While the cultural capital of the world lies only 30 miles to the east of Morristown, often the trip proves to be too much of a hassle, with the crush of traffic and the ever-escalating expense of gasoline, parking, and tolls.
In an effort to bring the city a little closer and nurture film lovers who happen to live in the burbs, Mark Ehrenkranz and his father Ira are kicking off the 16th season of the NY Film Critics Series tonight at Clearview Cinema inside Headquarters Plaza on Speedwell Ave., in Morristown.
Ira, a former NJ film commissioner, and his son Mark, who has worked on both the creative and distribution side of the film and television industry, launched the series 16 years ago, first in Seacaucus, then later in Paramus.
The series, which opened on April 2 in Paramus, will run for the next eight weeks on Monday nights in Paramus and Wednesday nights in Morristown.
The series offers audiences an opportunity to view independent and little films prior to general release. Audiences also get to engage in a discussion with an actor or director or someone else associated with the film, moderated by a guest film critic.
The eight week-series which begins tonight, Wed. April 4, in Morristown, will run through May 23.
Tonight's film is 'Turn Me On, Dammit.' Guest John Howell will be interviewed by Alison Bailes, followed by a question and answer session with the audience.
Bailes is the film critic for More Magazine and a contributing critic for Ebert Presents at the movies on PBS. She also appears on NBC's Today Show as a film critic and industry reporter.
Turn Me On, Dammit, is described as a whimsical and refreshingly honest coming of age story about the blossoming sexuality of a teenage girl that won Best Screenplay at the Tribeca Film Festival and Best Debut Film at the Rome Film Festival.
In addition to Bailes, New York film critics hosting the series will include: Peter Travers of ABC-TV, CNN and Rolling Stone Magazine, and David Edelstein of CBS and New York Magazine.
Two special guests will be making an appearance in Morristown later in the series, Actress Kathleen Turner on May 2, who will discuss her role in 'The Perfect Family' and Chazz Palminteri on May 16, who will talk about his role in 'Mighty Fine.'
The Perfect Family centers upon a suburban mother and devout Catholic, Eileen Cleary, who has always kept up appearances. But when she makes a run for the much coveted title of Catholic Woman of the Year at her local parish, she is faced with having to introduce her nonconformist family she has been glossing over for years to the board of directors for their seal of approval.
On May 16, Palminteri will discuss his role in Mighty Fine, in which Andie MacDowell co-stars. The story takes place in the 1970s. Joe Fine is a charismatic, high-spirited man who relocates his family including his wife Stella, a Holocaust survivor, and daughters Nathalie and Maddie, from Brooklyn to New Orleans, in search of a better life.
Ira Ehrenkranz said his love of film began when he was a kid and he and his wife of 55 years have frequented all of the similar film critic’s series in New York City.
But in addition to his love of film, he enjoys working with his son to bring culture and community to the other side of the river.
"We show more of the niche, independent films—the films you won't see in the local multiplex theater," he said.
"What also makes this series very different from similar events in New York, is that our guests get to pick up a microphone and interact with the film critics, actors and directors, so they really have a chance to participate in the process,” Ira said.
"I've been able to view films such as Black Swan, Slum Dog Millionaires, Little Miss Sunshine and The Kings Speech, weeks and months before the films were released to the general public," said Barry Goffin, a 25-year resident of Morristown.
Goffin said he not only loves the fact that he gets to preview the films before everyone else, but he thoroughly enjoys the discussion afterward.
"After you've listened to a number of other opinions, you get to appreciate the film on a whole other level. You gain many more insights into the film," Goffin said.
Mark Ehrenkranz said his father has helped to create a feeling of a small film club by getting to know everyone who signs up and greeting members at the door.
Mark, who initially worked as a producer and director on programs for NBC and USA Network crossed over to the distribution side of the business for the second half of his career.
He said he is now beginning to produce again and has several small films in development. He is also exploring the possibility of launching a film production studio in the Morristown area.
Ira echoes the sentiments of his son and in addition sees film and television as a powerful lifeline for the state's economy.
“For the run of the Sopranos, the show brought $60 million into the state,” Ira said.
Registration for the series is by phone and payment is made only by check at this time.
A membership for the full eight weeks is $229, and for six weeks is $199. In addition there is a $20 one-time registration fee. Passes to either location allow members to attend both venues.