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Joker (2019)

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eward

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Reply #90 on: September 10, 2019, 11:06:17 AM
Joaquin Phoenix, the Wild Card of Joker
How did an unpredictable star known for loners and killers wind up in a studio blockbuster based on a comic book? Think of it more as a character study.

LOS ANGELES It wasnt clear where the conversation with Joaquin Phoenix went off-track, assuming it was ever on track to begin with. But now he was batting me around the way a cat bounces its prey between its paws before devouring it.

At this moment, it wasnt my questions about why, in an idiosyncratic film career, he had chosen to play the Joker, the cackling comic-book criminal, or how he had prepared for the demanding, transformative role, or what it all meant about the state of contemporary moviemaking that had set him off though these topics would all provoke him in different ways, in time.

It was my stray observation that he could probably sustain himself on emotionally wrung-out roles for as long as he wanted, which had caused Phoenix to recoil in his seat like he was Tony Montana, about to unload on an incompetent underling.

Oh, really? he asked, in a sarcastic voice as dry as sandpaper. Well, good. Thank you so much. Thats great. I was worried. Then he grinned and let out a laugh, to let me know he was kidding. Or was he?

If youre going to make a movie about a homicidal madman in clown makeup, you might as well get a guy who radiates low-level menace. Though he has portrayed everyone from Johnny Cash to Jesus of Nazareth, Phoenix has lately settled into a string of movies about loners (The Master, Her, Inherent Vice), killers (The Sisters Brothers) and lonesome killers (You Were Never Really Here) that have let him plumb the depths of human experience.

While theres no telling where his creative wanderings will take him, it would have seemed safe to predict that a high-profile movie based on a studio-owned intellectual property wouldnt be anywhere on that itinerary.

But here he is, starring in Joker, a seedy character study and possible origin story for this perpetual Batman nemesis. The movie, which is directed by Todd Phillips and will be released by Warner Bros. on Oct. 4, is neither a traditional comic-book blockbuster, nor typical source material for its leading man.

In other ways, Phoenix and his onscreen alter ego are extremely compatible, if a late August dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Studio City is anything to judge by.

The actor was never contemptuous when he spoke; he took every inquiry seriously and he responded honestly, unless he didnt feel like answering at all.

Over the span of an hour, he ran the spectrum of emotions, from sincere and thoughtful to lighthearted to standoffish, and there was no way of knowing which questions or remarks would elicit which version of him.

Phoenix likes that potential for danger in his work, too, and he cited it as one of the reasons he wanted to make Joker.

I didnt really know what it was, he said. I didnt know how to classify it. I didnt say, This is the character Im playing. I didnt know what we were going to do.

It was terrifying, he continued, and he flashed that grin again.

Phoenix is 44, with hair that is a mixture of brown, copper and gray strands, and he spoke with an unexpected gentleness, like Commodus, the wicked emperor he played in Gladiator. (We know how it turned out for Commodus.)

Phoenix could be playful at times. When I noted how nimble he looked in some of his dancing scenes in Joker, he swatted away the compliment, saying, I would get injured just from doing a light jog down the street. Id have to be sent home.

But some of that lightness evaporated as soon as I asked how hed been approached about the film and he replied that he could not remember. It sucks this is why interviews are the worst, he said despairingly, adding that he was tempted to make up a story just to sound exciting.

Nor was he in any hurry to explain his process for figuring out his Joker character before filming began. Its so stupid to talk about, he grumbled. Im not going to talk about it. (He did eventually talk about it.)

LETS SET ASIDE PHOENIX for the moment and return to Phillips, who is best known for directing the lucrative Hangover comedies. At the premiere of his 2016 crime caper, War Dogs, Phillips found himself anticipating its tepid reception while gazing at a billboard for a Marvel superhero juggernaut. He wondered how he could possibly compete.

Warner Bros. had been having only intermittent success with its DC superhero movies Wonder Woman, yes, Suicide Squad, no but Phillips saw a potential solution to everyones problems. You cant beat Marvel its a giant behemoth, he said. Lets do something they cant do.

What Phillips proposed to the studio was a series of smaller, stand-alone movies that would closely examine the DC characters without conflicting with previous films. Its just another interpretation, like people do interpretations of Macbeth, he explained.

In particular, Phillips was fascinated with the Joker, who had been so memorably played by Jack Nicholson (in Tim Burtons Batman) and by Heath Ledger (in Christopher Nolans The Dark Knight).

As Phillips saw it, there was still room to tell a new story about this villain, closer in spirit to grimy urban narratives he admired, like Taxi Driver, Death Wish and The King of Comedy.

In the Joker screenplay written by Phillips and Scott Silver, the protagonist is Arthur Fleck, a troubled clown-for-hire in rundown, uncaring Gotham City. While its citizens shun him and stomp on him, Arthur descends into a cycle of retribution and violence, becoming a folk hero for all the wrong reasons. You want to root for this guy until you cant root for him any longer, Phillips explained.

Still, this circus needed a clown, and both Phoenix and Phillips acknowledge that the actor was not quickly sold on the project. He was not keen on jumping into costume in any comic-book movie, Phillips said. Its not necessarily in his five-year plan although I dont think he has one. (Despite trade publication reports that the Joker team was seeking Leonardo DiCaprio, Phillips said, We wrote the movie for Joaquin.)

Over about three months, Phillips repeatedly visited Phoenixs home, answering his many, many questions about the character and hoping to win him over through sheer persistence.

I asked him to come over and audition me for it, Phoenix said. It wasnt an easy decision, but he kept saying, Lets just be bold. Lets do something.

As Phillips recalled, I kept waiting for him to just say, O.K., Im in, And he never did that. Where Phoenix is concerned, he said, You just never get a yes. All you get is more questions.

He and Phillips had more fruitful disagreements in the months Phoenix spent getting into character ahead of filming. They concurred that the actor should undergo a drastic weight change, but Phoenix, who had slimmed down for past roles, wasnt eager to do it again.

Its a horrible way to live, Phoenix said. I think he should be kind of heavy. Todd was like, I think you should do the real thin person. Phoenix lost 52 pounds for the part.

Phoenix trained with a choreographer and studied videos of famous dancers (I wont say who), and he and Phillips challenged each other with ideas they found in books (Im not going to tell you what those books were). The actor learned to apply his own greasepaint and kept a journal of half-formed jokes and frenzied thoughts that appears in the movie.

Phillips said Phoenixs greatest misgivings about Joker were its explicit ties to comic-book mythology, represented most prominently by the character of the outspoken, out-of-touch billionaire Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), whose son, Bruce (Dante Pereira-Olson), will grow up to be Batman.

He never liked saying the name Thomas Wayne, Phillips said. It would have been easier for him if the movie was called Arthur and had nothing to do with any of that stuff. But in the long run, I think he got it and appreciated it.

Comic books are not unknown to Phoenix. He collected them avidly as a teen, though he preferred brutal Marvel antiheroes like Wolverine to DCs staid pantheon. In 2014, when Marvel was casting Doctor Strange, the studio sought Phoenix to play the super-sorcerer, but he reportedly broke off negotiations, and in the end Benedict Cumberbatch got the gig. Phoenix declined to explain to me why he did this; I think they I dont know, was all he said.

Of course Phoenix had seen and admired Nicholsons and Ledgers versions of the Joker, but he claimed to be blissfully nave about the immense expectations to measure up.

When Phoenix did some interviews before Joker started production and was quizzed about how his performance might differ, he said he realized, This is a really big deal, adding, Im so, like, not in the game that I didnt know people would do this.

FOR A THREE-TIME OSCAR NOMINEE, Phoenix can be charmingly unaware about showbiz scuttlebutt and vocabulary. (Tentpole movies, is thats what its called?) But he is also a trickster who spent months of his life pretending to have given up acting for hip-hop, as preserved in Casey Afflecks utterly fake 2010 mock-documentary, Im Still Here.

His reputation for volatility precedes him, but it also makes filmmakers more avid to work with him. James Gray, who has directed Phoenix in four features, said that when they first worked together, on his 2000 crime drama, The Yards, the actor could be fitfully brilliant.

He didnt have full control of his instrument, Gray said. He was like an Olympic diver who didnt know the formal rules of the Olympics yet.

But in the years and films together that followed We Own the Night, Two Lovers and The Immigrant Gray said, He began to understand, frankly, that there werent limits, and he started to become fearless.

Gray acknowledged that Phoenix possessed a powder-keg quality, but that it came from a place of commitment and conviction.

If youre not prepared, he will know it, and he will let you know it, Gray said. You have to do your homework.

Phillips said there were moments when Phoenix lost his composure on the set of Joker, sometimes to the bafflement of his co-stars.

In the middle of the scene, hell just walk away and walk out, Phillips said. And the poor other actor thinks its them and it was never them it was always him, and he just wasnt feeling it. And after taking a breather, he said, well take a walk and well come back and well do it.

Robert De Niro, who appears in Joker as a smarmy late-night host on whom Arthur is fixated, did not encounter this side of Phoenix and said the actor was a consummate professional.

Joaquin was very intense in what he was doing, as it should be, as he should be, De Niro said. Theres nothing to talk about, personally, on the side, Lets have coffee. Lets just do the stuff.

De Niro, who played disturbed loners in several of the movies that inspired Joker, said he could understand why actors and audiences continued to be drawn to these characters. But he also observed that having a fascination with Travis Bickle doesnt make you Travis Bickle yourself.

People identify with it in some way not that they go to those extremes, he said. They can understand the sentiment. Sometimes those things are cathartic.

Phoenix, for his part, was not inclined to tell anyone how to interpret Joker, or to consider the possibility that some of its elements whether the films brutal gun violence or ambivalence about protest movements might make it the wrong movie for a not-so-subtle moment. However you want to talk about it, dude, thats on you as a journalist, he told me.

And he seemed almost angry, at first, when I asked if Joker might be a bad omen for filmmaking, if it means that character-driven movies can only get made at this scale if theyre based on established pop-culture characters. I dont even know what you just said, he growled.

But when I rephrased the question slightly, he gave a calmer, more measured answer. Its up to the artist to find the way to tell stories that are meaningful, he replied. If my nephews are not going to sit through a two-hour movie, what are you going to do? You just have to pursue whats truthful to you, and either someones interested or theyre not.

It was hard to imagine that Phoenix would gracefully navigate all the promotional appearances and glad-handing that such mass-market movies require obligations that are likely to increase after Joker became the surprise winner of the Venice Film Festivals Golden Lion award, its top prize, which in past years has gone to future Oscar winners like Roma and The Shape of Water.

But Phillips said his star was free to approach these duties however he wanted. If he goes on Jimmy Kimmel and walks off after two minutes, Id be like, Thats my boy, Phillips said proudly. He follows his own rhythm.

But where does Phoenix want it to take him? He isnt the sort of actor who plots his career five pictures in advance, and he doesnt have a personal production company working around the clock to develop new projects. When I asked him whether he thought he needed this kind of Hollywood apparatus, he gleefully reminded me that only moments ago, I had said he would never have to worry about where his next role was coming from.

So which is it? he said with mock apprehension. Make up your mind! Five minutes ago, I was sitting back, laughing, going, Well, Im set. Now you have me very, very nervous.

But seriously, folks: Phoenix said his criteria for choosing work are actually quite clear-cut. I dont really care about genre or budget size, anything like that, he said. Its just whether there is a filmmaker that has a unique vision, has a voice, and the ability to make the film.

Phoenix also said it was easy for him to sit out for months at a time when he feels hes become overexposed. At a certain point, he said, you dont want to see this meaning himself on a poster. Youre driving down the street, you go, Again? This face? It is so tired. Enough.

To do what he wants to do, Phoenix said there is only one question he needs to consider, and its laughably easy: Whats going to keep me excited or inspired, and wanting to work hard? he said.

And hes just going to keep asking it until that joke isnt funny anymore. If I dont feel like Im pushing myself in some ways, Ill get bored, or maybe theyll get bored of me, he said. I dont know whos going to get bored of who first.
If I could move the night I would
And I would turn the world around if I could
There's nothing wrong with loving something you can't hold in your hand
You're sitting on the edge of the bed, smoking and shaking your head
Well there's nothing wrong with loving things that cannot even stand
Well there goes your moony man
With his suitcase in his hand
Every road is lined with animals
That rise from their blood and walk
Well the moon won't get a wink of sleep
If I stay all night and talk


Dreidem

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Reply #91 on: September 13, 2019, 10:16:22 AM
Finished reading Joker. It's like Todd Phillips and Scott Silver got high, had an old school Scorsese marathon, browsed the r/GamersRiseUp subreddit and started punching up nonsensical crap into Final Draft as a goof.

This story stands for nothing. You think it's going to be a work exploring the wealth gap by centering it on people who deal with mental illness in order to best highlight the disparity. Of course, everything about the execution of this theming is so vapid that it's honestly not even worth discussing.

On the bright side, the script gave me quite a few guffaws. The fact that this movie has been made at all is hysterical. Even more hilarious to me is the reality that this trash is actually receiving standing ovations.

Lord have mercy on anyone who actually watches the film and takes it seriously rather than just dismissing it as yet another diminutively derivative, superficial, hackneyed piece of modern filmmaking. It is mindless entertainment with a false veneer of "having something to say."

The only thing it says to me is that yes, this was indeed helmed by the man responsible for The Hangover trilogy.


Capote

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Reply #92 on: September 15, 2019, 04:29:46 AM
The discourse around this film is some of the dumbest shit I have read in my life.

All these people whining about it being an "alt right manifesto" and an "incel movie" clearly need to log off and spend a few weeks off social media. People IRL don't behave or think like this. Stop huffing so much glue.

I'm worried about the girlfriend.

Don't be. It's fiction. The girlfriend doesn't exist IRL.
Nah fuck this. I have a choice between shit with the FBI or Getting my fucking IP leaked? you guys are fucked. im not leaking shit. leak my fucking IP, Im done


Drenk

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Reply #93 on: September 22, 2019, 07:17:16 PM
I was surprised by Phoenix here, delivering a genuine speech.

I'm so many people.


jenkins

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Reply #94 on: September 23, 2019, 03:10:23 AM
it feels thrilling to skip out on this, i must admit. it's a difference in perspective about thrills


eward

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Reply #95 on: September 25, 2019, 04:02:56 PM
C'mon Todd

If I could move the night I would
And I would turn the world around if I could
There's nothing wrong with loving something you can't hold in your hand
You're sitting on the edge of the bed, smoking and shaking your head
Well there's nothing wrong with loving things that cannot even stand
Well there goes your moony man
With his suitcase in his hand
Every road is lined with animals
That rise from their blood and walk
Well the moon won't get a wink of sleep
If I stay all night and talk


eward

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Reply #96 on: October 01, 2019, 01:27:39 PM
If I could move the night I would
And I would turn the world around if I could
There's nothing wrong with loving something you can't hold in your hand
You're sitting on the edge of the bed, smoking and shaking your head
Well there's nothing wrong with loving things that cannot even stand
Well there goes your moony man
With his suitcase in his hand
Every road is lined with animals
That rise from their blood and walk
Well the moon won't get a wink of sleep
If I stay all night and talk


WorldForgot

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Reply #97 on: October 01, 2019, 01:37:35 PM
So are film studios tougher on comedies than OTT/premium? Righteous Gemstones and Fleabag are a riot, and no one's flagging them as obnoxious because they aren't.

The quote goes on, in the article, to indicate that Phillips found irreverence in subverting the comic genre -- basically all any comedy has got to do is just respect its audience, that can be done in vulgarities (Noe, Korine, Iannucci) or without it, but -- despite what's often touted as progressive - what's despised iz laziness not shock. I think...


polkablues

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Reply #98 on: October 01, 2019, 01:40:17 PM
Yes, Todd. A very smart and good take, proved correct by the indisputable fact that comedy is no longer being made. Very smart and very good, Todd.
That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.


jenkins

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Reply #99 on: October 01, 2019, 01:42:32 PM
its not like a direct response to that statement or eward or to the general xixax population, but im very much looking forward to this movie being in the past. the comic book movie ballyhoo was the most arresting feature of conversations about it, but at this point ive never been so tired of a movie

WF posted since then and he even mentioned Righteous Gemstones and we further sealed our obvious cosmic bond, side story

lmao now polka has also posted since then and its cool that Todd is being taken down, seems helpful to burying this movie


eward

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Reply #100 on: October 01, 2019, 01:49:09 PM
I will also add that he's very rude to below the line individuals, so much so that one of our on-set data wranglers made everyone a little wrap gift satirizing that fact, and Todd allegedly was offended by it.
If I could move the night I would
And I would turn the world around if I could
There's nothing wrong with loving something you can't hold in your hand
You're sitting on the edge of the bed, smoking and shaking your head
Well there's nothing wrong with loving things that cannot even stand
Well there goes your moony man
With his suitcase in his hand
Every road is lined with animals
That rise from their blood and walk
Well the moon won't get a wink of sleep
If I stay all night and talk


Jeremy Blackman

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Reply #101 on: October 01, 2019, 01:57:49 PM
Oof, Todd Phillips. Oof.
"Hunger is the purest sin"


eward

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Reply #102 on: October 02, 2019, 04:26:39 PM
If I could move the night I would
And I would turn the world around if I could
There's nothing wrong with loving something you can't hold in your hand
You're sitting on the edge of the bed, smoking and shaking your head
Well there's nothing wrong with loving things that cannot even stand
Well there goes your moony man
With his suitcase in his hand
Every road is lined with animals
That rise from their blood and walk
Well the moon won't get a wink of sleep
If I stay all night and talk


Drenk

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Reply #103 on: October 02, 2019, 04:38:58 PM
Phillips sending this clip to Kilmmell is extremely perverse, especially after The internet tried to make a fuss about Phoenix walking off during shooting, another thing coming from a Phillips quote.
I'm so many people.


eward

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Reply #104 on: October 03, 2019, 02:54:14 PM
If I could move the night I would
And I would turn the world around if I could
There's nothing wrong with loving something you can't hold in your hand
You're sitting on the edge of the bed, smoking and shaking your head
Well there's nothing wrong with loving things that cannot even stand
Well there goes your moony man
With his suitcase in his hand
Every road is lined with animals
That rise from their blood and walk
Well the moon won't get a wink of sleep
If I stay all night and talk