April 6, 2014
Dealing with My Francophobia and -philia (Part 2 of 4)

Several signs converged to prompt me to cut off my research regarding James Franco’s directorial ventures. The first was my father telling me how much he loved Oz: The Great and Powerful, which he reminded me, starred “my boyfriend” James Franco. The second was the hullaballoo surrounding Franco’s flirtation with a barely legal fan. I give credit to that lady. When I was seventeen if Dave Grohl offered me a ticket to Pound Town, my bags would be packed and my folks would have seen nothing but a trail of dust following my lusty ass. But that is neither here nor there.

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Finding Franco: Directing Edition

Franco’s directing is much like his writing - full of concepts without any sense of “giving a shit” for emotional depth. I only watched The Broken Tower (2011), Sal (2011), Interior. Leather. Bar (2013),As I Lay Dying (2013), and his short film Feast of Stephen (2009). They were films that were relatively accessible and covered a variety of topics, most of which center on how much James Franco knows about stuff that we may not know about as if to say

oh…you haven’t heard of Sal Mineo? The other guy from that James Dean movie [who by the way I played in a tv movie…again, not to brag]? Well, let me take you on a cinematic journey

Already, his films are intellectually masturbatory, an attempt to offer new insight into people we presumably have never heard of, books we’ve never read OR a completely different perspective on how either can be represented through the magic of CINEMA

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It can be somewhat easy to become lost in scenes. Broken Tower is beautifully shot and there are images that easily stand on their own (plus Franco and Michael Sheen make-out. My dream journal has once again been hacked!). As I Lay Dying nicely represents the grime and sweat of Faulkner (so I’ve heard). The problem is Franco has a hard on for experimenting with techniques which turn neat ideas into eye-rolling “give me a breaks”. 

In focusing too hard on being different he forgets the point of his narratives, which are often tragic and require empathy from the audience. Sal is about the last day of Sal Mineo’s life, but we aren’t permitted to know anything about him, because this period is filmed predominantly in close-ups. Surely, there’s something arguably poetic about this, the idea that no matter how close we get we never TRULY KNOW him. I strongly doubt that was the goal. 

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The film remains artificial, as do the majority of Franco’s narratives, with character motivations unclear, incomplete plots, and relationships in a state of “so what? who cares?”. In Broken Tower the narrative is pieced together through moments that seem to be significant for Franco, but aren’t developed in ways that elaborate on why we should care or add to the emotional complexities of its subject, Hart Crane. While beautifully photographed, it hardly matters as nothing goes deeper than the image itself. The Kuleshov Effect can only do so much to convey a story. 

As I Lay Dying employs the the split screen the whole goddamn time. The split-screen can be great in forcing the viewers to choose between competing viewpoints which leads to further contemplation regarding what it is we are experiencing and why. Doing it throughout the entire thing allows for no stability, which is fine to some extent, but in a narrative about death, family, abuse, rape, abandonment, and poverty - stylization actually detracts from representing these emotive elements. There are some directors who can tug the ol’ heart strings while being fancy with editing or mise-en-scene (Gus Van Sant, Wes Anderson, Nicolas Winding Refn, Terrence Malick, Martin Scorsese - I guess list a favorite here). I’m not sure if this is an issue of style = art - that you can’t make something comprehensible that is referential AND meaningful. It’s all about the aesthetic, creating something that’s visually interesting, but this work offers nothing of value or significance. It’s like eating ice cream for every meal. It’s great at first, but leaves you cramping and pooping for days - this is perhaps the best way to describe the experience of watching a Franco film. 

Perhaps reliance on style is the sign of an insecure filmmaker, one who is afraid a film without gimmicks would belie a sense of genuine emotion that if criticized would become too hurtful and personal. Much like his literature, there is a refusal to commit and put himself out there for fear of being rejected and laughed out of both art and commercial worlds. With his current trajectory he can rely on arguments that A) the audience doesn’t get his wavelengths (and if he keeps targeting 17 year old girls who don’t know better, then he’s absolutely right) B) His failure is part of a larger life piece he’s working on that audiences still don’t understand or C) trick question: there is no argument, just a shrug of the shoulders with that Cheshire grin and a moment waiting for panties to drop. Well, Carlos, nice try, but it’s not going to work this time. 

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But for those of you who are interested in seeing what’s trolling around in my brain, I made this for you: 

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON FRANCO

March 15, 2014

better-than-kanye-bitchh:

Queen

THE MOTHERFUCKING QUEEN. 

(Source: illkim)

March 2, 2014
My Oscars Predictions because Nobody Asked.

Tis the season! As I’ve gotten older and realized awards are all a bunch of industrial hooey, this day has mostly turned into a reason to shove dip in my face and watch the parade of dreams enter the house where most will be crushed. Mostly…about the dip. 

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But here are some predictions for what will happen this time around. 

Gravity will win all technical awards. I mean, duh. I think whatever technology Jared Leto uses to maintain his face is the only competition. 

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I mean, fuuuuuuuuuuuuck. 

Jordan Catalano will also win, because Rayon is pretty damn stunning. Fassbender should be the next contender as he’s incredible in 12 Years a Slave. Frightening, chaotic, unstable… but I think people are too afraid of his big ol’ dick. He can’t swing that AND an award. 

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This will be AMAZING, because that means the dude from 30 Seconds from Mars will be an Academy Award Winner forever. You know who won’t? 

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What was that?

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Who do you see, DiCap?

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This will be the best. THE BEST. While I think DiCaprio deserves it more - I think MM will win it because everybody has a big ol’ boner for True Detective. As MM gets up to “Alright Alright Alright” his way through the speech, the camera will cut to Leo meticulously picking at flaws in his suit, folding and refolding his pocket square, and quietly talk-giggling to himself. He’ll eventually make his way to the stage, probably during Blanchett’s speech, just pop a squat, and SHIT all over that stage. Just an emotional five minute poop. We will never see him again. 

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Cate Blanchett will win best actress because there really is nobody else. Nobody. Amy Adams will smile through gritted teeth. In eight years, she’s been nominated for five. Another year, another loss. She’ll move further and further into the DiCaprio line of performance (and closer to onstage defecation). If Blanchett wins, expect a cut to a few people refusing to clap due to the Woody Allen controversy - a la Ed Harris and Nick Nolte when Elia Kazan won his honorary Oscar. 

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I’ve already mentioned I don’t understand why everybody’s tongues are wagging over Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. She’s good in a mediocre film - but that’s about it. Nyong’o is phenomenal both onscreen and off. Let’s just split the difference and give it to June Squibb - fuck the McConaughnessence - it’s a fucking Squibbulution. I’ve seen her so many places this year and loved each one.

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Cuaron for director - which I get, but his work is so much better than the glitzy, gimmicky Gravity

12 Years a Slave is tipping the scales for best film. Out of all of those nominated, I lean toward Wolf of Wall Street because it was so ripe with discomfort, everybody in that theatre was affected (you could feel it), and better yet everybody felt fucked by that film. I love a good “pulling the rug out” and that’s what Wolf does to those who thought it was going to be a fun ride. 12 Years provides a different experience and one that will make Academy members feel good about the lack of diversity in Hollywood and at these awards. 

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February 23, 2014
Selections from the Broterian Collection

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Something Wild (Demme 1986)

The dude from Dumb and Dumber (AKA THE BEST) meets this whack job and Demme plays with conventions to explore intersections of fantasy/escapism/pleasure/consequence. 

AND TIIIIIIIIIIIIITS. TITS. TITS. 

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Branded to Kill (Suzuki 1967)

TRIPPY. Reminds me of some Tarantino shit - except for the amount of layers and the extent in which we are forced to question our sense of reality in a highly mediated form with untrustworthy narrators. 

Lot more bush than I thought. Tits pretty good all around too. 

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Cleo from 5 to 7 (Varda 1962)

What an emotional trip.  Side boob though. 

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Exterminating Angel (Bunuel 1962)

Dude..I don’t know … something about how the only thing that restricts us our ourselves? 

NO BOOBS

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Repulsion (Polanski 1965)

holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit. Just a hint of nip. I don’t get what’s so scary though…patriarchy? 

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February 13, 2014
10 Things I Would Rather Do than Listen to Young People Flirt

NOTE: By “young people,” I mean tweens, teens, and people who should know and be better.

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I went to the store to pick up a salad mix, because I hadn’t had a vegetable in about six years. Turning toward the avocados I hear the shrill voice of giggles. To my right are two teen stockers, a bored looking chick and an equally bored dude. The squeals are from neither, but two girls picking up nuts. They want to know where the pistachios are and through their ear-splitting voices, ask the dude to show them. As he drops everything to help him and be generally polite, they vomit words - mostly berating him, but in a squealing, sickening, “I THINK YOU”RE CUUUUUUUUTE, SO I MUST DESTROY YOUR SELF ESTEEM” sort of way.

For an instant, I hated pistachios and this motherfucker LOVES pistachios.

I have not experienced that much flash loathing in a long time - and I realized that everything about that scenario - the voices, vomit, and chiding were intolerable. Here’s a list of things I’d rather do than overhear any of that.

I would rather

1. Tear my uterus out, throw it against a disgustingly white wall, and watch it slowly smear its way to the newly redone hard-wood floors. 

2. Listen to Aubrey tell me every instance he had his heart broken. TWICE.

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3. Convert entire books from one citation style to another. Have you dealt with the nuances of comma - IT’S BULLSHIT. 

4. Watch Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Once straight through. Another with commentary. Another with extended scenes. Then once again + every bonus feature and easter egg. In a row. Completely sober. 

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5. Never watch another Law and Order. None of them. As if they never existed. I don’t wish that anyone. 

6. Give myself paper cuts along the webs of my fingers and toes. 

7. Listen to Joe Francis explain how Girls Gone Wild doesn’t exploit women, without the ability to interject OR roll eyes. 

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8. Have Shia LaBoeuf read me Anna Karenina and provide his own footnotes, including each piece of symbolism he thinks he sees, all thematic interpretations, commentary about Tolstoy’s artistry as a writer, and funny anecdotes from working on A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.

9. Be held captive by slugs, who would would ooze all over my face in order to make me one of their own. 

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10. Do a Scrooge McDuck dive into a vat of shit and piss infested quarters and drown. 

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February 2, 2014
PSH

Let’s not talk, just soak and bathe in it

February 2, 2014
Cruising in Leather Bars

After a morning of Toddlers and Tiaras, I sat myself down for a Cruising (Friedkin 1980) and Interior. Leather Bar (Franco and Mathews 2013) double feature. Don’t worry - this won’t spoil an upcoming Franco entry - consider it a tiny taste of what’s to come (get it? like semen).

It’s clear why gay activists took issue with this film during production. Here you have Friedkin, infiltrating leather bars and exposing a subculture that could further marginalize. First, it’s not isolated as a subculture, which promotes the idea that all gay men leather up and have sex in underground clubs. Second, Friedkin approaches the subject more like an anthropologist than an insider or ally. He is fascinated by the going ons, but it’s a morbid curiosity that pervades the screen.  He approaches clubs and people in medium long or long shots, an observer in a club of curiosities - clearly interested but afraid. The homophobia is potent. There is no sense of intimacy or pleasure within these clubs, despite the amount of sex and drugs being had by all. It betrays Friedkin’s seemingly obsession with gay sex, treating it not as something that occurs between men, but as some sort of tawdry secret that he can’t stop trying to expose. 

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What is perhaps most impressive is Friedkin’s ability to make a serial killer targeting gay men about a straight white guy’s fear of penetration. The scenes within the bars are graphic by early 1980s standards, and quite frankly, even today. I can’t think of studio films that feature men flirting with each other, let alone going down on each other in a sweaty underground club. These scenes, however, lack any hint of eroticism. They are simply background used to underscore how horrific this undercover is for Al Pacino, who waffles between fear and titillation the entire film. At one point, he confesses being afraid of the expectation of having sex with a man…welcome, white dude, to the problems everybody else seems to have but you. Nut up, cupcake. Yet, this seems to be the sole dilemma of the film - not the injustice of a drag queen being forced to go down on a cop who used his power to rape and we know won’t be held accountable. Let us also not concern ourselves with the serial killer who is terrorizing New York City. Let’s all be concerned about the possibility that you might be approached to have sex and you may have to and shit, you may even like it. 

Rather, non-hetero sex is approached as a dangerous oddity without any sense of pleasure. In fact, the most eroticized the film gets is during the murder scenes. The scenes are Peeping Tom-esque, in the way it equates murder with orgasm - which added to fears of penetration and fascination with gay sex takes the film into even more problematic territory.

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Also, Pacino is supposed to be playing somebody in his late 20s. 

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Was Scott Baio not available? 

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Interior. Leather Bar seeks to expose and amend. The goal, according to the filmmakers, is to recreate the scenes Friedkin was forced to cut by the MPAA. The scenes were of leather bars and included sex. The point, according to Franco and Mathews, is to highlight fears and attitudes of sex, especially when dealing with non-heteronormative sex. They still work with straight men’s fears of male intimacy and penetration, but make it their problem as opposed to those in the club. In true Franco fashion, the film is a blend of reality of fiction, posed as a documentary of the re-imagining, but with a few reflexive moments of Mathews directing what we assumed were to be “real” that we are reminded that somebody watched Truffaut’s Day for Night, maybe a few times. 

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The main framing device deals with lead actor Val’s own issues being in the film. The conversations with his agent, who refers Interior. Leather Bar as “Franco’s Faggot Film” underscore the discomfort those in the industry have with “gay films”. The agent tries desperately to convince Val to not do the film. Though Val is not dissuaded, he is not necessarily on board. He believes in Franco’s art, but continually admits he doesn’t understand it, nor is he comfortable. This awkwardness eventually leads to a frank conversation with Franco about sex in films, fears in representing sex in film, and particularly gay sex. I don’t disagree with Franco, but he is always walking this thin martyr line - He admits to being bothered by the fact that the world has skewed his vision about sex and kind of acknowledges his privilege. It seems to some extent he uses these opportunities to apologize for his privilege or to try and absolve himself of privilege. Which is not how any of that works. On one hand, it is an important conversation to include. They also mention Franco’s association with Disney at this time, with Oz the Great and Powerful making this project a bit more dangerous for him - I think this is a bit of an overstatement and I refuse to slow clap for his braver. I do think, however, it is important for him to state, as he rarely does, the point for him. To be honest. He actually strips down the bullshit a bit is honest with why this project is important, at least for him, but I think he justifies why projects like this are important in general. 

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The film does a few things right. First, is providing depth to those having sex onscreen. Each person has an opportunity to speak, provide their subject position. Most self-identify as gay, but a few are straight. Some have cruised, others are consider themselves part of the bondage scene, others consider the film an interesting opportunity. The film also shows Mathews ethical approach to direction. As opposed to just a “hey do whatever you would do in a club” approach, Mathews encourages the actors to communicate and negotiate the scene - to discuss their limits and ensure that each person is comfortable with what they do onscreen. It’s clear there’s not a desire to expose or exploit, which already strays from Cruising.

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Though we don’t get much of the “footage,” from the brief moments included within the film, it’s already better. Rather than shooting from far away, Mathews relies on close-ups and medium close-ups on writhing, sweating, dancing bodies. The focus is on producing pleasure more so than discomfort or fear. The film celebrates the community as opposed to further cloaking it in mystery.  The sequences are much more about making physical connections, not dealt with in Cruising. The leather bar is much more of invitation than a warning and we can better understand how the character played by Pacino and Val could be swept up in the moment. The scenes shot by Mathews strip away the “Straight” divide which isolates Pacino from other men and instead shows the fluidity of sexual identity once societal norms are forgotten. 

While Franco is attached to this project, it is mostly in the sense he produces and directs the framing documentary narrative while Mathews directs the actual footage. This is smart, considering it’s unclear whether Franco could push past his own discomfort to produce something more intimate or erotic. 

It’s not a film to necessarily enjoy, but I think it accomplished its goal. It also provided a much needed response to Cruising.

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January 31, 2014
Cities Aviv - Come to Life

I shouldn’t like Cities Aviv’s new LP, but I do.


I shouldn’t like it because upon first listen, it sounds loaded with pretense.  It sounds like one of those records that everyone says they love so much but never really listen to and then forgets about until December when it’s time to make an end of the year list, and then they think, “Oh, yeah, that album … better check it’s pitchfork number” before pigeonholing it in there between the new Death Grips (that they also won’t have listened to more than once) and some ironic pop LP that is terrible, but needs to be included because, well shit, if all of my hip friends hate it, this is a way for me to assert my independence without running the risk of actually being ostracized.

 But I digress. 

I shouldn’t like this album because it sounds like something that would be playing in the background of an episode of Girls as Lena Dunham sweatily gyrates in a sheer top or something like that.  But here’s the thing, though.  Like this album, Girls is something I should also not like, but I do.  A lot.  And despite all of my instincts telling me that Lena Dunham is a late-Capitalist byproduct of the nouveau-bourgeoisie and her show is just drivel that no one really likes but everyone pretends to like, I still watch and enjoy it. The first time I watched it, I felt justified in my initial assumptions.  I thought it was shit, like a Sex and the City for the Williamsburg trust-fund set.  But then, thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of ML, I gritted my teeth and kept watching.  And that’s when I realized that there was more to it.  It had fucking soul.  Lena Dunham got me.  But this isn’t about Lena Dunham, so let’s move on.

Cities Aviv.

Sometimes I think that the most beautiful music in the world is the music you overhear coming from another room.  It’s muffled, it’s subdued … you can feel a beat, and it’s steady, but the melodies float in and out … ghost melodies.  They’re here for a second, and you think you recognize something in it, but then it slips away and you’re not really sure about what is actually heard through the walls and what was just the sound of your own mind filling in the gaps.  That’s what Come to Life is like for me.  It’s music from another room.  It always sounds like it’s just beyond my reach.  It’s elusive and intriguing.  And there’s something really god damn beautiful about that.

It took me about two full listens to get past that initial pretention that I felt.  I know the moment when it happened.  I was standing outside of my office smoking a cigarette, freezing my ass off.  Bizzarh’s vocals were kicking in on “Still” and I just closed my eyes and tilted my head back and let it go.  “Cause I never felt more alive,” Cities half sings half yells, and in that moment I understood.  It got me.  I found it’s fucking soul.  And then I just let that groove wash over me, warm me up.  I rode that drum beat out, and I hit the back arrow and listened to it again.  And again three more times.  Standing in the cold, shivering, and listening and listening and listening and listening.  When I finally let my ipod roll over to “Worlds of Pleasure” I was gone.  For a brief moment there, I was ready to declare this the album of the year.  But in reality, it’s probably not.

I have a weird relationship with cloud rap as a genre.  And I don’t know if I necessarily agree with Cities Aviv being classified as such.  Sure the second half (the better half) of the record has a kind of Clams Casino feel to it, and Cities’ rapping has that off-kilter half yelled cadence that’s vaguely reminiscent of Main Attraktionz or an extra-based Lil’ B, but I think that lumping this LP in with that stuff is kind of lazy.  This is hip hop, but it’s hip hop in so much that that’s the closest thing to it in terms of trying to define it.  The album swings a lot.  Sometimes it’s dancey, sometimes it’s broody, sometimes it’s a combination of the two.  But throughout the entirety of the LP Cities Aviv manages to maintain a fairly stable, cohesive mood.  He’s from Memphis, so the immediate association people will have with it is (Academy Award Winning) Three 6 Mafia.  And though there’s really nothing as far from Juicy J as Cities Aviv, there’s a weird kind of similarity between the two that more metaphysical than measurable.  There’s just something about it that feels kind of connected.  Maybe it’s the cadence of the raps, maybe it’s the dark moodiness of the production, or maybe it’s just the fact that they both emerged out of a city that the rest of the country doesn’t really pay attention to, so it sounds new or experimental or whatever.  But I think it’s more in spirit.  Cities Aviv, like the Three 6 Mafia, is writing party music, but it’s a party that I don’t really want to be invited to.  There’s a sadness to it, even when it’s at its most celebratory.  It’s dark, and as clichéd or lazy that adjective is, well it just is.  Fuck it.

 

I really love the last five tracks of this album, only one of which is produced by Cities Aviv.  Which makes a lot of sense.  I remember not really being impressed by his previous work, and if you’re a fan of the first LP or the singles released in the last three years, then you will enjoy the first half of this album, since the dude is producing it.  Ironically, it’s on the tracks produced by other artists where Cities Aviv seems more … personal … to me.  He’s more willing to expose his insecurities, it feels like there is less of a put on, less of a fabrication, it doesn’t feel like he’s play acting, where on his own beats he seems to be playing a character at times.  The most introspective stuff happens in soundscapes that he had no control over, which is interesting.  In my experience, hip hop artists who produce and rap usually work in the opposite way.  Kanye is the most confessional over his own beats.  KRIT gave us “The Vent” on his own, but adds posture and pretense when he’s a featured rapper.  On this album though, I’m much more interested in listening to what Cities Aviv has to say when he’s working over another’s material.  And I think it might be that the beats he chooses from others are more subdued.  They let him breathe as a rapper and don’t force him to fight for space.  As a producer, Cities Aviv is kinda clunky, he’s rather frenetic, and at times, incredibly distracting.  When he’s not fighting for space, he shines as a lyricist, and I hope in the future we get to hear more of him doing that.  The Cities Aviv that appears on “Still” and “Worlds of Pressure” is much more interesting and much more compelling than the Cities Aviv that appears on “URL IRL” and “Fool.”  But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the Aviv tracks.  He’s come a hell of a long way as a producer and rapper, and Come to Lifeis a rewarding LP that demands repeat listening.

Overall, I recommend this album highly.  Every time I hear this guy’s new stuff it keeps getting better, so the future looks bright.

Best track: “Still” (if you couldn’t guess)

 

Listen to: STILL feat. Bizzarh [prod. by Alexander Odell] by Cities Aviv

January 30, 2014
Her?

Funny enough, SNL captured Her better than I could. 

I think they could go higher. 

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January 19, 2014
Dealing with My Francophobia and -philia (Part 1 of 4)

I have a problem that involves James Franco.

I can’t identify when it started nor why. One moment I was enthralled by Carlos the Elf and the next cry-shouting into a webcam about how James Franco was ruining higher education (in all fairness, I was drinking a little wine…a little bottle). The crux of the tirade was not that he wasn’t smart, but that this incredible “fanfair” surrounding his admission into 90 graduate schools and the fap fapping about his ability to “balance it all” was annoying - particularly as somebody also balls deep in the process of going to graduate school, teaching, and writing. I don’t admonish a man’s desire to go back to school; in fact, I dig how much that guy likes stuff - but I still feel as if he’s farting in my cereal regarding just HOW much he does and the quality of his scholarly work. Now…I have no basis for this and in fact, I fear it is my academic pettiness shining through. Or is that just an easy excuse for Franco to fall back on? Yeah. I know. It’s a circle of madness. One in which I’m a frequent participant. Too many times I’ve wondered “What is that guy’s deal?” and then spend far too long trying to put the pieces together until eventually my brain turns into something like this: 

and realize I have to stop before I give myself an aneurysm. 

I’m not sure if we can separate the obvious physical attractiveness with the talent. So often we provide super attractive people a pass with mediocrity in other fields, because we’re so surprised that they can do things. You’re gorgeous AND choose to read books?! Look at when any super attractive person is able to tell a joke on television. Remember when they put Brooke Shields on Friends and then gave her Suddenly Susan? Case. Point. Match. Have you seen Hot Flashes? Have you? Well, that’s the problem when we get our public consciousness dickmatized. We can’t separate the “ugh”. 

I decided it was time to dive all in and study the works of James Edward Franco. To finally settle down and confront his deal, my deal, our deal. I am looking at four artistic endeavors - acting, art, directing, and writing. I’m not sure if I will find answers and I’m not quite sure that’s the point (if there is one). I just need to better sort out the bullshit from the persona. 

I know some people may think this is all fun and games - but I’m approaching this with a critical eye - there are things I’ve liked and there are things that are like jogging through mud. This isn’t like when I tried to watch all of Leo DiCaprio’s films at 13 and thought each film was better than the other (they weren’t). I’m not going to bullshit - I do get lost in that guy’s curls from time to time, but I dare you try not to

I mean check out that volume … don’t be dumb.

                             Finding Franco:  Writing Edition

Palo Alto (2010)

A collection of short stories based on his and others’ experiences growing up in Palo Alto, California. Short story: It’s not great, but not terrible. Three really interesting things come up in these stories -

First, is the blend of fact and fiction, which mixed with somebody who already has a high profile creates more of an interactive experience, which continues into Actor’s Anonymous. By mixing fact with fiction he dirties the water of his own mediated reality.

Second, the hollowness of the characters, which I have yet to figure out if it purposeful or a lack of depth on the part of Franco’s writing. One of the problems is Franco loves to read, which means he shoves a bunch of stylistic references and frameworks to the point where it reads like somebody very excited to write, but not provide any of the umph of a good story. There are some great characters and stories - potential - but in terms of providing complexity - there is none (despite the incredible complexity of some of the plots - a dude who sexually exploits a girl by providing her as a sex toy for dudes at parties, another girl who is seduced by her soccer coach, and kid who kills somebody in a hit-and-run but gets away with it). Perhaps the point is to make everybody in Palo Alto a character from the Hollow Men (that’s right, I’ve read some poetry, motherfuckers), but it doesn’t seem as purposeful as much as somebody trying really hard to contain himself. 

Third, there are some weird stylistic techniques - like using brand names, which I guess are meant to enhance the realism, but read too much like he wants Bose to send him some headphones. He does it strategically, but I don’t know what battle or war he’s trying to win. The other thing is his love for “that” which he uses with impunity and often unnecessarily. Finally, is he love with lists and “and,” which I actually don’t mind. In fact, I quite enjoy repetition and flow and rhythm of using ands within lists as opposed to blunter commas. It helped balance out all the bullshit thats.

There were definitely times where I felt like I was back in my undergrad creative writing class and in order to write deep, meaningful stories all the chicks wrote about cocoons and abortion rooms. It was my greatest acting challenge, because I had to control my forever rolling eyes in that class. This all came down to certain turns of phrase or scenarios. Wandering, for examples, through the streets contemplating the world around him like Benjamin’s flanuer (that’s right, bitch, I’ve read theory too) or letting everybody know that the character was getting super into Faulkner (we get it). However, I also can’t be too hard on this considering it was A) his first work and B) he actually wrote it as opposed to a ghostwriter - and I do think he legit wrote it C) a final portfolio (at least it reads like one). I imagine this was written for school and after writing a dissertation - I can’t be a total bitch about it. It’s pretty good under the circumstances. 

A California Childhood

The fucker straight up recycled stories from Palo Alto in this “visual art autobiography” - it’s a fucking scrapbook. There are some great examples of his artistic work, not great poetry, and not enough collage. It reminded me of when we had to make a photo album for Home Economics and then give it to our parents. I think it’s particularly disappointing after reading Diane Keaton’s book and seeing examples of some of the art she, her mother, and brother created. There was, however, this photo, which kind of made the whole thing worth it: 

Actor’s Anonymous

I’m not going to bullshit you, I actually really got into it, especially after after keeping in order. It’s similar to Palo Alto, in the sense it is pseudo-autobiographical, mixed with “heard from” stories. Because I’m also watching his films, there were weird points where you could see SonnyJames Dean, Tristan + Isolde, and Spiderman (some more explicit than others). There are also weird echoes to the past - weaving in of characters or throwbacks to Palo Alto. It also comes across as more relaxed and confident as he indulges in deconstructing and restructuring his own ego, celebrity, and bullshit - then questions it and then goes through the process again. Whereas Palo Alto seemed hollow, Actor’s Anonymous has a little more vulnerability and character. Rather than the characters being written hollow they (for the most part) are the right amount of Hollywood vapid. Additionally, you get the frustration, Franco’s own musings about film (as concept and an industry) and acting in the form of aphorisms, which run from the same ol’ complaints about Hollywood to more insightful about the current state of celebrity. I still think he can push further. He scratches the surface of gross with a “character” giving handjobs in a McDonald’s bathroom, fucking ugly chicks and keeping a sex-surfing catalog of chicks, and instances of stalking and sexual assault - but still needs a bit more Hollywood Bablyon - let’s Chinaski it up, let’s get some Miller’s “unstitchable wounds” (pussy) type language. Granted, this is an issue of style and taste. 

Bonus points, he’s a big fucking film nerd. I appreciate the fact he can drop Mekas, Chaplin, Cassavetes, and (if I remember correctly) Ozu through the work. Sure this could just be bragging, but to whom? The readership certainly wouldn’t give a shit and I’m pretty sure would find An Autumn Afternoon a snooze-fest (I recognize I’m making some grand assumptions about who is reading this…but I’d like folk to prove me incorrect). 

Vice Articles

Besides experimenting with poetry and prose, Franco writes criticism for Vice. I have no beef with them. Dude brought up posthumanism in his article about Her and managed to not come across like a complete d-bag, which is feat of critical strength (he also dropped N. Katherine Hayles’s name, who is super cool - and it actually makes quite a bit of sense that he took a class with her because when she spoke at our university she was all agush about Mark Danielewski’s work and Franco borrows (heavily) some of that formal play in Actor’s Anonymous. If you read House of Leaves, you’ll easily recognize the use of colors, plurality of voices, and footnotes/edits - it’s not subtle). I usually agree with his criticism and find it both smart and accessible. Son of a bitch. 

Overall

It is what it is.

Are my panties completely off after reading Franco’s work? Not necessarily.  I like the subjects he works with - depravity, vapidity, disillusionment, morbidity, self-reflection and doubt, liminal spaces, but could probably use more focus to draw out the affect. Instead of playing with style and form, just dive into the brutal truth, Ruth. The incorporation of celebrity and more explicit insertions of himself into the Actor’s Anonymous’s narratives flush out these themes more and provide insight and depth into (I’m sorry…I’m going to do it and I totally get if you unsubscribe) Hollowood and himself as not only an actor but one who has “made it”. Those most connected to The Actor are the most interesting, particularly as they both add and debunk the mythos surrounding his person. As much as these works are his own, his writing is also so saturated in influence that at points it can get a bit much (WE GET IT. You have a big ol’ boner for Faulkner. So quit it). Sure, it’s fun to watch somebody experiment with style and form, but I think at times he takes “framework” a bit too literally. 

I wonder what it would be like if he did nothing but focus on writing for a year. Probably just devolve into … 

Oh to be that mirror. 

I mean…..whatever. you shut up. 

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