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carol 2

by Sam Juliano

Turkey Day is upon us, and we at Wonders in the Dark would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone stateside a wonderful Thursday with family and friends and safe traveling for all those visiting.  For the 21st year consecutively our entire family of seven will be spending the day in a mansion-sized home in scenic Butler, New Jersey with Lucille’s sister’s family and about 45 or so others in the big Lampmann family that includes children and grandchildren.  Quite a day as it is I’m sure for many of our dear friends here.  Anyone placing comments are encouraged to share their own plans for that day.  Even our friends outside our borders are welcome to talk about their expectations for Thursday, even if it is work as usual.

A big congratulations are in order for Aaron West and two other bloggers, who pulled off one of the most glorious blogging ventures ever over the past week with a wildly popular Criterion Collection blogathon that wound up involving nearly the entire film community.  Wonders in the Dark was honored to participate.  The amount of work Aaron and his colleagues put into this is simply mind-boggling.  Kudos to all.  Speaking of Criterion, I was ecstatic beyond words this past week after the company announced upcoming February blu-rays of the 1970’s Swedish films The Emigrants and The New Land.  No films have had me praying for release more than these, and I must say I was bursting with excitement when I read of the upcoming releases.  These two masterpieces never even received legitimate DVD releases, much less blu rays.  I have been holding on to my laser disc copies for years.  February overall is an amazing month for the folks at Criterion with both Mike Nichols’ The Graduate and Nagisa Oshima’s Japanese masterpiece Death by Hanging.  The latter release was also cause for celebration among cinephiles.

The site has enjoyed an unusually phenomenal week as far as page views are concerned.  This past Thursday nearly 2,400 hits were registered, with the book review of Mummy Cat largely responsible.  This is the highest total for a single day in over seven months.

As we approach the time of the year when ‘Best of” movie lists are imminent, there is a frenzy to see some of the prestige pictures that are opening.  Though my plans in the upcoming days include seeing Room, Love and James White, this past week had me busy on the domestic front.  Lucille and I did see a masterpiece in Todd Haynes’ Carol at the Angelika Film Center, but otherwise the only other event was attending a classical concert at the exquisite West Side Presbyterian Church on South Monroe Street in Ridgewood , N.J.  I will be penning a full review of this concert this week, but suffice to say it included beloved compositions by Bach, Sibelius, Smetana and Saint-Saens, all of which are personal favorites. (more…)

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brooklyn 1

Brooklyn 2

John Crowley’s aching coming of age drama “Brooklyn” starring Saoirse Ronan may well be the film of the year.

by Sam Juliano

While prognostications of a mild winter have surfaced in recent weeks, stateside we are now immersed in the atmospheric glories of the autumn season with colorful leaves, brisk temperatures and Thanksgiving preparations in full swing.   Football fans are engaging in the heart of their season, while denizens of the arts are at the height of their obsessions.  The past few days have been unconscionable on the world stage, what with the barbarism in Paris, but there are no words that can accurately gauge what we are all thinking.

A final decision has finally been reached on the manner of administration that will be applied to the execution of the late Spring/early Summer Greatest Science Fiction films countdown.  After discussing the matter with some others at the site and reviewing the general sentiments of the likely writers we have decided to stay the course.  That is we will have an open vote for all those on the current e mail chain, and any others attending the site who wish to cast a ballot.  No doubt this will mean there will be in upwards of 35 to 40 ballots in the final mix and an open schedule for all writers to claim.  This method will follow in the footsteps of the hugely successful musicals, comedies, westerns, romances and childhood/adolescent countdowns that been staged at Wonders in the Dark over the last four and a half years.  I urge all prospective participants at their convenience to survey the science fiction field in the coming months.  I plan to send out some copies of relative rarities to the interested parties as soon as I begin to take this project more seriously after the holiday season.  Ballots will be accepted on the chain beginning on April 1st, and ending on the final day of that month, at which point they will be tabulated by Angelo D’Arminio Jr.  The projected starting date for the countdown will be May 21st.  We are figuring for this poll, a Top 50.  This would mean the project would run till around mid August or so.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series has been moving forward quite nicely, with several of the reviews being posted and shared enthusiastically with the author-illustrators on Facebook and other channels.  I am not sure how many reviews will actually be written at this point, but I will sort that out as it progresses.  The page view totals have spiked dramatically over the past two weeks, in large measure because of the reviews of Ida Pearle’s The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House and Sergio Ruzzier’s Two Mice.  The former review has amassed a total approaching 400 page views in the three days since it published. (more…)

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Stunning capture from Otto Shenk’s Metropolitan Opera production of Wagner’s “Tannhauser seen in HD broadcast.


Magnificent capture from HD broadcast of Wagner’s “Tannhauser”

by Sam Juliano

As we inch closer to the mid-way point in November, we are still enveloped by warmer temperatures than usual in the tri-state area around the Big Apple, with much of the same predicted for this current week.  Before we blink we will have Turkey Day upon us, to be followed by the holiday season, all the long-anticipated late year movie openings and the heart of the football season.

After nearly five years of the same design (courtesy of my excellent friend from Down Under, Tony d’Ambra, who continues to offer up sage advice and specifications) I did something this past week out of the clear blue, impulsively and without warning changing the site’s theme in seeming contradiction with some of the more austere aspects of our home’s communal scholarship.  The verdict is in, and it is markedly split down the middle.  Some have opined it is garish and in your face, while others think it is the best thing since ice cream.  To be sure I am still investigating all the possibilities, and haven’t definitely settled on the dark wood design, but it offers vividly toned typography, a great font style for the comments, a superb background for photos, terrific color coordinated post headings and two sidebars.  The downside is I can’t seem to include the “WitD Team’ on said sidebar and there is no longer the option of a movie banner.  However I know at a little cost I can probably get those revisions made.  I am still exploring all the various possibilities.  I will say that I am personally fond of this new theme, favoring two others that were briefly employed over the past days.  I know ‘taste’ is the great equalizer in affairs of the heart, which I guess in my case sometimes wins poll position over the mind.  I’d love to hear some opinions from those who comment on this thread. (more…)

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                                 Jillian in Halloween garb


                                 Jeremy in Halloween garb

by Sam Juliano

Pumpkins will be around for at least a month longer, but in large measure to make pies and for Thanksgiving ornamentation.  The jack-o-lantern variety has mystically departed until next year, though it made its mark on many porches across America.  Gone too is the trick or treating, though horror film lovers aren’t about to give up the ghost yet.  Just when you get back into something with a marked passion, the calendar comes barging in.  But much like past years adherents of this genre will stay the course at least a few weeks longer.  This writer watched a bunch of horror classic on blu ray and DVD over the past week on a HD large screen for one, and it was great time for the family to share the fun.

As a lifelong baseball aficionado I have watched every minute of the World Series, and have marveled in the ups and downs for both teams.  The Kansas City Royals won in an unlikely comeback thanks to a crucial error and some 8th inning heroics in Game 4 to take a commanding 3 to 1 lead.  I will revise this post either late tonight or tomorrow morning to reflect the results of Game 5.  A Royals win will end the series, while a Mets triumph will force a Game 6 in Kansas City on Tuesday night.  Meanwhile the Giants incurred a bizarre 52 to 49 football loss in New Orleans to the Saints after a costly face mask penalty setting up the winning field goal.

I’m not so sure whether we will be celebrating the last two months of the movie year, or whether conversely we’ll be lamenting the dearth of quality works.  The proof, alas, will be in the pudding.  So far I’d characterize 2015 as an average year in movies, even if I will have no trouble compiling a ten-best list, what with a fair number of very good films part of this annual equation.  Things on this front won’t begin to heat up for another four to five weeks.  The opera season is well underway, and I’ll be seeing a number of the HD broadcasts in local theaters.   (more…)

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the assassin


by Sam Juliano

The day of jack-o-lanterns, ghost costumes and teeth rotting candy is upon us, but no matter how you size it up it is tons of fun for most.  Kids will benefit mightily from the rarity of a Saturday Halloween, though parents obviously much less so.  Horror film lovers are in their own annual cinematic delirium, and various haunted house attractions are all the rage.  This is a time for at-home denizens to break out their Universal Horror, Val Lewton and Italian Giallo box sets, though there is plenty more for rustling up scares.

Mets fans are on Cloud Nine, though their World Series matchup with the American League champion Kansas City Royals is sizing to be a real barn burner.  Area football fans are celebrating their football win over the hated Cowboys.  The next several weeks will no doubt be the ones film fans remember the most when compiling their year-end lists.  But everything is hopping on all the artistic fronts including opera.

To be or not to be….A equally dramatic interpretation of that iconic phrase has been playing itself out at the site over the last several days, and it has culminated with some highly unexpected changes in the 2016 Science Fiction Films Countdown.  The project is still quite a time away, but we still haven’t firmed up the manner of how it will proceed.  Stay tuned. (more…)

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science fiction

by Sam Juliano

I would like to announce to all site readers that the sparring over the Greatest Science Fiction Films Countdown will not impact the fact that it will be happening in 2016.  The exact time it will officially launch is still undecided as are the specifications, and scene-specific involvement, but if anything was clear from all the dialogue in public and in private there are many interested parties, who want very much for the project to move forward.  I was frankly surprised but delighted that this particular genre has the kind of support it does.  Our excellent friend the prolific writer John Grant posted a fantastic comment on this week’s MMD that opens up another priceless avenue of research for aficionados:

I would very much like it if the SF Countdown went ahead, not only because in my humble way I’d like to contribute, having written quite a lot on f/sf movies for both David Pringle’s wildly misnomered Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (I did the entirety of the cinema section) and my/John Clute’s The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (similarly), but because, in the event, I’d like to clue the folks at the gargantumassive online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction edition #3 into the countdown. (I devoted ~4 years of my life to the monumental 2nd edition, the last to appear in print.) I’m sure many of those associated with the SFE would be interested in the hypothetical WitD Countdown.

In case I’ve screwed up that link, as I so often do, here it is again, if I have:  http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/

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To all writers and readers of Wonders in the Dark:

by Sam Juliano

As everyone who has been following the site well knows, we have tentative plans to conduct a Greatest Science-Fiction Films countdown near the end of the first quarter of the new year.  Although I personally took the reigns of the past hugely successful five countdowns, I have yielded to others to set the rules and regulations of the new poll for several reasons.  First off, I personally need a break, though my involvement will still be as passionate and as time consuming as the other countdowns.  Secondly, I think it would be great to have us look at this genre from another angle, with new markers to gauge our examination of science fiction cinema.  I am not to be sure throwing up my hands and saying I am buckling under to pressure or that I am doing what I really don’t want to do.  If that were the case I would have resisted.  I want and welcome the change.  I always like to pursue new avenues when possible.  It has nothing to do with how well the past countdowns came down.  The evidence suggests they were monster hits.  But I see no reason to believe the 2016 venture will be any different.  There are other things going on at the site now, what with the Caldecott Contender series almost set to go and some promised Saturday action.  I am sure Allan will be posting some of his Obscuros and as always Jim Clark is there every other week with his painstaking work.  I wanted to clear the air, so there are no future misunderstandings.

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