Venice Film Festival Chief Alberto Barbera says Joker will be a definite Oscar contender this year. The film premiered in Venice this past weekend, where it received widespread critical praise and was proclaimed a game-changer for comic book adaptations. Joaquin Phoenix's transformative performance as the Clown Prince of Crime earned raves across the board, and some people used the word "masterpiece" to describe Joker's hauntingly dark origin story for its titular character. Based on the word-of-mouth, the entire film, not just Phoenix, transcends its genre, making more people excited to see it.
Receiving an R rating for reasons that include strong bloody violence and disturbing behavior, Joker is bound to be a polarizing work when it opens to the general public next month (the online discourse is already proving to be divisive). Still, with critics so impressed with the film and the Academy showing they're open to nominating comic book films in recent years (Logan and Black Panther), some are wondering what Joker's chances at the Oscars are. Per Barbera, there isn't any question about those prospects.
In an interview with Deadline, Barbera was asked about Joker's reception. After complimenting Phoenix and director Todd Phillips for a job well done, the conversation shifted to the Oscars and which films from Venice have a realistic shot at nominations:
"They’re very good [Joker's chances]. Absolutely, it will be in the running... It’s so unpredictable and there’s a long way to go. Joker for sure. Noah Baumbach’s film Marriage Story had a very warm response from the press. I think it’s his best film so far."
As Barbera notes, it's still in the (very) early stages of the Oscar race, but things are starting to come into focus. Screenings at the Venice and Telluride festivals have put films like Ford v. Ferrari, Marriage Story, and Joker on the map, placing them in prime position to net several nominations. This is why Warner Bros. was so keen on showcasing Joker on the fall festival circuit (it'll also play at Toronto this month), rather than giving it a Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con. The studio has obviously felt for some time Joker could be a legitimate awards contender, and the initial response validated that belief. WB has other titles that could be in contention (like legal drama Just Mercy), but they theoretically will give Joker their biggest push, especially since it's supposed to be a massive box office draw as well.
Joker becoming a Best Picture player would cap off a tremendous arc for this film, which was met with a healthy dose of skepticism when it was originally announced. It remains to be seen if the Academy will be quick to invite another comic book film to the party so soon after Black Panther, but Joker's twisted combination of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy may be too good for them to resist. Phoenix has been notoriously prickly about award shows throughout his career, but he does have three Oscar nominations to his name and has appeared in Best Picture contenders before. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out, but Joker is one of the clear winners of festival season, and things should only heat up from here.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
- Aquaman 2 (2022) release date: Dec 16, 2022