This week, models at the Cynthia Rowley show strutted down the catwalk to the tune of James Franco's debut musical track. A joint endeavor alongside fellow "performance artist" Kalup Linzy, the musical project is the latest entry on Franco's resume, joining such diverse prospects as soap–opera acting and teaching. With the Oscars coming up and Franco taking double–duty as nominee and host, Street squares off on the man of many talents — or on the dilettante hack, depending on which side you've taken.

Just so Franc–tastic

By Leah Steinberg Just because you don’t understand James Franco doesn’t mean he's not an artist. Mainstream film audiences first met the actor as Spiderman’s sexy frenemy. He was kind of mean, and while most people never made it past the first movie, you can be sure that his talented rendition of a sulky scowl carried over to the sequels. Upon scanning Franco’s IMDB page, it becomes clear that many of the characters he’s played are himself. Franco appears in General Hospital as “Franco.” In a piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, the actor explained, “My hope was for people to ask themselves if soap operas are really that far from entertainment that is considered critically legitimate. Whether they did was out of my hands.” Yes, there’s something egotistical when an actor says that his willingness to show up in a soap opera transforms the program into art. But if the move appears a bit self–involved, that’s only because Franco is honest about the narcissism of fame. The actor has taken that frankness to another level, using his life as a commentary on celebrity. His film roles and educational background are an elaborate exaggeration of the search for artistic meaning, or the search for himself, or the meaning of celebrity — or something else sophisticated that fans don’t quite understand yet. Just don’t say that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, or that his artistic choices are incidental. Franco has studied at just about every college or university in New York City, and now he’s earning his Ph.D. at Yale. Sure, on the surface it seems like an attention–grabbing tactic, but you try actually being enrolled in a university. Oh wait, you have. Not easy. Those around him say that Franco has an almost superhuman ability to concentrate and is most productive when he’s working too hard. Clearly any resentment of that work ethic stems from jealousy. With all of his extracurriculars, Franco still manages to be a great actor. He was dull–eyed yet brilliant in Pineapple Express and has pulled down nomination after nomination for his performance in 127 Hours. Above all, Franco has us talking. His every move is analyzed for its artistic value, and isn’t that what makes it art?