Archive for November, 2014


 © 2014 by James Clark

      Alain Resnais is a filmmaker widely revered as a harbinger of the many contemporary filmic launches testing our tolerance for risk and innovation. Unlike many of those he supposedly inspired, his was not a career with much staying power in the limelight. As we prepare to size up his signature (and debut) piece, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), we’ll begin with the conundrum of supposed dynamite branding having apparently lost its way, or at least having lost its compellingness. The supposed magic touch, of our film at issue here (produced in association with screenwriter [novelist, playwright, and filmmaker] Marguerite Duras), pertains to his bringing to quite unnerving immediacy an impasse between the two protagonists. Let us posit, for the sake of coming to savor singular energies here (accounting for an early noteworthiness and niche patronage but no significant subscription to his method) which have perhaps not effectively made it on to the global radar, that it is the weight of world-historical inundation which ushers in a type of crisis both devastating and manageable. More succinctly, I’d like to propose that we are not (horrific details and pundits notwithstanding) getting ourselves into the onset of a death march, but instead a joyousness in being under heavy but not impossible fire. Resnais haunts later film not for depiction of hopeless decadence; but instead for getting under its skin the marvel of a daunting competence. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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



Read Full Post »


Note:  This is the twenty-seventh entry in the ongoing ‘Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series.’  It considers a Terence Davies masterwork that Allan placed at No. 2 during his 1990’s countdown of a few years ago.

(UK 1992 85m) DVD2

Shining a torch into the night sky

p  Olivia Stewart  d/w  Terence Davies  ph  Michael Coulter  ed  William Diver  md  Robert Lockhart  art  Christopher Hobbs  cos  Monica Howe

Marjorie Yates (mother), Leigh McCormack (Bud), Anthony Watson (Kevin), Nicholas Lamont (John), Ayse Owens (Helen), Tina Malone (Edna), Jimmy Wilde (Curly), Robin Polley (Mr Nicholls),

Watching Terence Davies’ autobiographical piece was, to this reviewer, rather like flicking through a family album, heralding from a family barely removed from that depicted in the film, in location, time and spirit.  It isn’t a prerequisite to be acquainted with the north, or with Catholicism, or remembrances of the 1950s, but it certainly helps.  And though those who cannot tick those boxes can and do enjoy and celebrate the film, they do miss something in the translation.

It’s more than merely an exercise in nostalgia, critics both professional and amateur have talked of it being like a stream of the subconscious, and in many ways they’re right, with remembrances of different years and moods taking place seemingly at the same time.  Essentially, the viewer is transported much like Scrooge by the spirits of Christmas into the childhood remembrances of Bud, an 11 year old from the terraced streets of Liverpool.  All the expected reminiscences are present and correct, from canings to show the kids who’s boss and visits to Nitty Nora the Bug Explorer to the mind-numbing tedium of assembly and warm welcomes to black men who mistakenly come to the door to begging for a shilling for the pictures and neighbourly gatherings on the doorstep.  It really is a different world, and one so dreamlike that one is not surprised when seemingly otherworldly voices ring in one’s ear, reminiscences not just of Bud’s but of our own collective movie-going subconscious.  Those with ears to hear will recognise choice sound-bites from Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Happiest Days of Your Life, Meet Me in St Louis, The Ladykillers, Private’s Progress, Great Expectations and, several times, The Magnificent Ambersons, mixed with songs from Nat King Cole, Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds (Tammy, naturally).  To this, add several choice snippets of hymns known to anyone who’s suffered through a Catholic primary education, Waltons-like ‘goodnights’, and a friend of the family who lives to do Cagney and EGR impressions.  To this add a truly stunning visual sense, which bathes the film in a romantic, nostalgic glow despite actually being very gloomy in its surface aesthetics.  Rain, as befits the wet North-West, is never far away, and the reflection of rain patterns on windows on wallpaper in darkened rooms adds a further ethereal touch.  And not for nothing does the film open with a credit time lapse shot of a bowl of roses slowly wilting and dying, a simple but telling metaphor for the fleeting nature of those happiest days of Bud’s, and Terence’s, lives.  (more…)

Read Full Post »


by Sam Juliano

Note:  This is the first entry in the 2014 Caldecott Medal Contender series.  The series does not purport to predict what the committee will choose, rather it attempts to gauge what the writer feels should be in the running.  In most instances the books that are featured in the series have been touted as contenders in various online round-ups, but for the ones that are not, the inclusions are a humble plea to the committee for consideration.  It is anticipated the series will include between 20 and 25 titles; the order which they are being presented in is arbitrary, as every book in this series is a contender.

    Until he passed away on June 24, 2012, when he was around 100 years old, “Lonesome George,” a giant tortoise and descendant of the ancient Giantess George, was known as the poster boy of worldwide conservation.  People visiting this rarest of reptiles at his enclosure on the Galapagos Island archipelago were greeted by a sign that read “Whatever happens to this single animal, let him always remind us that the fate of all living things on Earth is in human hands.”  Indeed the scholar Henry Nicholls likened George’s story as one of  “a conservation icon about a creature who touches all who see and hear about him, an animal whose plight embodies the practical, philosophical and ethical challenges of preserving our fragile planet.”  Repeated efforts to awaken the long dormant procreation drive of the reptile ultimately failed, but the efforts can aptly be described as herculean.

The renowned award-winning author, naturalist and environmentalist Jean Craighead George was the perfect fit for this kind of story, and in an unlikely coincidence even her marriage name provides a fitting label in relating a narrative that began a million years ago, when the vegetarian Giantess George roamed a desert terrain, eating cacti and low-lying greens.   A storm eventually engulfs the tortoise and some relatives into an ocean current that leaves it to surface on a raft that touches lands on a small arid and rainy island near the equator later known as San Cristobal.  Giantess George laid eggs, and eventually ran out of ground plants, a situation that forced her to extend her long neck to eat tress leaves.  She died at around 200 years old, but her off spring -whose necks were even longer as evolution continued to progress- began to inhabit some of the other islands.  By the time of the 1500’s some Panamanians discovered the island and the reptiles.  In short order sailors and pirates plundered the tortoise population, eating some, while unleashing rats, pigs and goats who helped to diminish a 200,000 strong population to one of only a few thousand. (more…)

Read Full Post »


“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

Read Full Post »



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…)

Read Full Post »


Note: This great review of Lars Von Trier’s ‘Dogville’ is the twenty-sixth in the ongoing Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series.  It was chosen by fellow Von Trier adherent, WitD writer extraordinaire Jim Clark.

by Allan Fish

(Denmark 2003 178m) DVD1/2

A Nightmare on Elm Street

p  Vibeke Windelov  d/w  Lars Von Trier  ph  Anthony Dod Mantle  ed  Molly Malene Stensgard  m  “Vespers of Sorrow” by Antonio Vivaldi  art  Peter Grant

Nicole Kidman (Grace), Paul Bettany (Tom Edison Jnr), Stellan Skensgard (Chuck), Philip Baker Hall (Tom Edison Snr), Jean-Marc Barr (Man with the Big Hat), Patricia Clarkson (Chuck’s wife), Chloë Sevigny (Liz Henson), James Caan (The Big Man), Lauren Bacall (Ma Ginger), Harriet Andersson (Gloria), Ben Gazzara (Jack McKay), Udo Kier (Man in the Coat), Jeremy Davies (Bill), Zeljko Ivanek (Ben), Siobhan Fallon (Martha), Bill Raymond (Mr Henson), Blair Brown (Mrs Henson), John Hurt (narrator),

One thing you have to say about Lars Von Trier; he isn’t afraid of controversy, not after Breaking the Waves (which I loved), The Idiots (which I didn’t) and Dancer in the Dark (which didn’t work).  Dogville was his most controversial work yet, one which goes against the ethics of Dogma 95, with non-existent sets which bring new meaning to minimalist.  Thank goodness the original thoughts of explicit sex were not carried through, for this is a film about simmering emotions below the surface, like the iceberg below sea level and the lava within the volcano.  An eruption is waiting to happen, it’s just a question of time.

Dogville is a small town in the Rockies in the 1930s, sort of Black Rock for the wintry states, a mini-community consisting around one principal street, the romantically and inaccurately named (as there is no such tree) Elm Street.  Into it comes a young woman, on the run from gangsters, who the townsfolk at first harbour willingly, but then grow to use, abuse, rape and all but imprison into slavery (“there was quite a bit of work Dogville didn’t need doing…” opines the narrator).  However, the townsfolk don’t know about the gangsters, and what will happen if they come back? (more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts