Joaquin Phoenix

It's that Scientology movie: A look at THE MASTER with Joaquin Phoenix

It's that Scientology movie: A look at THE MASTER with Joaquin Phoenix

While everyone is over the moon about the latest from Wes Anderson, another favorite Director Anderson—namely Paul Thomas of BOOGIE NIGHTS and THERE WILL BE BLOOD fame—has been makin’ waves with his newest project for months. THE MASTER follows a story that very closely resembles the inception of Scientology, the so-seductive religion of the Hollywood elite, and features a stellar cast ranging from Amy Adams to Laura Dern. Apparently, Tom Cruise (the crown prince of that Scientology elite?) got a private screening(after all, Cruise and PT Anderson go way back to MAGNOLIA). The Cruise screening, along with his alleged reservations about the film, is a clear indication that THE MASTER is a sensitive issue amongst Scientologists, who fervently follow the teachings of the extremely controversial (and long dead) L. Ron Hubbard. And now we can all get in on the speculation! The Weinstein Company released a first look trailer of the film direct from Cannes:

TO DIE FOR out now on blu-ray

TO DIE FOR out now on blu-ray

My all-time favorite Buck Henry film, Gus Van Sant’s TO DIE FOR, is now out on blu-ray. Perhaps Nicole Kidman’s greatest comic/ironic performance, she strikes the perfect balance as Suzanne Stone, the overly ambitious, small town weather woman who dreams of stardom and comes to realize her pizza-slinging husband is a massive hindrance. So she does what any aspiring career woman would do: she enlists some disaffected teenagers to kill him. And it’s actually both dramatic and funny. The entire film, in fact, is an exercise in tone perfection, and that’s really, really hard to do.

The film is a balancing act between the ridiculous with the believable. Characters are…

New Year's hopes and dreams for 2011

New Year's hopes and dreams for 2011

1) Let’s not have any more hoax-umentaries!

You know, those incredible, shocking docs that turn out to be wink-wink p.r. stunts once the whistle’s blown. The one about Joaquin Phoenix, I’m Still Here, was tantalizingly enjoyable, as the former acting heavyweight cavorted with coke, hookers, and generally self-destructive behavior, until we learned that it was all a fake designed to actually build up his career. And there were serious doubts about the veracity of the Facebook saga Catfish, not to mention the complete truthfulness of the street-art epic Exit Through The Gift Shop. (When one of a film’s central talking heads has to have his face and voice blocked, you can’t be sure of anything). In 2011, let’s leave the murky journalism and put-ons to reality shows, OK?

I'M STILL HERE

I'M STILL HERE

So not everybody is in on the hoax. At my local Community Center Appalachian gym the other day, the woman next to me on the elliptical was approached by a friend describing the “very sad” film she’d seen at our local art house theatre – I’M NOT THERE. “It’s terrible,” she said. “You see this innocent young boy at the beginning of the film [hoax], and then by the end, after all these drugs and alcohol and fame, you see what he’s become [hoax].” It turns out that it’s a pretty amazing feat. You leave the theatre really zeroing in on particular moments …. How did they do that? Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix basically duped the media and used its venues and players as their sets and extras, reflecting on contemporary celebrity and the reporters who work there. But hoax is too strong (it’s just fun to say). It’s pure performance. Phoenix is playing “Himself,” says the credits, but he’s really not. He’s playing a desperate celebrity – maybe a version of himself, but a pretty spectacular one — who attacks strangers, shreds his ‘friends’ to ribbons with profanity rants and barfs violently into toilets. He was really barfing, wasn’t he? He lived this character in the moment to moment nonfiction landscape of reality, making the film the most hybrid of hybrids to come along in a good while, and I don’t mean a Prius. (That’s doc plus fiction, good sirs.)

Watch this: Animated video of when Herzog rescued Phoenix

Watch this: Animated video of when Herzog rescued Phoenix

Werner Herzog narrates this short film, which utilizes papercraft animation with what looks like construction paper, about the time he randomly rescued Joaquin Phoenix from a car crash on January 26, 2006. Side note that only I will care about: January 26 is my birthday.

HOTEL RWANDA on Tastemakers

HOTEL RWANDA on Tastemakers

HOTEL RWANDA (2004) is the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a Hutu hotel manager who took in hundreds of refugees, Hutu and Tutsi alike, during the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which one million people died over the course of only three months in one of the most abominable UN bungles in history. Despite…