Movie: Joker (2019)

I would like to take a moment to say “I hate that iMDb has removed their one sentence synopsis from movie pages.” I hate the new set up. Hate. I was always impressed by how they managed to one-line it. That is out the door now. Now I will post the rambling random user tag. Meh. (off soap box)

The address of the Joker’s stairs is 1165 Shakespeare Ave, The Bronx, NY 10452, USA. After the theatrical release of the movie, the stairs turned in a touristic attraction.

Random iMDb user synopsis: In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: “The Joker”.

All the spoilers, all the time.

Alex and I stood in the parking lot of the Cinemark theater and discussed our thoughts on the movie. I pondered whether it was necessary to give voice to a villain of the Joker’s caliber and if the movie was truly necessary. He responded that he is fine with giving him a voice but maybe not like this movie.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)

In an interview, Joaquin Phoenix called perfecting the Joker’s laugh the toughest part of playing the character. The laugh was very much the Joker, I will give him that. I would be surprised if his vocal cords were not strained during the making of the film.

Joaquin Phoenix and Mandela Bellamy in Joker (2019)

Another thing strained, his body! Phoenix lost 52 pounds in a couple of months. There are interviews out there where he mentions fasting and now having an eating disorder, all to keep the Joker’s mannerisms. I’m sorry, but there is no film out there worth putting yourself through that kind of physical harm with lasting effects. His physical appearance bothered me throughout the fim.

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So many movies that are released nowadays are filled with violence. With super hero movies it is sometimes that the carnage is on a huge scale where cities have pain inflicted upon them and does not have the intimacy of say, someone being shot in the eye from close range. Arthur Fleck/The Joker has the shit beaten out of him so many times in this movie.

Joaquin Phoenix and Ben Warheit in Joker (2019)

In a recent interview with SFX magazine, Joaquin Phoenix acknowledged that while the violence in “Joker” is “a little more visceral and raw” than films such as the Avengers series, he “didn’t have any hesitation about it.” “You always want it to feel real, and you want the little violence that we have to have an impact,” he said. “What happens in a lot of movies is that you get numb to it, you’re killing 40,000 people, you don’t feel it. While being a fictional story in a fictional world, you always want it to feel real. Everything that happens in this movie as far as violence goes, you feel it.”

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)

When Arthur lets himself into Sophie’s (Zazie Beetz) apartment, he tells her “I’ve had a bad day”. This is a reference to the iconic comic book “The Killing Joke”, in which the Joker’s theory is everyone is just one bad day from madness.

Zazie Beetz in Joker (2019)

The story does not follow the comics closely. The Joker in the comics falls into a vat of chemicals. In an interview, Todd Phillips and Scott Silver said they found the most common Joker origin story, in which the character is disfigured after falling into a vat of chemicals, too unrealistic. Instead, they used certain elements of the Joker lore to produce an original story, which Phillips wanted to feel as authentic as possible. Because the Joker does not have a definitive origin story in the comics, Phillips and Silver were given considerable creative freedom and “pushed each other every day to come up with something totally insane.” The two wrote the script with Phoenix in mind: “The goal was never to introduce Joaquin Phoenix into the comic book movie universe. The goal was to introduce comic book movies into the Phoenix universe.”

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)

The joke “When I was a little boy and told people I was going to be comedian, everyone laughed at me. Well no one’s laughing now” is inspired by the late British comedian Bob Monkhouse’s “People used to laugh at me when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well they’re not laughing now.”

Arthur Fleck performs stand up at ‘Pogo’s Comedy Club’ in Gotham. Pogo the Clown was the stage name of real life professional clown and serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

In an interview in Vanity Fair, leading neurocriminologist Adrian Raine said he was stunned by how authentically the film depicted the psychology of the criminal mind. “For 42 years, I’ve studied the cause of crime and violence. And while watching this film, I thought – WOW, what a revelation this was. It is a great educational tool about the making of the murderer,” he said. In the article, Raine went on to diagnose the character of Arthur Fleck with schizotypal personality disorder. “Those who suffer from it have bizarre beliefs, odd behavior, odd appearance, odd speech, no close friends other than family members, and emotional-affect issues – either being completely shut down or way over the top,” Raine said. He now uses the film as part of a course he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

The movie includes a lot of porn on the peripheral. Funnily, I chuckled at the porn marquis noting “Ace In The Hole” as a movie title. Standing in the parking lot, Alex asked “What was the other marquis for the other porn? Something about Zorro?” I had to laugh. There was a movie marquis in this movie for Zorro The Gay Blade. It was, in fact, a real movie in 1981.

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In interviews, the creators of this movie have said that it is a stand alone film. At the Toronto International Film Festival recently, the director also insisted that Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker and the upcoming new iteration of Batman played by Robert Pattinson in The Batman (2021) will not collide. “I don’t see [Joker] connecting to anything in the future,” Phillips said. “This is just a movie.” Begs me to ask, then why put it out there? The DC comics logo does not appear in this film until after the end credits. This is a clear attempt by the filmmakers to distance this film from the DC extended universe films also in production at the time.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)

Robert De Niro said his role in Joker pays homage to his character from The King of Comedy (1982), Rupert Pupkin, who is a comedian obsessed with a talk-show host.

The King of Comedy (1982)

When Arthur/Joker walks onto The Murray Franklin Show, he kisses the other guest, an elderly female sex therapist. This is a reference to Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”, when Joker does the same thing (except his kiss kills the sex therapist).

Robert De Niro in Joker (2019)

The ending of the film where the Joker is in Arkham is meant to be ambiguous as the viewer is given to draw a line about what exactly did happen and did not happen throughout the movie because everything is from Arthur’s perspective. This is further hinted when he says to the doctor “You wouldn’t get it” when he was asked what he finds funny implying that the whole thing was one big joke to him. In an interview, Phoenix said “This movie requires a certain amount of participation from the audience. It’s up to you how you want to interpret it and experience it. It’s less you being kind of presented with the facts than you being presented with these possibilities.”

The one lesson I learned from this movie is that you should be nice to people. Even the weirdos that sometimes spook you. Always be nice. Just ask Gary! My one unanswered question: was that a clown union they all belonged to? I was so confused.

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The one parallel with reality for this show: how mental illness is treated in the world. Funding cut, hard to find help, meds are taken away. That stood out to me.

Extra Stuff:

Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips in Joker (2019)

Trailer and Extra Video

How I Rank ‘Em:

0-19 Levels of: Ugh

20-39 Levels of: Meh (aka I cannot reach the remote)

40-59 Levels of: I don’t hate it?

60-85 Levels of: That was solid.

86-100 Levels of: I Loved It!

It received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 68% Fresh.  It received a Rotten Tomato audience rating of 89% liking it.  Average Rating: 3.5/5 with a number of User Ratings: 48,692.

Release date: 31 August 2019 (USA)

Runtime: 122 minutes / Budget: $55M

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (2019)
Joaquin PhoenixArthur Fleck
Robert De NiroMurray Franklin
Zazie BeetzSophie Dumond
Frances ConroyPenny Fleck
Brett CullenThomas Wayne
Shea WhighamDetective Burke
Bill CampDetective Garrity
Glenn FleshlerRandall
Leigh GillGary
Josh PaisHoyt Vaughn
Rocco LunaGiGi Dumond
Marc MaronGene Ufland
Sondra JamesDr. Sally
Murphy GuyerBarry O’Donnell
Douglas HodgeAlfred Pennyworth
Dante Pereira-OlsonBruce Wayne
Carrie Louise PutrelloMartha Wayne
Sharon WashingtonSocial Worker
Hannah GrossYoung Penny
Joker (2019)

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