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Jason O’Connell & His New(ish) Podcast:
OPENING WEEKEND

In a world where cinemas have closed their doors (at least for the time being), “Opening Weekend” celebrates one of the many things we’d all love to be doing right now – going to the movies on a Friday night with our friends.

Every week, Jason O’Connell, Fred Berman, and Dan Matisa (best friends, professional actors, and self-professed movie geeks) look back at a different opening weekend from the last 40 years and bask in the warm, nostalgic, popcorn-buttery glow of going to the movies.

Listen to the OPENING WEEKEND Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Transistor, or at OPENINGWEEKENDPODCAST.COM.

We spoke to HVSF favorite, Jason O’Connell, about the impetus of the podcast, his desert island movie picks, his favorite cinematic Shakespeare adaptation, and a variety of other topics. Read on…

1. What inspired you to start this podcast? Was it something you had been envisioning for a while?

I’ve always been a huge movie fan, and I had been thinking about doing a film podcast for quite some time… What really inspired me to embark on something so deeply rooted in nostalgia was the sad realization, as I walked past my local, shuttered movie theatre in Queens, that there would be no Opening Weekends to celebrate for the duration of the pandemic. So many of my favorite moviegoing experiences have been those very first showings of films that were either highly hyped and heavily anticipated (Batman, Return of the Jedi, The Avengers), or stealth hits that completely took the audience by surprise (The Matrix, Austin Powers, There’s Something About Mary). In terms of recreational activities, there is literally nothing I enjoy more than going to the movies on an opening night, and when I realized that I wouldn’t be doing that for a while, I had the idea to jump into a mental time machine and revisit Opening Weekends of the past with some very good friends!

2. Can you tell us a bit more about how you know your Podcast collaborators, Fred Berman and Dan Matisa? How did the three of you become friends?

I’ve known Fred for 30 years and Dan for 29 years. We all attended Hofstra University together in the early 90s and studied theatre together… These men are two of my very closest friends. We’ve not only gone to school together, we’ve lived together in New York City, we’ve temped at the same day jobs together, we’ve acted together professionally on numerous occasions (Dan was a part of HVSF’s 2013 Acting Company), we’ve been a part of each other’s weddings (Fred was my Best Man and I was his… Dan was one of my groomsmen and I was the officiant at his wedding…), and I am even godfather to Fred’s daughter. We have been in each other’s lives so long, we feel more like brothers than friends. I knew that the rapport we share in life – the way we make each other laugh and the way we enjoy nerding out over movies, theatre, acting, etc – would make for great chemistry on a podcast.

 

Dan, Jason, and Fred’s faces edited onto the classic line-up from GHOSTBUSTERS.

3. What’s a movie that you’ve rediscovered in the past 6 months during quarantine?

After 23 episodes (and counting) there have already been so many films that I’ve rediscovered, and so many that I look forward to rediscovering. The funny thing about our mandate is that we watch and review every movie that came out on the given weekend that we choose to discuss (as well as chat about where we were in our personal lives at the time). There’s always the chance that those movies could be great new finds, but quite often they are stinkers that we rightly avoided seeing in the first place! That said, some of our most fun episodes (and greatest running gags) come from talking about the worst movies (1994’s Baby’s Day Out or 1982’s Megaforce come to mind)! As for movies that I either deepened or renewed an appreciation for, I’d have to say that 1990’s Ghost was a real surprise in terms of how incredibly well it holds up, and I believe I said that Raiders of the Lost Ark (which I’ve always really enjoyed) was a “perfect” movie upon rewatch. I’ve also gained a new appreciation for Natural Born Killers (which younger Jason couldn’t stand in the summer of 1994), and I finally finally finally sat down to watch Se7en (which I avoided for years and absolutely loved when I saw it for the first time a couple of months ago)!

A still of Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in 1995’s SE7EN. Directed by David Fincher, written by Andrew Kevin Walker.

4. The OPENING WEEKEND Podcast explores so many genres of movies — but a lot of comedy! And HVSF fans definitely know they can count on you for your comedic chops under the tent. What do you think is different about comedy in live theater vs. comedy on screen?

It’s all about the audience. In theatre, the audience tells you what is funny and why it’s funny, which is both a joy and an education for an actor. I can only imagine that capturing comedy on screen is much more difficult. In theatre, the audience lets you know how long to hold for a laugh. In film, you have to guess! Interestingly enough, my wife and I just performed in a stage production of Talley’s Folly which was filmed to be streamed in November, and which we performed without a live audience present. It was so difficult to gauge whether or not the humor of the piece was landing as it should, because we were – in essence – making a film in play’s clothing!

5. What are the 5 movies you’d bring with you on a desert island? (Not necessarily Top Five, but the five you’d want to rewatch forever)

Excellent question! None of these would probably be in my personal “all-time” top 5 (which would include some bleaker fare like Boogie Nights, Remains of the Day, and The Dark Knight), but they are thoroughly feel-good and highly rewatchable:

  • It’s A Wonderful Life
  • Moonstruck
  • Superman: The Movie
  • Ratatouille
  • Shakespeare In Love

6. What’s your favorite Shakespeare film adaptation?

This isn’t a popular answer, but Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet with Ethan Hawke from 2000. I found it to be so powerful and moving. Carter Burwell’s score is especially perfect.

Ethan Hawke in HAMLET (2000). Written and directed by Michael Almereyda.

7. When you are cast in a play (remember plays!?), if there’s a film adaptation of the story, do you watch it before playing the part?

No! I take great pains not to be influenced by someone else’s performance… Once the run of the show is done, I may go back and revisit a film portrayal of a character I’ve played, but even that’s rare. You have to give it some time so that you aren’t constantly kicking yourself and saying “That’s how I should’ve been doing it all along!” : )

8. What podcasts are you listening to these days? Any all-time favs?

I enjoy a wide variety of film, comedy, and politics podcasts. Marc Maron’s WTF is always terrific, and I’m a huge fan of the Chicago-based film podcast Filmspotting. It’s excellent – insightful, intelligent, and lots of fun.

9. What’s an upcoming movie you’ll be discussing on OPENING WEEKEND that you’re really looking forward to?

Well, I mentioned it before, but Superman: The Movie is the film that made me fall in love with movies at the age of 7, and we are due to revisit it in mid-December as part of a special pre-holiday episode.

Still image from SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE

 


Listen to the OPENING WEEKEND Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Transistor, or at OPENINGWEEKENDPODCAST.COM.