Monday, December 19, 2011

James Franco; Jerry Lewis

Did James Franco Get an NYU Prof Fired?
Ed here: Obviously I have no idea if the following is true. But I do know for sure that a little of James Franco goes a loooooong way. This fromNew York Magazine's website.

By Noreen Malone

James Franco.

José Angel Santana, a 58-year-old former professor at NYU's Tisch school, alleges he lost his job because of the grade he gave master's student James Franco — a D. Franco showed up to just two of the semester's fourteen classes, says Santana (an attendance record that would go a long way toward explaining how Franco is able to juggle so many obligations). Franco, complaining publicly about the poor mark last year, said "I did well in everything else,” which is basically the professor's point. Santana, who is suing the school, also suggested that other professors gave Franco good grades partly as "payback"; the actor hired professor Jay Anania to write and direct the film William Vincent. The lawsuit also points out that the graduate film department's chairman made a cameo in a Franco film. The school didn't reply to the Post for comment. It all sort of sounds like a meta-meditation on the power and portrayal of celebrity — are we sure this wasn't Franco's final academic project?

---------------------Jerry Lewis

As many of you know by now, I'm not a big fan of Jerry Lewis' work. I'm wiling to admit it's me. I watched part of Nutty Professor the other night and I didn't even care much for that. Clever, yes, but no resonance beyond that. (I know I'll get letters). Encore is now running a documentary/tribute and predictably the reviews have broken down into the fans and the haters. Oh, yes, people really HATE Jerry Lewis, actor and man both. I don't know if you'll find the excerpt from Mark Evanier's review even-handed but I do. Evanier knows more about show business than anybody I've ever read and he's spent decades producing TV shows, cartoon shows, writing for TV, writing for comic books, and most recently doing the definitive book on Jack Kirby. As I've said before I find him amazingly intelligent, humane and funny as hell. Here's his take on the Encore show:

Mark Evanier:

I like Jerry Lewis. I like him enough that when he made his Broadway debut in Damn Yankees, my friend Paul Dini and I flew back just to be in the audience for opening night.


I like the guy but to be a Jerry Lewis fan is to cringe often at the man's excesses, ramblings, self-serving statements, angry lash-outs at those he thinks have wronged him, etc. On that great new boxed DVD set of Laurel and Hardy films (this one), he babbles on about their history, getting it all wrong, apparently unaware that there are in this world people who actually know the truth. If someone had made so many errors telling the story of Martin and Lewis, he'd have been furious...but he just goes on and on doing this stuff. Given that he's 85, you might excuse it because of age. Trouble is, he's been like this all his life.

Jerry Lewis: Method to the Madness is the new two-hour documentary that's now playing on the Encore channel. What's wrong with it is summarized in the second on-screen title card at the end — an Executive Producer credit for Jerry Lewis. I don't know how much he actually did on it or what kind of freedom filmmaker Gregg Barson had, but you wish someone could or would tell Jerry, "Uh, it isn't a great idea to announce you were the top guy in charge of an overexcessive tribute to yourself."

Not only that but it's a tribute that so deifies its subject that the mortal can't measure up to the hype. The clips of his work do not demonstrate the brilliance described by the talking heads that range from Jerry Seinfeld's to Carol Burnett's. There may be no clips in the world by anyone that would. I can well imagine younger folks, unfamiliar with Lewis's body of work, watching this, hearing of his comedic genius...and then wondering what's so spectacular about wedging the entire mouth of a drinking glass in your mouth for half a century. All the material of Lewis on-stage in his eighties is a little sad in that way.

for all of it go here--well worth reading:


pattinase (abbott) said...

I have tried to "get" Jerry Lewis my whole life. He seems crude, obvious and nasty to me. Most of his humor makes fun of mentally challenged people. I like humor based on verbal skills, not pratfalls. Also why I have never liked Mel Brooks, Milton Berle and lots of others. But Jerry is the biggest mystery because he is held in such high esteem by other comics.
The doc. which I watched, did not change my mind except for one clip which I will post later this week.
Interesting they had no critics on this doc. Just comics.

Ed Gorman said...

It's odd that I'm such a giant fan of the Three Stooges. I can watch the same short films over and over again and laugh as if they were brand new. There's an innocence about them. As Max Collins once commented only Shemp seems to have a dim understanding that life isn't supposed to be like this and consequently there's a kind of sadness about his great face. I'm a big fan of Sid Caesar too But when you watch his various pratfalls etc there's almost always wit involved; same with Jackie Gleason. He worked off stereotyped characters but gave his characters at least a semblance of reality. I never missed a Jerry Lewis movie until I got into my Twenties. Then his characters struck me as empty and inane--and frequently self-pitying and nasty. But as I said it may just be me because a lot of people sure do like him.

Todd Mason said...

And other comedians are Not close to being universal in admiring Lewis...aside from, say, his appearance in THE KING OF COMEDY, which is pretty savage self-parody (many folks might opt for his savage parody of Dean Martin as his only other interesting film performance).

Anonymous said...

I have liked how Lewis played off Dean Martin, but when he went solo he lost me.

Cap'n Bob said...

Not a fan. Not French.

Max Allan Collins said...

The hatred of Lewis is caught up in a number of things, mostly having to do with his self-serving and often obnoxious interview persona. But Mark Evanier is wrong about the documentary, which isn't a bio and doesn't (and doesn't need to) explore in depth the Martin/Lewis break-up or Lewis's many years on the Telethon and his odd exit or the dumb things he's said as when he claimed there were no funny women, which was just Jerry stirring the shit. So much of his off-camera persona is typical of an under-educated show biz person of his era, in Lewis's case one known for playing a goofy-looking moron, working too hard (hardly working) at seeming smart and handsome.

The documentary is a pretty fair attempt to just look at the work, and I think there are some very funny clips. On one level, to understand and appreciate Lewis it helps to have been a Baby Boomer kid when Martin and Lewis happened -- to remember how the duo was indeed the Beatles of comedy, and how they were tied in with the anarchy of rock music and Mickey Spillane during a time of sterile stagnation. Lewis followed up with some very funny solo movies and, for some of us, Lewis at his most cartoonish with his Jewish gibberish and rubber face and angular, weirdly graceful body is the funniest comic of all time.

The funny faces and bad haircuts and goofy teeth are not making fun of the mentally and physically challenged (please God save me from such politically correct lunacy) but rather represent Lewis sharing a love for absurdity and silliness with his audience.

What the documentary starts to do -- and this will expand after his death (just as will the nasty biographies) - is give his films their due. He was, at his best, an innovative director (video assist just part of that) who put a unique personal vision on film, and arguably was the first great sound comic to wed crazy visuals with verbal audacity. If you don't find him funny, if you feel yourself superior to him, congratulations -- you just missed out on a key pop cultural touchstone of the 20th Century.

This is not to say that he didn't produce lousy films, particularly when he outgrew his kid character. He did THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, probably his masterpiece, just a few years before the painful THREE ON A COUCH, which is a good example of how he (like the Rat Pack, which included Martin remember) had difficulty finding a place in the mid- and later '60s.

When Jerry himself is gone, his work -- the films in particular -- will remain, and he will be on the short list with Chaplin, Keaton, Fields and the Marx Bros.