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Posts Tagged ‘Joaquin Phoenix’

There is a line in Tim Burtons 1989 incarnation of Batman where Batman tells Joker “I made you, you made me first”.  This is one of the clearest examples in movies of how the characters need each other.  Without an adversary, they are just mad men in costumes, they give each other purpose, and giver the films a narrative.  Jack Napier as the person who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents, then later became the Joker is an invention of the Movie. The symbiotic nature of the Batman/Joker relationship is perfect; as is the Heath Ledger incarnation in The Dark Knight (2008).  We don’t know the origin of this version of the character, he tells just appears fully formed as a character.  At various points in the film, Joke tells different, conflicting stories about the scars on his face.  When arrested,  Gordon describes  what they know about him, nothing! “No matches on prints, DNA, dental. Clothing is custom, no labels. Nothing in his pockets but knives and lint. No name. No other alias.”

By the this point, there are so many Joker origin stories, who knows what is or isn’t canon.  In his comic books, the character was created in the 1940’s by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson (who is mainly responsible has been disputed).  Starting life as a criminal mastermind, intended for a single issue, he became a mainstay.  As the Comics Code Authority came into effect in the 1950’s be became less of a psychopath, and more of a prankster, before returning to darker roots in the 70’s and 80’s.  The idea of Joker as a failed comedian came from Alan Moore’s seminal The Killing Joke (2008).The Killing Joke

The One thing, they all have in common, is Batman.  Even when Joke is the focus of the story, his nemesis Batman is there, until now!  This new incarnation director Todd Phillips (who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver), is Batman free, we do see a young Bruce Wayne, and yet another death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, but no man dressed as a bat.  This is cleary a story without Batman, and it wouldn’t work with Batman.  Joker would be a different character, and the film would be very different with Batman.  The Martin Scorsese inspiration is clear, particularly Taxi Driver (1976), and The King of Comedy (1983), this gives a more gritty reality than we have ever seen in a movie of this type, even Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.  The echoes of  Rupert Pupkin we see it the character of Arthur Fleck are emphasised by the inclusion of Robert De Niro who appears in Joker in what is essentially the Jerry Lewis role from The King of Comedy.

By the time I had seen the film, it had something of a critical rollercoaster; winning the Golden Lion  and Graffetta d’Oro Venice Film Festival, and a series of four and five star reviews were followed by a backlash of its portrayal of mental illness, and a sympathetic portrayal of a homicidal maniac. There was then a backlash against the backlash.  Whatever your thoughts on the film, there are two things that are hard to argue: Joaquin Phoenix is fantastic as Arthur Fleck, and the score by Hildur Guðnadóttir is sensational.  Ultimately I think the film is really good, but not excellent, I can’t help thinking those who love it are blinded by how different it is to a typical DC movie, and those that don’t like it are concerned by the controversy, or sniffy about its comic book origins. Joker

As to the question, Can there be a Joker without Batman? that is something history will tell us.  The film is intended as a standalone story.  As this it works, and as a viewer, we can see a world in which a character like Batman could exist, we are seeing a cities decent into the crime ridden place we have seen in other Batman movies.  We see Jokers decent into madness, and his total disconnection with reality, but we don’t see a fully formed criminal mastermind.  This is where it needs to be left, lefty for the viewers imagination.  If however, the studio decide to catch in (at the time of publishing the world Box-office had topped $770million) it will dilute the story and have a negative impact on the original film.  Indications they are that Warner Bros intend leave Joker as a single film,  but will “launch DC Black” a series standalone films with a darker tone, based on DC Comics but not related to the DCEU. To put it another way, Joker as a character can work without Batman, but the film Joker can ONLY work without Batman, and not as a precurser to a Batman Movie.  

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Best Actor nominees ranked in my order of preference:

  1. CHRISTIAN BALE – Vice
  2. RAMI MALEK – Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. VIGGO MORTENSEN – Green Book
  4. BRADLEY COOPER – A Star Is Born

not ranked – WILLEM DAFOE – At Eternity’s Gate*Oscar ACTORS IN A LEADING ROLE Ranked.jpg

* Willem Dafoe is not ranked as I have not seen At Eternity’s Gate, and won’t until its UK release a month after the Oscars.

And the omissions that I think deserved a nomination:

  1. ETHAN HAWKE – First Reformed
  2. BRADY JANDREAU – The Rider
  3. JOAQUIN PHOENIX – You Were Never Really HereOscar BEST ACTOR OMISSIONS.jpg

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If you are reading this site, you are probably a movie fan and will have seen a lot of these films, but many people won’t have heard of them.  This a shame, as they are all great!

Loveless: A couple going through a divorce are oblivious to the effect it is having on their young son.  The film is totally devastating and heartbreaking.  If you see it you will probably love it, but never want to see it again.  Nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, and BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language.  Director Andrey Zvyagintsev made his name with The Return (2003) and is best known for Leviathan (2014), also nominated for Foreign Language Oscar.Loveless

Dark River: Following the death of her father, Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns home for the first time in 15 years to take over the tenancy of the family farm.  Here she has to confront ghosts of her past, and her brother who now runs the farm.  Always reliable Ruth Wilson is on sensational form.  Director Clio Barnard is best known for the innovative documentary The Arbor (2010) and The Selfish Giant (2013). Dark River

You Were Never Really Here: A traumatized (Joaquin Phoenix) veteran, with a penchant for extreme violence finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy while tracking down a missing young girl.  What it lacks in plot and action, it more than makes up for in mood and atmosphere.  Phoenix has never been better.  Director Lynne Ramsay’s first film since the excellent We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011).You Were Never Really Here

Thoroughbreds:  Two teenagers (Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy) reconnect and rekindle their unusual friendship after drifting apart a few years before.  A film that doesn’t always go where you expect.  Darkly funny and satirical, not to everyone’s taste, but it really got under my skin.  Sadly one of Anton Yelchin’s last films.  Director Cory Finley’s feature début.Thoroughbreds

Beast:  Set in a claustrophobic isolated community on the Channel Island of Jersey; a troubled young woman falls for a seductive but secretive stranger who may or may not be a serial killer, whilst also having to deal with an overpowering mother.  Fantastic performances and a plot filled with just enough ambiguity.  Director, Michael Pearce’s feature debut. Beast

Revenge:  A young woman fights for survival, and to inflict terrible, bloody, and violent revenge on the three men who have wronged her.  She does so with a minimum of clothing.  All this sounds crass, cheesy and unoriginal; however, Revenge offers something new and interesting, possibly because it is written and directed by a woman!  Director Coralie Fargeat’s feature début.Revenge

Leave No Trace: A troubled veteran and his teenage daughter are living outdoors and off grid, until they are discovered and forced to reintegrate into society.  A film that says so much about society today both in its text and subtext.  Masterful filmmaking from director Debra Granik who amazingly hasn’t made a movie since Winter’s Bone (2010). Leave No Trace

Hearts Beat Loud: A father and daughter form an unlikely songwriting partnership at a time of transition in both their lives.   Possibly the most lightweight and disposable film on the list, but certainly the warmest and most charming.  Director Brett Haley’s fourth feature, the first of his that I have seen. Hearts Beat Loud

The Rider: Brady Jandreau, a rodeo rider and horse trainer unable to ride following a near fatal head injury, plays Brady Blackburn a rodeo rider and horse trainer unable to ride following a near fatal head injury.  A stunning exploration of identity and masculinity, that could possibly only been told by a woman.  Director Chloé Zhao’s second feature. The Rider

Cold War: A passionate love story starting in 1950s Cold War Poland.  The skill, artistry and restraint to tell such an epic story in just 88 minutes is pure art.  The film looks incredible, sounds amazing and will rip your heart out.  Director Pawel Pawlikowski has won three BAFTA’s: Best Film Not in the English Language for Ida (2013), Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film for My Summer of Love (2004) and Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer for Last Resort (2000).  Cold War is on the short (of nine) that will be whittled down to five for next year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year nominations. Cold War

Bonus pick – Tully: This is a movie that shouldn’t be on the list, it screams mainstream, or at very least popular indie hit; directed by Jason Reitman, writer by Diablo Cody, starring Charlize Theron.  On top of this, it is also fantastic.  The reviews were good, those who saw it liked it, but for some reason (poor marketing?), it failed to find an audience.  Hopefully it will find an audience on the small screen.  So much more than its synopsis, and it has Charlize Theron! She may disappear into a Lady Gaga shaped shadow when it comes to the Oscars, but you will be hard pressed to find a better performance this year. Tully

Redux version, I forgot one – A Prayer Before Dawn: A brutal and haunting movie about Billy Moore, a British boxer who finds himself in a brutal prison in Thailand, a true story of based on Moore’s book. A lot of the dialogue is in Thai without subtitles, an effective but disconcerting choice.  Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s second movie, a decade after his first Johnny Mad Dog.A Prayer Before Dawn

 

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A few thoughts on the nominations. Firstly I am always a little disappointed when films are nominated before they have been released in the UK (Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained). I am surprised and disappointed that Sam Mendes/Skyfall isn’t nominated in the best film/best director categories. I didn’t expect it to get anything at the Oscars but held out hope the British Academy would recognise it. Fantastic to Marion Cotillard’s monumental performance in Rust and Bone nominated despite not being in an English language movie. Also pleased to see actor turned director Dexter Fletcher (director/writer) nominated for the debut British writer/director/producer category. A strong year for documentaries and foreign language movies. The rising star award has a heavy female bias with woman in four of the five places. Its also a strong category presenting a problem. It is awarded via a public vote, at least three of the five might get my vote.

Here is a Full list of nominees:

BEST FILM
Argo
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Zero Dark ThirtyZero Dark Thirty

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
Anna Karenina
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Les Miserables
Seven Psychopaths
Skyfallskyfall

LEADING ACTOR 
Ben Affleck – Argo
Bradley Cooper – Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix – The MasterJoaquin Phoenix  The Master

LEADING ACTRESS 
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
Dame Helen Mirren – Hitchcock
Emmanuelle Riva – AmourMarion Cotillard  Rust and Bone

SUPPORTING ACTOR 
Alan Arkin – Argo
Javier Bardem – Skyfall
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Christoph Waltz – Django UnchainedAlan Arkin Argo

SUPPORTING ACTRESS 
Amy Adams – The Master
Dame Judi Dench – Skyfall
Sally Field – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Helen Hunt – The SessionsAnne Hathaway Les Miserables

DIRECTOR 
Ben Affleck – Argo
Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty
Michael Haneke – Amour
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Amour – Michael Haneke
Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino
The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson
Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty – Mark Boal

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY 
Argo – Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi – David Magee
Lincoln – Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook – David O Russell

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
James Bobin (director) – The Muppets
Dexter Fletcher (director/writer) and Danny King (writer) – Wild Bill
Tina Gharavi (director/writer) – I Am Nasrine
Bart Layton (director) and Dmitri Doganis (producer) – The Imposter
David Morris (director) and Jaqui Morris (director/producer) – McCullin

ANIMATED FILM
Brave
Frankenweenie
Paranorman
DOCUMENTARY
The Imposter
Marley
McCullin
Searching for Sugarman
West of Memphis

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Amour
Headhunters
The Hunt
Rust and Bone
Untouchable

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

COSTUME DESIGN 
Anna Karenina
Great Expectations
Les Miserables
Lincoln
Snow White and the Huntsman

EDITING
Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Skyfall
Zero Dark Thirty

MAKE UP AND HAIR
Anna Karenina
Hitchcock
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Lincoln

ORIGINAL MUSIC
Anna Karenina
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Anna Karenina
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

SOUND
Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Skyfall

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel Avengers Assemble
Prometheus

SHORT ANIMATION
Here to Fall
I’m Fine Thanks
The Making of Longbird

SHORT FILM
The Curse
Good Night
Swimmer
Tumult
The Voorman Problem

RISING STAR (public vote)
Elizabeth Olsen
Andrea Riseborough
Suraj Sharma
Juno Temple
Alicia VikanderRISING STAR

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The Contenders are: 

Argo – A spy story based on real events following the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Ben Affleck has done it again, as both star and director he has given us a film completely different to but as good as if not even better than his first two films. Tense and funny in equal measure and at the right times, a future classic.Ben Affleck in Argo

Rust and Bone – Jacques Audiard follows up A Prophet with a bruising and brutal melodrama. Marion Cotillard is as great as ever as is her co star Matthias Schoenaerts. Sometimes oppressive and hard to watch, at others uplifting but always emotional. A film that needs to find a worldwide audience.Rust and Bone

The Sapphires – Pitched as Good, Morning Vietnam meets The Commitments, its probably a fair comparison. Loosely based on real events. A heavy drinking Irish cruise ship entertainer (Chris O’Dowd) finds himself in the middle of nowhere in Australian until he hooks up with an Aboriginal girl group. They soon find them selves entertaining American troops in Vietnam. A likeable cast and some great music make for an entertaining film.The Sapphires

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – More of the same from the glittery vampires. Fans of the series will love it, detractors won’t see it. It isn’t the best of the series but its far from the worse.Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 2

The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson’s character study of people involved in a religion, cult or possibly religious cult that may or may not be based on L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology. The film looks nothing short of amazing and the performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams are all sensational. The film does lack a plot, this will bother some people not others. I like it but don’t love it.The Master

End of Watch – Written and directed by David Ayer,. Made up of little snippets of the daily life of a pair a of cops (perfectly cast Jake Gylleenhaal and Michael Pena) working one of the roughest beats in South Central LA. Director of The French Connection William Friedkin describes said of twitter “End of Watch is a great film…may be the best cop film ever”.End of Watch

Gambit – Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman star in a remake of the Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine and Herbert Lom comedy crime caper. Lightweight and not clever enough to be a classic crime caper or funny enough to be a great farce but it is still entertaining and fun.Gambit

Silver Linings Playbook – Shortly after being released from a mental institution for beating up his wife’s lover Pat (Bradley Cooper) meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a damaged and disturbed young woman whose husband has recently been killed. After a string of crapy comedies Robert De Niro is on really good form but the star of the film is Jennifer Lawrence who electrifies the screen every time she is on it.Silver Linings Playbook

The best film I saw in November was probably Skyfall, that I went back to see a second time but a close second was a more believable spy film:Argo poster

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