SNEAKING INTO THE MOVIES, IN RED BANK

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Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt in a scene from PLEASE GIVE, screening tonight at Clearview Cinemas in a sneak-preview benefit for the Monmouth County Arts Council.

By TOM CHESEK

It happens without red carpets and velvet ropes; without spotlight trucks or popping paparazzi flashbulbs. It happens without high-end goodie bags and the celebrity guests they lure — but when it happens, as it does several times each year, Red Bank becomes the setting for some of the most intriguing screening events this side of the festival circuit.

With not one but two advance previews of boutique studio releases sneaking into town in coming days, there’s much of interest to film buffs framed within borough borders — and it begins this evening with a first look at the new comedy Please Give at Clearview Cinemas on White Street. Things continue on Monday, April 26 with a special preview showing of the dramatic ensemble piece Mother and Child, on the big screen of the Count Basie Theatre.

Both films come to the public eye courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics, the autonomous arm of Sony Pictures that produces and distributes leading indie and foreign films to markets both domestic and international — films like Capote, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Howards End, to name just a few of their Academy Award winners. They come to Red Bank thanks to a crucial local connection with a major industry player — Sony Classics co-president and Middletown resident Tom Bernard.

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Samuel L. Jackson and Naomi Watts are among the ensemble cast in MOTHER AND CHILD, the Sony Classics release featured in a fundraiser preview for the Count Basie Theatre on Monday, April 26.

Bernard, who declined a request to be interviewed for this article, has enjoyed a long association with the Count Basie Theatre Foundation, on whose Board of Advisors he currently sits. The veteran purveyor of award-caliber productions (he co-founded Orion Classics and served as an exec with United Artists) has worked with the Basie brass on several past fundraising projects, and was instrumental in bringing the real live Jeff “The Dude” Dowd to Red Bank for a fun 2008 screening of the cult classic he inspired, The Big Lebowski.

Bernard’s wife, Oscar nominated film editor Nena Danevic (Amadeus), has served as an honorary board member of the Monmouth County Arts Council — and it’s for the borough-based MCAC that tonight’s fundraising flickershow hits the Clearview screen, continuing a tradition that started in 2003 with The Triplets of Belleville and has continued with previews of such art-house offerings as JunebugLaurel Canyon, Volver and Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth.

As Arts Council executive director Mary Eileen Fouratt explained to redbankgreen, “Tom’s been great and very generous to us over the years…he always gives us a heads-up when something becomes available, and thanks to Craig over at Clearview, we’re able to get these events together.”

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, Please Give stars indie film queen Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt as a well-to-do Manhattan couple who profit handsomely from the deaths of others — in this case, from the estate sale market — and who wish to expand their apartment, a plan complicated by the fact that the neighboring unit is occupied by a nice old lady who’s simply not ready to die just yet.

Scheduled for general release a week from tomorrow, the film makes its New Jersey premiere tonight at Clearview with a screening at 7:30p, preceded by a reception at Jamian’s on Monmouth Street from 5:30 to 6:45p. Tickets for the film are $10 each and can be purchased at the Clearview door, or in advance from the Monmouth County Arts Council office at 107 Monmouth Street. Tickets for film and reception are $50 per person ($45 for MCAC members), available by calling (732)212-1890 before 4p.

This coming Monday brings the Sony Classics release (scheduled to open nationwide on May 7) Mother and Child to the largest movie screen in Monmouth County, when the Count Basie Foundation hosts the film by writer-director Rodrigo García for an 8p showing that’s being offered as a fundraiser for the landmark auditorium’s ongoing restoration project.

Boasting an ensemble cast toplined by Annette Bening, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Kerry Washington and Naomi Watts, the movie juxtaposes three stories centered around the concept and impact of adoption — a woman whose inability to conceive a child causes her to consider adopting; an embittered middle aged woman who has never gotten past her decision to give up a baby as a teen mother, as well as the younger woman who is identified as having been that baby — and who’s compelled to use sex to advance her own successful career.

Tickets (free to CBT members, $8 general admission or $5 to seniors and students) can be reserved at the Basie box office, or by calling (732)842-9000 (there’s no online selling for this event).