On the Possible Snub of Joaquin Phoenix


joaquin-phoenix-the-master-imageWhen the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actor are announced next month, it will mark the end to a hard fought battle, and this is a fact, one of the boldest and most creative performances of the last twenty years could very well be on the outside looking in. The snub of Joaquin Phoenix by the Screen Actors Guild for his galvanizing performance in The Master was truly startling because one would hope actors would recognize the risk he took in that piece of acting, the boldness of the execution of what he attempted, and the genius in making it work. Phoenix walked a fine line between great acting and great overacting, never stepping into the latter, always managing to remain solid.

His comments about the Oscars a short while ago have not endeared him to those who do the nominating, and I wonder if more than a few actors and artists are still feeling stung over his leaving acting to become a rapper and then making a documentary supposedly about that very thing. Well, the joke was on us. Actors take their work very seriously, they take their craft as seriously as the Pope practices religion. Phoenix actually gave a very good performance in that documentary for his friend Casey Affleck, portraying an angry Phoenix walking away from acting and into the music industry where he is not embraced at once. We got to see a variation of the real Phoenix, a sometimes strange actor who is often beyond explanation, yet undeniably gifted. His performance for Paul Thomas Anderson as Freddie Quell in The Master was extraordinary, mesmerizing to watch, a masterpiece of physicality and deep emotion that was exciting in its boldness and courage. Speaking with a scowl and sneer, looking down on those around him, seemingly to hold the human race in contempt, he moved about a room with his hands on his hips, though backwards, ready to hurtle himself at anyone who defied him. The war chipped away at him, and what was left was rage, confusion and some hatred, with no patience for lies and falsehoods. He falls in with the master, portrayed with silky charm by Phillip Seymour Hoffman who has more in common with him than he initially realizes, though is in greater control of his emotions. Each actor was brilliant in the film, but Phoenix took a greater risk I think with the manner in which he chose to portray the character. For me, it is riveting, positively brilliant, but I understand why others struggle with what he was doing. Actors nominate actors for the Oscars, just as they the SAG Awards, so could he be left out of the race? Could the Academy truly leave off the list a performance as bold, and as daring as Phoenix?

You bet they could. They have done it before.

A lot of great performances have missed with Oscar before…

It is looking more and more like the final nominees will be Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, John Hawkes for The Sessions, Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables, Denzel Washington in Flight and perhaps Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Now, both Cooper and Washington could be bumped by Phoenix for The Master, or Jamie Foxx for Django Unchained (new to the race) or the dreaded sentimental nominee Richard Gere in Arbitrage.

Either way, however it goes, it has been a hell of a race, and like it or not at least one, perhaps two performances that will be remembered for years to come are not going to be nominated. Phoenix deserves to be there, he truly does.

Comment and discuss!

  • Knox

    I think Phoenix deserves that Oscar without any doubt in my mind. His performance was unequal to any I have seen before, and very possible in the greatest of all time. Only one performance comes to mind of that crazed, daring brilliance and that is Jack Nicholson in Cuckoos nest, and while I consider that the unrivaled greatest performance of all time, Phoenix is definitely somewhere not all that far behind

    • Leon Viatli

      Strange that nobody has commented on the anti-scientology aspects of the film yet…and how that it could be such a massive influence on these awards.. of course it won’t receive support in America’s Scientology stronghold, Hollywood.

  • moviewatcher

    If phoenix doesn’t get nominated I might have to [insert criminal deed]…

    • R

      If phoenix doesn’t get nominated I might have to [insert criminal deed]…

      I feel like Phoenix. Is just being himself and not acting in thus film- thus role was very similar to his Johnny Cash.
      I also feel the film itself was THE most overrated film by the critics of the year. It was so dull and had so much potential but it just went nowhere.

      • moviewatcher

        Agree to disagree?

        I think it all comes down to whether you like PTA?s aesthetic or not. It’s (to a degree) like Terrence Malick. If you like his style, you’ll like/love most of his movies. If you don’t…

        But PTA has changed his style a bit. Magnolia, I feel, was totally accessible (but, inexplicably, some people didn’t think so). With The Master, I totally understand how it can be off-putting to some people. It’s got no conventional catharsis. But, in my opinion, the last Phoenix/Hoffman scene functions as a catharsis. And it is because it makes (one of) the themes of the movie clear. With that one line by Hoffman, my doubts were extinguished. The movie is about the priest/lay man relationship, but mostly about how EVERYONE has someone that holds control over them.

        That’s my viewpoint, of course. But I get why some don’t like it.

  • Henry

    John Hawkes? Really? If anything, he could be forgotten the morning of nominations as Tilda Swinton was. Bradley Cooper has a stronger chance at locking in for a nomination than John Hawkes – ask anyone.

    • UBourgeois

      John Hawkes has gotten more citations this season, but Cooper’s won more often. Either one (plus Washington) could drop, it’s hardly obvious who.

  • UBourgeois

    If he gets snubbed it will be a crime. Between him and Day-Lewis (the likely winner) not only does Phoenix deserve the Oscar for giving the better, more daring performance, but also because he’s more “due” as far as Oscar politics are concerned. If it weren’t for his antics, he’d have it in a walk.

  • Jeremy DC

    I know it’s a great year for the best actor field but if Joaquin Phoenix is not nominated then it will be one of the worst snubs in oscar history. Certainly in my lifetime at least.

  • koook160 (Robert MacFarlane)

    The more I think about his performance, the more I like it. Normally I’d qualify a performance like this as “actory”, yet he never feels forced. One argument I’ve heard against his performance is a lack of character arc, but I think that may have been the point of the movie. But yeah, politics will rear its ugly head again. Hope it’s not Gere who gets his slot. On the other hand, I still feel like we’re drasitcally overestimating Hugh Jackman’s chances. Even if the Academy loves the film, how likely are they going to go for him? The reviews barely single him out, mostly praising Hatheway and Redmayne. I feel like Cooper will get the “Eisenberg” slot, when they nominate someone they feel proved themselves. Daniel Day-Lewis is certainly a lock, possibly the winner. Washington deserves to get in, but it’s looking a little bleaker for him. Foxx isn’t getting in, not a single review I read for the film singled him out over Waltz, Jackson, and DiCaprio. Hawkes may be too “lightweight” for the Academy’s tastes, but you never know. They nominated two performances from The Last Station, so there’s been less consequential films than The Sessions get slots.

    • Good point all, but never count out the fact the Academy often nominates the likeable actor, such as Jackman in Les Miserables — as for the Eisenberg slot, I thought his performance was superb and deserving so we part company there – it is tough to play such a dislikable little prick and bring sympathy to the character and Eisenberg did that — I agree with you about Gere, have never thought the man could act, ever — it is going to be a hard fought battle to the end, but I hope, truly Phoenix gets the recognition he deserves — and for not wanting the nod, too bad — when George C. Scott refused his Oscar for Patton the Academy told him, we are not honoring you in particular, but your work….so there….

  • Massimo

    If Phoenix gets snubbed its fine by me. He shouldn’t receive an nomination because he doesn’t want an nomination. I say give it someone who has turned in a great performance and will appreciate the great honor. Because getting an Oscar nomination is no easy feat.

  • JamDenTel

    Honestly, I don’t think any of the other frontrunners give a performance as good as Phoenix’s. DDL, Washington, and Hawkes are all good, but the first two have two apiece, and Hawkes…was his performance really THAT remarkable? If Phoenix gets snubbed, it’ll go down as one of the worst snubs in years–topping even the snub of Albert Brooks last year.

  • PhiLL

    Pheonix WILL NOT be snubbed! I’d bet my testicles on it. I believe He, Lewis, and Cooper are the locks. While the other two most likely will be Hawkes and Jackmon. Foster will be deservingly left out.

    • moviewatcher

      It’s a bet.

      I’m currently predicting that you will keep both your… well…

  • vikasss

    well if they give nomination for acting he should get it, and if they give nomination for stupid shit politics, they dont. simple as that. in my opinion this was performance of the decade, alongside with heath ledgers joker

  • Jack

    Phoenix gave the best performance of the year regardless of gender or category. If he get snubbed, it’d be one of the worst things the Oscars have ever done.

    1. Day Lewis
    2. Jackman
    3. Cooper
    4. Denzel
    5. Phonix

  • Leon Viatli

    Strange that nobody has commented on the anti-scientology aspects of the film yet…and how that it could be such a massive influence on these awards.. of course it won’t receive support in America’s Scientology stronghold, Hollywood.

  • NoName

    I see this Best Actor competition being similar to the Sean Penn vs Mickey Rourke race of 2008. A baity performance by a former winner vs. a more worthy career best performance. I think it could go the same way to be frank.

    CCA – Day-Lewis
    GG – Phoenix
    SAG – Day-Lewis
    BAFTA – Phoenix
    Oscar – Day-Lewis

    The Academy are suckers for baity roles rather than career best ones (most of the time)…