Joaquin Phoenix

Anne Thompson posted the winners of the London Film Critics awards and Joaquin Phoenix does a funny thing there at the end:

“I struggle with the idea of winning awards for acting. Stating I’m Best Actor for something as subjective as film seems strange to me. To the uninitiated it implies I’m solely responsible for the creation and implementation of the character. I am not. I suppose that’s why we thank our colleagues. There are those who you all know such as Paul Thomas Anderson, to whom I am eternally grateful – a man who has persistently searched for the truth. I am fortunate to have been under his guidance. Philip Seymour Hoffman for his patience and advice. Amy Adams for being angry. Megan Ellison and everyone at Annapurna for their support of the film and ensuring that I was able to cover my mortgage. But there are many others who you do not know by name such as Mike Kenna, who I believe was the grip but he did 20 different jobs so I can’t be sure; Adam Somner, the first assistant director; Karen Ramirez in the office; Tommy – I don’t know your last name… there are too many to list. The truth is, you cannot separate my work from their’s. We were a unit bolstered by the same goal: to do our part in helping Paul to achieve his vision. I view this award as recognition of all of our work. I am very cognisant of the fact that for me this award is an encouragement to continue my lifelong passion of being an actor. I will not squander this high regard. P.S. There’s an up-and-coming actor named Daniel who’s in a movie called Lincoln. You should check it out.”

It’s funny how a soundbite can alter perception. That is probably because we bring so much of ourselves into how we view something separate from its whole. After podcasting last night with Craig Kennedy and Ryan Adams we got into a fairly heated exchange about Phoenix and that now infamous (in our little tiny postage stamp size world) quote in Interview magazine about the Oscars. They took the opposing view of Phoenix, saying that his entire interview reveals the opposite about him – that he isn’t someone who has x’d himself out of Hollywood, but rather a devoted actor who just isn’t down with the bullshit involved in being  a star. While I still think anyone in that position should count themselves lucky, and while I still believe that most people hate the Oscar grind (but do it anyway) I also think it’s worth showing the other side of Phoenix most people didn’t see in the Elvis Mitchell interview. Basically, he is someone who is uncomfortable with just about everything. The Oscar thing is only one tiny part of it. Some choice quotes:

I mean, look, I’m very fortunate because I’ve worked with these amazing directors that I’m able to do that with and really find the truth with, because that’s what they’re after as well. But if the director’s not after it, then forget it. There aren’t fucking good actors. It’s all the director. It’s so funny when people say it’s good actors—and actors really believe it and shit. You’re completely hostage to the director. So the director is the most important person to me. I work for them. My job is to help them fulfill their vision. But I like being an employee. I like making somebody happy—and if they’re not, then I’m crushed.

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Todd McCarthy says about Denzel Washington in Robert Zemeckis’ Flight, “Onscreen for nearly the entire running time, Washington has found one of the best parts of his career in Whip Whitaker, a middle-age pilot for a regional Southern airline who knows his stuff and can still get away with behaving half his age. In the film’s raw opening scene, he’s lying in bed in Orlando at 7 a.m. after an all-night booze, drugs and sex marathon with a sexy flight attendant. With a little help from some white powder, he reassures her they will make their 9 o’clock flight for Atlanta.”

This is easily one of the best performances of the year and will be a strong contender to win the Best Actor race. He will have some competition, though, in Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln — which has to be among the best performances of all time, and Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. These are probably the strongest three in the race as we head into the final months.

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