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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Born What Way?

Lady Gaga released the “Born This Way” video,  available in YouTube. It is disjointed and unfortunately gratuitous. There are two parts to the video; a monologue introduction, and your standard music video. The parts do not really go together, although they are probably supposed to. This is the opening monologue (written by Gaga):

This is the manifesto of Mother Monster. On G.O.A.T., a Government Owned Alien Territory in space, a birth of magnificent and magical proportions took place. But the birth was not finite, it was infinite. As the wombs numbered and the mitosis of the future began, it was perceived that this infamous moment in life is not temporal, it is eternal. And thus began the beginning of the new race, a race within the race of humanity, a race which bears no prejudice, no judgement, but boundless freedom. But on that same day the eternal mother hovered in the multi-verse, a more terrifying birth took place, the birth of evil. And as she herself split into two, rotating in agony between two ultimate forces, the pendulum of choice began its dance. It seems easy to imagine, to gravitate instantly and unwaveringly towards good. But she wondered, how can I protect something so perfect without evil?

My first concern is that Gaga and her people do not know what a manifesto is. She threatens with a manifesto and offers a cheap genesis, a porous philosophy of the dualist birth of Gaga and Evil in G.O.A.T., a conveniently dissonant acronym for an alien planet. Then there are words like womb and mitosis that are thrown in to legitimize the primordial analogy. Needless to say, these fail , because the monologue is absurd, and thus impossible to legitimize. The new race within the race is also quite complicated since races, or human races, are all within the ‘human race.’ Is this a new and separate race to the three human races, African, Asian and Caucasian? Or is Gaga’s new race a sub-race of one of these? And how is a race within the human race being created in an alien territory? All pressing questions.

Then there is the video, once is starts of course. It demonstrates that Gaga can’t dance, and that she is much more entertaining with elaborate costumes than in a bikini that shows her too conventional body type. I am not saying that she has to have Beyonce-like curves or sex-appeal, but going semi-nude without these features isn’t entertaining. If she is going to dance without crutches it is best that she dances like Beyonce. Gaga looks like a hybrid between Joan Rivers and Amy Whinehouse, uncomfortable and deteriorated. The most entertaining part is the scene where she is dressed in a skeleton costume, in a tux, next to a dude skeleton, also in a tux. The dude doesn’t even move and she just kinda quakes around him. It is entertaining but confusing to the narrative. At first I expected some Star Trek sort of tale, and by the skeleton scene I’m wondering if the whole thing is just an elaborate Halloween performance.

Lady Gaga tries to do the Michael Jackson with a seven minute concept music video, but she misunderstand the purpose. The music is in opposition to the idea of the new infinite-alien-human-modern-monster race that must be protected with Evil. The music is conventional club music, upbeat and too similar to ‘Bad Romance.’

At least M.J. dressed like a smooth criminal and danced like one too. Gaga, however, is trying to hard to push her freak agenda. She wants to be Marlyn Manson with all the glam and none of the gore. Instead Gaga is the Fox News of popular culture, what happens when Marilyn Manson and Cher breed. Sensational and likable.

In sickness and in health…

While having an interesting discussion with a friend this holiday season I learned there is a new television show gaining a lot of attention.  A reality show that combines two great American traditions, marriage and plastic surgery, is now being featured on E!  The new show titled “Bridalplasty” features a group of brides to be that are actually competing to go under the knife in order to perfect themselves before exchanging their sacred vows.  Click here to see the show’s ridiculous trailer.

I will admit to watching a healthy dose of reality television.  For example, puppet master Bret Michales provided my friends and I with endless entertainment as we watched him search for his “rock of love” by narrowing down a mixture of ex-strippers and strung-out groupies.   I watched Snookie get punched in the face, and have seen plenty of “The Situation’s” abs.  Still, after learning about this reflection of our culture (as expressed by reality T.V.) I find myself giving the wag of the finger to modern medicine.

Plastic surgery has evolved into something that extends far past its original purpose.  No longer used for patients dealing with life altering deformities, plastic surgery has become the money-maker of the surgical world.  At first, women just wanted a good pair of fake tits and a Paris Hilton nose.  Now, it is literally anything and everything possible to make sure these women look exactly as their twisted minds think they are supposed to.   Skilled surgeons are whoring themselves out to anyone who has the slightest case of low self-esteem.  This “practice” is actually breeding a new form of addiction and finds itself entering people’s personal delusions (Heidi Montag comes to mind.)

“Bridalplasty” is not only demonstrative of a corrupted form of medical enhancement, but also shows an odd intersection of medicine and love.  To take someone in sickness and in health used to mean that no matter the circumstances we will love each other until we die.  These brides that are undergoing painful, expensive, and just plain petty surgeries are already sick!  Their concept of love is based entirely on the way they look and plastic surgeons allows this skewed ideology to manifest. What sort of groom, television station, or society allows this to take place? In protest, I will never watch this show- even if I find myself perversely fascinated. Congratulations to science…for  literally creating Brides of Frankenstein.

Terry Gilliam to Not Ever Direct Harry Potter Film

I saw “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” last night, after taking a…three? four? year hiatus from bothering to keep up with the series in either book or film form.

One reason I haven’t bothered to become fluent in the Potter enterprise is because of the films. The books are okay, yeah, I find them difficult to appreciate since they’re so predictably archetypal, but they’re entertaining enough and it’s great the kids are reading. The films however, or at least the first three I saw, were boring. Just boring. I realize the HP franchise switched up directors a few times (Chris Colombus did the first three – his previous directing “achievements” include the awful “Stepmom”, and Alfonso Cuaron directed the 4th, which evidently is the best of the lot according to the internet in general), but David Yates’ rendition of the 7th HP installment was, pretty cool.

Still kind of boring (Harry and co. spent like four fucking months wandering around in the wilderness, complaining about not getting anything accomplished), but pretty cool. While I was reading reviews online, I stumbled upon a little nugget of information that made me hate myself:

Terry Gilliam was J.K. Rowling’s original pick to direct the entire series, and Gilliam wanted to do them too.

we could have had more of this! ("Brazil," 1985)

 

I have long adored Gilliam’s work, from the never unfashionable Monty Python to the blockbuster sci-fi landscape of  “12 Monkeys.”  The guy is experienced, artistic, darkly humorous, British, basically a wizard already. He’s genuinely smart, and a good writer.  Basically the perfect candidate for the HP series.

Is it too late to order a reboot of the series?

Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy

Daft Punk – Derezzed

iBeatles

After years of legal disputes, The Beatles and their entire discography arrive to iTunes. Jacob Ganz from NPRMusic reports:

Now, all 13 original Beatles studio albums will be available via iTunes for $12.99 per album. Three collections of hits are priced at $19.99. Individual songs from the band’s catalog will sell for $1.29, the upper limit for songs on iTunes (previously, all songs were priced at 99 cents). A box set of all available material can be purchased for $149.

Forbes reporter Michael Humphrey conducted a seance/interview with John Lennon. It souds like John is upset over the idea of ownership. I bet he would have really loved what.cd.

Lennon: Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.

Techo-tainers: Are you advocating piracy?

Lennon: Possession isn’t nine-tenths of the law. It’s nine-tenths of the problem.

Techno-tainers: Yeah, but the music industry has proven quite draconian in dealing with file sharing. What would you do to fight that sense of ownership?

Lennon: My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.

The Twitter Account that Radicalizes Music Journalism

is Discographies.

The mysterious man/woman/shemale behind the ever-clever twitter account tweets the “definitive guide to an artist’s body of work (studio albums only) in 140 characters or less.”

http://about.me/discographies

Some of my favorites:

  • Kings Of Leon: 1-2 “fierce energy” = loud and dull; 3-5 “greater artistic maturity” = each generation gets the Goo Goo Dolls it deserves.
  • Interpol: 1 Find an old photo of Joy Division. 2 Xerox the photo. 3 Draw the Xerox. 4 Stare at the drawing: you’ll never get Closer.
  • Weezer: 1 “Remember that nerdy guy from high school?” 2 “The one who couldn’t talk to girls?” 3-7 “Why are you still hanging out with him?”

 

Enjoy.