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Josh Reviews The Disaster Artist

December 25th, 2017
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James Franco’s The Disaster Artist chronicles the making of The Room, the 2003 film that is widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made.  The Disaster Artist is based on Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book of the same name, which depicts the unlikely friendship between the young Sestero and the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, who would up bankrolling, directing, and starring in The Room, in which Mr. Sestero played a lead part.  The Room was a disastrous flop upon release; showing in one single theatre in L.A. for two weeks.  But gradually, word of mouth began to spread (aided, perhaps, by Mr. Wiseau’s decision to continue paying for the film’s one prominent billboard, featuring a now iconic close-up of his face, for five years!), and eventually the film gained a cult following and became beloved among a certain cadre of fans despite, or perhaps because of, its being so bad.

It’s incredible to me that, a decade after The Room was first screened, there is now a big-budget Hollywood movie telling the behind-the-scenes story of that film’s creation!  But here we are.  James Franco and his team have treated Mr. Wiseau and Mr. Sestero and The Room in a similar manner to how Tim Burton treated Ed Wood in his film of the same name.  There’s no doubt that The Disaster Artist presents Tommy Wiseau as something of a punchline.  If I was Mr. Wiseau, I would not be thrilled with this depiction.  But the film also has a lot of tenderness for Mr. Wiseau and Mr. Sestero, and for anyone who sets out to create art.

I suppose it could be argued that Mr. Wiseau and Mr. Sestero were more interested in becoming stars than in making art.  Those two things are quite different from one another.  But I think a large part of why The Disaster Artist works as well as it does is because of the way the film pulls you into rooting for these weirdos, these outsiders.  Anyone who has ever felt the desire to create art, who has ever felt like an outsider looking in, will find a lot to engage with in this film.

The film is also very, very funny.  Mr. Franco has assembled an incredible cast, and he gives everyone room to shine.

Let’s start with Mr. Franco himself, who is wonderful and hilarious as Tommy Wiseau.  Underneath some subtle prosthetics and an amazing wig (at least, I assume it’s a wig!), Mr. Franco has utterly morphed into Mr. Wiseau.  And then he opens his mouth!  Mr. Franco has done a fantastic job at capturing Mr. Wiseau’s bizarre, unique, unidentifiable accent.  This is an incredible transformation.  But as with the … [continued]

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The Top 20 Movies of 2014 — Part Two!

We’re exploring my favorite films of 2014!  Click here for part one of my list of The Top 20 Movies of 2014!  And now, onward…

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15.  Life Itself Steve James’ documentary about film critic Roger Ebert is a magnificent love-letter to Mr. Ebert himself, and to his passion: the movies.  The film is a fascinating exploration of Mr. Ebert’s life and career as a movie critic.  We dig into many of Mr. Ebert’s notable film reviews and opinions, and of course there is a lot of great behind-the-scenes details of his relationship with fellow At The Movies critic Gene Siskel.  It’s fascinating to explore Mr. Ebert’s approach to film criticism and to see how that appealed to and/or put off others.  But what makes this documentary extraordinary is that, at the same time as the film tells the story of Mr. Ebert’s life and career, it also follows him and his wife Chaz during the last year or two of Mr. Ebert’s life.  Mr. James and his cameras had impressive access, and we see the extraordinary challenges that Mr. Ebert faced in his last years, as cancer and surgery after surgery left him without the ability to speak, and missing most of the bottom part of his face and jaw.  I’d seen a few photos of Mr. Ebert from those years, but I never understood the depth of what this man went through.  This film presents a wonderfully compelling human story, one that is tragic but also joyful, and it’s all wrapped up in Mr. Ebert’s profound and infectious love for the movies.  (Click here for my original review.)

FADING GIGOLO

14.  Fading Gigolo John Turturro has created the best Woody Allen film in well over a decade!  This film, written and directed by Mr. Turturro, who also stars alongside Woody Allen, totally took me by surprise.  It’s rare to see Woody Allen appear in a film he didn’t write and direct, and it’s wonderful to see Woody give such a fantastic performance, full of life and joy and comedic zest.  Murray (Woody Allen) and Fioravante (John Turturro) are friends.  Murray’s used book store has closed, and he finds himself at something of loose ends.  When his dermatologist (Sharon Stone) mentions that she and her girlfriend (Sofia Vergara) might be looking for a man with whom they can have a ménage à trois, Murray offers to set them up with his friend Fioravante, for a modest finder’s fee, of course.  Fioravante requires some convincing, but eventually agrees to go along.  Thus begins an Murray’s unlikely career as a gigolo, and Fioravante’s as a male prostitute!  Everyone seems happy, but things get more serious when Murray encounters … [continued]

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Josh Has Seen The Interview!

I was very concerned and very disappointed when news broke that, because of the threats made by the terrorists/criminals who hacked Sony, the studio was pulling The Interview from its scheduled Christmas release.  Click here to read a terrific editorial on the topic from Drew McWeeny at Hitfix.com, and click here to read a wonderful piece by, of all people, George R. R. Martin.  I agree with the views expressed in both articles one hundred percent.  Suffice to say, the idea that a foreign government can decide what we can or cannot see here in the United States is a scary concept indeed.

Though I was bummed not to get to see The Interview on the big screen, I was happy that Sony did wind up making the film available for streaming.  After a week of limited availability, the film is now more easily viewed on-line.  (I watched it using Amazon Prime streaming.)

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I suspect you all know what the film is about.  James Franco plays celebrity talk-show host Dave Skylark.  He’s achieved fame and fortune interviewing celebrities and other pop-culture figures.  (In one of the film’s early scenes, we see him stumble into a ratings bonanza when Eminem reveals a tantalizing piece of personal information in a live interview.)  Seth Rogen plays Aaron Rapoport, Dave’s best friend and the show’s producer.  When it is revealed that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un watches Skylark’s show, Aaron is able to arrange for Dave to travel to North Korea to conduct the first live, globally-broadcast interview with the dictator.  But before Dave & Aaron depart for North Korea, they are visited by two C.I.A. agents who insist that they assassinate Kim Jong-un while they are in his presence for the interview.

It’s crazy how much political furor this film has caused, considering that this is not a very politically-minded film.  Yes, it plays with the hot potato topic of North Korea and Kim Jong-un, but this film is not really a political satire.  It has some points to make about the cruelty of Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship, but a political statement is not the purpose of this film.  No, this is a goofy, raunchy, buddy comedy that just happens to be wrapped up in this political setting.

I don’t want to dismiss the political setting of the film, because making this comedy about the assassination of a real-live world leader is a huge part of the movie’s ballsy charm.  What a wild, insane idea for a movie.  I am dazzled by the craziness of co-writers Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, and director Dan Sterling, in using North Korea as the backdrop for their story.  And the film doesn’t shy away … [continued]