My Favorite Moments in the Best Picture Nominees: Joker

So my favorite Oscars tradition, aside from getting hammered and eating Chinese food during the ceremony, is, the day before the ceremony, presenting my favorite moments in each of the Best Picture nominees. I originally started it in 2011, when I felt like there was a lot of anger over certain things that were nominated (The Artist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help), and I just wanted to take that step back and remind myself and everyone else what it’s all about — this is because we love movies. We’re just giving out awards to the movies we liked best. It’s not about the damn awards. It’s about good movies and love of the art form. And it’s something I think we need to be reminded of, which is why I now do it before every Oscar ceremony. It doesn’t matter what wins and what doesn’t, it’s all about celebrating the great movies that came out this year.

Our next nominee is Joker.

5. It’s Standalone

I’m SO happy we didn’t get another bullshit DC Universe movie. The one saving grace to this movie is that it’s not setting up Batman or anything else. It’s telling its own story and isn’t concerned with anything other than that. It also says a lot about the D.C. Universe that the film that made the most money and was the most critically successful is the one that has nothing to do with the rest of their output and is only concerned with doing its own thing in its own way.

4. This scene

It’s just so funny to me that he just murders a dude in his apartment and then just sits there, covered in blood and is like, “Yeah, you can leave. You were nice to me.” But also what makes it great is two things — first that you truly don’t know if Joaquin is gonna kill the other guy or not. So many scenes do that, “Oh, no, you can go,” and the minute they try to do it, they’re dead. Joaquin’s performance works to the point where you’re not really sure how he’s gonna act in this moment, which is really the crux of the Joker character. And also, how great is it that it seems like he’s not gonna kill the dude and the dude’s gonna get out okay… and then he can’t reach the door latch. Even if you adamantly disliked this movie, I feel like that moment would work for you. I feel like the instinctive reaction to anyone watching the movie in that moment is, “Oh no. He’s fucked.” It’s a well-done moment.

3. The 70s vibe

If there’s one thing I can’t complain about with this movie, it’s the decision to make it feel like 1970s New York. Maybe they went a bit too far trying to emulate that tone (you might as well call it “Martin Scorsese’s Joker” while you’re at it), but man, did they really follow through on what they were going for. This is 70s New York. It’s sleazy, it’s grimy. The trash is piling up everywhere and the sets and locations do not look expensive. It looks like 70s New York movies felt. There’s a layer of grime on everything, and honestly the only thing missing is the 70s film stock.

2. Joaquin

He’s really committed to the performance. And it’s not earth-shatteringly good and it’s not the kind of thing I haven’t already seen him do in stuff like The Master, but the way he commits himself to telling this story really adds a layer of legitimacy to the film. If it wasn’t him, the movie wouldn’t have been considered nearly as good as it’s been considered. You’ve got a story that’s been told before (essentially) and it’s telling it in a way that’s clearly trying to be other things. You kind of already know where everything’s going and it doesn’t really do anything new or unique (in terms of a comic book movie or a movie). But it’s the way he approaches the character and really deep dives into it does sort of keep you from overly questioning all of that. It’s like, 15 years ago, when you saw an A-list actor doing a TV show and you went, “Oh, well they thought it was okay, so I guess we have to take it a bit more seriously then we would have otherwise.”

1. The Cinematography

I’ve said all along, I think the cinematography is the best thing about this movie. It looks fantastic. And I know most people would put that stairs moment on here, because it’s probably the most iconic image of 2019. But to me, that’s just one moment. The rest of the film looks terrific. It evokes everything they’re trying to evoke and it just looks crisp and colorful and really creates a sense of environment that allows what they’re going for narratively to full work. Lawrence Sher did an amazing job with this movie.

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