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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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Happy Halloween


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Rafa Pérez & Damon Trammell - 2

Rafa Perez and Damon Trammell, lead players in Barry Germansky’s “The Answer-Killing Question Buys A Crisis at the Crown Theater.

by Sam Juliano

Barry Germansky’s Off-Off- Broadway play The Answer-Killing Question Buys A Crisis, which this weekend completed its one-month engagement at the Crown Theater in Manhattan, has been billed as a satire on the the suppression of individuality in American classrooms.  Without any trace of humor -though one scene where the two male leads are seemingly instructed to engage in sex is obviously barbed- this austere and minimalist production can aptly be framed as an allegory on how academic convention (Germansky describes it in an interview as education being far more focused on systematizing knowledge than allowing for freedom of expression) leaves little room for the kind of inspiration inherent in an individual-based educational system.  There is sparse effort to examine what might happen to those who buck the system, but it is clear enough from the implied brainwashing of one of the two students who initially collaborate in resisting, that the system aims to break down and snuff out learning that doesn’t conform to the general order.  A second-season episode of television’s The Twilight Zone, “The Obsolete Man” offered up a scenario where the protester gave up his life to expose the system and the purveyor of its totalitarianism by forcing him to share the same fate.  Germansky’s dystopian premise does evoke Vonnegut and Orwell, but the idea of one bucking the system by not succumbing to the fate of his colleague bears an ideological kinship to Jack Finney’s The Body Snatcher, where all minds were absorbed into communal thinking.  There is a sense of immediacy to the writing- this is not tame criticism but an urgent plea for extensive reform.  Andrew -the anarchic rebel writing his book- is eventually betrayed by his pal Conrad, but not before the dialogue’s trenchant focus is fully exposed.   As Andrew, Rafa Perez gives a powerful and affecting performance as the unyielding idealist, while Damon Trammell as his brainwashed classmate Conrad Warr delivers an intense turn as the student who is eventually worn down by rigid scholastic orthodoxy.  Matt Tracy as the Professor comes off as dehumanized, while Jillian Walters as the Kindergarten teacher who delivers the bookend monologues is skittish and seemingly resigned.  The Answer-Killing Question Buys a Crisis needs few props besides a few chairs, and director Cihangir Duman is wise not to let the basic staging interfere with Germansky’s sharp, accusatory writing.   The play was produced by the esteemed movie scribe and President of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, Tim Sika.  This new visionary work deserves an extension in the Big Apple or a second run in another city.  Note:  Broadway Bob, Lucille and I attended the Friday night performance, which commenced at 8:00, running 100 minutes with no break.  The Crown Theater is on the second floor of the Producer’s Club on W. 44th. (more…)

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18 YEAR-OLD MELANIE JULIANO’S SHORT FILM “100 LIKES” (3 minutes, 11 seconds) has been chosen as one of the finalists in the ‘Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow Bergen County High School Film Festival’ to be held at Fort Lee High School on November 8th. We are all so proud of her!!!!
Available in HD! My submission to the Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow Bergen County High School Film Festival.

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