GARDEN STATE FILMFEST CULTIVATES SOME JERSEY TOMATOES

Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park NJ) and The Link News (Long Branch NJ), March 21, 2019

“It’s an honor. An honor!

The preceding represents the entire transcript of a speech delivered by Christopher Lloyd, as he quickly accepted an award from the producers of the 2018 Garden State Film Festival— and just as quickly made his way out the door of the festival’s host venue, the onetime Neptune High School building reborn in recent years as the Jersey Shore Arts Center.

A vividly familiar presence in big-budget Hollywood properties like the Back to the Future franchise, The Addams Family, Star Trek III and Roger Rabbit — and a serial Emmy winner for his work in Taxi and other projects — the veteran character man was briefly present in Ocean Grove to promote his participation in an indie thriller being screened that evening, and to help welcome the festival as it went “back to the future,” in a return to the community that it called home for the first 11 years of its existence.

Founded in 2003 by Diane Raver and the late Robert Pastorelli (an Emmy nominee as Eldin on the original Murphy Brown), the GSFF spent four years in Atlantic City before relocating once more to a fast-morphing Asbury Park and neighboring precincts. By that time, the city had spawned several all-new entertainment venues (including the  expanded ShowRoom arthouse cinema); welcomed aboard a slew of new concert series and special events — and given birth to a high-energy, high-profile Music and Film Festival whose upcoming schedule in April 2019 boasts appearances by, among others, writer-producer-director Peter Farrelly (fresh off his  double Oscar win for Green Book).

But while Raver’s festival has welcomed such well known guests as Glenn Close, Ed Asner, Batman producer Michael Uslan, That 70s Show actor Kurtwood Smith, On the Waterfront screenwriter Budd Schulberg and half the cast of The Sopranos beneath its tent in past editions, its roots remain grounded in the still-fertile soil of the independent filmmaking movement — with a particular emphasis on the plump and flavorful “tomatoes” cultivated by the creative community of the Garden State.

And when the 17th annual GSFF presents its smorgasbord of international fare beginning this coming Wednesday, March 27, the guest list will carry a pronounced Jersey accent, with special recognitions given to a set of screen performers with deep local connections — and a keynote event that once again explores our seemingly bottomless fascination with the legacy of HBO’s Sopranos series.

Screening at 7 pm Wednesday, and hosted at the JS Arts Center, My Dinner With Alan finds writers Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz — longtime television correspondents for the Star-Ledger, and authors of the book The Soprano Sessions— discussing the lasting impact of David Chase’s groundbreaking, Jersey-centric project (among various other topics) inside Holsten’s, the Bloomfield restaurant that served as the setting for the show’s still-controversial finale.

Sepinwall and Seitz are scheduled to be present for a post-screening panel discussion with director Kristen Fraga, joined for the occasion by a trio of Sopranos actors: Artie Pasquale, Federico Castelluccio, and Dan Grimaldi (famous for playing both Parisi twins, and familiar to followers of Long Branch’s New Jersey Repertory Company for his roles in Mercy and The Jag). While it’s included in the festival’s weekend pass option, the event (which features a book signing pre-order option for $25) also offers a $15 individual ticket at brownpapertickets.com/event/4094178.

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ARCHIVE: Joey Pants, No Kidding

imagesAn extra pair of Pants: Joe Pantoliano — a/k/a Joey Pants — is shown directing a scene from his documentary feature on mental illness, NO KIDDING, ME TOO! The movie and TV star comes to the Two River Theater on Tuesday evening for a screening and discussion of the film. 

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit, June 8, 2009)

Dig those excellent hats; the colorful suits and loud ties; the playful shades and in-yer-face facial hair. Joe Pantoliano is a man who commands your attention.

He has to be — as a consequence of his being one of the finest actors we’ve got working the screens these days and nights. The kind of actor who gets absorbed so completely into his roles, we’re sometimes taken aback when we check the credits and realize we’ve been seduced again by this ace character player who made his first film over 35 years ago.

So, when he’s away from the set, the man known as “Joey Pants” is a vivid personality with a winning smile, a sharp wit and a flashier wardrobe than any so-called “supporting” actor has ever dared to sport.

We all love Joe, even if a lot of the people he’s portrayed on screen have not been very nice. Even if you’d somehow managed to miss him in any number of standout movie roles — as the scheming Caesar in Bound, as the suspicious sidekick Teddy in the art-house puzzler Memento, as crackin’-wise chromedome Cypher in theMatrix franchise, or in Bad Boys or The Goonies or Risky Business or La Bamba or even Grand Theft Auto III.

For anyone who ever lived in New Jersey, of course, that all changed with his run as high-octane, coke-fueled Mob moneymaker Ralphie Cifaretto on The Sopranos — a story arc that kind of came to a head in season 4, winning Pantoliano an Emmy and all but obliterating the memory of his other short-lived TV series The Fanelli BoysThe Handler, the unaired Waterfront and Dr. Vegas.

Yeah, Joey Pants was in Dr. Vegas with Rob Lowe — also The Adventures of Pluto Nash  and Daredevil and Larry the Cable Guy – Health Inspector and a number of other things that lesser actors would shrink from in shame. But shame is not part of the playing deck for Pantoliano these days, not since he became founder and president of a nonprofit organization known as No Kidding, Me Too!

A few years ago, Pantoliano was diagnosed with clinical depression, a condition he says he’s come to realize has colored his life and that of his family since childhood days. Rather than allow his hard-earned career to be derailed by the stigma of mental illness, the actor opted instead to use his public pulpit to advocate for a real dialogue about mental health in American society — as producer and co-star of the dramatic feature Canvas, and as someone who, in his own cheerfully intense way, wants us all to be open and honest about an issue that’s more pervasive than most people will admit. An issue that, even if it’s “not me,” is still something that’s a big me-too for family and friends whose lives are touched by it.

No Kidding, Me Too! is also the name of Pantoliano’s directorial debut; a documentary feature that follows Joe and a group of others who are contending with the effects of being depressed, bipolar or schizophrenic. The filmmaker is currently on tour with the doc, and it’s a tour that comes to Red Bank on Tuesday night for a screening and personal appearance event at Two River Theater that’s being sponsored by the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County, Inc. We’ll be there, because, well, no kidding…

Red Bank oRBit found an out-of-breath Joey Pants in the middle of a daily health regimen, ready to engage in conversation about this serious subject. This being oRBit, we also got in some talk about Abbie Hoffman and the Three Stooges. Read on.

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ARCHIVE: A Sneak Preview in Circuit City

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Red Bank area native, movie actor and filmmaker Peter Dobson directing his project EXIT 102, which climaxes a daylong REELS & WHEELS event at various venues in Asbury Park.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit November 21, 2008)

He was Elvis, briefly and memorably, in Forrest Gump, and Joe DiMaggio in the TV movie Norma Jean and Marilyn. His many film projects include meaty roles in Last Exit to BrooklynThe Frighteners and Drowning Mona — and his many short-lived TV series include Johnny BagoLenny, Head Over Heels and, most memorably, Cover Me.

He’s 44-year old actor-writer-producer-director Peter Dobson — son of the Red Bank orbit, veteran of the Monmouth College stage, and a hi-profile prodigal who’s making a Shore homecoming in a big way this weekend.

Saturday marks a big day for the Madison Marquette company, developers of the Asbury Park oceanfront. As their its little Boardwalk website proclaims, “For the first time in decades, all retail pavilions on the Asbury Park Boardwalk are open.” The collection of newly minted and/or relocated businesses includes “three new gourmet restaurants” — among ‘em Langosta Lounge, the latest project from the estimable Marilyn Schlossbach.

To further call attention to the astonishingly busy scene on and around the boards, the developers have arranged this Saturday as Reels and Wheels day — a slate of happenings that includes a display of classic cars and bikes along Ocean Avenue, along with a workday’s worth of live music at some of the city’s most venerable venues.

At the center of it all is Exit 102, the film project from Dobson and co-producer Ran Ballard that’s scheduled for its first public sneak preview at 7pm, with a free screening at the Paramount Theatre. Billed as a “Trailer Premiere,” the 15-minute short version of what is still very much a work in progress can be more correctly sized up as a “teaser.” Dobson and company are putting the final touches on securing financing for completion of the feature, and plans are for the crew to resume filming at the onset of warmer weather in late spring of 2009.

Shot on location in and around Asbury Park last July — and set in the circa-1974 days of the Circuit, the Casino and a new club called the Stone Pony — Exit 102 features Dobson as a working-class joe who flashes back to his younger days as a young punk caught up in cool custom cars, cruising for chicks and an epic “battle between rock ‘n rollers and greasers.” Costas Mandylor, of the Saw films and TV’s Picket Fences, co-stars, along with Frank Vincent (best remembered as Phil Leotardo in The Sopranos).

Dobson and Mandylor will be on hand for a Q&A session following the screening, which will be preceded by a short set of tuneage featuring Status Green, whose singer Lou Montesano also figures prominently in the film’s cast. The Paramount event is free of charge, first-come first-served, and every-man-for-himself.

Visitors to the Paramount-Convention Hall complex will be treated to free sounds from Mike Butler (4pm) and Bob Polding (5:15pm) in the fully refurbished lobby now known as The Grand Arcade. Across the street, theWonder Bar hosts a menu of music that includes Gene Walk at 3:30pm,Maybe Pete at 4:15pm, Woodfish at 5:15pm and Matt O’Ree following the screening at 8pm. It’s 21 and up at the Wonder, with all ages invited everywhere else; full schedule available right here.

Wanna know more? Red Bank oRBit talked with Peter Dobson about his local background, his career and the project that he describes as “the best thing I ever did.” Read on for the full text.

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