by Sam Juliano
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
-Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird
In the end it all comes down to perception. That is both the crux of the matter in Brendan Wenzel’s fabulously inventive They All Saw A Cat and the opportunity for its creator to put himself “in the shoes of the animal, and then make a piece of artwork representing how I imagine they might see a cat.” Wenzel himself in a recent interview responded with that quote when explaining his strategy with a book that has taken the children’s book world by storm, and has endlessly delighted classroom teachers who were gifted a a literature unit complete with drawing enrichment. But taken on its own terms this is a remarkable fusion of text and illustrations that not only is scientifically thought provoking but but an exceedingly sublime work that was created without playing favorites to any particular negotiating process. Indeed as revealed on the book last (copyright) page “the illustrations in this book were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook.” To bring such a seemingly undisciplined artistic melting pot to such unified heights is perhaps the most incredible achievement in They All Saw A Cat as the readers young and old alike are treated to a new adventure on every turn of the page.
‘The cat’ walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws provides the book’s entry point. First to see the cat is the child, and the love for a pet is evident from the tail cuddled around the legs, the feline’s big-eyed smile and the cozy rug they stand on. This is immediately contrasted in the next double-page spread where a none too happy dog sees a cat as all limbs – wiry, a face dominated by two rectangular eyes and a huge bell that enhances the noise for the already disgruntled canine. The dog seems poised to pounce. When the fox sees the cat, the equation is all about the prospects for the next meal. Hence in the eyes of this predator the cat is plump and seemingly an easy target. After another refrain reiterating the cat’s modus operandi, we see the cat as a blurry mass under the water where a small fish sixes up the cat in exaggerated terms where the size rivals some of the biggest fish in the lake or ocean. The eyes are prodigious, the oversized whiskers lending some degree of definition to a blurry mass. When a mouse sees a cat the fire truck red image is one of a ferocious monster with big teeth, fiery eyes and imposing claws. This is not a look the mouse wants to partake of for very long as this cat’s temperament matches that of a jungle cougar moving in for the kill. Continue Reading »
Posted in #Caldecott Medal Contender, Uncategorized | 16 Comments »
by Lee Price
In Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), there’s the ordinary world where the Stalker lives with his wife and daughter, there’s a border area patrolled by the military, there’s a sealed-off forbidden area known as the Zone, and, legend says, there’s a room inside the Zone where one’s deepest wishes may be granted. Picture it as concentric circles—a mandala radiating outward from the mysterious room at its spiritual center. In both the movie Stalker and its source book Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, the term Stalker refers to the guides who illegally escort guests into the Zone.
Stalker’s Zone is perhaps the most stripped-down version ever of a very familiar place.
In The Wizard of Oz (1939), Dorothy Gale crossed the boundary between black-and-white and Technicolor, and then followed the Yellow Brick Road deep into the Zone, led by the Stalker team of Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. Although some dismiss the account as nothing more than a dream, some say she reached and entered the Room, achieving the core desire that was in her heart all along.
In The Lord of the Rings, both book and films, Frodo Baggins is mentored by Gandalf, the Grey Stalker, who instructs Frodo on how to pass through the Zone in order to return a purloined heirloom to the Room.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a film notoriously rejected as “phony” by Tarkovsky, Dr. Dave Bowman journeys through an expansive psychedelic Zone with a (what else?) Room at its center. Continue Reading »
Posted in Lee Price's Film Reviews, science-fiction countdown | 6 Comments »
Andre Techine’s quietly powerful gay-themed drama “Quand on a 17 ANS” is his best film since “Wild Reeds” in 1994 and a strong contender for the Best Film of 2016.
by Sam Juliano
Last week’s miss for the Monday Morning Diary was the first such rare instance since my two week trip to the United Kingdom in August of 2013 when my family spent two weeks with Allan and his mum. The winding down of the long running Top 100 Science Fiction Countdown and some Caldecott Medal Contender review commitments convinced me for this one time to combine the activities into a single week. Therefore my round-up constitutes what I managed to negotiate in the prior two week period. Speaking of the countdown, it really has caught fire as it nears the finish line (this coming Wednesday in fact) and some of the most spectacular reviews that have ever published at the site have appeared in the person of some glorious scholarship. It is hard to believe we are nearly done, but it will be a project always remembered for the tenacity of its participants and the unconscionable darkness that hovered over it with the passing of our beloved friend and film mentor about half way through. Because of that incomparable grief and battle with depression it was an unprecedented challenge to move forward. Thoughts of cancellation nearly came to pass, but after discussion with Jamie Uhler it was deemed a better idea to divert to the subject out dear friend lived his life for, thus this countdown is devoted to Allan Fish, whose reviews were seen more times in the Top 100 than any other writer aside from Roderick Heath. Mr. Heath of course has moved mountains with numerous staggering essays that redefine the capabilities of the form. But a number of other writers have penned brilliant pieces and I will discuss those in the countdown round-up next week. The Sunday posting of J. D. Lafrance’s Blade Runner represents another case of stupendous scholarship, and earlier this week Duane Porter wrote up a storm for his La Jetee review as did Robert Hornak and John Greco respectively for Frankenstein and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Aaron West last week wrote an achingly beautiful review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but it goes on and on. And then there is Allan who needs no further commendation. I also want to thank the childrens’ book fans for their amazing support by way of comments and page views for the fourth annual Caldecott series. As soon as the Science-Fiction countdown ends I will be devoting quite a bit of time towards resuming the series, though I also would like to post some horror film reviews from some of our staff as we move closer towards Halloween.
It does seem pretty clear that the Republican nominee for President will be going down to resounding defeat, not that anyone is at all surprised. But the past weeks on that front have been as bizarre as have maligned any election. Ha, only in the US! Yes right now it does look like a Chicago – Cleveland World Series (Geez, if Jamie were a baseball fan who might he be rooting for? He grew up in Cleveland, where his family still lives, but he’s been a Chicago resident for a number of years now) I do not count out the Toronto Blue Jays just yet, but they have to turn it around fast. Jim and Valerie Clark are two of the team’s biggest fans, and I’ll be thinking of you both as the series winds down. This is the second year in a row the Jays have been knocking at the door. Continue Reading »
Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »
By J.D. Lafrance
“It’s just like everything that is awful about the city, but at the same time, everything that is fascinating about it…and this, in many ways, is a futurist projection—it’s not so much escapist, it’s a projection of what life will be like in every major metropolis 40 years from now.” – Philip K. Dick, 1982
Big Brother is watching you. The Eye in the Sky. There Are Eyes Everywhere. 2016…or 2019? In this day and age, does three years matter? In 1982, however, the difference was cavernous and 2019 a lifetime away. The past has finally caught up with the present…or has the present finally caught up with the past? One of the first images shown in Blade Runner (1982): an extreme close-up of an eye – encapsulates all of this, for we are living in paranoid times. We are living in Philip K. Dick’s world. This film was based on his 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? He has become one of the most widely-adapted science fiction authors and with good reason. He crafted paranoid tales populated by damaged characters trying to figure out what it means to be human. What were once considered paranoid delusions have become tactile realities.
Continue Reading »
Posted in J.D.'s film reviews, science-fiction countdown | 10 Comments »