Tribeca-Film-Festival (1)

by Sam Juliano

The weather has been warming up, and on the movie front Lucille and I are pounding the mat at Tribeca, having seen thirteen films over the past four days after taking in the new release Midnight Special on the Monday before the festival began.  It appears that we will be able to work in twenty-one more feature films over the next and final seven days of the festival beginning with the two for this evening.  Otherwise we are still in the preparation stage of the science-fiction countdown, which is clearly getting much less interest than the five previous genre projects.  Still, I won’t give up the ship until or unless it becomes conclusive it won’t be flying.  Group e mails have been sent out and deadlines have been set, and completed ballots are awaited.

On the political front we have the huge New York primary set for tomorrow.  Hillary Clinton appears to have a stranglehold in the pollings, though Bernie Sanders has made up some ground.  Donald Trump should win the state in a landslide, though his opponents may be able to sneak off with a few of the ninety-five up for grabs.  I will be voting in the New Jersey Democratic primary on June 7th.

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by Sam Juliano

The central conceit in newcomer Justin Tripping’s visceral Kicks hearkens back to one of world cinema’s most venerated classics.  Vittorio DeSica’s 1948 neo-realist Bicycle Thieves spent nearly its entire running time on the wrenching pursuit of a stolen bicycle that represents economic survival at a time of war ravaged economic impoverishment.  The final twist in the Italian film was meant to imply that desperation reeks violation of the very tenets of fair play that launched what initially seemed like a hopeless search.  In Kicks the theft of a handsome pair of Nike Air Jordan sneakers doesn’t remotely change the survival dynamic, but it is a generational concern that can’t be solved by moving on – these S.E. Hinton types are born and bread on violence and confrontation, and an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth is the prevailing mindset.  Tripping’s film, which recalls Francis Ford Coppola’s Hinton adaptation of Rumble Fish is saturated in style, symbols and a lyrical bent, often leaving the narrative without direction or logical development.  This borrowing from Peter to pay Paul might sink most other films in wallowing self-absorption, yet Kicks works by embracing a Terrence Malick school of film making, understanding that film is a visual medium that doesn’t always have to stay abreast of script and narrative logistics.  To be sure Tripping’s work is often undisciplined and experimental, but it is simultaneously gripping and suggestive.  And like all memorable coming of age films it boasts a magnetic lead character, which in this film yields an electrifying performance. Continue Reading »


by Sam Juliano

A high school diploma is now seen as a given in lower middle class America, as opposed to a time decades ago when education took a back seat to survival necessities.  Education at that time was a luxury many simply couldn’t afford.  The difference today isn’t that there aren’t poverty-stricken neighborhoods or families with more life-defining priorities, but rather that there is still hope for missed opportunities, and that as people move through their lives they develop a sense of self-worth and direction, aiming to make up for what was lost to life’s unavoidable, inordinately difficult challenges.

Today there are opportunities for those who have succeeded in uncovering a time window in hectic schedules that helped to foster a more mature outlook on what it might mean to have a career instead of a job aimed solely at a paycheck to paycheck existence.  For his stirring documentary Night School director Andrew Cohn  travels to Indianapolis where he focuses his magnifying glass on three people in an area that registers a dubious distinction of having one of the lowest graduation rates in the country.  This is not remotely a one-off for inner city environs, and what Cohn means to imply here a la The Naked City is that three scene specific stories are merely a microcosm of a building nationwide phenomenon allowed by educational advances that nonetheless in any case fails to hide the deplorable state of education in areas of economic deprivation and bad luck for being born on the wrong side of the tracks.  Night School rightly means to point a finger at urban school districts and the unequal allotment of scholastic opportunities and benefits, but it also accentuates the old adage “where there is a will there is a way” and those willing to psychologically adapt a “water under the bridge” mindset will come to understand their own capabilities are far more pronounced now than when they were toiling in isolation, minimum wages and criminal activities. Continue Reading »


 © 2016 by James Clark

      The career of Ridley Scott offers a fertile sense of the glories and the pitfalls of contemporary film. Most particularly, his connoisseurship of conflict, resentment and equilibrium meets in the workplace and marketplace a bizarre and bruising dismissiveness, notwithstanding superficial salutes.

Feeling to be at his best when giving a consummate twist to the products of others, Scott unveils works tending to be remarkably at odds with the inceptions, stories and screenplays of those populating the credits. Having a keen eye (and heart) for natural and historical incidents significantly pertaining to the preparations on hand, he very subtly provides his rip-roaring, usually quite winning, dazzlements with far less plebeian ranges of nourishment, far more aristocratic ranges of problematics and sufficiency, than the public would suspect. As we make our way through Thelma and Louise (1991), being equipped by feminist screenwriter, Callie Khouri, we must be on our toes to comprehend why such exclusivity strikes him as the way to go. Continue Reading »



by Sam Juliano

The Tribeca Film Festival begins this coming Thursday, and Lucille and I will be busy for the eleven (day) duration of the affair, save for Wednesday the 20th, a day we have another commitment for.  I project we will somehow see around 30 to 34 films, which will come close to the 37 we saw last year, though nothing will ever match the 52 do we managed in 2014.  We are busy now piecing together a schedule for the event.  We are very proud that one of Melanie’s films will be screened this coming Tuesday at the famed Manhattan revival house, the Anthology Film Archives, and we will be there too with bells on.  I will have reports on the first part of the Tribeca Festival and Melanie’s screening on next week’s Monday Morning Diary.

The entire family (and our friend Broadway Bob) made an encore trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania over the weekend, sleeping at a Day’s Inn on Saturday night.  This was our second visit to the splendidly rustic and historical location in the past year, and I’m afraid we now addicted to this scenic and fascinating enclave.  We again completed a comprehensive tour of the battlefield, and survived a 28 degree frigid ghost tour at night, which included a stop in front of the famed Jennie Wade House, where the 20 year old woman lived and became the first civilian casualty of the coming historic three day battle.  We had a wonderful meal and Gettysburg Eddie’s on the main road, Steinwehr Avenue.  On the way back east we spend Sunday afternoon in the Amish Country, located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, ate at Good and Plenty’s (fantastic Pennsylvania Dutch family meal with deserts) and toured the amazing countryside where the mode of transportation is horse and buggy. Continue Reading »


Capture from Tadashi Imai’s 1950 “Until We Meet Again”


Capture from 1962’s “Happiness of Us Alone”


Capture from Kinoshita’s 1955 “She Was Like a Wild Chrysanthemum”


by Sam Juliano

I have gone thorough a difficult week as a result of yet another visit from my perennial nemesis, the kidney stones.  Yes it is hard to believe I haven’t yet mastered a way to keep them at bay, but I can attribute this to my failure to drink enough water.  All week I suffered discomfort, but I caught a break when I passed the culprit stone on Sunday unexpectedly after some intense pain and nausea, allowing me to avert the planned Wednesday shock wave procedure.  Still, there is a stone within the kidney around the same size that I’d be smart to have blasted within the next month or so if I want to avoid a recurrence of what I just experienced.

As a result of all this discomfort, launched by my seven hour stay in a hospital emergency room, I have been unable to do much on the movie front, or on any front for that matter.  I rallied after passing the stone to take in three Japanese masterpieces on a rare online site, used often by Allan for films that have yet to see the light of day on DVD. Continue Reading »


 © 2016 by James Clark

      Blade Runner (1982) is one of a very small handful of films that can be truly described as “haunting.” What makes its power doubly remarkable is that it derives from an auteur who does not originate the bare bones of his works but depends upon pre-made literature by which he can deliver impacts at cinematically optimal force. The writer behind Scott’s scenario here, Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), was an exponent of science fiction with a view to the question, “What constitutes the authentic human being?” His novel, Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? (1968), cites a planet Earth largely abandoned by old-line Homo sapiens and populated by androids in relation to which a bounty hunter reaps rewards of sorts. Dick, who died four months before the film’s release (to a tepid response), had declared that Scott’s running with those initiatives “justified” his “life and creative work…” But before we party with the overwhelming visual-sensual drama on tap, let’s show some apt amazement brought to our attention by those literary roots. “The world we actually have does not meet my standards,” Dick has remarked; and before we get into personality disfigurement it would be wise to recognize that the sense of “more real,” flourished by that venerable insurrection, Surrealism, has been heavily criss-crossed by the history of philosophy and science for the past 150 years. Scott has no qualms about the input of others because he recognizes that the waves he’s intent on making are part of a much wider effort. (His renowned earlier and now parallel TV ads also derive from serendipity events, upon which he expends graphic design magic, and something more.) That’s why he also brings on board the fading candle light of that Jacques Demy who loved color saturating his streetscapes, had a thing about umbrellas and black cars and a thing about Catherine Deneuve in Camelot outfits—Scott’s leading lady, Sean Young, being a dead ringer for that exquisite bone-china presence. Continue Reading »


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