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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Joaquin Phoenix

01.04.2015

Last week, we took a look at the career of tough guy extraordinaire Bruce Willis. This week's actor is more atypical for this column, but look below the surface and you'll find an actor that's absolutely uncompromising in his pursuit of quality material....

Joaquin Phoenix
 

Earlier this year, it seemed like Joaquin Phoenix was on the verge of signing a long-term deal with Marvel that would have seen him cast as DR. STRANGE. While it ultimately didn't happen (Benedict Cumberbatch wound up getting the part) just the fact that Phoenix was being pursued shows you how completely Phoenix, who was all but written off during his I'M STILL HERE phase, has succeeded in his comeback.

Prior to his big breakdown (which he maintains was a piece of performance art that got out of hand) Phoenix was quickly making his way onto the A-list. After breaking through with his turn in TO DIE FOR, Phoenix (the brother of the late, great River Phoenix) rapidly became a heartthrob in movies like INVENTING THE ABBOTTS, and then a well-regarded character actor in films like RETURN TO PARADISE (a movie which proves the folks behind TRUE DETECTIVE were wise to cast Vince Vaughn in a serious part), CLAY PIGEONS, and as the sneering villain in Ridley Scott's GLADIATOR.

Phoenix hit his commercial pinnacle in the early 2000's in LADDER 49 and hit the big time with WALK THE LINE, where he played Johnny Cash – and walked away with an Oscar nomination for his trouble. After that, Phoenix went a little squirrely, but Paul Thomas Anderson's THE MASTER re-established him in a big way, gaining him another Oscar nomination. Since then, Phoenix has consistently cited as one of the best – if most unusual – actors of his generation.

His Best Film
 

Up to last year, WALK THE LINE would have easily been my choice for Phoenix's best performance. However, Spike Jonze's HER is without a doubt the best thing he's ever done. Not only is it an absolute masterpiece and one of the most affecting – if unconventional – love stories of our time, but Phoenix is admirable restrained, making for a vulnerable romantic lead. He's never been better, and I'd wager HER is one of the best movies of the decade.

His Most Overrated Film
 

One movie I never got the affection for is LADDER 49. A warmhearted tribute to firemen, the movie has good intentions but is ultimately a watered-down BACKDRAFT (and not even close to the level of something like RESCUE ME), and about as bland as a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. It feels like Phoenix was chasing stardom with this movie, and I really doubt he'd ever agree to something as conventional as this nowadays.

His Most Underrated Film
 

When James Gray's WE OWN THE NIGHT came out in 2007, I thought is was one of the best films of the year. Sadly, I was one of the few to think this as the movie wasn't well-received. For me, it remains James Gray's best film. Gray clearly loves Phoenix, with them having done THE YARDS, TWO LOVERS and THE IMMIGRANT together, and it's easy to see why. Phoenix always delivers, and this is probably their most accessible, enjoyable collaboration, being a tough thriller casting him as a drugged-up nightclub owner turned informant who tries to measure up to his cop father (Robert Duvall) and macho brother (Mark Wahlberg). It's a consistently surprising, action-packed movie, and a gem just waiting to be discovered.

His Most Memorable Scene

THE MASTER is the film that really put Joaquin Phoenix back on the map and it's easy to see why. The amount of anger that he unleashes at various points in the movie is truly uncomfortable to watch, and he often gives us the impression that we're watching a caged animal. Nowhere is this more apparent then in the scene where Phoenix is locked-up along side Hoffman's false prophet, and proceeds to tear his cell to shreds.

His Top Five Films

5. TO DIE FOR
4. GLADIATOR
3. INHERENT VICE
2. WALK THE LINE
1. HER

Up Next

While Phoenix still hasn't found a movie as commercially successful as WALK THE LINE, he's firmly back on the A-list. This week sees the wide release of his latest P.T Anderson collaboration, INHERENT VICE, while he'll also pop up in Woody Allen' latest by the year's end.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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10:13PM on 01/05/2015

Love Phoenix

Gladiator, Walk the Line, We Own The Night, and The Yards are probably my favorite from him. My overrated vote would go to HER. I thought it was beautifully shot and we'll acted but the story was wayyyyy too predictable. I knew what was gonna happen within 10 min. Good film but I can't agree with all the masterpiece talk it got. On another note, this column continues to be the best read on Joblo every week. Keep up the great work Bumbray! This Schmoe appreciates it!
Gladiator, Walk the Line, We Own The Night, and The Yards are probably my favorite from him. My overrated vote would go to HER. I thought it was beautifully shot and we'll acted but the story was wayyyyy too predictable. I knew what was gonna happen within 10 min. Good film but I can't agree with all the masterpiece talk it got. On another note, this column continues to be the best read on Joblo every week. Keep up the great work Bumbray! This Schmoe appreciates it!
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6:31PM on 01/05/2015
Watched 'Gladiator' last night, and was reminded of how amazing it is. Phoenix is superb.
Watched 'Gladiator' last night, and was reminded of how amazing it is. Phoenix is superb.
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4:08PM on 01/05/2015

Big Joaquin fan

I've been a fan of this guy for awhile. Everyone knew him from Gladiator but I think Signs is the first time I really took note of him. Say what you will about that movie, but he was freaking great. I will say that The Master is probably his best role. The way in which he transforms himself into that whack job of a character is nothing short of brilliant. I also appreciate that you mentioned We Own the Night as his underrated gem because I would have to agree. That's a nice little flick that no
I've been a fan of this guy for awhile. Everyone knew him from Gladiator but I think Signs is the first time I really took note of him. Say what you will about that movie, but he was freaking great. I will say that The Master is probably his best role. The way in which he transforms himself into that whack job of a character is nothing short of brilliant. I also appreciate that you mentioned We Own the Night as his underrated gem because I would have to agree. That's a nice little flick that no one seems to remember. Can't wait to check out Inheritant Vice!!!
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1:40PM on 01/05/2015
Never been a fan of this guy, I really don't see the admiration. I think he has a spell over people where they see something different than I do.
Never been a fan of this guy, I really don't see the admiration. I think he has a spell over people where they see something different than I do.
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4:11PM on 01/05/2015
I don't agree with your opinion but I'm not going to bash you for it. I think Joaquin is an acquired taste. Also it depends on which films of his you've seen. If you've only seen his more "mainstream" stuff than I can understand. Check out The Master if you haven't already. His character is completely unlike anything I've seen and he totally owns it.
I don't agree with your opinion but I'm not going to bash you for it. I think Joaquin is an acquired taste. Also it depends on which films of his you've seen. If you've only seen his more "mainstream" stuff than I can understand. Check out The Master if you haven't already. His character is completely unlike anything I've seen and he totally owns it.
12:07PM on 01/05/2015

Am I not merciful?

Personal opinion, but I feel his most memorable scene would have to be anything from "Gladiator".

Personal opinion, but I feel his most memorable scene would have to be anything from "Gladiator".

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11:46AM on 01/05/2015
I watched We Own the Night last year, and I'm still a little sore that the copy I watched messed up in the final moments, because up to that point (and particularly the intense and heartbreaking car ambush) were superior acting and filmmaking. Having said that, I still think Two Lovers is slightly better, personally,(haven't seen The Immigrant yet). I think Phoenix drew from that same well for Her, which is not only his best performance, but in my opinion one of the great performances, and one
I watched We Own the Night last year, and I'm still a little sore that the copy I watched messed up in the final moments, because up to that point (and particularly the intense and heartbreaking car ambush) were superior acting and filmmaking. Having said that, I still think Two Lovers is slightly better, personally,(haven't seen The Immigrant yet). I think Phoenix drew from that same well for Her, which is not only his best performance, but in my opinion one of the great performances, and one of the few times in recent years I cared enough to call the Academy out for not nominating him.
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4:15PM on 01/05/2015
That car ambush in We Own the Night is FREAKIN INTENSE!!!!! Movies usually don't sideline me like that but HOLY CRAP!!! Did NOT see that coming. That movie deserves way more credit than it gets.
That car ambush in We Own the Night is FREAKIN INTENSE!!!!! Movies usually don't sideline me like that but HOLY CRAP!!! Did NOT see that coming. That movie deserves way more credit than it gets.
7:45AM on 01/05/2015
He's a very versatile actor. Really love him in Walk The Line and We Own The Night.
He's a very versatile actor. Really love him in Walk The Line and We Own The Night.
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5:25AM on 01/05/2015
Underrated - 'Buffalo Soldiers'
Underrated - 'Buffalo Soldiers'
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3:24AM on 01/05/2015

no mention of his great performance in U TURN ??????????????

He had a small but amazing performance in Oliver Stone's U-TURN ! Love that redneck guy from Superior, AZ(was in AZ last year visiting, and wanted to go to Superior to meet TOBY N. TUCKER aka TNT, lol).
LADDER 49 can't be his most overrated film cause (maybe I missed something) nobody says it is a masterpiece, not even it is qualified as a very good movie...
My top 5 Joaquin Phoenix :
- Gladiator
- The Yards
- Buffalo Soldiers
- We own the night
- Two lovers
-
He had a small but amazing performance in Oliver Stone's U-TURN ! Love that redneck guy from Superior, AZ(was in AZ last year visiting, and wanted to go to Superior to meet TOBY N. TUCKER aka TNT, lol).
LADDER 49 can't be his most overrated film cause (maybe I missed something) nobody says it is a masterpiece, not even it is qualified as a very good movie...
My top 5 Joaquin Phoenix :
- Gladiator
- The Yards
- Buffalo Soldiers
- We own the night
- Two lovers
-
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12:26AM on 01/05/2015
One of the best, most versatile and exciting actors working today. Favorite films of his are Walk the Line, Her, and The Master. And one of his most underrated performances in my opinion was in The Village (even though he's not in the film very long, he was really effective with so little screentime).

One of my favorite actors and can't wait to see him in Inherent Vice.
One of the best, most versatile and exciting actors working today. Favorite films of his are Walk the Line, Her, and The Master. And one of his most underrated performances in my opinion was in The Village (even though he's not in the film very long, he was really effective with so little screentime).

One of my favorite actors and can't wait to see him in Inherent Vice.
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4:19PM on 01/05/2015
Someone actually mentioning The Village in a positive light?!?!?!?! No joke I LOVE that movie and every M Night film before it (none after). I almost forgot he was in it cuz its been so long but he was great in it. The "scene" between him and Adrian Brody was amazing! Great tension with an insane pay off. Everything about that scene was perfect. Makes me really miss the old M Night.
Someone actually mentioning The Village in a positive light?!?!?!?! No joke I LOVE that movie and every M Night film before it (none after). I almost forgot he was in it cuz its been so long but he was great in it. The "scene" between him and Adrian Brody was amazing! Great tension with an insane pay off. Everything about that scene was perfect. Makes me really miss the old M Night.
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