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by Sam Juliano

Thanksgiving Day provided my family with a mighty fine time, and we trust our readers could attest to the same in every regard.  Now the focus is suffused with the spirit of Yuletide, though the hectic pace is certainly a daunting proposition.  In the meantime movie lovers are being treated to a period of prestige and quality as many are gathering together their traditional year-end lists.  This past week was also the time to take advantage fo Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales for blu rays, DVDs and the like, providing one’s wallet could sustain such hits.

The Caldecott Medal Contender series soldiers on, with the fifteenth entry set to post later today.  Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance continue to make stupendous contributions, and the 2018 installments of the Allan Fish Online Film Festival and Part 2 of the Greatest Television Countdown draw closer.

Lucille, Douglas McCartney, Broadway Bob and our full brood attended all or some of the three movies we took in over the weekend in theaters, and we treked up to the Sparta/Franklin region as per tradition to purchase our freshly cut Christmas tree.  We saw: (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Thanksgiving Day 2017 is imminent, and many of us will be holding true to long standing traditions, visiting family and cherishing yet another day with our loved ones.  For Lucille, the kids and I it will mean out 22nd consecutive annual trek up to Butler, New Jersey to the home of Lucille’s sister and her husband and three grown sons.  What always gloriously compliments this proposition is that Lucille’s brother-in-law has four brothers and a sister, and each has children, who also have children.  The bottom line is that their sprawling, mansion-sized house (their living room is as large as the layout of our own entire first floor) on a hill at the end of a scenic cul-de-sac will be hosting around 60 people for quite a holiday smorgasborg, and an insane desert spread and late night second meal on the back yard barbeque that will serious challenge my controlled Type 2 diabetes situation.  Over the extended holiday weekend Lucille and I also have (whag else?) some movie plans that will include some fo the year’s most anticipated prestige offerings: Mudbound, Call Me By Your Name and The Darkest Hour.

Part II of the Greatest Television Countdown will commence on February 14th, but I will delay the next group e mail notification till right after the Christmas holidays.  The Caldecott Medal Contender series is ongoing and will continue until early February.  Our resident film scholar Jim Clark has been publishing some stupendous comprehensive essays every third week.

We are all so thrilled to attend Saturday afternoon’s Manhattan Books of Wonder presentation by Caldecott winning artists Erin and Philip Stead who spoke of their heartening collaborartion with Mark Twain, “The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine.” Lucille, Jeremy and I got to chat with both artists (and their newborn child). Jeremy is pictured above with the Steads and their three 2017 picture book gems, including “Prince Oleomargarine.” (more…)

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With songwriting icon Jimmy Webb at The Cutting Room on Saturday night in Manhattan

by Sam Juliano

And now it is Thanksgiving Day that approaches as weather in the northeast is now conforming with time of year.  The Caldecott Medal series continues as part 2 of the Greatest Television Series Countdown inches closer.  The movie season has now reached what is usually the richest span of the year, and awards groups and critics are beginning to prepare their annual ‘Best of’ lists.

Songwriting icon Jimmy Webb performed a concert/review of his greatest hits at Manhattan’s The Cutting Room, and later signed copies of his new memoir “The Cake in the Rain.” Webb gloriously sang and played the piano with the able assistance of musicians. His greatest masterpiece “MacArthur Park” (my favorite pop song of the rock era), “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Galveston”, “The Worst That Could Happen,” “Up, Up and Away,” “Witchita Lineman,” “All I Know,” “Didn’t I?” and a few non-Webb songs comprised the venue. This is the second time Lucille and I saw Webb over the past year.

The entire brood attended the annual ToyCom event in the PAL building in Parsippany, N.J. Melanie, Sammy, Danny, Jillian and Jeremy are seen in photo below outside by one of the classic cars previously used in movies on Sunday afternoon. Great day out for the entire family.

As a lifelong Agatha Christie buff and a passionate adherent of the BBC series “Poirot”, I went in to the new Kenneth Branagh version of “Murder on the Orient Express” more than skeptical. David Suchet after all is far and away the definitive Poirot, the one Dame Agatha envisioned and the one her family immediately recognized as the living embodiment of Poirot as written. The new film is well mounted, acted and filmed, and is intermittently riveting, but all in all somewhat uneven. Branagh, with the most extravagant mustache ever negotiated makes a decent Poirot, but this re-make is not the best version of this seminal mystery novel. Still, I’ll go with 3.5 of 5 and offer a modest recommendation. Saw the film with the entire brood last night in Ridgefield Park. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

There are 565 municipalities in the state of New Jersey. On the vital Sunday before Tuesday’s election Democratic candidate for Governor Phil Murphy (way ahead in the polls) decided to spend his time in two Boroughs – Fairview and Paramus!!!! This is such an incredible, incomparable honor for our town and the powerful Democratic party running it. My brother Paul Juliano was the day’s master-of-cermonies and central speaker who introduced Bergen County Clairman Lou Stellato and Murphy! Lucille and I were so thrilled to meet the next Governor and hear his electrifying speech, one loaded with barbs for the current outgoing GOP Governor. Awesome!

Jamie Uhler‘s latest capsule is another gem, one that he considers the 2015 musical horror fantasy The Lure:

The Lure (A. Smoczyńska… 2015) musical/fantasy  If I said that last night I watched perhaps the greatest Horror musical we’ve ever had would you blink? I’m not entirely sure many would, as the sub-genre isn’t exactly littered with masterpieces. Outside the grossly overrated, if fun, Rocky Horror Picture Show (and in this vein, its then comparatively underrated sequel Shock Treatment) and the rather average, but thankfully gory, Sweeney Todd, one struggles to even name any more of real note. There’s De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, a film I often fondly recall if few others do, and cite its soundtrack as terrific (it’s in desperate need of more fans), that’s probably the best perhaps, so long as you remain like me, with Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris unseen. None of these are that scary though, mostly opting to rely on the seemingly strange juxtaposition of Horror and singing for the bulk of their aesthetic, with all the films mentioned venture towards high camp (to varying degrees of success). Smoczyńska’s 2015 work is then a real original, artfully crafted and imagining a world where masterpieces can be made with the fusing of very odd bedfellows.   (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Halloween 2017.  Northeast weather for the big day should accomodate the trick or treaters comfortably as mid 50’s to low 60’s seems to be the predicted span.  Down on Spruce Street in lower Fairview we usually get deluged with customers, but few days of the year make us all as happy at October 31st.  Horror movies have been dominating our home big screen DVDs and a few more enterprising than that have attended some seasonal chestnuts at local theaters, some of which offer midnight shows.  The Caldecott Medal Contender series continues on, with the seventh and eighth entries planned for later this week.  Jim Clark’s latest fabulous and comprehensive review is on Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women and J.D. Lafrance’s most recent review gem is on the horror film The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

This week’s terrific horror capsule from Jamie Uhler is on a film he admits is a ton of fun and it is offered to all those who get a special thrill of this time of the year:

Tales of Terror (R. Corman… 1962) anthology
During my capsule review of Twice Told Tales I mentioned that the disc from Netflix was a flipper disc, with this movie on the other side. Since I was feeling a little less than 100% yesterday, I thought some classic Corman, with Vincent Price at his side would be the near perfect remedy. 
Well, I wasn’t wrong. Nearly exactly Twice Told Tales quality, Tales of Terror, from a year earlier, finds its difference in being (very loosely) based on three Edgar Allan Poe stories, whereas Tales of Terror focused its lens on Nathaniel Hawthorne you’ll recall. At last years gift Exchange Bob had given me a really cool book covering all the Poe adaptations on screen. At the time after reading much of it, I’d made a mental note to revisit the masterful Corman/Poe/Price films (specifically Tomb of Ligeia and The Masque of the Red Death) and do a Poe dive in general this year. Fast forward about 10 months when I was really sinking into the creation of my list this year and I’d forgotten about the promise to myself. I thought of it when this started, and was happy that going off the script for this one, connected me to my first thought on my 2017 list last year.

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by Sam Juliano

Pumpkin Day is just eight days away and area communities are busy setting the stage with seasonal adornments.  Horror film fans too are employing the month with new discoveries and revisitations, and city festivals have highlighted some genre classics.  The Caldecott Medal Contender series has been moving forward,, with five reviews so far published, and preparation continues for Part 2 of the Greatest Television Series countdown set to launch on February 13th, after being pushed back an additional two months for multiple reasons.  Stellar film scholarship from Jim Clark and J.D. Lafrance continues.

Our resident horror expert Jamie Uhler has again penned a superlative capsule review on a recent horror gem, 2017’s A Ghost Story, which I am posting on this thread to continue the Halloween month celebration.  A Ghost Story, directed by David Lowery is one of my own top films of the year:

A Ghost Story (D. Lowery… 2017) supernaturalPairing Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara together again, as director David Lowery had in the underrated Ain’t Them Bodies Saints previously, promised one of my most anticipated films of 2017. It more or less came and went early in the year, a small film (made astonishingly for 100 thousand) released during a time of year where big studios release their duds, or leftovers from the previous Oscar season. Some noticed it and praised it, but even then this is a film deserving of considerably more attention, a haunting work whose title implies scares, but instead burrows much deeper into an emotional center on loss and closure. 

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“Shout” (1978)

by Sam Juliano

Autumn weather is trying real hard to make its presence known but summer is driving a hard bargain in these parts.  In any event mid October is usually a fun time of the year.  We Yankee fans were so thrilled when our team took out the Indians in five after an amazing comeback, but we do presently stand in a precarious situation, down two zip to the Houston Astros.  The Bronx Bombers must win tonight if they are to stand any realistic chance.  The prestige movie season is nearly upon us and many are noting what films are on the docket.  Holloween Horror is all the rage and our resident expert Jamie Uhler has penned another fantastic review of a comparatively little seen gem:

The Shout (J. Skolimowski… 1978) psychological/fantasy

Knowing the brilliance of Polish master Jerzy Skolimowski for some time now, I’ve sort of been surprised I’ve never seen a second film of his; Deep End (1970) is one of the towering works of cinema, a scathing, brilliant piece of subversion, it being so great that it stands out in an era where subversive political cinema happened somewhat regularly, a telling fact by itself. But it remained all I’d seen from him, until, last night of course, when I did his abstract piece of Horror, The Shout from 1978 (I should say, my neglect on him isn’t due to pure laziness, I’ve long wanted to see Le depart [1967] and Hands Up! [1967], but have found both to be pretty illusive to quick, or even lengthy, searches). 

 Outlining the plot reveals a little to the abstract nature of the film, while it has concrete notions of plotting—a mysterious man (Crossly; Alan Bates at his most disheveled mysteriousness) invades the otherwise tranquil, English country side life of a young couple (the beautiful Rachel [Susannah York] and avant garde musician Anthony [John Hurt]) who claims to be coming back from a time spent living with Aboriginals where he murdered his family and learned a ‘terror shout’ from a shaman that can kill anyone who hears it without proper ear protection—its abstract style reveals a film illusive and hard to pin down. It’s clearly for the better—the auditory nature of the Horror implies that you need to feel and really ‘hear’ the film as much as you see it, with much of the spoken lines being muffled or whispered somewhat, with Anthony’s time in the studio being a smorgasbord of audio invention; he plucks a sardine can with a violin bow, or he shouts in a glass box around his head, each effect adding to the scary nature of a film where a deep, bellowed scream can kill and maim. Other touches add ever more focus, Anthony’s home studio is adorned with several of the terrifying Francis Bacon paintings of the mid-century for example, images that are later quickly echoed by Rachel if you pay close enough attention. Skolimowski’s deft use of the camera also deserves mention.

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