5. Joaquin Phoenix

An episode all about the mysterious story of Joaquin Phoenix, including an English lesson about modal verbs of deduction in the past and present.

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Joaquin Phoenix is a famous Hollywood A List actor. He appeared in Gladiator and Walk The Line (the Johnny Cash story). Recently he announced that he wants to quit acting to become a rapper. Also, his appearance has become very strange! He looks more like a homeless person than a Hollywood star. His decision has become a Hollywood mystery. Is it real, or is it a joke? No one really knows.

In this episode of the podcast, Luke talks about Joaquin Phoenix with his friend and colleague Howard. You can listen to the conversation – some of the vocabulary is defined below. The language section of the podcast is about making speculations with modal verbs. See below for more information. Also, below you will see some pictures of Joaquin Phoenix, and some YouTube videos – one of him announcing his retirement from acting, and one of him rapping (badly) and then falling off the stage! For more strange Joaquin Phoenix videos, have a look on YouTube. We can’t wait to find out if it is real, or if it is all a big joke. We really hope that it is a joke, because if it isn’t, he could be in real trouble…

Some vocabulary that Luke & Howard used in their conversation + definitions

Howard: “He’s from a famous acting dynasty” – a dynasty means a large and powerful family
Howard: “He looks like a homeless (person), or a tramp or something” – ‘homeless’ and ‘tramp’ both mean someone who doesn’t have a home and has to live on the street. ‘homeless’ is also an adjective
Luke: “He’s making a fly-on-the-wall documentary” – a fly-on-the-wall documentary is a documentary film or programme which is filmed to look like the people in the film are not really aware of the cameras, so they act naturally and it is like the viewer is a ‘fly on the wall’ just watching what is happening. This is not a reality show like Big Brother. It’s a type of documentary.
Luke: “A comedy movie a bit like Borat” – Borat is a satirical comedy about a man called Borat, played by Sacha Baron Cohen
Luke: “The thing about rapping is that you have to have a flow” – a rapper’s ‘flow’ is his rhythmical style of rapping. E.g. Eminem has a fast flow. Joaquin Phoenix’s flow is slow, and elementary.
Howard: “He looks like a twat” – a twat is a slightly rude word which means ‘an idiot’
Luke: “He’s let himself go” – to ‘let yourself go’ means you stop looking after yourself and your appearance goes bad, e.g. you gain wait, your hair grows too long, etc.
Luke: “It sounds like he’s slurring his words” – to ‘slur’ your words means that you don’t pronounce your words properly, like when you are drunk.
Luke: “He’s famous for a method approach to acting” – a method approach is an acting style which involves the actor totally becoming the character he is performing. The actor lives as that character all the time, even at home. Famous method actors are Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. DeNiro famously put on a lot of weight to become Jake LaMotta in the film Raging Bull (an excellent film!)
Howard: “His family are very eccentric” – ‘eccentric’ means slightly crazy, odd, weird, bizarre, strange
Howard: “A lot of craziness” – craziness is the noun from ‘crazy’
Howard: “A lot of weird and wacky things happening” -wacky is another word for crazy, bizarre, weird, odd, etc
Luke: “I’m a bit sceptical” – ‘I’m sceptical’ means ‘I don’t really believe it is true’
Luke: “Someone in the crowd was heckling him” – to heckle someone means to shout criticisms from the crowd. Comedians are often heckled, by hecklers during stand-up comedy routines – e.g. “That’s not funny!!”
Luke: “It’s a piss take” – a ‘piss take’ is a joke. designed to fool everyone, to make fun of everyone.
Howard: “It sounds like he’s on the edge” – on the edge means ‘close to being crazy’ or ‘close to a nervous breakdown’
Luke: “I’m leaning towards ‘it’s all a joke'” – to be leaning towards something means that you are starting to take that opinion. You are favouring that opinion.
Howard: “I think it might be for real” – ‘for real’ means genuine, not fake.
Luke: “Finally, he’s cracked” – he’s ‘cracked’ means he’s ‘lost his mind’

Summary of Language Section – Modal Verbs:

Use might, must, could or can’t to speculate about things.

1. For present or future use modal + infinitive (without to)
e.g. He may have an emotional problem

or modal + be + -ing for the continuous form
e.g. He may be having emotional problems

2. For speculations about the past, use modal + have + past participle
e.g. He may have got tired of Hollywood

3. Use ‘must’ when you’re sure that something is true
e.g. It must be a joke! (or It has to be a joke!)

4. Use ‘may’ ‘might’ or ‘could’ when you’re less sure that something is true.
e.g. He might be serious, but I’m not sure to be honest.

5. Use ‘can’t’ when you’re sure that something isn’t true or didn’t happen.
e.g. He can’t be for real
e.g. He can’t have given up acting.