Year Released: 2016
Directed by: Michael Grandage
Starring: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney
(Pg-13, 104 min.)
“I prefer to get my rejections in the mail, but I wanted to meet you, the man who first read Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and said, genius.“ –Thomas Wolfe to editor Max Perkins.
Who knew two Brits could tell the story of an American genius so persuasively? Well, when they are acting greats Colin Firth and Jude Law, it begins to make sense.
At least to different Drummer, who loved every minute of what most critics lambasted:
All the blaring trumpets and martinis the director can fling us as jazzy background don't save the film from being very unappealingly lit indeed—full of drab, grey interiors, it's halfway to monochrome. –Tim Robey
“Genius” is a dress-up box full of second- and third-hand notions. Set mainly in a picturesquely brown and smoky Manhattan in the 1930s, it gives the buddy-movie treatment to that wild-man novelist Thomas Wolfe and his buttoned-up red-penciler Maxwell Perkins. –A.O. Scott
“… is hammily acted, over-stylised and lacking in subtlety.” –Henry Barnes
You see, this is what Different Drummer’s movie blog is all about. Finding those rare gems the critical “geniuses” are too smug to notice, reminding me of Brendan Behan’s marvelously valid observation:
“Critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.”
Here is what the 2016 film is all about:
A stirring drama about the complex friendship and transformative professional relationship between the world-renowned book editor Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth) – who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway – and the larger-than-life literary giant Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law).
And the cast is to die for. In addition to the two leads, we have the incredible Nicole Kidman as the writer’s romantic muse, albeit that she is 25 years his senior and married. As always, Kidman brings depth and range to her character, seemingly without effort. Just like her paramour Wolfe, we love her and hate her simultaneously. In fact, it is a tough choice to choose which of the flawed pair has the greater ego:
Aline Bernstein: You have no idea what I had to go through to get to where I am now - so that I can look at you and feel... nothing.
Maybe his editor Max Perkins is correct when he tells Wolfe an ugly truth:
God help anyone who loves you, Tom. Because for all your talk and all your millions of beautiful words, you haven't the slightest idea of what it means to be alive. To look into another person's eyes and ache for him. I hope someday you will. And then maybe all your words will be worth five of Scott's.
It is really these scenes between Wolfe and Perkins that anchor the film. Used to having his lengthy tome turned down, Wolfe confesses to the lauded Scribner editor that he “…prefers to get his rejections in the mail,” but that he wants to meet in person the man who first read Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The look on Wolfe’s face when Perkins calmly tells him he intends to publish his book is priceless. It’s surprise and delight all shining behind a boyish hint of a smile.
O, Lost, which eventually becomes the critical and popular success, Look Homeward, Angel, is the first collaboration between the two, with Wolfe telling Perkins that he is the first friend he has ever had.
But book two, Of Time and the River, clocks in at 5000 pages. No writer’s block for Wolfe, at least, but editing it down to size is excruciating for all parties:
Maxwell Evarts Perkins: To be a novelist, you have to select. You have to shape and sculpt.
Thomas Wolfe: Why?
Maxwell Evarts Perkins: Because we've been working for two years and the book's only 100 pages shorter!
That is when the fur begins to fly, and no one is unaffected by the escalating tensions between Wolfe and his devoted but relentless editor.
Jude Law as Wolfe fills the screen with his presence. He is bigger than life and we share his triumphs and disasters, rooting for him all the way even when he is at his most self-destructive.
Forget those crusty critics, who are as drab and grey as the interiors they describe in their critiques. Open up your heart to a real genius and a film that brings him to life. You won’t regret it.
4 1/2 Drums
Look Homeward, Angel, the largely autobiographical novel of the first nineteen years of Thomas Wolfe’s life, takes place in Ashville, North Carolina, called Altamount, Catawba, in the novel.
To go with our film we have chosen a delicious North Carolina specialty, a Blueberry Barbecued chicken. This recipe calls for a tradition wherein the chicken is “spatchcocked” or split by removing the backbone and flattening it out. Splitting and flattening the bird is a dual purpose, reducing cooking time and ensuring even cooking.
And our chef, James Woroneski, shows us just how to do it all on this attached video.
For those of us lazier cooks, you can use this wonderful sauce on a regular chicken without performing the fowl back surgery. (I actually buy my fresh chickens already split into two halves.) And the delicious sauce would be tasty on other items, too, like pork or lamb.
Enjoy, and lift your glasses to North Carolina native Thomas Wolfe, that literary genius that left us all too soon.
Blueberry BBQ Chicken
Blueberry (Blue Q) BBQ Chicken ★★★★★Chicken/Poultry Prep Time: 0:30 | Cook Time: 1:30 | Servings: Serves -6 Ingredients:
BLUE Q SAUCE
1 1/2 C blueberries
1 C apple cider vinegar
1 C granulated sugar
1 bay leaf
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 1/2 lb whole chicken, spatchcocked
1 Tbsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, add blueberries, vinegar, and sugar.
Pulse to break up the berries into a chunky pulp.
Place mixture into a saucepan; add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and crushed red pepper.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, covered, 10–15 minutes.
Remove from heat; remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Carefully transfer the sauce to a blender.
Make sure the lid is entirely sealed to prevent sauce from spattering while you blend.
Blend the sauce to a smooth consistency, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high. When sauce is smooth, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl.
Transfer sauce back to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, uncovered, and reduce by ¼, about 5 minutes. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon, and the viscosity should be more like maple syrup than honey.
Pour into a container and cool to room temperature. Makes about 2 cups. (Sauce will keep for up to 6 months refrigerated in a lidded container.)
(Note: To spatchcock the chicken, use poultry shears to cut along each side of the backbone.
Remove the backbone, then flip chicken over and press down until the breastbone cracks and the chicken lies flat. )
Prep chicken: Lay spatchcocked chicken breast side up on a wire rack fitted over a rimmed baking sheet.
Season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper (about 15 turns of a pepper mill per side). Let rest at room temperature while preheating the grill, 30 minutes.
Grill chicken: Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-high heat, about 375 F. The coals should be ashed over in some places, with red embers burning within. Move the coals to one side of the grill to create areas of both direct and indirect heat. Place the chicken skin side up on the side of the grill over the coals (direct heat). Cover and cook, 15 minutes.
Divide the Blue Q Sauce: half should be used for basting, while the other half should be reserved for the final baste and for serving. (If the cooled sauce has thickened too much, simply reheat in a saucepan over low heat, or briefly microwave to return to its original syrupy consistency before using.)
Remove the lid. Use tongs to flip the chicken over, skin side down, onto the indirect heat side of the grill. Baste the underside of the bird with Blue Q Sauce, then gently reposition back over direct heat, still skin side down. Cover and cook, 5 minutes.
Repeat this process—flipping, basting, and grilling for 5 minutes at a time, covered—2–3 more times, until chicken is fully cooked. (The leg, when tugged, should become loosened from the breast. Alternatively, a thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone, should register 165 F.)
Discard remaining basting sauce. Remove chicken from the grill and place on a cutting board, skin side up. Use reserved Blue Q Sauce to baste one last time and let rest, 5 minutes. Cut the chicken into 6 or 8 pieces and drizzle once more with sauce.
Serve warm or at room temperature with additional sauce on the side.