Hot Takes in Your Area: Are we sure that Joaquin Phoenix is good in Joker?

Guys (and, since this is the Academy we’re talking about, I really do mean “guys”), we need to talk. Are we sure that Joaquin Phoenix is good in Joker?

Two things up front, both of which we can hold in our heads at the same time: First, Phoenix is one of the best actors of his generation (and also probably an alien). Second, Joker is a mediocre movie at best and morally irresponsible at worst. 

But putting all that aside, are we certain that America’s foremost anti-cow-insemination scoundrel was a great actor, much less the ~best~ actor, in Todd Phillips’ gritty Taxi Driver reboot? 

Acting weird doesn’t make you a great actor. If we’re going to give Oscars to off-the-rails performances of characters with a destructive persecution complex, then Adam Sandler would have had himself a night on Sunday. And Phoenix himself has played memorably weird characters in the past but, unlike Joker, all of them had an unmistakable depth and generated unique insight into what it means to be human. I still can’t tell you what half of The Master was about, but I know there was something true about Phoenix’s Freddie Quell. The same goes for his roles in Her, in Walk the Line, hell even in Gladiator

But all those roles had what Phoenix’s Joker didn’t—they were interesting. You trusted that Phoenix didn’t just have a reason why his character was behaving like he was, but that it was a good reason. Even not having a reason at all can be enough, but that wasn’t what we got here. 

Instead, Phoenix’s Joker was a hollow pastiche of victimhood and trauma. Few actors have pushed the envelope quite like him, and he was rewarded for it on Sunday. It’s just a shame that it wasn’t for his best performance. 

Unsolicited Hot Take of the Week: Make the Tiny Desks in the Tiny Desk Concerts Actually Tiny

NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts are great. Your favorite musicians! Reworked, acoustic-ish covers of your favorite songs! Painstakingly curated shelves! 

But there’s one thing these performances are missing: tiny desks. 

For too long has the liberal radio media lied to us about the size of the so-called “tiny desk.” That’s probably because they thought we could only hear what was happening. But the visual truth is out there, folks. Feast your eyes on the relative size of this desk: 

Exhibit A

Lizzo is comfortably performing at this desk. Lizzo is approximately 5’10” (a very normal height), and it looks like she could spend hours at that desk working the phones for NPR’s annual donation drive. You could fit two interns at a minimum in that work station and still have enough room for your nonchalantly located Emmy. Thus, the desk is likely a very normal-sized desk and not, as we’ve been led to believe, a so-called “tiny” desk.

It’s time for NPR to come clean with America. Either rename the series “Normal-Sized-for-the-Modern-Gig-Economy Desk Concerts,” or else find a size-appropriate desk.

Give us what we want. T. Pain sitting on one of those middle school desks where the chair and the desk are all one fused piece of steel and linoleum. The Hot 8 Brass Band gathered around a nice 17th century boudoir piece. Taylor Swift struggling to keep up on a standing desk/treadmill apparatus while she plays her deepest cuts (sitting is the new smoking people). 

Mr. Boilen, from NPR’s All Songs Considered, please. Make. These. Tiny. Desks. Actually. Tiny. 

Thank you. 

Unsolicited Hot Take of the Week: Are We Sure that “Brown Eyed Girl” Is Good?

It is appalling that “Brown Eyed Girl” is Van Morrison’s most famous song. It might not even be one of his best fifteen songs, and saying that it’s his best is tantamount to saying that Mozart’s best composition was “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

If you were judging only Brown Eyed Girl and every song on Astral Weeks, it wouldn’t make the Top Five. If you were judging only Brown Eyed Girl and every song on Moondance, it wouldn’t make the Top Ten. Do you know how many songs there are on Moondance? There are ten. Every song on Moondance is better than Brown Eyed Girl.

Okay, Brown Eyed Girl is better than “Glad Tidings.” But the point stands!

This is all to say that there’s a lesson to be learned here: a beautiful, lyrical, profound song like “Madame George” will always be less popular than a song that convinces 80% of the women in the world that it’s about them—even if the latter is a corny, generic, first-song-played-at-a-wedding-so-the-old-people-feel-comfortable-hitting-the-dance-floor-ass song like Brown Eyed Girl.