"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Joker

I think my favorite movie by director Todd Phillips (ROAD TRIP, STARSKY & HUTCH) is still his 1993 student film HATED: GG ALLIN & THE MURDER JUNKIES. It’s a documentary about an infamously transgressive punk singer skipping parole to do a tour where he kind of plays music, but the shows usually end soon after he shoves someone’s banana up his ass or smashes a woman’s nose with a beer bottle or shits on stage and throws it in the crowd. Phillips was clearly aware of the absurdity of his subject, but also in awe of someone living their life as a human middle finger. The director’s new film, JOKER, won the Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival, and shows an evolution in his film craft, but not necessarily in his world view.

Let’s take a moment to consider that when BATMAN & ROBIN came out there is no way in hell any of us could’ve guessed that in 22 years one of our generation’s most respected actors would star in a super-fucked-up hard-R ‘70s period piece Scorsese knockoff character study vaguely based on (and officially branded as) an iconic Batman villain. Much less that it would be controversial only for reasons other than “it’s too scary for kids.” It’s a crazy world we’re living in. Almost like… the Joker. Oh my god.

Joaquin Phoenix (Joel Schumacher’s 8MM) plays Arthur Fleck, a weird socially inept guy who takes care of his sick mother (Frances Conroy, CATWOMAN) in his shitty New Y— I mean Gotham City apartment and works as a clown for a small agency that rents them out to hospitals and businesses and stuff. And he’s been trying to write some jokes to try his hand at standup comedy. But he gets in trouble at work for things that aren’t his fault, he loses his social worker because of budget cuts, a black lady is mean to him on the bus, etc. One night when some drunk Wall Street assholes pick on him on the subway he Bernard Goetzes them, flees the scene, and is dubbed by the media and police a clown vigilante attacking the rich. He alternates between trying not to get caught and being empowered by what he did.

The screenplay by Phillips & Scott Silver (8 MILE, THE FIGHTER) takes maybe six things from DC Comics, with two of them being “the Joker” and “Gotham City.” Another is Batman’s old man Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen, GHOST RIDER), who has not yet been murdered and is a rich asshole who’s running for Mayor. Arthur’s mom used to work for him and is always writing him letters, believing he’ll help her with her financial problems. Since the movie is kind of SUPER-8-for-Scorsese-instead-of-Spielberg it makes you wonder if the famous death of Batman’s parents will become a political assassination in homage to TAXI DRIVER. That would be a different take.

The other obvious comparison is KING OF COMEDY, with Arthur causing Rupert Pupkin-like discomfort through delusional belief in his talent as a comedian and being fixated on talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro, Joel Schumacher’s FLAWLESS). It’s much less funny than Scorsese’s movie, but it does have some dark humor in it. For me the biggest laugh was when he exits a dramatic scene walking face first into a glass door. I love the irony that he fails with all his comedy and then does a great physical gag completely by accident when he’s not trying to be funny.

For some guy near the back of the theater the biggest laugh was a not-exactly-joke at the expense of a little person (Leigh Gill, THE SCORPION KING 4: QUEST FOR POWER) trying to flee the scene of a gruesome murder. I didn’t find it funny but that guy straight up guffawing was very in line with an evil Joker sense of humor and made the scene even more upsetting.

I think the idea that works best is Arthur’s neurological disorder that makes him sometimes laugh for no reason. It allows for Phoenix to do a great Joker laugh for the unorthodox purpose of causing social discomfort instead of punctuating evil speeches. Sometimes the situations it causes are funny, but you feel bad for laughing. Sometimes they’re just sad.

Zazie Beetz and Brian Tyree Henry, two actors I love from Atlanta, make appearances. Henry does his thing in one scene but Beetz has an important role as a neighbor who Arthur becomes fixated on, and the way that whole relationship goes down is interesting. It’s definitely noticeable that pretty much every character that upsets Arthur besides the one he kills is black, but I’m unsure whether this is an unconscious bias coming out in a depiction of urban stress, or an intentional point about Arthur having racial resentment. Could go either way.

I kind of liked JOKER. I found it involving, Phoenix is obviously very good, it looks beautiful, there are those bits of dark comedy, there are some turns I didn’t see coming, some genuinely scary parts, and it’s a creepy slow burn to a couple really effective explosions of seriously fucked up violence. It’s about as well-executed a version as you could hope for of what in my opinion seems like the half-thought-out premise somebody brags that they pitched to a studio but the fucking cowards wouldn’t go for it. Something Max Landis would come up with. What if it’s The Joker, in Gotham City, only it’s real dark and grounded, ‘cause you learn about his problems, and he doesn’t do fun Joker stuff, or obviously fight Batman or anything. ‘Cause if you think about it if the Joker was real he wouldn’t fall into a vat of acid and have giant jack in the boxes and fight a guy dressed as a bat in a stylized gothic metropolis. He’d be more like Mark David Chapman. So that’s what you have to watch. Sorry losers. Fuck you.

That they were able to make such a watchable movie out of an idea I find so fucking stupid is actually very impressive to me.

Maybe it would bother me less if they hadn’t done such a good job of getting our attention, making people treat it as a big important movie. As a small little experiment, a strange pop culture mashup, obviously it’s different from what other people are doing, and that’s good. But when I hear somebody imply that this is somehow a better or deeper way to do comic book movies because it takes the fun parts out and does an imitation of a type of dark character study that was new 40 years ago… I’m just not sold on that at all. There are better fucked up psychological portraits than JOKER, but there aren’t better Dolph-Lundgren-on-a-sea-horse movies than AQUAMAN. So if I had to choose, I’m goin with the sea horse.

I’m glad we get both. But don’t give me some horse shit line about he wanted to make a character study but the only way to get that greenlit in this day and age is to say it’s a reimagining of Batman or Mork & Mindy or some shit. I mean, Joaquin already made YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE. That was way more challenging and he didn’t have to rename his character Beetle Bailey or anything.

I’m also skeptical of all these takes about this being a timely movie (or too timely… “this is not the time for a movie about this”), as if it’s a recent development that sick people feel/are mistreated and have a hard time and become suicidal or psychotic or stalk people. I’m not sure how this addresses those problems in a more advanced way than Scorsese did with Travis Bickle when Phillips was six years old. I think the attitude of the movie is actually pretty dated, this idea that it’s subversive and rebellious to recast heroes as villains. I get that this is telling the story from a different perspective, but making Thomas Wayne an asshole and Alfred (Douglas Hodge, THE DESCENT: PART 2) kind of a douche and the murder of the Waynes part of a backlash against the 1% isn’t… like… a cool idea. It’s just a very mild form of taking a shit on stage.

(Fucking with the audience by SPOILER making us believe for a couple minutes that they made Joker be Batman’s brother is a better one. I heard a guy sigh and I thought “I agree.” But when you find out what’s really going on it’s more interesting.)

(Or not! Cullen told The Hollywood Reporter, “The backstory was that Arthur’s mother had worked for Thomas in his home, and she was a beautiful woman who Thomas was attracted to and it led to a physical relationship. Later in life, she’s in and out of mental institutions. And in my mind, Thomas Wayne put her there.” Boooooooooo.)

This is probly some nerd shit, but I just want to say that I hope next time somebody plays the Joker they forget about Heath Ledger’s version. Yeah, he was great – now can we get back to what the character used to be? There’s no reason he has to have greasy, scraggly hair and messy makeup and not have white skin and green hair. This seems less like an interpretation of the nearly 70 year old comic book character than of specifically the Ledger version. The only thing I can think of that arguably comes from a traditional Joker is how skinny he is, but that seems to be mainly for MACHINIST style shirtless grossout purposes.

Is it weird that there’s not even any references to playing cards? Where does he get “Joker” from? ‘Cause he tells jokes?

If you’re not sure this is your type of movie, it probly isn’t. But if you’re down to clown and stoked to get joked and don’t necessarily care whether or not someone has danced with the devil in the pale moonlight – sure, give it a shot.

I guess in the end Arthur Fleck is kind of like GG Allin. Both planned to kill themselves on stage, but fate took them in other directions. GG just o.d.’d and Arthur became The Joker. Or at least he put on makeup and stood on a car and people acted like he was cool. I can’t say I’m disappointed that this is (supposedly) a standalone. I think this is enough. Unless you put Aquaman in the next one.

p.s. According to IMDb JOKER is an alternate title for WILD CARD, Jason Statham’s remake of the Burt Reynolds movie HEAT. I just thought you should know.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 8th, 2019 at 9:15 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

77 Responses to “Joker”

  1. Todd N. DeShadows

    October 8th, 2019 at 9:30 am

    I think the big reason why it doesn’t compare to “Taxi Driver” or “King of Comedy” is that he just never seems in control of his actions. Like, Travis Bickle made himself who he is because that’s what he wanted, being a psycho vigilante is the only thing that made him happy. With Arthur Fleck, it feels more like becoming the Joker was forced upon him. A lot of people don’t like that for ideological reasons, like it’s a bad message to be sending out to a bunch of disaffected loners, but the bigger problem with it to me is that it’s boring. I didn’t feel sad for Arthur, or excited for him, when he finally became the Joker, the way I did with Bickle or Walter White or Saul Goodman.

  2. The thing about black people is another Scorsese homage.

  3. I think weirder than people trying to push it as an important movie, is how people seemed to desperately wanted it to become the new cinematic bible of all incels and internet assholes, by trying to warn us about it! It took less than 10 minutes after the trailer was released until I had the first Tweet in my timeline, calling it “another glorification of a mentally ill white male”. Once the movie won at Cannes or Venice*, people were trying REALLY hard to warn us about the dangers of it, to the point where I even fully expected some assholes to really kill a bunch of people BECAUSE the media had their knives out and kept talking about it. Like a deadly Streisand effect.

    *To be honest, before that I expected it to be more of a sleeper hit or even a slight underperformer, because outside of the internet nobody seemed to care until then.

  4. The amount of anxious hand-wringing news outlets have had over this movie has been straight-up baffling to watch. I thought we were past the days when society was convinced that movies were going to Corrupt The Youths.

    Any time I’ve seen anything for this movie recently it’s made me think of that joke Scott Ackerman made about how there’s something…almost chilling about the Joker. Someone…who finds crime…funny??? Pretty scary to imagine wow.

  5. Convincing themselves that this movie was going to get us all killed may not be the dumbest thing that internet liberals ever worked themselves into a tizzy about, but it is certainly the lamest. 176% guarantee that Todd Phillips started trolling them with his dumbass “PC culture” tirade exclusively because he immediately saw that it would result in thousands of gullible morons giving his movie weeks of free publicity while they ignored a straight-up constitutional crisis that was unfolding concurrently.

    Sure, the fact that this is exactly the movie the Ain’t It Cool Talkbackers wanted 15 years ago was definitely a red flag that it’s for unpleasant morons, but it should also have made it equally obvious that it was utterly irrelevant and unimportant and that hysterical public weeping about how scary it was would only encourage it. The fact that this dumbass anti-controversy was swamping my twitter feed for weeks is definitive proof that I need to get off that cesspool of a platform permanently.

  6. I’ll admit that the first thing I thought of when I saw the trailer was “So do I have to get there early to catch the mass shooting or will it be cool if I show up after the trailers?” Which, to me, was as much a joke about how ubiquitous mass shooting are these days as it is about how the movie looks like it was made specifically to be quoted in 4chan manifestos. I don’t actually think the movie poses any more danger to our society (such as it is) than any other work of fiction, considering there are angry pieces of human filth committing senseless acts of butchery and ignorance in this country on a daily basis with no need to be inspired by some edgelord comic book movie.

    I’m not skipping it for anything of that though. I’m skipping it because you can look at two frames of this thing and see every single thing that’s going to happen in it. It just looks dumb and boring and self-important and I don’t feel any need to subject myself to that kind of wankery .

  7. The only group of people I can see people wary of this were those family members of the Aurora shooting. I just moved to Aurora this year and I go to the movie theather were the shooting happened. They did not show The Joker.

  8. Oh Jesus and now I check my newsfeed to see a completely ridiculous article in Time of all places, breathlessly describing how *controversial* and *dangerous* the Joker has always been. My god, people, he’s a cartoon clown who gets punched in the face by a guy in a bat costume!

    It feels like some people think the Joker is, like, a real guy, like Charles Manson or something, but people were *way less upset* about actual Charles Manson appearing in movies earlier this summer.

  9. “But don’t give me some horse shit line about he wanted to make a character study but the only way to get that greenlit in this day and age is to say it’s a reimagining of Batman or Mork & Mindy or some shit. I mean, Joaquin already made YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE. That was way more challenging and he didn’t have to rename his character Beetle Bailey or anything.”

    I don’t know that you can really compare these two. Joker had a budget of $58,000,000 and You Were Never Really Here had a budget of $7,000,000. Philips isn’t getting a $58 million dollar budget for his version of Taxi Driver.

  10. You can probably say this about anything but I really don’t see the point of this movie.

  11. We’re at a weird place in time where some people see little separation between who they are and what happens in the movies they support. It’s an effect of movies as personal branding, late-capitalism, etc. I’m even hearing some people who I know are smart who take the Joker saying he isn’t political to mean that the movie must also think it’s above politics, and the whole thing is frustrating.

    Like, all the references to MODERN TIMES were key to my understanding of what I think the film is trying to say about antihuman systems, though the glowing humanity of that movie is completely absent here. I also noticed what you were saying about his interactions with black people, specifically with black women, who he thinks he can turn to for escape (the neighbour in the elevator, the girl on the bus, his counsellors) due to an imagined shared oppression, yet he’s shut out each time. In a way, I think this is just a provocation on Phillips’ part, but there’s at least some levels to this text.

    I thought this was more compelling than YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, though I’ll probably never want to watch it again.

  12. I do think it is remarkable that some “suit” didn’t really fuck with this movie. It is pretty clear the people who made this didn’t consider it a super hero movie or a comic book movie. There really isn’t an action scene in the movie (unless you count them chasing Joker into the subway an action scene). Some executive somewhere must have pushed hard to get a big action scene or gun fight in this thing. Hell, that may be the reason we have the alley scene at the end. BTW, do you think the Waynes went to see Zorro The Gay Blade? I forgot what the other movie on the marquee was, but I guess that means this was set in 1981.

    I am worried Heath Ledger may have completely ruined this character forever. His performance is so amazing and iconic, I feel every actor who plays the joker from hereon out (and we will see many more, I am sure) will do some kind of spin on that performance.

    Phoenix really is amazing, though. I am almost positive he is in every second of the film, I don’t remember a scene without him. He was great to watch. And the film really looks great.

  13. Haven’t seen it yet (as usual), and probably won’t til it’s on my TV, but one thing, Vern. I don’t see why it would be weird or underwhelming or whatever you were implying if the character is called Joker because he tells jokes. It makes perfect sense to me, and — again, without having seen the movie — might even carry a little weight? (But, of course, might not.)

    Mr. M: I bet you save yourself from seeing a lot of shit, but have you ever come to discover that you had missed out on something good by making your mind up so certainly beforehand? I know this sounds judgy. I don’t mean it to. I’m legitimately wondering if you’ve ever been pleasantly surprised later on?

  14. Oh definitely. I’ve changed my tune a million times. But I never regret skipping it in the theater. Being pleasantly surprised by a movie I assumed I’d hate after getting it free from the library or something is different than going out and spending money on something I assume I’ll hate. I’ll probably give JOKER a chance eventually but I’m not paying for the privilege.

  15. I suppose I can also be tempted by a cheap Blu-ray with a generous assortment of special features. I just spent $8.50 at Target against my better judgment on the Blu of BLADE RUNNER 2049 even though I’m pretty sure I’ll be praying for the sweet release of death after the first two hours. But what if I’m wrong? What if, against all odds, I find its two hours of beautifully photographed somnabulance as enthralling as all of the white guys on the Internet with beards and opinions on local IPAs say it is? I guess I’ll just have to find out.

  16. I’ll say it. I did not like Ledger’s Joker, ok? I found it pretty…well, not Jokerish. Sue me.

    Also Vern…Thomas Wayne, Alfred, the two detectives, the three guys on the subway, Murray’s assistant, and the kids who steal his sign all upset Fleck. I did not see him getting upset by black folks exclusively. By contrast, I feel like he was getting upset by almost everybody. The people who didn’t upset him were elderly white lady, handicapped white man, super-hot mixed chick, cute black kids 1 and 2. So blackness batted .500 for NOT upsetting Fleck.

  17. The little person “gag” was ABSOLUTELY a joke. And one I saw coming a mile away when Fleck closed the latch. It played out differently than I expected, however.

    Also, thank you for mentioning Goetze. I can’t believe no one else has mentioned that point of reference. It’s clear as day in the film, but I guess people have forgotten that whole, dreary affair.

  18. Jeff- I remember people were saying the same thing about Nicholson’s Joker after Heath Ledger was cast, that nobody could ever do it better. I think it’ll happen (obviously there’s gonna be more movies with the Joker in ’em eventually), but maybe not right away. I think maybe ten, fifteen years from now when there’s kind of a new cultural zeitgeist. Honestly, that’s the main reason I’m interested to see this one, for Phoenix’s performance.

  19. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 8th, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    From the moment the first trailer was released I’ve struggled to muster any enthusiasm for this, and have been amazed at so many commenters (on other websights) being immediately on board. Like Mr. M said above, you watch two seconds of that trailer, you know exactly what’s gonna happen, and it seems like a slog to have to sit through that to get to a couple bits of “fucked up violence” towards the end. So there’s a loser character, and he gets beat up on the street for no reason, he gets shit on at every turn by life itself, nobody likes him, his jokes aren’t funny, nobody comes to his birthday party, a dog pisses on his leg etc. so he snaps and kills a few people. I guess you just gotta be really into Joaquin Phoenix for that to seem in any way exciting (which I’m not) as admittedly, I most likely would’ve watched this in a heartbeat had it been Tom Hardy or Michael Fassbender.

    Also, it weirds me out they decided to use pedophile music during the big staircase dance scene. Was that a deliberate choice by Philips or did he never read up on Gary Glitter? In any case, it’s putting money in a pedophile’s pocket, and that’s not a great thing if you ask me.

  20. I will never see this movie, so my only contribution to this discussion will be… the story of how I came to be in HATED.

    I went to see GG Allin one night in 1992 at a crappy little NYC bar called Space At Chase. I had no idea there was a movie being shot until I got there and there was a camera set up in a closet-sized room adjacent to the “performance area,” completely wrapped in plastic and being manned by a dude in head-to-toe yellow rain gear.

    So there are a couple of dozen of us, including me and my then best friend, all crowded into the back room of a bar waiting for the show. Somebody says to me, “Hey, watch out – if he can, he’ll grab your glasses and break them,” so I make sure there’s at least two people between me and the stage.

    The band comes on and starts playing a fast, noisy punk tune, and after a minute or so, GG comes out from the dressing room, and he’s totally naked except for cowboy boots, and my first impression is that he’s short and kinda soft, and he has the smallest penis I have ever seen on an adult human male. He’s roaring indecipherable lyrics into the mic, and after one verse, maybe two, he turns around, squats down, and drops a runny pile of poo on the floor.

    The stink fills the tiny room instantly, and it is ON. People immediately start backing away and making for the exits, and that’s BEFORE he picks up a handful and smears it on himself, then picks up a second handful and flings it at whoever’s closest. I was already out, heading for the main room, and I’ll never forget this part – as we were leaving, the bartender was laughing and shouting at us, “What’s the matter? Isn’t this what you wanted? Get back in there and party with him!”

    The show I was at starts at the 42-minute mark of HATED, and I can be seen for a second or two while the performance is going on, and then walking out the front door just as the NYPD is coming in. I’m glad I went, and/but I also think that 10 minutes (which is about how long the “show” lasted) is the perfect length for a GG Allin performance. A guy I knew said he saw him in Asbury Park, in a bigger room, and the crowd wasn’t taking the bait at all. He couldn’t scare them off, they were too far away to start fights with, and after about 45 minutes he was reduced to lying on his back on the stage begging someone to bring him drugs.

  21. Thank you, burningambulance, that is an amazing first hand account.

  22. Normally, I come here for Vern’s always excellent reviews with the bonus being insightful comments from the group. Today, while the review was excellent as always and the comments about the movie are still insightful, the definite highlight is burningambulance’s GG Allin anecdote!

  23. The film has an odd preponderance of Black women, but it took that to be political in the sense that it was designed to establish that Fleck was NOT motivated by race. Likely added because of the aforementioned Goetze angle.

  24. The class warfare and resentment stuff in this movie, imo, is clearer than the racism. And to the extent this movie has a coherent POV (or even it’s lead has a POV–great comment earlier observinghow this movie and Joker lacks a POV unlike Travis and TAXI DRIVER) that stuff holds together far more than most of the rest.

    I don’t think this movie is particularly good. Besides it’s lacking story, I was underwhelmed with the setting and look of it too. For a movie that wants to draw on TAXI DRIVER and THE KING OF COMEDY it doesn’t have quite the right look…it’s too glossy grotesque, and Gotham feels like less of a place than the NYC of those other movies. Lastly, anybody who would argue that this movie would be really good as a standalone if you remove all the Batman and comic stuff….I don’t trust your movie taste. I can think of one Jacquin Phoenix movie from the last couple of years, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, which is a lot better than this movie, and easily would’ve smashed the box office if they added 15 minutes and released it as a PUNISHER movie.

  25. “There are better fucked up psychological portraits than JOKER” – the most recent one which came to mind while watching this was MY FRIEND DAHMER, which was super low budget but had some truly uncomfortable moments of a young Dahmer acting out his weirdness. The mentally-unstable mother figure (Anne Heche) and absent father (in Dahmers case “physically present but neutered”) were also factored in.

    The other 1981 movie on the marquee was BLOW OUT.

  26. DID Bickle have a perspective, though? I mean, he’s obsessed with the Candidate because the woman he pines for works for said candidate. But then when the man himself gets into Bickle’s cab, all the taxi driver can do is mumble about “the issues” before going off on an unhinged and totally-off-topic rant.

    Bickle is a shell of a man. Hell, I don’t even think he’s a veteran. He just bought a surplus jacket and threw it on. Look at his body. Look at how he eats nothing but junk food. He has no regimen. No discipline. If he were drafted, he’d almost certainly get a 4F (F4?) designation.

  27. Hey Vern,

    Do you remember that script of mine I asked you for notes on years ago? The one that was basically Taxi Driver and King of Comedy, as a super hero origin story…

    Mine had action beats and far more meta.

  28. Hey Vern,

    Do you remember that script of mine I asked you for notes on years ago? The one that was basically Taxi Driver and King of Comedy, as a super hero origin story…

    Mine had action beats and far more meta.

  29. I used to work on the rock floor at Tower Records lincoln square (the one from the LL Cool J I Need Love video) and when I used to stock or refile G.G. Allin albums just off the song titles alone I used to go “this guy’s shows must truly be something else” so thank you for not disappointing with your anecdote burningambulance.

    I watched this yesterday. The only expectation I had was another movie where a guy is victimized to the point his buttons are pushed. This was not that at all which shocked me. I disagree with whoever claimed this was forced on Arthur.

    This was a movie where sociopathic evil was restrained by mental conditioning and prescription drugs. All that shit already existed inside Arthur it was just repressed and number by both societal manipulation and pill popping. We saw hints of it with the stalking and the fact that instead of panicking or becoming anxiety driven during his self defense he instead kept salivating to just keep preying and shooting. 0 remorse.

    Mind you his justification was “only the awful deserve my wrath” but the fact that he felt anyone deserved his wrath at all is pure unfiltered evil. Now in terms of filmatism it was too heavy handed a Scorsese homage for it’s own good without any of the “ooomph”. Like the clown agency serves the same purpose as the cab dispatch center but unlike the latter I didn’t really care about spending time in the former. It wasn’t as intriguing.

    This movie definitely is one more about the performance showcase than anything else. And what a performance it was. This guy made me wince a couple of times before he had even gone “full psycho”. The air of uneasyness, the defeated and inebriated body language it was just so well put together by the time you get to talk show scene he blows your fucking mind.

    Like the whole thing from leaving the apartment to the train confrontation and then the talk show is one of the most Joker things I’ve ever seen on film. The movie earned its name with the 3rd act. Also Vern during said 3rd act he did say to the talk show host “that’s what you called me remember? ‘some joker'” so that’s where that came from.

    The hospital sliding door scene was indeed hilarious though. Im glad im not the only one that laughed at the one scene this guy shows some backbone in before going all out being accented by a Chaplin homage. Also the scene where he was like “I forgot to PUNCH out” also made me laugh.

    Overall tbh I feel that BATMAN V SUPERMAN: ULTIMATE CUT was a more thematic and daring exploration of the psyche and emotional turmoil of it’s DC icons than this was. Also this one still has a great amount of expected cliches despite how much it did subvert my expectations. For example I called the shit with the neighbor a mile away. But I didn’t expect this kind of approach to Thomas Wayne and certainly didn’t feel any kind of joy when this freak is dancing all joyly to something by that monster Gary Glitter. In that sense it was very Joker. Something that brought him joy made me feel uneasy due to the context of what he was celebrating (the fact that the monster is now fully uncaged NO MORE MEDS!) and the artist he was celebrating to.

    It’s not the masterpiece people claim it is but it is the one DC joint I’ve enjoyed most this year (sorry SHAZAM!) and I’m glad I gave it a shot.

  30. Meant to type numbed not *number and the cab dispatch center is of course the one from TAXI DRIVER.

  31. One thing I’ll say about Bickle is the guy at least shot for normalcy in his own way. He tried socializing with people, he woos prime era Cybill Shephard. He may not be socially apt enough to understand that what he considers a night at the movies will not seem as anything but a cry for help to anybody else but he tries. Even suits up for the date and everything. This Arthur Fleck though? lost cause from scene one. Nothing he tries except goofing off with the kid on the bus seems like anything close to “normality”.

    I did like that though because it shows to a lot of people in this country especially that mental health issues are some of the most valid issues we have as a society and really should be prioritized. I’ve met some Arthurs here in NYC over the years. Mind you they were people who did not want to help themselves in the end and you can only do so much for them but it’s real. And like the social worker said “nobody gives a fuck”.

  32. I’d say Bickle had more of a perspective. Though as others have mentioned, he’s also less damaged and actually can trick people into thinking he’s somewhat normal and not a ticking time bomb. But, importantly, the movie actually depicted that POV (and commented on it). JOKER lacks on both counts largely.

  33. I’d say Bickle had more of a perspective. Though as others have mentioned, he’s also less damaged and actually can trick people into thinking he’s somewhat normal and not a ticking time bomb. But, importantly, the movie actually depicted that POV (and commented on it). JOKER lacks on both counts largely.

  34. Bickle also has more ambiguities. (I disagree with all the Vietnam Vet stuff, though it’s debatable at least.) Joker tends to lean more into being either heavy-handed (the beatdowns or the subway scenes) or its ambiguities are sorta dull (e.g. how much of the movie is in Joker’s head? Or the whole Wayne’s sidebar shit.) In contrast, you’ll still get people debating what Taxi Driver is really all about and what the final scenes mean, even though I think it’s pretty clear that close readings show the movie doesn’t think of Travis as really a hero or that the final ending isn’t a fever dream, death dream, or hallucination.

  35. I love the anti elitism of Vern’s actor credits.

    I’ve heard that this is a movie about class struggle that was rebranded by the media as being about the dangers of white male incels just in case we got any thoughts about class solidarity from it.

  36. Oh and Mr. Majestyk I’ve agreed with your opinion on BLADE RUNNER many times over throughout the years. I still find that movie pretty freaking sterile and borderline lifeless despite some great work from Hauer and the effects and cinematography but I have to say I really loved the sequel. I never expected to but damn this movie actually had a a great understanding of genuine warmth and added a sense of humanity to it’s sci fi concepts that Scott’s coldness would’ve probably snuffed out. I’m glad he didn’t direct it. Curious what you end up thinking of it after you sit down with it.

  37. So, if I’m a BLADE RUNNER fan I must be a hipster?!

  38. Forget it, pegs. It’s Outlawverntown.

  39. Not at all pegsman. You’re fortunate to at least get something from it. I own the damn movie but it always just seems to just pass me by. This happens to me with most Ridley Scott movies not named ALIEN, GLADIATOR & BLACK HAWK DOWN.

  40. Weird, my screening also had a single guy in the loudlý laughing at the little person joke. Is that just part of the movie?

  41. “It’s definitely noticeable that pretty much every character that upsets Arthur besides the one he kills is black, but I’m unsure whether this is an unconscious bias coming out in a depiction of urban stress, or an intentional point about Arthur having racial resentment.”

    Vern, I really don’t get this comment at all. The black people I can think of that Arthur interacts with are: 1) his therapist (who, I concede, clearly upsets him) 2) his neighbor, who seems to be the only person in the film other than his mom he cares about and 3) the Arkham clerk, who really doesn’t do much of anything other than tell him he cant have his mom’s records, but I guess I can concede that as well.

    Was the woman at Arkham at the end questioning him who, he presumably kills off screen black? I cant remember.

    But the long list of people who really get to him obviously are the folks at the clown job (his boss and the one fella he kills), the people who mug him, the officers, Thomas Wayne and Murray Franklin, just to name a few.

  42. pegs: What, because of the beards and IPAs joke? That’s not what I was getting at. Where I come from, that’s some basic bro shit. The male equivalent of Uggs and appletinis. Hipsters seem to be more about White Claw and pompadours these days.

  43. Seems like the hipsters in your part of the world are more evolved, Vince. I just took it for granted that no sane person would drink IPA if it weren’t some kind of superiority statement. I don’t know what I was thinking, I read it at 6 o’clock in the morning. But I have a beard, I own a computer and I am a fan of BLADE RUNNER 1 and 2. Hate IPA, though.

  44. I’m with you on IPAs. I prefer my beer to taste like beer, not like beer somebody let an incense stick melt in. Also I prefer beer you don’t have to talk about. Ever. How’s your beer? It’s a beer. It’s self-explanatory. Talking about beer is like dancing about architecture.

  45. I can’t really drink beer anymore, but when I did, IPAs were the only kind I cared for. I just don’t like the taste of malt or whatever much, so blow it out with some hops and I’m happy.

  46. I must point out that you have failed at not talking about beer. But that’s okay because language and thought are inextricably linked and of course anything worth experiencing in one’s consciousness (beverages, architecture, film) is also worth talking about.

    Anybody ever seen the videos where Michael Jackson (the beer guy, not the musician) talks about beer? I think they’re amazing personally

  47. That’s how these IPA bros get you. They force you to fight them on their own terms.

  48. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 9th, 2019 at 10:16 am

    You guys talk about IPAs like there’s only one kind that tastes like one particular thing. There’s amazing IPAs and there’s fucking terrible ones, there’s a crazy wide spectrum of beers out there that falls in this category, and that’s only scratching the surface as there’s tons of other categories outside of IPAs. The world of beer is just as exciting as wine and whisky these days, so much unique and experimental stuff out there that’s worth trying. Definitely worth talking about – if nobody did, I would’ve missed out on some of the tastiest beverages I’ve tried in my life.

  49. The Undefeated Gaul

    October 9th, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Shit, am I an IPA bro?

  50. It’s okay. I won’t hold it against you. Some of my best friends are IPA bros. I’m just a curmudgeon. I don’t get excited about food or drink the way lots of people do. I’ve never had a beer in my life I’d describe as “amazing.” There’s beers I like and beers I don’t but at the end of the day it’s just a beer. It’s a fizzy beverage with a little booze in it. There’s nothing I consider amazing about that. I save that term for important stuff like Filipino disco songs and unearthed backyard horror movies from the early 90s. I’m an aesthete, not a gourmand.

    I’m also a ton of fun at parties.

  51. Jeff – I guess I was not thinking of some of the people who upset him, but I was including the black woman who inexplicably yells at him on the bus and the group of I believe multi-racial kids in the opening scene who harass and beat him up for no reason, getting him in trouble at work. It seemed to me that the movie may be participating in the old ’70s/’80s/FALLING DOWN cliche “encounters with minorities as shorthand for the stresses of urban life,” but I was trying to give it the benefit of the doubt that it could be intentionally making a point about Arthur’s perspective.

  52. Gaul, a lot of people feel like you do. But in my world beer is something you drink while you talk to people, not something worth talking about.

  53. No matter the subject, I’d always rather listen to someone talk about something they love than listen to people moan about what they hate. Who needs all that negativity?

  54. That was not meant as an attack on anyone, but I feel like it came off like that. Not the intent.

  55. This movie makes me want to buy Joaquin Phoenix an IPA. Come on guy, you have nothing to prove. Have a beer, cheer up. Enjoy your beard.

  56. Are ugg boots a hipster thing? Because I randomly ended up with 10 pairs of ugg boots and I LOVE them. So fuckin comfy. Don’t last long enough to actually pay for, however. But then, I’m an odd duck. I only wear steel toed, vintage doc martens… or Ugg boots.

  57. No, man, Uggs are basic as shit. I know it’s complicated but try to keep up.

  58. I’m on the Untappd app and I’m at level 59 “I Believe in IPA”. I have tried (Holy Shit, I don’t look at my stats often) 658 unique beers. Since I downloaded the app.

    I like all beer, but definitely lean IPA. I am way too old and geeky to be confused with a hipster. Just sayin.

    I sense this Talkback is about to spiral out of control.

  59. Lots going on here, but first let me say that with this and YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE I think Joaquin Phoenix is rapidly turning into that actor who signals that it’s OK to like a genre movie to people who would normally think themselves above such trash. Did anyone here see THE SISTERS BROTHERS? And is he as good in JOKER as he was in GLADIATOR, an unapologetic genre movie?

    Love BLADE RUNNER and IPA, but really didn’t care for BLADE RUNNER 2049. It seemed a real misstep for Villeneuve. Looking for the 40-year sequel, I still dream that Bill Forsyth will get to make a sequel to LOCAL HERO.

    In my next career I’m gonna be a brewer. I gave up drinking wine 5-6 years ago, but beer is the water of life. And Goose Island IPA is one of the beers I am always happy to drink when I am in the US. Of course, the US would not have been discovered without beer, as water would not survive the ocean journeys, and the India in IPA signifies that it was brewed to fuel British colonialism in the subcontinent. So there’s plenty to talk about really.

    Not sure if Wim Wender’s PINA counts as dancing about architecture, although his use of the Wuppertal suspension railway continues to delight me:

    Yup, I drink IPA and I own a dance movie.

  60. And yet I still have the nerve to call out pretentiousness among film fans. Cheers!

  61. Be you, Borg9. Assimilate for no one!

  62. Thanks, Mr. M. A Star Trek joke. Respect!

  63. I like IPAs but they don’t agree with me, and I don’t have the energy to be a hipster. I live in a quasi-PORTLANDIA-grade hipster neighborhood, and hipsters are mostly fine. That said, I can’t relate to the idea of spending more than 10 minutes picking out a pair of eyeglass frames or discussing beer. If you have the time and discretionary income to do that, you are either hashtag blessed or need to find a better hobby, like bitching about hipsters on outlawvern.com.

    I think one day I will watch this movie and grade it a solid B (that’s a prediction), but right now I can’t even with this faux-gritty, self-serious grimdark shit. All this film needs is Casey Affleck to glare and mope onscreen and then terrorize women offscreen, and it’ll be complete. I love Joaquin Phoenix as an actor, but he sounds insufferably self-serious as a person, and if someone has the time to put together a supercut of Todd Phillips’s cameos in his films, there’s a serious creep vibe he’s giving off that he has to be aware of, and I’m just not sure what that is about. Right now it’s hard to separate art from people, and I’ll take the magic of Chris Evans getting me to non-cynically fall in love with Captain America over the magic of these asshats brooding and grimdarking any day. Fuck off with that shit.

  64. When people talk to me about beer as if they are revealing the master thesis of the universe I look at them the same way most normies used to look at me when I would go too deep into music or film discussion growing up. I didn’t like that look so I toned it down.

    Saved those in depth discussions only for those I knew for a fact were as equally passionate about that as I grew older (& admittedly more cynical though I’m more balanced these days). Only a handful out of everyone I knew growing up and past adulthood and 2 of them are still 2 of my 3 only friends 25 plus years later. I wish the beer enthusiasts would take the hint, self evaluate and do the same but maybe I’m guilty since I do enable them by amusing them. I tend to be a good listener.

  65. One of the side effects of having had the same type of clothes, beard, hair and interests for 30 odd years is that you once in every 5-10 years suddenly become fashionable. So when the hipsters came along I’m sure at some point I was mistaken for one. And in the 90’s I had a period where I would drink a dozen different beers at a party, and talk about them at lenght. So I am hardly one to point fingers. People can drink whatever they want in my company without fear of being verbally abused. But it is way cooler to just drink what’s on tap than to walk miles just to try out a super hoppy strawberry bear!

  66. I don’t drink beer. Or any kind of alcohol. I hate the alcohol taste, which always shows up, even if it’s a chocolate pudding whisky or a mango banana beer. Makes me enjoy parties a lot less most of the times.

  67. That’s fair enough, CJ. Might I ask if you use any other stimulants. Just tell me to fuck off if that’s too personal.

  68. On my “Tell people to fuck off” scale, this question is really low. Not even sure if it’s on it.

    I am far from living healthy, but I am completely drug free, both legal and illegal. However, I drink lots of caramel coffee recently (even if caffeine doesn’t seem to have an effect on me for some weird reason), so there is this.

  69. Odd, I had a lady in my theater who acted like the little person escape scene was the funniest thing she’d ever seen too, loudly saying “I’m sorry” while cackling. It definitely ruined the moment for me.

    The filmmaker’s intention might have been for laughs, but Joker just murdered someone? No one else in the theater was laughing, so she came off like a real asshole.

  70. P.S. this is the best Joker review I’ve read.

  71. I am so baffled by the reaction to the “little person scene” OF COURSE it’s a joke. It’s shot like a joke. It’s built like a joke. It plays out like a joke. It’s basically the ONLY moment in the whole film where fleck does something “Joker-y.” Now, you may not think it’s a *funny* joke. But that’s kinda the point. That’s like, how the Joker works, isn’t it? It’s the cinematic version of “Knock, Knock” “Whos there?” “it’s the police, your son was just hit by a bus and he’s dead.”

  72. I think it’s designed to have exactly the effect we’re describing. It might make some people laugh, but it’s in a context where you don’t want to laugh, and become uncomfortable in a non-humorous way. That’s why I say it’s not quite a joke – it’s working to achieve something different.

  73. Played like somewhere between the humor of Todd Solondz and Harmony Korine for me. The not-funny nature of something told with the structure of a joke wraps all the way around to being funny again, for me at least.

    Or maybe I’m the asshole, because I was pretty much the only one laughing in my theater.

  74. It’s funny that we have, what, 4 or 5 cases of a theater where one person loudly laughs at that part? I hope that was their specific design.

  75. My humor is really warped. I didn’t laugh at that scene with Gary. I realized the setup right away and found it too on the nose and did feel for the guy. The one guy who laughed did quiet up as soon as he realized he was the only one at my show to do so. To his credit I was the only one who laughed when he dropped the revolver in front of the sick little kids at the hospital and then does a “shhhshh” gesture as if that was gonna undo the fuck shit that just occured. Unlike that other guy though I just kept on laughing.

  76. That scene was also the one with the loudest laughs in my screening. The little person scene first aim isn’t being a joke, it’s a troll–just like the movie largely. It signals a lot to provoke a reaction, but as soon as you reflect at all about what is going on, it smacks you in the face about how its so on the nose and there’s nothing under the hood. A number of people have thrown out–amusingly similar to TAXI DRIVER given that it actually would make a difference in TAXI DRIVER–how most of the movie might just be in Fleck’s head. Maybe Fleck/Joker was in the mental ward/arkham the whole time and it’s a big hallcuination, maybe his death dream kicks off after he literally fridges himself, etc. But what’s striking about those ambiguities is how little significance any of those outcomes actually carries. Beetz not actually being there with him and his supportive girlfriend is practically the same thing.

  77. Nabroleon Dynamite

    October 22nd, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    “That they were able to make such a watchable movie out of an idea I find so fucking stupid is actually very impressive to me.” ~ Vern.

    ^^ Let’s petition to get this on the Blu Ray cover

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