Did Joaquin Phoenix just cost himself the Oscar?

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Anyone who’s seen Joaquin Phoenix in ‘I’m Still Here’ should know that this is a man who’s not afraid to be different or unpopular. While his incredible work in ‘The Master’ has him at the top of most people’s Oscar predictions (including mine), it’s worth remembering that he’s not exactly tailor-made for the campaign circuit. Well, whether we were trying to forget about that or pretend that Phoenix is now a completely different sort of person, we got a strong reminder of that recently with his sure to be controversial comments while doing an interview with Elvis Mitchell. You can see interview here at Interview Magazine. I still think he’s going to get nominated, but there’s a chance that he just kissed the win goodbye, depending on what Harvey Weinstein has to say about things.

Here’s the part of the interview that’s sure to ruffle the Academy’s feathers:

MITCHELL: So what are you going to do when they put you on the awards circuit for The Master?

PHOENIX: You’re out of your mind, dude. You’re out of touch with what has happened.

MITCHELL: I think we’ve established that you’re the one who’s out of his mind. [Phoenix laughs] You don’t think that’s going to happen?

PHOENIX: I’m just saying that I think it’s bullshit. I think it’s total, utter bullshit, and I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t believe in it. It’s a carrot, but it’s the worst-tasting carrot I’ve ever tasted in my whole life. I don’t want this carrot. It’s totally subjective. Pitting people against each other . . . It’s the stupidest thing in the whole world. It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when Walk the Line was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again. I don’t know how to explain it—and it’s not like I’m in this place where I think I’m just above it—but I just don’t ever want to get comfortable with that part of things.

So, it seems that he’s not too keen to campaign for any awards this year. That’s fair enough, and certainly his prerogative, but we know that Oscar does like their nominees and winners to not have completely contempt for them. My guess is that The Weinstein Company will soon begin spin control on this, as anyone who doesn’t think that Harvey is going full throttle to try to get him and Philip Seymour Hoffman wins (not to mention Amy Adams and Paul Thomas Anderson himself, plus the film) is nuts. What does this mean for the race? Well, there’s a few possible results…

One outcome is that nothing changes. Harvey Weinstein gets Joaquin Phoenix out on the trail anyway, he kisses the right babies and he still gets the nomination and goes on to win one of the most deserved Best Actor prizes in some time. Another outcome is that he still gets nominated but can’t win anymore, which leads to either the Weinsteins panicking and putting Hoffman in Lead too to try to keep the votes for Phoenix still in the camp of ‘The Master’…or it means that a different film entirely will have its leading man win. That certainly makes the people at Fox Searchlight, Paramount, and Walt Disney happy, as they’ll then be able push for a win for either John Hawkes in ‘The Sessions’, Denzel Washington in ‘Flight’, or Daniel Day-Lewis in ‘Lincoln’, respectively. The least likely but still plausible outcome is that he winds up getting outright snubbed for a nomination. I don’t see it happening but that would open the door for any number of second level contenders to try to sneak in, like Ben Affleck for ‘Argo’, Bradley Cooper for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, Hugh Jackman for ‘Les Miserables’, or Bill Murray for ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’, just to name a few. One thing’s for sure…Joaquin Phoenix certainly made things interesting with this interview.

What’s my guess as to what will happen? I think this will ultimately blow over enough for an easy nomination, but the win could be far more in question now. A lot will also depend on how ‘The Master’ ages over the course of the season. If it’s still seen as a possible winner in certain categories, then that certainly helps Phoenix’s chances. If it’s looking more like a film that should be happy just to be nominated, well then that more or less kills his chances to win Best Actor. Maybe this all is forgotten by nomination time, maybe not. It definitely will bug certain voters, though who knows if that’ll do anything in the end. Stay tuned to see how this affects the race, if at all…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!