Writer and Producer – Daniel Fickman
Other Side Drive Producer – Shannon Williams
Editor – Mark Alvarez
Film Fix: I’m Still Here
Film Fix: I’m Still Here
Now, for those of who have been keeping up with this segment, you may have noticed that I end each episode with a certain tagline. “Those rare pure moments between action and cut is where I will see you next week.” The truth is I can’t take credit for coming up with this tagline on my own. It’s loosely adapted from a film that was released a few years back. It’s an astounding documentary. Well, I guess it should be described as a mockumentary. It honestly transcends the genre as it’s really a solid piece of performance art. The film is called I’m Still Here and it stars Joaquin Phoenix playing a version of himself that is fed up with the Hollywood game and decides to let everything go and become a rapper. It’s a hilarious premise to begin with. I think this film has been somewhat overlooked which is why I’m dedicating this episode to it. It’s a form of filmmaking which is rarely ever done. And it’s quite ingenious in its execution.
Phoenix along with director Casey Affleck (who is Phoenix’s brother-in-law) set out to make a film that, “explored celebrity, and explored the relationship between the media and the consumers and the celebrities themselves” through their film. Filming began after a bearded, haggard looking Phoenix publicly announced his retirement from acting in order to focus on a rap career in late 2008.
The film also spoofs a certain entitlement that celebrities acquire after years of getting everything they want. Joaquin, or as he refers to himself in the film, JP, thinks he can just jump into a completely new medium without putting much effort into it because he’s such a star. But it’s anything but a smooth sale. JP’s self obsession with his image grows only worse when he is the butt of every joke in Hollywood. His fuse gets shorter and shorter and soon he begins taking it out on all those in his personal life.
His first public appearances as a rapper are a catastrophe. JP fumbles around, forgets lyrics, and eventually falls off the stage. And the people in the audience look more concerned than happy throughout most of the performance. Throughout much of the film we watch JP in his home as he parties, drinks, smokes, argues with assistants, waxes philosophical and comments on the nature of celebrity. The film also feature several cameos including one with P. Diddy who JP relentlessly tries to get to help him produce his album. Diddy actually gives a solid performance. Very subtly solidly awkward. And it feels real.
The sheer brilliance of this film stems from the fact that it all feels so real. When I watched Joaquin Phoenix on David Letterman back in 2009, I thought it was real. I had no idea it was all part of a nearly two year long performance for a film. I was one of many who didn’t understand and were quite concerned. Many of you might remember this painfully awkward Letterman appearance. A heavily bearded, overweight, sunglasses-wearing Phoenix appeared on Late Show with David Letterman to promote what he claimed was his last film, Two Lovers. During the show, Phoenix seemed incoherent and was largely unresponsive towards Letterman’s questions about the film and his acting career. When the audience laughed at his hip-hop aspirations, Phoenix complained to Letterman that he was being serious.
The way the Letterman appearance plays out in the actual film is quite incredible, as it shows how instantly he goes to being a national joke from youtubers, to bloggers, to other celebrities. No one can stop talking about JP.
I don’t want to give anything else away about this movie, because it really deserves to just be watched instead of explained. Joaquin Phoenix is one the best actors of the last twenty so years and this might be his greatest performance to date. It’s scary. It’s hysterical. It’s really just brilliant. So check out “I’m Still Here,” and remember, those rare pure moments between action and cut is where I will see you next week. Thanks, JP.