Ep. 137 – Joker, Mister America

October 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod run head-on into the polarizing and problematic JOKER and fail to get totally in on the joke of MISTER AMERICA.

Click here to download the episode!

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

August 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara
Directed by: Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”)
Written by: Gus Van Sant (“Last Days”)

Three-time Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”) stars as quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan in “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” a conventional biopic stifled by a screenplay that doesn’t allow its main character to flourish or make meaningful relationships.

Directed by two-time Oscar nominee Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”), who made one of the most memorable biopics of the last decade in 2008’s “Milk,” works off his own script based on John’s memoir of the same name.

Although writing has been, at best, an inconsistent endeavor for Van Sant in the past, what saves “Don’t Worry” from losing its footing completely is Phoenix’s portrayal of the controversial Callahan, who we see in the film through flashbacks as an alcoholic 21-year-old kid from Portland, who becomes paralyzed in a drunken car accident in 1972.

Most of “Don’t Worry” focuses on John’s physical and emotional recovery after the crash as well as his effort to kick his drinking habit by finding support in Alcoholics Anonymous. In AA, he meets Donnie (Jonah Hill), the group’s leader whose easy-going demeanor keeps John’s addiction in check. Despite the importance of Donnie and the other AA members, Van Sant’s script keeps them at an arm’s length away and never really acknowledges their value.

The same can be said with the way Van Sant handles John’s love interest Annu (Rooney Mara), a Swedish physical therapist who feels like an afterthought as soon as she leaves the room. An hour into the film and it’s almost like John has been alone the entire time. Even more problematic is the fact that because of the way the narrative is constructed, John’s artwork, the most fascinating thing about his life from a cinematic standpoint, only makes an impression in the second half of the story.

When his cartoons are given their moment to shine, however, is when “Don’t Worry” becomes a charming inside look into a man’s comically dark and clever mind through the politically-incorrect doodles he creates on issues like physical disabilities, race, religion and anything else that would cause conservative readers to gasp. Van Sant enhances some of these scenes by having John’s drawings come alive on paper. The subtle animations of his scribbly characters bring a happiness to the picture that balances the sobriety storyline well.

Still, it’s too little too late for “Don’t Worry” when we get to anything that resembles a significant part of who John really is – from his artistic abilities to his friendships to some of the personal baggage that weighs him down. Phoenix gives a triumphant performance, but “Don’t Worry” needed more color – something like 2003’s superior “American Splendor.” Van Sant, unfortunately, thought it adequate enough to scribble in pencil.

You Were Never Really Here

April 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette
Directed by: Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”)
Written by: Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”)

Circa 2010, something snapped inside Joaquin Phoenix. We’re not talking about his intentionally awkward marketing crusade for his mockumentary I’m Still Here where he appeared dazed on “Late Show with David Letterman” and provoked talk of a mental health crisis. No, the sudden change in him was more profound than any simulated psychosis. It was like he flicked a switch and raised himself to another level as an actor.

Sure, Phoenix was a solid performer before that. He had already earned two Oscar nominations — for “Gladiator” and “Walk the Line” — and he’s always been popular with mainstream audiences despite never starring in a major tent-pole franchise. But when he received his third Oscar nomination for his transcendent role in writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” followed by a streak of portrayals of emotionally tormented characters — most notably in “Her,” “Inherent Vice” and the underappreciated “The Immigrant” — Phoenix proved that the gear he is currently operating in isn’t one most actors can shift into easily.

Phoenix doesn’t let up in the least in “You Were Never Really Here,” a bleak, dramatic thriller that landed him Best Actor accolades almost a year ago at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Lynne Ramsay (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”), it’s no surprise an independent film as despairing as “YWNRH” has rolled out nationwide over the last few months at such a leisurely pace. This isn’t the type of project typical moviegoers are going to flock to see. Nor is it one that even the most hardened cinephiles would probably consider enjoyable to watch.

What can be said, however, about “YWNRH” — besides praising Phoenix’s striking turn — is that Ramsay has created an unnerving and aggressive cinematic experience. There is a thin layer of grime that coats the narrative of “YWNRH” that is extremely hard to shake. In fact, in recent years, the only other non-horror films that have felt this demoralizing are Denis Villeneuve’s two 2013 offerings, “Prisoners” and “Enemy,” Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 sci-fi drama “Under the Skin,” Tom Ford’s 2016 crime thriller “Nocturnal Animals” and Ana Asensio’s 2017 chilling film “Most Beautiful Island.” Someone grab the soap, stat!

As well casted as those films are, none of them feature a damaged Phoenix at the peak of his career. In “YWNRH,” he stars as Joe, a disturbed veteran who works for a private investigator to track down missing girls. Joe’s newest mark is a high-profile one. Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), the 13-year-old daughter of New York senator Albert Votto (Alex Manette), has run away and may have been abducted by an underground sex ring. Armed with a ball-peen hammer, Joe ventures out to reclaim the child, unaware that the situation he is about to confront goes far beyond his paygrade.

A cornerstone of Joe’s character is that he’s a flawed man haunted by a lurid past. He’s there to do one job and nothing more. He’s the epitome of an antihero, and Phoenix plays him flawlessly. For example, when he finds Nina (calm down, it’s in the trailer), there are other underage girls in the house, too, whom he could probably save, but leaves them behind, presumably because they are not part of his mission. Joe is like Javier Bardem’s villain in “No Country for Old Men” or the evil entity in “It Follows.” They’re soulless, unstoppable forces that aren’t distracted by fear or virtue. What makes Joe distinctive, however, are two traits: the glint of humanity he still possesses deep inside his blackened heart, and the indifference he feels for himself. The latter puts such a heavy weight on Phoenix’s shoulders, one might think he was on the Road to Calvary.

Joe is dead inside, and Ramsay knows precisely how to use that to the story’s advantage. There are scenes in “YWNRH” where it almost feels like the film could fade to black at any moment. As the dissonant and offbeat electronic score of Oscar-nominated composer Jonny Greenwood (“Phantom Thread”) pushes Joe to the brink, audiences may wonder if he will make things easier by simply removing himself from the equation. His self-hatred will make it tough for viewers to connect to the character on any meaningful level, but with “YWNRH,” it’s probably a good idea to keep a safe distance.

Inherent Vice

January 8, 2015 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson (“The Master”)
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”)

It’s always gratifying to be able to go back and revisit the work of auteur filmmaking genius Paul Thomas Anderson, especially when his narrative sprawls into something your head is unable to put together after only one viewing. Truth be told, it took me a handful of screenings of “Magnolia,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” and “The Master” to fall madly in love with each of them (it was love at first sight with “Boogie Nights” and “There Will Be Blood;” “Hard Eight,” his first film, is good but not great). With his seventh feature film “Inherent Vice,” Anderson has done something that I honestly didn’t think he was capable of doing as a storyteller. After only experiencing the film twice, very little of it absorbed me emotionally in the way any of his past six films have done and, for the first time, I don’t feel like any amount of times I see the film to discover all the nuances of it will make me like it much more.

Maybe it’s because Anderson adapted “Vice” from the novel of the same name by reclusive and complicated author Thomas Pynchon (the first time Pynchon has ever allowed his work to be made into a film) and decided to capture the essence of what the writer put on the page no matter how convoluted it might turn out. Maybe it’s because, like Anderson always does, he wanted to show audiences something they had never seen before and prove just how vast his range really is by making a comedy neo-noir film with a dash of slapstick. Whatever the case, “Vice,” unfortunately, is the first Anderson film I cannot recommend. It’s highly inspired filmmaking and Anderson recreates the haziness and hippiness of 1970s Los Angeles with appeal, not to mention all the characterizations are extremely unique, but that screenplay (oh, that frustrating, confusing screenplay) is not something I’d consider a triumph no matter how close to Pynchon he was able to get. As eccentric as some critics might call his past work, it doesn’t get close to the off-tempo mess that is “Vice.” Anderson plays to the beat of his own drum (and I love that about him), but he’s influenced here by a higher power. Pynchon is in his head and it shows for better or worse. That might be great for Pynchon’s diehard fans, but he uses Anderson as a link to the outside world and it’s Anderson who is the one that comes out with the short end of the stick.

Ep. 19 – Gone Girl, Adam Sandler’s moving to Netflix, a Zombieland sequel, Joaquin Phoenix out of the running for Doctor Strange, and our Netflix picks.

October 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Podcast

[iframe style=”border:none” src=”http://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/3103935/height/100/width/480/thumbnail/yes/theme/standard” height=”100″ width=”480″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen]

 Click here to download the episode!

In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net review “Gone Girl.” They also discuss Adam Sandler signing a four-movie deal for movies exclusively for Netflix, a “Zomebieland” sequel and Joaquin Phoenix being out of the running for Marvel’s “Doctor Strange.”

[0:00-4:25] Intro; Everyone is tired and Jerrod bought a Disneyland jacket
[04:25-18:57] Adam Sandler signs a four-picture deal with Netflix.
[18:57-27:03] Zombieland sequel is coming
[27:03-36:54] Joaquin Phoenix no longer in talks to play Marvel’s Doctor Strange
[36:54-50:49] Gone Girl
[50:49-1:01:28] Gone Girl Spoiler Talk
[1:01:28-1:08:24] Gone Girl Wrap-up
[1:08:24-1:34:53] No Ticket Required – Netflix picks
[1:34:53-1:41:38] Teases for next week and close

Subscribe to The CineSnob Podcast via RSSiTunes or Stitcher.

To give your feedback, e-mail us at podcast [at] cinesnob [dot] net, or leave a voicemail at 920-FILM-210.

Her

January 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams
Directed by: Spike Jonze (“Where the Wild Things Are,” “Being John Malkovich”)
Written by: Spike Jonze (“Where the Wild Things Are”)

The last decade of technological advances have irreversibly altered the way we humans communicate. Regular old cell phones were one thing—their ubiquity in the early 2000s led to a society where we were just a phone call away at all times. Smartphones, however, have created a culture wherein we’re connected every second of the day. From the dependable old text message to the messenger program Facebook shoved down our mobile throats to push notifications from apps like Instagram and Twitter, most people live their lives in a state of constant connectivity. Even as we go about our lives, we’re living another life online.

“Her,” from quiet genius Spike Jonze, imagines a not-too-distant future where such sought-after tech like artificial intelligence has become commonplace enough to be available for the average Joe’s personal computer. A lonely professional letter writer named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) downloads his copy, which boots up as a female and names herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). As Samantha grows and adapts, her relationship with Theodore deepens to the point of genuine love.

Writer/director Jonze could have easily made “Her” into an unsubtle indictment of the isolated way we live our lives today: noses buried in our smartphones, constantly communicating via Facebook and other social networks in lieu of real personal contact, to the point we’d be foolish enough to think an online relationship could take the place of real human interaction. Instead Jonze veers the other way and creates accepting and believable world wherein a lonely man can fall in love with an artificially intelligent operating system and have it be seen as the natural evolution of human relationships, not the laughable misadventures of a sad sack.

The Master

September 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”)
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson (“Magnolia”)

Pornography as a cultural influence in “Boogie Nights;” the squeaky sound of an abandoned harmonium in “Punch-Drunk Love;” frogs falling from the sky in “Magnolia.” The works of auteur director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson over the last decade and a half might be some of the most challenging films to dissect for the average moviegoer, but none have been as demanding, ambiguous, and dreamlike as his latest offering “The Master.” Inspired and loosely based on the early teachings of L. Ron Hubbard (although the word Scientology is never uttered), Anderson has once again proven why he is the most intelligent and distinctive filmmaker working today. This time, however, it does come at the price of alienating audiences with a drama not nearly as narrative-driven as his others and one that will easily take multiple viewings to pin down and decipher all of Anderson’s lofty and visionary concepts.

Coming four years after his full-fledged masterpiece “There Will Be Blood,” which earned Daniel Day-Lewis a decisive second Academy Award, Anderson returns with another bizarrely compelling character study of a man who has “wandered from the proper path” and found himself under the guidance of a leader he strongly admires and later questions. Freddy Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a mentally unstable, alcoholic drifter lost in a tiresome post WWII existence. He finds solace when recruited by Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) to join his flock and partake in the unconventional therapies meant to help individuals expose their past lives by what seems like slow-burn brainwashing.

Hoffman’s performance is beyond words, as always, but it is Phoenix’s take on the animalistic nature of man that speaks volumes to the core elements of what makes the film such a devastating one to shake.

I’m Still Here

September 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Sean Combs, Antony Langdon
Directed by: Casey Affleck (debut)
Written by: Casey Affleck (“Gerry”) and Joaquin Phoenix (debut)

While watching a scruffy Joaquin Phoenix drop lyrics on a club stage to a fairly disinterested crowd in his new film “I’m Still Here,” it’s difficult not to think about the scene in Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” where a possessed Malkovich calls his agent to tell him he no longer wants to be an actor. Instead, he’d like to be known as a puppeteer.

The occupational switch was just as exaggerated when Phoenix revealed to the world in 2008 that he would retire from acting to pursue a career as a hip-hop artist. It was the kind of news one would usually snicker at and disregard if it wasn’t for a hint of believability stemming from Phoenix’s awkward exchange during a broadcast interview with late-night host David Letterman last year.

Whether we’re watching a mockumentary or a documentary in “I’m Still Here,” Phoenix deserves credit for either having the stamina to stay in character these last two years or having the backbone to take the ridicule that’s sure to follow him for the rest of his career if he was actually serious about becoming a rapper.

At best, “I’m Still Here” is a curiosity piece for those who have been following the Phoenix circus this entire time. From a broader perspective, it’s actually quite depressing when you think about how much time he wasted on what is more than likely just an elaborate, artistic hoax. Instead, he could have actually been shooting something less irrelevant.

That’s not to say “I’m Still Here” was void of all value. The idea to dissect the pretentiousness of celebrity is laid out nicely. Phoenix works as the unstable subject because he doesn’t seem like the type of person that would come as easily unhinged as he does here. In the film, Phoenix, who was coming off an Oscar nomination for “Walk the Line” at the start of production, announces to his inner circle that he “doesn’t want to play the character of Joaquin” and “doesn’t want to be misunderstood anymore.”

From here we watch Phoenix attempt to reinvent himself in the rap game. The first half of the film is Phoenix becoming increasingly frustrated as Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, who Phoenix wants to produce his first album, can’t find the time to sit down for a meeting. Combs is convincing enough as are others who come face to face with Phoenix during his transformation. Comedian Ben Stiller show up in a cameo hoping to talk Phoenix in taking a part in his new film “Greenberg.” Even actor Edward James Olmos, known for his motivational speaking skills, comes in to give some sound philosophical advice to his young fellow actor.

Whether it’s fake or not isn’t even really important as the film continues to trudge along in the second half. By that time, Phoenix and all his scenes of mumbling, emotional outbursts, and self reflection wear thin. It would have come a lot sooner if everyone involved wasn’t so committed. Even then “I’m Still Here” becomes the exact thing it was satirizing in the first place: a self-important product of Hollywood.