The Washington Post

Did Joaquin Phoenix just knock himself out of Oscar contention?

Phoenix in “The Master,” an Academy Award-worthy performance, whether he likes it or not. (Phil Bray/The Weinstein Company)

So does this mean we can cross him off the list of potential best actor nominees? — which published a post called “Joaquin Phoenix Probably Ruined His Chance at an Oscar After This Rant” — seems to think so. Vulture refers to the extended version of his Oscar-related comments (which are included below) as “an awards-tanking quote.”

But is it really?

First, as promised, here’s more of what he said.

After telling Mitchell he’s “out of [his] mind” and “out of touch with what has happened” when the former New York Times critic inquires about his approach to the awards season circuit, Phoenix adds: “I'm just saying that I think it's bull---. I think it's total, utter bulls---, 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. I don't know how to explain it — and it's not like I'm in this place where I think I'm just above it — but I just don't ever want to get comfortable with that part of things.”

Even those who wear the rosiest of rose-colored movie industry glasses realize that Oscar season is often based as much on politics as it is on artistic merit.Phoenix is just being candid here and, while his language may seem a bit peppery, his fellow actors may perceive him as brave for doing so. And remember, it’s actors who nominate fellow actors for Academy Awards.

Plus a disdain for the process or even a decision to avoid campaigning entirely isn’t exactly a deal-breaker.

As The Hollywood Reporter notes notes, Mo’Nique didn’t participate in a lot of the usual “vote-for-me” gladhanding back in 2010, but still walked away with a best supporting actress statuette for “Precious.” (Rule-breaker to the very end, she didn’t even follow interview protocol when she took questions in the news room after her win. And the news room loved her for it.) Anthony Breznican at Entertainment Weekly also points out that George C. Scott attempted to remove his name from Oscar consideration on two occasions, and still wound up getting one for “Patton.”

Woody Allen never shows up for the Oscars. Still gets nominations. Marlon Brando sent a fake Native American princess to pick up his “Godfather” trophy in 1972. Still got nominated again the very next year for “Last Tango in Paris.” Katharine Hepburn had zero patience for any of this award business, and only came to the Oscars once. She was nominated 12 times and claimed victory for four performances.

As ludicrous as the Oscars may often be, there are many examples where good work was recognized despite “controversies” that swirled around it. (And, likewise, there are plenty of cases where great stuff was completely ignored for no good reason. Please don’t get me started on the “Hoop Dreams” oversight of 1994.)

Phoenix may not have helped his chances with that carrot comparison. But he probably didn’t hurt them. And remember: the guy doesn’t want the thing anyway. He knows it won’t make his performance any more “the best” than it already is. Which — if Brando, Allen, Mo’Nique, Hepburn or Scott are any indication — means it might even be wise to bet on him to win.

When she isn’t at a movie theater or writing about movies, Jen Chaney is ... um ... probably at home, watching a movie.


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