An unknown rapper worth watching

Mike Crissman

Have you heard of the actor Joaquin Phoenix?

Have you heard of the actor Joaquin Phoenix? I’m sure you have. He’s best known for his portrayal of musician Johnny Cash in the movie “Walk the Line.” Other notable films of his include “Gladiator,” “Signs,” “Hotel Rwanda” and “We Own the Night.” Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard of Joaquin Phoenix the actor.

But have you heard of Joaquin Phoenix the rapper?

In late 2008, Phoenix announced that he was retiring from acting to pursue a career in hip-hop. His brother-in-law Casey Affleck (brother of Ben Affleck) filmed Phoenix’s retirement and transition into becoming a hip-hop artist. Over the past year, cameras followed around the aspiring rapper as he took on a rugged Zach Galifianakis-like look, worked on his rhymes and tried to convince the public he was for real.

However, that last task proved a little difficult as videos of him performing on stage at clubs went viral on the Internet. Seeing him jump off stage mid-verse to fight a heckler in the crowd at a Miami club made many, including myself, start to suspect that something fishy was going on.

But it was his now infamous appearance on Letterman that solidified my suspicions. It also solidified a deep fascination for me. Here was this guy throwing his well-respected professional career away on national TV, and I couldn’t get enough.

So naturally, I saw the movie “I’m Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix” in theaters the first week it came out. The content of the film comes directly from the footage Affleck and his crew shot. It gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at Phoenix’s venture into hip hop — and insanity.

It is easily the best and worst movie of the year. It is a Tour de Force of self-indulgence, narcissism and conceit. It’s also hilarious. The lyrics of his raps are so ridiculously stupid. He makes Vanilla Ice look like Shakespeare. The scene where he plays some of his songs for P. Diddy, whom he tries to get to produce his album, is worth the price of admission alone.

The movie has more than its share of shocking moments. Phoenix does cocaine, orders prostitutes and gets defecated on by someone he’s feuding with while he’s sleeping. The movie is as unpredictable as anything you’ll ever see.

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, director Casey Affleck said in a New York Times interview days after the film’s release that the entire film was an act: a performance piece rather than a factual documentary.

“It’s a terrific performance,” Affleck said of the previous year of his brother-in-law’s life. “[It’s] the performance of his career.”

After watching “I’m Still Here,” it is comforting as a viewer knowing that you just watched Joaquin Phoenix the actor and not Joaquin Phoenix the drug-addled, sex-addicted rapper. The movie being a complete work of fiction does not make it any less entertaining; it just helps Phoenix’s chances of winning an Oscar. By the end of it you may find that there was little point to it, just a lot of funny moments.

Most people who see it will most likely hate it. But you can’t please everyone. After all, as Phoenix says in the movie, “every day can’t be Christmas day.”

Mike Crissman is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]