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by Sam Juliano

Martin Luther King Day is one of historical reflection for all those who rightly counted this towering civil rights activist as one of the great Americans.  Most schools are closed though in my New Jersey hometown the teachers are in for workshops, while the kids have a day off.  The movie Selma would be an ideal choice for though looking for a tie-in.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series continues with the twenty-sixth entry set to publish later in the day.  The winners won’t be announced until February 12th, so it is likely in the neighborhood of a dozen more reviews will be posted.  Specification for Part 2 of the Greatest Television series countdown are upcoming, though it seems now like we won’t be underway any earlier than March 1st.  The Allan Fish Online Film Festival will commence on friend’s birthday in late May, meaning the television project will take a break until the AFOFF is completed.  James Clark’s incomparable films essays continue, with the most recent a towering piece on Ruben Ostlund’s Swedish satire and Palme d’Or winner The Square.  J.D. Lafrance also moves forward with a terrific review of Tony Scott’s Domino. (more…)

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Screen cap from National Society of Film Critics Best Picture winner “Lady Bird” directed by Greta Gerwig who was also named best in that category.

by Sam Juliano

The most respected and reliable of all the annual film critics’ groups, the arthouse slanted National Society of Film Critics chose Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird as Best Picture of 2017 and Gerwig as the year’s Best Director over the weekend in voting that also featured wins for Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) as Best Actor and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) as Best Actress.  In total, 44 of the 59 NSFC members participated in the vote Saturday. Recent winners of the group’s top prize include Moonlight, Spotlight, Godard’s Goodbye to Language and Inside Llewyn Davis.  The two films that finished close behind Lady Bird were Get Out and The Phantom Thread.  For Best Director Gerwig was closely followed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  In the supporting races the winners were Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project and Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird.  Best Documentary winner was Agnes Varda’s French work Faces Places and the Best Foreign Film (though foreign films can also crossover and win the main prizes as some have done) was the Romanian Graduation.

The always good-for-a-laugh-or two (or twenty) Golden Globes were set to stage on Sunday night, so I’ll reserved any conversation on that subject for the comment section.

A powerful blizzard and single digit temperatures forced school closing in my hometown and in northern New Jersey on Thursday and Friday.

I’ve been furiously moving to see any films I may have missed in theaters over the year by way of the proper channels (DVD, blu ray, on line streaming) and am hoping to Post my Top 20 Films of 2017 on Monday, January 15th at the site. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

New Year’s Day 2018.  And another one for the record books.  I trust all our readers had a memorable New Year’s Eve affair, even with the single digit temperatures that have complicated any outdoor plans.  One must wonder how the Times Square party people can endure exposure to these frigid numbers for hours.  Here’s to the best year ever over the coming twelve months.  We all sure can use it.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series continues while the Greatest Television Countdown Part 2 looms closer.  Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance have posted their typically superlative essays on a number of intriguing classic and contemporary films.

Lucille, the three boys and I spent our New Year’s Eve down at the Silverball Museum on the ocean boardwalk in Asbury Park playing Medieval Madness, Whitewater, The Twilight Zone, The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, Indiana Jones, Theater of Magic, Junk Yard, The Addams Family and many other classic pins! Ha! The girls were off with friends. (more…)

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Jean-Pierre Leaud in title role of French minimalist masterpiece “The Death of Louis XIV” (La Mort de Louis XIV), one fo the best films of 2017.

by Sam Juliano

Christmas Day 2017 is in the record books.  In the northeast it was a blustery cold day, dipping in the 20’s later in the night, though these chilling numbers will continue the rest of the west, dropping down even further.  We trust all our friends and readers had a special day and will have a great off week leading up till New Year’s Day.  This is that in-between week many of us wow to get so much done during, but too often not enough is negotiated.  My own family as per Christmas tradition spent the day at my young brother Paul and sister-in-law Rita’s (and their two girls) home in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.  Also as per tradition, we saw a film on Christmas night, catching the 8:00 P.M. showing of All the Money in the World at a local multiplex.  We broke tradition on Christmas Eve by venturing out to see a movie as well, Downsizing in Teaneck.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series continues, and is expected to run until around February 10th, meaning at least 12 to 14 more reviews on the top of the 20 published so far.  Jim Clark’s stupenous and candid review of Blade Runner 2049 posted this past week. The Greatest Television series Countdown -Part 2-  resumes on February 14th.

Year end movie going continues with theatrical screenings of “Downsizing” and “All the Money in the World” and blu ray and DVD screenings of “The Death of Louis XIV” (masterpiece!!!) and Lady Macbeth.” (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Yuletide merriment has taken hold, though various melancholic remembrances are also part of the holiday season. Here at Wonders in the Dark, where movie fever is all the rage in December, plans are being made for the rush of late December releases in theaters, including The Post, Molly’s Game, Downsizing, The Phantom Thread and All the Money in the World.  Those in our ranks who take this sort of thing seriously have been struggling to finalize year-end lists, a task invariably complicated by the hankering to cram in some unseen films via online sources.  The traditionalists among us won’t want to miss the opportunity to watch A Christmas Carol (1951), It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street (1947) for the sixth hundredth time,  or beyond that the musical Scrooge or those with a subversive streak, Bad Santa or Silent Night Deadly Night.  There’s always the Twilight Zone episode “Night of the Meek” with Art Carney or the Christmas Honeymooners episode with again features Carney with Jackie Gleason.  The options are really endless, if home viewing is prioritized.  We do plan to have our weekly Monday Morning Diary published on Christmas Day, a week from now as we did six or seven years ago when the holiday fell on a Monday.  We certainly want to hear all about what you all got under the tree now!  🙂

Ace writer James Clark continues on with his brilliant film essays, and he has some great stuff coming your way.  The Caldecott Medal Contender series is approaching the twenty mark, and what with the awards not set to announce until February 12th, it is a cinch there will be at least a dozen more to be published.  Part II of the Greatest Television Series Countdown draws closer, though still a good eight weeks away.  The holiday break will give some of the writers a chance to watch some of the series they are covering. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

What’s that sound in the distance?  I could swear sleigh bells and caroling are wafting through the air.  Even the white stuff has made its first appearance in the metropolitan area, and some of us are getting our annual yuletide DVDs ready for holiday week viewings.  Just on Thursday evening we watched the 1951 A Christmas Carol for the eight-hundredth time, and yet another viewing of the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street is imminent. In any case, traveling by car has been a daunting proposition, and decorating has been a prime order of business.  Here at Wonders in the Dark, our annual Caldecott Medal series soliders onward, though at a bit more leisured pace than it has in the past.  Jim Clark’s magisterial film essays are posted every third week.  Part 2 of the Greatest Television Series Countdown will resume on or around February 14th.

A major book event was staged on Sunday at Manhattan’s Books of Wonder.  I posted on Facebook on the three children’s book luminaries who appeared, and will repeat them here

Renowned picture book illustrator extraordinaire Raul Colon appeared this afternoon at Manhattan’s premiere children’s mecca, Books of Wonder to discuss the extraordinary “Miguel’s Brave Knight” which was reviewed as part of my “Caldecott Medal Contender” series. He is seen here with my son Jeremy and speaking to the gathering about Cervantes, his collaboration with the great Margarita Engle and the advent of the book’s unique cover, one of the year’s two or three most spectacular.

One of the greatest of children’s book illustrators, Czech-American Peter Sis appeared today to discuss his major Caldecott Medal contender “Robinson” at Books of Wonder this afternoon in Manhattan. As always Sis gave a comprehensive account of his art and the advent of his latest sublime work, one of many in a distinguished career that has brought him three Caldecott honors. I dare say I believe “Robinson” is his masterpiece. Sis is seen here with my son Jeremy and speaking to the gathering.

Esteemed illustrator Charles Santore appeared today at Books of Wonder to promote his new fairy tale interpretation of “Alice in Wonderland.” Not a Caldecott contender as this like most of his other work is a chapter book, but it is a sublime work and Santore engagingly addressed the gathering, later responding to my question about the time it took to complete the intricate assignment. “Three years” he answered. Santore is shown here with Jeremy and speaking.

(more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Film Critics groups from New York, Los Angeles and the National Board of Review have announced their year end awards this past week and all three chose different films for their ‘best.’  The Gotham scribes chose Lady Bird, LA named Call Me By Your Name and the NBR selected Steven Spielberg’s yet-to-open The Post.  The choices for Best Director and the acting winners were also different, though the surprising omission of Gary Oldman for The Darkest Hour as Best Lead Actor had raised more than a few eyebrows.  Two of the groups chose Timothe Chalomet (Call Me By Your Name), while one chose Tom Hanks for the Spielberg movie.  The three differed on actress with Sally Hawkins, Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan receiving citations.

Jim Clark’s latest review is a gem on Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy.  The Caldecott Medal Contender series continues until February, with fifteen essays so far published.  On February 14th the second part of the Greatest Television Series countdown will resume.

Our entire family spent Saturday and Sunday in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the heart of the Amish Country.  The highlight was the time spent at the Kettle Village, though we unexpectatntly wound up adopted a 16 pound, seven-year old feline at the Pet Smart out there for a mere $25.  A super friendly animal, but we already have two other cats, two birds, a labrador retriever, a pug, a turtle, two guinea pigs, and a hamster. (more…)

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