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Screen cap from Francois Ozon’s hauntingly beautiful “Frantz”

by Sam Juliano

I certainly got my Chuck Berry fix this past week both in the house and in the car.  The Great Twenty Eight compilation remains one of the rock’s defining works, and I was active on the repeat button!  He was incomparable and an innovator.  I am saddened at all the smut that has greeted his passing, though I’d be foolish to think that the extreme nature of his offenses hasn’t tarnished his image with many.  We much had the same kind of thing upon the death of Michael Jackson, but Berry’s past is being posed as far more criminal and sordid.  What we all need to do however (and Richard Wagner fans take note!) is to separate the man from the music.  Is Chuck Berry a personal role model and are his issues relatively minor? No and no.  But his music is in a different sphere methinks.  There have been some heated debates online, and for the most part I have defended this legend, much as I did Michael Jackson in 2009.

Time marches on, and in a few days April is upon us.  For Lucille and I this means a torrid nine-day attendance at the Tribeca Film Festival starting on April 19th.  The day before we have a gleefully anticipated book signing with director John waters scheduled in Clinton, New Jersey.  Upon the completion of Tribeca, the annual Montclair Film Festival commences, and then the school trip to Washington D.C., a three day tour I regularly engage in.

The author Marilyn Singer staged a unique event on Sunday afternoon at the Creative Arts Studio on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, in the spirited service of a book launch for her fabulous dance poem picture book “Feel the Beat,” illustrated by Kristi Valiant. An impressive throng were on board for actual floor dancing that included the various dances depicted in the book. Lucille, Sammy, Jeremy and I stopped in for a signed copy of the book, chatted with Ms. Singer and milled around. Nice refreshments were offered up in another room too!

We saw two new releases in theaters (yes both films technically are 2016 with their selections for Cannes consideration, with the Assayas film actually winning Best Director there) but with March US openings they are firmly in the 2017 camp. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The rock critic Robert Christgau considers Berry “the greatest of the rock and rollers”, while John Lennon said, “if you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” Ted Nugent said, “If you don’t know every Chuck Berry lick, you can’t play rock guitar.”  Bob Dylan called Berry “the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll.”  Berry, one of the greatest guitarists of all-time passed away at the miraculous age of 90 sometime on Saturday, leaving behind a legacy few musicians can or have matched.  Songs like “Maybelline,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Rock n Roll Music” are among the most famous and beloved ever written, and the Chess label has long defined Berry’s output.  I fondly recall his later gimmick song “My Ding-a-Ling” which for many inspired a renaissance of his classic tunes.  A cultural icon and incomparable innovator  is gone and music has lost a giant.  R.I.P.

One of the most unforgettable evenings for our family was staged on Thursday night at the Venetian Catering Hall/Restaurant in Garfield, New Jersey where my youngest brother Paul, age 46, was honored as the “Man of the Year” by the Fairview Chamber of Commerce.  750 people were on hand to hear a bevy of speakers (including Yours Truly in a keynote address) honor my brother, a town leader in every capacity.  It was a night of great buffet food, speeches and meeting friends, many not seen in years.  This will be a cherished memory for all-time.  The week as a whole was engineered in overdrive, as our area was hit with a major snowstorm on Monday evening after midnight as Lucille, Sammy and I were heading back from Binghampton, New York after spending time with our dear friend Angelo D’Arminio, who shockingly lost his wife last week.  The four hour ride brought us in the start of the blizzard, but we made it home safely before the blizzard accelerated.  On Saturday morning we traveled down to Toms River near the Jersey shore to attend the funeral of a dear cousin, Mary Barbara Bunero.

Once again Terrence Malick has crafted an unforgettable cinematic meditation-a modern day intimate love triangle (“Song to Song”) negotiated in elegiac, sensual and spiritual strokes, one contrasting the beauty of nature with the bullying cityscapes. Malick trots out many themes, employing his patented tone poem with propulsive energy. A breathtaking work by this towering master of the cinema. Lucille, Sammy and I took in the 7:15 P.M. screening last night at the Landmark Cinemas in Manhattan. (more…)

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Most of the critics loved “Raw” but not my brood and I, that’s for sure.

by Sam Juliano

A blockbuster mid March nor’easter is nearing the New York City/northern New Jersey region, and practically all predictions are calling for 12 to 24 inches to be followed by several days of frigid temperatures that will hold the area in a winter grip, and will surely make traveling extremely difficult.  This is one projected wide swath of a storm that is sure to drop as much blustery snow on our friends John and Pam (Grant) as it will on us in Fairview (just across the Hudson from Manhattan).  This is no doubt the kind of event that makes former New Yorkers like John Greco grateful of the Florida re-location.  But heck, we all do love the white stuff, no?  Some are saying the number estimation is rather conservative, so who knows what is in store.

Our deepest condolences to my longtime dear friend, the erstwhile Voting Tabulator Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., who lost his 64 year-old wife Kathy suddenly in her sleep this past week, after no known sickness.  While Angelo had relocated this past year down in South Carolina, the wake and funeral will be held in Binghampton, New York Tuesday night (Kathy’s family lives there, and she lived nearly her entire life in that region) during the projected height of this ferocious blizzard.  Lucille and I are planning to take the three-hour drive up there, but I am hearing from some that they think highways could well be shut down. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

This past week as announced on the previous post Wonders in the Dark passed the four million level on page views after eight and a half years in existence.  This is a great honor for Allan Fish and the many writers who have rocked these halls in every capacity.  There are no plans to end this party anytime soon, so as some have noted we must keep on keepin’ on!  Thank you to all for your support and insights for this incredible ride!

March weather.  Twenty degrees one day and 60 another.  This has been the propensity in the NYC metropolitan area anyway.  The Tribeca Film Festival has announced their lineup for next month’s festival.  Lucille and I are readying for our annual marathon, and I’ll have the full coverage here at the site.

This past week we saw two films in the theaters though several others at home, including some 2016 repeats.  We saw: (more…)

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fourmillion

Allan Fish and I launched our arts site WONDERS IN THE DARK in September of 2008, and today after eight years and six months we have passed FOUR MILLION page views!!! I am so proud of this remarkable achievement and of the superlative work done by Allan, Jim Clark, James Uhler, Joel Bocko, Maurizio Roca, Dean Treadway, Tony d’Ambra, Dee Dee,  J.d. Lafrance, Pierre de Plume, John Grant, Patricia Perry, Dennis Polifroni, Bob Clark, Jaimie Grijalba, Barry Germansky, Duane Porter, John Greco, Jon Warner, Stephen Mullen, Sachin Gandhi, Marilyn and Rod, Robert Hornak, Brian Wilson, Judy Geater, Laurie Buchanan, Terrill Welch, Patricia Hamilton, Bobby J., Mark Smith, Brandie Ashe, Aaron West, Adam Ferenz, Peter M., Shubhajit, Mark Smith, Marco Tremble, Kaleem Hasan, Jeffrey Goodman,  Celeste Fenster, Peter Lenihan, stephen Russell Gebbet, Samuel Wilson, Camolas, Anuk Bavkist, Ed Howard, Lucille and Melanie Julianoand the many others who have written for the site over the years during the many film countdowns. We went over the top today because of well over 4,000 views from France. I’ve yet to discover why the French were all over the site today, but I love it! WitD covers film, music, opera, theater and books, and is framed by a weekly Monday Morning Diary.

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by Sam Juliano

Well, well, well. So in the end those who bashed the Academy for the likely choice of “La La Land” for Best Picture can now take all their shameful conspiracy theories and inane cultural blight crap and bury them. I don’t always agree with the Oscars but I respect them. And this year they chose a great film -Moonlight- one of my own Top 10 of the year as the Best Picture, after that embarrassing envelope snafu that has since been owned up by Price Waterhouse, the accounting firm. And our own insightful voters on this very page last week also chose “Moonlight” as Best Film of the Year. No need for “La La Land” rooters to cry though. The beloved musical copped 6 Oscars including Best Director and Best Actress, and many other awards from critics’ groups.

What a great night we had at the Tiger Hose Firehouse, where 36 guests dropped in and out for the six hour window of the event.  Seeing John Grant and his lovely wife Pam drive in all the way from West Milford about one hour away still has Lucille and I gratefully amazed.  Great food, great talk, great entertainment, and all things considered a great show with the hair raising conclusion.  My 86 year old father is seen from back in bottom photo near center, and John and Pam are in top photo talking with yours truly. (more…)

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by Jamie at attractive variance

With yesterday’s post, I started the countdown of my favorite 50 records from last year, with today seeing the conclusion of the final 25. Looking over the two days, I’m amazed at the fact that very little separates the two days, with a wealth of wonderful records coming in 2016.

My Top 5 is unranked, and instead merely listed alphabetically, per usual.  (more…)

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