MV Film Center screens a farce, an ocean documentary, and hosts Oscar night

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Bob George of Chilmark holds his father's 1948 Oscar, which has made appearances during Oscar night on the Island for many years. —Sam Moore

Movie viewers can choose from a variety of films in the MV Film Center’s offerings this weekend. The German farce, “Toni Erdmann,” and a documentary, “The Last Ocean,” play Thursday, Feb. 23. The Film Center’s annual Oscar Party Night takes place Sunday, Feb. 26.

“Toni Erdmann” has been nominated for an Oscar as Germany’s Best Foreign Language Film. At two-and-three-quarter hours, it builds its marathon joke-fest around a goofy dad and his corporate-diva daughter. Teutonic humor tends to combine deadpan jests with bits of crudity, and both are in evidence here. Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) is an aging, semi-retired music teacher. The film opens with him joshing a deliveryman by posing as a non-existent brother who had until recently been in jail for mailing a bomb package. If the impersonation isn’t enough, props such as handcuffs dangling from Winfried’s wrist signal the viewer not to take this unshaven, partially bare-chested clown seriously.

Maren Ade, who wrote and directed “Toni Erdmann,” builds up the movie’s characters and world with lots of throwaway details. The viewer learns Winfried is a music teacher when a student stops by to quit his piano lessons. Winfried’s blind, half-dead dog shows up, then expires. After quick stops to attend a school musical performance in zombie make-up and to visit his mother, Winfried heads to his ex-wife’s. The occasion is to see his daughter Ines (Sandra Müller), who’s stopped in briefly before returning to her business base in Bucharest, Romania. She spends most of her time on her cellphone instead of with her family. In a set-up reminiscent of the Michael J. Fox vehicle “Family Ties,” father and daughter couldn’t be more different. Dad is the childish jester, his daughter the more adult foil.

Winfried lands in Bucharest to spend the weekend with his busy daughter. In the middle of crucial outsourcing negotiations, Ines is not exactly thrilled to see her dad, particularly when he shows up at inconvenient times wearing a fright wig and fake teeth. Enter Toni Erdmann, Winfried’s persona, pretending to be a lifestyle coach or the German ambassador to Romania.

Toni challenges Ines to loosen up and understand that her life, rife with sexist colleagues and overwork, is lacking. The film’s episodic, satirical narrative rolls along to a bawdy climax that shouldn’t be viewed by children. It’s not the only X-rated scene. The best news is that like all good comedies, “Toni Erdmann” ends on a happy note, with Winfried and Ines making peace.

‘The Last Ocean’

One of three upcoming films in the Film Center’s Science on Screen series, “The Last Ocean” takes on a far more serious subject. Home to penguins, whales and seals,  Antarctica’s Ross Sea is the southernmost body of water on the planet and exists as the world’s last pristine ecosystem. As such, scientists have spent years researching this remote part of the world south of New Zealand. Its status is now threatened by the encroachment of fishing vessels in search of the toothfish, more popularly known to diners as Chilean bass. The experts argue that too little is known about the toothfish, and to reduce its population will damage the ecosystem of which it is a part.

In addition to interviews with scientists studying the Ross Sea’s animal and fish populations, director Peter Young employs breathtaking shots of the region. He also describes the conflict between environmentalists and members of the fishing industry, as well as the attempts to designate its waters as a protected area. Chilmark selectman Warren Doty will lead a discussion of the issues addressed by the film, which will be screened only on Feb. 23. Admission is free for MV Film Society members.

Oscar Night Party

The Film Center will broadcast the 89th Academy Awards beginning at 7 pm, in time for the red carpet celebrity arrivals that precede the 8:30 pm awards ceremony. Appetizers, desserts, and beverages will be served, and attendees can have their photo taken holding an Oscar provided by Bob George, its owner. Mr. George’s late father, George L. George, won the award in 1949 for his film short, “Toward Independence.” Made for the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the film was about military men with disabilities returning home after World War II. As the younger George tells it, his father was denied possession of the Oscar by the Army, and the precious 24-karat gold-plated statue was lost until its re-discovery many years later.

Oscar Night Party attendees can also fill out ballots predicting the Oscar winners, and a Film Enthusiast Membership with year-long free movies and events goes to the closest prediction. During the ceremony’s commercials, other prizes, including free movie passes and concession gift certificates, will be awarded for answers to movie trivia questions. Ticket proceeds will go to the Film Center and the MV International Film Festival.

Information and tickets for Film Center movies and events, can be found at mvfilmsociety.com .