The Yes List

Each week, The Daily Beast sifts through the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. This week, James Franco establishes himself as a serious contemporary artist with his 'High/Low, Rob Lowe' art show in New York, an impressive cast makes 'The Help' shine, and Sandra Bernhard returns to the stage in L.A.

08.11.11 11:05 PM ET

This week, James Franco has many leaning toward no. The Rise of the Planet of the Apes star's new solo art show, called "High/Low, Rob Lowe," opened to the public in New York on Thursday and establishes the 33-year-old actor as a serious contemporary artist. Inside the front room of the Asia Song Society gallery, Franco presents self-referential objects, such as a commemorative bottle of bourbon sporting his face and covers of Soap Opera Digest from 2009 with headlines on his General Hospital stint. On the room's back wall, a garish neon sign reads "Three's Company: The Drama," announcing the installation that's on view through a curtain behind it: there are six video projections, three of which present original episodes of the 1970s sitcom, and on the other three screen Franco and friends' reenactments of the same episodes. The show also exhibits paintings from his friends, colleagues, and even an anonymous fan, as well as projections of Franco's own footage, including him reading aloud from Rob Lowe's new memoir. The Daily Beast's art critic Blake Gopnik was impressed by the show, which runs through Aug. 28. "Even in art school, teachers have to struggle to get fully dedicated students to make work that reads as something for our time," he wrote. "Franco, the perpetual and ravenous learner, would get straight A's from any of those teachers."

Actress Jessica Chastain arrives at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association annual luncheon in Beverly Hills, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011.  The HFPA announced its new officers and directors and presented grants to non-profit organizations and scholarship programs at the luncheon. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Matt Sayles / AP Photos

Emma Stone, who has easily become this summer's breakout star, leads an impressive cast in this weekend's The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett's 2009 bestselling novel of the same name. Stone stars as Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a recent college graduate in the early 1960s who wants to write about African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Miss. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are earning rave reviews for their performances as the two maids Skeeter focuses on—Aibileen and Minny, respectively. And the impressive cast continues with Allison Janney as Skeeter's mom, Bryce Dallas Howard as town snob Hilly, Sissy Spacek as Hilly's mom, and Tree of Life star Jessica Chastain as Milly's ditzy and naive employer. Chastain has become one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood, with seven films in 2011 alone. In preparation for her role in The Help, she read the book several times, noticing multiple comparisons between her character and Marilyn Monroe. So, as she told The Daily Beast's Marlow Stern, Chastain read Monroe's biography and viewed her entire filmography in chronological order. Her dedication—and the rest of the cast's—certainly shows in the end result.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 08:  Sandra Bernhard performs in "I Love Being Me, Don't You?" at Town Hall on June 8, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

Bruce Glikas, FilmMagic / Getty Images

Sandra Bernhard performed "I Love Being Me, Don't You?" in New York City

From her first one-woman hit, Without You I'm Nothing, to her groundbreaking stint on Roseanne as an out lesbian in 1991 and her are-they-or-aren't-they relationship with Madonna in the late '80s, Sandra Bernhard has always gotten people talking. After 30-plus years in show business, Bernhard has mellowed but is no less caustic or connected. With her latest album, I Love Being Me, Don't You?, which touches on Twitter, celebrities, plastic surgery, and more, Bernhard comes to L.A. for a two-week run at the REDCAT Theater, which began on Thursday. "My shows have always come together in this sort of very, very organic, living-life kind of way," she told The Daily Beast's Tricia Romano. "Then I'll hang stuff around a song and fill it out, and night to night it'll take on a different shape. The audience informs how far I can go with it in terms of their response."