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by Sam Juliano

I can’t thank everyone enough for their kinds and concerned words about Lucille in private messages on social media, in e mails and here at the site on the prior MMD.  The latest news is absolutely fantastic.  After consultations, we were told by a neurosurgeon at Columbia-Presbyterian that her now confirmed benign tumor can be effectively eliminated through the far less invasive “radio surgery” which means they won’t need to cut her skull to operate.  To say that this news is significant would be the understatement of understatements, and we are both ebullient and relieved, if still vigilant on the entire situation.  The doctor wants to do this procedure sometime in November of December.

On the political front my brother, Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano endorsed NJ native Cory Booker for President at a meeting between the two men at Patsy’s Italian restaurant in Fairview this past week as reported by the New Jersey Globe:

Juliano backs Booker for president

Lucille and I attended the Burt Lancaster Festival again on Thursday the Film Forum, taking in three (3) film’s in that day’s marathon: (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Full speed ahead.  We are already approaching the half-way point of August, with temperatures in general far more comfortable than there have been over the past month or so.  Vacationers are taking stock of the time left before returning to work and for those in school-related positions the 2019-2020 year is only a stone’s throw away.  Those at the site would like to congratulate Brooklynite Maurizio Roca and his wife Yolanda on the birth of their first child, a son named Julian.  Happy times for the entire family and wishing them the very best.  Soon some of our site writers will be focusing in on the horror genre, normally the routine here as we near late August in the window leading up to Halloween.  Jim Clark has penned a superlative essay on Sawdust and Tinsel as part of his brilliant ongoing Ingmar Bergman series, and J.D. Lafrance an excellent piece on Pump Up the Volume this past week at the site.

There is no alarm as everything seems to be in order, but Lucille’s grape-sized benign tumor in her skull has necessitated observation.  This is almost never a life-threatening situation as opposed to malignant tumors, but her menengioma may eventually have to be removed at some point.  Consultation with a most excellent neurosurgeon will be happening around the 25th when said practitioner returns from his vacation.  I know some family members over the years who lived with these tumors their entire lives.  Each situation depends on the person.  Famed celebrities like Mary Tyler Moore and Elizabeth Taylor had similar mengiomas removed without any problems.  Yes I am seriously concerned but most optimistic after talking to many on the matter. (more…)

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Screen cap from “The Farewell”

by Sam Juliano

And now August.  The summer’s most emblematic month could last an eternity or wiz by, depending on your mindset.  It is defined by excessive heat, seashore reprieves, back-to-school preparation, and for movie fans gleeful anticipation for the best quarter of the year on that front.  Sobering for me personally is that I will be turning 65 years old as the dog days of summer month winds down.  This past week J.D. Lafrance published a splendid and well-received essay on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s new epic film. Jim Clark’s upcoming filmic investigation is upcoming.  Horror film fans will soon be directing their attention to the pre-Halloween lead-in with annual lists and reviews.  But perhaps I am getting ahead here.  We must try and enjoy the month while we can.

The Film Forum is currently staged a three-week Burt Lancaster Film Festival.  Though I (and some members of my family) have seen just about every film in this expansive program, I took the opportunity to watch two classic Lancasters at the Houston Street theater this past week, and have one or two more lined up for the present seven day span.  Lancaster of course is one of our premium actors. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Right now I can’t help but reference this song from Steel Pulse featured in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing:

Otherwise, it is business as usual under the air conditioned interiors as we approach the dogs days of August and the lead in (can you believe it?) to another September and school year.  I will turn 65 in four weeks, and like all others in my predicament I can only ponder where the time has gone.  But heck, why even consider pouting, we must enjoy the time we do have and the things left to negotiate.  This past week Jim Clark posted a stunning essay on Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum and J.D. Lafrance waxed lyrical on the 1996 blockbuster Mission Impossible.  

***SPOILERS***) All the pre-viewing signs were there. Glowing advance reports, Oscar hyperbole, universal acclaim at Metacritic with a 54 favorable, 4 mixed and 0 negative consensus including nearly ten 100 grades, one of which was posted by the ever-discerning SLANT magazine. Yet this nearly 3 hour opus was seemingly sure to disturb many with its mise en scene set in and around the locale of the depraved Manson family murders of 1969. As an insecure fading film star Leonardo DiCaprio is dynamic as is Brad Pitt as his buddy-buddy stunt double. The two men establish a winning camaraderie during the hippie era, chain-smoking regular and acid cigarettes, driving around the era’s cars which glide by neon signs at a time when counter-culture was moving in. The film is nearly three hours long but you can’t feel it, and Tarantino provides a visceral intensity to a bloody finale that far eclipses what Scorsese gave us in “Taxi Driver.” Historical revisionism has never been so satisfying when the director gives the middle finger to the cretinous Manson followers and extreme violence has never taken on such hilarity in execution and dialogue. The flame thrower is a particular gas. The supporting cast is exemplary in this black comedy extraordinaire.  Tarantino’s stamp was all over this film in every way, shape and form. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

At Union Hall in Paramus, my youngest brother Paul Juliano was elected the new Bergen County Chairman in a unanimous verdict on Wednesday evening in front of jubilant party faithful and office holders right down from Governor Phil Murphy to the State Democratic Chairman to State Senators and congressmen and finally the county committee persons who actually cast ballots to give Juliano his resounding mandate. The new chairman promised inclusion and diversity and continued success in a county presently controlled by Democrats in virtually every public office. Juliano’s family, friends and political associates celebrated his election with rousing speeches and sustained ovations in one of the biggest nights ever for the Borough of Fairview and southeast Bergen Democrats.

In the meantime those of us in the metropolitan region, in fact nearly everywhere stateside are mired in an oppressive heat wave that has had real-feel implications hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Here at Wonders in the Dark, James Clark and J.D. Lafrance published stupendous essays this past week with the former’s towering piece on Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, the latest in his monumental series on the French director.

Lucille and I managed to navigate the heat with two appearances in the theaters over the weekend.  The lush and visually striking alternative-point-of-view fueled Ophelia, brings a 400 year old celebrated play into feminine revision.  The writing isn’t always top-notch but the acting, particularly by Daisy Ridley as the titular character is superb as is the production design and stunning score by Steven Price.  For the most part I found the film haunting and mesmerizing. (thanks for the alert Marilyn Ferdinand!)  We caught the film Saturday night at the Tribeca Cinema.  On Sunday we took in Avi Nesher’s The Other Story, which chronicles a family divide between secular and orthodox in an Israeli conclave that compelling recalls the 1982 The Chosen, written by Chaim Potok. (more…)

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 © 2019 by James Clark

      These days, an old black and white film about God will find few takers. However, there is a still-practicing filmmaker, namely, Claire Denis, who pulls out all the stops to revisit such a vehicle. Is she a nun? Nope. Is she a God-fearing militant in favor of aid to the distressed? Nope. Is she a social scientist, tracking religious consequences through the ages? No, no, no. What Denis’ excitement pertains to, is the work of that mostly shunned movie, called, The Seventh Seal (1957), created by notable-no-longer filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007), whose output engages the intrinsic disaster of piety and smarts. (The word, “intrinsic,” is crucial here. And as such, her perspective is problematic, not formulaic.) In addition to piety and smarts, that film spotlights a young couple of itinerant circus performers in the 12th century, the husband, Jof, agog with the possibility that their baby boy could become a dazzling acrobat, or a juggler, pulling off an “impossible” trick, the kind of trick only an oracle would imagine.

Intrinsic in the travelling folks’ itinerary, is the sentence of being left out of the lives who, if not making the world go round, making the world theirs. 35 Shots of Rum (2008) contemplates the hopes of Jof, almost a millennium shot forward. As such, our film today carries the special bonus of catching up to, once again, the bittersweet world of Jacques Demy and the musical muse of Demy’s soulmate, Michel Legrand (setting out the latter master’s magical transcendence by way of those deft swallows, the Tindersticks).

Diminutive Jof comes a cropper with the salt of the earth in a medieval beer hall, and, by way of putting a less embarrassing story in the mix, he tells a gathering at his caravan that he “roared like a lion” against the mob. Our protagonist today, Lionel, a Paris commuter train driver (far from Jof’s open road), is an African immigrant-widower who dotes on his adult daughter, Josephine, still living with him. The action here is pensive in a puzzling way. Whereas Jof and Marie are on the hook to circumvent various substantial evils (the plague, for instance), Lionel and Jo seem to lead a rather uneventful, mundane existence. Their reticence to speak (a less extreme strategy of the vow to silence, in Bergman’s, Persona [1966]), counting upon face and body language, becomes a form of poetry you could study for years. (more…)

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Soon-to-be-elected Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano and Governor Phil Murphy at Cliffside Park’s Villa Amalfi on Wednesday night.

by Sam Juliano

A rousing event held at the Villa Amalfi in Cliffside Park on Wednesday night attracted hundreds of the Democratic Party faithful who attended to toast my younger brother Paul Juliano, who will be elected to the top position (the Chairmanship) of New Jersey’s Bergen County, the state’s most populous and controlled unanimously by Democrats on Wednesday of this coming week (the 17th).  As my own tribute to Paul -though we speak numerous times every day- is the new Wonders in the Dark site banner which captures Paul and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy during the speech ceremony.  Many thanks to those who left comments last week and have reached me privately for the exceedingly kind words.

This past week J.D. Lafrance published a splendid review of Robert Altman’s The Gingerbread Man.  Essay writer extraordinaire James Clark will have his newest piece set to post in the next few days.

Lucille, Sammy, Jeremy and I took in two music-themed films last night at the Claridge Cinemas in Montclair. Neither was any kind of a masterpiece but I’d still recommend both, especially the country music drama “Wild Rose” which features an electrifying performance by Jessie Buckley as the former prisoner and Scottish mother of two living in Glasgow and dreaming of flying to Nashville.  Moderated by Bob Dylan’s son Jakob, the documentary “Echo in the Canyon” examines the Laurel Canyon music scene at the peak of the rock era but is oddly truncated and wandering. Still, those who revere the Beach Boys, Tom Petty, the Byrds, Eric Clapton, the Mamas and the Papas and other acts will as I did find much to admire and be ravishing and modestly enlightened with. (more…)

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