This is a really weird Oscar year. I know which films are truly the best, the most well-made, the ones that actually transcend themselves and take you over to the other side…and they’re not necessarily represented among the picks that the Gold Derby-ites and Gurus are currently eyeballing. The know-it-alls are really the guess-it-alls, and they’re choosing some of these films because they come close to fulfilling a kind of vague definition of what an Oscar film could or should be, but at the same time not really. Because it’s a weird year, and by that I mean a weak year.
In the spirit of this weakest of weird years, the great James Franco should be Best Actor nominated for his performance in The Disaster Artist. I was slow to understand how good he is, I know, but that’s me sometimes. A tortoise, a snail. Franco won’t win, of course, but he needs to be among the five nominees because this would reflect what we all sense is happening this year, which is that it’s all weird and off-kilter and hard to get a handle on. There are no big Best Picture kapows except for Lady Bird, Dunkirk and Call Me By Your Name. Oh, and The Florida Project.
Hollywood Elsewhere attaboy pat-on-the-back prizes: The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Disaster Artist. Holding Our Breath: The Post, Phantom Thread, All The Money In The World.
For a Variety interview called “An Artist Reborn,” Ramin Setoodeh did two interviews with Disaster Artist producer-director and star James Franco. The first happened at Manhattan’s Soho House (29-35 9th Ave.), and a few weeks later they met in Los Angeles for hike to the Griffith Park Observatory.
If so doing Setoodeh elevated his status to that of Esquire and GQ interviewers, who often meet with their subjects two or three times over a month-long period, usually in dramatically different settings.
What if Setoodeh and Franco had met a third time on a sailing voyage between the islands of Kuwaii and Oahu? I guess I’m not used to Variety staffers doing the glammy, hang-out-and-really-get-to-know-each-other-over-a-period-of-a-few-weeks thing.
The only person I ever interviewed twice for the same interview was Robert Altman, right around the time of The Player. Altman was slightly irked when I dropped by the second time: “Whaddaya doin’, writin’ a book here?” Setting: Manhattan’s Soho House, early October 2016. Franco and Setoodeh are meeting in the restaurant room. Franco is wolfing down some scrambled eggs and bacon; Setoodeh is having tea.
Franco: Listen, man…we gotta get together in Los Angeles. A couple of weeks from now.
Setoodeh: Okay. (Sip of tea.) We do?
Franco: Yeah, man, we gotta make this interview happen. Get it going. Maybe do a hike.
Franco: Yeah. Serious. Screaming leg muscles.
Setoodeh: I’m in Los Angeles…uhm, three weeks from now.
Franco: Let’s do it!
Setoodeh: I’m a bit of a novice, I have to admit.
Franco: At hiking?
Setoodeh: No, this “meet two or three times before I write up the interview” thing. I used to just chat once and bang it out.
Franco: You’re in the big leagues now, homey. Serious celebrity interviewers never meet once. The really serious ones meet three times.