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by Sam Juliano

Heat and humidity have reigned supreme over the Memorial Day weekend, of which today is the annual day of remembrance for those who perished in the armed forces serving our nation.  For many trips down the shore and home barbecues have been the favored venues.  Moving into June this week others are tackling trip plans, upcoming graduations, retirement dinners and various outdoor activities, while others remain in holding patterns under the air conditioning.

Ballots for the upcoming science-fiction films countdown continue to trickle in, and will do so until the June 15th deadline.  The Top 50 countdown will begin on Monday, June 27th.  After the ballots are tabulated by Angelo D’Arminio Jr. writing assignments will be offered up by group e mail.

Lucille and I attended a retirement dinner and hosted family dinners for the birthdays of two of our kids this past week, otherwise we saw a single movie in theaters and for me a torrid week of at-home viewings: (more…)

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Higher Principal

ninth circle

by Sam Juliano

Seven completed ballots have been received for the mid June launching of the Science Fiction Countdown.  With a deadline of June 15th, it is certain many more will be forwarded in what is fast becoming another exciting venture at Wonders in the Dark after a slow build up.  After the ballots are compiled by Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. a Top 50 countdown will commence for ten weeks up until the beginning of September.

Over the past week I have watched a bunch of older films, several Czechoslovakian masterpieces.  Lucille and I did see one new release in the theaters and on Thursday night the Lincoln Center production of Rogers and Hammersteins’ The King and I at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.   A sylish production with some spectacular sets and spirited singing, the production was a fine follow-up to the same company’s staging of South Pacific a few years back.

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20160516_112238

by Sam Juliano

The May 14th concert by the Choral Art Society of New Jersey featured work by some of classical music’s most iconic figures, but it was the reunion of a student playing one of his one-time mentor’s most celebrated compositions that brought a special emotional heft to the proceedings.  Performed at the acoustic-friendly Presbyterian Church in Westfield -the group’s home base for decades, the night brought CAS Music Director Martin Sedak and his previous instructor – the composer Matthew Harris – together in a glorious presentation of the latter’s Oceanic Eyes, a four part cantata commissioned in 2006 based on texts by celebrated Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and distinguished by the employment of classical guitar that allowed the work’s distinct Spanish romanticism to shine through.  The composition’s lilting metaphors and colorful imagery seems inspired by the British poet Alfred Noyes who wove undying nocturnal passions into the narrative of his arresting “The Highwayman.”  Yet it was the highly emotive, stirring and soulful reading by the committed singers of the CAS who injected Harris’ work with a sense of immediacy, aided by the prism of water, which flows through universal appreciation.Sedak’s decision to open the show with a rarely performed song by the great British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams proved to be a masterstroke of mood and staging.  To be sure “The Lover’s Ghost” (from Five English Folk Songs)  is one of the most sublime and haunting choral pieces from anyone, replete as the piece is with color, form, harmony and expression but especially prominent for its contrapuntal construction.  Sedak directed the singers to create two lines in the space between the central orchestra and the sides, making all the more of a powerful impression.  Though the second work is another infrequently negotiated composition, the fact that it was written by Beethoven elevates it immeasurably for classical music fans who can never get enough of one of the form’s supreme immortals.  A Calm Sea & A Prosperous Voyage is noted for the composer’s setting the text by Johann von Goethe and as an earlier example of his evocative nature writing that is strikingly evident in his later symphonic masterworks, so expertly visited by the CAS. (more…)

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20160516_112238

by Sam Juliano

The deadline for science fiction countdown ballots is June 15th.  I will be sending out my own list this week, and have been assured by others that they will be following suit.  I will be sending out reminders to the e mail chain tomorrow, and also encourage any readers at the site who are interested to forward a Top 50 to me at your convenience.

Another incredible week for the record books included a three-day trip to the nation’s capital.  This is the fifth year in a row I made the annual Lincoln school pilgrimage to a bunch of memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, Ford’s Theater, several Smithsonian museums and other sites, and my 8th grade son Jeremy and teaching colleague and friend Broadway Bob were aboard for the trek.  For the most part the weather was overcast and temperatures hovered around 70, making this an especially comfortable venture.

Lucille and I attended two fabulous musical events over the weekend.  The Choral Arts Society of New Jersey presented “Songs of the Sea,” which included works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Beethoven, and Benjamin Britten, and at the Players Guild of Leonia, a program titled “The Memory Lingers On” featured the songbook of American songwriting icon Irving Berlin.  Both shows were sublime and spirited and will be separately reviewed. (more…)

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Jilllian in high school production of “Shrek: the Musical.

by Sam Juliano

The deadline for the science-fiction ballots has been extended two weeks, making the final day for submission June 15th.  Aside from an early ballot from Allan Fish, no others have been yet forwarded, though I expect my own will be very soon.  The ballots will again by tabulated by Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., and a Top 50 five-day-a-week countdown will commence in late June.  Those planning to submit ballots can send them either to me directly or to the e mail chain presently circulating.

I predicted Donald Trump would win the GOP nomination all the way back in January, but just about everyone thought I’d be way off the mark.  Of course my vote in the primary on June 7th will go to Bernie Sanders, but it is clear that Hillary will be the party nominee.  We are certain to have quite the nasty November election.

Lucille and I were proud to attend out daughter Jillian’s high school play “Shrek: the Musical” on Saturday afternoon.  A freshman, she played one of the Three Little Pigs on crutches after she sprained her ankle a few weeks back.  We attended the latest Curious Reader Bookstore (Glen Rock, N.J.) presentation and signing in the morning of that same day (Sergio Ruzzier- “This is Not A Picture Book”), and saw the Palme d’Or winner DHEEPAN on Saturday evening at the IFC Film Center. (more…)

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orpheus

by Sam Juliano

Hard to believe we have moved into May, but the passage of time rarely leaves us prepared.  Here at Wonders in the Dark we are approaching the planned time frame for the long-advertised “Science Fiction film countdown” and are anticipating the start of the first phase: the forwarding of ballots.  This particular countdown has admittedly received less enthusiasm in a general sense, but I am hopeful it will still be successful.  Otherwise, political junkies are no doubt getting their fix with the spate of crucial presidential primaries that have all but anointed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as their party’s nominees.

Lucille and I had a pretty unforgettable week, one that offered diversity and quality.  Coming on the heels of the Tribeca Film Festival – where we managed 35 feature films over eleven days – it allowed us to maintain a high level of activity while straining the limits of our stamina.  I hope to post some reviews of the experiences, even while I continue by scene-specific Tribeca coverage. (more…)

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Beautifully filmed African (Ghana) picture “Children of the Montain” is Tribeca at its finest.

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Spirited dramedy “Little Boxes” is a splendid fusion of inde art house and commercial entertainment.

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Documentary on autism, “Life Animated” is one of Tribeca’s most irresistible and heartfelt works in the festival

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Brooding and atmospheric dystopian romance “Equals” is one of the most underrated films in years.

by Sam Juliano

The eleven day Tribeca Film Festival ended yesterday, bringing final closure to a wild and exhausting ride, one that spurred Lucille and I to take in 35 feature films at three different locations.  Our prime hot spot was the Bow-Tie Cinemas on 23rd Street, but we were also at the SVA auditoriums down the block and down at the Regal Cinemas multiplex adjacent to the World Trade Center Freedom Tower.  Once again the annual fest included some outstanding documentaries and narrative works, many of which will surely secure commercial openings in the coming months.  The most difficult challenge was to piece together a schedule that would include films about subjects we were greatly interested with some others that were highly touted in advance by critics and festival insiders.  It was always tricky to schedule the screenings to coincide with the time windows that were possible to us.  Even with the high total we managed there were still films we were unable to negotiate.  We made of a list of those that we will watch for in theaters and on DVD release.  Like all other festivals of high repute there were some forgettable titles and/or films we had less interest in, but this year’s venue includes a comparatively high number of good to excellent works. (more…)

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