Last Movie You Watched

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Tankred
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Re: Last Movie You Watched

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Postby Tankred » Sat Oct 12, 2019 4:15 am

Joker
One of the few films worth going to the cinema for in 2019, great performances by Joaquin Phoenix and De Niro, this felt consciously made in the mold of his Scorsese films in particular. Definitely worth a watch.

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Re: Last Movie You Watched

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Postby FreakyFilmFan4ever » Mon Oct 14, 2019 4:57 am

Joker

This film is beautifully shot, flawlessly performed, and shoddily written. Prime Oscar Bain film as far as the industry goes. (I mean, its better than Crash, so...)

If you've been living under a rock for the past few decades, Superhero movies are now Serious Business, and are considered contenders of Best Picture Oscars at the Academy Awards. This isn't bad in and of itself, but it does tend to have fans of the medium pointlessly bicker over whether or not Kevin Feige should have been nominated for Best Picture over Black Panther or Avengers 3. (Like, it would have been the exact same white dude winning the exact same trophy either way if any of the two movies had actually won. But I guess this is a line I have to draw in the sand because I decided to care about movies.)

Joker focuses on a man suffering from (what I can only assume is) schizophrenia named Arthur Fleck, who looses his job as a clown for bringing a gun to a gig. After the city cut his funding for his therapy and meds, his condition worsens until he starts hallucinating various events that are supposed to shock the audience once they're revealed to be hallucinations. There's a lot to enjoy in Joker. The cinematography and Joaquin Phoenix' performance work smoothly in tangent in order to bring the character to life. There are moments where these two facets really bring to home the pain that Joaquin Phoenix feels as he discovers new things about himself and others.

It's just too bad that the film has some touches of My First Serious Movie Syndrome by "comedy" director Todd Philips. (If The Hangover 3 counts as a comedy, rather than a pointed critique of its own existence.) It focuses so much on trying to be a Serious Oscar Bait Film that half of the time it forgets that it's a movie about the Joker. There is no point in this movie where the Joker is anything more than some crazy dude off his meds wearing clown make-up. Some of this has to do with it being an origin movie of sorts, sure, but even by the end of the film nothing is established that makes him the Joker of any Batman universe. This doesn't seem to phase many viewers or critics watching the movie. Mike from RedLetterMedia even went so far as to say that he enjoyed watching this Arthur Fleck character slowly become the "criminal mastermind" of Gotham, when Arthur didn't have a single master plan in the whole movie. In fact, Cesar Romero's Joker character in the Adam West Batman TV show had more complex schemes than the clown in this Joker movie. Also, keep in mind that Arthur Fleck looks to be about 30 years old in this movie, while Bruce Wayne look to be about 6 or 7 years old. What kind of Batman universe does this film have the potential of birthing, one where a 30-somethings Batman beats a 60-somethings mentally handicapped senior citizen wearing clown make-up who escaped the psych ward?

This is all emblematic of the overall weakness of this film. Anytime the movie highlights the Batman lore present in its narrative, it inhibits it's overall tonal cohesion. The movie flips from wanting you to sympathize with a man suffering from schizophrenia to suddenly realizing "Wait, he's the Joker, he's building up to be a villain in this universe. He can't be too sympathetic," and then proceeds to have him commit some murders that don't fully feel cathartic or justified in any sense. The most justifiable and cathartic murder scene in the film is the first one in the film, where Arthur Dent Fleck defends himself from 3 violent rich bullies on a train. He shoots them dead and leaves none of the 3 alive to tell the tale. To risk sounding like the creepy guy, it felt good because the film established that these guys were drunk and violent, and had already starting beating up Arthur Fleck before Fleck pulled out the gun and killed them. It was all done in self defense, and many audience members can sympathize with that. It's just too bad that none of the other deaths felt cathartic or justified in any way. Arthur's former co-worker ribbed him a bit too much at his clown gig? Well, then when he tries to make Arthur feel better about losing his clone job by visiting him with some wine, he gets to violently die a horrible murder death because Arthur is too much of a snowflake schizophrenic (that's not how schizophrenia works) much of a snowflake to take a joke in a fucking clown job.

I know these sound like harsh criticism of the movie, but honestly I think that Todd Philips could have avoided them simply by trusting his editor a little more. There's enough there in the kept footage of the film itself to cobble together a rather compelling narrative around Arthur Fleck. (God, I keep wanting to write "Arthur Dent" when writing about this Batman character.) It just feels like it's not in the optimal progression in order to best tell its story. There are what feel like 3 endings to this movie, very much like Return of the King, and the sooner we would have cut to black and roll credits, the more direct the film could have been in its message. The movie could have also used the last therapy scene inside Arkham Asylum at the end of the film at the beginning of the film, framing the entire movie as a flashback while also using the line "You wouldn't understand the joke" as the film's opening ideological thesis. Because without this at the beginning, the movie doesn't have one until the very end at the climactic talk-show (featuring Robert De Niro), and often times the result is the viewer wondering why the movie is so weirdly focused on this man in a pseudo, sorta sympathetic fashion. But, because this is a movie in the Batman lore, we need to keep it at the end so that way when she's inevitably murdered, we can have an ill-suited whacky, Looney-Tunes styled scene where a nurse runs back and forth down the halls trying to catch the Joker in slow-motion while old white dude Oscar Bait music plays in the background. This way the audience can all be like "Oh, that Joker, just running 'roun', being a clown. ;) "

In short, the movie isn't THAT bad. But the fact that it's a Joker movie makes it more tone deaf, and the film would have benefitted by simply being about a mentally ill dude who's slowly going crazy instead of being about the Joker specifically. I do want more character study films in wide releases, like this movie tries to be most of the time, I just want them actually written like character studies instead of like Oscar-tier DCEU fan service. But, if you're interested in watching a mad man in clown make-up becoming violent, you have a lot of pretty cinematography and flawless performances to look forward to.


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