Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

by Sam Juliano

As expected the Director’s Guild handed out their prize for this past year’s films to the talented Chinese-American woman Chloe Zhao for the masterful Nomadland.  The BAFTA’s will be announced late Sunday night so I will revise this post Monday morning.  Our wonderful friends and co-editor Jim and Valerie Clark have informed us that things are going well now for them in the wake of the recent lockdown in the Toronto area where they reside.  We are so relieved to hear that.  Jim’s superlative essay on Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris published at the site this past week.

Lucille, young Sammy and I watched the remaining three Best Animated Feature nominees over the past two days on Netflix and Disney.. (We had already seen Soul and Wolfwalkers) All of us still feel WOLFWALKERS is handily the best of the five and for me it finishes in the Top 5 of year-end “best” list overall! Nonetheless, we enjoyed Onward, Over the Moon and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmegeddon and thought them creatively memorable, though none of the trio can be described as masterful. Still, somewhat better than we expected.   We also watched the downer (but very well made) teen drama Fourteen.  Star ratings for all are below: (more…)

Read Full Post »

A “stone cold” masterpiece in both senses! Charlie Kaufman’s “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a five star film and places in my Top 3 of this past year!

by Sam Juliano

It was an earlier-than-usual Easter Sunday but here we are enjoying the one week break that comes after with a return to work set for almost half way through the month.  We remain in a kind of functional limbo, what with the COVID-19 numbers still rising in some areas including my home state.  Our dear friends and site co-editor Jim and Valerie Clark are in the Toronto, Canada area that went into lock down a few days ago.  We are concerned deeply for their security and continued well-being.

Tribeca programmers are thrilled to announce that the 20th-anniversary edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, will take place in New York City from June 9 through June 20, 2021 — new dates to ensure the Festival moves forward in the safest environment.  Lucille and I are figuring we will again be attending but as to the volume we can’t say with any certainty just yet.  It is far off enough to be able to sort things out in tune with the health situation.  The Major League Baseball season is underway as well.

This past week has been a torrid one for us on the film scene as we have managed to watch seven (7) films, which is the most “new” releases we’ve seen in one week since maybe 16 months ago, though it could be even longer than that. (more…)

Read Full Post »

20210323_213155 (more…)

Read Full Post »

by Sam Juliano

It’s official.  Spring 2021 has arrived and with it a real sense of hope and better days ahead.  There remains of course people out there who would rather defy sensible regulations and play politics, but with vaccination numbers rising and in some areas cases falling there is no reason for most of us to live in consternation.  I suspect the coming summer will be far, far different than the horror show we experienced in the corresponding months of 2020, and am hoping the vast majority of our friends who are able to get the vaccination are doing so.  I’ve been told by our dear Canadian friends that it isn’t as readily available up there, but I am hoping that situation will improve greatly in the coming weeks.  This hopeful expectation is also aimed at our friends in Europe, South America and Asia.

On Wednesday our resident film essay master Jim Clark, published the latest in his extraordinary Ingmar Bergman series, the 1964 comedy (in color), All These Women. 

Lucille and I watched plenty of classic movies and television episodes over the past week but we did manage to take in two of the recent award-nominated films via streaming.  (We almost attended a showing at a local theater, but we are delaying it until tomorrow (Tuesday).  I’d like to add some commentary but for now I offer up the 1 to 5 star ratings: (more…)

Read Full Post »

by Sam Juliano

And the beat goes on mostly in a positive vein.   Vaccinations continue at a record pace and more and more who were originally adverse are now playing the game as it should be played.  President Biden is targeting May 1st as the expectation date for widespread vaccine administration and the summer in a general sense as the time when everything as we know it will be very close to the way it was before the pandemic disrupted daily living in March of 2020.  Some of us have been able to re-visit restaurants, albeit carefully and are mulling theater appearances after a year of forfeiting that option due to mass closures and personal choice.

I am well aware that a good number of our readers and even some on our writing staff have a very low opinion of the Academy Awards and our dearly beloved Allan Fish aimed some of his most scathing (and humorous) barbs on the annual tradition.  I still find them fun to follow (and laugh at as well) providing of course they are not taken seriously and have long used the event as a manner to get many friends together for a party, friends who I may not have seen in the preceding year.  After forty-three consecutive years however, we will lamentably not be hosting a party this year because the pandemic has still not quite run its course and even with many vaccinated it poses a medium risk to hold a gathering in a limited space.  God willing we expect to have the party return in 2022, so we can start a new streak.  In any event, because of the limitations imposed on us this year in every sense it is pretty much clear enough to figure out what the best films of the year are (films we watched via the streaming services) and predicting Monday morning’s nominees is not too challenging remotely.  I plan to revisit this MMD mid-day tomorrow to add a few sentences on the actual nominations, due to be announced around 8:20 A.M. EST. (more…)

Read Full Post »

 

by Sam Juliano

The typical March weather is now regaling us with mercurial tenacity as temperatures rise and fall at a time of year when strong winds and clothing uncertainty are most prevalent.  Of course our friends sound of the equator are inching closer to their own fall season so the numbers there are surely in the heat range.  Meanwhile the world at large continues to make progress on the pandemic front and stateside eateries, stores and of course schools are opening with some initial restrictions.  Some of the most optimistic among us are predicting that by summer we will practically have the virus under full control after what would have surely been the most terrifying fourteen or so months in our lives.

At our own school, students are back but marginally until the end of the month when another parental survey will surely increase the number by quite a distance.  Movie theaters in Manhattan are opening as well though again with attendance restrictions.  Here in New Jersey most theaters are fully operational though will a few less screens in the multiplexes.  Like most Lucille and I continue to watch new releases at home through the various streaming services.  This year will sadly mark the very first time since way back in 1978 that our annual Oscar party will have to be cancelled.  The normal place we stage the event is understandably unavailable this year as we still have a few more months before we could even consider such a “crowded” event.  Frankly, I would not myself be comfortable hosting it and feel it is best for all concerned we dispense with it for this year.

Lucille and I watched many old films and television shows at home, but we did manage two new releases: (more…)

Read Full Post »

by Sam Juliano

We really do have reason to be optimistic in view of the lowering of cases and hospitalizations which most attribute to the rising number of vaccinations.  Students are returning today (Monday) to our own school district and after so many months of consternation and uncertainty (documented on this MMD week after week after week) a sense of normalcy is no longer a long shot.

This past week was a busy one at Wonders in the Dark.  Jim Clark added a stupendous essay in his long-running, authoritative and prolific Ingmar Bergman series with a trenchant piece on 1960’s The Devil’s Eye; J.D. Lafrance published a fabulous essay on George Steven’s 1956 American classic Giant; and Lee Price concluded his magnificent Phil Moore exploration with Part 3:  Phil Moore is Top of the Charts!

The Golden Globes are set to air on Sunday evening and I will revise on Monday Morning as a result of my posting the MMD a day early as I sometimes do.  Lucille and I watched two more 2020/2021 films via streaming this past week and I reviewed The Devil’s Eye on blu ray to better prepare for my reading of Jim’s superlative essay. (more…)

Read Full Post »

by Sam Juliano

Though I traveled up to and spent time every single day at the school my wife and I are employed at during this “down” time, today marks the “official” return of the district teachers with next Monday the date when the students will come back.  Parental forms however indicate maybe a third of the kids will actually be attending that day.  Many parents are still leery about the pandemic situation and have opted to wait longer.

A domestic drama played out this past week during another snow siege when one of our beloved felines, a male cat named Noel snuck out of our home through an inadvertently left open back door on Tuesday (February 9) and remained lost until Saturday evening when he returned through our purposely left open basement door after four full days outside in awful weather and heavy snow.  We spent all weak scouring the area, driving around for hours and searching yards and driveways with flashlights in what was quite a harrowing experience.  Yes we are out of control when it comes to pets (7 cats, one very small dog who thinks he is a cat, two turtles, a guinea pig, an older Amazon parrot and a large cage (though at the school) with eight parakeets.  On Saturday evening we were all over the moon!

This past week our esteemed guest writer and friend Lee Price contributed the second part of his brilliant Phil Moore series:  “Phil Moore is Tops, Part 2:  Animating Race.”

Lucille and I watched three 2020/2021 films this past week on the streaming services, and happy to say all were very good! (more…)

Read Full Post »

by Sam Juliano

We all knew of course that the impeachment trial would end up the way it did and that partisanship would eclipse any valid evidence of treasonous insurrection on behalf of our former commander-in-chief.  Following the proceedings daily cost some of us time we could have devoted to other hobbies at this time of indoor retreat, but it seemed necessary.  Still, the acquittal will not put all the legal matters to rest and Trump is up against lawsuits in a number of states.  Virus numbers have finally began to subside in a number of areas as more and more people are vaccinated.  In my own home town schools will be opening for students on March 1st, though all indicators point to a much lower number of students attending at the outset.  Valentine’s Day provided Lucille and I the opportunity to enjoy a splendid dinner locally.  I trust many of our friends had a marvelous day as well.

This past week we had some fabulous essays, one from Lee Price on “Phil Moore” and the other a film piece on Less Than Zero from J.D. Lafrance. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Phil Moore at piano, circa 1946, with John O. Levy on bass. Photo by William P. Gottlieb. Courtesy Library of Congress (LC-GLB13-0639)

by Lee Price

Phil Moore, Part One: The Jackie Robinson of Hollywood Film Crews

Picture a film as an iceberg. We see the top 10%. If it’s a southern iceberg, there might be some penguins lazing on it; if it’s an Arctic iceberg, it might be colored by some seals. But underneath, that other 90% is pure white all the way down.

So if you’re watching Gone With the Wind, picture those people on the screen as the top of the glacier. There’s some diversity on view within the frame. It’s not just a big chunk of white. Without thinking closely about it, you might even make an assumption that the percentage of diversity at the top would be proportional to the percentage below the surface. But that’s not the way classic Hollywoodland worked. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it was white all the way down, just like an iceberg.

I don’t dismiss the classic Hollywood industry for a bigotry that was lodged in nearly every American institution of the time. Classic Hollywood was a strong factor in molding me into the person I am. For instance, classic Hollywood gave me Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which I discovered at the age of 11 and permanently convinced me that lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for. And it’s this same conviction that has fueled a measure of awe and respect in me toward the Black talent who didn’t accept the overwhelming whiteness, the enforced stereotypes, the insults of segregation, and the systemic viciousness of Hollywoodland. The odds were so stacked against those who wanted to enter through the front door that the situation amounted to a classic Hollywood lost cause. Nevertheless, some repeatedly knocked on the door, others attempted infiltration, and a few directly challenged the system. Sooner or later, someone had to get in.

In 1941, Phil Moore (1917-87) became the first African-American to be hired full-time by the music department of a major Hollywood studio, an achievement even more impressive as that studio was the ever-snooty MGM. Moore never received much credit for his contributions to the movies. MGM, as well as the studios (Paramount, Universal, RKO) that received his talent on loan, worked him hard while declining to give him credit for his work. Nevertheless, his full-time starting salary of $1,200 in 1941 was in-line with starting salaries for Hollywood technicians at the time. For a 24-year-old, it wasn’t an insult. Plus, he got to work on some classy material and with some formidable talent.

Phil Moore’s career has a Zelig-like quality to it at times, except he’s not really in the background. He’s on the soundtrack. He’s over there on the piano behind Harpo Marx, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, Frank Sinatra… and they’re listening to what he’s telling them, not vice versa.

Moore had a self-described “all-American boy” childhood in Portland, Oregon, adopted by light-skinned parents who were socially placed and fairly well-accepted in both the city’s white and Black circles. Moore received piano lessons from Edgar Eugene Coursen, one of the area’s top classical musicians, who held him to high and exacting standards. His father’s management of the city’s only hotel open to Blacks led to family friendships with celebrities like Duke Ellington and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Moore absorbed the sounds around him like a sponge, intuitively understanding and appreciating classical music, pop, jazz, blues, and gospel—which is a pretty ideal recipe for success in Hollywood score composing. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »