The plaudits have continued into awards season, with “Joker” leading the nominations for the Oscars — and the ceremony’s U.K. equivalent, the BAFTA awards. (The film, nominated for 11 BAFTAs, won three on Sunday.) How might the controversial film fare on Feb. 9? Let’s break it down.
Total nominations: 11 (picture, adapted screenplay, cinematography, original score, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, makeup and hairstyling, costume design, leading actor, director)
Synopsis: Arthur Fleck — a mentally ill, wannabe comedian who has been ignored and shunned by society — unleashes vengeance on an increasingly chaotic Gotham City as his clown-faced alter ego: Joker.
Directed by: Todd Phillips (of “The Hangover” fame), who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver.
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix as Fleck, Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond, Frances Conroy as Penny Fleck, Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne
Why it could win: “Joker” features several elements that are appealing to academy voters. For one, Phoenix underwent a staggering physical transformation — including marked weight loss — that the actor later said helped him channel Fleck’s descent into psychological madness. And because academy voters have been historically averse to standard comic-book fare, there’s something to be said for the film’s function as a Joker origin story that gives occasional nods to the villain’s comic-book roots without being beholden to them. While some critics have derided the film’s nods to 1970s-era Martin Scorsese, the academy may embrace Phillips’s homage to an Oscar-winning director (who happens to be one of his competitors in this category).
“Joker” is a violent movie. Counterintuitively, that could help its chances for Oscar gold. The film’s fans have embraced its parallels with a world that feels increasingly fractured. As veteran film critic Sonny Bunch wrote recently, “ ‘Joker’ has won hearts and minds around the globe because it so strikingly reflects the unsettled moment in which we live.”
Why it might not win: While the academy has become more receptive to comics as source material in recent years, “Joker” may still take a hit for its association with the DC Comics universe (even as Phillips and comic-book fans insist it is not a comic-book movie). It also doesn’t help that “Joker” is up against Sam Mendes’s “1917,” precisely the type of visually arresting war movie the academy tends to favor.
You can expect a slew of think pieces regardless of how “Joker” fares on Oscar night. And in that way, “Joker” has already won what the film’s troubled protagonist was after all along — our attention.
Box office as of Friday: $1.07 billion worldwide; $334.8 million domestic