James Franco, or the Dada Host

I did not have the pleasure of watching the Oscars, but I wanted to, because I think James Franco is a funny guy. So I did what I could on a computer with a slow internet connection to try and measure Franco’s performance. This is a selction of what I found.

Salon tried to get in Franco’s head, Matt Zoller Seitz could not understand his hosting performance:

James Franco had a feeling this Oscar hosting gig was a bust when he ambled onstage dressed as Marilyn Monroe and the crowd at the Kodak Theater took entirely too long to register that it was him. And when theydid figure it out — somewhere around the time that Franco said, “I just got a text message from Charlie Sheen!” — they just sort of tittered politely.

Maybe, Franco thought, there’s more to entertainment than just being in the room. Maybe performance is more than a concept to be explored via metafiction and academic jazzing-around. Maybe you just plant your feet and say your line with some energy and try to connect with the audience and hope it works. Maybe it’s as simple as flipping a switch: Decide to give a damn and you give a damn, and the audience does, too.

Lisa de Moraes from the WashPo put it this way:

This year, the motion picture academy decided to go with co-hosts whose big selling point was their age: Franco and Anne Hathaway. Hathaway worked hard to keep us awake during the show, including a breathtaking number of outfit changes.

Franco phoned it in for three hours and change.

Bill White from themorningcall.com agrees that the Oscars were a bust but does not blame it all on the presenters, Franco:

Co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco are absorbing a lot of abuse today, but really, they just were living up to their public images — Hathaway over-the-top perky and Franco a heavy-lidded stoner. They combined for a mildly entertaining opening and a mildly funny joke here and there. Honestly, can you think of any recent hosts who bowled you over? I can’t.

In the face of a show where the highlights are the tiny clips used to introduce the nominees, there’s not a lot a host can do, except to be quick enough on his/her feet to ad lib some good wisecracks about the silliness. That’s why Billy Crystal was the most successful host most of us have seen. He doesn’t need a script.

Steven Zeitchik from the LATimes did some reporting on some of the odd moments of the Oscars, providing some context that rescues many of them into normalcy. Franco, however, had no explanation:

James Franco: Well, this one stumps us too. Did he genuinely not care, or did he just want to make it seem as though he didn’t care? More important, do we care?

We care, or at least, I care. Because I had the sneaking suspicion that Franco was going to be dwelling in a little performance art, and judging by these reactions, he did, he dwelt. But the case is still open, and nothing is certain. We continue to explore. From The Tech Daddy (Ken Gruberman), or just-another-serf at the HuffPo, a brutal review of this year’s Oscars, but not one that focused on the Franco:

But the real problems with the show this year were not with the hosts. Rather it was with the producer/director Don Mischer — who really should know better — and the writing staff. There were PAINFULLY awkward moments in the show, odd transitions that didn’t make sense, continuity problems, lack of info to the viewing public, and really bad presenter “banter.” TRULY bad. Like the byplay between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law — totally inappropriate. Did the world really need to be reminded of Downey’s previous debauchery? Is that supposed to be funny? Or Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johanssen’s stunningly un-funny banter (“sound!”) There were so many bits that just went nowhere, such as Franco’s walk-on as Marilyn Monroe.

Rolling Stone championed this one with a report that confirmed my suspicion. Perhaps his awkwardness was planned, and therefore spot-on. This is the Franco who acts in soap operas because he wants to, the Franco who called out Meredith Vieira on the “Today Show” for telling Colin Firth he would win the Oscar for the best actor, the Franco who is getting university degrees because he wants to and because he can, the Franco who published a book of short stories, the Franco who plays a young Allen Ginsberg in “Howl,” a movie he produced. This was Rob Sheffield’s review:

Come on: James Franco was kind of brilliant last night. He treated the Oscars like his own avant-garde conceptual art project, like the way he went on General Hospital for kicks and giggles. Like, what if an insanely pretty boy got up on TV in front of a billion people, and did nothing but smirk and squint and stare off into the distance and look embarrassed to be there? What if he barely said a word, just contemplating his own hotness and flashing his John-Mayer-post-lobotomy grin? What a bold statement on modern alienation! Like the tragic hero of Jean Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy, he stood trapped behind a mirror, unable to make human contact, cursed to face his own reflection alone. Duuuude! I hope he got at least a B+ for that in his “Media Tedium Strategies” seminar.

I am signing off with this video, evidence that there was some effort involved in hosting, even if the video did not air.

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Beware of the Mombies!

Via The Cagle Post, a wonderful cartoon that puts the life of the fetus before the life of the mother, which opens a can of worms, specifically a can of feminist worms, and I don’t mean that derogatorily, it just happens to be where the expression took me, but to be clear, it deals with legislation that confronts women’s rights.

by Jen Sorensen at Slowpoke

Plagiarism and Suicide

Joshua Cohen via Wikipedia

Author Joshua Cohen answers the questions of the ‘Ask the Paris Review‘ section of the November 12th ‘the Paris Review Daily.’ The question:

I have been unable to write for the past three weeks, bordering on a month, and it hurts. More than the act of writing ever did. It hurts. More than the pain I no doubt cause others with poor literary attempts, but I’ll have to go selfish on this one, even if it is poor writing, I’d rather that than just blinking. So, do you have any tips or a potent elixir to kick writer’s block? Thank you. —Ayat Ghanem

Cohen answers that there is no real solution to writer’s block because science has not catalogued and categorized the multiple variations on the block. Solutions to writer’s block are unique to the infected.

Thing is, there’s no single cure for the Block (this is what serious writers call it; cf. the Clap, the Syph, the Herp). And the reason there’s no single cure is that there’s no single type of Block. The Block can be daylong, or weeklong; it can last for years (Truman Capote) or decades (Ralph Ellison, Henry Roth). I can’t think of any other writers just now.

Cohen’s advice is simplified to ‘don’t fight it and apply your time to other skills.’ The skills, you ask?

You might take comfort from the fact that while writing can’t be forced, time spent not writing can be put to good use. Try acquiring other skills, like rolling cigarettes or reading. Learn to differentiate between scotch and bourbon. Learn the differences among corn whiskey, rye whiskey, and wheat whiskey. Learn what, if anything, separates whisky from whiskey. Ayat, take comfort from the fact that a writer does not always have to write—and not all scotch comes from Scotland.

Don’t expect whiskey and cigarettes to rid the fingers of that stubborn inability to flow a narrative. Cue narcotics and DMT. Last piece of advice:

Finally, Ayat, don’t discount the two greatest cures for the Block: plagiarism and suicide. Good luck!

Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy

Daft Punk – Derezzed

Aphex Twin Hoards Six New Albums

Pitchfork Media is reporting that IDM/glitch/electronica virtuoso Richard D. James (or Aphex Twin, AFX, Blue Calx, etc.) has six albums of material that for some reason are just sitting around, not getting released since 2001. James says:

“I’ve got six completed. Two are very non-commercial, abstract, modular-synthesis, field recordings– those I finished four years ago. Another one is Melodies From Mars, which I redid about three years ago. There’s one of stuff I won’t go into, a comp of old tracks which is never really finished and always changing, and then one I’m working on now. There are also loads of tracks which don’t belong anywhere.”

This is flabbergasting news! Being a dork always and forever, I’ll admit that Aphex Twin has enjoyed the role of  “architect” in defining my musical  taste. Despite five years without any new material (James’ last release was the excellent Chosen Lords as APX in 2006), I would point out that the current proliferation of electronica music stems from James’ archetypal catalog of computer-generated sound.

You want evidence? Watch Kanye West’s epic music video (seemingly a visual illustration of his entire new album). He is definitely sampling “Avril 14th” (off James’ 2001 release Drukqs) around the 25-minute mark.

Come on, Richard D. James. You are going to need to release some of this material so that, in ten years, the best hip-hop producers can incorporate it into their sampling repertoire.

Daily Sample Rate

I rate Madvillain’s sample of Marion Elling, William Loose, and Stu Philip’s “Kelly” as a perfect 10.

The original (1996):

The sampled version (2004):

Oops Takes Top Honors

Chris Beckman put this together to a hypnotizing result. A testament to the new age fetishism for archiving. Winner of the Vimeo Awards in the Experimental category.