Sunday, May 23, 2010

James Franco: Super Genius

"Wanna blaze one, Marina Abramovic?"

After starring in "Freaks and Geeks," the "Spider-Man" movies and "Pineapple Express, actor James Franco is doing an extended stint on "General Hospital" while he gets MFAs in film and fiction from NYU and Columbia. The soap gig is actually a form of performance art, he explains, because his appearance in something so transparently ridiculous is, in itself, an artistic statement.

Franco also appeared on "30 Rock" playing himself, in a storyline where he was trying to conceal his sexual/romantic relationship with a large pillow.

Franco believes that, by fusing high-concept self-referential performance art with a heavy dose of irony, he can vaccinate himself against bad-movie blowback.

So when he appears in the doomed-from-conception "Rise of the Apes" he's not just a movie star appearing in a bad film; he's an artistic genius making a challenging statement about gorillas.

This is the latest technology in image-management for people involved in bad-movies.

Other approaches:

1. Revisionist history. Here, the people responsible for "X-Men: The Last Stand" congratulate themselves for making a movie everyone hates.

2. Biting the bullet. Not advisable. Chloe Sevigny was damn near crucified for admitting the latest season of "Big Love" was not the best thing to come along since the invention of sex with multiple partners.

3. The qualified apology: Roger Ebert is a man who has endured pain that is difficult to comprehend during his battle with cancer. Yet he found "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" so unpleasant that he described it as "a horrible experience of unbearable length."

Consider that for a moment, and think about who Roger Ebert is. As one of the world's most prolific film critics, Ebert's basis for comparison is every other movie ever made. He's sat through everything, so when your movie is a "horrible experience" for him, you know you've really outdone yourself.

And Ebert lost a significant percentage of his face to cancer. This man has been disfigured, and he has lost the ability to speak, and yet he has come through his ordeal with his wit mostly intact, and a positive outlook.

Roger Ebert's definition of "unbearable," the thing this man cannot bear, is "Transformers 2."

When you have created a thing like "Transformers 2," when you committed an atrocity of this magnitude and released it on 4000 screens, how do you respond to the charges? Here's star Shia Lebeouf sort of admitting, without stepping on any toes, that the movie might not have been "Citizen Kane" with giant robot testicles.

4. Learn to stop worrying and love the bad. Val Kilmer loves that "MacGruber" is gross and makes no sense. Val Kilmer is awesome. He can be my wingman anytime.

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