The Hoax on Us?
TWO CRANKY GUYS DEBUNK THE JOAQUIN PHOENIX “DOCUMENTARY”
I’M STILL HERE
BRUCE FRETTS: So, Bret, we went to see the new Joaquin Phoenix “documentary” today, I’m Still Here. I can’t believe we paid $14 each to see an unkempt nutcase rant incoherently and vomit. We could’ve seen that for $2.25 on the subway!
BRET WATSON: Bruce, I would’ve done that for you for $1.50. But there’s always next weekend. Especially since every time you pick the movie, we see something that makes me sick. I found this one dull, dull, dull. And long, long, long.
FRETTS: I save all the good movies to see with my girlfriend. All the crap is for you. And speaking of crap, what did you think of the scene where Joaquin’s disgruntled assistant defecates on Joaquin’s face while he sleeps? Real or fake?
WATSON: Fake. I didn’t see any poop. Did you? And didn’t you say that you saw a credit for special effects at the end?
FRETTS: I didn’t see any poop either! There was a visual effects credit at the end, but they didn’t do a very good job. I think the whole thing was a hoax, although Roger Ebert apparently disagrees. What do you think?
WATSON: I bet Ebert thought it would be fun and clever to play along—his review is a hoax too. It’s set in the alternate universe of the movie. But I think if you aren’t caught up in trying to decide whether the movie is a hoax or not, it has nothing for you.
FRETTS: What documentary has writing and “cast” credits? And why would Joaquin let his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, film him snorting coke off a hooker’s breasts? Excuse me, “escort’s” breasts.
WATSON: Hoax. I thought the set-up at the beginning, explaining that he agreed to be filmed because he wanted the “real” Joaquin to be seen, or some crap like that, was weak. Which presumably explains why he’d allow himself to be seen getting high or calling hookers—unless you buy into the idea that he’s just going insane and no longer makes normal, rational judgments.
FRETTS: I can’t believe anyone would be so delusional to believe those “raps” he does—endlessly—in the movie are any good. His rap name shouldn’t be J.P., it should be “Matis-Yahoo.”
WATSON: Yeah, it’s too bad they had to settle for Joaquin Phoenix when Zach Galifianakis turned down the role.
FRETTS: There was an eerie resemblance.
WATSON: Curly wild hair, thick beard, bloated paunch, one-note performance.
FRETTS: They should’ve called this movie The Hangover!
WATSON: You could easily imagine this as a comedy that would have been better with Galifianakis. But instead they settled for Phoenix, and he can’t do comedy. I got the feeling Phoenix saw Borat and said, “I can do that!”
FRETTS: Yes, this was like Borat with fewer laughs and more penis shots. What was with all the footage of Joaquin’s well-hung lackey?
WATSON: So call it The Hungover. Or Hung-under.
FRETTS: I also can’t believe Ben Stiller and P. Diddy (who both got “special thanks” credits) would allow themselves to be made to look like such fools.
WATSON: Speaking of Diddy, I wondered whether the concept was inspired in part by all the rappers, including Mos Def, who have decided, “Hey, I can be an actor now!”
FRETTS: Yes, Mos Def’s cameo wasn’t believable either. No one says anything as idiotic as “Epic is…epic.” You said you picked up a gay vibe from the movie. I didn’t get that. Are you sure you weren’t just projecting? I know you like the “bear” type, and with Joaquin’s hirsuteness and physique, he fits the bill.
WATSON: I just wondered what they were trying to say about his relationship with the Brit guy whose Dr. Johnson makes cameos at least twice. Maybe daring us to think Phoenix is gay is part of the hoax.
FRETTS: Do you think Joaquin gained weight for the role? Like De Niro in Raging Bull? Except this was Raging Bullshit.
WATSON: Yes I do think he put on weight for the role. And he was punching over his weight.
FRETTS: Maybe the penis was a visual effect. Do you think the puke was real? It looked fake when he ran to the bathroom and threw up after jumping into the crowd in Vegas to beat up a heckler (whom I also didn’t see).
WATSON: I thought the vomiting was fake. But that penis stuff again makes it seem like they wanted to out-Borat Borat. Factor in the poop-on-face prank too.
FRETTS: Yeah, more like Bruno than Borat.
WATSON: His coat obscured his face in such a way that it would have been easy to rig fake vomit. (Like I’m an expert on rigging fake vomit…)
FRETTS: The vomit looked real, but it didn’t look like it came out of his mouth. Maybe they had a vomit wrangler?
WATSON: Call me old-fashioned, but I never find penises funny. Not even yours. I don’t care what the guys at the gym say.
FRETTS: Really? I find yours hilarious!
WATSON: Well, that was the joke I was going for.
FRETTS: Enough about penises—let’s talk about breasts. Don’t you think they could have afforded better-looking hookers? What was with that one with the saggy boobs? (Sorry, “escorts.”)
WATSON: Maybe that’s another indication it was a hoax. You’d think even a hirsute celeb could do better.
FRETTS: Yeah, how about the scene where he asked his assistant to trim his back hair? The one thing I believed was real was his freakout after the Letterman appearance. And his publicist’s appalled expression. That was a disaster, even if it was a hoax. And they edited it to make Dave look like an asshole. But Dave’s still having Joaquin back on the show Sept. 22 because he knows it’ll generate huge ratings. He’s no dummy.
WATSON: I think the Letterman scene was the movie’s sole streak of brilliance. I admire that he committed to the concept to the extent that he turned the Letterman appearance into a fictional scene for the movie, as it were. It’s almost as if they set up the whole movie for that Letterman appearance. Even if the publicist was in on the hoax, she still naturally would have had those expressions during the appearance, thinking, “I’m not so sure about this…”
FRETTS: And an editor at our old employer, Entertainment Weekly, even got roped into it! That was weird when she sat on a hotel room bed and refused to reveal her source for the story that the whole thing was a hoax.
WATSON: Don’t you think a reporter would refuse to reveal a source? Although technically wouldn’t it have to have been two sources, minimum?
FRETTS: Yes, I was proud of her for saying “Dude, no.” I’m not sure the two sources rule still applies in the age of the Internet. Do you think the footage of “young Joaquin” jumping into the water in Panama, which was mirrored at the end, was real? It seems unlikely they had a video camera in 1981.
WATSON: Good point! But it would be easy to fake that 1981 footage.
FRETTS: And what was with the footage of the singing Phoenix family? I found it odd that there was no mention of his brother River dying of a drug overdose. It seemed to hang over the movie, but no one even acknowledged it. Maybe that would’ve killed the joke—not that I think it was funny.
WATSON: Yes, I even wondered whether the fact that Joaquin walks or wades up a river at the end was a reference.
FRETTS: Oh, that’s deep! I kept waiting for someone to bring it up. Especially since the director is married to River’s and Leaf’s (aka Joaquin’s) sister!
WATSON: Which reminds me that it was unnatural that no one close to him in the movie says, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you doing this? Pull yourself together, man.” You’d expect an intervention, especially considering how his brother wound up.
FRETTS: Where’s Dr. Drew when you need him? Time for a house call!
WATSON: That would have been interesting, if their friends had brought in Dr. Phil to get him to shape up.
FRETTS: Dr. Phil would’ve just slapped him.
WATSON: I wish I could’ve slapped him! I’m going to go all film school on you…
FRETTS: Go for it.
WATSON: The end of the movie was too artsy and contrived not to have been planned, written. I think the final sequence was inspired by a great sequence in the Italian movie Caro Diario, where the hero rides a moped with his back to the camera, and the soundtrack is just a wistful, beautiful Keith Jarrett piano solo.
FRETTS: I didn’t see that movie, but I do like Keith Jarrett and the music played over that final scene of I’m Still Here, whatever it was. It was such a relief after all that bad rap.
WATSON: Right. And suddenly the cinematography was lush.
FRETTS: In that final scene Joaquin’s back was completely hairless. I think he must’ve gotten a wax. His assistant couldn’t have done that good of a job with scissors. (I speak from experience here.)
WATSON: You depilated Joaquin’s back? Did Joaquin also snap a towel at you while you capered naked, as he did to his assistant in the movie?
FRETTS: Yes, and he is one hairy mofo! I also served as stunt penis in the movie.
WATSON: You deserved a credit, man. I liked your work in Boogie Nights.
FRETTS: It’s not the size of the part… wait, actually it is.
WATSON: I wonder whether the title, I’m Still Here, is an echo of the Bob Dylan semi-biopic I’m Not There? Both movies deal with celebrities playing with their identities and changing their art. Plus Dylan’s singing and Phoenix’s rapping are equally atonal.
FRETTS: I thought about that, but then it made me think of Heath Ledger, who was in that movie, and it just made me sad
WATSON: But ultimately what was the point? Why make this movie? Were they trying to make a comedy? Or a drama? Is it a comedy that isn’t funny enough or a drama that isn’t dramatic?
FRETTS: I think it was all a big joke. On us!
WATSON: I kept thinking, I could be outside enjoying this rare beautiful day. But no, I have to let Bruce drag me to see penises and listen to shitty rap. Just another Saturday with Bruce.
FRETTS: It’s all part of my master plan… to drive you mad! Mwa ha ha! It’s all good for the blog. We don’t call it Two Cranky Guys for nothing!
WATSON: Mission accomplished.
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