Authors Posts by Brooks Robards

Brooks Robards

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"Whiplash" and "Princess Kaguya" show at the Film Center this week.

Two very different but equally powerful films will play at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. Whiplash follows the harrowing trial by fire in the education of a young drummer, while The Tale of the Princess Kaguya recounts through eloquent animation the story of a magical Japanese beauty.

Whiplash        

Director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash began life as a short at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Short Jury Award and then received funding for a full-length feature. The movie begins with Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller, who has played the drums from the age of 15) practicing on his drums. A beginning student at a Juilliard-like music school, he is driven by ambition to become a world-class drummer. He soon clashes with his macho, egocentric, even sadistic band instructor, Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons).

Fletcher singles out Andrew in rehearsals, then prods him with relentless, over-the-top performance demands. Fletcher’s speech is peppered by the foul language of a drill sergeant. While other students fall by the wayside, Andrew takes on the challenges implicit in his mentor’s vicious taunts. He finds himself in and out of favor with Fletcher, but continues to practice his instruments to the point of exhaustion, bloodied fingers, and more.

Fletcher denounces the phrase, “good job” as a despicable compromise in the search for his particular view of excellence. He offers a chilling view of how to inspire students to give their best, and his tactics come close to turning him into a horror-film monster. In the process, the film raises questions about the nature of ambition, the value of obsession, and the relationship between mentor and protégé. Justin Hurwitz’s powerful score re-enforces the intensity of the director’s engagement with musicianship and aspiration. Expect to see Oscar nominations for both Simmons and Teller, as well as the director.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which is hand-drawn, announces its 10thcentury fairy tale roots in the beginning scenes, where a bamboo cutter, voiced by James Caan, discovers a tiny princess inside a luminous bamboo cane. Magically, the Princess Kaguya transforms herself quickly from infancy into young adulthood.

Inspired by the discovery of gold and silk fabrics, the bamboo cutter and his wife move to the capital city of Kyoto, where they hope to give the princess a life in keeping with her station. The princess finds herself attended by a courtier who names her Kaguya after the moon-like light she radiates. She also falls under the tutelage of Lady Sagami, a governess who wants to enhance her natural beauty by artificial means and tries to educate her in the ways of the court. Dazzled by her beauty, a number of suitors, including the Mikado or emperor of Japan, woo the young princess, but Kaguya misses her simpler life in the country and has no use for the elaborate gifts her suitors try to tempt her with. Instead she remains attracted to the young hunter, Sutemaru, whom she grew up with in the country.

Director Isao Takahata’s animation richly evokes the beauty of the princess and the world she inhabits in a tale thought to be Japan’s oldest recorded. As one of Studio Ghibli’s co-founders, the director celebrates the natural world and brings a fluid freedom to the animation. In addition to James Caan, viewers may recognize the voices of Mary Steenburgen as the bamboo cutter’s wife, Lucy Liu as Lady Sagami, Beau Bridges as Prince Kuramochi, and Oliver Platt as Lord Minister of the Right Abe. Like Whiplash, look for The Tale of the Princess Kaguya in the ranks of Oscar nominations.

“Whiplash,” Thursday, November 20, 7:30 pm; Friday, November 21, 4 pm; Sunday, November 23, 7:30 pm.

“The Tale of the Princess Kaguyi,” Saturday, November 22, 4 pm.

All films at M.V. Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For information and tickets, see mvfilmsociety.com.  

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Cindy Kane's New York exhibit pays tribute to war journalists. —Courtesy of Cheryl McGinnis Projects, Photo credit: Richard Kranzler

The Helmet Project, Cindy Kane’s evocative multimedia installation created in 2008, is finding new life this year in New York City’s Flatiron Building. The artist, a year round Vineyard Haven resident, collaged 50 military helmets with the notes and memorabilia of war correspondents in a tribute to the journalists who risk and sometimes lose their lives covering wars worldwide. New York curator Cheryl McGinnis has titled the revived exhibit “Eyes on the Ground –– Journals of War.” An opening reception at the Flatiron Building is planned for Tuesday, November 18, and a number of the journalists who contributed to the project will attend.

“This is its fourth incarnation,” Ms. Kane said in a phone interview with The Times last weekend. The Helmet Project first went on exhibit in September 2008 at the former Carol Craven Gallery in Vineyard Haven, and it has since been on display at the Cheryl Pelavin Gallery in New York and Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri. The artist calls the display in the Sprint Prow Art Space at the historic building “like a street exhibition. This show is really all about the space. It’s such a public space.” She points out that it’s the first time thousands of people will see the installation.

The decorative helmets are on display at the Flatiron Building in Manhattan. —Courtesy of Cheryl McGinnis Projects, Photo credit: Richard Kranzler
The decorative helmets are on display at the Flatiron Building in Manhattan. —Courtesy of Cheryl McGinnis Projects, Photo credit: Richard Kranzler

Ms. Kane and Ms. McGinnis discovered each other on Facebook, and Ms. Kane also visited the Cheryl McGinnis Gallery. Six months later, after seeing images of the Helmet Project on Ms. Kane’s website, the curator phoned the artist and said she wanted to exhibit it in the Flatiron Building.

Ms. Kane’s first response was that it was not a good place for such a tactile, personal installation, but she soon changed her mind. “I didn’t understand the nature of the space,” she said. “A good curator gives the artist an understanding of it.” Located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, the Flatiron building lies at the nexus of downtown Manhattan, with foot traffic that ranges as high as 500,000 people.

“It’s a gift to New York,” Ms. McGinnis says of the exhibit. She hung it with two assistants from Cheryl McGinnis Projects. “We touched each helmet, with its history and the journalists. It feels so sacred and valuable. I’m honored to have Cindy’s exhibit.” The curator has mounted a number of shows at the glass-enclosed space owned by the telecommunications giant Sprint. Scaffolding from construction on the building has partially obscured the space, which Sprint has also used for advertising, but it is due to come down shortly.

Ms. Kane purchased the helmets, which date from World War II, the Vietnam War, and more recent conflicts in the Middle East, at online military sites. She started by approaching journalists who live on the Island, including Ward Just, Nelson Bryant, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Tony Horwitz. In addition to field notes, journalists have contributed photographs, foreign currency, passport pages, band-aids, and ear plugs.

“The unexpected juxtaposition of an anonymous military helmet and deeply personal memorabilia provides a profound comment on the universality and particularity of war,” Geraldine Brooks, the noted author from West Tisbury, has written about the exhibit.

On her website, Cheryl McGinnis calls the collaged helmets, poignant conceptual portraits of individual writers… The intimacy of each pockmarked, bullet-ridden helmet is visible throughout the day and night, adding to the emotion and power of the exhibit; a constant reminder of the cost of war.” She provides links to each journalist on the Cheryl McGinnis Gallery website. The Flatiron installation is dedicated to the memory of participating journalist Anthony Shadid, who died in Syria in 2012.

Ms. Kane, who exhibits on Island at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury and the A Gallery in Oak Bluffs, will also have a collaborative installation of her painting with Pam Flam’s quilts at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. It will run from Tuesday, November 25, to Monday, December 29.

“Eyes on the Ground––Journals of War,” Cindy Kane, Sprint Flatiron Prow Art Space, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. Through January 15.    

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A screenshot from "Annabelle Lee" shows familiar Martha's Vineyard cliffs.

The Chilmark Library will screen a rare, vintage silent movie next week, large portions of which were filmed on Martha’s Vineyard. Annabell Lee will play Wednesday, November 12, at 5 pm. Directed by William J. Scully, the script for the 1921 film was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” although the film’s narrative goes in a very different direction from the poem.

A classic romantic melodrama, Annabell Lee tells the story of Annabell (played by Lorraine Hardy), a young woman from a well-to-do family who falls in love with a young, working-class fisherman, David Martin (played by John B. O’Brien). Annabelle’s father, Col. Lee (played by Louis Stern), disapproves of the match and advises the couple to separate for a year. During that time, David captains the triple-mast schooner Hope and hunts for the treasure-laden ship whose sinking killed his father. David hopes that salvage from the shipwreck will make him a more acceptably affluent suitor.

Although Arthur Brilliant’s screenplay paraphrases lines from Poe’s celebrated poem, the story has a very different outcome. David encounters numerous misadventures while at sea, as Annabell waits on the Island for his return, fending off suitors much like Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. Annabell becomes increasingly close to David’s mother (played by Florida Kingsley), whom she invites to live at the Lee family estate, Pine Cove, set on the Vineyard’s north shore. In addition to prevailing attitudes about socio-economic status, Annabell Lee also addresses issues of racism through the Chinese cook onboard, named Joe Ling (uncredited), who becomes David’s companion.

Produced in the style of the era’s silent films, Annabell Lee frames much of the action in iris (circular matte) shots and uses titles to help advance the story. The actors’ careers did not survive the transition to talkies, although Mr. Scully continued to work through the 1930s as an assistant director.

Much of the pleasure viewers will find in the film comes from its footage of Menemsha Harbor in an era well before the 1938 hurricane that leveled the fishing village. Schooners sail in and out of the harbor before its jetties were built, and there are shots of many buildings, including the Gay Head lighthouse keeper’s house, that no longer exist. Footage of the Gay Head cliffs and the Aquinnah shoreline also appear.

Library director Ebba Hierta first learned about the film when Martha’s Vineyard Museum curator Bonnie Stacy included still shots from it as part of a slide lecture at the library last August. The photographs, some of which were taken during production, are part of the museum’s collection. “Old films are turning up more than ever as people realize the need to preserve them” Ms. Stacy says.

The Steamship Authority has stills from the film displayed on the Island Home ferry, and one appears in Paul Schneider’s book of Vineyard history, The Enduring Shore. Wednesday’s screening is sponsored by Friends of the Chilmark Library.

Annabell Lee, Wednesday, November 12, 5 pm., Chilmark Library. Free. For more information, see chilmarklibrary.org, or call 508-645-3360.

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Courtesy of Ward Wood Publishing

“Out of the Ruins” by Sue Guiney, copyright 2014 from Ward Wood Publishing, London. Paperback, 247 pages. $11.55. Available from Edgartown Books, Alley’s General Store, and online booksellers.

Deborah Youngman, the intrepid director of the Khmer Home for Blessed  Children in Phnom Peh, Cambodia, returns in Sue Guiney’s new novel, Out of the Ruins. The novelist, poet, and longtime Island summer resident introduced Deborah to readers in her 2010 novel A Clash of Innocents. This time nurse Deborah, surrogate mother to her protégée Srey from the orphanage, steps back to let a group of other characters take center stage. About to turn 20 and become a full-fledged nurse herself, Srey is the only Khmer-speaking staff member at the brand-new Your Clinic for Women in Siem Reap. That tourist city is known for its Buddhist temples, including the 12th largest religious building in the world. Srey is joined by Dr. Diarmuid McDonough, an Irishman and the lead doctor at the clinic, and his second-in-command, Dr. Gemma Taylor. Acting as administrator, Canadian Fred De La Rose is still recovering from the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Kyle Mackenzie, who has helped de-activate Cambodia’s minefields and played an important role in A Clash of Innocents, reveals an unexpected relationship to Srey in this new novel. Two more Khmer characters, tuk-tuk (motorcycle taxi) driver Billy, and Pech, a pianist raised in a Singaporean refugee camp during the era of Pol Pot, complete the roster.

This expansive cast of characters allows Ms. Guiney to explore in satisfying ways how Khmer and “barang” (foreigner) cultures interact in modern Cambodia. The troubled and elusive Dr. Diarmuid disappears a little too often on his motorcycle; Dr. Gemma seems overwhelmed by culture shock at first, and Srey struggles to assume her rightful place as an adult and professional in a Western-style clinic. Billy connects the clinic staff to the working-class world of Cambodia, and Pech straddles two cultural worlds in interesting ways.

A close and careful observer, Ms. Guiney provides a background that resonates with aspects of Cambodia’s past and present in ways that feel comfortable for both those who have spent time in Cambodia and those not familiar with it. Srey may attend aerobics classes, but she also practices Apsara dancing, the classical Cambodian form of ballet. Descriptions of visits to Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap Lake are enriched by the responses of both barang and Khmer characters.

Most important, the author addresses some of the serious problems suffered by a country still recovering from the genocide it experienced in the 1970s under the despotic rule of Pol Pot. In particular, she focuses on the hardships experienced by women. A nine-year-old girl is brought to the clinic with shrapnel wounds from a landmine explosion; a new mother dies from a post-partum hemorrhage that might have been avoided in a country with a more advanced medical infrastructure. Each character responds to the challenges faced in unique ways, and the shocking conclusion asks the reader to think long and hard about clashing cultures. Ms. Guiney provides an entertaining and fluent guide to life in a very different part of the world.

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The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center opens Ibsen’s A Master Builder this weekend and revives Hunting Elephants, which played during September’s International Film Festival. The two movies explore aging from opposite ends of the spectrum. Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme brings Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s psychodrama to the screen, while Hunting Elephants unites a comical batch of codgers with a 12-year-old boy to rob an Israeli bank.

An impressive group of professionals, headed by Wallace Shawn, has gathered to give cinematic life to Ibsen’s 1893 drama about an egocentric architect. Working with André Gregory’s theatrical adaptation, Mr. Shawn has translated The Master Builder and directed it, and plays the central character, Halvard Solness. Surrounded by his minions, Halvard is coming to terms with himself at the end of his life.

The director keeps the camera close to the actors’ faces, as they talk to Halvard and react to his responses. Like Louis Malle’s tour-de-force My Dinner with André, A Master Builder is a film more about how the characters reveal themselves in conversation than through representations of their actions. Mr. Demme has dedicated his film to Mr. Malle. The dialogic format is a demanding one, but deeply satisfying from an intellectual standpoint. It emphasizes the surreal, dreamlike qualities of Ibsen’s play and pushes the narrative toward allegory.

One result is to suggest how the play comments on current attitudes toward ambition and success. Mr. Demme employs devices like still shots of Victorian houses and blurred pans across wooded copses to open up the theatrical underpinnings of A Master Builder for the screen. Julie Hagerty plays Halvard’s long-suffering wife; Emily Cass McDonald is his hero-worshipping secretary and fiancée to Regnar (Jeff Biehl). Regnar is the son of Knut Brovik (André Gregory), an architect whose career Halvard destroyed long ago. Lisa Joyce embodies Hilde Wangel, Halvard’s seductive paramour who challenges his end-of-life complacencies.

The movie opens with Halvard lying in a hospital bed, ministered to by nurses. His ailing former rival Knut visits with Regnar, hoping Halvard will give the son’s career a boost. Regnar’s fiancée, who visits with them, reveals her mixed loyalties. The past overshadows Halvard’s and Aline’s marriage, since a fire destroyed Aline’s parents’ house where they were living, and led to the death of the couple’s infant children. A Master Builder will exercise the viewer’s listening skills, but the effort is well worth it.

Israeli director Reshef Levi’s comedy, Hunting Elephants, broaches the infirmities of its three elderly bank robbers and the socially inept pre-teen Yonatan (Gil Blank) through the broad strokes of farce. The death of Yonatan’s father (Tzvika Hadar), who works for a bank as a security expert, launches the plot. When the bank’s manager threatens to seduce Yonatan’s mother, he turns to his grandfather Eliyahu (Sasson Gabai) for help. Joined by two fellow residents of a retirement home, Nick (Moni Moshonov) and Lord Michael Simpson (Patrick Stewart), Eliyahu and his grandson hatch a plot to rob the maleficent bank. This goofy premise doesn’t really hold water, but the pleasures of Hunting Elephants come in watching a band of actors with Mr. Stewart’s skills take over. For those viewers who appreciate the title’s implied joke, the film offers plenty of laughs.

“A Master Builder,” Friday, October 31, 4 p.m., Saturday, November 1, 7:30 pm.

“Hunting Elephants,” Sunday, November 2, 7:30 pm.

All films at M.V. Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, visit mvfilmcenter.com.

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From left, Alfred Molina as George and John Lithgow as Ben. —Photo by Jeong Park, Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Love at the movies usually concerns the romantic life of young couples. Not so with Ira Sachs’s new film, Love Is Strange. This director’s love story explores and celebrates the long-abiding love of two aging men, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina). The film, which opens this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, offers viewers an unusually rich view of urban domestic life. Love Is Strange opens on the morning of Ben and George’s wedding in Manhattan. The camera work quickly signals that while this couple’s world may not include the usual Hollywood signifiers — movie-star good looks and youthful, toned bodies — it seeks out unusual perspectives and lingers in unexpected places. The film lovingly immerses the viewer in the urban landscape that is so much a part of this gay couple’s life together, in some of the ways Woody Allen has paid tribute to New York in his movies. By relying on Chopin and other classical music, the soundtrack reinforces yet another element of the couple’s world, since George is a piano teacher and choral director.

The post-wedding party, held at Ben and George’s co-op apartment, uses none of the clichés so often found in movie versions of parties. Instead it introduces us to the couple’s distinctive extended family. Ben’s nephew Elliott (Darren Burrows), a filmmaker, is there with his novelist wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their teenaged son, Joey (Charlie Tahan), whose remarkably subtle performance will make the viewer realize how inauthentic most movie teenagers are. On George’s side are Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez), the gay cop couple that are George and Ben’s next-door neighbors. The slightly kookie Mindy (Christina Kirk) is significant primarily for living outside of Manhattan, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. What is important about Ben and George’s extended family is that they are recognizable less for their connections to gay culture than to any middle class world.

The classic model for romantic comedy keeps its putative couple at odds, or at least apart, at the start and ends with their happy union. Mr. Sachs up-ends that convention by starting with marital bliss and finishing with separation. The switch is particularly appropriate for a gay couple, since Ben and George have already lived together happily and successfully for many years, while their marriage marks society’s recent legitimization of gay marriage. The twist that separates Ben and George physically, if not emotionally, situates the story in the real world, where bigotry rears its ugly head even in the wake of social change.

George loses his job at a Catholic school because his marriage defies Church doctrine. Like so many other Americans, George and Ben (who is retired) are then tossed on the shoals of economic distress. They must sell their co-op apartment and move in with family and friends. The world of New York real estate being the space-challenged place that it is, no one has enough room to house both members of the couple. Ben, a chatty amateur painter, ends up with his nephew and family, sharing bunk beds with a resentful Joey, and workspace with novelist Kate. George, who favors solitary pleasures, finds himself on the sofa of his ex-neighbors, Ted and Roberto, who always seem to have a party in the making. The friction caused by overcrowded living arrangements generates plenty of gentle humor.

Love Is Strange’s masterful acting, headlined by Lithgow, Molina, and Tomei, brings rare depth to this story of domestic life. It is a quintessentially modern story, one told with care and great affection rather than sentimentality or melodrama.

Love Is Strange, Friday, October 24, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, October 25, 4 p.m, M.V. Film Center. For more information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

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"Dog Day Afternoon." —Art by Harry Seymour

The “Art in the Stacks” series brings the work of Oak Bluffs artist Harry Seymour to the Vineyard Haven Library during the month of October. Eight of Mr. Seymour’s works, created in scratchboard, pastel, and egg tempura, are on display in the library’s lower level. Mr. Seymour’s distinctive style and choice of subject matter are inspired by circumstances that make his work unique among Island artists. Allergies have kept Mr. Seymour from painting in more traditional media like oil, pastel, and watercolor.

He has chosen to display pieces “in new techniques that I’m very excited about,” the artist said in a telephone interview last weekend.

Mr. Seymour has applied his artistic visions to scratchboard for some time. This medium employs masonite boards coated with white clay, covered by black ink. The artist etches images that emerge in white against a black background. “It is the only art painting that is subtractive and not additive,” Mr. Seymour said.

While other artists also use scratchboard, he has expanded the technique to include color by incorporating pastel wax and pan pastels. “This method is evolving, but I am excited by outcomes and the capacity to synchronize tools, paints, and surface to form a work of art that is as much about the process as the outcome,” Mr. Seymour said in a recent interview with Arts and Ideas magazine.

"The Hug." —Art by Harry Seymour
“The Hug.” —Art by Harry Seymour

The work in the current exhibit at the Vineyard Haven Library represents a range of subjects and techniques he has worked on over the years. Mr. Seymour draws on the culture and landscape of Martha’s Vineyard for inspiration, as illustrated by “Dog Day Afternoon,” which depicts a sleepy dog stretched out on a summer porch. In addition, he incorporates narrative elements of African-American culture as it is found on Island and in larger contexts. “The Hug” draws on the artist’s color techniques to convey the image of a boy hugging a grandfatherly figure, for what Mr. Seymour calls “the antithesis of detachment and need to embrace matters on and beyond Island shores.”

A Professor Emeritus of Speech and Hearing Science at UMass Amherst, Mr. Seymour divides his time between Oak Bluffs and his home in the Pioneer Valley. His scratch paintings, also called sgraffito, are created using microscopic medical pins that allow him to achieve a greater intricacy of detail than conventional use of the medium. The artist’s egg tempera paintings differ from those of others because he uses a greater variety of brushes, which he pats on the surface for a pointillist effect.

Mr. Seymour also exhibits his work at the Harry Seymour Studio at 66 Pondview Drive in Oak Bluffs.

Harry Seymour: Art in the Stacks, Vineyard Haven Public Library, through October. For hours and further information, see vhlibrary.org.

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Ben Affleck in "Gone Girl." —Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Director David Fincher’s latest neo-noir film, Gone Girl, plays this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown. The Film Center will also present three foodie films shown in conjunction with the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival. Le Chef and Chef –– both about cooks –– return to the Film Center, along with Somm, a documentary about four sommeliers trying to pass their field’s master exam.

Gone Girl is adapted from the popular novel of the same title by Gillian Flynn. In the movie, Mr. Fincher puts a new spin on the black widow genre made famous by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, (1987). The difference is that instead of looking at an affair gone bad like Fatal Attraction, Gone Girl dissects a marriage on the rocks. Ben Affleck plays a laid-back magazine writer, Nick Dunne, who falls in love with and marries Amy, played by Rosamund Pike, who is the subject of a successful series of books written by her parents.

After Nick’s mother contracts cancer and both Nick and Amy lose their New York writing jobs, the couple moves to the small Missouri town of North Carthage, where Nick grew up. Amy is the powerhouse in the couple, and she uses her trust fund to buy a bar for her husband to run with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon).

One day, Nick comes home and finds that Amy has disappeared. He calls the police, and soon a media circus is underway, with Nick looking more and more like the culprit who may have done away with Amy.

Entries from Amy’s diary suggest that the marriage has been deteriorating for some time. Bit by bit, evidence shows up that, after making Nick look like the bad guy, implicates Amy instead. The back-and-forth keeps viewers glued to their seats, puzzling over who did what and who will get away with murder. Subsidiary characters contribute to the mystery. Margo becomes an important ally to her brother, while Amy turns for help to a wealthy former boyfriend, Desi (Neil Patrick Harris).

The portrait Gone Girl creates of a marriage falling apart takes plenty of unexpected twists and turns. The media come across like vultures, feeding on the couple’s troubles and distorting the evidence of the case almost beyond recognition. Amy looms large as a powerhouse of deviousness and manipulation in contrast to her apparently easygoing husband. The ending of Gone Girl will leave the viewers scratching their heads about the games married couples play.

“Gone Girl,” Friday, October 17, 7:30 pm; Saturday, October 18, 4 p.m.; Sunday, October 19, 7:30 pm.

“Le Chef,” Thursday, October 16, 7:30 pm.

“Chef,” Friday, October 17, 4 pm.

“Somm,” Saturday, October 18, 7:30 p m; Sunday, October 19, 4 pm.

For more information, visit mvfilmcenter.com.

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"Sun Moon Barn Owl." —Art by Lanny McDowell

Vineyard Haven artist Lanny McDowell’s love for birds led him to devote much of his creative energy to avian photography in recent years. His new show at the West Tisbury Library puts his painterly talents back on the front burner.

Mr. McDowell has drawn from his newer work since he returned with gusto to painting in 2011, as well as throwing in a few of his old favorites. Vineyard art lovers may remember that Mr. McDowell built a reputation for painting portraits of waves that were on display at his West Tisbury Ott gallery before he closed it in 2007. But as the new exhibit illustrates, that represents only one area of work for this prolific painter.

“In the fall of 2011, I started painting like mad,” Mr. McDowell says. The work he produced during that period through June 2012 went on exhibit briefly at Tashmoo Springs. There, he showed a body of work that mixed abstraction and representational images like “Sun Moon Barn Owl,” a 2012 painting that consists of a 12- by 12-inch canvas of multicolored squares with the image of an airborne white owl superimposed over them. The combination prods the viewer to think about how the two forms feed off each other.

"Piers." —Art by Lanny McDowell
“Piers.” —Art by Lanny McDowell

Much of the pleasure of the West Tisbury Library exhibit comes in seeing the variety of styles Mr. McDowell explores. “Allen Farm Vista” is a purely representational painting in strong shades of green and gold with touches of blue and orange that dates from 2004, while “Piers,” a 2014 work, unites a series of representational images by placing them in squares within squares. “Rise Up” and “Delivery” are wave portraits that both date from 2007, before the artist turned toward avian photography, while in “Wave Remake,” from 2013, he returns to a wave portrait in a renewed integration of abstraction and representation.

A preoccupation with color unites Mr. McDowell’s many stylistic ventures, as he notes in a statement accompanying the West Tisbury Library show. “If I have one thread of continuity in my artwork over the years, it’s an infatuation with color. Color reaches me,” he says. “I might have been at home with many of the American abstract expressionists who celebrate expanses of resonant color.” His investigations of color through patterns of squares encourage the viewer to respond to the way colors feed each other.

"Allen Farm Vista." —Art by Lanny McDowell
“Allen Farm Vista.” —Art by Lanny McDowell

As those who receive his avian photographs online or in other venues know, Mr. McDowell’s fascination with birds has not lessened now that he has refocused on painting.  As he says, “My art –– paintings and avian photographs –– is about expressing awe of the wondrous life cycles that energize our planet and inspire us. I believe in the connectedness of all things, in respect for the forces of nature.”

“The Work of Painter and Photographer Lanny McDowell,” West Tisbury Free Public Library, West Tisbury, through October. For hours and information, see westtisburylibrary.org.

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Len Morris working with children on "The Same Heart," his newest film with his wife Georgia. —Photo by Steve Button

The Same Heart, Len and Georgia Morris’s latest documentary about children’s rights, will benefit this weekend from SHINE, a special three-day fundraising event in which 12 artists are selling their work at the West Tisbury home of Patricia Cliggott. Ms. Cliggott is the founder of Lovingkindnessmv, an organization that aids others, and a portion of the weekend’s sales will go to support completion of The Same Heart.

The film is the Morrises’ third documentary about abuses of the world’s children. The specific issue it addresses is how to end the poverty that underlies many, if not most, of the abuses children are subjected to. Tracing the visit of community organizer Geoffrey Bakuya to his home village, Shivagala, the film focuses on children in western Kenya. Many children in the village are raising themselves because their relatives have been lost to HIV/AIDS, and hunger is widespread.

“If you have the same heart in the whole world, the rich nations to support the poor nations, not exploit them, this is something we would like to see,” says Mr. Bakuya, whose words help provide the title for the documentary. Set in the background of his Kenyan village, The Same Heart establishes poverty as the problem underlying most others, with the world’s children, including some in the U.S., starving at the rate of 20,000 per day. Seven Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are interviewed. Vineyard summer resident and TV journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault narrates the documentary.

After exploring the issue of child labor in Stolen Childhoods (2004) and the homelessness of street children in Rescuing Emmanuel (2009), in The Same Heart the Morrises turn to the question of how to end the poverty underlying these issues. The filmmakers’ odyssey dates back to 1998, when Mr. Morris’s friend Robin Romano, the late New York photojournalist, contacted him about doing a film on child labor. “Len dove in, and we never looked back,” says Ms. Morris. “We got hooked on children’s rights.”

“We’ve come to understand that our aid system is broken,” says Mr. Morris. “It’s the byproduct of pushing poverty to the bottom of the pile.” The answer that The Same Heart proposes is a “Robin Hood” tax, in which financial transactions worldwide would be taxed a small percentage to fund poverty programs.

In addition to Patricia Cliggott’s wearable art clothing, yak blankets and crystal jewelry, work by 10 other Vineyard artists will be for sale at Ms. Cliggott’s West Tisbury home. Lisa Magnarelli Magden will have charcoal drawings and wood pieces on display, and Susan Norton will sell her organic skincare products. Notecards from oil paintings by Lynn Whiting will be available, as well as handwoven cotton towels by Suzy Zell. Other products include Lily K. Morris’s large format landscape photos, Lily Jane Morris’s oil landscapes, Aquinnah Witham’s jackets made of Vietnamese silk and linen, Maria Hurwitz’s multi-media landscapes, Elizabeth Germain’s blessed rosemary oil, and Eric Carlsen’s crystals from Brazil and Madagascar. Maine artist Maisie Broom will join her Island colleagues to offer saltwater silk clothing, died leather, marbled canvas, and textile heliographic printings.

Mr. and Ms. Morris plan to record the film’s narration over the next two weeks, complete the sound mix with Jim Parr, and then begin distribution, including to organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They have also raised money for the project on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

SHINE will take place Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 11, 12, and 13, at 129 Indian Hill Rd. from 10 am to 8 pm. Along with their colleague Petra Lent McCarron, one of the film’s producers, the filmmakers will show a trailer from The Same Heart and answer questions daily during the event. For more information, go to thesameheart.com or lovingkindnessmv.com.