Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Joaquin Phoenix

“C’mon! C’mon!” from Mike Mills Provides Much Food for Thought

I recently rented “C’mon! C’mon!” and streamed it at home. I missed it at the Chicago International Film Festival.

The film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as the uncle of a 9-year-old boy named Jesse, was written and directed by Mike Mills, whose 2016 film “Twentieth Century Women” I admired greatly. That film, starred Annette Bening and was about the director’s relationship with his mother in Berkeley; this one is about his relationship with his  7-year-old son.

The lead role of Jesse, the young boy, is played by Woody Norman, who is one of several child actors who are doing really excellent onscreen work this year. Another was the young lead actor of “Belfast,” Jude Hill, who portrayed Henry Branagh as a child.

Gaby Hoffman plays Viv, Johnny’s (Joaquin Phoenix) sister, who is married to Paul (Scott McNairy). Paul is bi-polar and having another of his breakdowns, which means that Viv is hard-pressed to take care of the young boy and Johnny begins taking Jesse on a trip cross-country that includes a variety of cities, including Detroit, New York City,  and New Orleans. The film is shot in black-and-white. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan has won accolades for his gritty portrait of those various distinctive cities. Ryan was Oscar-nominated for his work on “The Favourite” in 2019.

Johnny is a radio journalist and is journeying cross-country interviewing the youth of America. He is asking young people about what sort of future they see for themselves and for the world, in general. One young interview subject says, “For me, personally, I think things are going to get better because I have a lot of opportunities. For the overall world, I hope it gets better, but I fear it might not.”

Mills, along the way, cites an essay on why women are always expected to make everything all right, even in difficult times. He quotes from stories like “The Bipolar Bear Family” by Amanda Holloway. It’s a random assortment of observations, tied together by the road trip and the blossoming relationship between Joaquin Phoenix and his precocious nephew. It’s refreshing to have a movie that isn’t about Super-heroes rescuing the world with things blowing up in CGI.

Gaby Hoffman, now almost 40, began acting at the age of 4 to help her family pay the bills. She appeared in “Uncle Buck” when she was 7 years old and portrayed the young daughter of Kevin Costner in 1989’s  “Field of Dreams.” Until the age of eleven, she and her family lived in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, a hotel famous for housing some of the biggest literary luminaries in the world, such as Arthur C. Clarke.  (Arthur C. Clarke, the author of more than 100 books of science fiction and essays,  said he and the director Stanley Kubrick wrote the screenplay for the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” during a stay at the hotel in the 1960s. The hotel is also said to be the inspiration for Chelsea Clinton’s first name.

There are many relatable moments in the film, especially those in the real world when Jesse gives his uncle the slip and frightens both of them.  Young Jesse also reveals that his mother had an abortion in her wild youth, which surprises her brother, who had not known that fact.

The appearance of Joaquin Phoenix post-the-“Joker” as a much chubbier version of himself is, in and of itself, a shock. His character in this piece is so far removed from his last outing as to make him unrecognizable.

The film is dedicated to a 9-year-old boy interviewed on the cross-country recording tour who was accidentally shot and killed after the film wrapped.

Another nice tid-bit that we learn is that when writer Mike Mills was somewhat at sea over the script. his 7-year-old son gave him the advice, “Well, be funny, comma, when you can, period.” The line is in the film and portends a bright future for the son of Mike Mills, who. at a very young age, already knows enough about English grammar to properly punctuate that sentence.











































“Joker” May Bring Joaquin an Oscar


Joaquin Phoenix has turned in another riveting, intense performance in “Joker,” this time as Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill young man who lives with his invalid mother and works as a clown. In the opening scene, he is twirling a sign on the rat-infested, garbage-strewn streets of Gotham (1970s New York City) when 5 young men steal his “Everything must go!” sign and beat him up in an alley.

If you think this is grim, just wait.

Joaquin has pretty much made a career out of playing character parts that Bruce Dern of 30 years ago, Crispin Glover of 20 years ago, or Michael Shannon of today might play. He is intense and strange, excelling, as one critic put it, in films that depict “exquisite isolation.” In this film, for which he lost 15 pounds, he looks emaciated, like Christian Bale in “The Mechanic.” He claims it helped him with his weirdly artistic dance moves to be lighter on his feet. Arthur (Phoenix) laughs inappropriately and compulsively and may suffer from pseudobulbar affect disorder (or any of a series of ailments often related to traumatic brain injury and/or schizophrenia). It is off-putting and uncomfortable; he even carries a small card explaining his condition to strangers, much like the deaf have used.

The tour-de-force part of Arthur Fleck is eerily reminiscent of Travis Bickle in 1976’s “Taxi Driver.” This part also builds on Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in “The Dark Knight Rises” and gives us a back story for Joker that is different from the ones in other “Batman” films. Oscar history could repeat itself with a gold statuette for Joaquin, but the film, itself, does not seem Oscar-worthy, to me.

Joaquin has been acting since the early eighties. Many of his best performances have utilized his personal projection of a sense of strange intensity. I remember seeing him on David Letterman’s show on February 11th, 2009, when he claimed he was giving up acting for good to become a rapper. He acted weird, strange and was monosyllabic. Letterman played off that, as he used to do when Crispin Glover came on the show and acted like a World Class Weirdo. (Remember the kicking sequence with Glover on the show?)

At the time, Joaquin was making the movie “I’m Still Here” with his then brother-in-law (Casey Affleck). As it turned out, they thought it would be a good promotional stunt to have Joaquin claim he was quitting acting to become a rapper. Later, on September 22, 2010, Joaquin returned to Letterman’s “Tonight” show to admit that he was actually not finished with acting. Each time, Phoenix came across as supremely weird, strange, and intense. He’s supposed to be engaged to frequent co-star Mara Rooney now, so perhaps both of those television appearances were just good examples of his acting ability.

Whatever. He fooled most of us, and, therefore, his persona with the public and the press has been close to that of Arthur Fleck. The part of “Joker” was perfect for him.  Director/Writer Todd Phillips (the “Hangover” movies) said that he never wanted to develop a Plan B for any other casting, because he always intended to cast Phoenix in the part.

When New York Times writer David Itzkoff pointed out while interviewing Phoenix that he seemed to be the “go to” character actor for such over-the-top intense performances  and that Phoenix could continue acting characters like this for a very long time, the actor responded, “Oh, really?” in a sarcastic voice as dry as sandpaper. “Well, good. Thank you so much. That’s great. I was worried.”

Then, said Itzkoff, “he grinned and let out a laugh to let me know he was kidding. (Or was he?”)


The Acting

Joaquin Phoenix is a good bet for an Oscar nomination and, potentially, for a win, although it’s still early for making those predictions.

The film is powerful, but about as grim a film as you can find. Still, there were many great supporting turns from the rest of the cast including Frances Conroy (“Six Feet Under,” “American Horror Story”) as his mother, Robert DeNiro as  talk show host Murray Franklin and Zazee Beetz as his next-door neighbor Sophie Dumond. The use of DeNiro as the late night talk show host modeled on Johnny Carson elicited echoes of Jerry Lewis’ 1982 film “King of Comedy,” where DeNiro played Rupert Pupkin.

Cinematography & Editing:

Director/Writer Todd Phillips (who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver) has used an interesting mix of “Is this really happening?” cinema, woven together to leave it up to the audience to determine whether what Arthur Fleck is experiencing is wishful thinking or really happening. Audiences today are fairly savvy. We are used to having to figure out some of the connecting tissue of a film on our own, and Phillips handles that beautifully, along with the assistance of cinematographer Lawrence Sher, who seems to love to dwell on Phoenix in close-up. Phillips does a good job of incorporating the seamy, rat-infested city of Gotham as almost a character in itself, and the many nods to Scorsese’s classic films show that, “Hangover” or no “Hangover,” Phillips recognizes a modern-day cinematic icon’s quality work when he sees it. All nice touches.



I was not a fan of the cello-heavy score by the 31 people listed as being in charge of the music for the film. It was overpoweringly dark, screaming, “Feel sorry for Arthur” at every plot turn.


That last remark brings me to the fact that we are primed to feel sorry for/excuse Arthur for his misdeeds. There isn’t a single murder that takes place (and there are plenty, most of them bloody) that some rationale or excuse as to why Arthur would have committed the bloodthirsty crime can’t be ginned up to defend or excuse this poor mentally-ill man (who seems completely amoral by film’s end, if not before).

When Arthur first turns homicidal on a subway train,  he has acted in self defense. The plot channels Bernard Goetz, who shot and wounded four African-American youths on a Manhattan subway train in 1984. Only this time “the enemy” is Wall Street and it is three young white Wall Street brokers, insensitive louts all, who abuse and mistreat poor Arthur before he snaps. That brings about the violence. The viewer does feel that the audience is supposed to sympathize with the poor beaten-down loser that Joaquin is portraying so well. We’re rooting for “the little guy” standing up for himself, even if you feel that a sane person would have taken his chances with the NYPD, since the subway shootings seem justified.

After that, while excuses/rationales/reasons are still given for every single murder, feeling sorry for poor Arthur goes downhill fast.

The entire idea of the poor versus the rich is elevated to new heights when portions of Arthur’s comedy act showing him laughing hysterically and uncontrollably are broadcast on Murray Franklin’s show. Arthur becomes a lightning rod for the general sense of malaise and unrest abroad in the land. “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Arthur, at one point.

It’s not just you, Arthur. It IS getting crazier out there, and most of us know why.

It is interesting to have a homicidal, mentally-ill killer elevated, by film’s end, almost to the point of “leader of the pack,” but maybe not such a great idea. We can always bring back Steve Bannon, who wants to tear down everything in order to create “the Fourth Turning” (as he himself articulated in the Erroll Morris “American Dharma” documentary).

Permissive nods towards out-of-control violence of any kind should be quickly squelched, whenever and wherever they crop up. Arthur’s sad plight illustrates many of the issues this country is facing. Indeed, problems that the entire world is facing: the ‘haves vs have nots” battle, etc. But letting anarchy rule doesn’t seem like the best solution, regardless of our emotional empathy for Arthur Fleck and embattled little people the world over.

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