Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category



by Sam Juliano

Our 19 year-old daughter Melanie’s move into NYC for the opening of the college fall semester at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) was our primary focus over the past week, though the same support and preparation was afforded to young Sammy, who begins classes at Bergen Community College in Paramus.  Though Melanie is a year older than Sammy, she took one year off after high school to make sure of what direction she wanted to take in moving forward.  Though Melanie will be living at the SVA dorm, she plans to return home nearly every weekend, and we will be active to make that happen.  Sammy, on the other hand will be commuting by bus, so he will be staying under our roof.  Getting him to the bus stop at 6:15 A.M. every day (some days I will no doubt just drive him there outright I am sure) will be ushering in a new and drastic change of focus for us, and to be sure we now know what our central priority is.  In the meantime, Danny now enters his Junior year at Cliffside Park High School, which is also the location where Jillian starts as a freshman.  Jeremy will be our final child to leave the Fairview School system, where he enters the eight grade on Wednesday.

The Childhood/Adolescent Countdown continues to advance with deceptive speed, and basically is down to its final six weeks.   The authors of the reviews must again be commended for their brilliant coverage.  many thanks to those who have been part of this great venture.

With much of the week taken up by shopping in clothes and bed stores, and visiting the respective colleges for orientations, and luncheons, Lucille and I didn’t see any new films in theaters, though we did watched some stuff on her HD screen at home, and on Saturday evening attended a staged reading of a new play from a lifelong friend, Peter Danish, titled “Herb and Lenny” at the Antrim Playhouse in Suffern, New York.  The work focused on the two most celebrated conductors of the past century, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. (more…)

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seven years

Another milestone has been achieved at Wonders in the Dark this past week as the site has published its 3,000th blog post.  A remarkable accomplishment to be sure, but even sweeter when one considers the general apathy online for blogs in general, what with the continuing prominence of Facebook and Twitter.  Blogs are far from dead, but let’s just say they are less dominant than they once were.  Ironically, the mid-week post- Aaron West’s review of “My Life as a Dog”, which gave cause for celebration – came to pass during the now running Greatest Childhood/Adolescent polling, which at least by way of comments is the least exceptional of the six genre polls we have staged so far.  Still the page view for the project have remained solid and the quality of writing exhibited in the reviews themselves has been of the first rank.

Simultaneously, the site marks its seventh anniversary in two weeks.  Launched in September of 2008, the speculative venture was planned by Allan Fish and myself, and supported mightily by Tony d’Ambra and Dee Dee, before gaining steam by a fraternity of blogger friends.  The site’s trademarks have been the weekly Monday Morning Diary, (instituted in 2010) a community forum where readers share their weekly viewings and activities, and the primary announcement board; the many decade and genre countdowns (populated not only by the site’s staff writers, but by fellow blogger friends from other sites, and an extensive archives of opera, book, and music reviews.  Though the present time has been difficult for blog sites in general, the site is alive and well, and will no doubt thrive for some time to come.

Many thanks to all our friends for making this place so accommodating for so long.  By any barometer of measurement this has been a remarkable run.

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36. The White Balloon


by Allan Fish

(Iran 1995 85m) DVD1

Aka. Badkonake sefid

Dancing with their fins

p Kurosh Mazkouri d Jafar Panahi w Abbas Kiarostami ph Farzad Jahat ed Jafar Panahi

Aida Mohammadkhani (Razieh), Mohsen Kafili (Ali), Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy (mother), Anna Borkowska (old lady), Mohammad Shahani (soldier), Mohammad Bakhtiar (tailor), Hamidreza Tahery (Reza), Aliasghar Smardi (balloon seller)

It’s time for an academic game, a theoretical test, and one that seems apt when discussing an Iranian film. Your subject is The White Balloon, but you have to pick one word to describe it and then write a small essay on why that word is appropriate. One might pick ‘balloon’, but then you wouldn’t have seen the movie. ‘White’ would be less controversial as it features prominently, but still one suspects it would be limited to discussion of the mise-en-scène. One might pick goldfish, but again one might find it limiting. So I go for neither. For me, only one word presents itself – continuity. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

One more week and September will be upon us.  Some mourn the imminent end of the summer, while others among us are counting the days till the heat subsides and all the various scenic and cultural advantages of the autumn season kick in.  All things considered it does seem like the eighth month has raced by, but whom among us doesn’t feel like time in general is a speedy proposition.

Here at Wonders in the Dark the Childhood/Adolescent Films Countdown is moving along with a seeming sense of purpose.  As can be seen by the page view totals, people are looking in, though there isn’t any point in denying the comments have been rather too few and far in between.  For all the readers of the countdown, we thank you for your support and interest.  To the writers, your work has been exemplary.  We are now in the 30’s, and will continue until October.

Our family worked in two long mileage day trips this past week, and they couldn’t have been any more different.  On Thursday we traveled down to Cape May to walk through the outdoor mall and tour some historical town houses, but most of the day was spent at the ocean in Wildwood -just a few minutes away- and on the world-famous three pier boardwalk.  We are all Wildwood veterans, having spent a week there every summer for eight consecutive year in the nineties, and then going down for a few days in succeeding years.  The second trip on Sunday was far up the Hudson to Hyde Park, the estate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was born in the lovingly maintained mansion that is part of a fascinating tour that included the FDR museum, rose garden (where he and Eleanor are interred) and specious estate grounds.  The guide imparted a splendid grasp of the history of the place and of Roosevelt’s life.  This is a trip that is well worth the modest investment.  Tickets for adults are $18, with kids 15 and under free. (more…)

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G 2

by Sam Juliano

And now when we croon the refrain of the The Happenings’ I’ll See You in September, we can be rest assured that moment is nearly upon us.  Late vacationers are either embarking on their final reprieves or are arriving back home.  Those who count themselves as big fans of the NFL, music and the best part of the movie season have reason to be heartened of the coming months.  Others who just want to feel comfortable when outdoors can dream of the heat going on sabbatical.

The Childhood/Adolescence Films Countdown will be approaching the halfway point this week on Wednesday.  This is very hard to believe as it seems we only started it a few weeks ago.  The page view and comments totals have not broken any site records to be sure (nor have come anywhere close to) but everything is moving forward nicely.  The only mild contentiousness concerning the venture have been voiced behind the scene in e mails among site staff members, and they have nothing to do with the stellar reviews, but rather with opinions as to what should not be considered “childhood” or “adolescent.”  While a few films didn’t not receive endorsement by several, the countdown choices have been and will be largely embraced.  The polling will continue into the middle of October.

Lucille and I saw two new released in the theaters this past week, and I also managed some at-home viewings, two of which were seen several years back.

I escorted my family on a day trip to Gettysburg on Saturday.  The three-and-a-half hour ride was draining, since it had to be repeated later in the night after all the festivities.  We purchased the CD tour set at the Visiting Center gift shop, and followed through to all the battlefield stops and at other historical stations throughout this famed town in south-central Pennsylvania – the place where the bloodiest multi-day battle in American history took place.  The CD was superbly narrated by a historian who gave the tour the proper discussion.  A scorching hot day near 90, but the air conditioned car kept everything comfortable, even with the numerous forays outside during the tour.  We spend a few hours strolling the main street in town, which featured souvenir shops, museums and eateries.  The kids loved the trip, and asked if we could return, since one day is hardly enough to take in everything.  We have tentative plans to return in the fall.  Now I’m itching to re-read James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom and Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox.   (more…)

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A scene from Stevan Riley’s LISTEN TO ME MARLON, opening at Film Forum on July 29. Courtesy of Showtime Films.

A scene from Stephen Riley’s masterful LISTEN TO ME MARLON,


Screen cap from extraordinary German film “Phoenix”

by Sam Juliano

We are moving closer to the mid way point of August and for many this spells long awaited vacation weeks.  Weather has typically been unrelentingly hot, but still bearable in the metropolitan area.  The baseball season is nearing crunch time, the football season is just weeks away from commencing, and opera fans are preparing for an exciting new season at the Met.  Those in the profession of educating are now looking at three weeks before the start of the new school year.

The Childhood/Adolescent Films Countdown is also nearing the half way point, and all things considered that’s pretty remarkable.  It seems like it just started a few days ago.  The venture will continue into October.  Once again this past week was a very fine one for superbly written essays, page views and comments.

Lucille and I took in two masterful films over the weekend, but not before meeting up with our very good friend Sachin Gandhi on Monday night in Manhattan.  We briefly toured the city in my Odyssey, stopping at one of the Barnes & Noble stores where the final day of the Criterion 50% off sale was being conducted.  As always Sachin is a lot of fun to spend time with.  Lucille and I attended our third wedding of the summer on Friday night as well.  The two films we saw are as follows: (more…)

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Cecil the Lion

by Sam Juliano

All of the sudden we have approached the final leg of the summer journey with the dog days of August now in full gear, and the fall season well within an earshot.  Of course the eighth month of the year is a prime vacation period, and many in our midst are preparing to travel.  The baseball season playoffs are beginning to take some kind of shape, and as a Yankees fan I am most pleased with the way things are developing.  The summer school program I have been teaching since late June ends this coming Friday, August 7th, leaving a bit more than three weeks for a summer respite.  Lucille also has approximately the same time off until she reports back in near the end of the month.

The Childhood/Adolescent Films Countdown continues to move forward most impressively as the half way point has nearly been reached.  The page views and comment totals are quite fine, and as always first-class writing has been published by numerous bloggers.  I want to thank everyone involved for their quality submissions on every front.  The project will continue into October.

Lucille and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on Wednesday (July 29) by taking in the new Broadway musical Amazing Grace, which was staged at the Nederlander Theater on 41st Street off Seventh Avenue.  Unfortunately this highly derivative work (Les Miserables) showcased a weak and unmemorable score and nothing special in the “book” department.  The sets and the performances though were fine enough.  We had a better time having dinner at the Red Lobster right around the corner.  Certainly a memorable evening regardless of what we thought of the show.

On Monday night we watched COURT at the Film Forum, meeting up with our longtime friend Kaleem Hasan.  The film, an unapologetic indictment of the Indian judicial system, rates a solid grade.  Once again I rewatched some blu rays and DVDs, a few attached to the countdown: (more…)

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