JOKER: DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA! BATMAN!!
This week’s wide release has not quite captured the public’s anticipation like Joker, despite some big names. Will Smith and younger CGI Will Smith headline Ang Lee’s new movie, a sci-fi action flick called Gemini Man. “Game of Thrones” co-creator David Benioff contributed the story and co-wrote the screenplay about a hitman facing a younger clone of himself. My hopes lie more with Lee than Smith. An animated version of The Addams Family looks like a nice family treat for the scary season. Hopefully, Bong Joon-Ho’s acclaimed new film, Parasite, will open here soon.
Ciné has a lot to offer with Official Secrets, Monos, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool and Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins all hanging around through Thursday. Return of Schlocktoberfest offers the 1977 Japanese film House from Oct. 10–12. Then, you can check out El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, recounting what happens to Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman following the series finale, on the big screen if you do not have Netflix.
Flicker continues to dominate the month with scary movies. Enjoy Scream 4, which was better than Scream 3 but not Scream or Scream 2, on Oct. 9. On Oct. 10, partake in Creepshow, the 1982 anthology from Stephen King and George A. Romero. The Children (1980) come out and play on Oct. 11. Visit Jigoku: Japanese Hell on Oct. 12. A Mahogany Triple Feature of sequels—Demons 2, Creepshow 2 and Return of the Living Dead 2—screens Oct. 14.
Telluride’s Mountainfilm Festival comes to the Morton Theatre on Oct. 10 with Mountainfilm on Tour. The ACC Library continues to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with two examples of why Guillermo del Toro is so awesome on Oct. 12. Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim may seem to have little in common, but both showcase del Toro’s varied charms as a filmmaker. Other local libraries are offering more classic chills this month. The Oconee County Library’s Morning Matinee on Oct. 10 is the lesser Alfred Hitchcock classic Marnie, starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery, while the Oglethorpe County Library’s Seniors’ Morning Matinee on Oct. 14 is the Don Knotts classic (I guess) The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.
UGA’s Middle East Film Series continues on Oct. 9 with The Dupes, and Tate offers up Mean Girls as a throwback on Oct. 11, with the too-soon-forgotten political comedy Long Shot and one of the best films from the first half of 2019, John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum, on Oct. 11 and 13.
So, was Joker worth all the fuss?
JOKER (R) Go ahead and trust Joker to be the definitive take on the origin of Batman’s greatest villain if you want, but this version seeds its own doubts. A sad sack named Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) works as a rent-a-clown in seedy early-’80s Gotham. Arthur lives with his ailing mother, Penny (Frances Conroy), who worked for the Waynes back in the day, and watches Gotham’s version of Johnny Carson, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), nightly while dreams of performing stand-up routines whiz through his addled mind. Eventually, a clown-faced Arthur finds fame in his greatest joke: murder.
While the film eventually introduces audiences to Phoenix’s Joker, the film is about Arthur; be prepared to leave Gotham right when you are ready to move in. I would love to see this Joker interact with this Earth’s Batman, but this film is not a superhero movie. An Oscar nom—the second for someone portraying this particular comic book villain—would be justified as Phoenix successfully sells Arthur’s transition from awkward loner who maniacally laughs at the wrong times so often he carries a card explaining the act to be a symptom of his injured brain to violent spree killer whose final act could be an Andy Kaufman bit gone too far.
Such humanization ultimately demarcates the film’s appeal. Joker is—pardon the easy pun—unbalanced. We need no sympathy for this clown-faced devil, yet a movie constructed around the birth of a villain inevitably seeks to explain and/or excuse brutality, especially considering that his heroic opposite number has yet to turn 10. Though Joker does not explicitly turn its villain into an antihero like last year’s Venom did, vigilante—a typical descriptor for Batman—gets thrown out there by the Gotham press. When most of Arthur’s victims are worse examples of Gotham’s decay than he is, the argument is valid as well as nauseating.
Still, the Joker himself would find the punchline in The Hangover’s Todd Phillips releasing a comic book movie rooted more in the Scorsese-verse of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy than the DC Multiverse the week Scorsese disses the MCU as “theme parks” and “not cinema.”