It’s your Yom Kippur Friday movie news dump

Yom Kippur is the holiday where one abstains from worldly pleasures of all kinds, including eating and drinking, and reflects on spiritual and moral values, atoning for one’s sins, and becoming a better person. In other words, just another day in Hollywood!

*  The big news right now is the bombshell, but not unexpected, admission to the New York Times by Casey Affleck that “I’m Still Here” is a fictional film. Moreover, Affleck still may not have come completely clean because he stated that David Letterman wasn’t in on the truth during the notorious interview with star/co-conspirator Joaquin Phoenix. Via Company Town, we learn that Letterman writer Bill Scheft is comparing what went on to Andy Kaufman stunts and even took credit for one of the lines.

Joaquin Phoenix in A lot of people apparently think that Affleck, perhaps more than Phoenix, has some atoning to do, including Anne Thompson. I guess I can understand her frustration at being manipulated and lied to, but ultimately, it’s only a movie and we in the show biz press have all the credibility of car salesmen. Also it is, after all, a movie. From everything I’ve heard about the film, the far greater sin would have been if it had actually been real.

* Orthodox Jewish-bred Israeli-Brit Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be well on his way to a Shana Tova (good year). He’ll be moving into the world of “serious” acting in a planned biopic about the late multitalented Queen singer/songwriter/pianist Freddie Mercury to be written by the exceedingly busy docu-drama specialist Peter Morgan. I’ve read some ethnic quibbles somewhere (sorry, lost the link) since Mercury’s family hailed from parts of Asia. It seems to me the physical resemblance tells the tale and is no more offensive than the multi-ethnic Asian-Caucasian-Native American Lou Diamond Phillips playing a Mexican-American teen in “Stand and Deliver,” despite having not a drop of Latino blood in his veins. All ethnicities are really ethnic mixes anyhow. I can’t count the number of times I assumed someone was Jewish only to find out they were actually a mix of other groups that just came out looking all Jewy or people who look Latino who are actually Eurasian, etc.

No one seems to know whether Cohen, who can sing a little, will sing his own part. Considering Mercury’s remarkable voice, I wouldn’t complain if they simply used the old recordings. If it was good enough for “The Jolson Story” it’s good enough for this.

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Is Joaquin Phoenix faking it?

Joaquin Phoenix has created quite a stir with his bizzare appearance on the David Letterman Show last week. Was this real? Is he really quitting acting to pursue a career as a rapper, or might this be an elaborate hoax?

Chris Willman offers some interesting observations about Phoenix and the rumored hoax.

What to make, then, of the grainy video footage of this erstwhile perfectionist stumbling around on stage in Las Vegas, kicking off his supposed new career as a rapper? Of the announcement that he was retiring from movies to achieve new levels of excellence in his true calling, hip-hop? The documentary cameras tracking his every suddenly awkward move? Even if Phoenix never previously seemed like Mr. Levity, it seemed easy enough — to me, anyway — to write off his intentions to be the new Eminem (or Everlast) as a very elaborate gag. But after his appearance as a heavily bearded, disheveled catatonic on Letterman Wednesday night, which ended with the host invoking Farrah Fawcett as a comparatively more lucid guest, the stakes suddenly got higher. Columnists and bloggers predicted the end of Phoenix’s career, even if he should abandon hippity-hop and come crawling back to movies. Fans and detractors lamented his transformation from the potential Brando of his generation into the poster child for “just say no” (to drugs, Vanilla Ice, or both). Half the viewers thought the standoff with Dave was hilarious, and half deeply sad, but in either case, most figured the laughs or tears were on Phoenix.

Which makes this potentially one of the greatest performances any modern actor has ever given — or at least one of the most baldly courageous. The closest comparison would have to be Andy Kaufman’s utter commitment to his obnoxious Tony Clifton persona, but Phoenix is going Kaufman one braver here, by not slapping a fake name on the alter ego bur rather inviting the audience to mistake his damaged doppelganger for himself, over an indeterminate length of time that could leave his “real” career hanging in limbo. There is an end in sight: Phoenix’s pal Casey Affleck is shooting all this for what insiders presume is a mockumentary about the breakdown of a burned-out actor. The risk, of course, is how lame it might turn out to be if Phoenix and Affleck remove the masks and say “just kidding” when it’s time for their film to finally come out. My hunch is that if they’re taking it this far — and watching Letterman, it was clear that Phoenix is in deep, deep, deep cover — they might take it all the way into and past the premiere and continue insisting that Phoenix’s actorly dissolution was legit.

The entire article is worth a read.

  

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My Most Memorable Interviews of 2008

I recently went back and counted up how many interviews I’ve done for Bullz-Eye since I first came aboard the site, and I was astounded to find that – counting both one-on-one conversations as well as teleconferences – the number tops 200. Wow. Anyone who thinks that I don’t work hard for my money, I say to you that the figures speak for themselves. Looking back at the list of folks with whom I’ve chatted during the course of the past year, I find myself thinking the same thing I think every day of every year: it might’ve sucked to do all of that unpaid freelance writing for all those years, but it was totally fucking worth it. And with that bold statement, allow me to present a list of the interviews from 2008 that still remain fresh in my mind…for a variety of reasons.

* Best-received interview of the year:

Tom Smothers. I’m used to hearing from my friends when I do an interview that they enjoy, but I heard from several complete strangers that really loved the conversation Tom and I had about everything from the censorship of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to the night John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were thrown out of the Brothers’ show at the Troubadour.

“Harry comes in with John Lennon. Well, he told John Lennon, ‘Tom likes hecklers. It helps him. It gets him through his show.’ And every time there was a silence, they were hollering out things like, ‘God fucks pigs!’ I mean, it was really filthy! Blows were thrown, and it just got wild. The next day, I got flowers and all kinds of apologies from Lennon and from Harry Nilsson.”

* Most politically-incorrect interview of the year:

Tony Clifton, the former alter ego of Andy Kaufman that’s now being performed by Bob Zmuda. To say that Clifton works a little blue is the understatement of the century, but it’s more than just dirty jokes; his whole act is one where he unabashedly says things that he knows will piss people off…and if you don’t know it’s an act, then it’s really gonna piss you off.

“Some people say that, with the repertoire I’ve got and with the rapport between the band and me, a few people have quoted it as being like Buddy Rich. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, just like Buddy. But Buddy was coked up most of the time, and I don’t do that. I prefer the Jack Daniel’s. I’m fucked up most of the time during the show. I have fun with the band. I call ‘em niggers. And I got a few Japs in there, I call ‘em Nips. I got everything mixed up in that band, like I say. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Listen, lemme tell ya this: you know why I get away with it? ‘Cause I got black people in my family. Yeah. And I’ve got the rope to prove it. Look, the blackies are good. They’re good for the sports and for the music. See, the Jews are good at making the money…or at taking the money from you.”

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