Countdown to the Oscars: “Joker” gets an amusing amount of nominations

3 out of 5 stars.

Andrew Zimmel, Sports Reporter

When “Joker” made its theatrical release October 2019, I don’t think a single person thought that during award season it would be the film with the most Academy Award nominations. Now, the film is a dark horse to win most of its nominated awards.

The comic-book film is set in 1981 and follows Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a failed stand-up comic and party clown who falls into insanity and violence after he doesn’t get the mental help he needs while living in decaying Gotham City. Fleck goes on to be the leader of a violent counter-culture revolution and is the origin story for villain Joker, Batman’s nemesis

Director Todd Phillips took a lot of inspiration from a fellow Oscar-nominated director Martin Scorsese and his films. The similarities between Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” and Phillips’ film go all the way down to the character of Travis Bickle. Bickle, a taxi driver in the cancerous New York City following the Vietnam War spirals out and plots the assassination of both presidential candidates. While Bickle struggles in morally corrupt New York, Fleck has the same problems in Gotham City. Both are heralded as heroes for exposing the corruption in their cites. Since “Taxi Driver” was nominated but didn’t win in 1976, “Joker” could make up for the award its counterpart couldn’t secure.

Only recently have we even started to consider the “superhero genre” award-worthy. “Black Panther,” last season, and “Joker,” this year, make it two consecutive years that comic-book film has been nominated for Best Picture. Unlike “Black Panther” however, “Joker” has a very good chance of taking home a lot more awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Phoenix) and Best Director (Philips).

In my opinion it is laughable. “Joker” wasn’t the most successful “superhero” movie to come out this year (“Avengers: Endgame” would like a word), so why is it up for so many awards? Part of me wants to believe that the Academy loved Phoenix in this role. His ability to descend into madness has to be applauded.

A larger part of me thinks that this is more an audience point; if you nominate “Joker” for awards that are sprinkled throughout the show, you might bring in the comic book movie viewers that might have been missing from the demographic before.

“Joker” will probably walk away from the Oscars holding an armful of trophies but I will find it hard to believe if Philips or Phoenix walk away with Best Actor, Director— especially Best Picture. “Joker” is the only nominated movie that I didn’t watch at least twice because it wasn’t worth paying the price of admission.


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