‘I’m Still Here’
Joaquin Phoenix has been “back” for awhile now, re-establishing himself in “The Master,” “The Immigrant” and “Inherent Vice” as one his generation’s finest thespians. His brief, bizarre “retirement” — the one that resulted in the film “I’m Still Here” — almost seems like a distant memory. It shouldn’t. Phoenix enraged many, including David Letterman, when he pretended to quit acting, grow a hive of hair and reinvent himself as a rapper. But it was more than a mere, dumb stunt. Phoenix was clearly exorcising some demons and anxieties when he threw off the shackles of fame, but he was also calling into question that notion that just because you’re good at something means you have to do it forever, even if you’ve lost your taste for it.
Isaiah Washington also almost quit acting, but for a different reason: He was caught blurting out homophobic slurs to his “Grey’s Anatomy” co-star T.R. Knight. Since then he’s inched his way back into the mainstream, even appearing in “Blackbird,” a drama about a gay teen in the deep South. But no matter his personal demons, Washington’s as fine an actor as Phoenix, and he was terrific as a man coercing an abandoned boy on a series of shootings. The 2002 Beltway sniper attacks are the inspiration, but Alexandre Moors’ film is all about getting into the headspace of two isolated people, who convince themselves the heinous thing they’re doing is right.
‘Call Me Lucky’
At this point it’s no longer news that comic Bobcat Goldthwait has reinvented himself as a filmmaker, and a really good one. Following in the footsteps of “World’s Greatest Dad” and “God Bless America,” Goldthwait turns to documentary by highlighting Barry Crimmins, a comic’s comic who helped many, including Goldthwait, find his footing decades ago in Boston. Crimmins is also a survivor of child abuse, and the second half of the film shifts from its subject’s cranky, political stylings to his pursuit to expose those, especially in the Catholic Church, who would take advantage of their power for their own destructive ends.