Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Howl at the Moon

(Just got back from a teacher institute/seminar thingy and I'm about to get back to my revision, but first a few minutes of....PROCRASTINATION!!!! Whoo-Hoo!)

I love film adaptations. Novels either fare well or get completely warped beyond recognition, but, hey, it's always fun to see how a filmmaker interprets a writer's vision. Author bio-pics, though? Ugh. Hate them. I know there aren't that many, but the ones I've seen have been stinko. Some examples: Heart Beat (John Heard as Jack Kerouac!!! Really???), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (I love my Johnny, but his Hunter S. Thompson works my every last nerve.), and even Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellman in Julia (Ugh. I know people like it, but...Ugh.)

So you can imagine my horror when I found out James Franco was hired to play Allen Ginsberg.

Everyone gets a little geeky to the point of obsession about something. For me it's Beat Generation writers. Jack Kerouac. Allen Ginsberg. Gary Snyder. William Burroughs. But especially Jack and Allen. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have moved to NYC if I hadn't read Kerouac's On the Road. And I wouldn't be able to really appreciate what can be done with language if I hadn't read Ginsberg's poetry to the point of memorization. I'm almost ashamed to admit how much my high school fashion sense (um, if you can call it that) and basic worldview were strongly shaped by these writers' lifestyles.

One of the best nights of my life was spent at a Beat Generation literary festival held at NYU. I sat in a small auditorium listening to surviving Beat writers perform their work. A thin older gentleman sat in front of me, bopping along to the words, jumping out of his seat when the mood struck, and finally leaping on stage to grab the mic. It was Allen Ginsberg. He must have been at least 70 years old.

So today I saw some clips from the soon-to-be-released Howl. The filmmakers decided to focus on Ginsberg's 1950s obscenity trial. Even though that piqued my interest, I was prepared to hate it. Really hate it. But...

Franco is fantastic. He gets the voice down, the attitude, the energy. Check it out if you have any interest. (Oh, and in clips #3 & #4, my boyfriend Jon Hamm plays a lawyer.) I think I found an author bio-pic I just might like!


  1. I also heard/saw Allen Ginsburg read when I was at NYU (it would have been...hmm, 1988?) and he was amazing. I'd never heard poetry spoken like that.
    I too, shy away from films about favorite writers (For example, Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf..though thanks to a decent script it wasn't so bad.) I'll look out for Howl, though.

  2. Hey, Laura! Did you check out the link? What do you think of Franco's voice?

  3. Oh, I LOVE James Franco. I'm sold.

    Can't believe you sat behind Allen Ginsberg! AMAZING.

  4. I did a presentation in high school on the Beats. I remember reciting this poem to the class:

    Is she hip
    does she swing
    I've got dreams for her fingers

    James Franco will be great. He is being very Warholesque lately, what with starring in a soap opera as part of an elaborate performance art piece.

  5. Alexa I can totally picture you standing in front of a class full of students, snapping your fingers to the beat.

    I love what James Franco is doing. He's redefining things a bit, isn't he?

  6. Whoa. You sat behind Allen Ginsberg??!!

    Can't wait to see the movie (if it comes to our little town!).


  7. Hi Loretta! I also have been a "beat chick" from way back. :) I saw Allen Ginsberg perform his poetry and "sing" at the Chicago Cultural Center shortly before his death. It was a very cool experience and I've always been glad I went.

    Wait, I thought that John Hamm is MY boyfriend. Well, he does play a womanizer on TV.