Joaquin Phoenix and the Big Fake Out

Casey Affleck now admits that his I’m Still Here documentary was all staged, even, he now admits, the Letterman appearance. Letterman was in the on the joke as well:

In the interview Scheft reveals, “Dave knew about it and Dave loved it because he could play along. He could do whatever he wanted with it. And he did, and it was great television.” The writer also says he gave Letterman a line to use during a commercial break. “I will take credit for the line, ‘I think I owe Farrah Fawcett an apology.’ That line was mine.”

That, then led to this public mockery of Joaquin and Christian Bale:

So, I guess the joke’s on us, huh?

But guess who knew all along? Ms. Gwyneth Paltrow, who was put in the awkward position of having to promote their film while Phoenix did his thang:

Meanwhile, Ebert has written about his own belief in the Joaquin game and took the time to find out who thought it was real, who thought it was maybe real, and who knew it was a big old fake-out:

Believed it was real (10): Ebert, Gliberman, Neumaier, Stevens, Doerksen, Hartlaub, Rodriguez, Levy, Puig, Orange.

Not sure, open question or cagey (17): Persall, Phillips, Rothkopf, Longworth, Williams, Hartlaub, Turan, Baumgarten, Grady. O’Sullivan, Rea, Robinson, Salisbur, Goodykoontz, Travers.)

It’s a fake (6): Young, Burr, Felperin, Dargis, Edelstein.

Finally, many of you have asked whether or not this could be an Oscar-worthy performance and/or stunt. The answer is that if they hadn’t made it into a dumb, punk-ass prank, maybe. Phoenix is a very good actor and had it just been the movie as a mockumentary of sorts, or performance art, perhaps. But it is muddied by the whole stupid prank and that renders it probably not Oscar-worthy. I’m sure they don’t care one way or the other.

One thing I’ve figured out from life here at the bottom of the food chain is that no one really wants to admit they care about the Oscars. They probably don’t really care in theory, but they know they need to play the game to stay in good stead with the public, the studios, and those who give out the money. It helps box office and ups their profile. Only a small percentage of them, I think, care whether they win or not because they all view it as a popularity contest, which it is.

At any rate, I have no patience with this sort of thing. If you want to make a point about our sickening culture, do it. It isn’t as if anyone is going to defend our culture for its voracious need for the continual rise and fall of celebrities. There is nothing more repugnant that a comments thread that follows any celebrity. But guess what? That is the world in which we live. That is human nature. As my friend Marshall always says, the noble man thing? A total crock. We have within us the capacity to be rotten, jealous, petty, ugly – and we have the capacity to be noble. When given the opportunity, most of us are pretty lousy human beings.

I don’t need punk-ass Casey Affleck to tell me that, though. And so, it feels a bit like a waste of time. Did he expect everyone to applaud this effort? Not sure what the motivation was. At any rate, ’tis the season of the Afflecks indeed. I plan to see The Town and I may catch I’m Still Here at some point, if it’s ever on TV.

I used to feel differently, I now see, by reading an old post that I actually wrote:

Turns out that no one is really sure what the hoopla about Joaquin Phoenix quitting acting to become a musician was really about. Was it just an opportunity to make this “mockumentary”? If so, it’s quite clever, I must say, and made more so by the actor’s willingness to, how can we say this delicately, open every available orifice for a role?

It’s a win-win. It will be something wholly original – it will be shocking – it will put Casey Affleck on the map and revive Phoenix’s career. Real or hoax? Both.

So there you have me, in a contradiction. I guess it just seemed less annoying then.

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