REVIEW: “JOKER” (2019) Warner Bros.

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Is the “Joker” really an achievement in cinematic history or just a deeply dark look into an anarchist, his falling apart life and a city on edge. One thing is sure here, no matter if you loved it or didn’t, it’s a thought-provoking, disturbing two hour long journey, that will haunt you for a time after.

The film offers a dark look of 1970s Gotham City; a dark, gritty atmosphere where there is no joy nor happiness in this world. In many of it’s opening moments, the movie reflects instant “Taxi Driver” and “King of Comedy” vibes – and while not a direct copy – let’s just say JOKER borrows elements ‘liberally’ from both films.   All the political tensions in the city are definitely borrowed from “Taxi Driver” and all the bits with the stand-up comedy from “The King of Comedy”.  Robert De Niro’s character Murray Franklin, is almost an off-shoot of Rupert Pupkin, his character in the Scorsese film.

‘Joker’ morphs itself into a deep character study of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a man with some psychological and health issues who simply wants to bring laughter to this world by performing as a clown in child’s hospitals and performing as a stand-up comedian. But his mental health and this broken, sad, depressive society of ‘Gotham’ that he lives in don’t allow for that.  He feels they do not let him be the way he is and wants to be, and all the people around him see him as too weird/different and simply want to put him down whether it be in the streets, in his workplace, at his mother’s house etc. to the point where he simply finds a breaking point and loses more of his mind every day that goes by.

This by and by leads him to kill people, and then become a symbol of terror and chaos towards the end. At every moment something seemingly bad happens to Arthur Fleck.  The camerawork is often claustrophobically tight on Phoenix, right from the beginning of twisting and turning and hard to forget collection of haunting laughs.  Phoenix appears in virtually every scene of Joker all of which adds to the film never making you feel as though you were never anywhere, but in Arthur’s tortured head space. Honestly, it’s to a point where you start to wonder how many times is the camera going to pan over Phoenix’s clearly now skeletal frame, noting the 53 lb weight loss for us over and over again.  Same can be said for how many times can one person can be beat to a pulp, and still get up and walk away. Hit by a car..no problem, just get up and run off. Get beaten one day – not even see a doctor – have the same thing happen to you the next day, and viola’ – still fine.  And yes, a whole lot of things happen to him throughout the film – but he gives back as good as he gets. Over and over again, we see him lash out at those who have angered him in even the slightest of manners, though they might have just met.  And that’s where it does get a bit alarming.  The violence is palpable here. Why, say you is this worse than what we see just on regular TV or any other action film?  It’s a plausible question that each person would have to answer for themselves.  The character of the ‘Joker’ seems to scares us just to the point that we don’t see the human in him any more – we only see the killer.

The movie itself, does not praise violence and it’s far from being about making the ‘Joker’ a “hero” or him starting a movement, but it’s not all about a man trying to find himself either. Clearly the story line wants us to feel something for this character and what he has been put through, but it’s hard to find or feel that second where you do. The ‘Joker’ wants you to just feel sad for him, to mourn with him since he never seemed to have any intentions of harming people at first, or did he?  We, the audience understands exactly the things he does throughout the film, and he does them for himself. Because he feels wronged.  Wronged by his mother Penny Fleck (Francis Conroy), whom he lives with and spends her days writing letters to Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), who we find out, is seriously delusional herself all the while wrapping Arthur/Joker up in her fabrications as well. Again, it’s Arthur delusions that make you believe that neighbor Sophie Dumond (Zazi Beetz) is a lover/friend, when nothing could be further from the truth.  Although the character of Zazie isn’t exactly given a much to work with, her end reveal tells a lot.

As solid as Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy are in their small roles here, this is Phoenix’s film and he delivers a worthwhile performance even though some of it felt forced, he will almost surely earn himself a nomination at the least. It’s a take on the Joker that differs from Heath Ledger’s, with the main difference might be that Ledger’s joker is a rational that acts insane, while Phoenix’s is insane to the root. Which begs the question again of Phoenix on how much is he playing here. Remember years ago his so-called ‘experiment’ with Casey Affleck in “I’m Still Here” where he was supposedly leaving acting to become a rapper, but it was startlingly real. Some might say a perfect calling for this role.

While first and foremost this is a tale of a man pushed to the edge of his already teetering limits, Joker also manages to throw in a number of surprising narrative and comic book throw backs, some surprise twists (one word: Wayne) that even connects it with the Batman comics that will no doubt be discussed ad-nauseam by die-hard fans.

At the end of the day, whether you end up loving or hating Joker, Todd Phillip’s gritty take on the legendary DC comics villain, there’s no denying that the cinematic comic book adaptations landscape has been changed forever.

Grade: B

@pegsatthemovies

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: peggyatthemovies

 

Media Screening: Tuesday, October 1, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

‘JOKER’ IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2019

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SPIRIT AWARDS NOMINEES – WEEK TWO SCREENING REVIEWS

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Started and finished up Week Two of Spirit Award nominee screenings. Closed it all out on Saturday and granted I didn’t see everything yet, but have gotten in a good portion of those nominated and while some they did provide screeners for most, a few did not (I’m looking specifically at you “Thoroughbreds”), or I made the screenings. From here on it gets real as (drum roll) we vote.

“WILDLIFE” Dir: Paul Dano

‘Wildlife’ is a perfect example of how you can put two very good actor/actresses in a film and it still doesn’t make it good. Jake Gyllenhaal is just plain wooden in his role here and Carey Mulligan almost overacts her role as a cheating housewife. Almost painful to watch what could have had potential, just did not work.
Grade: D

“SUPPORT THE GIRLS” Dir. Andrew Bujalski

I found myself having a soft spot for this one even though it might not have been the best movie I’ve seen – it most definitely had it’s moments while giving a absolute spot on portrayal of what it’s like working in the service industry, most especially in the “Hooters” type atmosphere. Regina Hall leads the cast as the general manager, but almost stealing the show from her are the ‘girls’ Haley Lu Richardson, AJ Michalka, and newcomer Shayna McHayle. James Le Gros as the grubby bar owner rounds this out. It’s definitely got a good #GirlPower message to women servers around the world!
Grade: C+

“COLETTE” Dir: Wash Westmoreland

Colette is yet another true story of female empowerment – a woman with real talent trying to break out of the gilded cage she finds herself trapped in. Colette is the ghost writer of a series of novels about her own life, but because of the times, her husband says they are his and takes credit for them – until she steps out of the cage. While not Keira Knightly’s biggest fan, she does the brooding Victorian women like no other. Dominic West delivers a reliably solid performance as expected, with the supporting cast also doing the same. Sadly, the film seems much longer slog than its 111 minute run time, notably the whole middle portion of the film being somewhat pedestrian as well.
Grade: C

“YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE” Dir. Lynne Ramsay

What a huge letdown this film was for me. Most definitely inspired by ‘Taxi Driver’, and ‘inspired by’ is where it shall remain as this pointless plot about Joaquin Phoenix as hired enforcer with clearly some mom issues of his own. This plot falls all over the place with bad, slow pacing and brings nothing new to the table. Yes, I get it, it supposed to be an ‘art’ film – but even those have to have some semblance of some type of clever conversation or suspense.. anything really. To those that loved it..kudos..
Grade: D

“CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME” Dir: Marielle Heller

Melissa McCarthy brings a whole other side to her acting her with this strong dramatic turn as a celeb bio author who books cease to be published so instead she resorts to ‘authoring’ fake celebrity letters. Something which she is very good at, probably better than writing her actual books truth be told. Aided by the fantastic supporting performance of Richard E. Grant, this film is non-stop literary fun from beginning to end..and by end we mean in jail for fraud.
Grade: B+

“BLACKkKLANSMAN” Dir: Spike Lee

I will confess, Adam Driver kinda kept me away from watching this film because my admitting that I am just not a fan might make some upset because of the whole Star Wars thing etc.. etc.. so Star Wars fanboys I apologize, as I actually liked him here. But come on, John David Washington, was perfection. This movie had me from moment one, and made me laugh with disbelief, but it also made me cry at the very end when you do realize that we ARE letting it happen again – and that breaks my heart. #RIPHeatherHeyer
Grade: A+

“EIGHTH GRADE” Dir: Bo Burnham

I mean all I can say is read my review here to know how much I loved it.
https://peggyatthemovies.com/2018/07/17/review-eighth-grade-2018-a24/
Grade: A-

“WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR” Dir: Morgan Neville

Again, my review from when I saw this wonderful film earlier in the year.
https://peggyatthemovies.com/2018/06/01/review-wont-you-be-my-neighbor-2018-focus-features/
Grade: A+

@pegsatthemovies

Golden Globes – My picks for Film~Best Actor/Actress/Director/Supporting/Foreign

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golden globes movies

My picks for these awards are just that..MY PICKS! 😀 This is my favourite award show as it’s both Film & TV..I mean how can you go wrong with the best of both genres drinking it up at one awards show with Tina Fey & Amy Pohler hosting. Well the answer is you can’t. I’ve seen almost all the films presented this year, even the foreign ones – though yes, I’ve missed a few as there is only so much one human-being can do! ha! You might agree or even better, you might dis-agree ~ it’s all good. I will warn you, I did pretty well last year with my picks and this year I think I’m going to do even better. So with that..I give you #peggyatthemovies 2014 Golden Globe picks! Cheers!

BEST PICTURE (DRAMA):
“Boyhood”
I loved the premise of this movie.. the movie itself was good..but not great for me.

“Foxcatcher”
I will say I was glad I went into this film not knowing to much about it. Performances were very good, but still not my pick here.

“The Imitation Game”WINNER
I loved everything about this movie. The story is so good~the much speculated and talked about inaccuracies and all. The acting even better, and alas it was the only movie to make me cry..both times I saw it.

“Selma”
Like it as it’s quite a powerful film with all it’s much talked about inaccuracies also…just didn’t love it.

“The Theory of Everything”
Really like the film..second viewing the other night was even better.. performance by both actors, especially Eddie Redmayne, is what awards are made for. Still not my top choice for best picture though.

BEST PICTURE (COMEDY/MUSICAL):
“Birdman”WINNER
From the 1st viewing to my 3rd viewing.. BRILLIANT!!

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
I enjoyed this movie as it was tons of fun and entertaining..though I might not think it’s best picture material, others might.

“Into The Woods”
Will admit to not having seen it yet..as it just wasn’t on the top of my to-see list. I will eventually get to it though.

“Pride”
This movie never came to a theatre near me as far as I know as it was on my list..if it did, it was in and out so fast I missed it. Too bad because it seems as it would be right up my alley.

“St. Vincent”
This was a fun, sweet film.. I mean how can you not like Bill Murray..and the kid was great..but still not a top film for moi.

BEST DIRECTOR:
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Wes Anderson has done some good films that I’ve really liked..and I did like this a lot, just not enough for it to be my pick in this category.

Ava DuVernay, “Selma”
Good film..love the fact that a woman director got nominated and it was great hearing her speak about the film trials & tribulations after the screening, but alas, it’s not my pick.

David Fincher, “Gone Girl”
I mean who doesn’t love David Fincher..He;s done some brilliant stuff..and I liked this film a lot as it had a good creep/twisty factor but it’s not an award winner.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, “Birdman”WINNER
But there is only one “Birdman” and this film was stunning with it’s long one-shots and imagination. I loved loved loved it…all 3 times to be exact.

Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Yes, I was stunned as I watched this film unfold as to the idea of it all..and that idea was Richard Linklater’s – but I just didn’t like the movie enough to make it my #1 .. though if Alejandro doesn’t win, he would be my 2nd choice based on just the fact it was done over a 12yr time period..that’s a huge commitment and undertaking.

BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA):
Jennifer Aniston, “Cake”
I wish I could say I’ve seen this film/performance as a lot of people are raving about it. But I blinked and missed it for the 1 week it was in like 2 theatres here.

Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”
Loved the film, loved the performance especially for her 1st major leading role and she was wonderful..my 2nd choice for sure.

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”WINNER
Can we not just give Julianne the damn award already??!!! She needs to finally win it for a lead role in a film dammit!!

Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”
While I’m not Rosamund Pike’s biggest fan, she was crazy creepy good in this role. But then she also did Simon Pegg’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” this year which was awful. Just for that reason alone she doesn’t deserve this. 🙂

Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
Yeah..everyone said I would be ‘WOWED’ by this film & her performance..I wasn’t. It was good..not great.

BEST ACTOR (DRAMA):
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”
Funny-man turned oh-so-serious and pulled it off..pretty well I might add.

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”
2014 was definitely the year of the Brits. This performance is outstanding..it really is..but it’s also my 2nd choice. I know..I know..ALREADY!

Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nighcrawler”
Jake pulled off creepy-shitshow reporter here.. but he didn’t come close to my 2 top picks performance wise.

David Oyelowo, “Selma”
Good performance..fair movie..but like Jake, just didn’t come close to the top 2.

Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”WINNER
Yes, I am giving my pick to Eddie Redmayne here..why..because simply put he was BRILLIANT BEYOND BELIEF. He embodied Stephen Hawking in every way, shape, form & speech. This performance is why awards are given. period.

BEST ACTRESS (COMEDY/MUSICAL):
Amy Adams, “Big Eyes”WINNER
Really good performance.. was it the ‘gold standard’ of American Hustle that I loved..no..but then neither was the film and sadly the actress roles were seriously lacking this year across the board. She was however good enough to win this.

Emily Blunt, “Into The Woods”
I’ve come to like Emily Blunt more & more..she was great as an action star with Tom Cruise in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ pulling this off is harder.

Helen Mirren, “The Hundred Foot Journey”
Didn’t see this film..again, I’ve read the movie itself is mediocre but how can you not love Helen Mirren is just about anything.

Julianne Moore, “Maps To The Stars”
Again, blinked and missed this one, but I hear Julianne did a bang-up job.

Quvenzhane Wallis, “Annie”
Let’s face it..we know the genre was lacking contenders so this is a ‘fill up the category’ nomination.

BEST ACTOR (COMEDY/MUSICAL):
Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
I’m a fan of this film and of the performance, as it was fun. But it’s not a win.

Michael Keaton, “Birdman”WINNER
Let’s face it..we ALL love a really good comeback. And Michael Keaton gives it to us lock, stock and barrel in this film. He’s a fantastic actor who deserves this big time.

Bill Murray, “St. Vincent”
I j’adore Bill Murray. From ‘Caddyshack’ to ‘Groundhog Day’ to this film. How can you not? But it just wasn’t a better performance than my pick for winner.

Joaquin Phoenix, “Inherent Vice”
Ridiculous film..ridiculous performance..and I love Joaquin. This shouldn’t even be up and I’m guessing was another ‘fill in the category’ nomination

Christoph Waltz, “Big Eyes”
Good performance and while some thought it over the top..I was lucky enough to see a screening with a Q & A afterwards with cast/director where they noted it was actually toned it down. I liked it, not enough for a win though.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
The part I loved most about this was when I finally realized that they were doing this over a 12yr period and having a giggle over ‘hey, that’s when she was doing “Medium” hair-style etc. She probably did the best work of her career here and stands a good chance of winning.

Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year” WINNER
Jessica just went against type here and really came out strong in this performance for me. Very different style & film.

Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”
For once Keira Knightley did not annoy the bejesus out of me..She was actually decent in this role. Though she also did ‘Begin Again’ – where she was annoying and probably one of the 5 worst movies of the year ‘Laggies’ – so she can not not not possibly deserve this award.

Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Was one of my top 3 films of the year, but definitely not a favourite performance here. It grew on me a bit more by the 3rd viewing, but still, nope.

Meryl Streep, “Into The Woods”
It’s Meryl. What else is there to say? she’s always good.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Robert Duvall, “The Judge”
This was a fairly good movie, and a nice performance. Though sweetly done, not a winner for me.

Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
I remember when the screening started and I thought “how does Ethan look so damn young here” and it took me a good hour to finally realize what they did here. I’ve always liked Ethan, through the good and the bad..this was part of the good.

Edward Norton, “Birdman”
I’m so torn here as until I saw Whiplash, he had my vote. hands down. but now, uuuggghhh torn, torn, torn! But he’s my 2nd choice, and it actually hurts to say that.

Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
I thought Ruffalo was out of place in this film. He’s playing someone who is clearly supposed to be so much younger and it didn’t come off for me. I know a lot of people loved him in it. He was just okay for me.

J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”WINNER
Damn this movie was good. Even better the 2nd time with a full screening and J.K. & Dir:Damien Chazelle speaking afterwards to fill it all in. I’ve been a J.K.Simmons fan since “OZ” and he blows you away in this film. He so deserves this award for everything he’s done in his career that has been so good, but most of all for bringing this character to life like no other.

BEST FOREIGN FILM:
“Force Majeure”WINNER
I was way behind on my foreign films because they were all screening at the same times and their English counterparts and I could only do so much. That being said, I saw this the other day..really good film..loved it.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”
Wasn’t able to see this yet

“Ida”
Caught this film this week, and while I know it’s the fav. I found my pick to be all-around better film.

“Leviathan”
This was an okay-good film. I know sometimes maybe a bit gets lost in translation, and while I thought visually it was beautiful, it story was scattered and lost.

“Tangerines”
Was not able to see it.