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Archive for the ‘author Sam Juliano’ Category

Dearest Allan:

In pondering my submission for the third annual online film festival at Wonders in the Dark, my mind drifted back to some of our classic four-way e mail correspondences.  Jamie Uhler of Chicago and Maurizio Roca of Brooklyn always helped to make said communications lively, opinionated and sometimes rowdy.  Roughly about two years before you departed this earthly realm to accept your current position as celestial authority of all things cinematic you were hot to trot to discuss DVD-blu ray labels and how in your view a then up and coming Region 2 UK company named Arrow had practically eclipsed longtime poll position occupants Criterion as the most exciting label out there with the most passionate and discerning film aficionados.  I’m sure you will fondly recall how we lined up on this matter and how we presented our cases for our champion.  In proclaiming Arrow as the top dog for collectors circa 2014 you cited some persuasive facts that at the time I was hard-pressed to dispute, regardless of where I stood when posting my numerical list.  After all, Arrow gave us sparkling new blu ray transfers of the Roger Corman Poe series, the Mario Bava collection, the lion’s share of Italian giallos, killer box sets on Walerian Borowcyck, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, Rainer Warner Fassbinder, and your all-time hero Yoshida not to mention some world classics like The Bicycle Thief, Ashes and Diamonds, The Night of the Hunter, Sweet Smell of Success, The Apartment, The Human  Condition and The Naked City among others in countering Criterion with even more extensive Region 2 incarnations of these masterpieces.  While we can safely assert that Arrow began as a niche label specializing in horror -and their more recent 4K transfer of John Carpenter’s The Thing, City of the Dead, and Horror Express have sustained that commitment.  Their catalog horror like the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House on the Left, The Hellraiser Trilogy, Carrie, The Hills Have Eyes, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Theater of Blood and The Crazies to name just a few continue to sell and remain in print.  Arrow have released superlative editions of Network, Donnie Darko, Children of Men and Gosford Park as you know well matching and surpassing their Region 1 counterparts on whatever label.  Allan, you always evaluated the complete package, and rightly pointed to the fabulous Arrow booklets which continue to surpass Criterion who have now downgraded to leaflets, the art (Jamie as I recall had mixed feelings on that front) and a bevy of desirable extras on nearly every release.  Since you moved on to better places where new students sit before you daily waiting to be enlightened, Arrow has maintained their strong reputation and impressive release schedule, but I suspect we’d be in accord that their product hasn’t been quite as captivating.  Heck, how could it be?  The blu ray business in general isn’t now what it used to be, though few are thinking it is on  an irreversible downswing.  Collectors like you and I are there and in a niche market, buyers like the passionate herds of book lovers who still haven’t warmed to kindle or e book alternatives and repeatedly contend a 500 year old technology still reigns supreme there are die-hards will never trade allegiance.  If Arrow has held the stage among blu ray aficionados, it has now been topped albeit marginally by another Region 2 company who have gone above and beyond in catering to a collectors market who want the best possible quality but also all those extras that fans are hoping for but do not always receive due to financial constraints. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Jillian Tamaki and her cousin Mariko Tamaki were awarded a surprise Caldecott Honor a few year back for their 2015 graphic novel, This One Summer,  The win was the first in the history of the awards for that form and for many represented one of the boldest steps forward for the committee, who risked controversy by bestowing the prestigious prize on a book squarely aimed at the uppermost end of the Caldecott audience, the earliest teenagers.  The book featured mature themes and very strong language, yet few could deny it’s brilliance both from a writing and artistic perspective.   Of course, bringing attention to the graphic novel from a  group almost exclusively attuned to the conventional picture book (understandably) was a major inroad towards pictorial diversity and it has opened the door to other possibilities on that front.  But those impressed with that work and other books by these exceedingly talented Japanese-Americans could never have envisioned the masterpiece that appeared in picture book land in early 2018.  To be sure They Say Blue is a solo effort by Jillian, who illustrated This One Summer.  The book has earned spectacular raves, is poised as one of the front runners for the one of the Caldecotts to be announced on the morning of Monday, January 28th, 2019 (a short time from the publication of this review) and hand landed on the end of the year Best-Of lists posted by children’s book critics and sites as well as a major picture book award last year from the Boston Horn Book, whose rules have some time overlap.  At least one major luminary, who has served on previous committees, Travis Jonker, has predicted the book would be in the winner’s circle when the announcements are made in a post at the School Library Journal.  Few books released this past year are as beautiful on every turn of the page, nor are as fully attuned and immersed in the theme which is maintained from title page to the final glorious spread.  The method to produce this frame-worthy art are says Tamaki, on the dedication page at the end is a combination of acrylic paint on watercolor paper and photoshop.  This intricate method has produced breathtaking illustrations which are diverse, multicolored and textured to a fault. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

I Am Heathcliff –  Catherine Earnshaw, Wuthering Heights

Centuries ago long names were all the rage.  The immortal composer Mozart was actually baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilis Mozart, but that’s small potatoes compared to the great Spanish painter Picasso whose full name was “Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios cipriando de la Santisimo Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso.”  Long names are associated with reverence, respect and as a tribute to family members dating back generations, many of whom made a difference in the upbringing and maturation of their offspring.  Those children sporting extended names may well at some early stage inquire about their origins and a parent’s full disclosure is one of those indelible moments in a life one can deem priceless.  In Juana Martinez-Neal’s affectionate and moving debut picture book as author-illustrator, Alma and How She Got Her Name is a loving chronicle of familial connection, spurred by curiosity but leading to an understanding of the past and the people who molded their children, grandchildren and nieces.  In Martinez-Neal’s stirring homage it is revealed that every part of this hereditary equation brings to bear a quality into a melting pot of positive traits and convictions.  Once the back stories are revealed the names take on an even more special meaning.  Martinez-Neal’s graphite, colored pencils and print transfers on handmade textured paper seems the ideal way to negotiate a story mainly set in the past, and what with old photo illustrations there is a scrapbook quality in the presentation.  Accentuating this aspect is parched beige and pink, which underline gender and a deep emotional current. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The last time the surname of Robert received titular misrepresentation was only a bit over a year ago when a nasal distortion caused by a nasty cold resulted in a stricken boy repeatedly voicing it to alert his “Mom” in Audrey Vernick, Liz Garton Scanlon and Matthew Cordell’s irresistible Bob, Not Bob!  That is until early 2018 when talented Pacific Northwest author-artist Elizabeth Rose Stanton’s wildly popular classroom favorite Bub made its debut.  A green, pointy eared humanoid markedly androgynous, “Bub” inherited his identification via a seemingly innocuous spelling error.  On the very first day of school he handed in an arithmetic assignment, and failed to close the top of his “O”, and after his teacher calls him “Bub” the name took hold.  As it is Bub is the middle child in a family of civilized monsters physically distinguished by a protruding bottom front tooth, and the only male offspring.  Hanging on a living room wall are framed photos of some favorite family monsters like Frankenstein and a green-eyed cyclops and in a delightful homage the esteemed protagonists of Stanton’s last two best-selling picture books, Henny and Peddles.  The oldest of the children is Bernice.  On a page giving young readers a maiden look at the family dynamic, “Maw” is partial to sunflowers and wears a red necklace, “Paw” is white collar minimalist, while Bernice, who had taken up the guitar is a straight A student.  She is also smitten with red bows, which dot her dress and tie her hair in a pigtail.  Bob sports a blue apron and favors toys, crayons and paper airplanes.  The toddler is a girl who is referred to as “The Baby” bereft of any agreement on a name.  A pink head band features a pastel red flower and her cut dress is multicolored.  Mind you the parents in this loving household could be rambunctious when they couldn’t firm anything up and their debates on a name, Gertrude!  Gisell! Gabriella!  Gladys! were deafening.  In a splendid touch that would surely win approval from the late picture book humorist James Marshall (The Stupids Step Out)  even the characters on the wall frames can’t take the bombast.  Some wear headphones, ear plus and bolts, and the others muffle the sound with their fingers. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

 I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”    

     –Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire (1981)

An adult reader of David Covell’s impressionist tone poem of a picture book Run Wild might initially conjure up the British Best Picture winner Chariots of Fire, which features two Olympic runners who earn gold medals for their country in track.  One of them, an English Jew runs to overcome prejudice, the other a Scottish missionary runs for the glory of God.  A fleeting recollection, but one in the spirit of a children’s book reveling in the most sensory of human activity.  The book’s creator of course isn’t looking at race, religion or underlying motives, he is in fact stripping rhyme or reason from this equation to document what a child would see, hear and feel during an outdoor marathon that will bring geographically connection to various terrains, geological obstacles and the elements.  Covell’s propositions would be daunting even to the most fleet-footed of youthful runners, much less the modest achievers featured in a all-encompassing rendez vous with Mother Nature.  Named one of the Ten Best Picture Books of 2018 in late November by the prestigious New York Times committee Run Wild is a watercolor tour de force, in fact it’s bleeding images almost seem overly saturated, whether exhibiting rabbit ears drawn in thick brush strokes like something you’d see in an Elementary School art class or cotton candy grey clouds and captions his free-spirited jaunts with handwritten printed text to underscore that running is a bohemian endeavor that should never be comprised by time, extent or restrictions. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The lighthouse is a national treasure.  Though few are now functional, their appearance is a reminder of how they once served as guardian and protector, alerting ships of rocky coastlines and dating back to antiquity signaling the entry to a port, which bereft of their guidance would compel ships to reach their destination under the dangerous cloak of darkness.  In the modern era they have been noted to help vessels navigate reefs and to assist in aerial negotiation.  It is no wonder that this unique architectural marvel, a circular tower with an inside spiral staircase and lofty conservation deck has fascinated people from all walks of life and has been a focus in the arts.  Lighthouses have been prominent in paintings, in literature and in film and song.  The lighthouse in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island provides a rather sinister set piece while in one of English writer Virginia Woolf’s most celebrated novels, To the Lighthouse, set in Scotland,  it is the integral marker in the work’s dramatic arc.  A plethora of historic lighthouses dot the globe, and a fair representation are in the United States.  The resplendent mahogany red Ponce de Leon lighthouse in Florida is quite the site to behold, the Boston Light beacon on the coast of Brewer Island in the Boston Harbor in the oldest in the nation and the famous blue and white-striped Cape Hatteras lighthouse at the outermost point on the North Carolina cape is the tallest brick structure in the US.  Lighthouses have always ranked among the most featured subjects on postage stamps.  Perhaps the most popular of these is the 29 cent Sandy Hook, New Jersey Lighthouse stamp in the Americana series releases by the postal service in April of 1978.  A sublime drawing of the lighthouse in dark blue on a light blue base and the two side “Lonely Beacon Protecting Those Upon the Sea” curving around the left side and bottom border made is a big favorite of collectors and lighthouse fans. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

               Moon, high and deep in the sky
               Your light sees far,
               You travel around the wide world,
               and see into people’s homes.      – Hymn to the Moon, Rusalka, (1901)

Grace Lin’s lustrous A Big Mooncake for Little Star compellingly recalls the 1940 Caldecott Medal winning Many Moons by James Thurber and Louis Slobodkin  and a far more recent picture book by Ida Perle,  The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House.  Though each of the three books in this equation yield fantastical propensities and designate a central role to our oft-referenced celestial neighbor, so prominently featured in song, poetry and art (Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, perhaps most famously of all) they are markedly different.  Addy’s especially incandescent moon  pops up anywhere and everywhere, and even comes close to being held, a desire Princess Lenore demanded of her father in Slobodkin’s classic.  The moon in Lin’s book is symbolic in a culinary sense, but one that craftily documents the changes phases for children who might benefit with an appealing fantastical explanation before being eased into the astronomical truth.  For adult readers it is an utter delight and a sly wallowing in a fantastical premise.  A Big Mooncake for Little Star is a story that that is said to reflect Chinese stories about the moon.  In an interview the author explained one story that inspired her book – that of the rabbit that lives on the moon. According to Chinese legend, if you tell the rabbit a wish, he will whisper it to the moon goddess who may grant it.

The book’s sleek black base is what will invariably attract the attention of readers young and old.  The choice has a three-fold allure:  first, it accentuates any other color, especially yellow for incomparable contrast, secondly it exhibits a natural kinship with imaginary outer space narrative, and lastly it emboldens a sense of immediacy, giving the book an otherworldly visual scheme, transporting the viewer from the domestic surroundings where the events are played out to a limbo, where reality shares a claim with the surreal for center stage.  Lin explains on the copyright page that “the illustrations for this book were done in Turner Design Gouache on Arches rag watercolor paper, and her application of luminous white typography is perhaps the most attractive in that department of any picture book released this past year.  With mother and daughter dressed in starry pajamas near a stove, the former equipped with oven mitts pulled out the flat Mooncake of the title.  The mother, concerned the baking will be undone by her daughter’s overindulgence tells her:  Now, Little Star, your Mooncake took us a long time to bake, so let’s see if you can make it last awhile.  Can you remember not to touch this Big Mooncake until I tell you to?  The child answers “Yes Mama!” but veteran readers might be thinking about the little chicken in David Ezra Stein’s Caldecott Honor winning Interrupting Chicken, which documented a litany of false promises.  Still, with their garb fully attuned to each other one might be loathe to thing is such terms.  In moon-shaped and colored vignettes Little Star retired to her teeth brushing, face washing and bed-snuggling, the latter with a book and and stuffed bunny before losing consciousness in horizontal mode, but as most readers would have a hard time not expecting she wakes up in the middle of the night. (more…)

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