Let me answer your question, Slate
It’s a holiday weekend. The House GOP remains in a state of perpetual zugzwang. I had to skip my high school reunion (and yes, I’d have liked to have attended) because I’m on call.
What the hell. I’ll write about James Franco.
Back when Blinded Trials was still a separate sub-blog, I had a glib little author bio. It concluded:
[Russell] would have warned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that James Franco was a bad idea, if only someone had asked.
Thus, I cemented my reputation as a dedicated James Franco detractor.
So it was with glee that I happened upon this article about my fellow James Franco detractors over at Slate.
The Internet body politic may never settle on definitive answers to today’s toughest questions—Is Miley racist? Is Robin Thicke rapey?—but it long ago issued a verdict on Franco that has proven to be uniquely sticky, so much so that most of Franco’s Comedy Central roasters seemed to be plumbing 3-year-old Gawker comment threads for material. (Seth Rogen: “Franco, you look like you’re asleep. Did you just read a James Franco book?”) In daring to spend his time between starring in commercial movies doing things that are actually or essentially nonmonetizable—like taking a lot of college courses, directing art films and video installations, writing about literature for VICE, and, yes, publishing books—Franco continually commits the ultimate sin: being apparently sincerely interested in things that are presumed to be pretentious and boring.
Is that why the Internet body politic hates James Franco? Dear me. I seem to have missed that memo. I don’t dislike him for being sincerely interested in things that are presumed to be pretentious and boring. I dislike him because he was patently uninterested in doing a good job in a high-profile gig.
The various Franco performances I have seen on film (“Milk”) or TV (a stint on “The Mindy Project”) have been worthy-enough efforts, and as an actor I have no beef with him. I don’t care about his writing, and am similarly indifferent to his penchant for graduate school. He can get so many MAs that his full title looks like an infant’s babbling, for all I care.
No, I dislike him because he was, without a doubt, the worst Oscar host I have ever seen. David Letterman told tin-eared jokes that died. Seth MacFarlane was crude and self-indulgent. They, at least, went to the trouble of trying to turn in a good performance. While they were lousy, they weren’t the worst.
No, the worst was Mr. Franco. Every minute he was on stage he radiated a sense of being too cool for the lame gig. His co-host Anne Hathaway was left to drown in a pool of her own flop sweat. He was equal parts lazy and smug, and his only even vaguely memorable moment was coming out in drag for a sight gag that’s been hackneyed since the final scenes of “The Birdcage.” (You know would have been vaguely amusing and courageous? If he’d kept the dress on all night.)
Now, you may agree that the Oscars are utterly lame and deserving of nothing but vague contempt. Hell, I don’t know that I could mount a particularly convincing counter-argument. They are, without question, a puffed-up ceremony of Hollywood extravagance and self-congratulation, and people who are less suckered by glamor than me probably find it risible. James Franco may well be among their number.
But you know what a cool Hollywood star who disdains the Academy Awards should do when offered a hosting gig? Decline. Turn down the money and the spotlight. What he shouldn’t do is phone in a performance so half-assed it could induce scoliosis. Someone else could use the exposure.
So that’s why James Franco makes me angry. Because he did a bad job at something I like. Because agreeing to take a turn as host should mean agreeing to do your best.