a Ladybug claims she observed the unexpected intrusion on their normally tranquil space.  Her contention that the marble bounced three times before rolling to a stop is contested by the Inchworm who counters it only bounced twice.  All the others, including the first pipe-smoking insect to appear in a picture book since Carson Ellis’s Du Iz Tak?, a Caldecott Honor recipient, concur the event was unprecedented in their collective consciousness.  The walking-stick, another one smitten with pipe-smoking gleefully observed he was being upstaged in the “strangeness” department, and the frog concluded it must be a gumdrop until the taste turned him off.  The dung beetle resolved to move it, but found that task impossible, and the Stinkbug brings on yet another theory, whereupon this alien object didn’t come from the sky at all, but was home grown, like a flower.  At long last the Grasshopper, the insect denomination of the Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz is consulted for what is expected to be a sage interpretation.  He asserts it did actually fall from the sky, but specifies it is probably a star, a comet or even a planet. (more…)

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“Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “Walkabout,” “Breaker Morant,” “”The Piano,” “My Brilliant Career,” “The Year My Voice Broke,” “Careful He Might Hear You” and “Lord of the Rings” Lead wildly popular Tope 103 Australian/New Zealandic Film Polling! Kudos to Voting Tabulator Bill Kamberger and to FB Film Forum moderator Steve Finkelstein, Criterion Now moderator Aaron West and faithful voters at WONDERS IN THE DARK!

1.      Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975) – 295.5

2.      Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971) – 253.5

3.      Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980) – 241.5

4.      The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) – 211.5

5.      My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong, 1979) – 200.5

6.      The Year My Voice Broke (John Duigan, 1987) – 197

7.      Careful, He Might Hear You (Carl Schultz, 1983) – 195

8.      The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson): The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003) – 184

9.      Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994) – 161.5

10.  Babe (Chris Noonan, 1995) – 159

11.  The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Fred Schepisi, 1978) – 153

12.  Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (George Miller, 1981) – 153

13.  Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) – 148.5

14.  Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971) – 146

15.  Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 1981) – 141

16.  The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994) – 132.5

17.  The Year of Living Dangerously (Peter Weir, 1982) – 118

18.  An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 1990) – 110.5

19.  Muriel’s Wedding (P. J. Hogan, 1994) – 108.5

20.  Rabbit-Proof Fence (Philip Noyce, 2002) – 105

21.  What We Do in the Shadows (Taika Waititi, 2014) – 96

22.  Lantana (Ray Lawrence, 2001) – 95.5

23.  Once Were Warriors (Lee Tamahori, 1994) – 88

24.  Animal Kingdom (David Michôd, 2010) – 84

25.  The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002) – 83

26.  The Devil’s Playground (Fred Schepisi, 1976) – 80

27.  Holding the Man (Nick Armfield, 2015) – 80

28.  The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (Vincent Ward, 1988) – 80

29.  The Proposition (John Hilcoat, 2005) – 80

30.  Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 1991) – 78.5

31.  Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann, 1992) – 78

32.  The Last Wave (Peter Weir, 1977) – 76.5

33.  Shine (Scott Hicks, 1996) – 75.5

34.  High Tide (Gillian Armstrong, 1987) – 71

35.  Don’s Party (Bruce Beresford, 1976) – 70.5

36.  Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)– 64.5

37.  Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002) – 64

38.  The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) – 58.5

39.  Jedda, the Uncivilized (Charles Chauvel, 1955) – 58

40.  Starstruck (Gillian Armstrong, 1982) – 57

41.  Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009) – 53

42.  Lonely Hearts (Paul Cox, 1982) – 52

43.  Boy (Taika Waititi, 2010) – 48

44.  Sweetie (Jane Campion, 1989) – 48

45.  Flirting (John Duigan, 1991) – 46

46.  A Cry in the Dark / Evil Angels (Fred Schepisi, 1988) – 45.5

47.  The Man from Snowy River (George Miller, 1982) – 45

48.  They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson, 2018) – 44

49.  The Sum of Us (Geoff Burton & Kevin Dowling, 1994) – 43.5

50.  Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) – 43

51.  Storm Boy (Henri Safran, 1976) – 43

52.  Japanese Story (Sue Brooks, 2003) – 42

53.  Samson & Delilah (Warwick Thornton, 2009) – 42

54.  Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, 2019) – 39.5

55.  Sunday Too Far Away (Ken Hannam, 1975) – 39

56.  Chopper (Andrew Dominik, 2000) – 38.5

57.  Mary and Max (Adam Elliot, 2009) – 38

58.  Babyteeth (Shannon Murphy, 2019) – 37

59.  Bad Boy Bubby (Rolf de Heer, 1993) – 37

60.  The Castle (Rob Sitch, 1997) – 36

61.  Phar Lap (Simon Wincer, 1983) – 36

62.  Babe: Pig in the City (George Miller, 1998) – 35.5

63.  The Dish (Rob Sitch, 2000) – 34

64.  Malcolm (Nadia Tass, 1986) – 34

65.  The Sentimental Bloke (Raymond Longford, 1919) – 34

66.  Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016) – 33

67.  Look Both Ways (Sarah Watt, 2005) – 33

68.  Bliss (Ray Lawrence, 1985) – 32.5

69.  Man of Flowers (Paul Cox, 1983) – 32

70.  The Overlanders (Harry Watt, 1946) – 32

71.  Somersault (Cate Shortland, 2004) – 32

72.  A Woman’s Tale (Paul Cox, 1991) – 31

73.  Romper Stomper (Geoffrey Wright, 1992) – 30.5

74.  Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998) – 30

75.  Dead Calm (Philip Noyce, 1989) – 30

76.  Utu (Geoff Murphy, 1983) – 30

77.  Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston, 1978) – 29.5

78.  The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy, 1985) – 29.5

79.  Smash Palace (Roger Donaldson, 1981) – 29.5

80.  The Interview (Craig Monahan, 1998) – 29

81.  The Lost Thing (Shaun Tan & Andrew Ruhemann, 2010) – 29

82.  Harvie Krumpet (Adam Elliot, 2003) – 28

83.  Tanna (Martin Butler & Bentley Dean, 2015) – 28

84.  Kiss or Kill (Bill Bennett, 1997) – 27

85.  The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (Anthony Lucas, 2005) – 27

86.  The Sapphires (Wayne Blair, 2012) – 27

87.  Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton, 2017) – 27

88.  Lost & Found (Bradley Slabe & Andrew Goldsmith, 2018) – 26

89.  The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2018) – 26

90.  Beneath Clouds (Ivan Sen, 2002) – 24

91.  The Kid Stakes (Tal Ordell, 1927) – 24

92.  Leisure (Bruce Petty, 1976) – 24

93.  Snowtown (Justin Kurzel, 2011) – 24

94.  Wolf Creek (Greg McLean, 2005) – 24

95.  The Big Steal (Nadia Tass, 1990) – 23

96.  They’re a Weird Mob (Michael Powell, 1966) – 21.5

97.  Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, 1986) – 21

98.  The Getting of Wisdom (Bruce Beresford, 1977) – 21

99.  Lion (Garth Davis, 2016) – 20.5

100.                      Forgotten Silver (Peter Jackson & Costa Botes, 1995) – 20

101.                      Love Serenade (Shirley Barrett, 1997) – 20

102.                      Newsfront (Philip Noyce, 1978) – 20

103.                      Puberty Blues (Bruce Beresford, 1981) – 20

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by Sam Juliano

Thank you for your prayers and compassion. 29 year-old Michael Jr departed this earthly realm Saturday evening after spending over five weeks in University Hospital in Newark. He leaves behind his adoring family and a legion of admirers, all of whom will attest to the positive impact he had on their lives. For the rest of their own days they will equate “Mike Russo” with nobility, with worth, with kindness. His loss is unconscionable but his memory is truly a blessing.

The Australian/New Zealand film polling ends on Tuesday (September 28th) at 5:00 P.M. Voting Tabulator Bill Kamberger has reported an astounding number of ballots (and partial ballots) have been cast, more in fact than any country/region poll we have conducted to this point, in large measure because we solicited ballots from Steve Finkelstein and Adam Ferenz’ FB FILM FORUM and Aaron West’s CRITERION NOW sites. But even without them this poll has been a huge hit.  The voting post here at WONDERS IN THE DARK has been busy all week.  Everyone’s expert indulgence is deeply appreciated, and this includes some who send me their lists by e mail, advising them to post their choices myself on the thread.

I met with my artist Andrew Castrucci at Rudy’s Restaurant on Friday evening to discuss his delay on the cover art for Paradise Atop the Hudson.  To all those showing interest in my first novel, and that includes my dear friend Valerie Clark, who has read every word of the manuscript, I have received some assurances that the work is finally winding down.  With funeral masses, wakes and numerous hospital visits my continuing work on the second novel , Irish Jesus in Fairview  (and the Caldecott Contender project) has temporarily stalled, but will resume ASAP.  This coming week’s funeral will be an unspeakable horror.

J.D. Lafrance published a fabulous review on American Psycho this past week at the site.

This week we are posting Jamie Uhler’s stupendous reviews of the 1932 Mamoulian classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Frederic March and the 2010 re-make of The Wolfman as part of the continuing 2021 Horrorfest series:


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American Psycho

By J.D. Lafrance

Every time I watch American Psycho (2000) I wonder why Christian Bale doesn’t do more comedies as he is so funny in this film as Patrick Bateman, a pathologically narcissistic Wall Street Yuppie that may or may not be a serial killer. Whether he’s pontificating about the best moisturizers for his skin or shimmying with reckless abandon to “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News, Bale looks like he’s having a blast playing up the more ridiculous aspects of his character which is in sharp contrast to some of the more depraved acts he indulges in during the course of the film.

Based on the controversial 1991 novel of the same name by Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho was considered unfilmable because of the long, detailed passages devoted to Bateman’s ruminations on the music of Whitney Houston and Phil Collins, punctuated by extremely graphic descriptions of sadistic violence inflicted on women. Anybody taking on this project would have to find a way to translate it in an interesting way without completely turning off audiences while also appeasing the MPAA.

For almost ten years filmmakers like David Cronenberg and Oliver Stone took a crack at adapting the book into a film while actors like Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio expressed interest in playing Bateman. In the end, Mary Harron, director of the critical darling, I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), and Bale got the film made. The end result predictably divided critics and underperformed at the box office, but considering the subject matter this is hardly surprising. American Psycho went on to enjoy a second life on home video where it developed a cult following.


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Screencap from Jamie Uhler’s poll position John Carpenter film

by Sam Juliano

Prayers continue for 29 year-old Michael Russo, who is fighting for his life at University Hospital in Newark with liver and kidney issues, as well as inflammation and infections.  We are calling on God to spare this wonderful young man.

I continue to receive inquiries by e mail and at FB on the situation with my two novels, Paradise Atop the Hudson and Irish Jesus in Fairview.  A long delay by the first book’s artist (far longer than planned) is presently holding up publication on Amazon.  When the art is submitted the book will be listed.  The editing was completed back in July.  The second novel is well on its way to completion, though I have slowed down due to other commitments.  No problem at all though as I know exactly what I need to do, and since I cannot publish it right on the heels of book #1, I have plenty of time to wind it up.  I envision that book publishing in early January.

The Australian balloting continues on FB and here at Wonders in the Dark.  I do believe we have received over forty ballots now, a few were sent physically and a few other relayed to me by phone or fax.  Thanks to all for your passion, knowledge and exceptional taste.

Jamie Uhler’s much-anticipated annual HORROR FEST has officially launched and beginning today his reviews will be an integral part of the MMD well into November.  The first submission, including his list of top John carpenter films is as follows:

Final Destination (J. Wong… 2000) slasher/supernatural
Final Destination 2 (D. R. Ellis… 2003) slasher/supernatural
Final Destination 3 (J. Wong… 2006) slasher/supernatural
The Final Destination (Final Destination 4) (E. Press… 2009) slasher/supernatural
Final Destination 5 (S. Quale… 2011) slasher/supernatural

A franchise I’d started with two friends last November led to more or less instant full on fandom (by the three of us no less!). Running a pretty decent level of quality, at least as entertainment, I was astounded by such a remarkably rare feat in franchise films, especially in the Horror genre. Starting on a high concept idea where a single person foresees a coming cataclysmic event that horrifically murders many people at once and then panics and pulls themself, and then others, out of the chain of events immediately altering what should have happened, and who should have died. The rewriting of fate then ensnares them all in single, outrageous deaths since they were suppose to be part of the earlier, larger one, the films then counteract the metaphysics by adhering to the expectations of the genre and its fans they belong to. Meaning, you get a bunch of grindhouse-like kills, the films judged by how creative, intricate and grisly they are, and how outrageous and chuckle inducing the original mass death sequence was. The first sports a plane crash, the second a mass highway car pileup (truly bonkers), the third a roller coaster mishap, the forth an audience bloodbath at a stock car race, and the fifth a girder bridge catastrophe. In an era where conceptual ideas or locations became the centerpiece to Horror franchises over singular beings like in the 1980s and 1990’s (Jason, Michael Myers, Freddy, Chucky, Pinhead, et al) most immediately became stale and boorish (SawHuman Centipede[REC]Paranormal ActivityHostel, etc) this one somehow remained always at least entertaining, if not outright hilarious. I’d rank the films: 3, 5, 1 (5 and 1 tied more or less for second place), 2 and then 4, but think all are pretty exquisite beer and pizza entertainment for Horror hounds.

The First Power (R. Resnikoff… 1990) Neo-noir/horror thriller
The First Power is, for the most part, a pretty stock collection of early 1990’s B-movie cliches. First there is a serial killer angle, a murderer known as the Pentagram Killer is butchering the cities residents as a sacrifice to Satan, a plot angle that anyone who rented bad VHS flicks during the decade can guess will then feature the next addition, a buddy cop pairing where one cop is the cool, no nonsense desperado who lives solely for the justice and completion of solving grisly crimes (while, of course, confusingly wearing a dark desperado overcoat in the squelching LA heat and shiny steel tipped cowboy boots), the other a relatively regular ol’ lifer who, upon first sight is unwittingly beginning a ticking clock on when his life will end during the films run time (here it’s in reel two when an out of control horse knocks him down and then proceeds to stomp his chest to a bloody pulp). Given the (perhaps purely psychological) religious underpinnings, we also get a female psychic, a necessary cliche to help puzzle the pieces together and develop a relationship with the tough cop who’d previously sworn off the stuff. Oh, a Nun is also necessary, the symbol of the sole person of the parish willing to help end such a devastating and deadly epidemic (and be the defecto religious symbolism in an age of doubt). You see, the killer was caught before the first reel ended, but his Satantic hokum is potentially real, and when given the death penalty, he can now move as a spirit from one body to the next and continue his reign of terror.


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Desert Island Voting: Next Stop: Australia and New Zealand!
We have naturally combined Australia and New Zealand, though for all intents and purposes the world’s largest island and the home of the kangeroo, an Aborigine population, the Sydney Opera House, great Olympic swimmers, extraordinary film essayists Roderick Heath and Tony d’Ambra (both of New South Wales) will command the lion’s share of the balloting. Bill Kamberger has ruled everyone’s ballot should not go beyond fifteen (15) films as his reasoning points to the previous Japanese polling didn’t go higher than that number. Australia’s film history isn’t anywhere in a league with Japan’s remotely, but for those who may at first think there will be slim pickings, they will find upon closer inspection is in a truly underrated cinema. I happen to think it is a fantastic cinema, and the Australian New Wave a major influence on some filmmakers around the world.
Nonetheless I mourn losing five spots and had this balloting allowed twenty films, I’d be mulling over which five to pick from this group: “Wake in Fright,” “Whale Rider,” “Gallipoli,” “The Year of Living Dangerously,” “A Cry in the Dark,” “”Rabbit-Proof Fence,” “Sons of Matthew (1949),” “Strictly Ballroom,” “Wolf Creek,” “Shine,” “Muriel’s Wedding,” “An Angel at My Table,” “Once Were Warriors,” “The Last Wave,” “Dead Calm,” “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” and “The Babadook.” I count every one in this group exceptional and also feel a few of Taika Waititi’s films, though hardly masterpieces are notable. If someone held a gun to my head and forced me to pick a single favorite Australian film of all time, I’d stumble and think of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” “The Return of the King,” and “The Year My Voice Broke” but would finally settle on “Careful He Might Hear You.” Still, the fifteen masterpieces I hereby list below are roughly equal and I am going again with an alphabetical presentation. Several rank among the greatest films ever made from any country. Bill Kamberger has ruled that the three LORD OF THE RINGS films from New Zealand count as a single entry. This was a decision I applauded.
Balloting will go for two weeks. This should give some voters time enough to explore this most undervalued of all world cinemas. The deadline will be 5:00 P.M. on Tuesday, September 28th.
My fifteen masterpieces alphabetically:
Babe (Chris Noonan; 1995)
Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford; 1980)
Careful He Might Hear You (Carl Schultz; 1983)
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Fred Schepisi; 1978)
The Devil’s Playground (Fred Schepisi; 1976)
Holding the Man (Neil Armfield; 2015)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson; 2001-2003)
My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong; 1979)
The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (Vincent Ward; 1988)
The Piano (Jane Campion; 1993)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir; 1975)
Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse; 1991)
Storm Boy (Henri Safran; 1976)
Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg; 1971)
The Year My Voice Broke (John Duigan; 1987)

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“The Battleship Potemkin,” “Andrei Rublev,” “Come and See,” “Man with a Movie Camera” and “The Cranes Are Flying” lead Top 100 (105) Russian/Soviet Film polling results. This is as definitive a list of Russian cinema (including the fabulous order) one could hope to find anywhere! Thank you so much to the forty (40) voters who cast complete or partial ballots and of course to Voting Tabulator Bill Kamberger, whose tireless daily work was crucial to this enterprise. For film fans, this Russian film list will provide a reference for many years to come:
1. Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) – 289
2. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966) – 280
3. Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985) – 252
4. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929) – 235.5
5. The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957) – 202.5
6. Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975) – 198
7. War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1966 – 1967) – 192.5
8. Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II (Sergei Eisenstein, 1944 & 1958) – 191
9. Earth (Aleksandr Dovzhenko, 1930) – 187.5
10. Ivan’s Childhood / My Name Is Ivan (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1962) – 182
11. The Color of Pomegranates (Sergei Parajanov, 1969) – 164.5
12. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979) – 160.5
13. Ballad of a Soldier (Grigoriy Chukhray, 1959) – 155.5
14. Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972) – 151.5
15. Alexander Nevsky (Sergei Eisenstein & Dmitriy Vasilev, 1938) – 150
16. The Ascent (Larisa Shepitko, 1977) – 147.5
17. Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975) – 146.5
18. Mother (Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1926) – 142.5
19. I Am Cuba / Soy Cuba (Mikahil Kalatozov, 1964) – 127.5
20. The Maxim Gorky Trilogy (Mark Donskoy, 1938 – 1940) – 123.5
21. Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002) – 120
22. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Sergei Parajanov, 1965) – 102.5
23. Hard to Be a God (Aleksey German, 2013) – 98
24. October / Ten Days That Shook the World (Sergei Eisenstein & Grigoriy Aleksandrov, 1927) – 93
25. The Old Man and the Sea (Aleksandr Petrov, 1999) – 90
26. Hedgehog in the Fog (Yuri Norstein, 1975) – 89.5
27. Leviathan (Andrey Zvysagintsev, 2014) – 87.5
28. Strike (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) – 86
29. The Lady with the Little Dog (Iosif Kheifits, 1960) – 85
30. Tale of Tales (Yuri Norstein, 1979) – 82
31. The Return (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2003) – 81.5
32. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov, 2019) – 77
33. Prisoner of the Mountains (Sergei Bodrov, 1996) – 75.5
34. Siberiade (Andrey Konchalovskiy, 1979) – 73.5
35. Mother and Son (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1997) – 72.5
36. My Love (Aleksandr Petrov, 2006) – 65
37. By the Bluest of Seas (Boris Barnet, 1936) – 62
38. Burnt by the Sun (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1994) – 50.5
39. The House on Trubnaya Square (Boris Barnet, 1928) – 49.5
40. My Friend Ivan Lapshin (Aleksey German, 1985) – 47
41. Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2017) – 45.5
42. Nostalghia (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1983) – 45.5
43. The Forty-First (Grigoriy Chukhray, 1956) – 43
44. Arsenal (Aleksandr Dovzhenko, 1929) – 41.5
45. The Cameraman’s Revenge (Wladyslaw Starewicz, 1912) – 39
46. By the Law (Lev Kuleshov, 1926) – 38
47. The Cow (Aleksandr Petrov, 1989) – 38
48. The New Babylon (Grigoriy Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg, 1929) – 37.5
49. The Island (Pavel Lungin, 2006) – 37
50. Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Vladimir Menshov, 1980) – 37


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by Sam Juliano

On July, 15, 2021 children’s literature lost one of its most renowned luminaries.  With nearly one-hundred books as an illustrator produced in a remarkably prolific career launched in 1988, African-American Floyd Cooper, who passed from cancer at age 65 was an author-artist who moved mountains in the book community and on social media where he was revered as a personable and humble man who exuded positive energy in the direction of any person fortunate enough to have crossed his path.  Cooper, who also had Native American blood was one of the most critically celebrated figures in the industry and his works won numerous awards for the Coretta Scott King, Golden Kite and Charlotte Zolotow committees.  Floyd has never won a Caldecott medal or honor citation in one om those freakish omissions usually attributed to timing and the depth of competition in a given year.  In the Caldecott Medal Contender series staged here at Wonders in the Dark since 2013, four of Cooper’s books have been reviewed in sponsorship of award consideration:  A Dance Like Starlight (authored by Kristy Dempsey); Where’s Rodney? (written by Carmen Bogan); The Ring Bearer and Juneteenth for Mazie.  But Cooper’s full catalog is one of the most impressive of artist in children’s literature, and virtually every book he’s released has its own fan base.  Of course his wife Velma, children Dayton and Kai and his grandchildren have suffered the most from his untimely departure, so for the legions who feel cheated of more masterpieces, matters do need to be placed in the proper perspective. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

On Saturday evening at 6:00 P.M. Fairview held a 20th Anniversary 9-11 ceremony outside the bank on Fairview Avenue.  Hearing public officials, clerics, firemen, policemen, service organization veterans and relatives of 9-11 victims talk about the fateful days twenty years ago that changed life as they knew it, made many of us proud to live in Fairview, a town that always went the extra yard in honoring its residents past and present. Patriotic and emotional songs, several from ace singer Bob Bannon, were interspersed with wrenching speeches from family members of several Fairview and Cliffside Park residents who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks, and representatives from the elected body, some of whom related their own stories of that terrible day.

Past Fairview Fire Chief Michael Mesisca, an excellent speaker for decades in his numerous community leadership positions, delivered powerful oratory, surely the most masterful of the ceremony by wide agreement, in describing how his close friend, beloved Little League coach Cliff Russell died of cancer after contacting the illness after helping others at ground zero. Two siblings of victims Diane Lipari and Daniel Correa spoke of how their lives were changed and how time has failed to diminish the grief they feel every single day of their existence. Another relative, the grandson of window washer Roko Camaj’s sister, spoke of his fearless performance atop the towers and how his loss made the world so much poorer.
9-11 Chairman Al DeMuro pulled off an event that will surely go down in the Fairview Hall of Fame, with able assistance from Board of Education member Ken Schmidt, and DPW Commissioner Paul Juliano. Board member Angelo D’Arminio and Councilman Russell Martin also served on that committee. Mayor Bellucci and Our Lady of Grace Church Pastor Peter Sticco delivered speeches and Fireman Eugene Nappi concluded the program, reading a poem.
The community spirit and fellowship of this day are proof parcel the old magic has never really left our beloved town.
Jim Clark published a stupendous essay on Antonioni’s masterpiece L’Avventura this past Tuesday at the site.
Nothing has yet changed with my own upcoming publication of Paradise Atop the Hudson.  I wrote a bit more of the second novel Irish Jesus in Fairview, but I have deliberately slowed up so I can space both books by a  few months.  I am speculating early October for the first and early January for the second.
Jamie Uhler will be back again this year with his fascinating HorrorFest reviews.  He usually starts in early September and runs the capsule review series until early November.  For horror fans this is a major annual treat!
The Russian/Soviet film polling ends today (Monday, September 13th) at 5:00 P.M.  Incredibly, 40 ballots were cast to this point.  I will have the results tomorrow (Tuesday) and will published them next week.  We will next be tackling the Greatest films from Australia/New Zealand and I expect next week’s diary will tempt some to make their own list of fifteen (15).


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