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by Bryce J. Renninger
November 14, 2013 3:18 PM
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James Franco Compares Steve McQueen to de Toqueville, Takes on Michael Fassbender as Sex Addict and Slave Master

In an essay posted last week on James Franco's film criticism column on the website for VICE, Franco takes on "12 Years a Slave" and the careers of its director, Steve McQueen, and one of its stars, Michael Fassbender.

READ MORE: Is '12 Years a Slave' Too Safe to Transform its Audiences?

In what is now becoming his trademark style, Franco rambles and follows tangents to boggling conclusions in "Fassy B. Heats Up 'Twelve Years a Slave.'"  But more than his other screeds, this one has some interesting nuggets.

He thinks that -- jussayin' -- it's weird that a Brit is making a film about American history -- jussayin'.

"Not that he shouldn’t, but it's funny to think about. A bit of the old Alexis de Tocqueville approach? I suppose Steve helped tell about the brutality of his own country in his first film, 'Hunger,' about the Irish Nationalists’ prison hunger strikes against Margaret Thatcher and the British."

McQueen's last film "Shame" was stupid because it's normal to like porn as much as that guy does, and the blowjob scene is just lame.

"I mean, it goes back to the horrible representations of gays in the 70s, where the gay club is meant to signify everything dark and depraved. Then the guy gets a minor blowjob, from, Oh no, a man! The horror!"

He has some weird insider information on the production of the production.

A parenthetical asks you to recognize a house in "12 Years a Slave" from the Jason Statham-starring "Homefront."  Another section lets the reader know that Franco's "This is the End" was shooting in New Orleans at the same time as "12 Years a Slave" and "Django Unchained," and Jamie Foxx DJ'ed parties every weekend for all of the productions. 

The most interesting thing about "12 Years a Slave" is how much the film is really not about the titular slave, Solomon Northrop, but is instead mostly told through the motivations and actions of one of the slave masters, Epps, played by Michael Fassbender. 

And though he doesn't have much to say about the reasons or ramifications of identifying so intensely with the slave master and taking pleasure in doing so, he does praise the film, giving the essay a bizarre postscript, which may imply that Northrop does have more to offer the viewer, but he doesn't go much into his thoughts on that:  "*A little postscript after watching the film for the third time: Northup is a hero for the ages, and McQueen has given us a gift."

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  • ugh | November 15, 2013 1:07 PMReply

    It's weird that this kid actor from Palo Alto keeps making films about the lives of people living in the deep South.
    Seriously... this guy. Overrated.

  • Quin | November 14, 2013 6:35 PMReply

    It's weird that a Brit made a film about American History? I mean ... it's a piece of literature. If you hold British literature off limits to Americans, well, there goes Hollywood.

  • anon | November 16, 2013 12:47 PM

    ahh quinn i said the same thing on his "essay" page- the arrogance of some americans never cease to amaze me.

  • Rabbikins | November 14, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    It seems to me that people are willfully misreading that gay club scene in 'Shame'. It's such a reductionist way of interpreting that film to read homophobia into it.

  • prinny | November 14, 2013 4:22 PM

    I think the scene is more indicative of a latent homosexual tendency in McQueen's first two films, than homophobic; although the two might actually go hand and hand.

  • moses | November 14, 2013 4:00 PMReply

    The comment on a brit doing a film america history is silly. It's more on slavery that was made popular by the british empire. So I see no problem with a brit (especially a black brit) made a film on slavery

  • DLB | November 14, 2013 3:49 PMReply

    The author of this post is oddly dismissive of the one cogent remark Franco makes, specifically the offensiveness of the gay-club-as-ultimate-depravity scene in Shame.

  • Brent | November 14, 2013 4:18 PM

    I have heard this argument about the film before, but it doesn't work for me. The blowjob is not the lowest point in Fassbender's stupor. The movie isn't about how much porn or sex Fassbender has, but how dependent he is on these things to define his being. That's where the horror is.

  • Don | November 14, 2013 3:56 PM

    That's not how I took that scene. I mean, has Franco not seen Irreversible?