Like I was watching Joker at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, I came to a grim realization: Joaquin Phoenix might actually win an Oscar for this.
Nothing contrary to Phoenix, who has been so good in so much, but it could be frustrating to see him triumph for such a profoundly loathsome (and, honestly, boring) film.
Phoenix has a lot of competition in the Best Actor race, which is busy this season. It is filled with major stars, from Robert De Niro to Eddie Murphy. Let’s examine the field.
I really don’t wish to have to declare just one frontrunner in this category — it’s just too competitive and too early.
And I must. Two distinct narratives cropped up during the fall festivals: One that saw Phoenix carrying the prize, and yet another that handed it to Adam Driver for Marriage Story.
(And yes, it does feel like some strange universe where the Joker and Kylo Ren do battle. I’m already tired )
Phoenix’s win would be a long time coming. A nomination for Joker would be his fourth after recognition for his job in Gladiator, Walk The Line, and The Master. Playing Arthur Fleck, that takes up the Joker mantle, marks a different transformation that exists in a frightening state of emaciation.
But of course, pounds is a mark of good acting, though the Academy has been confused about that point. Since Arthur, Phoenix is unnerving, clearly. His version of this character’s maniacal laugh is terrifying.
But he is also trapped at a movie that does not really know what to do with its protagonist, which means all that messiness must be cut by his performance.
It also has to rise above all of the controversies that is surrounding Joker and its therapy of mental health and violence. That noise might just be loud. (Still another wrinkle: The Academy has already awarded a Joker performance to Heath Ledger at The Dark Knight.)
Unlike Joker, a movie that’s received nearly universal praise is Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story where Adam Driver plays Charlie, a theater manager in the midst of a divorce.
While Baumbach’s film is evenhanded in the way Driver is astonishing as a man coming to terms with his own failures as his life is torn apart.
A lot of what makes his work so great is the way he portrays Charlie as an individual becoming conscious flaws and his loneliness, although there are showy moments where he explodes in anger. A Driver wins maybe a coronation of sorts for a guy that plenty of people have hailed among the very best of his generation.