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By J.D. Lafrance

“I can see why people are asking me about a generation I happen to be a part of, but to me Slacker owes more allegiance to cinema than to a generation.” – Richard Linklater

“It was disturbing to me that an idea or a song could become something so different from what you originally intended. It’s like if a friend took a stupid picture of you at a party on their phone, and the next thing you knew, it was on every billboard.” – Beck on the surprise success of “Loser”

Even though I know they came out years apart, I always associate Beck’s hit song “Loser” with Richard Linklater’s film Slacker (1990). The former came out in 1993 and the latter had its premiere three years prior, but both took their time finding their audience. They also were touted by the media as defining what would be known as Generation X, a term popularized by Douglas Coupland’s 1991 novel of the same name, and used to describe people born in the early 1960s to the early 1980s. Also rather interestingly, both Beck and Linklater felt uncomfortable with being heralded as voices of their generation.
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 by Sam Juliano

We have a new president, and after a contentious inaugural speech, violent protests and continued rage we seem to be headed for some difficult times, to put it mildly.  But on the other hand I am happy that perhaps we can focus our attention now to the art and away from politics, which by now has run its course.

The Academy Award nominations will be announced tomorrow morning, so we can address that next week or even on this thread, should anyone wish too after the Tuesday morning announcement.  However, the Caldecott Medal winners were announced today and all five (the gold medal winner and the four honors books) are books in the masterpiece category.  They are:  Medal winner:  Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe.  Honor Books:  Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol; Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie; Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis, and They All Saw A Cat  by Brendan Wenzel.  I want to thank all those who followed this marathon sixty (60) review series since it launched in early October, for those who placed ‘likes’ both here at the site and on FB, and to the regular commenters:  Jim Clark, Frank Gallo, Laurie Buchanan, Celeste Fenster, John Grant, Peter M., Kimbra Power, Tony d’Ambra, Tim McCoy, Karen, Duane Porter, Alia Jones, Jarie Waterfall, Sergio Ruzzier, Patricia Hamilton, Sharon Lovejoy, Ricky Chinigo, Wendy Wahmann, David Noack, John R., Book Barn Steve and a number of others.  This was a taxing venture that ate up the lion’s share of my free time, or at least one that vied with film at the richest time of the year.  The authors and illustrators themselves were amazing in their own sponsorship of the series and in the many shares on Facebook and Twitter.  This year by far the series received more attention than it ever did.  So many FB people were there with likes on practically every post, or liked many of them and I want to thank as many as I can gather together here:  Fiona Robinson, Peter M., Susan Fabricant Hess, Laurie Buchanan, Sergio Ruzzier, Leon Duncan, Francy Stoller, Nancy Armo,  Lorraine Rotundo, Dennis Polifroni, Toni Yuli, Jeff Gottesfeld, Roberta Rivera, Jennifer Thermes, Raul Colon, Ed Spicer, Wendell Minor, Florence Freedman Minor, Patricia Hamilton, Stacey Innerst, Jack Marsh, Dawn Annabelle, Jordan J. Scavone, Violet Charleston, Gail Maki Wilson, Adam Gudeon, Gina Marie Harner, Rob Costello, Ann Marie Kradenski, Heather Lang, Leon Duncan, Frank Aida, Steve Mazzone, Dana Willcox,, Helen Frost, Wendy Wahmann, Salina Yoon, Lucille Juliano, Tony Pistilli, Boris Kulikov, Elizabeth Stanton, Jessixa Bagley, Theresa Juliano Lynne Rae Perkins,  Barbara McClintock, Jarie Waterwall, Denise Ann Saldutti Egielski, A. H. Taylor, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Matthew Cordell, Eric Fan, Sharon Lovejoy, Valerie Clark, Susan Hood, Maxine Grgurev, Deborah Freedman, Jonathan Bean, Kate Hoefler,  Daniel Miyares, Stephanie Burke Bellucci, G. Gregory Christie, Sophie Blackall, Dan Richards, Jeff Newman, Anne Hunter, Lori Nichols, Lauren Castillo, Jillian Juliano, Melanie Juliano, Bart Talamini, Jason Giampietro and so many others.

Laurie Buchanan’s regular shares went above and beyond, and to her send on a special thanks!!  Patricia Hamilton shared so many as well and similarly I thank her from the bottom of my heart!  Of course the authors and illustrators shared many to the tune of about 48% of the 60 I wrote!  Thanks many times over!

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With actor Lucas Hedges in front of Lucille Lortel Theater on Wednesday night

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by Sam Juliano

We are five days away from the Trump presidency and many of us are still trying to figure out how and why.  But we are there and must come to terms with could well be one of the darkest spans in recent history.  Speaking for myself though I am willing to wait, and hope that far more good comes out of this once unfathomable situation than most might think.  Friday morning’s inauguration is sure to be quite the event, and one doomed to attract fervent protests all over the map.  Stay tuned.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series has reached the last leg of its long and prolific journey, with six more days including today left to “spread the word.”  My projection is for it to end with fifty-eight essays completed.  As of this morning we have had fifty-two.  Thank you many times over to Jim Clark, Laurie Buchanan, Frank Gallo, John Grant, Peter M., Tony d’Ambra, Celeste Fenster, Duane Porter, Tim McCoy, Karen,  Wendy Wahmann, Nancy Armo, Ricky C., Kimbra Power, Book Barn Steve, Alia Jones, David Noack,  Jarie Waterfall, Sharon Lovejoy,  and others for their remarkable support in the comment threads.  And to all those who have registered ‘likes’ I am deeply appreciative.  The Facebook ‘likes’ that are on the linked reviews too are much appreciated.

My deepest heartfelt condolences go out to my friend and colleague on his family loss.  He is going through the worst time of his life, and I grieve with him at this unspeakable time. (more…)

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Screen cap from excellent “20th Century Women”

by Sam Juliano

My apologies for dropping the ball on the last Monday Morning Diary that published at the site two weeks ago.  I did not address the comments yet, mainly as a result of the time consuming Caldecott Contender series and my frenzied efforts to catch up on the movie going front.  I am currently planning to release the annual Ten Best and runners-up list on February 1st.  Others wishing to post their own list need only to reach me.

Happy New Year to staff writers and our devoted readers.  As I’ve stated in the past we are hoping for a much better twelve month span than the sorry one we just endured,

Thank you so much Jim Clark for your staggering essay contributions to the site over years.  And thank you to J.D. Lafrance for his recent run of excellent film pieces.  I would like to thank Laurie Buchanan, the aforementioned Jim Clark, Frank Gallo, John Grant, Peter M., Tony d’Ambra, Celeste Fenster, Ricky C., Karen, Patricia Hamilton, Duane Porter, Tim McCoy and others for their remarkable comments under the Caldecott Medal Contender reviews.  While I will readily admit that I have invested a bit too much time in the venture, that aspect always goes a long way with me. (more…)

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Pictured: Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson) & Viola Davis (Rose)

by Sam Juliano

And so another Christmas has passed into the annals of history.  We in the northeast had a moderate day temperature-wise, and as always got together with family in a fabulous location.  The downside was that Melanie, Jillian and Danny had to stay home with various flu-related illness.  So far the rest of us have been spared.  As per our annual tradition we got out to the movie theater, and in fact saw two of the new releases back to back.  Otherwise the past week was occupied by last minute Christmas shopping, preparation and for me the grueling and time-consuming  if engaging continuation of the Caldecott Medal Contender series, which will run until January 20th. (The awards will be announced on the 22nd).  2016 has been the saddest year in memory, but I will make more reference on next week’s day-after New Year’s Day Diary.

At home on 7 Spruce Street we managed all the Christmas staples – the 1951 A Christmas Carol, the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Polar Express and the musical Scrooge.  Now we get to enjoys a short break before returning to our school positions on Tuesday, January 3rd. I trust everyone enjoyed the holiday and am looking forward to hearing reports on watched films or any other activities worth noting. (more…)

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In Our Hearts Forever

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by Sam Juliano

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story is predicated on that rarest of occurrences in this age of climate change, late-launching winters and the annual transients who prefer a yuletide celebration outside a swimming pool.  Still, December 25th is a date that for centuries has captured the imaginations of writers and illustrators, who have maintained a traditional image of Christmas, one inhabited by the seasonal trappings and the setting most of us can only dream for.  We’ve been treated to such holiday winterscapes and the indelible trappings that have long given this holiday its sense of mystery and anticipation in works such as Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas, Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman and Chris Van Allsberg’s Caldecott Medal winning The Polar Express.  In all three and in many others Christmas is defined by blustery snow, freezing temperatures and Jolly old St. Nick, a tireless globetrotter who somehow defies all logistics by making a personal stop at every house where children reside, usually entering through chimneys.  The favored visual transcription of Christmas Eve is a very dark blue starry sky, a snowy terrain, houses scattered, pine trees in abundance and a rustic home with a  fireplace, a living room Christmas tree and gifts wrapped in red and green paper.  This exquisite setting, usually evoking a location far to the north is captured via pencil and ink washes with digital color in a gem of a holiday book, written by Kallie George and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin.   The story, chronicles the return of a present that fell off Santa’s sleigh after a gust of wind, by four dutiful forest animals, who must complete their task in frigid cold way past their bedtimes.  Their challenges -and a later snowbank mishap- recall that which faced the resilient title character in William Stieg’s classic Brave Irene. (more…)

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