A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Disaster Artist (James Franco, 2017)

Dave Franco and James Franco in The Disaster Artist
Greg Sestero: Dave Franco
Tommy Wiseau: James Franco
Sandy: Seth Rogen
Juliette: Ari Graynor
Amber: Alison Brie
Carolyn: Jacki Weaver
Raphael: Paul Scheer
Dan / Chris-R: Zac Efron
Philip / Denny: Josh Hutcherson
Robin: June Diane Raphael
Mrs. Sestero: Megan Mullally
Iris Burton: Sharon Stone
Jean Shelton: Melanie Griffith

Director: James Franco
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Based on a book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
Cinematography: Brandon Trost
Production design: Chris L. Spellman
Film editing: Stacey Schroeder
Music: Dave Porter

The title, The Disaster Artist, doesn't refer directly to James Franco, but it sometimes seems as if it should. In a year full of men stepping on their own genitalia, Franco's misstep was particularly painful. Just as the raves were coming in not only for his directing and acting in The Disaster Artist but also for his work in a dual role on HBO's The Deuce, there came a series of allegations of sexual misconduct dating back to 2014. Franco had been thought to be a strong contender for Oscar nominations for both directing and acting, but was shut out of those categories: The Disaster Artist received only one nomination, for the screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. We're not at the point yet where recent filmmakers' work can be judged independently of their personal lives -- the way, say, we appreciate the work of past artists without referring to the less admirable sides of their lives. To the extent that I can shut out Franco's alleged misconduct from any consideration of his movie, I have to say that it's a delight, a witty, observant portrait of a grandly mysterious eccentric whose age, country of origin, and source of income have still never been fully documented. It's also a film about the movies, about the joy and pain of making them, exhilarating even when the product, Tommy Wiseau's The Room (2003), is widely derided as one of the worst movies ever made. Franco's performance is a great gallery of mannerisms into which the actor himself fully disappears -- although there are some who would say that Franco's own reputation for ego-tripping is an essential jumping-off point for the character. But the film is also a directorial showcase, in which Franco shows skill that his other work hadn't previously manifested. The Disaster Artist is full of tasty bits, such as Melanie Griffith's cameo as an acting teacher and Sharon Stone's as an agent. As Greg Sestero, Dave Franco serves to keep the wacked-out narrative on course, and it's fun to watch the brothers play off of each other.

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