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Archive for January, 2022

by Sam Juliano

After a powerful nor’easter, we in the NYC metropolitan area are almost back to normal here on the last day of January, 2022.  Work has commenced on Irish Jesus in Fairview, though what I have been doing this past week on that front is to add paragraphs to the written chapters and re-arrange the order.  To my great friend Valerie Clark, I will be sending you the file as it stands right now., though I know you have read a good part of it already.  The file will continue to change as I move forward, and I have six long chapters already mapped out, that need to be completely written.  What you will get is how it stands as of today.  The novel will begin where the previous one left off in 1972, and will continue till the end of 1981.  Then, then, then, the idea of possibly moving forward with a third novel, tentatively titled Roses for Saoirse (1981 to 1990) to make this writing splurge a trilogy is being seriously entertained.  God willing, this can and may happen – and I have a mental outline for it – but for now I need to focus my attention on Irish Jesus.  As to Paradise, the reviews have been excellent, and I am including the first massive blog-site review given it this week by former local and Massachusetts literature scholar Peter J. Reilly.  The book has sold 746 copies (the vast majority paperbacks) as of this morning, though the screen-shot of the KDP dashboard I am picturing on this post was from a few days ago, hence it shows a few less.

Peter Reilly’s long review:  https://yourtaxmatterspartner.com/paradise-atop-the-hudson-a-sixties-working-class-middlemarch/?fbclid=IwAR37h4W8u3RnNY0h4doUj0LeOrY6G_cSH_WFJd0tPJ-Fc50dwtNTGWDH5tk

Many thanks to all who have submitted ballots at the site (Marilyn Ferdinand, Sachin Gandhi, James Horsefall, Marco Tremble so far) for the presently-running Three Chinas film polling, though when the FB ballots are added we have received nearly forty (40) in total.  The balloting will continue for nine more days.

I have not yet seen the Japanese Drive My Car and a few others I feel are important, but I am nearly there. I adore several films of those I have seen, but perhaps none as much as the Georgian/German What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? a cathartic work that moved me to the core of my being. For sure this was rather an unlikely candidate to top my list, but what with an enveloping style, a mesmerizing, often mournful score, and indelible images, pans and close-ups, the film encapsulates the life experience in sublime rustic. glory. 5/5 Them film is easily streamed.   (Georgia; 2021) dir: Alexandre Koberidze. Starring: Ani Karseladze.

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by Sam Juliano

Internet issues at the Number 3 Annex, where I am stationed prevented me from posting this week’s Monday Morning Diary on the preceding Sunday, but it is just as well there was a delay, so I could post the American Library Association winners.

The “Three Chinas” polling launched on Friday, and ballots submission have been rolling in.  Each voter is asked to list fifteen (15) films from three countries: China, Taiwan and Hong Kong chronologically, alphabetically or numbered order.

The Caldecott Medal winner was Watercress, illustrated by Jason Chin.  It was one of the books I reviewed in my shortened Caldecott Medal series this past week.  The four honor book winners are Have You Ever Seen a Flower?, Mel Fell, Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre and Wonder Walkers.

Lucille and I saw two films via streaming this past week.  Joel Coen’s visually spectacular The Tragedy of Macbeth featured only passable performances by Denzel Washington and Francis McDormand.  I realize some others feel otherwise, and I greatly respect that position.  Macbeth has always been my personal favorite Bard play.  The Iranian film A Hero, by Ashgar Farhadi is a powerful drama. (more…)

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China/Taiwan/Hong Kong Polling is hereby launched!
We are back. Effectively immediately, the “Three China” Film Polling is live. Each voter is allowed fifteen (15) choices to be presented in ranked order, chronologically or alphabetically. Films can be from China, Taiwan or Hong Kong. The voting period will run until Tuesday, February 8th at 5:00 P.M. As always, Voting Tabulator Bill Kamberger will make all decisions regarding eligibility. Narrowing my own list down to fifteen was torture -as it will be to most- but here it is in alphabetical order:
The Blue Kite (1993; Tian Zhuangzhuang) China
A Brighter Summer Day (1991; Edward Yang) Taiwan
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000; Ang Lee) Taiwan
Crows and Sparrows (1949; Zheng Junli) China
Farewell My Concubine (1993; Chen Kaige) China
The Goddess (1934; Wu Yonggang) China
Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003; Tsai Ming Liang) Taiwan
Happy Together (1997; Wong Kar-Wai) Hong Kong
In the Mood for Love (2000; Wong Kar-Wai) Hong Kong
Little Toys (1933; Sun Yu) China
Raise the Red Lantern (1991; Zhang Yimou) China
Red Sorghum (1988; Zhang Yimou) China
Spring in a Small Town (1948; Fei Mu) China
Street Angel (1937; Yuan Muzhi) China
The World (2004; Zia Zhangke) China

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by Sam Juliano

This coming Friday we will be launching “The Three Chinas” film polling, which will include mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  Each interested voter will be asked to list fifteen (15) films in either numbered, alphabetical or chronological order.  The decision to take off South Korea was made this week, as Bill and I (and other FB commenters) felt Korea would be better placed in the “Rest of Asia” polling that will also include Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand and Tibet.  Like the previous pollings the duration will run a little over two weeks.

Jim Clark published a brilliant essay on the acclaimed Japanese film, Drive My Car this past week at the site.  It warrants full inspection.

This past week I had a bad experience with a single Amazon review, though I suspected six months ago this would come to pass.  I will share my FB post to explain here:  “The person who gave PARADISE ATOP THE HUDSON a 1 star review this week at Amazon is a troll who attacked all those who posted about people dying at the Fairview Forums (specifically “I grew Up at the Top of the Hill”) about six months ago. Everyone ganged up on him after he told a woman who lost her husband to “get over it” and “we all have to die.” When I complained about his behavior he attacked me and said “hehehehehehe, nobody will read your book when it is published.” His plans were obviously to trash it as soon as he got the chance. I have written a complaint to Amazon about this dishonest review, but I don’t know if they will remove it or not. He has never posted a single review at the site, nor did he buy the book there. How would he even know anything about the book without ever securing a copy? There is NO OTHER WAY to get the book unless I were to give him a copy, which of course I did not. His “criticisms” were preposterous of course, but that is what trolling is all about. I do know his name of course (and he didn’t attempt to hide it when he posted) and also that he was a former Fairview resident. I am more than willing to accept constructive criticism and opinions that may not make me happy, but to be trolled by someone who publicly attacked people for mourning their lost loved ones is something I cannot accept.  The person who left the rating and review did not attempt to hide his identity either.”

I did not myself see the new Scream movie, as that kind of thing for me is a waste of time.  But my family did.  The boys were fine with it, but the girls thought it was awful.  Ha! (more…)

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© 2022 James Clark

Our film today, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car (2021), is something new. On the other hand, there have been copious films abreast of such concerns as those from the hearts of Ingmar Bergman, Andreis Tarkovsky and Tonino Guerra; and Claire Denis, Kelly Reichardt… But that was quite long ago. However, I can’t fully express the joy of seeing the rebel sensibility in this saga. For instance, the car’s license plate, showing the numerals, “39,” the same being the same name as the address of Thomas, in the Guerra-Antonioni film, Blow Up (1966). The spiffy Rolls Royce coincides with a red Saab. Two different worlds. Two different conflicts. But only one, the Saab, has a hope in this perspective. Thomas is dead to the world. Hamaguchi becomes part of a hard, new way. A conundrum with wit. The driver of the Saab, one Misaki, a young girl with many skills, is both stolid and dazzling. Before we see more of her, let’s open another chapter of war. War, being very salient here. We find another current of opportunity by way of the Bergman film, After the Rehearsal (1984), where a passionate actress is driven to suicide by cheap proceedings, amidst show-people who would rather kill than see. (But there is one remarkable dissimilarity, namely, that hordes of tedious factors, especially Motor-mouth actors dreaming up TV easy-viewing, especially violent actors, killers, clogging the action, forcing the viewer to find gaps of no serious interest. Action having anonymous features as if a tedious mob. As if it were nearly a dead planet. Up to date.)

Continuing the preparations of this very subtle film, we notice that the driving involves very many tunnels (in order to manage mountainous terrain), which might result in tunnel vision. (“Tunnel Vision:” A condition in which one sees properly if they are positioned straight ahead. A tendency to focus on a subject or situation, while losing the peripheral vision, resulting to a constricted, tunnel-like vision. Seeing like that, is easy. What is crucial, what is unique, what is hard, becomes missing in action. Artists are on the hook to transcend tunnel vision, the easy, the crude, the poisonous. The mob here, with few exceptions, should be digging ditches. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Far East film polling will be launched on Tuesday, January 18th at noon, and will run through Friday, February 3d at 5:00 P.M.  I will be sure to post the voting thread here at Wonders in the Dark on that Tuesday at around the same time it posts on Facebook.  The poll will encompass mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.  Each voter will be allowed twenty choices, to be presented either in numerical order, alphabetically, chronologically or in now specific fashion.  The poll that will follow that one will be Scandinavia and Iceland, and that too will allow for twenty (20) choices.

Our family continues to come along, though typically for some of us, nasal congestion and a loss of taste  is still an issue, much as it is hen a few of us contract a cold or the flu.  But Lucille and I did attend a movie at a theater Saturday night, wearing our masks.  Many thanks to those who were concerned, and for the exceedingly kind words.  Hoping our friends are avoiding the virus.  I have returned to school and have resumed writing Irish Jesus in Fairview.

Three superlative films were navigated this past week, two streaming and one in the Ridgefield Park multiplex. LICORICE PIZZA by Paul Thomas Anderson is a strong contender for film of the year and was seen in the aforementioned theater last night. Alana Haim and young Cooper Hoffman are irresistible in the 1973-set film that my friend Todd Sherman rightly compares in ways to American Graffiti. A coming-of-age drama about a waterbed business, the legalization of pinball, the gas crisis and a naturalist romance, the film is brilliantly scored by Johnny Greenwood and features what may be the greatest scene in any film this year when a truck is driven backward. 5.0/5.0 CODA, an emotionally thrilled drama about a deaf family, aside from the one who can hear, who achieves musical stardom in Boston at a choir recital was strongly recommended by Bruce Kimmel. Directed by Sian Heder, the film features Emilia Jones in one of the most unforgettable performances of 2021 and in a splendid piece of casting, Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, a deaf performer, appears. I thought its depiction of disabled people was noble, despite some expected challenges. 4.5/5.0 An emotionally resonant performance by Joaquin Phoenix, who takes his young nephew (Woody Norman) under his wing in a revelatory road movie is movingly played out in monochrome by Robbie Ryan’s incandescent lensing. Seemingly small and sweet moments add up to a fully embodied whole. 4.5/50. Without a doubt these were three of the very best films of 2021. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The next international polling will officially launch on January 18th and it will bring together the Far East countries:  South Korea; China; Taiwan; Hong Kong; Vietnam; Cambodia.

We are still waiting for the new revision of Paradise Atop the Hudson to be sent to buyers.  We are not at all understanding the delay, but we were told it was selling well and Amazon was reluctant to destroy the old inventory.  So far the book has sold 542 paperback copies and 46 kindle copies.  My plans are to renew some focus on Irish Jesus in Fairview this coming week.

Wonders in the Dark has, remarkably, entered its fourteenth year as a site now.  What was intended as a fetish and an experiment has resulted in one of the longest-running film and arts sites online.

COVID (no doubt the lesser omicron variant) ran through our house from Christmas and through the current week. All seven in our family had the symptoms (coughing, sneezing, sniffles, headaches and stuffy noses with no taste) as a result of an unfortunate connection with a longtime friend, who passed it on to our middle son Danny. But before he (Danny) knew anything, it made its way through our 7 Spruce Street, Fairview, N.J. abode.

As it is just about gone now, I figured I’d mention it in the context of a few movies I watched at home, playing catch up. I found SPENCER wholly irresistible and utterly brilliant in concept. One of the most intimate and intense of recent biographical films and featuring a towering Oscar-worthy performance by Kristen Stewart, it also showcases what may be the best score of 2021 in a film, and the cinematography is wholly ravishing. 4.5/5.0 The Argentinian film AZOR is a corrosive work, one with evil lurking throughout. You keep expecting something major to happen, but the film is far more focused on infiltration. Harrowing and splendidly orchestrated. 4.5/5.0 THE LOST DAUGHTER is intermittently fascinating, though it is damaged by tedious flashback sequences that work against the better contemporary sections. Olivia Colman, however, is extraordinary in the lead. 3.5/5.0 (more…)

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