"Everything is as it should be."

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Hurricane Joaquin : Top Five Joaquin Phoenix Performances

The tv newsman with the impeccable hair and the vacant eyes is telling me that Hurricane Joaquin is tempestuously coming to a boil out in the Atlantic. Hurricanes and blizzards are the only time that weather is taken away from the tv weather person, be they the disingenuously jovial and cringe worthy comedy type of "weatherman", or the impossibly built and erotically charged type of "weather girl" (notice the term is 'girl' and not 'woman', no 'woman' over 23 need apply), and given to the vapid, dead-eyed mannequin that mindlessly reads the teleprompter every night, otherwise known as the "anchor person". As weatherman Schecky Numbnuts or Barbarella Bombshell slouches off in a darkened corner of the tv studio, no doubt rueing their plight, Johnny Handsome moves his fantastically whitened teeth up and down and tells me that Hurricane Joaquin is a powerful and unpredictable storm that is potentially on its way to ravage the eastern seaboard of the United States. I turn the sound off to avoid listening to the monotonous prattling of the orange faced man with the strenuously somber look, who deep down is praying that the Hurricane death count rises high enough so that the story will have 'dramatic resonance' with viewers and advertisers. 

Even with the sound off I cannot escape Hurricane Joaquin, as updates flash across the bottom of the screen. I chuckle every time I see the name Hurricane Joaquin crawl across on the news scroll, because I think of another Joaquin, the polar opposite in every way of the insincere Johnny Handsome, the enigmatic actor Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin Phoenix may be the best actor on the planet, and if he isn't the best, he is certainly the most interesting. Just like his name sake Hurricane, Joaquin Phoenix is powerful and unpredictable, tempestuous and raging. Instead of voyeuristically watching people in peril on the other side of the country from a force of nature called Hurricane Joaquin, I have decided to watch another force of nature, Joaquin Phoenix, rage in his best film performances, right here in the comfort of my own home. 

In tribute to Hurricane Joaquin here is a list of Joaquin Phoenix' best performances. So sit back, relax and enjoy The Master of the inner wound and the outer transformation, Joaquin Phoenix. 

If you are in Hurricane Joaquin's path, I genuinely implore you to please stay inside and stay safe, as hurricanes are serious and potentially very deadly business.  If you are going to watch Joaquin Phoenix films, the advice stays the same…stay inside…and stay safe. 


5. GLADIATOR (2000)

Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and it's lead actor Russell Crowe won Best Actor. At the time of the film, Crowe was arguably the best actor and biggest star in the world, which only makes it all the more impressive that Joaquin Phoenix nearly steals the film right out from under him. Phoenix plays Commodus, the emperor's rather erratic son, who rises to the throne by killing his father in a jealous rage. Phoenix performance is electric, as he vibrates with a disconcerting and unsettlingly mania, a result of a very, very deep father wound. What makes Phoenix so good is that his energy, both physical and emotional, is sustained and focused yet unpredictably dangerous and capricious. The scene where he threatens his own sister with incestuous rape and the murder of her son, is chillingly effective. Phoenix greatest asset in playing Commodus is that he never gets stuck playing things at the same level. Commodus is certainly a mad man, which is why he is just as frightening when he is being reserved and quiet as he is when he is raging, because you don't know where his cruelty and wrath will fall next. Phoenix never lets Commodus be a caricatured villain, instead he creates a character that so desperately wants to be loved, and when he isn't, he wants others to feel the hurt that he carries so deeply inside him. Gladiator, at its heart, is a very conventional film, but Joaquin Phoenix' carefully crafted and nuanced performance raises the film from being somewhat mundane to being compulsively entertaining.


Inherent Vice, directed by P.T. Anderson, is much like the man who stars in it, very strange, wondrously layered and terribly overlooked. Phoenix' work in this film is a tribute not only to his transcendent talent, but to his commitment to his art. His character "Doc", is created with such meticulous specificity that only a master craftsman could have pulled it off. Phoenix is able to convey a painstaking depth in the form of Doc's emotional wound, and a subtle charisma, that drives his character, and the film, through it's labyrinthian plot while never losing it's urgency and vitality. His scenes opposite his nemesis Josh Brolin, are pieces of comedic and dramatic gold.  It is really an extraordinary achievement to behold, and a credit to the artistry, magnetism and charm of Joaquin Phoenix.

Click here for my full review of INHERENT VICE.

3. WALK THE LINE (2005)

Joaquin Phoenix is sort of a strange looking guy. He has a cleft lip, a sunken sternum and a messed up, hunched back looking shoulder. And yet, despite all of these oddities, in Walk the Line, Phoenix goes full-on chameleon and transforms himself into the barrel-chested baritone, American icon Johnny Cash, without skipping a beat. It is a remarkable performance, all the way down to Joaquin doing much, if not all, of his own singing. What makes the performance all the more impressive is that it isn't an imitation of Cash, but rather an original creation that is close enough to the Johnny Cash we know to keep us placated, but unique and particular enough to keep us riveted. Once again, Phoenix creates an internal wound so vivid as to propel his character and compel the viewer all the way through the film. Walk the Line is at times a pedestrian piece of filmmaking, but Joaquin Phoenix' work in it is so magnetic that it is transcends and elevates what surrounds it.

2. HER (2013)

Her is the story of Theodore, a sensitive man living in the near future who falls in love with a computer operating system. It is directed by Spike Jonze and it stars our man of the hour, Joaquin Phoenix as the aforementioned Theodore. In the film, Phoenix sublimely uses his physicality to convey the isolation, desperation and emotional arc of the fragile and deeply damaged Theodore. Just watch and marvel at him walking around the futuristic Los Angeles in varying degrees of slouch. He also uses his greatly under appreciated charisma and magnetism to captivate the viewer while romantically playing opposite nothing but a voice. Her is really just a run of the mill love story, but both Jonze and Phoenix turn it into a poignant, touching and tragic commentary on human frailty and disconnect in the modern world. Joaquin Phoenix creates such a genuine, tender and delicate character that his hurt and his hope are palpable, as evidenced by two extraordinary scenes, one a dinner with his ex-wife exquisitely played by Rooney Mara, and the other when Theodore has a frantic conversation with his operating system/lover on the steps leading into a subway. Both scenes are exquisite examples of Joaquin Phoenix'  power as an actor.

Click here for my full review of HER.

1. THE MASTER (2012)

Acting is like walking a high wire, and the great actors, like Joaquin Phoenix, can do it without a net. In The Master though, Phoenix not only walks without a net, he goes without the high wire altogether. Joaquin simply jumps off the precipice and into the abyss with his arms and heart wide open, embracing whatever may come. What comes is nothing less than sheer brilliance, the master work of a true creative genius. In the film, again directed by P.T. Anderson, Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a malcontent in post World War Two America, with emotional and mental scars from the war and from his life before it. Phoenix contorts his body and his face to such extremes that he is unrecognizable in the role. It is such a virtuoso display of physicality that it boggles the mind. Every tortured contortion and deformity on Freddie's face and body tells the story of a specific and detailed inner hurt in outer form. It is not hyperbole to say that Phoenix' performance as Freddie Quell is the most transcendent piece of acting captured on film this century, and maybe even the last century as well. There is no other actor working today who could have done what Joaquin Phoenix did in The Master. His work is so vibrant, so vivid, so original, so unique, so detailed and so alive that it was a quantum leap in the evolution of the art of acting. A performance like that was previously inconceivable, and only the truly inspired genius of Joaquin Phoenix could have brought it life. Actors for generations to come will strive to match the audacious magnificence of Joaquin Phoenix performance in the aptly titled  The Master.  Joaquin Phoenix has proven to all of us that he most certainly is...The Master. I bow to his talent, and tip my cap to his mastery.


Enjoy the Joaquin Phoenix movies and stay safe!!