Ambigu-Gus Van Sant – by James Franco
Gus Van Sant’s first film to be released in theaters was Mala Noche (1985), based on the memoir of the same title by Portland poet Walt Curtis. It depicts Walt as a gay convenience-store employee attracted to a Mexican migrant worker. His most recent film, Milk (2008), portrays the life of gay activist,politician,and martyr Harvey Milk. (I played Harvey’s partner, Scott Smith.) Van Sant has made 11 feature films and a dozen shorts and music videos between these two movies, but only one other feature and one short—My Own Private Idaho (1991) and his segment from Paris, Je T’Aime,“Le Marais,” (2006)—center on gay characters and themes. Despite this lack of explicitly gay-themed films, Van Sant is hailed as one of the foremost gay directors working today. Part of this reputation undoubtedly derives from a desire to claim his high quality and original films for the gay community simply because he is a gay filmmaker. But there is another side to Van Sant’s oeuvre that is neither gay nor straight but subversively queer in its ambiguity. Van Sant inserts this queer sensibility in both gay and straight narratives that then de-centers any clear kind of sexual identity for his work as a whole.
Van Sant’s films embrace both classic Hollywood archetypes and queer cinema styles,usually set in his hometown of Portland, to create a unique amalgamation of trashy-chic timelessness. His characters and themes undermine the notion of fixed identities, experiences, and themes. At his queer best, Van Sant usually is dealing with young people, and seems primarily interested in the young white male: his sexual desires, his talents, but primarily the social pressures upon him. Often his characters are freighted with heavy emotional, economic, or addiction burdens—but they hardly ever struggle with identity. The characters are relaxed about who they are because they are almost invariably cool. Van Sant’s aesthetic is confidently queer in its refusal to categorize, in its overarching hipness of look and subject matter that is both in your face and elusive.
Above: Barneys New York coat, Eckhaus Latta top, vintage skirt, Timberland boots; Eckhaus Latta jacket, vintage top, LL Bean shorts, Timberland boots
PHOTOS BY BEN TAYLOR
STYLIST: ALEXANDRA MARZELLA
Hair: Linzee Katzman
Make-Up: Jess Plummer
Models: Michael at DNA, El Grace at Re:quest
Eckhaus Latta jacket, vintage top, LL Bean shorts
Prada hat, vintage jacket, Lacoste dress, Just Cavalli skirt
Lacoste top, vintage vest; Prada hat, vintge jacket, Lacoste dress
How to Structure Your Life: A Review of Corey Feldman’s Biography, ‘Coreyography’
I think I can learn a lot from Corey Feldman’s autobiography, Coreyography. He was a child star in the 80s who was pushed into acting by his parents. His mother was a former Playboy bunny at one of the clubs, and his father was a struggling musician. Once Corey started booking commercials at age three, he became the family’s breadwinner; with that came a host of unfair responsibilities for the young Corey, which seems to have warped his perspective on his place in the world and his relationship to filmmaking; it must be hard to shake that feeling importance. He was, like all child actors, working in a professional environment filled with and designed for adults—having to play child characters but performing a job that required the stamina and perspective of the adults who worked alongside him.
Because he was the major earner for his family, the pressure for him to continue working was extraordinarly—abusively—high: he was beaten with belts and wooden dowels if he didn’t perform well in school (bad grades would prevent him from getting a work permit), if he ate too much (his mom had an obsession with his weight), or if he didn’t book jobs or had problems on the set. As a child, Corey was in some of the most important movies of the 80s, Stand by Me,The Goonies, The Lost Boys (the first of the contemporary teenage vampire projects—decades before Twilight). And he was part of the pop phenomenon “the Two Coreys,” alongside Corey Haim, and was a close friend to Michael Jackson; Corey was at the center of most of the popular youth projects and events of the era. By tracking his story, one gets to a peak behind the scenes of many of the projects that shaped the culture of my generation.
Things Spike Lee Hates: Racists, Guns, and Racists with Guns
Amidst all the fanfare around Lee Daniels’ The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, and the talk of 2013 being a landmark year for black filmmaking, the biggest name in modern black independent cinema, Spike Lee, drops another joint on the moviegoing public. Oldboy, an English-language remake of the 2003 South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook comes out on November 27th. The film is as violent and dark as it should be, considering the source material, but it also contains plenty of signature Spike Lee touches, in particular, his penchant for including commentary on modern racial politics and gun violence.
We met in Hollywood last week to talk about the film, and all the hype about the year in black cinema. As you can see from the above photo, we did a lot of laughing.
VICE: I wanted to say that I really appreciated that you used two actors from The Wire in the movie [James Ransone and Lance Reddick]. I’m sure I’m not the only one who plays that “Spot the Wire actor” game when they see movie. Was that on purpose or was that just kind of like, you just cast who you like?
Spike Lee: The Wire had great actors. And I like to work with great actors. And I loved the show, David Simon’s a giant. And they were available.
What really attracted you to Oldboy as a project? It seems like a tough project to take on, first of all, it’s a remake—
Malcolm X wasn’t tough?
I mean, of course that’s tough.
I don’t run away from tough.
But what attracted you to it specifically? What was there in the original in the script that you got that made you really want to do this project?
I wanted to work with Josh Brolin, and I’d never done a reinterpretation before so those were the two things. We wanted to work together.
Spring Break: A Fever Dream, by James Franco
Image by Courtney Nicholas
Here’s the end of it all, and I’ll tell you why: because there will never be a movie or a character that is more important for this age than Spring Breakers and its protagonist Alien. As Harmony Korine’s friend Werner Herzog said to me on the phone call of all phone calls—I was out in North Carolina, sitting in a little Mexican restaurant called Cocula that I frequent on my lunch breaks from the low-residency writing MFA program at Warren Wilson College, just staring out the window that’s frosted over with a map of Mexico, at the dirty field across the roadway—when he told me that my performance in the film made De Niro in Taxi Driver look like a kindergartener, and that the film was the most important film of the decade. Imagine in a distinct German accent: “Three hundred years from now, when people want to look back at dis time, dey won’t go to the Obama inauguration speech, dey will go to Spring Breakers.”
I can’t even take credit for Alien. He is Harmony’s. As he says, Alien is a gangster mystic. A clown, a killer, a lover: the spirit of the age. Riff Raff wants to take credit for this creation, but that simplifies it. It is like Neal Cassady laying claim to Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty, which isn’t a great comparison because Kerouac was transparently and literally writing about Neal. Alien undermines all. He’s a gangster who deep-throats automatic weapons as well as Linda Lovelace would. He’s the guru of the age. He’s what you would get if you got every damn material thing you ever wanted and then relished in the realization that you don’t have a use for any of it. So you make one up. “Bring it on, little bitches, come to me, little bitches… We didn’t create this sensitive monster, y’all did. Look at his shit, that’s what y’all are working fo yo’selves.”
The Lone Survivor Be, by Alien, James Franco’s character in Spring Breakers
What’s wit dem moovies that be wit them one person survivin’ in isolation? There be a slew of dem now, the one—at least dem contemporary one that stands out—be Tommy Hanks’sCastaway. It be about him on dem island wit Wilson, his ball, that take on dem personalities of a human, and we actually take Wilson to be a character, to the point we be actually sad when Wilson die—even tho muthafucka don’t even die, because he a fuckin’ volleyball!
It be like what dat dude, Scott McCloud say in How Comics Work, that we as humans put our likeness on any ol’ thing: clouds, flowers, animals, rocks, stick figures… volleyballs! Just find some eyes or a mouf and that shit has a human personality. But in that film Hanks had a whole island, that be the infinite space of Hamlet’s walnut shell compared to what the later muthafucks be puttin’ up wit: 127 Hours (muthafuck be stuck in a canyon,hand stuck in a rock! Makes Hanks’s island start lookin’ huuuge); some film with Ryan Reynolds in a trunk or sumptin, talkin’ on a cell phone (didn’t see it); Life of Pi (stuck in a raft, yeah dey waz a tiga, but he was probably imaginary—we gonna talk ’bout dat one later); Gravity(bitch be alone, big spectac backdrop—fuckin’ spaaaaace—but still alone as a ghos’); an’ now that Redford piece, All Is Lost (back in dat boat, wit no backstory! Mo’ bout dat later, too).
Film Bloggers Have Better Lives Than You
Hey, I’m not sure if you guys know how The Media works, but when film companies have new movies out, they send people who write about films on these all-expenses-paid mini vacations themed around the movie so that they’ll write about it and “generate buzz.”
I get offered these sometimes but generally turn them down. This is because I don’t like many things, and as a lame mom who doesn’t believe in criticism (and therefore progress) once said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
But recently someone got in touch to see if I wanted to fly with Johnny Knoxville on a private jet to Vegas and watch Bad Grandpa. As a firm believer that genitalia, farting, and people falling over will never, ever stop being funny, I’m a big fan of “the Jackass guys,” as fans call them, so I figured this would be a great trip to write about.
Also I can’t afford a vacation this year. So here’s how my free trip to Vegas went. Enjoy!
This is the private jet we took from Los Angeles to Vegas. I’d never been on a “PJ” before (and presumably never will again). I assume you’ve never been on a private jet either (you fucking loser), so here’s a couple of differences between a PJ and a regular plane:
I assume it differs from company to company, but with the private jet company we flew with, this was the type of coffee we got.
The thought of some corporate drone chuckling to themselves as they ordered this out of the office supply catalog made me happy.
And this is what a private jet meal looks like, a.k.a. what I’m assuming 90 percent of the things Jay-Z eats look like.
Don’t Escape from Chris Burden and Mike Kelley, by Alien from Spring Breakers
I Am Not from This Planet is a column where we give James Franco’s Florida-bred, gun-toting, big-bootie-loving pal Alien the floor to sound off on whatever he likes. For this edition, Alien breaks us off some knowledge with a review of Escape from Tomorrow and the NYC retrospectives of artists Chris Burden and Mike Kelley.
This Alien, ya’ll. You know how I do. I be out and about in New York, seeing things, doing things, and getting cultural. Know what I’m saying? Them things that interest me is pure art and pure cinema. So I’m gone talk about them things, if that be alright with ya’ll.
First off, let me tell you about Escape from Tomorrow. It is out in theaters and On Demand, but I bought the shit when I was getting my hair braided at the bootysalon on a bootleg DVD along with a pair of mismatched socks, a handful of Raisinets, and two sticks of incense. The movie’s all about Disneyland. It was shot there without the Mouse’s permission. But for some reason, Disney has NOT shut the movie down. It features a mean old daddy who is having one of them “emotional breakdowns.”
I knew the shit was gone be tight when I seen the trailer. It was in black and white and had these crazy effects with fairies, possessed eyeballs, and some dude’s head turning into the Epcot Center golf ball. Then I seen Mickey in the park speaking in that squeaky, spooky voice, all like “People come here because they want to feel safe!” The shit gave me goose bumps. When I first heard about this thing, I guessed that it would be a rough-looking mumblecore film, but that trailer looked arty than a motherfucker. I had nightmares after that trailer. I’m a gangster, y’all, and I was sleeping with the lights on and shit. It got so bad, I was worried that it would ruin Disneyland for me forever, and you know I love me so Minnie Mouse.