The Franco Files — #1

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It’s been a new year for a little while now, but it’s been even longer since I’ve introduced a new concept/feature to this humble little pet project of mine.

Dudes and dudettes, I have to say I’ve waited long enough to unveil this idea, and after sitting on this for awhile I think it’s time to allow this guy to stretch his legs. I present to you fine folks, THE FRANCO FILES, a monthly feature in which I will break down a certain performance from one of my favorite actors, Mr. James Franco and detail his impact in the film he takes part in. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to expand this feature to other actors later, although that is entirely possible. For now, it will remain relative to the work of James Franco, whether it is a lead role or a contributing supporting role; however major or minor, if his name is billed, it counts.

My hope is that, through this extended feature, I bring some attention to just how exactly a single performer can influence a film, as well as turn a spotlight on the nuances of this particular actor’s entire body of work. I hope you enjoy.

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Francophile #1: Aron Ralston, 127 Hours

Role Type: Lead

Genre: Biographical drama/Biopic

Character Profile: Mr. Franco plays 27-year-old Aron Ralston, an outdoor enthusiast from Colorado (born in Ohio). This is no ordinary adventurer, however, when in 2003, Ralston found himself trapped in a narrow section of canyon in the remote regions of southeastern Utah after dislodging a boulder and getting his right hand pinned between it and the canyon wall. In an improbable fight for survival, Franco is tasked with conveying the long descent into panic and despair as he exhausts all options for escape over a five day period. Given Ralston’s experience outdoors, and an incredible ability to think rationally and strategically, Franco has been presented quite the challenge in managing emotional extremes, especially since overdoing any given emotion could ruin the film’s startling realism. To his credit, overacting in this situation could be an easy mistake to make, and yet he handles the job with grace and dignity. His Aron Ralston is one of the actor’s very best performances.

If you lose Franco, the film loses: It’s heart. There is no doubt that 127 Hours is Franco’s film. It is impossible to think of this movie without picturing his many facial expressions and playful mannerisms, even before things get serious. Since the film’s debut in 2010, despite his many other film appearances, it’s also equally difficult separating the actor from this experience. Strong direction from Danny Boyle certainly helps elevate the drama,  but the bulk of this emotionally draining experience rests upon the former Freaks & Geeks star’s shoulders.

Out of Character: “When Danny told me how he wanted me to approach this film and this role, I listened to him. He wanted me to meet with him extensively beforehand, learn everything I could from Aron. But when we shot, it would be more of a performance from the inside-out. He would put me through certain paces so that I would have my own experience, so that I wasn’t trying to slavishly recreate all the nuances of Aron’s behavior, but instead he would put me in situations that were close enough to Aron’s — short of me cutting my own arm off — so that, yeah I would have my own experience. So in that sense, maybe you do get a lot of me. He was very interested in a comedic side to this role. It was very important to balance out the intensity of some of the material and to get the audience on board with the character early on.”

Rate the Performance (relative to his other work):

5-0


All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.extratv.com 

Prince Avalanche

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Release: Friday, August 9, 2013 (limited)

[Netflix]

Mumblecore may not be a lost artform, but it’s pretty clear it’s on the fringes, particularly when the recent entries are as minor as this.

David Gordon Green, after directing more mainstream, sillier things like Pineapple Express, The Sitter and Your Highness, switches gears by creating a story dependent on actual, fine-tuned performances and not upon ridiculous set pieces and poop/fart jokes. He manages to avoid being pretentious with his shoestring budget, though it’s not much of a surprise to see such a divided audience opinion of Prince Avalanche

One of the main reasons the film carries great potential to be off-putting is the extremely slow pace. Seriously. Snails probably would learn a thing or two about slowing down if they could watch this movie. (That’s not to write snails off as being snobbish, by the way; I just think A) their weird little eyes are too small and B) even if they could comprehend this, they would get bored.)

But for us humans, because the film also zeros in on an obscure, isolated job like highway maintenance — Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) are responsible for applying all the road markings to a recently repaved section of road in the wake of a destructive wildfire that wiped out a good portion of forest land — there is not a lot to grab a hold of in terms of dramatic material. Plus the fact that extended moments of dialogue-free, panoramic shots of the nondescript environs dominate the narrative early on doesn’t help those who are seeking something to identify with.

When you factor in how Rudd’s character is first presented, this film seems to be making every effort to avoid becoming a crowd-pleaser. (Whoops, did I mention earlier that this film wasn’t pretentious? That might have been a bit of a lie.) Green, though, is able to find a modicum of success in his experimentation. There is a quirkiness to this weird little romp, a very natural humor that makes this story absolutely believable, even if inaccessible (or pointless) to some.

Relying on some nuanced performances, his small-time Avalanche attempts to differentiate between the concepts of ‘being alone’ versus ‘being lonely.’ He goes about this by presenting two starkly different personalities in Alvin and Lance, who show that while both concepts don’t sound favorable, one is definitely worse than the other.

A mustached Paul Rudd truly enjoys the solitude; he claims to be able to focus his downtime into gaining what he considers valuable skills, like learning foreign languages, and that being away from people — like his girlfriend, Madison who is also, by way of holy-shit-it’s-a-small-world, Lance’s sister — actually helps him better himself. Compare that to Hirsch’s whiny, materialistic Lance, who has slightly less ambitious stupider . . .we’ll just go with different goals and desires, like going into town on his days off and looking for some girls to take home with him. He’s clearly less satisfied with his employment and, hence, the lonely one.

Yet, there’s a monotonous amount of road-paintin’, and silence-havin’ — I think at some point, a bee gets to chew some scenery — all of this to get through as this simple albeit earnest story slowly gains traction. This is a movie filmed through cameras virtually ingrained into the trees and the mud and thickets through which we see this movie unfold. You have to give credit to Green and his right-hand man, D.O.P. Tim Orr for literally absorbing the environment in which they are in. At the same time, I cannot blame those who end up feeling a little insulted by watching a movie that literally takes place on the shoulder of a road.

Ultimately, Prince Avalanche is a decent film that perhaps treads the line between immateriality and art-house a bit too closely at times. The performances are too good to ignore though, and there is a warm conviction with which these two loners eventually come to embrace their statuses in life. The low-key affair is also dressed in a gorgeous soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, which, it can also be legitimately argued, the film relies on a bit too much at times.

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3-5Recommendation: Experimental at best and inconsequential at worst, Prince Avalanche is not a film for everyone yet those who do crack its hard outer shell shall reap the rewards of its heartfelt message and will appreciate the quality of the two oddball performances. It’s also a good one to check out for yet another different Paul Rudd experience.

Rated: R

Running Time: 94 mins.

Quoted: “So when you say something negative and insult the other person… You’re really just showing that other person what an unsure-of-yourself-type person that you really feel like you are.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Aningaaq (Gravity “spin-off”)

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Release: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 

[Vimeo]

Written by: Jonás Cuarón

Directed by: Jonás Cuarón

In case you departed Earth recently and don’t know yet, the film Gravity by Alfonso Cuarón was nothing short of a revolution in filmmaking, albeit mostly from a technical standpoint. While still selling a considerable number of buckets of popcorn for being a seemingly high-brow sci-fi adventure film, the legend to proceed it will be much more for the sheer brilliance of its scientific accuracy, visual depictions of life in space and its usage of sound — specifically, the lack thereof.

So authentic in its visual detail and human emotion, Gravity seems to be one of those films that you simply can’t get enough of. If you’re going to see it in theaters, it’s one that must be done in 3D (yes, I just said that) and on the IMAX screen. Twice in a row. Some of the more hardcore of us may feel that even that’s not enough to satiate the appetite; fortunately, the brilliant director’s son, Jonas, is where and whom we should turn to next.

Not more than a day ago, it was revealed that Jonas had conceived of a 7-minute short film that shows what goes down on the other side of the desperate calls Sandra Bullock’s Doctor Ryan Stone makes to Earth to try and get help. The film, titled Aningaaq, deals with a major plot point in the film, and it should really go without saying here that if you have yet to see the full-length feature, you should not watch this short until you do. This WILL ruin the film for you, if you aren’t careful.

With that said, Aningaaq is pure brilliance, and serves as a fascinating companion piece to one of 2013’s most eerie and tense dramas. As was the case with the full-length feature, Aningaaq is similarly fraught with tension, though it’s far more limited and not as complex. It is nevertheless a must-see featurette for those who experienced Doctor Stone’s ordeal with isolation in space; it’s important to hear and see what the world is like on the other end of a poor radio signal that is effectively your only tether to the rest of humanity when you’re in orbit.

Ingeniously answering a major question some (if not all) viewers likely have, had or will have in a pivotal and highly emotional scene towards the end, these seven minutes of footage also serve as a good heads-up of what to look for come the awards ceremony, paying particular attention to the short film category. This strange title (referring to the Inuit man featured here) should be one mentioned at some point.

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To watch the film yourself (again, please see the actual film first) click the link below, which will take you to the Hollywood Reporter. Enjoy!

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/gravity-spinoff-watch-side-sandra-657919

4-5Recommendation: Given that you. . . well, er. . .liked Gravity, this will undoubtedly help establish an even bigger appreciation of what was just accomplished in this supremely intelligent piece of cinema. 

Rated: NR

Running Time: 7 mins.

[No trailer available. Sorry everyone.]

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.filmaffinity.com; http://www.screenrant.com