Speaking with Elvis Mitchell for Interview Magazine, Phoenix opened up about how he feels about the idea of campaigning for the Oscars. When asked what he plans to do when he's put on "the awards circuit" in support of "The Master" (Current Criticwire score: A-), Phoenix replied:
"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."
First of all, anyone actually shocked by these comments has clearly not paid much attention to Phoenix's career. We're talking about a man who flushed several years of his life -- and possibly his entire career -- down the toilet to prove an elaborate point about celebrity news culture in the pseudodocumentary "I'm Still Here." That institution and the one propping up end of the year awards are like incestuous cousins. Obviously Phoenix hates them both.
Immediately, pundits began speculating what this does to Phoenix's Oscar chances (see: here and here and here). These people are no doubt far more qualified to assess the logistics of such things, so I'll skip the question of "will" in order to proceed directly to the question of "should." Should these comments hurt Phoenix come Oscar time?
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association or the New York Film Critics Circle or anyone else shouldn't honor someone for their people skills or their perceived gratitude or their willingness to appear at an endless series of self-congratulatory banquets and ceremonies. These are supposed to be awards for acting, not schmoozing. And Phoenix's acting in "The Master" is exceptional. It doesn't matter if Phoenix thinks the whole thing is bullshit. If the whole thing is not bullshit, there's no better way to prove that than by nominating him anyway.
Of course, I'm not so naive to think that film awards are judged solely on merit; in this world, they're about playing the game which, clearly, Phoenix is not particularly good at. Frankly, I won't be surprised in the slightest if the Academy Awards announces their five nominees for Best Actor and Phoenix isn't one of them. But I will be disappointed.
Also, with that one excerpt getting all the attention, it's worth noting that Mitchell's whole interview with Phoenix is really outstanding. Let me leave you with another insightful quote from the actor:
"Dishonesty is so ugly on film. You just act, and it's so ugly, and I don't want to do that. I mean, everything that they teach you when you're a kid about acting is completely fucking wrong. They tell you to memorize your lines, follow your light, and hit your marks. Those are the three things that you shouldn't do. You should not learn your lines, you should not hit your mark, and you should never follow your light."
No wonder Phoenix shows up to publicity interviews and then bashes the very institution he's presumably there to suck up to: he doesn't memorize his lines.
Read more of "Joaquin Phoenix by Elvis Mitchell."