January 10, 2011

#115: Im Still Here (6/10)

2010 was a year where movies blurred the line between fact and fiction.  There were films like Shutter Island and Inception where the difference between the real and the contrived was very difficult to identify.There was The Social Network, that presented a highly fictionalized version of a true story. 2010 also had three psuedo-documentaries that presented themselves as 100% fact. One has come out definitely as a ruse, the other two still claim to be real, but there is a lot of debate as to whether that is the case.  These three films are of course; I'm Still Here, Exit Through The Gift Shop, and Catfish.  I'm Still Here is the only one that is admittedly a fake. Strangely it felt the most real of the three as I was watching it. I expected a tongue-in-cheek look at an actor's life spiraling out of control. Instead I got a very somber tale of depression and loss of identity.

I know almost nothing of Joaquin Phoenix.  I have seen several of his films, but he seems to stay out of the spotlight for the most part. There has been little exposure to his personal life or off-screen antics.  It wasn't until his strange appearance on Letterman that he even registered on my radar.  I'm sure we all remember hearing about that a couple years ago.  At the time of the Letterman appearance it seemed strange and very put-on. In the context of I'm Still Here it makes total sense.  It was an amazing job integrating those real-life events into the film, and using it to turn our perceptions of the incident on end.  Before seeing this film I couldn't imagine seeing that same clip and having it feel genuine, but it did. That sequence worked really well. There were several moments in the film that didn't work nearly as well. Sometimes it was awkward, and not in the intentional way it was going for.  It took me a while to get into it at the start. But over all the film worked much better than I thought it could.

There was a moment in the film where Joaquin is looking online at all the people making fun of him.  It was an unbelievably sad scene.  Some guy in sunglasses had recorded a video for youtube in which he is totally ripping Phoenix.  Not only was he being pretty mean, but he was obviously reading it from something pre-written out.  This kid was a tool box who had nothing better to do than to sit at his computer and write snarky stuff criticizing stars.  Then I realized that I I sit at my computer and criticize the art that other people create. It was all very meta, and made me feel a little bad. Nobody reads my crap anyway, but if I wrote a really scathing review I would hate to have the director or star read it.  I never want to be mean.  When I do write something mean it usually never gets posted. Maybe I would have more readers if I spend time thinking of clever ways to bash movies. Something to think about for the future.

The whole point of showing the video this guy had posted was to show it actually had an effect on Joaquin Phoenix.  We all have the ability to throw shit up online saying anything we want.  That dude probably never thought that his video would been seen by Phoenix himself, let alone make its way into a film he was working on.  But Joaquin did see that video, and it really seemed hurt him. The whole situation was made even more tragic by the fact that the guy laying down the hate was such a d-bag. This loser from who-knows-where America might actually have the ability to hurt somebody with the B.S. he is posting online.  Heavy stuff man. Heavy stuff.

I didn't love I'm Still Here. It wasn't nearly as entertaining as I thought it would be.  Actually, I didn't find it entertaining at all, but I'm not sure it was supposed to be. I knew it was totally fake. Even still, it was sad. Phoenix's performance was convincing. I think he succeeded in doing what he set out to do.  I can't really recommend you go out and see this movie, but at the same time I wouldn't discourage you from checking it out. It is available on Netflix Instant, so if you have that it is worth a watch.

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