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by Sam Juliano

My family will be departing New Jersey for the NC/SC border (Sunset Beach, just minutes from Myrtle Beach) very early Monday morning, so I won’t be seeing this MMD until I check it on a laptop on Monday evening.  The sad but inevitable passing of the 50 year old son of good Fairview friends from returning cancer resulted in our delaying our planned Sunday morning exit so we could attend today’s wake.  Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance, two gifted Canadians will continue to pen fabulous film reviews moving forward.  Clark’s staggering essay on Wong Kar Wai’s “Happy Together” posted this past week.

The summer has been alternately scorching and rainy in this Metropolitan area in northeastern NJ across the river from Manhattan, but the fact that only three weeks remain before September and the start of the new school year is startling.  The Halloween Horror series, usually engineered by Jamie Uhler as an e mail endeavor will be posted on future MMDs as we approach that always entertaining time of the year.

Two exceptional films (both would rate 4.5 of 5.0 for me) were watched this weekend in Secaucus and Edgewater. An African-American played by John David Washington infiltrates the local KKK in Colorado Springs in 1972 based on a memoir by Ron Stallworth. There are admittedly tonal inconsistencies in “Blackkklansman”, but acting (especially by Washington and Adam Driver) and writing are excellent, and this is Spike Lee’s most entertaining and provocative film in years. The director includes a telling video of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and footage of Trump’s patronizing commentary. Newcomer Bo Burnham’s maiden coming-of-age feature “Eighth Grade” is a gem, and remarkable in the way it perceptively and intimately probes the psych and social media hankering of a girl during the final year of her middle school tenure living with a doting father who is confronted with the inevitable communication problems. Young Elsie Fisher delivers a brilliant performance as Kayla. Both films deserve year-end scrutiny when Best of lists are sorted out. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Scorching temperatures which are generally the very definition of the year’s eighth month are upon us with only some precipitation reprieves working to lessen the impact.  The reigns at the site have been assumed by Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance, two enormously talented and resilient writers who will be active on this front as the primary film writers until perhaps May of 2019 when the third Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival -to be followed by the Greatest War Films Countdown will be ruling the content.  My own writing will mostly be in the service of the sixth Annual Caldecott children’s book series from late September till January, but that effort will run alongside the film work from Jim and J.D.  For the second consecutive year my family and I will be traveling by car to Sunset Beach, North Carolina for a week long vacation at a location just a half hour drive from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where my friend Voting Tabulator Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. resides.  We will be leaving early on Sunday, August 12th, and will return to New Jersey on Monday, August 20th.  My wife Lucille will be undergoing a partial knee replacement on September 10th as a result of excessive arthritis.  The “partial” is always much less intrusive than the “complete.”  The procedure will mean she will be taking a two-week break from her Principal’s position in the same school I teach at – the Number 3 Annex. (more…)

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Solid psychodrama “The Captain” from Germany seen at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan

by Sam Juliano

We are only a hop, skip and a jump from August 2018, confirming the certainty that time is flying by and that the last state of the summer is upon us.  For the second year in a row my family will be traveling down to Sunset Beach, North Carolina for an eight-day trip (12th to 20th) to a beautiful vacation condo, only a half hour’s drive from Myrtle Beach, SC where our good friend and Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. presently resides.  At the site we will basically be featuring Jim Clark’s continuing and superlative Ingmar Bergman series and the essays on other figures that will follow it.  Other writers like Dennis Polifroni, J.D. Lafrance and myself will also be publishing reviews and the 2018 Caldecott series will resume in mid-September.  A Greatest War Films Countdown is being planned for April or May of 2019.  Voters will be asked to choose in order their 50 top war films.  Prior to that project we will again be staging the Third Annual Allan Fish Online Film Festival with Jamie Uhler at the helm.  Jamie will also be leading up a horror film lead in as we crawl closer to Halloween.

My lifelong friend and author Peter Danish will be shooting his first film, an anti-Trump feature titled The Blind Date sometime in mid-August.  His banner leads up the MMD.  Stay tuned for more on that exciting venture. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Thanks to all who followed and supported the Greatest Television Countdown Part 2.  the long-running project concluded on Friday and will be the final group project at the site until April or May of 2019 when a proposed Greatest War Films Countdown may be staged after the group voices their position, and if there are enough writers.

In the heart of the summer the quality movie scene has been light as usual, but before long the fall and the better releases will begin to appear.  Otherwise James Clark continues on with his Ingmar Bergman series with another full review set to publish this week on Wednesday.

Lucille and I saw only a single film in theaters this past week, but it was a very fine documentary titled Three Identical Strangers. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Yes I adore France for their films, literature, music, food and history as much as I do any other country in the world. However, on Sunday my heart was with the Fairview, New Jersey and area Croatians and the Cinderella soccer team who have captured the hearts of the world with their inspirational, improbable run! The silver medal and the top player in the World Cup tournament is no small achievement for a small nation of four million and fans have every reason to cheer!

The long-running Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 will conclude in a few days.  I’d like again to thank all the writers, followers and those leaving comments.  It really has been quite a ride and a learning experience.  We will be breaking from any further polling countdowns for quite some time, though we do have a proposed Greatest War Films Countdown shaping up for April or May of 2019.

We saw two films in theaters over the weekend. Both were extraordinary. The first – an Israeli production “The Cakemaker” thematically recalls Lubitsch’s ‘Broken Lullaby” and Ozon’s “Franz” but the love triangle examined in a quietly enveloping style is the best of its kind since “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and the culture class (Israel and Germany) is finely delineated as passions simmer in a culinary-attuned work that re-imagines the delectable prowess of “Babette’s Feast.” Tim Kalkhof, the German baker and lover of the Jewish man married to Sarah Adler are exceptional in a film that eschews the grief experienced by the two to examine instead a primal instinct that fuels an unlikely association. The sublime piano-laden score by Dominique Charpentier is one of the best of the year. The film competes for my own favorite of the year ***** (5 of 5) (more…)

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by Sam Juliano
I want to thank everyone who participated/is participating in our now winding down Greatest Television Series Part 2 at WONDERS IN THE DARK.  While it was on balance the least successful of all our genre polls, we can surely chalk that up to the fact that by even staging it after the far greater success of Part 1, we were conceding a decline in interest.  Overall the comment and page view today are down, but we did still have some impressive spurts in both modes of measurement.  As to the quality of writing we maintained our highest standards even with a preference to the capsule with this particular project.  Still, some in the fraternity wrote longer pieces and one writer, the indomitable Adam Ferenz astoundingly penned one-quarter of the entire countdown himself.
 
I continue to receive private messages inquiring what might be next up.  Some on the other hand may be thinking that enough is enough after consecutive genre countdowns on the musical, the comedy, the western, the romance, the childhood, the science-fiction, the animation, the film-noir and the horror.  All but three of those were done by the full community membership.  (Only the horror-by Jamie Uhler and three others; the film noir by Maurizio Roca and the animation by Stephen Russell-Gebbet were not done by the full membership).  At 63 years old, I too am questioning the logistics of pushing forward and the daunting commitment of each project.  I do not feel I have performed well for this part 2, perhaps because of its coming on the heels of two consecutive grueling endeavors – Part 1 of the Television countdown and the Caldecott series, where I had to write all 40 or so reviews myself.

(more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 is winding down, with only two-and-a-half weeks remaining on the long-running project to go.  Though the early weeks of the endeavor were sparsely attended as could be easily ascertained from the dearth of comments and page views, matters have changed, with a spike in both departments, a well-deserved change of events that has brought some well-deserved attention to some splendidly written essays from our distinguished fraternity.  As announced several times, this will be the final project for 2018 year, though some have been making inquiries on potential plans for 2019.  While no commitment could possibly be made at this early date, we have long promised to run a Greatest War Films Countdown.  This tantalizing possibility will be scrutinized and in the end it all comes down to how many would want to participate.  If there is an acceptable degree of interest, I foresee a prospective launch date of April or May of next year.  So, stay tuned.  Thank you to all who have written brilliantly, with a special shout out to the remarkably prolific Adam Ferenz!

90 to 100 Degree weather has arrived and those braving the outdoors should be saluted from some who will take the air-conditioning, thank you very much.  Summer school started today and Yours Truly is again teaching a literature enrichment class for the twenty-eighth consecutive year.  The program, however, only runs until the 31st of July. (more…)

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