A Few Impressions: ‘Strangers on a Train’, by James Franco
One of the strategies that Patricia Highsmith employs in her first novel, Strangers on a Train, is to bounce the narrative between two characters. As the title suggests, these two strangers, Guy and Bruno, meet on a train at the beginning of the book and discuss killing people in each other’s lives in order to duck suspicions based on motives. Guy doesn’t take Bruno’s suggestion seriously, but after Bruno kills Guy’s wife, Bruno pressures Guy to murder his father. The structure of the book allows Highsmith to jump from one character to another and put them in completely different parts of the country, but because of their relationship and the vacillation between the two storylines, they feel as if they are very close to each other. It is almost a split screen effect, where they are living their separate lives distinct from each other, but the parallel structure brings them close together. It feels as if they’re in the same frame.
The linear form of the book prevents the stories from being played at the exact same time as a split screen might in a film (although split screens are rarely used this way in movies). But the two threads are woven in such a way that causes the reader to experience the stories as if they were happening simultaneously, at least that is the understanding conveyed. This technique causes the reader to go through one thread at a time, injecting a force of energy into the narrative. When each section is taken up again, it is resumed in the midst of the most crucial moments for that character. The back-and-forth transitions trim the fat and streamline the storytelling.
VICE Podcast Show: Greta Gerwig
The VICE Podcast Show is a weekly unedited discussion in which we go inside the minds of some of the most interesting, creative, and bizarre people we come across. This week, host Eddy Moretti talks with actress Greta Gerwig about the film industry and her new movie, Frances Ha, directed by Noah Baumbach.
Watch it as a video
James Franco Looks at American Psycho Ten Years Later/Twenty Years Later
I listened to the American Psycho audiobook recently. It was released in 2011 and is narrated by Pablo Schreiber, who performs his task quite well. He doesn’t clown it up, or put on too many funny voices for the different characters. It’s subtle, with just enough inflection to distinguish each bit of dialogue. He delivers everything with the cool factuality that Patrick Bateman demands.
If Bret Easton Ellis is, as many believe, literature’s enfant terrible of 1980s disenchanted youth, it’s only because he’s also secretly a warlock capable of conjuring multivalent spells of celebration and castigation that subvert the meanings and value of sex, money, consumerism, and entertainment. It only follows thatAmerican Psycho is (at least for now) the pinnacle of his art: the dark-hearted swansong of an era that sums up its subject matter with a perfect balance of breadth and incisiveness. Gross satire delivered with a hyperrealistic technique.
My Name Is Tom and I’m a Video Game Addict – by James Franco
“I am a video game nerd and I love it.” That’s what Tom Bissell admits in his excellent confession and analysis of his descent (ascent?) into video game addiction, Extra Lives: Video Games Matter. He seems like me (I say that humbly), in that he once had a love of literature and spent much of his intellectual and professional life engaged with literature: reading literature, writing about literature, and teaching literature. But at some point in his late 20s, video games took over.
Tom seems to have mixed feelings about his video game addiction. His book makes excellent arguments about video games being the newest popular art form that can do a variety of things that other art forms can’t. They can engage the audience as players and thus as creators of the narrative. They also allow players to create their own avatars to navigate imaginary worlds. And they can make narrative engagement active and open-ended because each player can experience his or her own unique version of the journey. This last point is even more evident in free-roaming games such as Grand Theft Auto IV,where one can just wander.
But Tom also seems to be confessing or defending (to himself?) his tight tether to video games. He plays morning, noon, and night. He ends his book (spoiler alert!) with a moving comparison of his addiction toGrand Theft Auto IV with his concomitant addiction to cocaine. He travels the world on various assignments or grants, fully intending to rid himself of both addictions—I think these trips are called “geographics” in addiction parlance—but he always gets sucked back in. Ultimately it sounds as if his cocaine addiction has been kicked, but the existence of this book shows that video games are still a huge part of his life. They arehis life.
Come See ’Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean’ Tonight in Williamsburg
Last week we told you about a new partnership between VICE and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, a company dedicated to preserving classic movies and putting them in the faces of whippersnappers like you who would never see them otherwise. Tonight’s screening of Robert Altman’s Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, marks the first installment of this new series at Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. Below is a short essay on Altman and Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean by David Sterritt, who is something of a Robert Altman buff.
The early 1980s were a miserable time for the great Robert Altman, whose career was definitely on the skids. American politics and culture were entering the Reagan era, and moviegoers were hunkered down in conservative mode; the cutting wit and caustic social commentary of MASH and Nashville seemed too ornery for comfort at a time when comfy entertainments like Annie and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial were burning up the box office. Altman had tanked with Quintet in early 1979, made a partial recovery with A Perfect Couple a few months later, then flatlined with HealtH and underperformed with Popeye the following year.
Fearing for his career, Altman beat a tactical retreat, selling his production company, Lion’s Gate Films, and looking for fresh territory to explore. “I feel my time has run out,” he told me in one of our many interviews. “The movies I want to make are movies the studios don’t want.” Taking advantage of the lower stakes (and lower budgets) in theater and television, he directed a pair of one-act plays by Frank South—Precious Blood and Rattlesnake in a Cooler, packaged under the title 2 by South—onstage in Los Angeles and off Broadway, and turned them into TV movies immediately afterward.
‘Leviathan’, I Love You
by James Franco
On a Tuesday night, the Music Hall theater in Beverly Hills was seemingly empty. I arrived an hour early for the 10 PM screening of Leviathan. I walked in thinking it was a poetic documentary about the lives of deep-sea fishermen.
Before the movie I sat in the lobby and read Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. At some point, a huge crowd of Israeli women filed in and overpowered the Daft Punk emanating from my headphones. Must have been a special screening. It was then I noticed a poster for the LA Jewish Film Festival depicting a bunch of directors’ chairs arranged like the Star of David. Underneath it read a different kind of star.
My companion arrived at ten. We entered the all-but-empty theater and sat in the back because I always sit in the back. The film started with an appropriately weighty epigraph from the Book of Job, something about the “hoary deep.” I was already sold.
I’m the biggest Moby Dick fan ever, and here was a movie that relies on biblical-level pretensions while capturing the fishing life with an unblinking gaze. It’s modern-day Melville, at least the nonnarrative chapters that relate the whaling life through nonfictional accounts and facts.
In 1974, the Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky set about turning the classic sci-fi novelDune into a major motion picture. He recruited Orson Welles, Pink Floyd, H. R. Giger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali, and Mick Jagger to the project, completed 3,000 pieces of story art, and spent millions of dollars preparing for production. Investors balked when he asked for more—and when they realized the script would account for a meandering 14-hour film—and it was ultimately shelved.
Read about it here
James Franco Reviews ‘The Great Gatsby’ Movie
The challenge Baz Luhrmann had in adapting The Great Gatsby to film was similar to what Walter Salles faced with On the Road: how to stay loyal to the era depicted, while still retaining the rawness of the original text. Salles did a great job of capturing the ambiance of 1950s America, but it could be argued that his Dean and Sal didn’t have enough zeal—enough of that desire to live, live, live.
The old saying is that a good book makes a bad film, while a paperback potboiler like The Godfather makes a great film. But this wisdom is derived from the idea that a good book is made by the writing, and if it’s adapted into whatever, its magic is lost. As just about every (film) critique has already noted—and they’re right, if repetitive—most of what makes The Great Gatsby great is Fitzgerald’s prose. We allow the classics to get away with so much because we love the characters. But when older stories are revived for film, the issue of the past and present must be rectified. But that lack was not a function of anything missing in the actors or the general direction as much as it is a result of the passage of time, the encasing of a book in the precious container of “classic” status.
The Company Helping Movie Studios Sue You for Illegal Downloading Has Been Using Images Without Permission
As you may already know, Voltage Pictures, the company responsible for the movie The Hurt Locker, (as well as a million movies you’ve never heard of) is currently in court, attempting to get an Ontario-based internet service provider to release the names associated with over 1000 IP addresses that they claim belong to people who illegally downloaded their copyrighted material.
These IP addresses were gathered by an extraordinarily douchey company called Canipre, the only antipiracy enforcement firm currently offering services in Canada.
Canipre, as a company, offers to track down people who are illegally downloading copyrighted material from record companies and film studios. According to their website, they have issued more than 3,500,000 takedown notices, and their work has led to multimillion dollar damages awards, injunctions, seizure of assets, and even incarceration.
But it’s not like Canipre is doing this just to get rich. In a recent interview, Canipre’s managing director Barry Logan explained that it’s about much more than just money—he’s hoping to teach the Canadian public a moral lesson:
”[We want to] change social attitudes toward downloading. Many people know it is illegal but they continue to do it… Our collective goal is not to sue everybody… but to change the sense of entitlement that people have, regarding Internet-based theft of property.”
Here is a screenshot of the front page of the Canipre website as it appeared when I visited it this morning.
The image you see in the background is this self portrait, by Steve Houk.
I contacted Steve and asked if they had sought permission to use the picture. Steve said, “No. In no way have I authorized or licensed this image to anyone in any way.”
So, just to be clear: Canipre has written “they all know it’s wrong and they’re still doing it.” Referring to copyright theft. On top of an image that they are using without the permission of the copyright holder. On their official website.