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Things We Saw Today: The First Reactions to Joker Are in and They’re … Great?

Let the Oscar buzz commence!

Actor Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck / Joker in upcoming Joker movie from DC

While most of America is enjoying a the first day of a long weekend, film buffs are watching the news out of the Venice Film Festival, where Todd Phillips’ Joker just debuted to enthusiastic applause and massive buzz. The film’s stars and directors met with reporters in a press conference, where they discussed the cinematic influences of the film—including Taxi Driver and the silent film The Man Who Laughs—and Joaquin Phoenix’s evolving portrayal of the iconic villain. Phoenix described the process:

It was his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected and to feel warmth and love and that’s the part of the character I was interested in. He was so many different things to me.  Who he was in the first few weeks of shooting was completely different than who he was in the end. He was constantly evolving. I’ve never had an experience like this. The more unpredictable and looser we left it, the more exciting it was.

The film itself received standing ovations as the credits rolled, but what are critics saying? Well, David Ehrlich at IndieWire calls it “the boldest reinvention of ‘superhero’ cinema since ‘The Dark Knight.'” Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson cannily calls out the film’s evocation of the tortured white man mythos and the way it might ask us to root for a character that’s all-too-familiar in an era of mass shootings and economic unrest. And it does look like people are already rooting for the bad guy, from Erik Davis of Fandango praising how we get to the Joker’s humanity to Owen Gliberman over at Variety giving an effusive, and very spoiler-heavy, review.

The Joker Joaquin

There are women, thankfully weighing in on the film, as well, with Terri White at Empire saying that reducing the movie to a parable about today’s outsiders is “too simple, and Joker does anything but deliver you easy answers.” Jenna Busch praises the film and directly addresses how its women come off, as well: “It’s not active misogyny. It’s a disregard for the depths of others, and it’s done with everyone, not just the women.”

While I’m sure we’re just beginning the debate on the film and whether it’s toxic or compassionate, the praise for Phoenix’s performance is pretty uniform, and an Oscar nomination already feels inevitable. We still want more diverse opinions on this (and all!) films, so sound off in the comments.

In Other News:

This DragonCon Cosplayer giving us all the feels. The cosplayer is “Doctor Molotov” on facebook by the way:

And here’s Mark Ruffalo with a ferret:

(images: Warner Bros.)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.