Joker | Oscars Discussion | Film Club

Joker | Oscars Discussion | Film Club

– Hey, folks, I’m Alex Dowd. – And I’m Katie Rife. – Today, we’re gonna be talking
about one of last year’s most divisive movies, it’s Todd Phillips’ supervillain origin story, “Joker.” – Ooh, dangerous. Welcome to Film Club. (smooth jazz music)
(film reel clicking) – So if you looked at last year’s movies, I think, if you asked yourself what is, what was the big conversation
piece of last year, what was the movie that
inspired the most talk online? – Well, the last film we covered, “Once Upon a Time in
Hollywood’s” a strong contender. – It was until–
– Until! Yes, until Venice. – A couple months later at
the Venice Film Festival, where Todd Phillips’ Joker premiered. – I think everyone kind
of expected this one to be a hot button topic. The screening we went
to had metal detectors and more security than you
usually see at these screenings because that was an early
narrative about the film, that it was gonna spark all
this violence in movie theaters. – Which was highly speculative and then– – I’m glad it didn’t happen. (laughs) – Oh, of course.
– Of course. – Yeah, some would argue that
movie is too banal to do that. (laughing) But I wouldn’t necessarily argue that. I am kind of an agnostic on “Joker.” – [Katie] Do you think
that it’s a dangerous film? – I don’t think it’s a dangerous film. I understood why people
thought that about it, although I will say that a lot of that was coming from people who
hadn’t yet seen the film. – Yes, that’s true.
– You know? It was just a raw
speculation about it, right. And so, we should probably say something about what the film is
for those who don’t know. I don’t know how it’s possible you wouldn’t know what this is now. – It’s called “Joker.” (laughing) – Todd Phillips, who made
“The Hangover” films, had an idea a couple years ago that he wanted to do an
origin story of the Joker, the Batman’s main heavy, you know? Homicidal clown, that sort of thing. – And you know, perhaps significantly, a character that had already
made the leap into, you know, cinematic mainstream respectability with Heath Ledger getting an
Oscar for playing the Joker. – Sure, of course, yep. He’s also been portrayed
by Jack Nicholson, by Jared Leto somewhat recently, Mark Hamill voiced him on
Batman: The Animated Series, that’s one of the more popular takes. This version of him is
played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film is set in Gotham
City in roughly 1981– – Yeah, around there.
– The film never says, but it’s around there.
– Yeah, yeah, yeah. Gotham City being a stand-in
for New York here because– – Yeah.
– Yep. – And I mean, this is very much a New York from the new Hollywood era, you know? Very obviously a New York as seen through Martin Scorsese’s lens. – Yes, very much. – Two Scorsese films are
heavy influences on this one, “Taxi Driver” and also
“The King of Comedy,” both with De Niro, who plays
a supporting role in the film. He plays Murray Franklin, he’s
a talk show host on the film, he’s basically in the
role that Jerry Lewis had in “The King of Comedy.” So we follow Phoenix’s character, he is a kind of for-hire clown, and he suffers from a
kind of unidentified, unspecified mental illness. And the city is cutting
funds to health care options and mental health options, and the movie is sort of about looking at what happens to this character as this city kind of abandons him. – I mean, I do agree with “Joker” that it’s essential to have, you know, public mental health clinic facilities. – I would agree too, I
don’t think it’s actually a super controversial point to make. – No, it’s not, I mean– – And there are things I actually quite like about this film.
– Yeah. – I think, for the most part, what I do like about this movie is that we’re now living in the age of the superhero industrial
complex, you know? There’s a new superhero movie every month at this point, you know? And some of the studios,
specifically Marvel, has kind of turned this
into an assembly line. – Yeah. – They all operate by a certain formula. And I mostly like those films. I like the Marvel movies. I know you’re not a big fan. – Well, I just don’t keep up with them because they’re well-covered
by our staff and you know, like, I’m more of a “Star Wars” girl. – (laughing) Yeah. And this has its own formula, in a way. One could say it’s cribbed from Scorsese. – Well, lemme ask you
something about this. Why did this movie, why didn’t “Logan” get this same kind of attention? ‘Cause you wanna talk about
doing something different with a superhero movie, and taking a more serious tack on it, that movie did that. – [Alex] That’s a good question, and that’s a lot better
film, I think, yeah. – [Katie] Yeah, I think “Logan” is a better movie than “Joker.” Then why is “Joker” getting
all these Oscar nominations? – It’s a good question. I mean, I think that, for one thing, I do think that the craft in “Joker” is maybe better than the craft in “Logan.” – [Katie] Yeah, that’s fair. – “Logan’s” a well-made
film, but I think that– – But it’s more pulpy,
it’s more comic booky. – It is, it is a little bit more. This thing, this thing sort of wears its pretensions of seriousness
on its sleeve, you know? It’s a movie that announces honestly with almost every moment that, that this is a serious work of art. – Yes, capital S serious. – The thing is, I don’t
think you have to agree with the film to have fun with it. – Okay. – It’s a very self-serious
film in a lot of ways. – Yes, which is why the thing that kinda made me roll my eyes
when I was watching it is the deeper it gets into Batman lore, the just the goofier I think the movie is. – I would agree, the movie
does sort of say, like, oh, you know, this isn’t your
kid brother’s Batman movie. – But then they keep
fucking bringing up Batman! – But then it does the same thing that a lot of comic book movies does, which is that it eventually it ties itself to that
mythology, you know? – Yes! – A purer version of
this maybe would’ve said, you know what? We’re just gonna look at this character and we’re not gonna make all these in ways into the Batman mythology. – If there had been no mention of anything in the Batman universe up until
the very end of this movie, I would’ve respected that. – [Alex] I enjoy Phoenix in it as well, I agree that it’s not
his best performance. It is maybe a more showboating performance from him than we’re used to. It’s a mannered portrait
of mental illness. – He really throws himself
into the role physically, which is cool.
– Yes, he gets that kind of, he’s very bony, and he also gets that
kind of angular quality to the way that the Joker
moves as a character. – Yeah, yeah, physically. – He has these long limbs, you know? – [Katie] As a physical performance, I do think it’s very good. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – And I do think the
craft is pretty strong, even if the movie is kind of doing, I watched, I’ve seen it twice, and I think it’s kind
of doing an imitation of a serious art movie. But the pleasures are still
kind of there, you know? The cinematography is
beautiful, as you said. – The cinematography is really good! – And I quite liked the
score, to be honest. – Yeah, the score is good too. – It’s super bombastic, but
it’s also really effective, and I think that some of
the best scenes in the movie benefit from that music. And there are scenes where I think that this approaches the movie
that it really wants to be, such as the scene after
Joaquin’s character, Arthur Fleck, commits his
first act of violence. He kills three guys on a subway, which by the way, is that whole scene is a reference to a race-related
attack in the early ’80s, which is one way in which this film kind of hedges its bets, I think. Like, if it were really in the
courage of its convictions– – Oh yeah, like, if the
Joker was racist. (laughing) – Right.
– Yeah. – But the movie doesn’t
wanna risk that kind of– – Yeah, yeah.
– Yeah. – And then, you know,
there’s the big scene where Arthur’s had enough
and he dyes his hair green and he turns into the Joker. And it’s supposed to be
this big, serious moment, and then he undercuts it with
a Gary Glitter needle drop. What? – [Alex] But I kinda liked that scene too. – [Katie] I just think it’s so hacky! – I know I’m in the minority
among our particular circle, but I think that scene
works because at heart, Arthur is a dork. Arthur is the type of guy
who would hear that music at like a ball game, and
in his head, would think, like, imagine myself on like,
center stage, dancing to that. He’s a dork! – I think you’re extrapolating
a little much, aren’t you? – No, no, I really think
that he’s, that it’s, maybe Phillips thinks it’s a
genuinely cool needle drop, I think that that is a needle drop that Arthur would enjoy
and pick for himself. He’s hearing that shit
in his head, you know? – Sure, but I don’t know. I just think that Phillips
genuinely thought it was awesome. (laughing) – Maybe, I think it’s
deliberately dorky, personally, but we’ll agree to disagree on this point. – That’s an interesting point because the movie is very
much from his point of view, so I’ll consider it.
– I mean, he’s, I remember talking with
another Chicago critic, Nick Allen, about this when I saw it for the second time in Chicago, and how if Arthur were a comic in 2019, he would probably actually
have kind of a following. There are people who would
dig his anti-comedy, you know? – Yeah, oh, absolutely, yeah, yeah, yeah. What would he call it? The like, you know? – [Alex] It’s like a little
Neil Hamburgian, you know? (laughing) – [Katie] If Neil Hamburger was serious. – [Alex] Was serious, yeah, exactly, if that was a sincere act, yeah. – [Katie] Oh, wow, yeah, I
mean, there probably is somebody out there doin’ that shtick.
– Yeah, totally. – And they probably really
loved the movie, “Joker.” This movie, I don’t hate it. I don’t think it’s one of
the worst films of the year. – We did list it as one of
the worst films of the year. – Yes, we did. – Which was controversial.
– Yes. A lot of people vote on
that is all I have to say. – Yep, a number of writers vote on that– – Yep, we were outvoted. – I considered overruling
them because, yeah, I mean, neither of us think it’s that bad. – I think it’s like
pretty mediocre, honestly. It’s a mediocre movie with, like you said, nothing really in particular to say. It’s got some good points and cinematography is good at times. It’s Joaquin Phoenix is
a great actor, obviously, even though this, you know, maybe just, you should actually just watch “You Were Never Really Here” instead, but you know, he did a
good job in the movie. He really threw himself into it, so I don’t think that
it’s worthless as like, as a piece of filmmaking. It’s just kind of like a dumber rehash of already existing good movies. It’s taking a Scorsese movie
and putting Batman in it. It reminds me of being in
freshman screenwriting class. (laughs) But this movie, you know, even if it’s not actually, you know, real world dangerous, it is sort of does, it did seem to me to be designed to provoke hostile reactions. To “own the libs,” so to speak. (laughing) – [Alex] I don’t know if it has that coherent of an ideology. – [Katie] Oh, you don’t, really? – [Alex] Yeah, I mean, I don’t
know if it’s particularly interested in trolling.
– Really? ‘Cause the whole thing to me seemed like one big exercise in a movie just designed to make the elites mad. – See, I think it’s a hundred
percent interested in cap, I think there’s something
a little opportunistic about its use of particular imagery, I think it very much wants to be a film that’s tapping into the zeitgeist, and a kind of general cultural anxiety. I think it’s doing it in
kind of a wishy-washy way. – Yeah, general, general
is definitely the word for this sort of anxiety that’s
being expressed in the film. – Right, and there, I mean, the movie, there are real topics to
be gleaned from the film, whether or not the film’s
doing it intelligently or the film’s doing it
thoughtfully is another question. – Right, definitely, definitely. I suppose that it’s a matter
of taste whether, you know, like, whether you think that
all the movie’s elements fit together or not. Obviously, it’s very controversial, but there is one way that
it’s very interesting in a movie to watch is that
it does set a precedent for R-rated DC EU
movies, like for example, “Birds of Prey,” which is
coming out in a few weeks is gonna be R-rated, and it looks to have a very strong director’s point of view in that one too. And even though this isn’t
an official DC EU movie, if it means that we’re
gonna switch things up and allow creators more
leeway in comic book movies, I’m cool with that. – That’s the thing I like
the most about it, honestly, about “Joker” is, in an age when we have so many comic book movies,
I really like to see one that has some kind of vision. I mean, I do think that this
one is kind of borrowed, you know? He’s kind of cosplaying Martin Scorsese, but just seeing one that
has an aesthetic identity, one that has some kind of philosophy, even if it’s a shopworn one
or kind of a shallow one, just a movie that has a visual sense that’s a little bit different
than the rest of these. – All right, everybody, that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you for joining us
to talk about “Joker.” Please be sure to like and
subscribe our YouTube channel, we would really appreciate it. And we will be back soon to discuss another Best Picture nominee, the car-racing movie, “Ford v. Ferrari.” – Thanks, folks. – Bye.

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  1. Logan better than Joker? Disagree!! While I watched Logan I knew I was watching an X-men movie. When I watch Joker….I don't think about the Batman lore at all. Once in a while I forget that it's a movie and more a documentary.

  2. No disrespect intended to Katie Rife, sincerely, but I wish Ignatiy Vishnevetsky had been back for this specifically because a thing he's really been consistently excellent at is separating what's actually on the screen from all the things people are unwittingly projecting onto it from the cultural moment they're in. His analysis of Zero Dark Thirty, for instance, is an absolute masterclass in this (people got so hung up on whether it condemned torture that they entirely missed a much deeper and more damning critique the film made about the entire intelligence apparatus)–and I think any discussion of Joker really needs at least one person bringing that to the table.

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