Much of the discussion regarding I’m Still Here Casey Affleck’s chronicle of his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix’s abrupt retirement from film and subsequent attempt to reinvent himself as a rapper has until now centered on whether or not the whole ordeal was a hoax. The answer arriving shortly into the film’s running time is an emphatic yes. It’s definitely a joke and its punchline goes something like this: The only thing more pathetic than a bloated slurring entitled actor in the midst of a creative crisis is a person willing to spend two hours watching a ponderous pointless documentary about said actor. The joke’s on us; I suspect it always has been.
There isn’t a real story arc to I’m Still Here at least not one that I could recognize. Indeed having a cohesive narrative would kind of defeat the purpose. Phoenix stumbles through the alternately humorous and bizarre film by all indications a collection of scripted semi-scripted and entirely unscripted scenes in a self-indulgent haze drinking abusing drugs and ritually browbeating his assorted sycophants/enablers. When not embodying the stereotype of the pampered infantile celebrity he engages in his lone creative outlet: composing horrible hip-hop in his basement studio under his rapper nom de guerre J.P.
As a rapper Phoenix is utterly talentless but his well-cultivated artistic self-regard leads him to believe otherwise and he tasks one of his assistants with lining up an A-list producer to helm his debut album. Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin reject him outright; P. Diddy however appears somewhat open to the prospect. Emboldened by the apparent validation from one of the industry’s titans Phoenix embarks on a quest to gain an audience with the elusive hip-hop mogul all the while continuing on his path to self-destruction. Highlights of which include a party with internet hookers and a fight with an assistant that leaves Phoenix covered in feces. (His sense of humor is only slightly more mature than Johnny Knoxville's.)
It’s hard not to admire Phoenix’s dedication to the role and the zeal with which he mocks himself. He and Affleck are simply merciless toward their lead character/documentary subject. The film’s finest and funniest moments come during the concert performances when Phoenix emerges onstage in his Hasidic Unabomber ensemble and launches into his brand of laughably incomprehensible mumble-rap never breaking character even as the audience’s mood shifts from enthusiastic to stupefied to uncomfortable — all in the span of less than a minute. After each performance scathing media reports surface on the internet at which Phoenix recoils with the characteristic sensitivity of an insecure artist. Then he lights up another joint and sets out in search of another adolescent diversion.
The film ends on a suitably pretentious note with a melancholy Phoenix jettisoning off to Peru Panama his middling music career in tatters after a series of setbacks that include a rejection from Diddy a concert cut short by a belligerent heckler and a now-infamous meltdown on the David Letterman Show. The camera follows a silent Phoenix as he slowly wades into a lake — the same lake he’s seen diving happily into as a child at the beginning of the film — until his entire flabby body is submerged underwater. The image might strike many as an analogy for the fate of Phoenix’s career in Hollywood but I disagree. After all we always knew that he can be a bit of a weirdo; I’m Still Here teaches us that he can be exceedingly clever as well. And there will always be a place in Hollywood for clever weirdos.
Though Garry Marshall hasn’t made a decent flick since 1990’s Pretty Woman he still apparently wields a not inconsiderable amount of clout in Hollywood. What else could explain the all-star ensemble of actors who gathered for Valentine’s Day? Among the major names found probing the turgid depths of the nearly 80-year-old director’s insipid rom-com are Julia Roberts Anne Hathaway Ashton Kutcher Jessica Alba Jamie Foxx Jessica Biel Taylor Lautner and various other prominent actors who either owe favors to Marshall or whose incriminating photos he holds in his possession.
A slice-of-life tale unfolding in Los Angeles over the course of a single Valentine’s Day the film chronicles the romantic adventures of a diverse cast of characters at various stages of relationships and encompassing virtually every conceivable demographic category. Their ages backgrounds and perspectives often dramatically differ but they each share one trait in common: Almost without exception they are all ceaselessly painfully disastrously unfunny.
Some temper their dishumor with a dose of the annoying like Kutcher whose dopey florist Marshall unwisely chose to anchor Valentine’s Day’s story around. Others add a dash of the preposterous like Roberts dressed in military fatigues in a laughable attempt to play a U.S. Army Captain on leave from the front. Still others add cloying sentiment to the mix like Bryce Robinson’s lovelorn 10-year-old whose grandparents played by Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo ply him with nostalgic romantic tips pre-fabricated for maximum inter-generational cuteness. Whatever your preferred method of cinematic torture may be you’ll undoubtedly encounter it in this film.
In addition to challenging the pain threshold Valentine’s Day offers a test of endurance as well its story requiring over two hours to satisfy the narrative demands of its swollen cast. If you didn’t despise Hallmark’s ersatz holiday before you certainly will after enduring this Bataan Death March of rom-coms.
In adapting a rather flimsy children’s book into a full-fledged feature film one has to take some liberties. We first meet the lovable little monkey in the wild where his curious habits wreck havoc. Meanwhile in the big city Ted (voiced by Will Ferrell)--aka The Man with the Yellow Hat--is a highly enthusiastic guide at the soon-to-be-closed Bloomsberry Museum. In order to save the museum (here’s where they pad it) he is sent on a mission to Africa to retrieve a lost shrine. But when he gets there the only thing he finds is a miniature version of it--and George of course. The lonely monkey decides to follow Ted all the way back to the city where his mischievous tendencies get him into even more trouble. George nearly ruins everything for Ted but somehow the little feller eventually grows on him. How could he not? If I can borrow a line from Madagascar little George is so cute I just like to dunk him in my coffee. When you’re reading Curious George out loud to your kids you don’t get the impression The Man with the Yellow Hat is a good-natured but geeky fellow gangly clumsy and clueless about women. Thank goodness the film has Will Ferrell to clear it up for us! You basically know what you’re in for once you recognize his voice and his natural comic timing shines through lending for some funnier moments (“OK I’m looking directly into the sun. Staring right at it. I’ve got to be honest with you it stings…”). The other voices in the film also do a fine job including Drew Barrymore as a schoolteacher who has a crush on Ted; Eugene Levy as the mad museum scientist; Dick Van Dyke as the museum’s old-time curator; and David Cross as his weasly greedy son. Based on the books and illustrations by Margret and H.A. Rey Curious George embraces the essence of the timeless stories created 65 years ago. The film apparently took awhile to find its voice. Producer Ron Howard originally conceived it as live-action film but quickly realized they could never get a real monkey as cute and fuzzy as George. Then CGI was considered but ultimately the filmmakers kept returning to the source: the late H.A. Rey’s original painstakingly beautiful illustrations. Thankfully they stuck with that idea. Curious George is lush and vibrant with all of Rey’s best efforts fully realized in Technicolor. And much like what the Piglet’s Big Movie did with Carly Simon and The Wild Thornberrys with Paul Simon Curious George is also sprinkled with original songs by hot pop singer Jack Johnson to give it a modern feel. So what if the story gets a little overblown in parts it will still introduce one of literature’s most enduring icons to the young-un’s--while allowing the adults to reminisce.
January 08, 2004 9:56am EST
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association on Wednesday named the quirky dramedy American Splendor best picture of 2003, and The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was voted best director. Trophies will be handed out at an awards ceremony Jan. 26 at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles.
With no picture winning more than two awards, however, there was no runaway victor. The three double-winners include American Splendor, which also took the screenplay award for writer/directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which was also honored for its production design; and the French-language cartoon Triplets of Belleville won prizes for animation and music/score.
Here is a complete list of winners and runner-ups:
Winner! American Splendor
Runner-up: Lost in Translation
Winner! Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Runner-up: Clint Eastwood, Mystic River
Winner! Naomi Watts, 21 Grams
Runner-up: Charlize Theron, Monster
Winner! Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Runner-up: Sean Penn, 21 Grams and Mystic River
Winner! Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, American Splendor
Runner-up: Steve Knight, Dirty Pretty Things
Winner! Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog
Runner-up: Melissa Leo, 21 Grams
Winner! Bill Nighy, AKA,I Capture the Castle, The Lawless Heart,Love Actually
Runner-up: Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams
Foreign Language Film:
Winner! Man on the Train
Runner-up: City of God
Winner! The Fog of War
Runner-up: Capturing the Friedmans
Winner! Grant Major, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Runner-up: William Sandell, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Winner! Sylvain Chomet, Triplets of Belleville
Special Citation to the Disney restoration of the Walt Disney/Salvador Dali short, Destino
Winner! Benoit Charest, Mathieu Chedid, Triplets of Belleville
Runner-up: Christopher Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine Hara, Annette Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C.J. Vanston, A Mighty Wind
Winner! Eduardo Serra, Girl With A Pearl Earring
Runner-up: Harris Savides, Elephant
Winner! Scarlett Johansson
Winner! Robert Altman
The crime spree is over. "The Sopranos" will have to kiss someone else's ring -- namely, the big boss man's, the president of the United States of TV America.
"The West Wing" was named Best Drama Series at the 52nd Annual Emmy Awards, capping a night wherein the political drama dominated, save for one major setback when James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos" bested Martin Sheen in the competition for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
"I think the Academy has an affinity for slightly overweight bald men," Gandolfini quipped onstage.
Gandolfini's win was the lone bright spot for "The Sopranos," which otherwise got whacked -- like when Sela Ward of ABC’s "Once and Again" beat both Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco for the Best Actress in a Drama Series Emmy. "The Sopranos" came into the night with 18 nominations.
Hollywood.com's Sandy Kenyon asked Gandolfini: "It's been a long kind of overnight success for you. What was going through your mind and is this a form of sweet justice for you?"
"I didn't feel any miscarriage of justice last year or anything like that, I'm just pleased to be in the show, doing the work we do,” Gandolfini said. “I didn't feel anything went wrong last year, so this year is just icing on the cake for me personally."
Meanwhile, Sheen was doing a lot of congratulatory on-camera hugging, as his comrades made their way to the stage to accept their trophies. Among the other honors for "The West Wing" were Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Allison Janney) and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Richard Schiff); Best Writing in a Drama Series (Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland); and Best Direction in a Drama Series (Thomas Schlamme).
"I've got a 'West Wing' feeling," host Gary Shandling mused halfway through the telecast.
NBC’s “Will & Grace” came away with some big wins, including Best Comedy Series and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Megan Mullally and Best Supporting Actor in A Comedy Series for Sean Hayes.
The lead actor and actress in “Will & Grace,” Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, respectively, lost out to Michael J. Fox for ABC’s “Spin City” and Patricia Heaton of CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
HURRY IT UP: The Emmys aren't known for brevity. In recent years, the broadcast has dragged on well past the allotted running time, but this year's festivities wrapped up within its three-hour slot. Just barely.
During the final hour, that tinkly "get off the stage, already" piano music was heard often as awardees dragged on too long with acceptance speeches. Host Shandling was cut off in mid-sentence as he introduced presenter Bruce Willis, who walked onstage before his cue and explained, "We're running really late" under his breath.
The producers tried (mostly in vain) using TelePrompTers to quicken the pace -- a fact that Jack Lemmon inadvertently revealed, when he unconsciously read the "please wrap up" cue out loud.
In his opening monologue, Shandling said, "You know what slows this show down? It's the awards," and jokingly suggested that the names of winners be taped to the bottom of their seats to save time.
Not a bad idea.
Here's a brief blow by blow of the highlights of the 2000 Emmy telecast:
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE A GOOD POTTY JOKE: This being an awards telecast, there were of course lots of pre-taped and live time killers in between the awards and commercials.
The best of these was a "Big Brother" parody, wherein Shandling was caught on camera in the men's room. The valet offering him a hot towel was David Duchovny, who informed Shandling that a vote was taken and his bathroom privileges had been revoked. Guess you had to be there.
The whole show began, of course, with a "Survivor" parody that featured a mock vote of the Tribal Council (with celebrity members including Andy Richter of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" fame). The winner of which would be named host of the Emmy telecast and also get an SUV. Shandling tried to cop out, asking if he could just take the car instead. Guess you had to be there for that one, too.
There were other funny gags. Conan O'Brien did a self-effacing bit about paying lip service to women's issues so he could get a date to next year's Emmys; and Shandling did a tribute to his idea of "risk taking" TV: like the Home Shopping Network, "Jerry Springer," monster trucks, "Teletubbies," "Xena" and The Weather Channel.
PRESSING THE FLESH: Hubba, hubba. Was it just the fact that we're watching the Emmy telecast on crystal-clear satellite TV, or did everyone see Geena Davis' um, er, um, ahem ... nipples? Is Renny Harlin nuts? She's the most beautiful over-40 woman in the universe -- see-through, skin-tight outfit or no.
I SEE DEAD PEOPLE: The annual montage of dearly departed TV celebs featured Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Madeline Kahn, John Gielgud, George C. Scott, Larry Linville, Meredith MacRae, Gene Rayburn, Durward Kirby, Shirley Hemphill, Hoyt Axton, Nancy Marchand, Leonard Goldenson, Clayton Moore, Doug Henning, Craig Stevens, Mary Jane Croft, Mabel King, Charles M. Schulz, Alec Guinness and Walter Matthau.
WHO'S THAT, ER, GIRL? Cher's got blonde hair now. She looks just like Christina Aguilera, sort of. Just thought you'd like to know.
WE LIKE MIKE: The evening's biggest no-brainer was probably Michael J. Fox's win for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. The actor received the second standing O of the night (the first went to Jack Lemmon) as he took his first "Spin City" Emmy in four tries and fourth trophy overall (he got three for "Family Ties").
NBC won bragging rights for the night, taking 23 Emmys. HBO won 20, ABC 15, Fox 11 and CBS 7.