Tag Archives: Joaquin Phoenix

Should Exes Get Back Together?

presidentabrahamlincolnmarytoddlincolnLately, the ex factor keeps messing with my mind. I’ve wondered if exes can be friends, pondered if exes should live together, and examined why sex is better with an ex. Now once again, I’m re-entering the ex-files to pose another all-important ex question: Should we ever even consider reuniting with one of ours?

There was a lot of that going on in the season finale of Girls (Marnie + Charlie, Hannah + Adam — again), but something (experience, hard earned?) tells me happily ever after isn’t part of the plan for either couple. A few lucky examples aside, it rarely is for exes on TV. And even Carrie and Big and Miranda and Steve had to break up and reunite a series of times on Sex and the City before they finally got it together and got to the altar.

While the process of coupling and uncoupling and coupling again (repeat one, two or three times) makes for great story on TV, in real life, you’re just likely to increase your battle scars. I recently watched a biography on Abraham Lincoln which revealed a few things I’d never known before. First, he despised his tyrannical, physically abusive father and refused to see him on his deathbed. (Who would have thought Lincoln could be so vengeful and hold such a powerful grudge?) Second, when U.S. President-to-be Lincoln and future First Lady Mary Todd were first dating, they got engaged, and when he got the proverbial cold feet, broke up. They spent 18 months apart before reuniting and finally marrying.

For those who didn’t glimpse those tense scenes from a marriage in Lincoln, by many historical accounts, the state of their union was often fairly miserable. It was one dead son, a Civil War and an assassination short of happily ever after. And that doesn’t even take into account what was going in the marriage, which, according to the documentary, may have been filled with spousal abuse inflicted upon Lincoln by his wife. This is the Lincoln story I want to see on screen! (Maybe Joaquin Phoenix can play him as a younger guy and get his Oscar.)

In contrast to the turbulent Lincoln marriage, future 26th President Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to marry his ex, Edith Carrow, after the death of his first wife, yielded far more blissful domestic results — or so claimed another Presidential documentary I recently watched.

My ex experiences are closer to that of the Lincolns — though without war, death and slapping. I recently reconnected with one, hoping that a year apart had changed us both enough that our relationship could evolve into something sturdier and more mature. Alas, it didn’t take me long to realize that it couldn’t, and I had to let him go once more. Unfortunately for us both, he hadn’t changed at all. In fact, he had become even more like he was before.

It was my second failed attempt at recapturing lost love. The previous time was nearly 10 years earlier, with an ex whom I had dated 10 years before that. On the surface, he had changed immensely. Formerly the life of every party, he’d morphed into a teetotaling zealot. While I applauded his health-consciousness, when it came right down to it, he’d traded one addiction (party favors) for another (self-righteous sobriety). Same guy, new drug. He had to go.

What did Luke Spencer say again? “People don’t change, they just get older.”

As much as I try to embrace the idea of moving forward, never looking back (after all, as yet another TV great, Vanessa Huxtable, once said, “The ship that sails backwards never sees the sun rise” — technically untrue, but I get her point), a part of me — the hopeless romantic — thinks the perfect love would actually be rediscovered love with an old flame. It’s a hyper-romantic dream, but trying to force it into reality can be like re-watching an old movie or re-reading an old book and expecting a different outcome at the end. If you’re lucky, you might enjoy the story even more the second time around, but the ending will still be the same.

Of course, if you resist the human urge to fall back into old patterns (which with both of my returnee exes, especially the second one, I did — new year, same relationship), together again, two exes can write a brand new story, one that might not be quite happily ever after but rather, to be continued. A perfect denouement might not be guaranteed, but the great scary thing about love and life outside of Bangkok massage parlors is that happy endings never are.


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And the Academy Award Goes To…: Will Oscar Surprise Us in 2013?

For several Oscar seasons and counting, there have been loud complaints from bloggers and pundits about how the Academy Awards have become way too predictable, and for the most part, I’m going to have to side with the gripes. Going into the February 24 ceremony, Oscar’s shock value might be at an all-time low.

Although there have been a few instances of suspense among recent races (last year’s Best Actress contest, for example, was The Help‘s Viola Davis vs. The Iron Lady‘s Meryl Streep, with My Week with Marilyn‘s Michelle Williams as a possible spoiler, right up to the moment when 2011’s oh-so-predictable Best Actor winner Colin Firth opened the envelope and announced Streep’s name), there hasn’t been a truly WTF Oscar moment in the acting categories since 2003. That was the year in which The Pianist‘s Adrien Brody snatched Best Actor from the medium-tight grips of Gangs of New York‘s Daniel Day-Lewis and About Schmidt‘s Jack Nicholson (an upset I began anticipating somewhere between the showing of Brody’s clip and Halle Berry’s opening of the envelope).

This year might seem to be business as usual as usual, but look closely. Some of the major categories are more too-close-to-call than you might think. We’ve become so accustomed to hearing the acceptance speeches of Les Misérables‘ Anne Hathaway and Lincoln‘s Daniel Day-Lewis all Oscar season long, that the other categories have begun to seem like foregone conclusions, too. (Oh, if only The Master‘s Joaquin Phoenix would pull an Adrien Brody, but that’s about as likely to happen as Barbra Streisand hitting a bum note in her first Oscar singing performance since the ’70s.)

With Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress all but wrapped up, there’s still a surprise or two — and possibly at least one upset — waiting to happen in the other major categories.

Best Actress: Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jessica Chastain Vs. Silver Linings Playbook‘s Jennifer Lawrence Vs. Amour‘s Emmanuelle Riva

For most of this Oscar season, it’s appeared to be a two-woman race between Chastain (who won the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globe in the drama category) and Lawrence (who won a Critics Choice Award in the lesser comedy category, the Comedy/Musical Globe and the SAG Award). Then Riva came along and grabbed the BAFTA from their whippersnapper grips. Suddenly, the Oscar is looking like it could be any of theirs to lose.

I’ve been predicting an upset all season in the form of The Impossible‘s Naomi Watts, and I still haven’t completely given up that um, near-impossible, dream. But if the Academy, for the first time since Charlize Theron’s Monster win in 2004, decides to send the Best Actress Oscar home with the contender who deserves it most, there’ll be no stopping Beasts of the Southern Wild‘s Quvenzhané Wallis.

Most Likely to Win: Jennifer Lawrence
But Look Out for: Emmanuelle Riva

Best Supporting Actor: Lincoln‘s Tommy Lee Jones Vs. Django Unchained‘s Christoph Waltz

Who would have thought it possible? What is traditionally the most predictable and least exciting acting category, this year might actually be the second-most interesting one. Jones, Waltz and The Master‘s Phillip Seymour Hoffman have pretty much split the spoils this season (a SAG Award for Jones, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for Waltz, a Critics Choice Award for Hoffman), and it feels like a contest mainly between them (give or take Hoffman, who I’m taking out of the likely showdown scenario). Both Jones and Waltz are in it to win it, and either would be deserving. But I wouldn’t completely count out Robert DeNiro.

The Academy’s acting branch obviously loves Silver Linings Playbook, or it wouldn’t have nominated it in every acting category, and at least one of its four contenders will win. If Best Actress goes to Riva (an outcome I think is more likely than Chastain winning), the movie’s consolation acting prize just might go to DeNiro (making him possibly one of two newly minted three-time winners), and why not? His performance might have looked easy on paper, but he made what could have been a throwaway dad role a pivotal one, finding and accentuating both the vinegar and the sweetness in the character. Bonus points for finally coming of age onscreen, too, fully embracing his patriarchal status, wearing his 69 years proudly and never once giving in to youthful vanity, in much the same way Jack Nicholson did in About Schmidt a decade ago.

Most Likely to Win: Christoph Waltz
But Look Out for: Robert DeNiro

Best Picture: Argo Vs. Silver Linings Playbook Vs. Lincoln

I know, I know. It’s Argo‘s too lose. That’s probably true. But don’t underestimate the Academy’s inclination to throw the occasional curve ball and upset the apples and oranges cart. The Best Picture wins of Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan and Crash over Brokeback Mountain, both among the biggest Oscar gaffes since 1990, according to my friend and Us Weekly critic Mara Reinstein (see the rest of her list here), were hardly upsets to me since I could see them coming from at least a few weeks away. They are, however, proof that Oscar likes to occasionally mess with our minds.

I’m expecting a repeat of 1999 when a Steven Spielberg film (Saving Private Ryan that year, Lincoln tomorrow) won him Best Director but not Best Picture. As acclaimed and successful as Lincoln has been (it’s a movie that was pretty much made for Oscar glory, and the year’s most-nominated film, with 12 nods), it seems to inspire more solemn reverence than the passionate enthusiasm that Silver Linings Playbook incites in its still-growing fan base. And a Best Picture win for indie SLP would make the Academy seem hipper than it has in decades while striking down those accusations of chronic predictability and stodginess.

But considering what The King’s Speech did to The Social Network a few years ago, is that even an Oscar aspiration? If, for once, it is, and if Argo isn’t indestructible by now, SLP might be the one contender that can still take the wind out of its sails.

Most Likely to Win: Argo
But Look Out for: Silver Linings Playbook

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5 Reasons Why I Want Joaquin Phoenix to Snatch Daniel Day-Lewis’s Third Oscar

1. He’s weather-beaten and looks about 10 years older than he is (not Lincoln, Joaquin Phoenix, 38), but I still had a hard time taking my eyes off of Phoenix (and by extension, Freddie Quell) whenever he was onscreen in The Master. The way he walked, the way he stood, the way he sat, shoulders perpetually slumped forward, hands awkwardly positioned on the back of his hips, all gave Quell an arch disgracefulness that was nothing short of Masterful. Thanks to Phoenix’s specific physical choices, Quell seemed uncomfortable not only in his own skin but in the world as well.

2. The way Phoenix guided Quell from at ease and playful to increasingly uncomfortable to tense and agitated to enraged to wistful to regretful to tearful to jovial during the first processing session with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s titular Lancaster Dodd was more powerful than anything I saw Denzel Washington do in Flight, or Bradley Cooper do in Silver Linings Playbook, or Hugh Jackman do in Les Misérables, or, yes, even Daniel Day-Lewis do in Lincoln. Quell was a mix of standout characteristics of at least three of the characters played by Phoenix’s Best Actor Oscar competition, a drunk like Washington’s Whip Whitaker, cuckoo like Cooper’s Pat Solitano (though hardly recovering) and criminal like Jackman’s Jean Valjean (again, hardly reformed). If The Master had been set 100 years earlier, circa 1850, I have no doubt that Freddie would have wanted to free the slaves, too.

3. Daniel Day-Lewis name-dropped Phoenix in his SAG acceptance speech, probably partly because The Master director Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous directorial effort, There Will Be Blood, won Day-Lewis his second Oscar five years ago, but probably mostly because Phoenix is that good. And how fitting would it be for him to win for a film in which he co-starred with Philip Seymour Hoffman, the guy who beat him last time he was up for an Oscar, in 2006, for resurrecting Johnny Cash without a hint of imitation in Walk the Line.

4. It’s the kind of detailed anti-heroic characterization that used to regularly win Jack Nicholson Oscar nominations in the ’70s and ultimately the grand Best Actor prize for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Phoenix is like a master ’70s thespian dressed for the ’50s, a decade that Anderson beautifully recreated for The Master, as an actual decade, not as the set design it seemed to be in On the Road, another 2012 film co-starring Amy Adams, still not quite justifying why she’s a four-time Oscar nominee. In Phoenix’s hands, Freddie Quell was almost like an extension of the character Phoenix played in his last film (himself), 2010’s I’m Still Here, while remaining original and fresh enough to avoid coming across like a self-portrait.

5. Phoenix made you feel for Freddie and want to strangle him at the same time. The character was introduced as an enigma — it was hard to tell if he was crazy, damaged, crippled, or just always drunk — and Phoenix maintained those shades of gray while making the man-child specific and distinctive. The performance was a perfectly calibrated blend of internal and physical. He was combative and feral, at times scary, seemingly always on the brink of erupting into violence (and more so as the film went on). At other times, he made Freddie’s internal pain so palpable that I wanted to reach through the screen and hug him — and maybe offer him a healthy meal plan, too. Freddie might not have been the good man that Daniel Day-Lewis’s — and history’s — Lincoln was, but Phoenix made him nearly as indelible.

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