Island theaters highlight a new education model and a thrilling ‘Finest Hours’

A scene from "Most Likely to Succeed." —Photo Courtesy of

“Most Likely to Succeed,” a documentary about education reform, will play Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center; “The Finest Hours,” a fictional account of a landmark ’50s Coast Guard rescue, will continue to play there over the weekend.

“Most Likely to Succeed” offers a not-to-be-missed look at what’s wrong with the way our schools operate. It is co-sponsored by the Vineyard Montessori School and the Film Center, and a panel discussion will follow. Five prominent figures will look at the issues explored in “Most Likely to Succeed.” They include Superintendent of Schools Matthew D’Andrea; Assistant Superintendent Richard Smith; the Island’s state representative, Timothy Madden; Donna Luther, who is head of the Montessori School in Scituate, as well as a Creative Education Foundation faculty member and a Lesley University adjunct faculty member; and Andrew Bartlett, general manager of the Harbor View Hotel.

“Most Likely to Succeed” argues that organization of the American education system is based on an 1892 industrial model that has grown increasingly obsolete. Traditional curriculum divisions like math, science, and English no longer work well, and leave students wondering about their real-world relevance. Now that computers provide more effective ways to deliver fact-oriented content, 53 percent of newly graduated college students can’t find find jobs.

The film offers an alternative in the San Diego charter school High Tech High. The educational emphasis at High Tech relies less on content memorization and standardized testing. Instead, students learn citizenship, critical thinking, collaborative methods, and student-centered skills like confidence building and perseverance. Traditional subjects are melded together. For the skeptical, the film cites High Tech’s 10 percent higher scores on standardized tests and 98 percent college acceptance. “Most Likely to Succeed” admits that this radically new education model does not work for every student, but it proposes how education may — and should — change to meet the future.

The rollercoaster ride of “Finest Hours”

It’s not too late to see “The Finest Hours,” the gripping story of a Coast Guard rescue that took place off Cape Cod in 1952. Starring Chris Pine as a fictionalized Bernie Webber, the real-life leader of the rescue, and Holliday Granger as his dewy-eyed fiancée Miriam, the film provides a rollercoaster ride that outdoes those superhero action films.

At the start, “The Finest Hours” focuses on the budding relationship between Bernie and Miriam. Its early scenes are bathed in syrupy light and colors, with Bernie behaving like an aw-shucks stereotype and Miriam flashing a kewpie-doll smile.

The plot advances when a storm breaks up an oil tanker off the coast of Chatham, and Bernie is sent out on a next-to-impossible mission to save its remaining crew of 32. Vineyarders will appreciate the genuine violence that rough seas can deliver.

Casey Affleck, a fine actor when he’s given the material to work with, plays a grimacing Ray Sybert, the tanker’s chief engineer, who sends the sinking tanker onto a reef in hopes that rescuers will arrive in time. Harrowing shots of the 36-foot boat Bernie captains mounting “the [sand] bar” show how perilous the voyage is, particularly after the ship’s compass is washed overboard. This boat was never meant to carry 30-plus passengers, but Bernie is up to the job, and when the electricity goes out onshore, a bank of car lights guides him back home to safety and a happy ending.

For showtimes and more information, visit the MVTimes calendar listings, or