James Franco Loves ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ and Ryan Gosling, Obviously

Not only did Derek Cianfrance’s epic drama The Place Beyond the Pines premiere last week but the trailer for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Ryan Gosling-led thriller Only God Forgives was unveiled this week, and naturally, Gos love is in full effect. And who else to better express this sentiment than endless hyphenate James Franco. 

Yesterday, the Huffington Post published a Pines review from the man of many talents, which praises all the actors in the film, but focuses on the first portion of the triptych film—the Gos-centered section—which Franco claims, "he wants to make love to." Calling the picture, " a damn long film for what it is: an earnest character study done in a realistic style with a Shakespearian frame of sins of the fathers being handed down to the sons," he describes it as "part Cassavetes, part Dardenne brothers by way of The Wrestler"—which I can totally get down with. But in articulating his love for the beginning of the film, he also had some choice things to tell you about it. Here are some highlights:

…pay close attention to all of Gosling’s clothes in whatever he does, he is a master at evoking character through dress: The Drive Scorpion jacket; the Blue Valentine two-tone leather, I mean, come on giiiiiiirl; and here a red jacket, more nondescript than usual Gosling but still cool — and then the cigarette comes out, but we only know this from the smoke that rolls back over his shoulders; as he winds though the dinging rides and flashing booths he is crowned by the chintzy glamour of the multicolored lights, and this is just so right, because this is what the character is: the smoking, brooding carnival king who will ride his motorcycle like no other into the burning twilight of legend; but the shot doesn’t stop, he enters a buzzing tent just as he is announced by the ponytailed MC; he mounts his bike next to two other riders; the camera moves back and forth across his badass face, the first time we see it; he has a cross tattooed below his left eye and some erratic squiggly writing below his neck — still no cut — and then the three riders enter a porous metal sphere, and they’re off; is it Gosling in there riding loops with the other two? 

….This role is a mix between McQueen in The Getaway and some ’80s metal head kids I used to know at summer camp. Yes, please, more of this. Look at how he smokes; look at the other t-shirts he wears inside out; look at the holes! Look at how he dances with the little dog; look at the homoerotic relationship with his partner in crime. 

Wouldn’t be a Franco anything without a mention of homoeroticism, now would it?

The rest of the film is great, but the following two sections can’t hope to burn with the same intensity of the Gosling section, they’re not designed that way. It’s not the actors’ faults, it’s just that Gosling was cast as the shooting star, and he sucked up all the oxygen. I could watch that first section over and over and over and over. Because it portrays a character who is beautiful because he has a ticking clock around his neck, he’s every James Dean-style kid, every burning hot rock star, Lenny Bruce mother, who speaks with his motorcycle and his style: the intelligence of style and behavior. A behavioral and sartorial genius.

I also loved how he described Emory Cohen’s wonderful performance as, "some young goomba whose connection with his character is so tight it’s magical, like a Jersey Shore thug contextualized by serious circumstances so that his personality isn’t played for cheap MTV laughs but instead for the terror such brutish and reckless superficial personalities can inspire."

Check out the review in its entirety HERE.

Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Has an Opinion About Lena Dunham and ‘Girls’

It’s a pretty easy joke to make: anyone with an opinion and an internet connection has found the time to write a thing or two about Girls. And it’s not even a joke anymore: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA Hall of Famer, has an opinion about Girls. Because of course he fucking does.

In a Huffington Post article, Abdul-Jabbar rips the show a new one.

We’re supposed to find these girls somehow charming because of their flawed characters. Their intense self-involvement is meant to be cute and it can be… at times. But not enough to overcome our impatience with their inability to have any personal insight. They’re all educated but fatally ignorant.

This isn’t all Girls fault. It’s unfair to put so much of a burden on what is basically a standard sitcom. Some of the fault lies with the audience’s desperation for a generational voice that they turn to a sitcom to express it rather than great literature. Filmmaker and short story writer (and Dunham fan) Miranda July is more accurately a voice of a generation adrift in the rough waters of Great Expectations and a Great Recession.

When it takes itself seriously is when it stumbles. I just wish it would express its seriousness by being funnier. Seinfeld made it a point to ridicule the characters’ shallowness and self-involvement, raising it to a level of social commentary. And it was funny. Two other girl-centric shows that reached these same heights to be voices of a generation were My So-Called Life and Wonderfalls. Both funny, yet also insightful and original. Perhaps that’s why they both only lasted one season before becoming cut hits. Girls, a safer more mousy voice, is already been renewed for a third season.

THANK GOD SOMEONE FINALLY SAID SOMETHING.

But seriously, there are a couple of things to take away from this piece:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the thirty or so people who watched Wonderfalls

Oh, wait, that’s really the only interesting thing here. That and Abdul-Jabbar’s suggestion that "a black dildo" would have been a cheaper way of bringing up the meta-discussion about race rather than hiring Donald Glover to play a character on the show. Tell that to the unions! Now, Huffington Post, can you open up your blog space for some actual cultural critics to share some insight instead of getting a famous person to nonsensically rehash stuff that has been written literally everyone else? 

Now, when will Lena Dunham get that Deadspin byline?

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Does ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Continue A Disney Tradition Of Homophobia?

I haven’t yet seen Wreck-It Ralph, the newest computer-animated Disney film, but despite its favorable reviews and box-office success, it seems that the video game-inspired film has taken on a bit of the homophobic (and misogynist) nature of gamer culture. 

Huffington Post blogger Chris Bogia, who describes himself as "a 35-year-old gay man and life-long video gamer," shares his disappointment that not only does the film’s villain (the King Candy, voiced by Alan Tudyk) seem like a gay stereotype, but the film’s hero uses a seemingly harmless, yet homophobic, slur to describe him:

After some limp-wristed gesticulating by our villain, Ralph grabs him, shakes him, and calls the confectionary monarch a "nelly wafer" (it’s like Nilla Wafer, get it?)

"Nelly."

That word is hardly thrown around these days, and I’m sure most young kids seeing Wreck-It Ralph wouldn’t know what it means. However, when entered into Google for anyone that didn’t already know it’s definition, here it is:

"Offensive Slang: Used as a disparaging term for an effeminate homosexual man."

There’s very little grey area here. The hero of the Disney animated movie I just saw shook the mincing, effeminate villain and called him a homophobic slur (after already insulting his decorating taste!).

Again, I haven’t yet seen the movie, but it’s particularly troubling. Bogia goes on, however, and brings up a point that I hadn’t really thought of before:

Disney (never mind the American film industry) has made yet ANOTHER of its villains an effeminate male. Let’s not forget Aladdin‘s Jafar, Lion King‘s Scar, Jungle Book‘s Sher Kahn and Robin Hood‘s Prince John (the last three mentioned are all feline by the way, which is weird, but I’m not writing a dissertation so I’m going to let that go for now). Disney could remove the "nelly" slur from later releases of Ralph (something they MUST do), but no team of animators is going to be brought in to "butch up" the poor King of Candy, just as no one has done anything about the other villains. Today children everywhere are safe from the racial implications of Song of the South’s contented singing slaves, but when will they be safe from blatant homophobia at the movies — at children’s movies no less?

Three’s certainly a trend, and putting the four aforementioned Disney villains in the front of my brain in one gay group certainly got the wheels in my head turning (especially Prince John in Robin Hood.) While "nelly" doesn’t have the sting of other gay slurs, it’s certainly not a term that we should be promoting to children and encouraging them, by way of an animated hero, to pick up as appropriate slang. 

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Can We Laugh At the Newsweek Tumblr?

This is somewhat personal, because my dad was once an editor for Newsweek International and wrote an unforgettable cover story on the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. It’d be enough of an insult to his résumé that the magazine has been pared down to 14 pages of Tina Brown political slashfic, but the Tumblr incarnation of this sorry media outlet operates strictly beyond the pale.

Some recent offenses:

  • Getting all cutely offended by the Huffington Post for running a photo of a coat hanger under a headline about abortion, then turning defensive about their reaction, then converting their cursor from a dreadfully twee handlebar mustache to … yep, a coat hanger. Please note that all this happened one day after they aggregated something from the Huffington Post without comment. JOURNALISM.
  • Screencapping a Drudge Report banner suggesting that their highly fanciful and not very true anti-Obama cover story by noted butt-wipe Niall Ferguson constituted, if not technical plagiarism, a late-to-the-Tea-Party grab at their conservative readership. Newsweek bungled this one by going with the caption “Rawr,” when they rather should have committed seppuku.
  • Articulating the single lamest comeback to a blogger who dared to point out that their worthless infographisticle included a categorical error. (And promptly having their asses handed right back to them.)

Luckily, plenty of righteous Tumblr citizens take the publication to task for any and every slip-up; there’s an auto-pile-on for every failure to fact check, and you see a lot of those without fact-checkers. But all this has led me to a philosophical conundrum: If everyone stopped following Newsweek, would it still reblog .gifs from Buzzfeed to make fun of CNN?