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How Serious An Awards Contender Is “Joker” After Its Venice Win?

Over the weekend, something rather shocking happened at the Venice Film Festival. Yes, more shocking than a Grand Jury Prize going to Roman Polanski and his largely panned movie An Officer and a Spy (and even more surprising than another special prize going to the largely shrugged about American Skin from Nate Parker.) The coveted Golden Lion went to Todd Phillips’ Joker, the first studio flick of the modern age to take such a prize. Now, even more so than in weeks past, we have to wonder about just what kind of a contender for Oscar Joker is, especially in light of more strong buzz last night out of the Toronto International Film Festival. Could this be more than just Joaquin Phoenix or bust?

To refresh your memory, this is what the movie’s official synopsis is: “Joker centers around an origin of the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. Todd Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a man disregarded by society, is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.” IMDb similarly says the following: “An original standalone origin story of the iconic villain not seen before on the big screen, it’s a gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society, and a broader cautionary tale.” Phoenix plays the man who will become the Clown Prince of Crime, while supporting players include Zazie Beetz, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Robert De Niro, Brian Tyree Henry, Marc Maron, Shea Whigham, and more. Phillips directs and co-writes with Scott Silver. The score is by Hildur Guðnadóttir, while the cinematography is handled by Lawrence Sher.

Just to give you an idea how unprecedented this is, here is what the Golden Lion has gone to since the year 2000:

2019 – Joker
2018 – Roma
2017 – The Shape of Water
2016 – The Woman Who Left
2015 – From Afar
2014 – A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
2013 – Sacro GRA
2012 – Pietà
2011 – Faust
2010 – Somewhere
2009 – Lebanon
2008 – The Wrestler
2007 – Lust, Caution
2006 – Still Life
2005 – Brokeback Mountain
2004 – Vera Drake
2003 – The Return
2002 – The Magdalene Sisters
2001 – Monsoon Wedding
2000 – The Circle

Right now, you have to take this film seriously as an Academy Award contender. Warner Bros. is going to campaign it across the board, that’s for sure. Look for efforts in Best Picture, Best Director (for Phillips), Best Actor (for Phoenix), Best Adapted/Original Screenplay (for Phillips and Silver), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Original Score. Category placement will have to be decided for the Screenplay situation, though right now, WB should focus on Phoenix in Actor and a citation in Picture. That’s where the momentum is right now. In fact, it seems more and more like Phoenix is going to be a real threat in the Actor race.

Joker could still fall short, of course. Obviously, it is unlike anything else to have won this prize, and would be, give or take Black Panther, unlike anything else ever to have been nominated for Best Picture. Joaquin Phoenix in Best Actor seems like it could certainly happen, but larger nominations were long shots until just this weekend. Sit tight to see what happens one the precursors begins, but without question, Joker is to be taken seriously…

Here are all of the Venice awards, in case you were wondering:


Golden Lion
Joker; dir: Todd Phillips

Grand Jury Prize
An Officer And A Spy: dir: Roman Polanski

Silver Lion, Best Director
Roy Andersson; About Endlessness

Volpi Cup, Best Actress
Ariane Ascaride; Gloria Mundi

Volpi Cup, Best Actor
Luca Marinelli, Martin Eden

Best Screenplay
Yonfan; No. 7 Cherry Lane

Special Jury Prize
La Mafia Non E Più Quello Di Una Volta; dir: Franco Moresco

Marcello Mastroianni Award for for Best New Young Actor or Actress
Toby Wallace, Babyteeth


Best Film
Atlantis; dir: Valentyn Vasyanovych

Best Director
Theo Court; Blanco En Blanco

Special Jury Prize
Verdict; dir: Raymund Ribay Guttierez

Best Actress
Marta Nieto; Madre

Best Actor
Sami Bouajila; A Son

Best Screenplay
Jessica Palud, Revenir

Best Short Film
Darling; dir: Saim Sadiq


You Will Die At 20; dir: Amjad Abu Alala


Best VR
The Key; dir: Céline Tricart

Best VR Experience
A Linha; dir: Ricardo Laganaro

Best VR Story
Daughters Of Chibok; dir: Joel Kachi Benson


Best Documentary on Cinema
Babenco; dir: Barbara Paz

Best Restoration
Ecstasy; Gustav Machaty

Stay tuned to see how well Joker does over the course of the awards season!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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