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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

Interstellar (Christopher Nolan) USA #1

 

leviathan

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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Really old times 153

by Sam Juliano

I am trying very hard to get things together, but the aching pain remains in force.  As I previously announced on last week’s MMD, tragedy has intruded on our lives in a very big way.  Like Pat Perry and others, I can safely say that as a result our lives can never be the same.  My 68 year-old cousin Robert (Bobby) McCartney, a man who was our “guidance counselor,” handyman and contractor, arts companion and family confidante suddenly and without any past health clues, passed away on Tuesday morning of a massive heart attack.  The fact that it could have been easily averted, makes the pain even more pronounced.  On Monday night, Bobby mentioned to his brother that he had chest pains that wouldn’t go away.  Douglas told him he needed to check into an emergency room.  Bobby refused – he was eccentric – and truth be said he had nothing but contempt for doctors.  He was a lifelong miser -hugely successfully financially, but thought he was indestructible, in view of the excellent genes in my father’s family.  Had he gone, they would have immediately figured the problem, and he would have had a stent inserted.  He could have lived another 15 years or more, when you consider everyone on that side of the family lives to their 80’s and 90’s.  His mother, my 92 year-old Aunt Joanie had to witness this horror.  My cousin, to be sure did not lead the healthiest lifestyle, as he was probably the heaviest smoker I have ever encountered.  Even when he went to movies he would leave two or three times to go out to smoke.  His diet included some vegetables, but it wasn’t overall so great.  He had his share of fast food.  He did kept weight off and was extremely active physically – a workaholic, who was obsessed with saving and cutting corners to a fault.  He spent so many hours of many days at my house -he did after all live only three blocks away- and he interacted with the kids daily.  The memories abound- I was his campaign manager when he won a seat on the Fairview Board of Education; when I lived on Anderson Avenue he was a nightly visitor in the days I was single.  I simply cannot fathom he is not in this world anymore.  I cannot believe I won’t ever seen him again pulling up to the front of my house nearly every day, and walking through the front door every Tuesday at 6:30 P.M. sharp for pasta night.  He was the first person I discussed new movies with, the first person I confided in on family issues, and work that needed to be done in the house, and in what was going on around the town.  I just cannot accept this.  I don’t know what the future portends anymore.  The vital man in our lives has suddenly been taken from us without preparations and even a final goodbye. (more…)

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emerspan

Emerson String Quartet

 

by Sam Juliano

So now we are staring 2015 squarely in the face.  The end of the year holiday craze is now a memory to hold dearly, but time marches on and it is time to re-focus on our creative hankerings and personal goals for the new year.  At Wonders in the Dark plans are in place for some interesting projects, if available time is cooperative.  The site’s statistics have made a remarkable upturn over the past weeks, in good measure because of the year-end movie list enthusiasm and round-ups, and the Caldecott Medal Contender series, which has attracted big numbers in good measure because of the Facebook links.  Just yesterday the page view total was well over 1,400 on a day (Saturday) that is normally the lightest of every week.  The Right Word post was viewed by over 200, again a rarity at the time when social media has impacted the performances of blog sites everywhere.   Jim Clark’s extraordinary review of Jacques Demy’s Donkey Skin and Sachin Gandhi’s Top Ten Films of 2014 posts remain favorites.

For those readers and/or regular who are still FB holdouts, I urge you to re-consider.  The various pollings and all sorts of great subjects and dialogues are there in abundance.  The general perception by those who continue to resist it is erroneous. (more…)

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into the woods

selma

by Sam Juliano

Christmas Day 2014 is now in the past, but New Year’s Eve festivities are upcoming.  Weather in the northeast has been relatively benign, though we are hearing of horror stories in other parts of the countries.  Culture mavens have had the chance to immerse themselves during the richest time of the year, and similarly football fans are looking ahead to the playoffs.  Opera fans have the monthly simulcasts in area theaters, bringing the Metropolitan Opera to the home front.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series is going full throttle and will continue until the first of February.  The American Library Association Awards are set to announce on the 2nd.  Sachin Gandhi’s superlative Best Films of the Year list published this past week at his own site, Scribbles and Ramblings and here at WitD.  My own list will be published on or around January 10th as per normal annual procedure, and others from Jaimie Grijalba, Maurizio Roca, Jon Warner and Duane Porter are also being planned for WitD publication when ready.  Jim Clark’s magnificent and exhaustive review of Jacques Demy’s Donkey Skin published to great acclaim this past week.  Some of the movie action has shifted to Facebook, where on my own page numerous pollings have been conducted.  This past week 2001: A Space Odyssey was named the greatest Stanley Kubrick film ever in answer to a query asking voters to list their Top 5.  The new poll going up tomorrow considers the James Bond series. (more…)

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Reese Witherspoon delivers the best performance of her career in WILD

 

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Final rousing installment of THE HOBBIT Trilogy – The Battle of the Five Armies

 

by Sam Juliano

Christmas Day is practically upon us, and one must wonder how the time has flown by to bring it up so quickly.  With the holiday comes a well-earned break for many, and for others the chance to catch up on lost-delayed projects.  Right.  We’ll be right where we were before the break when the off time expires.  That’s the way it always was and that’s the way it always will be.  In any case it is always an ideal time to spend in theaters, concert halls, museums or libraries, and of course to put together your own year-end lists

In any event, par for the course December for me always involves some kind of nagging malady.  No sooner did the ear infection subside, than my issues with gastritis, hiatal hernia and gerd emerge again.  This is a condition that affects just about every adult member of my family in force, so I will have to again get some doctor’s attention this week.

I want to extend the heartiest congratulations to our good friend Paul Bartell (John Grant) for the publication of his new short story collection “Tell No Lies” on Alchemy Press:

http://noirencyclopedia.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/ot-in-my-hot-little-hands/

Happy Holidays are extended to all our good friends and readers.  Let’s toast to the best year ever in 2015.

(more…)

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