History has been made at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, as gritty comic book thriller Joker was named best film of the competition.
The movie, directed by Todd Phillips, waltzed away with the Golden Lion, the most prestigious award of the world's oldest film festival. Not only is it the first comic book movie to do so, the film beat out fearsome competition including acclaimed Brad Pitt sci-fi drama Ad Astra.
The Venice jury was headed by Argentinian auteur Lucrecia Martel and was comprised of Stacy Martin, Mary Harron, Piers Handling, Rodrigo Prieto, Shinya Tsukamoto and Paolo Virzì.
Star Joaquin Phoenix joined Phillips on stage to collect the prize. The Hollywood Reporter quotes Phillips as thanking "Warner Bros. and DC for stepping out of their comfort zone and taking such a bold swing on me and this movie".
Phillips also lauded Phoenix's performance: "There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin is the fiercest and brightest and most open-minded lion I know. Thank you for trusting me with your insane talent."
The actor portrays Arthur Fleck, an aspiring yet disturbed stand-up comic who is marginalised and brutalised during his life in early-eighties Gotham City. When his sanity finally snaps, Fleck begins his transformation into the Clown Prince of Crime, and becomes a symbol of chaos in his city.
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Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy and Marc Maron star in the movie, which has generated critical acclaim, if a somewhat divisive response as to its politics.
"This is a truly nightmarish vision of late-era capitalism – arguably the best social horror film since Get Out – and Joaquin Phoenix is magnetic in it," raves Phil De Semylen in Time Out.
The question now is this: will the movie triumph at the 2020 Oscars? Given the rave reviews and Golden Lion prestige, consider the movie, and in particular Phoenix's engrossing turn, to be serious contenders.