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Joker (2019 Movie) (1 Viewer)

jayembee

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Back in the day, I had thought that Dafoe would be a great Joker. I'd even imagined Warner could do a nice adaptation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns with a Platoon-swap of Tom Berenger as Batman and Dafoe as Joker.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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I admit that I had to laugh when Scorsese, when going on about what he considered wrong about superhero comic book films (specifically Marvel's), did remark that he liked Joker. Because, well, yes, technically it's based in Batman's world. But as Reggie said, it's really about a man with mental health issues who wears clown make-up.

Well, Scorsese really is into pictures that have an emotional landscape that pulls you in to what is happening with the characters. The issue with "super heroes" is they are super and so often in that world there are no great stakes for the characters. The films are less participatory and more like just going on a ride where you just watch everything zip by.

In Joker, the primary character is mentally ill and so unpredictable and so the "stakes" in the film are higher for an audience watching it. Nobody in it is "super" they are vulnerable and this makes the outcome for them more interesting.
 

jayembee

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True enough. I do understand where Scorsese was coming from, though I think he was shortchanging superhero films. As I recall, he put it as superhero films were not "the cinema of one character conveying his emotional and psychological truth to another character". Right off the top of my head, I'd argue that both Civil War and Black Panther were that.

But I suspect his real objection to them has to do with them sucking all the air out of the room. They take studio money and theater screen space away from other kinds of films. And there he has a point.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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True enough. I do understand where Scorsese was coming from, though I think he was shortchanging superhero films. As I recall, he put it as superhero films were not "the cinema of one character conveying his emotional and psychological truth to another character". Right off the top of my head, I'd argue that both Civil War and Black Panther were that.

But I suspect his real objection to them has to do with them sucking all the air out of the room. They take studio money and theater screen space away from other kinds of films. And there he has a point.

They did suck the air and money out of the room but I don't think that could really be avoided. Essentially, if lots of people will pay to see it, they are going to make it.

I think the biggest problem for Scorsese is he really loves and places a great value on cinema. That landscape has totally changed though and we don't have a society that values cinema that way anymore. I mean he still sees it through the lens of the 1970s which was really the last great decade for cinema as art. After that it just goes into decline and once you get into the internet age the downward spiral just speeds up.
 

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Only if we narrow the definition of art to “1970s style director driven pictures” which frankly were an anomaly in the history of motion pictures.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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Only if we narrow the definition of art to “1970s style director driven pictures” which frankly were an anomaly in the history of motion pictures.

Well, what I mean by art really comes down to the reasons why the pictures got made. The 1970s were certainly an anomaly but could also be called the pinnacle of American filmmaking. It was the decade where the "artists" had full control and had taken over the process. It made for some really stunning and iconic pictures. I don't know if it will be the last time we see a period of filmmaking like that and we still get some filmmaking that harkens back to that era but for a while now we've been pretty much stuck in the polar opposite situation as the 1970s. The director/artist driven picture is mostly a thing of the past. It even seems as if there is some backlash against that kind of picture by some of the public where they celebrate if a Paul Thomas Anderson or Scorsese film is not profitable. I don't understand that really but we do seem to have a world where people break into "teams" more than ever.

We are in the big franchise blockbuster period in terms of cinema. Where the reasons for making most larger films is they fit the franchise formula with the least amount of risk because they are a copy of another successful film.

Maybe because of the pandemic the "franchise blockbuster" period collapses and there is a return to making more interesting pictures that could once again be about anything. About human beings again and the parts of life that actually have an impact on us. It would obviously take a shift in what people pay to see. I don't know if or when that could or may happen. I think we live in such a frightening world that people prefer these big fantasy films because reality or the real world is just too hard for them right now.

I do think the pictures that are popular reflect the times and I think these times do have people preferring to see fantasy. Can you blame them?

I mean we are still in the "pandemic period of cinema" right now. Maybe once we get past that people will be ready for something else.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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I've been saying that an "Easy Rider-style shake up" was coming for almost 20 years and I've pretty much given up- franchises and the same thing over and over is here to stay.

Maybe, I can't say for sure. I do believe that our pop culture stuff is some sort of reflection of where we are as a society. I think we have been living through a pretty long period where fear and uncertainty and anger and rage and mistrust have been part of our daily lives. So, in a complex and difficult to understand world I think people do prefer more simplistic entertainment.

I think that upheaval in our society was part of why we got the revolutionary period of filmmaking that kicked off with stuff like Easy Rider. I do think the reason we have not really got a big change or big revolution in filmmaking right now is because the industry works so hard now to stifle that because they only want the films that fit their money formula. They are not like the people running studios in the 1960s that could not figure out what audiences wanted to see, they have reams of data now that tell them "stick to the formula" and you will make money.

So, rather than "giving in to change" they instead stick to their formula. Plus in our society now I think the fear of "change" is greater than ever. Due to that fact audiences do want to see the same formula film again and again and again.

However, audiences may eventually grow sick of that, I think they are starting to, finally. So, maybe the pandemic will help push us toward something different.
 
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jayembee

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Reggie, I think your follow-up comments clarify your position better. I had been working out a response to your first comment about 1970s film-making and art, and such, and it was mostly focused on the "art vs. entertainment" issue that has long plagued our civilization.

I would instead argue that what we're seeing today is a reflection of the way business has changed over the decades. People will often make the excuse that "filmmaking is a business" and art seems like it's sliding back to the patronage scheme of things. But business practices have changed since the 70s, and corporations are more concerned with their bottom line as they become more focused on the financial success of their stockholders and executives. Which means they want to take fewer risks, which in turn means that they prefer to standardize their "product".

Still, I think the art is out there, and always has been, if you're willing to look for it. Just yesterday, I picked up the 4K of Last Night in Soho. While it's far from perfect, I was astonished at Edgar Wright's ability to make some surprisingly artistic choices in what might seem otherwise to be a mainstream film.
 

jayembee

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It has. It’s come to premium/prestige television, where it’s a much better deal for both the creative talent and the viewing audience.
The cynic in me thinks that this, too, shall fade. It's in the best interests of the streaming platforms to do something "new and different" to attract a consumer base. Once they have that, they'll likely find themselves in the same position that the major studios are in now, and start providing a more standardized product.

I have to say that while the streamers definitely are making the effort to provide "prestige" material, the more intriguing (for me) aspect is the growing interest in foreign-language programming, especially from Netflix. Foreign-language films weren't all that unusual in the marketplace up into the 80s, but they started becoming rarer and rarer. Every time a foreign film made a rare splash in the mainstream (eg. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) there would be mumblings about releasing more of them. And then nothing until the next rare splash. Rinse, repeat.
 

Bryan^H

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I've been saying that an "Easy Rider-style shake up" was coming for almost 20 years and I've pretty much given up- franchises and the same thing over and over is here to stay.
That may be the most depressing thing I've ever read on this forum. And I think you're right :(
 

Winston T. Boogie

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Reggie, I think your follow-up comments clarify your position better. I had been working out a response to your first comment about 1970s film-making and art, and such, and it was mostly focused on the "art vs. entertainment" issue that has long plagued our civilization.

I would instead argue that what we're seeing today is a reflection of the way business has changed over the decades. People will often make the excuse that "filmmaking is a business" and art seems like it's sliding back to the patronage scheme of things. But business practices have changed since the 70s, and corporations are more concerned with their bottom line as they become more focused on the financial success of their stockholders and executives. Which means they want to take fewer risks, which in turn means that they prefer to standardize their "product".

Still, I think the art is out there, and always has been, if you're willing to look for it. Just yesterday, I picked up the 4K of Last Night in Soho. While it's far from perfect, I was astonished at Edgar Wright's ability to make some surprisingly artistic choices in what might seem otherwise to be a mainstream film.

OK, I am going to make a few comments and try to turn this back to the Joker because I feel I am derailing this thread. I will start a new thread that will be a place to have all these conversations about movies in general rather than doing it in a thread that is about a specific film. I think it is an interesting time to have a discussion about cinema, what that is, and where that is going and hopefully the movie fans here will jump in.

First, it is not that I want to set up an art versus entertainment kind of debate. The reason for that is people are all entertained by different things. So, that discussion does not really get near what I am talking about. Also, coming at it from that perspective gives the impression that art and entertainment are two different things or always have to be separate. I don't think this is at all true. Stanley Kubrick or Wes Anderson were/are trying to entertain as much as create something artistically unique to them. They never sat down and said "I am going to make ART here and screw entertainment."

Not at all. Scorsese wants to entertain you, not just make you squirm in your seat and think "What powerful art!"

On the business, yes, I think that business and bottom lines are part of the issue. When these people reach the point where they are steering the decisions for a large company they are not making decisions based on "Is this a film that will have some artistic merit?" they are making decisions based on "These 5 franchise pictures will make our financial year they damn well better be hits."

I also think theaters want the movies that put people in seats and there is no argument anybody can make against the fact that big franchise films put bums in seats. If we want cinema, movie theaters to survive, we need big franchise films.

Last, yes, I think people often take what I am saying as "there is no more art" when I bring this stuff up but I am not saying that at all. In fact I thought 2021 was a great year for film. Sucked for going to the cinema, but there were some really great films released. So, please don't take my comments as I think there are no more artistic films or good films or some giant negative like that. I certainly do not feel that way.

Turning back to this Joker film. Obviously, this picture is heavily influenced by 1970s filmmaking and of course, Scorsese and Taxi Driver. This influence drips off of every frame of this film. It also has a very emotional core because of the fragility and madness of the main character. He is not a super hero nor super villain, he is a man suffering and being crushed by the world he lives in and this radicalizes him and causes him to react...not in a positive way but in the only way he feels he has left to make himself heard. The picture has a raw, angry, and bitter emotional landscape that obviously a guy like Scorsese could get in to. I see 1970s all over this thing with tips of the hat to The Exorcist and Network as well as Taxi Driver. I feel a bit of Dog Day Afternoon here and even Midnight Cowboy.

I think the reason the filmmaker wanted to make this was to add a deep and troubling emotional landscape to a genre that mostly has none and is meant as escapist fantasy. When I watched Joker I wondered how fans of the comic book genre would feel about it. It does feel like the filmmakers are playing a bit of a trick on the fans of the genre by luring them in with a genre title and promise that it is taking place in that "universe" and then delivering no super hero antics or world saving and instead giving them a grim story about a person suffering from mental illness that becomes a violent radical. It is a film that certainly fits our times. You could literally cut video of the attack on our capitol into this picture and it would fit right in.

So, we have a film riffing on 1970s filmmaking that carries a message about how a society can radicalize a human being to the point where they will commit violent acts. The building of a domestic terrorist you could say.
 

jayembee

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I think the reason the filmmaker wanted to make this was to add a deep and troubling emotional landscape to a genre that mostly has none and is meant as escapist fantasy. When I watched Joker I wondered how fans of the comic book genre would feel about it. It does feel like the filmmakers are playing a bit of a trick on the fans of the genre by luring them in with a genre title and promise that it is taking place in that "universe" and then delivering no super hero antics or world saving and instead giving them a grim story about a person suffering from mental illness that becomes a violent radical. It is a film that certainly fits our times. You could literally cut video of the attack on our capitol into this picture and it would fit right in.

Absolutely. I think the average superhero comic fan probably didn't care for Joker. I'm a comics fan (have been since the early 60s), and one who's been primarily interested in the superhero end of things. But I'm also a movie fan, and I loved Joker for many of the reasons you mention, and nothing to do with it being a "comic book film".

Of course, "comic book films" are a diverse breed. Strictly speaking, Timecop, 30 Days of Night, Whiteout, Road to Perdition, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Ghost World are all "comic book films" and are six very different films.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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Absolutely. I think the average superhero comic fan probably didn't care for Joker. I'm a comics fan (have been since the early 60s), and one who's been primarily interested in the superhero end of things. But I'm also a movie fan, and I loved Joker for many of the reasons you mention, and nothing to do with it being a "comic book film".

Of course, "comic book films" are a diverse breed. Strictly speaking, Timecop, 30 Days of Night, Whiteout, Road to Perdition, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Ghost World are all "comic book films" and are six very different films.

I'm no expert on comics or graphic novels. I did read some comic books growing up but even then I was not into the standard superhero ones. I liked western, war, and horror comics. Probably my favorite as a kid was a comic called Weird War Tales. It tended to be a group of short stories with each issue having three or four tales that generally mixed the supernatural with a war story. The stories time travelled through ancient times to WWI or WWII to future wars. Have you ever read that one?

Of the films you mention above I have only seen Road to Perdition, which I really enjoyed. I did like Frank Miller's 300 film but it reminded me of Weird War Tales.
 

jayembee

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I'm no expert on comics or graphic novels. I did read some comic books growing up but even then I was not into the standard superhero ones. I liked western, war, and horror comics. Probably my favorite as a kid was a comic called Weird War Tales. It tended to be a group of short stories with each issue having three or four tales that generally mixed the supernatural with a war story. The stories time travelled through ancient times to WWI or WWII to future wars. Have you ever read that one?

Of the films you mention above I have only seen Road to Perdition, which I really enjoyed. I did like Frank Miller's 300 film but it reminded me of Weird War Tales.

As I said before, my interest was largely on the superhero end of things, but I liked pretty much any kind or genre of comic book. About the only genre I wasn't interested as a kid was romance comics, because, you know, that was girly stuff.

I did read Weird War Tales back in the day. Another similar war/SFF title from the 60s that I liked was a run of issues of Star Spangled War Stories, with soldiers fighting dinosaurs on a Pacific island. It was actually the original use of the group names "Suicide Squad" and "Task Force X" that were later co-opted for superhero comics.
 

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