James Franco’s Summer Movie Club
For me, summer means time to watch movies and read books. Since we talked about books last week, here are some movies to watch between the blockbusters full of explosions, men in tights, and aliens on the big screens. It’s hard to choose, so I just put down the ones I’ve watched lately. Much love.
It’s easy to write a novel: Just keep typing until you have something that is very long and mostly lies. But getting that mess published is another beast entirely—unless you are famous, in which case your every utterance is assumed to be worth printing. As a result, there are a ton of embarrassing books with famous names attached to them. We sampled a few to see whether they were really that bad and found that yes, they were.
THE JUSTICE RIDERS
Chuck Norris, Ken Abraham, Aaron Norris, and Tim Grayem
B&H Fiction, 2006
Who knew that Walker, Texas Ranger, would be the best ridiculous-name-giver since Stan Lee? If you want to read about “Ezra Justice” as he teams up with English sharpshooter “Reginald Bonesteel” to fight “Slate Mordecai” and teach the Wild West about the Bible, The Justice Riders is the grocery-store paperback for you! The book wraps up with Justice sharing the gospel with Mordecai, then shooting him dead after the bad guy rejects Jesus—which is sort of Norris’s worldview in a nutshell.
The plot of Paradise Alley is a predictable yawn about three brothers in 1940s Hell’s Kitchen who get involved in underground wrestling in search of a quick buck and learn heartwarming lessons, but Stallone’s prose makes what could have been a merely mediocre novel memorably awful. He was likely aiming for a Dashiell Hammett–esque hard-boiled style but winds up sounding both simplistic and overly fond of the stalest stereotypes of New York City tenement life. When your fight scenes include lines like “Patty McLade dropped to the floor like a whore’s nightgown,” it’s time to go back to writing movies that are mostly inspirational jogging scenes and anguished grunts.
Nicolas and Weston Cage
Virgin Comics, 2007
One time, Nic Cage and his black-metal crooner son, Weston, came up with an idea for a comic book about the child of a slave who was killed in the 1860s and gets resurrected by black magic to clean up the streets of post-Katrina New Orleans. Then they got an artist and a writer to make their dreams into reality, because the Cages are not like you or me. This book is like if Spawn impregnated the Candyman with his demon seed on the set of Treme while a cuckolded Todd McFarlane masturbated in a corner. In other words, it’s fantastic.
James Franco’s Summer Book Club
Summer is here, so I thought I would offer a few books that have been on my list. All of these books have left their stamps on my memory. There was the summer I read Moby-Dick, and the summer I read Moby-Dick again… I hope to pass on some books that might make a few marks on your own souls.
This summer’s fiction issue is themed around movies—”Hollywood,” Clancy Martin says. We shared an intuition that a lot of the most interesting writing being done today is being done for movies and TV. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that we watch a lot of movies. So we made a long list of our favorite movies and looked up the writers who worked on them, and we harassed them and their agents and their publicists for months. We started with a really long pitch letter, but we learned that in LA it’s proper etiquette to write three-word-long emails. We tried to romance them by inviting them to dinner at the Chateau Marmont. An interesting thing about the writers in this issue—David Mamet, Michel Gondry, Louis Mellis, Alec Sokolow, John Romano, Merrill Markoe, Kevin McEnroe—is that none of them gave a damn about what we could pay. In fact not one of them even brought it up. So maybe one lesson of this issue is, if you want to be a writer and not have to scramble for every dollar, the old maxim holds true: Go to LA.
But back to movies. Here’s what we like about movies: They have stories. They are entertaining. The dialogue is simple. We were watching Searching for Bobby Fisher last night at the hotel in Chennai. William H. Macy says, “It’s just a game.” He’s the father of a seven-year-old chess player talking to another father, and we know that what he means is, “I’d like to rip your head off and s**t down your throat.” Similarly, just a few nights ago we were watching The Shining, and the actor who plays the manager of the Overlook Hotel describes the murders to Jack Nicholson during the job interview. He says, “I can’t believe it happened here, but it did,” and all three of the men in the room somehow already understand that it’s going to happen again. Because of the genius of actors and directors, there’s so much you can do—as a writer—with a line of dialogue that you just can’t do in other forms of writing. But all this is covered in an interview with Robert McKee—Alec Sokolow (Toy Story) makes McKee work through his theories, and Tony Camin, possibly stoned, asks McKee the tough questions, e.g., “Wasn’t Who Framed Roger Rabbit the third in the trilogy ofChinatown?” There are also a few pages of Nabokov’s screenplay version of Lolita with notes in his hand, masterfully introduced by Blake Bailey, and a story by Thomas Gebremedhin that evokes Santa Monica like no other fiction we’ve read (and ought to be a movie).
Anyway, we asked Steph Gillies and Debbie Smith to art-direct again, and again they knocked it out of the park, with work by Richard Phillips, Martin Parr, and others. We also have some work by traditional (i.e., non-movie), LA-based writers about LA, and a story about Lindsay Lohan by James Franco, and fiction by Emily McLaughlin and Benjamin Nugent.
Pick up a free copy of our fiction issue anywhere VICE is distributed, but those go quickly, so subscribe to make sure you get a copy every month. You can do that here. If you’ve got yourself an iPad, download our free app for even more pictures, extended video footage, and special extras.
Introducing the Profiles Issue
When dealing with idioms, you have to tread very carefully in regards to which ones you subscribe to, because you run the risk of inevitably being called out on your bullshit fortune-cookie rhetoric. For example, if you think you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but you also think a picture is worth a thousand words, you’re basically saying you’ve got a thousand-word assessment in your head, but you still have no idea what’s going on.
Luckily for you, the cover of our profile-themed May issue (shot by Nick Veasey) is so on-the-nose, that even if you have trouble molding your life to predictable parables and proverbs, you’ll get an idea of what’s in store. (Hint: It’s a picture of some anarcho punk decked to the nines in leather, studs, lapel flair, and cliche hair. It’s fitting because, deep down inside, he’s just another poor sap made out of the same meaty goo that makes up his mainsteam contemporaries.)
In the spirit of capturing one’s essence, here’s a glimpse of some of the other stuff in this issue:
VICE Senior Associate Editor Krishna Andavolu flew to Uruguay, ground-zero to the world’s first legal and regulated cannabis market, and profiled Jose Mujica, the country’s current president and one of the main proponents of decriminalization.
In “The Mayor Vs. the Ooze,” Sean Williams profiles another unsung hero, Toldi Tamas—the mayor of a small Hungarian town who saved his people from an environmental catastrophe.
Then, there’s Jon Taffer. While he might not be a hero or a champion of political reform per se, he’s reality TV’s necessary evil. “Dive Bard" tells the story of America’s greatest poet of drunkeness and failure.
VICE’s weekend editor, Mitchell Sunderland, temporarily embedded himself in the gay porn realm for Body of an American, the story of Michael Lucas, a Russian immigrant who conquered porn and became one of the most powerful gay men in New York City.
We know the print magazine lasts about 30 whole seconds at boutiques and stores before it sells out, so why aren’t you subscribed already? Do that right now right here. Got an iPad, fancy pants? Even better—download our FREE app, because then you get a whole bunch of extra stuff like extended interviews, more pictures, and all that jazz.
Download Our Fashion Issue on the VICE iPad App
Did you know we’ve been releasing a free iPad edition of every VICE issue since 2012, packed full of special features, extras, and exclusives? If not, you need to crawl out from beneath that big ball sack you’ve been hiding under and immediately download all of the great content we’ve cooked up.
Earlier this month, we released our annual Fashion Issue, which was sex themed. The concept lead to us explore everything from the hairy butts of women to the nuns in latex. As per usual, the iPad edition of the issue is bursting with dope, new shit. Here is a rundown of all the goodies:
— VICE’s Creative Director Annette Lamothe-Ramos introduces the issue with a video, detailing how we acquired the incredible Robert Mapplethorpe portfolio and cover photo.
— Artist Ole Tillmann’s Wooly Wendy illustration for “In Defense of Hairy Women” gets an interactive update, allowing users to actually add hair to Wooly Wendy’s face.
— In our Duran Duran-themed fashion shoot, “The Chauffeur,” Annette serves up some behind-the-scenes audio commentary.
— Our “Gender Benders” fashion shoot features behind-the-scenes footage our model boys transitioning into sexy-ass bitches.
— Our “Sisters” photo shoot, which has a nunsploitation-theme, features more audio commentary from Annette.
— “Power,” our fashion shoot and feature on the evolution of black masculinity through fashion, boasts beautiful bonus images taken by Awol Erizku.
— “Some Cat from Japan,” our Q&A with famed designer Kansai Yamamoto, features audio commentary from Annette.
— Jocelyn Spaar’s lovely illustrations of panties for Sadie Stein’s essay, ”Ass Menagerie,” features interactive lingerie animation.
— We added the audio version of Rat Tail’s ”2 Butts 4 the Price of 1” to the mysterious artist’s long lost lyrics.
— Milt Abdjourian, the publisher of an imaginary porn and fashion-focused, adds satirical audio commentary to a selection of his vintage cover images.
(Source: Vice Magazine)
Bret Easton Ellis Says We’re All a Bunch of Cry-Babies
Bret Easton Ellis has only got to open his mouth for the cry-babies of the world to crawl out and start berating him for being a morally depraved chancer. Back in the 80s and 90s, you could sympathise with people getting offended by his books if they hadn’t spent much time around hedge-fund managers or fashion world dickheads. If they had, they’d realize thatAmerican Psycho and Glamorama are in essence works of journalism—dressed up in Valentino and splattered with blood, yes, but documentaries of a certain moment in history all the same. “The six or seven books add up as a sort of autobiography,” he says. “When I look at them I think, ‘Oh, that’s where I was in ’91. That’s where I was in ’88. Okay, I got it.’”
Now he has moved into film, as well as writing screenplays for TV and delivering his own weekly podcast. Which, among other highlights, has featured Kanye West and Marilyn Manson. Yet still he has repeatedly faced accusations of “douchery” from bloggers and a general outcry every time he criticizes anything on Twitter.
When I called his house in LA last week, Bret talked passionately about his frustration with what he’s dubbed “Generation Wuss”—you, me, everyone else who’s young, hyper-sensitive and grown up with the internet, basically. Over the course of a few hours, I was genuinely impressed by the amount of interest he takes in the lives of people who’ve grown up reading his books, the technology they use and the way they consume culture. His annoyance seems to come from a place of concern rather than misanthropy.
So, why all the pant-wetting?
VICE: Why have you termed me and my contemporaries “Generation Wuss”?
Bret Easton Ellis: You have to understand that I’m coming to these things as a member of the most pessimistic and ironic generation that has ever roamed the earth. When I hear millennials getting hurt by “cyber bullying”, or it being a gateway to suicide, it’s difficult for me to process. A little less so for my boyfriend, who happens to be a millennial of that age, but even he somewhat agrees with the sensitivity of Generation Wuss. It’s very difficult for them to take criticism, and because of that a lot of the content produced is kind of shitty. And when someone is criticized for their content, they seem to collapse, or the person criticizing them is called a hater, a contrarian, a troll.
In a way it’s down to the generation that raised them, who cocooned them in praise—four stars for showing up, you know? But eventually everyone has to hit the dark side of life; someone doesn’t like you, someone doesn’t like your work, someone doesn’t love you back… people die. What we have is a generation who are super-confident and super-positive about things, but when the least bit of darkness enters their lives, they’re paralyzed.
I realized the other day that I’m around the same age as Patrick Bateman. His existence was fairly typical of a 27-year-old living in New York at the time you wroteAmerican Psycho, but it couldn’t be further away from my reality.
Not to reference the 27-year-old [Bret’s boyfriend] too often, but he would completely agree with you. American Psycho is about a world that is as alien to him as Saturn.
I think it was a world we were promised, though.
There was a certain point where we realized the promises were lies and that we were going to be economically adrift. It’s the fault of the baby boomer generation for raising their kids at the highest peak of the empire, in a complete fantasy world. My generation, Gen X, realized that, like most fantasies, it was somewhat dissatisfying, and we rebelled with irony, negativity and attitude because we had the luxury to do that. Our reality wasn’t an economic hardship.
Charles Bukowski Wouldn’t Have Gotten Drunk at a Bukowski-Themed Bar
Charles Bukowski was a drunk. Not just a drunk, but the drunk. Nearly two decades after his death, he remains the patron saint of drunks. That being the case, naming a bar after him makes sense. It’s been done, many times, before: New York City, Glasgow, Boston and Amsterdam all possess watering hole homages to the alpha male author. Santa Monica’s week-old Barkowski can now be added to that list.
The deification of Bukowski, and other tortured, inebriated artists of his ilk, is a task best undertaken by those who have not experienced actual suffering. There is no better place to find said demographic than Santa Monica, California, a bourgeoisie beachside burg more well-known for its outdoor shopping mall than its self-destructive poet population. According to Barkowski’s website, its namesake’s “writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.” Santa Monica is not Los Angeles. Los Angeles, or at least Bukowski’s Los Angeles, is where you go when you want to drink $3 draft beers surrounded by human detritus. Santa Monica, however, is where you go when you want to pay $9 for a poorly poured, half-filled glass of Chimay. Barkowski sells poorly poured, half-filled $9 glasses of Chimay.
Barkowski’s interior is essentially the same as that of its predecessor, the Air Conditioned Lounge; nothing has been done to alter its nondescriptly modern black and red color scheme and padded leather walls. Enormous glamour shots of Buk’ drinking and gazing into the distance, alongside framed printouts of trite quotes about women and incarceration, are the only things that differentiate the new bar from the old. In one photo, he’s shown cradling a Schlitz tall boy; in the interest of synergy, Schlitz tall boys are available at the bar. For $7. If Schlitzes were $7 in Bukowski’s day, he wouldn’t have been able to afford a drinking problem, and Barkowski would have a decidedly different theme (“Papa y Beer Hemingway’s,” perhaps?). When it came to preserving the authenticity of the Bukowski theme, $7 Schlitzes and the “A” health rating sign hanging above the bar were but two of a myriad inaccuracies.