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GENIUS

A few posts down you'll find my Hugo Award ruminations for the Dramatic Presentation categories, where I opine at some length about the best films and television shows I saw last year.

Much as I love SF and fantasy, however, not everything I read or view falls into those categories. I wanted to say a few words about another movie I saw recently, and loved.

It's a film called GENIUS, a period piece set in the 1930s about the relationship between Maxwell Perkins, the legendary Scribners editor, and his most troubled (and troubling) writer, Thomas Wolfe. (No, not Tom Wolfe, the 60s journalist of THE RIGHT STUFF fame, Thomas Wolfe, the doomed 30s novelist of YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN). Stars Colin Firth and Jude Law, both of whom gave brilliant performances. Scripted by John Logan, directed by Michael Grandage.

GENIUS came and went last year almost unnoticed. It was certainly unnoticed by me, else I would have tried to book it for the Jean Cocteau. But it's running on HBO right now, so all those who missed it (virtually everyone) now has another chance to see it.

I hope you do. Especially if you're a writer, or an editor, or have any interest in 20th Century American literature, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Maxwell Perkins.

The movie got very little notice from the world at large, but I loved loved loved it. Maybe because it's a writer's movie. The period is wonderfully evoked, the acting is fine, and there's one ten minute scene in the middle of the movie... from when Wolfe delivers OF TIME AND THE RIVER till when Perkins gets on that train... that I thought was just hilarious, heart-breaking, poetic, painful, and just all-around... blue. A blue that was deeper than blue, a blue such as never before...

Well, let's just say it was a great scene in a fine movie.

Lots of fine movies came out last year, in our genre and out of it. Many of them have been nominated for various Oscars. GENIUS was not, but if I were in the Academy I would certainly have nominated it. Much I loved ARRIVAL and MOANA and some of the other big movies of 2016, I think GENIUS was my favorite film from last year.

Comments

( 13 comments )
Logan Yake
Jan. 31st, 2017 10:41 pm (UTC)
Black Mirror
Have you watched any Black Mirror? I feel like some of the stories are very similar in tone to Arrival, which gets my movie of the year.
RaUL_AMDERLAINE
Jan. 31st, 2017 10:43 pm (UTC)
Do you watch Netflix, in particular "Black Mirror", GRRM?

If not, take a look at the synopses on Wikipedia, at least. You'll like it, it is the "Twilight Zone" of this generation.
terrymcmahon312
Jan. 31st, 2017 11:05 pm (UTC)
Hi George -- Forgive the off-topic comment but:

"The period is wonderfully evoked"

That was the reaction I had to reading FEVRE DREAM. How do you do that in a novel, getting so much of the atmosphere and details? Did you have a passion for antebellum steamboating and just knew all this already, or did you have to spend weeks in the library doing research? I was expecting a creepy vampire story (and I certainly got one) but I felt like I learned a lot too. Was it a ton of work?
RAul Lopez
Jan. 31st, 2017 11:59 pm (UTC)
Raúl Lopez
Very wonderful film.
Zachery Duncan (NoNonsenseMarvin)
Feb. 1st, 2017 12:05 am (UTC)
Just wait till they remake Big Trouble in Little China! The world will tremble in fear of Lo Pan!
Dan Koifman
Feb. 1st, 2017 02:26 am (UTC)
It was like a flash of lightning. A blue that was deeper than blue.

Thanks for the recommendation.

It seems that his final letter to Max was almost word for word true according to Wolfe's wiki page. They did climb a building after getting off the boat. It was wonderful to see a 1930s skyline of New York.

"One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years." -Thomas Wolfe





Edited at 2017-02-01 02:39 am (UTC)
milkforfree
Feb. 1st, 2017 03:14 am (UTC)
Devastating! Thank you so much for the recommendation.

(Deleted comment)
Matheus Ervall
Feb. 2nd, 2017 12:39 am (UTC)
Re: Thank you for the recomendation.
Just watched it, really fascinating movie. Now I need to read something by Wolfe, maybe I should have begun the other way around?
mallorys_camera
Feb. 1st, 2017 04:21 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I hated Genius with the hatred of a million white burning suns!

Movies about writers are pageants where the hoariest clichés parade about in ill-fitting swimsuits. Since very few people actually read anymore, prospective audience members are unfamiliar with the biographical subjects except as cultural tropes. There’s always this sense that you’re watching a cowboy movie or a medieval romance or some other depiction of the standard bearers of some lost civilization.

Genius is filmed entirely in sepia – just in case you’re too stupid to pick up that its subtext is Depression-era New York City. Maxwell Perkins never takes off his hat.

And was the relationship between Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Perkins somehow more important than, say, the relationship between Scott Fitzgerald and Maxwell Perkins, or the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Maxwell Perkins?
grrm
Feb. 1st, 2017 06:44 pm (UTC)
I loved that Perkins never took off his hat.

Was Wolfe more important to Perkins than Fitzgerald or Hemingway? You can certainly make that argument. He was the problem child, and their relationship was more tumultuous and troubled than the others... which makes it inherently more dramatic.
mallorys_camera
Feb. 1st, 2017 07:14 pm (UTC)
>>He was the problem child<<

Definitely! :-)

But don't you think all three in their respective ways were problem children? :-) I'll bet a lot of editing went into This Side of Paradise.

And I've always wondered how much editing was involved with Ernest Hemingway...

Wouldn't it be great to discover that Hemingway wrote, "You know, there are a lot of really awful things in the world. It's a really tough place! The world, I mean. Even if you're a nice guy! Sooner or later, you're just going to get it. Kabang! And there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. Nothing. Nada! So why even bother trying to being good or gentle or brave?"

And that it was Perkins who transformed it to "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." :-)

(Kinda like Raymond Carver and Gordon Lish.)
srdrbr
Feb. 1st, 2017 05:57 pm (UTC)
Genius
I'm glad you watched this amazing movie.

I watched it few months ago, I had to, it checked so many boxes on my promising movie list. It is period piece, check, it is about writers, check, it stars Jude Law (whom I like immensely ever since Gattaca), check, it stars Colin Firth (another favorite of mine, he was brilliant in say, A Single Man, watch it if you haven't), check.

Genius really was quite an experience, the sort of movie which is deeply impactful, but non the less overshadowed by constant stream of blockbusters.

Oscars proved not to be really up to task of judging the movies and proclaiming the best, but again I am generally negatively disposed to award ceremonies, so your opinion may differ.

Next time when I recommend Genius to somebody I will mentioned it was endorsed by George R.R. Martin to add weight to my own recommendation :)
(Deleted comment)
grrm
Feb. 2nd, 2017 12:25 am (UTC)
If you are looking for happy endings, I would not look at BLACK MIRROR. It is a brilliantly done show, but most of the episodes I've seen are very dark indeed.
( 13 comments )

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