joaquin phoenix

Blu-ray REVIEW: I’m Still Here (2010)

By special request of J. at Resurrection Songs!  This is an old review that I wrote when the Blu-ray of I’m Still Here was released.  I have since sold the movie and have no good way of re-watching in order to ensure I still feel the same way about it.  Hence, this review was written in 2010 and may or may not reflect my opinions if I saw the movie again….

IM STILL HERE BLUI’M STILL HERE (2010 Magnolia)

Directed by Casey Affleck

I can’t stand today’s media as much as the next guy, so when Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix revealed that they just “punk’d” the media in a big way, I was curious about the results. Joaquin faked a major meltdown in front of the world, pretending that he was retiring from acting to become a rapper. His rapper persona, “JP”, grew out a long straggly beard and hair to feign mental illness.

The movie never addresses the issue of “fake/real”. As far as the film is concerned, Affleck doesn’t let on. It was only after the fact that they both let the cat out of the bag.

Things start out innocently enough. “JP” reveals that he’s become interested in music and wants to concentrate on that. As the beard expands, so does the odd behaviour. Weird, disjointed and off-rhythm raps, dirty clothes, and the beard continue to grow. The infamous Letterman appearance follows and this is when most people heard of Phoenix’s breakdown. The media reports, which immediately follow his public television “meltdown”, are covered as well.

JP gets frustrated trying to find a producer, finally getting some interest from P. Diddy. Trying to hook up with Diddy is damn near impossible, but when he does, Diddy is interested. One song, “Compli-fuckin-cated”, could have been a novelty hit for real. When it comes time for concerts, the stage gigs don’t go well, as JP is heckled by the crowd. Can JP redeem his rap career and finally begin to express himself in a meaningful way? If the drugs don’t get to him first, maybe.

I’m Still Here wasn’t a bad film. It was definitely a unique film; I’m just not sure how much entertainment value it had. Pranks tend to go best when they are short and sweet,and to the point. When they last a year and become a full length movie, the lines between prank and reality are blurred (which I’m sure was part of the point). I admit that Phoenix did outdo himself, creating this character based on himself, and living with it for this time, never breaking character in public. The problem is, while technically it is a great achievement, as a character JP isn’t all that interesting. As a breakdown, we’ve seen far more interesting real ones in recent years. Hard to top Britney shaving her head, you know?

Spacehog fans will enjoy Antony Langdon’s appearance as a personal assistant to JP. Royston Langdon contributed to songwriting.

The Blu-ray bonuses are generous, with all sorts of featurettes and deleted scenes with commentary. Perhaps they will shed some light on the process. The movie hasn’t clicked with me, but I’ll give it another shot. It is a strange animal after all.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Two – Voyeurs (1998)

Part 4 in a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!  Missed the last part?  Click here for Fight – A Small Deadly Space.

TWO – Voyeurs (1998 Nothing)

Fight was kaput.  Rob had a new band, a photo of whom appeared in Metal Edge magazine.  The band was called Halford, and although that would change, Rob used his surname for another band later on.  I remember a weird looking blonde dude wearing a silver skin tight suit of some kind (more on him later), and I thought, “Well, OK then.  This is going to be different.”  Soon after the Metal Edge photo, the name had changed from Halford, to Two.

I had a buddy, Nathan, who was really into Nine Inch Nails.  This Halford project was on his radar as well, due to Rob’s collaboration with Trent Reznor.  At the time, Rob Halford insisted that the resulting album, an industrial/rock hybrid, was the sound he was going for all along when he quit Priest in ’92 and formed Fight.

I don’t believe that, but they did come close on the Mutations EP. I think Fight was exactly what he wanted to do at that time. When the second Fight album fizzled I think Rob questioned his musical direction, hooked up with Trent, and did this experimental record.

Two (stylized as 2wo) were experimental by Halford’s standards, but not by industrial music standards in general. Voyeurs has all the expected bells and whistles, including but not limited to:  distorted vocals, the word “pig” in a song title, thumpy bass, ticky-ticky sounds, bloops, bleeps, and other stuff that sounds like broken machinery.

What does make this album special is that the band was “Two”, not “One”…meaning there is a second guy involved here, and what a talent he was. That guy was guitar player John 5. This was his breakthrough release. After this he hooked up with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, et al. John 5’s involvement means there is some wicked guitar work here, including “I Am A Pig” which features a solo that sounds like a mashup of Morello and Satriani.

Highlight songs include “I Am A Pig” (Reznor sure loves his pig imagery), “Stutter Kiss”, “Hey Sha La La”, “Water’s Leaking”, and the epic closer “Bed of Rust”.  “Bed of Rust” could have made a pretty cool Fight track.  I would say in fact that there are no throwaway songs here.  All of them have something worthwhile to offer.  Just don’t think too much about the lyrics.  Halford’s delivery is understated and, at times, whispery. No screams. At Reznor’s suggestion,  instead Rob explored other aspects of his voice.

Other notable names:  Bob Marlette plays bass and produces.  Dave “Rave” Ogilvie does some production work.  Trent Reznor “executive produced”.  I always wondered what that means.  I picture it meaning that Trent gives the project either a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” when the real work is done.

JOAQIN

Of course many Priest fans didn’t get it, although a chunk of the Reznor fans (who at the time would buy anything on Nothing records) accepted and enjoyed the album for what it is.  I think if this was a release by a more popular band, like say Nine Inch Nails or KMFDM, it could have spawned two or three singles.

Japan had a bonus track called “In My Head” which is absolutely impossible to find, so good luck. I’ve never heard it.

3.5/5 stars

Postscript:

It was during this period, promoting the Two album, that Rob Halford came out.  People joked for a good number of years that Rob’s sexuality was the worst kept secret in rock.  That can’t negate the courage that it took for Rob to come out in a musical genre that isn’t always kind to anyone who’s “different” (hello, Blabbermouth!).

“I think it’s difficult for everybody, you know, in making the decision to come forward and be who you are, based on peer pressure, especially if you’re a teenager,” Halford said. “That’s where a lot of the anxiety begins, and so maybe people like myself and others that do step in front of a camera and let the world know, maybe it’s of some help, where there’s an individual that’s been successful, that’s been able to achieve dreams and visions and goals in life and not let the issue of sexuality be something to hold them back, so I think it’s an important thing.”

More:

LGTBICONS:  Rob Halford – Angel of Retribution

MTV News – Rob Halford Discusses Sexuality Publicly For The First Time