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‘Joker’ snags top Venice Film Festival prize, joining multiple Oscar winners

DC Films’ upcoming Joker, a gritty origin story for the infamous Batman villain starring Joaquin Phoenix, just won the most coveted award at Venice Film Festival.

In previous years, the jury-selected Golden Lion was awarded to TheShape of Water and Roma — two films that then went on to become big Academy Award winners. Joker has proven to be the big critical surprise of the 2019 Venice International Film Festival.

Joker just won the Golden Lion from the Venice film fest. What on earth?? Last two winners were shape of water and Roma #Venezia76

— Will Mavity (@mavericksmovies) September 7, 2019

Its first trailer was largely panned by Twitter, with reactions ranging from bemused to derisive. Aside from an over-saturation of “gritty” Joker portrayals (thanks Jared Leto), folks seemed hesitant to take the movie as seriously as it seemingly wanted to be, already pointing to issues with a sympathetic portrait of a failed aspiring comedian pushed to violence by the world’s rejection.

Then there’s the fact that it’s directed by Todd Phillips, best known for TheHangover. While a respected comedy hit-maker, Phillips’ oeuvre stands in stark contrast to previous directors who’ve won the Golden Lion, like Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro.

But the joke’s on us.

Reviews from the Venice Film Festival showered Joker with praise last week, while still pointing to major flaws in its premise and execution. Critics were left truly stunned by this latest turn of events, though, since snagging the top prize at Venice Film Festival necessarily puts this comic book movie in the conversation as a top Academy Awards contender.

JOKER is not a convincing portrait of a world gone mad, but JOKER winning the Golden Lion at Venice is.

this feels like exhibit A of the argument i laid out in my review. https://t.co/np4MCZgd4b

— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) September 7, 2019

Marvel’s Back Panther made history in 2018 as the first comic book movie ever nominated for Best Picture. But it’d be quite the twist if DC Films went on to become the category’s first actual comic book winner.

Of course, all of that is extremely hypothetical at this point. Critics are now looking to see how Joker fares at the Toronto International Film Festival, another historical predictor of the major players for Academy Awards.

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