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Awards Profile 2019: Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’ from Warner Bros.

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Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material.  Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”

FILM: “Joker”

DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures
DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips
PRODUCERS: Richard Baratta, Bruce Berman, Jason Cloth, Bradley Cooper, Joseph Garner, Aaron L. Gilbert, Walter Hamada, Todd Phillips, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Michal E. Uslan
WRITER(S): Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
CAST: Robert De Niro, Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Douglas Hodge, Dante Pereira-Olson, Brett Cullen, Brian Tyree Henry, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Bryan Callen
SYNOPSIS: A failed stand-up comedian is driven insane and becomes a psychopathic murderer. (IMDB)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: October 4, 2019


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It’s no secret, the Internet was beyond excited when the masses of Twitter, Facebook and the like saw the first trailer for Todd Phillips’ “Joker.” From hints to the Joker’s sad, traumatic past, to the brilliant acting from lead Joaquin Phoenix and the donning of his clown paint, this trailer gave off a classic feel with new age edginess to boot. Audiences follow Arthur Fleck as he slowly turns to crime and the deep pits of insanity. Instead of the usual action-adventure film audiences have come to expect from comic book film adaptations, “Joker” is leaning far more toward gritty, intense crime drama; writers Phillips and Scott Silver were inspired by executive producer Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “The King of Comedy.” Check out the trailer below, and read a shot-by-shot breakdown of the trailer from Award Circuit’s Joseph Braverman here.

“Joker” boasts a dream cast of talent, with Robert DeNiro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Bill Camp and more, assembled to relay the origin story of Gotham’s craziest villain. Cinematically, the film looks more like an arthouse drama than a DC offering, likely forgetting this was a film about the Batman villain without the “DC” logo flashed at the end of the trailer. But the question is, could this take on the titular villain rise above the lack of consideration offered “The Dark Knight” trilogy years ago in order to earn further Oscar consideration?

Like its DC predecessor, “Joker” is ticking several of the same boxes “The Dark Knight” did that resonated so strongly with the Academy. “Joker” is going for a more realistic, grittier narrative about the DC character, just as Christopher Nolan did with his trilogy, and had a similarly talented cast of dramatic actors to flesh out his story. Phillips and Phoenix have previous Oscar nominations (one for Phillips and three for Phoenix), with both stretching themselves to extremes to tell this story, an element the Academy loves. Phoenix, whose appearance is already garnering massive interest in the film, took to the role effortlessly and could reap the biggest rewards of his career. A good script, a great actor at his finest, a director who’s stretched himself narratively and cinematically, premiering at the height of the anti-hero trend in Hollywood, spells Oscar gold. But there’s one big “if” to “Joker’s” high expectations.


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“Joker” is shaping up to be a gritty stand-alone that ascends from “comic book movie” to “award-winning classic,” if it delivers on the high expectations of its trailer. Phoenix (according to what we’ve seen) will be playing chicken with the line between tortured soul and vengeful murderer, pulling the fantastical Joker out of a failing stand-up comedian spit upon by life. But if the trailer we’ve seen is the best version of this story, “Joker” will fall flat. There are quite a few ways the film could stumble, from poor pacing to an acting performance from Phoenix that strays too far away from the source material, turning the wild Joker into a sad clown. Will a realistic backstory even work with a character that’s meant to be so enigmatic? And can the Joker handle a solo story without Batman to play against? Most of us became fascinated with the Joker due to his harebrained schemes to destroy Gotham’s protector, and while a very young Bruce Wayne will appear in the film, this is definitely Joker’s spotlight. We haven’t seen the villain without his nemesis, and it’s unclear how he’ll do without him.

It’s a 50/50 toss-up that the risks Phillips took will pay off; unexplored territory is rare for a comic book character on screen, and audiences seem ready to see the Joker in a different, more humanistic light. The fact that no one seems concerned that a fully-grown Batman won’t play a part in the film is a good sign. However, if the trailer can’t deliver on the high expectations it’s set for itself, or the film will fizzle. Do you think the Joker stay a fan favorite without the Batman to play against? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.


  • Motion Picture (Richard Baratta, Bruce Berman, Jason Cloth, Bradley Cooper, Joseph Garner, Aaron L. Gilbert, Walter Hamada, Todd Phillips, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Michal E. Uslan)
  • Director (Todd Phillips)
  • Actor in a Leading Role (Joaquin Phoenix)
  • Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert DeNiro, Brett Cullen)
  • Actress in a Supporting Role (Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy)
  • Adapted Screenplay (Todd Phillips, Scott Silver)
  • Production Design (Mark Friedberg)
  • Cinematography (Lawrence Sher)
  • Costume Design (Mark Bridges)
  • Film Editing (Jeff Groth)
  • Makeup and Hairstyling (To be announced)
  • Sound Mixing (To be announced)
  • Sound Editing (To be announced)
  • Visual Effects (To be announced)
  • Original Score (Hildur Guðnadóttir)


  • Best Lead Actor (Oscars): Joaquin Phoenix is already being praised for his dark portrayal of the Joker, and could end up earning big nominations for the part like fellow DC alum Christian Bale did for the “Dark Knight” films.
  • Best Supporting Actor (Golden Globes): It’s all too easy to see Robert DeNiro getting best supporting actor nods for “Joker,” especially with Phoenix to play against.

Are you excited or skeptical about Todd Phillips’ “Joker?” Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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Written by Selina Mixner

Selina is a queer, half-Filipina fangirl who loves TV, film and corgis a little too much. She graduated with a Bachelor's in Literature and Psychology from UC Santa Cruz. Her rules for writing are simple: is it tattoo-worthy? If not, try again.


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