You didn’t think we’d miss out on the opportunity to live blog — as best we can, at least — about James Franco at the Oscars, or at least anything related to his adventures as a Ph.D. student. Here’s what we’ve caught of the coverage so far…
5:00 PM (west coast time): James Franco does a promo interview in some kind of fake bar setting, talking about his hosting duties. The interviewer asked him what is was like spending the last two weeks prepping for the broadcast, when he quickly corrects that he has only been here for the weekends because of…wait for it…class! So that’s the first mention of grad school, for any of you playing James Franco drinking game. The ha-ha banter continues, with something about taking an Oscars class and acing it, though Franco does flash some self-deprecating humor to the random correspondent about getting a B+.
What are odds that we’ll hear about Yale during the monologue?
5:45 PM: What, no grad school jokes so far? What a let down…
6:45 PM: I’m getting hungry waiting for some grad school jokes. I have to say, though, that Franco is pretty good, much better than the trying-too-hard Anne Hathaway, imho. He’s got that too-cool-for-seminar thing down pat.
6:55 PM: He gave a shout-out to nerds–does that count?
Your latest Footnotes covers the stuff we usually blurb about, like indie rock and, of course, James Franco. And, oh yeah, vindictive peeing-in-public profs…
Marking Your Math Dept Territory: Apparently, the way you settle a mathlete geek off is by peeing in front of your nemesis’s office door. Last December, Cal State Northridge math prof Tihomir Petrov was caught in the act by a camera set up after “puddles” of urine were found in the hall. According the CSUN Math Dept website, Petrov is an Asst Prof, so here’s hoping for he’s not pissing his career away!
Iron and Wine, Post Academic: So who knew that Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam was a kind of a postacademic? (Not me, at least, though I’m not a huge fan or anything.) That’s right, the indie troubadour actually taught film and cinematography at the University of Miami and Miami International University of Art and Design. I guess that adds some backstory that helps Beam stand out from all the bearded neo-folkies in the indie-verse — you know who you are — these days. Check out his top ten films list from a guest post he did for the Criterion Collection, which is definitely chin-strokingly auteurish enough.
Last but not Least…Your Latest James Franco Update: So you’ve probably been seeing Ph.D. poster child James Franco a lot recently, what with all the awards shows and Sundance going on. And you’ll be seeing even more of him once the Oscars come around, since he’s not only nominated for Best Actor, but he’s also hosting the thing. Still, he doesn’t seem to be sweating it too much, since he told the AP (check out the vid on Yahoo!) that he wasn’t going to miss class at Yale in order to do PR for his likely Oscar nom. But just as you start thinking Franco was earnest and not getting a big head, the latest, most-up-to-datest news search on Google unearths that he’ll be teaching a course about…himself! That’s right, “Master Class: Editing James Franco…With James Franco” will be offered at something called Columbia College Hollywood, not connected to either Columbias in NYC or Chicago. We knew Franco wanted to teach, but this seems like he’s just trying too hard!
Hey, look, Footnotes is back one more time before 2010 enters the digital dustbin of history. Just to remind you, “Footnotes” is supposed to be a semi-regular series that collects some stories and postings that are semi-relevant to the semi-academic focus of the blog…which, of course, means the latest on James Franco.
If Bill Nye falls at USC and everyone is Tweeting about it…: That’s the riddle of what happened about a month ago, when Bill Nye the Science Guy collapsed on stage while giving a lecture at USC. The only things not in question are that Nye fell and a bunch of USC students Tweeted about it in real time. What’s in dispute is whether any folks actually tried to help Nye, if they did so fast enough, if USC kids are particularly obnoxious, or if their hands were full Tweeting the news. The initial assumption, based on a report from one outraged student, was that the latter happened, fueling the kids-these-days-and their-newfangled-technology meme that we’re happy to participate in — after all, who’s not surprised by the alleged bad behavior, especially anyone who’s taught an auditorium full of students texting, listening to their iPods, checking their email, so on? In fact, the last word on the matter was a LA Times “On the Media” column which focused on netiquette instead of trying to resolve the question of whether or not anyone did help the Science Guy. Talk about going meta, a news story about news stories about Tweeting about what actually occurred.
Another Indie Rocking Academic: During the summer, we put together a Post Academic Overeducated Rockers Virtual Music Fest. Well, we have another addition to the lineup, Blake Schwarzenbach, one-time frontman of influential, almost-made-it-big proto-emo punks Jawbreaker. According to our friend Jane (thanks for the tip!), Schwarzenbach is an English grad student studying British Romanticism and teaching at CUNY Hunter — check out what he says about his MA Thesis on Shelley, which prompts a response in the comments thread about someone’s thesis on Andrew WK and the Romantics. When you think about it, the emo-Romanticism connection would make a lot of sense, huh?
Another James Franco Update: What “Footnotes” doesn’t include a little something something about James Franco? The latest is that the world’s most famous grad student will be hosting the Oscars — hopefully, the awards show coincides with his spring break at Yale? He was also just featured on “Inside the Actors Studio”, which apparently drew its largest crowd ever. Did anyone watch the interview and see if he had anything to say about being in grad school?
Guess what? It’s time for another James Franco post, which might be timely because our modern-day Renaissance man has a new movie — 127 Hours — and a new book — the short story collection, Palo Alto — to promote. Some of the promo interviews Franco has given for the film deal with how grad school is going for him, which provides some good fodder for the blog.
Actually, Franco’s day-to-day life as a grad student might not sound that different the rest of us. Even if his lecture snooze seen round cyberspace might suggest otherwise, he apparently doesn’t sleep very much, getting by on five hours of sleep. And he’s late to sidejob because he didn’t want to miss class, although I imagine no one else’s office is on the red carpet. Such was the case when apparently showed up late at the premiere of 127 Hours in NYC, since he didn’t want to skip out on Michael Warner’s seminar on Walt Whitman.
As for the rest of his grad school experience up to now, we’ll let Mr. Franco speak for himself, especially because he has had a lot to say about it.
On his grad school applications and admissions: “I applied to 15 creative writing Ph.D. programs. I got into 14. Some of them only accepted one fiction writer. I know there’s this idea that I’m getting a lot of opportunities because I’m a celebrity, and there certainly is truth to that, but it’s not like I’m coasting. I’m working all the time. Short of writing under an alias, I’m doing everything I can to treat this as seriously as I can.” (from Moviefone.com)
On being a perfectionist: “School offered a way to focus on something that had a new criteria for success, and its own rewards. It’s the reward of knowledge and learning things that I’m interested in. What it does is release me from pressure that I put on myself, where everything has to be perfect.” (from Moviefone.com)
On what his teachers think of him: “I showed that last movie at NYU last month, at a faculty critique,” Franco says, flinching a little. “It’s a fairly confrontational piece, and it got a little ugly. One faculty member — she’s always tough on me, but she flat-out called me an asshole. She jumped me. She was muttering it the whole time: What an asshole. What an asshole.” (from Esquire interview)
On not finishing *all* his reading: “You know, in Eat, Pray, Love, my character mostly appears in the first twenty pages of the book,” he says, and now the smile is broad, inviting, self-aware. “And I can definitely say I read the first twenty pages.” (from Esquire interview)
On extra-extracurricular activities: “I do masturbate a lot. I don’t know why. It’s like you have those days where it’s just like, I have a ton of writing to do, or a ton of reading to do, and you’re just like, OK, I’m just going to be on the couch all day or in bed all day just doing that….I tend to have a four- or five-time day.” (Gawker, originally from a Hollywood Reporter interview)
Ewww…that’s probably why they didn’t let him TA at Yale, because who knows what would happen with a ton of grading to do.
By now, you probably know that James Franco has started his Ph.D. program at Yale, but that’s not all: Did you know that he’s apparently also taking classes at the Rhode Island School of Design? Haters who’ve gone through some grad school might be inclined to be a bit skeptical about how serious our favorite celeb grad student is about getting his Ph.D. at a really top-flight program if he’s dabbling in another program of study. Art + Auction’s “In the Air” blog is a bit dubious about Franco’s plans, thinking that “this is physically impossible (the schools are in different states)”; even if CT and RI are small states, that’s still 100 miles each way. (Wait, maybe he’s learning to fly too — see photo below — to cut down on the commute time.) That’s not to mention, you know, the actual coursework, though maybe he’s just auditing at RISD or something.
Still, despite its naysaying, In the Air does point out that Franco might just be taking his interest in art seriously, pointing out that he has been involved with some heavy hitters in the art world recently. In particular, it notes that current LA MOCA Director and noted gallerist Jeffrey Deitch is on record telling the LA Times that, “I wish Andy were here to meet James Franco. Andy would have been so enthusiastic” — Andy being Andy Warhol. And in a review of an installation art piece by Franco, the New York Times notes that Franco has had a life-long passion for the visual arts, even though it is less sanguine about his prospects as an artist, giving his exhibit a meh at best for its gratuitous violence and sex. These lines pretty much sum up Roberta Smith’s mixed review:
Some people would probably feel better to read that Mr. Franco’s Clocktower effort can be dismissed as bad beyond redemption, an outsider’s naïve dalliance in things he doesn’t really understand. I initially inclined toward that conclusion, although in the end it turned out to be more interesting and complicated than that.
Despite the second sentence, you just get the sense that Smith really wants to be “some people” hating on Franco’s art, don’t you?
But I digress, because the big news for those of us interested in Franco’s foray into grad school is the big news making the rounds of the gossip columns is that Franco has admitted to earning a “D” in, get this, acting, while earning his master’s at NYU. As he tells Showbiz 411:
“I did the work, I did well in everything else,” he said. “But the acting teacher probably felt uncomfortable with a working well known actor in his class. It was not the norm.” Also, as Franco pointed out, he missed a lot of classes because he was shooting “127 Hours.”
Excuses, excuses — though he might have a point, because a grad school “D” sounds like a pretty vindictive grade. But is this what he’s gonna pull come December when his first round of papers are due and he needs to take incompletes to finish a film or something? It’s time for Franco to buckle down on that Walt Whitman class he’s apparently taking, which, he tells Showbiz 411, has a “massive amount of reading.” It must be this one taught by Michael Warner, so Franco better make sure not make the chair who accepted him into the Ph.D. program look bad. In any case, his advisor at Yale might want to sit the school’s prized first-year student down and get him focused, provided s/he can figure out where Franco is, between New Haven, Providence, NYC, and Hollywood.
We at Post Academic have been all over the big–and really only?–celeb/academia crossover story of 2010: James Franco enrolling in the Yale Ph.D. program. The last thing we heard about was Franco’s stated desire to start teaching immediately upon entering as a grad student, something we claimed–rightly– that Ivy types would not be doing as first years. We suggested that Franco attend an equally well-regarded public university Ph.D. program if teaching was so important to him, since I’m sure any UC that would accept him would happily let him pass along his fellowship package to someone else. Speaking of which, I wonder what kind of funding package Franco is getting or whether he would just pass up a fellowship, considering he’s gotta be making millions for being in a Planet of the Apes remake prequel.
Anyway, here’s how the (not) teaching saga went down: Apparently, Franco claimed on “Good Morning America” earlier in the month that he would be teaching a “very special class” starting in January 2011. This, however, lead to a clarification by Yale English chair Michael Warner in the school paper explaining that grad students don’t typically start teaching at Yale until their 3rd years and that Franco’s proposal to teach a self-designed course was turned down–ouch! However, Franco’s proposal has somehow been turned into some kind of project that’s either a musical or film, described by the Most Famous Soon-to-Be Grad Student Ever as a “stage/film/musical/crazy production.” So that’s what it takes to get into one of the best programs in the country, in case anyone reading is preparing her/his application.
What’s probably more interesting, at least to us geeks, is the way a media that is totally clueless about academia has been covering the story. Perez Hilton doesn’t seem to have any grasp of what an academic calendar is like, describing the incoming student as “currently enrolled.” Perhaps more galling and totally inaccurate is the way that MTV.com has already put Franco on the tenure track: “James Franco, college professor? It’s happening–and it’s not for a role.” So according to MTV, either anyone who teaches at a college-level is a professor or any Ph.D. student is a college professor. OK, we might expect this from MTV, but even the Yale Daily News, which probably should know better, gets confused in its headline: “Sorry, Ladies: No Prof. Franco just yet.” Gotta love, too, how the Yalie commenters blasted the headline for the heteronormative assumptions of the headline, exclaiming that, “This is Yale, we gay boys were clamoring for Franco, too!”
We know that this is the celebrity news you’ve been waiting for: According to People, actor James Franco has ended weeks of speculation and will be attending Yale’s Ph.D. English program. And get this, he wants to start TAing as soon as he starts! The Yale Herald pops this balloon by explaining what’s at least obvious to us, that first-year Ph.D. students don’t teach at Yale–and anyway, can you trust a grad student wants to teach right from the beginning? If he wants to teach so much, maybe Mr. Franco could attend one of the equally well-reputed UC grad programs–like at his alma mater, UCLA–which would be happy to get as much cheap labor out of him as possible teaching intro-level comp!
But really, that’s pretty cool that Franco seems so enthusiastic about starting grad school that he’s champing at the bit to teach. Here’s what he had to say about being a student to People:
“I love school,” Franco told PEOPLE at the Tribeca Film Festival screening of his directorial debut, the documentary Saturday Night, in New York Sunday. “I go to school because I love being around people who are interested in what I’m interested in and I’m having a great experience.”
Seriously, that sounds like a good enough reason to pursue your Ph.D., especially if you don’t have to worry about the worst job market ever. And hey, we’ve got our lead when we start to cast, Post Academic: The Movie!
(h/t to reader Patty for the breaking celeb gossip)
Since we’re on a streak of silly right now, I figure it would be a good time for the second installment of “Footnotes.” Every once in a while, we’ll collect some stories out there on the Interwebs that might be very tangentially pertinent to our interests in academia and jobs, but centrally relevant to our websurfing.
1. We covered the phenomenon of Rate My Professors a few weeks ago, with this link to RMP’s “best” professors of 2009 list. The Washington Post just tracked down the winner, Kimberly DuVall-Early of James Madison U.
2. This year’s most famous prospective grad student has to be James Franco, who has been accepted to Yale’s English Ph.D. program–have any prospectives crossed his path on any campus visits? You can recommence with in-class sleeping jokes, which, aside from the admirable novelty factor, is what Franco’s forays into academia are best-known for. (h/t to reader and amateur gossip blogger Patty)
3. This is an oldie-but-goodie about grad school from Stuff White People Like, which I came across as one of those WordPress randomly generated links. It might be funny, but it’s also pretty dead on, especially how the cultural capital ascribed to critical theory has very few practical applications.
4. Huffington Post’s “College” section has another one of those fancy photo polls, this one of the most expensive schools in the country. The “winner”: Sarah Lawrence College at $54,410(!)/year.
5. The music blog Stereogum has this great ongoing feature called “Quit Your Day Job”, which checks in with up-and-coming bands to see what they do to get by on the way to (hopefully) making it big. Actually, the indie rock life doesn’t sound so different from grad school, in that aspiring rockers and students hafta work extra jobs to get to the big payoff that might never come.
“Palo Alto High School, CA, graduate James Franco visits Paly for a day of observation” by Amin Ronaghi from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons
“Sign at Sarah Lawrence” by SadieLou from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons