Joker wins top prize at VeniceJoker, Todd Phillips‘ take on the iconic DC villain has just won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival, the first ever comic book movie to achieve the honor. The film debuted to a rapturous reception at the festival last weekend, which saw a number of reviews hailing it as a masterpiece, while others expressed caution. It currently sits at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and seems to have a head full of steam in the Oscar race all of a sudden just ahead of its bow at the Toronto International Film Festival in two days.

THR provided some excerpts of Phillips’ acceptance speech:

Upon receiving the prize, Phillips thanked “Warner Bros. and DC for stepping out of their comfort zone and taking such a bold swing on me and this movie.”

And of the film’s star Joaquin Phoenix, who joined Phillips onstage, the director said, “There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin is the fiercest and brightest and most open-minded lion I know. Thank you for trusting me with your insane talent.”

The film, which centers on a failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck whose journey will eventually turn him into the Clown Prince of Crime, is played by Joaquin Phoenix, already a three-time Oscar nominee, and who also won Venice’s Best Actor award for his work in 2012’s The Master. All of this combines into another likely Best Actor nod for the star, but a Best Picture nomination is starting to feel all the more likely, especially after 2018’s Black Panther finally broke through after years of superhero-based films threatening to do so (The Dark Knight and Logan particularly, but films like Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy and Wonder Woman all had their boosters within the Academy).

Only in recent times has Venice started to look like a Kingmaker, with the festival awarding the Golden Lion to The Shape of Water and Roma the last two years; the former going on to actually win Best Picture at the Oscars, while the latter took Best Director. There’s a likelihood this trend might continue, but there is still incredible competition in Warner Bros’ path as well with, among others, Sam Mendes’ 1917, Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, James Mangold’s Ford vs. Ferrari, Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes, and even a new film from Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), the clear touchpoint for Phillips and who was once on board as an Executive Producer for Joker before dropping out.

Can it happen? It very well could! If a comic book movie will do it this year, this is the one and this is another notch in the belt making it even more likely. The Beat will be getting its first look at the film in just a few short days with our upcoming coverage at TIFF. More to come!

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