James Franco appeared on the Golden Globes shortlist this year, nominated as Best Actor for his performance as rock climber Aron Ralston in 127 Hours. Which is not surprising for two reasons: 1. he captivated audiences in a challenging role that rested wholly on his shoulders (or trapped arm, actually) and 2. he must have an exhausted publicist, because the Golden Globe nom is only one recent Franco news story among many, many others.
Truly, James Franco has been like a Shelf Elf for the last few months, popping up somewhere every day. Franco has recently taped an Inside the Actor's Studio interview talking about his research watching gigolo sex and has been featured on fall magazine covers including Esquire and -- in blue-eyeshadowed fabulousness -- in the new transversal lifestyle magazine, Candy. It has been announced that he'll reprise his performance artist/serial killer role on General Hospital for a few episodes next year, and James Franco is on deck to co-host the Oscars with Anne Hathaway (which in addition to being baffling will be incredibly awkward because he is said to be a shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination.)
Seriously, the man is everywhere, and he's just warming up. 2011 is either going to be the year of James Franco, or the year you grew to hate him by February.
There are points on each side of this Franco v. Franco showdown:
Pro:His performances are deeply engaging, playing a selective stream of interesting characters. From Milk to the Spiderman trilogy to Eat, Pray, Love, Franco seems to defy a type while avoiding the types of schlock that often dominate an early career.
Pro: Franco is prolific and inspiring. "Renaissance Man" buzz swirls around him because he is amassing a mythic compilation of artistic and academic credits. He acts, directors, paints and writes, having published a collection of short stories this year. Amazingly, he earned his Bachelor's degree in two years, and then simultaneously attended 3 graduate school programs: at Columbia University (writing), New York University (filmmaking) and Brooklyn College (fiction writing). He is currently completing his PhD in English at Yale University. Because, why not?
Pro: He's a Renaissance Man, but he is also very much a Meta Man of his times. He seems to appreciate the meta forces behind post- post-modern culture. He pokes fun at himself in a Funny or Die video, and art film Erased James Franco is meta upon meta. In many ways he seems drawn to contemporary inquiries about blurring the lines between forms, platforms and concepts: The Advocate reported that Franco's "first solo art show featured video monologues with lines like 'We’re all gender-fucked—we’re all something in between, floating like angels'."
Okay, but Con: Is all of his Meta-ness honest exploration, or is he laughing at his audiences? Is he truly questioning the way daytime television acting is unfairly dismissed, or is he having campy fun punking the genre? Is that what the bad facial hair is about ... a tedious joke of the Joaquin Phoenix variety?
Con: People who don't sleep and get a lot done are impressive but they can also be annoying, especially if they seem too smitten with themselves. Franco does seem to love himself a whole lot, and this can wear thin. Did you see this short film of Franco kissing Franco from the intriguing Fourteen Actors Acting series in the New York Times?
Con: Overexposure can lead to bad choices that undo the string of good choices an actor has built. Co-hosting the Oscars, when audiences have come to rely on comedians like Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin to move the long ceremony along, seems like risky publicity to me.
Where do you fall out on the Franco v. Franco spectrum. Is 2011 his year? Do you think James Franco is amazing and you'd love to stand in line (behind Franco himself, of course) to kiss him, see his next film or have his artistic and brilliant babies? Or have you seen just about as much of that scraggly mustached smirk as you can bear?