Todd Phillips' Joker has taken home the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, making it the first comic book movie to win the award. The film premiered at the event late last month and earned an overall enthusiastic reception, with many proclaiming it a mold-breaker for the comic book genre. At the same time, Joker is already proving controversial for its portrayal of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a failed stand-up comedian who gradually evolves into the Clown Prince of Crime. If anything, though, this has simply gotten more people interested in seeing the movie when it opens in October.
With some critics at Venice tossing around words like "masterpiece", it's little wonder Joker is now regarded as a bonafide Oscar contender. Phoenix, in particular, seems like a shoo-in to be nominated for his performance, which is described as being transformative and terrifying all at once. However things play out for the rest of this year's awards season, though, Joker has already taken home the top honor at one major festival.
Joker has now been awarded the Golden Lion at the 76th annual Venice Film Festival, following the conclusion of the festival on Saturday night, September 7. Phillips thanked Warner Bros. and DC "for stepping out of their comfort zone and taking such a bold swing on me and this movie" during his acceptance speech for the award. He went on to praise Phoenix, who joined him on-stage, saying (via Variety):
"There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin is the fiercest and brightest and most open-minded lion I know. Thank you for trusting me with your insane talent."
As mentioned, Joker's victory at Venice is unprecedented for a comic book movie. Recent winners of the Golden Lion include Alfonso Cuarón's Roma and Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, which went on to win the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture/Director, respectively. Previous winners also include Ang Lee's Oscar-winner Brokeback Mountain and Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, putting Joker in pretty prestigious company. It wasn't even the most controversial winner at this year's Venice festival, either. That "honor" goes to An Officer and a Spy, which took the second place Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize at the event, despite being directed by Roman Polanski. The Oscar-winner was recently expelled from the Academy for having committed sexual assault and fled the U.S. in the 1970s.
Circling back to Joker - this victory will only give the film more momentum heading into the rest of the 2019 fall awards season. It also makes Phoenix a front-runner for upcoming Best Actor honors, especially since he's already got three Oscar nominations under his belt. The rest of the movie, admittedly, is less of a sure thing. This time last year, for example, A Star is Born was at the head of the Oscar-contending pack, but ultimately lost out to the competition. Joker may have a similar uphill battle ahead of itself, especially as the debate about the film's merits (or lack thereof) evolves once more critics have seen it. Still, the idea of any comic book movie (one as "gritty" as Joker or not) taking home the Golden Lion is big news in and of itself.
- Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
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