Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


by Sam Juliano

The Greatest Childhood/Adolescent Films Countdown is now down to the final three-and-a-half weeks after a lengthy run that began back in mid-June.  The essays throughout have been first-rate and all the barometers of measurement have been most impressive as of late after it lagged a bit in the middle stages.  Upon completion, the site will go back to a wider focus, what with an assortment of film and music reviews and the late November launching of the Caldecott Contender series.  The latter project will be pared down from last year when 51 reviews were published over ten weeks.  There are a number of reason why that kind of volume will not be happening again.

Today is officially the first day of autumn, but nothing about that brisk and colorful season is anywhere near fruition, what with unrelenting heat and summer like aspects till in full force.  This is a great time of year for movie, opera, music, baseball and football fans, as well as for those who look forward to the annual book festivals.  I was so disappointed that I erred on the date for the Princeton Book Festival, which was held this past Saturday as I always look forward to it each and every year, but this coming Saturday I will attend the equally celebrated one in Warwick, New York (where I’ve never attended) and then to the one in Chappaqua, New York on October 3rd.  Later this week the renowned illustrator Frane Lessac and her equally celebrated author husband Mark Greenwood will be doing book presentations at our own Lincoln School.  I arranged for this long-awaited visit, and it will be a great day for sure.

On the domestic front everything remains hectic, what with the college commuting and weekend back and forths on the schedules of my son Sammy and daughter Melanie.  Nothing will be changing anytime soon.  On Friday Lucille and I will be seeing Pope Francis in Central Park, as the result of an incredibly generous offer from a benefactor friend.  Certainly something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.

I am presently reading the superb Pulitzer-prize winning Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Herbert Donald. (more…)

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goodnight mommy

Capture from taut Austrian horror film “Goodnight Mommy”

by Sam Juliano

As we approach the mid-way point of September, we are still mired in oppressive heat, though some rain in the metropolitan area has managed to cool things off a bit on Sunday.  Still, temperatures in the mid 80’s are predicted for the coming days.  While summer refuses to relent, other ninth month habits are unfolding: the baseball season moves closer to the playoffs, the NFL season has begun, the movie season is starting to heat up and various film and book festivals that annually stage at this time are close to launching.  As always we will be heading down to Princeton and across to Brooklyn for the children’s book Festival in a few weeks, and I hope to see something at the New York Film Festival.

The past week at Wonders in the Dark yielded some of the very best reviews in the on-going Greatest Childhood/Adolescent Films Countdown.  Kudos to Lee Price, Brian E. Wilson, Aaron West and Stephen Mullen for their brilliant writing.  I also would like to extend my deepest thanks to the site readership who provided a barrage of glowing comments and page views under my review of Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea.  The piece was as dear to my heart as anything else I have ever written at this site in over seven years, and I was moved by the extraordinary response.  The countdown has suddenly come alive in a very big way over the last two weeks, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Lucille and I saw two films in theaters this past week, and interesting enough both were in the horror genre.  I also completed the marathon Shakespearean series AGE OF KINGS, and hope to offer up a detailed round-up soon.  The series winds up with a five-star rating.  I also saw a few other films, two of which are directly connected to the countdown. (more…)

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Screen cap from uncompromising, superbly made “Diary of a Teenage Girl”

by Sam Juliano

Yes, September is here and plenty of cherished seasonal openings are upon us, but somebody needs to tell Mother Nature to turn down the heat.  90 degree days are still in force, and there isn’t any sign that things will soon change.  In any case, football fans can rejoice in the beginning of a new season later this week, and movie buffs can expect some very good things later this month.  The New York Film Festival will be launching soon, as will new seasons at the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.

Here at Wonders in the Dark, the Greatest Childhood/Adolescent Countdown is now in the 20’s, with the end clearly in site.  We enjoyed one of the best weeks ever as far as comments and page views are concerned, and I want to thank all for their much appreciated participation.  Some of the greatest films ever made in this sub-genre are upcoming, so stay tuned!

The past week has been quite busy, nearly as hectic as the previous one, and in large measure connected to the academic endeavors of our children.  Lucille and I managed to see two films in theaters, though several at home viewings were the main order of cinematic business.  I am presently reading Ron Chernow’s Pulitzer-prize winning biography Washington: A Life.   (more…)

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As per our regular routine, this week’s Monday Morning Diary will become the Tuesday Morning Diary because of the Labor Day holiday stateside.  Next week the normal routine will continue on Monday.

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by Sam Juliano

Our 19 year-old daughter Melanie’s move into NYC for the opening of the college fall semester at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) was our primary focus over the past week, though the same support and preparation was afforded to young Sammy, who begins classes at Bergen Community College in Paramus.  Though Melanie is a year older than Sammy, she took one year off after high school to make sure of what direction she wanted to take in moving forward.  Though Melanie will be living at the SVA dorm, she plans to return home nearly every weekend, and we will be active to make that happen.  Sammy, on the other hand will be commuting by bus, so he will be staying under our roof.  Getting him to the bus stop at 6:15 A.M. every day (some days I will no doubt just drive him there outright I am sure) will be ushering in a new and drastic change of focus for us, and to be sure we now know what our central priority is.  In the meantime, Danny now enters his Junior year at Cliffside Park High School, which is also the location where Jillian starts as a freshman.  Jeremy will be our final child to leave the Fairview School system, where he enters the eight grade on Wednesday.

The Childhood/Adolescent Countdown continues to advance with deceptive speed, and basically is down to its final six weeks.   The authors of the reviews must again be commended for their brilliant coverage.  many thanks to those who have been part of this great venture.

With much of the week taken up by shopping in clothes and bed stores, and visiting the respective colleges for orientations, and luncheons, Lucille and I didn’t see any new films in theaters, though we did watched some stuff on her HD screen at home, and on Saturday evening attended a staged reading of a new play from a lifelong friend, Peter Danish, titled “Herb and Lenny” at the Antrim Playhouse in Suffern, New York.  The work focused on the two most celebrated conductors of the past century, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. (more…)

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seven years

Another milestone has been achieved at Wonders in the Dark this past week as the site has published its 3,000th blog post.  A remarkable accomplishment to be sure, but even sweeter when one considers the general apathy online for blogs in general, what with the continuing prominence of Facebook and Twitter.  Blogs are far from dead, but let’s just say they are less dominant than they once were.  Ironically, the mid-week post- Aaron West’s review of “My Life as a Dog”, which gave cause for celebration – came to pass during the now running Greatest Childhood/Adolescent polling, which at least by way of comments is the least exceptional of the six genre polls we have staged so far.  Still the page view for the project have remained solid and the quality of writing exhibited in the reviews themselves has been of the first rank.

Simultaneously, the site marks its seventh anniversary in two weeks.  Launched in September of 2008, the speculative venture was planned by Allan Fish and myself, and supported mightily by Tony d’Ambra and Dee Dee, before gaining steam by a fraternity of blogger friends.  The site’s trademarks have been the weekly Monday Morning Diary, (instituted in 2010) a community forum where readers share their weekly viewings and activities, and the primary announcement board; the many decade and genre countdowns (populated not only by the site’s staff writers, but by fellow blogger friends from other sites, and an extensive archives of opera, book, and music reviews.  Though the present time has been difficult for blog sites in general, the site is alive and well, and will no doubt thrive for some time to come.

Many thanks to all our friends for making this place so accommodating for so long.  By any barometer of measurement this has been a remarkable run.

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36. The White Balloon


by Allan Fish

(Iran 1995 85m) DVD1

Aka. Badkonake sefid

Dancing with their fins

p Kurosh Mazkouri d Jafar Panahi w Abbas Kiarostami ph Farzad Jahat ed Jafar Panahi

Aida Mohammadkhani (Razieh), Mohsen Kafili (Ali), Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy (mother), Anna Borkowska (old lady), Mohammad Shahani (soldier), Mohammad Bakhtiar (tailor), Hamidreza Tahery (Reza), Aliasghar Smardi (balloon seller)

It’s time for an academic game, a theoretical test, and one that seems apt when discussing an Iranian film. Your subject is The White Balloon, but you have to pick one word to describe it and then write a small essay on why that word is appropriate. One might pick ‘balloon’, but then you wouldn’t have seen the movie. ‘White’ would be less controversial as it features prominently, but still one suspects it would be limited to discussion of the mise-en-scène. One might pick goldfish, but again one might find it limiting. So I go for neither. For me, only one word presents itself – continuity. (more…)

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