Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

nocturnal-animals-banner-poster-1473972277

by Sam Juliano

With Turkey Day 2016 now part of history we move on to the Christmas season and a month of year-end awards and lists in all the arts.  Concurrently this is for most the busiest time of the year, one dominated by store and on-line shopping and traffics jams all over the place.  The Caldecott Medal Contender series continues to move forward, and I wished to thank all those who have placed comments and/or have read any of the seventeen essays that have been published so far.  The project will continue until the last week of January.

Lucille, Jeremy and I attended two book presentations in Manhattan on Saturday that featured author-illustrators Jerry Pinkney, Melissa sweet, Evan Turk, Pamela Zagrenski, Ron Barrett, Kuniko Y. Craft. Eric Dominguez and Julie Fogliano.  We also saw one new movie release in theaters, and traveled up to Sussex County to pick up our Christmas tree at a farm.  As always a fun family experience. (more…)

Read Full Post »

20161120_094531

manchester

by Sam Juliano

Happy Turkey Day 2016 to all our friends and readers stateside.  For some a time to catch up with music, films, theater and literature, for others a time to unwind and meditate.  Sports fans have the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day and those preferring to take advantage of the extra time have a plethora of quality new film releases in the theaters.  We at Wonders in the Dark would like to wish everyone stateside a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and those overseas a great week in every regard.

On Sunday at the Bank Street Bookstore in Manhattan Lucille, Sammy, Jeremy and I met up with esteemed author Heather Lang and famed illustrator Raul Colon to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ruth Law’s record-breaking plane flight. The duo treated an impressive gathering to a theatrical book reading of the masterful FEARLESS FLYER (a Caldecott Contender series review was posted on it weeks back at WitD) along with some original sketch drawings by Colon for the audience to enjoy.  On Friday night Lucille, Sammy and I attended the first concert of the 2016-17 season by the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra on Friday night at the West Side Presbyterian Church on S. Monroe Street. Under the baton of Conductor Diane Wittry, the ensemble performed spirited readings of Tchaikovsky’s celebrated Fifth Symphony and Violin Concerto (on original instrument) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s seminal “Russian Easter Overture”. (more…)

Read Full Post »

broken-flowers-1

 © 2016 by James Clark

      Just as we have to resist Jarmusch’s Dead Man being seen to be a Johnny Depp movie, we have to resist that remarkable artist’s Broken Flowers (2005) being palmed off as a Bill Murray movie. Roger Ebert regards the latter work as creating “a gentle cloud of happiness,” due to its providing a banal sense of life being short. That would be as close to absolutely wrong as you can get. Notwithstanding the film industry’s survivalist zeal to wrap up their products as various kinds of deluxe candy, the upbeat dimension of Broken Flowers traces to a far from infantile context the neglect of which puts one forever in the dark about the gift at hand.

Don, the protagonist, one of the nouveau riche IT Klondike powers, receives a letter purporting to bring him up to speed that the writer—unidentified and of unknown address—has, after 19 years of raising a child of theirs which had never been brought to his attention, suddenly felt the need to put him on her Friends list. Before she can finalize the dropping of the other shoe, Don has, with the urging and information provided by a sleuthing-besotted neighbor, turned up at her door. If this so-called Penny ever was worth more than her name, she surely isn’t now. “Donny, so what the fuck do you want coming here? I don’t remember any happy ending…” Amidst a rural eyesore cluttered with motorcycles and motorcyclists, the distaff gives Don a seasoned -brawler’s Offensive Tackle’s block leaving him reeling off the Halloween porch. A couple of soft-spoken intimates (sort of sounding like Dead Man’s Charlie just before the killing commenced) beat him senseless and, with multiple facial wounds, he wakes up in his car in the middle of a harvested field you can be sure having nothing to do with Penny’s profit centers. (more…)

Read Full Post »

arrival_ver4

by Sam Juliano

Ah well.  One of the biggest political upsets of all time has transpired and many are shaking their heads in disbelief.  I predicted Donald J. Trump would win the Republican nomination months ago and I faced quite a bit of scorn and opposition.  I had a perverse side that was actually rooting for him to KO such “progressive luminaries” like Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, especially since I was certain a win in November could never happen.  Then things got tighter, and I stated on last week’s MMD that Trump could well stage an upset.  This election will be discussed over and over and over again, and its implications will last a lifetime.  This is not a political site of course, though the diverse MMD is the place to share views, complaints, expectations and general lamentations.  In any case, I am happy this madness has finally ended,  so focus can now be arts exclusive.  or can it be?

The Caldecott Medal Contender series has been moving forward without a hitch and I want to thank everyone for the comments and support.  The series is doing quite well by every barometer, and authors and illustrators have been sharing them on FB.  Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance have written some fantastic films reviews, and will continue well into the future.

Lucille and I managed to see five (5) new releases over the weekend.  This was quite a strong line-up, though for now I have resisted going the full five stars with any.  This could change down the line.  We also attended a children’s book event at Books of Wonder in Manhattan.  Bob Shea, Jason Carter Eaton, Ruth Chan, Tim Miller and Greg Pizzoli presented their new books. (more…)

Read Full Post »

tree-1

by Sam Juliano

The story of the extraordinarily perspicacious fifteen-year-old German/Dutch girl Anne Frank, enshrined in a diary she maintained during two years of Nazi occupation, has remained a staple in classrooms, has been translated into seventy languages, and according to some accounts has a wider circulation worldwide than any book other the Bible.  It is hardly a wonder that such a treasured document would hold such emotional sway in view of its brilliant young writer’s tragic end, yet her her life-affirming resilience in the face of this impending doom has inspired and moved readers to their cores. Volumes upon volumes of critical studies of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and the continued research into her short life have been the bane of historical scholars, and there can be no doubt this impassioned life force has moved mountains across the globe, no doubt precipitating more tears than any document ever written.  Stage plays, films and documentaries on her life and the twenty-five months she spent holed up in a series of tiny rooms, sealed off by a bookcase have been plentiful and sustained, yet there are other angles that haven’t been explored both as a narrative aside or as a symbolic extension.

In the achingly poignant picture book, poetically written by Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrated by the Caldecott Honoree Peter McCarty, The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window, a horse chestnut tree standing outside a secret annex that shields eight people from concentration camp doom during the height of the Holocaust takes on the dual role of guardian and as a gateway to the sealed off outer world.  In an afterward Gottesfeld confirms that young Anne made reference to the tree three times, though it is clear enough from the most stirring entry -the one the author showcases on the book’s opening page- that there is a metaphysical kinship with this venerable gateway to the outside world, one that encompasses beauty in its most unadulterated incarnation:

“The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

amish-2

amish

by Sam Juliano

After months of media insanity we have reached the end of the long journey that commenced back in February.  The Trump vs. Clinton contest will soon -finally- be decided and I think the vast majority of us know well that a woman will soon be elected to the White House.  Mind you, it should go no other way, and I don’t completely rule out an upset in what appears to be a close race, but in going over state-by-state pollings it doesn’t seem that Trump has a path unless he runs the table with the swing states that are too close to call as of Sunday night.  Impossible?  Not at all.  Probable?  Not very. But the best part of all this is that we can move on to subjects and interests far more rewarding and to that I say yes!!!

Lucille, the five kids, Broadway Bob and I attended a Jimmy Webb concert on Friday night in Bethelem, Pennsylvania and we were thrilled to hear the baby boomer era song writer perform on piano his standards – “MacArthur Park,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Galveston” “Worst That Can Happen” among others.  Webb did quite a bit of talking in between the songs, serving as a kind of stand up comic.  Some of that shtick worked, some did not.  For me hearing him do “MacArthur Park” and “Phoenix” two of my favorite songs ever was worth the long trip, though we did sleep in a hotel and traveled over to the Amish Country in Lancaster where we spent time at the wonderful Kitchen Kettle Village, having an early dinner at the family style Good and Plenty.  A ride on the horse and buggy and a trip through the farms also occupied our stay there.  We stayed at the accommodating Old Amish Inn on Saturday night and returned home on Sunday afternoon.  Not a movie week, but the coming seven day period will yield several in theaters as per plans.  We are approaching the time of the year that traditionally is the richest.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

ghost-dog-1

 © 2016 by James Clark

Though the three early films by Jim Jarmusch—Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law and Mystery Train—provide so many laughs that the mere reading of the titles comes to us as a shot of merriment, with the quite emphatic Night on Earth and subsequent Dead Man the pain that is the populace asserts itself in an exponentially severe and transformational way. Arguably the first test run with a view to dynamic viability on that rocky road is Ghost Dog (1999), seemingly infused with the sense of millennial showdown. There we find, at the outset, the eponymous central figure leaving at dark a shack which he calls home on the rooftop of a Rust Belt hulk to (in the capacity of a contract killer) exterminate someone from out of that sea of annoyances rendering planet Earth, to all intents and purposes, a perpetual night.

However, it is not the darkness of this action which most effectively touches us. No, the first figure we meet is a buoyantly soaring large bird (all but hawk-like), its dark coloration punctuating a not-quite-black, unlimited sky and then tracing a course over a cluttered industrial area of a city, probably that gold mine of the gross, Cleveland, but having licence plates reading, for the sake of global reach, “The Industrial State.” The big bird, soon seen to be a very appropriate pigeon, is (as with wild beasts across the board here) an undiluted joy sustained by the musical uncanniness of luminary RZA, who, like the rest of his band, Wu- Tang Clan, constitutes an electronic river of rhythm and melancholy—assertive and unassertive— (and goes so far, as we shall specify, to dip, rapper-style, into the ultra-obscure 1950s ballad, “Man in a Raincoat”). Hieing to Ghost Dog’s aerie, which we find to be a pigeon sanctuary of sorts, the only-seemingly random sprite ushers in for us the woeful state of the shelter, with its adjacent rickety coop. Nevertheless, we are promptly given to understand that much more than squalor is occurring. The cooing of the birds gives way to a study of sorts where we are introduced to the protagonist at a kind of peace with life in reading (with a quiet and ardent inner voice) a text clearly of great importance and satisfaction to him, namely the Hagakure, that Bible of ancient samurai warriors. The thrust of this treasure is pure hawk, with no signs of pigeon. (Or not yet.) “The way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one’s body and mind are at peace… And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the way of the Samurai.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »