Film

by -
0
'Jaws' was filmed on the Vineyard and set in the fictional resort town of Amity Island. – Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

When the Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs officially reopens to the public for business on Saturday, June 20, it will join its Vineyard Haven sister, the Capawock Theatre, in celebrating the 40th anniversary of that Vineyard landmark film Jaws. Moviegoers can pick a 9:30 pm screening at the Strand or a 6:30 pm showing at the Capawock. Some of the fun of watching the 1975 Steven Spielberg film that launched the blockbuster era will be to sit in one of the Vineyard’s vintage movie theaters while seeing familiar Vineyard locales onscreen.

The colorful history of the Strand is tied for three generations to the Hall family of Edgartown. Although the Capawock, dating from 1912, precedes the Strand, which originally opened as a movie theatre in 1915, as the Island’s oldest movie theater, in its day the Strand was still among the oldest operating movie theaters in New England. Its 120-foot-long shape reflects its original use as a bowling alley, then called the Pastime. Irish immigrant Michael Keegan converted it into a movie theater and renamed it the Strand.

In 1929 Edgartown businessman Alfred Hall bought the Strand, along with the Island and the Capawock, at a time when Oak Bluffs was home to four movie theaters. In addition to the Strand and the Island, there were the Eagle and the Sea Breeze, and according to Mr. Hall’s son Benjamin (“Buzz”) Hall, E.M. Loews was planning a fifth until the Depression arrived.

The senior Mr. Hall brought celebrities to the Island to promote their movies. As a boy, his son Benjamin remembers turning an invitation to the 1943 Vineyard premiere at the family-owned Strand of The Moon and Sixpence into a paper airplane. Based on the novel by Somerset Maugham, the movie opening provided the occasion for a talk by Maugham at the Strand, and was attended by stage and screen actors Katharine Cornell and Garson Kanin.

The exterior of the newly renovated Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs. – Photo by Max Skjoldebrand
The exterior of the newly renovated Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs. – Photo by Max Skjoldebrand

Benjamin Hall also remembers that singing cowboy Gene Autry appeared at the Strand to promote his movies, and a one-hour TV special on Autry included images of the Strand and the Island theaters. Dating from the 1930s to the 1950s, Autry’s movies introduced country music to a national audience, and his TV series ran from 1950 to 1956.

The Strand fell into disrepair in 1998, and remained closed from 1999 to 2002, while a third-generation member of the Hall family, Brian Hall, worked on renovations that helped maintain the building’s original features. Once movies ceased to be screened on celluloid reels and the technology switched to digital projection and sound, it became prohibitively expensive to convert and operate single-screen movie theaters like the Strand. Both the Strand and the Capawock theaters closed once again, until Mark Snider, owner with his wife Gwenn of Katama’s Winnetu Oceanside Resort, formed the Martha’s Vineyard Theatre Foundation. He began a campaign to raise the money to lease the Strand and the Capawock from the Hall family, then renovate and reopen them. The Capawock, which needed fewer renovations, opened first on May 29. A special, invitation-only event at the 250-seat Strand on Friday, June 19, will feature music by Dwight & Nicole, and a movie, as yet not named. The possibility of adding the Island Theatre to the Martha’s Vineyard Theatre Foundation sites is under consideration.

In a telephone interview this week, Mr. Snider said heat and air conditioning have been added to the Strand, along with a complete reoutfitting of the restrooms. The seating has been adjusted to allow for more legroom, and the movie screen has been retrofitted to allow use of the stage behind it, allowing for lectures and multipurpose events as well as films.

by -
0
Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce star in "Results." – Photo courtesy dailyactor.com

Mumblecore alumnus Andrew Bujalski sets his latest romantic comedy in the world of an Austin, Texas, workout gym. Results plays this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Playing at the Capawock and Strand theaters is John McLean’s debut film, Slow West, a refreshing reinvention of that classic genre.

Results is not your conventional romantic comedy. Its central characters are lonely, semi-loser misfits drifting through life while they tone their muscles. Trevor (Guy Pearce of Iron Man 3) runs Power 4 Life gym, while Cat (Cobie Smulders of Avengers: Age of Ultron) is his super-intense, most popular trainer and sometime lover. Danny (Kevin Corrigan, who plays Bob Kirkland in The Mentalist) kick-starts the action with a move from New York to Austin after his divorce to collect the inheritance his mother has left him, and an aimless decision to start working out. Paul (Giovanni Ribisi of Ted and Avatar) is the lawyer and sort-of-friend Danny meets in a bar. These four hang out at Trevor’s gym, the local bars, or Danny’s rented mega-mansion.

The always optimistic Trevor has an on-again, off-again relationship with Cat, who is as prickly as a porcupine and has plenty of control issues. Newly rich Danny hires Cat for private, at-home training lessons, and fumbles around finding ways to spend his new fortune. These include trolling the Internet to buy a cat, and paying a first-comer to turn on his TV set for him. Paul shows up when Danny needs advice or dope.

The leisurely pace writer and director Bujalski sets as he explores the relationships among these characters may irritate some viewers, but it accurately reflects the world of 30somethings where computers and cell phones keep people apart, and even toning your body at a gym doesn’t do much for establishing real relationships. Results will not make the viewer break out in guffaws, but it does offer chuckles and insights into how the world of romance works these days.

 

slow-west-poster_flickeringmyth.jpgSlow West at the Strand and Capawock

British Director John McLean puts a fresh spin on the Western in his debut film Slow West. Set in Colorado in 1870, the movie tracks the journey into a barbaric West by Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 16-year-old Scot who is searching for Rose (Caren Pistorius), the love of his young life. Rose left Scotland with her father after he killed Jay’s father, and Jay feels responsible for the tragic mishap.

This lanky, six-foot two-inch innocent is rescued from one disaster after another by one Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), whose motives for protecting Jay turn out to be less than pure. Along the way, dead bodies pile up one after another. Silas is as cynical as Jay is romantic, and he has more than a passing acquaintance with a gang of bounty hunters headed by fur-bedecked Payne (Ben Mendelsohn).

Slow West was filmed on the south island of New Zealand, and its lushly beautiful landscapes add a tinge of something not quite American to the stunning cinematography. Rose is not the kind of young woman one might expect as the object of Jay’s affections. Periodic little visual touches add satisfying elements of surprise: an egg, an arrow through the hand, an unusually placed clothesline, a rogue’s gallery of corpses. Many of the usual conventions of the Western remain intact, including the pairing of the ingénue with an older buckaroo, the violent gunplay, and the appearance of Native Americans, but in Slow West they seem more reinvented than cliché.

 

Results, Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20, 7:30 pm; Sunday, June 21, 4 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven.

Slow West, Saturday, June 20, 9 pm, and Tuesday, June 23, 6:30 pm, Capawock Theatre, 43 Main St., Vineyard Haven; Monday, June 22, 7 pm, Strand Theatre, Oak Bluffs Avenue, Oak Bluffs. For tickets and information on other films playing at all three theatres, see mvfilmsociety.com.

 

Aloha (PG-13)

A celebrated military contractor returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs and reconnects with a long-ago love while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog assigned to him. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, starring Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, and Emma Stone.

Entourage (R)

In this remake of the HBO comedy series, movie star Vincent Chase and his boys Eric, Turtle, and Johnny, are back in business with super-agent-turned-studio head Ari Gold on a risky project that will serve as Vince’s directorial debut. Starring Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, and Jeremy Piven.

Inside Out (PG)

In this animated comedy, young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco. Her emotions — Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness — conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school. With the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, and Lewis Black.

Jaws (PG)

The classic Vineyard shark tale returns. Peter Benchley’s story, filmed on the Vineyard, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss, will once again have viewers thinking twice before they jump into the ocean.

Love & Mercy (PG-13)

An unconventional film about the life and legacy of the Beach Boys’ leader Brian Wilson, as he struggles with emerging psychosis and attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece in the ’60s. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the watch of a shady therapist. Starring John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti.

Mad Max: Fury Road (R)

The desert wastelands inhabited by the Road Warrior are still rife with motorized gangs in this fourth chapter of the Mad Max legend. Almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Two rebels on the run might just be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman who believes her quest for survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland. Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult.

Spy (R)

In this action-comedy written and directed by Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, a deskbound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, and Jude Law.

Ted 2 (PG)

In this comedy sequel, the teddy bear Ted and Tami-Lynn, a newlywed couple, want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he’s a person in a court of law. Written and directed by Seth MacFarlane, and starring Liam Neeson, Mark Wahlberg, and Amanda Seyfried.

 

by -
0
Melissa McCarthy stars in the action comedy "Spy." – Photo courtesy fandango.com

It’s hard to imagine a music fan who doesn’t love the Beach Boys, those avatars of ’60s surfer music. But filmgoers may find themselves surprised by what they find in Love & Mercy, director Bill Pohlad’s portrait of Brian Wilson, currently playing at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and Entertainment Cinemas. This remarkable film delves deep into the psyche of the Beach Boys’ brilliant headliner, and explores how he crafted the group’s music despite struggles with mental illness and drug abuse.

Love & Mercy portrays Brian as he begins to move away from the pop tunes that launched the group’s initial success in the mid-’60s, and 20 years later as he recovers from the psychological problems that plagued him as a young man. Paul Dano plays the young, ’60s Brian, who shifts musical gears with the creation of his 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds and Smile, which wasn’t released in its original form until 2011. Brian’s bandmates, brothers Dennis (Kenny Wormald) and Carl (Brett Davern), seem happy to go along with his move in a new, more complex direction, while less tolerant cousin Mike Love (Jake Abel) resists it, favoring the sure-fire pop machine approach.

The film opens with the middle-aged, ’80s version of Brian, played by John Cusack, as he shops for a new car at a Cadillac dealership. Ex-model Melinda Ledbetter, played by Elizabeth Banks, is the salesperson who waits on him, and he is instantly captivated by her. Although Ms. Banks is a drop-dead blonde beauty, her looks matter less than her sweet-natured attentiveness to Brian, and the moral strength that she conveys so successfully. When Brian first walks into the car dealership, she doesn’t even recognize him as the pop music superstar he is.

Quick to assert himself as part of Brian’s entourage is Gene Landy (a terrifying Paul Giamatti), who is Brian’s manipulative psychologist, pill dispenser, and legal guardian. Gene echoes the Wilson brothers’ abusive father Murry (Bill Camp), who served as the band’s manager in the early days and appears in the Dano sections of the film.

love_and_mercy_poster.jpgLove & Mercy smoothly slips back and forth between Dano’s Brian and Cusack’s. Neither actor looks like Brian, but it doesn’t matter; they function persuasively as mirror images of a single person. Dano captures the childlike innocence of the young Brian, who suffers from panic attacks and refuses to go on tour with the rest of the band, experiments with drugs, and careens into serious mental illness. This Brian comes alive in the recording studio, working with the celebrated sessions band Wrecking Crew, and tinkering with unconventional and radical sound effects that include barking dogs and bobby-pinned piano strings.
Cusack’s ’80s Brian is the damaged soul struggling to recover a modicum of balance in his life and, especially, to escape from Gene’s increasingly destructive manipulations. Brian reaches out to Melinda, who plays a central role in wresting him from Gene’s clutches and helps him find his way back to normalcy. The real Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter, who are married and the parents of five children, consulted on the film.

Many parts of the Brian Wilson story are elided in the film — his relationship with his first wife and their two daughters after their divorce, for instance. The more graphic aspects of his mental illness and drug abuse stay in the background, as does his connection to his brothers. His mother plays virtually no part in the film. What stands out loud and clear is the remarkable talent of this musician, and his ability to exercise it despite almost overwhelming problems.

Melissa McCarthy as a superduper CIA agent in Spy

Since she stole the show in Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy has become a comic phenom, and she is at her best in the new James Bond send-up Spy, currently playing at the Capawock Theater and Entertainment Cinemas. As C.I.A. analyst Susan Cooper, she has been relegated to the agency basement and computer tracking for years, while Bradley Fine (Jude Law) gets all the action. Her role on the sidelines changes, though, when her C.I.A. boss (an uncredited Allison Janney) assigns her to go undercover in the field and keep a stolen nuclear weapon out of terrorists’ hands.

Writer and director Paul Feig has a knack for combining boldness and timidity in Susan, just as he did when he created McCarthy’s breakout role as Megan in Bridesmaids. Susan may get to leave her desk job behind, but not without plenty of insults and humiliating disguises. No matter.  Susan rises to the challenge, and learns to assert herself among a gaggle of dimwitted macho operatives. She also holds her own against the far more glamorous and equally foul-mouthed villainesses she is assigned to track.

Particularly successful is the way the movie puts McCarthy’s “plus” size to good advantage. Susan uses her weight effectively both in fight scenes and, hilariously, with a dumbly arrogant rogue agent as well as an overamorous Italian one. Director Feig knows how to set up his Susan in comic situations without really squashing her. A cat-lady disguise hardly fazes Susan, and after tipping over on a motorcycle, she quickly outmaneuvers the bad guys by driving a bright red motor scooter.

Spy is a movie that celebrates feminine smarts and physical strengths. No matter that the plot’s twists and turns are often total nonsense. When was James Bond anything but fantasy? And at the close of the movie, when too-handsome-to-be-real Jude Law’s Bradley Fine invites Susan out to dinner to celebrate a mission successfully accomplished, she chooses a night out with the girls instead. Touché!

 

Love & Mercy, Thursday, June 11, and Saturday, June 13, 7:30 pm; Friday, June 12, 4 pm, at Martha’s Vineyard Film Center; and Friday, June 12, 4 pm, 7 pm, 9:30 pm; Sunday, June 14, 1 pm, 4 pm; Tuesday, June 16, 12:45 pm, 3:45 pm, 6:45 pm at Entertainment Cinemas.

Spy, Friday, June 12, 6:30 pm; Saturday, June 13, 9 pm at Capawock Theater, Vineyard Haven; and Saturday, June 13, 1 pm, 4 pm, 6:45 pm, 9:25 pm; Sunday, June 14, 12:45 pm, 3:45 pm; Monday, June 15, 3:45 pm, 6:45 pm; Wednesday, June 17, 12:45 pm, 3:45 pm, 6:45 pm at Entertainment Cinemas.

 

by -
1
The newly renovated Capawock shines bright on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. – Photo by Heidi Vick

Saturday night, as the sun was meeting the west, a line started forming in front of the newly renovated Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven. The excitement was palpable. Warm welcomes, handshakes, hugs, smiles, and thanks set the mood for a pitch-perfect evening. It was obvious people had been waiting for this moment.

The freshly painted exterior welcomed moviegoers, the bright red front doors leading the way to what will undoubtedly become a new local favorite. Upon entering the theater, you are warmly greeted in the lobby by beautiful murals, courtesy of the talented Margot Datz.

The brand-new concession stand lured in visitors; after all, what’s a movie without a soda and popcorn? Even better, the popcorn at the theater is non-GMO, and comes with a choice of seasoning, including Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt, at no extra charge. If it’s sugar you crave, no need to worry: The candy selection is superb, featuring movie favorites from the classic Red Vines to Junior Mints, and everything in between.

​Caroline Roddy and Justine Cassel ​enjoyed non-GMO popcorn for the movie. Photo by Heidi Vick
​Caroline Roddy and Justine Cassel ​enjoyed non-GMO popcorn for the movie. Photo by Heidi Vick

The buzz throughout the cinema reverberated off the midnight walls. The interior is sharp, clean, and intimate. A favorite, overheard cited among the crowd, were the pillowing yellow and white candy-stripe curtains which outline the dramatic lantern-light fixtures on the theater walls. The seats have been cleaned up and fireproofed, floors redone, and the aisles have been widened for easier access and extra comfort.

Nearly every seat was filled as Richard Paradise, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, grabbed the microphone and welcomed everyone to the grand reopening of the historic theater. Cheers, hoots, hollers, and applause roared through the fifth generation theater. The lights dimmed, and the whispers ceased as the previews began to roll.

The movie, Pitch Perfect 2, was a hit. The belly laughs, oohs, ahhs, and gasps filled the room. The picture was perfectly clear on the movie screen, and the sound system presented the musical comedy just as the sound engineers had intended.

As moviegoers flooded out the majestic front doors, Islanders shared their thoughts and excitement about the renovated space. With a glimmer in their eyes, Steve and Sandy Atwood were overjoyed with the reopening; the theater they had been visiting for 30 years had come back to life, and they couldn’t have been more happy. Louise DuArt and SQuire Rushnell of Edgartown were equally impressed. They praised Mr. Snider and Mr. Paradise for pulling it together in such a short amount of time, never doubting them one bit.

As the doors closed and the sidewalk cleared, the theater stood twinkling; a magic moment on Main Street that is sure to be repeated.


The Capawock Theater, 43 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and showtimes, visit mvfilmsociety.com.  

by -
0
'Tomorrowland' premieres at Entertainment Cinemas and Capawock theater this weekend.

From director Brad Bird comes Tomorrowland, which plays at the newly reopened Capawock Theater and at Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown this weekend, and addresses a future where the grim prospects of global warming, terrorism, and nuclear disaster are overcome.

This utopian tale begins with George Clooney playing the grumpy aging scientist Frank Walker. As a boy Frank (played by Thomas Robinson) goes to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York with his jet pack made of vacuum cleaner parts. After his invention is rejected by a judge named — what else but — Nix (Hugh Laurie), young Frank catches the eye of a girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy), who gives him a magic pin. Embossed with the letter “T,” the pin has the power to send him to Tomorrowland, a world constructed of futuristic skyscrapers where robots and space vehicles abound.

Before viewers can find out what will happen to young Frank in Tomorrowland, they will find themselves jolted back to the present, where teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is waging a one-woman drone war against the closing of a NASA base in Cape Canaveral that will put her father (Tim McGraw) out of work. Like young Frank before her, Casey receives a “T” pin that has the power to send her instantly to Tomorrowland when she touches it. The catch is that she can just as rapidly be bumped back to her conventional, doom-laden life in the present. Once Athena, who unlike Frank remains a child in the present, shows up and warns Casey she’s in danger, Casey heads out in search of the older, Clooney version of Frank to find out why he was kicked out of Tomorrowland.

These are the most coherent components of a plot that too often doesn’t make sense. What does make sense is that it’s children who hold the keys to the future and can rescue our rapidly deteriorating world.

The best part of Tomorrowland is the magical gadgets that take these characters into to the future: the “T” pin with its power to overturn the present, a bathtub that turns into a rescue spaceship of sorts, a rocket that bursts out of the Eiffel Tower.

Then there’s fashion icon Iris Apfel, the subject of octogenarian Albert Maysles’ documentary Iris, playing this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, who doesn’t need a magic pin to transform reality. She does it through the unerring sense of style that makes her clothes and accessory choices interesting, colorful, and dramatic. Ms. Apfel describes how her mother once told her, “You’re not pretty. You have something better. You have style.”

This New Yorker took that advice and ran with it. With her devoted husband perpetually by her side carrying his triple Nikon cameras, Iris built a career based on fashion, interior design, architecture, and art. She restored museums, which later exhibited her clothes and accessories, and consulted at the White House for nine administrations. She traveled to Europe twice a year to find the latest items for fashion collections that came to take up entire rooms in her apartment.

In the 1940s Iris was one of the first woman to wear blue jeans. Now in her 90s, she has begun donating her extensive fashion collection to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. At her husband’s 100th birthday party, she wittily spoke for him: “A woman is as old as she looks, but a man is never old until he stops looking.” As this charming documentary illustrates, Ms. Apfel remains a moveable feast and a geriatric starlet. “I’m not pretty,” she says. “I don’t like pretty.” Her clothing and accessories say the opposite.

Iris, Sunday, June 7, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven.

Tomorrowland, Thursday, June 4, 7:30 pm, Capawock Theater, Main Street, Vineyard Haven. Tomorrowland, Saturday, June 6, 12:45 pm, Entertainment Cinemas, Main St. Edgartown.

 

by -
0
Caroll Spinney on the set of "Sesame Street." – Photo courtesy iambigbird.com

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center brings two winners to the Island this weekend. I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story describes the evolution of the eight-foot, yellow-feathered children’s TV puppet and the man who brought him to life. In Far from the Madding Crowd, Director Thomas Vinterberg lightens up 19th century author Thomas Hardy’s fate-laden novel into a more modern romantic story.

The brightly colored Big Bird documentary demonstrates that Sesame Street’s most iconic puppet is as much the creation of Mr. Spinney as it is of the legendary Sesame Street puppeteer Jim Henson. When Mr. Spinney saw his first puppet show as a child, he discovered his life’s ambition. With help from his artistic mother, he created his own puppets, and staged puppet shows while growing up.

A troubled relationship with his father led the aspiring puppeteer to join the U.S. Air Force, but after four years in the military, he returned to his more favored calling, and worked on the Boston children’s TV show Bozo the Clown. Mr. Spinney next landed in New York at the Children’s Television Workshop’s Sesame Street, led by Mr. Hensen. What will entertain and interest the viewer about I Am Big Bird is its description of a career that was often fraught with obstacles and disappointments, despite the sweetness of the character and its creator. Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker succeed in capturing the authentic person behind Big Bird. Mr. Spinney imbued the puppet with the imagination of an overgrown child. He had an instinct for creating a child’s point of view in both the yellow-feathered bird and his other signature Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch.

Far_from_madding_crowd_imdb.jpgIt’s celebration of the pastoral world of 19th century rural England, exquisitely rendered by cinematographer Charlotte Ruus Christensen, that plays a major role in the newest cinematic version of Far from the Madding Crowd. At a time when concern about the environment has reached heightened levels, it is a reminder of a more idyllic time in the natural world. Bathsheba Everdene, played by Carey Mulligan, starts as an impoverished young woman helping out at her aunt’s farm, who then inherits her own much more substantial spread.

Although the origin of her first name (her last name has been paid forward by Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games) is an apparent toss-away the heroine can’t explain, it’s interesting to think about the echoes of its Biblical source in the context of the film. The Biblical Bathsheba became King David’s wife after he seduced and impregnated her, then in effect arranged for the death of her first husband. Seduction plays into the romantic choices made by the cinematic Bathsheba as well.

Far from the Madding Crowd’s heroine is a radical version of womanhood by 19th century standards. Assertively independent, she makes it clear very quickly that she has no desire for a husband, although three men come forward to ask for her hand, and the thrust of the story is what she will decide about their offers. Ms. Mulligan’s version of Bathsheba turns her into a flirtatious, somewhat fickle and indecisive young woman, struggling to make her way in a man’s world, smiling one second, smirking another.

Mr. Vinterberg has kept many of the sudden, melodramatic twists of events in Bathsheba’s life, and keeps the pace moving swiftly. He soft-pedals the class issues underlying the tale as told by the novelist, and focuses instead on how, one after another, her suitors do their best to win her over. If this latest cinematic version of Far from the Madding Crowd — John Schlesinger’s 1967 version starred Julie Christie — is “Hardy light,” it remains an entertaining and plenty satisfying tale.

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, Thursday, May 28, 7:30 pm; Friday, May 29, and Sunday, May 31, 4 pm.

Far from the Madding Crowd, Friday, May 29, Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31, 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 31, 4 pm.

All films at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

 

by -
0
Imagery from the unreleased film "The Seasons." – Photo courtesy MV Film Center

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and the Vineyard Conservation Society have come together to create the Island’s first annual Environmental Film Festival, on the big screen this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Titled “Nature as Inspiration: The Films of Jacques Perrin,” the festival will screen five of the celebrated actor and filmmaker’s nature documentaries, including A Night on Earth in its North American premiere. The Paris-based Mr. Perrin, along with members of his film staff, will attend the festival and present clips from his newest film, The Seasons, set to premiere in December 2015.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Vineyard Conservation Society has organized a yearlong series of events to promote environmental awareness on the Island. In addition to the film festival, its “Connect, Reflect, Protect” series will include lectures and children’s programs. Artwork about the environment from a contest for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students will be on display in the Film Center’s Feldman Family Artspace all week, culminating in an awards ceremony on Sunday, May 24, to honor contestants. Following the awards ceremony, Océans will be screened for the second time during the festival. The Sunday screening is free for all filmgoers 18 years old and younger.

MV_FilmEnvironment_poster_5_COL.jpgOcéans, which was released in 2009 and won a César in 2011, will launch the festival with its initial screening on Thursday, May 21. The film follows a 6:30 pm opening reception featuring Mr. Perrin and longtime Oak Bluffs seasonal resident Jesse Ausubel. Mr. Ausubel, who worked on the film as part of its scientific team, serves as director and senior research associate of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University in New York. He also is on the faculty of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Following both screenings of Océans, he will lead Q & A sessions.

Mr. Perrin narrates Océans, and co-directed it with Jacques Cluzaud. The film, which took seven years to make, explores the mysteries of the bodies of water that make up nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface and are considered to be the planet’s last frontier. It is the most expensive documentary ever made, according to Mr. Ausubel. “I came to be a huge fan of Galatée [Films],” Mr. Ausubel said in a telephone interview about Mr. Perrin’s production company.

Mr. Perrin’s 2001 film, Winged Migration, will play on Friday, May 22. Nominated for a 2003 Best Documentary Oscar, this hauntingly beautiful film tracks the migration patterns of birds over all seven continents. Rob Culbert of Tisbury will lead the Q & A session following Winged Migration. An expert birder and ecological consultant, Mr. Culbert leads birding tours on-Island.

Mr. Perrin served as producer for the 1992 film Microcosmos, playing Saturday, May 23. Directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou, this remarkable film explores the world of insects close-up, on two square meters of French prairie. Specially designed cameras take the viewer beneath the earth’s surface, and demonstrate just how athletic tiny insects really are. Paul Z. Goldstein, who has served on the board of directors of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, and in 2010 led the conservation, monitoring, and management of the Martha’s Vineyard native bee inventory for the Edey Foundation, will lead the Q & A session following the film. He serves as a research associate in the Departments of Entomology at the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Maryland.

Actor and filmmaker Jacques Perrin is being celebrated at the Film Center. – Photo courtesy MV Film Center
Actor and filmmaker Jacques Perrin is being celebrated at the Film Center. – Photo courtesy MV Film Center

A champagne reception will precede the Saturday screening of Night on Earth. Mr. Perrin will first show clips from The Seasons, which he co-directed with Mr. Cluzaud. Still in production, this work looks at the cycle of seasons through the eyes of animals in Europe over the past 10,000 years. Night on Earth, which follows, and which Mr. Perrin co-produced, uses specially developed cameras capable of recording in very low light. The film captures the nocturnal activities of animals as never seen before. Doctoral candidate Luanne Johnson will lead the Q & A session following the film. Ms. Johnson studies the influence of urbanization on biodiversity, particularly as it affects bird species, including the piping plover. She is also studying populations of northern long-eared bats on the Vineyard.

The final festival screening on Sunday, May 24, will feature Himalaya: The Boyhood of a Chief, produced by Mr. Perrin and directed by Eric Valli. This 1999 Nepalese drama, nominated for a 2000 Best Foreign Film Oscar, follows the story of a Tibetan tribal chief and his fractious relationship with a younger chief-to-be.

In addition to being a film producer and director, Mr. Perrin has had a distinguished career as an actor, starring in Costa-Gavras’ Z, which won the 1970 Best Foreign Film Oscar for Algeria, and Giuseppe Tornore’s Cinema Paradiso, which won the 1990 Best Foreign Film Oscar for Italy and played at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center last week.

“What I love about these nature films is that they’re global,” says Mr. Ausubel. “Because of the visual power, sound and music, everyone can enjoy them. They have an incredible directness. He [Mr. Perrin] has a real genius. He gets you to fly like a bird, move like an insect.” The festival is made possible by support from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

 

Oceans, Thursday, May 21, 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 24, 4 pm (free screening for 18 and younger).

Winged Migration, Friday, May 22, 7:30 pm.

Microcosmos, Saturday, May 23, 4 pm.

The Seasons (clips), Saturday, May 23, 7:30 pm.

Night on Earth, Saturday, May 23, 7:30 pm.

Himalaya: The Boyhood of a Chief, Sunday, May 24, 7:30 p.m.

All screenings part of “Nature as Inspiration: The Films of Jacques Perrin” at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

by -
0

A hard look at an aging actress.

Juliette Binoche stars in Clouds of Sils Maria.

As Alejandro Inarritu’s Oscar-winning Birdman most recently illustrated, filmmakers never tire of the navel-gazing involved in explorations of acting, aging, and celebrity. French director Olivier Assayas takes on the task in his latest film, Clouds of Sils Maria, playing this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Juliette Binoche, celebrated for her roles in movies including The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Chocolat, plays Maria Enders, a fortysomething actress who reluctantly decides to play the older woman in a revival of Maloja Snake, an ill-fated lesbian romance that launched her career some 20 years earlier when she played Sigrid, the fickle younger woman. The title of the play is inspired by a dramatic cloud formation in the Swiss Alps that winds through the mountain valleys like a serpent.

The viewer meets Maria as she travels by train to Zurich with her personal assistant, Valentine, played compellingly by Twilight saga actress Kristen Stewart. Ms. Stewart won a French César as supporting actress for her role, the first American actress to receive a César. Valentine juggles movie offers, paparazzi, and other aspects of Maria’s life, while Maria prepares to accept an award for Klaus, the reclusive theatrical director who cast her in the first Maloja Snake.

timthumb.php

While en route, Valentine and Maria learn that Klaus has committed suicide. Once the two arrive in Zurich, Maria discovers to her dismay that Henryk (Hanns Zischler), an actor with whom she had an unhappy affair during the run of the original Maloja Snake, has also been invited to accept the prize for Klaus. She meets with Christopher (Johnny Flynn), the British director who plans to revive Maloja Snake on the London stage, and wants Maria to play Helena, the older woman, in the play.

While it may seem as if a lot is happening in Clouds of Sils Maria, Maria’s conversations with Valentine are what really make up the bulk of the movie. Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz), the up-and-coming and volatile starlet being tapped for Sigrid in the London production, also plays an important role.

Maria and Valentine are invited to stay at Klaus’s home in the Alps by his widow, Maria’s close friend Rosa (Angela Winkler). The actress and her assistant take frequent walks in the breathtakingly beautiful alpine meadows where Klaus committed suicide.

In addition to their hikes, Maria and Valentine spend much of their time rehearsing for the new production of Maloja Snake. They take time to watch Jo-Ann’s blockbuster sci-fi film, which Valentine likes and Maria dismisses as shallow pop-culture junk. As suspicious and potentially jealous of Jo-Ann as Maria may be, she discovers the starlet is very different from the way she is portrayed by the media.

Often it is hard to tell whether Maria’s and Valentine’s relationship parallels the roles the two are rehearsing. The mix-up of real and imaginary lives can be dizzying, but the powerful performances of Ms. Binoche and Ms. Stewart will keep the viewer engaged.

Clouds of Sils Maria, Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16, at 4 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information on all films playing at the Film Center, visit mvfilmsociety.com.

 

 

by -
0

Alex Garland, who wrote the screenplay for Danny Boyle’s multiple award-winning horror flick 28 Days Later, has produced a compelling sci-fi thriller, Ex Machina, for his directorial debut. It opens this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Don’t look for slam-bam special effects or spectacular car/spaceship chases in this one. Ex Machina depends on the interaction between CEO genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac of Inside Llewyn Davis) and Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). A program coder, Nathan has selected to test Ava (Alicia Vikander), the artificial intelligence (A.I.) cyborg he has created. Ex Machina has a fitting title, making the allusion to the classical Greek dramatic device deus ex machina, in which the gods intervene to bring resolution to the plot of a play.

The question Nate hopes to answer through Caleb is whether or not Ava has evolved beyond machine-based artificial intelligence to experience truly human qualities. The first half of the movie focuses on intricate conversations between Nathan and Caleb, along with those Caleb has with Ava to see whether she’s evolved.

Computer geeks will have no problem following the dialogue, although the rest of us may flounder a bit. By the second half of the movie, the suspense builds, and even the most computer-illiterate viewers will find themselves hanging on every word and scene.

One of the suggestive devices the director uses is crosscuts between Nathan’s remote, futuristic “lab” home and the lushly beautiful vistas of woods and mountains where it is set. Caleb learns Ava has never been outside the building. Is this what she most longs for? A number of other puzzling elements begin to pile up.

What does it mean that Nathan lifts weights and drinks heavily? Caleb’s meetings with Ava always take place with a glass wall separating them, reminiscent of the way prison visitors are separated from inmates. Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) appears periodically, apparently as Nathan’s maid, but why is it she never speaks? The power frequently fails, necessitating a backup generator, and when it does, Nathan, who has cameras everywhere, can’t hear Caleb and Ava’s conversation. When Ava begins wearing dresses and wigs, does that signify she is evolving into human status? Why does Caleb slice open his arm and smear blood on the mirror in his room? Why are the cyborgs in Ex Machina women? Does that make them inferior or superior to the men in the film?

Like the pieces of an intricate puzzle, these elements slowly fit together. Then what happens to Nathan, Caleb, Ava, and even Kyoko seems both surprising and inevitable.

 

Ex Machina, Friday, May 8, and Saturday, May 9, 7:30 pm; Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information on this and other film center films, see mvfilmsociety.com.