In a pretty shocking move, the Venice Film Festival’s top award—the Golden Lion—went to director Todd Phillips’ already polarizing DC Comics adaptation Joker. The film is loosely based on the DC villain of the same name, with the Hangover and War Dogs director crafting an original origin story about an aspiring (yet failed) stand-up comedian named Arthur Fleck. Joaquin Phoenix has drawn raves for his performance, but the first reviews out of Venice were divisive to say the least, with some going so far as to say the film itself is literally dangerous.
Lest you think Venice is a film festival known for its oddball awards prizes, last year’s winner of the Golden Lion was Roma and the year before that it was eventual Best Picture-winner The Shape of Water, so Joker is in distinguished company. Other past winners include Brokeback Mountain, The Wrestler, and Lust, Caution.
The runner-up Grand Jury Prize went to controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy, while Best Director went to Roy Andersson for About Endlessness and the acting prizes were awarded to Gloria Mundi’s Ariane Ascaride and Martin Eden’s Luca Marinelli. Yonfan won Best Screenplay for No. 7 Cherry Lane.
Some saw Joker’s addition to the fall film festival circuit as a bit of a surprise, but Phillips has remained vocally confident in the movie’s quality, and clearly the move paid off. The Warner Bros. picture next plays at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday night, where even more critics will get a chance to weigh in with their thoughts on the movie. But now, months after Marvel Studios’ Black Panther became the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture, it appears that Joker is indeed very much a potential Oscar play.
Stay tuned for Collider’s own awards analysis on Joker from TIFF early next week, and click here to watch our video review. The film hits theaters on October 4th.
Hold on to your butts, folks. This is gonna be a wild Oscar season.