DID YOU READ

Casey Affleck Comes Clean About “I’m Still Here”

Casey Affleck Comes Clean About “I’m Still Here” (photo)

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After months of speculation (most of it on this website, it seems), director Casey Affleck has finally fessed up about the truth (or fiction) of his “documentary” about actor Joaquin Phoenix. “It’s a terrific performance,” Affleck told The New York Times. “It’s the performance of his career.” I certainly agree; in my review of the film for IFC.com, I speculated that while many scenes looked staged, some seemed too real to be fake, writing “if Phoenix is acting… he is giving one the greatest and most fearless performances of all time.”

According to Affleck now, nearly everything in the movie is staged, even the supposed home movies of Phoenix as a child in Panama (a possibility I’m pretty sure I raised during my discussion of the film with David Chen on The /Filmcast). But as recently as the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, Affleck continued to assert the film’s authenticity. At a press conference in Venice Affleck said, “I can tell you, there’s no hoax. It never entered my mind until other people commented on the movie.” Today in The Times he carefully amended that statement. “I never intended to trick anybody,” he said. “The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.” In retrospect, Affleck was clearly pulling a non-denial denial. Even though “I’m Still Here” is fiction it’s not a “hoax,” because to him the movie speaks to a larger truth about celebrity and fame.

Of course, Affleck didn’t bother correcting people’s misperceptions either. Neither did the film’s distributor, Magnolia, whose publicity materials sell the film as a documentary. Their description of “I’m Still Here on MagPictures.com still begins “The directorial debut of Oscar-nominated actor Casey Affleck, ‘I’m Still Here’ is a striking portrayal of a tumultuous year in the life of internationally acclaimed actor Joaquin Phoenix. With remarkable access, ‘I’m Still Here’ follows the Oscar-nominee as he announces his retirement from a successful film career in the fall of 2008 and sets off to reinvent himself as a hip hop musician.” Does that explicitly say the movie is a documentary? No. Does it strongly imply it? Absolutely.

In an article I wrote last week theorizing about the potential levels of reality within “I’m Still Here,” I examined the larger implications of the film if it was indeed fictional. Looking back at that piece, I’m reminded of all the things in the movie that didn’t look staged: pretending to snort cocaine is easy, pretending to puke as much as Phoenix appears to puke is not. So while I’m not shocked by this news by any means, I’m still impressed (and slightly unsettled) by Phoenix’s dedication to this character and to his and Affleck’s ability to pull the wool over so many people’s eyes.

The question now becomes why Affleck chose to make this announcement now, while the film is still in release. I imagine the fact that Phoenix is scheduled to return to Letterman’s show on September 22 had something to do with it, since the actor would either have to come clean then or continue the deception. But my guess is “I’m Still Here”‘s tepid box office played a bigger role. The film earned $96,000 in about twenty theaters in its opening weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. That wasn’t even good enough to crack the top ten list of the highest per screen averages for the weekend. And while I was absolutely fascinated by “I’m Still Here,” I couldn’t begrudge anyone who felt like the movie wasn’t their cup of tea. If people believed it was real — and Affleck, Phoenix, and company made very little effort to dissuade them of that belief — then they were essentially paying twelve dollars for the privilege of watching someone snort their life up their nose and then flush it down the toilet. Who could blame someone for not being interested in that? Ironically, a movie designed as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of stardom and celebrity might wind up as a cautionary tale about how to market movies that blur the line between fiction and nonfiction.

Does this news make the film less interesting? I’m not sure, but it certainly makes the conversations you can have after the film less fun. In my review of “I’m Still Here,” I wrote “with his first feature as a director, Affleck has made one of the most convincing and interesting movie pranks ever (that is, if he didn’t make one of the most exploitative and morally questionable documentaries ever).” I suspect this movie will eventually be forgotten as a weird footnote on Phoenix’s career, and I wish Affleck’s supposed “subtle clues” designed to “provide hints of his real intention” were a bit less subtle. But I stand by my earlier comments. Affleck and Phoenix pulled off a hoax (sorry Casey, that’s what it is) on a remarkable scale. Despite Affleck’s comments, their achievements are still there.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.