Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


by Jamie at attractive variance

Given that 2016 was such a turbulent year, it’s no surprise that any sampling of the years standout records would produce a rather noisy, loud affair. Political content often mixed with the chaos, with even our greatest hip hop records getting into the act. With 2017 already offering the Uniform’s Wake in Fright and the Priests tremendous debut, it looks like we can expect more of the same over the next 10 months and change. Hooray for that. I’ve attempted to remain clear of ‘Best’, as though I do feel these 50 to be just that, I can’t hide the fact that within popular music I have heavy predilections toward noise, feedback and heaviness. Granted, that is where forward leaning rock n’ roll is at now, but still, I feel a caveat is warranted. Enjoy the tunes, most of these picks can be listened to on spotify, or on the individual artist bandcamp pages by a simple google search. Today will countdown 50-26, with an additional offering of my favorite compilations, while tomorrow will see the final 25. Happy listening.


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by Sam Juliano

Oscar night 2016 will again be celebrated in an annual party at Fairview’s Tiger Hose Firehouse on Sunday evening, February 26th from 6:00 until midnight.  Dante’s Italian Market will again be called upon to provide the hot and cold buffet for the open house event.  Roast beef, eggplant and mozarella, turkey and swiss and salami, ham and provolone sandwiches will be offered along with an array of hot food trays:  chicken parmigiana, eggplant parmigiana, meatballs, sausage and peppers, cavatelli and broccoli, pasta with marinara sauce, salads and desert.  Anyone in the area is urged to stop in.  As always a big screen television will be carrying the events, and we will be conducting out annual Oscar pool.

Spring weather has suddenly replaced the cold of the past month, though it is far too early for this meteorological adjustment.  But for those who appreciate temperatures in the mid 60’s to low 70’s this is ideal.

Lucille, a few of the kids and I have had a busy week hopping for theater to theater catching the last of the unseen 2016 films and the new 2017 crop.  We saw: (more…)

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The esteemed Brian Wilson, Chicago librarian, film aficionado and member of this year’s Caldecott Medal committee, has posted his fabulously eclectic and high-quality list after his usual banner year of film watching.  Wonders in the Dark is deeply honored to publish it for readers and the film community:

1. Moonlight
2. Paterson
3. Krisha
4. Don’t Think Twice
5. Indignation
6. La La Land
7. Manchester by the Sea
8. Kubo and the Two Strings
9. The Salesman
10. Fences
11. Jackie
12. Things to Come
13. Sieranevada
14. Lion
15. I, Daniel Blake
16. Other People
17. The Lobster
18. 20th Century Women
19. Hidden Figures
20. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki



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 by Sam Juliano
For the very first time since I began composing lists back in 1973 (as the film critic for the Bergen Community College Monitor-Jan Troell’s “The New Land” was #1 that year) 44 years ago I have decided to go with a Top 20. Including the 38 films I saw at Tribeca this year I have seen 173 films with the vast majority of these in movie theaters. For about twenty of the full total I have had to avail myself of Amazon Prime, DVD or blu rays. I had also added seventeen (17) films that I really like, but just couldn’t fit them in my Top 20 proper. After serious contemplation I have decided to include The Salesman, The Witch and Embrace of the Serpent on these lists. In the case of the first, I saw it before making my list and it was nominated for the foreign film Oscar meaning it did get an opening in 2016 theatrically. Some will continue to argue the other two are really 2015 films, but they didn’t open in NYC until early 2016, meaning that NEITHER film could make my list last year. These lists are not designed for on the spot posterity, just to gauge what was seen in a calendar year by the writer. I have the option down the line to restore films to their proper year to be sure. As this is my own list, I have the right to enact my own “rules.” Having said that I see so many others pretty much do the same thing. But I am wasting time on “dates” when I should be naming the films. The Chilean Pablo Larrain astonishingly has two films in the Top 20. Here we go:

1 Indignation (USA; James Schamus)
2 La La Land (USA; Damien Chazelle)
3 Manchester by the Sea (USA; Kenneth Lonergan)
4 Jackie (USA; Pablo Larrain)
5. Quand on a 17 ANS (France; Andre Techine)
6. The Salesman (Iran; Asghar Farhadi)
7. O.J. Made in America (USA; Ezra Edelman)
8. Paterson (USA; Jim Jarmusch)
9. Fences (USA; Denzel Washington)
10. Moonlight (USA; Barry Jenkins)
11. Under Sandet – Land of Mine (Denmark; Martin Zandvliet)
12. The Red Turtle (France; Michael Dudok de Wit)
13. Love and Friendship (USA; Whit Stillman)
14. Krisha (USA; Trey Edward Shults)
15. Neruda (Chile; Pablo Larrain)
16. Aquarius (Brazil; Kleber Filho)
17. My Golden Days (France; Arnaud Desplechin)
18. The Arrival (USA; Dennis Villenue)
19. The Witch (USA/Canada; Robert Eggers)
20. Lion (Australia/India; Garth Davis)

Runners-Up: (in no particular order)

American Honey
Things to Come
Captain Fantastic
Toni Erdmann
I Am Not Your Negro
Cemetery of Splendor
Hell or High Water
Sing Street
The Handmaiden
Midnight Special
Little Men
I, Daniel Blake
A Man Called Ove
Hacksaw Ridge
Little Sister
Nocturnal Animals
Hidden Figures
Embrace of the Serpent


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by Sam Juliano

Near the conclusion of A. H. Taylor’s The Color Machine the Mayor of Colormazoo addresses a crowd of testy petitioners with judicial clarity that hearkens back to  Shakespeare.  When this wise and all-knowing arbiter of righteousness asks his chagrined audience to “lend me your ears” one may recall Mark Antony’s funeral speech in Julius Caesar, but the final resolve is more in tune with the closing monologue of Romeo and Juliet, when Prince Escalus lays the rightful blame on the city’s warring families -the Montagues and the Capulets- whose adversarial episodes have resulted in foolhardy skirmishes and a tragic end.  Taylor understandably steers clear of any notion of violence, but his telling implication is abundantly obvious.  The book’s titular oracle is something you might expect to see in a Roald Dahl novel, especially in view of the biting irony of having to fix something that should be permanently destroyed, but Taylor relies on an idea that proposes that if people can’t see the errors of their ways, the proverbial rug will be pulled from under their feet.

Taylor’s black ink pencil drawings are accompanied by full page bleeding color puddles that are meant to convey that the long tradition of seeing things through the prism of color has now been suspended.  The full page color washes are meant to look drab and saturated, and they project a distinctly bleak picture.  A motley group of fuming residents are practically riotous in the opening spread.  A woman with a snail-like hairdo carrying an umbrella, frame lurches forward, while another belies his inner countenance under a wolf costume and others carry on as if their taxes had tripled.  A church in the background is meant to accentuate an underlining hypocrisy in this sorry hamlet of ignorance and prejudice, a place where one’s color means much more than their character, their integrity or their religion.  One man bullies a child, and others make angry gestures from windows.  The enraged crowd appear as if they will accept nothing less than full kaleidoscopic reinstatement.  Their ugly demeanor has been  downgraded for the youngest students of course, but one can’t help being reminded because of the context of the scene in To Kill A Mockingbird when the townspeople hellbent on mischief decide they will take the law into their own hands when they storm the jail where Tom Robinson is being held.  Taylor’s delightful rhyming prose sets the parameters of this impasses as one between “the town and Mayor”: (more…)

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Two screen captures from the American masterpiece INDIGNATION based on a novel by Philip Roth

by Sam Juliano

Atlanta Falcon fans are not doubt still numb after last night’s Super Bowl debacle.  But if you are a Patriots fan like our fearless leader Donald Trump you are right now experiencing pure gridiron ecstasy.  It was certainly the most fantastical conclusion of any football championship game I have ever seen and I’m still wondering how it was possible that it played out the way it did.

Those who are interested in seeing my Top Ten and runners-up list, I apologize, but I still need one final week.  It will be posted on Monday, February 13th.  Right now it seems likely I will have a tie for my #1 position, as it is becoming fairly impossible to choose one over the other.  But until Monday, I might still change my mind a hundred times more!  🙂 We are still talking about the television countdown as a viable project for this year, but nothing has been yet decided remotely.

I finally caught up to the college drama set in 1951, INDIGNATION -based on a novel by Philp Roth – and it is a staggering masterpiece.  Though it was in theaters over the summer, I had to avail myself of Amazon Prime.  We saw: (more…)

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By J.D. Lafrance

The two action/adventure films that made the greatest impression on me as a young boy were The Black Stallion (1979) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). While I’ve seen the latter countless times over the years, I realized recently that I hadn’t seen the former since my parents took me to see it in theaters back in 1979. How could this be? I seem to remember liking it enough that my folks bought me Walter Farley’s 1941 novel of the same name on which it’s based. It wasn’t exactly hard to find on home video or see occasionally on television.

I recently caught up with it and was instantly taken back to when I first saw it as a child. I was also able to appreciate its artistry more now as an adult. The Black Stallion is beautifully shot – it’s basically an art house film for children, which is unthinkable in this day and age of noisy CGI animated movies and dumbed-down live-action fare. This is due in large part to the intelligent screenplay – written by Melissa Mathison, Jeanne Rosenberg, and William D. Wittliff – and the masterful direction of Carroll Ballard who got an incredibly sensitive performance out of a young boy by the name of Kelly Reno. The film was regarded as a unique anomaly when it came out and continues to be one of the most under-appreciated children’s films.

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