I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
There’s nothing quite like writing a first draft. The rush of sitting down and letting all our raw ideas flow free. But as Dr. Seuss once said, “the writer who breeds more words than [he or she] needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
GENIUS is very much about the pain of the creative process, how we often have to let go of those words we hold so dear and how pretty much no one makes a living off of rough drafts.
There have been many films and novels made about heavy-hitting wordsmiths such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, but when have we ever seen a story about the figure in the background — the person who decides whether a book should be published or not?
Directed by first-time filmmaker Michael Grandage, GENIUS follows Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth and an always-attached fedora), one of American literature’s most famous editors. Not only was he Fitzgerald and Hemingway’s editors, but he was also the person who discovered them molded and developed their talents.
While Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Hemingway (Dominic West) make an appearance in the film, GENIUS is primarily about Perkins’ relationship with one of his more peculiar writers, Thomas Wolfe (a lively Jude Law).
Wolfe knew how to turn a phrase and immerse you in the world of his stories, but he also knew how to overwrite scenes. To Wolfe’s rescue, Perkins corrected his grammar, redlined the unnecessary bits and conducted massive restructuring to his mounds of handwritten manuscripts, which were sometimes up to 5,000 pages long.
There are many admirable qualities to this film. The true strength of it is what makes these two men tick and click. It’s just a shame it doesn’t offer enough to see what truly motivates them and makes them gel.
GENIUS is a vivid representation of the time, but like Wolfe’s novels, it could have benefited from some light trimming to focus more on the compelling insights.
Extras: Genesis of GENIUS (a rich behind-the-scenes look at the film), and Painting a Portrait of the Lost Generation (a fun featurette about the artistic energy of the 1920s).
The latest Jane Austen adaptation — filmmaker Whit Stillman’s LOVE & FRIENDSHIP, — takes a new approach to cinema translation. Stillman (Metropolitan) chose to adapt LADY SUSAN, a little-known novella that was published nearly a century after Austen’s death and re-titled it to make the story his own.
Set in the 18th century, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP tells a deliciously mannered story about a manipulative woman named Lady Susan Vernon (an award-worthy Kate Beckinsale) who uses an unethical strategy to capture the attention of a suitor of her daughter (Morfydd Clark) — and herself, too, naturally.
Well acted, scripted and directed, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is an exceptional film that encourages one to pick up a book and turn off the idiot box every once awhile.
Extras: A behind-the-scenes featurette.
Drake Doremus (LIKE CRAZY) is quite a visual filmmaker. He knows how to paint a thousand words with a single frame. Just look at the dialogue-free teaser-trailer for EQUALS and tell me you don’t feel something.
Unfortunately, the potential of his new film doesn’t warrant its feature length running time. Its future-set story of two people (Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart) who fall in love in an emotionless utopia drags on long past the obvious markers of its doomed storytelling.
Extras: The three featurettes (Switched On, The Collective and Utopia) and feature commentary (with Doremus, cinematographer John Guleserian and editor Jonathan Alberts) contains more life and intrigue than the film itself.
Also available on DVD and streaming: ALL THE WAY, AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON, A BIGGER SPLASH, CSI: CYBER – SEASON 2, THE DARKNESS, THE FLASH: SEASON 2, HARD TARGET 2, HONEY 3: DARE TO DANCE, THE IRON GIANT (1999): SIGNATURE EDITION, LIMITLESS: SEASON 1, THE MEDDLER, MONEY MONSTER, MY FATHER’S VIETNAM, NINA, NOW YOU SEE ME 2, THE ONES BELOW, SOUTH PARK: SEASON 19, STAR TREK 50TH ANNIVERSARY TV AND MOVIE COLLECTION, SUPERNATURAL: SEASON 11, TALE OF TALES and URGE.