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.
The nominations for the 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards are in, and with more submissions than ever before in the ceremony's history, it looks like a hot race.
Jeff Kleeman, IFP committee chair, had this to say: "With more submissions and less time then ever before, the Nominating Committee watched and discussed over 190 films in six weeks -- an act of extreme devotion that proved to be tremendously rewarding."
Dawn Hudson, IFP executive producer, added that this year's batch of nominees is particularly diverse, and commended the fact there are more highly talented women writers and directors emerging on the independent film scene, including nominees Shari Springer Berman, Sofia Coppola and Catherine Hardwicke.
Films that have been nominated for IFP Independent Spirit Awards were selected based on their original and provocative subject matter, uniqueness of vision, and financial characteristics, including total budget, individual compensation, and percentage of independent financing.
Last year's ISA winners included the film Far From Heaven (best feature), Julianne Moore (best director and lead actress), and Dennis Quaid (best supporting actor).
The 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards ceremony will air live on Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. EST on the Independent Film Channel, and will be broadcast at 10 p.m. EST/PST on Bravo.
The nominees for the 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards are (by category):
Lost in Translation
Raising Victor Vargas
Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini - American Splendor
Sofia Coppola - Lost in Translation
Jim Sheridan - In America
Peter Sollett - Raising Victor Vargas
Gus Van Sant - Elephant
American Splendor - Writers: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Lost in Translation - Writer: Sofia Coppola
A Mighty Wind - Writers: Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy and the cast of A Mighty Wind
Pieces of April - Writer: Peter Hedges
Shattered Glass - Writer: Billy Ray
Best First Feature
Bomb the System - Director: Adam Bhala Lough; Producers: Ben Rekhi, Sol Tryon
House of Sand and Fog - Director: Vadim Perelman; Producers: Michael London, Vadim Perelman
Monster - Director: Patty Jenkins; Producers: Mark Damon, Donald Kushner, Clark Peterson, Charlize Theron, Brad Wyman
Quattro Noza - Director: Joey Curtis; Producer: Fredric King
Thirteen - Director: Catherine Hardwicke; Producers: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Michael London
John Cassavetes Award
Anne B. Real - Director: Lisa France; Writers: Lisa France, Antonio Macia, Producers: Josselyne Herman, Luis Moro, Jeanine Rohn
Better Luck Tomorrow - Director: Justin Lin; Writers: Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin, Fabian Marquez; Producers: Julie Asato, Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin
Pieces of April - Writer/Director: Peter Hedges; Producers: Alexis Alexanian, John S. Lyons, Gary Winick
The Station Agent - Writer/Director: Thomas McCarthy; Producers: Mary Jane Skalski, Robert May, Kathryn Tucker
Virgin - Writer/Director: Deborah Kampmeier; Producer:Sarah Schenck
Best First Screenplay
Blue Car- Writer: Karen Moncrieff
Monster - Writer: Patty Jenkins
Raising Victor Vargas - Writers: Peter Sollett and Eva Vives
The Station Agent - Writer: Thomas McCarthy
Thirteen - Writers: Catherine Hardwicke & Nikki Reed
Best Female Lead
Agnes Bruckner - Blue Car
Zooey Deschanel - All the Real Girls
Samantha Morton - In America
Elisabeth Moss - Virgin
Charlize Theron - Monster
Best Male Lead
Peter Dinklage - The Station Agent
Paul Giamatti - American Splendor
Sir Ben Kingsley - House of Sand and Fog
Bill Murray - Lost in Translation
Lee Pace - Soldier's Girl
Best Supporting Female
Shohreh Aghdashloo - House of Sand and Fog
Sarah Bolger - In America
Patricia Clarkson - Pieces of April
Hope Davis - The Secret Lives of Dentists
Frances McDormand - Laurel Canyon
Best Supporting Male
Judah Friedlander - American Splendor
Troy Garity - Soldier's Girl
Djimon Hounsou - In America
Alessandro Nivola - Laurel Canyon
Peter Sarsgaard - Shattered Glass
Best Debut Performance
Anna Kendrick - Camp
Judy Marte - Raising Victor Vargas
Victor Rasuk - Raising Victor Vargas
Nikki Reed - Thirteen
Janice Richardson - Anne B. Real
Elephant - Harris Savides
In America - Declan Quinn
Northfork - M. David Mullen
Quattro Noza - Derek Cianfrance
Shattered Glass - Mandy Walker
Best Foreign Film
City of God (Brazil)
Lilya 4-Ever (Denmark)
The Magdalene Sisters (England/Ireland)
The Triplets of Belleville (France)
Whale Rider (New Zealand)
The Fog of War
Mayor of the Sunset Strip
OT: our town
Calling all eligible bachelors: Nicole Kidman is looking for someone to take to the Academy Awards. The 34-year-old actress, who has been recently accompanied by Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann to many events and brought her father to the Golden Globes, confessed she is dateless for the March 24 main event. Kidman received her first Best Actress nomination for her role as the doomed courtesan Satine in Moulin Rouge.
When asked at the Oscar nominees luncheon Monday whom she was planning on taking, Kidman responded to Hollywood.com, "I'm not bringing Baz," she laughed, "but I don't really have anyone to bring at this point. I'm looking." Pay attention, gentlemen!
Britney Spears has denied rumors circulating that she and her beau, Justin Timberlake, have broken up. On Monday, she told MTV Europe that the rumor was not true, even though several news wires reported that unconfirmed sources say the two split last week due to hectic work schedules.
Francis Ford Coppola will be producing an international version of Suriyothai, the current box office smash hit in Thailand. Directed by Coppola's friend Chatrichalerm Yukol, the film's story centers around a 16th-century Thai queen who sacrifices herself to save her king during a bloody attack by the Burmese. Coppola told Variety, "I hope the changes I suggest retain the exotic beauty and continuity of the original."
In a study conducted by the British medical journal Tobacco Control, evidence was found that major tobacco companies encouraged actors to smoke to influence moviegoers. USAToday.com reported on the study, saying that a 1980 internal document from R.J. Reynolds showed the company gave free cigarettes to 188 celebrities. And a similar 1989 document from another tobacco company, Philip Morris, quoted the company as saying it needed to "exploit" actors.
The CBS documentary 9/11 received huge ratings on Sunday. Nearly 39 million viewers tuned in to watch the special about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, as never-before-seen footage from filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet aired. Not surprisingly, there was strong viewership from the New York City area, comprising about 35% of all the households around the country.
Beverly Hills, 90210 alumni Tori Spelling and Tiffani Thiessen, Oscar winner Martin Landau and actress Mary Stuart Masterson are making their way to the small screen. Spelling will star in WB show Way Downtown, about a struggling writer, while Thiessen will star in Fox action/drama Fast Lane. Landau will be starring in an untitled ABC drama, playing a key adviser to a media family, and Masterson will star in CBS show R.U.S./H., about an elite LAPD squad. Oh, goody.
Sally Jessy Raphael has to hang up her microphone. Her long-running daytime talk show has been canceled after being on the air for nearly 20 years. The show is currently in ninth place in the ratings.
Wes Scantlin, the lead singer for the rock group Puddle of Mudd, and his fiancée, Michelle Rubin, were arrested Sunday for fighting. The couple was booked on domestic-violence charges when witnesses called in that a man was forcing a woman into a car on a highway shoulder in Ventura County, Calif. The reason for the argument has not been disclosed, according to the Associated Press.
R&B soul singer Lauryn Hill will be performing at the May 11 St. Lucia Jazz Festival. She'll be joining other artists performing during the festival, including Smokey Robinson, Stephanie Mills, Branford Marsalis and India.Arie. The West Indies island festival runs May 3-12.
Maybe she's not guilty, after all. There's a twist in the case of the ill-fated December shopping spree made by actress Winona Ryder, in which she has been accused of shoplifting from a trendy Beverly Hills store. As reported by TV show Extra Tuesday, store surveillance videos did not corroborate police reports. Extra obtained more than an hour of footage of the incident, where Ryder is shown putting on hats and lipstick, not removing security tags from clothes and putting them in her bag, as the police allege. The actress is currently out on bail, and a preliminary hearing is due to be scheduled this week.
Singer Connie Francis, who has been dealing with mental-health problems since her rape and torture in a hotel room in 1974, has sued Universal Music Corp. for allowing her music to be licensed for use in porno movies. She alleges the company is taking advantage of her because of her mental problems.
A man, who was a guest on the Jerry Springer Show in May 2000 about secret mistresses, has gone on trial for murdering his ex-wife. Hours after the episode aired July 24, 2000, Ralf Panitz, who appeared with his ex-wife and current wife, went to his ex-wife's house and beat her to death. Double yikes.
Pop singer Britney Spears has officially left her teenage years behind her. She celebrated her 20th birthday with her friends and family at the Italian restaurant Solaia in Englewood, N.J., Sunday night, enjoying food, ambiance--and a male stripper. Sitting with her mother and 10-year-old sister Jamie, Ms. Spears giggled and blushed through a steamy dance by hunky stripper Steven Peters. "She told me, 'This is the best birthday present I've ever gotten!'" Peters told Pagesix.com. Although her boyfriend, 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake, was in Las Vegas rehearsing for the Billboard Music Awards, the singer talked to him on the phone while opening his gifts--Baccarat crystal glasses, a baby-blue teddy bear and silver candelabras.
Oscar winner Julia Roberts and music maven Madonna were the only two superstars to make The Hollywood Reporter's list of the 50 most influential women in show business, ranked No. 3 and 42, respectively. Universal Pictures chairman of production Stacey Snider ranked No.1, while Sherry Lansing, Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group chairman, followed in the number two spot.
Kevin Spacey and Drew Barrymore were awarded with Star of the Year honors at the 61st annual Golden Apple Awards on Sunday. The Hollywood Women's Press Club hosted the luncheon. Sour Apple award recipient Jerry Springer, however, was a no-show.
Rock 'n' roll lyricist Kal Mann, who co-wrote such classic songs as Elvis Presley's "Teddy Bear" and Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again," died of Alzheimer's disease last Wednesday in Pompano Beach, Fla. He was 84.
Carol Burnett wed Brian Miller, a percussionist who is also a music contractor for the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, a few days before her CBS special aired Nov. 26, her spokeswoman told People. This is Burnett's third marriage.
Mark Wahlberg is being sued by his former bodyguard, Leonard Taylor, for $2 million, Taylor's lawyer told Reuters Monday. Taylor alleges the actor assaulted and beat him outside a lower Manhattan restaurant on Nov. 16. A spokesman for Wahlberg declined comment.
A U.S. District Court judge in Michigan reduced a $19 million judgement awarded to a Detroit publishing house for copyright infringement of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Jingle All the Way, ruling that "the bulk of the award was supportable neither by law nor in fact." Writer Brian Alan Webster and Murray Hill Publications had sued 20th Century Fox, claiming they stole the idea from Webster's screenplay Could This Be Christmas.
British actress Elizabeth Hurley's ex-beau, Steve Bing, is questioning his paternity of Hurley's baby, which she announced she was carrying last month. He released a statement Monday saying they were not in an exclusive relationship when she became pregnant but, "if indeed I am the father, I will be an extremely involved and responsible parent."
Nathan Lane has signed on to star in a biopic of the late comedian Jackie Gleason for Mirage Enterprises, written by Rob Festinger (In the Bedroom). No director has yet been attached.
RealNetworks Inc. and three of the leading record labels--Warner Music, EMI Group and Bertelsmann's BMG--will launch their online subscription venture MusicNet Tuesday. Subscribers will be able to get 100 Webcast sources and 100 downloads a month from a selection of over 75,000 songs.
DreamWorks' smash animated hit Shrek looks to be the top-selling DVD of all time, having sold 5.5 million copies and raking in an estimated $110 million since its Nov. 2 release date.