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by Sam Juliano

Henny could at best be referred to as an anomaly comparable with the title character of The Ugly Duckling.  At worst her appearance evokes the specter of the science-fiction horror film The Fly, in which cells crossed during a scientific experiment run awry.  Of course first time author-illustrator Elizabeth Rose Stanton is dealing with the pre-K set, and her intentions are purely benign with her mood one of pointing out the good side of a seeming handicap.  Aptly titled Henny, the book exudes warmth, charm and a bevy of ideas for the young ones who might just believe that such a fantasy is possible, and that Henny might be a real life story.  Either way, the release signals a major talent, and the book appears headed for a continuing series like the one about the adorable pig named Olivia by Ian Falconer.  There is plenty that Henny has done and will do, and her adventures will no doubt bring smiles for the young ones, who this year have made this book wildly popular in the classrooms. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

It does seem rather hard to believe, but Christmas is just ten days away, and some of us who thought everything would sort itself out are now scurrying to complete preparations.  The weather in the northeast had been reasonably cooperative with cold but freezing temperatures and rain replacing snow as the favored precipitation.  But most of us are just biding our time for Father Winter to make his inevitable mean-spirited arrival.  Either way our spirits are better for the holiday season and all the cultural  events we normally look forward too as the year winds down.  Ten-best lists are flying around, and my own will post as usual sometime during the first eight to ten days in January.  There are still some important films to take in before the year ends including Inherent Vice (nearly seen yesterday),  Selma, Winter Sleep, A Most Violent Year and Into the Woods especially.  As per normal routine, Jaimie Grijalba, Maurizio Roca and perhaps Duane Porter and Sachin Gandhi will be posting their Best Of lists here as well.

James Clark has posted some brilliant stuff in the past weeks, and has several terrific films lined up for discussion in the coming weeks.  I want to again thank those who have been active in the Caldecott Medal Contender discussions, with a special shout-out to Laurie Buchanan for her extraordinary sponsorship.  She is some peerless motivator. (more…)

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turner

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by Sam Juliano

Boyhood was awarded Best Picture and Best Director from coast-to-coast critical fraternities in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and New York Online this past week.  Richard Linklater’s remarkably successful experiment of filming over a period of years as the characters age was initially recipient to the most spectacular set of reviews of the year, but the biggest plaudits lie ahead.  It is expected to win a bevy of critics’ awards still upcoming and will cap it all off with Golden Globe and Oscar wins in the Best Picture categories.  As the film is one of my own favorite two films of the year, I applaud the groups for their excellent taste.  I am looking forward to the inevitable re-release so I can see this on the big screen again.  I will be casting my own vote in the coming weeks for the annual Muriels, and Linklater’s masterpiece will figure prominently on my ballot.  The numbers the film earned at Meta Critic are the highest in the history of the site.  Using the favorable, mixed and negative categorization, the numbers are at 49-0-0, with an absolutely unbelievable 40 of those 49 assigning it a grade of ‘100.’

Ironically, the two films that I did manage to see this past week were done by way of some unexpected “screeners” I came into through the help of a friend.  Both featured critics’ award winning performances.  Timothy Spall won Best Actor from the New York Film Critics Circle for his superlative turn in Mr. Turner, while Julianne Moore was named Best Actress from the National Board of Review for her moving performance in Still Alice.   (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

December has arrived without much fanfare, and at least on the east coast with moderate temperatures for this time of the year.  This is the time of the year when ten best lists will start to appear -and frankly I always find that a lot of fun for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that it is a time to celebrate cinema in the context of the year’s most notable achievements.  A ten-best list is not an arrogant declaration of what said person declares pompously as the ‘best’ but a happy remembrance of the films that meant the most to, dazzled or moved the viewer critic.  After a year of seeking out movies that I think it is fair that anyone who has seen a great many films should publish what he or she thinks are their favorites.  I also think the movie going readers look forward to and expect such lists.  It is always fun to compare what  one reviewer says with what another says and often the differences are mind-boggling.  It all comes down to tastes.  I’ve done lists since 1971, when I was 17, and I suppose I will do then till I die.  Ha!  Lists are the ultimate way to celebrate a given year’s cinema, literature, music, art and theater and any attempt to compromise that fun, well……it is being grinch-ish.  Lists evolve and change, and are only good for the short term, obviously.  That fact alone should tell the nay-sayers that the authors are intending for them to be taken seriously.  They are FUN, in that for the author they given the persona  chance to frame the experiences that meant the most to them, the ones that inspired them.  Is there anything more noble than that?  Isn’t the many, many hours we invested into this art worth more than just a grudging salute. Thanks, but no thanks. I take my movie going seriously. (more…)

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In 1998, 22 year-old Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, beaten, and tied to a fence on a Wyoming prairie and left to die because he was gay. His death a week later incited outrage worldwide, and he is now a public symbol of prejudice and intolerance. A wrenching documentary by Michele Josue was the closing feature at the NYDC Festival, and Shepard’s parents Judy and Dennis were there to offer a Q & A. They are pictured here flanking my 12 year-old son Jeremy, and our friend Broadway Bob Eagleson. Lucille, Jeremy, Bob and I attended the screening of the film Thursday.

 

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by Sam Juliano

Turkey Day is upon us, though some of our friends in the midwest are mired in high inch snow totals.  Winter may be a month away, but it has made some unwelcome early appearances around the nation.  In any event the staff here at Wonders in the Dark would like to wish all our friends and associates a wonderful holiday.  For the 22nd year consecutively our own family will be traveling up to Butler, New Jersey, the home of Lucille’s sister and her family.  The gathering up there totals about 60 people, but the house is practically mansion-size.

Posts at the site for the coming months are pretty much set–Jim Clark’s superlative film essays every other Wednesday, a continuing roll out of the Allan Fish Bonanza Encore Series and the Caldecott Contender picture book series until the awards are announced around mid-January.  The next film countdown is tentatively planned for May of 2015 -Greatest/Favorite Films About Childhood – but we have a long way to go and won’t be even dealing with ballots until late March.

As December approaches we can expect all the critics’ ten-best lists, year-end awards and some long-awaited prestigious hits set to open in theaters.  I have been keeping abreast of the openings and have accelerated my movie-going pace. (more…)

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Artist Terrill Welch’s magnificent oil painting “Evening Thunderclouds over the Straight of Georgia” (reviewed below)

by Sam Juliano

Thanksgiving is just a little over a week away as time just zooms forward.  This is why none of us should ever be hoping for something set for weeks or months in the future.  We need to appreciate the time we have though it won’t hurt to wish away something we want to forget.  Weather nationwide has been dropping significantly, and many are bracing for a cold winter.  I am pleased to mention here that Allan Fish continues to come along nicely at home after his long stay in a British hospital.  This is just so fantastic when you consider the serious difficulties he has endured.  This is the greatest of news too for his lovely mum and aunt Anne.

After an unavoidable delay after my first entry in the 2014 Caldecott Medal Contender series, I will be resuming this coming week, and will commence to accelerate as we move forward.

Our good friend, the renowned artist Terrill Welch’s sublime impressionistic oil painting “Evening Thunderclouds Over the Straight of Georgia” has a fierce sensory undercurrent – a raging and visceral convergence of elemental properties that would even impress the regal flounder from the Grimm Brother’s The Fisherman and His Wife whose own ire required the proper theatrical trappings to denote that all is not well in the heavens.  But by her own admission the artist confessed the enormous challenge of documenting an experience that is both cosmic and suffused with a swirling sense of movement.  Staged at Georgina Point at the Straight of Georgia which separates Vancouver Island from the coast of British Columbia, the creator is armed only with an easel, a brush and a tube of oil paint – bare essentials with which to create an infinite event, one where lights have dimmed and an unwanted guest has intruded without proof of identity, to cast a pall of mystery and foreboding during the short interval between day and night.  With bold application of impressionist strokes, the painter has forged a scene of turbulent force – visceral and seemingly controlled by spiritual entities.  For those who like expansive outdoor atmospherics, defined by brooding weather and furious movement, Terrill Welch’s “Evening Thunderclouds Over the Straight of Georgia” is for you. It is imbued with a spiritual context – one that implies that all is not well beyond those pearly gates.  Audacious and original, this meteorological tapestry is unquestionably a masterpiece by a singular artist.

This past week we attended a terrific music show at Joey’s in West Milford, where another high school acquaintance -Gene Focarelli- did a fabulous job as a single vocalist/guitarist, covering rock standards from the 60’s and 70’s as well as some original material.  The kids really liked his presentation quite a bit.  It ran from 8 till 11 on Friday night.

On Saturday afternoon Lucille, Jeremy and I attended an excellent matinee college staging of Reginald Rose’s beloved work 12 ANGRY MEN at the school auditorium of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.  My sister-in-law Rita and my brother Paul’s nephew Tino Ivezaj played the crucial role of the Third Juror -Lee J. Cobb’s role in the film- and he delivered a powerful turn!  Simple by effective staging of a work always carried by the electrifying script. (more…)

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Melanie receiving her ‘Best of the Fest’ Prize from James Gandolfini’s sister Johanna Antonacci on Saturday.

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Melanie’s film “100 Likes” showing at Festival in Fort Lee.

http://www.jerseyfilmmakersoftomorrow.org/

2014 Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow Bergen County High School Student James Gandolfini Best of the Fest Winner: Melanie Juliano of Cliffside Park High School for her film “100 Likes”

On November 8th 2014, the Fort Lee Film Commission sponsored our 10th annual Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow Bergen County High School Student Film Festival in the auditorium of Fort Lee High School. This festival is open to all high school students who reside in Bergen County. This year the festival finalists screening & awards ceremony moved back to Fort Lee from Media Mix Studio in Allendale in preparation for the future home of this annual festival at the soon to be built Barrymore Film Center cinema and museum on Main Street in Fort Lee, NJ, the first American film town and birthplace of the American film industry.

This year we had over 120 submissions from around Bergen County and there were 10 finalists. The judges this year include Michael Gandolfini, son of the late great acclaimed New Jersey native and actor James Gandolfini. Our sponsors include Downtown Community Television Center and Sirk Productions, both of Manhattan. We also thank James Gandolfini’s great friend Tom Richardson for his support as well as Mr. Gandolfini’s sisters Johanna Antonacci and Leta Gandolfini. Johanna presented our top prize, the James Gandolfini Best of the Fest Award to our 2014 winner Melanie Juliano.

The James Gandolfini Best of the Fest winner receives $500 and an internship with Downtown Community Television Center. James Gandolfini had a working relationship with DCTV and they make this internship available to us in his memory. Also the winner receives 72 hours of post production tom at Sirk Productions Digital Studio on West 31st Street in New York City. Fort Lee Film Commission member Marc Pérez is one of the co-founders of Sirk. (more…)

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