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CANNES FESTIVAL, competition closes with Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here”

Joaquin Phoenix
Directed by Lynne Ramsay

Joaquin Phoenix is in full beast mode in Lynn Ramsay’s “You were never really here,” a head-scratching drama whose action begins in Cincinnatti, curiously, and moves to New York City. Phoenix is muscular, wears a scowl for much of the film, a glint of evil in the stare. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in this film: a sexually-deviant governor, murders with a hammer, underage ... more >

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Inherent vice

Based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon
Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Kathleen Waterston
Directed by P.T. Anderson

In college I wrote a paper on the subversion of the detective novel in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. I got an A, although the paper received its highest compliment in 2009. That’s when Pynchon finally lived up to my astonishing insight and published a detective novel, “Inherent vice.” This survey of Los Angeles weirdness circa 1970 is brought to the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson. The ... more >

Her

What's love? (v. 2.0)
Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by Spike Jonze

It’s the oldest story in the book: boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl live happily ever after. The problem? The girl in this instance is a computer, and the boy is the lonely Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix). Theodore, who spends his days composing love letters for other people, is slogging through the aftermath of a failed marriage when he purchases an artificially ... more >

The Master

The long wait is over--P.T. Anderson wows us again
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix
Directed by P.T. Anderson

After “Battlefield Earth” who would've thought that scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard would ever be portrayed seriously in film again? “The Master,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film since 2007’s “There Will Be Blood”, does just that. It neither condemns nor justifies the religion, but centers on the fascinating struggle of two men. Joaquin Phoenix’s faux mental breakdown is over, thankfully, ... more >

I’m still here

Documenting a character's transition
Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck
Directed by Casey Affleck

You wonder what Joaquin Phoenix and director/brother-in-law Casey Affleck had in mind when they decided to put together “I’m Still Here.” It’s a documentary yet it’s fake, funny yet tragic, bizarre but also very personal and therapeutic. Like Phoenix wants to go to the dark corners of his mind to play out those mental traps an artist can fall into. In this movie, Phoenix is over-indulgent, needy, ... more >

Two Lovers

A favorite at this year's Cannes Festival
Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw
Directed by James Gray

This year's James Gray vintage (We Own The Night was his last film before this) is called Two Lovers and stars Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. Set in New York City's outer boroughs again and told in near-documentary style and with a barebones soundtrack, Two Lovers lets Gray go at the heart of his own style as filmmaker, it seems. This time around he's got nothing to prove. The most ... more >

We Own the Night

I don't need any more guns in my life, that's for sure
Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Eva Mendes
Directed by James Gray

At the Cannes Festival sometimes things can turn violent between journalists. Or at least that's what I feared upon exiting the Debussy theatre this past May after a press screening of James Gray's We Own the Night, which has its commercial release later this October. The film got copiously booed as end credits rolled--in my opinion because of its formulaic zeal, when you see the final scene, ... more >