Reel Talk — an innovative series showcasing never-before-screened-in-NJ, cutting-edge independent film — starts Sunday, March 15, at 11:00 a.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas at SOPAC with a screening of several shorts from Montclair State University film students and Noah Baumbach’s new film While We’re Young starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts.
Tickets are still available: Series tickets for all 8 screenings are $180; the 4-pack is available for the first four weeks for $95; and rush seats are available for $25 only on the morning the respective screenings. Read our interview with Reel Talk participant Stephen Whitty below:
First off, Whitty will be leading discussions after several screenings. Secondly, Whitty feels that the series is a great opportunity to bring new, quality cinema to an appreciative and underserved audience.
Recently Whitty spoke with The Village Green about some of the films that will be showing in the series. Portions of the conversation are excerpted here.
Stephen Whitty: That’s a really terrific film that I had first seen at the Toronto Film Festival back in September. I’m a big fan of Noah Baumbach and this is a very funny and very honest film about a 40ish couple played by Naomi Watts and Ben Stiller, and they are beginning to realizing they are 40 and not 26 anymore and so they are trying to rediscover their hipness. Like a lot of Noah Baumbach movies, it’s a comedy of awkwardness and bad social situations and small resentments.
It will play very well with folks here. It will resonate. I know plenty of people who moved to Maplewood and to Montclair and to other great suburbs in New Jersey because they were starting families and they were running out of space in the city and then sometimes you get to the suburbs and wonder whatever happened to that person who was running out to clubs and trying the latest funky little restaurant and now here I am worrying about my yellow lawn and that overgrown tree in the backyard. I think that’s a movie that will probably connect to a lot of people suddenly realizing that they are grownups and that they are not the grad students that they used to be.
Will Reel Talk films this year be the Oscar nominees of 2016?
SW: Exactly. The movies that were at the Oscars this year, the kind of movies getting attention from awards group, movies like “Still Alice,” movies like “Boyhood,” documentaries like “Citizen 4,” these are the kind of movies that aren’t necessarily going to be on four screens at the multiplex out on the highway. They are smaller films. They are more challenging films, but in the end they are the movies that people want to talk about. They are the movies that win awards.
Reel Talk is trying to, first, bring those pictures to communities that might not always get a chance to see them, put them on the screen so you have the communal experience of watching the movie instead of having to wait six months to see them on your TV or off a DVD, and then what we’re going to do is continue that sense of community by continuing the discussion. I think everybody loves going to the movies, but what we love almost as much as going to the movies is talking about them afterwards. In the series, when the films are finished, you are still going to be surrounded by a couple hundred folks who just saw the same picture, who care passionately about cinema, and about topical issues and about performances and directing and cinematography, and you get to engage in this free flowing debate about what you’ve just seen.
SW: “Far from the Madding Crowd” is a beautifully shot film, a really lovely film adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel with Carey Mulligan. You may remember the first adaptation done back in the 60s with Julie Christie and Terence Stamp.
I think it’s a movie that’s also going to connect with folks today because, yes, it’s based on novel by Thomas Hardy, but I think it’s really about being a modern independent woman. The main character, unlike most women of that era, is financially independent and trying to establish herself in this community where she is the only female landholder. She not only has those issues but she’s trying to navigate her personal life. So there’s that whole dimension of not only trying to realize herself as a businesswoman and a landowner but also trying to find some emotional satisfaction.
These are the kind of films that we want to try and spotlight. I think anybody who saw [Carey Mulligan] in “An Education” or “Shame” knows what a wonderful actress she is. But this is a film set in rural England in the 19th century. It’s not exactly the Hunger Games. It’s not going to get a lot of publicity. There’s not an enormous ad budget.
These are the kind of films that need a little bit of extra help. They deserve a audience, and sometimes they need a little push so that the audience can discover them.
Read Stephen Whitty’s articles and reviews here. Follow him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stephen.whitty.film) or twitter @stephenwhitty. Reel Talk will run eight Sundays from March 15-May 10 (with no screening April 5) at 11 a.m. at the SOPAC Loft. To find out more about Reel Talk or to purchase tickets, visit reeltalknj.org.