Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: The Editor and His Author

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. To celebrate April as National Poetry Month, this week’s Movie Spotlight is “Genius” (2016):

Novelists have a dream. To find the perfect editor. And not just any perfect editor. We want Maxwell Perkins.

Maxwell Perkins was an editor at Scribner’s during the first half of the twentieth century. His impact on an American literature in the twentieth century cannot be overestimated. It was Perkins who edited Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and James Jones. Not only was he their editors, he developed strong personal relationships with his authors, relationships that were invaluable to the writers.

“Genius” is the story of his relationship with one of his most difficult writers, Thomas Wolfe. Based on the biography by Scott Berg, Director Michael Grandage gives the viewer a portrait of a friendship between two enormously talented individuals. No matter how difficult Wolfe (Judd Law) became, Perkins (Colin Firth) was able to grasp the potential of a great American writer and work with him to form his prose into the magnificent books they became.

With his performance as Max Perkins, I must say that Colin Firth is now my favorite English actor. And this is the kind of film that makes you want to read the book.

There’s only two more things I could ask  for: a movie of Perkin’s relationship with Fitzgerald and one of his relationship with Hemingway. Now wouldn’t that make a great trilogy? Oh, what the hell. Why not do an HBO series on the life, times and work of Maxwell Perkins? Do it for one season. What a great series that could be.

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Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: Much Ado About Jane

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. To celebrate Women’s History Month, this week’s Spotlight Movie is “Becoming Jane” (2007):

Jane Austen’s books become more and more popular every year. Her popularity seems to be overtaking Charles Dickens as the Great English Novelist. Yet her books are not about war or power or any of the other themes we expect in a great novelist. Instead her novels focus on small town English society and the pursuit of a husband by the heroines. Seems like a trivial subject, doesn’t it?

In the hands of Jane Austen, it isn’t. It is the perfection of her writing, the creation of wonderful characters, and a story world that is so specific to a time and a place that make her that most universal of writers. Like another great female writer, Emily Dickinson, Austen made the details of an obscure life into great art.

We don’t know if the story in “Becoming Jane” is true. It portrays a young Jane (Anne Hathaway) swept off her feet by a lawyer acquaintance, Thomas Lefroy (James McAvoy). The director Julian Jarrold, and the screenwriters have made educated guesses which may not be true but they could be.

Hathaway and McAvoy are supported with the wonderful performances of Julie Waters and James Cromwell as Jane’s parents, and Maggie Smith as Lady Gresham. Though the film did not get high marks from the critics, I find it endearing and I liked the film score very much. One could do a lot worse than watching this film for an evening’s entertainment.

And who knows? It might encourage you to jump in and read one of her wonderful novels. I know it has me.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: A man reaps what he sows

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Movie Spotlight is “Home from the Hill” (1960):

“Home from the Hill” is a Greek tragedy of a movie. It’s Agamemnon all over again. Captain Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) triumphs over everything, except his lusts, and eventually they destroy him.

He is the king of his domain. He owns half the county and more. He has the best of everything: whiskey, dogs, hunting rifles. He’s a proud man, his hubris filling any room he walks into.

Life, for Wade, has been good. He has lived it to the fullest. He has the trophies on his walls to prove it. The man has sown enough wild oats to fill a barn, and he is still sowing them.

But the chickens are beginning to come to roost. He’s sown more than his share of trouble. So much so that his marriage is in such a shambles, his wife (Eleanor Parker) is his greatest adversary. Now, in his mid-forties, the code he has breathed and lived by is turning on him. He’s created troubles enough for ten men.

The movie is also the story of Wade’s two sons. Theron (George Hamilton) is seventeen. He is a sensitive sort of man who has mostly been raised by his mother. Now Wade is ready to take over his education and make him into a man just like Wade.

Rafe (George Peppard) is a different sort of son. He is illegitimate, the son of one of Wade’s affairs. His mother died when he was young. And he has been on his own since. Wade has given him a place to live and work and taken care of him. He will not acknowledge Rafe as his son. In his eyes, Rafe will always be a bastard.

Yet Rafe is the man Wade could have been if he had not given in to his worst tendencies. Though an outsider, Rafe is the steady hand that holds things together. He brings a gentleness and a strength to all he touches.

Director Vincent Minnelli’s “Home from the Hill” was adapted from the novel by William Humphrey. By the time he took on the film, Minnelli had brought his steady hand to thirty films, including “Meet Me in St. Louis”, “Father of the Bride”, “Lust for Life”, “Gigi”, and “Some Came Running”.

Originally Wade Hunnicutt was supposed to be portrayed by Clark Gable. We can be thankful that the role went to Mitchum. Supported by a great cast, he delivered what may be one of his best performances.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Biko

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. In honor of Black History Month, this week’s Movie Spotlight is “Cry Freedom” (1987):

No revolution is successful without a writer, creating a new consciousness. The English Revolution had John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. The American Revolution had the two Thomases, Paine and Jefferson. The French Revolution had Voltaire and Rousseau. The Irish had W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League). The Russian Revolution had Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Fyodr Dostoevsky.

And the revolution to overthrow apartheid in South Africa had Nadine Gordimer, Athol Fugard, J M Coetzee, Andre Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, Desmond Tutu and Steve Biko.

If Nelson Mandela was the Martin Luther King Jr. of South Africa, Steve Biko was its Medgar Evers. Like Medgar Evers, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Steve Biko gave people hope and a reason to believe in the darkest of times.

Steve Biko (Denzel Washington) was stopped on the way to speak at a black student conference and was arrested. Between August 18, 1977 and September 11, 1977, he was in police custody. During that time, he was brutally beaten to death by his captors. On September 12, 1977, he died.  It was reported by the government that he had died from a hunger strike. An inquest proved otherwise. His funeral was attended by over 10,000 people.

This was the beginning of the end for apartheid in South Africa.

The apartheid government’s repression continued. According to the film, “more than 700 school children were killed in the Soweto ‘disturbances’ that began on June 16, 1978 and over 4000 wounded.”

On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison after more than 27 years of confinement. This began the process of dismantling apartheid in South Africa. On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s president.

In 2004, Steve Biko was voted the 13th of 100 Great South Africans. “Cry Freedom” is Steve Biko’s story and the extreme efforts the apartheid government of South Africa took to prevent his story from getting out to the world.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: Au Revoir Les Enfants

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day tomorrow, this week’s Spotlight Movie is Louis Malle’s autobiographical film, “Au Revoir Les Enfants” (Goodbye Children) (1987):

It was January, 1944 when the German soldiers came to Julien Quentin’s Catholic boarding school. A short time later, the soldiers took away three boys, Bonnet, Negus and Dupre. They were Jewish and they died at Auschwitz. Father Jean died in the camp at Mauthasen. He was the principal of the school who had given the boys sanctuary. Then Malle ends with the film by adding, “More than 40 years have passed, but I’ll remember every second of that January morning until the day I die.”

As the boys and the priest are led away, we do not need to see the trains. We’ve seen the boxcars loaded with people as if they were cattle before. We’ve seen the camps with the prisoners starving, their eyes looking at us with hopelessness. We’ve seen the gas chambers. We’ve seen them in photographs and we’ve seen them in films.

We’ve seen the interviews with the survivors. The numbers still on their arms to be taken with them to their graves. They are witnesses to that time when human beings were condemned by other human beings simply because they were Jews.

Six million men, women and children. Six million.

Not only was this a tragedy for Jews. It was a tragedy for Christians as well. Since Mary and Joseph were Jewish, they too would have died in those gas chambers had they lived during that time in Germany or Poland or France. And Jesus would never have been born. That is something that some Christians forget.

Soon all the survivors of that horrible horrible time will be gone. For them, let us remember and not forget the evil. Let us not forget that time when there was no mercy, no compassion, no justice for our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us be reminded that there was a time the world did nothing to stop the trains, to close the camps, to shut down the gas chambers.

Yet let us also remember there were a few, all too few, but a few who resisted the evil that was the Holocaust, lit a candle to light the darkness, and stepped forward to give their lives that others might live. Jesus said it best, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” For these few saw the Jewish people as their friends.

See “Au Revoir Les Enfants” and remember the English statesman Edmund Burke’s words: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”