“I’m Still Here,” Reviewed

“I’m Still Here,” Reviewed (photo)

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Casey Affleck wants us to believe his documentary about actor Joaquin Phoenix’s retirement is real. For his sake, I hope he’s lying.

If “I’m Still Here” is real, then that means Affleck saw Phoenix, his brother-in-law, throwing away his career, his sobriety, and his maybe his sanity and decided to pick up a camera and get it all on film rather than stage an intervention. Instead of helping him heal in private he’s aired his ugliest behavior in front of the entire world. In other words, if “I’m Still Here” is the genuine article, Affleck might be the worst brother-in-law in history.

But while he may not win any awards for responsible familial behavior, he deserves at least a little credit for his filmmaking skills. 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). For the moment, let’s assume the former.

In that case, “I’m Still Here” is the “War of the Worlds” of actor meltdown movies. Its execution is so flawless and its internal logic is so strong, that we need the end credits to tell us that the film is not what it claims to be. It’s an interesting film to watch and an even more interesting film to discuss (for that reason, do not go see this movie alone). Since watching “I’m Still Here” on Tuesday I’ve had more conversations about it, about what it is and what it means, than any film this year except “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

Like “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “I’m Still Here” is equal parts chronicle of and joke on the intersection of art and celebrity in our society. The facts of the movie are already well-known because they all took place on television. In 2008, Phoenix, sick of “playing the character of Joaquin” in the media (a clue, perhaps?) suddenly announced his retirement from acting and began performing as a hip hop artist. He played a nightclub in Vegas and fell off the stage. He showed up for an interview on Letterman and acted confused and possibly high.

How did we go from the man who starred in “Two Lovers,” a world-class thespian delivering an heart-wrenching performance, to the man who promoted “Two Lovers,” a sloppy, rambling weirdo who makes subway hobos look eloquent in comparison? Phoenix’s documentary fills in the gaps. When he wasn’t insisting he was done with Hollywood, Phoenix was scouring the Internet for hookers, snorting coke off their breasts, belittling his assistants, or practically stalking P. Diddy to try to convince him to produce his album.

Did Phoenix really think he had a future as a rapper? Did he ambush Diddy “Borat”-style or was Sean Combs in on the joke the whole time? I personally believe the truth of “I’m Still Here” lies somewhere in the murk between the two extremes of documentary and fiction. Though Phoenix and Affleck are the film’s credited writers, and some of the parts appear to have been filled by actors, Phoenix looks too legitimately high at times to be acting. Compare him stumbling around, puffing on a joint and doing cocaine to someone like Nicolas Cage in “Bad Lieutenant.” If Phoenix is acting in some of these scenes, he is giving one the greatest and most fearless performances of all time.

But the fact that Phoenix may be legitimately high doesn’t automatically make this a documentary either. Phoenix is a great actor; he’s also one of our craziest. How do we know he wouldn’t get genuinely stoned on camera for the sake of verisimilitude in a fiction film? I’m still not sure. And that ambuiguity is the point.

In 2010, reality and fiction are not only indistinguishable in popular culture, the difference between them is essentially irrelevant. Millions of people tune in every week to watch “Jersey Shore,” never questioning how much of the show is staged for the cameras, or written by writers, or massaged in the editing room. Whether Phoenix was high on Letterman or whether he was pretending to be high, the resultant impact on his career was the same. Whether he’s a terrible rapper or a performance artist aping the affectations of a terrible rapper, his audience wasn’t interested in parsing the difference. They just wanted to see the freak show and get a video of it on their cell phones.

If “I’m Still Here” is real, even in some small way, it is a freak show. Some of Phoenix’s antics are funny, at least until you remember the possibility that he’s not joking. On the other hand, maybe he was joking all along but nobody got the joke, and now he has to suffer the consequences. If Phoenix is as screwed up as he looks in this film, then Affleck owes his brother-in-law an apology (he might also need to explain himself to his wife, Joaquin’s sister Summer, who does not appear in the film). If it’s not then it is one hell of a hoax. This movie has to be seen to be simultaneously believed and disbelieved.

That 70s Show James Franco

That '70s Franco

Watch James Franco’s Geriatric That ’70s Show Spoof

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays 6-11P on IFC.

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Ever wonder if Jackie, Kelso, Fez, Donna, Hyde, and Eric ever made it out of Red‘s basement? According to James Franco, those dumbasses definitely did not.

In a new episode of AOL’s “Making a Scene with James Franco,” the actor peered into the future of the gang from That ’70s Show to see what they’d be up to if the show actually continued into their 70s. Turns out they’re still sitting around the basement, sharing a joint, and listening to some of the Steve Miller Band’s greatest hits.

In the sketch, aptly called “That 70s ’70s Show,” Franco plays both a stoned, elderly Kelso as well as a nostril-hair heavy Eric Forman. The only member of the crew who has made it out of the basement is Donna, who has sadly passed away into a higher plane of existence (yes, it’s possible for them to get higher) leaving Eric to mourn the loss of his one true love.

For more That ’70s Show, find out who almost played Red Forman and more fun facts.

That 70s Show Fez

Fez Fever!

Think You Know Fez? Take This Quiz!

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P ET/PT.

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Fez played the role of the outsider on That ’70s Show, but was quickly welcomed into the Circle. How deeply have you accepted Fez into your life? Click below to start the quiz and find out!



Get Carrie's New Book

Pre-Order Carrie Brownstein’s Memoir and Win a Chance to See Sleater-Kinney in NYC

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl will be released on October 27th

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Attention fans of Portlandia and reading! Carrie Brownstein’s highly anticipated memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, is going to be released by Penguin on October 27th, but pre-ordering has its benefits. If you pre-order the “deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music” from iBooks, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon, you can win a chance to see Sleater-Kinney perform in NYC.

Simply click here to enter your pre-order information, fill in the requested information (name, email and pre order #) and you’ll be entered for a chance to win two round-trip tickets, hotel, and transportation to NYC to see Carrie in concert on Sunday, December 13th. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to be eligible to win.)

You can also catch Carrie on her nationwide book tour at one of the dates below where she will be joined by specials guests like Questlove, Amy Poehler and more. And check out the full awesome book cover as well below.


WORD Bookstore at Saint Vitus Bar

In conversation with Questlove


Barnes & Noble Union Square

In conversation with Gaby Hoffman


Philadelphia Free Library at The Merriam Theater

In conversation with Aidy Bryant


Pitchfork at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


BookPeople at Central Presbyterian Church

In conversation with Liz Lambert


Vroman’s Bookstore at Pasadena Presbyterian

In conversation with Amy Poehler


Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

In conversation with Dave Eggers


Powell’s Books at The Newmark Theatre

In conversation with a Special Guest TBA


Elliott Bay Book Company at The Neptune Theater

In conversation with Maria Semple


Drawn & Quarterly at The Rialto Theatre

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


Toronto Public Library’s Appel Salon

In conversation with Johanna Schneller




Todd Margaret Returns

David Cross and Todd Margaret Are Returning to IFC In January

Todd Margaret returns to IFC on January 7th, 2016.

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Crack open your stockpiled hoards of Thunder Muscle, because David Cross’ series Todd Margaret is returning to IFC for a third season. The show will return on Thursday, January 7th, 2016 with the first three episodes of the six-episode series airing back-to-back beginning at 10PM ET/PT. The remaining three episodes will premiere the following week on Thursday, January 14th at 10pm ET/PT.

Season two of Todd Margaret ended with a literal bang, with Todd blowing up the world as he continued to make increasingly poor decisions in his role as an American titan of industry. “Since we last saw Todd Margaret, which we thought was actually the last time we’d see him, this show has become a favorite among comedy fans,” commented Jennifer Caserta, IFC’s president. “Only David Cross could write his way around destroying the world to resurrect this character and story in a way that’s mind blowing and completely hilarious.”

In season three, fans will meet a very different Todd as the creators guide him on a journey which goes to some truly unexpected places. In addition to Cross, the new season will feature Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) along with Will Arnett (Arrested Development, BoJack Horseman), Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners 2), Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), Amber Tamblyn (Two and a Half Men) and Russ Tamblyn (Django Unchained), who return to the series playing familiar characters…with a twist. Check back for more Todd Margaret updates as we head to the big premiere in January.

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