‘Man of Steel’: The Super Movie
A Few Impressions from James Franco
Last week I was asked to attend the London premiere of Man of Steel, so after working on my forthcoming little thriller at Pinewood studios, I went over to Leicester Square to take in the latest filmic take on the superhero.
Many things went through my head, both subjective and objective, or rather as a person on the inside of the film business and as an indiscriminate viewer of the film. I too have been in comic-book films—the Spider-Man trilogy directed by Sam Raimi. I mention the director because this distinction is now necessary in the wake of the new Spider-Man series that arose even before there was time to bury the corpse of the old one and enshroud it in the haze of nostalgia. Indeed there are still young children who approach me as fans of the original (boy, it seems weird to say that) series. I don’t have a huge emotional attachment to the Spider-Man franchise as a subject, my biggest sentimental ties are to the people I worked with on those films: Sam, Toby, Kirsten, the late and great Laura Ziskin, and the hundreds of others who worked with us. I don’t really feel much distress over its being remade, for many reasons, but what is interesting to me is that it has been remade so quickly—and the reasons why.
The answer is, of course, money… CONTINUED HERE.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
Behind the Debauchery: A Spring Breakers Scrapbook
I’ve known Harmony Korine for many years; we’ve been friends through thick and thin, good times and bad. I feel like every element of Spring Breakers was him creating an environment where people felt really open and safe—perhaps so they were comfortable going crazy (in a fun way). The fact that he brought this cast together—James Franco, Gucci Mane, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and his wife, Rachel—was a sign that this movie was going to be very special. And I think casting the ATL Twins was him recognizing that they were a physical manifestation of what the film is about. They were so clear about their desires: drinking, double-penetrating women, and doing drugs. It was all out in the open with them, just like the movie. I’m happy to share with the world some of my favorite behind-the-scenes photos, along with a few captions that will provide some context for what the hell was happening on this crazy set.
HARMONY KORINE ON JAMES FRANCO AND GUCCI MANE
Harmony tells us some stories from behind the scenes of Spring Breakers, with personal production photographs by Annabel Mehran and never-before-seen footage from the set by producers Chris and Roberta Hanley.