May 6, 2011: James Franco

May 10, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief
Here’s the interview.  Here’s where we unpack it:

1) Charlie in front of an audience.  Charlie is such an easy read.  Any tiny little shift from the comfort zone of his studio is observable in every aspect of the man’s physicality.  He looks older, wrinklier, droopier.  Even though we see nothing of the auditorium space, we know that the scale is off.  We usually see Charlie shrouded by black paneling.  Is he in a cramped studio space, or is he in a cosmic infinity?  Is an auditorium too large or too small for him?

2) Charlie in front of a College Audience.  Maybe that’s why he did “The Colbert Report”.  You know, as a warm-up.  The thing is, he just doesn’t play.  He tries, and he fails.  His questions elicit unintentional laughs left and right from these young people, no doubt unfamiliar with his work, and more importantly, his style.

Charlie is, crucially, an adult.  He knows what Twitter is because he’s interviewed the CEO of Twitter.  And that guy’s hardly even worth his time.  Charlie belongs at an oak table talking with other adults.  It could be the one in his studio, or the one at Michael’s where he’ goes for lunch.  Other than that, he should simply be transported via the ether to the golf course with Mayor Bloomberg and their dogs, and promptly back again.

3) Charlie in front of a College Audience interviewing James Franco.  Charlie asks very few questions in this interview.  James Franco talks A LOT.  Which is fine.  But for Charlie’s very few questions, an inordinately high proportion of them are in the form of “trailing off sentence for you to fill…”  As far as entertaining a college audience with an ironic sense of humor (who probably thinks that Charlie is, in fact, an administrator at their school) is concerned, Charlie is pitching underhand.  Franco barely has to bunt to get a pop-up fly hit.

4) James Franco himself.  I find simultaneously compelling and repelling.  For somebody with all that damned schooling, you’d think he could answer questions a little bit more intelligently.  That being said, it’s hard not to agree with a lot of what he says.  His meta-discussion about how he is, currently, while being interviewed on Charlie Rose, giving a performance, becomes an even more performative performance while he’s doing it.  Enough already.

I admire an artist who is unwilling to be bound by medium and professional boundaries.  I liked it a lot when Franco said that he feels certain material is best served by film, other material or by poetry, etc. and that it’s a mistake to force material into a certain form.  I agree with that big time.  So perhaps that’s actually why he’s pursuing so many different avenues.  But if you want to go do those other things, why not just do them?  Why enroll in several degree-seeking programs simultaneously if not to garner attention.  Guess what, James, if you really want to learn to be a film director, you’re in luck: you have ample access to the greatest practitioners in the field today.  I’m sure that you could do a lot of observing on set.

The same goes for reading Yeats, drawing pictures, and writing books.  Why not apprentice yourself?  You’ve got the resources.  Obviously you’re willing to commit the time.  Something’s just a little off about pursuing your interests and your stardom in this peculiar way.

N.B. The direct appeal to James Franco above is not merely a rhetorical device.  Of all Charlie’s guests that have been written about on this blog, I presume James Franco to be the Most Likely to Actually Read His Post.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, March 25, 2011

March 30, 2011

By the New York Bureau Chief

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a hot new Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon, and they’ve been promoting the show with an old-fashioned whistle-stop tour of the press junket. There was the Daily Show appearance in which Jon Stewart said, “there is a song in this that will be celebrated when the aliens come, thousands of years from now.” (Here’s betting he was talking about “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” a phrase that translates to this.) There was a great video for in which Parker, Stone, and their collaborator Bobby Lopez discuss rhyming. There were print/video interviews with outlets like Entertainment Weekly. It goes on. Parker and Stone were on a balls-out promotional blitz—more Hollywood than Broadway. Even most blockbusters don’t get this kind of exposure.

So when the writing partners made their way onto the set of Charlie Rose, it was worth wondering if they had anything left to say. Charlie often receives guests in the midst of media campaigns. Sometimes he wrests something original out of them. Oftentimes the professional interviewer meets the professional interviewee, and they agree to put on a merely satisfactory performance.

That was the case with Parker and Stone. We learn that they wanted to do a traditional music, that they consider it a pro-Mormon show by non-Mormons, that they collaborate in lots of different way. They’ve said all of this before.

Charlie, sensitive to the uniqueness of his broadcast, cuts the interview to feature a lengthy discussion of the role of Scott Rudin in Parker and Stone’s career. It’s different, but not particularly illuminating. Rudin found them, gave them tough love, and has been their ardent champion ever since. Parker compares him to Bill Parcells. Charlie, who has never had Bill Parcells at his table, likens Rudin to the Tiger Mother.

For a blog dedicated to celebrating and critiquing Charlie and his show, about the only moment worthy of discussion comes at the very end of the interview, when Matt Stone jokes (we think) that he wants to replace Charlie as the broadcast’s host.

Stone: Well I’ve been told other people are gunning for your job; but when you’re ready to hang it up, I’d love to be The Charlie Rose Show…
Charlie: (Laughing) You’d take the table…
Stone: …with Matt Stone.
Parker: He’s been talking about that for a long time.
Stone: I really have.
Charlie: Have you really?
Stone: Yeah, yeah. Sounds like. I mean this is. This is.
Parker: And he will. He did say, he will keep it.
Charlie: Would you do it just the way I do it? Would you do it here at the table? With the…
Stone: Yes…
Charlie: With the black background?
Stone: …It’ll be The Charlie Rose Show with Matt Stone…
Parker: He’ll keep it The Charlie Rose Show
Stone: …in real tiny type.
Parker: …starring Matt Stone.
Stone: The Charlie Rose Show. That would still be your show.
Charlie: I’m ready to retire.
Stone: Let’s do it.
Charlie: Let’s make it happen.
Parker: Switch tables. Switch seats.
Charlie: I’m going to Bali. I’m going to Bali. If I don’t come back, it’s you.
Stone: Charlie, how..Welcome back to The Charlie Rose Show.
Parker: With Matt Stone.
Stone: How was your trip to Bali? I’m Matt Stone.
Charlie: Beaches, just think beaches. (Beat.) This is great. Um. thank you for coming.
Stone: Cool. Thank you. It’s always fun.
Charlie: Um.

Someone got a little carried away with that transcript. We obviously should have featured Matt Stone in our discussion of possible Rose replacements. That wasn’t the real reason, though, that I pointed you toward this gleeful exchange. I wanted to underscore this closing thought: Every Charlie Rose interview is edited and many of them get cut down for running time quite dramatically. That’s the case with this segment, which comes in at just over 17 minutes. You’d think Charlie and his producers (that’s you, Yvette) would want to cram in every last minute of Book of Mormon content, but instead CR decides to dedicate nearly a minute to having a guest praise the idiosyncrasies of The Charlie Rose Show.

This kind of thing happens all the time on the broadcast. At the end of his interview with Amy Chua, Charlie says, “probably this table has been the subject of more conversations with more people—five nights a week, twenty years—with more people of achievement than anywhere.” In his interview with J.J. Abrams (who, incidentally, saw The Book of Mormon the same night I did), Charlie rejoices when the filmmaker talks about dreaming of being on Charlie Rose. Like few other TV shows, Charlie Rose is openly in love with its mystique and reputation. I think I speak for the other bureau chiefs when I say that I wholeheartedly endorse its self-adulation.

Julian Schnabel, March 24, 2011: Wildcat

March 29, 2011

By the New York Bureau Chief

In The Royal Tenenbaums there’s a scene in which a hotshot writer (played by Owen Wilson) appears on an interview show that looks a whole lot like Charlie Rose. The Charlie stand-in—in characteristic Charlie fashion—challenges Wilson’s character by asking him why his last novel was a critical failure. Wilson says that it was “written in a kind of obsolete vernacular,” then slowly repeats to himself the the title of the book, Wildcat. He’s like a kid stalling for time on a multiplication drill. It’s clear he doesn’t even remember having written Wildcat.

Julian Schnabel’s not a drugged-out dummy, but I’d peg him as the CR guest most likely to attribute the failure of one his projects to an “obsolete vernacular.” Quite simply, he’s the most pompous man in New York—though he’s not stuffy at all. The Pasha of Downtown Manhattan lives in an outlandish high-rise castle in the West Village (from which he’s made an absolute killing), burns through beautiful women half his age, and, as a celebrated painter and filmmaker, considers himself the ultimate artiste. He might be the only person in the world who could get away with wearing sunglasses on Charlie Rose.

Schnabel appears on Rose to plug his new film, Miral, the story of an orphaned Palestinian girl during the First Intifada. The film has gotten generally negative reviews, and while I can’t comment on its merits, I can on its premise. Is there anything more irritating than a multi-millionaire bon-vivant artist weighing in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? It’s as if he wants to live out the ultimate cliché of limousine leftist self-congratulation, opining to CR, “I don’t care about the movie. I care about what’s going on in the Middle East.” (I hear an echo of another corpulent genius-asshole: “this film isn’t about Vietnam. It is Vietnam.“) Charlie, in case you were wondering, tells us at the beginning of the show that he and Jules are friends.

But you want to hear about the women. Schnabel’s last movie, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, featured his then wife, the Spanish model Olatz López Garmendia. Schnabel’s new movie, Miral, is based on a book written by his current girlfriend, Rula Jebreal. Charlie doesn’t mention their relationship in the interview (although given the fact that Jebreal is Pam Grier–hot, you have to wonder if anything’s cooking), but Schnabel makes a wonderful slip that reveals all.

CR: “Did you make this film in part because you met her and fell in love with her story?”
Jules: “…Absolutely had nothing to do with me falling in love with her.”

Indeed, Schnabel doesn’t seem all that committed to Jebreal’s story or its cause. During a discussion of the film’s advertising slogan, “The movie they didn’t want you to see,” Charlie sensibly asks, “Who doesn’t want you to see this movie?” Jules backtracks immediately. He claims that, had he been in charge of marketing, he would have plugged the film with the limp phrase “the movie we were waiting to see.” Then Jules throws down and calls out the haters who don’t want you to see his film. They are “the people who haven’t opened their hearts and minds to empathy.” Bam! A four-siren alert just went off on Drudge Report.

Jebreal, who also appears on the broadcast, is less cautious. She calls out the American Jewish Committee, which asked the UN to cancel a screening of Miral, and seems on the verge of making a bigger political statement when Jules shuts her up: “most of the people who worked on this film were Jewish.” When did Pasha Jules become so cautious? And why, based on this interview, do I not believe him when he says, “I think people are scared of this material?”

Subscribe to our New Pay Wall!

March 17, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

Interesting that the announcement of the New York Times’ pay wall should follow so closely on the heels of this interview.  David Carr, of the Times and Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, both weigh in on the iPad 2.

We find Walt Mossberg pretty blowhardy and generally not techy enough to write about tech, so we’re glad to see that his criticisms of the iPad have drawn criticism of their own.  David Carr is a point of contention among your editorial board – the Chicago Bureau Chief finds him a very entertaining interview, both for his weird, wide-mouthed, downhome midwestern accent and his baggy fitting suits.  And he doesn’t get any better than in this interview, live from SxSW where he looks and sounds like he scored some high grade coke from Bob Rodriguez right before the cameras started rolling.  (“When someone is described as the love child of a Hell’s Angel and a Sioux Indian, you’re gonna want to be able to hit that name and see that person with they’re big long hair and their feathered earring and have them talk you.”  Maybe peyote…)

But what’s we find most interesting re: the New York Times subscription plan is a lexical point.  David Carr – of the New York Times – tells us that the future of paying for news content will be delivered by Apps, which is “a sexy and wonderful word” – not subscriptions, which is a “terrible word”.

Well, it seems that the editorial board of the Times (our chief rival) didn’t consult Dave before they sent out this e-mail:

The editors of BATT wholeheartedly endorse freenyt on Twitter, the first of many easy and obvious solutions to this pay wall.

James Taylor, Feb. 16, 2011

February 18, 2011

By the Los Angeles Bureau Chief

I want to hate James Taylor.

But I can’t.

Taylor’s soothing, dulcet-toned, post-hippy, uber-yuppie, rich kid, pre-pre-cool dad, humble bragging public persona is pretty well defined at this point.

But, he was once addicted to heroin (so, he’s authentic) and he once wrote, like, five amazing songs about it (so, he’s actually good).  And he was in Two-Lane Blacktop.

And he’s a damn good conversationalist.

He says things like “eventually Peter Asher brought my demo to Apple Records and played it for Paul,” but he manages not to be obnoxious about it.  Because he also says thing like his life as a “cartoon” is “amazingly self-centered.”  And when pressed about the 10 million copies that a greatest hits album sold, modestly counters, “I wasn’t there for each sale.”

He’s just really self-aware.  And kind.  And those things are tough to hate on.

Charlie, for his part, hammers the North Carolina connection just about as hard as he can (from my notes: “every time I see you, I feel good.  Because we have this life that is sort of interconnected.”  Jesus, Charlie – buy him dinner first.)  He gently allows Taylor to name-drop, and expertly probes about Taylor’s current marriage to an “amazing” woman named Kim, and about a former collaborator, “someone named King.”

Charlie also seems to have found someone who looks just as much like a bird as he does.  Or maybe all middle-aged men with angular faces and dramatically arched eyebrows look like birds to me.  Who knows.

In short: a pleasant, smart, entertaining interview with a pleasant, smart, entertaining man.

Happy Friday.  Watch this.

Gary Trudeau, Jan. 18, 2011

January 19, 2011

By the Los Angeles Bureau Chief

Gary Trudeau always reminded me of my parents.

Meaning: I always thought Doonesbury was for dirty hippies*. Not that my parents were dirty hippies.  In fact, they were quite the opposite.  But I always thought they must have KNOWN dirty hippies.  Or at least have known OF them.  Or at least have gone to COLLEGE with one.  And thus, I always felt, my parents deeply understood Doonesbury in a way that I never could.

Charlie Rose always reminded me of no one else.

Meaning: I always thought he was a man for all “conversations.”  A man of transcendent strength, intelligence, and charm.  A sui generis beacon of Taste and Value.  A unique bridge between North and South, Art and Commerce, Elite and Eliter.  To put it mildly, Charlie Rose was no dirty hippy.

So: who better to interview the culturally determined Trudeau than the historically inimitable Rose?

Charlie first welcomed Gary to his table back in the summer of 2004.  The war in Iraq was at its height, George W. Bush was up for re-election, and BD had just taken off his helmet.  In other words, Gary Trudeau was relevant.  Having gone to Yale with Bush, and St. Paul’s School before that with “a lot of people like him,” GT’s W-bashing came from a deeply personal place.  Namely, the prep school playground (or rugby field or whatever).  With Trudeau playing the part of the self-loathing pamphleteer and W Bush the oblivious jock (“by the time W got ahold of it, it was all noblesse and no oblige”).  GT dished to CR about “Bob” Altman, Bill Clinton (“a levitating waffle”), and, of course, The Strip.  He came off as kind and intelligent, if not exactly lacking in elf congratulation-se (“this kind of russian novel of a comic strip”).  Charlie came off as dapper.

But I was curious what on earth Charlie Rose and Gary Trudeau would have to talk about in early 2011.  With the Iraq War no longer news, a globally popular Democrat in the White House, and Robert Altman long since dead, would Charlie and Gary be forced to, I dont know, speculate about wintry mixes?  Maybe compare Vineyard Vines tie patterns?  No, no.  There was, thank Christ, a book to sell.  But…honestly…that’s about it.  Trudeau was bumped to the second half of the show and the interview was (presumably) cut to around 15 minutes.  It was a far cry from 2004, when dishy shit-talk about Jeb Bush telling you to “walk softly” at the Republican National Convention actually meant something.

Indeed, in the seven intervening years, Gary Trudeau had become just another guest.  Just another guy trying to sell a book.  And a retrospective at that.  Not that he wasn’t relevant before 2004.  Again, I honestly do believe (as does Trudeau [and, of course, Charlie]) that Doonesbury defines a generation.  But perhaps, post-Andrew Sullivan, that generation no longer matters.  Perhaps Gary Trudeau and Robert Altman and Bill Clinton are just old.  Or dead.  And that’s OK.  But it doesn’t make for great conversation.

Meaning: Gary Trudeau still reminds me of my parents.

But maybe not in ways I like to think about.


*and the limousine liberals they became


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