Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

hard to be a god


by Sam Juliano

The Caldecott Medal and Honor books were announced on Monday morning, February 2nd.   Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle took the gold, while a record-breaking six (6) honor books were named:  Lauren Castillo’s Nana in the City, Jennifer Bryant and Melissa Sweet’s The Right Word, Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpre’s The Noisy Paint Box, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam and Dave Dig A Hole, Yuyi Morales’ Viva Frida and Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer.  The seemingly heavily-favored The Farmer and the Clown wound up will no acknowledgement.  I was very pleased with the results, even if like everyone else some personal favorites didn’t make it.

Lucille and entire brood accompanied me to Manhattan’s Books of Wonder on Sunday afternoon for a panel discussion involving four author/illustrators.  Elizabeth Rose Stanton, the author and illustrator of Henny, Toni Yuly (Night Owl), Matt De La Pena (Last Stop on  Market Street) and Migy (And Away We Go).

We saw two films in theaters, one an Academy Award nominated feature-length documentary, and the other a nearly three hour black and white Russian film.  We saw: (more…)

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Screen capture from TIMBUKTU, an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign language film

by Sam Juliano

First off I want to apologize for my tardiness in getting to all the previous week’s comments under the Monday Morning Diary of January 26.  Today I will get to them all, including the news ones under this thread.  The past week was hectic, as I attempted to address as many of the remaining books that I thought deserved discussion in the Caldecott Medal Contender series.  This arduous task took up most of my time.  I still want to review several of the remaining books, but I will do this at a leisurely pace, since the Caldecott race officially ends this morning at around 9:00 EST, with the winning Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert and Belpre medals and honor books set to be announced at the ALA winter meeting in Chicago.  I probably will do one review a week, though this will depend on what time I can commit to it.  (there were about a dozen books that I simply ran out of time to cover, but doing them after the awards is just as fine the way I see it).  I want to thank all those who supported this series from the outset, and gave of their own time to click on ‘likes’ and to comment on many or most of the 51 entries that posted since early November.  John Grant, Laurie Buchanan, Frank Gallo, Peter, Jim Clark and Sharon Lovejoy have been absolutely extraordinary, though many others including Tim McCoy, Judy Geater, Pat Perry, Celeste Fenster, Sachin Gandhi, Kimrap (from China), Joel Bocko and David Noack have been invaluable as well.  Thanks to you all for your enthusiasm, and for finding the supreme artistry in field of remarkable riches.  I have never written so much in such a limited time window, and the experience allowed me to exhaustively consider the field, while giving me an outlet at a time of intense and unconscionable personal grief.  Yes, Wonders in the Dark remains primarily a film site, and this focus will reassert itself over the coming months, but books, music and theater will continue to have a voice in what was always planned as an arts site from the time the place opened up back in 2008. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

As a monster blizzard bears down the NYC region (those in the midwest have been seeing this kind of weather right along) weather forecasts are calling for upward of two feet of snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.    Hence most of the upcoming week will be one of digging out.  I can only imagine and dread what my friend John Grant will be getting up in his West Milford area abode.  certainly snow lovers will get all their fill and way more than that.

This past week has been spent home writing the final wave of Caldecott book reviews, and recovering from the final stage of a once terrible stomach virus, and continued depression over our unconscionable loss of a few weeks ago, a loss I am still in denial over.  In a rare occurrence, no new films were seen, though this is traditionally the worst time of the year for quality openings, what with all the attention paid on the Oscar nominees.  I do look forward to the Academy Award live action and animated shorts and to the documentary shorts.

Hence I particularly look forward to hearing what others have seen or done.


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by Jaime Grijalba.

Well, ain’t that one chubby beaver.

And with that tasty note, I want to inaugurate my official top 20 list of the best films of 2014 that I’ve managed to see before the announcement of the Oscar nominations, which is my own personal cut-off for this lists year after year. Now, be reminded that even if I go the extra mile to have more films on my plate, I still missed quite a few of the most interesting ones, specially regarding the awards, I haven’t seen the likes of Birdman, American Sniper, Inherent Vice, The Hobbit, Mr. Turner, among many others that have certain looks and likes that they might’ve gone in my list. Anyway, if you want any update on what I end up seeing and rating, I think that reading my 10 Days of Oscar, as well as having some attention to my Muriels ballot should be enough.

So, as many of you already know, and for those who don’t I tell you now, the criteria for my list is that any movie, Tv miniseries, short film, anything, released in 2014 counts for my list; no 2013 films that had a 2014 major release will count here, only 2014 ‘pure’ choices. Many of these films were seen in film festivals and won’t be available for some time, but count these as if they were preemptive recommendations on movies to look out for. On the rest, not much to say, just let’s start with the number 20 and then we shall go up, up and away to number 1, which this year, was the only masterpiece I managed to rate and see. (more…)

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BB cover

by Sam Juliano

The Bunjitsu Code advocates peace and tolerance, sharing,  daily effervescence, an appetite for the challenge and a keen sense of humor.  Adapting it without reservation will inexorably lead to a life of fulfillment and inner tranquility, perspective and humility, intellectual enrichment and continuing health.  In short, the code promotes all that matters the most in living the good life, one that equates with success achieved through application and an undercurrent of positive energy.  Those who adapt the code and follow it all the way through will never look down their nose at anyone else, will avoid a physical confrontation even at the expense of meaningless pride, will understand that there is always someone who knows more than you and will make themselves readily available to anyone who needs your help.  All of this will be negotiated with cheery demeanor and a sense of purpose.

By rights John Himmelman’s Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, should be a double dipper in the same way that Nancy Willard and Alice and Martin Provenson’s A Visit to William Blake’s Inn  was back in 1984.  In the only such instance in the history of the American Library Association’s awards, the same book won both a Newbery and a Caldecott Medal.  True, the Caldecott was of the ‘honor’ variety,  but never before has a cover boasted a validation for both its words and its illustrations.  Himmelman’s wildly popular primary grade illustrated chapter book offers up fabulously riveting prose, and stylishly minimalist art that perfectly suits the book’s spirited action and philosophical underpinning. (more…)

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Interstellar (Christopher Nolan) USA #1



Leviathan (Andrei Zvyagintsev) Russia #2

by Sam Juliano

I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to the many who extended their condolences to me over the unconscionable loss of my beloved first cousin and best friend Robert “Bobby” McCartney on January 6th.  Yes life moves forward but with the heaviest of hearts.  I still feel like all that has come to pass is surreal, and that I will see him again pulling up on his scooter or pick up truck to the front of my house.  I want to thank my very dear friend Pat Perry for her beautiful card, one that brought on teary eyes.  She knows well how grief can can take over one’s life.

I was unable to do this Monday Morning Diary earlier, because of a sudden and quite nasty bout with a stomach virus, which was brought into the house by my son Jeremy.  All day yesterday I had extreme nausea, the heaves and diarrhea. (not that you really need to know that last part,  ha!)  It seems to be of the 24 hour variety, as this morning I am about 60% better- not great, but well enough to get back on line to complete this diary and move forward with my Caldecott Contender series reviews.  Yesterday’s inability to do anything but lay down on a cot groaning  also prevented me from making urgent copies of “screeners” for some friends.  I plan on moving ahead with that tonight.

I posted my Top Ten of 2014 list on my facebook page last week.  because of the extenuating circumstances of the past weeks and the unexpected demands of the Caldecott Medal series, I was unable to provide capsules reviews.  Am I tell the readers here that I find “children’s books” more urgent than films?  Not by a country mile -Wonders in the Dark is after all a film site, and for years my primary focus, and main draw on my money and time week after week -and I wrote nearly 20 exorbitant length reviews for the ‘romantic films countdown’ over the past year alone, but when I commit to a series I must complete it.  I hereby post my Top Ten and honorable list again for the WitD readers: (more…)

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draw cover

by Sam Juliano

My visit to the confessional this past week turn out to be a most unorthodox experience for both my pastor the Rev. Peter Sticco, as well as yours truly.  When I was asked the perfunctory “What are your sins?” I responded with a disclaimer that even shocked the good Father.  “Father” I meekly replied.  “Would you consider it a sin to make some unfair statements about a book, or a film or a musical composition?”  The Father responded with a trace of incredulity.   “What are you saying that is ‘unfair?’  “Father, I said some very unflattering things about a children’s book that many people adore, but that I on several first viewings was rather indifferent for.  I even went as far as to question a few of my esteemed fellow writers and book lovers about their sanity in loving such a book to the vaunted levels of gleeful delirium they espoused.  I have since seen the light, similar to the way Godless people finally discover the Lord.  From the depths of despair I have now been enlightened and ravished by a most beautiful thing, a picture book masterwork that was looking at me squarely from the start, but until the past week was too blinkered to discover.  In the end I was absolved, and told that whatever unflattering words I may have initially voiced are now water under the bridge after my aesthetic epiphany. (more…)

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