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Photo Courtesy MGM

Filmgoers have their choice of two hit movies playing Thanksgiving weekend at the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven. Computer visionary Steve Jobs is the subject of the biopic named after him, and Daniel Craig plays the indomitable James Bond in “Spectre.” The two films couldn’t be more different.

In “Steve Jobs,” director Danny Boyle of “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire” fame paints a portrait of the legendary Apple co-founder and CEO that, like its subject, is equal parts brilliant and challenging.

The portrait of Jobs picks and chooses from Walter Isaacson’s biography, but screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and director Boyle have created a film that soars well beyond the conventions of most biopics. It is powerfully original, but not easy to digest. Each of the film’s three parts is structured around an Apple product launch, and Boyle has filmed each in a different format: the Mac at a Cupertino, Calif., community college in 16 mm; the NeXT at the San Francisco Opera House in 35 mm, and the iMac at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall in digital. The imaginative format changes may not be that noticeable to viewers, but they illustrate how Boyle and Sorkin have approached the story of one of our era’s greatest innovators.

The film is built around conversation, most often argumentative and, in Jobs’s case, combative and downright nasty. Not all of the debates are easy for a layperson to parse, but the actors carry the day. Irishman Michael Fassbender inhabits Jobs down to his wire-rim glasses and black turtlenecks. The same can be said for Kate Winslet in her role as Joanna Hoffman, the Apple marketing director who was Jobs’ confidante and the one person who could stand up to his egomaniacal assaults. So deep into her role is Winslet that she literally becomes unrecognizable, with a dumpy period haircut and clothes. Seth Rogen plays the Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who actually built the computers Jobs is famous for, and Jeff Daniels does a turn as John Sculley, Jobs’ father figure and Apple’s corporate leader.

The product-launch framework allows the director to illustrate Jobs’ public persona with packed audiences cheering him on. It also provides room for abrasive views of Jobs’ private self. In each section, Jobs’ ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) shows up in her former lover’s dressing room with her daughter Lisa, for whom Jobs denied paternity despite hard evidence to the contrary. Girlfriend and daughter start out in the first section on the verge of welfare, despite the fact that Jobs is a billionaire. In each section, Jobs’ relationship with his daughter is shown as contentious and rejecting. Colleagues like Wozniak and Sculley also appear in the dressing room or backstage, attempting to reason with Jobs and instead getting insults and short shrift. In pure cinematic terms, “Steve Jobs” is powerful and important, worth the patience necessary to absorb its message about the disconnect between celebrity and private behavior.


‘Spectre’: as delicious as a hot fudge sundae

Director Sam Mendes inserts “Spectre” hero James Bond, played with gritty finesse by Daniel Craig, into Mexico City on the Day of the Dead for a slam-dunk, dazzling start to the film. Returning to London with an octopus-insignia ring, our longtime hero gets chastised by M, now played by Ralph Fiennes in place of Judi Dench, for operating on his own. He’s suspended, but not for long.

“Spectre” is the 24th Bond movie, and the ingredients haven’t changed much. This time Bond’s gadgets don’t always work, adding a little humor, but he still lands in multiple international cities, consorts with glamorous women played by the likes of Stephanie Sigman and Monica Bellucci, and outraces the villains in planes, trains, and automobiles.

Unlike “Steve Jobs,” “Spectre” is a beautiful-to-watch spectacle from the elegant or exotic locations like Rome and Tangiers to the high-octane chases. His support team of Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) supplies the gadgets and data he needs to pursue Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the evil leader of a mysterious international cooperative. It isn’t very clear what the villains are up to, but that’s a minor detail. Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) clues Bond in to what he needs to know about Oberhauser’s terrorist organization, Spectre.

It doesn’t give too much away to say that “Spectre” ends with a nod to a more independent female presence than usual when Bond tosses away his gun and walks off with Dr. Swann.

For screening times and tickets, visit or go to the MVTimes event listings.

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The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center opens “Suffragette” and “Heart of a Dog” this weekend. The two films could provide bookends to the lives of modern women. “Suffragette” delves into the women’s movement in London at the start of the 20th century, while “Heart of a Dog” presents a unique and lyrical self-portrait of the 21st century American performance artist Laurie Anderson.

The Saturday, Nov. 21, the screening of “Suffragette” will start with a talk by Fredie Kay, chair of the MA Women’s Suffrage Celebration Committee. Ms. Kay will discuss the activities planned for the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S., as well as provide background on the movie. The Film Center and the M.V. League of Women Voters are jointly hosting the event.

It is particularly fitting that “Suffragette,” directed by Sarah Gavron, carries a PG-13 rating. That designation may encourage girls and young women to see the film and appreciate the importance of the 19th amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. Carey Mulligan stars in a potentially Oscar-winning performance as Maude Watts, a 24-year-old industrial laundry worker in 1912 London. A composite character drawn by screenwriter Abi Morgan, Maude starts out as an unassuming worker and a loving wife and mother, until a co-worker initiates the process of her radicalization. Her husband Sonny’s (Ben Whishaw) alienation illustrates the painful sacrifices Maude must make.

Many of the film’s other characters are based on actual people. They include Emmeline Pankhurst, played by Meryl Streep, who led the fight for women’s rights in England. Another is Emily Wilding Davison, played by Natalie Press, who was repeatedly imprisoned and endured 49 forced feedings for her hunger strikes. She must make a horrifying choice near the end of the movie. Much of the plot is based on actual events.

“Suffragette” is set visually in a bleak, working-class world where women toil under brutal and dangerous conditions. Maude’s mother was scalded to death, and she carries tattoo-like scars on one arm. Maude’s supervisor Mr. Taylor (Geoff Bell) is a cruel and sexually abusive boss. Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George (Adrian Schiller) seems sympathetic to the women’s plight when they give testimony to their mistreatment, but the British government ignores their call for the vote. As Prime Minister, George did, however, eventually push through the beginnings of the British women’s right to vote.

In a strong performance by Helena Bonham Carter, pharmacist Edith Ellyn leads the fight by the Women’s Social and Political Union, which turns increasingly violent. When words fail, the women turn to activism, bombing mailboxes, cutting electrical lines, and even blowing up George’s summer home.

In an early use of surveillance techniques, Special Branch detective Arthur Steed, in a subtle performance by Brendon Gleeson, employs new cameras to track the women’s activities. The importance of winning media coverage offers another early example of how the fight for the vote proceeded.

“Suffragette” describes a grim chapter in the fight for women’s rights. The struggle was not an easy one, and it is a chilling reminder of how difficult it can be to bring about needed change.


‘Heart of a Dog’: A meditation on life, love, and death

Laurie Anderson’s dog Lolabelle creates the framework for the well-known musician/artist’s impressionistic meditation. Opening with the artist’s semiabstract drawings, Ms. Anderson pays tribute to a pet that played an important role in her life. This documentary demands the viewer’s patience and understanding as it pieces together fragments of the artist’s life and builds a narrative of sorts that includes not only her rat terrier’s extraordinary life, but that of Ms. Anderson’s late mother and her late husband, the musician Lou Reed.

Ms. Anderson’s voiceover helps unify the film, as she describes the trip she took with Lolabelle to the northern hills of California and uses experimental film techniques like cracked and indistinct images to convey meaning. “Heart of a Dog” will not appeal to all viewers, but it succeeds in conveying complex truths about life, death, mourning, and love.


For screening times and tickets, visit or go to MVTimes event listings.

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A photo of the old Penn Station. —Courtesy Justin Rivers

Justin Rivers of Brooklyn and Edgartown is finally seeing the realization of a project that has been more than 10 years in the making. His play “The Eternal Space” is about to debut Off-Broadway at the Lion Theater on Theater Row in New York.

The title “The Eternal Space” refers to the former Penn Station, which was razed in 1963 to cut down on the high cost of maintaining the 1910 Beaux Arts architectural masterpiece. The station was relocated underground, and the Penn Plaza complex and Madison Square Garden erected above. It was a controversial move that resulted in citywide protests and harsh criticism from the press.

A New York Times journalist of the day wrote, “Until the first blow fell, no one was convinced that Penn Station really would be demolished, or that New York would permit this monumental act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance.”

Playwright Justin Rivers. —Courtesy Justin Rivers
Playwright Justin Rivers. —Courtesy Justin Rivers

With his two-man play, Mr. Rivers is not only presenting an interesting psychological drama concerning a pair of very different characters with distinct backgrounds and views, he is also helping to keep the former Penn Station alive for a new generation.

Mr. Rivers wasn’t even alive during the era of the original Penn Station, and he had no knowledge of the loss of the landmark until he stumbled upon a book of photos taken during the demolition process. This discovery took place in the wake of the loss of another New York City landmark.

“It was right after 9/11,” says the playwright. “It was the winter of 2002 when I found Peter Moore’s book on the destruction of Penn Station. There were photos documenting the process. It absolutely moved me. I didn’t know Penn Station was what it once was: one of the most beautiful buildings in New York.”

A relative newcomer to New York — Mr. Rivers lives in Brooklyn, where he works as an educator — the playwright found a connection between the loss of the Twin Towers and the demolition of Penn Station. “I sort of linked the two events,” he says. In the play, Mr. Rivers examines the questions that he was exploring at the time. “When iconic pieces of architecture are taken from us, how does that drive the collective psyche of the city?” he says. “We don’t miss something until it’s gone. What does that mean to us?”

Although the play delves into the lives and personalities of its two main characters, the star of the show is, in a way, the building itself. Through extensive research — which included tracking down some of the original photographers or their archives — Mr. Rivers has gathered over 2,000 photos of the demolition project taken by five different photographers. A wide selection of these images is used as a backdrop for the drama. A tech team has managed to recreate areas of the original building, using multiple and fractured images projected around all sides of the stage area.

“This is completely different than the way we used the images for readings,” says Mr. Rivers. “They’ve built a set that mocks a room in Penn Station by taking the photos, cutting them and using four or five different projections to recreate the rooms. There are seven different locations. It’s far beyond what I had ever imagined.”

Of the design team, Mr. Rivers says, “It’s become a passion project for them. They just love it and want to see it grow.”


The two actors who have signed on are equally dedicated to the project.

Clyde Baldo, who plays an English teacher and demolition protester, has appeared in over 50 plays, 30 films, 16 commercials, and 5 network TV spots. Mr. Baldo is also a director, acting coach, and playwright.

Matthew Pilieci, whose character is a construction worker and photographer who is among the demolition team, has been working in film and New York City theater for the past 13 years. He is also co-founder of the Amoralists Theater Company.

“Both [actors] have been working on this show for three years throughout the reading and developing process,” says Mr. Rivers. “They’ve grown really fond of these characters. Watching them in rehearsal, the characters have changed completely.”

“The Eternal Space” has been staged as a reading several times, most notably for the American Institute of Architects’ 50th anniversary memorial for the destruction of Penn Station, for a program at the Transit Museum, at Fordham Lincoln Center, and for the Municipal Arts Society of New York’s 2015 summit.

Mr. Rivers was able to recruit award-winning director Mindy Cooper for the play’s world premiere at the Lion Theater. Ms. Cooper has directed, choreographed, and performed in a number of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including “Chicago” (original revival) and “Titanic” (original cast).

The play will run for three weeks. Mr. Rivers, who has been spending summers on the Vineyard since 1994, notes that he has maintained many friendships with year-round Islanders. A group of Vineyarders will be heading to New York this coming Saturday for opening night.


“The Eternal Space” will run from Nov. 14 to Dec. 6 at the Lion Theater on Theater Row on 42nd Street. For tickets, more information, and a look at a trailer and a videotaped excerpt from the play, visit


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Taiwanese director Hsiao-Hsien Hou brings medieval China to the screen in his elegant and exotic “The Assassin.” The film opens this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Mr. Hsiao-Hsien won the 2015 Best Director award at Cannes, and it is easy to understand why. He immerses the viewer in a world unlike any in modern life. Like Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000), “The Assassin” belongs to the Wuxia genre of martial arts films. It is set in the medieval world of the 8th century Tang Dynasty, beset by tensions between its provinces and the imperial court. During a nearly 10-minute, black-and-white prologue, Mr. Hsiao-Hsien sets up the complicated narrative about Nie Yinniang (Qi Shu), a young woman who has been trained as a warrior after being exiled from Weibo province.

Her mentor, the princess/nun Jiaxin (Fang-Yi Sheu), commands her to return to Weibo and to commit three assassinations. The first killing goes as swiftly as a dance move, but the next one finds Yinniang reluctant, because she finds her target playing with his son. Jiaxin chastises her, saying, “Your heart lacks resolve,” then gives her an even more challenging mission. She must kill Governor Tian (Chang Chen of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”); he is her cousin and the man to whom she was once betrothed.

The cast of characters in “The Assassin” is not easy to keep straight, but the viewer can always follow Yinniang because she is dressed in black. She slips through copses of trees, lurks as a shadowy figure obscured by billowing curtains, or perches in the rafters above courtiers in conversation. The action moves slowly, with characters often posed rigidly like statues, almost trapped in their elegant period costumes. There is usually movement in the settings or the camerawork. Gauzy curtains blow gently, sometimes obscuring the foreground; the glow of candles may dominate, and the camera often pans slowly across panoramas as exquisitely arranged as paintings. At times, an interior scene will be out of focus. When the action moves outdoors, Hsiao-Hsien usually relies on long shots, where characters seem almost swallowed up by the larger natural world. The outdoor scenes were filmed in Inner Mongolia and Hubei Province.

The film’s occasional fight scenes explode into the narrative, but they are usually set in the background rather than taking over as they would in modern martial arts films. Music director Giong Lim won the Cannes soundtrack award for his muted counterpoints to action and dialogue. Music only occasionally plays, characters often remain silent for extended stretches, and the natural world emerges quietly in birdsong and other elements. The director balances the arresting components of this ancient world with more commonplace elements. Yinniang takes a bath, children watch an insect fly or play with a ball; there is an acupuncture scene, and characters are often shown eating.

In terms of conventional narrative patterns, camerawork, and character development, “The Assassin” is not an easy film to absorb. Instead, it exists in its own exquisitely beautiful world, and it should be appreciated as such.

For a listing of movie showtimes, visit us online at   


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Camila Márdila and Regina Casé in "The Second Mother." —Courtesy of

“The Second Mother,” Brazil’s entry for the 2016 Foreign Language Oscar, opens at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. “Truth,” the gripping story of how “60 Minutes” blundered in its coverage of George W. Bush’s military service, continues at the Capawock Theatre.

Class and generational conflict in ‘The Second Mother’

Playing a São Paulo family’s housekeeper, Val (Brazilian TV personality Regina Casé) lights up the screen in “The Second Mother.” Val serves as doting de facto mother to Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), the 17-year-old son of her employers, Bárbara (Karine Teles) and Carlos (Lourenco Mutalli). She is also long-distance mom to her own daughter, Jessica (Camila Márdila). Ms. Casé and Ms. Márdila shared a Sundance Special Jury Award as mother and daughter.

Everything changes in this domestic comedy when Jessica comes to live with Val in São Paulo and take the entrance exams for architecture school. Val has functioned comfortably as a second-class citizen with her wealthy employers for 13 years. She has virtually raised Fabinho, and so close is their relationship that he still occasionally crawls into her bed and sleeps with her. She would never think of sitting in the dining room with Carlos and Bárbara, let alone swimming in the family pool. Yet she’s no pushover, badgering Carlos to eat the food she prepares and take his medicine, and purchasing an espresso set for Bárbara.

Alienated by her mother’s longtime absence, Jessica arrives with none of the class consciousness to which her mother dutifully adheres. Carlos, a onetime painter coasting on inherited wealth, comes on to Jessica, as does Fabinho, not that either meets with success. Jessica remains firmly independent and unobtrusively conscientious about her exam preparations. But she’s not above horsing around in the pool with Fabinho and his friends, choosing the guest bedroom over a mattress in Val’s cramped room, and eating Fabinho’s personal ice cream stock. Director Anna Muylaert wields a deft touch in illustrating the household dynamics.

As warmhearted and loving as she is an efficient housekeeper, Val is repeatedly shocked by her daughter’s refusal to maintain the servant-master boundaries she so faithfully observes. She pressures her daughter to follow the rules, but Jessica finds them offensive and inappropriate. Bárbara grows increasingly impatient with this interloper. As tensions heighten, the plot takes a number of unexpected, but convincing, twists and turns, until Val finds a way to satisfy both her own needs and those of her daughter.


‘Truth’: How a news story went astray

In 2004, CBS’s awardwinning news show “60 Minutes” aired an investigation of George W. Bush’s checkered military service. In the fictional version of events, producer Mary Mapes, in a tour de force performance by Cate Blanchett, uncovers evidence that then-President Bush, running for re-election, had used his family’s influence to avoid serving in Vietnam. He also might have gone AWOL while serving in the Alabama National Guard. A tsunami of criticism follows the story and leads to the downfall of both Ms. Mapes and “60 Minutes” anchor Dan Rather, played winningly by Robert Redford.

Director James Vanderbilt, who wrote the screenplay for “Zodiac,” another movie highlighting investigative journalism, takes a hard look at how the Bush military service story fell apart. At the same time, he portrays Ms. Mapes, her team of researchers, and Mr. Rather sympathetically. Ms. Mapes won the Peabody Award for her Abu Ghraib coverage, and Mr. Rather was probably the most respected news anchor at the time. With irony reverberating off its ambiguous title, “Truth” takes on tragic tones as it explores the machinery of investigative news reporting and the interaction of journalism with government and politics.

The Swift Boat controversy that derailed John Kerry’s attempt to defeat Bush was unfolding at the same time, and provides an example of how news coverage affects political issues.

One devastating revelation follows another in the Bush military service story; key witnesses lie or change their stories, and political pressures mount. CBS’s corporate executives side with critics of the story rather than support their journalists, letting the admitted errors in research overwhelm the substance of questions about Mr. Bush’s military service. Topher Grace as Mike Smith, Dennis Quaid as Lieutt. Col. Roger Charles, and Elizabeth Moss as journalism professor Lucy Scott turn in convincing roles as members of Ms. Mapes’s research team.

One of the most interesting aspects of “Truth” is the way it shows how the Internet and electronic devices have changed the way journalists operate. Critics of the Bush military service story question whether key documents could be genuine, based on type fonts that were more common on computers than the typewriters of the time. What happens to documents when they are photocopied provides another piece of the story. The poignant message of “Truth” suggests that the evidence that provides the basis for journalists’ stories has grown ever more complex and elusive.


‘Stories for a Starry Night’

Three of the Island’s awardwinning artists will join forces on Sunday, Nov. 8, in “Stories for a Starry Night — For Love of a Small Island.” Storyteller Susan Klein, photographer Alan Brigish, and pianist Gary Girouard will celebrate Vineyard life in a 4 pm performance at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Ms. Klein will recount stories from her childhood in Oak Bluffs against a background of Mr. Brigish’s photographs and Mr. Girouard’s piano solos.


For screening times and tickets, visit or go to MVTimes event listings.

Photo by Ralph Stewart

This week the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse will bring back its popular off-season film offering, Monday Movies, with host Jamie Alley from Island Entertainment Video. This weekly cinematic treat kicks off Monday, Nov. 2, with the film “Rope,” a 1948 American psychological crime thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the 1929 play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton. The film concerns two implicit homosexual college chums, played by Farley Granger and John Dall. Their heads filled with Nietzschean philosophy by their kindly professor James Stewart, Granger and Dall kill a third friend just for the thrill of it. Film begins at 7:30 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. $5, cash only, at the door.

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National Lampoon became a comic institution in the 1970s, and included the talent of John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and others. Photo courtesy M.V. Film Center

Currently playing at Island cinemas are two documentaries very different in approach and subject. “He Named Me Malala” portrays the remarkable Pakistani teenager who has campaigned for girls’ education from an early age. “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon” tracks the history of the celebrated satirical magazine. Both use distinctive cinematic techniques to convey their message.

Malala Yousafzai grew up in Pakistan’s Swat Valley at a time when the Taliban were emerging as a powerful force, opposing education for girls as well as threatening anyone who spoke out against their violent tactics. Her father Ziauddin named his daughter after a heroic Afghani teenager who led the fight against British invaders in the 19th century. As the film’s title suggests, Malala’s father has both inspired and guided his daughter’s advocacy.

Davis Guggenheim, Vineyard seasonal resident, who also directed the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” on Al Gore and global warming, incorporates animated sequences to fill out Malala’s story. They substitute for archival footage, one of documentary filmmaking’s most basic tools, and suggest an appeal to children. The film delves into the family’s history with both live-action sequences and animation. It shows Ziauddin, a schoolteacher who overcame stuttering, giving rousing speeches in support of nonviolence. In contrast with her daughter, Malala’s mother has remained uneducated after an early introduction as the only female in a neighborhood classroom, and she stays in the film’s background. The two Yousafzai sons provide lively evidence of Malala’s warm and supportive family life.

Guggenheim’s film illustrates the violence instigated by Taliban leaders, who blew up Pakistani schools for girls and regularly murdered their opponents. The 15-year-old Malala was riding home from school in a bus when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head, also injuring two of her friends. She was not expected to survive, let alone recover, but after evacuation to Birmingham, England, where surgery was performed and she underwent extensive physical therapy, Malala resumed her work as an activist. She has traveled worldwide to promote girls’ education, including a visit to the parents of girls abducted in Nigeria by Islamist rebels. In 2014, she shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Indian activist for children’s rights Kailash Satyarthi, becoming the youngest person ever to receive the award.

Malala continues to speak out in support of education for girls, and on her 18th birthday she was present for the opening of a girl’s school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The strongest aspect of “He Named Me Malala” is its illustration of Malala’s charismatic presence as a public speaker. The film does not explore the extent to which her father has been responsible for her powerful speeches, but whether the words are written by her or not, she enlivens them with passion and conviction. The Sunday, Nov. 1, screening of the film at 4 pm will be free to viewers 18 and under, and MV Youth Leadership Initiative will lead a post-film discussion.

A history of the National Lampoon

Vineyard Haven resident Judy Jacklin Belushi helped open “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon” at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center last weekend. Both she and her husband John Belushi worked for the magazine and its adjuncts, and the film returns to the Film Center this weekend. Most notable about Douglas Tirola’s film is the way it uses flash editing and multiple still shots to tell its story. Rather than burying the magazine in its history, the techniques give the film a very current feel. Add to that the use of footage rarely or never before seen.

A spinoff of the Harvard Lampoon, the National Lampoon reigned during the nation’s heyday of magazines in the 1970s, with a peak circulation of 1 million. The magazine successfully expanded its brand into other media, including radio, TV, film, and the Internet, before its 2010 demise. The avowed goal was to shatter every conceivable cultural taboo, and the magazine succeeded in overturning the conventions for acceptable comedy, setting today’s ground rules. It also served as a breeding ground for some of the nation’s best-known comedians. In addition to John Belushi, Christopher Guest, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner appeared in Lampoon-sponsored shows like “The National Lampoon Radio Hour” and the immensely popular movie “Animal House.”

For a listing of movie showtimes see page C11, or visit us online at

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative (MVYLI) invite everyone under the age of 18 to a free screening of the new film “He Named Me Malala” at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Sunday, November 1 at 4 pm. The film, written and directed by Vineyard seasonal resident Davis Guggenheim, is a documentary about Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai whose life is threatened after she speaks out on behalf of girls’ education. Consequently, Malala emerges as a leading advocate for children’s rights and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. The film will be followed by interactive dialogue led by Gia Winsryg-Ulmer and the  MVYLI Youth. For advance tickets visit

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Tom Hanks stars in "Bridge of Spies" as a lawyer defending a Russian agent during the Cold War. —Courtesy

Director Steven Spielberg teams up with filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen (revising Matt Charman’s script) to create a compelling espionage thriller, “Bridge of Spies,” which plays this week at the Capawock Theater and Entertainment Cinemas. Next week, one of last month’s International Film Festival favorites, “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” returns to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

In “Bridge of Spies” Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance make this dark film a winner.

The thriller opens with Russian agent Rudolf Abel, played by Rylance, who excelled as Thomas Cromwell in PBS’s “Wolf Hall,” gazing at himself in a mirror as he finishes painting a self-portrait. We follow him to the Manhattan Bridge, where he sets up an easel, and removes a nickel containing secret code from under his park bench. Back in his hotel room, this meticulous man uses a razor blade wrapped in a matchbook to slice open the coin and retrieve its message. Soon the quiet of his hotel room explodes with American C.I.A. agents who have come to arrest Abel, who appears with Coen-style humor in his underwear.

Insurance lawyer James Donovan, played with stolid charm by Hanks, enters the story when he is asked to defend Abel. The year is 1957, at the height of the cold war, making the captured Russian spy a public pariah and the lawyer almost equally disliked for defending him. The courtroom scenes in “Bridge of Spies” demonstrate Donovan’s determination to give his client the same representation he would an American. In a sense, the American justice system is on trial along with Abel.

Almost immediately noticeable in Spielberg’s film are its flat lighting and gray palette. The men — Amy Ryan, playing Donovan’s wife, is almost the only representative of the distaff side — look meaty and somber in baggy suits and fedoras. The world in “Bridge of Spies” is grim and unappealing. The Abel case proceeds all the way to the Supreme Court, and Donovan keeps his client from being executed.

In a parallel plot, American U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is trained to photograph Soviet installations, and he has his own coin. But instead of containing a secret code, it provides him with the poison to kill himself if caught. His plane is shot down, and he doesn’t die but ends up in a Russian prison.

Donovan is tapped by the C.I.A. to negotiate a prisoner exchange. Just to complicate the plot and illustrate the lawyer’s solid American values, Donovan insists on including in the exchange an American student caught on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall and imprisoned by the East Germans. The prisoner swap in Berlin becomes a three-way push-pull, with tension between the Soviets and East Germany as well as the Soviets and the U.S.

All this complicated cold war history should remind the audience that the U.S.-Russian tensions (leading to the current conflict in Syria being called a proxy war) have parallels in the past. Director Spielberg suggests that the bad guys, once called denizens of an evil empire by Ronald Reagan, were not so different from the good-guy Americans in the way they executed their spying shenanigans. It’s a lesson that could be applied today.


The adventures of a 100-year-old man

May we all be as agile and Teflon-coated lucky as Allan Karlsson in the loony Swedish comedy that is “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.”

Allan, played by well-known Swedish actor Robert Gustafsson, lands in a nursing home after he blows up the fox that killed his beloved cat Molotov. On his birthday, Allan decides to escape, as the title explains, rather than face a party complete with giant marzipan cake. He makes his way to the local bus station for a getaway. There he meets a skinhead biker who foists a suitcase on him to hold while in a rush to the loo. Allan departs with the suitcase in hand.

Once he gets off the bus, he befriends Julius (Iwar Wiklander), and when the two pry open the suitcase, they find $50 million in cash. Meanwhile, the movie folds in multiple flashbacks explaining Allan’s youth and love of explosions, as well as the many fantastic experiences that take place over his 100-year lifespan. Like the hero of Woody Allen’s classic film “Zelig,” Allan is paired with numerous world figures, including Franco, Stalin, Truman, Reagan, Gorbachev, and Robert Oppenheimer. After one of numerous apparently accidental killings, Allan and Julius hop a railroad cart with one of their victims, the first of several bumbling hoodlums trying to retrieve their money. Among the misadventures narrated in flashback are a mental hospital stay, sterilization, bridge explosions, and time in the gulag. Chief police inspector Aronsson (Ralph Carlsson) starts tracking Allan and his cohorts without much success. The past accomplishments of the 100-year-old man include solving a plutonium problem in the Manhattan Project, and spying simultaneously for the C.I.A. and the Russians.

The movie piles on one more incredible incident after another. Allan and Julius hitch a ride with indecisive Benny (David Wiberg), who has almost finished easily a dozen academic degrees. They end up at the rural home of Gunilla (Mia Skaringer), who keeps a pet elephant, Sonja. The movie quite ingeniously ties together the highly improbable events in Allan’s long life, and if the litany of incidents as long or longer than the movie’s title don’t exhaust you, you’ll enjoy this silly celebration of a centenarian with an amazing past and present.


“Bridge of Spies,” Thursday, Oct. 22, 6:30 pm; Friday, Oct. 23, and Sunday, Oct. 25, 6 pm; Saturday, Oct. 24, 8:45 pm at the Capawock Theater. Thursday Oct. 22, 3:30 and 6:30 pm at Entertainment Cinemas. “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” Friday, Oct. 30, 7:30 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.


—Photo courtesy National Lampoon

On Saturday, Oct. 24, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center will host a special screening of “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon,” which will be followed by a Q&A with guest Judy Belushi.

From the 1970s through the 1990s, there was no hipper, no more outrageous comedy in print than the National Lampoon, the groundbreaking humor magazine that pushed the limits of taste and acceptability — and then pushed them even harder. Parodying everything from politics, religion, entertainment, and the whole of American lifestyle, the Lampoon eventually went on to branch into successful radio shows, record albums, live stage revues, and movies, including “Animal House” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” launching dozens of huge careers on the way.

According to a press release, director Douglas Tirola’s documentary “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon” details the institution’s rise and fall through fresh, candid interviews with its key staff, and illustrated with hundreds of outrageous images from the magazine itself (along with never-seen interview footage from the magazine’s prime). The film gives fans of the Lampoon a unique inside look at what made the magazine tick, its key players, and why it was so outrageously successful: a magazine that dared to think what no one was thinking, but wished they had.

Judy Belushi was just 20 years old when she and John Belushi (then 22) moved from sweet home Chicago to New York City to work for the National Lampoon. John was hired to join the cast and writers for a an innovative, rock-festival musical parody called “Lemmings,” while Judy worked in the magazine’s art department. One year later, Judy transferred to assist the producer of the National Lampoon Radio Hour, and within half a year, John became the Radio Hour’s creative director. For several years they worked in this creative environment, during which time they formed and cemented friendships with a vast array of future co-workers and superstars.

Judy holds a unique perspective in the Lampoon spectrum in that she worked in every medium within the media conglomerate’s world: from magazine to stage, to radio, to records, to movies — and at the same time, she shared John Belushi’s perspective into the machinations behind the scenes of one of the greatest moments in the history of entertainment.

Judy will talk briefly and answer questions after the viewing of the documentary.


“Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon,” Saturday, Oct. 24, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Tickets at the box office or in advance online at; doors open for admission 30 minutes prior to screening time. Admission for the event: $15, or $12 for Film Society members; benefits the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society.