As many of you know, I’ve been performing in a Broadway production of one of John Steinbeck’s best-known works, Of Mice and Men, which is why I’m writing about one of his lesser-read works, In Dubious Battle, a novel that is part of Steinbeck’s migrant-worker trilogy set during the Great Depression.
Broadway, Baby – by James Franco
So you want to know what it’s like to put up a play on Broadway? I’ll tell ya. But, I should note, the way a classic play is put on (specifically John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, in which I am currently starring) is much different than a new one.
With a new play the playwright will most likely be in rehearsals every day, looking over the director’s shoulder and telling him or her how to manifest the story and themes through the bodies of actors and work of the designers. There are usually rewrites on the fly because new dynamics are found while putting the scenes on their feet. This forces the actors to learn new lines, often through many iterations, and sometimes the night before a performance. Essentially, when mounting a new play the director is offered the luxury of having a partner by his or her side to help guide everything until it’s just right.
With a classic play—especially if the writer is dead like John Steinbeck is dead—it’s the opposite. The words are holy; do NOT fug with them.
James Franco on the True Characters in True Detective
Alright, alright, alright, as of last Sunday True Detective is over. The finale was the last time we’ll see Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the roles of detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart. It has been a great eight weeks of watching these two swinging dicks mix it up against a sweaty backdrop of Louisiana, faith, and murder. The anthology series (which, in essence, frames each season as its own miniseries), written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed in its entirety by Cary Fukanaga, is a great study in literary adaptation to the small screen’s longest of forms.
Although True Detective is not based on a book, its characters, ambience, setting, and submission of women are taken straight from the Pizzolatto fiction playbook. Rather than an adaptation of a particular story or novel, it is quite literally an adaptation of his writing. Meaning, the artist has switched mediums, which is why the series feels so literary (exemplified by references to Friedrich Nietzsche and to Robert W. Chambers’s supernatural story collection, The King in Yellow), and also why the show is not really about solving the crime as much as it is about the bromance between our White Kings, Rust and Marty.
Revisiting Twin Peaks – by James Franco
Recently, I’ve been hearing a whole lot about David Lynch, and not from the Lynch camp or concerning any new projects (what’s it been, eight or so years since Inland Empire?). Rather, I’ve been hearing about Lynch from people who have been re-watching Lynch’s work, especially Twin Peaks. I was in junior high when the series came on, and I was more interested in watchingBeverly Hills, 90210 (the first incarnation, with my man Luke Perry as D-McKay).
But even my young, culturally stilted self couldn’t help being aware of the phenomenon that wasTwin Peaks when it hit prime time. The first season was a juggernaut of creative innovation that television had been waiting for, as the response from critics and viewers clearly showed.
We Reviewed Every Band That’s Playing Bonnaroo
Every year, countless people migrate from around the world to attend Bonnaroo, a three-day bacchanalia of tent cities, blistering heat, and unshowered people on ecstasy feeling each other up to a variety of popular pop, rock, hip-hop, and EDM from the past and present. This year, Bonnaroo outdid itself in terms of headliners, booking Kanye West, Sir Elton John, and Jack White as the marquee acts for the fest. Because we are the greatest and best music site the world has ever known, Noisey editors Eric Sundermann and Drew Millard took it upon themselves to review the entire lineup in the span of about twenty minutes. What follows are their unedited thoughts on every single band that Bonnaroo booked this year. SPOILER ALERT: They hadn’t heard of like half of them.
Yeezy is the greatest artist of our generation and while on stage he wears a discoball on his head and fistbumps with Jesus Christ.
This guy still really likes guitars.
The Arctic Monkeys are still really big in the UK because the UK is still really into leather jackets.
Already wears headbands, he’ll be perfect.
Neutral Milk Hotel
You have a friend who really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really likes this band.
Not that tight.
SuperJam with Skrillex & Friends
The Bluegrass Situation Superjam hosted by Ed Helms
You know, I don’t mind the last few seasons of The Office.
One time I interviewed Disclosure and had no idea who they were, then I listened to their record, and then I realized neo-garage was stupid as shit.
The Head and the Heart
According to google, The Head and the Heart are an indie-folk band, which would explain why no Noisey reader has ever heard of them.
Y R U MY CLARITY
Ms. Lauryn Hill
Entire set will be cut off if anyone looks them in the eyes.
Apparently Bonnaroo does this thing where they hold a competition for the “funkiest dancer,” and that’s what this is, and tbqh kind of makes me not want to go to Bonnaroo.
Everyone wants Janelle Monae to be better than Janelle Monae will ever be.
This is a band for boring people who think having sex with the lights on is kinky.
I’m getting to the part of the list of bands I don’t recognize.
Invariably, when I google the acts on this list I’ve never heard of, I find that there’s a good reason I’ve never heard of them.
Fascinating fact: Dr. Dog is the band that Noisey gets pitched on, by both writers and publicists, that we refuse to cover. See?
Yonder Mountain String Band
John Butler Trio
White-dude-with-dreadlocks music. Not the worst, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I’m not.
Game of Thrones returns April 6.
Werner Herzog Writes Poetry with Film, Writes James Franco
Here’s the thing about Werner Herzog: He’s both old and new school. His technique is largely self-taught because he never went to film school. Werner grew up in the mountains of Bavaria, Germany, in an area so rural that his first telephone conversation happened when he was 17. He saw a couple of short films as a child, projected on a wall. They meant little to him. He began by writing poems, but in his late teens he had a spiritual epiphany and realized that film would be his medium. Werner wanted to write his poetry with film, but he had no money to do so.
That lack of funds for filmmaking early in his career seemed to have left an impact on his process. Queen of the Desert—the film I just worked on with him and Nicole Kidman—was shot on a digital camera. But even though we could shoot as much as we wanted with little expense, Werner would stop after we got one or two good takes and say, in his distinct German accent: “When I was young and working as a stone mason, saving money for every scrap of celluloid I could, I would be happy with this, with one good take, because film was like gold.” After a week, he seemed to loosen up a little. Sometimes we would do four or five takes, luxuriating in the freedoms of digital technology.
Werner always claps the slate himself. This job is usually relegated to the second assistant camera operator, but Werner wants to be in the middle of everything. He wants filmmaking to be a material process—something closer to a moving sculpture than a performance caught through a lens. He wants the movie to reveal the human struggle, the human condition, human passions, and he wants his hands all over it, deep in its essential tissue.
What of the Ottava Rima in Byron’s ‘Don Juan’?
Lord Byron’s use of ottava rima—a form of poetry with an ABABABCC rhyming pattern—in his mock-epic poem Don Juan stems from his belief to deliver seriocomic material. The poem builds up content, alternating rhyming lines then cinches with a facetious end. Byron first used ottava rima in 1817 for Beppo: A Venetian Story—a good match for the extensive and quasi-exotic love story. So, it’s natural that he took up the same seriocomic tone of the ottava rima a year later, when he wanted to satirize Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey forms that he had just been using. Eventually this project turned into his long satiric poemDon Juan, a long and erotic adventure tale told in 17 sections. Regardless of how or why Byron decided on ottava rima for Don Juan, the form undoubtedly influenced the poem’s content through tone, pace, and lineation.
For a poem, Don Juan is a new approach to content, breadth, and action. In his essay, “Epic and Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel,” Bakhtin claimed that all forms of literature look forward to the novel and that in times when “the novel reigns supreme, almost all the remaining genres are to a greater or lesser extent novelized.” In drama, examples include Henrik Ibsen, Richard Hauptmann, the entirety of Naturalist drama, and epic poetry like Childe Harolde and Lord Byron’s Don Juan.”
How Friends Created a Generation of Neurotic, Self-Obsessed Idiots
Twenty years ago last month, a new sitcom debuted. Originally titled Insomnia Cafe, it was supposed to catch some of the heat that Seinfeld had generated, some of that post-Woody Allen, New York-y neurotic humor about relationships and everyday life. But the original pitch that was sent to NBC revealed it to be a very different kind of show:
"This show is about six people in their 20s who hang out at this coffee house. An after hours insomnia café. It’s about sex, love, relationship, careers… a time in your life when everything is possible, which is really exciting and really scary. It’s about searching for love and commitment and security… and a fear of love and commitment and security. And it’s about friendship, because when you’re young and single and in the city, your friends are your family."
Unlike Seinfeld and just about every other sitcom before it, with their misfit ensembles of slob dads, nagging moms, drunk priests, stoner sons, and pervert neighbors, Friends was to be the first aspirational sitcom. A comedy where the primary cast were young, good-looking metropolitans without drinking problems or STDs.
Playing on our desires to be just like those kinds of people, it was a resounding success. In the resulting years, Friends became an international phenomenon. The characters’ New York dating language entered the 90s pop-lexicon in a way that Bart Simpson’s “eat my shorts” never could. In fact, could the strange syntax of Chandler’s jokes BE any more subtly woven into the natural speech patterns of almost every Westerner aged 20 to 40? Everyone knew about “the Rachel,” and Matt LeBlanc was in a really great movie about abaseball-playing monkey. It’s ridiculous how much influence this decade-long romantic comedy had.
The Wolves of Hollywood, by James Franco
This is, more or less, how I imagined the genesis of The Wolf of Wall Street went down:
Marty and Leo wanted to work together again, of course; they have a great track record stretching back to Gangs of New York. When their relationship began it was mutually beneficial but they were coming from different directions: they were both talents, but at the time Scorsese was the critically overlooked doyen of crime films and scholar of cinema history, while Leo was the former critical darling whose entire identity was eclipsed by his Beatle-sized, world-dominating fame. Scorsese could get his decades old dream project made and Leo could work with his directing hero. Gangs was not the best of their outings, but at least it brought them together, and their films got better, culminating in the long due triumph of The Departed. By the time the duo got to Wolf I’m sure they were as in synch as the ATL Twins as far as how they worked and the kind of material they wanted to explore.
So, while Gangs was not their best outing, it led to The Departed winning several Academy Awards, including Best Director. (An aside: Did the .44 magnum/pussy cameo in Taxi Driver keep him from getting the Oscar until he was 64?) And I’m positive that with this long-anticipated repairing, they got their money. A superhero-sized budget, because they’re Leo and Marty, and their films do well both financially and critically, so if you’re a dude with some money to burn from stocks or oil or computers or wherever you’ve made your pile, why wouldn’t you want to get a piece of that game? So, they have the dough and they can do anything they damn well please because the money is independent and fuck it, they’re Leo and Marty and who the hell is going to tell them, “no?” This combo shits out Golden Globes like they’re going out of style (maybe they are? Heh heh) and people go to their dark, masculine dramas in the same numbers that they go to see dudes in tights with big Ss and bats on them. If they want to show Leo doing cocaine bullets out of a faceless girl’s ass, fuck it; if they want a ten minute Quaalude sequence (the best part of the film, funny as hell!), fuck it; and if they want their scumbag protagonists to go largely unpunished… FUCK IT, THAT’S LIFE.
Who Is ‘Her’? – by James Franco
Spike Jonze’s Her is a story about the death of human love masked as a love story between a man, Theo (Joaquin Phoenix), and his sexy artificially intelligent operating system, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson’s voice). Theo works as a professional surrogate letter-writer, a profession that’s equal parts emotional detective, jaded but secretly hopeful voyeur, and empathetic poet. His specialty is the intimate love letter, so his letters give voice to the feelings for the couples that hire him. This service, one set in an unnamed metropolis in the near future (and was shot both in Los Angeles and Shanghai to give the grey and pastel Google-age sheen to the exteriors) provides a parallel for Theo’s eventual relationship with his OS, an ethereal and exponentially hyper-intelligent lover who says everything he wants to hear, just like Theo’s letters do for his clients. The central questions of the film are existential: What does it mean to be human? How do we define emotions? Can something digital, and programmed, have a personality? How valuable are our bodies in the dawning age of total digital immersion?