Movie Review: Rubes, Republicans, and the kind of people that write things like “HOWL”

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them– because they are the ones who change things. They push the human race forward. And while most people will see them as insane, I have always seen genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are usually the ones who do.”
~Jack Kerouac
American Novelist, Poet and Artist

One or two months ago I saw a trailer for a movie I felt at the time was right up my alley, a movie about the boom of the late 1950s and 60s writers who saw things “differently”. The writers who spawned an obsession in some readers for how they live, write, and bring increased intrigue from what they say in interviews. They don’t seem to exist in these times, and hell, I say we could use their kind of crooked thinking in this modern Rome that is the USA. I have devoted my life following in their footsteps, footsteps that lead to witch hunts from the pursuit of the backwards majority, a lifestyle that is not for most- only those who are full of pip and are ready to live fast and die young. Yet at the same time to live like this will give you more satisfaction than having that white picket fence made of ignorance and dying at age 80 with shit in your diaper. I digress… too much wine tonight and too many beers and way too much fun. As I was saying… from watching the trailer of the movie HOWL I was thinking this film was only a celebration of the life and career of Allen Ginsberg and other writers like him. However, it was more like Allen Ginsberg’s life story was only a side story and the real tale was the court case involving the questionable obscenity of HOWL, a poem by Ginsberg. It was a trial that questioned, “Should only the art that a God-fearing man would approve of be printed?” When I came to this realization I could only feel a deep sadness and could only think of how questions of such censorship still existed today.

The film HOWL definitely strays from traditional film form and this suits the film because the poem does the same thing. HOWL shifts from interviews with Allen Ginsberg (James Franco) to the court case to a reading of his poems that are sometimes portrayed in readings and other times in animation by Eric Drooker (who also did the art work on the book and some paintings undoubtedly inspired by Ginsberg’s writings). The animations are very visually stimulating but when the visuals are mixed with the powerful thought-provoking words of the poem, it seems to take on a whole different meaning and depth. Before or after each poem, the film cuts to the interview that explains Ginsberg’s mindset and events and period of his life that influenced the piece he wrote. The direction that the film takes is fresh and original, also it should be said the material (the poem) is touchy and any wrong move when transferring the words of HOWL to film would ruin the movie. The film quite simply walked a very fine line.

The film really carves out its place in history when it comes to the talent-the acting. James Franco proves in HOWL he is a damn fine actor and there really is no other way to describe what he does in HOWL. Franco pulls off every mannerism of Ginsberg, the way he acted, spoke, and most importantly the powerful presence of the author. In one of the final scenes where Franco discusses in the interview the subject of homophobia and homosexuality, you will be moved and be brought to the brink of tears and all you will be able to think is what a fucking shame this is not fiction and this is the world we live in.You might as well give James Franco his Oscar now.

James Franco is not the only great performer in HOWL, there’s another actor I want to talk about and his name is John Hamm. This is not Hamm’s first break out performance (we all  know we are talking about Don Draper) but Hamm’s portrayal of his character in HOWL (the lawyer defending the publication that printed the book of poems) is to me indescribable. (And all I can say is that if I had that jaw line and voice I could convince the entire right to turn liberal and bring world peace to a reality and could make it happen in a week). What I’m trying to say is John Hamm is one of the greatest actors of all time with a closing speech at the end of the film that will rock you so hard you will be thinking about the film for days.

Alright, closing statement. HOWL is the second film I have seen in my life time that left me changed; the music of Allen Ginsberg’s writing has been transferred to film with no flaw at all. The film HOWL might just be an earthquake to the minds of certain kinds of people, challenging their homophobic beliefs, and others will just not understand it. But for the few, it will just add to their fire and give them more fuel to fight the good fight because after love that’s all that’s left and that’s how I see it.

Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!…Forgiveness

I give HOWL 5 “howling hounds” out of 5

by Josh Davis


About Josh

First and foremost Josh is a wino and an all around dangerous individual. Second, Josh is a political junkie, a wildlife aficionado, and a history enthusiast who aspires to be a raw mix between James Carville, Steve Irwin, Anderson Cooper, Iggy Pop, and a clown car. Most importantly, Josh is high consumer of "fuel," whether it be music, documentaries, or just some fun with friends and some cheap beers, it's all "fuel" and Josh is a very heavy consumer.

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