cat-coverby 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 »

3. Stalker (1979)


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 »


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 »


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 »


by John Greco

An allegory on the infiltration of communism in America? A metaphor for people turning a blind eye to the McCarthyism hysteria that was sweeping the country in the early 1950’s? An attack on the potential dangers of conformity and the stamping out of individuality? Don Siegel’s 1956 gem of a film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, has been said to really be about any and all of these themes since its debut now more than fifty years ago. Siegel, who should know, never mentions any of this kind of subtext in his autobiography, A Siegel Film, so one can assume, all the “readinginto this classic science fiction film that has been done is just that, critics and filmgoers reading their own thoughts and ideas into a work of pop art…and there is nothing wrong with that! After all, isn’t personal interpretation one of the elements and joys of good art? Admirer, analyze, come up with theories, themes beyond what even the artist conceived.

The film is based on a serialized novel, written by Jack Finny, published in 1954 in Collier’s Magazine called, The Body Snatchers. It was produced by Walter Wanger (notoriously known for shooting  talent agent, later a producer, Jennings Lang. Wanger believed Lang was having an affair with his then wife, actress Joan Bennett) and directed by low budget action director Don Siegel. Siegel already had ten feature films under his belt including The Big Steal, Duel at Silver Creek, Private Hell 36 and Riot in Cell Block 11. Allied Artist agreed to back the film and screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring was on board to adapt Finney’s superb novel. Continue Reading »

6. Solaris (1972)

By Roderick Heath
An implicit faith in most science fiction is encoded in that name. It is the art of science, the act of understanding, comprehending, grappling with the real. But also an act of creation, of imagination applied to zones of the mysterious and the obscure, tethering the known, the possible, and the imaginable in brief harmony. It is still usually a bastion of a Victorian kind of faith that anything can be penetrated, broken down, conquered. Solaris, as written by Polish author Stanislaw Lem, is remarkable as a rebellious work in the genre, a rejection of this basic precept as a way of seeing and thinking. Lem, like so many Europeans of his generation, had lived through the worst of World War 2 and the grimmest of lessons in the limitations of the human spirit. After the war he studied medicine whilst forging a name as a writer, concentrating on science fiction in part because it drew less censorship at the time. Lem’s fiction became reputed for its stringent and stimulating conceptual and intellectual gravity, and he became one of the most widely-read sci-fi writers of the day. Solaris, his most famous work, was an attempt to sketch that most vital of sci-fi themes, contact between humans and aliens, with the title referring to a possibly sentient planet at the heart of the mystery. But Lem set out to avoid the usual presumption of the theme, that such a meeting, for good or ill, would nonetheless be between mutually coherent entities, in a universe that, however vast and unexpected, is so often envisioned by we poor Earthlings as a realm that will contain beings like ourselves, or at least variations on things familiar, obeying similar rules in the spree that leads from protozoa to sentience. Lem often tackled this idea, from his early novel The Man From Mars on, and with Solaris Lem took on not just the problem of imagining a form of alien life entirely incomprehensible to us, but also wrestled with this human tendency to look for our own image in the aeons, the simultaneous yearning for enigma but also the urge to subordinate it.

Legend has it Andrei Tarkovsky vowed to make a film to counter what he perceived as the chilly, detached, unfeeling streak in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and chose Lem’s book as the right project to examine what Kubrick had left out of his vision. This was an odd move considering Lem’s preference for the heady, theoretical side of his writing, and Lem didn’t much appreciate Tarkovsky’s adaptation, which has since overshadowed the book by focusing squarely and unapologetically on precisely the human aspect of the tale. Tarkovsky wasn’t the first to tackle Lem’s book. Boris Nirenburg’s 1968 version made for TV is sometimes described as the most faithful to the author’s conception, insofar as it focused more on the attempt to understand the planet itself rather than on the human quandaries provoked by the planet’s habit of actualising their psychological preoccupations. Amongst Tarkovsky’s specific inventions was a lengthy first act establishing central character Kris Kelvin and the mystery of Solaris as viewed from the earthbound perspective, in which Kelvin is described as a man outwardly maintaining a forced attitude of rationalism but who Tarkovsky’s visuals suggest is actually a meditative, introspective, mournful nostalgic, a fitting non-hero for Tarkovsky’s annexation of sci-fi as another realm for the poet. The opening shot, of weeds waving slowly under the glassy surface of the lake neighbouring Kelvin’s family home, instantly immerses the viewer in Tarkovsky’s lexicon of obsessive imagistic refrains and establishes the mood of languorous submergence that defines Solaris as a film. Continue Reading »



by Allan Fish

(UK 1971 137m) DVD1/2

A bit of the old ultraviolence

p  Stanley Kubrick, Bernard Williams  d/w  Stanley Kubrick  novel  Anthony Burgess  ph  John Alcott  ed  Bill Butler  m  Walter Carlos (including Henry Purcell, Edward Elgar, Giacchino Rossini, L.Van Beethoven, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)  art  John Barry, Russell Hagg, Peter Shields  cos  Milena Canonero

Malcolm McDowell (Alex de Large), Patrick Magee (Mr Alexander), Michael Bates (Chief Guard), Warren Clarke (Dim), James Marcus (Georgie), Michael Tarn (Pete), Anthony Sharp (Minister of the Interior), John Clive (stage actor), Adrienne Corri (Mrs Alexander), Miriam Karlin (Miss Weathers), Carl Duering (Dr Brodsky), Clive Francis (Joe), Dave Prowse (Julian), Philip Stone (Dad), Sheila Raynor (Mum), Aubrey Morris (P.R.Deltoid), Godfrey Quigley (prison chaplain), Paul Farrell (tramp), Steven Berkoff (cop), John Savident (conspirator), Margaret Tyzack (lady conspirator),

Viddy well at this horror show cine, o my brothers.  Kubrick’s most controversial film, this was the definitive cult film in the U.K after its withdrawal from our eyes for 26 years.  (Indeed, I still remember the sweaty-palmed glee with which I devoured the film for the first time when a friend imported a video copy from the US.)  A horror comic masterpiece of sorts, without a shadow of a doubt, it follows the story of a young murderer cum rapist in a futuristic nihilistic Britain who is released from prison after undergoing the Ludovico experimental treatment, this time as a victim of society. Continue Reading »