Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Cows Are Out Of The Barn: James Franco and Joaqin Phoenix

" I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle." - Alfred Hitchcock

I'm Still Here is not a bad movie. It took me all the way to the last frame to decide I felt that way, but it's true. Casey Affleck's editting style may be kind of annoying and self-conciouslessly artsy and the themes always teeter on the edge of not being very good ones but the grand experiment of transgressing the rules of celebrity is well targeted and the basic story of "I hate being famous, I did it to impress my Dad" is saved by it's sincerity, it's lack of real self pity, and it's basic factual account of itself.

I loved seeing Joaqin Phoenix fat, with prostitutes, not talking up his latest movie, and performing on Letterman with an aplomb that no one will ever thank him for. Watching a celebrity pretend to self destruct under the pressures of fame sounds like a horrible film (Sunset Boulevard aside). The whole film was like waiting for someone to finish a sentence you were just waiting to turn out racist. But by the very last frame I felt OK about all of it. If you're going to see it, see it all the way through.

James Franco is the other side of this phenomenon. His experiments with his fame serve pretty much no purpose. He stated that he wanted to be on General Hospital because you couldn't stop thinking that you were watching him rather than his character - and he liked that. In other words, hitherto consistent second banana James Franco suddenly stands out when you put him on a soap opera and we all think "hey I'm watching James Franco" because we've just been told who James Franco is. He was the Green Goblin and now he's on General Hospital and is attending 17 different grad schools.

I suspect the readers of Shooting Wall already know this. We won't get into his gallery openings of videos of men pooping and peeing. I haven't seen them yet and I don't want to judge. Certainly there has been some good things done with pooping and peeing. However, point made, he's kind of an insufferablly pretensious dude. And God love him for it, he just keeps doing it and there's something valid about that.

I don't know if there's anything to really say about this phenomenon other than to see if it becomes a thing. Certainly these men are not Orsons, Busters, or Charlies. They're not even Sam Rockwells, Dustin Hoffmans, or Donald Sutherlands. But now they're artists. And (soon) they'll both have been to the Oscars.


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