I’m Still Here is the best American film of the 2010s:
The best American film of the decade begins in Panama: home video from the early-1980s, a boy at the top of a waterfall and his father watching below, waiting for him to jump. It’s a young Joaquin Phoenix (then known as Leaf), and at the end of this extraordinary film I’m Still Here, he flies to Panama and recreates the scene exactly—with director Casey Affleck’s dad playing Phoenix’s dad. Before diving into the hyperreal, back to the beginning: when young Joaquin finally does jump, we’re plunged into an abyss of television screens all showing different broadcasts and reports on the 2006 Oscars ceremony. Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor that year for playing Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, and he looked like a different person: pudgier, fresh-faced, not all that interesting. But we see him win, and entertainment anchors reporting on his win, and then subsequent appearances on talk shows, red carpet interviews, and press junkets. And then we cut to the hills above Los Angeles, a burly man in a dirty blue hoodie with his back to the camera mumbling about being misunderstood and constrained by category.
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