Monday, February 28, 2011

The Many Faces of James Franco

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that last night's Academy Awards were co-hosted by one of Hollywood's most peculiar characters, James Franco. Although he lost Best Actor to Colin Firth, I felt it was fitting to celebrate one of the most random acting careers in recent history. Whether he just gets bored easily or is legitimately schizo, he should be applauded for his unwillingness to conform to Hollywood standards.

Like many stars, James started out on the small screen as Daniel Desario on the (unfortunately) short-lived Freaks and Geeks. Among an amazing young cast (including Jason Segal, Linda Cardelinni, Busy Phillips, and Seth Rogan), he stole most scenes he was in and made a potentially obnoxious character quite likable. If you’ve never seen this show, Netflix it immediately.

"I'm so good looking, I need to sit here and think about it for a while."
 Franco then made his jump to the big screen through the Spiderman Trilogy, playing Harry Osborn. This was a big step up, but relatively uninteresting. It was a superhero movie, he looks good in expensive suits, blah, blah, blah....

Celebrities- they're just like us!
 In the midst of his successful movie career, Franco decided to go back to school. I know everyone says that your college years are the best of your life, but if I was making huge movies, I doubt I’d trade in my SAG card for textbooks. He graduated from UCLA with a GPA over 3.5 and enrolled in Columbia's MFA writing program. He’s currently working on his PhD from Yale, naturally.

Franco put his MFA to use when he wrote Palo Alto, his collection of short stories. I would say this is the move of a totally self-indulgent actor, but he seems to take his writing pretty seriously. Alas, reviews are mixed. I cannot pass judgment as I have not read this masterpiece.


Notice how Milk James judges Nights in Rodanthe James. Give James a break, James. He just lost his father or something.
2008 was the year of Franco, with the eclectic actor appearing in Pineapple Express, Milk, and Nights and Rodanthe. So… he played a greasy-haired drug dealer in a Judd Apatow film, the boyfriend of Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk in a dramatic award-winner, and a small role in a painful Nicholas Sparks movie.

"Hey, have I told you guys the story of how Tom Hanks totally said hi to me at the Golden Globes last year? Not that it matters. I'm not 'Hollywood'. I'm a writer."
Naturally, when one has received massive amounts of critical praise for a meaningful role (that would be for Milk, not Nights in Rodanthe), the next step is obvious: sign on to film 41 episodes of General Hospital. Also, be sure to play a multimedia artist who has unfinished business with a mob enforcer. (FYI, I could have posted about a thousand pics of James on this show. I am sincerely sorry I was never able to catch an episode.)

"Let's move it along, people. I have to teach a writer's workshop in Brooklyn in an hour."
Perhaps it was method acting, but as General Hospital’s Franco (yes, that was his character’s name) was busy raising mafia suspicions and cultural awareness in Port Charles, James Franco put on his own art exhibit. I have no further commentary on that subject.

“I want what you have with Komiko-tan!”
To fully examine Franco’s career choices would be the work of a book rather than a blog entry (and that book would probably be longer than Palo Alto). Thus, a few other highlights worth mentioning include a TV movie in which he played James Dean (he was nominated for an Emmy and a SAG for the role), a guest spot on 30 Rock in which he plays himself fake-dating Jenna, a decent episode of SNL (do the Jammie Shuffle!), the lead role in Howl playing Allen Ginsberg, and a nearly unrecognizable small role in Date Night. Up next for Franco? He’s playing the Great and Powerful Oz, of course.

Yes, this photo is also from General Hospital. No, he will not return to the show playing his own evil twin who has a brian defect that can only be cured at the titular General Hospital. Or will he?
In the midst of quite a bit of criticism for his performance last night, I think we can all agree that the actor/student/artist/writer/director/producer/Oscar host deserves a vacation. Stay tuned for his Food Network show, denim line, and new social networking site, which will make Facebook obsolete.

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