The discourse surrounding Joker has been happening for so long, you’d be forgiven if you thought the movie had already come out by this point. Long before the movie was named the (surprising) recipient of the Venice Film Festival’s coveted Golden Lion (which in years’ past has gone to films such as Short Cuts, Brokeback Mountain and most recently, Roma) there was anxiety about its impact in a world being ravaged by armed, white men. Director, producer and co-writer Todd Phillips (The Hangover) has spoken at length about why the seriousness of Joker appealed to him (Comedy was too PC for him, boo hoo!); this isn’t just another comic book origin story, Phillips wants you to know that this is a serious, gritty character drama. Then there were the stories about just how far Joaquin Phoenix went down the rabbit hole in preparation for his role as Gotham’s Clown Prince have earned him the status of frontrunner in this year’s very crowded Best Actor race. It has all been exhausting to say the least. But now the movie is finally here to be judged on its merits, for what it is and not the controversy and “what ifs.” The most offensive thing about Joker is how bland, boring and toothless it is.
All good things must come to an end, though based on your personal opinions this awards season may not have been a good thing. Films came and went (First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, First Reformed) and others (Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book, The Favourite) stayed to varying degrees of anger or pleasure. A Star Is Born kicked off the season as the de-facto frontrunner and fumbled when things started to get competitive; it hasn’t been able to regain any of the lost momentum as the season has drummed along.
Roma has seemingly taken its place, but there’s still a bunch of uncertainty swirling around its chances as an actual winner. With wins at the Golden Globes, the PGA and TIFF’s People’s Choice Award, Green Book is seemingly next in line despite a ton of controversy and valid criticisms against the film. Also not a stranger to controversy, Bohemian Rhapsody‘s success both financially and awards wise despite it being a terrible film continues to confound even the most tenured Oscar watchers. Do people really love Queen that much? Evidently, yes. The heat around Vice was extinguished the moment the embargo was let up. Eight nominations is nothing to balk at, but nobody seems to be rushing to give this Frankenstein of a movie any awards. There seems to be a lot of love for The Favourite, but it doesn’t sound like it translates into the widespread kind of love needed to succeed on the preferential ballot.
And then there’s Black Panther, which has both the box office receipts, critical acclaim to and a SAG ensemble win that makes it a worthy Best Picture winner. But a disappointing nomination count, despite a win at the Screen Actors Guild, is giving me pause from thinking it’s as big of a threat as the other aforementioned films.
With each film having their own list of pro’s and con’s, it feels like a huge toss up in predicting who will win. Nevertheless, I take a stab at it below.
Theresa “Tree” Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) just can’t catch a break. After waking up in a strange boy’s (The Blind Ring’s Israel Broussard) dorm room after a night of heavy drinking, Tree is fighting a killer headache and must do the walk of shame, in which she tries to unsuccessfully attempts to dodge a pesky student protestor, a guy she’s been ghosting, and her sorority sisters. Later, she will be confronted with the wife of the professor she’s been having an affair with, but now she’s late for her surprise party because there’s a masked murderer trying to kill her. Oh, did I mention it’s also her birthday?
If this sounds like life is playing some cruel joke on her, then just wait till you hear the punchline. When the masked killer does in fact kill Tree (and they do), she wakes up again on the morning of her birthday, doomed to live out the same excruciating day again and again, and again until she can solve the mystery of her murder.