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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: James Franco

James Franco versus Bruce Vilanch: Will this continue until next Oscars?

March 21, 2011 |  6:48 pm

Remember the time — ironically, before Twitter — when a performer hosted an awards show and everyone forgot about it the morning after?

Those days are apparently over. It may be the era of the instant reaction, but the post-game analysis and trash talk — even from the players themselves — continues long after the show is over.

Entertainment types and media (including yours truly) dined out for days on Ricky Gervais and his foot-in-mouth performance at the Golden Globes. Now James Franco keeps creeping back into the news, for the opposite charge of not going far enough during his Oscars hosting gig.

The latest round kicked up when longtime Oscars writer Bruce Vilanch gave an interview to Vulture in which he says Franco was essentially not up to the job.  According to the site, via our colleagues at Awards Tracker, Vilanch said of Franco that “I thought maybe it was a performance-art prank, and then I realized he sincerely wanted to do it. But it's outside of those guys' comfort zones. The only people who know how to host those shows are people who get up onstage every night and say, 'Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. A funny thing happened ..."

Franco, still evidently smarting even though he's comfortably back in school, fired back today with a tweet saying "Bruce, he let me down" and then a bathroom-mirror graffiti insult basically dissing Vilanch as someone who wouldn't know a good joke if he was stuck in the elevator with it.

"Trust me, I know comedy. I mean, come on, I write for Bette Midler," Franco wrote, assuming Vilanch's imagined voice and alluding to the writer's work for the diva's Vegas show. (You can see the image here; note it contains an explicit word we couldn't put in a family blog.)

We have no idea how long this can possibly go on. But here's an idea: Next year they should have the fight before the Oscars. Then if they want the show to be more entertaining than it's recently been, they can just air that instead.

—Steven Zeitchik



What does Bruce Vilanch think of James Franco's Oscar performance?

Is James Franco good for the Oscars, and vice versa?

Did Ricky Gervais go too far at the Golden Globes?

Photo: James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars. Credit: Michael Yada/EPA.

Oscars: 'Alice in Wonderland' for art directing; 'Inception' for cinematography

February 27, 2011 |  6:12 pm

Th Tom Hanks, yeah! Definitions of art directing and cinematography, boo!

Really, guys, we know what they mean.

These were good categories, though, to come after the movie mash-up of the opening by James Franco and Anne Hathaway -- especially the whole "Inception" into Alec Baldwin's dreams bit.

Cinematography went to "Inception's" Wally Pfister. Not exactly a surprise. Pfister took home honors not that long ago from the American Society of Cinematographers. There was a sort of last-minute swell of hope that Roger Deakins might take it home for "True Grit." BAFTA just gave him the honor. But I fear "True Grit" came too late, and it's hard to argue against "Inception," it was groundbreaking... literally.

On the art direction, it wasn't really much of a rabbit out of the hat trick -- 'Alice in Wonderland' looked stunning, a truly inventive visual playground created for the familiar story. And so it was as it should be. 


Red carpet photos

Live blogging: The Oscars

Oscar scorecard

--Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Tom Hanks presents the award for art direction at the Oscars. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Oscars: Franco, Hathaway, let's get this party started

February 27, 2011 |  5:28 pm

OK, folks, I've got my Red Bull within reach and my Red Vines in a pile next to the computer, and the show -- that would be the 83rd Academy Awards hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway -- is about to commence. Can't wait. Or, to steal a line, "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." ("All About Eve," Bette Davis, 1950, yes I'm saying "night" not "ride." Are you going to be like that all "night"?)

At least we should hope for bumpy. Like the Super Bowl, you don't want the game to be over before things even start. And, yes, I know the favorites are ... well, frankly, if you can't fill in the blanks at this point, stop reading and go pay attention to your TV set.

Actually, go watch TV, at least for a little. I'll be here for the duration. Check in any time.

--Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway arrives at the ceremony with designer Valentino. Credit: Associated Press

Danny Boyle: I have no idea what James Franco will be up to at the Oscars [video]

February 27, 2011 | 11:00 am

Danny Boyle spent months working intimately with James Franco during production of "127 Hours," so they should know each other pretty well.

But when it comes to Franco's hosting gig during the Academy Awards on Sunday, Boyle said he's as unsure as the rest of us about how the quirky actor will pull it off.

"He'll be a surprise. He'll be unpredicatble. Maybe he'll bring out all his class along from college or something, I don't know what he'll do," Boyle said, chuckling at the possibilities.

The filmmaker, along with "127 Hours" screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and the film's real-life analog Aron Ralston, were at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. And while it's been a long award season, Ralston -- who famously cut off his arm to escape from a canyon where he was trapped -- said he's not ready for it to end.

"It's almost this nostalgia already. These guys in the industry," he said, looking at Boyle and Beaufoy, "you get to go on to your next projects -- your next writing and directing. So it's kind of like [for me,]  'Well, this is it.' So I'm gonna miss you guys."

Boyle, who was on the award trail just two years ago for "Slumdog Millionaire," seemed ... less upset about the fanfare coming to an end.

"It's a funny business, but you do end up meeting again," he said. "It's weird. You kind of separate for years on things and then come back somehow."

-- Amy Kaufman


Sundance 2011: Sexytime in Park City

January 22, 2011 |  4:16 pm

The first Friday of the Sundance Film Festival is typically party time, the most Bacchanalian night in Park City. And to judge by the glamazons packed into Main Street’s exclusive Bing Bar -- young women teetering atop stiletto heels, wearing thigh-high boots, micro miniskirts and hosiery with visible garter belts -- it was also, as Borat would say, sexytime: a massing of would-be Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians, hoochie mamas with barely there outfits in strict defiance of the 9-degree cold.

The place was jammed for a midnight performance by Grammy-nominated soul chanteuse Janelle Monae. But if you ignored the North Face parkas piled in various corners and the occasional muffler, Bing Bar more resembled some Manhattan club or Sunset Strip boite -– maybe a disco party at Brett Ratner’s house –- than any kind of celebration honoring independent cinema.

Meanwhile, farther up Main Street, a sardine-packed crowd smushed into a subterranean space to chug free Crystal Skull vodka at Sotheby’s Chefdance party for Oscar host/graduate student/actor James Franco’s art installation “Three’s Company: The Drama” -– a jokey riff on the beloved '70s sitcom on exhibit at Sundance’s New Frontiers venue. They hobnobbed with the likes of actress Eliza Dushku, former Laker Rick Fox and Franco frère Davey Franco, secure in the knowledge they were attending the Most Happening Event in Town.

James Franco, meanwhile, confused and amused by appearing in various wigs, one a long blonde number (in homage to “Three’s Company” star Suzanne Somers) and another shorter auburn-colored one (a guest was overheard wondering whether the actor was trying to channel Don Knotts’ inimitable Mr. Furley) before getting onstage, a la hip hop fauteur Joaquin Phoenix, to rap-sing a song called “Chewing Gum” with performance artist Kalup Linzy. It included such choice lyrics as “You’re just a [expletive], you hot mess!”

Back at Bing Bar, at an event billed as an afterparty for the festival selection “The Ledge,” Monae took the small stage about 12:15 a.m. accompanied by an extremely tight five-piece backing band.

The eccentric singer was resplendent sporting her signature pompadour hairstyle, wearing a tuxedo shirt, bow tie and hip-hugging silk trousers. Her most upbeat songs manage to channel Cole Porter, Xavier Cugat and Jimi Hendrix in equal measure. But over the course of her short set, Monae brought no small amount of visual spectacle, donning a dainty bank robber mask at one point and joined on stage by dancers wearing ghost masks and black hoodies. Famous people including Susan Sarandon and Liv Tyler were seen conspicuously rocking out.

“It’s really strange that this is at Sundance,” commented Brinda Krishnan, a doctor-musician who has attended the festival for the last three years. “But nonetheless cool.”

-- Chris Lee

Photo: Janelle Monae at Bing Bar at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Credit: Bing Bar.

James Franco's 'Rise of the Apes' will now mutate on Thanksgiving

January 14, 2011 |  7:12 pm

The apes won't rise this summer after all.

Fox said this afternoon that it's moving "Rise of the Apes" back five months, taking its "Planet of the Apes" prequel out of its planned summer date of June 24 and slotting it for Nov. 23. (Filmgoers will get a different animal in June, with the studio saying concurrently that it has moved up the Jim Carrey family film "Mr. Popper's Penguins" from its August release date to June 17.)

The move slows momentum on the quickly moving "Rise of the Apes," in which James Franco stars in a new version of the science-fiction classic. (He plays the scientist who discovers the apes mutating; Andy Serkis plays the chimp who leads the revolt.)

The studio announced in May that a reboot would be set for June 2011, saying that British director Rupert Wyatt would be offering a  "completely new take on one of the studio’s most beloved and successful franchises." The cast was rounded out soon after, with production getting underway in the summer. (Pierre Boulle's novel, of course, spawned the 1968 Charlton Heston classic, which was followed by four sequels as well as a Tim Burton reimagining in 2001.)

The film is using photorealistic apes from Peter Jackson's Weta Digital effects company, and a Fox spokesman said that the November date will allow for increased postproduction time, and also steers the film to a place on the calendar with fewer big-budget action movies. This coming June-July period will see a number of effects-driven blockbuster hopefuls such as "X-Men: First Class," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and the final film in the Harry Potter franchise.

Moving a film out of summer can sometimes set off alarm bells in Hollywood, but it doesn't necessarily bode ill for a movie; current comedy sequel "Little Fockers" was pushed back from July to Christmas and has wound up performing respectably over the holidays.

--Steven Zeitchik


 Photo: James Franco at the GQ Men of the Year party. Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Mark Wahlberg tells the world that, if it's anyone, it's him [Video]

December 25, 2010 | 11:48 am

"The Fighter" is starting to cross over into cultural spoof territory. But then with Marky Mark, dramatic speeches and Boston accents, it was probably only a matter of time. Below, a riff on Micky Ward's  not-you moment of empowerment, complete with George Costanza, Emilio Estevez and Cookie Monster.

Elsewhere on the viral-video front, Fox Searchlight and James Franco continue to embrace the I'm-not-sure-I-can-watch-that reactions to "127 Hours." After the studio created a T-shirt and a website tweaking those who either didn't see or couldn't watch the movie, Franco's grandmother offers a jab at her own in this home video. Despite plaudits and awards attention, the campaign hasn't quite worked yet: Only about 1.3 million people have given the critically well-regarded Danny Boyle film a shot.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Is James Franco good for the Oscars, or vice versa?

November 29, 2010 |  5:45 pm

The naming of James Franco and Anne Hathaway as Oscar hosts has the film world atwitter with (a) excitement (b) skepticism (c) yawning indifference? Answer: (d) A little of all of the above.

The choice is certainly a break from tradition -- with an average age of 30, Francoway are the youngest Oscar hosts in more than half a century. (To find someone equally young at the Oscar podium, you have to go back to 1956, when Jerry Lewis had just turned 30 when he co-hosted with Claudette Colbert and Joseph Mankiewicz.) It's also only the second time in a quarter-century that the Oscars haven't been hosted by a comedian.

Choosing an Oscar host is like getting dispatched to buy a single ice cream flavor for an entire  kindergarten class and then having to hand out that flavor during snack time. Someone will always let you know they're unhappy.

You also have to cut producers slack for a move that will, if nothing else, dispel the idea that the academy only pays attention to older filmgoers.

But there's also a legitimate question to ask of the Francoway experiment, and it's not about comedy and the can-they-bring-the-funny issue. The conventional wisdom is that the Oscars sewed up most of the female demographic a long time ago, and the way it can goose ratings and interest is with elements that appeal to men, particularly young men. Many of the hosts of the more successful telecasts of the past few decades --  David Letterman, Billy Crystal  -- have large male followings.

But Franco's fan base is, for a young male star, pretty strongly female, and Hathaway's even more so. (That's based on an informal office poll, but also a look at some of the recent movies each has done -- "Date Night," "Eat Pray Love," "Love & Other Drugs," "Bride Wars.")

So does that mean the women will tune in, as they usually do, but the men may not be similarly moved? At a time when the priority for the Oscars is broadening its constituency, Francoway may not quite do the trick. It feels a little like the tea party trying to reach out to Democrats and then sending Rand Paul to do the job.

A more specific question remains for Franco, star of this fall's "127 Hours." Some have already speculated about the potential awkwardness of an actor hosting an awards show in which he will almost certainly be a nominee but may come away empty-handed. The media coverage his hosting will generate can only help his film -- which, after a stupendous opening in big cities, has been moving along steadily but not with great momentum as it opens in the suburbs and the heartland.

Men may not tune in in record numbers to watch the Oscars this year, but if a lot more people turn out to see "127 Hours," it may just be enough. For Franco, anyway.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photos: Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Credit: Andrew Gombert (Hathaway) and Claudio Peri (Franco) / EPA


James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host the Oscar telecast


Danny Boyle: I'm very concerned about '127 Hours' fainting victims [video]

November 4, 2010 |  3:22 pm

Confusion broke out at the Beverly Hills premiere of "127 Hours" Wednesday evening when a young woman suffered a seizure midway through the film. (At the end of the screening, director Danny Boyle promptly took to the stage to say that the incident was unrelated to the movie.)

Only hours before on the red carpet, Boyle downplayed the incidents of fainting and vomiting during some of the film's early screenings after viewing a graphic amputation scene. The director emphasized that only a "very small number of people" had passed out, and said that often, those individuals returned to the theater after coming to.

"It’s not like a revulsion, like they’ve been caught out by something," Boyle explained. "I think the intensity of the journey he takes them on climaxes and they just kind of go away for a few minutes in their minds. It’s like, ‘I’m overloading.' " Check out the full video below.

--Amy Kaufman



'127 Hours' premiere: Don't faint! It's just a James Franco movie [video]

At '127 Hours' premiere, another call for paramedics

Some viewers need a hand after the forearm amputation in '127 Hours'

For Danny Boyle and company, much more than '127 Hours' of toil

Telluride 2010: Danny Boyle's '127 Hours' cuts an impressive swath

September 4, 2010 |  4:00 pm


Many tears were shed at the world premiere screening of “127 Hours” at the Telluride Film Festival on Saturday afternoon. But few in the audience of some 500 cried harder than Aron Ralston, the hiker who famously cut off his right forearm and is the subject of director Danny Boyle’s new movie.

Boyle has described the film, which Fox Searchlight is releasing on Nov. 5, as an action movie in which the hero doesn’t move -- a reference to how Ralston (played in the film by James Franco) was pinned by a falling boulder in an isolated canyon and was forced to amputate one of his limbs in order to survive.

But as Boyle has proved throughout his filmmaking career -- his last film, “Slumdog Millionaire,” which premiered at Telluride two years ago, not only won the Oscar for best picture but also for directing, cinematography and editing -- he can take a scene that at first glance looks unfeasible to film and make it both visually kinetic and emotionally moving. Christian Colson, who produced “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours,” said Ralston’s tale “was a story that on paper felt impossible to tell as a movie.”

Boyle appears to have taken that as a challenge.

In “127 Hours,” Boyle’s cameras (he used two cinematographers, Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak) never stop moving. They soar over the desolate Utah canyons where Ralston was stuck for all those hours. They swim through the water bottle as he drinks his last drink. They penetrate his arm, as Ralston’s knife stops when it hits bone. They enter a duffel bag that Ralston has put over his head to stay warm in the 44-degree chill, the bag’s nylon shell becoming a miniature movie screen in which Ralston briefly revisits the world he has left behind and might never see again.

Most directors would have cut away from Ralston to focus on the building rescue effort, but Boyle doesn’t. Franco is in virtually every second of the movie. As he becomes increasingly dehydrated, he starts to hallucinate, and it is after one such hallucination -- in which Ralston thinks he might be seeing a son who is not yet born -- that Ralston decides to take dramatic action and cut himself out.

In making the movie, Boyle knew that if the audience averted its eyes when Ralston ultimately broke the bones in his arm and severed a tangled mass of tendons, muscle and nerves with a dull knife, “127 Hours” would have failed. Although one member of the Telluride audience apparently passed out during the graphic sequence, very few looked away. Ralston, who was attending the screening with his wife, was visibly moved throughout the film, but the tears really started flowing when he watched the reenactment of his primitive surgical procedure. The relief in the theater was palpable -- if there’s such a thing as quiet cheering, there it was.

“It’s like we all just went through what I did,” Ralston told the audience after the screening’s conclusion. Even though “127 Hours” takes some dramatic liberties (a flash-flood scene, in particular), the movie was “all very accurate and real,” Ralston said.

“This is insane,” are the first words Ralston speaks as soon as he is trapped by the large falling rock. His situation was doubtless that. Yet even crazier is that Boyle has made Ralston’s tale spellbinding — truly an action movie in which the hero doesn’t move.

-- John Horn in Telluride, Colo.

Photo: James Franco as Aron Ralston in "127 Hours." Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Fox Searchlight


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