Let’s go to the movies

Film Society takes you places with its Film Center at Home.

James Corden in "One Man, Two Guvnors," a comedy filmed live on stage at London’s National Theatre. —National Theatre

While many Islanders are finding themselves with too much time on their hands, Richard Paradise, executive director of the M.V. Film Society, has been busier than ever. His organization has come up with many unique ways in which to keep everyone occupied and entertained.

“We’re trying to keep our members and our audiences engaged,” says Paradise. “Until the time when we can gather in the theater together again.”

Among the initiatives launched by the Film Society are opportunities to view online new films that would have played at the Film Center, a continuation of Bob Dutton’s popular film talks series in a digital format, links to theater and opera screenings being offered by internationally renowned institutions, and loads of recommendations for films that can be screened through paid subscription services or, in some cases, for free.

Many of the movies that were scheduled to be screened at the Film Center are now available online for a fee. As noted on the M.V. Film Society’s website, “Your rental of these films helps support the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and its staff during this unprecedented time.”

For $12 anyone with streaming capabilities can watch a variety of new releases including “The Whistlers,” (which opened at the Film Center a few days before lockdown and was reviewed by Brooks Robards in the MV Times), comedy/drama “St. Frances,” Brazilian sci-fi survival thriller “Bacurau,” Polish import “Corpus Christi,” and environmental documentary Fantastic Fungi. As Paradise explains, some distributors have made available films that would have enjoyed theatrical releases, through various streaming models. In each case, the Film Society shares in some of the rental fee.

“Because of the closing of theaters, some of our film distributors decided to work with their theater partners,” says Paradise. “Mostly independent art house theaters. It’s one way that the Film Center can bring in some revenue right now.”
Cinephiles can also watch all of the short films that were scheduled to be featured at the cancelled South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) for free. Links to all of the streaming opportunities can be found on the MV Film Society’s website under “Film Center at Home: Our Virtual Screening Room.”

Also free is Bob Dutton’s continuing series of Film Talks which he is now producing as videos. Each session includes a themed talk by the former drama teacher, writer, actor and director, along with illustrative film clips. Dutton has been hosting the classes live at the Film Center for around four years. The first two in the digital series – “Sympathy” and “Status” are now available to all online.

The Film Society’s new webpage Film Center at Home, also offers links to two exciting new free options for viewers. For many years the Film Society has participated in the Met Opera Live initiative — hosting screenings of operas in HD from the famed New York City Institution. To do their part during this time of isolation, the Metropolitan Opera has launched the “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” a free series of encore Live in HD presentations streamed on their website.

Another series that the Film Center has long offered to audience members is the National Theater Live screenings. London’s famed West End theater is now releasing one play a week for free streaming. The series started off with “One Man, Two Guvners,” a hilarious modern farce with musical interludes. Every Thursday at 2 pm, National Theater Live will offer the next in their collection featuring the best of British theater. Each will be available for a full week, and you can find it on the Film Center’s home page.

If all of these options aren’t enough to fill the hours and hours of isolation time, Paradise is also posting a weekly list of recommendations of movies that can be streamed through various services like Netflix, Hulu, and others. He has put together a list of suggestions for streaming through two paid services – the Criterion Collection (which he notes offers a two-week free subscription) and Mubi (introductory free three months). The Criterion Collection is a great source for classic films, while Mubi offers cult, classic, and independent options. Paradise is posting his picks for streaming from either series on the website.

Who better to turn to for movie suggestions than Richard Paradise, who has been screening films on the Vineyard for more than 20 years. During this time of crisis, he has reinvented himself and his organization in order to provide people with enrichment and entertainment. “The curation portion is what you get at the Film Center,” he says. “People come to art houses for their curated content. They trust the theater’s programmers to provide films that they can enjoy and discuss afterwards. That service is still here, we’ve just pivoted from live to streaming. It’s a new way of doing things.”

Visit mvfilmsociety.com for tons of ideas about what to watch, and for different ways of watching.