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Franco Still Rules
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Franco Still Rules

By Kim Morgan

Special to MSN Movies

It was early this year — a different time. Before the Oscars snubbed "The Social Network" for Best Picture, before Charlie Sheen made every cinephile understand that "Network" was not actually a satire (even if the film didn't know it) and before "Tree of Life" caused armchair Emerson experts to abuse the word "grace" over and over again (for the record, I loved "Tree of Life," but I've had it up to here with "grace," unless we're talking about Kelly or Slick). So back to the fresh new year, I was going through my usual curiosity regarding how the year was looking for movies and pondering another time-sucking pastime: Just what the hell was that dashing, multitasking dynamo James Franco up to now?

Well, it turned out he was going to host the Academy Awards. Oh yes, remember that? Of course I do. Not only did I cover the evening's festivities, feverishly live-blogging the event, something I don't recommend doing alone unless you enjoy the sensations of schizophrenia, hollering out things like, "Pink dress! Blond wig" and, "Anne Hathaway's smile is a camera in the back of my brain!" (I swear I think I uttered this), but I wrote a pregame celebratory piece on James Franco as well. I knew he'd shine. In my book, dated somewhere early February 2011, the guy could do no wrong.

Well, OK, so he wasn't the best host. In fact, many felt he was the worst in the history of the Academy Awards, superseding Rob Lowe and that whole singing "Proud Mary" with Snow White business (that did happen, right?). He was so bad that he angered viewers and Franco fans enough that Franco love, which was quite palpable at that time, turned into outright disdain in one evening. Talk about a tough gig. I mean, Ben Affleck survived "Gigli," but that was with a talented director (Martin Brest) at the helm. But place Franco next to an overly excited Anne Hathaway and hand him some cheesy Bruce Vilanch jokes? Well, it's over, Franco! You can't do it all. Now go get your shine box!

Oh, that's not fair! Since Franco shows no signs of stopping, ready to give us "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (oh dear ... that's a tough one to land, I know), I'm here to look at five of his most memorable performances. And remember, these are memorable performances, so stick with me — right to the bitter end.

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(Twentieth Century Fox)