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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.



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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mel getting award

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

film being watched

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


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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Mel 1

Mel 2

Mel 3

by Sam Juliano

“James Gandolfini Prize” awarded to Melanie by the late actor’s sister!!
Melanie Juliano’s short film “100 Likes” was awarded FIRST PLACE on Saturday afternoon by the ‘Jersey Film Makers of Tomorrow Bergen County Film Festival” run with the support of the Fort Lee Film Commission and film maker Tom Meyers and executive director Nelson Page. James Gandolfini’s sister awarded Melanie with the festival’s top prize (there were originally well over 120 films in the running, but that number was reduced to ten (10) finalists. These were shown on the big screen of the Fort Lee High School Auditorium, and all the directors -including Melanie- were asked to speak to the audience about their films. The competition was fierce with several films displaying full scripts and casts, and stirring themes. After that the third place prize was given out, and then the second place, which went to a young film maker who had placed two films in the final bracket. Then, Melanie’s name was announced as the Grand Prize winner, and all of us went crazy!!! Melanie won two internships, a $500 check and the beautiful plaque. This was one of the happiest days of our lives. Gandolfini’s sister told Melanie he expected to see her in Hollywood.  1) Melanie’s first-place plaque 2) Melanie posing with second and third place finishers 3) Melanie with mom Lucille
Melanie’s win was a big honor for Cliffside Park High School, as all the other finalists were from a number of other Bergen County High Schools.
For the second year in a row we took a trip up to Salem, MA, leaving early and coming home late on Thursday, 11/6. Admittedly, quite grueling to drive a total of ten hours (to and from) on the same day with rain dampening the festivities no less, but we did make the best of it making plenty of stops around this historic and scenically beautiful town. 
We saw four films in theaters this week, although the final one, BIG HERO 6 will be seen late tonight after this MMD goes out.  I will revise accordingly.
Interstellar    *****            (Friday night)      Ridgefield Park Starplex
The Theory of Everything   ***     (Sat. night)    Regal Cinemas-Manhattan
Nightcrawler    **** 1/2         (Sunday morning)  Secaucus multiplex
Big Hero 6    ****                        (Sunday evening)    Starplex

As to INTERSTELLAR, I was utterly overwhelmed in a way few films of recent years have done. The film (strains of Gattaca, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Fountain are clear enough) is thought-provoking, dreamy, surreal, sensory, heart-stopping and philosophically ambitious. Above all it is heart-breaking, one of the most emotional films of this or any year. I dare say this is Nolan’s masterpiece. Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck are on board and the pulsating elegiac score in Phillip Glass mode by Hans Zimmer is the year’s most unforgettable in that category.

Eddie Redmayne is very good in emulating Daniel-Day Lewis’ turn in ‘My Left Foot’ in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING and this often moving look at the love life of Stephen Hawking is dramatically effective, but in the end rather convential and nothing special.
NIGHTCRAWLER is brutal and engrossing, and with some noirish textures and a terrific lead performance by Jake Gyllenthal.  Will try and elaborate more on the thread soon enough.  Definitely a rather unique idea.
 salem melanie 2



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“As for the Republicans — how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.”

― H.P. Lovecraft

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by Sam Juliano

The Allan Fish Bonanza Encore Series has reached the end of its first phase, but the series will be continued well into the future with two reviews a weekend until May of 2015.  I would like to extend my thanks to those who read and/or re-read the reviews and to those who placed comments.  Appreciation is also extended to those who made recommendations on the project announcement thread.  Allan is back home in Kendal, and continues to recuperate from his operation.

The second annual Caldecott Medal Contender series will be launching mid-week.  It is anticipated there will be at least twenty (20) books considered over the coming weeks up until the winner announcement sometime around the second week in January.  I am very excited to again tackle the cream of the crop in picture books released in 2014, and am hoping the response will be as great as it was last year in every sense.

This past week was one of the real rarities: Lucille and I did not see a single film in the theaters.  It was simply a case of too much going on – Sammy’s marching band competition in Weehawken on Sunday afternoon;  a wedding and rock band show on Saturday; a local and spirited political brunch on Sunday morning for local and county Democratic candidates held at a Fairview restaurant and Halloween festivities on Thursday night and on Friday, when we were besieged by a record number of trick or treaters – estimated at around 140 kids.  Just an amazingly hectic week, but this coming week will be different.  Still Election Day looms tomorrow, and we’re taking a little trip on Thursday, a day we are off for teacher’s convention. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano


Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic horror film “Psycho” was voted the favorite horror film in movie history in a vote decided by 30 voters over the past days on my Facebook page to commemorate Halloween. The 1960 black and white shocker has no doubt been the subject of more analysis than any film in the genre, and it is regularly chosen by many critics and buffs as the greatest horror film. Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh and Martin Balsam, the film was written by the Outer Limits’ Joseph Stefano from a novel by Robert Bloch, and shot by Hitch’s television crew during the time he was producing Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The shower scene is probably the most famous and endlessly analyzed scene ever filmed, but the scene on the stairs when Balsam’s private detective was slashed to death as well as the gruesome conclusion in the wine cellar are right behind. No other horror film has been more emulated, and no other boasts as electrifying a score as the one written for it by Bernard Herrmann. PSYCHO was following very closely in the voting by Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING (1980). Here are the Top Dozen as voted on by the voters, all of whom were asked to choose their Top Five. Tabulation was conducted by utilizing the 1 to 5 weighted system (an even 30 people cast ballots): (more…)

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