Todd Phillips has done something incredibly unique in the comic book genre with JOKER. Does that mean that JOKER could also break ground at the Academy Awards® for this popular but rarely Oscar-winning genre?
The Academy has had an unusual relationship with comic book movies over the years. For a long time, these stories were viewed as blockbuster, mainstream fare, but rarely would they garner any real attention during Oscar season.
Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT changed that, earning Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar for playing the Joker and triggering category changes so that popular movies could find themselves in the Best Picture race. Last year, BLACK PANTHER earned a nomination in that category, and Marvel Studios will push AVENGERS: ENDGAME in the same category next year.
Warner Bros. also is expected to push its new film, JOKER, through the Oscar season, and it will be interesting to see how receptive the Academy is to the movie’s pitch-black material and darker themes. Disturbing movies often get Best Picture nominations, but usually lose to crowd pleasers. 12 YEARS A SLAVE and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN are exceptions to the rule.
Depending on how many movies earn Best Picture nominations (it can be as few as five or as many as 10), we definitely can see JOKER working its way into that race. The movie scored a major win at the Venice Film Festival and has been praised by critics for its bold, unique approach to the enigmatic DC Comics villain.
The other Oscar category that seems to be a shoo-in for JOKER is Best Actor. The movie belongs to Joaquin Phoenix, and he pushes and challenges his own boundaries to get into the uncomfortable skin of Arthur Fleck, a man who’ll evolve into the Joker.
From there, it depends on the competition. We still have three more months of movies to screen, and a lot of heavy-hitter directors may bring heat to the Best Director category, giving Todd Phillips a run. Quentin Tarantino, James Mangold, Taika Waititi, Clint Eastwood and more could fill in that field.
It will be tough for JOKER to contend in any other acting categories, because the three other supporting roles pale in comparison to Phoenix. Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy and Zazie Beetz get moments to shine, though maybe not enough to establish Oscar campaigns.
Below the line, JOKER could find success. The editing by Jeff Groth is impressive, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score is hauntingly beautiful, and Lawrence Sher’s cinematography gives Gotham an inch of grime on every surface.
JOKER is playing now at an AMC near you. Get your tickets today, so you can be part of the film’s important conversation.